Tuesday, May 12, 2015

The Beauty and Benefits of Red Clover

Imagine it's late spring or early summer (Just a few weeks from now). You are hiking out in the countryside, and come across a wide, open field of blossoms. Maybe an old farm field, one where the earth was disturbed a fair amount, and now is being slowly repaired by "invasives" and cover crops. The yellow heads of the Dandelions. Spikes of Nettles shooting skyward. The tiny, blue blossoms of Creeping Charlie. Clusters of white Garlic Mustard flowers.

Here is one place you might come across a bounty of Red Clover (Trifolium pratense). Loaded with calcium, potassium, magnesium, Vitamin C and so much more, this member of the legume family is often used as a cover crop to restore the soil. Red Clover is adaptable to a variety of environments. It fixes nitrogen in the soil, and protects the ground from erosion. As a short lived perennial, it's easy to grow and it's attractive, pinkish flowers make a great filler for large spaces. In addition, when it dies off, the remaining organic matter offers an additional round of soil building nutrients.

Medicinally, Red Clover has a variety of uses. As a specific for women, it can offer general support for breast health, relief from symptoms of premenstrual syndrome, and it reduces menopausal hot flashes. In general use, it's known for supporting blood circulation and overall artery health. Research also suggests that Red Clover may help prevent heart disease as well as certain types of cancers.

Take some time to learn more about this gem of a plant, and plan to visit it in the parks and fields this spring and summer. You'll be glad you did.

Learn more about herbal medicine and find handmade herbal tinctures here.

Friday, March 20, 2015

On Kenneth Goldsmith’s Reading of Michael Brown’s Autopsy Report

On Kenneth Goldsmith’s Reading of Michael Brown’s Autopsy Report

The death of
black and brown people is Conceptual
to most white folks,
little more than a blank canvas
to splatter shades of red on.

The performance of autopsy
has the distinct rhythm of supremacy,
the heart of whiteness,
and bones of victims turned blue
from being submerged for far too long.

There is no I here, nor you, nor us, only IT
and even it is abstracted,
stripped of
all emotion, marrow and sinew
until all that remains
is a “text,”
a body
riddled with bullets
but lacking breath, and so there for the taking,
and profiting off of.

Kenneth! Wake up!
Michael Brown is not a “dry text,”
nor is Ferguson, Missouri
a place you can simply annex
and tuck away for use
in your ever expanding
literary wastelands.

I grieve. Kenneth, I grieve.
I reflect, resist, and re-envision,
but above all else,
I grieve.
My blood, like yours, is still tainted.
It struggles to remain red
In the face of an endless onslaught
Of Red White and Blue.
are nation full of white Houdini’s,
endlessly devising ways
for escaping responsibility,
all the while
remaining handcuffed
to our forgotten,
banished, selves.

I grieve, Kenneth.
I grieve. I grieve. I grieve.
I grieve in order to drown
this whole damned Project,
(the one that does things
like turn
the deaths of black and brown people
Conceptual Art)
in tears.
I grieve to drown IT in tears.
Once and for all.

Nathan Greenwood Thompson
March 20, 2015

Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Song of Corporate Personhood

The Song of Corporate Personhood
Look, there is a God! How else
can you explain this love Supreme,
this bestowal of a beating heart
upon a handful of made legal
documents? Mere paper
given breath, profit
making entity now human

Who could imagine
that within a mere
three or four years,
this little baby,
this precious little child
of the house of justice,
would grow so fast,
so tall, so strong that even
the most intelligent of us
sometimes mistake it for
an actual, full blood adult.

How extraordinary the way
its religious spirit has
so quickly matured,
to the point of being able
to discriminate
good from evil,
to give sermons
on the state
of health care,
and then lobby
for the right to control
the choices
of its own employees.

Oh, heavenly fathers,
will miracles never cease?
Will this man-child now
breeze through our elementary
schools, high schools, and colleges?
Will it run for Congress?
Will it win a Nobel Prize
for perfecting the formula
that transforms its own
shit and piss
into shareholder dividends?

Even the sky is no limit
for this One. This blood stained,
pockmarked beating heart.
Born of a corporate manger;
Nursed on the teats of men so holy
in their own, precious minds.

