Broken but Happy

I woke up at 2:30 from dreams it seems I’ve dreamed a thousand times. Feeding people I love – including Dan, who I haven’t seen in over twenty years – vegetarian sushi. Can you really make it with roasted red pepper? Please promise me that we’ll talk before we die I pleaded even as I knew there wasn’t anything left to say. We can’t be with our favorite teachers all the time. Some we see only briefly and, learning what was there to learn, move on.

Waking, I warmed coffee from the day before yesterday and carried it outside to drink. The dog rambled, owls hooted back and forth and I stood alone in the cold staring dizzily up at the resonant tendrils of the Milky Way. Very clear night, many shooting stars. Yet something seemed to stand between me and the sky, hindering true vision. I recall as a child gazing upward, hardly able to breathe with all the beauty and majesty but now the heavens are just another idea. Or so it seems. I hunkered by the ashes of yesterday’s deadfall, felt the heat still rising. A rooster crowed and I thought as I always do, shut up you damn fool. The foxes are still out.

And later still came inside to pray and write, still feeling that veil – that wall, whatever we choose to call it – and wanted to plunge straight through it. We make our own obstacles and so can undo them at will but . . . well, who amongst us ever gets around to it? We slip into these habits and have a hard time seeing it’s the habits that keep us broken. Well, broken but happy. Whatever else one feels in these before-dawn hours – making little poems, saying little prayers, accompanied only by a dog – one does indeed feel joy, one is indeed lifted.

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A Positive Influence Understood Positively

For one of the progenitors, it was a matter of getting started. The twenty sentences. And then it grew (for him) or at least it became a book. That’s form, in a sense. But it’s also a process, a way of writing, right? Starting. Yet for me it was never that – or it outgrew that – because starting was never really a challenge. Editing – rewriting – was. I mean going back. And then also – possibly related – the idea that one ought to say what they mean without dressing it up. In other words, I read Silliman et al really only as rebels. I defined them in opposition. Negatively. Probably unfairly. Yet that is what this project became – poetry inspired by a limit to its length. And then seeing that – and honestly being a bit bored by it – one asks: now what? Well, you keep going. Writing writing, as Stein said who – unlike the language poets – was always a positive influence, understood positively. Which strikes me at the moment as saying more about me as a reader than anybody else as a writer. But it’s always that way I think.

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Perfect Witnesses

What is a corpse but an echo?

Mist rising off the fire pond, the heron extending its wings.

It’s a long drive home but what choice do we have.

It’s not the town but the house or is not the house but the family?

You called and accordingly I was lifted so thanks.

Graceful half tones forever define the amends.

Now I forget.

What.

Forgot?

Oh, you again.

Don’t ignore Macbeth’s final decision, the one to die on his shield.

Walking in darkness earlier a branch snapped off to my left and I started.

What?

What I wouldn’t give to not read old poems all night.

Sitting in that old bar – what was it called – the other place – and drinking gin and tonics with no lines to show for it.

Bad dreams make for good morning walks.

Dogs don’t care which is why they are perfect witnesses.

“Time it was and what a time it was.”

He said to the tulips grow up, won’t you.

We’re the best togetherness ever.

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The Limits of Politeness

And with that. She wrote about how offended she was, and how being offended made the writing itself difficult. Somehow the conversation turned to animal sacrifice as a rationale for vegetarianism. In the forest, one has funny ideas.

May we now reduce the twenty sentences? Are you out there/can you hear this? Some people prefer to hold their peace as if its expression were to somehow place it in jeopardy. It’s not Christmas exactly but almost.

In a biblical, not an ecumenical, way. Service is intrinsic but do check your motives. One finds the blood root everywhere, doesn’t one? Where the fawn was yesterday, today an indentation.

All your suggestions are belong to us! The stage flooded with bad actors and the audience was moved to the limits of politeness. Greens, avocado, frozen blueberry and voila! Nerves attend any change.

Truth is mightier than all your lies. A funny phrase – leap like a lizard – given the stodginess of most reptiles. Hunger will do you in. Sharing the metaphor.

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The Support For What We Are

A gray morning before the lilac blooms contemplating fog. You turn inward and discover waterfalls. A pair of mallards swoop low over the far pasture, then rise up and point towards the fire pond.

There are problems in the world but correction is possible. Tell yourself that. I don’t feel like crying right now.

In other words, another way of writing. It’s worth asking – it is always worth asking – what is our responsibility to the twenty sentences? One longs for reciprocity.

One repeats the other far too often. Remember that motel in Vermont, the sandwiches we ate while the sun set behind us? Familiar faces come out of the rain.

We are supported in what we do as an extension of the support for what we are. Which is mirror balls, yes? We ascended the stairs and discovered ourselves not in a library but a dream.

