the tedious workings of little things
Whistle wind, scream and sing breathe cobwebs in the storm window.
Test branches reach out from seventy year red oak trees.
Rusty, white veined, intelligently well dug ivy vine leaves.
Through brick walls and plaster faces. Bring on the marching breeze.
Woodwinds, vibrating reeds, and moving tongues moistening.
I want to be, to feel, to care like a breath of air, longed for, sought after, choked pursuit,
only held on to a moment no matter how much need, and let go of almost immediately.
I want to be the sort of treasure increased in measure by being given away.
The whistle wind that inspires seventy year red oak sway.
I am grown tired-stomached, tired of being punished for making the choice to stay.
Scream sing and tickle the tedious work of little things who live between two windows.
But do not slow, not ever, not for me, not for trees, or seeds we plant good enough to grow.
We bury our roots deep. We do not fear the ground. The wind is hard raspy cold.
But it makes a pleasant sound.
Thank God I finally stained some ink on my new better fitting Christmas clothes.
Dirt, mud, crumbled tree bark, sawdust, dust dust, ash, soot, black halos around cinders. Enough other clinging judgment bringing stuff to make me and others forget altogether
how I am really a writer. Not any longer. Faded black ink right on top of a faded stomach.
No soul seems concerned with reading what I’ve written on the page,
at least not with me still at a young, inspired, energetic age.
But they will see with their own dishonest eyes and scrutinize the squiggle on my sweater.
They will know I, at some point, at least hold, fumble, drop the tip of a pen sometimes.
One accidental letter of an accidental poem will be read before I achieve entirely dead.
And I know already what will be said, the only criticism I have ever received.
That that sweater could stand to be cleaned. While I think thank God.
I finally spilled some ink that someone will read.
All Us In Season Animals
In the woods this time of year, all us animals are in season.
Just for being dumb enough to remain here. Deaf enough to warnings.
Blind enough not to see blazon orange burning up trees.
Stared down sightseeing scopes so as to obtain better views of us.
Personal and up close. With creatures who just crave sweet corn.
Robin Hood’ing garden green beans and predator planted greens,
arrows under power-lines headed by poisonous points of view,
a man missing teeth in it armed to the tooth.
Bowstring tighter than truth. Launching secrets at you.
The last gossip you ever hear.
A mysterious thwang twenty feet up in in the air.
Never heard it before. But we have had their corn.
All us in season animals know what’s worth dying for.
It has all happened prior.
America is full with Romans.
And world peace, a new global empire.
Ships with sails that walk peg legs like pirates.
Like you are not sure who they are until they are on top of you.
Ropes of linked silver. Pearl eyes. Paralyzed.
Flying faster than the speed of light.
Alligator tooth crowns and ball bearing necks loosely oiled.
Head inside his mouth. Smelling the rotten skin in his cavities,
seeing the spotted end of his depravities, opening and closing
like an anus at the back of his throat. And he is only he because of she.
And she is a wonderful woman with hands in her pockets.
She smiles broad shoulders and eats whole apples core and all.
The skin on the back of her hands sheen like waxed paper.
The last thing her tongue did was lick her fingertips
before she continued pretending to read his papers.
Ignoring the complaints from the neighbors.
How he can not wear only underwear outside the house anymore.
How his smoking bothers a sick earth’s asthma, wheezing to sleep,
worried parents up listening. He needs a better job.
If he wants to keep using the word better.
And she needs to take hands out from pockets
like doctors take overdue babies out of wombs.
Caterpillars never leave cocoons. Only butterflies do.
And if not, then a moth, or some other insect,
or like a college student, or depression.
Break out from self-imposed incubation
and let cats swat you out of the air,
or kiss the clear front-ends of cars,
or find a cold fire pit to fan.
Him cutting grass without a shirt on.
Her, and her colorful wings,
searching out a pile of dog shit to flit on.
Wake up and build a fire. Makeup and steel desire.
Shake it and in an hour, see if It has woken up as well.
The pain. Edge of a hand. Metal ledge. And so much
misguided pressure. The inspiration. Fan flaming.
Breath burning. Crushed beer boxes and cardboard
that cradled frozen pizza. Chips off the shoulders
of stumps split to pieces yesterday. Wake up.
And find a better way. To stay warm. All winter.
Better being subjective. Elective. Choice. How boys
will be toys to grown men’s ploys, and women,
never been better at shaking their crowns.
Merit badges in blood dotted bruises. Makeup in
making up methods of shaking up expectations.
