Some Kind of Camouflage

After two months outside, pretty well insulated from this political climate, I come back to find it was safer in the woods. The poison ivy at least has three leaves. Black bears are pacifists who prefer to hug trees. Bees are after their honey. And leave you alone once they know you’re not sweet. But outside of the woods, things are not as they seem.

I’ve seen black bears the color of cream wearing gray comb-overs who couldn’t fathom satisfying women their own age. Heard about poison ivy hung like mistletoe above office doorways, and dangled from handles, and laid out in thick wreaths on every seat. For years it will be coming out of pores, clothes, hiding in shoes, latent in skin. The itch. Hornets leaping from holes in the ground up skirts, up pant legs, down shirts, not even looking for honey. Honey is back home waiting. These insects just want to sting something. Anything.

After spending a couple months outside, without a roof overhead, I can tell you with confidence, it is in fact not actually raining. A political system is pissing on our heads. And it is not worried about these independent scandals coming out. Its fear is us discovering just how many years this has been happening. And my guess,
damn near every one of them since the beginning.

They’re going to continue painting black bears up like pandas. They already are. Scared people like to hide. These men are scared. They built these governments. All patriarchy. And turned themselves into monsters. And monsters like caves. Armani and Gucci and Polo Ralph Lauren. Single breasted and brand named and an office and a title for a lair. Bouquets of daisies wrapped in poison ivy vines on sumac place settings.
Not all the bees you meet are going to lead to honey.
And not all honey is going to be sweet.

In the woods, you really don’t wear camouflage.
It is actually far more beneficial and safer to be seen.
You put on something bright orange, you sing a little while you hike,
you don’t hesitate to talk out loud and make a little noise.
But now that I’m out of the woods, it has been the opposite.
Since I’ve been home
almost everywhere I go
I see some kind of camouflage.

Four and a Half Million Acre Mug

Rows of white teeth hungry for gray water as wind blows more constant than the sun shines. Light at least goes to bed at night. But the wind does not abstain. In fact, it grows fangs, and prowls hedgerows and leaps out from house corners. Moves tarps across the yard and carelessly leaves soggy cardboard in puddles. Pushes so hard, gray water grows navy in a slow-chugging belt to overtake the lake. Clouds come in like cavalry swinging swords of sunlight in pastel tangerine rays. Brandishing brand new stratus stripes and cumulus commissions and very cirrus medals that might one day make this storm a general. A hundred puffy gold-traced horses at the head of a high army. Little mangy islands like warts on the horizon. Bare trees from scratching off fleas and some poor soul built a house right in the middle. Lake bitten and horse ridden for sure. Eyes drink up the whole scene like that strip of sandbar close to shore makes this mess a black and tan. Cream crashing in rows as the wind blows more constant than even the sun shines. Brain belches and stomach stretches and the throat behind eyes strains to drain the four and a half million acre mug. Drinking in a great lake like it was dark frothy beer. Wind as steady as what you hear with a conch shell over your ear. Finally aware there is an ocean in the air. Brushing the bright white teeth of lake Ontario so that its gray gums recede and those thick calcium roots can be seen digging deep navy. Belts of blue greasily sliding across each chipped tooth. And everything, eyes and mind and the worlds they have written, looking bitten.

Just Like the Rest of Us

This just in. You may not actually be a white supremacist if you have no problem using United States currency. You’re probably not a true racist if you participate in any way in this economy. The people who entered this nation as a commodity actually have more claim on this country. It was built on their backs. They are its original profits. Value. Commercially speaking, if you enjoy anything about this country, you enjoy black people. You like Asians. You delight in the gifts of indigenous peoples, whether or not they gave them freely.

Their contribution is inseparable, and indistinguishable from what America is.

This just in. A person might have more luck being a white supremacist in Europe. But even then, it won’t be easy. Still, not all of those countries stacked their foundations on the backs of the people who are the colors racists claim to hate. Claim to be better than. Beyond. But the dollar in your wallet says something totally different. It’s just how capitalism works. These races you perceive actually have a good bit of money. And it is quite impossible to delineate, or keep separate, their effect on markets, culturally and commercially. So if you hate them, you are most definitely in the wrong nation. Because without these people, the United States would mean nothing. Financially speaking.

