Joint Custody

You two dirty nasty feet.
Little knuckles on each toe worn pink.
Blackened on the bottom.
Deadened in the pads.
By this point you’ve carried me around the world and back again.
How you walk even though you’re nailed ten times together.
How you move forward on a heel command I’ll never know.
But don’t stop.
Bones pop.
Crack up advice.
Eat a banana.
Why don’t you?
Follow your soul in spite of your soles you won’t go far.
I’ve stabbed you.
I’ve crushed you.
I saw the radiograph.
I clean broke you.
But you cling to me.
You both do.

You wiggle in my moments of discomfort
to remind me I’m supported by far less fragile things
than looks or self esteem or ego. I know.

You only hurt me when you have to.
And I you.
It is a crucial component of the friendship between us three.
You two feet and me.
Our ten toes like ten rowdy children we keep.
We share.
A sort of.
Joint custody.

The Job


Black Greyhounds speckled by white dandruff.
Goldendoodle drawing yellow on the walls.
German Shepherd puppy nervous eyeballing the hall
for something he thought he’d herd. No neck chihuahua
presented for neck pain, client wearing cracked foundation
and comfortably weekday maroon on ribbed lips.
She knows you from somewhere you’ve never seen her before.
Her dog just chihuahua’d all over the floor.
Can I get an assistant to clean up in six. No?
All six are dogpiled on an ornery St. Bernard in grooming.
Fighting the good fight. Losing. Cut to the quick several places.
Messily clumping yellow powder turned orange in blood like medics frantic
on battlefields. Laid on hips breathing hard. Patient muzzled. Biting his tongue.
Breathing through his own snout like it was a straw
punctured clear through to the back of his heaving throat.

Is it awake.
Is it alive.
There’s a good girl.
Loudly to the room.
She’s breathing.

Hang up that phone. Apply pressure here. Hand me the lube. Get me a fecal.
At a boy. Fishhooked a turd first try. First euthanasia. Firstcry.
A seven year old tortie cat with an impressive splenic mass.
Hard choices to make today. Let me prepay.
Let me take care of all of this so that as soon after she’s gone I can go.

And that’s the job. We translate the cost of pet ownership
that would preclude almost anyone from owning one in the first place.

I pressed her warm soft lifeless paws in black ink and rolled them onto a card
to send to the client. I put her in a box. Laid her in a freezer.
And prayed for her all the things that might please her.
And to give me peace. And she gave me peace.

And we gave each other peace.

Of course there isn’t

Jeremiah, what is my purpose?


What do you-

Wrong question.

Jeremiah, what is the right question?

The right question is the right domino, the one that knocks down the second most right question, and then the third, and so on that way and so forth.

Jeremiah, does that mean there is no great final answer? To it all.

Of course there isn’t.

Why ‘of course there isn’t’?

Because the universe is not a movie, or a novel, or a fragment of culture. It is a forge.
Its purpose is not to tie up loose ends. But produce. Create. Form.

So what is the answer to my initial question, then, Jeremiah. What is my purpose?
For now, learn how many ways my is highly misleading as a word.


Mistakes are like Old Testament men with infertile wives. Somehow, even left with no direct route, they find a way to multiply. We thought it was love. And out of love, family. But in reality, it was the other way around. We want family, and also love, so long as it leads to a little one who looks and acts enough like me I don’t feel so final about my final trial. Mistakes will copulate, they will take more wives, servants into deep closets. The progeny of mistakes will begin to ooze out of the woodwork like oil off all the fingers and hands that have touched it throughout the decades.

Mistake begets mistake begets mistake.

And in this way, Adam repopulated the world. And Abraham after him. And so on and Noah afterward. Cutting the foreskin off their boys so all women could recognize them. A nametag of sorts. Hey. Eyes are up here. This isn’t about pleasure. This is repopulation. An old man with a sharp knife saw to that. In a sordid old fashioned way, fixing his own mistake.

I will commit to my mistake, so long as a nonspeaking, unknowable, most importantly, non-human deity demands it of me. I will walk my only sun to the top of the mountain and snuff him out like a distant star between my pointer finger and my thumb.

No I won’t.

