Neither Church Nor Ritual But After

And so at last I find my knees, as one dark morning I would have to. Moon a smear of light behind unmoving rain clouds, the dog rustling where recently a skunk passed. We incline to declarations and we long for secret letters yet happiness is hardly so contingent.

Thus this, again. The sentences toppling from caves like unpolished crystals into whatever hands receive them. What is interior has no dimensions and welcomes us accordingly.

Certain women are easier to write for than others. Sacred is neither church nor ritual but after, walking with you, and learning together the names of trees without worrying what comes next. Like that but different.

There is a little brook I pass, the bridge across it unsteady and old. Crab apples rot in the tall grass, picked at by crows and jittery deer. How tired I am of longing and yet . . .

She opens and the familiar light shines and so I open too. We have to do something with them, sentences and bodies. As the sea is never silent, not to one who knows how to listen and when.

Thus I await your signal, nearly at the end of my long affair with signs. A little dust rises where I kneel to pray, muttering about mountains and starlight and soft petals not quite hidden. Spirals please me, folds please me, and prisms please me too.

You are that light a little while yet. And this is for you, to accept on terms of your choosing, offered at last without thought of reward.

Categorized as Sentences

The Inclination of Ash to Rise

I walked quickly this morning, head down, cold hands in pockets. Sunlight flashed on the little brook. Bridges are good but only in the sense they facilitate travel. One admires the inclination of ash to rise and infers accordingly that death is no big deal. Or something like that.

The dog’s hackles were up the whole walk, odd given that the only trail signs were of a moose walking north. A bear still gorging before its winter rest? Ice lined the pond’s edge and for the first morning in seven there were no geese floating on its glassy surface. Well, we are all in motion.

It’s odd how I long to possess time and resent intrusions upon it. One learns that the present moment is all there is and then recalls the lesson over and over, thus obviating it. Still, beneficence is everywhere. I have long imagined stars as pinpricks in a vast black fabric, signalling a greater – a blinding – light beyond. Remind me sometime to talk to you about prisms.

Sunlight was a red bruise east coming home. One goes deeper into their greed and begins to sense it has no bottom and then what? There are many “yous” but only one “I.” Is that right? We find an interior waystation and linger, see who else shows up, and make a party of it, hiding as always in language.

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Darkness and Space and Pending Realization

There are no replacements for God. The waning quarter moon fades while drifting through the interstice of October maples. Frost glitters on fallen leaves though you have to kneel to see. One has a sense of darkness and space and pending realization.

There are no codes to unravel. In the morning I walk shivering, looking down, and later write, unsure why. An old sweat shirt on the bed, unusable reading glasses behind the clock. We want to be reliable but for who?

And why? The tea grows cold while I wait for the dog to come back and my stomach rebels accordingly. For the first time I am frightened of winter! One’s appetite for fiction subsides and in its place is a longing for the simplicity and clarity that only honesty can bring.

I waited up for hours but nobody called or visited. I remember afternoons in Burlington Vermont, sitting at the window, watching the lake change colors, idly picking my way through unfamiliar chords. Churches come and go but prayer endures regardless. Hours in the kitchen are a kind of love, albeit not the one we are after, but still.

My father’s walking stick rests in a corner by the door, a single thread of cobweb dangling. In the end, sex is just a prelude to being held both gently and carefully, enabling at last a sacred rest. It is no longer sufficient to know the way or point others in its direction. I linger over the sentences, set them as best I can, and move on as we all must, sooner than later.

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Secret Letters, Impossible Promises

Coydog madness one hill away keeps my own dog close. Clouds float in to cover the half moon, swift as some tides. At last greed sheds the mask of desire. In a sense, we always face the sea.

One lingers before images only to learn they are gazing into a mirror. Forest trails beckon before dawn precisely a moist darkness. All the fallen leaves whisper as I pass. Behind its gossamer cover, the moon whispers too, about want and holiness and how it’s the same moon that shined on Jesus.

Or you can see it that way if you want. Which one does when given to the religion of wordiness and sex an expression of elegant gentleness. The sound your shirt makes falling to the floor, my breath quickening, and the Holy Spirit moving in us as we move in one another. When we do face the sea, it faces us as well.

There are churches everywhere, little chapels made of birch trees and rivers, smooth stones and shells on glistening sand, secret letters, impossible promises. Desire pretends we are all pilgrims, each kiss begetting each soft cry a hymn unto our mutual Oneness. Greed masquerades as a penitent to enter. And yet . . .

In my dream you follow me along a river. Beyond crowds, in a center of green fronds and ocherous blossoms, under starlit skies in which the smoke of the one fire dissipates, we open as only our two bodies can. What is Christ decries judgment and renders all our urgent fumbling a gift. We come together into the Kingdom, we learn that we never left.

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Each Tear

Sky the color of a well-oiled gun barrel. Geese pass in ragged Vs singing.

At 4 a.m. the moon clarified like an ancient script on papyrus. Frost grew flowerish on fallen leaves. What am I that insists on specification?

Yesterday’s apples are today’s cider and today’s cider makes everyone smile. Who longs for allies remains friendless.

