Friday, December 31, 2021

The Mother of All Queens

This Luciferian tongue, this taste for salt and fire.

This home outside the cave.

So it's a story not a promise then?

Landslides ruining familiar passage, forcing us into scary detours.

While in another sense, my heart is an angel's heart, and my body a boy's just trying its wings on an empty beach. 

Snow blurs the only map left, mutes our voices as we hike deeper into the swamp where my father first threatened to leave me for dead.

Deeps we pretend are deeper than they are.

The Fluorescent Telepathic Octopus is the mother of all queens, including you.

Bluebirds in late November, a troubling loveliness notwithstanding the sentence prior to the sentence prior. 

That fucking basket floated in muddy reeds a long time before it became a manger then a hospital on fire in Burlington, Vermont.

At critical junctures he did not hold me, being deprived of a mother to teach him how, and so now my grandmother has to leave the company of the other shades to try and make clear to me that no matter how hard I try and demonstrate otherwise, I am loved. 

Chrisoula healing us both in and out of the pantry. 

Still Corners' The Trip.

Why do we insist that trauma is not the cause of suffering? And why do we need the one who suffers to be responsible for their suffering by failing to heal their suffering? 

Stop making us watch the water for signs of monsters coming up from the graves to which you consigned them - this is not our war.

We sleep on wasp eggs now. 

At night Chrisoula touches my cheek and murmurs, "ghosts are feelings you're still scared to feel." 

Ways in which there is only one kiss.

Something we are together, even though one of us doesn't know it yet.

Thursday, December 30, 2021

Weary Dogs (are Never too Weary)

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. 

Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Around a Big Fire

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.

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Five Shots of Whiskey

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.

Monday, December 27, 2021

The Hammer of the World

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. 

Sunday, December 26, 2021

Virgins Wandering Around with Buckets of Yak Milk

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.

Saturday, December 25, 2021

Wounds with Grace

All night I was saved by voices in my head that like to play with words. I remember her last apartment, this woman whose anger I was created to heal. Look at the chickadees giving glory to God! 

The hemlocks are set in such a way that dawn and not dusk fills them with light. Fuck forethought, am I right? A woman whose gaze has traveled all the way to the summit of Kilimanjaro, whose songs circle the earth, binding every one of its wounds with grace. 

What else is "part of being human?" Listening to Fleetwood Mac, wondering what Thérèse thought of dance. I shall not continue to deny my perfect imperfection! 

Go your own way indeed. Chrisoula and I stay up until nearly four a.m., talking about our grandparents, their sleeping habits, and their grandparents, who are lost to us. Theora asks why I always get and give head in the pantry and I anwer it's obviously a critical living out of the connection between hunger and sustenance, no? 

One longs for the peace that comes from knowing what they are in truth, which they already know but expertly hide. Nobody broke me in a final sense but goddamn there's a lot of hurt in here. Look at all the separated ones auditioning to be the One!

Recovering the truth is like telling a story but also like understanding the story already being told and somewhat paradoxically consenting to live the story which - in a way I cannot really explain, probably because I'm wrong about it - has to do with being destroyed. Firestone wasn't stupid so why didn't he take the last step? The shirt to which I refer was yellow and still floats in that Albany motel where every guest sees it in their dreams and wakes up afraid of the void.

Firestone writes " . . . most people reject, manipulate or control their environment to avoid personal interactions that would contradict or disprove their early conceptions of reality" (43). Troublemakers of the world unite!

Friday, December 24, 2021

Forever Falling through the Cosmos

The earth turns away from the sun, the sun forever slipping away beyond the Taconics. The moon is a bundle of clouds. The Christmas cacti are blossoming, they look right now like pursed lips, teasing a future kiss.

Truth is so pure, like melted amethyst, like our love before either of us were born. My uncles and cousins drink at the bottom of the sea somewhere off the coast of Rhode Island, forgetting me as our shared mother insists they must. This is not darkness - this is another way the light appears.

When the petal fell off the poinsetta Eleanore left as a going away gift it seemed to call for a poem and yet I resisted the impulse, holding the petal in mind - seeing it fall - and thus know it falls forever through the cosmos, like Denise's yellow shirt in that Albany motel. We joke via text about Doritos, sex in the shower, fudge recipes and our tax returns. It's reflections all the way down - did nobody ever to tell you?

At a distance voices that have no gender but are clearly happy. A way that cities appeared in the 1970s when I was looking with eyes that had yet to declare their allegiance to prerogative. On the other hand, maybe it would be nice to fuck another woman.

Whiskey shakes. I pause as always after throwing morning hay to the horses, letting them know I love them, checking the fence lines and the sky. We are like molds through which quicksilver flows, we are like whatever the molten metal poured through on its way to becoming a mold for the quicksilver.

Moonlight at three a.m., wandering through the pasture to the town park, sitting on a swing and floating a little, happy and amazed that such gifts are still given, the world the way it is. Days pass without word and one grows quieter, going deeper into an interior landscape for which no map or fellow traveler has ever proved sufficient. The things one misses when one is attentive mostly to sentences.

Sorrows, solaces. I mean going back to bed for once, letting suffering go.

Thursday, December 23, 2021

Capitulating Near Dawn

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. 

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

My Loneliness is Nothing at All

I write hastily - shitty coffee, Jeremiah making breakfast, cat on the table. When we want to run, is it towards or away? Nontrivial questions that it turns out are trivial, my attention about as sharp as soft butter these days. And yet always "and yet."

Bittersweet encircling the second-oldest apple tree grows dull as temperatures climb in unseasonable ways. Conversations about ice-skating to pass the time, mind ranging - skating perhaps - over half a dozen memories of skating, each moving me further away from all frozen surfaces. How much of our childhood reflects our parents' experience of childhood! I prefer mittens to gloves unless I am working and even then.

We are bound to repetition in ways reach beyond our narrow sense of "self." I write "desert" - and it's the right word - and yet there are oceans hiding somewhere, happy to be noticed, not needing to be chosen for this or another poem. When Rilke felt his rhythms go slack he started sleeping on the floor, and James Joyce often sat in the backs of Catholic churches across Europe, thinking God knows what. What is the moon but clouds embracing?

Jogging past the village into darkness thinking about bears and trout and what it means to be hungry. Stars are not lonely yet sometimes when I watch them alone - the vast celestial landscape against which my loneliness is nothing at all - I wonder if maybe they're lonely. City traffic. Somebody mentions their dog in a conversation I'm not even part of and I start gasping and choking back sobs, have to leave the room, wander outside to where I think nobody will go and curse certain ghosts and allow certain others to come close enough for whatever thin comfort in my grief I know to offer. 

