From the Minds of Children

I imagine the very first writers as scavengers. Hikers. Walking village to village, collecting what noises each individual, isolated collection of humans have thrown at rocks, hills, rivers, trees, seeing what sticks, forgiving what doesn’t as nothing more than babble. The idea that one great thinker sat down to put down language is absurd. That is not the way the human mind works. It is far more likely language was discovered by children. Babies even. Probably the first of us to erupt into laughter, and then, call it a giggle just after. I’d be amazed if an adult ever invented a single good word. Grown ups just name things after what they heard, the sound they make. Bark. I give that to an old person. Scrape. Cough. But not grass, not oak, not maple or throw. Little children safely insulated inside their villages gave title its title. And the rarest of humankind, the poet, made a career out of restlessness. Searching out the particular phenotype of a phrase as it evolved up and down the Euphrates. Moving on and contaminating the next group with how their neighbors call after their dogs, how they describe the blood red hearted logs that stink like shit. Red oak and red cedar and straight as an arrow Tulip poplar.

Poplar, staring into startling coals, dodging embers as they explode. Poplar. I’m sure that was popular. Right off the bat. Bat. A simple mind came up with that. But it took a genius to collect it and put it beside strings of others and carry it just as if it were as important as hard crusted bread or zucchini seeds or dried meat. Lion. Easy. Giraffe, not so much. Cat. Lizard. Leopard. Sherpa. Sauna. Stain the plate orange lasagna.

Every word is a moving target. A symptom of evolution, a flower off a creeping vine. A changing thing. Which explains all of relativity. A cold hand in less cold water does not equal the word warm. Because cold, and water, and warm, are just words. Just noises. Sounds that bubbled up from our throats and just so happened to get stuck against some unwitting, innocent object, also evolving, moving, changing.

All the quirks in existence can be explained by the little sentence printed along the base of side view mirrors on cars. Objects will appear larger in the construct of language than they ever are in the construct of reality. Because they were made that way. Like a microscope. What does it show. Truth. Indelibly. Definitely. Yes. But no. Not at all. In no way whatsoever, also. Does that make sense? That some truth can only be made clear via distortion, manipulation. The world around us must be twisted like a sopping dishrag in order to find out what it’s made of, emptied, when articulated fully. Through a little bent glass a microcosm of bacteria, cellular structure, viral culture materializes. The invisible can be made visible if you close one eye and squint the other one just right with the right amount of light aimed up through an empty space below a downturned, concentrated, scrunched up face. Point that same bulb of clear melted sand up at the stars and you’ll reach a far different conclusion. Darkness. Blankness. The dankness of empty, far off, lonely and desperate outer space. Is that true? Of course it isn’t. To see what isn’t out there more clearly a distortion of a totally different type is required, perhaps a couple bulbous lenses and a linear tube and no light at all whatsoever, and you’ll actually begin to peer into the past. Planets zoom past. Stars already dead and gone still filtering into wide open curious minds. And is that the truth, through a telescope, the other worlds that can be seen with one eye pressed into a cylinder, stared into well placed mirrors, seeing almost every single thing to forsake one’s self. Yes. And no. It is a trick and a truth. And yet, if we discounted the view, how much of our universe would we lose. The galactic framework of our marvelous blue green white marbled planet.

Language. Literature. Words. How much they have in common with low light, bent glass and mirrors. More than we would ever be comfortable with. Which is how we got ourselves into this mess. Trusting the noises that erupt up out of us more than the cavernous realms that gobble up and regurgitate them back at us.

If the words do not exist to articulate, or describe any section of this, it’s not there, it doesn’t exist. We haven’t really figured out the methods or status of the divine, so it isn’t there, we’re all atheists. Believers are worse about it than outright disbelievers. The word belief says it all. By not being the word known. Why would we not back up and readjust the microscope. How could a self respecting scientist peer down, give the knob a little twist, and not resist the conclusion they desire. The easy one. Nothing. It seems pessimistic, but nothing is the thing people hope for more than any other gift of life.

We don’t go back to the drawing board, pack the hiking pack, travel the world, asking children how they call the air we breathe, how they articulate the depth of the sea, or the fullness of space. We call it invisible. We invent words like empty. Void. Lonely. Where children paint pirate ships and abandoned train cars and alien worlds.

I like to imagine those first poets wandering the countryside, scavenging for noises, grunts, moans, taps and clicks and pounding fists and the futile, barbaric yawp of men and women and non-binary minds alike. I like to hear them unifying a thousand different sounds all around the same little bent growing trees, itchy vines, purple flowers. The same exact thing. With an entire spectrum of half names and partial titles and God’s honest gut impulsed recitals. Wheat. Corn. Cabbage. Turtles. Titans. Continents. Mountains. Clouds. Ponds. Wells. Swells. Sand dunes and rock slides and full on white death avalanches chasing what they hope to carry and are soon to bury. The strong survive to sing about it. Track down a poet, and share with them umph for umph the story of it.

