T for Tom

This World

Posted in poem by johnsontoms on June 28, 2018

A world of neglect and the things we do to each other

“Just help us out”

Never enough to gain favor

Only gains to our savior

As everything trickles up.

 

Like a dam held up

We don’t ask for much

But asking, it seems,

Is uncouth.

 

Just a meal or fair rent

Is a chance to survive

To say nothing of what happens

When we nearly die.

 

But that I think is the point

That while children are crying

   And homeless are starving

   And mothers are working

   And soldiers are dying

   And workers don’t sleep

   And families cant eat

We shouldn’t feel good about living.

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Tell No One

Posted in poem by johnsontoms on May 10, 2018

Tell no one

Keep the revolution to urself

We all have 1

Yours isn’t special

They all echo

None stand out

The war was over years ago

No more giant leaps

That was just more noise

Sent into the void

Now with all these revolutions

Just a bunch of noise

Over noise

Good as static in harmony.

 

We’re just waiting for radio silence

Nothing left 2 do

It’s all been done

We’ve heard it before

Won’t make a difference

More echoes

Pinging off the walls

Bouncing aimlessly and unseen

Like revolutions in the wheel.

 

Never had a chance

Didn’t work last time

Wasting time trying

Little revolutions everywhere

Dying with a thud

Dull damp whimper

No great change

No collective evolution

Little bodies looking out for little bodies

Not interested in the least.

 

So do us a favor

Keep the revolution to yourself

Tell no one.

 

 

Something About Animism

Posted in poem, Prose by johnsontoms on May 1, 2018

Disintegration, like time and memories and feelings and it all goes to waste, no proof of ever having lived. The places where all told sundry will rest, the annals of nothingness, the universe in motion, should we all rapture and the new planetary beings be unable to read English or Sanskrit or what have you might survive a few millennia of earthly rot. Nothing is what will be left of you and I and everything you love and hate in equal measure. The rocks keep spinning, maybe not this one, but some rocks somewhere, a few collisions, possibly another spark, and another line of history that will just as surely return to void like all before and every after. Dissolution in motion.

Let it read then like poetry. Let the life then be the lifeline. Let the living do the thing. Let all the birds sing a rosy song, and leave nothing for the afterlife. We are here to live until we die.

We will only live and we will only die, in that order, and not more than once. If you live bright enough, a few of the living will remember you until their turn to die. Everyone takes a turn, even the memory of you. The memory of you will die, just like time and space. In continuum we exist and in continuum we cease. Perpetuity is the only faith, death the only truth. In death’s absolute life must exist, and they tango, one to the other but always one on to the other, no new partners. Life and only death. Only life and death.

Drunk in a Cabin Room

Posted in poem by johnsontoms on January 10, 2018

31 DEC 17

 

I see these things that are becoming possible and I remind myself it isn’t that bad

And yet

I know that driving across the country is a whole waste of resources

And yet

I know there are few other ways to get there

And yet

I know I don’t have to

And yet

I don’t want to stand still

And yet

What am I proving by trying to keep moving? 

And yet

How am I to live?

Reconciling this world with its past and its future.

 

drunkinacabinroom

 

From the Table of Peculiar Rocks

Posted in poem by johnsontoms on January 10, 2018

31 DEC 17

 

There are no problems to be here

Such as we know

Only shade and finding room in the shadows

Crawling darkness to darkness until nighttime we grow

Hand in hand backward in time

Where all men are created equal

And equally able to die

 

Alone here in the desert

Only the ocotillo to watch

And the Sotol Valley to rot

Just another ripple in time

 

In sands, in the shadows that roll on lines of the ridge

Out with the day and in with the night

Or rotting away in the dead dead quiet.

 

fromthetableofpeculiarrocks

From the Chimneys

Posted in poem by johnsontoms on January 10, 2018

30 DEC 17

 

To places no one goes

To see friends no one knows

It’s Puff, the Magic Mountain.

 

Up where no clouds fly

Reaching highest heights

Our Puff, the Magic Mountain.

