Bold and Awkward, Mostly Unhurried

Snow falls in mid-April, the horses whinny waiting for hay, and on the white beam of the house reaching up to the east-facing rectangular attic window, a moth in cruciform, frozen to the wood, brown wings splayed.

What – who – do we turn on?

The daffodils extend upward through crumbling soil and dead leaves as if hungry, shades of yellow for which we can take no credit, and yet beget such joy, as if somebody somewhere loves or wants to fuck us.

In the forest, the cracking of branches as they surrender to weights greater than they are allowed to carry, sharp as rifle shots, and then as always in the presence of loud noises, the fear of what died and who is allowed to cry and who if anyone will bear the various blames.

Every time I see a moose I am struck by their gait, at once bold and awkward, mostly unhurried, and for days after, am untroubled by doubting or not doubting God.

Editing old poems so that they are less explicitly about you which, in a sense, makes them even more about you.

Objectivity is a delusion, a persistent one.

We drive to Pittsfield together, sharing tea sweetened with honey, talking about the specific way in which we are happy together and – for the duration of the trip and then days after – needing nothing or no one else.

Knowing is not “yours.”

Days later I go back to see what he wrote in reply to my note, read and re-read the sentences, his, and feel grateful and shy, realizing yet again that the decision to love women only is not a law.

Slow-roasting enormous hams we opted not to smoke.

Emerson’s insights which at a late juncture transcend – or at least are not effaced by – Thoreau’s wild subjectivity, which experience was also Emily Dickinson’s, and are treasured thusly.

If you are given to flowers, why not go ahead and be given to bees?

Snow falls all morning in large wet blossoms, out of season yet not unwelcome, as how would the one-who-is-not-separate judge the One-Who-Is?

Cheap wine in mass-produced thumbprint goblets, Seinfeld reruns, wondering what the Latin root of “criticism” is.

The dark art of advertising.

Jasper listens patiently while I try to explain my refusal to fish for shad this year, relating it to killing quail last year, the whole thing yoked to a poorly-thought-out metaphor of black bears – all of them at once – as the Lord, begging me to be quiet, slow, still, mild.

Here a while longer apparently.

The writing careens towards specifically sexual outcomes – messy ones, reckless ones – that it cannot on its own separate from the linear and referential nature of its expressing.

Imagine.

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What if Sparrows are Warnings

Dust gathers. More and more space opens on the poetry shelves as I slowly discard, slough off, let go. Who knew how little you actually need for the final exam? The Lord is here, but a consistent recognition thereof drifts, apple petals on the river. Maybe in another life. Maybe in Albany.

Shogun as a pivotal transition from Tolkien towards another kind of reading, deeper and networked, the shallow Eastern influence rooting there, awaiting The Gospel According to Zen and so forth. When we rolled down the hill in tall grass, when we ate bologna sandwiches under the lip of the vast quartz rock. Silent calves whose bones grow brittle in the earth. Ask yourself: what would a genuine gift of love look like?

Something loosens in me, as if the problem all along were one of breathing. Bodies being bodies, until you can forget about them altogether, and then what. A wasp creeps along my arm until I kill it just shy of my wrist. Something borrowed, something through.

My life is arranged in order to allow me to read, which saved me at a difficult time: this is healing. What if the sparrows are warnings? At night I walk a long time in darkness finding the only church that will have me.

Wind just as the sun rises, a careful attempt to use the phrase “sun rises,” and memories of Chrisoula in the summer of 94. Yet peace in its way continues to elude me. “Rise, shepherd,” say the ten thousand lambs comprising – for now – the unfollowable joy we call “the soul.” 

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Not the Familiar Error

Well, I am not a broken heart, not a canoe. Am not a lake or a bell or a communion wafer.

A shadow is not an insult to the sun.

Come, my hand is open, let us walk a little and find a quiet garden away from the world.

White stones on the trail before us – thank you Jesus! Have I told you the story of the quartz rock in the pasture where as a child I went to sit, in sunlight and rain, at dawn and dusk?

Desire is the sadness in us. Desire is the error that we do not mean to make but make and are confused how to fix.