Oh, to be a writer in those days prior to words. An author of sounds and noises and explosive bodily functions and the shushing of waves and how the wind sounds like rain and the scream of a bee sting and the gentle sugary buzz off honey. To have lived and walked and traveled before there were enough maps for there to be a thing called lost. Life its self was purely a prize before the invention of the word cost. Surely made up by a grown up. The word responsibility. Probably ripped off from some child running full speed and leaping across their sleeping parents screaming the word ability. Life, dripping from the lips of babes like honey, stingers still in the tips of their fingers, and an old person coming up from behind and to chastise them by putting the word be in front of it. Shape up. Be life. Belief. In endless things we ought to know.

What I wouldn’t give to be a poet back before poets. Before farmers. Before politicians. Before lawyers, and office managers, and kings. When no one had anything. What choice was there but to grow. To scavenge. To walk the countryside and listen to water babble, worse than children about making up words and schemes. Back when sleep was the same as dreams. Birds flew in clouds and stars were dancing bears and shifting soldiers and long handled cups with cracks in the bottom leaking rain. When poets wandered like water the path of least resistance, and filled their bellies every night by telling stories and filling minds. When a single word held in it an epic tale. Chasing after dogs and cats, their epic tails. Recounting every noise of every tribe as they try to describe the exact same blade of auburn colored cattail headed grass. Talk about an epic tell. The boom off the tree that fell. The infinity of a field and how that feels when it has blistered your heel and decides to hold on to your foot print, and let everyone know the way you went.

I like to think how we didn’t start telling stories until long after the world decided to keep us in its story. Story. How many blades of grass, how many different species of trees, how many you’s and me’s, are in that word, alone. How many poets did it take to settle on that word, story. And to this very day, no matter where you are, you’ll find a different definition. We’re still fast at work on a new edition, every single writer ever, wants a crack at a new expression.

But they haven’t heard. They haven’t listened. Too obsessed with ancient religion.
To remember, the best words have always been born from the minds of children.

Big Words

Love: A line of credit you’ve given very few people access to that has no spending limit, that despite your current situation, one way or a thousand installments after, you will eventually pay the balance.

God: A monosyllabic reminder that Mankind invented language, and when language fails to name something, the fallibility is in the vocabulary, not the universe.

Death: A superpower life discovered early on that allowed us to not just learn from our failures, but eat them up for supper also.

Cruelty: Doing to others, solely without second thought as you have had done to yourself. Severe lack of story. Caught up in some moment. A tangent. The overfermentation of desire. The flex of weakness.

Trust is a sail.

Faith is a paddle.

Hate is what anger becomes when it matures. Be careful not to make an enemy of hate.
The word enemy is a doorway for the hateful. Make them fuss at you through a window,
a good word for that is called a neighbor. Hate is a season. Hate is a debit account.
Once it’s spent it’s done and gone. The overdraft fee on hate is criminal.

Hope: long list of chores and an early start.

If you also own a shovel

If you fell out of it, it wasn’t love.

If you lost it, it wasn’t love.

If it waited for your sight, if you had to use your eyes, it wasn’t love, at least not at first.

There is no such thing as puppy love. There are no lovebirds.

Let’s say something poetically asinine, like love is a flower. I ask, what is a flower?

Do roses not have thorns? Do plants not feed on decay? Are there not many completely crucial elements required for flowers that you would not call beautiful, that you would not recognize, or think of as desirable?

Love. My mother has it. But not all mothers. Love. The same farm that produces milk also creates a lot of filth. And who wants that? Who wants to know the true, putrid cost of all the things we really like a lot? I can tell this with confidence, there aren’t many of us.

It is not love if you refuse to recognize the cost. I love my child, but he will not remain a child. He is not just his wonderfully sly side smile. There are smells that come out of him that would earn the respect of a skunk. I love him, as a child, all the while, I dream of the man he will be. A man who, by all means, may not want to be like me.

Love is different from comfort, or happiness, or joy, or appreciation. Love has a dishrag in its hand already, ready to clean up after all those things.

Do you understand what I’m trying to say? Is it clear just how rare true love really is?

It is hard work.

How many people have you met who say they love hard work?

That is how many people you have met who have loved.

Hobbled

Sticks and stones can break your bones. And words.
Well. That’s why we invented them in the first place.
Language was a splint we strapped tight against our shin,
because sometimes you have to be hobbled before you can be fixed.
And words. Well. They started outpouring once we induced vomiting with them.
Talking tears in the eyes dry heaves and moaning.
Language. Communication. Grammar. Literature. Exposition. Creation.
We made up our own emotional placebo.
Words. Like medicine. Evolved by means of so much misunderstanding,
misguided, miscommunication. Medieval poets placing leeches
on feverous people and selling them absolution for their souls.

