The Mysterious Hanging Boulder

There is a difference
between knowing
the Mysterious Hanging Boulder

is safe and feeling it is safe.
You stand under it, smiling.
I take a picture.  

The sign
that says it’s balanced
on three points of pressure

and weighs tens of thousands 
of pounds is visible
just over your shoulder. 

In my head I get
how these things work and 
we both laugh and move on,

but I’m not in my head much 
these days. In my body
I’m terrified. What part of

balance suggests it lasts
forever? I’m nowhere near
strong enough to hold up

the rock, to lift it if it falls,
to do anything more than
document and scream.

The Mysterious Hanging Boulder
is going to be there a long while,
longer than we will, I think. But

I don’t think much these days.
I feel more than think and I feel
like I want to put an arm around you

and get us away from here, no matter
how stupid that seems, no matter
what the words on the sign

seem to promise about
stability and balance
and permanence.


Orange Crush

In a New Hampshire
tourist trap cave, confused
in mid-step
about which way to turn

by the dim light,
my hammering chest,

and the sudden rubber
in my knees.

I’m not getting
any younger, of course. No
one is, even the kid behind me
who settles against the wall
with obvious impatience, 
waiting for me
to move again.

I take another second
and grunt myself through
the crevice someone long ago
joyfully named 
“Orange Crush.”
I think of 
soft drinks and R.E.M.
and the Denver Broncos and

what if I have a heart attack here?
Don’t know what that kid would do
if I did. I doubt “Orange Crush” 
means the same to him
as it does to me but I’m sure
its meaning would change
forever for him then, becoming
“fat old man expiring before my eyes.”

Fat old man expiring before my eyes,
none of us getting younger, militia flags
on the trucks in the parking lot,
“Blue Lives Matter” T-shirt on the kid,
the Orange Crush in constant redefinition. 

Someone once said, “the personal
is political.” Someone once said to me,
“Not everything is political, y’know.” Someone
once said “isn’t it nicer not to talk politics
and just be happy?” 

I make it out of the cave into 
the light, the view across the valley
into the White Mountains. Someone
named them that, someone who came here
and called them White.

That Someone has sure said a lot of things.

Me? I’m just saying,
I’m suddenly sorry

that was the last cave on the trail.

It was cool in there, and dark, it smelled
as it’s likely smelled since the last Ice Age,
and I didn’t feel like I had
anything to worry about

except dying.


Independence

There has been
a bit of a break in the wall.

More like a fissure,
a thin crack.

Something’s
leaking out of it.

It isn’t blood. Not water
or oil or sewage,

those classic fluids
usually found at disaster sites.

It may not even be a 
liquid in spite of

those spreading stains
around the crack

which now seems to be
opening wider and perhaps

that’s a sound coming from it,
a sustained howling or maybe

someone’s idea of a song. Nothing
I recognize from my long memory

of this holiday or all the years
around it.

Something is getting out
that’s been walled up for years.

Maybe something we knew was there,
but which used to operate

from the relative cover of the wall
that’s now cracking.  Something

we knew was there but tried
to forget and now there’s a crack

and it’s getting out and we
preferred it when we could pretend

it wasn’t back there at all. Maybe
the fireworks finally 

shook it loose. Maybe we shouldn’t
have been so quick and lax about

setting so many small fires and laughing
at the explosions which followed.  Maybe

we leaned on the wall for support
too hard and too long.


From Mountains

No,
I don’t have a word
to say
about the latest and 
gratingest
thing said or done
by the latest and 
baddest of the big
bad monsters
we currently live with.

Instead, I want to speak
about mountains,
about the core of the earth.

All my people on both sides
came from the mountains.
In the mountains, you learn
to be silent and watch things
from a distance.

You learn to watch
mountains rising slowly, pushed up
by waves from the core
through the mantle;
you learn to watch mountains
wearing away
under the wind and rain;
you learn how to be silent and wait
for changes that will happen
with or without
your regard;

you learn that even
a cataclysm closes
gently, eventually,
and it all slips back to slow. 

Red core
stirring, mountain
twisting up toward sky,
earth shivering.