And the millions minute stealing the daunting space between one and two.
Who do not fit any categorical niche. Cripples and scars from pimples
and girly dimples on a boy’s round face, a female’s taste for loose waist pants,
short hair though strangers stare and the questions they get would never be
asked to the president. And the questions they get would never be asked to me.
Wake up with fire on the mind, too early even to see.
So learn to use anything other than eyes to look.
Question what it took to learn how to feel,
humanity is shaped from so many elements.
Not one of them is steel.
What to do but put a poem in the book.
When finished, take a look.
All I decide is if I like it enough to read out loud.
Share with the only body who cares. Mine.
A good one.
Glad you agree.
Glad I sat down for this coffee going
fire growing neighborhood rooster crowing
so cold it feels like the sunrise is slowing
sort of morning.
The sort where the dogs won’t sleep in a room with no fire.
Can not call or command them enough to stay.
Poetry is how you stay warm in a cold room at the back of the house.
When far from the growing fire, popping tulip poplar
that had a rainbow running through its heart,
warm your self with art.
The Wavering Value of Please Not Today
Money makes you think tight. Even though there is enough to waste.
Spend any amount, and you will miss the taste. Want it back.
Because potential is addictive.
A result of reality being so damn unpredictable.
Money is that fuzzy face on the other side of the veil.
The long crook-necked shadow hidden behind question marks.
It is the mystery prize. The value of x. Put you across the globe
into the shallow tides of inner space. It can pay for sex.
Though it really isn’t paying for sex. But money can make
them leave when it’s over. Money and sex have that in common.
Neither one has the same value after it has come and gone.
Asked a man, David Bazan, a musician, if he listens to his music.
A fairly decent line and I, sitting here, thinking what if he used it.
Sort of lame. He never will. Still, there is no blame there.
Just his answer. No. Not really. While editing and recording mostly,
maybe vaguely casually later on, listened to a song he had written
called Magazine, which struck him then as brilliant.
If I could venture back and ask another question I want to know
how it felt at the time, the interplay of subject matter to rhyme,
electric church bell chime introductions abducted by that deep,
consistently tapping rhythm and voice, a baritone tenor rising
like a deep burgundy star tainted sacrifice traveled far, high low,
chasing lyrics wherever they go with round sound skipping lines,
perpetually behind, almost late, almost lazy, like that evening,
the Local 507, Raleigh, hazy, whole dim room painted typical
black reminded me of space and how you use it.
The bright shining stage embodied in your music.
How we all, everyone, tries to sing along
but do not know the song, not like you.
Not how you feel and think it. Man. Musician.
Pale blue bird high up nested in a tree,
too busy singing to listen while he sings.
Poems with holes in them
It is cold. I gained ten pounds. And my gloves have holes in the fingertips.
Touch sized rips shredding further to reveal tattered hands. Scars grown purple,
and calluses cracked blood red canyons turned black.
The grit-dirt of a day’s work will find a path in, a doorstep into cotton white skin
spread too thin, put against coals, worn out too much so in too much cold.
Winter workdays spent outside will keep me from getting old.
So I can stay even with my age. Gaining weight. Wearing clothes
with holes and gloves leaving the tips of several fingers exposed,
enough that without taking them off, I can type on my phone. Alone.
On Valentine’s. Embracing a touchscreen spirit in my own overweight,
up to date, unmistakable and easily fakeable, white, middle class
ignoring the lottery, plants seeds in pottery, minuscule, egotistic,
agriculturally solipsistic, backyard farmer lost his spouse,
tractor shed turned chicken goat house,
rethinking what wealth means to me form of poverty.
And I gained like ten pounds. And it’s cold.
And the hand wrapped around this pen
wrapped by black gloves with holes in them,
full with fingertips, writing about how cold it is.
Leave her out of your poems.
Because she refuses to come out of your heart.
Though we are far apart.
She arouses me awake in the morning.
To make coffee for her wide mouth yawning.
To rekindle the fire in the living room
within her womb, and leave off
some of myself there.
Her brown hair can sneak between teeth like soap,
smelling floss, as we lay late curled together,
ignoring the work-worthy weather.
Apathetic to too much.
She made a fine crutch.
One I tried to lean against today and stumbled.
To explore a good bit more the subtle difference
between being humble and humbled.
She has crawled those wide slinking hips out from my dreaming head.
She has pushed me on my back and given me head.
Taken my head, my trust, and gripped it to shreds.
Now we sleep in different beds.