Drinking tea, studying the firewood, the tracks of chipmunks in last night’s trace of snow. The three witches appeared in my dream, making testimony on behalf of Jesus difficult. Thus we wake, thus we go about our business.

Time passes which is all one can ever really say about it. Learn what the authentic expression is and then allow it out.

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Not Even Sunday

Pizza dough rising, lukewarm tea, a music in which robins sing and it’s not even Sunday! A gap between teeth in which pain exists. One comes to the essay in search of understanding, hence the need – almost imperceptible – for poetry. Or Bob Dylan in 1965. You see?

One wouldn’t eliminate waterfalls, why eliminate thought? There is no such thing as banal chatter! Yet drunk sometimes I do wonder. You understand? Or I don’t.

Or else. And other phrases one can’t quite escape in which the self shamelessly asserts itself. Writing like this is fructive in a way that most writers have forgotten. I mean we never mean what we think we mean. The field was seen as a beautiful carpet until I remembered the horses buried beneath it.

How strange to be so familiar with the graves of horses. To leap from one stanza to the next under the guise of heeding the sentence. One glances in the direction of trust, then back down to the day old pastry on which a single black ant rests. You want rhyme? I love how you are always on time.

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Bodhisattvas I Have Known

A bee approaches the window, a birch leaf spins madly, testifying to the breeze. You can stand a long time seeing nothing and for what? Yet studying the sentences one learns that they are essentially repeating themselves and not in a good – a Gertrude Stein – way. Fructive silence is the best silence. Thus one remains unenlightened.

Think of all the Bodhisattvas I have known . . . Or, another way to think of it, all the walls I’ve chosen not to dissemble. Keep your hill, I’m partial to the cross at its summit. Lines on a page leading one where. To lilac at last?

The neighbor’s chickens come over to scratch the dust near the fence. The movie got the execution scene wrong, as if to remind me that narrative and truth are often at odds. He wrote a poem during halftime. Later the pain came and then she spoke convincingly about our burgeoning need for healing. The students write when I ask them to write.

Say please please! Forgo vegetarianism. Be very discerning regarding the consumption of that which causes you conflict. Grumble grumble grumble. And yet you are always there and I feel you and it makes me glad.

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The Familiar Absence

The familiar anger begins in dreams. Bob Dylan’s confidence, Kirk’s trim calves when he returned from India changed. Are we awake yet? When later, out walking beneath – yes – familiar stars, one experienced the familiar absence masquerading as the self. Open some more maybe.

Where tangled hummocks are reminiscent of the devil . . . Farther along the trail than I thought I’d go, I remembered that yesterday I’d forgotten the twenty sentences. Noon is indeed the darkest time, as the road does narrow and the company becomes thin indeed. Deprivation then? Maybe you can’t keep on keeping on.

What one means to say is, is it really better to reign in hell than to serve in Heaven? Thought is the only problem, opinion the real jailer. It’s lighter earlier for what that’s worth. In the distance, apple blossoms. And coming back, the year’s first bear.

Thus I am aware and is that not enough? Must one always be jotting down these little notes to Jesus? Who is it behind the familiar constellation that smiles and whose smile is – despite our denial – a blessing? The truth asks nothing of you, that’s how you know it’s the truth. Help me Jesus, I’m still charting the middle ground, I’m still beholden to a charcoal map.

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The Chaotic Holler

Might we review our dreams? The dream? That night on the fire escape with brandy against the wind and professions of love that – twenty-five years later – are still clear, still absent an echo?

Or was it perhaps simply the conversation – once had – that made possible another, longer, conversation about what it means to face one’s fears? Trace one’s tears down an unfamiliar face? In the dream we prayed and the prayer was answered.

Yet inevitably one wakes up. Thus the moonlight bright on the night table. And later still stars and tea while the dog tears through far off bracken, rousting foxes who will – if alive – return to badger the hens.

You can’t fool me, except when you do, albeit with my permission. I said a bad word. I had a bad day?

A sad day for horses and horse owners alike. Or we are simply peering up into what appears to be – and for all I know is – immeasurable darkness? Who wouldn’t channel the chaotic holler?

Stop writing, I’m feeling you. Just-made yogurt dressing dripping down the side of the bowl and like that, you’re lost. It’s summer somewhere always.

And with that, this. Again, a kiss.

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Never Replace the Essence

Wooly road socks. Cracked quartz. A list will never replace the essence. But may direct us? I can’t wait for May!

But the fleas . . . A field in which years ago I noticed how tired the deer look in Spring. My life is not a loaded gun. Little gardens. Don’t go.

Stay. Stay for the repetitious burial. Dystopia is a lack of faith, kind of. The secrets we keep from those we “love.” I mean prayer of course.

I mean I’m scared, honestly. Liberation from this itchy skin now! One is not a different person when their feet are bare. That essence? That yes anyway.

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