 

There in the center valley

A line of common allies

With Puff, the Magic Mountain

 

Some things just aren’t meant to make sense

There on the top

Of Puff, the Magic Mountain.

fromthechimneys

On the Chimneys Trail, looking back toward Mule Ears.

Sea of Dreams

Posted in poem by johnsontoms on October 6, 2017

The valedictorian was the son of a truck driver

Had two brothers

Both older

Valedictorians the same.

I was eight seats behind the youngest when my name was called at graduation,

In order by our grade point average.

Some two hundred were behind us

Ordered by name to save them the shame.

But the kids at the top were spotlighted

And for us it felt like the inauguration to life.

It was affirmation that the kids would be all right.

 

With the applause came the dreams made for us

As much as by us

And the weight of expectations.

Those in the back came off easy

Because the valedictorian, well,

He was supposed to be a doctor.

The second fellow a lawyer

And the girl in third a politician.

Didn’t matter that we were sons of truck drivers

And so the dreams of our fathers weren’t out of sight.

The kids in the back could just smoke grass

And they’d be all right.

 

Those stuck with dreams weren’t the only ones to go on learning

And we weren’t the only ones to drop out either

We weren’t the only ones drinking underage

Smoking all day

And changing our minds

And for everyone it’s safe to say

We all missed the mark by a little.

None of us are astronauts, were never meant to be,

But a few of the kids are still all right.

 

A few of them made a few more moves and played it safe

Went out and became teachers before taking wives.

Not too far out, really,

When you’re still that close to shore.

 

A few others waded too deep and took the first thing

Married, then kids,

Then the fucking mortgages

While the lucky ones died just before.

 

We’re not really dreaming when we’re all doing the same thing.

 

Best to burn out bright

Or not go gently into night

Or whatever it is that keeps you from floating

Shifting around with human ghosts

Nothing to see

All of us lost on the sea of dreams.

One Minute for a Million Opportunities

Posted in america, poem, Remember to Remember by johnsontoms on August 24, 2017

Staring out the window of our second-floor barracks room, facing southeast outward to the parking lot in front of our Alpha Company building, there were a few tall, green oaks that stood in the hundred-foot space that separated our building from Bravo Company barracks next to ours. Our room was near the corner, and the two windows that on either side of my locker were always open because the air conditioner was in disrepair at all times. First thing in the morning and last thing at night, the scene out the window would be dark except for the orange glowing halogen in the street lamp between buildings. But every morning just after physical training and each afternoon at the end of class, the few minutes when I could slow down to think for myself for just one minute, I’d approach my locker and then swiftly move aside for the other five soldiers I shared the room with who were eager to shower or eat or busy themselves in some or other. Early on during that training phase in Virginia, the second and longest I’d endure after entering the Army, we had limited personal time and were under constant supervision. When other soldiers across the Army were training to be infantrymen and supply men and gunners and were scrutinized during a short, two-month period that saw constant activity and rare personal time, my classmates and I were the fortunate ones. As aircraft repairmen, we set about a long, six-month, class-based training phase that freed us up for almost every afternoon.

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The hangar.

And every day that I’d get off that converted school bus that carted us from the hangar back to the barracks, after standing in formation to hear our orders, if we weren’t scheduled to conduct barracks maintenance or trash pickup or supply loading or weapons maintenance or general training, and if we weren’t forced to get in the chow formation and march to the dining facility, if all those things lined up, we could have the evening to ourselves, only so long as we didn’t leave the barracks footprint. It was limited to the basketball court and bleachers immediately in the front or the PT field adjacent, but we could go there. If we wanted. And during those days, when I had the freedom to make a personal decision, I’d stand at that window and look out at the green, take in the sun through the window, and ask myself what I wanted to do that evening.

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The locker, the windows on both sides.

