The Plate

Here folks is my confession. I am the memories of lots of things I’ll never have the courage to tell you about. I love you all the same. With an honestness, and an innocence, that I don’t doubt could hold ten thousand pounds. I have hated myself. I have hated you. I love you all the same.

I struggle, on a daily basis, doing simple things, like smiling at sullen faced strangers and forgiving my neighbor’s dog as I would my own. I’ve put peanut butter clean through the bread on innumerable occasions. My fault for liking crunchy. When I’m looking hard at something that needs to be done, thinking hard, moving, working hard, I find I start to talk hard to the people I love, like you were a stubborn piece of wide white oak or dried on oatmeal left in a coffee mug for a day. I use the scratchy metal brush on you.

I scrape the fine China of other people’s porcelain feelings.

But I leave them clean. And the white oak planed and routed.
And I eat just plain ugly peanut butter sandwiches with the doughy battered up bread.
And I still lick the spoon.

Clean.

My confession.

Bleach and soapy water.

I am a bad person.

The way a dish is dirty. Like laundry. I am ruined. By my very purpose.
I talk hard. I’m way too sensitive and serious. Unforgiving. Made wretched by the wrenching of only all my own devices. I’m biased. And wrong. About a great many things. Yet eloquent. And convincing. I am a talker. And all talkers are sensitive
about being told they’re all talk.

I confess I’m not immune to that.
So I do more than I thought I ever could to stay a step ahead of my greatest fear about myself.

All talk.

Yet. That is what it means to confess. Not to do. Not to offer. Just to speak out loud.
Memories. Thoughts. Worries. Daydreams. Candy kisses and spellbound wishes.
Saying them changes them. Changes everything. Just saying it.

A good confession. No.
It is not your next hot meal.

But it might be the plate it gets served on.

Want – A poem mistitled Love.

I want love the way a single breeze makes all of summer bearable. Dryly washes warm from minds. Heat off shoulders. Tickled sunlight into nibbling instead of gnawing. I want love. Outward. Give. The way I want to live. Kind of already caught up in it and maintaining a status quo before I even know what it really is I really have to live for. Three. Two. One way I love is by biting my tongue. Quetitude. Silace. I brood. Like I just bit a lemon. Clearly thinking all about how I feel about it. But it isn’t citrus, is it? Love. Four letters. Three forms. Two directions. And one great big excuse to crowd out all other excuses. You’re never let off over-easy again. Hard time. Still not hard. Like boiled eggs. Soft as hell. Still stiffer than calcium cradled saliva clear and sunlight yellow centered. Hard time. Beneath a salt shaker. For bites. Three’s the leftovers. Too left over. One rotten stomach. I want to love the way Pepto-Bismol coats the throat and pink lines the gut like in those commercials. I want to be sick. Just so I can take medicine for it.

Labeled love.

I’m not a plumber

If you kind of clench the back of your throat and blow air out slow, almost growling, you can imitate this sound. If you can snip your tongue to the edge of your gums and lips, you can crackle just as the fire did. Rumble, down in your stomach. Without much effort, you can imagine what we were doing here. Smiling. Pat on the backing. Happily projecting.
Like everybody does.

Projectors.

We have a language full of dirty words like a tool box. Screwdriver. Phillip’s head. Good for you Phillip. Nails. Screws. Socket. Stud-finder. Okay. Daddy doesn’t want help with his tools anymore.

Let me do this for you. I’m not a plumber, or an electrician, or a roofer, or a carpenter.

I’m a writer.

Let me set you straight. If you’re reading this, you’re currently caught up in a process we call life. No matter what you have been told, there is no assurance you will ever have another one. You’re not alive on accident, and you’re not alive without stipulation. You, or someone close to you, has been doing a lot of work to maintain you in this state. Alive. For just the one time.

You’re saying things you heard on TV. We know. We heard it too. You’re saying them to people who are speaking about things they did not see on TV, things they lived through, decisions they have made.

Brace yourself.

Television has been lying to you.

For Now

All the creeks I’ve known are running now same as the last time I saw them. That water. I saw then. It is somewhere still too. Or more likely, moving. Eddying the belly of the ocean. The one that touches all of them.

I was never good with names.

