John Olson Five Prose Poems

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Things To Do Under The Influence Of Poetry

Find something pertinent to say about membranes. You can’t fully know a membrane until you’ve hooked a steelhead, or studied the vibrations in an idealized circular drum. Here you will find solutions for wave equations and phantom paragraphs disguised as fungus.
              Do laundry. Contrary to a few eccentric opinions, clean clothes are an asset to the maintenance of ampersands and thought.
              Sit at a desk and stare at the wall. Lift your arms. Roar upward in spreading clouds of gas and smoke.
              Experiment with facial expressions. Consider a taxi when you are stuck in the sand. Go on a hair-raising adventure. Read, read, read.
              Create a bleak atmosphere. Stand alone on a gravel bar. Brush your hair. Make a fist. Generate crackling tangles of lightning. Let it loose. Smile. You have just created an apparent feeling.
              Applaud the next washcloth. Hang it on the refrigerator handle. Let it stay there until it has grown too wet and soiled for further use. Retire it. Put it in the laundry.
              Introduce yourself to the bed each night so that it may come to understand the needs of your body. Be impertinent if you must.
              Inhabit a book as you would a dream, or library, or epidermis.
              Wear black leather gloves. Look for elk antlers in the meadow. Invent a paradigm. Start each day with a lunatic hooting.
              Inch closer to the tendrils of ramification. Wear a brightly colored shirt. Ask yourself “what is tangible, and what is not? What is the true goal of the pharmacy? What does it mean to float?”
              Carry a perpetual handshake wherever you go, but use it sparingly.
              Fall in love with electricity. Check the oven before returning to spawn. Wear epaulets and a sword. Adopt a look of perpetual irritation.
              Imitate your favorite animal, be it a steelhead trout in the Hoh River, or a homo sapiens on the fringe of a homonym.
              Keep an eye out for comets and other aberrations.
              Move about on loud whooshing wings. Respect the chin, it is an engine of presence. Put your hand on the boiler and feel its heat. Start a garden of beans, violets, and zinnias. Honor the ability of birds to fly. Jettison everything in your life that is a burden. Break the sunlight into colors like Newton. Get unclogged.
              Drink lots of water. Think of yourself as a ventriloquist for all things in the universe. Go for a long walk in the snow.
              Sew a manuscript together using a combination of multicolored threads. Notice how the avocado is incidental to itself. Assimilate all three laws of thermodynamics. Make friends with gravity. Appear to be descended from kings. Pedal a bicycle around the room. Moisten your lips then say something dry.
              Wear a cape of velour and growl. Be gallant and dashing. Create a fuel for the laughter of thermometers. Navigate a zeppelin through the eye of a needle.
              Never waver except when to do so makes waves. There is always a little rhapsody in calculus. Incite a riot. Project confidence. Date an oboe. Bivouac in a blackberry.
              Daub when it is good to daub, flick when it is indispensable to flick.
              Consider the coins in your pocket. How many are there? How big are they? What nations do they represent? What did you do to earn them? How useful will the pennies be when it comes time to make change? Do you have enough quarters for the parking meter?
              Incubate a felony. There is a felon in all of us. Revel in overalls and hemoglobin. It will come to you eventually.
              Distill your thoughts until they look like vegetables. Get wet doing something that makes you happy. Do not lack vigor in your takeoff. Praise the opacity of onions.
              Picture life in the ocean. House a benign neglect. Do backflips and handsprings. Teeter on misanthropy.
              Use your fingers for fried chicken, a fork for chicken in aspic. Each tense is a gear. Believe in pectin. Miniaturize the apocalypse of syntax. Think of yesterday as a firearm. Invoke spoons and nails. Think of the brain as an emulsion of images. Check your cheek for chickadees.
              Experience the weirdness of milkweed. Learn to speak foreign languages like saltwater and mud. Declare yourself free of declamation. Jangle a jingle. Scold a scrotum. Lactate large objects. Apply balm to your nipples. Paint lilies on your cane.
              Find an ulterior motive for the enjoyment of heavy metal.
              Know your boundaries. Avail yourself of binoculars and telescopes. Be a harbinger of elfish disposition. An appeasement with reality should never be a feature of your research.
              Endeavor to understand whiskers. Weird activity in the darkness. The churning of hormones.
              Be iron. Be lipstick. Be a tailor to your obscurity. Become a backcountry skiing connoisseur. Slalom in trees. Vault an apricot. Parachute through an enigma. Construct an image of heaven, then burn it down. Learn to play the xylophone with your feet. Triumph in the angora of circumstance. Reticence is not a virtue. Model your comportment on the dragonfly. Each yearning is an engine. Imagine a feather falling through oblivion. Note the splendor of rafters in sunlight. Twist a language into eagles and drugs.
              Treat vowels like a blacksmith, consonants like a planetarium.
              Spin your propellers. The night will give you stars. The morning will give you copper. Learn to sift consciousness for nuggets of Saturday.