The willow tree near the air strip slowly extends the range of its tears. Mallards sleep lightly in brittle reeds. I pass quietly, still a threat.

It is hunger that mandates the idea of feasts. We linger over definitions as if playing at solutions matters more than finding one that works.

Your hand in mine remains one objective. Others find shells near the ocean. That particular hell and no other.

The mail often smells of lavender. A poem is neither lantern nor map.

We fall weeping and each tear is a kind of repetition. A prism separates what is light into what we call beautiful. I mean you reading, me writing.

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From One Idealization to Another

One wakes to moonlight. And later walks through it, thin and feathery, like a cloud. When I write, another intelligence attends. My life is what happens, like a leaf falling in Autumn, or a skunk on the trail.

Some mornings the words are not there and you have to go looking for them. The dog curls up next to me on the couch. The houses of the poor are often cold. I move from one idealization to another, only slowly recognizing they are all the same.

Though I don’t understand what this means exactly, I know that who professes to want peace does not want peace. What did M. say about leaving Heaven each time we open our mouths? I can’t remember what to include and what to leave out. I don’t want to be wanted – does that make sense?

And so the hours pass. I rise early for no particular reason and walk for a while and write for a while and sort of drift for a while, too. How little is required of us! And yet we persist in our quest for advantage.

The thing about desire is it’s a third party and it wants something, too. In this body, this time, honesty is all I’ve got. I shivered walking despite a warm jacket and thought for the first time I am not ready for winter. How scared I am of mistakes, of being told to come back and do it all again.

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Becoming Unreliable

My neighbor D. is burning summer deadfall: maple branches and leaves, stalks of sunflower, pine needles from where his backyard reaches mine and (don’t tell the town) a little bit of trash too. I head over to talk after hanging the laundry a couple hours later than I was supposed to (there were poems needed writing). He pours me a whiskey (Black Label) and returns to leaning on his hoe and studying flames. The sun is bright – and still enough foliage on the maples to call beautiful – but clouds are gathering like rats on corn and so the light dims and fades, eventually becoming unreliable like every other goddamned thing in this vale of tears. Yet I love the smell of smoke in autumn – it wakens something coiled deep in the brain, a memory of simplicity and comfort and – oddly – anticipation. Or is that maybe the whiskey talking? Well, something is talking, just now about cooking meat over open fires – a man’s subject in my neck of the woods, which I can tell you from experience will cut itself off pretty damn fast if you happen to mention the state of your sourdough starter. It’s okay. The traffic hums by a hundred away from us, everybody going somewhere and nobody getting anywhere as usual, though a couple of young redtails circling overhead serve at least a little hope the world isn’t all broken. Speaking of which, my heart is broken though to be honest with you, I can’t remember a time when it wasn’t. Mostly, I think I’m getting tired of not being honest. I like to bake bread and don’t want to keep pretending it’s a poor second to venison or beef heart. And there is a woman who is not my wife for whom I want to bake. Whiskey makes you think things are possible which you keep trying to decide are not. I don’t want some things to end even as I seem bent on beginning their replacements. My father always said I was a damn fool and I’m starting to see how he’s maybe right. How hard is it to send her a letter that says, “hey sweetheart, want to go pick some apples and maybe do a little kissing after over cider?” Pretty goddamn hard, judging from much I think it without ever quite getting to do it. A third hawk shows up, triangulating with the others our pale gray swathe of New England sky. Watching it, I forget to turn as the wind blows and so my eyes fill with smoke and I cough and hack so hard the whiskey sloshes out of the juice glass D. poured it in, and when my eyes finally clear, and I can manage a restorative swallow, he says, “you know, you look like a man just saw a ghost,” and I think – but don’t say – “I am a man who is afraid he has become a ghost.”

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What Is Enough


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The Only Form I Can Bear

I sift quietly the afternoon alone. Rain comes in from the west. The last tomatoes from the garden sliced and salted to be laid aside fish. How sad I am, and have been, and yet how grateful. My teachers have been good ones, often unintentionally.

Two days ago driving over the mountain I remembered an old poem of hers and wanted to stop, pull over, call her, and say “my God, you have to read Lorine Niedecker.” I did pull over, but I’ve long since forgotten her number, and it’s past that time where you call someone to say, I was thinking of you . . . Later, reading Niedecker myself thought, well, she’ll find her soon enough. If she’s meant to. And anyway, I’m happier now . . .

Though for the past couple of weeks my stomach has ached the way it used to years ago when the doctors were predicting my imminent death. And I can’t sleep for shit. Even now I sit on the couch, writing patiently in the only form I can bear at the moment, with a sense my body is going to simply crumple into itself, like the leaves with which I am so enamored of late. Oh well. I’m in the thick of what I wanted and there’s no going back.

It’s true that love isn’t personal in the truest sense, but for most of us that’s just intellectual pap. Pretending we’re beyond it spiritually is just another way of keeping God at a distance. Our hearts quicken when touched a certain way. Why fight it? Longing is not a crime and kisses aren’t either.

Categorized as Sentences