There is only ever truth and the winding roads of which it is comprised. "God is in all things" is a way to see it, but "there are no things" is better, and God is beyond the reach of language but - Wittgenstein notwithstanding - you and I shall speak of Him, and all things shall be made luminous thereby. Kisses at a late juncture in order to learn that time is beside the point. Damn but that manger filled up fast!

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Lewis Powell on the Gallows

What, in the end, were we thinking? The radiators hiss kicking in and something inside me near the shoulder buckles then straightens, possibly Lewis Powell on the gallows, by all acounts stoic to the end. Pushing aside so much in order to make room to sleep, or try to sleep, or pretend to sleep. In this story I chase a witch into the floorboards and beyond into mossy earth, both of us dissolving like salt in dark waters that birth no light (as if only without us is a prism prismatic). It's not a secret but on the other hand one does love to have a secret doesn't one. Windows through which hope passes, sunlight filtering through the village, pies cooling on windowsills, atomic bombs as yet unimaginable. Somebody wants to argue about God again but for once it won't be with me. Lemon-scented letters arriving almost every day now, the return address hard to make out but a little clearer each time. She kisses me jacking me off, a sweetness - something hidden coming to light - the hitch in her breath while my back arches more precious than fire. Quartz was a trap, I see it now. At night I stand beneath the stars and rehearse an old prayer, the one you taught me lifetimes ago. Between crucifixions, shall we begin?

Monday, December 20, 2021

Distances that Surprise Me

Mornings with the blind horse I try not to lose track of my grief but let it rise, tidal and clear, a Herkimer diamond in starlight. I buy Chrisoula a hand-made tea mug for Christmas, the artist and I talking after outside his studio about the old days, our sense that for all our particular collective gained, we've lost something too. Cold winds off the mountain, leaving the village darker. Who needs old men? My uncle used to sail for days, drinking and smoking, snorting cocaine, until lost and out of drugs he had to call the Coast Guard to bring him back to land. Always ask who is paying, always be aware that sometimes the answer is you, you are paying. Bleary with fatigue and the effort of not drinking (and confused by all the voices at the party) I start crying remembering an Irish Setter dead for fifty years and everybody in the room looks away, embarrassed. In the mailbox is a new life, isn't that what you always wanted? The clothesline groans as we haul it in, everything stiff with frost. Her voice recognizable at distances that surprise me. Sex at various junctures, strange women and familiar, real and imagined, all of it always opening lines of dialogue that spiral into the cosmos, wordy and luminous filaments of love. Losing myself in you, losing the church in you, wandering a long time in you wondering will anybody save me. Is now when I remember it's not a crime against God or nature to lay down, get quiet, die.

Sunday, December 19, 2021

Something I have not yet Learned to Give

Moonlight on the river, a thousand hemispheres floating through the night. The first time a woman took my balls in her mouth, how I thought about them differently for days after. Soft clouds at dusk, Mount Greylock jutting rock-like into the sky. When you were young, what promises did you make that you did not keep, and what is that child saying in you, in the corners to which you have banished her? Pine cones around the chicken pen, tracks of feral cats. Fewer and fewer hayfields and other losses I opt to mentally catalog, to what end who knows. I miss Worthington, have always missed Worthington, and in so other many ways am never not in Worthington. Little babies keeping secrets in baskets floating through reeds. You have all these ideas about Jesus and then somebody looks at you sideways and every mailbox you ever swallowed starts spitting rocks and sawdust. Christmas decorations on the porch, ads tacked to phone poles for missing cats. Would you lean, would you kneel, would you swallow. I write "desert" and stop, wondering why in my mind I see oceans, how soft and beautiful the sea is when you're out of sight of land, each swell a continent, full of light and grace. Proving Machado wrong, a step I did not expect to take. My mother's mother visits often now, occupying the same corner of the bedroom as the rest of the dead, but unlike them she does not speak, only stares at me, as if waiting for something I have not yet learned to give. I always sit to remove my belt, I learned this way of being clear with respect to power. Saint Jude pray for us indeed.

Saturday, December 18, 2021

Filling the Heavens with Dreams

That's too much light for one face, I think, putting away the photograph for the ten thousandth time and turning back to my reading (Firestone's The Self Under Seige). The old trestle table rocking in the hay loft while I pick up and put down my coffee, a good brother, an old friend. Chrisoula folds laundry in the pantry and I lean in the doorway to watch, neither of us speaking but looking up as she folds the ________________,, smiling at each other. So war is coming, so what, we've survived worse, is one way to see it. At night like a few other men in our tribe of confused peace-makers I go outside and star gaze, dizzy and stumbling, filling the heavens with dreams of the end of conflict. People say the stones on my desk are pretty, and I explain how moving them a little calms me. One's life shrinks and then suddenly expands, waves rolling over the sand, darkening it to the color of a certain kind of shadow. I understand that the first image is the self, and all else a recursion, a complex idea until you see at last there is no first image (and thus no death). You had to be smart and you had to protect yourself, stop pretending kids have choices. Remember yesterday that cardinal swooping across the road to alight in snowy bracken? My brother, my killer, my savior? I tell you - She tells me - we do not have to live this way.

Friday, December 17, 2021

On the Banks of a River Somewhere in Vermont

I am falling again. Kissing her on the banks of a river somewhere in Vermont, tasting the pinprick night that hides in all things. Not this god but another? All night it rains and three times I travel outside to check on the horses, coming in each time comfortless. Remember records skipping. What did she think in those last hours, did she know this time was it? Adrienne Rich on Ethel Rosenberg, reminding me a good man stops what a bad man says must go on. Attention drifts, rose petals drying in bible pages, evidence that somewhere in the past are stories that can save us. I remember crossing the river on slippery rocks, one after the other, "each making possible the next," refusing all hands, and reaching the other side in a light that grew dim but never went out. In the dream a crow brushes my face with its wings wakening the crystaline stillness that is the center of all things. Your Highness, sweetheart, your worship.

Thursday, December 16, 2021

How to be the Other's Servant

Abraham looking at the stars and worrying about sheep.

Gods who leave and do not return.

An owl cries and I remember that week in Vermont reading John Haines, wanting to like him better than I did, and realizing there was something to learn in the dislike and wanting, and learning it. 

At night I walk through snow to the river past the horses so later I can write "at night I walk through snow to the river past the horses."

Ma's mother just wanted to be happy and forty years later a little boy had to figure out how to live in a dark basement and I have not really slept since 1987 when the dreams began. 

Mandolin notes floating through summer evenings, love letters a grandson finds tucked into the family bible, and death sentences, always death sentences.

The second solo in Comfortably Numb.

In a dream, John the Baptist laughs at me trying to remember everything lest it all happen all over again, saying "Sean, it's all always happening, that's what he couldn't see, throwing his body against a wheel that's never not grinding." 

Jason interrupts to ask me to stop using the word "demon" and then says quietly, "yeah, sorry, I know."

