As If The Heart Were A Library

Standing near the hemlocks near midnight, shivering star-gazing. Names you forget, names you will not, ever.

And begin.

Even empty-handed. Even broken-hearted.

Opening the barn door at five a.m., the scent of skunk pervasive and moist, going slowly to avoid a confrontration. Dogs barking on the far side of the river. Cold breezes stirring flakes of snow across dark ice at the driveway’s edge. This, too, is love.

Gathering baling twine to be recycled. Suddenly there are all these ways of referring to the moon, as if the heart were a library the mind by necessity visits to study its name and function.

An emphasis on shades of blue that feels inspired, cosmic, pertaining to what we mean when we say the word “God” and are appeased.

Sifting sugar to make frosting for Fionnghuala’s birthday cake which, days later, remains only partially-eaten.

Waking early to pray and write, is there any other life.

It is possible to be in error, I have gazed into the mind which errs, I have seen the root of the problem, I am living the inquiry which resolves it.

Wind wracking the house, electricity out, winter tapping the bones in me with ice.

More Dylan please, more Dickinson. More waking early to talk in the kitchen over tea about what is broken and can be healed and what is broken and will never be.

Holding hands in bed for a moment, reminders we are not alone, will never be again. Oh Christ let me treasure only what is treasurable.

Categorized as Sentences

That Widening Cosmic Maw

Pillared clouds where the river emerges out of wintering hills. Everything cold grows colder.

Broken furniture scattered along the sidewalk. Every window in the old church a block away broken and dark.

Everything dark grows darker.

Snow squalling, wind splitting the air into shrieks only I can hear. Chrisoula’s purple jacket down by the horses moving as if there were a body in it.

You reach your unworthiness, your self-hatred, and discover in the darkness there a willingness to murder, maim and make war. Imagine if all the pain in the world were real.

Crows on the lilac bush, too damn close to the house. Sophia reminds me that witches do not go quietly, adjust your expectations of what happened – and will happen yet – accordingly.

Sleeping on the couch again, drinking black coffee in the barn again. You call it a love song, she said, I call it a defensive screed against the vulnerability true love requires and which you are perpetually and apparently inherently incapable of managing.

Who is against us, who is not.

Jack Gilbert’s shitty last poems, the first edition of A Course in Miracles. Sitting in the dark with Emily Dickinson, that vast hunger and unrepentant anger, that widening cosmic maw. So this is what it means to be scared.

Everything slows down but don’t call it stillness, that’s somebody else’s job. The Judge laughs at the sentences you write in His prison, He doesn’t know your name, He doesn’t care you have a family.

Corpses rising from a field of graves arguing you are given to be claimed.

Categorized as Sentences

Nothing to Pursue

The moon was perfect the other day at six a.m. hovering just above the southeastern horizon, chalk-colored and sharp. How slowly one can – and does – make tea! Ice flowers melting slowly as the sun rises, innocence clarifying what is always innocent. And Jack, the blind Appaloosa, last of the locally-famous Back Acres herd, crying out before dawn, and me – old and tired and slowing down – ambling through snow with arms full of hay to feed him. Answered prayer, opened heart. The aesthetic at last settled, leaving nothing to pursue, alleluia alleluia. One does miss the forest, there amidst the trees. Remembering what is next, forgetting what is gone.

Categorized as Paragraphs

A Little Dot

We talk about justice as the afternoon lengthens. Make coffee and sit by the radiator. Sunlight decanting across the side yard, juncos passing like little pilgrims. Ron died last week and I cried when I found out. It has to do with hunger, it has to do with knowing what to do with fire. The first time I saw Jupiter was the beginning of the long search for whatever order prevails after God vacates the Heavens. I played Gretel for twenty years before tiring. “It’s better this way.” Or else it doesn’t matter. In Boston I stepped out of a fourteenth story window and lingered on unseasonally warm winds like a discarded napkin. It’s always Lent in my heart. “You got lucky” – how many times have I heard a doctor say that in my life? Later we fold laundry together, and later yet I sit quietly by while she knits. Pretending to write, pretending to read. Stars whirling through the unexplored cosmos, and Jesus a little dot in the distance going away.

