02 July, 2019

Los Angeles June 2019 - the last leg home

The bus shot down I-65 out of Indy, headed to Louisville, trying to make up for being an hour and half late out of the gate. The old grey dog was loaded for bear. Every curve and bump seemed to tear at the fabric of the thing, like it was held together by duct tape and chewing gum.  The guy next to me was a nervous little germaphobe  in a slim fit flower print shirt who moaned audibly at every rough jump and turn. The woman in front of me was a bundle of nerves who found out about a half hour from Louisville that she wasn't on the bus to Cincinnati.

I chose to give myself over to sleep instead of worry. That was the only thing I had control over. I don't know that I ever felt more free than that moment.

Every wind sheer cuts sharp.
Each bump a prayer. Rough currents
carry home this wandering fish.





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13 June, 2019

Baboon Lumbering

Compiled in the early 12th century, Konjaku monogatarishñ, or the "Tales of Times Now Past" is an anthology consisting of more than one thousand tales form India, China, and Japan. This print illustrates a scene from the story of a turtle who tried to kill a monkey because he heard that monkeys' livers are effective medicine. The turtle invited a monkey to his place telling him that there would be lots of delicious food. Anticipating the feast, the monkey climbed on the turtle's back to cross the ocean. When they were far out to sea, the turtle revealed his true intentions. The clever monkey then confided that he had accidentally left his liver hanging on a tree branch on the shore. Tricked by the monkey's claim, the turtle returned to land, where the monkey quickly scurried to safety high in the tree. Despite their adversarial roles in the story, the turtle and monkey in this print look to be friendly, thus giving the image an overall bucolic ambience.

I offer this image from a 12th Century manuscript and short explanation from the archive notes just to add a bit of context. Hopefully it will make sense by the time I'm finished with this post.

During my morning meditations a while back, it struck me that I am a baboon riding a turtle. I'm still unwrapping what all this metaphor means, but if I'm being honest this particular revelation didn't come as a great surprise. A few years back I started a long series of poems, many of them unread except by me and most of them probably not all that good, in which I wrote myself as a baboon. The phrase BABOON LUMBERING, or at the very least the image of it, was a central theme of those poems. It best described how I felt in the world.

Although my formal education is relatively extensive, my self education really began while I was still traversing  high school. I'm sure I went to classes my senior year, but I don't remember much of that year ... the year my dad died. What I do remember is spending a  lot of time in the very small high school library, obsessed with these dusty old books on the reference wall that no one ever paid any attention to. There was a huge series... maybe two or three encyclopedia sets long... of THE GREAT BOOKS. The first volume covered the major writings of Aristotle. Of course I didn't start there. I started with Descartes and The Scientific Method. I don't know why I started there, except that in the early time of mourning Dad's death, I found the religion I'd grown up with to be little or no salve. So maybe, I figured, maybe science will offer something else.

It didn't. Not really. But it did start to give me framework with which to view the world. There are two major element to the Scientific Method that matter here and now: evidence and observation. Although I'd done ok in school (I was a lazy student) I don't know that I ever learned anything about oberserving. And it was through the process of reading Descartes, Bacon, Plato, Aristotle, Socrates, and as many other of The Great Books as I could read, that I began to understand the difference between just SEEING and actually OBSERVING.

That lesson has been instrumental, and has shaped me into the writer, the thinker, and the spritutal and metaphysical person I am. That lesson continues to shape my journey because at the core of it is the belief that I am not just here to SEE. I am here to OBSERVE and to write it all down as honestly as I can.

Monkeys and baboons in various mythologies are storytellers, messengers, and tricksters. And while my choice of BABOON LUMBERING had more to do with my general discomfort in the world at that time, I am starting to see that my brain keeps kicking this image back at me for a reason.


And so, here I am. Still lumbering, but more at ease. Experience and observation. Detachment (a kind of empiricism) also comes into play. But I'll save that for another time.


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03 June, 2019

A Tip for Traveling Well (Back in the Tall Grass)


Top of Iroquois Park, Louisville, KY: an Olmsted Designed Park
The top level of Iroquois Park in Louisville, Kentucky is one of the most beautiful places I've ever been. It's only open to motor traffic one day a week, and most of the time it looks like the city has all but forgotten about it: tall grass, hidden brambles, vines, and flowers. The path through the tall grass eventually disappears and even though the earnest saunterer isn't that far from the road or from civilization, the wildness of the place takes hold and for a moment, it's possible to forget the nearness of  what has come to pass as civilization.