Nathan Greenwood Thompson
March 27, 2014

Friday, November 29, 2013

Thoughts Upon Standing Between the Republican National Convention Barricades, September 2008 - A poem

Photo credit: taliesin from morguefile.com

Thoughts Upon Standing Between the Republican National Convention Barricades, September 2008

this isn't the downtown st. paul i know,
home of handfuls
of partially abandoned buildings,
fair to middling corporations,
sleepy weekend streets,
and kits of pigeons.

no, this is somewhere else entirely,
a nightmare maze
of rusty fences, slabbed concrete,
and near dead silence
the day before
the beginning of the coronation.

i suppose i could go on the sly into gardens,
slice the stems of as many daisies
as i can possibly find,
return to the barricades
and slide them,
one by one
into the slats
to remind us all
of the beauty which springs forth
from the hells we're so prone to creating ...

but somehow
as i stand here
the sun glaring across
these tall, blackened gates,
such peace feels like a dream,
when so many bodies
lie dead in the streets
or are still warm in the ground
here and abroad,
their ghosts floating everywhere,
demanding to be housed
in our still beating hearts.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

How to Grow a Life

How To Grow A Life

Embrace the field you have,
no matter how shabby,
and breathe, deeply.

Take your shovel
and diligently dig,
until the ground
is good and loose.

Plant whatever seeds
you've been given,
gently cover them over,
and water daily.

When sprouts appear,
begin the watch
for the fierce, wild ones.

Do not rush to eliminate,
but practice being open
to elimination.

Love everything
that arrives,
and release to the earth
whatever doesn't.

Offer prayers
to the sun and the rain,
even if you don't
believe in doing so.

Forgive the world
for giving you a harvest
your mind couldn't possibly
dream of.

Bow to the field
you now have,
and breathe, deeply,
one final time.

*Revised NGT 11/24/13

Friday, June 28, 2013

I Celebrate Trolls

I Celebrate Trolls

“they write as though the great public crises were over
and the most pressing business we had were self-cultivation
and the fending off of boredom.”
Mark Edmundson, Harper’s Magazine June, 2013

I want to thank you.
My muse had gotten flabby,
a bit too much like the heart after living
half a lifetime
addicted to television, take out,
and tranquilizers.

I readily admit
that my verse had become
too insular, too opaque,
mostly because it barely
touches the page anymore.

Perhaps this is due to
the MFA program I attended,
or all those wicked teachers ,
some of whom still,
over a decade later,
follow whatever words I am able
to place,
gently or by force,
onto the page.

No, it was not their foreign policy
that did my muse in,
It was not their water cannons
of consideration and critique
that snuffed out my voice of protest.
No, I’d gladly drink
from that lake again
Because at least I can,
drink from it,
eat of its bounty
its flora and fishes,
without fear of being poisoned.

that’s what happened to me.
That’s what’s happened to
so many of us
You don’t know what it’s like
(I’m guessing – oh, the horrors of that self questioning voice, I know)
But you don’t know what it’s like
to be swallowed whole
by poverty,
teaching when it means mandatory
classes to the indifferent,
or by some other
40 hour a week job that isn’t
40 hours,
not by a long shot.

You don’t know, or you have forgotten
what it’s like
to be paralyzed
by the need
to have present in your life
anything that resembles
that which no one
who is poor
surviving under capitalism
can have – really -
without a struggle.

I understand your concern,
But I struggle to see
How America’s poets – as a whole – are to blame.
I am a poet.
I, too, long for more
direct grappling with this world
we’ve created that so benefits the few
at the expense of the many.
And I know I’m not alone in this.

I long for a society that reclaims
the true meaning of wasteful:
that of the rose, the crabapple, dogwood, magnolia, cherry
tomato blossoms the soil covered over
as if being
tucked in by its mother at bedtime,
a protection which lives on
long after the lights go out.

I long for world where we,
to stick a sword
straight through the heart
of colonial darkness,
and then do it.
Like Nike said,
Just fucking do it!
Take down this bloody patriarchal porn site
of white supremacist
military industrial
fossil fuel
driven global
for good.

Perhaps you are offended by my words.
If so, perhaps you might be
more careful
next time
in what you ask for.
You see, my longings are as vast as the Mississippi;
what I see as “pressing business” could fill every river that runs
across the entire earth.

I get it, what you’re aiming at.
We have gotten inferior
You’ve got that right buddy
Our collective angles obtuse to the very soil we’re made of
but I’m not speaking of poets here, Mark,
mark my words,
You’ve got that part wrong.

I celebrate you,
not because you have got it all right,
or all wrong

No, I celebrate trolls
for their ability to hang
on the oblique of society’s leaves,
to find the appropriate vein
and stick a needle in-
(anything sharp enough will do really),
to disturb the blood just enough
so that it might
right it’s course, reanimate
the four chambers
of our heart,
so weary from missteps,
so tender from
all these acts
of unwarranted aggression
we have committed.

Nathan Greenwood Thompson
June 27-28, 2013

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The New World

The New World

It is June 1905. The eminent physicist Max Planck has just finished lunch and is now sitting down to read his mail. Outside, blue jays yelling, marking their territory. All around them, a heavy rain, carrying away the gravel roads, yet again. Inside, dust, books, and the smell of day old smoke. The volume of mail: high. The prospects for sun before the day is out: low.

