It’s not complicated. It’s philosophy. It’s storytelling. We’re telling and teaching a bad story under the apologetic guise of clunky, who-really-knows truth. If you don’t just say no to an idea that unsettles a few other stones in the foundation, I can tell you the real story. But if you say no, you can go to the garden, seed for yourself. You’ll find the universe there. And it will show you the way it wants to be treated.
To make a long story short, you’ll see your true nature like looking at your face in a clear mirror. We are not aliens. We are not demi-gods. If there were a bee, looking for ideas, collecting memories instead of honey, little globs of sticky pollen thoughts clinging the folded ridges of the pink fatty hive in our minds, the honeycombed shape of our brains, that is who we are.
We figured out cities from eating termites. Carpentry from them and even maggots, family from the wolves. We’re not warriors. We’re peace-finders, benefactors, between creatures who never ever shared anything before us. I’ve seen the lamb lie down beside the wolf. Literally. I’m not saying it was easy. But that’s our superpower. Our gravity. We call it learning, or thinking, or imagination maybe.
But really we’ve just spent the last fifteen thousand years filling up the hive.
If feelings were meant to be taken at face value and blindly obeyed, you’d smash your alarm clock every morning. Our brains believe they know better than us. They stack a lot of negative feelings for emphasis that we call flaws and distractions. Feelings are just feelings and are in no way indicators of a very real, very invisible early warning indicator system that made our ancestors make us dream they had to have been superheroes or demi-Gods to have lived the way they did.
How they manipulated and bridled the human spirit. Once belonging to scattered bands of warring children, well, they basically got people to live like ants. Cities, anthills, we were eating lots of termites at the time, I’m guessing we became inspired. From that point there are a series of emergent outcomes no one planned, came about completely naturally organically as an offshoot, or a side-effect, of an organism changing natures, habitats, choosing how we want to live even as nature tells us no in a hundred different forms. The worst of which are fast approaching.
The answer is simple. What temperature melts the metal? How hot and what shape was the furnace that first made Mankind? And as we build and re-imagine and reinvent modern ways of life, we must keep an element of that heat, some basic fundamental aspect of our education has to preserve the environments that shaped these instincts into intellect. We can go so far, as far as our dreams, but not like a transplant, not like a microscopic seed, an explorer in the wind, our very particular survival mechanism is shaped like a vine. That vine is community, and there is no frontier steep enough to separate us from every person who ever loved or maybe even only tolerated us. There are no such things as humans without relationships.
Time isn’t on a clock.
It’s in our veins.
When we look at ourselves, we are looking at about fifteen thousand years.
When we discuss life, we’re talking at least a billion.
You’ll argue as long as you can. We’ll put it to bed. Maybe in a year you’ll say, I was thinking about that thing you said way back again, you’ll ask me what I meant. And I’ll be a year ahead, no longer questioning, practicing philosophy all of my own, which advises me heavily against teaching people who they are. No. I can work with why. How. I can work with not today, tomorrow maybe. But no. You confessed every reaction to a new situation or life change you’ve ever had before was no. Rather take it slow. Prefer to accommodate this stiff lactic acid choked emotion that hardens the stomach into cartilage and makes perfectly mobile situations sit stagnate and static and cold to the touch but hot like acid. I can’t help. To you, I can’t be shepherd or farmer or friend. To you, child of doubt, progeny of woe, I am no more than a sign post. I can point you to where I found God spying on me, I can tell you what it took to finally see what it is my eyes and ears and mind and fears feed. I found the fractal that gave me the shape of the birthmother of this place. I have seen what we were before. The ghost white pearl in a swirling cape of blackness, gravity radiating like energy, a pull that outreaches, a proactive desire, a cosmic pairing of opposites like the very first lovers weren’t necessarily more complex than dark and bright. But from their union all forms grew possible. I’m a piece of wood nailed to a stake that only says to you, ‘The Garden is This Way’.
