Saturday, May 31, 2008

Euphoria Beckons

A blackboard on which two words are written: "Gateway" and "Orientation." Backing out of a long tunnel of sleep, a premonition comes which, upon checking email later, turns out to be correct. The thing about grass is, it keeps on growing after you've cut it. "That's a lot of zero's."

Within arm's reach a white crystal bearing many scars, sunglasses that pinch my ears, a wash cloth, a purple ink pen, a dead dandelion, tomato seedlings, Chrisoula's business phone, artwork by Fionnghuala.

Visible out the window: lilac, a canoe, a car that hasn't gone anywhere in over a year, an open door.

What if I wrote the twenty sentences over the course of the day instead of just in one sitting? What if I took them seriously? Who says I don't?

I woke after the sun had risen - was well up in fact - and the light disoriented me. Yet I still had well over an hour to work before anyone else got up. At about 1:30, I stood by the bathroom window looking out into the back yard thinking, in spring and summer, the darkness is different. I want to say it's lighter but the truth is it's actually full. Of what? I can't say exactly. But it's lush, it shimmers, it has that quality. It's open somehow, or it contains barely some desire that would consume you.

The chink of spoons against cereal bowls returns me where. Another cup of coffee, weekend chores, my family. Euphoria beckons but I've already landed, here, in the twentieth sentence.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Arrive, Deliver Us, Here

In this world - the way it is - the way I am in it - what is forbidden - too little. The royal "we." Punctuation is a way of scoring a sentence. Or setting the pace. Now I am thinking of Chesterfield, the dip at Route 143 where I used to canoe with my father, and now look for goslings where the parent geese are like sentinels in the flooded grass.

I'd believe you more if you grew lettuce from seeds.

The stack of unread books grows higher and higher. People mistake it for driftwood but no. On the shelf, where the illustrated Grimms was, a gap. "Make for it, as fast as you can." Where I was happiest, it was coldest, and the dream of you beside me was like some burning benevolent cancer.

An old man, I watch one foot follow the other like albino ants in strictest moonlight. Indulgence is love, one kind anyway, so please, get over it. Yet going there meant acknowledging again a certain loneliness, a certain dissatisfaction. You could hear the fox gnawing its own leg, having a relationship to pain that was otherwise unimaginable. You want proof, you want utter, then have another drink.

We were left with clothes hangers, old poems. It was a visit I wasn't supposed to make but what else could I do given word of you. Is it true then that in the end all poems - all sentences - eventually arrive, deliver us. Here where again I can feel us on that road, still.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Butterflies Looming, A Mountain

Stars, scattered soap crystals. "Well, ain't you the gloomiest mister I ever did've met." As soon as I said there was no narrative I realized how little I had learned. What it was was, was a search for three and four syllable words, especially those with "L" sounds in them. Seriously.

Where the road bent north, a cloud of butterflies. Looming, a mountain (named for an affect) longed to be included in a certain letter. There were dried cranberry beans in an old canning jar, coffee grounds, and fresh peaches in wicker basket. But you never left Albany to join me. It was January, so cold that year in Burlington, and all night I walked with the idea of you while snowflakes melted against my neck.

Going west up Sam Hill Road has traditionally meant . . . ghosts. The greenery past the old McCarthy land is "bear country." Accordingly, we made a travois, a pile of smooth stones, and listened to the river while the sun fell beyond the far line of maples. It was a way to do that, to be "in" desire. And after, well, after. After, I read you Ron Atkinson poems and we discussed the peril inherent in allowing grief a voice.

There was, then, in the tall grass, an antique nail, identified by the shape of its non-pointy end. Pale wild Morning Glory the color of your skin. Is it "garden" or "garter?" he asked seriously, there in the forest. It was a bridge crumpling, I answered, and we are watched most carefully by an aged bruin dreaming of an enormous lake.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

You Landed Face North

Face north and that's different. The dip that a swallow makes as it arcs. Count to ten when you finish a sentence then quickly write whatever comes to mind. A nest is an example of exquisite engineering. Do trees shed their leaves in winter so more sun will reach the ground, is that what Mother Nature had in mind. Father Night, Mother Nature. It cannot be said enough that most writing is merely a cry for response. The male mallard is proof that God has an excellent eye for color. Ride with me, I need you, we're going back. Is enough enough and if so when. Hark for we broke our journey to Toronto in three places. I am not opposed to edits, nor a pleasant sound in my head while reading. I am most pleased by apple blossoms, honeysuckle a close second. Out of Saint John's Wort so what next. When it comes to compost, the chickens avoid grapefruit rinds. Why do we built outdoor files always in circles. Agitated goslings. Walking through wet soil and the tracks I leave behind are horse prints. Where the river turns we're most likely to find treasure. That's all, stop counting, you landed.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

The Merits Of Certain Umbrellas

While it is still dark, the birds begin. Treble where the leaves are. And it accelerates. We are mostly soul. Of the black sky turning blue between pinprick stars. Cannot live in permanent wonder nor vacillate. Forgetting is part of any spiritual moment.

A sentence is a caul. A paragraph by design. Twenty sentences are what vessel. The heart between its ribs the way a cat does. More and more the afterlife. Consideration to which it obligates. Last summer, I was a bird.

