John Olson Five Prose Poems

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Let Us Query the Boiling Sun

Let us query the boiling sun. There is snow on the linoleum. How did it get there? And that stirring in the air just before it rains, that easy murmur in the trees and flowers, what is that? Pain is nature’s way of holding our attention. We already know that. But will the day get warmer? Will the pumpkins grow into oracles? No sensation escapes the pound of my fist. I cover the waterfront, as it were. However anarchic the words may be, they harden into guns. Life is notoriously difficult to put into words. The celerity of the cell is amphibious as a penny in love with a barrel. Think, for instance, of the wiggle of snakes, staircase infidelities, crabs in bags. The Tiffany lampshade reflected in the glass of the Matisse print. A burning photogenic horizon clapped to the wall in afternoon elation. The day drifts, as always, into desuetude. My papaya slowly sours. My forebears perpetually glower. My guitar gently weeps. I went to get the clothes out of the washing machine and put them into the dryer. The corridor was so crowded it was like swimming through people. I did a butterfly stroke through a conversation about London tailors. Hotels are like that. You are far better off to stay at home. Or prance around naked on the desert of pagan Nevada during that Burning Man festival. I mean, if you really want to get down to it, everything is alive and imbued with consciousness. The sky speaks to the mountain in thunder. It bellows. It groans. It rains. Before you know it you’ve got a soliloquy on your hands. The sky is crying look at all those tears roll down the street. Nature’s propositions thicken with each new crisis. Which is why I don’t understand sports. What difference does it make how many points are gained by carrying a ball across a chalked line or pushing it through a hoop or kicking it into a net past the outstretched arms of a man hurling himself into space in order to prevent that very thing from occurring? I am in quest of meaning. I have to get up and blow my nose. The mind dilates under the influence of poetry. Did you know that? Of course you did. Why else would you be here? But let me ask you this, and I want a sincere answer, have you ever thought about becoming a star in Hollywood? Each afternoon for the past several weeks I have passed a small group of Mexican men constructing a driveway with bricks, each brick meticulously measured and put into place. This is the way to push consonants into nerves. How else capture the lurid meaning of a pair of shoes? There is joy in opening a parachute. Even when you’re still on the ground. I can always sense when there’s a good metaphor in the vicinity. They happen by intuition and elude the deviations of authority. The rain stumbles across the ground in a blustery wind and the paragraph engorges with heat, as if it were plugged into spring, and fragrances ran through the wires, galvanizing our ears with the smell of an emerald idea.


If I begin a novel can I begin it like this? I have folded my pains and put them into a suitcase. I will not wear them now. I will wear them later. They will make good stories. They will perpetuate parodies and sleeves. They will whistle and wheeze. They will button like real clothes. They will hang on me like stethoscopes. I will consider tattoos.
              Nothing evolves without mutation. One must imitate the folklore of soup. Spirits crackle when they walk. Boiling words foment the morning of metaphysics. The residue smells of Shakespeare.
              I sit on the deck of a sport fishing boat off the coast of Bermuda thinking of Prospero and Caliban and such stuff as dreams are made on. The engine roars into life, the propeller churns, and I move toward a horizon of cloud-clapped towers and gorgeous palaces.
              Nebulas of purple dye swirl in a Phoenician pool. Words are neurons. Syllables are synapses. Primordial life thrashes about in a bed of mud.
              I am a giant inflatable Santa Claus on the lawn of a dilapidated house. I sew words together with a thread of mist. I make gestures to no one in particular.
              I am a chow chow wandering the figures of a crèche. I wag my tail. One of the wise men topples over.
              I am an emotion painted in Montmartre. Threads of indigo shine beyond the canvas of night.
              I feel a private steel. The winter night is sliced by the blade of a crescent moon.
              Morning arrives like a loving parenthesis of willow and pine.
              I shower. I like the feeling of water running down my skin.
              The fingers of dawn smear the highway with gold. I drive a ’65 Plymouth Barracuda listening to Elvis sing of tenderness and burning love. I see Buffalo Bill ride a palomino to the crest of a butte.
              I feel like a form in quest of a geometry I can understand. The sky wanders in amusement. Travel enlarges the theater of perception. I is a pronoun folding reflections into words. A town comes into view. There is a large yellow sign in the shape of a triangle. The black silhouette of a man is walking. There are buildings, silos, boxcars, people. Dissonance travels through the nerves. The heart crackles with the wood of revolt. The town recedes in the rear view mirror. I hear a siren. I step on the gas. A hopped up 360 with dished pistons gets me safely across the border.
              Some of us worry morality with acrobatic ethics and a sanctioned will. Me, I live in a swirling sensation of clouds and semantic linen. I write letters to bugs. Sometimes they write back.

