Fifty Gallon Drum

(Another notebook dump where the yammers have gathered like little critters nesting in the walls.)

-:-

They didn’t drain the swamp, they drained
the brains. Are the valves not properly labeled?

-:-

The day will come to grind it
And tomorrow comes behind it
Too bad you can’t unwind it
Take comfort where you find it

-:-

I think people who identify as skeptics are overreacting to the error of blind faith, which they rightly fear when they see it take hold of others. They overcompensate in their belief that blind faith is the only kind there is. But evidence is accepted on a reasoned faith—that subtle errors or deliberate deceptions have not slipped into the conclusion at hand. In the end: a little leap of faith, because facts are endless and it is literally impossible to consider each and every one. Reason cannot function without both faith and skepticism.

Faith on its own will likely run rampant without the skeptic to keep it in check. Skepticism on its own is just a brute prejudice, slamming doors shut for whatever notion it latches onto as valid, not at all unlike blind faith.

The third leg of reason’s little stool is called curiosity, or wonder.

-:-

They dismiss the supposedly irrigorous logic as magical thinking, as if the intellect was the retainer and not the retained. As if thinking itself is not magic!

-:-

They say you should choose your fights but I never find any I like.

-:-

How many nihilists does it take to not be?

A nihilist is an eternalist who has resolved the first of the two errors.

A nihilist walks into a bardo…

-:-

We working class white people who do not think ourselves the powerful oppressors of others should still contemplate the level of privilege upon which we operate: I can drive to the store and never have to think about being pulled over, arrested, or even shot, after having been seen doing nothing more than driving down the street.

-:-

When it comes to the sun I try not to look at the bright side.

-:-

If you’re somebody, you better watch what you say.
If you’re nobody, it’s better to keep it that way.

-:-

Worry is an outlier indulgence, mentally going to the place you are afraid you’ll end up, while the remedies to impending troubles are left neglected, undone.

-:-

The knees, they do a thankless job
Midway twixt the heel and hip
Protruding like a misplaced knob
To cap the pavement when you trip

-:-

Sometimes I stick my head in an empty 50 gallon drum and speak loudly the things that might otherwise go here.

-:-

Not being nothing, space fulfills form. Not being something, form fulfills space. Not two, yet not not-two. Not something, not nothing.

-:-

I’m not a pull-string
talking doll, y’all, but
sometimes the things
I say: no way.

The phrase automatic
on instant recall, someone
come finish this for me
okay?

-:-

A lot of people take things for granted, but in stores they call that shoplifting.

-:-

I wonder what would happen if they pressed all my buttons at once and I collapsed without recourse into a short-circuited heap of malfunctioning habitual responses.

-:-

Knee-deep in needy
wit’ a dolly made a hay
all she wanna do be holler
golly all a day.

(to be accompanied by banjo and Jew’s harp)

All Hallowed

A black cat arches
its bristled silhouette
against a sour green moon
in a newspaper ad
for mattresses.

September thumbed its nose at one keen summer and abruptly closed that happy book. We turned out each day after school to a gradually shifting light and a sense of turning. October’s grid of even and odd days played out like a roll of tickets and we slashed out the calendar squares one by one. Now it looms. It’s Halloween.

We dress out in style, not costume, and hit the pavement, the night before us rising in imagination. We meet up at our usual haunt and set out. The evening is drained of its color and clouds hang like wilted lilies at the edge a tree-clawed horizon, still glowing in the daylight’s wake. Mist is creeping below our knees. Flashlight beams vivisect the malign shadows. But the senses cannot claim what unknown dimensions might intersect with the ordinary on a night when saints and ghouls mingle together.

An election of angry spirits descended upon the hordes of feral children. Eyes open wide, the youngsters saw nothing amiss. They felt the strangeness of a life-eclipsing moment, no more palpable than a sense of being watched. It went unnoticed in the excitement of the holiday. Soul-snatchers unseen drew the essences right out through their tiny pink nostrils, and their animated costumes continued as before, lurch forward from house to house, shouting for sugar treats at the neighbor’s stoop with the echoes of little voices they no longer quite possessed.

We don’t see it happening like that. We are counting candies, sneaking cigarettes and breathing free, wandering the neighborhood with a sense of power over destiny. We have mischief in mind. Trick-or-treat is a make-believe protection racket and every kid knows it. Nice place you got here. Shame if your landscaping got TPed. All this youthful energy and potential, radiating on the hailing frequency of the vampiric, hungry spirits. A dead chill arrives on a gust, like a summons, and we disappear into the cavities between street lamps, wild spirits revolting all around us. We can’t see them. These ghosts, they would burn down this sleepy borough if they could even grip, yet strike a match. But their rebellious fits are as unknown to us as heartbreak.

On the night called All Hallowed the living do perversely antagonize the dead. A police cruiser slows, shines its beam on some trick-or-treaters by the side of the road. Their reflective costumes and glo-sticks shimmer at the burning edge of youth. He sees who they are, there is recognition but he sniffs, like a wraith, to be sure. The officer was himself robbed of spirit as a little punk, on this very lane. His memory of it a latency sunk like stone into forgotten water. He operates on instinct now, pulled out of nowhere. Pulled out of the darkness.

We meander down the last alleys there would ever be, fleeing the warm safety that has driven us, by the length of its boredom, right out of childhood and straight into a kind of nightmare we could not have hoped to guess. We laugh and chatter and eat treats. The glow of our cigarettes, like sprites or faerie traces, inscribe with movement cryptic runes in the darkness. The subtle chill of a watchful gaze seems to tingle upon our necks, we are so ready to be spooked.

Exquisite

A refinement of the tastes is a projection of superiority orchestrated by the ego. Its cost/benefit boils down to a reduction in opportunities to experience sensory pleasure of the many things beneath one’s high standards vs the enhanced enjoyment of pride.

This axiom is countered by the argument that quality is an actual phenomenon, that some things really are better than others. But qualities are themselves projections of the mind, which in human beings tends to be dominated by the ego.

[slops a dab of gruel into a crude bowl]

Now eat your breakfast and quit complaining.

Blue Plate Special

a poem should be written
on a whim, in the dark
its meaning a puzzle
its purpose a lark

assertions, like tires
should be poked with an awl
erudition abandoned
it’s not needed at all

extruded ideas
so much pasta, all carbs
an early-bird special
no spices, no barbs

rote and pedantic
sanitized and deburred
screw that, draw your daggers
have quarrels with words

make inanities dance
to a literal din
as many as will fit
on the head of a pin

when done it should lunge
at your throat off the page
in a cheeky, precipitous
perpendicular rage

or at least make us laugh
at ideas we hold dear
or confront the hobgoblins
of truth that we fear

if not, set some meta
to meter and rhyme, like
a bore, argue theories
per dozen, a dime