It isn’t thyme.

That’s the thing about journals and wine, they’re nothing but juice without time. Your grocery lists and garden designs will be worth at least a sideways smile in four or five years. But in ten to twenty, or thirty, to eyes still reading long after yours have entered the book, your handwriting, not just that one of a kind chicken scratch, but an undeniable image of your hand, alive, writhing, a little list that led you on your way out into town, strangers who stared you down, held the door for you, nodded hello. It takes fifty years to even know the value of what we’re losing when we exclusively hunt and peck every thought under threat of the launched arrow of a backspace key. You can type a cocktail, squeeze words, add liquor, pour out every sort of juice. But you have to hand-write wine, and more than that, be patient for it. One virtue that has been entirely and purposefully written out of education. Society. Culture in general. Patient people make poor consumers. Patient. Stubborn. Frugal with money, but always giving away food. Journals, and handwritten things, and stubborn, patient people who like to work with animals every day, who like four chores and sixteen memories and three bruises on every dinner plate. Who get a bit of therapeutic benefit from shedding tears over a thirty year old grocery list that somehow grew into a treasure of incalculable value with nothing else added to it but time.

Journals.
Wine.
Seeds.
Friendships.
Faith.
Family.
Life. All have same secret ingredient.

If you don’t know, don’t worry, it comes for you too.
Be patient. It isn’t thyme.

The Dishes

We are all too dependent on vision.

The house is a wreck but we’re still doing dishes. A warm dishrag smile wipes fresh tears off all our faces. When we trust our eyes too much, they show, they reveals us. Superficial. I know what you thought when you read that word. I know its most common usage. As insult. Negative. Self defense. That’s not even half of its definition though. Mostly because, there’s barely half a definition there to start with. Surface. Visible. In its truest meaning, there’s not one of us who isn’t superficial. It isn’t a choice. It’s biology. Evolution. Our anatomy. What’s crazy is, our eyes aren’t even that spectacular. But that never stopped us trusting them completely. 

Which makes us an easy trick, cheap, corporations are like abstract painters studying what certain colors opiate or infuriate or inspire us to work. What shapes set us at ease, what wall-patterns put us on the edge of our seats, grind our teeth. Look at our faces. We look like hoot owls and chimpanzees mated. We’ve made the entire surface of our skin one huge sex organ, with nothing more than time and boredom to work with. When they talk about enlightenment, about piercing some form of illusory perception and seeing true, pessimistic, hard pill to swallow, reality, this is what they mean. 

Just do the dishes. Not to get a good feeling or delight or ease or feel all put together for once. Anyone can put a suit on. You’re not the devil because you’re dirty and live out on the street. Wouldn’t it be so wonderful if all the important flaws we carry around could be seen. Well, that superficial dream has led us by the hand through the absolute worst chapters of the ongoing novel that is humankind. 

If skin color was a poker-tell, if skin color was a political persuasion, if skin color was a criminal confession, hot damn, wouldn’t that be easy. Wouldn’t that just please these predator eyes we feverishly and catastrophically feed. If the deepest, truest nature of a person could, just for once, be as superficial as an earring in one ear, or tattoo above the rear, or otherwise respectable young man too lazy to cut off his long hair. What if it was as simple as a pigment in someone’s skin? What if the dishes weren’t white? Would they be harder to clean, would you get the same peace of mind from warmly and tenderly washing them. The cleanest dishes in existence, it’s just, you can’t easily see that from a distance. Inside we find a simple, universal, colorful frustration, we find the tiny innocuous seed that grows into such destructive things, the worst of which has always been the thin permeating invasive vine of systemic racism. 

Maybe there’s hope in this, I don’t know, I don’t think there is, but it feels good to them, hate, they do it like a drug-user during the years they refuse to admit it’s a problem, back when they still call it medicine, being hateful, racist, alleviates some stressful condition we are in. Hate is not fire the way they would have it seem.
Believe me when I say, hate is a balm to the hateful. 

It sets their guilt at ease. 

