John Olson Five Prose Poems

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The Origin of Language

How do you do my name is Luigi and I am the Duke of Abruzzi. I love bubbles, strawberries, and extortion.
              What can I say?
              I grew up in Minneapolis. I grow obscure 50 feet above the ground.
              That’s my last Duchess on the wall, the one with the hairdo that looks like a shoe.
              I know all the sorrows of the jukebox. Sometimes I feel like a cloud of opium. And sometimes I’m more of a hat, or an elevator.
              Do you hear? There is a song in the ink. A pool of words dangling from a genital.
              Life is an endless struggle. Death is a long sweet rest. Let’s not fuss over little things. What matters is fingernail clippers.
              If you let the world in, you have to let it back out. It may be heavy as a truck tire, so be careful. There are times when the division between the organic and non-organic ceases to exist. Dry yourself by the fire and mull it over. The division among things is blurry.
              What holds atoms together? A grain of salt and a pinch of corn silk.
              The origin of language is hectic with adjectives. Preposterous frogs. Inscrutable rocks. Kinky remedies.
              The poem is a contraption, a flirtation with gloves. It is pure sorcery. Last night I saw my face floating on a license plate. And then a bunch of predicates set the universe on fire.
              The U.S. government is run by a man in Williston, North Dakota. When there are no women around he gets angry. He gets drunk and irrational. He filters the world through plums. He turns social security into credit default swaps.
              What can you learn from growing old? The cat swims through his fur with red hot veins tangential to consciousness. And if you shake a bottle filled with earthquakes, it will erupt into Christmas bulbs.


The bug is an abstraction. Truth flies around the room and lands on the back of a chair hungry for lies. Franz Kafka opens the refrigerator and removes a bowl of jello with the face of Bella Abzug in it.
              Name one thing that isn’t a metaphor and I will hang naked from the skin of the tongue.
              An umbrella is simply an umbrella and if a pen travels over a sheet of paper it is not long before I just sit and laugh. Time impregnates a long sentence which is strange because I’m not wearing shoes. I never do. I have a pair of wings that unfurl into enormous metaphors as the Beach Boys sing “Don’t Worry Baby” and palominos resist the erosion of human understanding.
              What happens when we sleep? We journey with our eyes golden with the residue of dreams. Apple trees remember the great battles of the American civil war. But for the time being let’s just live forever.
              How did I ever get here?
              Life is an enchantment. You betcha. You may proceed at your own risk.
              Each of us creates our own story. That’s the beauty of it.
              Make no mistake. There is such a thing called reality. But no one has yet figured out its true dimensions. All any of us have are these five measly senses. Even the headlight has a personality.
              All this happens in Tombstone.
              Why Tombstone? The way it sculpts the air. Everything is possible. I open my mouth. I make things appear and disappear. Cactus, shell casings, grains of sugar scattered on a Formica tabletop.
              I’m missing a molar. My gum feels odd when I put my tongue there.
              It’s like they say: shit happens.
              But it all balances out in the end.
              Sometimes it takes an allegory to sublimate pain.
              For example: interesting results can be obtained by dollying out while zooming in or dollying in while zooming out so that the size of the things stays the same but the perspectives change. You can evoke everything and bump into people or open a door and leave.
              The mind is an unofficial patina in which the desert is a glutton for absorption.
              France hisses its absence.
              I can’t tell you how to live. But I can tell you how to do the locomotion.
              Jump up, jump back, make a chug-a-chug-a motion like a railroad train.

Let Me Tell You A Story

Let me tell you a story. I can hear the gardeners blowing leaves. They carry engines with long tubes that blow air in a great rush and send the leaves whirling forward as they advance. Fairies dance in a ring as the gardeners approach, oblivious to the whirr of their engines. The fairies are blown into the air, but the gardeners continue their advance. They are serious men. Serious about gardening. Serious about making money. Serious about raising families. Serious about everything. How’s that for a story? Here’s another: pain is accidental. The end result is ice and divorce. Fat sentences brushing against the warmth of someone else’s skin. It’s touching. A touching instance of envelopment and fat. This is a story about spoons.
              Spoons lie spoon to spoon in a kitchen drawer, sandwiched between knives and forks. There are two grooves for the spoons. There is a groove for teaspoons and a groove for tablespoons.
              There is more drama concerning knives then there is surrounding spoons.
              The weather today is explicit. That’s code for moisture.
              And velvet.
              This is a story about velvet.
              This is a story about plywood: tune in next week for the exciting conclusion.
              This is a story about horses grazing by the side of the road.
              Horses grazing by the side of the road.
              By the side.
              Of the.
              I have a photo of Paris in my wallet. Would you like to see it? That’s me, and that’s Nicolas Sarkozy with his arm around me, and Carla Bruni giving me a peck on the cheek.
              Aren’t words wonderful? You can say anything.
              This is a story about language. One day, there was a synonym loose in the library. It sawed the library in half and exposed a baby’s sock lying on the sidewalk.
              This is a story about a baby’s sock on the sidewalk.
              Why is there a baby’s sock on the sidewalk?
              Cezanne’s vivacious hands.
              A flash of lightning.
              Clouds, bluebells, harmonicas.
              All I’m saying is that if you swing from a trapeze 50 feet above the ground, you should be able to trust the person that is going to catch you.
              Propositions resemble arrows.
              Or hot water squirting out from the valve when it gets turned open.
              This is a story of hot water squirting out from an opened valve.
              I marvel at the way facts assert themselves.
              Bing cherries. A woman riding a lawnmower off Highway 17 near Moses Lake.
              Wild Bill Hickok sitting at a table in a saloon holding a hand of cards.
              The little bulb inside his head is crying like the soft eye of the antelope in a blaze of snow.


