In a Rush to Become the Prodigal

Near midnight I walk alone to the edge of the meadow and stand quietly as if by the sea.

One gives up on certain embodiments – this meeting or that, this woman or that, this teacher or that.

The image disturbs the clear surface only when we insist on attribution.

When I lean over the meadow and gaze into the fallen grass, what do I see?

Falling stars, hand-made scythes, lonesome dentists, crickets and ladybugs, lonesome dogs with barely-discernible limps.

There is no “what’s next” where there is only this.

There are never not roosters, never not crows.

The interior silence both deepens and widens at God’s request, notwithstanding the utter absence of any God.

One arrives again at the futility of effort and learning and is saved by attention which reveals not wholeness but the utter absence of nothing.

A fragmentary method that remains appealing precisely because it is illusory, comprised of hints, et cetera.

We pile zucchini on the counter, make bread and muffins, toss it recklessly on pizza, into spaghetti sauce, soups, et cetera.

I will no longer appeal to that which distresses me, trusting in God to settle all seas, including yours.

A little before midnight, pausing at the meadow’s edge, one slips into the holiness of alone-but-not-alone that sustains one through the many deserts, the many cities of solitude and unknowing.

One does love the stranger, doesn’t one?

We drive slowly along summery back roads, so slowly you can make out each tiny blossom on the Queen Anne’s Lace, so slowly that even one’s arrival home feels as if it happened in another lifetime.

One lives in proximity to death now and is not unhappy, is not in a rush to become the prodigal son all over again.

God was at the bottom of the watery swale, waiting patiently in the silt and weeds, and when I saw this, even the surface that had rejected me as unfit rejoiced, slipping beneath itself in utter joy.

You see what I see?

One turns to the medieval mystics in the same way one fishes in early October – patiently, thoughtfully, gratefully, studiously.

Thus, this alphabetical impulse lives in me – briefly I hold it – as only I can – for the collective in which together we reside, wordless.

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Not a Light

Of desire made, of woman born. We are like apertures really, slits through which light pours, through which the whole is glimpsed. The lovelily fragment that implies the whole? I tell you with all my heart it is a holy sufficiency to perceive not the whole nor its absence but simply what appears. Even our labels are divine when we do not cling to them but let them fly wherever like barn swallows, dandelion seeds, sentences, star dust. Study et cetera! See clearly its many seams, how neatly they bear our projections, how indifferent they are to whether and how we dissolve those projections. Precisely because one is attentive to it, the peony never dies, does not even rise and fall in time but merely is, and inattention is what makes it so. Dialogue is not an answer, not a light shining in darkness, and not a city on a hill but a cheerful and quiet means by which we share with one another our fixed incapacity for truth which, paradoxically, yields truth as an experience (rather than an object to be perceived, forgotten and re-perceived). Seven a.m. traffic, chainsaws, blue jays. How precise hunger is! I hear distant hills growing, I can feel the Beloved when I breathe.

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Those Berries Are Going To Pick Themselves

Following yet more bad news – it’s summer, after all – I wander into the meadow and study the old gardening table left by a previous owner. One swallows the ghost, one embraces the spirit, one wakes up from the dream to yet another dream. Nothing happens? Well, earlier a deep mist trailed along the eastern treeline, a lovely strip of gray against green hills softening. Is nonbeing the horizon then? Two days of non-writing pass but are not gone? That wasn’t the sound of a hemlock falling but my heart ripping. We adore violence, we abhor violence and Venn diagrams only make it worse. Wordiness a kind of giving up, a sort of cross one ascends without knowing it’s a cross. The more specific your dreams become, the more consciousness dissipates throughout the collective, helpfully. We are here, after all, and not not-together – but also not together – which does confound one’s admittedly New Testament sentimentality. Longing also comes and goes, as does a lingering desire for even more. Those berries aren’t going to pick themselves but on the other hand, those berries are going to pick themselves, and one sees this and the interior shifts accordingly. How quiet the cats become when I am thinking deeply! How troubling your silence! Poor confused Sean stumbling through the meadow, all the while humming nearer my God to thee.

