Gathering Unraveling

Am I, then, a bruise?

Wind in the darkness, late stars. Carrying hay to the horses at six a.m., repeating this day after day, following the same path.

A service, a sacrifice, a sentiment.

The weaving of other’s stories into our own, and seeing how the weaver is so far beyond the reach of Her material.

Women I name, Goddesses I am not allowed to name publicly.

Rushing up the stairs in my shitkickers because the blind horse is down, the house still shadowed at half past six, Chrisoula and Sophia meeting me on the landing already dressing, knowing something is wrong because who goes upstairs in their shitkickers when nothing is wrong?

What is wrong.

We watch Eddie Van Halen doing Eruption live, then a couple of Zoe Keating’s exquisite existential cello solos, then supper is ready and we eat standing around the island, speaking our shitty Greek, making Chrisoula laugh. Greek islands we visited early in the marriage, kisses touched with ouzo, olive groves crossing steep hills we ascended happily as into light.

The dry sun so far from New England’s.

A way of reading texts entangled with Freud, kind of like how The Sopranos was written.

At a late juncture realizing how poor I am at setting and sustaining boundaries, and the ones who teach me this by running over them and taking my stuff and picking at my bones. Sadnesses, softnesses.

Crossing the street to give space to the neighbors, a new thing. Egg cartons blown off the front porch. Shivering dogs the neighbors don’t let in, scratching their heads and talking in low tones, being whatever comfort I can be.

Waiting until afternoon to do laundry. The blind horse stricken now by wind in a way he was not when both eyes worked.

Mostly but not only alone, in love with what unfolds, and infolds too, gathering unraveling, and lonely in the way one is lonely when one is mostly but not all the way beyond being alone.

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Men Who Were Haunted By Men

Yellow maple leaves falling, toppling through warm air, a loveliness, a light, littering wet grass.

Chrisoula advises me that inclement weather is coming – rain and wind – and I tell her I’ll be okay, which is a lie, which in context is okay, but still.

Old friends relaying news of their illnesses, a reminder we are all in motion, going along.

What helps includes potato chips, chess with Jeremiah, Hallmark movies, watching football and baseball, kittens and quilts, baking pies with Fionnghuala, rereading favorite books from childhood (and talking with Sophia about what constitutes “favorite books from childhood,” especially if we never stop reading them), and long walks alone at dusk and – in ways I am only beginning to understand – just not being lonely anymore.

Hey Sean, what did you mean all those years writing “and begin” when you had obviously begun and were going along?

One enters the desert in which everything is blasted and wasted and consents to be blasted and wasted and thus meets the Lord shriveled and dry, a husk, a dried-up seed pod, a carapace, a corpse.

Always ask: what is near, nearer, nearest?

Hills on the far side of which Emily Dickinson wrote poems and letters that a century and a half later would guide me through the rockiest portion of the trail.

Neither late nor early, neither enough nor not-enough.

How grateful one can be when one is grateful for the ordinary gift of ordinary days!

“That was another happy summer, for the troubles had not come yet.”

Making coffee, taking it with me outside, standing it on a shelf in the barn, grabbing hay for the horses, then coming back to get my coffee and finishing it in the doorway, the earth turning mindlessly into light with me. 

The older cats curl up sleeping. The younger ones stretch and roll. 

And a storm gathers.

Family jokes about how as a baby I ate so much bologna, behind which rests the sorrow of poverty and ignorance.

Oh, nothing beautiful, nothing free.

Yet as as the night grows darker and terrible rains fall and he cannot sleep, his heart softens and opens, and all the sleepless men – haunted by violence, haunted by anger, haunted by men who were haunted by men – come into him and cry quietly, leaning on one another, salting each other with tears – and he says to them all, “here with you by the grace of God am I.”

All the many ways we interpret the late biblical gloss: “no man knows the hour at which I come.”

And to October I say, “not again.”

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Able to be Forgotten

More of the same at last blurring into all there is at last able to be forgotten. Sigh with me please. Maple leaves dulled by rain plastered to the back stairs. One moves slower in their fifties, one counts their blessings, one uses “one” in awkwardly formal ways.  The sound a mouse corpse makes when tossed onto the compost under the watchful eyes of crows. She visits the hayloft, passes me working, squeezes my foot hello, but otherwise does not speak. Yellow school bus, yellow sunflower, yellow rain. Remember when practicing kissing was a thing? So much bittersweet. Your octopus soul is showing and “I” am the ocean. There are always more ways than one, my dear. Look at all this smoke rising off the only fire I know.

