John Olson Five Poems

Here’s The Situation

Here’s the situation: the world is ending and people are singing their heads off. All the songs are raw. And all the melodies are unglued. How does grass become milk it’s a miracle. Mainstream is the prevailing mown lawn here except now the sidewalks are cracked and people want to sell their homes to get away from the homeless. Here I am wearing a crystal wig and a robe of baked potatoes. And yet you linger to ask me if I’ve ever been to Tucson. No, I haven’t. But I hear it’s the hummingbird capital of the world. I’m running down the runway trying to catch a plane called redemption. Clothes aren’t as silly as you might think. They hang in the closet awaiting fulfillment and keys. I can never get my shirt on right and my pants are always a size too big a size too small or no size at all just denim and plenum and dumb. Consciousness is always messy. Here I am dangling from a fever tree. It happened in Las Vegas. We gambled all night I had a royal flush in one hand and a sweet roll in the other. A bag of bread and water is everything kid it’s the whole show don’t let no one tell you different. The more you bend the more you spend and the more you spend the more you bend it’s an endless cycle with suspension forks and a bell. No thought is worth a penny. It’s worth the entire gross national budget. Of thought. The sound of a sturgeon is subjective to everyone except the sturgeon. This is the point I’ve been trying to make by avoiding it completely. That heron at the end of the pier is the essence of it. But if you need to ask what it is I can’t tell you I don’t know what it is either. But I can hear it in the dark.

Wings And Bats And Spines And Things

I wonder if hanging upside-down is good for you. All the blood rushing to the head. Maybe bats are on to something. There’s a practice called inversion therapy that involves hanging upside down. The idea is to reverse the compression of gravity on the spine. It may also increase the space between the vertebrae, which helps to relieve pain. There are, however, some risks. Blood pressure increases, the heartbeat slows down, and there’s increased pressure on the eyes, which is not good if you have glaucoma. So, like everything, it’s a blend of good and bad.
What about weightlessness? We should all have weightlessness devices in our homes. Wouldn’t it be a gas to have dinner on the ceiling? Better not light any candles up there though.
My legs feel so cumbersome and old when I got off the bed to go feed the cat or get a snack or another book to read. That’s when I feel old. I can maintain the illusion of youth while I’m running. My body lets me do that. Which is an odd way to look at it. I’m not separate from my body. I don’t think. Is it possible there’s a soul in this configuration of blood and bones?
Let reality be reality. Advises Lao Tzu. Ok, I can do that. Sounds simple enough. But where is it, exactly, this legendary reality? Is it the sponge in the sink? The cat on my lap? The books on the bed? I think it’s the clothes folded on the bureau. And the ache in my left leg. And the hard winter coming down the pike for Europe with the Russian gas cut off. It’s all the exorbitant fees and taxes for travel. Actors arguing about a scene from Hamlet. The till of a register filled with old dollar bills. People in glum silence checking their groceries. What’s next? People growing their own food? Take note: no one gets a discount for checking their own groceries. There is no reward for your subservience. None whatever. WTF!? Is that Lao Tzu checking a frozen pizza?
The bedpost is such a hand place to hang a mask. Two eyes, two ears, two lips and a nose. They all had them: Denis Diderot, David Hume, Baruch Spinoza, Jean-Jacques Rousseau.
How do you get a hummingbird to pose? I don’t know how Audubon did it. Whenever I look into the eyes of Sitting Bull I see turquoise on a ridge of sage. Bullfrog in a North Dakota creek, a copy of The Brothers Karamazov in my hand. Buffalo grazing. Protoplasm contracting and expanding on a glass slide. Sentence contracting and expanding in a glass eye. Whenever I look into the eyes of Sitting Bull I see a sky darken with passenger pigeons. Beautiful dark sheen of a box containing the ashes of a beloved cat. September 1st. 1914, the last known passenger pigeon, a female named Martha, died at the Cincinnati Zoo, aged 29, with a palsy that made her tremble.