I knew a Killet’s Creek once. And a Rocky, but it wasn’t rocky, it was full of water. They used to call the one up on our land after cottonmouth snakes or something like that, and no wonder the corn mill went under. The twenty foot high mounds of dirt are still there. Covered over in scruffy trees. Smiling gap toothed across Cottonmouth Mill creek.

If you look closely in the water and partial buried in the sand, the giant pine beams they laid for foundation to dam up the water are still there too.

For now.

Imagine that

Real crickets outside pouring in through the window make the same sound as the fake crickets trickling out a white noise machine in the bedroom where a little boy sleeps. And his mom.
And soon enough me.

There are people who probably have opinions about my little well I dug for water I like the taste of. But none of them are here right now. So fuck ‘em.

Some of the same science that put a roof above my ancestors keeps me dry tonight. Though it isn’t presently raining. A substantial level of that atmospheric substrate remains every day and night of late, brooding in the air, loitering late into the evening and saturating the grass before morning, beneath cloudless skies, the ground grows soaked. And we stay dry. And thank God our gardens were wet. And pray it’s dry again tomorrow yet so we can go out there and measure our progress or better yet, taste it.

My chest breathes without me. I don’t ask it to. Or demand. I don’t even straighten up or stand. I curl all of myself over my rib cage and tuck in my breast plate so it stabs myself curled in and these lungs still find a way to expand, the gut shrinks beneath the diaphragm, the longer aftermath, better yet, the algebra of food passed along even further into the colon. Maybe gas comes out the other end to make room for my bad posture. Because my body knows me. Too well. Ashamed of me in public, and tired of me in private. My body might like to break up with me. But I buy it nice things and distracted it comes around and re-likens itself to me, my own self. Which is good for our health. For all of us here inside of me to get along, and be on a team.

There is no spleen in team. I keep reminding it of that.
Splenic mass. And liver as well. Do not swell. Deliver my health.
Trash collector is not the full opposite of tax collector but perhaps as close to one as two rhyming phrases may ever come. Keep heart, young brain, not you, oh hands, you keep to your own selves, and feet, stay buried in shoes and far from the nose, you’re grand, thank you so much for all your support, now into socks, now laced tight, good, now that’s done and gone.

You brain. Oh wonderful, over under full, weirdly what are you as far as organs go, you look like some deep ocean alien laid its seed in our species long ago and we just think you’re ours but you aren’t, we’re yours. And you know it. And you don’t let us know you know it. You ripply devil. You furrowed, fat tissue crown. Lightning bearing cloud. We strongly and urgently thank you for your thunder. Lesson learned. Feel free to discontinue instruction. We’re scared. We will never take lightly the word storm ever again. You pink organ, wielding a rock sharpened mind like a chipped blade cutting both ways, mind you. Mind me. All of us. Please.

We’d all like to be minded when you go swinging your sword.

You oh wonderful brain.

Imagine that.

 

 

You Can Have It

Books on my shelf I’ve suggested others to read more times than I’ve opened them myself. A keychain tape measure, mini metal ringlets draped over the wooden edge. Work schedule with shift times different colors based on the responsibilities for those employees that day. Yellow is medicine. Green supervises the morning checklist and in the evening. Red is surgery, naturally. Lavender Sundays because it doesn’t matter. We’re not open Sunday anyway. It’s just the dogs and cats still need to be fed and we still need to give them their meds.

There’s a table beside the table I’ve made a desk with four, eight square sets of seedlings.

Scruffy black wisp of a dog with a healthy ironic name and level of codependency inducing anxiety. Her fear of the world is an invisible leash that can not fall from my hand. The only time she ever ran, I was two hours away in Utica for work, and she was staying with friends. I drove back and found her a mile up the lake Ontario coast and lost my keys and it was an ordeal. I locked her up tight and drove back to Utica and worked the next day and she held it until Ashley got home the following morning. She’s needy. And wouldn’t you know it. That suits me.

I hope to be sitting writing beside baby squash and Ashley cucumbers very soon. I hope to be sitting writing beside a great many things. Some are waterfalls and some still water and others stark mountainsides that spread rumors about their never ending neighbors spread out like rashes on the young face of the earth, a rippled horizon, a cheese grater to clouds and planetary acne and prehistorically popped zits and broken, reformed and rehealed. Scar tissue. Appalachians. Rockies. The many names they were called no one knows to call them anymore.