Phantom Sensations

Bounce the structure until it imparts vitality. This is so reflection sticks to medicine. Flow science into this smear. Glow close to your anguish. It will engorge you with correspondence. Widen yourself with subversion. Pin a tear to the tidepool elbows. A railroad happens in the mind. Heart gloves protect the fingers and what fingers perform which is accommodating and drills. Paddle a modified emotion. Escape your grammar. Disturb a fire. This will all make sense when you toss mahogany into the light. I sense spit. Emptiness behind eyeballs. This will develop over the generations into an area code for phantom sensations. This will evolve into a thesis. There will be mustard available if the glaze begins to sputter with palominos. Connection is the most important thing. Connect yourself to a pain and see it if it becomes a resource or history. This will confirm you. Despite the sparks the emotion painted beneath the religion has a certain aesthetic that authorizes outdoor volleyball. This is a gallon of soothed gasoline and this is a rock prophesying a monumental rescue. Let us oblige the anonymous world with our explanations of elsewhere. Coffee will build us into men and women. Employ spoons scrupulously. Syllables are straw. Elevators flap open inviting ascendance. Hum the bacteria before the insects get to it. If you turn chiaroscuro make your fingernails glow. Freely nutmeg the infusion. Gallop slam beside crackle. Rub the springy secrets. Our outdoors is Cubist. Hymn a bean ball. Bend your eyes to the sweet color of oil. Share your sphere. Sew the snow. Extrude indigo. Urge an arm dot. A singing circumference assembled in string. Pile sunlight on a cod. Exult the space around a noun dumping salt. Spur your interior to groan for our lobster. It agrees with virtue and flickers with gold. Construct a slender animal. Cartilage will declare us wrestling it out if the canoe leans more in the water. Our grace smacks of naked hypothesis. I think my duty urges this. I suck the candy of despair. A surge of lightning garnishes the horizon. Gray is absorbed by purple. A fountain gets up and walks away after it becomes skin. A magician juggles eyeballs. Belief searches oblivion for signs of redemption because the greenhouse was damaged by metaphysics. Nevertheless your breath is beautiful when it is engorged with abstraction. I open my cage to greet you. Tell me if my diagnosis fires. Advance yourself in a wild demand. Plunge your heat into sculpture. I will tell you when the tin turns churn.

The Shine of Eternity in a Postcard Rack

Language is shaped by abstraction. Which isn’t saying much. But it’s true. The luminous roots of a ripe truth blossom into similes. A mouth is like a spout and a tornado endorses the airport spoons. The structures endure. Envy hurls its descriptions of wealth at a single wool glove and unemployment is ghostly. Anyone will tell you that. A dazzling evocation is longer than a murky sensation and the day convulses with parody. I’m not joking. The travel agent dialed the wrong number and got Kierkegaard rather than Socrates. This is how we ended up in Corsica rather than the Canary Islands. The sculpture in the corner startled us with its exhalation. A small stone condensed the ocean into a hard inscrutable wrinkle. This is how perceptions happen. They begin as a stimulus in the nerves and travel to a place in the brain where paper lanterns float in the river Oi and images crash among the ganglion attracting mosquitos and flies. As soon as you begin writing poetry you find yourself in a foreign country. It may be the country of your origin, but it will soon enter your eyes and skull as a foreign country. That’s pretty much the whole point. The reason for the endeavor. We walk among the cactus saying I like this, but I don’t like that, and the world doesn’t really give a shit. Space pulls a truck into the distance and lets us engage in our virginity. Our presumed virginity. Ha. What a laugh. A little paint goes a long way. Look at Picasso. How he oozed the torment of stone. Here is what I want these words to say. I want these words to flow through a sentence echoing intention as if they were a garden hose discussing water with a parenthesis of dirt. I want these words to slide into your eyes and tell you the pavement spits when the cars go by. I will fold these syllables into a swordfish if I have to. I will remain still and spin. I want to be your travel agent. I want you to go somewhere calm and beautiful. I will bring you soap and socialism. I will give you a ticket to an airplane. Here I am flailing the air. Here I am attempting to perform these wonders. I don’t know why, but it is always the birds that explain the secrets of the sky. The clouds just wander through. Imagine what they could do if they were freed into words. They could become abstractions. The absence behind the words. The shine of eternity in a postcard rack.

No Complaint

I saddled my horse and rode off the page. I sensed something larger outside the margins of the paper. Outside the millions of laptop screens. The day convulses with parody. Everyone seems hypnotized. But maybe that’s just the cocoon of silence that protects us from one another. The river honors its unraveling by mirroring the trees along its banks. It arrived in New Orleans the next day fresh as the proverbial daisy. Why a daisy? Who knows. I try to avoid overthinking things whenever I can. The field is open. Someone is painting the meadow. The canvas slobbers with balloons and drums. Name something in life that isn’t completely open to interpretation. Which is why we are creatures of chronology. That is, ultimately, the easiest way to create a sense of coherence. And which is why we are always absorbed in navigation. I wrestle with this all the time. When did the pronoun ‘I’ acquire psychic reality? My ear is soft and itchy. It contributes its share. My sorrows are parliamentary and wax. Sunlight travels through the fingers. Bones hold everything together. I see the wind far out on the horizon and wonder excites the urge to swim. I spend so much of time just sitting around maneuvering phlegm. Clearing my throat. Blowing my nose. Biology is messy. All the poets sitting on the shelves at your local bookstore will tell you that. There is a feeling in me that is large and musical and demands to be shared with someone. I roll a ball to the cat and he just sits there. He looks down at the ball and looks back up as if nothing happened. As if to say, what’s this about? I’ll tell you who I admire is Montaigne. He went to his library and forged so many inquiries of this world they’re still waiting for me to get to them. I pull the book form the shelf and hold it to my ear. The language burns and crackles. The next thing I know I’m in the water and the more I absorb the more expansive I become. This is not my normal latitude. But I’m not complaining.

This material is © John Olson
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