The language was basic. Primeval. To us, most times, looks evil.
Everything absent context typically does.
We just don’t see life clearly until we’re clinging to it dearly.
And words let us do that. On our own time and not the world’s.
We think. Plan ahead. Wrack our minds. Break our legs.
So that when they come for us. Sticks and stones in hand.
We’ll say your words can no longer hurt me.
Anymore than I already have.

This Poem

Great big fat literature.
Grat.
Busted.
Misshapen.
No clue how that happened.
Did he really sit down to write this poem.
Heavy.
Folded.
Doubled.
Emboldened.
Ugly.
Gross.
Morose.
Struggling.

These words hold mirrors up to my face.
Crawl into bed with me.
Share my space.
Kiss my face.
Right on top of bruises.

Language uses.
Allegiances scattered.
Words don’t always choose us.
Sometimes the one who loses
wins the better pen.

Becomes a greater author.
Keeping all the grease that comes from cooking up

this big fat nasty literature.

English Major

How we order dinner. How we tell our problems to doctors. And illustrate our final wishes. And record our innermost anxieties. We write letters to loved ones full with so many words claimed by neverending definition. How we know to call each other. How we declare things like war, and love, and all the salty sandwich meat in between. Looking at the world through eyes is one thing. But words, vastly another.

Literature is the microscope we hold up against the world to perceive details needed to articulate our needs. A microscope provides a distortion. A biased perspective. In your favor. Objects appear larger than they actually are.

If you fail to study the manipulations of your tools, you will never build a trustworthy conclusion.

And language, literature, we use words to orchestrate lives how bees use wax to shape hives. Not so much high art and the great smoking literary canon, but traffic signs, and menus, birth certificates and credit card contracts. They never taught this in school, because the system is full of people taught never to question the bias in their equipment. But all words are literature. How you tell your friends how you feel. Express intimacy and desire safely and respectfully out loud. The level of grace with which you handle power. How well you translate to paper.

English is not your least favorite class from high school.

It is the medium I am implementing at this very moment to testament the unfixed, transient flights of conscious thought going on in my mind. It is our cheapest and most prevalent form of time travel. As well as immortality. Playdough for plastic brains to squeeze in fists and get sick eating it. Which we know we aren’t supposed to do. It says so, printed in a dull black warning on a label, the word. No.

We didn’t have to. But words are how we decided to witness to and participate with the world. From the ground up. Whenever I encounter a doubt, or a negative thought about possibility or lack of potential, or hope, I’m always asked to look through a narrow little window of a word that I broke open a long time ago into a door. And more. I built a bridge out of it. And you’re right. That word. That choice. That night. If it is the destination, then this is dark as hell. And your doubts, they may be right. But if that word is one toe on a foot, or one step in a twenty mile day, or one day out of a two month journey, or two months of the best, most fulfilled, busiest and blessed years of my life, that’s different.

Depending on the lens you use, your microscopic problem might only appear to be huge. When in reality, it’s invisible to everyone but you. This is why we discovered language. To catch a glimpse of ourselves in it like a fun-house mirror, distorted into extremes.
It had very little to do with the pursuit of truth. Like any other tool.

Literature was not intended to serve the world.
We designed these words to magnify you.

Timing is Everything

If I could write one sentence to act like a key and unlock all others I would.
But words don’t work that way anymore. They’re like us. They caught our curse.
And have started breeding new forms all on their own. But I can glimpse its outline.
The spiny silhouette it leaves on the blank backdrop of ignorance. My own not knowing. Is known. I know it. Every challenge. Every mountain. Admitting my own inability
is the first step. Where did they teach you strength came from?
The only place I’ve ever found it is when I was too tired to look.

My sentence.
The key that disbolts the cell that holds me. All of us. Set free.

Delineation between equal parts is asinine. It is a waste of time. One side could tower miles above the other, but if one little shredded up piece of another being is needed to procreate another mile high colossal tower, they are the same size.

A poet has no problem knowing this.
A poet holds a whole oak tree in the palm of their hand.
Only others call it an acorn and move on unmoved.

That is something the poet can not do.

A certain sort of soil. Words. Ideas. Congealed into ideals and composted mantras
throwing up little green fuzzy leaved tomato sprouts this spring.

If you value grapes too high you’ll never let them spoil. And you’ll never taste wine.
If you value grain too much, you’ll never thrash it and mash it into flour.
And you won’t know bread.

Follow your principles out on your own before you inflict their conclusions onto others.
Shake the damn tree. Do not wait for storms or swarms of pests to test them.
Imagine. Consider all things.