Let us learn again how to be the other's servant.

Remember sex in the fallout shelter her Dad built?   

I remember coming home from painting houses and getting high in a little apartment in Burlington, listening to Dylan and watching fish swim back and forth in tanks both real and imagined.

Each breath a continent as she presses me inside her, gently rocking, the heat of her something electric from high up in the cosmos saying "yes - there - there." 

Nobody scares you like you scare you!

A light goes out of her eyes and I know what happens next and still I stay, saying is there anything else I can do.

Leaning my head against the barn pissing, rain falling on the back of my neck, forwarding an old family story. 

Advent candles leaning in the wreath I made with Fionnghuala.

White chocolate.

Learning early what a photograph could do to me, against which words were a poor army, but going to war anyway, wanting only to live and to stop what it seemed like always had to happen next. 

This anger, it has no gender. 

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Your Mother Staring at the Christmas Tree

Jesus, too, is illusion. How red the light is in the hemlock trees, four of them left near the chickens, alternately begging and haunting me. Late in life I want a new story about dying, one in which I am not required to hate myself in order to live another day. 

Do you pause between stanzas and if so how long? I remember wanting to kiss a woman on the banks of a river whose name I refuse to remember. Jesus says quietly "I would climb on that cross again for you" and I scream and punch the wall because it's still what I need to hear. 

I don't set traps despite promising to set traps, knowing the mice and rats are getting into the potatoes, yet wanting so badly to be finished killing animals. I read that fucking story ten times ten thousand times before I understood who Pilate was and whose hands were being washed. I remember kissing a woman on the banks of a river in Vermont - a river whose name escapes me - and being briefly perfectly happy.

How bored one becomes! Going outside to piss at midnight, mist rising off piles of snow alongside the barn. You think you're finished with anger and yet here is your mother staring at the Christmas tree you just put up for her and you know you are not done with anger because your mother is not done with anger.

Maybe this hurt is not a mystery? Firestone reframes separation, every sentence a heavy nail against a very familiar cross. In a dream a woman I want to kiss on my knees in a river says quietly "you can't keep taking symptoms to the healing fire, Sean." 

My poor grandmother! Gazes we avoid, gazes we cannot avoid to save our lives. Chrisoula calls to say the kids expect me for Sunday advent dinner and so I appear after many days away, unshaven and unsteady, the interior uncle saying quietly haven't you hurt them enough. 

This is one of the ways it happens apparently, you're not special. Yet another morning with the blind horse, learning this new way of seeing. 

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

The Ten Thousand Mile Gaze

Can we agree that it's late - not too late but late - or will you deprive me of even that small comfort?

Imagine how tired the prodigal was when at last he arrived home, and imagine the nature of his gratitude, and then ask: is this a story about the prodigal or how the prodigal's father learned how to forgive? 

What the magician learned, what the priest learned, what a woman learns who is not consulted but chosen to be a queen, and what I learned by trying over and over and over to choose nothing. 

A therapist, he said, is a storyteller and seeing it that way was helpful for a surprisingly long time.

The wind makes an angry sound high above us, coming down through the valley in early winter, cirling the pasture, ascending and descending, reminding me of the old argument: when does a hand become a fist.

The sentence lengthens, becomes complex, losing itself in itself, and fantasies of a cell somewhere begin to appear again in my mind.

At night in windy sleet howling I guide the blind horse back into the barn, lose a shoe in freezing mud near the door, tumble around in the darkness for what feels like years protecting my toes from the great weight of God.

Photographs haunt me worse than any ghost, noon is the darkest part.

What we don't want to say but must is that I am a mother's son with an awful secret, a gift for talking his way into and out of every room, and a tolerance for physical pain that only in my fifties did I realize wasn't a virtue.

After, the bedroom fills with blue light, angelic and clear, and something in me briefly stops trying to keep track by counting.

Things I was wrong about include labeling the Holy Spirit attention, though a day after realizing this, I wonder again, what am I doing?

A great deal of what appears appears to co-exist with what else appears.

One slips into recursion again, or awareness of recursion maybe, and remembers the early days of discovering the separation was an illusion, not a mystery but a puzzle, one that could be solved, heady days when Dad was still alive and it felt like the cosmos was preparing some grand gesture of welcome, inclusion, ordination.

The mice in winter in the barn are happier than we are: this is not an easy lesson to learn.

The question is, would you accept the gift of total and perfect peace from God if the sole condition was, you will forget about God entirely?

The wedding, the marriage, the infidelity, the suturing, the realizing it's all sutures and always was, and the ten thousand mile gaze still traveling through the galaxy in search of the perfect woman. 

The rank profanity of "it is what it is," which I reject utterly.

Days after her own orgasm Chrisoula reciprocates by giving me head in the pantry, jacking me off at the end, ropy semen shining on her fingers, which she uses to trace and touch my lips, running her palms across my eyes, trailing her hands down my throat, all of it to mark me, bless me, remind me what gifts are and recognize better the Giver.

Between hemlock branches, morning light, last night's snow gone down the river to another town, briefly the end of all loneliness.

Oh it is Advent again, let us put our shoulders into carrying the five loaves and two fishes through the snowy meadow, our whole heart a lantern ablaze in other hearts, starving and merely hungry and otherwise.

Monday, December 13, 2021

On Our Knees in Secret

A scratching in the walls, mice probably, nesting up for winter. Distant holiday lights, as perhaps Bethlehem might appear to certain travelers, or Jerusalem to certain others. I don't bother with candles or the lantern or poetry, just accept the modern age and answer emails, happy as always with any evidence of love. Vast plains in the cosmos are not uninhabited, all of us coupling in ways that don't readily fit into language. Yet Thanksgiving passed quietly, me and the horses alone together, the whole world a child dozing on flannel sheets while adults talk quietly in another room what to do now the war is come. Secrets: did I mention secrets. In a dream I shout about the cosmos waking up to itself in our bodies, and everyone is bored and annoyed, but I wake up hard, breathless, and jack off in the dark, imagining you. Stars sweep slowly over the river, sparks of white light drifting across an enormous onyx hearth. The discipline inherent in any prayer, the one we profess before the collective, the one we swallow on our knees in secret. The salt of God always our one shared throat. Om shanti shanti shanti, amen.

Sunday, December 12, 2021

The Concept of Rescue

Without lovers or followers, that desert.

This is soon.

Snow gathers on the empty limbs of maple trees over a century old. Nobody lives without a camera around here, the ghosts have become prolific but bitter. Sexual whispers.

Certain theories about cooperation that found a welcome home in me, as a drowning man reaches for flotsam, and then floats the swells for days waving at seagulls and distant ships, thus failing to understand the basic concept of rescue.

