What Is Happening / What Just Happened
When I found out
For “the universal installation of the idiot” I felt for the rare
Time in my stupid life ahead
Of the curve out in front of something / anything
Ancient. Adam said my poems were bursting
With “idiot wisdom.” I throw myself
Into the dirt of mistake
The universe does
Its own number on these messy things some lost
To a vortex of wind some changed due
To illegible handwriting
Some scribblings clear. Or like
My writing of poems about “my uncle” punctuated
With the loss of my actual dear uncle
This spring bisected
By a disappearance
Back to my Hoosier homeland that birthed
Me literally why I am on
This plane right now. The idiot as connoisseur
Of chance. The idiot as messy
Imperfect maker. It is tossing
The ski rope to the handless sky coasting for a bit and then finally losing
Balance and letting
The lake do with me what it wishes.
And in that what it wishes a possibility
For a lot of mis-es.
Mistakes by traditional standards.
She said, “If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off
I know that is poetry”
And the process of knowing the self / anyone / anything
Is a similar slice a desired uncapping.
The best utterances and kisses.
The enlightening jogs at sun up and the chats on the porch
All know this. What do you
See when I take off my hat? Heredity.
Hickishness. The dull clippers in the closet.
But of course us being these
Tumbling selves it is a temporary
Peek—an uncertain scratch
In the marble a split second sniff of what
Really is cooking in the kitchen.
And then, POOF, back into the world / the whirl
Filthy in unknowing. Despite everything
She has been taught the poet uses
All five of her senses and possibly
More dropping bits of red into the green
Paint to make the grass more
Life-like / vivid. My third and fourth grade students
Write poems that do not even realize
They are being written
So enthused with the act
A human being scribbling
To worry what makes it a poem. We live
Sixty-one years and we collect
These experiences translated into memory.
Then what? Joe Brainard
Unable to slather enough out through painting discovered
The easiest outlet for maximum
Memory the “I Remember”
That form every person wants to
Can and should write in.
But that clean repetition
The natural-looking nature of those memories
Written out does not nod
Fully at how remembering works of what
His simplicity hides behind its curtain.
I remainder what is left.
A quick scrape against the overwhelming
A burst bubble
In an overflowing flood of suds.
What do I know of my childhood?
I misremember the wedding
And the ugly tux with mauve pinstripes.
Who fell asleep.
They rode away on blue
Bicycles very straight.
I got meat lovers pizza
I think. I misremember the color of the bra
I glimpsed. Or the number of ice cubes
I sucked down whole.
I was seven
Or post-first cavity filling feeling.
I misremember the flavor
Of popsicle I sucked. Grape or green.
What is the peach. The sound
Of a hand on my hair.
Or my shoulder.
Or the door handle of the tiny green camper.
It was on fire
Or the sun was coming up.
I awoke saying I know somebody is dying.
I awoke saying Somebody I know is dying.
Jeep Wrangler exiting
My gullet as it exited the road.
I misremember which night
Gown my mother wore.
The hearts or the teddy bears.
The wallpaper was yellow or pink.
Or the number of deer heads
Displayed at the funeral.
They certainly each shone on the wall.
The feel of the end of October.
A hotel with everything indoors.
I misremember the size of my penis.
Who was there. Who was laughing.
My dad literally fishing my trunks
From the deep end. Which uncle chomping
Tobacco the color of his horses.
Which uncle literally fishing my trunks
From the deep end. My dad chomping
Tobacco the color of which uncle’s horses.
I misremember the first chicken I killed.
The smell of pot in the yard.
The song playing. I ate chicken legs
And I puked on Christmas Eve.
Which year and which chicken.
I misremember how I misremember.
Who brought the mac
And cheese to Thanksgiving. Who only naps
On holidays. Or what reason my uncle said
For never shaving. Right versus wrong.
Correct versus completed.
Truth versus fact.
Sean gets mad at me for lying after I told
The audience, “I wrote this next poem
In the car on the way over.”
Sean was with me in the car eating
A lemon kolache.
“You did not write that poem in the car”
He says. I did and I did not.
I wrote that poem
On my porch and I wrote that poem
In the car once again when I decided I wanted it
To exist in the blurry
Narrative of my uncle’s death.
Which came first: the uncle or the poem?
A poem feels like it has been blabbing
For eons and a billion years
Humming and conjugating orally like sparks and eventually it sticks
To a stick to poof
A fire. The written language
Where a true love could find the feelings.
The comet melted into the side
Of the space station and neither
Would ever be the same.
Or the realization that in letters this can sound
Marvelous first striations into mud and then a variety of others
Until now the words scoot
Across the eyes poems jetting across a sky.
