We are keeping the lines open. I am breathless where the trail turns and it’s all uphill going home. The Canadian thistle somehow glows and reminds me of ghosts, against which I pray and profess my love for Jesus. Some endless night we’ll finally meet and talk about the party we’ll have then! Much bluster, much busking. Memories of a road in Amsterdam, drunk and high in a shadowed doorway, realizing that something essential eluded me nonetheless. The old house is always dark and the dream of it flaming, windows exploding, frightens me. Pay attention to your thoughts if you want to know how to handle live eels on a stage. Nothing good comes of the city, son. Second-guessing is the costume arrogance wears to keep us feeling doubtful and broken and in need still of salvation from – you guessed it – external sources. God and the clam diggers singing in the light. “We’re one but we’re not the same.” He wrote – thinking this time about rhyme – yeah, right. A Johnny Cash sentimentality regarding death and judgment informs the morning. In the distance, a safe place, while here – now – the raw open blisters of forbidden desire. You can’t say it that way! Her religious views include stuffed animals and reconsiderations of sentience. We are the flowers we don’t know the names of. Hey, let’s laugh it up, let’s let go. Now and again one senses the moon knows what one doesn’t and it’s still okay (or it will be).
The storm, she said, was a beautiful terrible. We are alive in the realm of content, dead in the world of form. Thus, beware all fiction. The crow looked both ways, arched its wings, and disappeared. What’s the skinny on angels? What if the coin doesn’t have two sides? I mean beware of texts that support your commitment to comfort, that don’t cause some level of vertigo. Opportunities to help others means you still believe in hell which means you’re still in hell. Choice is a metaphor for that first hushed conversation inside the Garden of Eden. Discernment is never not required. I’m on edge, where one has to be, if preservation matters. See also the fence against which sheep rub, bleating contentedly in the sun. What is a name but a means to keep separate? Remember that the teaching I share has to do with content not form. Once again we must babysit the deceived mind on its wrecking ball of a playground. We escalated in a vain attempt to authenticate. Your dedication to libraries is part of the problem. I think of you even though we’ve never met, only shared a few lines of spiritually purple prose. One falls, believes one lands, and that right there is the problem. A lost soul is no better than what?
What happens when the kidneys go? I passed a sunflower, touched its largest petal, and was surprised by beads of water. At night, drinking coffee, listening to leaves fall in the garden. One follows another and it’s all the way a long way down. You can’t be invested in Heaven, in other words. Or was Orion’s belt a blur, like handfuls of salt dissolving in water? And was it a bear that we smelled, standing on the bridge, where twenty years ago I paused to gaze across the cattail into the unknowable future? Where the hill crests up, the ghost of a horse. We make the past what it is so there’s something to hold onto going forward. My love would not be enough. And yet. Or in addition, against dreams of peak oil, fantasizing about who will be saved on the rich family’s farm, and who will be scrounging in renegade gardens, nursing dark secrets at night with their guns. Only those in need of saving talk about salvation. Dreams, more dreams, and the dream that holds them all in its mouth. Hubris invites a breakneck learning that God would prefer we dissemble more slowly. This particular cat’s paws will no longer be heard passing nightly through the kitchen. Once again, we reassemble our living quarters, and once again we ask what the roof is for, and each room, and each piece of furniture, as if there was a plan, any plan at all. The part of the illusion that we choose to call Death is the part I abhor. It was a night flooded with stars, in which I drank coffee and dreamed up lines of poetry, all the while nursing an ache, all the while as sad as always. There are no bottom lines is maybe all that’s left to say.
Do you hear (what I hear, naturally)? Earlier there were spots of black dirt on your ankles. Sandals are the universal miracle, even when it rains. I do not love you as I now understand love but I do desire you in every way the world has ever called the body. Forgiveness wears sack cloth and wanders happily through the wild woods singing. We are not joined, not yet. In the picture – watercolor, pen and ink – children leap joyfully as off a balustrade. Eternity is always the dream, isn’t it? I follow your dark hair, content to know the world as seamless, as the echo of an old prayer nobody has the guts to utter anymore. At last, chromatics. In the city, they talk about you all the time – near the ruined chapel, in the cheese shop, even in the park where we once discussed the tragedy that was Nietzsche. Men are always being asked to turn their back or stand in one place while bullets rain around them. We are the walls that we make, not the altar that we think is kept behind them. We have names for no other reason than to keep the face of Christ obscured. The psalm I imagine is hidden between the many sentences composed – always composed – in your name. The cost of getting him to come back to me a last time seems so high and for what? Would that I could be a man who has nothing left to lose! She wandered over to where the door lay slanted on its hinge, implying that some destruction had roiled the nest, though in departure or arrival one couldn’t accurately say. I watched – this breath, then that – ever the scheming narrator.