In Nova Scotia, from Nova Scotia. Where it was quiet, those were happy.

Over coffee, a discussion of the merits of certain umbrellas. A fear of what interstice motivates prayer. 'Tis the sinew where the Lord shows. And a light which breaks like song on a river.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Lilac Everywhere Now

At dusk, when I closed my eyes, I saw the last flutter of white wings as a hawk tore her to pieces. "It was a bad moment but she made eye contact." At night, beneath chalky stars and wind sounds, some peace. The aroma of lilac everywhere now which I find it oddly sickening, though I love how the blooms look. You hope against hope for safe return.

Over the fence, bored horses bow and nod. The neighbor's dogs visit all afternoon. "Is that your rooster?" While clouds race overhead. When I woke I thought I heard rain but it was one of the cats, purring. C asks over coffee: what did you dream? "I don't remember." Because at one point you were cheering somebody on.

Maybe the low swoop of robins as the sun rises in spring.

Oh, and the neighbor's house never looked that bad. Or did it? You think you're paying attention but suddenly it's Sunday and seven years have passed. We ate asparagus dripping with olive oil, glass after glass of merlot and still. In some settings, garlic is the same color as a boiled bone. Which does not diminish my appetite.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Ripples After

Delphinium. Antediluvian grace. A cellar door in the rain. Gaps in the fence. Mountain laurel. Slick silver of buckling trout. Where blackberries grow. Deadfall. Impossible yellow. Crow feather bent where the trail turns east. Low moon, little light. Minnows and their ripples. After, perspiration on the upper lip, a sigh, salt. Dusty curtains, cold floors. Bruised rhubarb. Rocks shaped like hearts, Tennessee, a horse head. Ever in love but tired, so tired. Melody over what. A good walking stick, a dog. This list of what.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

What Miracle

Again, a dream with a mouse in it. This one (dark gray and narrow) at the bottom of old stairs. I neither climbed nor descended them, merely passed them while moving quickly elsewhere. The mouse was pulling on a nightcrawler which then escaped. It bore no sign of bodily damage. I continued on beneath a rickety boardwalk. Thinking as I went, why is it the mouse does not pursue the crawler. And realized it was likely because of me - my stomping feet etc. I was not alone but who was I with.


The right blend of sun and rain create a luscious green in Spring. Walking yesterday was at times traversing an emerald tunnel. Canopied trails we shared with newts. Moose tracks again but older. A flock of geese circled the pond and we hunkered near laurel waiting to watch them land. Mergansers in the distance. The truth is that on half a dozen walks there are half a dozen stones I know and by which measure those travels.

Lilac is richer in the morning as the sun rises through veils. A plethora of blue jays, always crows. By what miracle is the duck healed, the day marked.

Friday, May 23, 2008

The Heart Literally Grows Heavier

Three days running now I've seen goslings. Here and there but always near water. One sentence runs into the next (forecasts the next) and that's the easiest way to do it. Who cares if it's linear. So is time. It's memory that sort of clouds the issue.

A list from yesterday might include: deer mounts, bear rugs, tears, wrong turns, lit-up hearts, coffee, creaking stairs. Alice the duck, last vestige of the naive farmer, appears to be in the throes of her final illness. Scatter layer pellets, dose her gently with the hose. Is it possible the heart literally grows heavier when sad? Can you prove to me it doesn't?

You wonder who reads this. But don't exactly care. Audience was never the point. What the point was has grown distant and faint, like an image in the rear view mirror. Yes, it is closer than it appears. On the other hand, what do I know.

But hey, who cares what I know? It's not what you know but how you use it. And what, friend, does that remind you of?

Thursday, May 22, 2008

What Else Can I Say - How Else Can I Say It

This whole thing is closer to code than not. Each sentence a veil drawn over what it would like to reveal. Not a dance, not a tease. More like the stuttering of talk therapy.

I can't tell if the brown shape by the road is a still flicker or a chunk of sod. Yesterday we cut the first bunch of lilac for the mantle. At the roots, hundreds of new bushes I can't bring myself to ruin. Jeremiah yanked by hand some stringy rhubarb to put in water. It's beautiful, he said. And nobody argued.

A thunderstorm passed last night. First of the season to fit the predictable mold. Clouds bunching at supper time, a fast pounding rain, thunder like ordnance right above the house. Yet after, there was no rainbow. And I was sad - what else can I say - how else can I say it.

And I still haven't quite figured out when to stop writing. This writing, this way. I feel like a hiker on the verge of a new trail. Who wants to lighten his load. You can't help but go forward. It's who you walk with and what you carry that you can help.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

A Modest Realignment Of Intentions, Ambitions

You wake up without any recollection of having dreams. Half an hour later, perked up on caffeine and political headlines, you suddenly picture a cowboy, bowlegged, trudging through dust "with his head hung low." To what extent was purple either a presence or an influence in narratives emerging from western frontiers? The wind of the past week has slowed to a tremble.

The condition of certain books - a history so thumbed and crumpled rubber bands hold it together. A mystery with its upper corner nibbled off -

- oh hey - but I do remember one dream: me sitting on the red, white and gold couch in my old bedroom when all three cats stream through. Two - Lillian and Gus - hold mice in their chops. I stare into the shiny black eyes of one of the unfortunate rodents and can't tell if it's dead or alive -

- and then also, as happened recently, library books with the notes of strangers tucked inside. Truly, right now on the fridge is a postcard from Scotland, Loch Ness at sunset, photoshopped to perfection.