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My Hands will be Gone

Black coffee, half moon.

October: this October.

Also, what’s “in” a name? Where will the sentences go next – the form and the specific example?

The blue stillness, depthless depths, the stars and the space between them, all of it spilling, being brought forth.

Frothy beer heads, fallen nachos.

Bittersweet on dying maple trees just beyond the pasture. Every time I hold a chainsaw I wonder if one or both of my hands will be gone by day’s end.

I remember looking for her bra in the dark, both of us laughing and happy.

We sleep, dream, wake up and go back to sleep: is this a problem?

Fire makes a dim light when it’s lit in the far back of the cave yet somehow we find it.

Lines in the sand.

Unexpected letters that reveal once again we’ve been used, set up as this or that, tossed around in social circles, and when will this grief end, when will this loneliness cease.

My mother trying to say she is sorry, the Great Mother leaning in on both of us without clarifying my role in the amends.

Bells, bats, binoculars, bears, bad bets and bestiaries.

Pancake batter forgotten in the back of the fridge.

Altars made of cornstalks and dried gourd and pumpkin vines. When your people and my people are one people. Long roads on which we walk a long time before turning back at last, as if giving up on distance and its array of possibilities.

Born again in you, little by little trying my voice in you, lost in the truth of you, the simple notes, the unlimited arrangements of you.

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The Heart of the Mother at Home

Half circles nudging the dew off stiff clover. Nursery rhymes.

Dead maple leaves stranded in avian netting casting thin shadows on old chickens who – rare in these parts – will die a natural death.

Time in which to measure the circumference of a stubbled hay field.

What story am I telling you, my ocean, my hole in the sky, my dearest emptiest only one.

Promises, promises.

Pretty girls, popular boys and all the rest of us keeping up.

October fastens me to now-harvested apple trees, making a handsome pair of corpses. Death is neither the end nor an escape nor a beginning.

Fighting against the urge to rest and then fighting against fighting against the urge to rest.

Later the sentences help elucidate the actual conflict. What falls apart falls apart and what is reconstructed is not what fell apart. In Africa once.

And yet. There are all these rules, there are all these capital letters.

What we call it – awareness, consciousness, mind, Light of God, nirvana – does not change its nature or function but rather the community in which we speak of it.

A sound the tree makes falling, torn from its roots and its roots shivering in the earth, and all of watching in bright sunlight this rehearsal of our own inevitable destruction.

The country of tea in the kingdom of coffee in the heart of the mother at home.

Hard coughs in the middle of the night indicating something has gone wrong somewhere but what and to whom and what shall we – who have never been very good at answering these kinds of questions – do.

I mean really: what shall we do here in the heart of what has no heart.

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Days of Heavy Lifting

Given the leftover canes of more important men and being told to be grateful and being grateful. The waning moon on the western hill. 

We take the calendar off the fridge and study it plotting the week, which is full in a complex way. 

Putting up tomatoes: canned salsa, pizza sauce and pasta sauce, and frozen roasteds for soups, stews and casseroles. 

The eighteenth century yawns, stretches, comes downstairs and joins me for coffee. 

The neighbors ask for help carrying their new door upstairs, and though my days of heavy lifting are now mostly gone, I say yes. 

Accepting a cane from a man rich enough to own many canes, who now and then gives one to the poor, high on his benevolence, deceived his gift is a form of justice and mercy. 

John Prine’s last record. Cutting down mostly-dead trees past the pasture, knowing the end of days is nigh, and drawing each breath in a rush of dazed gratefulness.

And water boils for tea, and coffee boils in the low pan, and we wake the girls for morning chores.

What is ordinary, what is lost to itself, and what is grace-filled because it has no word for grace.

Nor any language at all.

Mid-fall.

Hefting fifty pound bags of flour, setting them where Chrisoula says, the back stairwell a second pantry now. Repotting succulents. 

She takes her glasses off, rubs her eyes, and later falls asleep with her feet in my lap. There is no channel anymore that soothes me the way she soothed me once against how rough and indifferent the world is. 

