Why don’t we think how little control we have over basic life everytime we set an alarm at night? What a nasty trick to play on ourselves. Set a digital trap to ensnare any shred of our senses first thing in the morning. This one first thing in particular, began at five AM, because I had to be at the farm by seven, and I had to have a half a pot of coffee in me before then. And I liked to read and write during that time. I love the early morning. Just as soon as I’ve slapped the sleep out of myself. The most productive hours, I call them, because of how they melt away without much mental cognition into small piles of finished projects and completed records. Beginning, middle, and end. Every sentence. Stacked back to back each paragraph. Every follow after chapter. Until you’ve created your very own titan. A champion the gods themselves must descend and deal with outright. Jesus Christ, we’ve been seeking out an honest terms contest with God for a long long time.
Hollowness. Behind the eyes, in a stiff flat steel line down through the sternum. Guilt. Regret. Begets tension. And stress. Like Heath Ledger clenching his jaw. The deep buried pop when stumps split. Judge me for this. Blame I. Tie me to all of my bad decisions. The world wonders which one of all of us sinks first. I’m waiting to see who learns to breathe underwater. I have. I learned to breathe without lungs, even. So underwater is no problem. Far off outer space isn’t either. Death is a sort of spacesuit you take off in order to stand naked before God. And God, is a sort of word we use to describe what language and science have yet to adequately name.
In order to give it the blame.
Fire. Twenty feet higher. Than the house six chickens burned alive in.
Four eggs in the garage.
Did you know the human being is the only creature that can survive gutted.
It doesn’t have to be a conspiracy, to mean it isn’t an accident. This country is not broken. We are. Because that’s what the men who wrote our constitution were dealing with. A divided population desperately being translated into a divided constituency. England left slavery alone in America, because that is all America was to the British Empire. Slave labor. Pillaged resources. Raw goods, for industrial ends. The idea that under Britain, we would never own our farms, but if we were culpable only to Americans, we would. Talk about a powerful campaign promise. That’s all freedom really was to our founders. It is not a conspiracy, but was not an accident, that they did not address the liberty of all the people living within their country. How a leader can preserve the self esteem of thousands on the oppression of hundreds. Someone to look down on. The rejects, and runaways, and the chattel of Europe, and their African slaves. If they were not evil in their initial intentions, then they were certainly turned over to the idea by time. Look at who we are today. We are the inevitable, flighty, judgmental result of our ancestors. This was not an accident.
It was also not a southern tradition, or some small, easily discounted regionalism. America owes its existence more heavily to African Americans than any other group of people. This is the motivation for racism, untrue, identifiable, quantifiable hierarchy. Undelivered respect.
And the guilt it inspires.
Emancipation did not end slavery. Slavery, the word, does not mean the incarceration of one group of people in one country during any certain period of time. The people at the top, going all the way back, use the subjugation of others like caffeine. Slavery is in our prison system, it lives in welfare programs, and minimum wage, hourly pay, two weeks off a year careers. Slavery is the lack of having any other real, substantive option.
And if you did not participate in some form of income generating activity, where would you live, what would you eat, where would you go that you would not owe a single debt?
It is not some great conspiracy. But it is also was not in any way on accident.
We, the people, are being farmed by the same poor standards we subject our animals to undergo. Taking the horns off goats so they don’t hurt each other. Castrating cattle. Separating mothers from babies. Not evil, just specific to a very particular context, that if taken out of that context, has a very similar shape, make-up and the same sordid potential of anything we would agree to call evil.
Up until now, no one has really been trying to shape a sustainable, viable society.
We’ve been building and expanding pastures. Fence lines. Tethers. Barns and locked pens.
Doing it outright to others is actually a highly successful method of pulling the wool over the eyes of people having it done to them. All the little pecking orders animals in cages establish over one another. Whispering conspiracy theories about those towering shapes that show up to trickle grain into a dish, or clean the water tub, and leave us some hay. Do they love us? Is that why they’re feeding us? Then why do we disappear one by one as our offerings shrivel up, why aren’t we guaranteed life outside of productivity and use? Did they shape all of this for this purpose, to keep us confused, yet working, ignorant, yet dutifully pulling the cart, for fear of a lash from behind?
It’s just, humans can’t be fully domesticated. The wilderness is written into our curious consciousness. We’re the shepherd creature. Through evolution, we learned the latent power of the universe.
