Sometimes I invent emotions. I make them out of neon and punctuation. Semi-colons, for instance, are seminal to an understanding of linen.
Commas are drops of hesitation. Colons are bold.
Somewhere at the end of a sentence, I rub the night. Sparks fly. I follow a pain to the end of time. I live in a palace of thought. Everything is composed of butter, chlorophyll, and the ancient molecules of midnight.
I have a Cubist tongue and a Dada nose. My haircut used to be a garage. Next time you see a ghost at the supermarket it might be me. Then again, it might also be Thomas Paine, or Pablo Picasso.
I define pain by its weight. Paintings hanging crookedly on walls.
I watch The Kinks on YouTube, and redeploy them as a proposition.
Each day I run past the house of the symphony conductor I see him holding a glass brain with a fugue in it.
Music does this to people. Makes them wonderful and cogent, like the smell of dirt in front of the radio station just after the pansies have been watered.
Do you see the way the earth grips a tree? It is actually a tree gripping the earth.
I do not yet have a name for this emotion. The emotion itself is incomplete. But what emotion is ever whole and self-contained? Ask that woman over there, laughing and eating popcorn. She will tell you that the caliber of all emotions depends on the diameter of Tucson. But that’s only because she is from Tuba City, and is watching a movie about blank-eyed underwear-clad zombies.
I hate the fourth of July.
I prefer Halloween.
Which is why I’ve never been to Texas.
But I ask you: what are your specific needs? Say anything you want. I can always use a little ambiguity. I love ambiguity.
Emotions are difficult to pin down because each word has different properties. In the Museum of Invisible Injuries, for instance, the word ‘cook’ actually means ‘combination.’ And if you say the word ‘bone,’ an Iranian woman appears from the shadows with a huge gem on her finger, a ring that symbolizes the disembodiment of gherkins.
An emotion is thick and puzzling like a forest. It takes a long time to fully feel it. What is the point of becoming president if all you feel is power? Even lawn mowers feel power. Power is not where it’s at. Where it’s at is infinity. The exhilaration of light amid the pornography of black.
“Inventing Emotions” is reprinted from Larynx Galaxy (Black Widow Press, 2012).
John Olson is that author of eight books of poetry, the most recent of which is Larynx Galaxy, which Black Widow Press published in 2012. He published Backscatter: New and Selected Poems in 2008. He is also the author of three novels, including Souls of Wind (Quale Press), The Nothing That Is (Ravenna Press), and The Seeing Machine (Quale Press). He is the recipient of The Stranger’s genius award for literature in 2004 and three Fund for Poetry awards. In 2008 Souls of Wind was shortlisted for a Believer Book of the Year Award, and in 2012 he was one of eight finalists for the Artist Trust 2012 Innovator Award. He is currently at work on another novel tentatively titled My Other Car Is A Bed In Paris. His blog, Tillalala Chronicles, may be accessed at www.tillalala.blogspot.com.