Concrete Poetry

We are taught, first, desire. After that. We are free.
To bend all facts into confirmation with our conclusions.
Desire plus history multiplied by tradition equals expectation.
Which is the bane of contentment.

What if we were taught, first, anything except desire.
Perception, born of reception, as simple as keeping eyes open.
Especially when everybody elses are closed.
We would see. Maybe. Desire is nonuniform. Flighty.

Expectations are founded on desire like blueprints are paper.
We end up putting poems down in concrete.
Currently reading a canon of popsicle sticks and Elmer’s glue.
It’s not an accident. It isn’t coincidence. It’s birthdays.
It’s Christmas. Allowance for doing the dishes.
All hopes and wishes.

Everything parents ever wanted but never received.

And so, we were taught, first, the desire to be deceived.

The Writer #oldpoems

God this is an odd hobby. Some strange, absurd agenda I can’t sit down,
or ignore. I must lobby for it. Sold for much more than I paid.
To remain, or stay, and I lost it. So now I must profit. Big time. Big space.
No longer an option not to run a good race. Keep pace. Write every day.
Not just filled pages, but quality. Quality is where I found the kingdom. Earned it.
Drowned in the chomping waters of quantity. En masse. Quality is a carcass. Bloated.
Risen to the surface, upheld on the overlapping phallus of water. Dead, yes.
Once written it is dead. Crawling with secrets, distorted up from the bottom.
Consumed, decomposed, exposed. The morbid potential of the deep.
To those afloat bobbing, sick, clung to some boat.
God alive could not bring these words to life.
That is not why we write.
My very hobby.
Is bringing death to quality.

No Soft-Handed Storytellers

As somebody with trust issues, I interview very well.
I even think it’s a little cute. How much people believe in words.
Strung neat together to form corded little stories. Anecdotes.
That will never be corroborated. This is unexplored territory.
The realm between true and false is trust.
Questions we’ll never ask. Answers we don’t want.

Trust is the bias that binds quilts together.
Lighter than a pound of feathers.
Laid just right, set tight, it will be like two pieces of fabric
from two entirely separate things had never ever been apart.

Rewoven into one. Just a little later on. Stories are like that.

Threads in themes zig zag about seams.
Knitting all these separate scenes into strings
and then blocks
then a thousand strips of cloth.
And you’ve got a story.

Part shirt scraps. Part dish towel and bed sheets sewed on.
Until you have this Frankenstein of information
from so many separate sources somehow
all spliced beautifully, tragically, cohesively,
functionally into a single body. One form.

And you can always tell a good story.
Because people will come after it
with lit torches and pitchforks.

Or you could do a great interview.
And have someone pay you to write.
Sow stories like seeds into garden rows
and cleared out animal stalls
and the very smiles on people’s faces.
With a pencil that also erases.

Storytellers. Trust issues. Minimum wage job interviews.
Scraps to pick and choose through. Just remember.
The quilts that wrap us up in warmth and trust.
The stories we have grown to love.
Were someone else’s trash.
Before they ever came to us.

English Major

How we order dinner. How we tell our problems to doctors. And illustrate our final wishes. And record our innermost anxieties. We write letters to loved ones full with so many words claimed by neverending definition. How we know to call each other. How we declare things like war, and love, and all the salty sandwich meat in between. Looking at the world through eyes is one thing. But words, vastly another.

Literature is the microscope we hold up against the world to perceive details needed to articulate our needs. A microscope provides a distortion. A biased perspective. In your favor. Objects appear larger than they actually are.

If you fail to study the manipulations of your tools, you will never build a trustworthy conclusion.

And language, literature, we use words to orchestrate lives how bees use wax to shape hives. Not so much high art and the great smoking literary canon, but traffic signs, and menus, birth certificates and credit card contracts. They never taught this in school, because the system is full of people taught never to question the bias in their equipment. But all words are literature. How you tell your friends how you feel. Express intimacy and desire safely and respectfully out loud. The level of grace with which you handle power. How well you translate to paper.

English is not your least favorite class from high school.

It is the medium I am implementing at this very moment to testament the unfixed, transient flights of conscious thought going on in my mind. It is our cheapest and most prevalent form of time travel. As well as immortality. Playdough for plastic brains to squeeze in fists and get sick eating it. Which we know we aren’t supposed to do. It says so, printed in a dull black warning on a label, the word. No.

We didn’t have to. But words are how we decided to witness to and participate with the world. From the ground up. Whenever I encounter a doubt, or a negative thought about possibility or lack of potential, or hope, I’m always asked to look through a narrow little window of a word that I broke open a long time ago into a door. And more. I built a bridge out of it. And you’re right. That word. That choice. That night. If it is the destination, then this is dark as hell. And your doubts, they may be right. But if that word is one toe on a foot, or one step in a twenty mile day, or one day out of a two month journey, or two months of the best, most fulfilled, busiest and blessed years of my life, that’s different.

Depending on the lens you use, your microscopic problem might only appear to be huge. When in reality, it’s invisible to everyone but you. This is why we discovered language. To catch a glimpse of ourselves in it like a fun-house mirror, distorted into extremes.
It had very little to do with the pursuit of truth. Like any other tool.

Literature was not intended to serve the world.
We designed these words to magnify you.

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.  

