Always Looking Backwards

The top half of the basement window is lit by the rising sun, while the bottom half is shrouded with thick grass, and what S. used to call “fairy bedding.” Celestial gentleness, the world a thought in the mind of God. Mine, too.

Wordless. Less words. But then how would we know what silence means?

Smart ass. You and your brokering intelligence, always chewing at the world as if it matters. And tangled television antennae wire shredded by the lawn mower which hardly works anyway.

This is not a commodity but I do want some money, an amount to be determined later. We are focused too much on hypocrisy as a rationale for ignoring otherwise good arguments. I am not another for example.

Would a mouse pass through just because I want one to for the poem? Or a frail wren in search of stray seeds? Is my heart going to fail today instead of tomorrow and will I know in advance to say goodbye?

Stop sequencing time (she wrote) to which I responded – quite pleasantly I might add – okay fine but explain to me then photographs please. Big ideas go undigested. Washing the bureau, talking about our dead pets, all in a relaxed way, is a good memory, one that we made worth making.

The nineteenth line inevitably comes as both a relief and a temptation. The twentieth meanwhile is almost always looking backwards.

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Truth Has A Fierce Burn

Full moon rising well before midnight and at 2 a.m., cresting trees on the western line of the hills. Once blue as dust, now ethereal, still not travelable. The dogs cross the yard and I go inside to make tea.

Sleep these days is fitful, though in a familiar way. As if once I actually did rest. For some reason I think of 91 North, past Burlington, listening to Annie Lenox on the radio, only dimly aware that the future might not be satisfying.

Tea with honey is okay, but I prefer maple syrup – sweeter, darker – like waking up before dawn. When I come back out, tea in hand – the mug from Vermont, your favorite – both dogs are gone and cannot right away be found. Overhead a bat’s wings flutter, softly resonant as rain on leaves, and I whistle for them, low and urgent and intent.

I always remember those lines of Jack Gilbert’s, how did they go? Something like, The heart never fits the journey – always one ends first. For some reason, I no longer think in terms of lines but rather sentences.

Retrieve a flashlight – the moon is falling, or has fallen – and search the neighbor’s yards, the compost, cool hostels at the base of redolent pines. All writing is a recovery effort, a search, but for what? I know the truth has a fierce burn because I always find its ashes.

Forty three years old, alone in the darkness, crying over a lost dog. What else did I think was going to happen?

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Blown That Way By God

Rain, the village beyond us quiet, everybody inside sewing scarves or else reading the gospels, tracing the lines with their fingers. I tell J. the story of how I once walked the dogs on the beach at Sandwich, low tide, and we came upon a young whale stranded and dying, at which the dogs barked and howled, while I knelt in wet sand by its cloudy eye utterly wordless for two, perhaps three minutes. I cannot play guitar without looking at my fingers, nor write a poem indoors without a window nearby. What, he asks, was I looking for?

Burned coffee, day old bagels dipped in cinnamon with sugar, men with grease on their jeans watching the sun rise and talking quietly around their cigarettes. “I belong out there,” I said. Or someone said while waiting by the truck, dreaming of sequins that glistened the way rain does when the light finds it “just so.” An empty cafeteria, Blake poems, wondering how it is that anyone can manage a straight line.

Simply put, I do not perceive my life as a linear (if wobbly) narrative but more as bunches of clouds that move rapidly over a patchwork landscape as if blown that way by God. We walked past the church and ended up stopping to talk to the minister who stood outside with a lost expression on his face, as if it had just now occurred to him to doubt everything. E minor played on the third floor in hottest summer, while the ferns decided whether to wilt or go on living, and you ate slices of cantalope and waited to go to the movies. Are you reading this?

Fistfuls of blueberries and a Ruger .22 in his hip pocket in case the bears didn’t run. Last of the Tiger Lilies, first of the royal purple bull thistle. A pear tree growing where thirty years ago a fire raged. Or so I say, so inclined.

There was something Joe Strummer said once but I can’t remember what. The drama of identity fizzles as you realize how easy it is to simply change your mind. What was it I was worried about, years ago when I used to drink? How we are all human beings, such marvelous lives, and never credit love sufficiently?

