Sunday, May 31, 2020

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.


Saturday, May 30, 2020

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." 

Friday, May 29, 2020

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.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

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.

Wednesday, May 27, 2020

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.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

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.

Monday, May 25, 2020

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.

Sunday, May 24, 2020

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.

Saturday, May 23, 2020

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. 

Friday, May 22, 2020

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.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

Blessed by Other Witches

Question your assumptions, especially when they press you into quick action. Sunlight streams after three days rain and snow and I go outside with coffee to listen to birds and ask if their song is changed. A lifetime reading is a life well-spent, whatever else one says. Perhaps a way out of the patriarchy - its rigid emphasis on zero-sum gamesmanship as a means of enforcing orders not implied by nature - is through listening and making amends. Chickadees rest on the rickety fence between our yard and the neighbor's. Do you trust me not to lie? When she described what she wanted from me, I realized how frightened of the world I am, and went off in a new direction blessed by other witches. The ideal of love is not a mystery - it is in fact continually given - but we do misplace it. Bits of hay and gravel near the barn door picked through by wrens who intuitively grasp that I'm not a threat. How radiance extends effortlessly, and how observers are only sometimes necessary. Thank you Lord! This balance is not the point, this dance is not the end. The surface of the lake is death to trout. Near the swale's reedy bottom, we are born yet again.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

Mind is Triangular, Polysyllabic

How as kids we candled eggs in the kitchen. By what sorcery was the nineteenth century allowed to live in your brain? Frost spackles the potato garden where we talk with our shoulders hunched. Six p.m., hour when the dead visit without recognizing anything. Geese pass, their guttural cries a reminder of some kind, of what perhaps will outlast us. REM cycles, condoms, buttercrunch ice cream. How we parked, climbed into the truck bed, and made love, bark from the day before's firewood in your hair. You wait all night for what's coming down from the hill and in the morning you're waiting there still. D minor chords, trucks rolling slowly up Main Street, as if the driver were searching for someone walking. What in mind is triangular, polysyllabic. The revelation was given too early and I am what happened as a result. Standing in the barn while it rains, gazing out the open door at the neighbor's sheep, unconcerned in the bland wet landscape. Another sip, another step. Something is always being born and we miss it because of our odd obsession with death. Imagine passing a cup of coffee back and forth, tired after a long day's work, letting the weather be weather, and love, love.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Taught by Hawks or Angels

The allowances we make! I write all morning, the clouds of the past two days rolling away, taking a wet snow with them. I begin circling again - the sentence, the subject, the sun - as if in a past life I was taught by hawks or angels the proper way to worship (which is merely to survey the world intensely). When you reach the laws, you begin to wonder at the law-maker, and when you search for the law-maker, you reach a woman for whom your intellect and wit are a test she passed lifetimes ago and is called to administer now unto you. As the day progresses - breakfast, work, phone calls, cooking, chores - one's understanding of the various social cues diminishes, only to be regained in dreams that retain the vivid intensity of childhood. Don't say "yes" so much as "thank you" and "how can I help." The writing is a teacher but the reader who says "yes" to its implicit request is your spiritual therapist, given that you might remember how to form the words "thank you" and "how can I help" with your otherwise clumsy tongue. A witch? Well, there is something dangerous in your mind that the forest quiets and the sea obliterates. Be not afraid indeed. Salt, yeast, sandalwood, thyme. Basil, rivers and poorly-tuned mandolins. My senses steer me to your body, oblivious to distance and etiquette, begging my soul to write whatever poem will make you naked (all the nakeds) fastest. Put a rose in your sentences, put its stem in your mouth. In the dream, there are no more pages for me to fill and none for you to turn. Shall we write at the same table over coffee? Shall we mortgage personal circumstances for the Lord?

