What Goes Always Slower

Oh the soft halos of light, oh the briefest rain.

We count four crows, forgetting we brought a camera.

Wild morning glories in the shadows of staghorn sumac are like a first kiss, like a soft kiss at the end of summer.

And the burdock’s thorny purple blossom does not resist the sliverous moon.

Nor quartz-colored birch trees bending over hidden springs off West Street.

The crab apples blush near their stems, and rabbits wait until we are almost beside them to dash away.

Oh this moment and no other.

Clouds that gather – stupendous towers of orange taffeta cumuli – and drift slowly east, at least twenty miles away.

Turkey feather, blue jay feather, and feather of a bird whose name I do not know.

And fox scat.

And old trailheads that only a handful of us now remember, hidden in bracken, winding deep into stands of maple.

I slow down and stop when I see the moon off my shoulder.

God is what goes always slower.

The brook sings a little passing beneath the road, and the chickadees sing as night comes on around them.

And the congregational church, and the old school, and the cattle who come to the fence to watch me go.

How my heart quickens like a top in their glances.

In the tall grass where the road turns, my heart quickens.

I remember ten thousand nights like this one, and no night better than this one.

There are so many roads in the world and this is the one I am on.

There are so many paths, and this is the one I am a prayer upon.

Categorized as Sentences

Lost in a Flood

The brook rises and all morning I long to sit beside it, dreams lost in muddy currents, but instead work patiently – well, mostly patiently – through the sentences of others. Ravens pass, and the wind, and thoughts come and go, none more real than the last.

J. brings some tomatoes by, and grocery bags filled with rainbow chard, and asks my opinion on how young is too young to help slaughter cows. Meanwhile, the past unfolds like a deer path in the forest, like an origami angel lost in a flood.

We pause by recently cut hay fields to watch turkeys bobbing in the distance. There is always something to see, but not always someone with whom to see it!

Counting the books stacked where I sleep she stops at one hundred, saying, “this isn’t about reading but something else.” Persuasion is one mode, acceptance another.

Two days later the front yard lilies have not recovered from torrential rains and so one resigns accordingly to this summer and no other. Before the mail there were only dreams, and before dreams, only the bland imperative of survival.

Tired and briefly alone, I rinse off the kayaks, wondering why anybody would bother reading Nietzsche more than once. Clouds bunch on the northern horizon like bruised roses or retracted gifts.

What we want precedes us, while what we accept forms a rear border. From time to time I consider letting the twenty sentences sift to nothingness, the way salt dissolves when sprinkled on the sea.

Parrots only mock what they can’t possibly understand! Reheated coffee beckons a soft light.

Later, walking near twilight, L. pulls over to discuss what she calls “the limits of Buddhism in a mind structured by Catholicism” and though I walk for hours afterward I can’t find the requisite – the familiar – interior silence. Working with stone pleases me, and always has, always in a way that is mysterious yet eminently solvable.

Notes for later amount to nothing to nobody’s surprise. I fall asleep in afternoon only to wake more tired than usual.

Categorized as Sentences

An Ancient and Unconditional Joy

Another cup of coffee, another ten pages edited. I am sitting in shade, watching robins and rabbits pick through the herb garden. Clouds are tracking unusual winds – moving east to west and sometimes circling back. The heat broke and it is as cool as late August. The mind turns to apples. The mind turns to you.

Let’s say that you are sitting beside me, but engrossed in your own work – probably writing but maybe something else. Books are piled near your right hand not because you are going to read them at the moment but because they reassure you of your new commitment. It is quiet where I live, and this quiet is what most impresses itself upon you. One can hear the wind from far away, sense it gathering, feel it somewhere deep (even offer it something there) as it travels down the hill towards the brook and beyond.

From time to time I comment on what I am editing – more in passing than from a need for conversation. Talking too much is a distraction, but I like talking to you. I like that you take notes with a pen and paper. You voice has always settled something in me, or awakened something, and I am grateful to not have to go without it.

Lunch will be bread baked at 5 a.m. yet still faintly warm (I leave it under towels when pulled from the oven), and from the garden cucumbers and spinach lightly salted, sprinkled with vinegar. Perhaps wine, perhaps tea, depending on where we are with our work. Voices are not the only distraction . . .

This is a dream, of course. The twenty sentences are also a sentence, and I bear it alone, as most of the time one must. Yet from time to time an interior window opens – I cannot say precisely how or why – and a beam of light passes through, and one senses then the possibility of an ancient and unconditional joy, met in you, and – oddly, yet happily, rightly even – tended by us in common, despite the many miles, despite the long and heart-breaking silence.

Categorized as Sentences

Between Anonymous Graves

Always one more thing. And language is so imprecise, a bludgeon where a feather might be better. Piano notes reach me from a distance, reminiscent of lakes but not at all of telephones.