Far apart. Most likely only I here wake-dreaming
us tangled back together.
Except for as long as she’s been gone,
the sex has kept getting better.
Sat down to write, but I’d rather dance.
Shake hips nonsensically turn silly and embarrassing
to most men. To put his self out there like that.
Write that, so it can be read out loud later.
Wiggle shoulders reach arms out straight
aiming an accusatory finger at nothing.
I would rather write about the man who spoke to me
out walking two miles on a day so hot we were told to stay inside.
“Is that good exercise?”
He had to ask, like he did not know.
So many short little lines decorated his face squinted in the sun,
pitted like the side of a strawberry. He assured me his dog doesn’t bite.
Promised stranger to a stranger.
Took extra time to check his mail so he could speak to me. I know he did.
Watched him while I walked up the hill toward him.
Like the road was a dancefloor and the summer wind was music.
I want to dance to it. Bright in my skin. Wet on my scalp.
Breathing steam like a train on track to derail my own self.
I do not want to write it down.
Memories can be buried between pages like bodies forgotten to the ground.
Art sits in a house all day waiting for the boy in the wifebeater to pass by on his lunchbreak.
Poems you want lost can be written
through a pen.
Poems you write to find yourself in can be written
I feel sorry for rappers. Trapped by rhyme.
Beaten into creative submission by strictly simple bass-line time
in ceaseless repetition. Like the entire body of these fast-talkers
is run by only one organ. The heart. The pulsating part.
Power to speed up or slow down,
but no real authentic original lyrical sound.
I could give rap to poetry. But not at all to music.
It is not treated like music.
Not defined solely by melody and harmony and rhythm.
But by how we use it. Rap can not, to my mind, be music,
because rappers are not using but being used by it.
Locked down or up into a particular cut,
the lack of tact in each repetitious track.
True sympathy I feel for baseline rhyming.
For the machines that record and nonstop repeat
each mechanically deepthroated beat.
And when you take apart the reductive equation,
listen to lyrics slowly, they are not even achieving
all that good of poetry. Not music.
Hardly rhyming words and amateurish cussing.
Lightly decorated in stripped down digital percussion.
Talking loudly in time, trapped restless
behind deadbolts and barred windows.
The wrought iron gates of rhyme.
The hunter can cluck-scream from crowned titan heads
lugging electrified wires bolted from their shoulders.
But I won’t turn around.
She can spread taupe wings and drop down,
slide off over young pine tree distance.
I am walking a path. I am no fan of the backtrack.
I do wonder what poor innocent she was watching,
frightened off by heavy boots on wet red orange clay,
the sharp blackberry shoot sway,
a few stained purple places in my palm
and red dashes along wrists, as I,
from the surface of earth,
scavenger hunt breakfast.
Her voice broken, or at least breaking,
like a drunken chuckle from the familiar to alcohol.
Her world, below, her high pitched bellow, and she knows,
the morning might be our only flash flood of sun all day.
A young rabbit perhaps. Those loose eared morsels
that like to scrape the skin off young green plants.
Up-at-dawn acrobats with bushy tails and no fear of heights,
just what drops down screeching out of them.
I hope a snake for her hungry sake.
A reptile is a good throat-shaped meal. Or me.
And if so, I feel real pity for the hawk that swoops on me.
Like a hand that reaches for blackberries, be warned.
More likely to get thorns. No. She knew better,
that hawk, than to drop on another hawk.
She just whistled farewell to her tall soldier-like perch of metal,
and floated on east, across infant pine trees,
toward newborn light stretching out fat arms
to take firm hold of the horizon’s breast.
Feeding the hunger of her prized young children,
on the flesh of all the rest.
It is work.
Don’t do too many short poems.
Don’t use too many European references.
When extrapolating politics, religion,
chronically disciplinary systems of paying educators,
the writing should stay vague.
Keep the words and choices that pre and post date your words,
more general. More broad. Promoted. Higher ranking.
Don’t give out easy outs for classifying your work.
Because it is work.
So don’t expect reaching for it, to not at least little bit,
A storm is coming. We gave him a name.
Like it was a baby descending through clouds
hanging from a stork bill. It will be called Matthew.
Face twisted all up around his eyes while he cries.
Round mounds of tear-moistened clouds and mouth
wide open around silence. The still and quiet
that precedes the scream. Birds circle overhead
like a mobile before cutting strings to leave.
But we can’t. Mortgaged to the ground.