Monday, May 18, 2020

A Gentler and More Durable Prayer

She shared her shoulders with me twice, the second time in a dim light at two a.m., the soft curve of her breasts meeting where shadows began, an intimacy that undid my lifelong emphasis on images. When the altar is ruined, a gentler and more durable prayer begins. God is always the way you can best apperceive Her, which apperception is what God is. The snow stops falling around the time we begin chores, the horses stomping fast-melting snow into mud, chickens scrawing for early Spring worms. A lot is revealed at the juncture where one is no longer allowed to say "late" or "not too late." The man decries his residence on Main Street, yet the landscape is oddly welcoming, reminding him of a collective he has too long disdained. Shall we gather at Golgotha and repent? Shall we revisit the old motel in Albany and rehearse again the unity of our shared body? Yesterday when I looked in the mirror, a chickadee gazed back, long enough to remind me of a confused and lonesome man whose gift for baking bread has never reached his own hunger. "Not yet," whispers the Lord. "Not yet my child but soon."

Sunday, May 17, 2020

Other Collectives, Other Worlds

Light snow falls, melting on the Main Street hardtop but layering the back yard and pasture in a crystalline veil, a surprise and joy and not at all a worry. It is as if I am searching for something yet only ever find the one who searches for something and only recently understand that even this as such does not constitute a problem. Is it a word game then? Are the sentences construals of application and consent? Barthes was an early model of what can happen when you read in a close and critical way. My insistence on you in various positions - which is merely desire not denying itself - is not a transgression in the divine sense but there are boundaries one has to cross and consequences one has to accept and the Lord is mostly quiet with respect to the precise mechanics thereof. In the morning before the others are awake I take my coffee to the front porch and shiver listening to birds singing - chickadees, juncos, cardinals, crows, robins and grackles and blue jays - who collectively are evidence of other neighborhoods, other collectives, other worlds, and other ways of organizing living. In your permissiveness I slip away. Witches stay put, spiders stay put but boys with big ideas were made to travel? On that note - briefly of a westward mind - I briefly slip into light.

Saturday, May 16, 2020

This But Another Way

Between falling rain, bird song. Braids knotting gray clouds to the now-snowless earth. My love is this but another way.

The peace that surpasses understanding which, paradoxically, one encounters through a disciplined and sustained effort to understand. The God of spiders, the God of trout, the God of Heraclitus, and the God of all this and more. We leave notes around the house, reminders we are here.

It is like a light that exists around the skull, a sun appearing where you thought there was a brain, and now it is seeping out in beams and rays of purest gold. Love as a text, encompassing and complex, deliciously. I go for a long drive through the hilltowns in which I was raised, offering prayers for black bears who are waking up hungry.

The man who can't bring himself to cut down the side yard lilac even though it has not bloomed in two years. Grackles unevenly up and down the phone wire chattering. Whatever we believe, we can be argued out of believing: this is my church, all my fathers be damned.

We talk about the kids falling to sleep, holding hands under the blanket, a sexless happiness enfolding us. "He told good stories, he was a damn fine writer." I stand on the front porch with coffee on Sunday morning, a little after six a.m., listening to rain fall, wondering what I don't notice.

One peers through apple trees at the dawn, doesn't one. There are seams everywhere through which hints and intimations flow, allowing us to piece together the narrative that is our fundament. Good kissers in the back seat indeed!

Yet some of the rules do change, don't they. We who insist on sacraments, whose voices are never not in a song it seems we are made to compose.

Friday, May 15, 2020

Aspiration Embodied

Two geese circling from the north to whom the horses give no attention. Always notice what you notice. Hunger is not a sin, therefore feeding it is not a crime. Jagged hills define the valley in which sometimes in summer lightning is seen at a distance. Define joy? My sister near Grand Rapids, my sister in Christ. Overnight frost appears on the arching limbs of wild raspberry bushes, spackles the potato garden like handfuls of divinely flung sea salt, its collective holiness defying the camera's bland eye. If you listen, you can hear the river over and above the traffic on Route Nine, and over and above all that, a softer hum to which your heart and lungs readily harmonize. We are aspiration embodied. Whatever I feared has gone, and what remains is my childish love of fear, my patience with what makes it hard to be so happy. Were they lost after all or are we simply finding our own selves? My broken heart, my luminous hands, my wordy poems. The sky in which our shared soul brightens, and stuff.