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Only Inattention

In a way, all the writing was just a futile attempt to be a camera, to do what the camera could not, and what did one get for it but words. She still mentions you from time to time, as if knowing at some level how you matter. People do talk. For a little while once, the landscape mattered less than her shoulder, but those were not the days, and also, one can’t say with any confidence they aren’t making a comeback. We sprawl in the back yard and study the sky, its diamantine constellations, the threads of pale cloud lit up by the moon, all of it coming and going. Your finger touches mine under the table, soft and unwitnessed by anyone we’re with, and it’s like we’re in love, whatever that means. “You had your hand in my hair/now you act a little colder/like you don’t seem to care.” A dream in which I am warned against a more aggressive, a more commercial approach to writing. She’ll be happy to be hear about that, let me tell you. The interior optimist is mule-like in more ways than one. What we bring to the table, what is left to the by-and-by. Any anyway, how will we know? Christ is one possibility but there are others and only inattention knows them, only inattention can even pretend to gather them in. It’s not futile so much as funereal. The highway is its own luminosity, blessing all travelers, making traveling itself the altar. Pray on me sister, pray! Here where I am rooted is ipso facto here when I am stuck without a blossom, without a green leaf. Oh what am I but a potato, mute in the dark ground, blind in the cool soil, only getting to the light in the hands of those who plan to consume me? My existence is predicated on the relationship between your hunger and your patience and don’t pretend otherwise, missy. Lifted by hawks circling the meadow. What if it really is about just taking what you want? Well, I hope it was good for you, these many sentences.

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Ungraspable

Sitting quietly doing nothing is something. One begins to sense the way in which inattention is more radical, broaching as it does the always ungraspable essence of the whole. A dead fawn on Route Nine pleases nobody, yet at the same time we are always surprised by the presence of chicory. The lawn mower’s high-pitched growl, blue jays singing while helping themselves to the raspberries. One enters the hayloft with certain intentions – to pray, to write, to sit in the darkness and do nothing at all – and is abruptly shocked to discover the bliss – that is the word – of inattention. From whence do the peonies come when one has not thought about them in many days? A dead fawn on Route Nine, its guts laid out across the macadam like blood-soaked rope. In which grief is not a sea but a shock, not what lingers but what strikes you, what passes but remains as the potential to be hurt again. Seeing through the Buddha, the way sunlight is what lights the world, even when the sun is hidden by clouds. Mind has no home, its home is its drift, and what but inattention makes this clear? The stranger wears so many faces, including that of our lovers, including that of our grandmothers, including that in the mirror. Oh how happy I am to see at last there are neither mistakes nor consequences, neither subjects nor objects, trails nor no-trails, and no bodies to share the way. Abandon pronouns ye who wish to enter here! The gift of tongues, indeed.

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Beyond What is Given

Rain all night leading to a now-unfamiliar early waking. Mourning doves flutter around the feeder, lovelily interruptions of the light. It’s not clear anymore that one can get to it in language, nor lead anyone to it with language, and so why not write a detective novel, why not just be a whore for the Democrats? The barn won’t build itself but in another sense it will. Facing the pig question one is brought back to their childhood, all those dead animals that couldn’t be saved, which led in turn to a lot of animals killed that could have been saved. These hands, these hands. Near the hilltop, mist, yet at the base – where the river flows – only the deep green of clustered maples. Rain in July can’t kiss away my guilt. Fatigue appears first in the eyes, then sort of slips down the back into the body proper, a sing-songy plea for rest, dream or no dream. The deed there is but no doer thereof, yet in all honesty is that how it seems? Husserl eschews metaphysical drama, one reason I am still working through him, asking what happens when one no longer insists it be about God or magic or getting anything at all beyond what is given. The loveless envelope, the Darwinian miracle, the blessed collective. When I write, I am not lost, yet when I am read, I crumble, slip into a dense psychological web, complexity abounds, tangles, and one longs only for the silence they keep breaking despite, apparently, knowing better. Or not, who knows, not I. One is a new man on the second floor, full of hope, less wordy than before. Not without birches, not in my name, not anymore.

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On the Old Black Zafu

So the point is I am not going to kill any pigs nor be responsible for the deaths ever again, is that it? Ma doesn’t care one way or the other, having her own moral dilemma to work through. Bad news comes in many forms but almost always with a price tag. “One way / or another / I’m going to find you / I’m going to get you.” A night on the couch in part because it’s cooler downstairs in hottest summer but in part because we are struggling again with money. When you cannot meet your true love’s eyes it’s time to try another form of writing, like maybe fairy tales or ad copy for Jesus (or do I repeat myself). Once again I am bottled up in arguments, preceding as always from judgment not discernment, and once again it eviscerates my capacity for attention and lovingkindness, already in such compromised supply. Tara Singh is happy to see me back, listens carefully to my questions, asks I give attention to what occurs on the old black zafu. God will not meet you in the world as you understand the world nor as you understand the one who longs for such a meeting (nor as you understand God). It’s that simple, which is way of saying it’s that fucking hard. Black coffee at the gates of the Kingdom? If you kiss my throat I’ll dissolve into moans and then we’ll really be in Heaven! But my mother’s handful of paintings were an exercise in longing and repression, not unlike the work of you-know-who. Thus this. This this.

