The Waterwood Box, 34

Catch up!

“-hungry?” Adam screamed as Admiral Pinch stood holding out some white bits of meat.
“You are quite possibly the strangest water-man I’ve ever met. What in the sea are you screaming about?”

“Nothing.” Adam remembered that he shouldn’t talk much. “Just a bad dream.”

“Humpf. Eat some food then. We don’t want your people thinking you haven’t been treated with the utmost respect.” Adam watched this creature talk and hated it for its air of superiority and contempt. The Diamond Fins, the manta, the water-folk, nothing measured up in the urchins’ view. The only real sense of civility Adam had heard come from the Admiral was when he spoke of King Altern. “Tell me about the dream,” the Admiral said.

“I’d rather not,” Adam snapped.

The Admiral twitched. “Now you’re sounding like water-folk.” He rolled off to speak with one of the many urchins that surrounded him. The Admiral left the bits of meat on the bench for Adam to do with what he pleased.

“It was about my parents,” Adam whispered. “My dream was about home.” His tears trailed out behind him, as always, mixing instantly with the seawater all around.

Chapter 7
The Army Farm

The journey to Tiskaloo was, for the most part, uneventful. Adam sat on the bench almost the entire way. Time didn’t seem to mean so much under the water. For one thing, it was hard for Adam to tell what time it ever was. He slept when he felt tired, not when the surface looked dark because, although he could tell when it was light or dark up above, he could never know whether the dark meant nighttime or a storm. Eventually, he gave up trying to keep track of days going by and just accepted that time was measured differently in Ocean.

The Waterwood Box, 34

Today’s Poets Breathe Through America Like Born-Again Punkers: An Examination of One Instance of One Literary Road Trip Out of Thousands of Literary Road Trips Occuring On Any Given Day in the U, S, & A

I’m on the floor, a floor, the floor. A floor in an apartment in Pittsburgh, PA and it is glorious. The night before I was on a couch in a house in Parma, OH, just outside of Cleveland. The night before I was in the back seat of a white Chevy Impala traveling from a Belle, MO still-flooded all around from torrential rains earlier in the week, muddy Gasconade River hungering for more life, fuckers, yet, somehow, the literary gods smiled down upon this trip, and opened an eastbound route out of Belle around 8PM, which we used to hightail it to the Red Carpet Inn in Monroe, IL, and where I fall asleep at 2AMish in a bed mercifully free from bed bugs.

The scene is this: John Dorsey, Poet Laureate of Belle, MO, and all around indie poet tour de force (his 50th book just released last month) sits in the Impala’s passenger seat. He doesn’t drive. Victor Clevenger, a rising tide of poetic madness making a mark on this-this, whatever this is, wherever he shows up to read, drives that heavenly-white, smooth-sailing Impala without fail, without error, without objection. And, like I told ya, I am in the back, grateful for it all. We travel light, long, and relentless. This poetry is a this with a tankful of books.

The scene is this: At White Whale Bookstore in Pittsburgh, PA. ~50 people are inside, escaping what I’m told is a typical, cold, rainy, spring night in Pittsburgh. 50 people to hear/watch poetry read aloud. Does this seem typical to you? Would you expect 5 people? 500? The readers never know and I suspect those organizing the readings really don’t know either. But, just like a band playing for 1 or 10,000, the reader is expected to deliver. I feel good saying that the people I’m with tonight deliver like fucking Fed-Ex. Afterwards, folks mill about. We get questions about why we’d come from Kansas City to do this. The answer is simple but not wholly satisfying: This poetry is a this with a desire to move.

The scene is this: An upstairs bedroom of an otherwise unassuming house in Parma, OH. I don’t get to see it in person, but my mind’s eye tells me that that bedroom is chock-full of manuscripts and letter-pressed covers that will soon bind chapbooks and there are envelopes and pens and loose papers and notebooks and binders and paper cutters and inkjet printers and boxes filled with more impressively-printed documentation and markers and papers and papers and papers and books books books everywhere: books of friends’ work, books for friends, books for sale, books for trade, books to submit to contests, books to read, books to donate, books to carry along, and books to leave behind. This poetry is a this with an indie press like a record label.

This poetry is a this that is nothing new. Cities have birthed tiny presses since the dinosaurs first founded New Raptor City – but the dinos didn’t have the internets to organize in greater numbers across such great divides. This new poetry is a new rock ‘n roll, one that welcomes all ages, goes out of its way to respect its elders. This poetry rallies in jest against poetry less lived in and poetry written by the obviously unread and poetry that holds itself beholden to a performance without metaphor and is happy to embrace the imperfect. John Dorsey and Victor Clevenger and Juliet Cook and Jason Baldinger and Marlana Eck and R.A. Washington and Jeannette Powers and Paul Koniecki and Charlie Zero and probably you – reading this right now – are each little Johnny Poetryseeds – dropping verses here and there, sometimes near, sometimes far – in an effort to…to what? That’s the joy. Motivations are legion and community matters in order to cast and wrangle such a wide net and you see, there are others like you out there, others who want to read good poems, engage with a recitation, contribute to a thing that is a thing like any other thing yet this thing is a thing for misfit wordsmiths whom have not yet (for the most part) been given proper due but whom have already wowed audiences in ways that they beg for more. This poetry is a this for those making love in bookstores.