What does prayer reflect but a modest realignment of intentions, ambitions. "It wouldn't hurt you to say thank you once in a while, would it?" One can't always say, can they, what will hurt and what will not.

Yesterday - no, sorry, two days ago - I watched a robin struggle mightily to haul a worm from the ground only to have one of the Wyandottes (or was it an Austrolorp) race over and steal it. There was nothing I could do, so I did nothing, even though I felt bad. Yet there is something a spectator can do - they can convert to a witness. Record, remember and then recount.

You always want to end big - you believe, even though you challenge it (as you challenge every belief you hold deeply, to the point where you barely feel safe holding any belief at all) that how you end casts a long permanent shadow over everything leading up to this point. But that's just your opinion.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The Pond Whose Bottom I Have Never Touched

Write hollow or else. But what is hollow. Or else what? I am hollow, or believe I am, feel that I am. As breathless as a chocolate bunny. As likely to cave. In Spring cusping on summer one observes a different kind of darkness. One with seams in it. If you keep the door open, some of that warmth will surely come inside.

Every summer I want to write down the date that I first see fireflies. Floating luminescence like sea foam. What hills would resemble if they weren't so still. The fact that I don't has to do with my fear of death, which is maybe to put too romantic a gloss on it. More, it has to do with how I resent both time and space and refuse whenever possible to be definitely in the matrix formed by them. This is not the same as immortality, not at all.

In the office, the sprouts lean over one another, grow pale, dry and thin as horse hair. Lost in the woods, Sophia worked her way to the river, which was familiar. When her voice sounded clear and certain over the wind, there was no panic in it, only trust that I would hear it, would respond. "I'll wait here," Jeremiah said when I left him on the causeway to go find her. Behind him, the pond whose bottom I have never touched rippled with wind tracks, rain spit.

Monday, May 19, 2008

At Least Involve Some Risk

First make coffee, then get dressed. Sunlight, birds. My favorite color has always been blue, all its varieties. As a child I was often looking up at - or drifting through - the sky. Is this a coincidence?

Jeremiah yesterday: "because is the reason."

For two days now the words "bolster" and "lobster" - both favorites - linger upstairs, like dogs waiting to be fed. The "b" and "l" doing a sort of slinky disco. Again the wind, but this time lower, like blankets rustling or a sheet of old paper slowing tearing. Certain correspondences I dread, while others are barely noticeable.

Yesterday, the blue wicker vase I gave Chrisoula maybe ten years ago turned up in a corner dusty and filled with rocks. Also shells and two feathers. The kids and I made two piles - one, the larger one, to be returned to the brook later. The second, keepers, smaller, to help hold down the house, and also our stories.

Have the twenty sentences run their course - not these per se but the bigger effort of which they're a part? One asks because really. Or can I take all day to come up with them. Or maybe do them at night, which would at least involve some risk because of how different the demands on my time and body are then.

Or maybe go back to Mathews - the generative force. Just slow down, write, "genius" or what anybody thinks be damned.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Yearning Is The Body In Gaseous Form

I'm fine, thanks. Sleep, wake, sleep then coffee. A caterpillar toddled up and down the blanket all night, footfall like whispered lauds, looking for somewhere to worship. The wall was cold. Jeremiah had a nightmare but fell asleep again describing it. It's always earlier than I think, and the wind high in the trees reminds me of autumn, roller coasters, the mouths of caves in which old men sit cross-legged, dreaming of tigers.

We ate ice cream in the car while driving east. Driving west, an difficult conversation proved simpler than expected. As always, when pointed north, my heart began pacing like a priest who fears the confessional. Yearning is the body in gaseous form rising over obstacles to point, to perceive - because it is incapable of independently following - a straight line to a desired end.

The third paragraph suggests focus, the possibility of cracking in a good way a traditionally resilient surface. If there is going to be a backlash, it's going to be here. Strange, but last night I dreamed of cold milk sloshing in a tall narrow glass as if held on a train (after reading yesterday (but where) that milk is the closest thing to nature's perfect food (I would have guessed apples)). Yet I was repulsed and stumbled away, unsatisfied but unwilling to compromise.

"I need my angst - it keeps me sharp - on the edge - where I gotta be." Buddy Holly figures into this - what the twenty sentences aim to bound - but how exactly. He's like the small town in the distance you're scared will be closed down for the night when you finally get there. I had meant to write about hats today - in particular doffing them, how that relates to certain ideas about sky gods, the male ones anyway - but it's too late.

Or is it? Every time I count backwards to twenty - thinking it's over, thinking I've arrived - I end up shy.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

A Joke The Truth Is

He reached into his billfold and pulled out . . . an arachnid! That's funny, I don't remember you being so talkative. Well, we were younger then. Like grapes rolling down a warm sandy hill. But was it better than cocktails? Hard to say. My paternal uncle owns a factory that manufactures little paper umbrellas.