"When you write the word 'begin,' you are referring to the Country of Turtles, which is neither a place nor an idea, and which has no Queen, only infinite divine companions who are perfectly equal to you, as I, for example, was given to demonstrate." 

Context generates many demons, but others just appear - their source remaining obscure - and these are the ones you can't under any circumstances take lightly. Walking where in summer my children walked together talking about a future that would never arrive. Last of the violets, frozen but not unlovely in tangled grasses upwind of the apple trees.

Patchouli on the skull of a ceramic elephant. By mid-morning the weather changes, the sky dull gray, like a sheep's eyes after it's dead, or the underside of trout when it's too late to throw them back. 

There is no dream and also, this is the dream.

Arriving late to the "Emily Dickinson Atheist" party but nonetheless.

I have driven through southern Vermont so many times, on behalf of so many ideas about grace, never not in love, always resembling a creature in a snow globe, fascinated by the see-through skies and blurred gods beyond.

Meditating on one's skull, and on the dust which one's skull must become. Dry snow tumbling over flagstones out front, a softeness somewhere hardening at the bounce of each flake. 

Acceptance is the answer to all my problems save one.

The chess set my father gave me on which the jade turtle Chrisoula gave me now rests, gazing at the hayloft in which I work out salvation one sin, one blowjob, one sentence at a time.

I know I know: begin.

Saturday, December 11, 2021

Neither A Sin Nor A Crime

A fine snow falling at six a.m., unexpected, a loveliness, a setting in which to stand by the horses muttering versions of "thanks for loving my daughters." It was the speed with which the guns killed that frightened me most, as if while bleeding out the sheep and pigs and cows could at least manage a last look, a farewell, a final cry or bellow from the gushing ruins of their throats. Imagine being nine years old and knowing that Gary Gilmore was a bad man who deserved punishment, yet also knowing the terrible loneliness of a man who is dead and knows he is going to die. The river flows in darkness all night, its low murmur reaching me on the cold back porch where I go for whatever comfort remains to be scratched from the world. Everything I let go of comes back - old pains, old stories, unworkable ideas, embarrassing love letters - as if I were a kingdom, a black hole, the cosmos. A woman who takes your hand at the right moment, finds you in the hayloft with that look on your face and approaches removing her shirt, no word spoken much less needed. The terrible penance visited on my mother's mother for what was neither a sin nor a crime, and how all her children paid, and how all their children paid and now look. Tell me again it's okay to be scared, wade into the deeps, build a fire where it's darkest. Remember throwing pennies in the wishing well at the mall growing up and remember wishing? We fuck tenderly, kissing after, both of us crying a little because of how long it took to find our way back here. Between stars, darkness, yet between darknesses, this light that never goes out.

Friday, December 10, 2021

To End Along the River

The pain intensifies, maple leaf smoking under a magnifying glass. Turning the couch to face a new direction. Watts Brook sang bearing down on Sam Hill Road, and Sam Hill Road said nothing after the voices in Center Cemetery, that half-assed cacophany that didn't know it was a collective. What is cruel in me, what is lost in me. What is quartz in me. Wind in the far trees, the far hills like enormous black stones laid end to end along the river. In which birth is a beginning only for parents. I write wrapped in an old quilt, coffee gone cold in the mug to my left, nothing in particular save the old devotion to process. At a late juncture one's resistance to order begins to soften, and order appears, as if the world were suddenly a library. Holding my lover's hair back. In the morning distance many crows, the horses stamping their feet against the cold. And what else can a body do but grow up and die? Apple pie, oral sex, Frank O'Hara poems. One last fling in the twilight? Pretense, pretext. Death comes for the mosquito. Oh this sorry heart, this pile of smashed plates. This kitchen in which nobody ever learned how to keep a secret.

Thursday, December 9, 2021

Foxes Enter the Barn

Night winds. Terrors that stubbornly resist being symbolized. "You're a good boy and I love you" is not a bad mantra. Gulping coffee in the barn, listening to the last of the chickens scratch and mutter to itself. Rain turning to snow, snow to watery blossoms. Thought is the problem but also, is it really? Bales of hay on which we sat to talk. There is such a thing as happiness, it turns out. What are ancestors anyway. What is Fall River, Massachusetts? When kisses are hungry and what you learn about hunger by feeding them. Empty mailboxes, invisible missives. I remember in summer talking in parking lots after movies and whatnot, in no rush to get home, save in some deeply abstract sense that would not be comprehensible until my early fifties. The willow trees of childhood cast silver shadows, women unfurling from watery roots. Grace is abundant, is basically the lesson I resisted most. What else can we do? Foxes enter the barn and then flee as we approach. At night I remove my clothing, lay down on the bed, and in darkness wait for Her.

Wednesday, December 8, 2021

On Apophatic Winds into the Cosmos

Something must matter but what. 

Not a Christian story but not not a Christian story either, that manger reconstructing itself as a pain in your left shoulder.

Single note trance in the soft billows of cannabis - sitting still in a ladderback chair, hands open on my knees, eyes closed - undoing thirty years of bungled meditation and fake contemplative prayer. 

How deeply we sink into judgment, and then through its swampy bottoms on apophatic winds into the cosmos where equality - the absence of differentiation - i.e., where love - is the law.

Blue sky early, first in over a week, cloud-streaked and low, crows going back and forth across it, roughly north to west, stealing glances at me studying them studying me.

One begins the journey back into the woman they are by becoming the specifically broken prince they are by leaving the kingdom they are to join a feminine collective, which has known for a long time what's really going on here. 

Her mouth on my neck opening old wounds for salting.

There is no chaos anywhere for the cosmos are cool and stopless, unlike death - Sister Emily said it was so - for it is all governed by laws we did not make, in which entropy is a form of coming forth more whole.

Fairy lights in glass bottles presenting non-flimsy evidence of angels.

Early mornings in November, the earth frozen and smoke taking hours to float away from the village, pilgrim ghosts swatting at cats with storm-blown sticks. 

What was the first bible you read and did it have pictures you remember?

Reaching deep into the cosmos, her warm thin legs opening, something Greek in what you are together stirring, an old woman by a nearly-dead fire, unalarmed by death or anything else happening next.

Waving to the neighbors we not-so-secretly despise, and other gestural components of the atonement. 

We make mistakes, there's no question, but we also bake bread, also remind people, hey, look at all that starlight turning to coral on your ribs. 

Late to winter chores but laughing getting them done. 

In the distance, a mountain, and in the mountain a man who saw the Lord, and in that man a loneliness, and in that loneliness a vast desert, and in that vast desert a traveler who begins by writing "in the distance, a mountain." 

Or not, of course. 

A long-standing paradox dissolved by Quine in slightly less than eleven pages (am I really ready for this), moving one further into entrancing heavenly seas, sunlit and rhythmic, in which the fluorescent telepathic octopus undulates and speaks to me in a language we share with others I have yet to meet. 

