Interim Note!

This current sequence of posts began on December 18, 2019 and is slated to finish on April 21, 2020 (all the posts are written and scheduled). I seem to be shifting away from this version of this project and towards something new. What that means exactly I can’t say, which is somewhat unusual for me. The desire to write is strong but the mode is not clear.

There are generally four modes of writing for me: short traditional poems (which now and again show up on Twitter), longer prose poems which are housed here, spiritual-type essays that I publish here, and then a pretty traditional journal which I don’t publish anywhere.

[I say “traditional.” I don’t know what that means. The journal entries are pretty academic (what I’m reading, what I’m thinking) but also pretty high school in their emoting (so-and-so said this at work and I hate them and hope nobody invites them to an Xmas party ever again etc), but the emoting is generally linked to the academic stuff which always has a general theme of healing. I’m not trying to be immature.]

Every few years, the writing doesn’t fit into the forms that exist, and so one of two things happens. First, and most typically, the writing accommodates itself to an existing form (this happened in late 2017/early 2018 when I began writing about radical constructivism at (for example)) and from time to time here (as the recent sequence indicates).

Or – in lieu of accommodation – the writing makes some new demand on my living that in turn brings forth a new form of writing altogether. This happened in about 2000 when I began a ten-year journalism career, which included writing and publishing fiction.

The “new demand on my living” is actually more exciting than squeezing into existing forms but you can’t insist on any outcomes (timing or otherwise) in this domain. It’s really about being attentive to a process that’s unfolding in the interior which – like any gestating entity, be it a baby or a loaf of bread – can’t be forced. Bread’s ready when it’s ready; babies too.

That said, I do dislike the interim period. Long ago, in a different context, a friend called this experience “hallway hell.” You’ve closed one door and the other hasn’t opened yet so you’re standing in the hallway waiting. And waiting. And waiting.

What does one do?

Since I firmly believe that writing is a craft, then one writes even when the writing is obviously falling shy of itself. Even if it’s shit that you delete upon finishing, you write. Serious musicians practice every day regardless of whether they’re “feeling it.” Writing is not so different. I think of it as showing up at the altar, even if I’m all but empty-handed. Eventually, the gods recognize you and gift you back. But you have to be there.

Okay but write what? Well, write this for one thing. Or twenty sentences, Harry Matthews style. Or an email to a friend. One of my teachers long ago pointed out that writing is writing, period. Do some. If you can’t find any, then invent an exercise: Write five quatrains with collectively include every color you can name. So long as you write, it doesn’t matter what you write because it matters so. fucking. much.

So that’s where I’m at. I don’t know what shows up after April 21. Thank you for reading through then, if you do, and I hope the poems are entertaining/interesting/insightful or some other form of helpful.

And if you are a writer yourself, keep on keeping on! It’s not the result that matters but the process and – truly – it’s not even the process so much as our willingness to show up for it.

~ Sean

Categorized as Exposition

Another Thing Witches Do

At last one’s dreams clarify – in particular those after waking at 3:16 as always – and the cities we never visit visit us and insist on their legitimacy. The calendar says winter but living is modular: nothing can be trusted absolutely as nothing operates outside of the collective.

Side yard maples have been a persistent image, right up there with chickadees and blowjobs. Lately the recurring fantasy is just a couple of days alone with sandwiches, cannabis and a pile of books, free of the many expectations that have so resolutely dogged me in this life.

We join so much with “and” and “but,” often without exploring the nature of the subsequent implied relationships. Aches in my back and shoulders that make morning chores difficult but not impossible, not yet.

It’s not that I’m not scared of death but that I don’t understand the given reasons to be scared and so it remains a possibly solvable problem. Something lovely, something luscious, something to lick.

One of the tricks in writing is to keep going when you’d rather stop, to risk not being bad so much as bored, and to see what happens next. So much is hidden away and really who has time to go searching for it?

The dolls she makes by hand over a period of weeks put me in the mind of the witch in Hansel and Gretel and force a new reading of that familiar text, which is another thing witches do. Remember that little Greek island, drinking bitter coffee in the morning, watching fishing boats leave the harbor and wondering was it wrong we wanted to live there forever.