I will learn to not make a god out of any entity that makes demands. Any object that seeks to undermine the rules of physics that require we all tire out and die when it comes time, for the sake of a story, for the purpose of proving a point, betrays its own laws and rigid guidelines, fixes them like they were mistakes, like stray dogs, is no God of mine. Is no God at all.

That is what you call poorly developed literary device.

I don’t need my universe to make mistakes.

I was self-made to make enough for both of us.


Garden. And another thing. Gardening. When growing once weeds, be sure to weed them. Oh no. And dairy goats. Five of those. And counting. Kids with cries unknown while we grapple with our own. Caterwauling. Cat or walling. Equally intrigued by both. Enough hens to cover a family in eggs. Neighborhood game rooster crashes for the night. That is all right. I have no objections. He can stay, so long as he cries before that first splash of light across the fields down the hill. Covered over in hay cut and baled. Thinking a farmer better come and collect them. Hay bales left in fields too long have been known to walk off. Pigs. Smoking corn cobs like cigars, chewed down to the nub, blowing smoke in the cold. The part where pork in my freezer pranced in a lot and I fed him a lot and I worked on his pen, he gnawed on my fingers and untied my boot strings, no kidding, pig on the other side mouthing my gloved fingers through the interwoven pieces of pig fencing, low, and heavy. When the ground grew soft enough, they tore up the dented green deep planted garden posts that supported them and laid whole twenty foot sections on their sides, and the pork in my freezer took off on short lived bursts of adventure. Scaring customers. Scaring me. Even as I tempted him with hotdog buns back into the pen I kept him in. It is a hard life to live. A tricky dynamic. To keep an animal in conditions that are rightfully, globally accepted as wrong for humans. It’s like stepping into the mind of a spider. A thinking predator. A not always consensual symbiosis. Farming may yet prove to be nothing more than the most complex spider web ever implemented in the world. Dinner served all the same. Good food, nutrition. Life giving. Energy lending. And it is heavy. Taking the life of anything is. It needs to be. It introduces us to the idea that some day we will also die, and in this moment, for the first time ever, we will be something else’s dinner. Chicken. Pig. Produce. Beef. People for as long as time have been putting their hands together and praying thanks, good things, hopes and wishes, with the leftovers of perfectly innocent things decorating their dishes. There is only one thing that makes it all right. And that is the truth. That old Christian recognition.

Some day dinner will be on you.

Big Words

Love: A line of credit you’ve given very few people access to that has no spending limit, that despite your current situation, one way or a thousand installments after, you will eventually pay the balance.

God: A monosyllabic reminder that Mankind invented language, and when language fails to name something, the fallibility is in the vocabulary, not the universe.

Death: A superpower life discovered early on that allowed us to not just learn from our failures, but eat them up for supper also.

Cruelty: Doing to others, solely without second thought as you have had done to yourself. Severe lack of story. Caught up in some moment. A tangent. The overfermentation of desire. The flex of weakness.

Trust is a sail.

Faith is a paddle.

Hate is what anger becomes when it matures. Be careful not to make an enemy of hate.
The word enemy is a doorway for the hateful. Make them fuss at you through a window,
a good word for that is called a neighbor. Hate is a season. Hate is a debit account.
Once it’s spent it’s done and gone. The overdraft fee on hate is criminal.

Hope: long list of chores and an early start.

Below the Road

The river always wanted to climb a mountain. Watch it. Rising higher. Growing whiter. Wilder. Spitting out tree trunks roots still attached. Streams and creeks and snaking roadway gutters running fast as they can to get down off the mountain. Sweating. Soiled. Stumbling several steps, unstoppable. Making a run on the banks. The river wants to take its money and run. It wants to climb a mountain. So it eats them. Inch by mile etched furrows that segment land masses and imperfectly complete them. One side to the other. Between ridges. The irony to write here how rivers are like bridges. How often roads run along them. Set their course on them. Bows up all proud in the summer brown shoulders and swallowing boulders reaches out a hand, and rivers and roads will dance. All twisted tightly together in and throughout the sharp, river etched mountains of southwest Virginia. But when the music has ended, there are places the road must go where the river can not follow. And there are places where the road can not stand it any longer, and takes off headlong down the mountain after it. The two are tied together, linked, but it would be a mistake to take it as indication of similarity. The river always wanted to be a mountain. It is always eating rocks and mud and trees and things.
But every road is already a river.
Anyone who has ever built a road or trail knows, or even just looked close.