Stirring oatmeal, bits of hay stuck to my sleeves.

Say you're grateful, ready to be, deeply, not my will but yours, say one more cup of coffee please, and say thank you for the coffee, thank you for the coffee.

Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Many Generations of Dove

Rumi's point about how rarely we hear the music and yet - as one - all dance to it anyway. Footprints in the snow, mine and a fox's, one of us knowing better than the other which way home. No trembling now you're holding the light and we're all counting on you. Who misses the forest? Imagine dance parties ten thousand years ago, drums and fires, how confused they would be with John Lennon. Family connections. Passing on the cinnamon coffee, then later not passing. A week after the last dose the mushrooms came by with a handful of hastily-done watercolors, mostly of cartoon demons but one or two nice ones of a manger, reminding me of laws I tend to take as suggestions. Cars sailing off cliffs, men riding on horses, letters in their envelopes whispering sonnets. There was not one but many generations of dove fluttering in warm rains above that ridiculous ark, those brave sailors and trapped quadrupeds. Always ask which story you're furthering, be sure it's the one you mean. Hemlock trees saying even the chainsaw, even the chainsaw.

Monday, December 6, 2021

Into Eden Came a Lie

Something terrible is happening, you did it and you will pay for it shortly. Reading the Hardy Boys, those monuments to order, in the barn because of who would never go there. Life, she said, is basically a spelling error, to which I responded, or a library, to which she said, yes, full of books full of spelling errors, and with that began one of the most satisfying sexual relationships of my life. Dad's guns are gone but his knives remain. At night I vomit stars, sweaty and trembling in frosty grass. Always go deeper into the forest. The manger was born in Christ, not the other way around, and until you see this we're going to have to keep pretending nuclear war's a real threat. Notes comprising melodies comprising hymns which - stitched together - make a ceremony. Horses are never unwelcome. It's not exactly a good story, is it? Last of the coffee, the wind howling in the darkness between galaxies. All loneliness is perilous until we realize that what we are in truth cannot be alone. Into Eden came a lie yet in the lie was a light. Begorrah be gone child, we're all getting on. 

Sunday, December 5, 2021

Shadows in which Gorgons Waken

Rather than pray I write, hours passing in the chilly hayloft, sentences like strings of holiday lights strung around the rafters. Stars brighter than seems possible. Mushrooms in me eclipse certain suns in me, leaving vast shadows in which gorgons waken, drag themselves to the cave's mouth, praising the sun and moon. This is not what it's like to have no clue! I spent four hours in the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam and all I remember is talking to a woman on a stairwell, we had met days earlier on a train, and how confused I was to be rendered familiar so far away from home. Mexican chocolate, German beer. Tides recede, leaving room to scavenge, an invitation I have never declined. Doors we wish we had never opened are now fallen off their hinges, and the world is what passes through, screaming and brandishing knives. We were always political. Chrisoula goes quiet in the face of Reagan family demons showing up around bedtime, a sort of ongoing wreckage, a high bridge collapsing in slow motion, a steam train spiraling into the river, a dialogue choking off at a seminal interval to begin again hours later in darkness. One begs, consents, forgives, uplifts. I was a child, young, the snakes writhed dying - somewhere in me I heard their screams - and the woman who killed them threw their bodies far into the forest, a grand and religious gesture that to this day I cannot help but celebrate. This is a garden, not a chapel, a pussy, not a war council. Together we remember to remember.

Saturday, December 4, 2021

Narrative Recreates Everything

Hard winds I wish on nobody. I remember phone calls by the river, loneliness and desperation moving everything inside me closer to the sea. You say "begin" without actually knowing what you mean. Old stories.

Old monsters, more tired than you know, ready themselves to sleep. Emily Dickinson in the early 1860s, moonlight on her lap by the window where she wrote. I remember Christmas as a season of promise, premised on getting rather than giving, and I remember the cold distances of January in which it hurt to think. Bobcats, bear tracks, blowjobs.

Every minute knowing oneself in a familiar way that somehow includes an absence that is intelligent, covetous, angry. It does not, in fact, come down to the words you choose but every mouse does clean up when dropped in the snake's cage. I have done bad things, and love men who did worse things, and God will not forgive me, and yet. Counting headlights on Main Street after midnight. 

Remember drinking? Flames lick the stars. The helpfulness of maps is contingent on our ability to look up and also change direction. Confession it turns out just complicates things.

Yet in the farthest reaches - where memory dims and narrative recreates everything, mycelium-like - there is this love, this openness. Crows in me pulling apple cores off what in time becomes the soil in me. A binding confusion symbolized by cigarettes in Ireland, sex in the afternoon. This wind in me, these wasps.

Friday, December 3, 2021

Long Ago Another Listened to Distant Bells

Twenty sentences again. 

The body stands by the window and watches snow flakes drift through sunlit air, while the mind ranges on cosmic plains, where no horse is blind, no daughter weeps and no son wonders where his father has gone. 

On Monday mornings I smear a few drops of Pogostemon Cablin on the head of each ceramic and marble elephant, remembering literally the specific joy the aroma bestows, discovered during a brief window in my early twenties when it seemed I might escape certain demons (who are not escapable but can be healed). 

And did you, in the end, gain a prism?

"Like Indra's Net," she says, and I shrug and smile, mostly beyond the ability to make distinctions of the sort I am being invited here to make.

So much given away - old bikes, guns, jackets, bibles, cups and poems.

We cross the street to reach the post office, remembering the story of the rooster who hovered on its porch roof, howling at every visitor, until one day he mysteriously disappeared.

Tradition is you have no choice - if you have a choice, then it is culture, yes?

Shotgun casings again.

Walking up Main Street in the direction of darkness, passing houses lit up with Christmas lights, the blend of garish and holy and commercial oddly pleasing, as if I am not separate from that which I spent a lifetime condemning.

One of these days it really will be the last morning ever.

Wracked by insomnia, I stay in bed rather than wake and walk, and listen to Chrisoula breathe, which is the whole cosmos breathing, breathing me even, and my body - that tired host, that cartoon nightmare - shivers happily at in the gathering light of departure.

Imagine being made of the salt of the tears of all the ones who had ever wept, and then walking a long time - decades, centuries perhaps - until you find a body of water to gently enter and dissolve in.

Solving problems again for the one that needs me to be a problem.

At night geese pass overhead, lost in the misty darkness of mid-November, no different than the one who listens to their soft shared murmuring, as long ago another listened to distant bells and remembered the Lord and was glad. 

Not fitting in, that old confusion again, arising in love and desiring justice, but going sideways in the world, itself inadequate against the riptides of fear.

Waking late and skipping running, instead writing the day's writing, gulping coffee in the back room, only leaving when the blind horse cries out for hay.