One Afternoon Language Became A Whale

One afternoon language became a whale and swam out of my mouth. Why is there never anyone around when these things happen?
              The whale swam around the room, vibrant and hallucinatory, just like a real language, a dazzling rotation of flippers and bulk. Its fluke hit a light fixture and shadows wobbled and mutated on the wall. I saw Socrates and China, monsters and chimerical cities. If only I had a camera.
              The whale became a feeling. The feeling became a fable. The fable became a fabric. The fabric turned to rags and the rags became a ghost. The ghostly rags of fabrication. The ghostly rags of omens and signs. Stepladders and gloves and foul unspeakable crimes.
              The ghost roared a stream of hot flaming words. Words like power and murder and aspidistra. A castle emerged. Hamlet stumbled through his weariness seeking vengeance and love. He was eaten by a worm. And thereby hangs a tale.
              A few minutes later a catfish rode by on a bicycle. I waved. The catfish waved back.
              Clearly, when language is sloppy, vague, and inaccurate, certain phenomena tend to occur in abundance, such as the troubled intuition of forms, the current financial crisis, and the Great Lakes Circle Tour.
              Bicycles are inherently confusing, because they lead to rotation, which just sets your head spinning. You must think about things like tendency, momentum, and force. The moment of a force is the tendency of the force to produce rotation about an axis, and is measured by the product of the force into the perpendicular distance from the axis to the line of action of the force. And where, might I ask, does that get you?
              I will tell you: Milwaukee.
              For it is here that our story truly begins. Milwaukee was settled in 1836 by a strong German and Polish population. It was later reclaimed by the King of Siam and given back to France, who lost it again. It is now rumored to be bubbling under a gazebo behind the Hotel de L'Univers.
              I am sorry for what this poem has done, sorry for what it is about to do. Once food started flying, it was all over the ceiling and floor. Fruit, noodles, chocolate milk, Tater Tots, sandwiches and coffee cake.
              In other words, existential quantifiers can be paraphrased with help of universal ones and vice versa, as is well known.
              Fair is fair. Fir is fur.
              Turning words into trowels are bubbles that parallel thought. If we presuppose a paralinguistic quality space, mimicry becomes a skin for our kindred lips. Particles of meaning leak from an alphabet. We are persuaded that we are soap and mirrors. To be embedded in steam is a song of vast understanding. A pound of meaning you can squeeze between your legs.
              And you explode into stars.

Needles And Pins

Sometimes a song will become an obsession. It will go into your head and stay in your head and cause you to hum and hold and pulse and embed it. You will come to embody it. You will come to live and sing and inhabit it. The song will become you. You will become the song.
              Outside is a city work crew tearing the street up with a jackhammer. This makes it impossible to hear this week’s favorite song, which is “Needles and Pins.” It’s a perfect song. Every word is placed right where it needs to be. The story is a familiar one, the pain of encountering an ex-lover at a social gathering, someone you continue to pine for, someone whose presence continues to bewitch and plague you, intimate and easy in the attentions of someone else, troubled to see you, worried that you might make a scene, say something barbed, something awkward, something sly and stinging. It is a powerful emotion, and one worthy of singing. This is why opera and ballads and rock and roll were invented. They give us dignity during moments of extreme distress and dejection. They make dejection beautiful and heavy, like a Franklin stove, or Hindu deity.
              The difference between a song and a poem is this: a song is a composition adapted for singing and a poem is a wilderness.
              A poem moves by means of deer and reverie.
              A song combines melody and the human voice.
              A poem is a theater of cruelty.
              A song is a symmetry of delicate shades.
              A poem is potassium nitrate. It explodes on contact. The slightest motion causes it to erupt into rhubarb.
              Think of the brain as the gleam of raspberry jam on a piece of toast. The breath of heaven blistered on a lake. A mausoleum. The odor of old bricks. A ditch, a hatchet, a rake.
              The Kinks, The Beau Brummels, The Who, The Zombies.
              M Ward and Zoey Deschamel singing “Oh Lonesome Me.”
              Amy Winehouse singing “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow.”
              Bo Diddley’s cobra necktie.
              John Lee Hooker’s rockin’ chair.
              Billie Holiday’s sad blue waterfront.
              These are all beautiful things. But what about the smell of coffee mingled with the smell of bacon in a kitchen in Ypsilanti? There should be a song about that. A song of sensations and qualms and warm goofy feelings. Cobweb, ganglion, knot. The taunt of obliteration. The skin of the tongue. Time scorched by the scalpels of thought.
              There are some things that cannot be sung. Things that move in the air too actual for music. Too dubious for melody. Too delirious for violins. Too prickly for pitch. Too sharp. Too short. Too long.
              There are some things that a poem can do far better than a song.