Categorized as Paragraphs

Written in the Dust

In August a bobcat crossed the backyard and I told nobody.

I bought my first birdfeeder in college, hung it outside the fourth story dorm window to everyone’s amusement, and one afternoon wrote these lines: “there are wars at my window / and the smaller birds starve.”

Snow flurries in cold sunlight, may I never forget to be grateful.

Something hurt in me, something lost.

Something concerned but unsure of how to express concern.

It’s February, just above freezing, Chrisoula hangs laundry off the back porch line, and I sit with coffee in the dining room writing and rewriting sentences with a casualness befitting a Child of God who knows their Father in Heaven loves them.

A longing for the dance floor and what comes after the dance, even now.

In October we traveled to the ocean and admitted we did not know what love was, but that we did not believe it was possible to learn with anyone else, and so we would continue into a country beyond marriage.

It has to do with the fear of death, which is a fascination with death, which is a form of arrogance in the face of God, who we really do fear.

It rains a lot here and there isn’t much to say.

My father in his grave, his mother in her grave, the storm that ruined them both settling in what for now we will call “my heart.”

Time passing in a dream.

The backyard birch tree passing in a dream.

The dream itself passing but not “in a dream.”

I never wanted to join a coven, only ensure that those who did were allowed.

Trust me, you wouldn’t like it here.

Behind the church, what is written in the dust there.

Categorized as Sentences

Intersecting with Other Spirals

It’s Boston that undoes me. Stepping out a fourteenth-story window into a maelstrom facing the harbor. There are no saviors where we go to work out our salvation, only wooden tables with heavy puzzles on them, and hurricane lamps made of blown glass. Even followers have to lay down their defenses, remove their shoes, et cetera.

Standing on the back porch listening to the river. Do you remember when the sunlight was everywhere?

Watching her talk, her head turning to her right, forgetting to listen again, imagining an old story retelling itself to itself, the spiral of us intersecting with other spirals. What works, what doesn’t and what really doesn’t work.

What questions are you ready to answer and what questions will you never in a thousand years consider answering.

Stones at the bottom of the river.

Living in a future for which I did not plan. Scriptural necessities foregone. In her throat, a specifically Christian hymn arises. Abide where, and how, and with whom. You want explanations and justifications, what can anyone say that will satisfy you, you who are never satisfied? Wind blows here, wind blows there. After the marriage, a love that does not call attention to itself, nor otherwise ask for a name.

After the storm, moonlight.

Categorized as Sentences

Who Became A Crow

Morning meditation interrupted by crows and then stitched together by crows, and then there is only Christ, who became a crow in order to reach me through the ages.

Studying a sleeping possum curled in hay in the barn.

The life you did not get to live with me, and the life you are given in its stead accordingly, in which together we are born again.

Light streaming through the stained glass window on the stairwell, through which the church steeple is visible.

Mercy is the restoration of justice to the heart that believed too long in fear.

Forgive me!

Snow flurries spiraling through frigid sunlight, the sparkling making me laugh out loud, who needs diamond rings, who needs gold-plated watches.

Who needs to kill elephants for ivory.

Coming home in the heart of a woman who was taught by other – older – women how to leave the forest and make a home in which all are fed and held and need never leave nor be left.

Imagine the end of shopping for cures.

Coming back to the hearts of men who find their way to happiness and shared peace by virtue of a light comprised of shared prayer.

We who are yet erroneous are yet forgiven.

Starlight at two a.m., working through drafts of an essay on what happens when you are finished with Jesus, the insomniac who no longer fears loneliness (having been ferried by Chrisoula to the other shore, e.g., the love one knows when one no longer looks for love in the world), falls to his knees to praise the sisters and brothers who prepared him for this altar.

Lines in the sand reflective of tides, which are reflective of the moon, which are reflective of the Law of Gravity, which is reflective of Love.

Lauds and praise!

Meditating at six a.m., crows crying loudly near the compost, near the river, and the heart remembers the stillness the mind has yet to accept it is.

Consider the yurt, consider roller-skating, consider celibacy.

Yes, I am the man who forgives the killer, who goes with him to the gallows, who will let no Child of God die lonely or alone.