This just in. You’re not a true racist if you are in any way profiting off this system. Maybe there are a few in-the-moment instances where you use a word, or judge a person on this basis, or a whole group of people, because of skin color, or they’re speaking languages you don’t understand, or have a sense of humor you don’t get, or different fashion or food or whatnot. That’s called being afraid of different. Racism requires research into continental movements and biological and environmental and genetic factors, migrations and immigration and forced exoduses into new worlds, and a subtle, for the most part, unspoken promotion of the theory of evolution.

This just in. Racism requires reading. And honestly, I doubt the homework has gotten done. I know somewhere, someone left you hurt, and any descriptor you can cling to in order to separate them from you, you will use. You take it as offense that you have to be the same species as the organism who treated you as an object. So, you objectify them. I get it. But that’s like a drowning person striking out at their lifesaver. A reaction to fear. And pain. Thrashing out at darkness that isn’t there. You’re just blinded by your own night light. Being racist requires a lot more than being proud of being white skinned. Or beige tinged. Or deeply black. Or light peach. This just in. That’s not racism. If skin color were race, then I’d be a new race at the end of every summer. People come in different colors. I’m not surprised that gets a rise out of a lot of us. It makes sense we would fear different, and favor familiar. But that isn’t racism. Racism would refuse to use the dollar. Refuse to walk on and benefit from an infrastructure that has time after time apologized and defended the people it once acquired and treated as commodities.

If I search my heart, it says there are only maybe ten true racists in this country. Who have now realized they can camouflage themselves conservative, and recruit armies of highly confused colorists. People who naturally fear different. And change. People who do not actually care at all about race. They’re just lifelong pessimists. They meet a few people, experience some uncomfortable situations, and that becomes the standard, and every good person, and positive experience, just an exception. The most hateful, what I would come closest to calling truly racist, whom I have met, always had exceptions. Certain humans who didn’t adhere to a stereotype they otherwise treated as a rule.

This just in. Racism can’t have exceptions.

If you do not hate all people included, you do not hate a race. In my heart, I don’t believe there are more than ten humans in America who have the moral bankruptcy and self-contentedness to sustain such a powerful exclusionary philosophy. It’s not good for capitalism. Not good for small towns. Not good for government.

And, you know, America sort of stands alone among nations in its inability to separate success and vitality from the impact of large groups of non-white and immigrant people.

This just in. You wouldn’t even deign to make your white supremacy stand in America if you were truly racist. This isn’t the hill you would die on. You wouldn’t be able to eat at McDonald’s. Let alone stand keeping cash in your wallet. Knowing where it has been. The hands that make it what it is.

I know people. I know myself. Don’t let the propaganda of a few highly unsustainable individuals convince you that a natural fear of what looks different, denotes any kind of evidence for superiority or inferiority among the racial and geographical dynamics of humanity. Of our species. This is just what happens when you’re a creature who doesn’t go extinct with its environment. When you cross mountains to find new forests, and new worlds. We get a little reshaped by each place along the way, but we wouldn’t be able to breed if we weren’t the same. We’d have different eyes. Different hand shape. Different lives. Just stop thinking in exceptions and standards, and lend other people the same autonomy you demand for yourself. Hate them. Hate everyone if you want to. But if you’re not rejecting capitalism as an economic system, you’re probably not racist. And if you think America is a good place to formally distinguish the white race against all others, you really haven’t done your homework.
There’s a lot more reading required to being a true racist.

This just in.
You might just be afraid of different.
Which means, you are just like the rest of us.

And if facts don’t persuade you, no mater what,
you are going to have a hard time being a true capitalist.

The Pulpit

 

The mountains I cursed. The rain I out-poured prayers against. Some footsteps I used to walk. And some I just tried to crush the earth. As if I could. Mind hard as fossilized wood, and feet as white as chalk. I had this trick, for climbs, long ones, three, four hours maybe more, every step a foot higher than the last, don’t look up. Don’t glance toward the top. I would stare straight forward through the curved bill of my cap like a horse head cradled by blinders. Not until the walking levels. Or until the sunlight grows an arch around the rim of treeline, and there are no other ridges above your head, and you find yourself in some sharp bald spot you didn’t believe existed until then. People think you’re having such a hard time when you pass them. People think all kinds of things for the few seconds until you’re out of sight and gone.