The Grandeur of Guitars

Worlds are pavement. Garlic birds. Only glue invites such abandon that a meaning can emerge from hardware. Thought is a form of arthropod.
              If orchids had drool then parameters could anger. The fatter the emotion the louder the blood.
              Paint is ultimate the tin is a railroad.
              Figured punches. Held paraphernalia.
              We are many sanguine physiologies whose many absences restore some sense of palliation.
              The sky is a deformed smack.
              Mingled beams.
              Bending sand calls a fathom forward. It corrects itself with an esophagus.
              Compliments need garbage.
              That flickered monster that surfaces from the evocation is all arms and shawls. Punctuation. Horizons. Fog.
              Constancy’s stealthy blaze powers the brushwork that teaches us the splendor of summer. The density of my belt has something to do with junkyards. But I am not in that dimension enough to swim through your eyes with these words providing you with images of jungle exploration. So many limbs are nimble and impersonal that they need monkeys on them to animate some sense of harmony amid the chaos that is beauty in its truest form. That is to say, orchids.
              Orchids and ox.
              Honesty and tables and dirt. The ghostly animals of art. The indispensable severities of spines and paper elevated in libraries which carry so many reflections out of time and redemption and dots.
              Tongues. Faucets. Easels.
              The cod is in the canoe rendered precisely in immaterial browns and sepia and Brunswick green.
              The circus, however, is aloud and lyrical and full of insults. Paper pronouns pushed into bombs of salient drama. The drapery of kings. The visceral suppositions of queens. The sparkle of hypothetical passions. The disgraceful allegiance of birds to the stimulus of air and sky.
              The mind erects itself on Pythagorean numbers and a Louvre of painted ideas. This is because language is involved, and engines and lips. A man walking down a Parisian street with a lobster on a leash.
              The mind chops itself into propellers.
              The words are infinite the rocks are parallel to the horizon. This image is calculated to adhere to the process of clouds evolving into riotous shapes and structures and ballads.
              The stove has a duty to perform to food.
              Depth deepened by depth. The recruitment of oil. Fauve yardsticks equal to luxury of October. Trees glowing with death. Parables on stilts.
              Feeling eludes lucidity. Which is why existence is never as clear as bingo. The metaphorical insolubility of oysters follows the odor of elves. A vividness of omission that troubles the rattlesnake to syntax.
              Let these scribbles juggle the old cracks of reality provoked by outbursts of sandstone and melon.
              Harpies in jars. Fishy incisions. Harmonica garden. Incongruous juggling.
              Snow would tickle us to higher awareness if our perceptions could tolerate air.
              Otherwise expect shape. Bikini slithering along a seesaw. Pineapple flap. Clasp about a clutter. House. Hose. Hibachi.
              Turn Cubism into leaves like steam turns garlic into lips. Simple mouths. Moistened doors. Space antenna quick to invite bouncing in fish.
              Insolent painter shouting at a habit of obscure aluminum.
              Evocation by hands oath hanging from a Corot by a string of emotive meat.
              Sparrow propelled by pulse. Finger below a soapy arm.
              England’s lyrical staircase fugues.
              Violin held by chin. The power of jaws. Helter-skelter scribbles in baptismal procession.
              But hey, your Buffalo Bill breakfast is ready. There is an oceanic willow on the table and impeachment and a pronoun impelled by a wild cinnamon joy.
              Finger paradigm or buckle as bug.
              Pianos and brains.
              Syntax glazed with argument. Push-ups exceeded by feeling. Smeared thin in bones because an eyeball describes the personality as a resin. Consonants swarming with streets. The biology of pain. The pain of leaning. The pain of learning. The pain of leaving. The pain of living.
              Baggage in Kansas.
              Shadows in umber.
              The mind is a comb. Feel my dollar. It is full of adjectives. Burning in a spoon. The weirdly sexual monotony of an office. Or the effervescence of cleats. The subtle indentations and curves and knobs of the ankle.
              We are riveted to beauty. The rest is done by swallows.
              The liberal sand of hallucination.
              The ceremony of form is more than mere cartilage. It is also fat and cynical like blisters. Jellyfish. Gravity embedded in velvet. Aggressively gardened poinsettias. Georges Braque walking along the coast of a thrilling elbow. Sweaty fingers. A surface aloud with desire an unprecedented purple the syllables roll toward abstraction. Almonds. Locomotives. The grandeur of guitars.