Between this and that one can almost always count on being surprised. Taken over, swept away. And you have to wonder what's going to become of the mail. Most things fall apart slowly. When they don't, it's time to find someone to blame. Respectfully, I have a problem with this inclination towards messiahs, saviors, etc.

I charge the same for haircuts regardless of how much hair you have. This is the proverbial quality vs. quantity argument, no? Actually, it's a quote from a true craftsman who practices somewhere South of here. That's what all of these particular twenty sentences are, didn't you catch that?

No, that's a joke. The truth is, these sentences are strips of papier mache and a mask is being constructed. Fellow lycanthropes - you know who you are - had better watch out.

Friday, May 16, 2008

In A Slippery Way From Where

. . . For me, writing through. Admissions made by the body, i.e., the heart knocking like a loose fist against the frail walls of the chest signifies "mistakes in progress." Yet as an organism in a specific environment I fumble through. Is any of this clear? Clarity is not necessarily my aim, though the benefits that accrue to it might be.

Yesterday, all day, I heard sounds that nobody else heard. Little people talking - not toddlers but fully formed adults as small as cherubs. Invisible, or around some corner anyway, their voices were low and pleasant if indistinct. Also the occasional ring - like a bell in the distance or an old-fashioned phone. Driving I felt painfully aware of how different every passing car's engine sounded, wheels whispering/humming on blacktop. Like I was all ear. Or maybe going crazy (going "mad"). No, not that. Actually, it was more like the world (a specific place, a home for the body) was throwing all it had into trying to reach me, to pull me back from some not-so-distant brink. Is that right - can I say it that way? As noted earlier, reflected on so often lately, I am prone indeed to melodrama.

Yet there is a trend here, noticeable, the way the writing - this writing - is moving, slipping, passing along. That's what it's doing - passing, in a slippery way, from where to where. We're maybe ninety seconds, one hundred twenty, into the twenty sentences and what. We're done and where are we but at the end of what.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

When They Hurt, I Call My Feet "Pods"

Because the twenty sentences tend to be written in the morning, before or during the first cup of coffee, then tend to refer to recent dreams. Also, because they tend to be written from the office - with its view of the lawn, the fields beyond which reach to the old airstrip, Route 112, all the flora (and sometimes fauna) in between - they include a lot of flowers, birds and weather.

For the second day straight, I'd rather not be bothered with writing them.

Last night my dreams sort of bled over - bled into - the images and elocutions and the issues of my waking life. A phone call was returned that had not been, to my professional chagrin. In the dream I answered the phone precisely as I took M.'s call during lunch yesterday. Will you excuse me, please? Dreams of this sort trouble me, or mock me, or - absent any brilliant unanticipated leaps of image and/or narrative - indicate some real crisis unfolding. As if the peril - what peril though - is so near and great that the authorial impulse cannot risk ambiguity. What would Bhanu Kapil say of this moment, writerly, when the distance between the waking and sleeping narrative grows so thin it can barely hold its beats, cut a circle, or drape veils over shoulders, windows, eyes.

Of course it's raining. A warm spring rain - a Wordsworthian, a Thoreauvian rain - I guess, a watery caress. Fine as rains go (maybe more so if one is a plant (God am I really writing this this way)), but I have to drive to the office, shop for groceries, etc. - hence, go through it . . .

I write often - identify often - about/with puer aeturnus, the eternal youth who hovers perpetually above the earth, unconnected, incomplete. That energy - the energy of the untethered, undirected (unspecified but still rich and crackly) longing, boyish yearning - suffuses my days, these days. The sense I have of not having ever committed (in a religious way, as to a calling) to any of the many crafts that once/still beckon - music, poetry, detective fiction, politics, journalism - and thus leave me a silly, a chirruping dilettante. Is that right - would you say?

The lilac blooms - tiny royal hives - unfold slowly at the window. When the wind blows the upper limbs creak and make buckle against the gutter. These are not especially interesting or "torqued" sentences but so what. Completed, do they not at least represent, however dimly, distressingly, however tentatively, some relevant (even, under the circumstances (perhaps), radical) implantation of pod (really? pod? yes, pod - sometimes, especially when they hurt, I call my feet "pods") to soil.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Two Whacks Of The Space Bar

I couldn't care less about twenty sentences this morning. I went to bed late - watched part of Juno, wasn't particularly impressed - woke up before four. Dreams of having some paintings I'd done through the years inspected. Vocal reference to Brockton, where one of my sisters was born, which also figures in some recent writing.

Finished Bhanu Kapil's Incubation. Reread portions, near midnight, of Mathews again, Twenty Lines A Day. Jeremiah took The Sword In The Stone out of the library, some bright Disney version. Traces of Star Wars in it: Merlin as Obi-Wan, the young boy whose royal identity is a secret, etc. etc. I know Robert Bly gets all worked up over that, good for him.

Something's wrong - but what exactly.

Mr. Jones always did the best he could, like the rest of us, pretty much.

Are we there, have the twenty sentences passed yet.

Petulance is unattractive. It's not like anybody's got a gun to my head - wait - maybe it is "like" that - I know that I can always just not write them - or do I.

Does hell have one L or two? Just look at the word, damn you.

I don't care if this bit of writing isn't pretty. I don't care if it don't swing or if the space between sentences is just two whacks of the space bar. "You do what you have to do."