I’d listen for the clang of a chain net that meant some were playing basketball, or I’d see Ryan and Jason taking off to the smoke shack for cigarettes. Later on in training, as we were given more privileges, we would walk to the library a half-mile away and sit in the smoke shack there alone, away from the hundred other soldiers that were constantly around. During the first early weeks when we’d walk to the library or the post exchange, I’d picked up a couple CDs. It was the only way I had to get music, culture of any kind, and was the first time I’d been able to do either in six months time. One of them was the latest Fleet Foxes album, Helplessness Blues. A while later in the summer, it was Bon Iver’s Bon Iver, Bon Iver, but in the early weeks and with no other way to get new music, Fleet Foxes was played over and over and over. I put the album on my computer and on my phone which I had access to only in the evenings. The sergeants would occasionally do uniform checks in formation to see if any soldier had snuck their phone to class, and so going without, I made the habit of throwing that locker open when I came back from class, turning on a song and staring out the window. It was only 5pm, but after 12 hours of commands, that peaceful, gentle minute to myself, to make any damn decision, was the minute I lived for. What would I do today? really can be the truth of freedom.

We had a day once, just a couple hours. John and I set out to find the body of water on post, because godammit there was a body of water. If you’re not familiar with how wonderful the sight of a lake can be after six months of walls and trees, then you won’t understand why I nearly broke down crying just listening to the soft wave from a fresh lake lap up on the hard dirt beach. I mean, we just took a walk to the water, and it was magnificent.

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The lake on that day.

“After all is said and after all is done I feel the same / All that I hoped would change within me stayed.”

Through these little moments of repurposing our perspectives on freedom, the spirit was rich and growing, but I was still that lost, confused young man looking for answers, questions that led me to the Army. I guess I remember this song most during those early afternoons because I’ve always been afraid that I wouldn’t become something, even in the abstract. Because it was enough then just to have a cigarette after class, and it was enough then just to order a pizza a couple times a week if only to eat outside the DFAC, and it was enough then just to be with the friends I’d made in a forced environment. Inside me, some things stayed: the desire to be great, the unending feelings of failure and loss and hopelessness, that my dreams were always tethered to the fortunes of circumstance, circumstances that led me to the army. And I knew it would take much more time to get anywhere nearer I wanted to be, because in those times, in those vacuum environments, it was enough to just be with people who understood.

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That’s Ryan Landes in the smoke shack where we hid.

“After all is said and all is done / God only knows which one of them I’ll become.”

More days than not I chose to live. Thankfully. I could’ve never seen the rest coming.

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John, Jason, Ryan, myself; Hampton, VA, 2011

It’s 2017

Posted in poem, Prose, Uncategorized by johnsontoms on July 26, 2017

I was raised in a world that believed in better.

Fresh out of war,

hope and virtues lapping up like waves on the shore,

Bright-eyed, starry youthful dreams because we landed on the moon

Before I was even born.

But

Right back to war and now

It’s 2017 and people are starving.

It’s 2017 and men carry guns in the street.

It’s 2017 and black people die everyday.

It’s 2017 and seeing a doctor, wanting to live, costs money, at all.

It’s 2017 and people walk through the streets,

Into shopping malls,

Into church,

Listening to Hells Bells,

Talking of Reagan,

Afraid of changing,

But changing can’t come soon enough.

Get with it.

It’s fucking 2017 and y’all out there shooting, hating, killing,

Watching people die.

How far we’ve come to have gotten nowhere at all.

It’s 2017 and the shores are rising from the ice that’s melting

And

One day if we’re lucky

The waves will wash over the shore and cleanse the earth of all and sundry.

There Is So Much Static

Posted in poem by johnsontoms on June 6, 2016

There is so much static that can fill you in

If you let it.

 

Let it flow and flow and

Screeeeeeeeeeeeeeeech

Quietly as a ringing in your ear.

‘Fore you know it, ten years by,

and still with the static.

 

Like waking up to a floor

Of beer bottles and empty beds

In half-lit motels

On nowhere highways.

 

But if the sky gets wide enough

On drives long enough

To the hills where no one lives

There the static lowers to a dull

Replaced by fresh air.

 

Breathe deep the pines

Sit high on vistas

Stare at the valley below

And swat away the noise like flies

 

The flies they are

 

Brought in with the rain

But this season too will pass

And give way to summer.

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