So many of them. So much hey how are you, how’s it going, you doing all right, where’d you come from, where are you going, how is the water up ahead. All the way to New York? Well good luck, better get going, hurry up. Where are you from? Almost a thousand miles from home. No, that can’t be right, Pennsylvania can’t be two hundred miles, well, it is a three hour drive. That adds up.

That sunset just before Three Ridges. Wind came in that night and swept it out and I suspect no one will never see that sunset again. Rifle shots at seven AM. Strangers asking if I’m afraid of hunters. Wonder why I’m not wearing their favorite color. Shenandoah was like a burgundy and gold encrusted crown on the regal head of northern Virginia. And Maryland wishes it was bread so bad. But someone has to be inside the sandwich. There have to be some things in between. Neither here nor there. And such places tend to build monuments to history, to heroes who died there but did not live there, or lived there, but died somewhere else. I remember climbing the wide gravel path cut into the side of Mount Vernon. Rust red signs with mildewed once white lettering, walking us through President George Washington’s American life. A lady with two huge skinny as a rail Greyhound looking sharp-headed dogs who had no intention of containing themselves around mine. Coolly bouncing black fur barely glancing their frantic direction. I remember her apology. Her promise. Her dogs are not really like this. The things we swear to strangers.

On top of The Pulpit. Overlooking dead Pennsylvania hillsides. There was rusted blood red and lemony gold and hunter green evergreens going into winter bold. Black birds with flat wings glide at the top right corner of the scene while a couple who badly want to talk to me console their dog who is afraid of heights, and is white as a ghost.

We walked twenty four miles that day. Cursed a few mountains along the way, and honest to God, and anyone else who would listen, I wanted to claim that pulpit. That jagged path like a broken staircase still had a little skin from my shin. I earned it. And I always carry a sermon.

I just want to be a flash of color deep down in a valley. A streak of orange you didn’t expect to see looming there so late into autumn. My voice, hundreds of feet in the air feathers ruffled against thermals.

Preaching to an audience who already knows the war between blessings and curses
is coming to a close. We all exist now in a state of perpetual both. In fact, the mountains I recall the best, are the ones I cursed the most. 

Special Sort of Parachute

What I want to say here today is about how we build towns in low places.
Now I don’t mean lowly, or head stooped, or humbled. I am talking altitude.
Down between the bases of barriers. Mountains. Like rivers.
We even seem to dig valleys deeper.
So everytime I come close to town I am walking down.
It strikes me in this moment that this is not a rare
or new or unusual instinct for a creature to have.
In fact, going over the historical math, we, as a species,
have a longstanding history of stacking lives up high in low places.
So it makes sense so much of our myths are full with fear of floods.
Waters rising. Of frantically fleeing above.
And I want to say the answer today is not a bigger boat.
Or a taller tower, higher stacked along quartz clay barriers.

It’s simpler than that.
So simple in fact.
It fits in a backpack.

Hanging from the dented shoulders of just about every person
I’ve met and shared space with on an average hiking day.
A little food. A liter of water or two. And some shelter.
A sort of parachute to carry you once you abandon the plane.
Climb away from the town we built up tall in a low down place.

We are intended to fear floods the rest of our lives
for never following mountains to their full height.
And see, even then, land sandwiched by sea.

What I want to say here today.
I don’t believe a flood could swallow this place any more than oceans already have.
I want to reconsider how many myths were written by people who only build in valleys.
Never lived out of a backpack. Clearly haven’t climbed high enough to know
there are places in this sort of place that will never be touched by floods.
If you don’t believe me, you should go. Spend some time with mountains.
Just be warned. After a month or so,
you may have to find new things to be afraid of.

Flower Poems

It is so hard to write about flowers nowadays. Wild weeds. Feral medicine crowding creeks or bark off cedar tree heads. There is a dead duck on the lake shore line. Could lift that as an analogy just fine. Wind bent dead branches clean over. And rotten leaves in stagnate water.

But I don’t want to write poems about them. I want to write about the sanguine tangerine colored sunset that was just eaten by the great lake Ontario. I want to put down sentences uplifting the truly inspirational people I’ve met over the past few months. I want to search my memory for words to describe the color of their eyes. But it’s getting harder.

I keep pausing movies to ask who thinks the lead will be in the headlines soon. I keep looking sideways at people in public, trying to see their eyes move when they think mine aren’t. I keep getting into arguments with incredibly decent people. Defending indecency.