I remember driving through parts of Vermont, ruined by wanting everything I saw, and so seeing nothing save my own wretchedness staring back at me the only way it knew.

When I dream of you, it is not you I dream of, and this is how I know that wanting you is not the familiar error, but a different one, and maybe not one.

So I want you to suck me, on your knees, so what? So I haven’t thrown away a rosary or a crucifix since I was five years old and I want you to suck me, on your knees, so what? So I want you to suck me so that after I will fall to my knees to be with you and we will fall to the floor in each other’s arms and forget sex, forget marriage, forget bodies, forget God.

So what. Who cares.

In late winter I visit the dead dog’s grave. In late Spring I climb the other dead dog’s monument, which is God’s inverted knee named Ascutney, at the top of which I touch the sky, then touch my fingers to my lips to heal them.

So I appear and my appearance briefly obscures the Light of Love, the Heart of Peace. But not you.

Never you.

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Lovers and Walkers Entranced by Starlight

The deluge, in which I break yet another vow. But who gives a damn, the world the way it is, the dream getting creaky and stiff. Somewhere an old man can’t pick apples anymore, somewhere an old woman puts her knitting away forever. Ladders in the barn gather dust, chickens nestle against late Spring cold. I remember hay rides growing up, by which I mean riding to and from the fields in the back of pickups littered with hay, not knowing what we did was work. And later yet the clumsy but sincere gropes and kisses on sleeping bags spread over the bed, all under starlight, Tom Petty cassettes looping in the cab, soft clicks repeating at intervals, her nipple stiffening against my palm. What are we but lovers and walkers entranced with starlight, beholden to the moon? Oh tell me a story, one that doesn’t end with the witch dead and the little boy still lost. At night I dream of shad, their thick shadows blurring the Connecticut, and the men of my childhood who were so skilled at slicing them up. I’ll die someday but before that I’ll forget myself in your arms – will that be okay? Mid-afternoon, instant coffee, coming up from the horses to yet another poem. Here’s a new vow: no more dead shad, and no more sad stories. Tomorrow morning I’m going to drive all night, rest my head on your beautiful lap, and cry myself to sleep.

Cover the Stones

“Night” I say, and like that a dozen geese sweep up from the goat farm a mile away, their deep cries sinking into the landscape as they pass. Veils drawn, veils pulled aside, veils allowed to fall and cover the stones. Earlier, a sense of dizziness prevailed while driving, a few miles under the speed limit, as if trespassing on a life that isn’t meant to be anymore. Sourdough rolls with rosemary butter and sausage pizza for everyone else, spring rolls stuffed with grilled lamb for me. Gold light rims the horizon and a longing to repair what is broken – or attend what was left unattended – appears, as if on schedule. Let nothing be hidden, for it was all given by the one who decries secrets? The horses wander into far corners of the pasture, the chickens are slower heading in to roost. At certain distances, you cannot tell if the one approaching is a man or a woman. At other distances – the one I live in mainly – the whole world is you.

Neither Random Nor Confused

You would come up behind me, undo my belt and jeans, begin stroking me, murmuring from where I couldn’t see you. Sparks sail into the night sky, obeying laws I dimly understand are neither random nor confused. When we close our eyes it is only to remember the light in which all things – even darkness – are seen. Who were you saying what you said, sometimes bringing your other hand around. We enter our bodies like mist leaves a lake but in those days I left mine like a surfacing trout – violently rising long enough to forget everything, unable to breathe, the light of what was happening too bright. You wanted me to say things, swear things, and made it so I said them. God watches us from the sitting porch of our mind, not discerning between mating robins, sounding whales and wind-seeded violets. You liked me weakening in your hands. You liked telling me how it was going to end, making me repeat what I was not to forget. Spring comes, crocuses come. You still position your hands so nothing will be lost, then lift them to massage my throat until it shines. “My pretty boy, my only love.” Whatever happens is sufficient but Christ we have to endure a lot of happening to learn it. You left me a mess, unsure of God, and shaky with women who only wanted to help. I find my knees and let everything dry untouched, the first of the many promises I promised you I’d keep.