The mail way of doing it? All morning I watch robins work the berry bushes and wonder how I ever coveted pie. The tallest pine trees on the farthest hill mark the limits of my vision today and it is enough, it is more than enough.

Curtains drawn and the sound a mattress makes when an unfamiliar body settles across it. Whiskey where a fool might have better tried a fiddle. The dark becomes nobody and yet we love it so, we do.

Over brunch studying a map of the United States and plotting our circuitous route as far west as Colorado before turning North for the Canadas. You think about the bones of horses when it gets cold and nothing else will warm you. Grasshoppers in the burdock, dew where the grass falls heavy on its side.

And the sentences have a way of elongating when she is not here. Feather and father are similar only if you think spelling is an art. I have gone farther than anyone I know and yet remain hobbled, whistling at night between anonymous graves.

Arrive already! One’s poetry understood at last as a long hymn to winter, that season of profligate insight. We bind up our tears and go walking past towers of burning tires.

The deer this year are slower than usual, as if grateful for something, or else aware of how hungry I am for their elegance. As always unaware of that which I am unaware.

Categorized as Sentences

Swallowing Stars

Clouds from the west bunch like gray flowers folding. A female cardinal settles in the dogwood tree not unnoticed. Chipmunks trill from risky perches on the backyard fence. Hunger is everywhere happening now.

One longs for bookstores from the 1970’s, one feels in the wind the dust of ancient Palestine. God is reconstructed when you kneel, recalled in the prayer you utter leaning forward. Swallowing stars in order to rest my wings? I remember baking bread in Vermont, I remember swans flying overhead singing.

And I try to say ahead of narrative of course, terrified as always of correction. With you I surrendered the compass, with you I burned the charts. Oh to hear the rustling maple leaves a final time before the sun rises! Bliss where gravel calls the river home.

She laughed when I went into the garden naked to gather tomatoes for a salad. You move beyond the bible and beyond shirts falling softly onto motel floors, only to arrive at the ancestral whiskey bottle and Jesus saying quietly try again. I mean that hymn and no other. He burned the envelope in which she mailed no photograph.

And yet at night the faroff owl reminds me that it’s not about me and never was. When I go slowly, God is there, going slower. One day I will set the twenty sentences aside and breathe and even sleep. For now a little rain, a bowl of olives from Chrisoula’s grove in Greece, and sheets on the clothesline trailing beautifully away in the mid-summer wind.

Categorized as Sentences

Plunging Hungrily the Royal Blooms

Oh morning, so green and vivid, you are never not here when I am! Butterfly balm grows so high I can see it at the window while laying in bed for Christ’s sake! And at 5 a.m. – no kidding – hear the energetic buzz of hummingbirds plunging hungrily the royal blooms. The dog curls up tighter in the crook of my knees which are delighted to be so useful.

I thought I would die but instead I dreamed of a new way to write syllabi. You want to open, so open. Make contact with possibility – which is freedom – which is God – and thus forever welcome. Also, your definitions are like an ice cream stand that sells only gravel so maybe give attention to a revised business plan?

“Shove over,” says Chrisoula, and I do, but then I not-so-subtly sneak back, hard and perennially hopeful. What are dividing lines but invitations to reconsider one’s understanding of Christ? Gertrude Stein planned her last words, which should surprise no one. Oh Sappho, you would have made me go down on you in silver moonlight without reciprocation and I would have, happily!

All the apple trees of New England are now pleading with me for a sentence and so here it is. Thank you for bearing such lovely fruit and allowing me to make love in your shade half a dozen – no, wait, a dozen – no, a thousand – times over the years. Emily Dickinson doesn’t blush but she does question my math. One time we were trespassing and the woman in question said are you not afraid of the owner and failing that of God and I said in reply – and I meant it, mouth full of Honeycrisp – may they both now come.

Jesus steps to the left in order to let the divine oxen pass. When I see all the sad men in the cart – all of whom believe they are being carried to their death – I leap in and begin throwing them out, one by one, and Jesus catches them and sets them on their feet, giving them each both a map to and a brochure for the Kingdom. The man without shoes has weathered but sexy toes! I am carrying you this bread, the sea is spilling from my shoulders, and every time I open my mouth a sparkly disco ball comes out insisting “dance.”

Categorized as Sentences

What Emerges When We Perceive Loss

Moonlight confuses the roosters, oddly. Narrative is what emerges when we perceive loss and need a bridge. At 4 a.m. the rain has an odd, a sort of ammonia smell to it. Once upon a time a man without shoes began writing twenty sentences a day and I am, still.

The coffee grows cold while I search for the right word. We also project onto others ideals and that, too, is a form of attack. How busy one’s brain can be, like a moth trying to understand the light for which it would die! I wanted to tell the woman at the co-op it was okay but didn’t because I could see that opening my mouth – regardless of what came out – would only confirm for her that it was not okay, and might never be again.

