The Hive (part 4 – conclusion)

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.

The Hive (part 2)

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’.

The Hive (part 1)

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.

As the rooster calls

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.

Be Delicious

Fifteen thousand years of voices, one billion years of choices. How did forward and back and should I eat that lead to all this. Consciousness. But you can’t call her that. She goes by Beverly. And she would prefer to pretend all those voices off all her ancestors are actually her own. When they aren’t. She’ll call them fleeting feelings. We call all kinds of evidence chaos when we don’t understand it. There are no miracles here. Our perception is in motion. The subject we’re paying attention to is in motion. Ever lined up with a car on the highway going eighty five and you’re both just sitting still staring at one another and your stomach even sinks, settles, like it does only when the car is stopped. That, but on an elemental level, creates the weird quirks and magical powers we keep giving to electrons that are really just deficits in line of sight. The truth is we live in a perfect, flawless, as in, no other way it could be accomplished, creation. Try not to let your imagination undermine simple, unobservable truth. 

We don’t understand time yet. Its relationship to distance. And the clear obviousness that it is not a uniform progression. But like a runner who starts slow and speeds to the stop with several hundred breathers and water-breaks in-between, time chugs, like a fire starved steam train, we have good days where we feed it steady, and bad years, when the universe drinks too much, let’s her beard grow long and doesn’t wake up until she loses some animals. This whole shebang probably began when God went to start digging our grave. There’s the garden you plan. And then the one the land craves. And the farmer is a slice of deli meat squeezed hard between two pieces of bread: the living and the dead. And the purpose of life, I don’t know, be delicious. What is the purpose of sandwich meat, Beverly?

Some More Time

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.

My Garden

So many things. Looking out across a haze and realizing it is me. My garden. The dust off the disc I’m pulling. And so many things. The only reason I can see is that I’m directly beneath giant crackling power lines drooped between towers every tenth of a mile. A direct channel cut the way a river dug, shaved the way a razor does. At one time, both creating and destroying this view. 

I think my grandpa felt brilliant when he decided to garden here. Four acres under a power company easement he’ll never get out from under. A sort of real-estate-recycling. Not normal power lines, mind, these are cables connecting two plants together. It’s nuclear and coal combined above my head, where papaw said a light bulb would light up if I held it up high enough. Got paid for the easement, can’t plant trees on it, but shoulder high corn and mound-sprawling peanuts and the juicy expectoration of squash plants up from the ground. Ground he can’t build on or develop. But a collaboration with sunlight eating, root-based life forms in a surface level nutrient mining endeavor, also known as, gardening, it is the perfect spot. Gentle south facing slope.

Four acre field, he called it, the sixty year old question mark shaped man who farmed it. And if he had worked any other part of the land, then we would not have this commanding view from the grinding bucket throne of a geriatric tractor seat. I can see a mile. I can see my great uncle’s old place a hill or two over. I can see a truck with evening piercing spotlights floating like an earth-satellite splitting a wide green field’s black night. But mostly, I see all this taupe dust in the late May, late day, dying light. 

It’s my father’s land, his father’s and his mother’s, and his grandfather’s father before him, floating, off, and we will never see it again. Only the most fertile stuff takes off on a whim like that. The best of the best will always be less beholden to the rest, that’s what we do to people when we tell them they’re the best. We take them off their team. Remove the heat, kill the steam. If I did this enough, I’d lose my garden’s bite, I’d dull its teeth, but once, in a time crunch, on the unguarded border of late spring, North Carolina drought, I could get away with it, and have to, if I want to get it planted by Sunday. Before the rain comes. If all my neighbors, and every farmer for miles did this, we’d create a sizable cloud, enough to squint the eyes of people in town, and if we did it enough, for months, for years, we’d fill up that old dusty bowl full with so many years ago, and the ground would shake from so many old heads shaking in their graves. 

So many things. So much to see. When the power company came through and cut the trees they buried them in long, not so shallow graves along the way. Since they have rotted and collapsed and take up not even a tenth of the space they did in life, there are just massive rectangular divots every acre or so along this regularly mowed river of hovering, frightening, electricity. Like graves who spat out their guests sit gaped, the dirt that once filled them long washed away. A half mile of haze. Churned up by rolling discs that sat for twenty years in the expanse between a grandparent and a grandchild.

If I could have done it any other day, if there was a way I could have waited for the rain, I would have. But there are so many things. So much to think. And then again, there really isn’t. 

To think my grandpa is somewhere buried beneath the same stuff in these clouds of dust, that his old set of garden discs has risen.

Writing Advice: Play Pirates

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.

Empty plates in place of thanks

Salmon patty pinto beans cornbread salt like sand against teeth
green beans boiled potato quarters day old macaroni with calluses for cheese
short cakes topped by strawberries and whipped cream and powdered sugar
the dull metallic taste of a spoon that has known a hundred tongues
last night’s dinners dried in groins between forks
butter knife clean as a salad plate.

Fruit flies by bananas on the counter food-stained tower by the sink
tea that has sugar in it and was cooked on the stove
half moon watermelon runes and cans the salmon came in
on the back step for a one-eyed cat to lick clean.

The bathroom smells like a whole can of hair spray and half a cigarette.
Chase me the child screams. Got you, he types in an email.
Compliments are the pallbearers of criticism.
Empty plates in place of thanks.
Something to sit and sip in front of fire
and nurse our old winter desire until we retire
and our bowels sing us to sleep
melodies we were never meant to keep
raise us like lazarus in the morning
to roll the stone away
or so they say.

Catch me daddy, catch me.

First Humans

First light. First coffee. First music. Is something reset overnight while we sleep. When did eight hours later suddenly become tomorrow. First rain in three weeks. The wetted lips of clover speak, the beaded blades of grass are weak, they curtsy with tear drops on point. First gardens. As if winter was asleep. The world wakes spring. Wishy-washy. Watch birds to tell the weather and soak every last drip of cold. Summer is coming. Like never seen before. First summer. All other summers were sleep. This summer will wake, break, make, remake, spade, spate and stake us up like tomato vines. Next fall, we won’t be the same. We’ll be new ones.

First humans.