I don’t create philosophy. I discover it, like keys I set down in unusual places. I recover my philosophy the moment that follows the moment it would have been most helpful. I hold my philosophy firmly in my appreciative grip, and whisper to myself, next time. I’ll be more careful. Consistent. I’d say there are six keys to my philosophy now: three vehicles, one house, one school, one classroom. How many keys are there to yours? Philosophies and promises can only be broken when you lock one and lose the key. Better yet, ever lock a key inside its own philosophy? That’s a trip, and yet it isn’t. Is it the end? Do you grab a brick, or phone a locksmith?
There is a box, a big one with many boxes and many doors and a sloping top, a relatively smaller box with big seats bolted in and pedals that power and pause, a treasure chest into which you pour your best and once or twice a month it will refill itself back up. Ask yourself, why do you have keys for some things but not for other ones? Is the desire to lock up an object a tell, perhaps? Seems risky. You can always lose a key. And if you do, you could be locking your own self out of your own much-desired treasure. And yet, the fear of losing the concrete or abstract noun protected by your philosophy has made you a jailer, and all the things you love, lay their heads down nightly in a trap. The vehicle you consider like a magic carpet that will carry you to freedom anywhere, anytime, any need or just for fun, is in fact the greatest heaviest anchor, the most penultimate inhibitor of your ability to move, like a mirage in the desert, the power to make water in your mouth, but not in the clouds.
I have a purse full of thoughts and comments
ridiculously well-worded criticisms I clutch
tight while you walk too close to me for comfort
past me on the sidewalk side-piece cheating
on the street. I bite my tongue then swallow the meat.
I have nothing else to eat. Oftentimes I pray a little curse
to the one true God I keep, to stuff you in a sack tied tight
with all the mistakes you’ve ever given me.
Stitched on the bag: fixed.
Says it on my bag too. Full of bitten words
aimed at a taste of you. I’ve eaten a ton of tongue.
Penned a hundred letters I’ll never send
explaining the way the world works
because we don’t.
Peeling pines, slicing sap, raw chicken under that, turning trees into fence posts, hands into tape, reshape sticks so they can be stuck eight feet apart along a property line older than I am. The land is the oldest member of the family. With some grandchildren pushing half a century. We could build a barn from a thinning, a clear cutting would only be the beginning of paying the bills and paving the fields that stretch pasture horizons. So I’m building fences the way Noah did his boat. Like a crazy person. Doing more work to pay into a belief than some do to pay their bills. Building to fulfill a future billing. One only I can see through the trees, which are thick and stifling, and create long winding hallways like the labyrinth planted by dead grandpa Dedalus, his one and only son couldn’t help but fly so close to the other one, forty years spent self-exiled from his own inheritance. So his wings melted. Feathers scattered. Wax splattered.
When I got here, a Minotaur was running the farm milking swollen titans and twisting venomous serpents striped the stumps, Medusa did no chores but loved to hump, hissing valkyries laid their eggs but no one came to collect them, no one cut the grass, no one shut the gate. When I got here, the land was farmed by fate. I showed up ten years too late. Like some kind of agricultural Theseus. Still trying and almost dying to prove our selves to parents who don’t belong to us, and who we never belonged to in the first place.
Humanity, forever children, just, children of the Gods.
Trespassers in the woods. Trespassers in my head. My whole life I’ve been muttering how I should forgive the other ones for trespassing against me. But what does that look like in reality? Is it doormat Christianity? I am putting up bright orange sentences that start with No. I am spraying purple bands on trees. None of it is capable of keeping someone from trespassing, but the trees are sticking, and here’s hoping prosecutions do too. I was as far out on the land as can be without dabbling in a touch of trespassing myself, and there it was. The stranger. Now I’m building fence-line in my mind and setting cellular security cameras beside imaginary property lines and taking personal days to paint the pines. I don’t know why it bothers me so much. It seems to me, if you’re not using it, and someone else isn’t damaging it, what’s wrong with cutting through a backyard or two? But that isn’t how I feel. I feel more like a pill of lead and a shot of steel. I feel like cracking a walking stick I’ve carried for twenty years. I feel like taking the mental muzzle off my bite-happy dog.
I feel like my whole life there were two ways to hear the Lord’s Prayer, and like a fool, I grew up only recognizing one.