Summer passes and one remembers older summers as a means of keeping time. Sparse bluets near the stone wall and chunks of enviable quartz. I am never not in the mind of oxen. Writing projects that cannot be completed in a matter of hours confuse me and always have.

Perhaps one day we will meet in a yarn store. I am less impressed with the interstate highway system than some people I know. The dog studies the rainy window, her mind drifting to an intensity I can barely imagine. Some women say yes, that’s all.

Resisting Christ by loving Jesus. One studies their need to be right and comes to a god that doesn’t want to be seen. Minor arpeggios, rose petals, breasts. The morning hour stultifies, and once again the prayerless men ascend their humming gallows.

Categorized as Sentences

The Unexplored Interior

Did I mean burgundy? A beggarly inclination perhaps. I was distracted when she came. Also, the fawn’s skull glistened in light rain and it made me sad. At two a.m. I breathe cool air at the window and whisper names that otherwise are left unsaid.

What do I mean when I say “more than words can say?” We are all finding our way, is what nobody seems to want to accept. In my dream you are strong but still want me to call. There are limits to imagination maybe? Pumping gas, one stands and stares north and wonders about all the things that didn’t happen, and won’t, or maybe won’t.

Days of rain give way briefly to sun. Bluets in the cemetery mean stop and give attention for Christ’s sake. Red is God while blue is God’s home and purple is the hurt I feel without either. Townes Van Zandt steadies me before the unexplored interior. Is there such a thing as too late?

Chaos attends inaction. Wordiness is refuge but poems are white stones. Remember that publishing and creating are different, that one is extension and the other commerce, and be guided accordingly. Crows pick the mown hayfield, reminding me that we all have to eat, but we don’t have to call it eating. Emily Dickinson turns away at the door and it’s okay darling, it’s more than okay.

Categorized as Sentences

A Now Familiar Ache

Always I give attention to that which resists language. Or is it that some things don’t want to be known? In darkness a full buck moon casts itself on the daisies which are tall and bright by the road. Fireflies in the hollow remind me of Emily Dickinson at night in summer in the early 1860s. Grief is a river, not the rusting iron bridge that spans it.

A large sound belies the size of what makes it. Turkey hens cross the road and a dozen or so goslings bustle just after. J. and I study the crab apples and debate the merits of guerrilla gardening, which M. is doing somewhere, maybe outside Boston. A difficult meeting yields subsequent smaller meetings, to which I am present only by believing in both community and duty. Suddenly I come upon a path I’d forgotten – nearly hidden, overgrown, flanked by ancient maples, going west – and I wonder what else I am missing and what, if any, consequences attend.

The Rose of Sharon straightens where I replanted it and its pale green leaves flutter and emit a faint but greening light. At midnight, something came for the neighbor’s chickens, and I sat sadly by the window, letting it matter. Admit death and what happens to joy? You can make a dog stay if you merit love. A slow morning filled with coffee, reading, baby rabbits in the drifting shadows of ferns, neighborly voices floating through the heat, and a now familiar ache right about here not diminishing.

Walking a wide circle allows one to face all directions, at least a little. A robin on the swing set at twilight sings and further away one answers and one learns again that territory is simply space and we share it and that is all there is to it, maps and deeds be damned. I walk quickly, which annoys many walkers who want to share the way, yet you have to find your rhythm, and then not deviate from it, no matter who says they love you. Oh strawberries I never knew how much I needed you for breakfast in hot July! Writing or not writing the same.

Categorized as Sentences

To Leave Me So Breathless

I would not but then again maybe. Tiger lilies open in the side yard, lovely mallow folds unfolding. Forbidden Om? What salt I am becomes no kitchen you would visit.

Turkey hen between black-eyed susans watching me go as I always am. For all of us? A midnight corner in which certain preferences are briefly entertained, certain hungers given space. Tenuous fireflies in rainy dark abounding.

A rigid walk? At six a.m. I lean my head against yet another maple tree and whisper through tears “I am sorry.” F. spies yet another bald eagle circling high above the fields – most beloved of so many predators – and we all stare at her, secretly wondering what God or Gods so blessed her eyes. If I could take you on forest moss I would and you would never forget how carefully I studied you.

Certain doors were open once, certain guests walked through, and certain others kept going, and now we live in the barren hall. First raspberries, then blueberries, then the long and prayerful stumble into snow. How happy I was last night dreaming of bears walking slowly up the road before me like sentinels or old friends leaving after a warm and loving visit. What a porch my mind has made for you!

Summer’s full belly throws me hard into God’s waiting allness. Unused muscles soften as limbs can forget their function. Words are just sound to which general assent attaches. What a dance to leave me so breathless where rumors are E.D. once chose you too.

Categorized as Sentences