Monday, June 15, 2015

June 15 -- Nature and Civilization

Hypertrophic Press


  1. Backyard deux

    We pull into a cul de sac in their housing development. There’s a tiny boy on a trike who gazes at us with “these are strangers” eyes. It’s hard to park because of the curve of the cul de sac. He swears. I observe the process. We get out of the car. We bring in the wine. We stand in the kitchen with our hosts, and try to avoid the cats (we are allergic). We sit outside to avoid them some more. That’s when we notice that there are no neighbors in the back, and that there are enormous trees growing just past the wall that marks the end of the property. We look left. The lawn extends for miles. Our hosts take us for a stroll, and we consider the vegetable garden at the end of the property, next to where the trike-boy was tricking, but now he is talking to his mother about something as she waters the lawn with the patient green hose. I look at the vegetables. Is that kale? No, it’s cauliflower. There’s the kale, and it’s dark green and curling over itself the leaves enormous veined and fibrous. We walk back. Sit down. The wine is opened. The cats run out. Run back in. I eat my dinner, and every once in a while, look up at the sky.

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  3. Tale of two hearts

    My love for the earth surpasses my love for my own name as it became a passion to give sacrifice to the whales as my belief in heaven takes up residence in the world conflicted with the amount of stars we see and all the words perceived to wish for something other than a miracle and for the earth not to succumb to the pressures of religion, taking the notion we have not oceans, and taking away the fear we have to adhere to what the pulpit throws our way believing in a ritual to dismay and relive. We have the power to over ride belief as the hour is upon us to achieve the relief. My mind goes back to a place I use to know, where the sun drips sweat and the earth seemed to glow with the birds in the trees and the way the water fell to the sound of the breeze and the bottom of the well wishing for a dream I could capture on a string as nothing held the stream with the water flowing to tell the story we all know.
    The story of the way the earth was worth the sale of the gold we were after like raptors in the wind chasing laughter as we were captured once again to the ocean and the notion all was for nothing and fortune grinned at the way the boy played the stringed instrument as the sky opened up and the dove came across in the skies to the surprise of everyone of us.There was a time when the monarchs were around. The same timed when the Bengal tigers could be found, as for the rest of us, on a scale of one to ten, we have as much a chance as a fox and a hen. The way I see it we can believe it will all disappear and we'll wake up believing in the rapture. For the men who want the world is a cop out to the faith and the one's who believe don't care if we relate to the skies as we shout out to the stars while in the fort of our oceans, we see the password as the key and by looking at the mammals like ourselves makes us sneeze. As man forges ahead to make gold the commodity we get sold on the prophesy and sustain our relationship with the world. It has been three long days since my last meal and I will not eat until you agree with me we are in need of love. It may starve me to feel this endeavor, for the earth rumbles at out feet and the typhoon screams over our shouts as dolphins sing and whales dream to the sound of the waves breaking into the flow and ebb of the pull.and thread their way back into the depths of the blue.

  4. When I was young I attended a church school in a very white urban city surrounded by chain link towering over the yard, reaching to heaven, fencing in all of God’s children. The playground lacked any sort of nature. There was not a single blade of grass nor tree or shrub, just a vast sea of black asphalt that we were cast on to after a sack lunch under the cool shade of the school awning.
    A child can ignore God, but he cannot ignore nature.
    Behind the lunching benches, leaping from the salmon-painted wall, a fat drain pipe dove into the blacktop. About four feet in length, curving from wall to ground, the pipe was just round enough for a six-year-old to straddle and ride like an ass at Passover, or maybe a dinosaur that they had told us man managed to outlive.
    Israel was my best friend. The only black person I had ever seen up close. With dark hair and eyes, I stood out against the other fair skinned children with red and blonde hair, freckled faces and divine blue eyes, but Israel was from Africa and they treated him even worse.
    To him the pipe was not an ass, or dinosaur, but a great fish. In deed the ceramic pipe was dappled with green and burnished blue that shimmered in the smoggy church air.
    And Israel said
    Jump on. We’ll ride this great fish down into the black waters and it will take us to my father’s house where the lions and elephants roam and I will kiss my mother and show her this big fish and they will love me and welcome me back. I felt my heart would burst; child leading child through the nature-less God-like setting back to a place I would never know only feel every time I thought of the sea.