I have to forgive.
But, I must also be forgiven.
No mention of circumstances, of regrets or repentances. Just a sin and its charge. Sinner left at large.
I don’t want to ask them to leave. Or put up more No signs. Or purple up trees. I desire to trespass against the one who trespasses against me. I’m not saying it’s a good thing. Just a feeling. I don’t want to forgive them, I want to reach them and teach them the reality of their ways. Some things can not be explained. But no. No is not the purpose of the prayer. The reality is, there are others who would witness me on this property and call me a trespasser. I may disagree, as I’m sure does anyone I catch trespassing, but that particular criteria isn’t mentioned in the prayer. Just that the only way to be forgiven for straying is to let go the nearby straying’s of others.
And I can’t. I am not strong enough, yet.
I’m finding it very hard right now to love the strayer.
I think we all need to be cautious greeting new experiences with anger.
Yes, they trespassed, but the prayer says forgive that, because if you don’t,
you won’t ask them where they are going.
Sincerely seven AM. Hard to lie once you’re up in the morning.
The animals make noise. The kid climbs into bed, again.
Sporadic drips tap the rain gutter on the bottom.
A little blue-gray daylight weakly fingers the blinds.
The mind’s eye only opens wide. Until two lackeys
on the front of your face pop the lid.
There’s a smile on the face of the kid,
though his eyes are still closed behind blonde eyelids.
Once one of the three of us passes gas and all conscious chuckle.
The quiet buckles. By seven thirty four feet hit the floor
and we’re all upright individuals after a long night of telling lies.
We brake fast for breakfast but it only takes the first bite to fill us.
The rain has plans changed and the temptation in the word wait
increases like puddles in the yard. Someone will tend to the farm.
The other will straighten up house. And the kid. He’s a lucky
one. But even water grows tired of heaven. Woke up at seven.
To the sound of it going back to bed.
Up a long exposed outdoor corridor lined in thirsty late summer grass, she walked. Hands still sheened from the olive oil she kept by the wash basin in her room. She can not keep them from cracking. The fire-hot water, barely not boiling, the lye in the soap, the constancy of filthy clay plates and white ceramic that came to her every color but white. Dust rose behind the fine gravel crunch beneath tight tied, unheeled leather shoes. A branch overhung the path snatched a pinch of dress around her backside, and she scoffed the plant as if it were the gardener. A smile fleeting from her face. At her basin. Her station. In more ways than maybe three. She would be standing in this spot for what seemed eternity.
The clarity, sharp outline of those working hands. Definition, in places it was not desired. Looking tired, only when no one else was watching. Smiling through the doorway at the woman baking bread. She dreamed of lining her hands in dough. More olive oil. Each time they dried, just long enough from the water, the air would touch the tiny pink crevice at the base of each cracked callus and close her eyes. She’d grip her wrist, twist in place, grind the balls of her feet and make an ungodly face. Then turn back to her smooth wooden washbowl like nothing happened. Nothing had. She had absolutely no one in the world to turn to. To even complain to. Like the path that leads from her empty room, she felt walled in and vine-wrapped and forgotten. The opposite of a bridge. The antithesis of a road. The wall. She could hear gulls on the other side. Ever so often, the voices of young children. Scraps leftover from lunches. Which led to the gulls, and children. Her assumption. She didn’t know. But how she could donate hours to wondering. Dreaming. Such earthwhile things.
A clink and a slosh as her table shifts under the weight of a new tower of meat greased plates. The hefty, top heavy man who set them there, oil stained up and down his front, like it had been pouring from his mouth down his chest, lingered. She kept her eyes downturned and reached for a dented pewter bowl she had been working on. The man dipped two fingers in the wash water, held them up in front of his face as if he had never seen fingers before, and tasted them both in his big dry mouth.
“Tastes more like day-old soup than dishwater.”
“Taste a lot of dishwater, do you?”
“Luce, you are a funny one. I’ll fetch you more hot water.”