Rooted through the bank. We will have to be content
to wait this one out. The terrible two pressure systems
meeting in the middle. Tantrum we can’t run from,
but just sit beneath while Matthew cries his eyes out.
Tries to shout. Gripping playpen bars like house supports,
shaken loud enough to hear rattle down the hall. Off the coast.
Further west. Licking mountains and putting toy cars in his mouth,
throwing plastic farm animals against the wall. Teething lightning
chewing any density he can get his hands on.
Smiling sunshine through broken clouds only after every other option
is exhausted. He will fight it each step of the way, but eventually,
Matthew lays down for his nap. And we will all tiptoe throughout the house.
Putting life back where it was before. We name them as if they are babies.
But every parent knows they’re more like storms.
To the innumerable inside every one
Storytell me into tomorrow.
Dispel the myths they beg us to borrow.
Storytell me a thing that I can own.
Storytell me home. The unadventurous visit.
Backward forward. The been there before.
Been bored here before.
Think you will somehow find yourself on the other side of the globe,
and find you were waiting at home. Storytell me how to help.
How to teach people they root like potatoes.
Best part beneath the ground.
All leaves and stalk and flowers in some place that did not birth you.
That does not want to know you. Home is a story told in roots.
Which gets left with the best parts of yourself somewhere
you won’t call home until tomorrow. Storytold tall proud and outloud.
Storytail insecurities and track them like hurricanes. Storydwell
right in my wide open chest. Storytell me into that tomorrow.
Storytill the ground I’m on until I’m rooted.
Then tell me how to tell them.
If it is a black and white issue, great. It will go gray by the time we are done.
If it is a human issue, that is different. Those motherfuckers run red.
By the end, we will learn the only color of equality runs in our veins
trying to get away from our hearts. If we go too long ignoring it,
our bodies begin outpouring it. And we will wish it was black and white,
arguing ourselves into grayer worlds, when we finally see how much red
we are all carrying around. Our thick warm purplish common ground.
By the end, we will see straight through the color of skin, one way or the other.
And finally learn humans are made of many different colors.
Most often the ones most common are all better left within.
Black and white issues would be great, gray within a focused day.
But blood begets blood begets blood. Red is much harder to erase.
Poems. It is fun to pretend. But you can never own them.
Just owe them out loud to others. Like cold nights charge
good mothers the price of carrying their children covers.
Like the rolling of the earth. The distance in a year.
The functional tear. Not reacting to sadness or pain.
The tear that clears the windowpane, tends dry eyes,
lubricates vision. Poems offshoot deep-seeded ambition
when written, performed, planted just right. A poem
is not the life and light on the other side of freezing nights.
It is the blanket you huddled beneath to make it there.
The Rooster’s Call
Run after her
cause you’re hungry
she carries food most times
beating one another under wings
stuck pierced by yellow knives
stabbed at yellow seeds
dust from strange barns
and if ankles are out
peck pale doughy flesh like bread
take a stab
steal a taste of real life communion.
She won’t hesitate to take one from you.
So peck the stooped hand that feeds and see
yourself her blood is the same red as ours.
Working two jobs
When it is colder in the mornings we sleep in longer.
Seated folded on the couch, staring through windows,
waiting for eleven to break the night’s fast.
Until hunger is strongest. Cold air in chests,
warmer words have been spoken.
A mask for laziness.
Burnt mornings with words to pierce haziness.
Raising mist in the sparking light of conversation.
While outside cold rows sit shallowly dug.
Insects in sunlight above a field of waist high soybean plants turning golden brown,
close to ready to be torn down, shredded, fragmented, like flies flying pinpricks
of misty light, clouded by winged bodies, flooded by star-speckled movement.
Disgusting. Deep breath full with one of them.
The whole journey down the throat waiting to be stung by the star
inhaled and moving along a broad black pit.
Whole broad cloud of stars still buzzing above the field, oblivious to it.
And the paper mist is charcoal. Burnt white.
Looking the only fifteen feet ahead on the trail.
Waiting for a bear, or deer, or even a restless tailed squirrel.
Anything. Like neither of us knew the other one was there.
Until we are. And the wind, flirting tree tops above ones it’s already laid,
down against soft ground to break apart slow like a heart, into soil. Into dirt.
In two. And who among us will put it together again.
Who here can shape so much tree death into a garden.
Cornstalk grandchildren and distant green bean cousins.
The progeny of trees. Ancestors of mountains.
Long waning years of growth and decomposition.
Who here can take dirt and make dinner.