The Mutterer Remembers

There are days I want to travel in order to go beyond all my broken dreams of arrival.

There are days when I am awfully lonesome, and days I cannot be the bell he wanted.

I hate how I love winter because of how tightly it closes down on you, the seam allowing no warmth or love to enter.

At 4 a.m. I stood beneath falling maple leaves, utterly spent from the effort of not allowing love to be love.

A cochineal encumbrance thusly rendered sacred?

Twenty sentences are not enough and – all too often – more than anybody needs.

Well, he did teach me how to make fires and how to always walk a little further than you think you can.

Last week I said to P. “I’ve never been blocked and I’ve never not had time to write” and now look.

Joy is uncountable, as lust is specificity gorging on itself.

And yet the mutterer remembers every angel’s visit and recounts them often in prayers and song.

The red-tailed hawk waited for me on the guard rail, only leaping into the sky after I passed, as if to clarify who was frightening who . . .

I don’t want to live forever, I know that my body already knows how to die, and I know that death is not the end, okay?

Envelopes come and go, you can find them under the table and at the end of the street and in certain motels in certain kinds of neighborhood.


Rural mailboxes leaning slightly west await the many letters I’ve been writing in her absence, their present emptiness a reminder of what bliss in reality is.

Yet another copy of Emily Dickinson’s collected poems falling apart beneath my fingers, if you’re wondering what to get me for Christmas.

Yesterday I drank wine while the chicken roasted, sitting on a little chair in the kitchen where it was warm, watching the sky which looked like rain, and wondering why I don’t worry so much about finishing this or that writing project.

One accedes to photographs, one makes the sabbath vow.

There are many kinds of naked, of which I’ve cataloged more or less half, and did I mention that I’m free on Sunday?

There are worse things than nights that pass where you can’t say what you did to deserve her, this woman who forgives what you can barely bring to light, who says when you’re lost “go walking,” and in whose antique glances the lamp you are just shines.

Categorized as Sentences

Made of Merely Snares

In the morning I wake before anyone, pour yesterday’s coffee from mason jar to pot, gaze into the far field while it reheats, and then take my mug – the one I bought ten years ago at Snow Farm, when you and I had money still – out back, walking slowly in a widening circle to take note of the brightening (the disheartening?) foliage.

It can seem as if we are waiting for the mail, it can seem like the next letter is the one.

Driving to teach yesterday P. and I passed two flocks of turkeys – how lovely their brass-colored feathers are when the early morning sun alights on them – and said nothing.

And we see what winter will bring, and we prepare for it, and it is enough, it is more than enough, because what else can we do?

And stars visible through threads of cloud drifting slowly west to east, and the red hint of hell in some of Max Ernst’s work.

Your fingers rest on my shoulders, an easy pressure that softens the darkness we so often are called to share.

Nuthatch feathers by the back fence, three of them nearly lost in the tall grass, and all at once I saw the lovelessness of clocks, saw my face in the sky smiling back.

A bowl of apples, a doll house my grandfather built, half a dozen or so finger puppets, the dreamcatcher Chrisoula bought in Washington before we met, and a cookie cutter – heart-shaped – the cats have been batting around.

The little brook comes out of the marsh and late fall sunlight flickers where the water falls down mossy rocks where in summer we watched as a crow tore a crayfish into three, maybe four, meaty pieces.

Pancakes with grated pear, bread with warm cheese, and later yet pork kabobs, the meat dressed with lemon juice, olive oil and oregano.

At one a.m. or just after I go back outside a last time, the dog tired and unsure – how our bodies guide us as we age – and we listen to the wind a while, then go inside to sleep.

I wonder sometimes what sentence might most move you, and whether language might ever not be made of merely snares.

Fall moths in fluttering congregation at the porch and overhead bats, their broad arcs broken by sudden dives, the living dusk – the emergent twilight – a singular whole.

The pile of backyard deadfall grows ever higher and wider and so we begin to plan: what we will roast when at last we light it, who will sleep outside beside the slow-diminishing flames, whether we will drink whiskey or wine, and what else – if anything – might require conflagration.

What do we mean when we say “I want what I want?”

The wind does not come from anywhere, it does not go anywhere, and yet.

One morning you wake up and the cardinal is gone -the red bird of your heart is gone – and you must choose how to respond and this is what it means to live.

Hours given to composition – the words arranged first this way then that – so what was formerly called the self – which is merely that which is set apart – becomes instead the flux, becomes instead the circle whose circumference extends eternally.

Prayer is relationship, as song is a kind of staircase, both deconstructing the origins of internalized structure, the foolishness of spatial and temporal limits, especially with regard to thought.