Tarmac Sumac

Tarmac sumac. Way down there at the end of the runway. What is this world? An automotive jar embroidered with starving tornadoes. Ductile commodities. Petulant expeditions. I stayed up late one night listening to the geometry of quartz. This is where I learned how to retaliate without losing my urine. Cerebration means thinking. It’s a delicate operation. I’ve got shapes on my shoulder moving up and down. They’re wings. Tread softly, because you tread on my wings.
I can’t count the number of times I’ve fucked up. Forgive me if I deviate. I’m flying to Kauai. I hear they serve wonderful breakfasts there. And that it’s possible to see the universe get up and do the hula kahiko. I promise to behave. I’m going to wear a Jack Spicer wristwatch. It tells time by stitching railroads together with the thread of the dead. The time right now is 9:12 p.m. The light at the end of the tunnel is Puffing Billy. Two hundred tambourines tattoo the whistle. And bring us good fortune in the form of an incantation. We shall navigate by the stars. In thy orisons will all my sins be remembered. Bbbangbbang! The craving for love is the engine of the world.
There are forty-three muscles in the human face, most of which are controlled by the subterranean diesel poppy (also known as the honeysuckle nerve). The expression I’m using now is called the plunderer’s regret and involves a nook, a menu, and a table by the window. This is where I confess all my sins, then wash them down with a shot of Glenfiddich. I’m not catholic, but I could be, given the right circumstances and an upbringing in a socialist country. By catholic, of course, I don’t mean the religion, I mean the ability to resurrect myself as a syllabus, a course with universal intent and a pontiff in the cuff of my pants, where I keep my Vatican.
Some of us, it is true, have found life silly and meaningless. But the beauty is undeniable. Each stone is a rhapsody of form, a ray of sunlight in a glass of water. The fork moves with the tint of chrome and is a hive of chocolate fingers. I have sewn a sow with a sough of slow air and find that the phenomenon of living is compounded luxuriantly by each quintessence of dust. We are all comrades in life grimacing at one another, enjoying what remains of the wild tea in the surrounding hills and terraces, stubbornly boiling our gypsum as one pleads mercy from a king.
There are no answers. There are only armchairs for reading. This is plenty. Meaning narrows the spectrum, which is better served by selenium, Hollywood extravagance, and prescription glasses.

Kitchen Epiphany

I can sit and stare at a wall for a ridiculously long amount of time. Eventually, there will be holes I can crawl through. And this is called music. What we see is what we believe and wish reality to be. Music is different, music has a different source than aqueous humor, and as such, swerves past our cognitive bias, and dazzles the brain with its gargle and ooze, its trumpets and gongs.
I find makeup fascinating. But the curves on a cello even more so. And these are called accidentals. Changes in pitch are gracious. They feed on the fine-tuning of our perception. We regain control of our existence when we hold the thread of our desire. The satisfaction of seeing clearly, even when it is painful, is due to the exhilarating power that we draw from it.
I live on a hill. I’m a little closer to the sky than I used to be. Which is currently choked with wildfire smoke. Most of the smoke is from the Chilliwack and Pasayten fires to the northeast, and the White River fire northwest of Lake Wenatchee. The planet is bursting into flame.
I wish I could walk into Proust’s novel and persuade Swann to break his addiction to Odette, which is destroying him, but that would ruin the novel, which is driven by lusts for names, for language, for things that never exist as intensely and vividly as they do in expectation, or in the imagination, where the mind and external reality come together, and form a union, or skin.
The spirit feeds on pearls. The air is shattered by gun glass, said the sharp-mouthed hoodlum. I hooked these letters on ruby hooks but when I came back they’d formed a sentence which required me to wear embassy shoes. Where can I find a pair of embassy shoes? I shall ask the Ambassador of Clouds. They’ll be laced with lightning. And their soles will be a roaring bonfire balanced in the heart with a pole and a heap of spinning plates. I do this willfully to the west of language in an attic full of the kindness of the dead, who sit in the corners knitting God.
I took the high road to the gymnasium. The dwarf slumped by the ice machine woke up, brushed himself off and walked away. I heard a snowflake drop to the ground, uttered by a polar bear. I shook the hand of a storm on a metal welcome mat and bowed. Never play solitaire with a sparkling cognition. This is what it does. It slides out of a vagina and says hello world what’s up? And so I say unto you respect the bean. Walk through the dazzling mathematics of the peach. The kitchen empties its contents like grenades. And everyone explodes into conversation.


