// matthew sherling
JOSHUA TREE EXPERIENTIAL WORKSHOP
every protagonist is a detective,
& in the desert,
everyone is a detective.
the first thing the desert teaches
is apocalypse means
lifting the veil.
the first thing the veil teaches
is that we need a protagonist.
the first thing the apocalypse teaches
is that the veil isn’t there.
the first thing a protagonist teaches
is that we need productive questioning.
i accept my mask
& i accept the wind trying
to push it off my face.
when the mask won’t stay
on my face, i say, “the mask
literally won’t stay on my face!”
& the teacher who gave it to me
says, “gentle reminder to stay quiet.
if you’ve spoken during this time
what does that say about who you are?”
the desert appears more neutral
than it is. no actual repetition –
even space doesn’t repeat itself.
constant humming. sound without meaning.
a wound having to deal with clumsiness.
don’t apologize before you speak –
you’re not here to upset anyone.
the light wakes up in the middle
of my head without warning.
in the desert there’s the foreshadowing
of the city, & in the city shirts hang
from every fencepost trying to be sold.
in the desert i fill up this notebook
with every star i’ve ever eaten.
a tree has a bird in it
& the river is the instrument
behind every song it sings.
we encounter another figure
within every figure we encounter.
perhaps there’s romantic tension.
perhaps when we stop calculating
how old each thought is
we will not need a calculator.
each morning i walk in the desert
& wave at each cactus
no matter how aggressive it looks.
yes i am producing chaos again
with all this silence.
i close my eyes
& a flower falls out of my mouth.
i walk to the end of the desert
& cast my net toward rest
then bury my net all the way
into a stone. half of a stone
can be broken in half & in half
& what can we see
when all of us put our arms
around each other,
when all of us have holes
& all of us have wind whistling
thru us. i wanna talk about it,
& i love what you find to bring me.
hinges are my favorite part
of an opening
but sometimes you have to discard
a hinge, & it’s super fucking easy
to find a hinge.
buy 2 doors & get your third one
free. open 3 doors
& you’re suddenly talking ad nauseum
about nothing, saying “I” until
it makes you nervous.
there’s a window that never closes
completely. i fly inside a room
looking for pens. any thing
at any given time is every thing
included in it. for example,
when i thank the desert,
i am thanking the people
in it with me, the sky that enfolds it,
the blunt shards of glass
that encircle the dilapidated shacks,
the dogs yelping for someone
to prove that nothing’s wrong,
the sun turning its volume up.
when one travels from the ocean
to the desert one realizes
the desert looks like what it’s not.
an ancient seabed.
& in your body the ocean & earth
are fucking, & the sky
has its androgynous hands
around each of your shoulders
after all this time.
i mean, the most common death
in the desert is drowning.
my throat feels dry
just thinking about it,
& the horny toad’s still guarding
its heart’s droplet,
& the protagonist
is still asking questions.
the commas still don’t wanna be periods,
& the periods, when they do appear,
are more like pebbles
than stop signs,
pebbles you can move out of the way
if you want to,
& each pebble is a small idea,
& each fractal pattern
the mud makes is another
rebellious math experiment.