And sometimes you don't, period.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Multiply An Oddly Satisfying Sound

There was a time when he understood his own anger to be a direct descendant of his mother's anger. It was sharp, it was quick. It couldn't be predicted. Like what they say a tiger attack is like. There was this hunter, prowling the house, and as dangerous as it was you couldn't help but admire it a little - it was so beautiful, it was so powerful.

This is why he has renamed bluets "Mothers' Anger."

Yet in the basement with his father the other day, clipping wires and otherwise fiddling with the 1954 American Flyer, it occurred to him that perhaps he has not given his father's anger enough credit when ascribing the lineage of his own.

His father does not get angry often but when he does it is a blunt instrument. It tends to be self-directed. Yet like a cyclone it pulls a tremendous energy from everything in its vicinity - it is hard to breathe, hard to remember that you have a body, that it is your body. It is Old Testament anger. Its consequences adhere not to the body - which a tiger attack would savage - but to the soul. There is doom in it, your doom.

And in truth, he saw something of himself in it. That moment of display, as if one were scaling the asbestos walls of hell and their burned fingers were about to slip, sending the rest of the body down, down.

It tires him, this talk of anger. This talk of consequences. Why must the body always be related backwards to the bodies that made it, or that share its genetic composition?

He hears, in the distance, the raw baritone of geese as they identify the pond and glide towards it, to rest, eat, multiply, an oddly satisfying sound.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Too Cold For Reptiles

In the dream, I am the most polite of all the soldiers. When someone extends a hand to help me onto a rough stone bridge crossing a stream, I say thank you, even though we're supposed to be sneaking up on the enemy. When someone else looks down into the clear water, obviously fearful of crocodiles, I say, Hey there, pal. Don't worry - this water is way too cold for reptiles.

The real point of the dream was this. At one point in it, I observed a bullet strike a young man's helmet which he then removed to admire the dent. And I literally begged the dream (which is not exactly the dreamer) that this young fellow not now be struck in the head with a new bullet. It's already been done in Saving Private Ryan, I said, and it was kind of a Reader's Digest moment then, too.

No - that's not the point of the dream. The point of it was that when I woke up a lot more time had passed than I expected. It was morning already! And I thought to myself, you can have certain theories about loneliness but in the end, if there's a warm body nearby, you tend to gravitate towards it.

I guess what I mean to say - what these twenty sentences hope to land - is that family history lends itself to many theories, some of which are at odds with one another. Each of us has a different idea, for example, of what you were thinking when you went out in the woods that morning. The summer I was eighteen, my mother went around telling people that the average age of the soldiers in Vietnam had been nineteen. It was the title of a song, I think. She said it so much that I began to feel ashamed that I wasn't gearing up for battle instead of mowing lawns, fooling around with my girlfriend, and getting ready to leave for college.

You can't please everyone but you can create a lot of problems for yourself - now and in the future - by trying. The other thing about the dream was there were lots of games - basketball, baseball, twenty-one. And yes, war.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Ghosts Because They're Not

One, two, three glasses of wine. He loses count and so opens the bottle. A thin wedge of moon, brighter than winter, slips down through the budding maple trees west of the garage. Some animal - possibly bear, probably raccoon - passes through the side yard, knocking aside a tin camping plate as it goes, setting both dogs to growling and scratching at the windows and doors. Is it hard to concentrate - writing, reading? It is hard to concentrate.

His face is sunburned, though with pale circles around the eyes where sunglasses sat all morning and afternoon. It was cool early, then rain clouds came and went. Nobody else bears the mark of the sun so clearly, so intensely. He saved one of his daughter's birds earlier, when other men tried and failed, and when they complimented him after, he said, "yeah, it was a good catch, wasn't it." Then for the rest of what remained as afternoon wondered what was happening - psychologically, spiritually - to allow for such grandiosity, such unreflective self-congratulation.

T. is sober, as was long suspected. They share carrots, almonds in the shade behind the poultry barn. You climb mountains because they're "there," you hunt ghosts because they're not "there."

Yet later - now, in a sense - he revisits the whole question of whether ghosts are real. Two days running he has passed the old house out walking and wondered about her. There is a feeling in the air outside like a tire swing whose rope is frayed, like a child's garment left out in the rain. Or like someone is drinking after dark and bad things are going to happen that nobody outside the family can or will talk about.

So he feels bad for the neighbors living there now - wants to tell them what he knows but how. When they walk or drive by he senses a mostly invisible black bag trails behind them, one that fills faster than they can empty it or decide how do you do it, drag this heavy burden.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Shoes Of Loose Pebbles

Ariadne hovering over one conversation, Dionysius over the other. Shadows creep over the floor like slow-spreading oil. At the mention of Tarot cards all faces in the room turned west, then blank. It is important to read deeply, yes, but also to have a relationship with objects untainted by fear. That is, independent of what one is told, what does one feel?

Lawn chairs tilted so as not to catch rain. Violets an afterthought in tall grass, scraps of crinoline on the floor beneath the wheel. A feeling always that a ghost has recently passed, clearing its throat, tickling out neck. Outdoor cats are increasingly rare. This year's moose sighting remains a future event, an opportunity for faith, or to challenge whatever supreme designer keeps its hold on me. There is a basement, with walls caving, filled with dust, where rats with their ribs showing gnaw moldy clothes, scratch the moist gravel. Of course I'm angry. Wouldn't you be?

