This we'd call a life
Remember, you're an animal. And one day, maybe, you'll be food.
I like to remember I’m an animal. It helps almost everything, makes the world bigger, my life smaller, sillier, even miraculous.
I remind me I’m an animal just like you and every other creature-shaped bundle of cooperative cells that’s ever lived these past eight hundred million or so years on earth and every day’s extraordinary.
Here is an animal that survived infancy. Look, she’s naming her feelings. Now here is an animal making fire, whisking eggs, an animal dancing, mourning, reading the news, talking to other animals, calling us by our names. Some of them we chose. We choose. To have a kind of day. To walk the dog at sunset, work five to fifteen hours, take a break to stretch the body, take a break to fuck or feed each other, ask each other for attention, smoke a plant some other animal tried for the first time, long ago, almost certainly to the fear and consternation of at least some of its kin. Picture that animal, snacking. Foraging food because longing. Longing. We are animals who ache, who want, god help us, we do desire, don’t we? Quiet, joy, validation. These animals we are, evolving, messy, with no model to mold us or tell us the best way to be.
We’re figuring it out as we go.
It’s not going so well, it seems some days. Ours is an animal that does cruelty. There are not many like this.
We know when the apes stood up and shed their tails. We know when we started singing. When did we start being cruel to each other? When did we learn despair? Were animals meant to think such things as when did we learn despair? Were we meant for anything in particular? Besides the obvious, what every living thing emerges from the earth to do: keep the earth alive. Is there any animal failing so willingly, so catastrophically as we are in this shared and single purpose? Is there an animal on earth so capable of and seemingly sometimes intent on annihilation? Our tiny, unlikely lives are over so soon. Gods come and go. The sun doesn’t care. Yet we do such malignant greed and violence. Some days, an animal struggles to see the future.
Imagine that—an animal who believes it can or should.
But I believe in the trees. I have faith in the way the earth survives because every animal it feeds, feeds it in turn. There is a wisdom that predates us and will outlive us, a secret to the system we have not quite yet sorted out. We are distractible and fallible, like every animal on earth. But the trees grow roots and the roots speak too and shape what lives around them, and then they die and when they do, they feed more living things.
What we do on earth while briefly here—gorgeous, foolish, falling apart—maybe only matters as much as what we feed. That’s it, that’s all. Living or death. Did you become the earth or kill it?
Maybe it’s reductive, but who cares—here’s a new game I like to play. It’s called If everyone around you. It goes like this:
If everyone around you were to do what you’re doing this moment, would the world be cooler, or a little bit dogshit?
That’s it, that’s the game. You can play it any time you’re doing something—texting while driving, picking up litter, blocking an exit, asking someone you love if they’d like some tea, screaming for a ceasefire, dancing, whatever. No winners or losers, just questions.
I’ve had a bunch of poems published recently and more on the way. Mostly because I spent all of November and much of December trying to submit to at least one journal every day, which meant a lot of time researching and reading nearly one hundred publications, as well as, you know, trying to make a bunch of poems good. It’s nice to put things out into the world and I want to be honest about what that means, at least for me: a lot of days and nights spent at my computer instead of anywhere else, also a healthy amount of rejection. For every poem accepted so far, at least two have been turned down. So what.
I’m not here to talk about math, I just want to be honest—I’m trying really hard. I’m trying hard because poems and poets feed me, and I want to feed somebody else.
This world we’ve made inside the world is strange and always changing and terribly surprising. I’m sad all the time and laughing too. If I’m lucky one day I’ll be a tree, then food for some fungus. For now I’ll just love what I can and share a few small poems.
I hope you like them.
A Few More, for the Road
Two Poems in Anti-Heroin Chic: One is about leaving Chicago. Another is about leaving everything I love and learning to ask for what I want.
Two Poems in Wildness: This one was a dream journal. I replied back to the acceptance email asking the editor if she was sure. Trying to do that less.
look. again a raven in Feral Poetry: One day my beloved and I saw a raven chase a hawk out of the Rio Grande Gorge while a vole scrambled for safety.
don’t kick my head off.