There will always be birds I do not know the name of, and there will always be this relationship with what I do not know. The Man without Shoes asks what are the odds.

Early February, the south-facing window barely reflected in the west-facing mirror, the frost blossoms faint and narrow. We who collect images, create interior totems thusly, and lug them everywhere as if God were more than an understanding of probability.

What is it that you defend? The (deceptive) simplicity of subjective awareness, again.

A prayer aimed at Jesus unexpectedly hijacked by his mother informing you you aren’t even close to the source of the generative mythology. The moves one makes when they still believe what can be kept a secret can also be called love.

Categorized as Sentences

Not a Prayer, Not a Poem

I wait for you. In the morning, before anyone else is awake, I wait.

I give myself to you. In the morning, before anyone else is awake, I give myself to you.

Between folds in the curtain, a single star glistens. Where the the curtain does not reach the sill, I see the side yard covered in snow. It is cold here, but not too cold.

My waiting is not a vigil. My waiting is not a penance.

My waiting is not a prayer. Nor is it a poem.

Last night the crescent moon shone so brightly over Main Street that I felt it enter my body. Bright like mica, cold and hard like ice. My heart shuddered, my shoes grew thin then disappeared.

Yet when I woke up the ice had melted and my shoulders were full of light.

Quietly I came downstairs, made coffee, and sat in the darkness facing north, waiting.

Waiting for you is a form of remembering you. Memory rises like a slow soft tide saying “you have never not been the sea. The one you wait for is here. Your solitude is conjoined, your loneliness shared.”

In summer, violets will spill through the grass beneath the apple trees, a profluence impossible to measure. In summer, swallows will trace their hidden-to-me alphabet through dusky skies. Thunder will fill the valley, the river will flood its banks.

In summer, after midnight, the horses will settle on the warm earth, legs folded, waiting for the sun.

Summer, winter . . . the nights and mornings are not different to me thereby. Yesterdays, tomorrows . . . the fulcrum of time is dusty from not being used.

[Every step I take makes the map you gave me grow fainter, as if the point all along were to be lost in you]

How quiet it is before anyone wakes up. How gently the darkness appears to the one in whom the moon travels, endlessly cycling through declarations of light.

How easy to say nothing but let it all pass and only rest in you, in whom all travelling, this and everyone else’s, unfolds.

For I am not waiting but flowing in you, like melted snow on quartz. Not flowing but living in you like an orchestral heart that’s never not in tune. Not living but singing, a little song for those with ears, the ones in whom this sentence nests, nestles, needfully and otherwise.

Categorized as Essays

Worthington Dies A Thousand Deaths

Morning glides through me, settles on the bare branch of a far maple, and turns. We fumble through rituals in order to reach what cannot be ritualized.

The subject is a mystery in order to hold our attention, not because of any interior interest in solving (or resolving) anything. A blend of ecstasy and pedantry, a happy discipline.

One grows tired of the word “soul” and yet comes back to it over and over, as if somebody somewhere were insisting on something. Worthington dies a thousand deaths so what’s one more?

Our innate preference for certainty against one’s personal experience of how that specific longing interrupts and confounds and informs them. By “hunger,” I mostly mean the still heron in the still waters of the old fire pond at dawn.

A mouthful of coffee grounds. Acting in a way that teaches us there is neither intention nor sin (nor consensus about the fact that there is neither intention nor sin).

The warmth of her at 3 a.m. which I do not want to leave but do in order to better merit our shared bed by faithfully meeting the Lord in prayer. Last of the wine, last of the whiskey: April 27, 1990.

Morning glides through me and settles on the branch of a distant maple, turning to gaze at me with gold eyes full of love. If you meet the Buddha on the road, give him a hug, say “thanks, brother” and keep going.

Sorting through recipes for Kung Pao chicken, aiming at something that is derivative but original, as always. A way I whisper “honey” that she understands.

So much ends when we stop insisting that language be more than a coarse-grained form of love. Who feeds us, forms us, finds us over and over.

One slips certain shackles, one runs all night to reach the farm by day. Say in so many words what you want and The One shall make it so.