An Open Space

There is no particular virtue in sitting quietly while the sun rises, but it’s a nice thing to do and so one does it, from time to time one does. Ex post facto justifications abound the way unused train tracks are still going somewhere yet the one who both makes and indulges them experiences now a sort of translucence unrelated to reason. Shall we converge at a point in the distance? Rationally no, lovelilyly yes. Strange how at a certain hour you recall a certain essay, Hillman on masturbation at 2 a.m., or what’s-his-name’s on growing up in Las Vegas while talking to the neighbor about our shared muskrat problem at dusk. Pontificating on how relieved I am to encounter a flower I don’t know the name of because it means I can really see yellow Chrisoula says “think of how happy you’ll be when you find a color you don’t know the name of” and so for the rest of the walk I’m quiet, or at least learning how to be. That marriage, that way, though we are at odds over what to do with the meadow, a conflict that we resolve by walking through it and talking and sometimes taking pictures of flowers or birds’ nests. Life does love an open space. We carry cameras everywhere now, enshrining the image and thereby deepening our embodied confusion, and it’s so easy to share our thoughts with the world that the trap of thinking thought equals reality isn’t even a trap anymore, it’s more like a banquet we can’t believe we’re so lucky to have been invited to. Pass the five thousand loaves please! Selfies with Jesus for Christ’s sake. Broken screens leaning against the back stairs, lilies blooming in what one cheerfully describes as a cheerful way. Thank you orange for being practically luminescent when I needed light most! Damned if you do, damned if you don’t? Well, writing anyway. This.

A Pale Thread

Split skin near my thumb heals, leaving a pale thread reminding me I am still too willing to suffer, still beholden to the idea that pain is a man’s privilege. Is she impressed, will she take her clothes off, et cetera. Meanwhile, the poor are given doughnuts and exhausted dentists. You wait for what to write then say fuck it and write whatever and it works, it always works. For so long I yoked sex to love and suddenly the yoke slips a little, implies it can be set aside, and what then? What was it Seido Ronci said about “monk dick” almost two decades ago? The many names we have for the poor, all of which are ways of not really seeing our capacity for hoarding. Saying “there but for the grace of God go I” means one has a lot to fucking learn about the grace of God. For a few years in the late nineties I painted, and the smaller projects – some of them – are still on my shelves, leaning against books, usually poetry. A cheerful ceramic elephant that belonged to my father’s mother, an empty glass bottle that begs for color. Must we constantly reinvent the 1970s? How can there be such lovelily color in what is essentially a transparent world? One leans still on Emily Dickinson, one remains grateful for Max Ernst. In my dream Dan was ready to talk and my joy was such that my feet no longer touched the ground, one was neither the man with nor the man without shoes. Allusions to Jnana yoga – which are my own illusions projected – are not unhelpful. There is yet a way, the spiritual tumblers are yet tumbling into place. “I see the world in celestial gentleness” indeed.

Wild Violets Nobody Visits

A little light glistens on the shoulder of a glass bottle I keep half-filled with stones, a reminder of sorts, and a totem. Prisms everywhere. In my dream, misplaced books of poems call to me, begging for a place on rapidly-filling shelves. An interior poverty has never not attended, never not directed my attention away from what one calls “the world.” Desire attends in varying degrees – inevitably, naturally – but one is not beholden anymore, not in the old way. The still heron everyone writes about sooner or later sooner or later leaves the still pond. Before the specific poem, before the specific kiss, what? Or, better, upon what does the specific depend? My hair is gone and my knees ache and yet every morning I come into the old hayloft and sit quietly and later write. Will it do? One can be holy without God and the sacred is whatever one says it is. Don’t wait on permission, don’t wait on an invitation and for Christ’s sake, don’t think you aren’t allowed to gather up what spills. “The heart knows” or “the heart wants” is just rationalization masquerading as poetic bullshit. We aren’t bodies with different parts assigned different functions – we are the collective presently remembering the whole. Grow old with me and die, let’s be forgotten together. A shared grave beneath wild violets nobody visits but chickadees. Molecules relocating to rainbows, now to hungry trout. We are the impossible-to-reach light, love. By and by we rise.