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Still Mostly Undiscovered

How tired I am of all fathers! A robin comes to rest on the bare maple limb outside the window, its marigold breast bright with sun, and writing begins. "Everything is connected," says the man for whom shoes are always somewhere else, often lost, hard to get, et cetera. Shall we compare pancake recipes, you and I?

Stepping outside at dawn to piss off the back porch, urine thrumming where in spring the tiger lilies will sprout then arch in unison east. A skilled liar is a kind of truth-teller. One wakes early in physical discomfort which by nine a.m. has given rise to a full-fledged emotional crisis. Whatever you can't put into words may yet be put into words.

Wait! Sometimes the writing becomes unsustainable in terms of psychological tenor. Late snow softens in the horse pasture, blurring with mud. There is something crows know that you don't, and there is a juncture in life where you know that you don't know it, and that is when holiness as such becomes possible.

One sifts through ash in search of bread. Attention is a) subject to discipline and b) possessed of its own intelligence and care: this was a nontrivial insight in 201? and possibly the greatest gift you gave me. The nexus between Jane Austen and Wordsworth (and Wordsworth still mostly undiscovered). Perhaps there is virtue in dithering?

Do not trust what you think! For example, two days ago I wrote three thousand words about my father that a day later I realized was fiction, and it scared the hell out of me. Bone broth with cauliflower and sausage sprinkled with pepper. Sipping moonlight from my grandmother's porcelain tea cup again, hoping you will do the same, where ever you are.

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

At Last I See New Englandly

Is it late or early and most importantly who will say? At 3 a.m. Dad and I face one another in ways we could not manage while he lived. Before dawn - which is to say in shadows bunching under wind-blown corn tassels in 1972 - a chickadee sings, its clear notes briefly my cupped hands. Who helps and who means to help but only hurts? I circle the barn unsteadily, studying the snow for skunk tracks, worried did it make it out to scavenge. The gift includes awareness of the other's suffering, a puzzle I leave for you to solve. My father had a lucky encounter with the Lord as a child and now look. Words do take the edge off the constant need to face one's inability to save anything, especially what one loves, yet the failures go on anyway. At last I see New Englandly. Snow falls from high in the hemlocks, sighing as it sifts downward through bent green boughs, barely noticeable reaching the ground. We are made to go home to the Lord, a fact I remember best in our shared bed. I have done things I may yet be asked to answer for and insist on freedom for all of us anyway. Here is the infinite prayer of blue skies after a storm, and here is the sentence in which we say "no more sentences," including the one which includes the lamentations of those who have yet to forgive their fathers.

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Observed by Strangers

I was mistaken about the crocuses, but not about the crows, whose cries echo over the landscape. It is always the second sentence in a paragraph which alerts me to the paragraph's subject. In the body it can be hard to breathe, while in the mind one struggles to say why it is hard to breathe, and yet the body goes on hissing and aching. The work, as such, clarifies, and the clarification is felt as a blessing. Fionnghuala nudges me from a light nap in which I dream I am being observed by strangers and reminds I promised to make lasagna. In the kitchen one listens to their child talk about Easter, which the body hears as "will there ever be another Easter?" to which the soul gently replies "it is always Easter, silly boy." When will we be alone? Sunlight grazes the street as dusk gathers, taking on a briefly copper hue before the deep blue of just before night ensues. There are plans in the mind of God to which I enjoy no access. Can we agree at least on the problem? Like the idea of ghosts, the past disappears, and we are left with pine trees and forsythia bushes in which chickadees gambol. It's possible I try too hard. That slow burn in the center of me: if it's not love, what is it?