The Gob Of Agog

The mind is a universe in a bowl of bone. Vehement milk in the jackhammer dawn. Nuclear fedora. Impertinent nipples. A ghost gurgling bile. Black hole leaking reality and ginger. Eyes are extensions of the humid light of the brain. Each gaze is a gauze on the verge of argyle. Moon jewels further the alphabet and make it perceptible to taste. Fur for the antlers in clusters of click. A thought crawling across a verbal terrain.
              The subtlety of volume in loops of babble. Formula for a blazing discarded echo or existence pharmaceutical and pumped. Arrange the ghosts in exalted embryonic fiduciary gargantuan consonants full of destiny and guitars.
              Strain the erratic push-up to heights of quixotic abandon.
              Irritate the haunted knot to another Bohemia.
              The excitement of necks is intriguing. A pair of broken hands holding charcoal.
              A cyclone in me is just a bathrobe talisman not an actual clutch. The clitoris is a kiwi by law of the chestnut which is also auburn.
              I would rather squander my attention on dirt than saddle a medieval enmity. Breath is steep when it attempts to build a reverie for those turmoils at twilight when lassitude turns to chaos and the gloom stumbles across the ground in a gown of adrenaline and bamboo. Washer globules keeps everyone doing keen.
              By darkness in wads we are able to peep at the elevator when the light comes on. We hear a small ding. The doors slide open. Out comes a rhinoceros, a senator, and a self-effacing indicative wrapped in Hinduism.
              Writing a poem is like building a head but I’m not writing a poem I’m disturbing a bank. I’m knitting money. I’m barking at a particle. I’m combing paradise. I’m jingling Christmas. I’m riding a sediment. I’m inventing a reason for chintz.
              Revelation bulbs with nerves to hatch. Noble heat and peas for the quill of adumbration. Tarantulas jumping rope their ankles thick as yams.
              My thumb is dry because it embodies the climate. My ribs are packed and ready to fly.
              We live in our heads because that is where the bivalves beat and the quiet descends in ladles of jaguar gold.
              There is a vestige of weaving left in the construction of our guitars but that is only because the one begets the other.
              These words are too clumsy to be a poem they must haunt a philosophy of boomerangs at the border of lost horizons. Invade the autopsy on a bicycle while breathing clarifies faucets. Warriors are a dangled bean. Whittle, scrawl, and scream. Construct a plywood appendix. Wisps of consciousness float over another flamingo. Its oath a muddy timber. Its wings a swamp of lasagna.
              The egg to gurgle is zero.
              Victor Sjostrom. Erich von Stroheim.
              I never quibble with anyone wearing a winter in Bohemia. Denim in xenon cries out for mother-of-pearl buttons. The kennel does a handspring and lands on Kentucky. If you must wrestle a thought wrestle one that is wet and tall and full of groceries.
              I am just an enzyme clerk by the gaslight where the tools are kept. If I smell of noble chickadees it is because my behavior is bingo. It has been healed at times by camera, but the humidity is loose like a washcloth. This is here not because it occasions cactus, which is in the window, where it gets lots of afternoon light, but because something more needs to be said about flounders with beards. I simply will not allow this to happen in a paragraph steeped in realism. Not that a piece of flint needs complements, but that a cemetery yew should be yodeled like any other nickname.
              When describing an agate, I like to combine hormones with opacity. I find that a black hole will sometimes issue a scent of science, a wag among wallets of lily.
              A map born of mistletoe is cooked into late night glitter so that a zip code cane might turn its crickets to earnest jade.
              There is a flaw in the applause because the verdure strangled a tender blimp of inoperable helium.
              So what do you say? Let’s just forget all this craven watercolor and move to Edinburgh. Everything evaporates. One day you shall evaporate and I shall evaporate. These words will evaporate and the nasal tone with which they have been uttered will evaporate. It will all become clouds. Dollops of vapor in idioms of taupe and pearl.

This material is © John Olson
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