You Mistake My Moans for Rain

I never dream of you, a sign in my living of a woman to be taken seriously, though once, years ago, I dreamed I visited a house in which you had grown up and recently visited, and I went from room to room looking for something I could take to remember you by, and found nothing suitable, save the faintest scent of pine forests after rain, and I woke wracked with desire and shame, jacking off quickly in the bathroom, then leaning my forehead on the frosty west-facing window, begging God to free me, or at least explain my suffering, which He did not then nor anytime since consent to do. Can I get an amen? We come out of our bodies like lanterns swaying in the hands of pilgrims approaching through mist. Or are we ourselves darknesses against which some greater light asserts a holy refulgence? I long for a church in which to forget everything, a prayer that will soothe every untouched ache and unmet cry. Dust to dust is no comfort now I know that we live forever in the other’s sacred heart. Another day passes, another letter goes unwritten. I wanted to travel but learned instead to be a road. You pass over me and I moan and you mistake my moans for rain. Lifetime after lifetime after lifetime. All things remain in God – all things for good – but Christ what I paid to learn it.

Closer to Bafflement

Geese pass. And Easter makes a new demand: face the interior Thomas and love him with all your heart. Thus the many imperfections arise, between baking bread and watering horses, between walks at odd hours and sleeping on the couch, between sorrows that are closer to bafflement than any actual loss. Rain dries on the quiet stretch of Main Street faced by the old parsonage, mottled clouds hanging heavy and low. If I knew you once, I no longer make that assertion, and in my ignorance and humility something is born that doesn’t insist on sole prerogatives. The angel who is quietest in me, who with me navigates the inner and outer throngs, bears the weight of my attention in a way the old ones said was “graceful.” To be anchored is to stay in one place yet everybody knows that all the water at once is the lake, not this or that portion, nor this or that taste. I press my tongue to the moss of the front yard maple – taste earth and something sweet but faint – then kiss it gently, both thrilled and embarrassed. The world goes on in gods who come and go. Dawn, Palm Sunday. This loneliness – this trouble – no woman or religion can soothe.

Between Drifting Clouds

Rain that could yet turn to snow, as if existence itself were subject to divine whim. Beyond the stars, more stars, and beyond them, darkness. So I studied a thousand years and learned nothing but a couple simple hymns, so what? At night, the tent flap makes a rustling sound, the breeze coming and going, and my loneliness deepens accordingly. Venus hangs briefly visible between drifting clouds, and one wonders about the moon, which long ago was a kind of lover, attendant and willing. My subject in those days was movement, perturbations in the whole which could not help but be ecstatic. Broken travel plans became the period at which a certain sentence ends and a new one begins. We swim in the same lake but given darkness can only tell the other is near by how the water ripples at our shoulders. Penumbras, adorations, complines. What is the middle of east and west but everywhere? My prayer is you reading this aloud alone in your neat poustinia, floating in me in precisely the way the unfaithful believe is impossible because of space, time, distance and mass. Our mouths full of amen and alleluia, our hands baking bread to feed the poor. 

Messy Intimacy and Resultant Dialogue

We lived in a dream but the dream passed. Downstairs I hear the whir of a sewing machine, the hiss of a tea kettle, the low murmur of a mother talking to her oldest daughter. Abruptly, one has to relearn what it means to love, and in doing so reflects on the Chinese understanding of crisis as a time of both danger and opportunity. Crocuses, crack-ups, cranberry bean stew. Early confusion about sex – largely in terms of not being ready for the messy intimacy and resultant dialogue – bleeds into my early fifties, leaving me raw and unsteady considering love. Elderly layer hens tear at the lawn, Jeremiah tears at the bracken overwhelming the flower garden, and I tear at the closet in my heart which hides – or once hid – the Lord. Please me please? The point is, Hansel grows up and knows he was saved by a power greater than himself but can’t say how or who, and in this way the patriarchy goes on mindlessly violate. “If you’d like to get your shit together, now would be a good time.” The vast desert of our denial, the hurt any sacrifice engenders. Tomorrow I will write you a long letter, you whose name I am forbidden to utter.