John Olson: 3 prose poems/part 2

Real Words 

Now and then I get the urge to make a sound. There are the sounds of the head but those are imagined sounds. There are occasions when the urge to make a sound rains down and can’t be reined in. And since it’s easiest to shape the sounds into words I let whatever is in me out of me in the shape of sounds that have been shaped into bones and pedals. Geometry and towels. And these are called summits. And these are called malamutes. And this is a bullet. And this is a gun. And they’re both made of sound. And they shoot real words.

If I want to show a feeling I take it out of my mouth and hang it in the air. And if I want to moor a boat I mumble something about water and grab an oar and float. And if I want to get rich I tell myself I’m rich even though I might already be rich in poverty, which is next to nothing, and has all the quiet of a thrift store on a Tuesday. In a town decimated by Walmart. And all those pronouncements I choose not to make. Pronouncements are full of content, which is too heavy to carry around, and sukiyaki. What I want is a mandolin. I bought in a thrift store on a Tuesday afternoon. In Milwaukee.

I’ve never worried about being misunderstood because I’ve never really understood myself. That said, my one project, my one ambition, for many years has been to achieve total nonsense. Not the absence of meaning but a meaning so broken into thousands of pieces that the puzzle would be put together in multiple ways and each way would be the correct way. Which would be a remarkably gaudy heavy metal Dayglo poster. Valkyries on roller skates. Dolly Parton flying a pterodactyl around the Washington Monument. Superman flying Donald Trump into outer space. 

The debate left us all more than a little shaken. These are such strange, volatile, disturbing times. How much longer do we have to go around with masks dodging one another with fearful courtesies and nervous calculations? Fascism on one side, cancel culture on the other. Sadistic bills calculated to pump more money to Wall Street while small businesses languish and die and millions of unemployed are evicted in winter. How much longer before we can sit again, with total unconcern, at tables in restaurants and listen to the waiter deliver a lyrical spiel about the day’s specials without worrying about the cloud of aerosols descending on us? Is my throat sore, or just a little raw? Is that a normal cough, or the declaration of a nefarious virus? What is this strange new world we’re all adapting to? Is this adaptation healthy, or a dangerous capitulation? 

I’ve never taken heroin & yet the idea of it has always been with me. The idea of it is so clear, so appealing, so perfectly imagined I don’t need to take it. The idea of it has been adequate to my needs. Needs of affection, needs of unity & unction. How many drugs does the body manufacture? Enough to function. How many drugs does an individual require to commune with the universe? That I can’t say. I find pharmaceuticals in almost everything, & mud. Dead Sea mud, it is said, eases rheumatic pains, & provides tranquility. When feelings settle at the bottom of the paragraph dreams arise. And this is how the mind joins the quiet life of the refrigerator.

Saying A Thing Is Seeing A Thing 

Saying a thing is seeing a thing. The splay in the spray is the water and salt I say when I see it. And this makes everything squirt. It becomes description. Description is caused by squirting words into the air. Which disperses them accordingly. For example, mountains. Describe the cloud formations around the Alps. If you succeed at this, you will create the first critical crack in the barrier to Switzerland. You will arrive at the gateway of the imagination, which has been burnished with a suede brush to bring out the highlights, then ripped in two by a karate master. 

What role has the mind in the world? It should be dribbled no higher than your waist, hitting the floor just in front and to the side of your rear foot. This is the Aristotelean view. Another way to look at it is to consider the mind as a paradigm for social cognition, and throw it at super fast speeds and a low enough angle to reach the further understanding of the hoi polloi. This is what Burroughs did. According to the Zen view, if your mind is empty, it’s always ready for anything, and is open to everything, including polo and men’s synchronized swimming. When our mind is compassionate, it is boundless. When our mind is leaky, it is hard to keep afloat. And when the mind is dribbled, it may be thrown horizontally across a sheet of paper like a storm of light. 

It remains to be seen whether space and time, considered by materialistic philosophy to be not simple forms of phenomena but the essential conditions of real existence, can be stretched to include loopholes, or kangaroos. Who needs a chronology when you’ve got a stipend? Not all time takes the shape of a clock. Sometimes it more closely resembles a weekday, or wrench. I can make room for anything except jet skis or feudalism. Jean-Paul Sartre’s crazy look or Heidegger’s square head tell me little about thongs. Phenomenology is a hot spot for vacationers.  For the rest, dissolving like a cube of sugar in a glass of water is a dazzling solution to context. 