Market capitalism has failed us. Her hair shot through with silver, exciting me as if moonlight were a guest and not a stranger.

The Light of God in which all things – including the Light of God – are seen.

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The Futility of Gifts

Moonlight on the barn roof at six a.m., frosty dew on the toes of my black boots. I am mostly broken, mostly riddled, mostly limping. The heart has no thought of its own.

In dreams the dead visit, and in psychedelic prayer space, we can die and be reborn. Blue jays in the hemlocks mock my fear of chainsaws. How else are we sustained in this hash mark of a world.

Poems for pretty girls become pleas to be understood and then – later, in this autumnal darkening, this end of days – a hymn to the One who breathed us and whose breath draws us back. 

The neighbors come over with plans to kill the fox who is killing their chickens and, foxlike, I lie to them about where the den is located and, Seanlike, disable the trap after dark just to be sure. Bittersweet scales dead trees out back. The mute center, the warm billows.

She tells me she is breaking into a thousand pieces, and I fall asleep to the sound of her whimpering in dreams. Paper snowflakes that lasted through spring and summer, harbingers of what’s to come. We pile blankets on the bed, quilts and throws, and our bodies grow thinner accordingly.

Breathe me, believe me.

Early October, shivering in morning prayer, clutching the hot coffee mug, letting what wants to come into the light, come into the light. The psychic who predicted my death, who was obviously angry at me for reasons I could not discern, taught me thus the futility of gifts. Drinking coffee with Dad in the hospital, easy in those days because there was a future with which to blot any study of the past.

The blind horse begins to age, and I take over the early hour chores – checking on him, checking on the fence, throwing flakes of hay. Sprigs of lavender in water in a yellow plastic aspirin bottle, lasting longer than one expects. 

For a long time I was ruined by images but at last saw how this was simply a construction of language which I could do or undo at will, which doing or undoing reached all the way to the self, and then ended, as sentences do, and apparently must. 

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The Silence which Cannot Be

Starlight, city lights, that which makes all light possible. Darren offers me a cigarette, which I take but do not light, nervously waiting for the cops to finish their interview. Peace signs everywhere, Black Lives Matter, the silence which cannot be broken. Distance. The circle allows no argument about what constitutes circularity. We work together at a steel table, our dialogue public yet shot through with the privacy upon which all marriages are premised. Gently plunging my right hand into the chicken’s body, massaging organs from ribbed walls, easing fistfuls of steaming guts out, leaving a cavity to be flushed, a husk to be frozen. Idealized spiritual states breed competition and other zero-sum activities. Shivering waking up because early October is cold this year, and chores do not allow me to linger in bed. Dionysius the Areopagite said the Godhead was “the Universal Cause of existence while Itself existing not, for It is beyond all Being and such that It alone could give, with proper understanding thereof, a revelation of Itself.” Precisely. And yet.

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On a Bus with Her through Vermont

The eye of the observer alienates what is observed. Or something Bohm said long ago, when one was curious in a different way. Brutal cycles of creation and destruction at last perceived as distinctly feminine and through which one passes to a generative stillness beyond gender. A gold light in October that I remember from long ago, a childhood in which all was given so that in time it might be pieced back together. Muffled distinctions and other softenings. I remember riding on a bus with her through Vermont at night, snow and darkness in moonlight perfectly blue, and how surprised I was over all the miles at the happiness washing over me, wave upon wave of her attention and delight. And so again I come to the table and shuffle the deck and douse the lamp. Shoeless and blind, I wait patiently for whatever enfoldment She decides is coming next. 

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The Memory of Sight

Coffee against sleeplessness, that losing battle ruining my body. Scarring patterns, dental records. A sexual hunger that no woman ever met and no man understood. Early October wrapped in heavy quilts, gazing through the window at a world blurred by melting frost. Whenever you have a law, at the next level of existence, you have a reflection of that law. What is the structure of mind save the structure of the content appearing? A lot of writing is done simply that we won’t forget, and yet forgetting is precisely the goal of Love, a difficult balance I am yet to sustain. As in, how I wanted to take the tryst to church and give it my name. Since you didn’t really see me, I became blind, and in my blindness died to the memory of sight, in which darkness much is revealed, more or less continuously. 

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