Gentle kisses, crying a little, holding one another in the shadowy stairwell faintly lit by the neighbor's red and blue Christmas lights.

Knowing Thérèse and the terrible darkness she willingly faced, braver in her way than even Emily Dickinson.

Now and then I wonder what the rules are for this particular writing project, and mostly there aren't any, or any that really need to be obeyed so much as noticed, waved at, as if the point were just to be happy and to learn that happiness is possible, even without the dread supervision. 

Thursday, December 2, 2021

Naked and Marked by a Woman

Snow on my running shoes. A heaviness in the general area of the heart. I cry a little after, the distance between the wound and the one who would heal it made of both lifetimes and miles. Bittersweet on trees beyond the pasture. Must everything always ascend? In the dream I enter Jerusalem naked and marked by a woman, my mission to end not the specific crucifixion three days hence but crosses generally. Who judges you is a mirror in which you perceive the depth of your own fear. How black the river is on an early winter morning! Mirrors cascading. Abide with me a little longer, you who who understand the home I fail to recognize? Fionnghuala and I decorate the Advent wreath with stones, pine cones and greens. Why is it that the light is always later? This prayer, this poem, this stubborn insistence on wordiness. Christ how it hurts. The one woman, the one god, the one son. 

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Prismatic Fragments

Snow flurries in sunlight, life dissembling in prismatic fragments. Across the river, Trudge's Belted Galloways bellow. What is death but a comma?

Sitting quietly in shadows, sipping coffee, breathing slower, the body increasingly a mahogany table on which a meal is set, a repast I no longer crave. Jade turtles. Kim brings peyote by, a ceramic bowl full, and sings a quiet song on the porch while I hold the bowl to the snowy sky: blessings.

Of all the things I was wrong about, to have been wrong about that still hurts me the most. Chrisoula turns to me in the half-light of dawn, pulls me back into the warm tent of our bodies where we talk gently about guilt and letting guilt go. A whale-shaped candle holder I cannot bring myself to accept, a sense that somebody else somewhere needs it.

The narrative including extended family, the practice of forgiveness unchanged despite the apparent shift in intensity. Salad with grated gruyere. Wondering at midnight wandering up and down the windblown black ice of Main Street, is there any description of happiness that does not involve the word quiet?

Those who mistake us, and how we live with them anyway. Discussing rhubarb pie recipes with Fionnghuala who says she has perfected a gluten-free crust and wants now to figure out perfect fillings. The past and the future are black boxes, sort of like strangers we keep bumping into on a train.

Spiders, too, are beloved of God, a point Maturana made several times, indicating a psychic side-road I know exists but so rarely find for myself. Certain stringed instruments are returned to the attic - the mandolin, the banjo, and Jeremiah's first electric guitar - to make more space in the hay loft. I offer to drive and do.

Perhaps this is the last morning ever, wouldn't that be nice? Letters flying out of their envelopes, mergansers floating on the river, my eyes still smarting - possibly partially blinded - from my long-standing insistence on such intimate proximity to the sun.

Tuesday, November 30, 2021

A Child Between Winter Stars

Everything revolves around the blind horse it seems. Even time has this specifically gentle way of being utterly still in moonlight. A space makes a stanza, a silence makes a poem.

Here are the hemlocks, which are like my grandfathers smoking cigarettes and drinking whiskey, professing confused ideals about their Irish heritage. If I could ascend, I would, but I'm stuck here praying that the mountains will be lifted up. Going down on her in the warm pantry, one of her hands on the back of my head, the other against her mouth, muffling moans and come cries. 

Yet another invitation to read tarot cards for profit which, much like poetry and prayer, I have so far avoided doing. The dogs recede a little in death, as from time to time in life they did as well, going farther off the trail than I could manage. You would be surprised I'm sure by how much blood is in a pig.

Grace begets more grace. Friends who died young, mostly from drinking and/or driving too fast, and how I didn't understand how to be sad at their funerals. She put her hand on my cheek in a way I remember.

Sure, go ahead, call it love, in the end that's all anything is anyway. The connection I made one night as a child between winter stars and frozen gravel and how sad I am that it will probably die when I die, unless reading this you are somehow able to make the connection too. You develop a certain attitude about question marks and commas and then talk about them at apparently odd times, people looking at you like who invited this asshole to the party?

Playing piano again, just a little in the afternoon when I don't feel like opening a guitar case, those notes that always reminded me of sailboats out past the harbor. I remember on the shores of Lake Champlain, turning our backs on the wind to get high. Ghosts are not dead is about the best way to put it, unless you put it that the dead are not ghosts.

It's not really poetry so much as a sickness trying to heal itself with words. Who doesn't fear snakes.

Monday, November 29, 2021

Travelers Parted By a River

Waking before the crows wake, while the rooster still dreams. In the family bible, custodianship of which fell to me, are several dried roses in Paul's first letter to the Corinthians which nobody can account for. What Jonathan calls "spiritual condoms."

Though driving through the city in early November after dark does make one rethink their indifference to holiday decorations. The skin on the back of my hands grows thin and wrinkly, and my father weeps in the dusk he now inhabits. Who needs a comma? 

Commence! We fight wars, we build walls, but we can also change. The woman behind the counter selling weed was puzzled by my ineptitude, a somewhat new feature of my relationship with the collective.

Mice scratching in the hay loft walls, the one heater rattling. Coffee is what my brain is not disappointed by. On the other hand, it's projections all the way down.

Everybody wants a lover who wants what they want, but what I want is peace, and the lover who brings it forth in me does not have a body. I remember telling Denise I liked a good sneeze as much as coming and she said, "so next time I'll bring pepper." Zen Buddhists abound.

Early snowfall, the potato garden spackled. Chrisoula's loneliness grows in rough tandem with my own, it's like we're travelers parted by a river we're unaware you're allowed to cross. Or else what indeed.

Sophia and I both laughing at "well well well if it isn't the bridge I said I'd cross when I got to it." It's happening again, isn't it.

Sunday, November 28, 2021

In Terms of Fairy Tales

Trembling driving away from where we gave the guns away. Such a beautiful terrible childhood, one understood mainly in terms of fairy tales. Sunlight on the hemlocks, a cold that seems to begin inside you.

Mornings when there isn't enough coffee. Watching Charlie Chaplin videos. I remember the 1970s, and know the specific peril posed by nostalgia, and yet.

Let us not be apocalyptic. At night I sit quietly on the back stairs and listen to the river and look at the stars and remember I have been doing this for at least ten thousand years. We are mostly what our limits are.

How hard the story tries to find a victim, and how willingly I acquiesce. Gravel in the driveway freezes as winter comes on and at night I find myself on my knees seeking whatever light hides there. Bob Dylan albums I postponed listened to in order to have a lifetime of new Bob Dylan music, a goal he has consistently neatly confounded. 