I remember the night Trotsky broached the issue of literature. What was it, exactly? It’s a rattlesnake crawling out of the skull of another dead author. And the rattle, what’s that about, asked Trotsky, taking another sip of Corona. “Rattles are segments of keratin that fit loosely inside one another at the end of the snake’s tail,” explained Emily Dickinson, a herpetologist based in Amherst, Massachusetts, who was then sitting on my lap. “Rattlesnakes are equipped with three powerful shaker muscles at the base of their spine,” shouted Tristan Tzara, who was curled up on the ground. “Diamonds surrounded by fascia & bone.” “Fascism is nothing but capitalist reaction,” Trotsky said, apropos of nothing. And burped. “From the point of view of the proletariat the difference between the types of reaction is meaningless.” And burped again. 

Existence doesn’t happen by itself. You’ve got to push it along. You’ve got fill it with something. You’ve got to make existence exist by existing in it otherwise it’s just an abstraction and abstractions are the fungus of cognition. Non-existence is harder to achieve. You can’t make non-existence exist by climbing into it and waiting for the ride. There isn’t a ride. The ride doesn’t exist. The ride is fabrication of language, spit, and cyberspace. But the framework is adequate for hanging the laundry of words purged of showy symbolism and twinkly semantics. This is not a drill. This is as real as it gets. But what does that say? Not much. Which is my point.

The Infinite Option

We gives my sphere swarms. Chowder. Unfettered crack. My growth curiously against dreams. Mints since pepper. Equally symptoms. I scrape the antenna. The message is propelled by opal. We battle the lyrical wince. Manipulated tease. Trumpeted we threaten its throne. Which is stirring us to pungency. There where they climb the headland. I tour moss. Concentric highways. I exult ocelots and bobsleds. A gut suitcase. Combine your Montmartre with chipmunks. It’s a charming moo. Chewing amplifies the parallel convulsions. I clasp the introversion. Approve its crumpling. We like the stove’s peculiarities. It resources this. We dropped the aluminum. Apples too. My carriage ruptures. We enkindle height. The skin feels henna. This slender spirit can only result in more worms. Slammed my clapper and walked out of the paragraph holding a swordfish. All the words came together and formed a nose. 

We apply a turning to the situation. The infinite option germinates peppermint and birds. We pack the rain. The rain has secrets. Wiggle the escape hatch. Mindful recruitment clatter. We scribble strains of improbability. Your Baudelaire crustacean walks in beauty like a UFO. I jingle the ocean. A seam bangs against the crotch of a hydrogen bomb. This makes everything tentative and negligee. We talk of bikinis and flex a totality of hearts as if the truth of anything trembled with housing. It’s a source of Hinduism. Presence drills beneath drugs. I amuse heat. Gardenias. The branches hugged the sky. My life boils with words. Ships. Casinos. Our sorcerers bend to the music of genuflection. I manufactured this to fondle complicity. Pulleys. A demanded liniment succeeds if it snows. The thermostat is dry. And venerated. Like a cocoon. I whistle a rousing melody. And provoke yodeling.

We seclude our calls. What is curiously unfettered. Montmartre granite. Reality boxes our class. Enkindles stirring. Thinking is hypothetical. Yet manipulates cults. Technicolor tabloids. My rapier agrees to be pretty. Symptoms glitter. I urge camaraderie in all things except hoarding. A gleeful mood. Endurance soothed by dreaming. Emotion’s cruel gaudy beyond dissembled by frogs. The sound of a swamp at night reminds me of February. The propeller of my squeezed emergence goes behind the leaves on this path. The vague rub the boiling strength. A walking bouillon. A nascent aurora tugs itself over the endeavor. Fat quiet library roots. The hammer needs washing. The ghost of a jackknife hits the wall and splatters into words. A pummel flashes its control. Which bites the binoculars. And seduces the peacock.

Sometimes a word will damage the lobster. Description causes wildcats. Brocade. Your hammerhead dreams. Mushrooms flip a clot. They’re busy soliciting a limousine. This old empty winter. We purge heartbreak with howling. I is a play of excess. Energy above the effervescence. The beams try sparkling. A pump is soaked in its own snow. My taxi is our bumps. Our affections are timeless. And elk. Your testimony is under the seaweed. Phantoms call you. This door is paused in snakes. The folds unrolled at least. Can you handle a sail? The headland humors the drapery of distance with a flock of gulls. And the world becomes plausible. 

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