The scene is this: A 3-day small-press, poetry festival in Kansas City, MO that features a blend of out-of-towners and locals reading poems back-to-back-to-back for 5 hour stretches. It is exhausting and it is pure magic. Pure magic that the whole thing works. Pure magic that the quality of work is so incredibly high. Pure magic suffusing the air so evidently that all involved leave imbued with the tension arising from new connections formed between cities and poets, anxious for new projects to take shape, and the welcome flow of words and words and words flow from hands and mouths and minds. This poetry is a this spreading one chapbook at a time.

In Pittsburgh, Becky Corrigan reads delicate stanzas about life in a steel-hearted town.
In Pittsburgh, Karla Lamb whispers surreal stanzas.
In Pittsburgh, Victor Clevenger teases back door lovin’.
In Pittsburgh, Nikki Allen talks of Egypt and heartache.
In Pittsburgh, John Dorsey bellows, “Sam Ryan is in noodle heaven!”
In Pittsburgh, there is wine (of course) and beer (of course) and talking with writers about writers and what’s being written next and where to we’ll go after this. All of this.
This poetry is a this we can do as only we can do.

This is not a poetry screaming, “Fuck you!” to the world. It’s more sincere, though no less angry. This poetry is a DIY how you do how you do. This poetry is a this selling books for beer and gas. This poetry is a this that often calls “readings” “gigs”. This poetry is a this with pens and paper as 3 bare chords. This poetry is a This, by God. This is a this for those not trapped by words but trapped in words. This poetry is a this for the Attention Economy. This poetry offers breathing room to the Instant I. This poetry encapsulates engaged emotional response, effective in a few lines, a few seconds, hovers right on the edge of a swipe or a click or a yawn or a character limit.

What is this poetry-this? Those making the books know this-this without having to discuss it much. Those reading and writing the books are staking claims to this-this. Those who come to find themselves bearing witness to this-this come back and when they come back they may have a few loose leafs in their hand and a pen behind one ear. This-this is cats running around a house in the middle of the night looking for a way to get outside, outside where the squeaky mice live, where a bright moon shines, where the other cats wait to bite big ears then lick clean their wounds with sandpaper tongues.

This-this is every this before it. It is a punk rock and it is a hip-hop and it is a dada and it is an art brut and it is a rave and it is a beat and it is a lost and it is a hippie and a romantic, too. But this-this is, in its own mad way, its own twisty, line-broken this, whatever its tangential tentacled refraction of all other modalities of creative expression. And this-this, this-this, this-this…warrants your eyes and your minds and your engagements. I have seen. I have heard. And you should, too. This poetry is a this that you may well remember. This poetry is a this that is damned hard to forget.

Today’s Poets Breathe Through America Like Born-Again Punkers: An Examination of One Instance of One Literary Road Trip Out of Thousands of Literary Road Trips Occuring On Any Given Day in the U, S, & A

The Waterwood Box, 33

Catch up!

In his dream, Adam ran into the kitchen to find Mrs. Might with a bowl of batter in one hand and a thick stack of pancakes beside her.

“Hon, why don’t you sit down and pour yourself a glass of milk? Your father will be done soon and then we’ll eat some breakfast.” Adam sat down and did what his mother requested – except for getting himself a glass of milk. His father came in a few moments later and sat down beside Adam. The bitter smell of cut grass clashed with the sweet, welcoming odor of fresh pancakes. Mr. Might was sweating buckets. “Gross, Dad,” said Adam. “Go hop in the shower or something.”

“It’s OK, son. Have some milk.” Mr. Might reached over Adam to grab the milk carton and poured Adam a glass. Sweat poured off of Mr. Might as though some invisible hand dumped water on him from above.

“Dad, what’s wrong?”

“Nothing. Now, Adam, don’t make me tell you again. Drink your milk.” Adam grabbed the glass of milk and took a sip. It tasted salty.

“This milk is bad,” Adam said as he set down his glass.

“Nonsense, Adam. I just bought that carton yesterday,” said Mrs. Might as she brought the pancakes to the table. “Let’s just eat, shall we?” Adam looked up at his mother. She, too, was drenched with sweat. Everything in the kitchen glistened with a sheen of moisture. Mrs. Might plopped a plateful of pancakes in front of Adam. Fins and tails and scales poked out from every inch of the breakfast treats. “Eat up, hon.” Adam look from his plate back to his mother. A slick, gray fish wearing an apron asked him, “Aren’t you hungry?” Adam turned toward his father. Another gray fish sat in his father’s place, reading the morning paper. Adam looked down at his own hands. Fins had replaced them. “Aren’t you hungry, Adam, honey? Aren’t you-”

The Waterwood Box, 33

The Waterwood Box, 32

Catch up!

