An Arguable Truth

Don’t take it too personally.

Specialization has muddied our sense of identity. If you ask how your desk identifies, it is oak. Or has maybe been pining to be a pine again since that first chainsaw struck. The oil in your car engine identifies as a fifty million year old carcass who never got a chance to decompose. So long entombed. Just a spark will make it explode. And all the iron in our little world. Still identifies as the death-stroke of a some ancient supernova.

Specialization doesn’t care for the seed state of things. In fact, it’s primary progenitor, industry, has done everything it can to make the seeds of things contraband. They’re waging a cost-effective war against potential. And specialization is terrified of a healthy imagination.

We all have all of it inside of us. Man. Woman. These were never meant to be strict genotypes. But directions, like on a compass. Generalizations. But if you want to go true north, you might have to be willing to take a step west once or twice. Or even turn back south just to get around mountains and start north again as soon as you can. Genders aren’t categories we fit into. They’re not actually defined strictly enough to exclude much of anything. We just pour out our individual reactions to each expectation, and gender settles like water tables, fluctuating every season. Changing every day.

Specialization doesn’t have time for that. Equal parts. Overlapped behaviors. Weakness where the job description clearly indicated strength. Not showing up in the issued uniform. A distraction to other employees. Endless hypotheticals and what ifs and imaginary pitfalls. They’d have to rewrite the handbook. To us, a company handbook is standard. But specialization, and industry, you see, they are still mourning having had to put together a handbook in the first place. Let alone revising it in any way that increases the complexity and nuance of their employees. They prefer an occupationally induced sense of identity.

I wrote all that, looking for a way to stop, when I have this thought.

Capitalism is reverse psychology communism. All anyone had to do was declare laissez-faire one time too many and people took it on as credit. From then on, the dollar bill and markets of Man have dictated where we end up, our jobs, our deficits, our tax brackets and family dynamics, in ever predictable ways. More and more we have become the same. Industry has consolidated our dreams, given us a meager handful of highly publicized upward mobility icons to mesmerize, and slowly but surely organized a majority of people into tight knit schools with similar salaries and comparable time and familial assets to divest. Like good communists. Lottery obsessed and gambling addicted. People who do the same thing every day slowly chipping away any hope of any change, can’t stop from scratching silver crumbs off card-stock. We feel so trapped in our lives, we invest more money more consistently in lotteries than almost anything else.
The lottery is educating children.

Unfulfilled? Why are we unenlightened? Because of one thing.
Because we’re all doing only one thing.
Because increasingly over the past ten thousand years human beings on a large scale are specializing more and more in highly temporary, fleeting occupations that essentially function as the entirety of our required resources for basic food, water, and shelter access. And when that job goes away, because it always will, there’s nothing. No more one thing. And no time to pivot. You don’t just lose your job. You lose your identity. Your purpose. Every resource you ever retreated into to provide for yourself and your family. You got fired from your habitat. From life.

Capitalism wants us to specialize. It wants you to consolidate your identity. Find where you fit into a category. And smile a little more while you trade the only time you’ll ever have on this planet for paper printed with wrinkled faces capitalism swears represents gold they keep hidden somewhere.

Why specialize? Why not raise ourselves to be farmers, to study water tables, to build houses out of anything, anywhere. Then, once that trinity of basic food, water and shelter access is established in every community, maybe take on a law practice, or a medical profession, or move across the country for no good reason just to tell more people you like to call yourself a writer. What do you do for a living? Well, primarily, I human. There’s a lot of work involved in achieving a simple state of satisfied being. But when times are good, in warmer seasons, I work a little too, just a few hours down the road, because it’s easy, and it doesn’t warp my soul. And if the industry goes, the job disappears like warm summer air just around the outset of autumn, no problem. Food, water, shelter. These are more than habits. These are not maybe-when-they-go-on-sale sort of means. They’re vital. Basic. Essential.
An entire planet of functional environments is required to provide them.
Nothing about it is specialized. There is a diverse, chaotic career waiting in just staying alive. Capitalism, hand in hand with specialization, is not a bad way to organize how we thrive. But when it comes to survival, it is always going to have to charge us a dollar for what it bought for fifty cents. Even charity exists as an expense we need tax incentives just to afford.

Capitalism has no intention of feeding children who do not show up for work. And that is not acceptable. They don’t want any person thinking they are special. Just specialized in some routinized function that can be predicted and mapped out in corporate projections.

The identity crisis we’re experiencing is a natural symptom of this economic system.
We are gaining access to all the resources of our survival solely through a singular occupation. History has shown this time and again is the precursor to extinction.
We are gaining access to all the resources of our only world solely through a single-minded occupation. Governed by the impossibly greasy laws of profitability.

