Sampson Starkweather

Some General Instructions

When faced with a moral or ethical dilemma
always use your imagination,
do not be alarmed by asparagus pee
or its cousin, beet-pee, there is no guide to being alive
just a lot of electrons and time, unfortunately
it’s true, people cannot be trusted,
but do it anyway. It’s great! Trust me.
I have proof. If you encounter a beached whale do not call
the authorities, at least not right away, take some time
to walk around the large mammal, you should not waste
the opportunity to touch one of mother nature’s most astonishing creatures,
look it in the eye, and if the feeling comes over you, say something
to the whale, for far too long we have neglected whale-human communication,
and after it all, it’s beached, and could use some company, they travel in pods
and are not accustomed to being alone, so I imagine it would be very scared,
and maybe for a few seconds, exhilarated to be on land, an entirely different
surface, surrounding, and set of rules, I won’t say world, but we can agree
on “otherworldly,” as if one is suddenly flung onto an un-understood materiel
or profane sphere, but of course it can’t breathe, so about now you should probably
be calling the nearest whaling authorities, assuming you have a cell-phone, but you should,
if for no other reason than beached-whale emergencies, but also so you can simply call all
the people you love anytime you want, so you can hear their voices and talk to them
about nonsense things or make plans to see the movies, or dump your problems and fears
on them, which is okay, but try to allow them time to dump their problems
or anxieties on you too, or at least let them talk— this, I’ve found
is a fantastic time to fold some laundry,
if you work with people, you should probably know their names, think of it
as currency that you can buy things with, in this scenario, work is not unlike a bodega,
for the most part you should Bcc when writing to large groups of people, but sometimes it’s nice to Cc everyone and pretend it was an accident, and then without warning it’s like this big party where everyone can see everyone else and maybe think of some of them and what they might be doing or remember some time they got drunk and took fake family portraits gathered around
a giant mounted moose-head at either some really fancy, or really sketchy bar, or you biked
to the beach and talked about publishing and a new kind of poem and the importance of
creating arcs in manuscripts while not really believing it, and drinking cans of weird beer
with some regional quality to them that makes you feel a part of some secret, and somehow impervious to time until you realize the exquisite sunburn you’ve acquired, of which you will be caught picking dead skin from in an editorial meeting on Monday but not really care because the girl who caught you could never understand the complexity and radiant circumstances behind such a sunburn, so you doddle something sexual or comic or both,
the point is there are reasons, that are beautifully beyond validation, to Cc large groups of people from different parts of your life from time to time so they can get to know each other or at least open the channel to the possibility of communication or who knows, LOVE, or
at least, the pleasure one gets from reading a list of email addresses
of generally creative and intelligent people,
toast depends on the toaster, period,
there are such things as Japanese-apple-pears, but for reasons we don’t have time to go into here,
they only grow in New Zealand, and watch out, apples in general are much juicer in New Zealand, people live a lot longer there too because they have nothing to do,
go ahead, ruminate on that for a while…good, now where were we, oh yes
taking a saltshaker into a tomato patch is never a bad idea,
do not underestimate the gravitas of sandwiches,
one should make a sandwich with great care and love and imagination
sure, you could say that of all things, but it’s not true, you don’t need much imagination
to take out the trash or love to the do the dishes, sandwich-making is on a higher plain
similar to the holiness of jumping, science and experience cannot explain why, for no
apparent reason, humans will jump, however it appears to happen less as one grows
older, my advice is to make it a habit to jump every now and then, imagine what people
will think seeing an adult just jump, imagine the surprise and joy you can enact inside
people merely by a random jump, poetry does this, poetry is constantly jumping, which
is one reason those of us who love it, love it, and probably not one of the reasons
that those who don’t love it, don’t love it, people who don’t love poetry jump less
than people who love poetry, and that’s a fact,
writing a poem does not make you sensitive or dorky or deep
it just makes you poor, but don’t let that stop you, there is pleasure in writing poems
that is like fixing a problem or building a house, okay maybe not quite like building a house,
but building something beautiful out of wood, something that perhaps you can use,
even if in an unconventional way, although it can be hard sometimes
to do, but don’t be paralyzed by a poem or an un-poem, meaning the poem
you have yet to write, you can relax, in the grand scheme of things no one is really
going to read it, besides perhaps a few friends who know it’s just a poem with no value and yet  cherish it, or more likely forget it, but eternalize it regardless, without effort or will,
and if it happens to be good or have the luck to do what poems can sometimes do,
it becomes a part of those few who happened to read it, and not unlike a gland or organ
will lie inside us, dormant, until the time comes for it to synthesize some substance