And a door will open, and you will pass through, and what you discover there will not be unfamiliar, it will not be not your home, and I will be there too, waiting, my arms open, winterless with joy.

Categorized as Sentences

Bearing at Last the God-lit Sweetness

And so the days pass, each a little shorter than the last (the internal north unfolding).

And scallop-colored mare’s tails fill the sky and the wind smells faintly of smoke and fainter yet of old sweaters.

And letters arrive from continents I have never seen and go unread for days, piled on the table like tinder, like novels from the eighteenth century.

At night I dream of sentences in which one trails their fingers over cool marble balustrades, a hint of diatonic melodies where the air is coolest, and unfamiliar constellations brighter than one expects.

In the morning I lie awake a long time watching curtains brighten and listening to her breathe, bearing at last the God-lit sweetness I thought so long I had to go without.

It seems like over when we learn that nothing external can satisfy but in truth it is a beginning, though not all of us can see it that way.

Say one’s heart is roughly akin to a pale blue cloth carried on high winds over the differently-sentient, the ever-rolling ocean.

I resolved to see at last – outside drama, outside mystery – the face of Christ and she said yes and so.

Mid-morning and the geese pass the way the river passes and certain kinds of love pass, or seem to.

Sometimes I fall crying at the far edge of the field watching butterflies sail though invisible breezes, bearing roughly south.

Four crows on Sam Hill Road teach me math and also what math is not.

This fallen pine tree reaching out into the fire pond is for you.

And this blueberry bush in which chickadees settle a while.

And the chickadees.

Have you learned yet that the forest belongs only to coyotes and bears and that knowing this is the only way to actually see the forest?

Slower and slower, on and on.

At 2 a.m. I press my face into the pine boughs and inhale deeply and laugh and do the little dance I do in darkness – what the bears call graceful – to say thank you, thank you, a thousand times thank you.

And the scratchy sound of vinyl turning, and the girls who held me as it turned, and the years that are not gone but float slowly with me through starlight and beyond to that from which starlight emerges.

And the laundry on the line, which I hang while singing from Emily Dickinson’s hymnal.

And at 3 a.m. too – a last time before sleep – I step into the pine boughs and come out happily, dancing in the moonlit driveway a dance the bears taught me, saying thank you thank you a thousand times thank you.

Categorized as Sentences

Given to the Vastness

And then at night a seam in the clouds appeared through which a single faint light shone as if for me and by extension – reflecting my dim (but still evolving) understanding of love – you, wonderful you.

And the morning passes in a light rain, a fine and steady hush rising as if from fields grateful to be studied, and the dog’s tracks by the back door fade, and the many grackles become one bird and soar from north to south in uniform grace above the fallen goldenrod and the last of the wild morning glories.

And bookmarks perceived at last as a special form of readerly love, forever saying “here, here.”

For you took my hand and led me up the hill to the cross – the wisteria-shrouded cross – and then beyond to where the sun set over towns we had never seen.

Smoke rising, redolent of deadfall, oh always we are faced with one lesson.

In a vision I build the fire low so she and I could get close to its transformational crackling, tucked beneath the old quilt Aunt Muriel made in the 1960s, kiss by kiss evolving into that timeless love against which night – and even winter – only deepens our resolve.

Oh let us release all late summer crickets forever from haiku and renga and all the other well-intentioned but ultimately ruinous forms (and the beautiful but confused poets employing them).

The dog coming breathless out of the bracken is grace as snapping turtles scuttling the causeway are poems and the apparently perceptive self is merely an excuse for fragments of the whole to be recollected in a lovely, in a redemptive – in a yes, there, yes – way.

I don’t care what the sky does but I do give attention to its doing, its movement, which is a way of saying that when we fear our bodies (through hatred or otherwise), we lose the one who loves us well beyond them.

For I await the image – I imagine grace, I imagine naked – because for a little while longer holiness must yet make itself concrete by taking form, which is all the image is: that through which we perceive what is Formless again.

And then I will lay myself down beside you and my hands will be light and the whole afternoon will rise and fall, rise and fall, as so gently you open, so breathlessly entered.

I walk a long time slowly going deep into the forest with an ax in one hand and a small bag with bread, apples and a bent tin cup in the other and the forest welcomes me then as a brother for I am not separate from it, I am no longer beholden to the lovelessness of thought only.

The stars manage to find their way to me through windblown pines and I can only hope they are as generous with you, for whom lost is another kind of animal – dark and prone to hibernation – entirely.