Consider the happy insomniac polishing sentences in a quiet house while snow falls, which is the cosmos remembering itself almost perfectly.

“Please don’t let me fall,” she cried and nearly a hundred sixty years later she is still crying, may God forgive us all.

Categorized as Sentences

A Good Dream

The crescent moon rests yellow and slender on western hills, two hours or so after dusk. Hand-painted lampshades, sprigs of dried lavender, kisses with dry lips. All fantasy is a defense, and all we are called to do with defenses is lay them down. The kids are gone – out with friends – so Chrisoula and I do chores in the dark, trading the flashlight to hang waterers in the run-in, our voices sturdy in the presence of the dead, who are ever with us. Maple tree branches define a swathe of sky nearly perfectly and it is enough because it is more than enough. It was a good dream, the dream we had, why worry now what it means that it ended. A blind Appaloosa in the absence of moonlight, a clenched fist opening. What never happened may yet and if doesn’t so what. Snow falling all night, on the living and the dead, the hours growing longer the nearer one gets to awakening.

Categorized as Paragraphs

Not the Narrative You Think

It is January now, the winter I did not ask for, the gift I shall endeavor to be worthy of.

The sun mostly gone, the air heavy and damp.

Who is listening is a form of “who cares.”

The birch tree dark with snow between the house and the pasture reflects an alien will yet hidden from me.

Everywhere there are lines I cannot say are meant to be crossed or are not, ever.

What else is new, am I.

We leave the Christmas tree up weeks beyond usual, as if we are about to let something deep and primitive go, for which this tree shall be both ritual and symbol.

First was idealism and coffee, then the wedding, and years later, the marriage.

In the Country of Turtles, I learned how to walk in the forest but not how to find my way out.

Chrisoula and I meet several times a week in a chapel neither one of us was ready for but together longed to build in order to worship Her.

Whatever amen you want whenever you want it.

When you are ready I am here, student/teacher, lover/witch, loser and whatever losers are when they bring their losses to God.

She keeps asking what happened, what happened was I agreed to do the difficult work my dead father and his mother asked me to do.

Lost again in hazy nethers the dying sometimes conjure, trying to say goodbye.

Becoming nonviolent in the War on Intimacy.

Chickadees come to the window sill, the remains of our broken heart are everywhere.

Polaroids from childhood are not the narrative you think they are!

When you lay down all defenses – including the one you erected against the witch – what happens?

Under Bo trees, up on crosses, on the far side of the far field, where the blind horse stumbles and cries out to us.

What else is new, now that everything is the same?

Categorized as Sentences

What We Call the Surface

Shoveling after midnight, snow falling so softly I cannot help but be amazed, stopping to listen, remembering that why and how are the same question, answered the same way. The neighbor’s wind chimes touched by breezes I cannot feel. Will I ever know love?

Carrying hay to the horses at 4 a.m., the storm wild around us. Christmas lights blurred in the distance, plows already shoving snow off the back roads. When I was a child, I was not allowed in certain ways to be a child, hence the man I am: this man.

Later spilling tea trying to leave the kitchen quietly, on my knees cleaning up, smiling. You have to see how the twentieth century rendered moot so many of our prayers and plans, you have to make adjustments. May I be content with what is given, may I be happy in these shoes, may I be free of hurt and anger.

Footsteps then in the upstairs hallway, voices murmuring, the family waking up. Checking basement traps, opening barn doors so the feral cats can escape if they want. There are trails everywhere, it doesn’t mean you have to travel.

Somewhere up there the moon shines like pure quartz, unaware of what we call the surface. When you can’t find your way, poetry will help you find a way, that is the promise I make and have never yet broken. You’re saying limits matter and I’m agreeing but we’re still in conflict, why?

Gray dawn, daughters lugging water, snow falling faster. People used to talk about how witty I could be, nobody understanding it was a defense against rejection, a manifestation of fear, a cry from the heart for love. Look, there – in the distance – a light.

Stew with dumplings and apple pie, may I never forget to be grateful. The world floats away, one more snowflake – one more space in which once upon a time a snowflake fell – one more loveliness I release with a glad heart, alleluia alleluia alleluia.

Categorized as Sentences