We are Charged with Remembering

Thunderheads north and west, easing into the sky like fists unclenching. Violets under apple trees already shedding tiny green apples. When is it not summer these days, when is the soul not yearning for something high and unfolding, intimating power.

Breezes not touching the heat, only moving it deeper into our breathing.

We walked for hours up and down the canal, shoulders brushing, stopping now and then to share water, trade the backpack. Cormorants floating between mild white caps, and later seals as the sun fell and we remembered what we are together.

Something happy, something simple, something unafraid of all the coming and going.

A sort of cosmic dread masquerading as depression passes yet again, leaving me tired but grateful. Chrisoula asks what’s wrong and I tell her that living in a valley as opposed to atop a hill is no longer working for me. River sounds in the distance, the blind horse panting in this unfamiliar heat. Ask what works and don’t wait on answers, just live it out.

We for whom church is a relationship, we for whom prayer is a way of living in language with those we are charged with remembering are family.

Honeysuckle blossoms, trailing ivy, wasps hovering over watermelon rinds I forgot to toss in the compost. My heart is a trout, the world a fast current. Working my way through a new series of chords, sevenths and ninths, something to with a body that’s otherwise mostly tired.

Sneaking glances at her reading in the other room, wondering what luck is and is this it. How quiet we are at breakfast, stirring our tea and coffee, watching hummingbirds dash into roses that everyone agrees this year are prolific. Profluent and prototypical?

Well, something that shouldn’t have happened that did, and that ended without precisely being over anyway. Between one sentence and the next, a brief stillness, sparrows congregating in an otherwise empty field.

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The Locally Relevant Mandate of Heaven

Roadside daisies, may I never forget to be thankful. The river bright with sunlight between high stone banks. Eagles overhead. A sense that anything is possible, or else I am visiting the interior Lascaux again, heart racing into the ancient familiar prayer: I will feed myself and teach you how to eat.

Chrisoula is Hansel, I am Gretel, that is what we settled on the night before last, fireflies high in the crowns of tremulous hemlocks, our voices carrying deep into the pasture. Fortune is incapable of intent, make your own or GTFO.

“The Man without Shoes” comes back to Saussure, realizes why he has been asleep for thirty-five years and decides to wake up and live again, however briefly and blandly. The Man Who Cannot be Contained By Any Contemporary Sarcophagi would like to speak with you about Emily Dickinson’s relationship to flora. Wormholes reaching unto the Christ we are.

Becoming docile, dependent, living well with all the decorations formerly used to keep me alive during an especially wicked dream. Dust motes in beams of Saturday morning sunlight, the cosmos has a pretty way of saying welcome home.

We share bread and a cold beer as the sun falls, everything around us aging faster than we want to say is just. Traffic on Route Nine, the river out back, Main street full of moths and feral cats. This is the full heart giving itself in love to itself, and this is the woman for whom holding it all together is the locally relevant Mandate of Heaven.

Imagine waking up alone and thinking oh right, I am the witch, being left alone is what happens to the witch. Photographs of long-dead dogs on the bureau alongside Bohm’s On Dialogue, Clavell’s Shogun, Dickinson’s and Gilbert’s Collected, half a dozen tarot decks, a rosary Fionnghuala made and a manila folder full of passwords from the nineteenth century. You walk a long time before finding a way out, don’t regret it, just be happy that what wanted to constrain you in eternal darkness lacked the right to do so.

The horses pace up to me at dawn for hay, the three of us talking things over before the world wakes up and teaches us we can’t. I mean, look, the witch never dies, the witch is always the one waking up and looking at everything broken and saying now what. Now what.

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Becoming Foolish

Reading Mark’s Gospel while the sun rises and birds sing. Who knows what will happen next. The sideyard lilac flowers longer than expected, and we continually admire it. If I close my eyes, the river out back sparkles with light, and the trout in it are untroubled by fishermen. When I was clever I was less alone, now I am becoming foolish the road is often empty.

Or else which I sometimes translated to or elves in order to elide how real the threat was. How quiet the morning becomes at a certain juncture! What we mistake when we cannot let go of the story we want so badly to be more than just a story.

The eyes of certain women, and the vision of certain others, and the image moving back and forth in my mind, always. Less confusion please! Driving and storytelling with the kids when they were little, dreaming big dreams that were mostly accommodated by a phase of fatherhood in which I was quite happy, relatively unworried. Is the writing good or bad is not the question, the question is are you writing, if you are writing then you are doing it right, and good and bad don’t enter into it. Surprised by moonlight, again. Will this sojourn never end?

Who does not respond when you indicate a willingness to be responsive? Remember that rest area outside Salem? All the shades of green in the maple trees and the birch trees and the mighty hemlocks we are yet to take down. Mowing the lawn stoned is what form of grace? Never underestimate Emily Dickinson I think walking past the graveyard where she is buried and not stopping for once in my life. Give me a crow and I will show you what becomes of the heart when good news gets hold of it and won’t let go.