My uncle Ted N. Tyner was born
October 9, 1955
And left this world
April 26, 2016.
Visual artists like to do their studies
Meaning deliberate workings
Of subjects. Faces often.
He paints the head of a loved one and then smears it
With a cloth. It was his notion
Of the nervous system that irrationality
And something like chance could fuck
With the known and tingle
The body through.
For lazy Midwesterners like myself, people
Watching is a hobby
The inexact chance-based art of sitting
And observing the folks blistering
Like atoms around the self.
One might see a child scream
His first curse word straight into the mouth
Of another child a tad smaller.
One might see several security guards
Chasing a single shoplifter through the mall.
One might see a man
Covered in pigeons shake the pigeons free
Only to reveal himself
To be yet another pigeon.
He told the story of a kiddo miswriting
“A swarm of bees”
As “a swan of bees” and I see it
On every lake I do not dive into.
The lingering birds here
Have a human’s touch but whom?
Equal more inclusion another chance
To hear the notes bounce
Off a relative’s hair
And become whisked clean by poetry’s own obscurity.
It is always fun to make fun of consciousness.
It is the constant power struggle.
The insistent landscape.
Faith and mosquitos—only two things
To consider as the hoarding grows
Grotesque in the knowing. One poem
Creeps into the world, reverses
My understanding of coconuts.
Of coconuts I am no expert or utility.
Neither is the poem / poet.
A poem merely babbles
To reenact sincerity pathos
Breezy and imbalanced
Like how the autumn forever treats the leaves.
There is a bit of dust
In my brain something I had confirmed
Five years ago.
When I open my mouth it is
Because I need more space to breath
Than these lungs originally applied.
Yes! I am amped up.
Yes! I have committed myself
To prolonged intoxication. When I say the locusts ate
What I mean is my family
Drank the field one bottle at a time.
It was golden and then
It was bared. Tombstones rising
Accompanied by an orchestra of snails
The tiny fiddles
Of their throats shouting at one another.
The language acts we’re engaged with
Solidified into that gelatinous
Thing we call a poem. I am misremembering here
My aunt’s jello mold infested with chunks of fruit.
Which aunt and which fruit.
Famously Breton said no more
Masterpieces and Williams said a poem
Is a machine. Imagine how bewildered
First stoked second the Swiss army felt
The first time
They held their knife. I am digging
For the kind of thing a thrift shop receives
As a donation and continues
To mark down in price week after week
Because no one can figure
Out what it “does”
Meaning its “intended purpose.”
It turns on.
It appears to hold whatever will fit.
I am not interested in poems
That go boldly into the dirt.
I am more interested in the dirt
Itself how it clumps and muds how it breaks
Into the smallest particle
No longer dirt
But dust yet is so easily reintegrated
With the rest
The layer we stand on
Walk around on
Feel on. Existence often
Is reason enough.
When I was a child my uncle dug a large hole
In the yard intended to be filled in
With water either as pond or pool
I do not recall.
The excess dirt lived as a mound
Off to the side of the yard
And the pond never became
More than a puddle.
My cousins and I accepted
Our affections and curiosities climbing instead of plunged.
We fought each other
For the peak. We chased each other
Down. We imagined it
A slide when the rain or the snow
Wet it slick.
In our less loving times we made clods
Of the mound and threw them
Against each other’s developing heads.
Poems do vibrate
Into discovery and then back
To the void is held off.
Poetry finds the removed foot and brings it
Join the conversation.
This is different than the organizational beauty
I am prescribed.
Poetry is not a pain
Reliever though it might offer.
As a small home built of others’ lightning.
As a gesture towards hickishness, unfeathered kindness, bulbous growth.
As curious thought.
As a slam through the barricade.
Like a premature ghost.
As a pack of wolves with a fence around.
No intentions but hopes
These hopes for my poems.
The segments of their interiority as bright
And hopeful like bulbs.
To impart the sensation of things—
A knife is when you cut with it
An onion is when you dismantle it and cry
A feeling is when you strain and the edges blink.
As a flag littered with dandelions.
As a struggle between two cousins to sing.
My uncle would often misremember
Chores in lieu of napping
The number of cookies that day.
As connective tissue a poem
As a puzzle piece
A poem rises
Partially like a Fig Newton thrown to sea.
There was more of the field
To my uncle
Than one might first assume.
A few pieces of corn can make a poem
Of what appears
To be a handful of precious diamonds.
I dare say this
Slipperiness makes a poem beautiful!
I dare say this
Continuum of naturalness is more open-ended!
In this particular period of grieving
Of course I am drawn
Towards this idea of a poem
As an “archive of feelings”
Something Cvetkovich declared but also
As I look out the window of this plane
I must insist
Is also making a mountain out of a potato.