              On Friday, July 9th, 2009, I vacuumed the car. I threw myself into it with the rage of a hundred Vikings on the shore of the real.
              I never use the same hose twice.
              Or is it ten?
              Did I mention that there are woods nearby? The woods abound with acorns.
              The age demanded an image and so I gave it acorns.
              When consciousness is cut into words, it becomes a struggle.
              Hummingbirds and wine.
              The poem grows legs and crawls from its surroundings. It becomes sunlight gleaming on a construction crane.
              A warm body of air.
              I never take the sun for granted. I never take anything for granted.
              I love the way the waiter at La Palma says margarita. The r’s roll off his tongue like the daughter of a German ambassador rimming a glass with salt. Though I must say margarita does not sound German. It arrives at the table with details that are entirely Hispanic.
              The story goes that a bartender at the Rancho La Gloria Hotel near Tijuana named Carlos Herrera, who went by the nickname Danny, concocted the drink for a Ziegfeld dancer named Marjorie King. Spanish converts Marjorie to margarita. Consequently, the history of the margarita is forever doomed to romance.
              And speculation, which is the cousin of romance.
              Speculation has the clarity of the Mexican sky.
              Here comes a man with a thousand hearts, and there goes a woman hemorrhaging stars on the western horizon.
              One has to ask oneself: is it human to want thought? A little water tossed into the air? A transcendental hat? Mania? Sedimentation? The MGM lion tap-dancing on a treadmill?
              Feeling inclines toward feeling and tequila maps our relation to the universe without any idea of why yearning is soft and blue in the lounges of Tenochtitlán.
              But enough about margaritas, which I don’t drink anyway.
              I want to talk about neckties. Who wears them, and why.
              I prefer the bolo. It slips on easily. No knot necessary. And there is a shine in the movement.
              Like that of the soul.
              The question of form is inextricably mingled with expression. From Latin ex, out, plus Latin pressare, to press. To press out. Expression is a pressing out.
              Every day there is a new way to be liquid.

Harmonic Distortion

I like crowds. I can’t say why. Maybe I’m in love with profusion.
              Yes. That’s it. I’m in love with profusion.
Who knows, maybe one day a scab will gargle the literature of the heart and Manhattan will appear in my fingernail. Later, I can extrude it through my mouth and draw many friends to my bosom.
              I like skin. Particularly on the small of a woman’s back.
              Also, the heat of a fire on hands numbed and stinging with cold.
              Can you hear me? There is no one to do this feeling but you and I.
              Which is to be nowhere and everywhere at once, like the twitch of a horse’s rump.
              The branches of the trees agitate in a light breeze. A ball bounces down a street in Valencia. Fisherman unload baskets of fish and crab.
              Death is not what you think. What we think of as spirits are holes in the fabric of time.
              It’s handy, like being delirious.
              Today I want to avoid anything unpleasant. I often feel the urge to lie down on the floor and stare at the ceiling.
              And then there’s the matter of ears. This morning I awoke to the sound of words stuck in a beard like food. That’s because words are hallucinations. If you don’t believe me go to France.
              Nothing escapes necessity except the necessity to escape.
              Kerosene is a proposal, a puff of breath on a feather that illumines the campsite at night.
              Only the lonely recognize atmosphere as a pragmatic heresy. Fatalism is an oversimplification, like a Texas drawl.
              Lust will sometimes perch high and defiant on a finger of stone and cause descriptions to grows eyes and linger on stalks of pure electricity.
              Electricity is amazing. It will provide a narrative to your life. Plug it in, and watch the ceiling come to life, feature-length movies crawling through a Persia of clairvoyance and rain.

This material is © John Olson
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