How come nobody will touch the dollar bill on the microwave? Old scroll that I am, I had no dreams. Take a note, friends: first sighting of lilac blossoms was in early May. Last year this time my stomach was burning itself new holes and there was grit everywhere. Now only the color of rust, a fear of the mid-fifties.

The fist vs. the open palm no longer a matter of debate. I am envious of anyone who doesn't have to stop the journey in order to empty their shoes of loose pebbles gathered where.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Mixing Up Half A Dozen Stories

In a dream suddenly one is converted to the emotional state of a five-year old child, an unwelcome condition. The wind blows and spring contains some blue essence, like winter reconsidering. So I wake terrified despite a logical-enough brain that wants it different. It's okay, it's okay. The stems of sprouts in the office are ghostly white, their green leafs barely larger than a baby's toe. Certain lights don't work leaving few desirable options.

Zukofsky keeps showing up or did he always and I'm only now just noticing. It isn't insomnia if the problem is you had a bad dream and can't get back to sleep. What was the name of the French couple who walked through the Montreal botanical gardens with us all those years ago, was it Alice and Daniel? You idiot, those are our ducks. You're mixing up half a dozen stories to get this one.

Nobody has responded to me. I should write a mystery again. I can't believe how far I've gotten in this life without seriously doing anything other than read and write. I read a lot.

At night, Jeremiah asks each of us what should he dream about and the result is a kind of contest, who can come up with the best dream. Sophia, currently reading the collected works of L. Frank Baum, is probably the best. C's have to do with food or flowers while I have to struggle not to make mind "too scary." Yet it's me who tells him his bedtime story, lately reheated King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, starring Jeremiah in Worthington. I wonder what he'll think of me when he learns in five or ten or however many years that I'm not making this up.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Bells Falling In Darkness

It's odd how often I forget that writing is writing. "Writing writing," wrote Douglas, quoting Stein, possibly the highlight of that particular correspondence.

I do exclude certain forms - email, political journalism come first to mind, at least this week - from writing, consider it somehow busywork, rote, that which separates me from the real work, so-called. And then there is also the back-and-forth with J. this week, which (at least on my end) is a matter of rough drafting, unusual for me in emails. I have been considering this - feeling it - as a failure of authenticity, of self-confidence even. Just do it! But then this morning I woke thinking no, this correspondence matters to me, that J. as a reader matters (and then why), and so the sentences matter, too. Naturally I am paying as much attention to them as possible.

I like falling asleep, which feels like a reprieve. But also waking, earlier than anyone, even the birds. A. writes to say that he is in a monastery and I am briefly jealous. Yet in the a.m., in my body and my work, being joined by the birds (the first distant treble, like bells falling in darkness) is a blessing, a confirmation of the monastic moment in my own life.

It is hard to be present to twenty sentences - even for the few minutes it takes to build and then string them together. Driving past Look Park yesterday I considered where I could end them. At 180 pieces? That's six months, roughly. That seems right. But then what next?

Pale gray skies today and a promise of rain. I resist rhyme but understand intimately the need for rhythm, also the peril that ought to be associated with any definition of "over."

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

A Puzzle Piece In The Shape Of The Missing Knowledge

1. It's a green world littered with frisbees.
2. Last night I drew a chalk shark (pink) on the road outside and Jeremiah drew a jellyfish (yellow).
3. What are "troll jammies" someone asked and I answered, "it's a family thing, an inside joke."
4. The chicken who was sick is now well.
5. If, without telling anyone, you believe you are identical to certain 18th century monsters and write the autobiography of particularly lonely one, have you adequately avoided the perils of first person narrative.
6. Blue Jays remind me of sharks, also of fraternity pledges, yet their blue - especially near the tail feathers (modulated by black stripes, like ash) - is close to my favorite color.
7. The worse thing about imagining a fire at the office was picturing inevitable water damage to my thesaurus.
8. Why am I numbering each sentence?
9. Because I knew that sooner or later I was going to have to try it, just see what it did to the form, whether and how it changed the writing, and this morning I just said okay, let's try it.
10. Numbers impact narrative flow and I like narrative flow though I like it choppy, a flow with waves in it.
11. East coast/west coast and I skipped the in between - or something like that.
12. Yet St. Louis is dear to me, always will be, for that lovely river which made me realize once and forever I was never going to be impressed with cities, and also for the information garnered there in a dark hotel room, over a bottle of white wine, about D.
13. It was snowing, a gray snow and a frozen earth, when we returned.
14. What we don't know - or more aptly what we refuse to learn - becomes inside us an emptiness, like a puzzle piece in the shape of the missing knowledge.
15. Leftover Halloween decorations, weathered by a hard winter, make me want to turn my head, pretend they're not there.
16. I found a quarter in the grass last night, right where C was tapping her stick, and I was babbling about making money by writing differently.
17. Quarters are my favorite coin, hands down, and the conversation about me making money by writing differently has been going on since the first year of my marriage.
18. I made the kids go to bed earlier than usual and they were surprisingly acquiescent.
19. I have to say that I miss seeing the moon and regret that obfuscatory cloud cover appears to be "heading our way."
20. Well it's done and there are times when that's the best you can say.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

How Old Am I, He Asks, In My Shadow

Somehow the days pass. And pass and pass, until the one day comes that does not pass but only ends, like throwing a switch. Then time goes on but the days - our days - end.