And until we invent a system that truly guarantees our freedom, a pasture with a gate any one of us can open, we’ll have revolution after revolution after revolution. Just as we see when we study our history.
I refuse to believe we’ve been earnestly investing and upholding societies that break down this destructively and this often on accident. We’re too smart for that. It’s not a conspiracy that government has been used more as a tool for control than an actual mechanism for organising access to the basic needs and protections for entire populations.
It’s just inconsiderate, bully farming. But humanity makes for a precarious subject.
A creature that rivals goats at breaking down and betraying barriers.
We all need resources for food, water, and shelter built into our local communities.
And if we are living in a system that can not or does not provide those resources,
we all need the equivalent amount of commercial value that would allow us to sustain basic life.
It really is that simple. Leaving us in conditions that demand payment for items we die without, breaks down our sense of community, it lends tender to the fire of prejudice and division, and keeps us hungry, and reactive, unsettled and under stress. Essentially, our society doesn’t feed or water or house the chicken, until after the egg has been laid. Which is really poor farming. Most of us who have raised chickens provide a safe, warm environment, clean water, good feed, months and months before an egg is ever laid. And even when it grows cold, and the production slows, we don’t. A good farmer still pays into the livelihood of animals that are not currently returning.
“Is it really as simple as that, Jeremy?”
Yes. It really is. Society doesn’t need to organize our social lives, or tell us how to chicken. We really just wanted government to make sure the things we need to stay alive get distributed evenly to all of us, because no matter who or what we are, we cease to be any good to anyone without them.
Reading the headlines, scrolling through timelines, if I knew nothing else of America, I’d say every American had a full stomach, a good roof over their head, clean water, the protection and rights that come from any decent shelter. Four walls and tin roof and all. A big old yard outside to roam around, and a little help fending off the dogs. Which I know isn’t true.
So I’m asking you, if it really could be that simple, will you at least consider it?
That all sorts of issues we’re facing as a nation could be solved if there were a little more feed in our dishes, and if we, all of us, had more free time in the yard? That we wouldn’t have to take the horns off the goats, if they had space to explore their instincts and roam.
We need to start at the beginning, and experience a bit of the lives of our ancestors before we step boldly into so-called new worlds. There has to be a quiet, tax free, simple, self made life in the country available to every person, in order for a puritanically economic system to still be called freedom. Or every citizen needs to be provided with the economic equivalent of what it takes to sustain basic life in the town or city.
That’s it. That word, free, we’ve been throwing around for so long, that is what it has always meant. To be taken literally, free of required expense, or payment for products that can’t be boycotted, because they are essential to life. Every living thing has a right to the break neck pursuit of staying alive. Governments should exclusively be a facilitator and ally for us in that pursuit.
Humans are a precarious, particularly devilish animal on a farm. They refuse to lay their eggs in cages. And the human grazes only where the grass is greener, won’t live right not knowing what’s on the other side, for better or worse. Whinnies like a horse, and chatters loud as chickens. They make little plans, and take the screws out of wood, and dump their dishes and peck the farmer, when kept cooped up in pens, and solely within fences.
I get it, government. It’s not some conspiracy. Certainly wasn’t on accident. But up until now the pursuit has been better fences and pens. It has. No reason to deny it. You wrote out a Bill of Rights for us, but we never returned the favor, and put down our bill of rights for you.
Everything else we need from you will be lessened once those things are covered.
Like roots. We only see a tower of leaves and color.
But just to stand, just to argue, just to be someone hated by everyone,
you still have to have eaten, had water, and slept somewhere out of the weather.
So what we can’t agree on everything.
Governments, farmers, by necessity, must be impartial.
They feed and care for us all, just so we can get back to the business
of being disagreeable animals.
The farmer kills chickens when he or she is hungry.
And Japanese beetles when they are too. Killing the corn.
The farmer still does it.
Crushes reflective bodies between finger and thumb.
Red guts wiped on long wagging green tongues.
The beetles keep on also.
Out around eleven and on toward dusk.
Man has a husk. Armor. Which can be pierced. Eaten into. Through.
And chickens, beetles, these things do too.
I suppose all farmers feel a little bit bitten. Harmed.
And maybe this is why they kill them all. Big or small.