Someone always showed up with drugs. Someone is always saying they have the wings you crave. The stars seem to circle the sky, arranged at last in the form of a breakneck schooner. You see children’s faces a lot, and it makes you sad.
What is the object of clarity and what relationship does it have to hesitation? Night after night with Jack Daniels, long mornings of black coffee. There’s something you can’t piss away, no matter what. Dreams, not prayers, were the mode.
Raise a chorus for the limping soldier, the one who got lost before the big battle, won’t you? We are all the wings of angels now, all circling the Heavens like spiraling halos. The agenda blurred, driving us like lunatics for the safety of maps. The adjective does not define you the way you think it does.
A door opened and a temporarily popular man rendered a judgment against us. That was the late eighties – drunken nights and empty train tracks, men and women who wanted me to write poems about them. Your vision is my twelve by twelve inch album cover. I said okay a lot, I remember that.
So it hurts, so what? Those trails and those dogs aren’t supposed to be salves. God is after what happens after the break, after the acceptance that even healing is a distraction. You say you were miscreated? I say that Love makes no mistakes, and the whole journey – even this, even now – is a witness unto perfection.
We begin with lies. As I wrote now twenty years ago certain half-truths are marching on my doorstep. Asleep for hours, waking to pee, struck by the light on the gardens and swing set. Subject to entropy, subject to story.
And yet. One dreams of a challenge to their faith, uttered in a commercial setting, and wakes chilled, “on edge.” There is the fall and the fall and perhaps other falls too. Clicking of keys, dog claws, disapproving teeth in the late nineteenth century.
She looks guilty, said someone of Lizzie Borden’s photograph, clearly unfamiliar with the case. All wrongs are ultimately dismissed, even those that result in bisected eyeballs. The afternoon rose and fell in waves and my stomach hurt, following. Searching for buttermilk recipes is a way to “get rid of all these apples.”
We cannot resolve the sentence absent its context. The authority problem is the real problem. Certain texts are lost and other simply promote the stunned affect of lost. I walked on stage and everyone applauded and I understood then just what I had given up and what remained to be divided in two.
Oh, you. My fear gallops, wears spurs and over its head waves a black double barrel. The ego presides over gruesome executions, ever delighting in the sure availability of death. But then again.
By the bridge – where the river was filled with God sounds – clouds shifted and the half moon appeared, its light a sort of silvery presence on decades-old guard rails and crab apple trees. One hesitates, sensing the familiar presence, and responds as always with prayer. Later, perched on a plastic lawn chair, finishing off the cold tea with lemons, listening to little pops and rustles in the bracken and wild grape arbor, one understands at last what it means to be outside time. Our only job, so to speak, is to find the boundary between the physical and the spiritual and then cross over it. If you find this discussion – or discussions like it – pleasing or provocative or interesting, then drop everything and adopt a spiritual path. The dream of horses comes now to fruition. An owl, a train, the brook, the drainage pipe, night crawlers surfacing, coy dogs braying, soft breeze in the pines, one car in the distance, the dog as she runs, and my breathing getting slower all the time. I am saying, that song, and no other song. I am asking (again), whose hands are these, St. Theresa? The dream of bears, that longing set in motion, those hours rolling toward bunches of cloud. No clamoring (no reaching), just grace. Write the sentence that you want to write and that way you’ll learn about the sentence that Jesus wants you to write. For breakfast, eggs and handmade sausage spiced with too much pepper, coffee with heavy cream clotted on the surface, but no bread and just a little bit of salted butter. When you love, you love everybody, and you love for everybody, and it works the other way, too, and there are no exceptions because the lack of exceptions is the rule. One burrows in space, lingers in time. A word? The dog rested on the front stairs while her owner paced back and forth in the driveway, occasionally stooping as if her back ached, or as if the secret were etched in fragmented hardtop. You are far away and yet remain my best teacher. A sense of panic informs the project, resulting in this particular segment. My kingdom – seriously! – for one real look at an ant.