I go as far as the brook, stopping on its rocky banks in darkness to think of the ones I bring with me, and – more tenuously – those who have brought me with them – and then go on, up the hill into the fields, and at last home to boil water for tea and roll out the sourdough, the cold kitchen a lovely friend to one so long accustomed to the interior Lent.

Oh and the train two towns away, those low and hallowed moans, wending north through yet-deep forests, a thousand years old and getting more so by the moment.

I wait twenty minutes or so in P.’s garage for him to finish his call with the builder, poking through his toolbox (comparing it to my jumbled own), running my thumb through the dust on his gun rack, grateful as always to be asked to help anyone.

In a way, “piss with and not into the wind” is damned good advice, applicable in any situation.

On Saturday I shot seven glasses of whiskey by the fire, midnight or just after, showers of gold sparks ascending into rain-kissed pine limbs, doing the odd dance I do when it matters that she know how much I love her still.

Stopping to watch poplar leave spiral down towards me, while chickadees and red squirrels pause their winsome antics to watch me, no doubt pondering the meaning of such a puzzling and obviously dazzled biped.

How sweet sometimes to get sex out of the way so you can go with her anywhere, given to the vastness transcending kiss or letter.

Categorized as Sentences

Shoveling Ash Into the Garden

Oh how blue the stars are just before three a.m., and how lovely the sound of the cold wet grass of the fields through which you walk with the dog not talking.

Be attentive to what calls on your attention, and allow it to speak to you in the language it chooses.

A little moonlight through curtains, a little shiver between blankets.

And her shoulder, and the way she smiles when you enter the room, and the sound her shirt makes as it falls to the floor.

The brook rushes through darkness with no consideration for who owns the land.

Writing so flush you forget to drink your coffee and it goes cold and you reheat it, staring out the window, emptied of sentences which is always the only real joy.

Oh and also how hungry some kisses are, suggesting that sometimes our real desire is to utterly consume – to bring to conflagration – the other.

And epistles and the last of the bull thistle and little kids learning to whistle.

My uncle’s cane, my father’s watch and my mother’s bible, all on the bedroom credenza, along with a chunky zafu, a folded pink quilt, thirty-seven books (really!), Chrisoula’s latest knitting project, a cheap telescope I bought twenty some odd years ago, a chunk of amethyst – formerly known as my “writing stone” – and a dozen or so pieces of quartz collected from three different locations in Worthington.

All writing is subsequent to what internal impulse?

Note to self: reread Gertrude Stein and buy socks and advocate for the legalization of marijuana.

The man without shoes has always owned shoes in the way that silence and soap are not unrelated.

Landscape is a text is fun to say – and not an unhelpful way to think – but don’t make an argument out of it, don’t try to force it on anyone.

The axe requires attentiveness differently than chainsaws but that’s not the reason I use it: it has to do with what is yielded up in process.

One way to think about anything is this: will it disturb a chickadee?

How east I am, how north!

It appears I’m sleeping in beds again – not just tossing in them until she falls asleep, or making love on them, or (more often) just ignoring them altogether.

Slow is better – while kissing is better – and whispering oh and after bringing her tea and a book.

How happy trees make me, and how I love firewood too, and always have, and also shoveling ash into the garden after, scattering it over the snow, and seeing clearly – not as a matter of mystery – the way this enfolds that becoming this.

If you want to give me anything, give yourself the gift of waking early enough to see how blue the sky is just before the sun rises because that blue is God, that blue is our home together.

Categorized as Sentences

The Night Before’s Rain

Around dinner the neighbors settle – traps set, dogs brought in – and a light breeze (redolent of distant flames, burning leaves) – reminds me of the importance of forgiveness.

Soft skies of early September: and dusk: and how I love all cusps, as if only upon them am I truly alive, truly loving.

Without anyone to either restrain me or eat, the dishes pile up: steamed corn, chili fries, sautéed broccoli, rice, fried steak, hot apple sauce, Focaccia, sliced tomatoes drizzled with melted cheddar and pressed basil, and blueberry upside down cake.

The body yes, self-identity not so much.

Stumbling around outside after midnight – double-checking the hen house, pissing near the property line to dissuade predators and in general bleary from too many nights not sleeping yet not forgetting to look up and mumble thanks.

We are not in Ireland but we were once, we were there singing and drinking and riding trains in the darkness, happy as we would not be again for a long long time.

Chrisoula comes in late and we rearrange the blankets and pillows, and the dog gets up and circles and settles, and we have to move our legs to make space, but then it’s okay, it’s more than okay.

One says yes – again – to Roland Barthes and then discovers that he never left but was always here informing and elucidating, which amuses him, and me too, but differently.