It’s all so similar. It can be infuriating. You back up outside yourself yet full rooted legs crossed eyes gracefully closed self aware. You see you are so like a mountain. Or like a tree. If you give them your voice the way you would give it to a pen or a pencil or a keyboard or a microphone or a loved one or a frightened animal or a sound in the night or a bullhorn or a stranger or a friend you see across the way who hasn’t noticed you yet.

Give the mountain your voice, and you’ll immediately hear it already had one.

It’s you.

You’re its voice.

And. Actually. While I’m thinking about it.
I have a book that you really need to read.
You know what. If you want.
You can have it.

Staples

Thanks to Staples my manuscript is published (lol). It’s kind of amazing, books by athletes, politicians, celebrities, are published all the time. But a lifelong writer, keeping journals since I was ten (yes I have them all, maybe a two foot stack altogether) who can talk about politics, God, art, acting, farming, life and death and everything in-between without even being heckled or argued with (seriously check my posts, no one says a word, that’s rare) is rejected constantly, and treated like desiring publication is just not accessible for me, told I’m not doing enough, to wait a little longer, until I’m a little older.

I don’t know what you think about the world we live in. But when we’re tracking down teenagers who can throw a ball or take a hit, or sing every note except for one steadily and with good tone, that’s the society we get. Our writers and poets are like raccoons we say are encroaching on our city spaces, though to them, they’ve always been here. And we’re the new ones. And we leave amazing things outside in the trash.

Well, I’m a real writer, I’ve only been left scraps to feed my work, and still, I’m changing the world, one farm, one show, one job, one conversation at a time.

Eh, I’m not mad about it. I’ve been doing this so long, I can’t stop. I may be the last real writer left. Get mad at me college professors and professional chefs, but I don’t believe you’d write if no one paid you to do it. Just my belief. But I would suffer, I would steal writing time at the end of eleven hour work days laboring, I would die to put my voice on paper. On stages. On television sets and in movie theaters.

I would go to Staples and have polite, fake conversation with the guy who works there because he saw the title and thought it was interesting, and called me and Ashley hippies. I’ll even forgive that. Because it meant someone read even just a handful of words I put down. They brought them back up and breathed life into them.

I want publication in that sense. And I’ve realized, I actually don’t need an industry that doesn’t really seem to enjoy literature the same way I do anyway. Doesn’t really seem to enjoy it at all. But hey, that’s the world you get when your stars play glorified fetch or only know how to barely smile into a camera.

I’ll just be over here. Ordering copies of my books from Staples, filling up journals with shit just to see what it will compost into.

I’m your writer. Maybe the last one ever.

Don’t let me pass by unrecognized just because I never made the football team.

Unmistakably Living

I am hypnotized by blue skies. I am cold beer at noon. I am fire, and in the other hand, I am ice. Somehow, I am holding the two together. And neither is reduced by the presence of the other one. I am scared by my own happiness. To possess a thing so precious. As a smile. I am afraid of what it speaks. To others. Who will believe contentment makes me weak. Drunk. Perceptible. And I am. But I don’t want them to know I am.

Flowers that bloomed and wilted in fields never witnessed by the feet of men or women.
I am the best water you have ever tasted. Pouring from a permanent spring in the mountains. Every drop. Wasted.

Sometimes when I eat good food, I taste my neighbor’s hunger soon after. Call it guilt. In my gut. There are some essentials I don’t want, unless my neighbor has them also. But if my neighbor wants what is mine in spite of my need. I will be war. I am the answer to that ancient prayer, something something or other about how we treat one another. It is not axiom.
It is not advice. It is basic, universal, physical and primeval law.

This entire experience we call life has one clear singular inarguable purpose. Balance.
It doesn’t make sense if it was meant to be all good and this is what it is. And sitting where I am right now, though I know it will change somehow, I can not tolerate the thought it is all bad. Even if it’s just me. This child. That dog. Sitting in this little well insulated box on the edge of a great glacial lake. Enjoying the long awaited sun. This scene means the universe can’t be all bad. Or all wrong.

I farm the fabric of the existence. I am the great great great grandchild of two polar opposites. Inexorably attracted. We are all what happened when they finally banged together. We’re the universe’s passion child. We don’t make sense. Because we’re screaming at the top of our lungs love babies. Illegitimate children. And yet, here we are, unmistakably living.