A California truck stop, a grief. We close our eyes, slip the skin, and then the light comes, a sparkling tapestry, a lesson in narrative. This is the season of going forth.
This is the time that we have been writing toward. Late at night, the darkness arrives as a solace, and the only prayer is not fused to anger but simply attends. One leans into improvement, one shies away from acceptance.
At least one industry thrives on our inclination to see ourselves as flawed yet fixable. A sentence is never complete. The students arrive happily and for a moment you choke, unsure about the terms of the agreement that landed you here.
Yet you are here, dreaming of a night stop out west, of death as a sort of hungry bird slowly working its way toward us in the dark. The grammar lesson finished, the teacher found himself with pen and paper and a strange – yet comforting – longing to write. We are all of us composed of desire and its opposite.
A note to remember scattering ashes. It pleases me, your willingness in the night to roll over, place a hand on my shoulder, allow the heat of your body in the house of blankets to warm me despite my flaws, despite my greed. The sentence I serve under has been lifted, it has been washed away, and now my joy is complete.
One moves toward benediction, stopping briefly at eulogy, and glancing back at the rough hinterlands of woe. Salt your texts lest the light not fall upon you! For a few hours at 4 a.m., walking the dog while the moon slipped its moorings and deer could be sensed clearing the last of the frosty clover, I sobbed quietly, unwilling that my joy should disturb the sleep of the truly just.
I am here only at your invitation. But I am here.
I wake up in need of solace and a muttered prayer in tangled blankets is surprisingly sufficient. Later, poetry, an attempt at acceptance. The twenty sentences have a life of their own, all I do is follow. My glasses are too close to the desk’s edge.
There are books that we lose, books that lose us, and all pay homage to the invention of movable type. Lit candles, drafts in the walls, and the smell of piss. Time passes is all one can say about it. Yet the morning tea sustains its grace through the second cup as if Heaven really is a state of mind.
Is reading an act of surrender, does it own any passivity? Subliminally, you’re here for me, and you must know I’m grateful. I fall asleep asking for pleasant dreams and what I get is pedestrian, a few cats in the litter box and old students griping about sentence fragments. This ain’t that.
In my early twenties I wrote that the stars were like holes in a fabric, implying that some greater light lay just beyond, and even now when I look up I remember that line, that poem, that image but I seem unable to connect to the man who understood its necessity. A moose at the pond’s far edge. A deer leaping gracefully across the trail while the dog strained mightily at its leash. All the love that is available and what do we do?
Arrive at the tower and begin our slow depressing ascent. Or perhaps it was a cave in the desert, close to a spring that in summer was little more than a puddle. Nobody here doesn’t believe in email, doesn’t believe that death is real. Save me all over again.
Salt, which has a restorative property. Afternoons, which don’t. Or the answer included the word “holy,” which was to be distinguished from “sacred,” which was overused and thus stripped of meaning. Or so the thoughts seemed, as he walked along the road waiting for the sun to rise, all the stars above him flickering like holes in a fabric. Do not, in other words, play favorites.
Another way of saying it was to ask what possible relationship could exist between preference and truth? Because, as every cat knows, if you can say it two different ways, it isn’t true. The salient hoops were chakras and we ascended through them effortlessly, regardless of all our mistakes. Jesus was silent (or so I thought.) Baking bread brings more than just flour and water and salt together.
Naps, homemade sauerkraut, more tea than a marching army could drink (yet we too are on the move, no?) We play games while our minds are elsewhere – particularly when awaiting news from the doctor. Which is to say? The growth of cucumbers is astounding and the early fall air – as night falls, as horses are put up in the barn – braces one for a later cold. Must we always be in a state of preparation?
Yet after, I was okay – I was more than okay – and to witness I rose and began cooking. Jesus watched from the corner, reminding me – though I recall it only now in the writing – not to disregard Crossan so quickly. The voice competes with other voices until you realize that the other voices are a dream, a hallucination made solely to obscure the one, the first. You do indeed come to mind! The answer is there was no question with which to begin.