One of the blessings of my life is that such a place, and others like it, are so close to where I live. I've taken this for granted in the past because, well, my head wasn't quite turned right. I'd allowed myself -- with all the best intentions in the world -- to get distracted by work, by the demands of building a business that I built for what may have not been the best reasons, and by the trappings of a civilization and system that I'd spent years avoiding and actively fighting against.

But as I find myself back in the tall grass, having wandered off the marked path in favor one that I
have no choice to have faith in rather than the sure thing I can see, dictate, and, to a limited degree, control, I feel more free than I have in a long, long time. I was so busy trying to make up some kind of professional life after the one I loved (education) seemed to have left me behind... or, to be more accurate, filtered me out... that I missed the opportunity to really step off the path. Yes, I tried a few creative things until I put together some sort of business plan. But the business took all the energy and left me little room to breathe. And you may point out, Isn't that just the way it is?

No. It's the way I decided it was. That doesn't mean it was true. And no one had any control over it but me. I'd trapped myself in a maze of my own creation, with a monster of my own creation to whom I ceded all control of my life.

When I was finally able to see... or I was blessed with the chance to be able to see... what I was doing to myself, I knew that I had to get back to something basic:

PACK LIGHT.

On any journey, the things you carry are the things that can both help sustain you and make your life miserable. In some cases, the thing you're lugging around will kill you if you let it. So let go of what you don't need. Hang onto what sustains you.

The real bitch of it is that only you can figure out what those things are. But once you do, the tall grass is calling.





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24 May, 2019

Things My Dog Teaches Me, the New Podcast (SUBSCRIBE!) and IGTV (FOLLOW!)


Gypsi… Dog and sometimes Yogi
While I am taking on some freelance work hither and thither, the bulk of my creative energy is being used on … well... being creative. It occurred to me that all the stuff I poured into working towards other people's visions could have been poured into my work, my vision.

It also occurred to me that this is a more natural process... feeding my energy back into my talents, and my gifts is a self-sustaining cycle. Feeding all of that into other people's projects... even projects I like … may feed my stomach, but it draws too close to the bottom of the spiritual well.

And so, here I am. If you missed last week's post about my mostly daily poetry posts on Instagram, check that out here... and jump over to IG and check out my posts. I'm also playing around with IGTV over there. Stop in and give some love, some comments, and pass along.

I've also started a new podcast project: A Record of a Well Worn Pair of Boots: The Podcast, hosted on Podbean. If you look up in the tabs, you can see a new page here with an embedded player. Please give it a listen, subscribe, and share. It's a short format, no frills kind of podcast.... perfect for a bus or train ride, something to listen to in the car, or just to help you get through the office grind.

I know at this point you're feeling punked. What about the fucking dog? you're saying. Well, here she  is:

the thing is that while I get a lot of benefit from my meditation and workout routine, the fact is I learn the most from the world around me... in this case, my dog, Gypsi. She was a rescue when we got her and is 5 years old. Part Catahoula, part Blue Heeler, with a dab of Lab thrown in, she's a wonderful bunch of sometimes over active fun. Unless Amanda' home, Gypsi is always with me when I work out or meditate. And unless she's grouchy (usually about an hour before bedtime), she's always ready to play. And here's what she taught me today while kicking my ass with her downward facing dog:

  • Live in hope (because you just never know) and gratitude (because sometimes you do!);
  • Always be happy to see the people you love and who love you;
  • Try and have at least one really good, squeaky toy.

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14 May, 2019

Why #InstagramPoetry - Why Not??





Poet culture is a funny thing. Depending on who you talk to any one, or number, or none of the following is true:

  • You need an MFA to be taken seriously.
  • MFAs are ruining poetry.
  • Good poets read a lot.
  • Reading too much can influence your work too much.
  • Spoken word is poetry.
  • Spoken word is not poetry.
  • Slam poetry is too much like rap music.
  • Rap can't be poetry.
  • Rap done right is poetry.
  • Poems have to rhyme.
  • Poems should never rhyme.
  • Traditional form is dead.
  • Traditional forms are what make poetry different from other kinds of writing.
  • Poetry must be political.
  • Poetry should avoid politics.
  • Confessional poetry is the only poetry.
  • Confessional poetry sucks.
  • No one wants to hear your angst.
  • Angst is part of the collective human condition.



