Wanted to be Dylan, ended up a poor man’s Gordon Lightfoot. Something the shallows can teach us about skimming, something the deep teaches us about standing a long time on shore. Whose container are you now? Years later marveling at how I didn’t die, the sun so bright I went mostly blind. “You know that ghost is me.” You think something is moving in the corner but nothing is moving in the corner. We pause on the bridge, watching water pass in moonlight below us, one hand tightening in the other. As if? It’s true, you know – we get everything we want and it’s not what we want. The desert crosses interior oceans to rest in our shared heart, sort of like how weary dogs are never too weary to keep an eye on those they love. Falling in love again, miserably. In winter the prism is everywhere, is why winter. Some women don’t know you’re alive, some men wish you weren’t. You get to a point where there aren’t any good arguments left and then what? At dusk I drive home, fulfilling my part in a vast ancestral narrative. Nothing left to win, nothing left to lose. Hemlocks in my skull tattoo the sky with prayers only She can read.
We meet at the back fence to discuss an informal cannabis cooperative, exhausted with how readily corporations steal what heals us. This world is not your father’s world, it’s closer to your great-great-grandfather’s world. I put the music aside – Liszt’s Von der Wiege bis zum Grabe – and try to make sense of the order inhering in snow falling. When he cried I slammed his head into the steering wheel. Her yellow shirt falling in – oh Christ, not that again. What do you say we all meet at a remote campground in Maine, eat a bunch of mushrooms, dance around a big fire, see what else the Miracles of Jesus have in mind for us? In those days you had to figure out alone what “faggot” meant. Mirrors need a light source and boys who have to save themselves need dictionaries. By not making sense in ways I’d come to expect, Gertrude Stein loosened certain bolts in my skull. A nightmare featuring snakes swallowing toads, hungry witches, Robert Frost poems and Newsweek articles about Gary Gilmore. She watches me cry from across the room – everybody backing away, nobody helping – whispering in me “go deeper into the grief.” Look at all these prisms! Look at how easily that crucifix became something beautiful. This woman saying gently in the Country of Grandmothers: begin.
All but three of the poets who changed my life are dead now. This sentence arose in trance. Touches that indicate later more intimate touches are forthcoming. My uncles and cousins meet at the bottom of the sea, wreckage all around them, mocking my efforts to reach them, knowing that my destiny is sky. Something in us that won’t give up, keeps trying to make it all better, damn what the void and common sense point out. Five shots of whiskey left in this life, five more mornings without Her. Imagine baking a pie in such a way that the birds inside it are alive and still remember how to fly! How fast my father killed things and how only now that he’s dead do I understand what he was trying to not remember. The One Mind is not always full of blessings! We shit the bed dying, we puke our guts out in the back yard, we go to work and get it done, we aren’t complainers. Oh hey, look at the pretty snow falling, listen to the river murmuring in the distance. I’m in you in the way you said you wanted, now use me.
And just like that the basilica comes down around us. She led me by the hand away from the village into a grove of olive trees and we made love in hot dust, birds I’d never heard before rustling above us in the twilight. Jesus visits to say gently he’s happy to get nailed to the cross again – will it help et cetera – and when I say importantly “brother we are finished with that evil now” he smiles and points to my right hand in which – but how – the hammer of the world is poised to drive yet another nail into that famous body. The storm comes on slowly, rain then snow, then tiny gems of ice tumbling across the back porch roof. You could be happy with less. I remember a picture of my mother when she was eighteen on the wall in Nana’s last apartment and something awful in me makes a sucking sound, like a body being drawn from mud. As if? One hand on the shelf on which the pinto beans we grew this summer are stored, the other gently cupping her chin. Number of women I remember kissing on a Vermont river: five! We think we’re too special to die is the problem and it follows us literally everywhere. Meanwhile, deeper in the forest, Grandmother wakes the great bear and betrays your grandfather. Oh this bitter salt, this humbucker heart. Face buried in the holy fur, tongue praying the only prayer it knows. This family you undo in me kesidca, this dream of being finished swimming in pools of blood and semen.
Look at her looking at the camera and ask what she recognizes if not you gazing back from a visitor’s gallery in the Utah State Prison. Iron gates closing, books flying off library shelves. Oh relax, the nineteenth century will not be done with us for another couple hundred years. War is coming, the very crucifixion you dread the most is coming, i.e., not liking what’s next has arrived. Coffee with cocoa and cinnamon, the kids playing Christmas music baking. There is a loss in me that sometimes reaches my throat – not unlike a snake or a ribbon – a spiral whose ascent never reaches my clenched jaws. Welcome to my education? You don’t have to tell me the blind horse is more than just a symbol, I’m the one living in his eye socket! Sucking dick in a Ford Scorpio at the far end of the Alewife parking lot, drunk and in the void. We are not the only ones with secrets! But this is neither a poem nor an apology, nor – actually – a history. I chased the witch from my dream into the earth, went in after her, and came to the stillness of right before the the cosmos is born. Stars in the east, virgins wandering around with buckets of yak milk. Sure, whatever, go ahead, begin.
A petal falls off one of Eleanore’s poinsettas. Years pass. In Albany my heart broke, ever after in need of suturing, and yet I would undo none of it, not even the yellow shirt nor the cheap motel in which it floats forever. How lonely one can be at Christmas! The moon half full, somewhere off to the west, pulling with it many seas and rivers. We are all mountains capitulating. Near dawn an octopus waits for me by the hemlock trees, a loveliness undulating I accept on my knees. We can in so many ways fly and do! Moonlight in early December renders the whole earth a cathedral, and one passes through it both wondrous and grateful. You are not forgotten but nor are you precisely remembered. Eden becomes Purgatory, Purgatory a city you visited as a child, and the child a confused but not unhappy man. The envelope is closing – you must choose quickly to leap inside or out! A storm coming, a bad one, whispering to me in a language I am sure to one day learn.