If America was a farm, capitalism is the system we’re using to distribute basic life resources like feed and water and barn access. And guess what. The door is locked on all of us until after we lay an egg. And dairy cows are denied grain until they’re milked dry and their new calf is chained to its bed. We’re being taxed for mere existence. We’re in a barnyard, with no naturally reoccurring food or water sources. And we’re paying a lot of money for basic necessities we require just to exist. Not even to be happy. Just to be. Selling basic life necessities will always be a monopoly. Because we’re not purchasing a product, we’re purchasing sustenance to maintain existence. We’re buying our selves. And we’re the only one of us on the shelf. No option to leave the barnyard. No options outside of financial means, means it is impossible we are free.
It means no one ever abolished slavery.
We just reinvented the shackle.

Farm animals are having crisis of identity. It’s called domestication.
They’re subject to fast-moving bacterial outbreaks, packed too tight in too little space, and prone to violence against one another.

Humans are having a crisis of identity. It’s called specialization.
We’re subject to fast-moving bacterial outbreaks, our populations are too tightly concentrated, and we are currently in an epidemic of violence against one another.

It’s gotten so bad we are taking the beaks off chickens and hiding them in dank windowless hangers. We’ve sawed the horns off the goat and soldered the stumps so they couldn’t grow. And then declared war on coyotes.

It has gotten so bad, we are forcing our children into an educationally induced crisis of identity, simply because there are aspects to them, and to us, we still fail to understand. We are not ready to admit it. So we have been shaping new existences more with our ignorances than with the many difficult-to-tell truths we’ve discovered about ourselves. And when they find out they could have had horns.
Or that we’re the reason they can’t peck without spilling corn.
It won’t be between them and nature anymore.
We’ll send them out into the world asking society what it is they are here for.

Specialization. Domestication. Industry. Breeding in the dark and reproducing offspring.
Consumerism. Capitalism. Be a good citizen. Obey the law. Hold down a decent job. Don’t test the electric fence. Thou shalt not headbutt your neighbor, or your enemy, or anyone for that matter. Keep your callous yellow beak to edible yourself.
Better yet, live forever, in a cage, on a shelf.
Better yet, there was never a life outside of cages.
Better yet, the cage is where you belong.

It really isn’t up to us to change or decide who or what we are.
We’re just being educated into consumers. We’re products.
Actors cast in plays wearing costumes so we can afford
to eat and sleep someplace warm.

We’re upset about our uniforms.
We have issues of identity. Not because of who we are.
But because including all of us took up too much space on a form.

The New One


Change is hard. To me, it seems rooted in unhappiness. The discontent desire to reshape their continents. And happy people draw maps. Of course, it isn’t as simple as that. Philosophically speaking, it’s a hammer. Or a wrench. If you look at the equipment to get an idea of the ideas they have built, it will always seem too simple. But it’s two different natures. Separate goals and agendas, distinct skeletal structures between the ideals that shape our tools and the things they can build. A hammer moves two ways. Hard and inconsiderate buried into wood, or sharp flat bunny ears that pull shy iron up out of its rabbit hole. If you’re a mover and a shaker, a builder, a creator, a social changer, an adventurer, an artist. You’re probably not the happiest. Dissatisfied. Discontent. You can argue me against it, but I’ll probably disregard all your words and take your passionate need to prove me wrong as its own kind of evidence. Sorry. I stopped stopping at people’s words a long time ago. Around the same time I admitted to myself just how much I will lie to control the idea people have of me. I did this amazing thing. I assumed everyone else was just as smart as me. And doing it as well. So I listen to chest swells, and deep breaths, and that thing where people look down and chuckle a couple times before they talk. Think of all the times you did that yourself. What true answers were you bypassing in those seconds before you landed on the placid, clean, decent one.

So whether you want to admit it or not, you’re not building a new house because you were happy with the one you had. You’re not plowing new fields if your grass was already green enough. Tree roots and boulders buried like land mines. Change is hard work. So are new worlds. America is defined by attracting all of the earth’s least satisfied residents. Argue with me if you want, but people who are truly content, do not get on that boat. They never left Europe. You did not travel then, and you really shouldn’t now, with any reassurance of how soon you’ll be back again. Along with luggage, you are taking your life up into your own hands. Seeking out new lands. Because the one you’re leaving behind did not fill you up. It wasn’t enough. Some of us are hammers. And some of us are nails buried so deep we’ll never be pried up. And a good enlightenededish person will have learned over time to be a bit of both. To seek balance. And let change do what it has always done. This planet is changing all on its own. The revolution, is how to live here and still leave it alone.  

It’s an oversimplification, I know. But if hammers and nails were as complicated as houses, I’m not sure we’d ever get one off the ground. If you’re an artist. A revolutionary, which is simple nowadays. The revolutionary is a good mom, and a patient man, an understanding boss, a forgiving friend. If you’re trying. If you have a dream. Or wishes. If other people are small talking and I catch you staring off into the distance. I know you’re like me. You’re a little bit unhappy. Just enough. To know this way of life isn’t enough.