And then there's the whole mess over Instagram poetry. There are those that see it as helping redefining the genre for a social media age. And of course, there are its detractors and wannabe artistic gatekeepers. And then, the publishing angle, which paints a far more positive picture than gatekeepers and traditionalists want to acknowledge: that poets publishing on Instagram are helping the sale of poetry books.

Rupi Kaur's incredible success is only part of the story. There's all the drama over Atticus and the flame war started by Collin Yost. There's arguments over what IS and what IS NOT poetry. There are lists of Instagram poets to read and, of course, discussions over the trend.



When I signed up for an Instagram account a few years back, it on a lark. I hadn't heard of Kaur, or Atticus, or Yost. I was still a heavy Facebook user and Instagram seemed like Twitter... only for pictures.  I started posting short poems there mostly because the limitations of the platforms gave me some boundaries to work in. I've been focusing on stripping the non-essential out of my work. Sometimes the pictures had absolutely nothing to do with the poem. Sometimes they did. Most of the pictures weren't that good, but it didn't matter.

And, really, nothing has happened. I've attracted some folks who like what I do, but I have no where near the reach that Kaur has. And that's ok. My phone-photo skills have improved. And my poems have improved, too... including the ones that don't get posted, the ones that get submitted to publications and contests. True, not every poem I post is a great poem. But I've learned over the decades of writing that it's impossible to gauge the work that way. I let them loose and they fly or they don't. But they are loose, just the same.

The current through the critiques of Instagram poetry is the same sort of critiques people have leveled at everyone from Bukowski to Emily Dickinson. Supposed experts and aesthetes ("influencers" for you social media savvy folks) seek to define what poetry is and what it's not. They can have at it.  I'll keep doing my thing.

And if you like what I'm doing, hop over to Instagram (@dirtysacred) and give me some love.





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30 April, 2019

On Being Present In Spite of the Kentucky Derby

Hawthorns. Yep, they hurt.
I travel for the same reasons I eventually come home. This is often difficult to explain to people who either aren't pushed in seemingly opposite directions by the currents or who have denied their impulse for wanderlust and diaspora. For those who are similarly afflicted as I am, no explanation is needed, but please, brothers and sister, bear along while I wander this thought to some stopping point or another. 

It's a short leg, I promise.

There are currents at work in both cases, but in neither case am I afflicted by a sense that something is missing or lack of satisfaction. The only real difference is this: when I'm out, I attune to the rhythm of the road almost immediately, like stepping through a door. But when I come home, there's always a reentry process, like having to wait in a decompression chamber so that my lungs can breathe the air of home again.  It's not even about the tangible things in my home life -- my sobriety, my relationship with Amanda, my needy dog or apathetic cat, the house and the familiar and comforting things housed there. Where I have the most trouble is in the intangibles: things that I am compelled by socialization or cultural imprinting to care about: the condition of my yard; seemingly petty and oddly mean-spirited technological issues; the status of our battle to keep the bank from taking our home, in spite of us doing everything right in order for that NOT to happen; business clients who don't pay their invoices on time; obligations created out of cultural necessity -- like most bills, showering, and wearing pants; and locally, the hubbub over the very decadent and very depraved Kentucky Derby -- that fastest two minutes of sport that create that have contributed to a pendulum like boom and bust economy, not to mention labor exploitation, sex trafficking, and the continued exploitation of the city's homeless population in an attempt not to offend the tourists who come here, piss in the street, and call it bourbon.

There are battles here that are worthwhile, and ensuring that rich touristas have positive few of the town I have chosen to call home is not one of them.  But am glad that of the things I hang onto from being out, the things I continue to foster with my personal daily Practice, the idea of being focused on the here and now remains central to my decision-making process about how to (and if) to interact with any of it.

When I'm out on the road, I work to maintain a relaxed but present state of mind, and I try to stay open to whatever experiences and people I can. Through my daily Practice, I'm working to maintain that same relaxed but present state of mind off the road. It's more difficult than it sounds because, in spite of the hassles of traveling (including a lost suitcase), the distractions of a stationary life can fill the ol' brain chamber up with all kinds of things that can distract me from remaining present and being open to the world as it unfurls itself on a daily basis. Things that cause me to miss the beauty and the savagery that are just as present here in Louisville as they are on the road.