into our bodies that temporarily saves us, besides there is nothing that can’t happen
in a poem, and who doesn’t want to a little bit of that!, so just put it in play
and stay attuned, I mean you wouldn’t daydream during a racket ball game
would you, well maybe you would, but you might get a red rubber ball smashed
in your crotch too, food for thought,
wear clothes that fit, no excuses, whenever possible
try to have your picture taken standing in front of giant paintings, it’s not important
what kind, but ideally, the more abstract, the better, when viewing art
it is important to look at it from a distance until a general impression is formed,
then to get closer and closer until the work is totally unrecognizable,
there is a name for this phenomenon and you should learn it and use it as much as possible
at parties, drugs, alcohol, and sex should be deeply experimented with,
but so should forgiveness, kindness, and empathy, cocktails of the stuff!,                       
smiling is the shit, seriously, I know it’s not cool to talk about, but just do it, a lot!,
it will make all those complicated organs and viscera inside you work better,
think of smiling as a tax-break
for your vital organs, and you know what, your unvital organs too, I’m sure the tonsil
and appendix and spleen are all lifted of a burden each time you smile, and what’s even better
is to make others smile, which might not help your viscera much,
but it will make you happy, and there are very few things,
perhaps none, that will make you happier than making another person smile, and assuming
there is such thing as a soul and or spirit, it’s safe to say making people smile is the equivalent
of food and light and oxygen and water in this life as we know it, come to think of it,
the spleen is pretty important, laughter too is vital, and more importantly will give you
a chiseled jawline, when flying
try to bring a range of reading material, always back up
your files, one trick is to email yourself all your poems, hold on to the dream
of getting hacked and the hacker turning out to be a famous publisher who wants to publish
your collected works, be kind to animals, remember people are animals too,
a general appreciation of death is healthy, I think, at any time you have the choice
to do the New York Times crossword puzzle, or get up and visit the grave
of a family member or friend, have you ever gone to visit someone’s grave,
there is nothing like it, and afterward you feel sad but strong and you can feel and smell
and taste things differently, at least for a day or two, until you’re swallowed up
by internal to-do lists and allergic reactions to shellfish,
if you see a gorilla, I don’t know,  just try to appreciate it,
surrealism can be fun (partake), if you work in an office make an effort to be mischievous
and creative, paper airports por ejemplo, or take Wallace Stevens for example,
before executive meetings he’d have his secretary pick up delicious sticky buns
from the best bakery in Hartford, “extra sticky,” then place them in the middle
of the table for the hungry execs, of course he made sure his secretary didn’t bring
napkins, and as the execs devoured them, a certain panic and confusion and
embarrassment settled, an internal weather, leading to great pleasure
for its architect and only later its victims, which I believe should be considered
an extension of Mr. Stevens’ poetry, although maybe I made this up,
but that only illustrates my point further,
tennis courts are without question more interesting at night,
fears, trains, and dreams are all related, but I’ll leave it to you to discover how,
people are often afraid of the ocean, and they should be,
this is the part where someone says people are afraid of what they don’t understand,
but that’s baloney, I don’t understand most things, and most things
that I truly love deep down are utterly beyond me
and likewise I am afraid of the things I do understand, like getting hit by a truck
or developing heart-disease or my friends and family growing old and dying, 
but getting back to the ocean for a minute, I have found that there are at least two methods
of entering the ocean that redefine the sublime,
the first is to lie on a beach-towel, or if you’re a brave enough soul, directly on the sand
on a hot sunny day and to stay there thinking thoughts or whatever it is that you do when you lie still and close your eyes, until you start to sweat and feel your skin
begin to burn, then, and this works well with a friend, to bolt upright, and run as fast as you can
toward the sea, not stopping until you are knocked down by a wave,
the second method is start walking at a methodical and deliberate pace without stopping
from the parking lot on a windy day when the water is still cold, and stripping off
all your clothes on the way as you continue to walk, without looking back, right into
the freezing ocean with a serene face and zombie-like determination
through wave after wave until you your feet can’t touch anymore
and you are essentially floating, be careful,
people do weird things around bridges
and somehow this is comforting and the way it should be,
snow can be annoying and romantic,
you should not tip based on your emotions, and remember gypsy cabs factor the tip into the fair, but you should tip them anyway, because it will make you both feel better,
when tipping at a bar don’t worry if when you go to put the tip in the jar,
the bartender suddenly turns around and doesn’t see you,
go on with your drink, with your night, with your life,

somehow the bartender always knows.

Sampson Starkweather's First 4 Books are now available from Birds, LLC.

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