The same hands that put down the new novels and poetry and short-storied scriptures of tomorrow will have cut the boards and set the nails of the new shelves in the libraries that will be needed to hold all of them. A hammer. The pen. The beauty of this rusty little literary invention. Language is like an old house our ancestors built for us. A decrepit mansion we all inherited equally just by being born human. Maybe a room or two have been kept clean and livable by the devoted satin robe wearing monks of academia, but none of us could keep termites out of the joist in the basement. Mold buried deep with moisture in real hard oak. Floor sagging in places and roof given out altogether in others. No one lives here full time anymore. And how we approach this condemned inheritance sort of sets us into two distinct categories of personality.

And I know I don’t need to write it again. But it is the discontent who want to tear it down and start over. Happy people are scrubbing floors and dusting mantles. But the ones who have glimpsed the future walk the halls with hammers. Prying up nails and taking out hardwood and stained glass and musty furniture while we still can.
We may yet need them.
For the new one.  

Destination is not direction.

We changed the world today. We ate, didn’t we. Which means we reshaped landscapes with our stomachs, maybe even continents apart. We ran steel combs through hillsides and when it rains enough we caused mudslides and put money in someone’s back pocket today. Took a penny or two out of quite a few others. Couldn’t have taken them though, if they weren’t there to be taken. Mountains laid in ruins and massive bovines feet folded in acres of black mud. We changed it. Just drinking water from the ground. And eating food from the ground. And building shelter in the ground, stacked up as high as we can off the ground. It is really a beautiful thing. You can see us from space. At night, the city lights, look like bright yellow rashes. We have them on front of our cars. Above roads at the tops of poles. Strapped around our foreheads. An extra little light of mine in the glove compartment, just in case. We changed the world in a big way, just by being afraid of the dark.

Clean Paper

My first journal was this little book with a green marbled-looking cardboard cover. I was in the fifth grade. I’m not sure why, but the school had a program where students who made honor roll received a five dollar gift certificate at this local store, called the Home Bazaar, or something of that sort. And without any real thought or intention, this boxy blank hardback book made its way into my big five dollar purchase. It was not a flimsy notebook or folder stuffed with stacks of lined paper. The cover didn’t have the glossy facial features of a magazine or the speckled fractured pattern of a good old fashioned composition notebook. Other than the fact that every page in this book was blank, it was like the other books in the library. Hardback. Gold-trimmed pages. Elegant little word trellises that didn’t dare invade a margin.

I treated it as a diary. I didn’t know what to write. But my favorite books always read like diaries. The format is simple. Linear. Organized under a little date and a Dear and a laundry list of little kid accomplishments that for some reason or other, I felt the need to write down. I was a fifth grader. Reading books about Yankee spies in the south during the Civil War and warrior mice who wield swords and shared extravagantly descriptive dinners with sparrows and badgers and rabbits alike. I was excited about school. Back then, English was a course called Language Arts, and I always liked that. Like these sentences and story structures and plot lines were the elemental, chemical equations behind what it meant to be human. The mathematics of meaning. And if I read every line well enough, I would gain some insight, some context, maybe even uncover a vital clue before my peers had the chance. Like a spy in enemy territory. Like a mouse handed a broadsword. Like my story depends on me staying one step ahead of my audience. Because that is how you discover the quip that gets a laugh from the entire class. Or ask a question that stumps the teacher. Stumps other teachers. Sits administrators in office chairs hand on their chin feeling tested for a change. I know now they thought I had a higher motivation, but I didn’t. I just wanted to see if I could paint rouge on grown up faces using their own favorite weapon. Words.  And found out very quickly just how easily I could.

I learned an important lesson from that first journal. There are no great authors.

Every single one has a stack of books somewhere they will never show anyone. And if you read them you would probably feel betrayed. All the books in all the libraries in the world were once blank. Laid out in front of some restless person. They filled them up with dates and names and anxieties, and the secrets they found out by reading ahead, and questions they thought up to mystify their friends. It taught me that in at least some way, every single book functions as a diary. And the challenge for a writer is not always invention, but how to bend yourself and lend yourself to each situation. To balance the narrator, the I, in all of your work, with the goals and challenges inherent in any context.

Paying attention is the price of admission to becoming more to this world than merely its witness.

That little green and black faux marble looking book made it impossible for me to read. From that point on, there wasn’t a novel or short story or poem I experienced that I didn’t immediately imagine taking up space, chicken scratched, in some dissatisfied person’s diary. Someone unsettled. Who glossed over every section in the bookstore and bought a blank one. It was an invaluable lesson, especially so young.

Learning just how much good storytelling gets done
by people who don’t really need to be great authors.
So much as they must be bothered by clean paper.

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.