I’d rather write about how green the grass stays up north even in early winter. How many times I’ve been outside shivering. Yet these naked little no more than leaves live out here all year round and do not freeze. Do not die. But thrive. Grow bumpy pale yellow stumps if you let them go tall enough.

I had New York beneath my fingernails this afternoon.
Burying orchid bulbs in black mud.
I had the sun. Held it in my mind just behind my eyes as they chewed up and swallowed slices of orange. There are little white ones with white petals fluttered like eyelashes in the lawn. There are lavender exclamation marks and yellow o’s candy striped green and a little bit of rust color on everything.

I don’t want to write about the nuclear bomb.
I don’t want to write about if it is or isn’t okay
to make adult decisions with children.

No decent man or woman wants that discussion.
You drive down the road.
No one decorates destruction in their yard.
They plant flowers.
Even the worst of us prefers flowers.
And I want years and years worth of flower poems.
And all my favorite poets.
Busy planting orchids.

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.

Coming Soon – 800 miles of trail journal

“Today I met a flip flopping thru-hiker who called herself Fly Away.
She asked me my trail name. And I said Jeremiah.
Fly Away replied, “Ah, the weeping prophet.”
I laughed and said now you know that’s not far off.
And she told me about a vista overlooking the valley
I had just spent the morning circling, where she ate lunch.
It was just as breathtaking as she warned.”

Going through this trail journal and finding lots of little notes like this between poems. I’m excited to see it all cleaned up and put together. I will have a manuscript shortly, and I’m also working on an audio recording. Everyone who helped me along the journey, and I mean every one of you wonderful people, will receive a copy.

I know I’m biased, but I’ve never written anything like this before. The hike sort of naturally induced a story structure onto the more day to day, experiential journal writing I normally produce. It’s essentially a collection of free range poetry somehow all cooped up in the two months of my hike. Which was actually a pretty rigidly structured, meticulously planned and well rehearsed endeavor.

Each poem clearly uses some visceral detail or setting element as an excuse to answer every single question in the universe. [insert laughter] But divided up into chapters that follow each section of the trail, with little secular notes in between, regionalisms, geography lessons and of course, issues of theology and functional philosophy wrestled with continuously in my writing.

In some ways, I feel like the hike isn’t really done until I have this collection put together and recorded. And even beyond the value of this writing, is this new form. This pace of life. Blended into all my work. Everything I write. The consistency and intentionality required of a hike. Getting from where you are to where you want to be without forgoing everything in between. Which is actually the principal function of poetry anyway.

In other words, about eight hundred miles of trail journal coming to you soon!

Billed for Our Rights

I believe that everyone has the right to have their rights not be an amendment to the system that defines them. I believe better and more deeply than our founding fathers did, that our rights are not the fodder of governments. But ingrained guarantees of freedom invested in us by our creator. My rights are not evenly planted rows of corn peppered in patches of soybeans. They are feral weeds. Should we forget to ever garden here again. I am free. Full of flowers and fuzzy grass heads and cat tails and wild medicine and poison. I don’t need a farmer for this field to yield. I need a farmer to help interact safely and amicably with my neighbors, locally and abroad. To oversee vast water tables and plate tectonics and geothermal activity. To connect the dots between surplus and need.

The time of government going through and telling you whether or not you’re full human is over. Black people did not earn the right to vote. Nor did women. They were denied this basic personhood and representation and real acknowledgment in the eyes of the government structures that dictated their lives. Intentionally. Full with purpose. We are still arguing about a system that was, by design, not designed for all of us.

The founders were not imaginative. They were not soldiers in the war for liberty. They saw tax dollars going overseas and devised a way to seize them. Threw a few Latin words together they recalled from grade school and split a crown into five hundred pieces. With the stroke of a pen, they created a new merchant level economic class. Government jobs. That die like zombies. Carcasses always reanimating in one form or another down the line. Not like fashion. Or farming. Or the oil industry. A couple hundred men, some paper, and a pen, redirected a new world’s worth of exported taxes right back to them. And constructed a system that guaranteed themselves positions, and platforms to prop up their children. Representative government makes a monarchy of democracy. A crown broken down and split into a thousand different disease resistant careers.

They didn’t get freedom right, because that was not what they sat down to write.
The best we can do to honor our founders, our ancestors, is to imitate their impulse to revolt.
To revolution. Whenever. However we can. To write out and rewrite our rights.
Our expectations of governments. Of ourselves.