Whippoorwills sing
as the coffee cools.
The dog naps, defying
her need to hunt the song
down. Here I sit, listening


waiting for something
maybe the sound
of a gong: a guide,
a rhyme, a tune
encoded in each ring.


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24 April, 2019

Kentucky Writer's Day 2019

"Well, you're cozy sitting back here with all your friends."

I was surrounded by three empty chairs, all of which were leather, soft, and looked as comfortable as the one I was sitting in. I made some off-handed reply, as one does in those situations. Except for me and the guy recording the event for the University of Kentucky Archives, everyone else there was paired or grouped off.

He introduced himself to me. Later I would find out he was some assistant director or under secretary of Kentucky Workforce, standing in for the director who was unavailable today.

"What brings you here?"

"Well," I said, "I've never been to one of these, and it seemed like a good time."

I always find Frankfort to be a beautiful little town in the way that all river towns are beautiful. Nestled up on both sides of the Kentucky River, it's beautiful in the way all river towns are beautiful -- this mixture of old and new, a sense of nostalgia without much in the way of sentiment, and an understated laiz faire attitude about things in general, except for a short list of completely random Things That Actually Matter (Unless They Don't At This Particular Time.)

I'm sitting the coffee shop next to Poor Richard's Books on West Broadway after going out to the Kentucky Library and Archives to watch the inauguration of the 2019-2020 Kentucky Poet Laureate, Jeff Worley. Given that we have a governor who barely reads anything except bible tracts and Ben Shapiro, that we managed to get another poet on the state dime is an extra special pleasure. The Kentucky CoffeeTree Cafe makes a decent cappuccino, has a nice atmosphere with shelves of books, some chairs and couches along with the tables, and variety size of those, too, with even one small table in the back with a single chair for solitary keyboarders and anti-social bibliophiles.

The ceremony out at the Archives was about what I expected. A few speeches and some nice poetry, some of it even read by the poets who wrote it. Right now is the break between the ceremony and the readings of the past and newly minted Poet Laureates, which will be held a few blocks away at the public library. I'll get to listen to the first hour or so of the readings before I need to leave and catch my bus home.

Although I have no part in today's festivities, I wanted to come anyway. Like going to the AWP in Portland this year, I need to start getting to know this part of what my friend George calls (sometimes a bit sardonically) "poet culture." I've paced back and forth for years, stopped at the imaginary border by my anxieties and insecurities. I used to spend a lot of time -- too much time -- drinking and ruminating over whether I really belonged in the same room with these people and being generally resentful if I wasn't ushered in like a dignitary. I removed myself from a conversation and then got pissed off when no one talked to me.

And while I'm a bit too gray in the goatee to be all starry eyed about these kind of things, it was nice that no one gave me the bum's rush. It's never easy being an artist. But it's nice to know that I can, every once in a while, sneak in to the same clubs as the cool kids.
After the new Poet Laureate gave his acceptance speech, I was standing outside waiting on a cab. My new acqauintance, the under secretary, walked by on the way to his car. He asked I enjoyed the ceremony.

"I did," I answered. I was going to go on about how smoothly it went and how I enjoy the brevity and wit of poets. But he nodded in the affirmative and strode off towards his car and towards the next thing on his agenda. As I he pulled out of the parking lot, I stood there waiting for my cab, waiting for the next thing and enjoying the spring air.




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16 April, 2019

From Field Notes: Excerpts, 7th-9th April 2019 - Orange Poppy, Long Gone

7 April


view of the Wakarusa River
Spent the early afternoon downtown. Had lunch with the Market Street Irregulars and then had the opportunity to visit my friend, local artist Heather Houzenga, at her shop at the base of Market Street. We mostly hung out in front of her shop, which lends itself to the opportunity of running into other people. At one point there were maybe 5 of us including Heather, Ray, Dave Cuckler, and Jeff Creath, who split time between Carroll County, Waukegan, and parts unknown with his wife and fellow globetrotter, Kat. There were also two dogs, including Heather's new pooch, Handsome, a boxer mix that is still very much a puppy... but a happy one, and Ray's lovely dog Lady.