Roald Dahl's story about Danny and his father, a loveliness that even as a child I could hardly bear. Many mouth injuries, many broken limbs. And will you say when the last goddess comes to kiss you good night forever "thank you?"

Unable to sleep, unwilling to get out of bed I simply lay in the darkness and think about the pasture behind our first house in Worthington. Nobody builds an altar who actually understands what an altar is. Voices the mushrooms use are angels who use the mushrooms to reach me through the dense fog of confusion and pain that is mostly my mind.

Left alone to wake up. Even now, even now.

Saturday, November 27, 2021

Fire Rather than Smoke

Sharp light bleeding off the edges of clouds themselves sinking like tired oxen into leafless hills. There is no cooperation without at least the illusion of the other. Blue prayer beads my wife bought in Greece before we met, a sorrow for me, brightly-lit.

We are compositions, seamlessly integrated into the composer's heart. Ask what you see when you are not using your eyes but your mind. Stars wheeling through the sky, now and then trailing off like milky dust.

I walk two hours up Main Street and into Plainfield, the cold become as still as the interior of a stone, flakes of snow drifting through the dark like planets. Spirals, spelling errors, Spanish lessons. How as a child I longed to break open quartz rocks to find the pure light, unmarred by contact with the world.

Blurred minds. We are fire rather than smoke, crackling above fast-disappearing logs, ash always a symbol of what we long for. What helps?

What happened? Reflections of Christimas lights in windows facing the pasture and river. Early maps of Cape Cod.

Loose folds of skin around her throat, stretching as she lifts her head in anger, a familiar look and way of being that's older than I am. How in my early twenties I would spend hours painting my guitar case - crosses, rainbows, flowers, furling galaxies, soap bubbles. At dusk the horse whinnies half-heartedly, less demanding and more just checking does his voice still work.

Creaking clothesline as laundry is brought in. But this is not a story, is it.

Friday, November 26, 2021

Closer to Murder than Not

Travelers are subject to clouds. Between the mountain and the summit of the mountain there is nothing but a journey. We are antiquated, discarded like old calendars, we are made of what nobody wanted anyway.

Hand-painted rocks on the shelf by Sylvia Plath's three books, making me smile briefly, before slipping into the specifically intimate sadness I feel about all suicides. It rains off and on but the horses don't care. Speaking of which, I'm leaning into adjectives now, damn the many teachers who tried to counsel me otherwise.

Other ways? Jeremiah and I debate the merits of buying a car, but my heart is only halfway into it, as it's his life and money, and I won't love him differently either way. Pumpkin pie with vanilla ice cream.

The abiding interest in Socrates, even as a little boy, how his name danced on the tongue like a hot little tri-syllabic knife. We do not die and believing otherwise is a cognitive error that's stubborn as a fucking rooster. Talking for a few minutes with a stranger heading to the river, rod in hand, remembering all the fish I killed over the years, and choking back my "good luck," praying silently after that as nice a man as he was, the fish confound and deprive him.

What do dead kings say when they meet at the bottom of the ocean? The moon is before me, the color of the peonies whose yearly blooming feels closer to murder than not. Wordiness goes farther than sight, every single time.

How she tilts her head coming, eyes squeezed shut. On the wall of the hay loft where I write are half a dozen rosaries and handmade necklaces. Place a small rock beneath your tongue and watch stars flicker in the early absence of light in November: I will join you in ways that are mysterious and intimate, better than sex, finer than prayer, and darker than the interior of that stone in your mouth.

We talk about mood swings and all the while I keep remembering that pendulum I saw in some Washington D.C. museum some woman insisted swung only because the earth was turning, and I longed more than anything to hold it - make it still - and let it rest, i.e., projecting even then. Carrying my grandmothers with me, trying to get past doom in a way they insist - when they visit - is possible.

Thursday, November 25, 2021

Threading a Fine Needle

And in the end, did you actually gain a prism? Morning skies in November, mist blurring the jagged line of hills to the north. One is lost when one is looking at a map - there is nothing else to say.

Lambs at dawn. Cardinals sharing a hemlock limb, an image I offer to those for whom such images are helpful. Foxes pass through the pasture, looking neither left nor right.

Walking through the village around ten p.m., tired and bothered by family haunts, letting what will slough off slough off, and noticing all the televisions in all the houses, all set to different channels. Michael was right all along it turns out. Folding flannel sheets, carrying them upstairs, setting them on the bed for later.

Misunderstanding communion. Falling asleep on the couch, waking to find the house shadowed and quiet, a couple of cats resting beside me. The hinge where one's thigh becomes something intimate, soulful.

Let us now give thanks in the way we have learned to give thanks! Kneeling to scrub the floorboards, scent of vinegar rising, reminding me of something difficult from childhood. Threading a fine needle for the Lord, indeed.

Mindfulness. Like a resurrected zombie I stumble out of the wasp's nest and cry out in praise to the one who raises all the dead from their slumber. The river where it turns, the harvested cornfield beyond.

Or else what, was the question I was never able to get to, as they could never stop with the threat, but always had to follow through immediately. How soft and quiet the back yard is in the morning before anyone is awake, just me and the horses reminding one another we're still here.

Wednesday, November 24, 2021

The Beautiful Loneliness of Burlington, Vermont

Dumping coffee grounds in the compost. One is grateful for fires, and the gift of knowing how to make them. What is the horizon but our shared ecstasy at realizing at last there are no limits? 

Venus floats perfectly silent in darkness above the village church, inviting me to rethink my obsession with family demon dance parties. Christmas cactus on the shelf above the sink blooming in a modest way, unlike both my grandmothers. Whatever you insist upon will become the fulcrum on which your prayer for salvation balances.

Water boiling for tea, the kettle rattling a little as people enter the kitchen, the day at last a collective beginning. Reinvigorated rosary prayers. Descendents of the chickens I have killed to eat do not plot against me.

Once again waking up in an Irish dolmen. My body grew foreign and what was living declined to be contained by, limited by it, and I was frightened but also happy to have found at last the narrow path. Shall we kneel to peer through the keyhole?

Tiny pumpkins, mole-gnawed potatoes. Jeremiah makes savory oatmeal with sausage, only grunting when asked what spices he's using. Rain falls, turns to snow, and I remember again the beautiful loneliness of Burlington, Vermont.

Never hasten to "amen!" Driving west an hour or so after dawn, mistaking fallen leaves blowing across the highway for small animals in need of attention. Dried apples and blueberries and other signifiers of the end of hardship.

We shuffle on and eventually up, even off the windswept mountain. Those stars promising us we have been here before. 