Physicist Brian Greene, in his recent book The Elegant Universe, describes this day as the one in which “the accepted scientific order had been overthrown”(23). He spends a paragraph on the day itself, and then moves into a discussion of the young Einstein’s thought process concerning the travel of light. In doing so, he leaves the reader with a mystery. He gives the reader Einstein, but what about Planck? What happened to Planck on the day he saw his entire worldview overturned?

He woke up. He got out of bed and walked through numerous doors. Eventually, he made it to his office, where he sat down and got to work on some problem or another. At lunchtime, he stopped to rest. This is essentially what happened before he began opening his mail.

Planck feels wet and cold. He squeezes himself into a corner of his chair and then picks up an envelope. He slits open the side, and then sighs. Thomson. He reads a paragraph, then sighs again. I wish he would move on and stop living off the electron already. He puts the letter down and looks up. His eyes fill with the world as it appeared to a single mapmaker in 1507 and for a moment, he forgets the mail. He becomes lost among the meridians of the New World, unable to swim his way out from under the blue he knows is North America. Breathing in, he sees Amerigo Vespucci putting pen to paper, manufacturing his navigational history in order to get himself on the map. Breathing out, he looks down at the latest copy of the Annals of Physics and wonders if he, too, has been tricked into putting his good name behind the well-crafted lies of others. This proves, Planck says to himself, as he swings the next envelope across his stomach, that pickles and mustard do not go well together.

He discovers several sheets of circular paper stapled together inside the next envelope. Each paper has several lines, which converge at the center, and are covered with writing. He notices, too, that the letters of the words grow smaller and closer together as they approach the center. Before reading a line, he thinks Hendrik. He bends down to get the envelope off the floor and, upon reading it, has his suspicions confirmed. Turning back to the letter, he finds the beginning. Max. This is Lorentz. I have tried to reproduce the contraction idea for you in a letter, but I am afraid it failed. He laughs. A branch hits the window and falls. Planck looks up, sees the rain rolling down the glass, and realizes that this is physics. As he picks up the next envelope, he wonders why the Spanish had it so easy in the New World, while he, and the rest of the physicists, keep hitting the walls of the Old World over and over again.

Bored with the side of the envelope, Planck begins, this time, by making a slit at the bottom. Then he lifts it to eyelevel, tilts it, and finds the contents stuck. Having had a long morning of formal meetings with stuffy university patrons, Planck decides to abandon his etiquette and go at it the way he imagines the poor do. He puts down his scissors, stands from his chair, and then tears the envelope in three. Sitting down, he begins reading. After a page or so, the first question that comes to his mind is who is this?

An hour later, Planck puts the paper down and looks out the window. Sun. I can’t believe it.

A few minutes later, he finds himself frantically searching the floor for the pieces of the envelope. He finds the address, somewhere in Switzerland, but no name. He picks the paper back up and scans it front to back. Nothing. He looks under his desk and finds an accumulation of dust to rival that of any barn, but no pieces of the envelope. Planck sits up and realizes that no one would believe him if he claimed the work as his own. Turning around in his chair, he thinks, I have to find that name.

Four hundred years earlier, the Spaniards were hopping from one island to the next, and getting the names right was the last thing on their minds. Bernal Diaz, who was there, is famous for his keen eyes and repetitive sentences. In his The Conquest of New Spain, for example, the statement “We called this place ______, and so it is named on the charts” is found in various forms throughout. Although the accuracy his work is often questioned, the truth of this statement is certain. Look at any map of North and South America today, and you will find the land heavy with the names the Spaniards threw out as they moved on through.

One such name is found on the tip of Mexico: “Yucatan.” Having finally made it the mainland in 1517, Diego Velazquez and crew attacked the natives and took what they could. The booty included two prisoners, promptly named Melchoir and Julian by the Spaniards. It is generally accepted that there was extensive questioning, probably by Velazquez himself, about the mainland. Above all, the Spaniards were alchemists of the word. Thus, anything the natives said instantly became a sign of gold. The one thing that did not translate into gold was the name of the land. The Spaniards came out of their meetings with the prisoners believing it was “Yucatan.” The prisoners came out of their interrogation having said nothing about the name of the land. What the Spaniards took for the name was in fact a discussion of the yucca plant, its cultivation and use in making bread.

However, the name “Yucatan” stuck with, among others, Velazquez, who most likely spread it to Cortes and the other Spanish captains. They, then, sent it back to Europe in their correspondences with the Pope, and with King Charles V. It is well known that, among the court of King Charles V, was one Gerardus Mercator, master mapmaker. Gerardus Mercator was famous not only for his maps, but also for his conferences on the state of cartographic thinking. King Charles, thus, often found himself waking to a convergence of eager cartographers and navigators. Each time this happened, the news would be spread all across Portugal and Spain. What began, then, as an error quickly became set down as truth on the world maps.