Even when our institutions fail to, our brains prioritize feelings over truth. Your least trusting organ lies to you. All the time. About time. Impossible to find. But I could tell you something demonstrable, something that scarred my hands and blurred my vision and changed my entire way of thinking, and you’ll argue against it, tell me no, refuse to tell me why, because of a feeling in your mind. I’ve seen it too. I’ve witnessed the boulder I built my house on wiggle. When it wasn’t supposed to. I’ve reintroduced you to a problem you not only passed by or denied but went ahead and stacked hundreds of other answers on top of.
You’re like a bird sitting on a clothesline drying out an anvil.
Cracks like a bullet hitting air but tumbles
like a football kicked too hard in the head
ripples like a river of glass
crashes like a sunset
into angry ocean.
Fifteen birds sing their songs before roosters
ever crow, yet he owns morning. Prematurely.
Announcing dawn. How you can almost glimpse his tail
in his morning call. His arrow head and jiggly crown
and dripping blood beard. What once cut wind
now beats chests like mad children, wings folded, tucked
voice framed in feather soft quiet of early dying night.
He tries, fails, routes his troop of torn up vocal chords
and evens the score again
until his final crashing crescendo
settles like a boot in gravel.
The sound is stickier than a tree.
Hornier than wild goats.
Ten hens are up already
four eggs in the nest
at four in the morning
so he isn’t anyone’s wake up call.
Roosters don’t sleep eight hour nights.
He knows every shade of filtered light.
Watching the horizon hours already.
Blinking steady, multiple takes, like in a movie
set where the sun is about to be peeled
open like an orange.
Wood knocking frogs and gnats scream in exorcism clouds performed by late spring. Good water is not clear water. Not even clean water. That’s not what makes water good. The desert does that. A drought-set standard dictates the goodness of any water. Timing, and temperature, turns the world halloween make believe dress up right as wrong and decent as any tepid thing in between. The face is pure manipulation, a mask just simplifies the equation. I can see who you really are more clearly in who you’d rather be than I could in any other amplified, magnified thing. You are me. If I were you. And that scares me, and that scared feeling whispers to me it must be true. Frightening. How good things always do. Good water can drown easy as summer drains your sound. Timing and temperature again. I see you in where you end up on the pier. The hat you wear. What you prepared. The sunscreen on your nose. Your plans for later. And when they change, you confess, you were waiting. And waiting is a big give-away.
Roosters crow when they see the sun in the morning, but woodpeckers pound trees up and down and flirt with one another loudly. Black squirrels still get chased by gray ones and a tall sand throwing hare runs so hard I look for the fox behind it who never comes. I pulled a fish with a hook in its lips up from brown water, green in my hands and banded like a raccoon and perched cradled in my palm so his sharp back fins laid down cool in my palm. Aged men wearing rags lost in ships at sea have hugged the legs of men in the same tender fondness my son wrapped his arms around my knee in the crooked pregnant belly of a canoe dragging her stern. And when he fell off the dock and bobbed back up onto his back, such a frozen peeled back look of fright on his face, I felt so needed, so perfectly positioned, like so many of my setbacks in life finally made sense in the instant I leapt in after him.
I think sometimes the feeling of being a man is like a soldier prepared for a war that never comes. Instead, you get these little moments to prove yourself, to kick your legs at endless water and lift your terrified kid over your head into his mothers hands. He says you saved me daddy, but you know that can’t be true. Between parents and their children, there’s no telling who is saving who.
The quiet. Not even highway sounds. No stray gunshots announcing sunset. The stretchiness of eastern Carolina, to be so drawn out endlessly in round sand and sticky pines. They frame this little lake for murder and keep it dead and clean and as still as they can for time unseen. And I am, my little family, are its solemn accomplices. We are skeletons offering ourselves to all the middle of nowhere’s closets. Campers of the vast evergreen wastes and swimmers of the dimpled cheeks of ancient craters. Baptized by the filthy hands of June and let loose ripe only for some more time.
It’s not the human mind, but the stomach that threatens the species most.
That control emotion boasts. The part of you that can’t be left off Buddha’s boat.
The way chemicals grip the gut. Defies all the tricks logic tries.
All the grounding adult responsible ideas. Nullified. Cut and dry.