I envisioned my daughter's sandals, empty, stepping towards me over white sand. In a dream, two nights back, subjected to intense self-mutilation, swathes of my scalp scraped off with a razor. And instead of sympathy or panic, there was merely anger, and accusations of melodrama.

I wrote elsewhere recently, of melodrama: "Is there, behind it (of course there is, behind it) a sincere felt experience that doesn't trust itself, thus exaggerates. Melodrama is the voice which doesn't trust itself."

And in the same piece, later: "The challenge for me, as a writer and a man, is how to express that felt experience without cheapening it by extravagance or dishonesty."

How one can communicate - by mail, by phone, by semaphore - does affect one's sense of place. We are in space differently according to how our voice, our words move through it at our behest. Also by the proximity - physical and otherwise - to people who have harmed, or who may harm, our bodies.

The search has been called off for the missing man. The first bird song begins a few minutes before five a.m. It must be there is only a body out there now, a body and a missing bike. The moment of one's writing feels like balancing on a fulcrum in a candelit room. Why, Jeremiah asks, are our shadows sometimes long and sometimes short.

How old am I, he asks, in my shadow?

I make the coffee in the dark. Sometimes I can do it that way and the other times I need a light.

Monday, May 5, 2008

One Way Or The Other It's A Guy Thing

So I think a monster is large. That it inhabits - or has a relationship to - space in a way that is unfamiliar, even jarring. They take up more of it or take it up differently. Emotionally they are composed mainly of longing. They know they exist outside the dominant social/cultural/sexual/etc. paradigm but long to be in it. No - they long to have it reformed (yet are incapable themselves of enacting the reform, participating in it, that's part of being a monster) so that they can be in it. Is that right? Men make monsters, one way or the other. It's a "guy thing."

Ran into the monsters thing reading Dodie Bellamy and Camille Roy last night. Wondering then if Bhanu Kapil had absorbed their ideas, certainly she has encountered them. Then thinking of my own relationship to monsters, or monsterism, particularly lycanthropy. Another thing I could say is that as a child I was often scared, or sought out opportunities (as if they were forbidden) to be scared. Monsters then, the idea of them, confirmed that I was right to be scared.

"Why if there is nothing to be scared of are there so many guns here."

When I wrote that line whole parts of me lit up, lights going on like a village waking up. But also part of me immediately said, That's bullshit, a lie. You can't write that.

Two or three days ago, walking with D. for a few moments while it rained and town meeting disbanded as a wedding gathered, all in the same rough space, she said of my recent election to town moderator, "the name says it all. You have to moderate." And I had - and traces of it linger yet - a fleeting fantasy of being a mediator, a builder of bridges type of guy. And then laughed at - not with, not at all, this was a cruel laugh, a bitter laugh - myself as I have thoroughly absorbed the idea that I am the man who ruins bridges, reduces them to ash, and laughs at the smoke rising behind him while he tears off in search of the next one to destroy.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Suddenly, Briefly Very Much In My Body

Yesterday the mist was akin to a fine drizzle that stopped short of rain. That is, we walked without umbrellas and stopped frequently to visit with neighbors, their dogs, certain patches of flowers (pansies, bluets, late daffodils and "dandys"). We went nearly as far as the cemetery - stopping short at the crabapple with its buds unfolding like a family of crepuscular moths awaking - and turned for home. This is a matter of what we did, but also how one recalls it. In other words, language.

Subjected to photography at the meeting, five hours straight, I was aware that some spirit fled out of me, leaving a hollow man, a matter of mere surface to be viewed against other surfaces. I yearned to reach out, draw some of that essence back which floated just outside me as if wary of being captured by the camera's - its dim clicks and hisses - manipulation, its reorganization, of light. Yet later, when applause directed at me rippled and barked, and the faces turned like a sea of empty plates, I was suddenly, briefly very much in my body, like coals in a stove as the sun rises.

Slowly one's sense of form changes. I am aware of my body largely in terms of the claims put upon it by others. Even to write that - a matter of using my fingers mostly - feels like it verges on betrayal, yet of whom or what I can't - won't - say. There are elements that burn, one I envision as a pale green powder that sparkles and smokes when subject to heat, that moment before flame erupts elongated as if to say that hesitation is not always corruptive. The center of any room is not as desirable as the space nearer its walls.

At the same time - digression eschews forgiveness - horses. Walking yesterday past the grave of the first one I rode ever reminded me that I am increasingly content, conscious of grace, and this has nothing to do with my everpresent confusion and overall idiocy. Sophie asked what the horse's name was and I couldn't answer though still recall the experience of being so high off the ground while gazing down into the grassy dirt at my shadow, which seemed somehow more substantial than I was, an observation which was comforting then and - forgive the moment which aspires to epiphany, won't you - would remain so for many years. There was Ruffian, of course, and now this one (Eight Belles (and this I believe is the first time in this series that news has factored in - and then why)) who died yesterday. When I was twenty, I wrote a poem about horses that some editor somewhere said they "came very close" to publishing, and I remember not the disappointment of its not being made public that way, but rather only how I could not not take pleasure in the many "L" sounds contained within in its lines (they were lines, not sentences) and how that, too, was a moment of grace, not recognized as such, but with tendril shoots still flowering, now.