Categorized as Sentences

The Days are Without Boundary Now

The barn at 6 a.m., chickens stirring in darkness as I gather hay for the horses, the emptiness of right before Trudge brings forty some-odd bales. The Christmas tree in the side yard, gaps between its limbs. I do care where the moon is in January. I love you, how could I not.

Ice in the Old Creamery parking lot so we take wide slow turns, minimizing the chance of grazing other cars. Jeremiah eats handfuls of yogurt-covered raisins, eyes slightly narrowed, listening carefully to what Dylan’s right hand is doing. Making love at night by outdoor fires and then later remembering how we used to make love at night by outdoor fires, peepers in the distance and – at least in memory – an owl. Something composed, something comprised, something composted.

Main Street wakes up early, trucks coming and going at the little hardware store and the post office. I remember my father making fun of the titles of poetry books – Neruda’s Residence on Earth, Carruth’s Scrambled Eggs and Whiskey. Yet say that one day an envelope arrives and you cannot decide whether to open it or not but indecision is not the real problem – the real problem is that you cannot go back to the place where decision was inevitable, that is, you can’t go back to before the envelope arrived. Chickadees scavenging stale pumpkin bread crumbs – that joy, that satisfaction, that gift.

Birthdays vs. the anniversary of our death – which as Merwin pointed out – we pass every year without knowing. In our youngest daughter’s bedroom, I hear Chrisoula’s voice low and comforting, itself a comfort. Meanwhile, whales are swallowing plastic and strangling to death in heated seas. Truth is, I never pictured you on your knees but rather pictured picturing you on your knees.

Well, what works, what’s helpful, what’s fun. The days are without boundary now and my library is shifting from an image of what I’ve learned to a statement about what I don’t know. Tides, too, come and go, ever attentive. Say that leaving Massachusetts for anywhere other than Vermont were possible and you’d be saying what in this life cannot be said.

Categorized as Sentences

We Live in Tangled Spirals

And so at last I am old. I enter the shallows knowing the depths to come are no big deal. Erudition remakes me yet again, but this time in an image nobody wants. Desire is always yoked to memory because memory is all a body is, in the end. Crickets are a recurring dream of summer while fireflies are promises we make in one life but keep in another. The prodigal who elects not to go home, who eats his fate without choking or spitting – can I meet him now? At 5 a.m. the house is quiet enough for prayer, but I do not pray, only lie to myself about prayer. What is recursive is always escalating – we live in the tangled spirals of what we’ll never know. Greek coffee boils under the watchful eyes of cats. One privately mourns their father’s passing, signaling in a faint but ongoing way (which is what “father” means after all) their longing to live monastically. The many fallacies that organize our shared being are like cousins you never meet but then meet only to realize you’ve never not known them. Have another beer! In Ireland I was less Irish than I would be ever again and never was I freer but that’s not how you go home now, is it? I will miss sex by outdoor fires, long drives with coffee, and the happy confusion instigated by photographs. Always be seducing and always be willing to be seduced, says the Man without Shoes, who will seduce no woman ever again. At the foot of a mountain, one looks up. Below the sky one studies with the Teacher who explains the sky is everywhere, we are in it and also, there is no sky. Oh my tired heart, oh my weakening voice. In January I pull the quilt tighter and try to remember how it all began. You?

Categorized as Paragraphs

Already Planning the Garden

Well, not lost so much as fond of risk as a way of saying to the men who beat me, fuck you. In one’s thirties and forties chucking the maps but in one’s fifties chucking “chucking the maps.” One writes all morning after dizzying prayers, insights falling like the diamond rain on Uranus. You reach the forest, you reach the clearing in the forest, you reach the chapel in the clearing in the forest and you keep going because what else are you going to do, you were made to keep going? When I was a little boy I knew where black bears wintered and where I was likely to see them in summer and I am the man that boy became, with Jesus’s help. I died in 1990 and when they brought me back I was disappointed but also puzzled. Who knew death had so much to do with prisms! So much that I doubted has been proven true, so much that I sacrificed has been revealed as never needed in the first place. We are past kisses mostly but we still do kiss, our bodies soft and familiar. We are already planning the garden, as if we were in Vermont – and Vermont in us – all along.

