Consequence-Free Speech and other made-up things

What makes murder in the first degree is premeditation. Also known as, words, writing, ideas, plans that promote and lead to criminal activity. Free speech is a defense of free expression, not protection for those who use their words to foment crime. There are consequences to freely expressing ideas and opinions that end in violence. Murder is not the only act subject to premeditation. So is segregation. Institutionalized racial bias. Unequal access to religious freedoms. Assaults on women and other marginalized groups. Your words are the compass-bearing that guides your actions. And when the reaction is criminal, your words are judged more harshly and answered with more finite penalties, because you used them like tools.

No one who promotes hateful, violent, prejudiced and illegal ideas is being persecuted by being denied a stage. Organizations and private citizens are protecting themselves from being complicit in your crime. If free speech mean no holds barred, all cards on the table, anyone of us can say anything that pops into our heads, consequence free, then what is murder in the first degree? What is a charge like conspiracy, or treason?

Unless the argument is for judgement-free speech, which I’m going to go ahead and let you know, will never happen. You will be judged by your words and actions, no matter what side of the equation you happen to fall on. And there is a long-storied, historical precedent in this country of using your words against you, when those words directly harm the trust and systemic foundation that feeds and defends you.

Think you’re better than women. If only your thoughts were the molten earth beneath our feet. If only your thoughts steered the stars, and shaped our orbit around ours. If only your thoughts were oxygen, and we all, mutually, depended on them to breath.
Fortunately, the human race needs women more than your opinions.

Think yours is a better race, or religion, or that you’re more important than people who don’t love or live like you. If only everyone in the world agreed with your choices. If only all of us could see all of you and find no qualm with any part. Being white, and being Christian, and speaking English, are not the equivalent of being sinless. Your right to systematically judge and restrict any group, is an argument to use the same metric adversely against you. And though you seem intent on claiming you do, you don’t want that. It would take more than angry words for you to convince me of that.

Of course, you are free to try.
But to an equal extent and your dismay,
the validity or criminality or necessity of what you say,
is still and always will be for us to decide.

Winter Stock

Nailing up fourth walls for actors who won’t obey them.
Instincts speak ‘betray them’. Blue tarp barriers
and cold breathy chicken wire stapled over gaps.
Trying to trap heat in is as hard as keeping them.

Sharp-bearded performers with brown alpine stripes along spines.
Thick cotton fur white at the roots, or feathers stiff and bowing
against thick slow moving winter air.

Going over lines.
Talking to the world like you would chatter to yourself.
Actors enamored at no longer just hearing,
but to see the vapor of their very own breath.

Wisdom Teething #2

Wisdom teeth being born in the back of a mouth.
Ripping, bleeding, clawing their way crawling out.
Peaking shy heads above gums.
Endless exploration by a torn and tearing tongue.
Even pushing, at times, as if muscle could make bone
retreat back inside, hide, in the calcium kernels
with roots gripped into my jaw.

Wiser than us all.

Wisdom teeth came in like men riding mares,
looking up and seeing stars, answering their call.

The wisest of us all.

Brave enough to go and grow
where they have not once
ever been called.

The Changing Season

My life, in a word, is not mine.
Only my hands are mine.
And up along the sore-brick spine.
My life, in a word, is the pain in my head.

The distraction positing on top of my mind submitting.
First warm-by-comparison moisture unfrozen
hair lifting squinting breeze of the changing season.

Of every season. Which I like the sound of.
Which has fulfilled this original position.

An opening line.
A thought brought to poetical completion.

My life in a word, is changing.
And for good reason.
I have just felt the warm-winded
initiation of The Changing Season.

Farm or be farmed.

The farmer kills chickens when he or she is hungry.
And Japanese beetles when they are too. Killing the corn.

The farmer still does it.
Crushes reflective bodies between finger and thumb.
Red guts wiped on long wagging green tongues.

The beetles keep on also.
Out around eleven and on toward dusk.

Man has a husk. Armor. Which can be pierced. Eaten into. Through.
And chickens, beetles, these things do too.

I suppose all farmers feel a little bit bitten. Harmed.
And maybe this is why they kill them all. Big or small.

Farm or be farmed.

Words were once wet ink

Memorized movement.
Choreographed choices.
Spat out sentences like life, or death.
To do, or not to, no matter how much you want to. Don’t.

Use your mouth for a pencil and an audience like paper.
Fill them. Move them. Ruined. Stained. Like ink on a page.
And better be. For the money they paid.
Hardback wood seats embedded engraved copper
with the names of other patrons. Burgundy curtain.
Beige carpet. Used to be a movie theater.
Now a playground for the grown followers of Peter Pan.
A medicine cabinet to those who still take sugar by the spoonful.
By the roomful. Mouths all held agape and waiting.
Debating, could I do that if I wanted to?

Wear an ashy old hat and hum into a warped kazoo.
Sing a line of comfort, out loud, and acquire a choir
of voices who fear making no such choices.
Already out in the light waiting to be spotted.
Nervous wiggling swords in the wings.
Say a few words, then she sings.
And in just a few minutes,
all hell breaks loose.
Literally.