It felt good just to be able to hang out on the street without anyone wondering whether something illegal is happening -- one of the graces that is still afforded in a place like Mount Carroll, Illinois.

At one point, later in the day, Dave was downstairs playing guitar and singing, and I was listening through the floorboards. There are moments we experience that resonant, repeat, and carry us backwards and forwards in time, embodying all of our sense memories into a distilled, rich, existential bliss. Listening to Dave Cuckler sing through the floorboards is one such moment, and it let me know that I was, if only briefly, at a place where I still have a home.

Music through the floorboards
that long remembered smile.
A congregation of old friends,
dogs, and peaceful passersby.

8 April

The river is high here, like everywhere else. Parts of Savanna are flooding. The power and prestige of the Old River 1 never ceases to amaze me.

The river lays siege to the flood plain
reminding people (again)
these ancient arteries
will wash away
what passes for Empire.

9 April

I was able to take some time yesterday and walk around town a bit. On my way back to where I'm staying, I walked up the Washington Street hill and over to S. West Street, by the house I lived in here with my ex. Inexplicably, the place is still standing and there's a family living there.

I know it seems strange to some people that I like coming back here. One local musician, a friend of a friend, upon figuring out that I was actually me and discovering that I showed up intentionally to visit, asked what I was visiting for. There's a basic assumption among some folks about this place... an assumption I hear more from people who are born and raised from here -- that there is nothing here. Or, at any rate, there's nothing here that would be of any interest to anyone not from here.

But the truth is that I learned a lot here. Mount Carroll is the place I learned to embrace a place and find beauty, poetry, and music -- even when there is a (very) thin veneer of stasis, greed, and ugliness. It was here I learned to live more in the moment and to seek out community rather than expect it to come find me. It was here that I learned what the word home means -- with all those fraught implications.

It was here that I learned what it means to dive deep and follow the currents. What I didn't learn here was not to dive TOO deep. I had to learn that later.

Some things persist
in spite of soft memory.
What is not erased
is a reminder that 
what we carry in the present
we picked up in the past.

Orange Poppy, Long Gone



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Footnotes to "Orange Poppy, Long Gone

 1. Old River -- the Mississipi. I'm less and less inclined to use this name because the river predates America, predates, Mississippi, and has, at times in it history, submerged the area it is now named for.

08 April, 2019

From Field Notes, 1 April 2019: Out of The Abiding Place

Somewhere east of Libby, Montana. Woke up to first light in my mountains. Rocks stretch out and up, lifting the sky like I cup Amanda's breasts sometimes when we sleep. -- like holding a jacket open for the sun to wear, with a pattern of clouds and rain drops crystalized in suspended animation.

Thinking about Portland and about the way ahead. All of it. There are two states in which I feel most myself -- like I am living the life I was born to live -- when I am in motion, writing; and when I am still, in Amanda's arms. Every other state of being is the space between that I traverse. Geography is a myth we've believed into reality. States of Being are the only states that matter. And if I had to nail down what to call this, I'd call it a perma-state of transition. Moving between motion and rest. Between travel and her arms. Roads and rail road tracks are the paths we make, all treading in the same direction. 

Montana is an ocean of green -- endless waves of evergreens and white oak, slowly waking grass. The mist and snow offer it a supernatural aura. The place has always been magic to me. Like Menifee. Like the river. All sacred. All dirty. All beauty. All savage.

Lift up old mountain.
The sun needs a coat.
The clouds portend
of beautiful things.

Roll on train, through
this sacred place.
I will wander amongst the mist
some other day.



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03 April, 2019

Field Notes, from March 29 2019: Oh, The Humanities


Air palpable with earnest outcries
read to the appropriate audience
words spent on prayers to gods
too busy to grant wishes

(From my last day at AWP:)

The folks I saw yesterday (Friday) were not out today. I want to believe that the old guy flying a sign on the corner of Halliday and MLK -- who, up close, doesn't look much older than me -- got what he needed and was able to sleep in doors last night. I want to believe that Tanya J. McDonald -- who told me her name 5 times and who was clearly released from a hospital with no sense of where she might end up -- was able to find peace and safety and some comfort in mourning her mother's death.

I saw them. I looked them in the eye and took their hands and helped in some small, temporary way. I want to believe it made a difference.

But I don't feel that optimistic today.

