Working hard or hardly working

There is a difference between exercise and labor.

Both can help your health, could cause injury, or swell ego. Except, physically demanding chores are a little different. When accomplished correctly, they leave behind a pile of split firewood, or dripping clean dishes, or a new row rolled over in the garden.

In a gym, this experience is for sale. The impact grows firm in sore muscles, or rinsed with expensive sweat down the drain in the shower after. For your money, you get strong and healthy, but only around repetitive motions specific to mindless machines, a heavy iron bar and round silver dumb-bell ears.

Even simple tasks like cutting grass, however, on your feet pushing a smoke puffing mower, or filling holes in the road, or turning compost over, or digging gardens by hand, exercises your thinking-organ as well.

Eyes, ears, mind must go to task with body, so as to not waste effort. Cause injury to yourself or others. Damage the yard. Break a tool. A tsk tsk task. It is as mentally engaging to get good, essential chores accomplished as it is physical.

Compared to mind numbing counting and losing track of turns around the track, rote transitions through this machine or that, stretching out on the mat, cardio, bodybuilding, athletic training for bookkeepers, an army of well-tended iron on wire cords.
Such monotone, even-tempered, routinized methods of getting into or maintaining desired shapes. It all becomes another way to measure ourselves against others.

Splitting firewood, cutting and hauling yard trash, moving earth, putting down power tools and doing the work by hand, won’t win you any speed or strength or body building competition. But it will make you stronger. And the gym has been in business longer.

Young Woman Washing Plates

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.”

“Thanks, darling.”

All-Questions

All the thoughts in my head are formatted
with question marks chasing after them.
I would know nothing if not for confusion..
Questions made me who I am. Like who am I?
What is I. Eyes can’t see. Ice on the grass.
For the first time since seven months ago.
Seems so long. So any questions answered since.
Makes my head spin. Questions turn the earth.
For many reasons. For at least four seasons.

The Voice

Take away the noise. The voice. The rippled ocean in the air. So that we are all ears. So that no one can hear. Except through the soles of their feet. Don’t pray with fingers intertwined but toes touching. Take a seat. Flee the heat. Fleet week. Anarchists in sailor’s uniforms. Soldiers by day, villains on the web. Spiders say thank you for your service while thinking damn I’m glad I’m not you, and I would send you into hell to save only the shadow of myself. Silhouetted soldiers on a bumper sticker on her car. It’s just a job. No one takes you so seriously as you do. No one is supposed to. Everyone will lie to your face and deny it under torture and declare they are honest. But in earnest, they disbelieve in the existence of the thing called truth. Some philosophical fragment encountered in their youth cautioned them into chaos. If education manufactured silent spaces, simply sought to take away the noise, no one would disbelieve the concept of truth. 

Swear on the past, equivocate the present, and promises for the future suture up the time in between. But no matter where you are looking, the proof is in the pudding. Can you imagine, coming to God, the real God, the only one we’ve got, having killed, murdered, in preservation of your own survival, and in reflecting on your own story, you can’t articulate the purpose of your life, the good you’ve done, the mountains you moved, nothing. You fought a war or sent soldiers into fire to save a forest you never explored. If a villain approached you with a blade and swore to end your life and you took nothing from them but the blade, you’d go to heaven with the real God there greeting you, beer mugs in both hands. If you went out on a frozen winter night and laid down in the woods and breathed in the roaring frothing air until it made you ice on the inside, God waits at the trailhead of your next adventure holding two glasses of wine. Take the pain because the pain came from the same thing the joy did and you’ll be there with all the ones you ever loved clutching sticky flutes of champagne. 

But if you go the other way, if you commit to kill a stranger because you are afraid to die, you could not enter heaven even cradled in the arm-crib of God itself. Even if that stranger was evil. It does not matter. The act of not desperately avoiding death would save a life, no matter the consequences, makes a better story. If you kill to stay alive, you better be able to articulate why. Why you. Why life. Life is an inheritance, not a recompense. You did nothing to deserve or earn this status. Killing picks up stones in the footbed of your soul. Which accrue, and grow, to become the very anchor that keeps you from ascending to the life that follows after life. You will be trapped in your own cocoon. Never taste nectar. Die a fat, insatiable caterpillar belly full of leaves, farmers cursing your name and gifting you blame. 

You call death what nature calls change. 

You are the powerful one in this equation. 

God is a third person omniscient narrator.

A disembodied voice offering us this choice.

You be my life after death, and I’ll be yours.

Sticky Note Poetry

How is this man my
teacher, stretched out
and lost meaning-reacher,
whose mind fell out
through the bleachers
lost thought-blood
to the leechers.

I’ve reached the end
of my rhyme but I
still have time
lines left to right
and slowly down
icky sticky stuck on
itchy notary
sticky note poetry.
Wow.
I see how
he is my teacher.
Now.
Though I think
he’d prefer
to play preacher.

The Window

could be cleaned
should
would
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.