Four and a Half Million Acre Mug

Rows of white teeth hungry for gray water as wind blows more constant than the sun shines. Light at least goes to bed at night. But the wind does not abstain. In fact, it grows fangs, and prowls hedgerows and leaps out from house corners. Moves tarps across the yard and carelessly leaves soggy cardboard in puddles. Pushes so hard, gray water grows navy in a slow-chugging belt to overtake the lake. Clouds come in like cavalry swinging swords of sunlight in pastel tangerine rays. Brandishing brand new stratus stripes and cumulus commissions and very cirrus medals that might one day make this storm a general. A hundred puffy gold-traced horses at the head of a high army. Little mangy islands like warts on the horizon. Bare trees from scratching off fleas and some poor soul built a house right in the middle. Lake bitten and horse ridden for sure. Eyes drink up the whole scene like that strip of sandbar close to shore makes this mess a black and tan. Cream crashing in rows as the wind blows more constant than even the sun shines. Brain belches and stomach stretches and the throat behind eyes strains to drain the four and a half million acre mug. Drinking in a great lake like it was dark frothy beer. Wind as steady as what you hear with a conch shell over your ear. Finally aware there is an ocean in the air. Brushing the bright white teeth of lake Ontario so that its gray gums recede and those thick calcium roots can be seen digging deep navy. Belts of blue greasily sliding across each chipped tooth. And everything, eyes and mind and the worlds they have written, looking bitten.

The mutterings of your heart

Criticism should always be taken, just not bending over.
Not blindly, embarrassingly, just taken and not questioned.
But looked at clear eyes, open mind, direct into the face of the critic.

If a self-serving, reductive, dismissive bit of erosive advice is shared,
defend it. Keep stringing along letters and words to surround the work.
Like armor. Listen, as they bombard the mutterings of your heart
with wrong, mistruth, with misguided wit unfiltered and over practiced.

These swollen-headed academic types will see if they can’t slip in a line or two
which make them seem better, smarter, more equipped with intention
and more confident than you. They have before and always will.
Just don’t bend over for it.

Too many good, productive, creative elements make you the writer,
and them, just another critic.

And so many hammers

Maybe I am a clumsy person.
Too prone to accidents for this laborious career I have fallen into.
A fact attested to by these scrapes, blisters, each purple-black bruise.
Maybe. Or it could be the isolated, egotistical nature of focus.
Of intense, harsh attention paid out regardless the accumulating cost.

Some one concentrated on the slick wooden handle,
the intentionally cooked shaped cold hunk of metal,
the pin, so that a different someone can hammer.
Apply vigorous, unbreakable mental prowess against the nail.
The board, the steadily forming building built of treated lumber
and sharpened flat-headed metal, and so many hammers,
and some clumsy one working.

Perhaps too distracted by the task at hand
to take good care of his or her own hands.

Seedbed for Dreams

Endless scattering of stars over beds of cloud-dotted dark.
For years the patch was tortured. Toiled over by sweating faces.
Until a black bowl remained where unending space meets mortal vision.
And each sleeping mind sows a seed.
Dots off distant light like pinpricks leaking through from heaven.
Each one covered over, crushed, softly, by a single hand.
And then, by a world full of hands, the night sky is made home
to an array of red and blue spots of planets,
white and yellow flashing stars, some fall
followed by golden tails as soon as shining,
some rise and fall steady and eternal as a sun, or its smile,
teaching us that living forever dies a little everyday,
and from a smoldering death, again, anew,
stronger than the day before.

Stars are sown, every one, by sleeping minds.
Content to trust dark soil to grow seeds with care.
Content with the work done, eyes tired.
Only those still awake so late start the harvest.

Hands like open eyes scour searching out and plucking up
clouds of mist and clarity alike, seeing in a distance worlds
spinning the same as ours, and the stars that burn them.

Sunlight now felt internally, like fear of smallness,
meaninglessness, afraid of failure, of lack of possibility.
Born in a black night. So those who ceased casting dreams
start harvesting others, forgetting the simple gifts of single stars,
and for personal comfort, shape them now into forms,
such as a bull, or a warrior, a dipper to carry black water
up to a raised heads miles below, and all to see bright
where the sun does not shine. Never to understand,
or learn, or love. But to distract until morning comes
and the colors are clearer. Stars gone except for one
no one can look at anyway as it frowns across space,
dotted by daydreams, sprouting the dark spots of birds
on a fresh light-blue bed.

Awakened people now see their dreams reshaped.
Converted to simpler, easier to harvest
than the single stars whose shining formed them.
Harvesters fill with worry over knowing and remembering each,
and now we all see constellations much more massive
than any of our individual dreams,
whose myths dwarf the dots comprising them,
so much so each shining spot seems blurred,
hazed, faded every day in light of our new breed of night.
Instead of planting them where seeds can grow,
dreams more likely drape dying trees once a year,
line highways and streets at the tops of wooden poles,
form consecutive rectangles of window patterns
lining a taller pillar of rectangle.

And under a huge dome built by human hands,
each dreamed star is a cell phone in a raised fist,
waving now as a constellation that only inspires fear
when peaked through the clouds,
because now no one looks up to see stars.
Or goes to sleep in search of dreams.

Now we look only to see.
And sleep only to sleep.

Where I go to write a poem

I wanted to sit and write a poem, to take an opportunity to reveal where I go.
The spots and thoughts I am inspired to throw, project my imagination,
exploring the impulse of creativity that I practiced since I was a child.

How to see a pirate ship in a playground. Fragmented backyards
framed by pine trees and shallow water, a field of battle,
straw explosions from mental mortar fire. The same full of smiles,
panting, hard at work playing child, sat down here to write a poem.

Make believe is still belief.
That is worth remembering.