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Sky of Falling Leaves

Whose eyes are these? Blue with hints of hazel, a sky of falling leaves. Whose vision? Whose body and what world and why so many wars? What fantasy am I enacting in language, here and elsewhere? What pattern is repeating, recursively generating a beautiful and self-reflective cosmos not immune to suffering?

How much am I required to understand and how much am I allowed to take on faith? What is possible in other words.

Coffee growing tepid while I work.

Writing in a darkened living room while the sun rises, listening to birds and now and then logging trucks barreling north on Main Street. Ownerless roosters crow near the property line, like the rest of us obedient to what at best is only dimly intuited. Half-assed prayers are characteristic of what grace?

We make plans to walk later to the Creamery for dinner, the kids gone for a few days, the weather just so. Sparrows grazing on rain-dampened flagstones. When I was growing up I fell into a pit and even though I was rescued, a part of me was not rescued. Soft clouds moving slowly overhead. There are demons in this heart, it helps to be clear about the nature of language, for they are not otherwise expelled.

We who sojourn through the Country of Turtles, errorless and bent on remembering what Jesus remembered on the shores of that lake in Galilee. Imagine marrying me and not taking seriously these poems! A fine wind off the hills worrying a flame that apparently can only be dimmed with our consent.

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Before Entering and After

Sitting in the truck bed outside Hruberic Orchards sharing wine from a green bottle, a poorly-rolled joint flaring in our eyes when we draw and gasp and exhale skyward. Ancestors and local haunts have pity on us, for we have gotten too good at erasing what becomes us. This memory and others binding me to a body we were collectively given to love.

And begin?

The crows were wilder growing up. Night fell earlier and lasted longer. Not all questions were askable, there was a lot you figured out by yourself. Nowadays when the catbird sings I remember the last summer before I met you, and my brief study of ignoscency, which you destroyed kissing me on enormous rocks at the swamp end of Fitgerald Pond. Where is the moon I ask but always looking down as if the point all along were not to actually know.

A few more days and the lilac will pass. Peonies and blue flag and the lush green of ferns. Everything was real with you all at once, I hadn’t learned how to live in proximity to my heart like that, especially intelligently. The world shrank and kept on shrinking and now look at me, bucketing compost to the main garden where you have nearly finished clearing the onion patch. There were lies and the lies arose from unexamined troubles but we are not by nature inclined to conflict. Sometimes I say to Jesus, look at this mad tangle of raspberry, I ought to cut it back or burn it out, and only then see on his face the radiant love of the creator for the created.

Taking off my shoes before entering, and after entering wondering how much time is left, which question I’ve been asking since before I could read, the answer to which has never changed nor satisfied: not enough. Cold tea, too tired to talk, we sit and listen to the neighbors argue over whose turn is next. Hummingbirds pass, and higher up, turkey vultures. Whoever dreams this dreams a happy dream indeed. In the Country of Turtles, where there are neither second nor prior thoughts.

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In A Nearly Ethereal Register

The lilac we agreed to let live blossoms now across multiple fields and planes, as if what perfects itself in us were at last being distributed throughout the cosmos. Black coffee at dawn, a moment of passing rain. What you cannot escape, ever, and what you name it to blunt the inevitable trauma. What shall we undo, given what we’re given?

Dogs hanging out truck windows driving by on Main Street. You alone know the contours of my heart masquerading as a mountain masquerading as a monument to surviving the death of love. Shall we drive north with tea and sandwiches in a cooler like the old days, shall we stop to walk in forests older than we are by a century?

Crows all morning and into the afternoon loosening folds of cumulus floating south by southeast. To have fallen in like this with a woman who is not afraid of storms is like Last of the Mohicans in a nearly ethereal register. The man who knows you only emphasize beginnings near the end, who invited him?

Light breezes floating in from the ancient Levant, settling the parts of me that cannot go on without Jesus. Traffic on Route Nine, maybe a passing airplane. Droning bumblebees. Now and then the neighbor’s chimes. But “ready to go,” “going” and “gone” all describe the same thing. A woman whose mouth refuses your god.

So yeah, who among us will be satisfied anymore with narratives of the grotesque? Who wants to travel to Boston only to jump out a fourteenth story window? Crows echo there what within me still knows love. Far beyond the bland patrimony of “for better or for worse,” this marriage.

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A Welcome of Some Kind

Mind is flat, unoriginal. Crows are blue if you look closely, I have no way of relating to them – or you – otherwise.

Was it bad? It was bad but it passed but I remembered almost perfectly and the memory has become a kind of cautionary story masquerading as identity.

Signifiers in the maelstrom, let us relax even these, let us let go of even these.

Deleted sentences, usually political in nature, about which I am unsure. Far hills of which Emily Dickinson was certainly aware, that much at least is certain. Overnight the world disappears and so far always comes back, and nothing else happens, and so here I am.

How in the days that come after the gathering end times we will weep and gnash our teeth and then begin again learning how to share, console, et cetera.

Power corrupts, love creates.

Morning rain, quiet and soft, the greening world a welcome of some kind, one I’d forgotten.

Coiled hoses. Ferns overrunning the yard where last year I planted one or two. Everything envelopes everything else.

So you spilled your morning coffee, so what.