“What is it with you and eating pickles with your shirt off?” asks T., who lately has been visiting after dinner, the two of us sitting in the front yard with Mason pint jars of ice and whiskey and a bowl of my pickles, swatting the late summer mosquitoes and talking in the masculine code we are both – in our own ways – trying to place less emphasis on.

Oh fiction, you are always leaving me a little ashamed, a little breathy, a little wondering why I always come back.

Steak fried in butter not oil, with pepper not salt, and allowed to sit a little after on a bed of onions (which, after the steak is removed, should be eaten on crusty bread with Parmesan cheese).

When the going gets tough, the tough bake, or go to movies, or else just sit quietly doing nothing, content to let the going go, as it must, and does, always.

One bear we might see together is Ursa Major, prowling the northern horizon, pulling so many gold lights behind him.

There is a sense one has from time to time that togetherness – right togetherness – might end both war and winter.

Ginger, turmeric and mustard powder mixed with vinegar, heated up and drizzled on the sliced cucumber and onions which, after sitting like that a few hours, gets jarred and stuck in the fridge for twenty-four hours.

A dream of baby turtles, a dream of tents on battlefields, a dream of looking for the ragged sweater I had always hoped to wear when you visited.

That song and no other?

We are neither vanquished nor vanquishing, nor carrying fiddles through the ruined streets of Europe, nor selling our paintings for less than they are worth, just to make a point about commerce.

Is it possible that violence is an evolutionary byproduct of some other – some more functional – selection?

Oh and four turkey feathers on the trail as the sun rose, a prismatic spot of the night before’s rain sparkling at the tip of each semen-colored calamus.

Categorized as Sentences

The Sabbath Unabashed

How little there is to say in the end . . .

The salt that so long defined the self – deltaic folds, bloody wounds, battlefield hardtack – at last washes away. One wakes to rain and what will neither be defined nor ignored.

He carries his mug outside – rain drops make tiny ripples in the coffee – and decides against working in the forest. Wordiness is my real love, though others influence the main, the always-emerging composition.

T. suggests I hunt with a bow, given my evolving inclination to use only tools that would be familiar – and instantly applicable – to men ten thousand years ago.

And the rain grows steady, thrumming on the windows where I write.

Last night – wandering around the fields half-drunk and laughing – my breath was visible in reedy moonlight and I thought of when you turned off old televisions the picture receded to a point of blue light I used to study, seeking the precise moment between “it is there” and “it is not there.”

Like sleep?

I said to a student the other day “don’t talk to me like that about Emily Dickinson if you haven’t read all her poems and letters” and she said “okay then – I will read them.”

Look, winter is mostly about knowing how to be warm in the old ways – first, other bodies, second, fire, third, a good blanket, and fourth hot food – soup and bread and – as February deepens into March – melted cheese (make your own with raw milk acquired from a farmer who speaks respectfully of cows).

One never utters a false word about cheese which, like bread, changes the one who makes it. If you can’t eat there and if you can’t slip the clothes off whomever you’re calling beloved there then it’s neither a church nor an altar. Keep the sabbath unabashed!

I have gone farther than anyone I know and the company grows thin indeed. How lovely the mountain when you stop trying to write about it.

And yet. All morning my enemies visit and I see through my perniciousness to what I love and hold so reverent in them and the blessing (which is simply kindness) precedes accordingly. For the first night in I can’t say how long I chose to lay down beneath several blankets, on a sheet, even though my ratty old sleeping bag and the ten thousand stars begging to be looked at were calling me as they always do.

Neither theism nor atheism but something else older even than our sad, our unworkable dream of answers.

Categorized as Sentences

Something Readable

I am often sad at how frightened the deer and bear are in my presence, and grateful to moose who don’t seem to pay it any mind. Can you tell what the crow means when you hear its raucous cry?

The moon a blue haze in early autumn clouds, rain moving in from west and slightly north. If you think of our bodies as texts, a lot of so-called problems settle into something interesting, something readable.

Near the corner of Radiker and Old Post Road I eased a baby snapping turtle – barely larger than the fifty cent pieces my grandfather loved – into the tall grass of the cow pasture. We are never done with the image or, if you want to be fancy, with phenomena.

The fantasy in which I write is a kind of sexualized New England monasticism. Last night I cleared a spot in the forest for late fall fires – stars turning circles overhead – and thought of her, again, for whom I am always trying to find just the right word, just the right hymn.

Thought is illusory (which doesn’t mean it can’t be helpful too) and most of what we call “life” or “experience” is thought. The specifically Christian myths are not as fructive as I want them to be, and so often pretend (a form of insistence) they are.