There's something about all the appropriate mourning and moaning here that's just so far-sighted in all the wrong ways. People see injustice at a distance and want to engage it. But when it's up close, they overlook. Or worse, they look through it like it's air.

Of course there's talk about Trump and  the peril to democracy -- mostly by white academics. When I hear work by writers of color, or by immigrant writers, or by people recounting stories of assault and the abuse of power, there is no presumption that democracy is in peril.

There is no presumption that democracy exists at all.


Beauty is abandoned
in the course of natural process --
the fragrance lingers,
a memory seized
right in the moment breath freezes.








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27 March, 2019

Field Notes, 26 March 2019: Savage Bones, Savage Beauty

Nice, if chilly, walk to a neighborhood coffeeshop. True, there was a Starbucks closer, but I wanted to find something local, something of the neighborhood, before I head downtown. Breakfast, along with a triple shot cappuccino, was a plank of avocado toast -- lemon juice, red pepper flakes, and sea salt. Delicious.

Spent a significant amount of time yesterday afternoon learning about the terroristic activities of the Portland area Proud Boys and the long tradition of racism, Sundown Laws, bigotry, and violent exclusion in Portland. 

Sadly, it echoes of home.


Apparently they are rolling around in groups looking for people to attack... specifically people who don't prescribe to the Proud Boy (read: fascist) ideology of gender normative dress and behavior. At least one member of the Trans Community here  has already been put in the hospital.

All the camps here are arming themselves, and all it will take it one dumb scared kid from either side to mishandle a firearm. It was pointed out to me that the Proud Boys are out numbered. It was pointed out to me at least three times. But the cops never fall on the side with Antifa. They tend to call this neutrality, or adherence to ensuring the law applies to everyone... but that falls as flat on an intelligent ear as the late night station guards insistence he is ticket checking everyone "regardless of what they look like."

America's savage and tribal underpinnings are being exposed like old tree root systems are exposed by heavy rain and flash floods.

But the water isn't going down any time soon.

Flowers blooming in South Portland
while workaday folks carry on.
Wind off the Willamette and Columbia
lay bare rusty bones
leaving us all standing on sand.


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26 March, 2019

Field Notes, 24 March 2019: Beautifully Savage

[Indianapolis:]

Part of me wanted to miss the bus, or for something to go wrong in Louisville just so I could have one more minute with her. It's always like this. Even when I'm compelled to go, there is such a desire to stay, to damn the consequences. And indeed, there would be consequences. I've seen that before, too.

Some aspects of every trip are the same. Indy and the buzzing lights. Chicago Union Station and the great, depressive and beautiful vacuum of that city. Longing and loneliness. And the obligation to write it all down, to somehow make it all make sense, if only for myself, but maybe -- just maybe -- for some other poor asshole out there who is equally torn apart by a need to Go and to See. Someone else who is tortured by the desire to stay, to leave the road for someone else.

At the 2:45AM ticket check I was again asked about a confirmation number. I'm starting to feel punked.

Buzzing overhead lights
and a four hour layover.
Thoughts of you make me wonder
why it feels so necessary
to be anywhere you're not.

[Near Chicago Union Station]

Of course the ridiculous worries about the "confirmation number" were unfounded. The desk worker in Louisville was clearly mistaken/misinformed/harried. The security guard at the Indy station was probably just being a dick because he picked up on my displeasure about the ticket check. They always state the same legal caveat "I am not biased and will check anyone regardless of what they look like." This gives them the blankt authority to racially and economically profile anyone they want without fear of the guard or the company being sued. And naturally, there are any number of ways to abuse tacit authority at 3AM in a Midwestern bus station.

Power is so predictable.
Give authority to a beaten man
and he will beat anyone down
with savage impunity --
in particular, whoever he blames.


Canal Street Entrance, Chicago Union Station
[In the Great Hall, Union Station, Chicago]

The Great Hall is gorgeous. The lights, the statues, the columns and marble staircases. A mish-mash of Greco-Roman with Digital Age minimalism forced into the crevices. Ornately wrought columns and digital screens. Nothing is so American as our nostalgia for the past that never was -- the carefully and assiduously reconstructed one we write ourselves into as the denouement.

Beautiful as they are
all our grand monuments
harken back to a past
reconstructed from afar
so it necessarily includes
us, whether we belong or not.