It’s like my grandfather would say.
Don’t build a house below the road.

Write your own worst critic

Select a passage and reflect upon it as a reader.

from Forever-Open:
“Churches are vessels for memories. God, not so regularly. You get to the afterlife looking for a house of worship, you’ll probably be handed a hammer and nails. We have no evidence whatsoever to believe a divine current running throughout the universe has much if any interest in our buildings.”

Wherever this magically misplaced confidence comes from I’d sure like to know. Wouldn’t we all appreciate the authority to declare when, where, why, what God is or isn’t. Where does he get off, or maybe he never got on, please step down onto the same plain of existence the rest of us all call home. Wake up buddy. God is memory. God is the church. The church is God’s will manifest on earth. What would you have us do, light candles and sit in a circle in the woods and pass around a stick and tell ghost stories. I just hear that kid, the worst kid you can imagine, who nothing is ever good enough for, and he’s invented the best possible hardest to argue excuse to get out of going to church ever. God isn’t even really in there anyway. Meh. Hammer and nails, what does he know about building things, do a lot of carpentry work hiking through the woods hugging trees, do you? Though it is beside the point, because in what world do we go to kids like this for theological pontification and advice, but isn’t their mere existence in the world evidence of God’s interest in buildings? What are humans, I mean, chopped liver, ant hills are still part of nature, why aren’t buildings? Giant, like, I don’t know, termite mounds or some shit. Know what I mean? Of course ‘the divine current’ is interested in that. Get a haircut. Get a job. Wake up take a shower and go to church. It’ll be good for you. We skip over most of the gospel stuff anyhow. Don’t get hung up like Jesus, I mean on Jesus. Let me show you these letters written by Paul.
All this church stuff will start to make a lot more sense.

Orange Sherbet

Flying in cars across bridges.
Lake water parted by Moses mind so as to envision massive fuming
earth moving machinery at the bottom, sixty three feet down. Damming.
Damning. When things get in the way. Or seeing a clean sawn off stump
too near a mountain top. Ears of gods grown strong straining
in on only the most whispered prayers hears chainsaws tear
through at least several decades, smell of high pitched oil laced exhaust,
sawdust now dust like snow on some long gone logger’s powerline boots.
The Sunday chicken cackles up bubbles boiling in a bed of sugar white rice.
Shovel parts a piece of that deep red clay and it clings, it sticks hard to metal,
stains anything it touches red, pine trees long past dead, pressed like flowers
between the crusty pages of so much devastation, weight, and of course, time.

Like the skeleton hides inside the body
and a foundation lies buried beneath a house
memory is inlaid within imagination.

One and the same, these two things are.
What is seen now and what all came before.
This world. Mountain springs and fields of flowering green
and a sunset that melts into the horizon like a scoop of orange sherbet
against hot sidewalk. With what at its core?

With what at its core.

The Tenants of Enlightenment

The tenants of enlightenment are antithetical to the tenets of survival.
What if Socrates had refused the cup. What if Christ split after dinner.
Philosophy. Rhetoric. Perspective. Audience intact. Enough to continue.
Teaching. Learning. Reading. Quite possibly, breeding.

The endarkened don’t even see a choice.
The path less traveled has grown so unraveled.
It can hardly be recognized for all the weeds.
And why? With the vocabulary of the eternal.
Why not succumb to poisoned cups and rusted nails.
For the stories they tell.

I was never educated on the ethics of the honorable suicide.
The willingly sacrifice. No one gives their children this advice.

But enlightenment, illuminates realms outside biological device.
Awake and asleep, deceased and alive.
It breaches the whole unknowable ocean.

Not just the beaches.

Where the vast majority sits. Cooking fish. On a fire.
Believing everything exists to feed their desire.
The ocean. Some broad vague outer space.
Hungry for land. Like I am. Like you are.
The whole purpose.
Not restricted to our intriguing little part.
This knowledge. Enlightenment.
Is no superpower.

It is affliction.

Explaining the pull of the moon on tides and great underwater trenches sucking down continents and burping up islands.

When people just want to go fishing.