Couples who call each other babe, wanting to dissect the semantics and intentions. Mating robins where the lilac is blooming. Remember being happy?

Upended tables are a form of the cosmos indicating what about order and function. What do you know that cannot be forgotten?

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A Cosmic Undulation of Surprising Joy

Oh, I don’t know. I’m tireder than I used to be and the moon moves around in the sky more. Going back to Bookchin to remind myself of those long nights in Burlington, listening to him in his living room, and arguing after with Dan, Cynthia, Linden and what-was-her-name, how do we save the world, how do we find the others who will help us save the world.

Listening to the radio driving like the old days. Struggling up through a hard tide, now is the time. Leaving the table rather than waiting on the river, done with gambling what was always meant to be shared.

Forget-me-nots by the front yard maple, a little field of them from last year’s planting, why yes I will stay a little longer, thank you.

Salting eggs, toasting bread. I have been scared a lot, and scared of a lot, but those days are ending. Rain-slicked quartz and other intimations of endurances that transcend me.

Photos of the wedding sure but the gardens are the picture of our marriage, alive and evolving, which we are finding our way away from, off into a new territory for which we have neither a compass nor a chart.

Four a.m. and the horses are out, wandering all the way down to the river and its lushness, so I waken the girls who corral and bring them back while Chrisoula and I work on the fence. Birds calling from hedge rows and hemlocks, the horizon softening what doesn’t want to soften in all of us. I haven’t been happy in a long time – since Jonas left Worthington really – and am only just now seeing it. Imagine the sideyard lilac is your heart, and your heart is not a bellows, and each drawn breath a cosmic undulation of surprising joy.

Later we’re all tired and don’t say much over breakfast despite theextra coffee. Sentence by sentence, poem by poem. Cardinals pass, pause briefly on the back porch, then take off for the neighbors who are putting out seed again, despite our pleas. Patches of sunlight on rain-soaked grass, traffic picking up in the distance. So much comes down to the day after and the way we explain how we arrived here.

Asleep a long time, and sleep punctuated by empty dreams, each one a stone at the bottom of a well.

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Sometimes Called to Travel

It’s the Monday after Orthodox Easter. I’m not hungry. And every leaf on the birch tree out back has a single drop of rain at its tip, inverting the world beyond it. Everything simplifies, or asks to be.

One wakes later than ususal, having found the way to the end of insomnia, and dresses for the outdoors. Trailing my fingers along the lilac bush, uprooting the remains of last year’s lilies. When we kneel to pray, our brain lights up the same way it does star-gazing. Possibility shrinks, taking the body with it. Lauds for this, lauds for that.

Cardinals chase one another through a side garden in which composted horse manure was recently dumped. Beyond the belief system, that which scaffolds the belief system, which is impersonal and makes no distinctions. Prisms in east-facing windows, empty wine bottles in which crickets sleep, dreaming of a world for which there is no name.

Fox tracks in a patch of mud near the horses. How tired one becomes in the Country of Turtles, always trying to find a way to rest. “Define rest” says Chrisoula and years pass in my little hut behind the main house, studying and practicing to please her. Rain-obscured sunsets. Tell me again why we are sometimes called to travel?

Fearlessness now and then at last, but not as a state to be clung to, only shared. How silver everything is at the precise moment, as if a promise made long ago was at last being considered, and not found wanting. Say less says the Lord and I do, I do.

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Between Empty and Nothing

Dusk. Everyone is at Town Meeting up the street, but I am sitting on the front porch alone watching sparrows pick through the grass along still-warm schist, ragged and gray, marking the front walk mostly otherwise unused. Across the street, a pink flowering dogwood resembles what I know to be true of my heart, that pure and wordy traveler who carries me with him through the world we co-create. What would I do without you is the seedbed of fantasy, beyond which there is only the willingness to become responsible for the end of projection. Then what. Then this: this this, in which we are not alone, as you see.

Who asks to be a virgin but the one who is not only not afraid of the other but longs to embody that fearlessness, the better to instruct us all on the end of war and conflict and related forms of suffering. Imagine sitting outside long enough for the traffic on Route Nine to fade, for the birdsong to quieten, and then in the presence of starlight and hints of rain to hear only the river, a persistent low thrum, as if out back beyond the horses a Goddess were insisting you are safe and all will be well for all. Dreams come and go, and so do the dreamers, which levels the specialness inherent in imitating anything at all. Homemade egg rolls and fried eggplant, washed down with cool raspberry leaf tea. A prayer that opens and closes all activity, including eating, writing poems, and listening carefully to what is being indicated. What is being indicated. At the center, which She signifies as both spaceless and timeless, even a hint of non-denunciation of ownership or possessiveness at all is forbidden. What do you learn letting go. What is the difference between empty and nothing.

Imagine the next breath as a country you will visit by divine decree, different from any other country you have ever visited, yet in which you can only be at home. Again and again one comes back to the wonder of what cannot possibly be and yet is, unmistakeably. These sparrows are my family, we are together Christ, Who is entirely collective, and this old parsonage is where what is sacred calls me back to us. I have no body. And begin.

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