Someone, maybe a lot
of people, are going
to die, I know, and

no,
I don’t have a word
to say today about
any of it —

I’m mountain stock.
I stay
quiet,
watch the world seethe, 
wonder 
how many more words
people really need.

I can’t see everything
from here, it’s true,

but I see enough.
What else is there to say
that has not yet been said?
The mountains
are still echoing. 


Simple Mathematics

You

steal
feather, deity,
lineage, land;  
make up
a predecessor’s name,
a bloody
joke, a gross mascot, a 
pretty trinket trend.

We don’t need 
those definitions,
you know.

We don’t need you
to reform and relax
and lean into
understanding,
you know.

What we need,
what you need, is
simple mathematics: 

your five hundred years
are still
far less than 
our eons and 
once they’ve been
thoroughly subtracted, 

we shall not even notice.

The land will recall you
for a little while and
we might recall a bit
longer

but we’ve always known
what was ours and what
you took and what 
you called it and what
its true name
has always remained.

We don’t need you
to get it clear before

you are
dismissed. Before
we turn the paper

to the 
blank side and
start over.


Rules For Buying A Used Guitar

1.
Do not do it
at first sight
unless the caravan
in which it resides
is leaving shortly
and you may never
see it again

and it gives you
a song unbidden
when you touch it
for the first time.

2.
Do not do it
at second glance.
Play it while shaking
your head the whole time.
Hang it back on the wall
while shaking your head.
Shake your head
and walk away. If 
a song comes to you,
take it home and play it
on another guitar, 

or sit up late shaking your head
to the rhythm, singing softly
while twisting your fingers
around and around 
in the air as if the neck 
was lying easy in your hands.

3.
If upon third encounter
the song has not come
then it’s not yours
to seek and you should
put it back on the wall gently,
as you might set a wand
back into a dreaming
sorcerer’s hand;

if all else fails
and you think you can hear
some slight melody
as you shake your head trying
to decide,
check your wallet
and if you’re broke and
it will hurt? Buy it

at once, before you change your mind.


You Will Write Tomorrow

Tonight you recognize that
you are best described 
by a series of parenthetical phrases
each of which modifies your self-awareness
so profoundly that they cannot be
understood as separate thoughts
without having comprehended all the others first
which leaves the dilemma of where to begin
reading and parsing them all to you and it 
will take as many years as you have left
to get through them all and sort the priorities
from each other into neat packaged bursts
of knowledge and frankly it seems like
pulling those parentheses apart to get at
the nutmeats within might not be worth
the flavor each would offer to the palate
called life and learning and inner peace 
by those who want to quantify and define
that process of internal inquiry
that you have seen till now as a waste of time 
since you got all the way here without it
and that’s a hell of a long way to have travelled
without having done it and yet if there was
something to be gained you might feel cheated
if you began now with so little hope of finishing
so instead you shut everything off and go outside
into the rain-washed night and imagine 
it is perfectly fine to draw a line under all that
and say that what remains of your time
will be held in a single simple sentence
you will write 
tomorrow.


Bear

I was not
entirely there
so cannot say
for sure
but it feels like
something I put
into the world overnight
has been consumed
by a Bear, THE Bear,
the archetype
who has pulled it apart
and already digested
and spit and shit it out

and here I am staring
into a pile on the side
of the road, saying,
“that was mine” with a mix
of pride and anger

that anything at all
of what was once uniquely mine
was visible, had been deemed worthy
of consumption by an Immortal,
had nourished the Bear and
been passed back
to nourish the Earth itself.


Salt And Fire

There are places on Earth
so soaked in hate that

the only moral
thing to do

after finding new places
for people to live

may be to burn every scrap of wood
from furniture

to framing, fill in every
foundation, break up

all the roads that lead 
into and out of town, then

salt the ground into 
permanent sterility. Every day

you hear of places
so poisoned

that they have forfeited
the right to those locations

and instead should live on only
in the nation of infamy,

country of horror
stories and nightmares.

I do not say this lightly,
for I know every town

is someone’s home and
has at least a modicum

of love clinging to it. I do not
know how to make hate

disappear, and perhaps
I have become hate

when I think these things —
perhaps I should burn myself

then have a friend roll
my smoking corpse in salt

and bury me
in barren ground. But

something must happen
and it is hard to believe

that it will not somehow involve
fire and salt.