Out near where in summer I spooked three bears working the raspberries it occurred to me I need never think in terms of a crucifix again, preferring as I do a profluent greenery. One needs to understand that “joy” and “happiness” are not the same word (the distinction relates to luck or chance) in order to go beyond where such discernment matters.

I keep deleting the email I write to her, in part because of how she wears a vest, and in part because of my longstanding fear of not knowing the patently obvious. That pile of books does grow taller, doesn’t it!

The silence of just before dawn, then bird song where the hedge is thickest, then the roosters. A certain commitment to perceiving – and being willing to see undone – specialness is not without benefit.

I dream often – not fearfully but attentively, fiercely attentively – of that afternoon about eight years ago when I cut the heads off a couple dozen ducks, allowing only three to live for my daughter, who loved running in the tall grass with them. It is real work suffering a snake to live, writes the man who ought to know.

Please give attention to Dickinson’s devotion to art and don’t be distracted by the gossip, no how matter how the many decades have gilded it. I’m saying there are many ways to clear a field and the one you choose reflects what you have learned – so far – about love.

Categorized as Sentences

In A Welcome Way

There are mornings when the mist moves in waves, or seems to, across the far field into the maple trees. There are mornings when I am not lost, and there are mornings when I am.

And the goldenrod blooms and grows dull and then sags towards the ground, as all extravagance – which yellow is – must. One cannot long study the rain without seeing the violence inherent in each drop.

Morning passes nearly wordlessly, the dog pacing back and forth, the narrow leaves of the backyard willow fluttering nearly imperceptibly. When will we see at last that there is no prayer but the one prayer and we are it?

“Pigeons are the angels of the city.” How happy I was in those days, writing without any thought of commerce, not exactly content to live in a car, but not needing to change it right away either.

T. brings a brace of pheasants by which I fry in flour and oil and we talk about hunting almost as if we are ready to be done with it. One studies Chopin and their confusion deepens in a lovely, in a welcome way.

A blur of words is never without revelatory capacity, according to the reader’s relationship with longing. I mean an open heart is creative without consideration of that which appears to contain it.

At night I dream of a strange ungulate – with ruby-colored eyes and a rich brown stripe along its side – , whole herds of which move fearlessly through the bracken at the field’s edge, and intuit that their name can only be revealed by my largely silent, largely sorrowful, father-in-law. Sigmund Freud awaits his tea as Keats rethinks his Grecian urn.

Memory is a biological fact, nostalgia a consequence of misdirected attention. Please don’t take up geology without respecting the theology (however misguided) with which it was so long entangled.

One learns to heed the generative impulse as it is – essentially, semantically, fruitfully – God. Disciples of the signifier unite!

There are mornings in which the illusory nature of both resolutions and ideals cannot disturb the flow from which we so briefly rise. I want you to be happy, I write what was given to be written, I drink coffee dosed with whiskey, I pretend the maple trees call me brother and then am not pretending.

Categorized as Sentences

Autumnal Duende

A little rain before the sun rises, a soft percussion where land slopes south. Night given to fits of sleep and admiring foxes, the neighbor’s chickens down at least a dozen hens, the dog and I stretched out on the floor to breathe. Forgive us what we do and what we don’t do as well, okay?

In the morning I walk three miles, stopping once to study the field where last night a trio of deer leaped away from me at dusk, and once to talk to T. about “the sorry ass state of public education.” The impossible yellow of golden rod is all the proof of God one needs! Please understand that what you long for with respect to me is already yours without exception or qualification because you gave it to me.

Last week at the lake we talked about gaps in our cultural maps and at what point does one simply resign to not reaching this or that particular territory. The pickle recipe I invented last weekend while sitting under the poplar trees, drunk and humming Nearer My God to Thee, turned out better than anyone – including me – expected. We are the moon we remember.

Retying the clothes line, the old maple tree to which it’s linked bit four times by lightening and nearly rotted out now. Three nights in a row I have dreamed of women for whom I have not done enough work. The reading list grows thin the closer I get to what is.

How tired I am of soothing myself with photographs! Oh Maria Callas my arms are neither big enough nor strong enough but for you they are always open. As summer ends, snakes fill the basement, each one of which I rescue and carry in my hands a good quarter mile toward the brook before releasing.

The letter remained on the table a long time, speaking to us quietly where we were saddest. There are old wood piles knotted with clematis, there are stars that you have never seen. Nakedness flaring on folded sheets, clouds pressing up against the glass.

And so the autumnal duende begins. One finds the expression, one learns its justification.

Categorized as Sentences