Five feet toe-tapping quarter notes beneath their seats. A kid in the crowd meows like a kitten and the audience howls. Some poor kid tried to clap between medleys. A teacher with a salt and pepper goatee and a baggy school hoodie on has four different smartphones in his palm. The lights are all up front. When anyone chirps into the microphone the whole system hums. Girlfriend leans on Boyfriend’s shoulder and the teacher sees and says nothing to her. Christmas music for high school students on a Tuesday afternoon in December. The Chorus dismembers and takes up instruments in their hands. They play Rudolph the Red Nosed Flat Note and We Wish You a Merry Solo. They sound perfect for what they are, as does the audience they play for. High School kids who bought two dollar tickets to get out of fourth period had no intention of paying attention to the show. Teachers with fourth period planning impressed into chaperones. The energy is palpable as kids cram together row by row, they know, there aren’t enough teachers to see all the hands. There isn’t enough light to see which mouth threw which knife. That’s what makes it a reward. And for the kids in the choir and band, they’re playing for the toughest audience of their careers: their adolescent peers. Every song speeds up from the start, from the nerves. Each shy note or apprehensive solo is heard. The kids in the crowd are distracted and loud but on the inside they could never do what they heckle. Imaginations set only to meddle. While those kids on the stage cling to metal, and do something with their breath akin to life after death, resuscitating inanimate objects into music.
The man with his back to the crowd shows them how every single day. The band director. The chorus teacher. Two English, two math, one science, all playing usher. It is for them, and they truly, shamelessly, despise us for it. Traps aren’t meant for the masses, but only the one. One animal in a trap could chew off a paw and get out. But three hundred kids, maybe twelve adults in the room, and the lights all turned down and the blinds all closed too, there’s no chewing off a limb. Two thirty on a Tuesday, last week of school, there’s no escape. It’s us or them.
could be cleaned
in another house
squeaking beneath a different hand
window-broken wall in this house
above this hand
not under it
revealing blurred movement
through a dingy window.
across the page
broken by shadows
zagging dull trails
leaves a white trail
beside white swipes
of misplaced paint
brushes missing marks by miles
in the center of the pane
shadow most solid on the page.
The window won’t ever be cleaned
yet tells more than the impenetrable tale
of a backyard. Jotted over with notes
off the nose of a dog
a strained prose on the topic
curiosity, poetry of lazy painters
paid hourly and more
fingerprints than detectives dust
proof irrefutable and close to clear
this dingy window
I am closest to the world.
The most prevalent theological error seems to be believing God would use a human’s inner voice as a medium to relay instructions. How low and how little do you think of divinity? To choose a method with absolutely no objectivity. No. God is a real God and a God of the physical which the energetic plays like puppets on strings. It won’t whisper. God sings. God shakes the earth and lays down trees though they’ve never seen a saw. God moves in electrons within us all. And if God wants you to change, or do, or alter, or pick up an object and move, it will physically communicate that to you. And I argue, already is. But you don’t listen to your kids.
You graduated school. Now if anyone tries to teach you you defend your own intelligence and call them a fool. But you used to let yourself learn things, and chuckle at criticism. Your kids still do, and my best advice is listen to them. If I was a god, your inner voice would not be my first choice, I don’t know, I’d probably litter the sky with specks of light so dim they can only be seen at night. I’d give unparalleled powers to subatomic particles. And I’d make change subtle, slow, taken out of the hands of the individual and given to the dice-rolling, storm-blowing agents of chaos in the universe. I’d make it all about mutation. I’d put the germ inside the brick and set it loose on a leveled lot and sit back and watch. My favorite part of a garden is after the third weeding when the plants are tall enough to cast down a blanket of shade no lowly plant can evade, for a minute, the farmer’s useless. If I were God, omniscient, omnipotent, I’d create the whole universe in that image. Totally independent. I’d make it so perfect, my hands would stay so clean. My creation would not need me. Some would call it atheism. But I would call it craftsmanship.
Is the first cell
that splintered into fusion
following the black path of the atom
still inside me?
Like rings in a tree
are there layers laced
beneath my surface
that formed during the social drought
of my teens?
Are my last good credit score twenties
still swiping cards for bills inside me or beside me
is the kid I once was hiding
for some impossible seeker to find.
When thirty-five year old
tired and self described wise
lets eyes wander and retire
does that ring on my index finger
pierced through the brow
or the split lip of my former self
see an opportunity?
And thirty-five year old I
deny and declare some crack up
like I don’t know what that was
where that came from
I might even say
it wasn’t me.
When I was thirteen