    1. I love where this poem leads, man. It's great!

  5. Tumbleweeds

    When we moved into our La Verne house most of the homes had been empty for a couple of years. The builder had gone bankrupt. The northern half of the tract didn’t get started. The roads and sidewalks were there. They had terraced and compacted the land. It was reverting back to nature with the weeds and tumbleweeds, and we dug into the terraced hills, and had glorious battles with our dirt clod fights. Every December the tumbleweeds and their companions from across Foothill Boulevard, from the foothills, all dried and dead, and brought alive by the winter winds, would march down the street and charge right at our house settling in our backyard. The winter before we moved in the caretaker of the empty houses decided that the best way to defeat the dry tumbleweeds was to set fire to all of them - in our little backyard. Through some miracle he did not burn our house down. We found little black sticks in our yard for years.

    1. That's an eerie place. Where is it now? Good poem!

    2. The track got houses a few years after we moved in. And it is all built up above Foothill Blvd including a freeway.

  6. My dog is the perfect blend of nature and civilization. She runs madly out to the grass, a streak of black against green, flooded with scents and covered with stems. Leaves drip from her beard. She protects the park from all invaders, barking wildly at people who have a perfect right to be there. After a time she flops down next to the picnic table where we drink beer illegally, slops water from her bowl, and looks at me tiredly as if to say, "Take me home and put me to bed. Your bed."

    1. Ah, dogs are wild and civilized all at once!

    2. A child can ignore God, but he cannot ignore nature. So true!

  7. The summer I turned 12, I was introduced to a subterranean world called The Forestiere Underground Gardens. Like a time capsule, this place carved into the earth, revealed the determination and resilience of a bygone era. A time where artistic freedom and ingenuity merged into something worthy of being a wonder of the world.
    It was deep in the pit of July. Temperatures were well into the triple digits when we got there. The sky was deep blue and cloud free. There would be no escape from the suffocating heat. Or so I thought...
    I was instantly captivated by the secrecy of the gardens. The calm and cool currents of air that traveled gently though the passages, swirling in the carved out rooms like an invisible guardian. Up above, the desert heat beat down with unforgiving fervor, while down below in the gardens, there was almost a chill in the air.
    The genius of the gardens lay in the seamless way all the comforts of home shared space so happily with nature. Ninety year old tree roots, that looked as though they were carved from the stone wall itself, twisted and spiraled to the surface, then bursting into spectacular trees. Deep Roman archways opened up into grand, vaulted rooms, where lush vines reached up through the openings in the ceiling.
    Every room was functional and comfortable. Carved out rooms for eating, sleeping even entertaining, great fireplaces with detailed brick faces and cast iron grates. There were endless long, cozy passageways, that if in any other place would seem menacing, but in The Underground Gardens, they beckoned me...
    When the tour ended, my heart sank, just a little. I wanted so much to just stay there forever and let the rest of the world just pass by. We walked back out into the heat, climbed into the car and headed for home. But, I left a small piece of my self in the gardens... someday, I'll go back and retrieve it. Who knows, it could be a lush and beautiful tree by now.

    1. Great poem Molly. I think I saw an episode of Huell Howser set there. Anyway, love the imagery and action of the poem!

    2. I'm kind of unhappy with it. It feels like it has a lot of grammer issues. Am I wrong?

    3. Well, if I were going to rewrite this, I'd work on making it less what you did in a step by step procedural way and make it more about the physical moment. The temperature shifts matter, of course, but you don't need the kinds of details you'd have in an essay. Move through more fluidly focusing on what was happening to your body, and I think you'll be more satisfied with it.

      One example of what I'm talking about is the line, "When the tour ended, my heart sank, just a little." That emotion will be suggested by the temperature that you suffer through. We don't need to be told about your sadness when we feel it through your suffering!