Patience is like this amazing mayonnaise that can be put on just about anything and make it a little bit better. Or worse. There’s more time in this stuff we call life than I trust any one of us to admit. But yet, there is. By all means we may have a God who had a hand in every corner of existence except for the clock. Our sense of time seems off.
We could have a God who looks at life and death
and doesn’t see such a gulf.

God or Love

Just because an organization leans on a word over and over does not mean the word begins and ends with them. The word God for example, or the word love, defined solely by their most common associations, are deduced to simple dichotomous choices. To believe in or be in or nothing at all. But in truth, regarded as they really are, definitions never fully known, neither God or love is a choice we would make. We wouldn’t even use them the same way. Different altogether, bigger than, beyond, buried deep above our heads. The way we talk about weather. If we were honest, God would be another thing to complain about with strangers. And love, forecasted, right there beside the storms.

The roots of worlds.

I love words. I know it doesn’t take long to get me wrong, but try. Words are my passion, they are my paint. I sometimes have to shake the words out of my head just to see the world in light and colors and shapes, because it shows up better in letters. I love them. Yet I blame them. Words are the source of so much division. Ignorant about the only tool we use to pierce ignorance. Like cut flowers. Like shaped lumber. Like nails. We forget they were already buried before we plant one deep into the other, just trying to hold something together. We do not know the parameters of a word’s origin, so we are unaware of the cracks and flaws within. Let me dig up an example.

How about trust. What a trap we made trust into. I trust you, followed by a thousand different not to’s. Some expectation for perfection gets laced into that word’s particular function, so that trust is sure to break whenever and however you do. This hopeful, hypothetical, projected form of trusting is a dam you’ll soon see busting, not in fissures or spiderweb white spreading in concrete flats. It will come apart all at once and leave you washed out and puddled on top of a drowning town. Trust. Is a thing you leave behind for someone you love because you know you will die, and leave them. Trust. Is hopes and expectations. A promise. Bound and emphatic. Many different meanings writhe within the term we love to hold over other people’s heads. And then there is my pessimistic definition. Trusting everyone to fail. Trust being the bit of energy I’ve kept reserved to get through that day. So that we can love and trust one another on the other side of our greatest failures. I don’t give it out often. But when I do, I plan for it to be thrown back in my face. I trust it to. If there is a contingency in you I will not have the strength or time or patience to handle, I don’t trust you. I just watch. And wait. Trusting inevitability in your place.

Or how about life. Living. Breathing. Chest beating. Hunger eating. Bleeding. Bleating. Seeding and singing and clinging to this idea that we just live for however many years and then turn off. This is not the case. From the time you were an embryo stuck like a cut flower in the warm water of your mother’s vase, your body was sending signals to cells to die. Your life depends on it. A body’s ability to die on a cellular level is as critical as its choking for air or starving for food or withering with no water. Life. So expensive. How many animals died so you could make it out alive? How much death has life eaten? Plant flesh, animal muscle, bird eggs, thrashed wheat, ground corn. I don’t care if you’re a vegan or if you’ve gone so far as to starve yourself not eating, your body is converting life into death daily to avoid converting life into death more permanently. Just because humans manipulated tomato vines into delivering fat juicy wombs full with nutrition and liquid all ripe, does not make it any less life. What is life? What is the meaning of life? Life is good. Life is hard, but not as hard as knowing life is death. Death is life. These two dance under covers like lovers and we come forth in droves because of it.

Or how about good. Is sunlight good? Growing plants and warming planets and shaping orbits. Flesh melting radiation and electronic crippling solar flares and any planet without a filter stripped bare and burnt flat. Is garlic good? Try a handful.

The world, the universe, as we have known and continue to learn it, exists in spectra. Timing and quantity and temperature are most effective at taking a nice neat clean definition and mutating it into its opposite. Words cut from roots will wilt on the shelf in just a few days, no matter how often you change the water, no matter the light you leave it in. The roots of words are definitions. And are all gripping ground like buried iron, like living lumber, like uncut flowers. Meaning does not follow us into the house like a dog. It waits in the woods with wolves who do not view domestication as a destination, but a trap. Unforgiving and ever-evolving as the prey gets wiser, learns to steps lighter.

I am a writer. I am invested in words. And I am telling you, should you or should you not choose to get me wrong, words are nothing on their own. Shapely breath. Tickled chords in the back of your throat. A long time ago we began throwing sounds at trees and rocks and colors, waiting to see what would stick. Wood stick. Worlds tick like clocks counting up or down, dependent solely on what you want to see most. Only no. Worlds don’t tick, they roll, like dough, rounded in the dented palms of suns, suns rounded in the dented palms of singularities, singularities rounded, compounded, surmounted by the clenched fist of that great, one and only, universe gripping, paper space ripping, unslipping singularity that centers us all. All existence. Cradled like a baby in the bent arms of a star that shines out gravity like it was light.

And I see human beings, discounting newborn theories of everything, because the words just don’t come out right.