Monday, May 11, 2020

Not Yet Beyond Learning

How blue the river can be in late winter, winding between horse-sized rocks and banks dotted with remnant snow and shadows of pine. How smoky I get drawing near you, like a fire in the late hours! Driving west alone is a kind of release, a letting go, a kind of sensing that one has been wrong in critical ways but is not yet beyond learning. Precious openings unto the Lord? Well, the day before a storm, the world visibly careening, and my woman worried, visibly.

One walks all morning to find a gap in the trees by which to enter the forest and then enters the forest, albeit alone and without a dog (which are two different conditions). When you kneel in late winter and study pools where the river slows and becomes glassy - where once you looked for trout, plotting without remorse to kill - you see how you are transparent, or translucent, and that there is nothing to let go of, including the idea of letting go. Joy and the juncture at which one finds it and Jes - I mean joy and the juncture at which one finds it, period. Religion, then. Fidelity.

Flexibility? Well, a Law that works for as many of us as possible anyway. One does mostly love the one they're with, doesn't one. Buddha goes on being a statue of the Buddha no matter how much patchouli you rub on his ceramic scalp. One allows for color - blue, say - and over a decade the world falls apart in a way that begs to be redeemed. It was not love exactly, as it taught me to understand love, and yet without it, what else but love was even possible? I don't know what I don't know and long only to be met in that emptiness, make love and tea and bread in that emptiness, and rest at last (in her arms) in that emptiness.

She shrugs leaning in kissing me and what is loose on her shoulders falls to the floor - it is yellow and soft to touch and it does not fall to the floor - but hangs in the dim light forever, an infinite flare in eternal summer, as if Albany were Jerusalem, the motel room a sacristy, and our unapologetic nakedness the only gift a loving God could ask.

Yesterday, walking back from the river as the sun rose, a low mist filled the meadow and I could not see below my knees. How cold it was! When I turned to you, you were there, and though I did not know what to give you nor how to even address you in my wretchedness and grief, you did not leave or judge me. A woman leans into the sky to open a window, letting a blue and gold light stream into my body, and after all those years alone we are at last alone together, and thus arrive in one another in a slow way, an earned way, a way that renders the whole world the very possibility of happiness, ours.

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Deep in the Cloister

Sunlight effaced by dense clouds rolling out of the forest and ascending over the pasture. One has to learn how to sleep again, and how to discern between the many dreams that compete for their attention. Mary Oliver poems for the ten thousandth time at a juncture fueled in part by the ongoing insight that we do not know what we do not know. Side glances, little smiles. I pace back and forth in the hay loft near midnight, shivering but grateful for the spare moonlight coming in through the windows. We make nothing for ourselves alone, for we are not ourselves alone. Spring, say the chickadees, flitting from limb to limb. Love, says the moon, skating like an oyster shell across the tidal stars. Only this, says my heart, deep in the cloister lovers build when over and over they whisper Her Name. 

Saturday, May 9, 2020

Thus the Grim Purgatory

The river laps grassy banks near the bend where a swift tumble turns the water white like the way I remember snow. Mist settles in the meadows, not quite reaching half a dozen Canadian geese, whose sleep is fretful and full of rustling. In the 1970s it was either summer or winter, with brief intervals of Halloween and Easter. Continuity in its way was the law. Whatever the adults around me named "religious" was instantly lost in the welter of sound to which I was always consenting to be enchanted by: wind in the crowns of pine forests, crows in the distance, owls in the darkness, muffled sheep blats in the barn, rain falling on cows who didn't mind I was there. Let go of your name and what is left is what you are when at last you meet the Lord. You remind me of that old dance, the one I learned before I learned there was such a thing as "partners." It went on for days and allowed you to believe in resurrected Christs and Heavens full of dead dogs and a love that was greater than all this. Yet the dead calves we buried broke him and his brokenness meant he could not teach me how to heal: thus the grim purgatory I had to write my way out from. "No church, no woman, no way" was always the truth and the light! We are not bereft who travel alone, and anyway, we're not alone. He said so back in the day, and I was a good boy who listened.