I’m not saying it’s better, or that you should, I’m stating for fact that if you fully think it through, you’ll eventually feel what I feel when I think about myself, and people who were in truly hateful places in their lives while I knew them. Sympathy. I just see pain. Planted in the most fertile soil that exists. The misplaced human conscience. I kind of see them perpetually trying to scrub black dishes white, eternally, in some place that is so almost heaven. Eyeballs are for earth. This is the place of their birth. Their original intention. Heaven might not appear on the surface so pleasing to them. So try, strive, to glimpse something while you’re here without using your eyes. Practice.

That elusive deep down buried in the chest heart smile happiness.
No one got that from doing the dishes.

I have nothing new to say.
Eyes were never the only way.

There’s always been more than one definition for vision.

#LookItUp

Someone Elses Atmosphere

We’ve sat on the porch and watched and listened to many summer thunderstorms roll our western horizon like a horde, like a million soldier army with only two feet, stepping heavy cannonade in between neighborhoods. Not last night. The cell was right over us. Shaking the house. Lighting up the bedroom like paparazzi peeking through our windows. Thunder seeming to ooze out from under us like worms out of the mud. Never would have believed it came from above. The house and farm was pounded by rain, and warned by lightning, we had our foundations tested for cracks of weakness. And we passed. We have too many, and they’ve all started working together to coincide like roots, and we held, broken as can be, more flexible for it. The baby that passes for a little boy didn’t lose a minute of sleep. Counted three corn stalks down. This calm, powder navy blue morning keeps last night’s weather like a secret. If you didn’t wake up from your dreams, watch daylight flash through sealed shut eyes, feel the monster knock up from under the bed hello, you would never know it had happened. That pleasant sounding, captured in a bottle, fun little Southern Summer thunder had stepped clean over our heads last night. Sparing us, but not before scaring us. We woke up this morning talking about last night like we both had the same nightmare.

And somewhere across the countryside, someone sat on their back deck grinning.
Our nightmare was their atmosphere for the evening.

A Millimeter, or Two

Expectation. That’s it. That’s the secret to happiness. Fix your expectations. For example, the question, what is the meaning of life, is full of expectations. It’s like asking, what was the meaning of your trip to Disney when you’ve been on the road two hours and haven’t even made it South of the Border, South Carolina. You say life, like it’s a status, or a destination, when life is a series of complex, critical processes that require huge amounts of space, resources, and most of all, time. You’re kind of asking, what is the meaning of running really fast. We’re asking about the means as if it were the end. If we started at the beginning, we wouldn’t ask, because it’s quite clear life has no real meaning or purpose outside of addition. To see tomorrow. More, I guess, is the answer to that question. Your heart will keep pumping, legs moving, guts churning, carrying you over a cliff or into a thicket of thorns for all you care.

If you dig deep, into the pressurized ore of real honestly, you’re not asking about meaning or life. You’re complaining. You’re making a declarative statement about meaninglessness. You’re calling it hard, admitting the deficit between what we put in versus get out. To me, asking that question, you’re confessing to being somewhat recently touched by life, frightened by it, moved all those rumbling gut level meditations about the futility of your daily grind up into your mind, and it’s put pressure on your perception to do a little moral mathematics and determine all this sacrifice was in the pursuit of good. Well, it wasn’t. Because good is a one sided, half of the story, incomplete expectation, like the side of a quarter, it may win you the toss, but it will never not be just a millimeter or two away from loss. Good has cost. What pain have you had to go through before you recognized a good that was also true. A phrase like good food. Are you willing to see outside of time, and call hunger good too.

Expectations. That’s it. They’re the secret. To stop calling heads or tails in the air. And instead, figure out who is tossing the coin. And take their job.

While We Sleep

An uneasy hen barks beside the bedroom window first thing. I forget who, but someone left the coop door wide last night. Sitting on the front porch while the coffee pot works magic in the laboratory. Cures Covid19. Cures cancer. Cures Tuberculosis of the spleen. Black earth bean. Bitter, dark chocolate, permeating, lingering. Sweating while piping warm liquid tumbles down bony rimmed, ringed and blind esophageal lining and those tightly pursed lips between pink acid coated cheeks. You don’t have a name on the inside of you. You’re not even someone to your organs. A level of cognitive distance where there is none physically will make it easier to make decisions to alter, or damage, or end the external you, for the sake of the squishy equipment kept inside.