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Testimony Of Mice

Ten thousand leaves assembling wind. The strange relationship one must develop with honesty. Venus this morning buttressed by rain-makers.

Testimony. Of mice. Dust that falls from the rafters.

Your weather vane, my black and white photograph. At the end, he simply enjoyed looking out the window and remembering how much he had loved his brother before they began drinking. A lithium circumstance repeated.

“The intonation that meant or else.” We stopped talking to eat the first wild blueberries until softly it began to rain. Tricks the mind plays while meditating can substitute for progress if you don’t have a teacher.

Sitting by the pond while beavers work in pre-dawn darkness I weary of effort. My daughter’s foot steps, my son’s breath. Lincoln’s killers are framed forever thanks to all those cameras.

Ask: testify how? On behalf of whom? And to what audience?

He wrote he believed in place of work. And again.

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Fatal Meringue

Thunderheads push like roses, straining the fatal meringue. Dragonflies, squirrel chatter. On the trail where the dog waits, bear scat, shotgun shells, and thirty year old beer cans. Think of soil as an ocean but slower.

The blur of fists a form of nightly meditation. Is lightening ever obscure? One tree is still while another sways like a drunk trying to make it through a doorway. A dream of garden roses blossoming in frames that almost overrun each other.

A heat like billows rising slowly through the corn. A photograph of which I was once proud, and wrote a poem about, which to this day I do not regret having published. The tassels hung limply as if in a painting. A drop of rain on the blueberries made me dream of hurricane lamps.

“You blow up over every little thing.” “You don’t have any passion for anything.” “That’s it – you’re out of here.” “I can’t believe he said that to me, that way.”

Crack the window, rain might cool things down. All night behind the garage, wondering is it this storm or another that will finally empty the house. Where yesterday I walked an owl now cries. But all that happened so long ago.

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If You Require Impediments Please Choose

From the bathroom window I can hear the ducks eating grass. A clicking sound, a nattering sound. And in the weedy remnants of Tiger Lilies, a cricket. Bees.

The form must change if we are to perceive what is holy. In the basement, the muted rattle of water pipes carrying water out to the garden. Newts visible, familiar totems on unfamiliar trails. Wet dogs the breath of morning prayer.

The one who watches over you never sleeps, never forgets his watch. Is there time then to study the Psalms? Morning over Lake Champlain, always the hungry distance. And always an empty bottle, one in which the wind resides.

Resided? If you believe that time is real, then learn what time is for. The grammar cops hide God. And when the student is ready, the student will disappear.

Or so I thought on the way into the woods this morning, trying mightily not to try so hard. Knowing the zafu is filled with hulled buckwheat is only an impediment if you require impediments. Please choose carefully! He wrote, as always, wishing there was more to say.

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Forever The Composition

Maybe rain. Different roads hurt different feet differently. Up the hill, through a stand of pine, into the distance blurred by mist.

Eternity is an electric thread about which we are wound and whose humming thrums in us while sleeping or awake. A single flower – aster perhaps? – by the railroad tracks, limpid in brown shadows cast by trains that will never move again. Detritus.

The yellow bells of the squash plants, bees waking up. On the side of the road, a fox. At night, walkers with flashlights stop to catch up with one another.

Descendant willow trees. The dogs circle back through the pasture, tongues hanging like bacon out the sides of their mouths. A prayer with out beginning or end.

What did she say that about forever? The composition of eternity a matter of nows. Sunflowers struggling in the shadow of squash plant leaves as large as infant elephant ears.

Pissing in the front yard for what seemed an eternity in starlight a thousand years old or more. She was recently divorced and her ex was a minister. We played word games and it passed for enlightenment as it so often does.

Writing when I ought not yields a satisfying result. Have I asked yet may I borrow your shoes?

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Interior Appetite Sadness

It would seem that sorrow is not contrary to pleasure.‭ ‬Weeping is a bitter thing and yet it sometimes pleases us.‭ ‬One of two contraries is not the cause of the other.

