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.

Self Belief – Soul Knowledge

Ego is tricky business. But don’t let that fool you into thinking it’s an accident. It isn’t. Nothing in existence is. Ego especially. Self-belief. Confidence. Soul and body dance. Energy that is timeless, moving in a biomechanical cocoon that will inevitably break open too soon. And ego. Just might be the only shape the energy that is you knows to take. Self-belief. Soul-knowledge. An overabundance of spiritual confidence. Walking on coals. Stepping into the unknown. Ego allows you to break the thick mold of ceaseless self preservation. The little liar in your heart who tells you you’ll be fine. Go ahead and take off on an adventure. No one has landed one before. But then again, there has never been anyone quite like you.

It’s like the cape on a superhero’s back. It’s like their tight little red underwear. It’s like the only shield police officers carry are badges. Symbols. Ego was the only thing the Wizard of Oz had to offer the last four pilgrims to his temple.

Whatever it takes to get you to fake just enough confidence to put a foot through the door.

And more, eyes open, head forward, take on a world of villains who by all means are probably shaping their identity purely in unveiled attempts to antagonize yours.
You can’t adopt it all the time, and you definitely dare not abandon it either. Ego.
Being functionally egotistical. It’s like a raincoat. Just enough to persuade you to step out into the rain. But if you wear that raincoat all day, you can bet on sweat. You might have been better off without a coat at all. But you’re egotistical. Your belief in yourself is astounding. The whole wide world full with starving people. Every day they get a little thinner. And you. To them.
Look just like chicken dinner.

Ego should be light as feathers. Subtle as spurs. The spark of orange fire in the eye.
Everyone wants you for the worst of reasons. But that doesn’t exempt you from being.
Ego has every reason to stay quiet, sleep in. Stay hidden. But it doesn’t. No.
Ego wakes up and crows.
People say good morning.

Ego says I know.

You’re welcome.

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.