Yet the poem also broached, for me, sexual ambivalence, a specific anguish that accompanied any effort to love with and within and from this body which felt broken indeed, not to mention unworthy of most reciprocations - it (the poem, not my body) said, or I aimed for it to say, that there are consequences, even dread ones, to being in one's body. As now, there are things one will not say (I think here of the word "recover"), or only circle, lay hints against like white stones, inevitably a useless trail but one that's followed (or followable (fallible)), even now, through these twenty, not-so-bad, sentences.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

I Am Abbreviating Etc. Again

Not a single sentence comes to mind.

Outside, a crow appears to stagger up the road, probably looking for worms unfortunate enough to have been stranded on the moist pavement. A red-bellied wooodpecker has taken up local residence - I saw it drilling B.'s towering ancient pine trees a few days back. This morning it sounds like it's on the dogwood, a stone's throw north and west. In the fifties, cardinals did not exist in New England.

A pair of hens in Chesterfield, close to the road, making me wonder was the tom hiding. The geese back, as well. Last night T. talked about the forty pheasants that he's raising - "just to play with 'em" - also guinea hens, and mutant pheasants ("we'll see what they turn out like - I don't know.") Sophia took home a gorgeous white pigeon which, because it was so late, slept in her room.

The presence of so much authority in town over the past couple days - helicopters, multiple cruisers, K9 units, quads etc. - has been disconcerting. Presumably it is just a missing person (as first reported in the store) but the rumors do fly. The elementary school is in lockdown and the kids aren't allowed out. They're looking for a kid's bicycle. I heard A. tell a plainclothes state cop yesterday - she chased him out to his car - that she had a vision of where the person they were looking for was. "By a stream," she said. The cop looked at her (jeans under a skirt, cowboy boots and a fur-lined coat) and said, "by a stream?"

It appears that I am abbreviating etc. again. Why. Well, I like the way it looks. Oh and I suppose at some level, some deep down level, I have this feeling - make of it what you will - that I no longer need to be formally elaborate. Breeziness will do just fine, thanks.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Buffoonish, Insufficient, Opaque Even

A light rain which may or may not confound our planned later get-together. The next thirty-six hours are specifically accounted for, though I can't say how many will be spent sleeping.

For two days running now I have subjected these twenty sentences to revision. Today's was literally to cull over half the intended piece. I can say the redacted portion involved a dream of execution, in which I was one of four assistant executioners. The gallows was spidery, metal, a gleaming architecture of wheels and pulleys, of murderous efficiency. I was terrified of the mind that created it (my dream=my creation=the need/desire to amend, to redact, i.e., the inevitable necessary culling).

Also in this dream I lacked a language to console the condemned, a specifically spiritual language. I ended up saying "may your spiritual journey be . . . " and then could only bow, which felt buffoonish, insufficient, opaque even.

I woke up as if dropped from a great height then, with an almost physical need to repent wracking my body. And recalled - seeded perhaps from yesterday's skimming of Philip Whalen's Collected - the idea of making gassho. Years ago in in a third floor apartment in a city that shall remain nameless I read and reread Suzuki Roshi and all I could understand, and all that remains with me now, that I can still say moves within me, was about making gassho.

And I do, still, I long - physically, spiritually - to make gassho. To praise or honor or hold up to the light not with words but with the body, forehead to the ground, a submission, recognition, as if prostrate out of love one might learn to stand with grace.

Several times in the night, Jeremiah asked in a tiny voice still seasoned with sleep, "When it will be morning time?" Before bed there was something I meant to tell Chrisoula but she was tired so I let it go. Now I can't remember what it was. Thus it was not something that I had to say.

If I am a child of anything, I am a child of hills. My body understands North, leans toward it - does it bow - like an old tree weary of its soil.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

A Bland Couplet, A Poor Foundation

It snowed for a few minutes yesterday - fine white flakes that seemed oddly out of place but also unapologetic. They didn't give a shit about propriety, or where - or when - they belonged. I forgot about them until around midnight when I went outside for a few minutes. The moon, constant companion of late, was gone and the sky was filled with stars. There was a winter clarity to them, hard points of light that almost made your teeth hurt. The black beyond them like onyx, like marble. I stood marvelling, watching my breath dissipate. You could hear the peepers in the distance, and I feared they'd be iced over by sunrise. The coldest hours were yet to come.

Or are the coldest hours these days when I wake up and the to-do list is composed of exactly two items, neither of which I want to do. Oh it's a hard life when every day of work isn't sweet as cinnamoned apples, as smooth as maple syrup. You'd think I'd long for these sentences here, this distraction, but no. They're like dragging a head stone around through the mud. This, the fourteenth sentence, is a perfect example. Worse - or contrary to what's usual - I actually went back and reread what I wrote. I'm not sure that onyx is the right word and wonder should I check it. The seventeenth sentence could be a definition of onyx, except it isn't.

I'm going to let it be, whatever it is. And end on a bland couplet, a poor foundation indeed.