Fire and demons and love-lust forgiveness.
Chased by heaven and angels
and everything else guilt invented.

Memorized moments.
Choreographed to look like chaos.
Words once wet ink spat out like cold coffee.
Like watermelon seeds. Like blood.

A reminder that more goes on inside each instant than any of us would care to admit.
That memory is mostly magic. And reality, despite being neither a game or a toy,
can still be an appropriate thing to play around with.

This Kid

Teeth out.
Half moon ribbed peach lips parted.
Crystal cracked corners at the creased angles of eyes
in lines that still go away afterward.
Not for long. Yet still, for now.
Kids smile. Just don’t know why.
Which is probably how.

And how it spreads like secrets.
Gets shared around by people.
When we see innocence still capable of feeling. Authentic.
In a world of grown up actors. Dollar sign directors.
Producers who never gripped a plow. Applause.
And faked up emotions to match the other audience members.

Then this kid. At this age. Insistent. On his stage.
Doesn’t care if we sold a single ticket.

This is his play.

Do not ever take it off, for anyone.

No honey, do not take off your rings.
Ask for the pat down before ever removing jewelry.
Said the lady in the navy on navy pant suit.
Lavender latex gloves. Peach palms. Clocked in grin.

She is right.
She knows what she is talking about.

These sorts of things, rings, tend to disappear. She said.
Leave your hands bare. Instead.
Of just that one finger lingering on that left hand.

A young couple of friends in the air.
Both their counters elsewhere.
For a time. Like siblings in the care
of their mutual employer. Her father.
Their boss. Our loss. Is his cost.
And he puts a smile on to bear it.
He bought the ring. We wear it.

An arena in which we follow behind the rich and share
conversations with our phones while we bypass strangers
none the stronger for learning their angers. Their plans.
Why they run. Full hands.
Through airports at eight o’clock on a Wednesday.
Morning. Maybe. Mourning. Maybe late for a wedding.
Maybe hers.

There may be a new ring of her own to put on upon landing.
Such a thing as mystery demands to be beyond understanding.

Just worn out. And never taken off.
Even if it keeps you from taking off.

Once you have put this ring on,
do not ever take it off,
for anyone.

One unsuspecting morning

Relationships are hard. Dense. Difficult to understand well enough to apply to purpose. Like a finely made, ornate, intricately sharpened tool, too heavy to pick up.

The struggle is focused on shaping. Changing. Cutting away extraneous pieces. Hammering a blade thinner, asleep in coals until red hot, then whole steel chunks are removed.

These are aspects of ourselves. The sacrifices we make constantly in order to cohabitate. These concessions are not restricted to human interactions. They are necessary for sustainable communication with livestock like chickens, goats, pets like cats, dogs, down to their pests, fleas and ticks. Whether we like it or not, they must be considered.

The relationship could be the bloodsucking parasite attached to the host.
A story that reads lustful, consumptive love, and inevitable discovery.

In most situations, it entails me holding fire to the creature and watching it cringe and swell and pop. It is not easy to think this way all the time. But I have found it to be necessary. And rewarding.

Consider that it is still relationship when one party attacks, damages or ends the other one. Sometimes it can be easy to slip into the assumption humans hold the patent on choices, but symbiosis, parasitism, neighborliness, taking advantage, are inherited concepts. They belonged first and far most to the world.

I kill what sought to drain me. I do not feel good or bad about it. I just consider it.
Like the flock of birds I care for daily, weekly, at this point yearly, spilled pails into trays and automatic waterers, feeding bags and bags of feed my money buys, trade my time to fill these bird’s stomachs. Then we go there.

One unsuspecting morning, the towers who care for chickens come and isolate one or two in a box. Ending lives. Taking a look into their craws, opening up their stomachs.
I don’t imagine or assume where my time went. I know.

That is a relationship. A bastard child of predator and prey. We call it farming.
And it can be disturbing, like most things, hard to understand.
But it may provide a starting point for tilling the dense mindset of Man.
This tool we find grasped in our species hands. Yet are unable to use.

And the more individuality we have to sacrifice, compromise,
in order to interact fruitfully with others,
the duller the blade becomes.

Play on

Twenty odd referees blowing whistles first thing call the sun out.
Crying foul. Singing yellow thumbs. Pigeon coup. Upheaval.
Change. Cold night filtered air meets heat head on and wiggles
hips up from asphalt.

Eyes half closed in order to see.
Horizons a voice can’t seem to pull on. Bird songs.
And southern dialects over decaf coffee
loud enough on a front porch to be heard down the street.
Like we are all of us part of this conversation. Birds too.
Raspy ones that bark like feathered kazoos.
Sharp clean could be a grandpa in a supermarket.
Hollow boned morsels tap Morse code.

Tweet like teenagers,
except impeccable grammar.

Then the quiet ones. Watchful birds.
If not for my imagination,
would not nest in these words.

Yet they are there. Bobbing in the treeline.
Staring down silver glimmers tracing the crests of gray lake waves.
Filling young yellow triangles with breakfast.

Not all birds wake up to song.
There are plenty of referees who uphold flat palms.
And only say, with silence, play on.