    4. Aha! I knew there was something missing. Thank you!

    5. That's such good advice: Show, don't tell. Sometimes it's hard to do!



    She breaks the surface gently, the pacific water parting across her rostrum, soft and warm. She blows brief and hard to clear her airway, then fills her lungs. The taste of air is always welcome after spending deep time, but the taste is bad here, like the water in the northern swirl, and the currents from large harbors. The human poisons. She breathes again then and again, the strain in her fin muscles relaxing. She breathes again and dips and blows and dips and blows, entertaining herself.

    Aaranu is passing Mahah Trench, telling his brother a story about the ice floe south of Mega Minor. They are making plans to meet west of Mega Major in two days. She sings that she will join them. “I must come around the north of Major through the pass,” she says.

    “Stay deep,” says Aaranu. “They had a burster ship there two weeks past.”

    “I will,” she answers, weaving undertones of affection with assurance.

    She fills her lungs and pulls her tail in, raising a fin for a luxurious rotating dive. Saluous and Emeelen are in the channel below, thirteen miles west, already headed for the pass. She asks for them to slow and pumps her tail to catch them, feeling the pleasant rush of cool on her flanks.

    1. I love that, Mark! Well done.

    2. Fantastic. I love how you've made fantasy relatable to our world!

  9. I also wrote this as a poem:

    The Flesh of the Mulberry

    My father said he was going to build me a treehouse. I had truly never thought of wanting one, although I did admire the one at Disneyland. I wonder what made him think of doing this for me – I had felt so alien from him, what with his dour temperament and frequent rages. But he got the idea somehow, and one day he and my brother nailed plywood between the main branches of the mulberry tree, using smaller pieces of plywood to make a barrier around the outsides. (This in case anyone got rambunctious and felt like falling over the side, I guess) I then spent many an hour up there among the leaves reading, writing, and watching ants climb the tree’s rutted branches. In spring when the leaves were small and new-green, I would climb to the higher branches and watch the trains snake across the valley floor and hawks circling in the soft desert air. In summer, though it was very hot outside, I still climbed up the knotted rope ladder to spend short moments up there in the shady leaves, inspecting the shells that the cicadas left behind them after their sibilant August siege. In fifth grade, my best friend and I would go up there and work on strategies to handle the girls who hated us. That summer I went up there with my two friends to cut out the paper dolls and paper doll outfits that my mother had made for us of our swimming teacher (two of us wanted him, one of us wanted to be him, but we didn’t think about that at the time). Gradually, I became aware that the treehouse nails had grown into the tree; that the three’s flesh had begun to grow around the nails as though accepting the nails as part of itself.

    I thought of this again as an adult when I made a friend who had suffered more than anyone’s fair share of loss: a forced abortion, a still birth, and worst of all a perfect, beautiful, brightly-shining 12 year-old daughter who dropped dead one day for no discernable reason. Each grief had become part of her, as though nailed into the flesh of her soul, and her life flowed around them just the way the flesh of the mulberry tree flowed around the nails that held my treehouse and everything I dreamed and read and wrote up there until the day, while I was 19 and in school in France, when my fiancĂ© helped my father and brother take it down, ”…for the health of the tree”.


    1. That's a tragic poem. I love the way it winds itself down at the end.

    2. I really liked this. The nails and the tree is a really strong concept with several deep resonances. It sounds like you may have written this for the "Geological Feature Layered with Loss" prompt for the 16th but that isn't up yet. I just posted here on the 16th because I was having such a hard time with yesterday's prompt.

  10. "Each grief had become part of her, as though nailed into the flesh of her soul"

  11. I Love Those Breaks

    I really love the City.
    I really love the country.

    I really love city life.
    I really love rural life.

    There's these moments when I see them mixed
    Into a lovely intertwining.

    When I see these breaks of city and breaks of rural
    It makes my heart fly.

    I love driving down a street filled with homes
    Old or new,

    And finding a perfectly well suited plot of land
    For new development.

    Yet, it's not being used for construction.
    Maybe it's too expensive or the ground is mush.

    Whatever the case,
    I enjoy these blocks of desolation immensely.

    They're like cubes of an old world,
    Where even the sky above it looks different than around it.

    Where the here and now sees into the past,
    Into the land before it was discovered and built up.

    A look into the past,
    Romanticized by this very materialistic present.