The light
it splashes
across the page
broken by shadows
intersecting lines
zagging dull trails
where moisture
streaked
dripped
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
that here
this dingy window
I am closest to the world.

Craftsmanship

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.

Oh you life

Oh you life, pompous and loud, loopy yet proud. Lightning crashing parties in heaven.
At the entrance telling lies that barrel down deep like thunder, a second too late, truth debates shaking ground from sound, flustered, rippled air. The clouds hoisted rain withheld,
dangled, above head, just out of reach, beyond, water in aerated ascended ponds
casting shade and crooked lines so thin you can see through them, translucent,
as rain rapidly sinking, the ferocious storms of real, devoted thinking, consideration. Uncompromising. Life, oh, how there are those who paint you anywhere
other than in raging weather, wind leaves trees giant rustled chickens
flashing pale upturned feathers, branches falling crashed lightning but closer, nearer,
thunder felt under feet, in ankles, before there is time to even hear.
There are those who do not know the meaning of awe.
Most feel only frightened, tired, ducking heads, cowering out of the rain,
cursing an unknown creator seed-planting our pain. Oh my life.

When I was a child, how I loved the sunny dispositions of my parents.
And vilified heir strifes. The complex truth of their lives.
The disparate realities of parents.

Oh life, like parents, your love, your presence, is one of many forms.
But it wasn’t until I was grown and worn, that I found comfort in storms.

Gold Mine

Write something for release. Something to get all the feelings out. Some good angry metaphors and critical analogies. To get you thinking, to stop me. It’s ten after six and the only sensory details I have through the window are an odd rooster crowing at an imaginary sun, a goat kid calling the dark for mom, and bush crickets that go silent the moment I write their name. There’s the big empty trucks driving tired men to work, where their trucks will sit emptier still in a parking lot. They’ll work six months then lay out six, that’s when someone comes and takes the truck. They peer into blacked out windows in the houses they pass with such fierce jealousy and disdain for sleeping bodies. Still not angry enough for how stuck I feel.

Trapped. Used. Forgotten. Lonely. There have to be better words than these. Pinioned. Whorred. Dumped. And honest. Keep the melodrama to yourself, Jeremy, please. My heart is what I named my deepest, most internal, least malleable and consistent thoughts. Right now my heart cries want, want, want. To work my farm from dawn to dusk. To be my very own son-of-a-bitch boss. To finish this book burning in my head. So I can start on the one I haven’t dreamed of yet. I want to be Jeremy, capital Me, I want the last of Mr. Homesleys. There is a gold mine on this land left buried.

I have the shovel.
But not the time.

See It Sewn

A misty eyed mystified look across twenty four young faces. Masks make you realize how it all always was in the eyes. Skepticism. Judgment. A narrow fold of scrunched justices when brows get pulled down together. A good orator sits back in the seat where they stand. Let them stew in it a bit, before easing the queasy feeling of questioning what it was they just heard. A crooked smile is like a wide-brimmed hat, one should never leave the homeplace without it. 

The love a partner hands over after forty years of marriage is the same love McDonald’s believes people have for its sandwiches. There’s no formal distinction between these two uses of this one word. I love my mother. I love Saturdays. Equitability doesn’t just raise the bottom, it lowers the top. Levels the heap. Squashes the pile flat as the earth was before we rounded down its corners.

Assigning students to produce in a room designed for them to receive. Sit quietly. That thing in your pocket that is quickly becoming your voice, it’s contraband in this space. You will use it to speak through for the rest of your life. It connects you to anyone who loves you and would fight for you no matter the stakes. Make no mistakes, your phone will save your life perhaps even from those publicly sworn to serve it. But if you glance at it during class, to check the time, no time to ask, you’ll lose it. They’ll take it. And you refuse to, they’ll send both of you home till Tuesday. 

Then this kid thinks, well I can’t go to college. This school thing is not for me. I can’t go four more years, my voice held hostage while I’m demanded to speak. Kids forming their perceptions based on tired, saggy, complaintive old people going through the motions is a recipe for the slow motion disaster being served at all our tables right now. 

I get it. School is a two bird, one stone design. Built primarily with babysitting in mind. But it is also a teacher trap, a catchall for those called to the one field government never sacked the revolution on: educating future generations. It is amazing. How far we’ve come. How drop-dead smart we are. And yet we haven’t figured out how to make a door we can close behind ourselves and once we do, no one can ever come through ever again. We can’t figure it out, because the universe is created in such a way where it can not be done. If a nation is formed of revolution, then it will be plagued by revolution until its dying day. The line stops when we find there’s a real plot to dumb down our children. I will not see mine censored into societally induced stupidity. 

A good orator is not in it for the applause. Jesus knows who rocks the boats, he doesn’t fear water, his time is set in stone. Before the end, you just want to know, there’s a touch of what was in you still out in the world, and if you don’t see it, a good orator will shell out the right words, and see it sewn.