Farm or be farmed.
They leave metal edges on the insides of lawn mower engines sharp.
Pull cord broke. Spool fell out tucked under Honda’s little black-painted hood,
and a whole coil of flat tense sharp and hard came undone.
It was rewrapping this infuriatingly functional component,
rewinding that winding coil up tight and small,
when an as sharp as a kitchen blade metal dove deep into the white cartilage
of my middle finger knuckle. Held that arm up above my head, to God,
to balance, to the stonewall all the tools were not neatly strewn out on.
Waiting like a child for discomfort to pass, for some parent
to sweep down like a miracle and make a distraction.
Four hours in on an eight hour work day,
and that hand must keep going, gripping,
pulling handled cords and squeezing plastic gas mixture powered triggers,
arriving home to a large-udder goat, counting on the milking
she’s been getting each afternoon, and soon, rather than later,
one handed the impatient beast, took twice as long, more time gone,
and a yard still full of soft stalk moss-dotted grass needed to be worked on,
and, about fifteen dibby birds too young to know to put their value up at night.
Never seen a raccoon’s leftovers of her majesty plucked alive, eaten raw,
from the crown to scaly yellow legs and red, white down scattered all over.
A little Rhode Island Red beat her wings just the right way.
Scratched her twiggy claws and must have flipped that whole slice
of wrinkled skin on my knuckle back, because every other bird
I touched that night has blood on its feathers.
In a few weeks though, each one will receive her opportunity
to repay the favor. To show their truest color.
And we will have stained one another
with a crimson that lasts forever.
White men are not white.
Nor are white women white.
All skin hidden under the thick roof of a house stays white.
Sweating beneath thick coat suits and sheened pleated pants.
Pale. Like a ghost wants hidden.
All shy skin, grown colorless over time, needs no more than shame.
Naked shame in the face of a scrutinizing sun.
For a few days in summer white glows like light reflected off salt-dripping skin.
The heat of whole afternoons bakes bread red as the clay beneath feet.
Red like the dirt bodies burn red turning all day.
By the time the leaves on the trees are brown
white women and men will be brown also.
After two or three honest summers,
white becomes what you call someone
who sits too long in the shade.
Cooking is a unique form of alchemy. A lot of things go into stew you would not want to eat a handful of. I used to say I learned to cook out of necessity. I was always producing food, growing vegetables, milking goats, collecting eggs and processing chickens. A few recipes would always rise up from the fray and answer the question what the hell am I going to do with all this. First off, I got really good at breakfast. And not just mornings, lunch breakfast, dinner breakfast, breaking fasts with snacks like livermush and eggs chopped up on a bed of grits. Or hard-boiled lunches that come in their own containers. Good, free-range, half wild chicken eggs need no salt or pepper. The worms and crickets in their diets give them that flavor, and a color so orange it yellows the sun. Little burgundy dot in the center says the rooster had his part in it too. Then the vegetables start coming, and they want to drown you in yellow and powder green and shimmering reds beside Cherokee purples. This unlocks a door into worlds of casseroles and canning and really really happy friends. I accomplish my favorite recipe for putting produce to use just setting it out in the break-room at work, watching it walk through the door brimming plastic grocery bags. My all time favorite meal. And chicken, whole chickens, cut into quarters, curing in the fridge three days before rising again with a crown of ice, throned in the freezer. Gallon bags full with stomachs and necks and hearts and fat. My favorite recipe with this resource was found making homemade dog food. Chicken organ oatmeal, I call it. And yes, it is just as disgusting as it sounds. Dogs obsess over it. I also learned a great method of making incredibly way too much chicken noodle soup for one. Now I know you can freeze the stock, and with a hen who has laid eggs for around three years, you get a lot. Aged hens used to be a prairie delicacy, along with fertilized eggs. Now it’s a disclaimer. Best just to cook it off the bone, wrap it in aluminum and give it to a fire until it turns it into barbecue. Started off as a chick chirping in a box at the post office, calling me at five in the morning to let me know I have a package and it’s making noise. Started off as exposed worms while I turned over gardens, so many ants and eaten beetles and butterflies right out of the air. Started off as an egg. The seed of a chicken. With a world overlapped and boiling from the fiery recipe of life. And it is important to remember, a lot of things go into a stew that you do not ever want to eat a handful of.