Gentle early morning air is a goody two shoes gossip, telling on a smoker down the street, front stoop arguments, dog happiness turned vicious over distance. Quiet morning minutes are some of the quickest in existence. If our whole lives were pure mornings we’d get eighty eight years knocked out in fewer than twenty two. In the morning, I would never forget to close the coop. That’s something that only happens in last night poems. Last night there’s little orange flickering yellow hearted tongues licking up and down limbs that fell in the recent storms, tickling stone faced fleeting trees. Battleships could loom up in the shallow darkness that devours night time distance and no one would know but cicadas, all hands on deck after about seventeen years below, driving nails into wood to keep the ocean out. Last night poems almost never get written in the moment. So damn hard to see the page, I feel like a kid with a coloring book, one crayon hung out from my mouth like a cigar, purple spirals on the outline of a hollow pirate ship. 

First thing though, I’m van Gogh, giving an ear to my art, I hear every part, even the seventh chair flute at the top of the road shrilling intermittent up to a coda. I can see everything except for firelight. Trees are giant elephant’s feet. The fleet of battleships found their feet and out they slipped, to the deeper waters of the deeper woods, lobbing depth charges overboard that explode in unseen roots and turn submarines belly up like bloated fish. Last night, the yard was wrapped up in dark like a Christmas present, and this morning came in shorning and all that nighttime is balled up paper trash framing a new puppy. Today. Now. Right now, to be exact. Everyday starts this way. Five minutes of pure joy breathing stifling hot nighttime in a mug, followed by a lifetime of chasing, cleaning up after, mourning morning. And first thing becomes last night same as dreams. 

While we sleep.

Short section from a novel I’m working on, Fathers and Sons, about hiking on the Appalachian Trail.

Judy’s father passed when the boys were still pretty young, Jeremiah was in fifth, no, fourth grade, I believe. His eyes misted over, stared off in the direction the deer had disappeared into. It wasn’t the funeral. Open casket. The family gathering. Fried chicken and mystery casserole and three different things called salad that aren’t. But a few weeks prior, when Papaw was in a nursing home having his heart monitored, we were out at this local pizza buffet that let kids eat free if they showed a report card with all A’s and B’s. I remember this night as he’s telling it. He had some great scheme of activities to do with his grandpa once he was better. Walking the land. Picking corn by hand. Shooting guns off at pie pans. His mother and I were as burnt out and worn down as this pizza place by now. Faking hope is not energy efficient. So we told him. Right or wrong. Mistake, probably, or not. This poor kid. That his grandpa wasn’t going to make it. That this was his end. Everything we were all working so hard at, was not to keep him alive, but to make him comfortable. And he broke. He broke then. He broke this morning. Neither Olivia or I said a word to him. We did not know how important it was that we did, and perhaps he was right, we should have at least tried. But, as he claimed, in ever mounting, heated tones, we were afraid of him. Anyone else would get a kind word, even just an exercise in manners. Jeremiah claimed to be the only man in the world who could open up his heart to people and be met with nothing but sheer silence. The fact that he even stayed around us, he yelled, was a testament to the strength and bottomless charity of his character. Maybe he should just go on and do us all a favor and leave for good, forever. And this is where I royally messed up. Big time.

I said go ahead.

Comfort Squash

The mask is off the sun and that hot damp breath summertime is full of wickedness and germs. Dainty powdery white moths sew caterpillar seeds all over tomato plants hairy as spider legs. Tiny tinny metallic beetles have snipped the tassels off corn like old men plucking hair from their ears. So they can hear. The raspy phlegm crackling off powerlines. The pop pop pop of someone’s hair triggered insecurity across the countryside. The silent stuffiness hooked like fish on a trotline of trees. Clouds look like milk poured in water. Milk looks like clouds squeezed into stainless steel. The grass is dying. Trees are thriving. 

It takes over eight minutes for the sun to close the distance between us. That breakneck pace, that lonely brimming emptiness, for eight whole minutes, like a bullet from a gun in a vacuum with nothing like air to impede it. Strikes skin and stops still hot. A planetary tanning bed basked in the affordable glow off nuclear fusion. 

Earth. Where infinity finally meets its Zucchini.