I know I am.

Marbles

It is snowing in April. Last time I saw snow this late in the season I was a teenager. Hiking across Roan Mountain. We woke up in an old fire-watch cabin converted into a simple shelter. With a loft. It was the last weekend in April. Of course we had to sleep up top, and woke to snow on our sleeping bags. This time is a little different. I’m currently in my early thirties, toe rocking my two month old son, a sort of mountain all on his own, watching flurries of snow descend like white hot hornets in waves breaking before a double layered windowpane.

I’m not going to lie, I still woke up excited. Every time. I wake up and the world is clothed by the crusty white eyelid of winter. Whole great lakes lie like frozen teardrops, wind lashes dark tree filtered horizon. All that milk chocolate churned up by cream lipped waves, all along the shore like lips. Something about this temperamental weather lends itself to similes. Pardon me for not holding back. But the whole scene is like being inside a marble looking out.

And we were going to hike in it. Through it. Wind building its own structures out of snow, men and boys stomping over drifts three feet between trees in places. We climbed down onto the road in Carver’s Gap, which was completely frozen, and I ate it. All of it. Bit off so hard I actually cracked my Nalgene water bottle. You can ask anyone who was there. I was finished. In the moment, and for good, even though I hiked the next fifteen miles, I really didn’t. I was drug along in a sort of social stretcher formed of positive reinforcement and statement of base facts. I was rocked into stasis, and sustainable forward movement, by people who, in that moment, were far far more put together than I was.

It went from novelty to reality on that trip. Snow. Between here and there. Where I’m sitting now, under siege by an army of angry water in varying forms. Navy archers behind a cavalry of seething aqua and a tooth bearing beige wearing infantry up front, eating the shoreline foot by foot, entrenching and digging their way into this place. Where I am. Toe-rocking my own little Roan Mountain to sleep watching it snow this far into spring. Typing. Drinking black coffee.

Not as much as you might think has changed between then and now.

Mostly. I’m just not so surprised when a scene I was happy to wake up and see first thing eventually also makes me slip and fall.

There are a lot of experiences that are really quite dangerous.
That are also inexplicably, breathtakingly, treacherously.
Beautiful.

Now take your breath back. And brace yourself.
Marbles weren’t made just to be beautiful.

Terrible things

I said this thing to Ashley the other day. Talking about our son. I said you take Roan so personally, and I take him so plurally. Every sound he makes moves her. And if he is upset, she can not settle. I admit, I laugh at him in his little tantrums a little too often. But I look into his eyes, the only part of him that really doesn’t appear all that infantile, and I see a million other sons. And daughters. And naturally, a lot of parents take their kids so seriously they never get around to pluralizing the experience. Recognize it has a unifying effect on the people who have been affected. It’s social adhesive. Procreation. A biologic gauntlet, that in this particular instance, we sort of tripped over. And thank God for that.

But I can’t look at my son and not see my society. I refuse to fail to imagine the world he will come into knowing. A world that seeks to make a product out of him. Exactly as it has successfully done to me. And I desire nothing other for my son than for him to be free.

Fully free, in the one mainstream definition we all seem to forget when we use the word politically. But economically speaking, I want my son to be free. I do not want to feed the worst impulses of my society’s fear of other societies, and fuel money into the military instead of fixing my path as a nation, so that my footsteps aren’t leaving huge indentations.

I imagine all our enemies, no matter how awful, still look at their children the way I look at Roan. I imagine if they’re fighting this hard, right or wrong, they have some powerful motivation. I don’t have to apologize for, forgive or pretend to understand them.
But if I’m ever going to end this war,
I am going to have to heavily reconsider calling them my enemy.

I have a sneaking suspicion once I do that, I’ll fix my own life in such a way
that enemy is no longer their name.

I see all that in his navy eyes. In the skeptical lines as he stares me down, typing. He likes the sounds of the keys clacking. So do I. We have that, and a whole lot more in common. We all do. We could stop right now, and lay down our arms, and pull back limbs like tortoises into all of our shells. I am speaking globally. About many nations. We are fighting unending conflicts with the exact same motivation.

I knew it the instant I held my son in my hands.
I realized the source of the fear that now rules the land.
And it is the purest love I have ever felt.

And I would do terrible things to protect it.