Now the form or species of a passion or movement is taken from the object or term.‭ ‬A thirsty man seeks more eagerly the pleasure of his drink.‭ ‬In like manner a man merits it when he shrinks not from hardships and straits in order to obtain it.

The mere fact that man mourns for his sins merits the consolation of eternity.‭ ‬Since love is pleasant,‭ ‬both pain and whatever else results from love are pleasant.‭ ‬Accidentally,‭ ‬however,‭ ‬sorrow is mingled with the pleasure of contemplation.

Or vice versa,‭ ‬not essentially but accidentally.‭ ‬The sensible object disagreeing with the normal condition of the organ.‭ ‬The human mind,‭ ‬in contemplation,‭ ‬makes use of sensitive powers.

Wherefore,‭ ‬properly speaking,‭ ‬there cannot be.‭ ‬There is neither flight,‭ ‬nor is the effect in the appetite.‭ ‬A man takes pleasure in drinking through being troubled with thirst.

Which is of itself is always prior to that which is by reason of another.‭ ‬No sorrow is contrary to that pleasure which is about contemplation.‭ ‬Remedies are made of things.

Whatever is repugnant to the body can be repugnant to the interior appetite.‭ ‬Sadness of the heart is every wound.

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Muttering The Requisite Prayer

The Christian capitalists – spiritualists making money – Fox, et al. – of the early twentieth century were onto something yet it led mostly to urbanity, passivity, unrecognizable heirs. First I was delivered from drinking and then from church basements. Why do I think of Daniel when I write this?

Paris France, through which I went on errant trains. The pink skin beneath scabs, the bright red dot of our blood. The Ninety-First Psalm “scientifically understood.”

Watching finches all afternoon by the rear window, while storm clouds gathered and dissipated, and hawks circled high overhead. Who spilled the sourdough starter if not the only man who cooks with it? For days, giants could be heard lumbering through the far pasture threatening to brain the cows, smash the lambs.

I found the hill, found the cross, kept going and ended up lost. Krishnamurti commanded him to go make money or face a permanent dissolution of their mutual bond. Think about that the next time you don’t feel like helping anyone.

Three thousand four hundred plus words before breakfast, hours in the garden following a list, and then the afternoon stretches before you an empty palate from which tomorrow’s class must somehow be sketched. Brother can you spare some Thyme? Polished rocks on the front stairs return the light to angels.

Baptism ought to entail some risk as birth itself intimates violence. Lucy on the savannah, watching the sun set golden and large, troubled by a recurring dream of discs. They wore those black shoes that made you think of the Depression, hard times, and simply getting through.

He probably wasn’t thinking much of anything, just trying not to shake too visibly. Facing tangles, large teeth, muttering the requisite prayer.

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Some Divine Confirmation

The sound of wings, a book shelf on which dust moves as if just because. A narrow window with frosted glass, cherry-colored because one does not care to equate light with blood. Late at night the door creaks, and fireflies step through timbered webs of dewy grass on which the dogs hunker, breathing heavily, waiting for rain.

When rain is coming, the wind blows and the maple leaves turn frog-side, and so you have to go home. We fished on the old beaver dam off Scott Road, using for bait the bread that our mothers had used to make ham and mustard sandwiches. Ask why one memory endures over another and then listen.

Or what is the illusion for? S. says that we make our own dreams and populate them according to a hidden yearning for narrative that wouldn’t be exposed even if we wanted. We laughed a lot, everything was funny, I remember that.

What longing? What really happened? Did one of us actually say at such an early age, God is blind and the falling rain is proof?

Though it never happened I remember with utter and crystalline clarity lounging on marble stairs out of the sun, the taste of morning olives and tea still in my throat, as a man passed on the street below, one that I was sure I had been executed a week or so earlier. No love without vindication, no vindication without love? Rather, all arguments fail, as all communities are to be gotten beyond, if any mystery is to at last be resolved.

So ask if you feel silly or ashamed at trying to recapture the joy you felt as a child watching dust motes swirl through pillared light in the library. A photograph or a memory or neither and if so then what? I wrote he wrote now.

And held a hand up as if to see it, as if in search of some divine confirmation. Or was it conformation I meant to say?

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