Categorized as Paragraphs

Halfway into the Prayer

I wake early and drink coffee and oddly leave a lot of lights on which I only notice halfway into the prayer. Being the smartest guy in the room has its charms but inner peace isn’t one of them and anyway I’m only sometimes that guy. When you enter the church, do you bring your reasons for going to church with you?

I thought I was relegated to the far corner of the choir but in fact I was relegated to the broom closet and only enter the choir loft after everyone is gone and it needs to be swept. Drawing a deep breath after many weeks of struggling to breathe. Writing by hand, listening to the house hum, the faint interior hymnal growing fainter.

Sliced apples, halved grapefruit, bananas spotting in the bowl. My youngest daughter begins making a braid rug, converting our bedroom into her workshop. When you recognize a good story and then confuse your recognition for creation.

For a long time I feared I was as empty as the men I knew who were empty, but I am not those men but another man. We thought my wedding ring was lost and so we replaced it for ten bucks but years later we found my wedding ring. Tom Petty in 1985, 1989 and then 2015 or so.

I step outside at ten p.m. and the cold darkness welcomes me but I am still lonely in hard-to-explain ways. Often, what appears in the poems is not what we expect and doesn’t exactly excite us and yet there it is in the poem. A dream in which I realize through the lens of fatherhood the importance of being happy and having fun.

Practice joy? When we wear masks we think we are anonymous or hidden, but masks reflect the self’s preferences as well as any other face. Snow melts in late January to reveal the crest of a curated pile of quartz rocks, some of which I’ve been lugging with me for over forty years.

One begins to sense the virtue of order and leans into the woman who has proven she can make it so. Forget the dark – it’s what your heart left behind when it fell.

Categorized as Sentences

A Malign Enchantment

I slip a little going out back with hay, late January thaws turning pools of melted snow to ice you don’t see when you hurry. A thinning copse of trees through which the neighbor’s kitchen lights can be seen, a reminder that solitude has nothing to do with geography. It’s not that I’m lonely so much as waking up from a malign enchantment, victim of a second-hand spell. Learning at last how to talk directly to the Lord? Sentences audition for the morning poem, clearing their throat, trying to impress me. Mockery is a form of indecision, pretending it’s not you but another who made the wrong choice. Where once there was night, now there is deeper night, or more night, and insomnia remains our biological king. We for whom winter is a beginning, we for whom beginnings are are not enough, and we for whom “not enough” remains a viable strategy. Four days running I wake up and can’t remember my dreams despite a pervasive sense that remembering them matters. Who needs ghosts when you’ve got clocks and calendars? Legendary scabs follow me into the same old desert, bloodless but loyal. A prayer is anything that moves you, and a hymn is not what we actually sing but rather what makes us want to make a joyful noise at all. On that note, this. This this.

Categorized as Paragraphs

Averse to Being Solved

Often, what works does so simply because it corresponds to some interior structure we’ve built up over time. Everything represents! There are barns in me, a gears-level appreciation of projection, there are rivers that others call brooks, and there is a trusted ability to tie folks who insist on distinctions (as between rivers and brooks, say) into semantic knots. May I tell you a secret?

One falls in love rarely and never forgets the fall, conflates the fall with the one for whom one fell, and so never doesn’t love falling. My middle name should’ve been Ascutney. The Mysteries are not harmed when we learn about them, they are not averse to being solved. The scriptural is delightfully sexual: every child of God knows this.

We who linger at hints – who sip and never quench our thirst – what god or gods do we suppose have welcomed our worship? What altar – if it could – would turn and worship us? For we do not pray but in bodies that love a lot more than just prayer.

Imagine a long drive north, or in a direction of your choosing, to an end you can dream but not  guarantee. We invent the communion ritual by stealing joy from the ones who locked joy in boxes, invented compound interest and captured writers for marketing firms.

I mean picture the Eden we could make! The order we could restore! A kiss that exceeds anticipation of kisses, chocolate and bread and roses where the desert inclines towards mirages!

Witches know what works (you know). In our dreams a river, and in the river more dreams, and in each dream an image of a river. A hymn that is both our own and everyone else’s. As if anything but this mattered.

Categorized as Sentences