Friday, May 8, 2020

Love Came

In spring rain, in ragged Vs, geese circle the distant cornfield then settle. Night comes to this, day comes to this. I write through the morning, now and then studying the work of those who are dead, now and then studying the work that those who are dead studied while they wrote through the morning. In the hemlocks, blue jays, and on the stone wall that still stands between the near neighbor and the next-nearest, a cardinal. Let the song be sung, the prayer prayed. I remember as a child in the early 70s passing military convoys on the turnpike east and flashing them peace signs which to a one they returned, a memory I go back to often when I despair for the hearts of men. Pockets of gray slush in the driveway slide towards the barn to melt later in the day. Love came and here we are. Love came, here we go.

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Preferring Praying

You moaning, accelerating, while behind you I grunt and thrust, one hand on the small of your back, the other on your hip holding up the skirt you made with cloth your mother bought in Greece last summer. I make coffee in the dark, listening to the rain, letting the world of men with their guns crumble at last. The Lord's visits intensify - beginning around midnight and extending well into the dawn. I'm exhausted and happy and only sometimes given to the wordiness that so long insisted on defining me. What is the world but the constraints to which we consent before knowing what it means to say yes? I soften inside you, unwilling to separate, listening to you catch your breath. How efficient we are between kitchen and pantry, garden and hay loft. You kiss me after, beads of sweat on your upper lip grazing my cheek. All this for what? The Nameless One who does not pass, who asks nothing and takes nothing? How generous the Lord is, leaving me bibles, Emily Dickinson poems, and science. Playing, preferring, praying. How grateful I am for the familiar ritual, how comforting our shared penetration of the veil.

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Eschewing Names and Labels

I say there is a stillness in which words cannot be uttered. I speak of a field in which nothing can be said. What is described is gone and the description is its grave. Tides are the sea not needing us to live, as the moon only seems to follow secret trails through the sky. Our skulls open and blue lights float across the landscape, like a child's dream of having fireflies for friends. It's a dream to think you can follow Christ, or fall in love with a special someone, or even know what's real and what's not. I take your hand, take you to the hay loft, let you do to me what you say you want to do to me. Who is born is already dead and who dies was never born. Nothing intrudes on the inner peace born of eschewing names and labels.

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

Singing Our Shared Strange Song

Love came. Pine trees tower over low-rolling acres where in Emily Dickinson's day were sheep. The miles go on and going on goes on. I don't argue I'm whole, don't say I'm not broken. In 1971 or 2 my heart opened unto a forest witch who filled the bloody meat with a dream of chickadees in the mind of black bear. Stones rolled down hills in a dense fog that later would remind me of the false confidence of men. Up to my knees in the charred ruins of their world, I decline to invent a new prayer. Berries grow in the hollows, sunlight makes me sleepy. How much hungrier could I be then now, dreaming you on all fours, both of us singing our shared strange song to the stars.

Monday, May 4, 2020

Gifts I Can't Quite Bring Myself

These narrow windows through which we barely fit, these doors hanging slant in dusty frames. When I wake up rain thrums the the slate roof, car wheels hiss going up and down Main Street. What is the origin of fear? Is there only one question and only one answer? And who will say to my satisfaction? One day we will sip from the last cup of coffee ever, and the truth will not depend on whether or not we know it. As now the Lord visits and lingers, leaving notes for how to find Him after, gifts I can't quite bring myself to tell Him have arrived too late. It's not emptiness exactly, nor loneliness. It's not precisely sorrow. My heart was ruined fifty years ago and everything since has been stitches and triage. Up to my knees in a slow stream, I say what the currents say. Quiet has left the world in me. My mouth, my love, is the grave of God.