Empowerment

I think now and then

that it would be best
if all of us could fall into
amnesia,

tumbling to the ground
without our past knowledge
of walking, talking, sleeping,
shouting, killing.

It would not be
glorious renewal —
I’m no Utopian.

Instead I see it as
a fitting end to things:

all of us helpless, seeing 
every other one of us
from ground level,
lying there uneasily
as if new born, waiting
in complete equality
for an explanation
that will never come.

We’ve lived
for generations
terrorized by
by dark claims of 
mastery from those
utterly in thrall
to a lie called history.

It would be fitting, 
even at such cost, if
they were freed long enough
from that spell
to know how it felt not to be
empowered.

To see the world as it is,
from the ground up.

To squirm.


Our Joy In Their Teeth

Off to the carnival
before they get us
by our necks.  We can
practice shooting
at the fake little gallery game
with the lights and the sad
stuffed critters before we have to
shoot back at them
for real. 

Off to the ocean
for beach frolic
before they grab us
and hold us face down
in the bitter surf. We can
sing and dance and
serpentine away to fight
all the livelong day.

Off to the club
and the stage and the lawns
to toss one back and burn one down
before they toss us and burn us out
of body and home. We can
swirl through the thick
air of their war
and bite right back before we go.

We’ll sit there and snarl 
even if we’re bleeding
and they’re holding our joy
in their teeth
as they hover above us
waiting for us
to show pain.

Goddammit, they’ll say to us,
lie down and weep 
the way you’re supposed to;

Goddammit, we’ll bark back to them,
go ahead and kill us
but we will not give you our joy

without war.


Underfoot

No, he said,
I’m not responsible
for these wings
torn from so many
that litter the ground
for millions of 
square miles.
I was not
the scourge, the 
brute who laid
the lush carpet 
beneath my feet,
am not to blame
for my soft footing.
This crushing sound
from where I pass?
Merely the past, the
detritus of that unpleasantness
having been stirred, echoing
so loudly that it might
drown out anything
left alive, I admit,
but how am I expected
to know that? How
am I expected to 
know what damage
might be happening
underfoot? No, he said,
you can’t blame me
for anything except
walking on what 
was there to walk on.


How To Close A Book

after the first page:
lower the cover upon
the opening paragraph

as you might carefully 
reset bait in a trap,
in the hope
that another will take it
since you will not…

after the halfway point:
rest the book upon its spine
and clap the halves together

with a clean sound of 
finality and rejection, as if
you must let
all around you know
you can stand this tale no more…

upon completion:
lay the volume on its back
and close it

as if something
has changed in you
because of what you are
sealing back into the book
for the next reader,

or for the next time you open it.


Black Rum Funk

I am gray,
I know;

the sky is gray,
I know;

another night
has come, 
another dive into 
black rum.

I turn my head 
toward solid music
to hold me
until I am fully drunk and 

looking young again —
not to say I am
young again — not to say
the mirror agrees with me — 

when I do
this rum lights shit up
and this funk
holds shit down

and what I see
in that mirror looks like
fun and steam,
best moments

of a black rum life — 
this bar lit barely at all,
full of stomp and promise,
brush, rub, tug, groove;

I may soon be
out of black rum
but I’m not yet
out of blacktop;

that band
may be shutting down
but I’m not yet
out the door;

I may be driving
into the dark
but I know where
this road goes

and with any luck 
I’m not going down it
all alone

tonight.


Patreon update

I’ve recently made a number of posts, including a short essay on recent poems, over on my Patreon page.  For the most part, these are available to those who have pledged at varying levels there.

I want to stress that all of the poems I write will ALWAYS remain available here for free.  But in an effort to earn some income from this work, I think that providing more deeply curated and connected selections, along with some expository prose, is a good way to go. 

If you’d like to consider being a part of that community, the link above can show you how to do it. in addition, there’s a permanent description and link to that site in the pages seen at the top of the Dark Matter site itself.

Thanks for your time.

T