[Harmonee Ave/Glenview, IL]

Loaded for bear
more people than seats
our steel horse barrels westward
breaching the ragged edge
in search of soul, Big Sky and light.

[Flooded plains outside Columbus, Wisconsin]

Downed and drought
are the only cycles
anyone can really count on.
Everything else is Faith.

[All that's left is the thaw]

Snow lingers west of the Wisconsin Dells. Dirty, tired looking stuff. Knee high piles along the outside
St. Paul-Minneapolis, MN - Union Depot (MSP)
edges and corners of muddy unplanted cornfields. Tiny blankets wrapped around the base of young sycamores and trimming along creek beds. It's all over but the melting here. 


The sun broke out for setting
just east of La Crosse --
piles of dirty snow like shrugged off clothes
lay around the edges
of soon-to-be plowed fields.

[Black River, WI]

Broken up ice islands
The waters are high.
We're coming upon the Mississippi
to breach the great boundary
into Minnesota.

Every time I travel I'm awe struck by how beautiful and how beautifully savage the landscape is.


[First 'Air Break'/ Flood Fight]

Chatted with a woman name Kristy and a man named Dean, both from Fargo. They were strangers to each other but both going home. When they found out they were both from the same place, they started talking about the 'Flood Fight.' Every year when the snow melts, people volunteer to make sandbags to stave off the inevitable flooding of the North River. Dean is volunteering for the first time in several years. Kristy volunteers every year, but her job allows her to volunteer and get paid for it. Dean said they are calling for 1 million sand bags this year. Kristy said they are expecting floods about 41 feet, worse than 1997.

All I said was that water always runs down river eventually. All I thought about was how much we don't need the water to rise anymore at home. But that's life -- it's all connected and everything runs downstream eventually.

-MKP
~

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22 February, 2019

Reading the Grounds


Mick Parsons, #wellwornboots
Embrace the break in weather where you can. True, there are months when the last time you saw the sun feels like a dream; but when the rain break and there is a clear path, take advantage of it the best you can. [from Field Notes]

Even though I'm not bound to foot travel -- there is the bus, of course, and most recently, Mule -- I still like to walk. True, I could start up Mule and drive to a park and walk around a pre-designated track. I see merit in it, certainly for other people, because it's difficult enough to get exercise in a society that depends on us sitting in front of a computer, or staring at our phones, buying things. True, if you look long enough, nearly every aspect of the constructed reality we experience every day depends on commerce of some kind: whether it's the cappuccino I bought at the coffee shop today or the smiles my wife and I exchanged this morning before she left for work. But when I am not in motion in the world, there are fewer opportunities to see the world as it truly is instead of the filtered commodity that trickles in through my phone or my computer. When I am not in motion in the world, I'm not even certain the world exists.

Living as I do along the Ohio River, a once major artery of commerce of all kinds from coal, to slaves, to settlers, in a city whose very existence depended on commerce and The Falls that created a natural choke point for people to have to slow down and walk their boats through (Once Upon a Time), the metaphor and myth of commerce are a foundation upon which many myths have been  built.

But it's easy to let that take over... which is to say, it's easy to let that constructed reality dictate our
Mick Parsons #rubbertramp
Mule
our entire lives. And if the materialists are correct -- both the Capitalists and the Communists -- and we are simply matter in motion, then really, this constructed reality is nothing more than an increasingly complex maze we spend our days and nights in until one day, we stop moving and the maze moves on without us.

Unless there's something more. And when I walk around my neighborhood, or anywhere, and take in the sounds, the feel of broken cement underfoot, the vibrations of the coolish February air here in the grand divot that is the Ohio River Valley, I end up thinking of commerce as something more than buying and selling, more than money for sweat and blood, more than blood and bone in the name of man's most majestic and dangerous machination -- Contemporary American Society. 

This is why, I think, I am bound to travel whether I think I want it or not. A warm wind kicks up, the currents shift, and nothing is set right until I feel this world moving under foot. Because it's only in motion that this constructed reality shakes loose and the world opens itself wide for eyes willing to see, for ears willing to listen, and for hands willing to embrace it on its own terms. 


As old mystics read tea leaves
I flip my empty cup
open the heart, examining
the dark grounds and find
one more map towards
the river mouth and the sea.

Mick Parsons, #wellwornboots
The past is gone, the future is full.



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