Deadwood Sermon

I cringe-watch this HBO show, Deadwood, no kidding I’ve probably fast forwarded through a third of the entire series.

But there is a really great moment when a character who is a drunken, racist horror-show finishes up a rant expressing his illogical judgment and condescension toward an entire group of people. And a man at the bar questions him for his own genetic history, making a suggestion his ‘nose looks a little broad’.

You’re not going to teach someone twenty years or older to start branching out beyond hate and judgment to search for an alternative source of self esteem. For a lot of these people, being White is the only thing they ever won outright. They hang their skin color on the wall like a diploma or a college degree, beside the flags and relics of an even longer heritage of losing.

You can hate someone, and still consider that any path to their subjugation or denial of their rights will never be exclusive. Any denial of any citizen’s rights is untenable, because down the line you will not be the right kind of White. If you accept a racial class system, then the burden is on each and every one of us to trace our own and impossibly produce documentation of our ‘purity’ and evidence of its lack of any corruption. Which you can’t. It will come down to DNA, and guess what, our ancestors were just as dumb, anxious and horny as us.

Hate. Hate everything. Hate your neighbor. Hate snakes in the grass. Hate love, hate hate especially. Not allowing your government and society to condone, propagate and operate under the principles of racism has nothing to do with who or what you hate.

Any path to taking away a citizen’s right to life is a path to taking it away from all of us.

On a long enough timeline, you won’t be the right kind of White, because White never meant race, it has always meant money.

And honey, if you’re still flying the Stars and Bars, you may as well be red and blue, because White isn’t you.

The Brightest Nights

Crackling polka dotted puddles beneath droopy pale underbellied leaves.
A true mess of mixed greens. Next time we’ll label the rows. Oh well.
Sharp and lacy and either rape seed, turnip, mustard or kale.
Cat ate some the other day. Elbow tap. Look at that. A fresh kale.

It is raining again. The dogs are up. Birds are silent.
Earthworms being suffocated up out of the mud.
Flat mirrors unwink unending misshapen silver dollars.
Money doesn’t grow from trees. The older I get, the more it grows on me.

Spring leak licks down upturned leaves like the cat uses its tongue to clean
every fuzzy inch of gargantuan body. Roots exposed. Line draped in clothes.
We never got to them in time. Always fresh out.
Gray cap set snug arresting a rat’s nest of tangled green.

Time is measured by line of sight.
Rainy days are the brightest nights.

The Meal from the Cub (2 of 2)

We all start like seeds in our mother’s soil. 

Eggs are like seeds. So are planets really, bursting with roots of starved gravity.

Electrons are like seeds, the universe itself, spreading out from a mindbogglingly finite point of spatial dimension into this immeasurable, mystifying massiveness. Biology mirrors chemistry like a face in rippled water. There is a God. It was speaking to us in our anatomy long before it ever engraved a tablet or plagued a city. Clearly there is a loosely defined polarity to the universe, a general lightness and heaviness, a fiery push and gravitational pull, a female and male with all sorts of hybridized relationships in between.

The breeding we do just to exist as individuals, this is like a love letter written to us about how power transfers and expands itself within this universe. How much more important and potent relationship is than isolation and independence and general lone wolfedness. Enough so that plants even pretend to care about gender just to attract and entice us. It’s coupling. It’s power play. It’s essentially what happens at the heart of every atomic endeavor, as clouds of swirling electrons push and pull and shape and squeeze protons and neutrons between them, little bonds forming between things being stretched apart to the point of almost bursting and then held here, sustained, unlocking the energetic outpulse that engendered the universe and ultimately led to us: physical conglomerates sustaining projections of consciousness for sustained periods. Awake is something so difficult to do, it requires us to sleep half of every day, and eventually ages our bodies to the point of irrevocable exhaustion. 

I believe electrons are seeds of consciousness. And I believe their nature is agriculture, cultivation, provocation, stimulation. They accomplish a sort of guided husbandry between fertile elements, measuring the couplings and overlappings that work against those that don’t. I believe we, our anatomy, our minds, our instincts, our entire way of life, are organized in a zombie-like obedience to the atomic relationships going on inside of us. 

We see what they want us to see, and remember only what we need. And wouldn’t you know, the light learned early on the added benefits of keeping us in the dark.