No one is thinking clearly when they’re clinging dearly to this sinking ship called life.
And the sooner that’s recognized, we’ll devote more school to stomachs than lunch.
A course for the body. Three courses for the mind.
A better answer to the question what to do with my time.
How to take it in stride. How to listen to emotions.
How that is different than blind obedience.
Think about an alarm clock.
Think about the awful feeling it inspires.
If you let it let you, you would crush it into oblivion every time it spoke to you.
Its purpose is entirely unpleasant. But to bring a conscience back to present.
It’s jolting. Hateful. Awful. But essential. Jarringly. Helpful.
This is the nature of negative feelings. Awareness, not action.
To listen. By design, never to obey. Don’t smash it
the way you feel you should. Just match it
in desire to turn bad feelings into good.
Wake up arms. Not take up arms.
Wash sleep off and start your day.
An alarm, not a torture device, buried in your gut.
Could not care less what you do with today.
Just wants to wake you up.
The eyes wear a mask. As does the mouth.
Many a closing flap. To keep in and let out.
A mask for the mask of lips.
A mask to hide the shapes of hips.
A mask with laces and rubber soles and leather
to cover the leather we swing like levers
to power this whole mess on.
The worry isn’t the ask to mask,
it’s how they told you to.
To do it. Breathe through it. Lose hope.
Renew it. Take it in stride,
how much there is to hide,
if you want to be accepted.
But do you?
Human not humane. Can a mask be worn on a name?
Is it a guilty face that’s to blame, is that why we wear our shame?
Though the hands do the deeds of love,
they call their masks gloves,
and it hides from whatever you touch,
and no one ever called one tyranny.
But a mask to filter your breath,
shouting give me liberty or death,
like they’re not the same damned thing.
Thoughts that come to mind: we listen to finished songs. Not sure anyone would show up to see a concert being written. And if they did, they would not enjoy it. There is a stark, and I mean deeply entrenched divide between finished product and resource. As different as a meal is from the oven that burnt it. The privacy of the laboratory. The invisibility of the tremendous roots of trees. Not the brain or the heart or the fingernails but the bowels of the body. Where the real ugly radioactive work gets done.
I don’t know your substance, subject matter, agenda, your poetry. But I believe I can aid you in the pursuit of entertainingly recording ideas and stories. I’ll start by reiterating cliché writing advice you’ve already heard. Write first. Edit after.
But let me clarify.
The little kid who turns a playset in the backyard into a pirate ship more detailed and bombastic than a movie set, is doing absolutely no editing in the real time of this imaginary event. I know they worked it out of you, school, work, all authoritative structures do, but try to remember the exhilaration of being a kid and believing the bullshit you made up in your backyard to pass the time, pass the setting, past every portal others hold the keys for, and playing.
Play first. Make yourself giggle. Over-write. Cry for your characters. Write the wrong. Write corny jokes out and take a flat head screwdriver and pry the backspace key clean off the keyboard. You cut and paste that stuff at the bottom of the page. You delete nothing. Not while the game is on. Not with the continental navy at your stern and a belly full of stolen gold in your hull.
Edit after. You’ll sit down to edit the way you show up to work. Cup of coffee. Cynicism in check. Emails to check. This is how you edit. You won’t ever have editor’s block. School prepped us for it. All your jobs demanded it. Every position you’ve ever held is some form of customer service for some form of company, and it required you constantly to edit yourself. Please don’t argue me on this. They paid you to bite your tongue clean through. To show up to work and remember to bring everything except the real real you. Editing is not the problem. It never was.
The problem is you stopped playing make-believe.
You let the continental navy sink the pirate ship in your backyard.
Life is frightening or boring. Seldom in between.
We grow up educated into fortune telling.
Preparation, expectation, share the quiet part
both are predicated on prediction.
Gambling, just, the pessimistic edition.
Track all the ways shit goes sideways
and put money down. Preempted. Ensured.
Guaranteed duck nine times out of ten
just not the one time God calls Goose.
Ten bucks says today. That’s all it takes.
Today is the price tag on tomorrow.