The Admiral turned to another urchin on the bench. “Commander, instruct the pilots to bear us toward Tiskaloo. We shall inquire about the disturbance and return this lost creature to his miserable home.”  The Commander’s spikes shook and the urchin rolled off the bench to squeak the Admiral’s orders to a nearby urchin. This urchin then rolled a ways and squeaked orders to another urchin. This process continued until the orders found the pilots’ ears and the manta ray glided off in the direction of the water-folk city, Tiskaloo.

Adam tried to stay as quiet as possible and thankfully, the Admiral didn’t press him much. Other matters aboard the manta required Admiral Pinch’s attention, which meant that Adam sat alone, half-reclined on one of the benches. The manta’s slow, gliding movement through the water kept him pushed back into the bench. Had he the desire, Adam could have easily got up and swam around but for now he simply enjoyed a moment’s quiet. He was frightened and surrounded everywhere by urchins, but the lazy way the manta moved relaxed him enough that he fell asleep.

Adam dreamed he was home. It was a Saturday. He was in his bed. Outside, his father mowed the back lawn and something smelled delicious downstairs. He got out of bed and looked through one of his windows. Sure enough, there was Mr. Might pushing the mower and bobbing his head to the beat of whatever music played through the portable CD player that Adam always teased him about.  Adam paused, sniffed the air, then turned his head to get a stronger sense of the smell. Pancakes.

He bolted from his bedroom still in his pajamas, practically slid down the stairs and almost slipped on the last step. The smell of pancakes filled the air. Adam’s mouth watered.

The Waterwood Box, 32

The Waterwood Box, 31

Catch up!

“So, Adam water-man. How did you wind up lost and stuck within that dreadful school of fish and, as long as you’re answering, however did you wind up without blue hair?” asked Admiral Pinch as he rolled along the manta’s spine. Adam followed close behind him. He remembered Spot’s advice: Don’t talk too much.

“I’m not sure,” he offered, more so confused by the question of the blue hair than anything else.

“Not sure?” the Admiral huffed. “You are either the most humble or the most ignorant water-man I’ve ever met.”

“I mean, I can’t remember. Anything.”

“Pity, pity. Well, maybe not all pity. If you were to remember everything I doubt we would be having this conversation.”

“Why is that?”

Admiral Pinch stopped rolling and said, “Because urchins hate water-folk.” He continued rolling, “And they hate us right back.” Adam didn’t say a word.

Adam and Admiral Pinch arrived at the middle of the manta’s back where the urchins had attached several, long benches shaped liked sofas. The furniture was pinned into the manta and it looked painful. The Admiral rolled up to one and hopped onto it. “It’s really King Altern who detests the water-folk. But, what the King detests we detest. The water-folk do not listen and they do not obey. They live in their little city and make up their own rules of civilization. Ahh…much like their forebears, the humans did, or so the old tales caution.”

At this, Adam wanted to cry out, Did?! Are there no more humans? What happened to them?

“But this is elementary. I gather you don’t recall Ocean history either?”

“No, sir.”

“Sir,” Admiral Pinch repeated. “That, water-man, is why I offered to take you home. You, unlike the rest of your kind, have respect for authority. Had you displayed the impudence typical of your kind…I would have fed you to the manta.”

The Waterwood Box, 31

The Waterwood Box, 30

Catch up!

“Speak up, lost water-man.”

“Go on, Adam. You’ll be OK. I’ll follow you.” That was Spot’s voice.

“No, Spot. I don’t want to.”

“You have to, Adam. To refuse is to doom us all. They’ll kill us. You can’t refuse. You just can’t. Swim up to the Admiral. They’ll take you to Tiskaloo, where the water-folk live. Try not to talk too much and you’ll be OK.”

“What’s going on down there?” called Admiral Pinch. “Water-man, come on. Let’s get you back home.” Sarcasm soaked his voice.

Adam swam out of the formation and up to meet the Admiral. “Hello, sir.”

Admiral Pinch’s spikes contorted and twitched. He called to the mass of urchins behind him, “He calls me ‘sir.’ Here is a water-man who knows his place.” The other urchins squeaked their approval. “Lost water-man, what do your people call you?”

“Adam.”

“Well, Adam,” the spikes twitched again. Adam gathered that this twitching was how urchins giggled. “Shall we make for Tiskaloo?” He squeaked and twitched, clearly delighted.

“Yes, sir,” Adam said.

“To Tiskaloo!” yelled the Admiral. “Let’s get this liquid lung home. One so obedient must surely be missed.” The Admiral barked his urchin orders to the pilots at the manta’s mouth. The four urchins pulled back hard on the harnesses and the manta slowly backed up. One pair of pilots eased up on their harnesses and the manta began to turn. Adam watched the pilots on the fins as they manipulated their part of the manta. He looked back at the school, still floating in their diamond formation. Just before he turned away Adam noticed a tiny, black and blue spot of color spurt out of the formation. He followed the spot until it disappeared underneath him. Adam looked at his surroundings. Hundreds upon hundreds of urchins. Hundreds of urchins and a lost, young man pretending to be something he was not.

The Waterwood Box, 30