Is it flamboyant to look international at a wedding? I do not spurn nurture nor nurture a spurning of spring. This is what I like to do I like to strap carriages to my feet and walk into weddings I haven’t been invited to and sit down and talk like a country. It makes me feel perforated, like a sock, or a sociologist. I like the way gymnasiums guzzle space. This is why everyone likes to run around in them and dunk basketballs and wave pompoms. Hazard is the wizard of zippers. Which is another way of saying car keys, or suitcase. Ontology is everything. One must always expect the unexpected to expectorate. Waterfalls interrupt my canoe ride with a splash, a hiccup, and a hi ho Silver! This turned into a song and sung at another wedding. Renditions reside in sound like desks help writing to come out of wood. Or Karen Carpenter, who was not an actual carpenter, but could sing the bejesus out of any random superstar. I learned everything I know in the knowledge that nothing is ever truly known. Especially Karen Carpenter. Could you lend me a million dollars? I feel my tongue move back and forth like a symbol. I think I should find an agent. I could take it on the road. We know what is said at mass but what is leaves of grass? Is it a form of plexiglass? Or a God particle spiraling in a forward pass all the way to Geneva? What happens in the esophagus rarely if ever stays in the esophagus. If you have a language in you, now is the time to let it out. Languages, like wine, need to breathe. It gives them abundance. It fuels proliferation. Proliferation is the perforation of the real by the unreal, which is sand to the goat and mud to the muddled. All else is mute resignation. Miscellany wanders the perimeter. When miscellany penetrates the barriers, we will unleash the kraken. We shall discard facsimile for filigree, put tinsel on the whiffletree and revel in calligraphy, where the fonts meet the fountains, the sky meets the mountains, and wanton possibilities step from the shadows to say hi.

written by © John Olson

John Olson with Athena

Mingled Yarn John Olson

All lives, it seems, are composed of multiple strands, multiple perspectives, multiple stories & yarns. This particular weaving of a life started as a simple autobiography, following my wife’s suggestion. I balked at first, since I’m neither a retired Civil War general or a former President of the United States. Nor am I a Hollywood celebrity, a Self-Help guru or a noted French chef. I’m just a writer. I enjoy writing, & I’m always on the watch for things to write about. That adage “write what you know” is true. So I decided to take the plunge & try to stitch a narrative together, using words as my needles, my life as material. That material, however, segued loop by loop out of strict autobiography into the variable disperse dyes of fiction. Fact & fiction are intermingled. How much is lived experience & how much is invention are stitched so closely they often overlap & become a surprising new color. Life is a continual purling of insights & observations into crazily stitched patterns. All you can do is put it on & wear it.

Olson writes as if language was his own invention — which of course it is. How else to explain the force-field of dark and joyous energy that he conjures out of words?
~ Andrew Joron, author of The Cry at Zero

Olson’s brilliant prose poetry lurks around the corner of every idle speculation and seething anecdote.
~ Andrew Bleeker, from his review of The Nothing That Is

John Olson is the author of numerous books of prose poetry, including Weave of the Dream King (forthcoming from Black Widow Press), Dada Budapest, Larynx Galaxy and Backscatter: New and Selected Poetry. Mingled Yarn is his fifth novel. His other novels include In Advance of the Broken Justy, The Seeing Machine, The Nothing That Is, and Souls of Wind, which was shortlisted for a Believer Book Award in 2008.

Featured picture Entanglement in a sombrero galaxy, a hummingbird ankoku butoh 9inx10-1/2in oil, collage on sandpaper 2022 Mitchell Pluto


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