But we have to recognize the flaw of this system is at its base. It’s in little words.
Words like our. For instance. In full regards to the framers of our constitution.

Their our was less than half of our’s.

That doesn’t call for an edit. Or a rewrite.
It means we go back to the drawing board.
Or in other words.

One more American revolution.

Keep no living heroes.

That is my advice in response to the sudden wave of awareness about the disparagement between sexes. You will find no easy data here. No clear answer. Just when you come up close to thinking it is all of them, you will be surprised. That is the way it is with humans. These are human issues. Within the procreation and sustained development of Man,
the existence of both women and men is required.

Are we surprised at the symptoms of patriarchy?

We took it on without any scientific exploration. We just keep pushing forward forms invented solely by men. More specifically, predominantly white men. We’ve updated our colored pencil collection. But it’s still their black and white drawings we’re filling in. And it’s producing boys who treat the world like toys. To so much surprise. If these are the celebrity stories spilling out, just now, after years, imagine the backcountry congregations and small hometowns and gated neighborhoods full of nobodies exposing themselves without permission, taking liberties with children, even members of their own families. I have heard the stories. Just about every single one of the females in my life has multiple stories that ball my fist, and make me wonder how anyone let these men say and do these things and live.
That’s the typical want to be a good guy response. More violence.
On top of our problem. With violence.

I’m angry. But not surprised. I’ve been a man my entire life. I played soccer in high school, I was in a fraternity in college. Anyone who defends or seeks to lessen an impact of, or response to, any of these forms of sexual violence, is apologizing for their self, their friends, their younger years, their peers, a son who got caught, the many more who were not, ever. Out there in the world leg crossed on the couch. Kids springing throughout the house. A spouse. And when he says a drawn out well, or begins a sentence with but, he is forgiving his own actions. He is doing what he has always done. Since that night. That afternoon. That morning when no one was around, and an implication did the work of social demonstration and time. And the thought that flashed through his mind. If not now, when? Maybe never get this chance again. He didn’t even wake back up into himself until after the flowery flutter of his orgasm had passed. He goes back to the path he was on. Doing what men do best. Committed to lives of distraction. Things work out. The universe doesn’t crash down karmic revenge on his head. In fact, now that he’s committed this act, he is open to an entire social circle of other men who have done the same thing. Who apologize for one another as often as they can, in the company they keep, with the policies they change, their plans.

I never thought I’d say this, but I’m very fortunate to suffer from a massive overabundance of trust issues. A highly anxietized form of bold curiosity. Too much imagination for my own good, essentially. And when these boys told me their stories of playing with all these toys, sometimes until they broke, I listened. And I kept thinking how a well placed pocket knife would have taken them out of the gene pool for good. I am angry. So I think stupid things like how women should work blades and small weapons into their boots and stockings. When I know they should never have to. But these boys will never change. You can not wait on them to become men. It will not happen. They would have to go back to that night, or whenever, whatever it was, and make it right. And they won’t do that.

Another symptom of having only half a species invent, establish and organize society
without equally consulting the other half. They forget they are only half.
Half the species. Half the experience. Half of their crime.

I say keep no living heroes for that exact reason. Heroes are only half. The other part of a story like that, is struggle, loss, war, monsters and devastation and suffering are what call heroes out of hiding. Patriarchy is hero government. Their power is defined by destruction, not by a pursuit of peace. Of ease. Of simplicity. No heroes required. The self fulfilling prophesy of one half believing it’s the savior of the other half. When there are no more clear villains, that is what the living hero will become. He won’t be able to give up his cape.

He’ll be obsessive about instances of imitated control.
He will consider his strength indicative of dominance.
He will let the people he loves come to harm so that he can don his cape and save them.
He will construct a government for all people thinking most about what his sons will do for a living.
He will apologize for criminal actions because he is internally crippled by the guilt of what he got away with.
God will look like him.
Messiahs and saviors and saints will be erected in his image.
Cities will function as monuments to fallacy.

He will do most of this subconsciously. And bringing it to awareness will assuredly bring out the villain in him. And he will fight a war against the world, before he breaks down and confronts his own memory. I have no patience or forgiveness for heroes like him.

I learned to keep no living hero. All mine died a long time ago. Their stories are known.
Told by the only honest author in existence. Time. Try not to take it personally.
We’re just a far more trustworthy species once we’re done navigating life.