This ease of transformation is what the eminent physicist Max Planck was thinking about just before he picked up the envelope from Switzerland. He did not know much about the conquest of the Americas, however he did know that the conquerors possessed something he wanted. Namely, the power to take matter, any matter, and extract truth from it. Yes, he knew that the explorers sometimes lied to the public about what happened in the New World. He even hated people like Vespucci, whose lies were solely for personal gain, and had nothing to do with the pursuit of truth. However, there was something about those lies that fell within the pursuit of truth. He knew, for example, that the Aztecs believed in ritual sacrifice. He also knew that the conquerors believed this practice was a sign that the natives were barbaric and godless. Being an enlightened man of the early 20th century, Max Planck was fairly certain the Aztecs were in the wrong. However, no matter how much he tried, he could not get rid of the thought that, somehow, they were also in the right. Back and forth between the conquerors and the natives he went, seeing each perspective, on its own, as right. This thought only became more certain after reading the paper from Switzerland. However, there was still the problem of the name, for which he knew, there was no answer other than to keep searching for it.

Having exhausted all the conventional methods of searching, Max Planck, eminent physicist, decides to be bold. He takes his pen, penholder, and paperclips off his desk. He removes the journals, sets them on the floor next to the bookshelf. The clock he sets in the window and the rest of the mail, he carefully stacks next to the open door. He then closes the door, rolls up his sleeves, and, in a single shove, overturns the desk. Dust flies everywhere. Planck shades his eyes and waits. After a minute or so, the dust settles and Planck looks at the floor. Scattered amongst the dust-bunnies are a few pieces of torn, yellow paper. Planck bends, picks one of them up, finds half of a canceled stamp on its backside. He bends down again, gathers the rest, and then sits down at his chair. One by one, he turns each piece over to see if there is any writing on them. Eventually, he throws two of them back on the floor, leaving two in his hand. Out of these, he begins to decipher the handwriting and make a name.

After awhile, Max Planck, eminent physicist, looks up. He notices the sun fading behind the furthest tree in the university courtyard. He should be getting hungry, but thoughts of food are nowhere on the map for him. He puts the two pieces of paper in his pocket and stands for the first time in over an hour. It had taken him about forty seconds to read the name on the scraps of yellow paper. The rest of the time he had simply sat, staring at the map of the New World, wondering how it could all be true.

Now, as he walks across the room, he feels his feet hitting the floor a little harder than before. Reaching for the clock in the window, he feels himself draw in a breath and then hold it for just a little longer than usual. He notices the clock feels a little heavier and, so does his arm. However, none of this can blind him in the face of his main thought. It is like a beam of light that he chases over and over again, but never quite catches up to. He conjures up every list of names, in every journal he has ever read, but none of them contain the one he has. He thinks also of the lists of students, whose names sometimes become attached to their professor’s work, but that too is a dead end. The name he had lost, and now found, is nowhere, and also, everywhere.

As he turns his desk back over, Planck thinks about the meaning of the word physics. In his mind, he draws a line across the present day, and leaves physics to wobble on the border. If he had been an explorer in the New World, he would have been Velazquez. The others knew too much, or too little. Their names are either much more prominent, or entirely gone from the planet. However, Max Planck, eminent physicist, was born in the 19th century, not the 15th. His New World is much bigger, and also, much smaller, than that of the Americas. He maps it by choosing, editing out whatever appears to be failure. Entire visions of the galaxy, as well as the minutest details of matter, come to rest in his hands. And yet, here he is, stumped by the work of a single man whose name he has never heard before.

Outside, the sun has disappeared, taking the squabbling birds with it. Unable to stand it any longer, Planck heads for the door and opens it. Down the hall, he hears footsteps, sees shoes going around a corner. Planck closes his eyes begins moving, knowing that he will have to find his way out on his own. He follows the sound of the other, lifting his still heavy feet and breathing fast. Finally, silence, and then the creak of a doorknob. Planck skids to a stop. Startled, the other turns, opens his mouth.

“Who’s there?”

Planck lifts an arm slowly, making a weak gesture of friendliness. He cannot say what he cannot stop thinking.
The man at the door sees a shadow move slowly across the wall, but hears nothing. He waits for an answer and then, after a minute, turns and heads out the door.

In his mind, Planck can hear the words racing around a single loop. He wants to hear another voice, but as the man steps across the threshold, he knows there will only be one left: Max Planck, eminent physicist. Like Diaz, he repeats a single statement over and over again. He hears himself shout Who the hell is Albert Einstein! and then he opens his eyes. Each time, he hears it rattle through the walls, sees them fall to the earth in rubble.
Creative Commons License
Creative Writing the Dharma by nathan thompson is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
Based on a work at creativedharma.blogspot.com.