Sunday, May 3, 2020

A Slow Clumsy Dance to Celebrate

It's not like I made a decision - "sentences instead of lines" - and yet here we are, twelve or so years later, wading through awkward semantics and grammars. It's sort of like a country rather than a city, or a marriage rather than a wedding, or death rather than a funeral. We know that we know - we can reflect on reflecting - and whatever boon that recursiveness enables, it also enables some nontrivial banes. There is so much for which I want to apologize and yet the time for sorry has passed, hasn't it. There will be no cabin, no clearing in the forest, no mutual slip into the well of shared sleep. Yet after midnight I do go walking in the little village in which I am apparently going to die a stranger and can say with justification that I'm not unhappy. And will that be sufficient after all? One pauses to listen to the river, its spring spate gushing in a darkness that doesn't have to end but will. So I was unlucky, so what? Here where the years become brittle as jerky, I skip a little approaching the front stairs. I do a slow clumsy dance to celebrate the end of another winter. My last? Look, there on the horizon, the yellow moon.

Saturday, May 2, 2020

In Artifice Forever

Where else would I be if not here wishing I were somewhere else? So much revolved around women in this life, even writing itself, and yet I was not so dense as to miss the ones who were my teachers. "Whiskey on shares" we used to say out in the forest when we were supposed to be hunting but were instead getting drunk, talking about girls and getting out of Worthington, which in the end I did not. A man is always in part what his Dad thinks of him, but he can also discover Emily Dickinson poems and fall in love with chickadees. Earlier Douglas shared half a dozen poems, all of which were so deeply authentically emotional that I was instantly ashamed of these antiseptic sentences. This heart is a half-empty factory, a death knell or belfry, a bevy of laid-up emotion going brittle on the shelves. It's like we can all want to be poets but we can't all be poets. You study a certain map all your life only to learn there was a territory it represented, and when you raise your eyes to take in the territory all you can see is the map begging you to rest your eyes on it again. "Who am I to argue" is not a question I ever asked, unfortunately. One shores up a future so long as the body requires, but another voice speaks now and oddly only my heart can hear it. There is not precisely a church and there are not precisely vows, but something new is being born where yesterday was wind and rain. In mid-March I remember I am always in her thoughts. These poems, these images, this prayer: must I rest in artifice forever?

Friday, May 1, 2020

I Do Not Lift My Eyes

There are worse things than starting over. And there is no middle, no matter what the rest of you says. It's Sunday - just after midnight - and I am restless, like a man who has lost the moon.

Did I mention that I have a body? Distraction, not detail, is my narrative gift. When I walk up and down Main Street, I own the tired gait of a black bear who lacks the concept of time required to understand the finality of death and so merely assumes he's succumbing to a deeper - more private - sleep.

I played a game that I'm hungry but it ended up being I'm hoarding so reluctantly I stopped. Yesterday I saw the fine worn grains of Chrisoula's face and realized we are together passing into the country of old people and was grateful for such a worthy companion. As T.S. Eliot said - (also, fuck T.S. Eliot) - I know what I must do.

Crows atop the compost, yet another familiar image. Some boys like birds, some boys want to know it's okay they're not feeling like a loaded gun. The cross and the lotus, the prose poem and the lap dulcimer, the bare shoulder and the plaid flannel shirt falling forever, never reaching any floor to which I am privy.

My son explains that the song I wrote when I was twenty was trying for the Dorian mode and grins awkwardly when I kiss him and praise his knowledge. Over western hills something beckons but it will go on beckoning now my attention is moving elsewhere. Walking up Main Street I pull my wool cap tighter, study the fall of each foot, and resolve not to slip.

Or will we get there one day? I putter quietly around the downstairs near one a.m., not wanting to wake anyone but not ready to sleep, and interested as always in how things look. Once you know the reading list is going to outlive you, you start to understand what Emily Dickinson was getting at in certain poems, i.e., it's late but not too late.

So long as I do not lift my eyes or indulge any fantasy of climbing, I am allowed to place my hand on the lowest rung. After the wedding comes the marriage, after the marriage comes the last true love, and after the last true love comes the Lord in her rocker, stitching and pulling stitches from the vast luminous quilt you last laid eyes on at about age four.