Tuesday, November 23, 2021

We are Happy Lingering

Writing under cosmos hung to dry in the kitchen, the sentences slow but fluid, like Bronson Brook in the middle of summer. We are all antiques.

Certain books - A Course in Miracles, Ascent to the Depth of the Heart, John's Gospel - so full of book marks it makes you rethink reading altogether. Women with whom we are happy lingering, talking about nothing in particular as night falls around us.

Tiny ferns near the back porch stairs encased in frost, lovely in a paleolithic way. The many ways in which our minds receive and offer Venus.

She undresses near the door, gazing at me in a way that means I cannot take my eyes off her eyes, each article of clothing folded and set on the dresser, the moments extending into a single unified infinity, her nakedness entirely peripheral to the power of the shared gaze on which she insists - which she creates - and in which I realize at last and with utter clarity that we are none of us bodies. Pan-fried trout at dusk and other old joys.

Half a dozen Macintosh apples in a wooden bowl on the counter, reminding me that in a past life I painted watercolor still lifes, and made a decent living until a late affair with a neighbor taught me that life is not actually still. Invisible angels pray at the lake, their voices a low melodic hum you have always wanted to hear. 

Flu shot season. Cold brown rice with half a dozen dolmathes for lunch.

We drive into Northampton talking about family, holidays, cannabis and money. The afternoon passes roasting a turkey which, when finished, I am uninterested in actually eating.

That juncture where you realize no form will ever truly satisfy - will never bring you the peace and creative freedom for which you long - and the humility and willingness that become you then. Both horses whinnying at dusk.

Chiseling ice off the windshield, waiting for Chrisoula to uncover the kale so we can drive to the transfer station. The way that we forge relationships never changes, and in this is a clue to what we are in truth.

And how after - when she had fallen to sleep - my body grew still and rock-like, exactly as my father's had in death - and I saw the way it was merely an aperture through which living passed, perfectly beautifully neutral. You tell the mushrooms you're done, it's over, no more, and the mushrooms form an interior chorus somewhere near the center of your right shoulder and gently sing their well-known hymn We'll Be The Judge Of That.

Monday, November 22, 2021

Women Who Tell Stories

Imagine green dragons in soaring flight over Ireland - near the coasts I imagine - and the women who tell stories about them. 

Morning breathing, silver and cloud-like, coils of steam unfurling in November cold.

A future of which I am afraid.

The dialogue extends to how we are - and are not - extending Catholic Worker values in our living and whether thinking this way is helpful with respect to undoing our reliance on the oppressor.

You are not your zip code.

Soft lights on the horizon at mid-morning, oddly reminiscent of Florida coral, confusing my sense of latitude. 


A sort of spiritual agility.

Men who look up when they talk - at the sky, nearby buildings, tops of trees, the moon cresting the far hills - anywhere to avoid meeting your eyes. 

Oh you bet I remember Milkshake candy bars.

That phase of living which requires walking in the dark further and further, shedding something, becoming lighter in a literal - a seeing-in-the-dark - kind of way.

When I drew disembodied figures in the margins of meeting notes, what was I seeing, what was I trying to bring forth?

Bear tracks in the first snow on the south-facing hill.

Echoes in the town hall setting up for mass and town meeting. 

There is now a longing to return to church, to experience again the beautiful confusion of a brokered holiness - the sacraments, the rituals, the vestements and the light in those glorious windows.

A deference to blue which one takes increasingly seriously as they age. 

Here was supposed to be a long sentence including the phrase "songs about trains" but it did not come together in the way I had hoped, so this will have to do. 

Cauliflower florets fried to a crisp, drenched with bbq sauce, and then we all eat them standing, pretending they're chicken wings.

Tell me: what in your mind most resembles a recipe and have you actually followed it?

The meaning of one or two Latin terms, indeed.

Sunday, November 21, 2021

Once Upon a Time You Wondered

Snow appears - high in the gray clouds over the flattened landscape - and I do not recognize my children.

Photos my mother cherishes, others that disappear, which she denies disappearing.

Bright red leaves on the neighbor's bushes across Main Street, intimating divine outreach, as if the angels were giving up on symbolism and just being plants. 

Patterns on highways, patterns in grass at the park where in morning I jog, muttering to myself about what went wrong in childhood.

Dangling modifers indeed.

Wind in the hemlocks, loosening tiny cones. 

I remember resting in tall grass. The lake spreading blue depths away from the cliff. What is utter.

What is lost, what is found. What does it mean to ask questions in writing, not because you want an answer but only to remember that once upon a time you wondered.

Decorative crucifixes made by hand in Jerusalem by old women for whom money is not the point. 

Wishing again. Following salmon downstream again.

Jeremiah pan fries the trout over an open fire - lots of onions and slivered potatoes - singing Tom Petty songs, his breath in the air a silver cloud I would make into jewelry and wear unto my grave, were such a thing possible.

Confusion again. The interior passages are untraveled mostly, yet this new lamp I am given makes a new journey possible. One is riddled - literally - with a desire for desires.

How I pleaded not to be hit and was hit anyway, over and over and over. Gifts that in the shadows look like something else.

Saturday, November 20, 2021

To Be Overlooked

There is a purple light this dusk, as if one were hiding in the pocket of a good king.

Lessons my mother taught that she would like to take back but cannot. Mountains I have not climbed and may never, and yet.

Slicing swiss chard to saute with white beans slow-cooked all day, to be added to onions and garlic themselves sauteed with with ham ends from the day before. 

We are never where we believe we are, nor headed in any direction other than the one that is so obvious as to be overlooked.

Yellow leaves on Sunday falling so prettily you could believe that we are actually meant to be happy.

Family demon dance party behind the barn at 1 a.m. or so, me without a jacket in November cold, turning in thin moonlight with my arms open, feeling the proximity of Christ among all the other dangers.

Being on the mountain and hearing voices.

Praying quietly at 4 a.m. in the hay loft, listening to rats scratch in the woodwork, welcoming them as best as one is able.

Going back to Maturana and Varela, remembering the feeling then of being so happy reading them, and then later in Cambridge being gently reminded that study as such was no longer required, a letting go I still struggle to let go.

In many ways mind is similar to a body of water. What did those early travelers think of the stars? Gods with whom we are no longer in dialogue. 

Hand-carved sea birds secured by threads to rough-hewn rafters overhead. It's not a poem so much as a cry in the void, offered by one who knows the value of being heard.

Those who come close, almost dangerously so, and those who - from a distance - broker some essential insights. The mountain is both inside you and in southern Vermont. 

Terrible dreams now. Running in darkness past the river, arguing with a murderer I know too well.

Fine, fuck it, do it, throw it into the sea, see if I care, et cetera.

Friday, November 19, 2021

Into a Soft Torus

Living in the fallen world, surrounded by angels.

At dawn the clouds gather into a soft torus and undulate above hills on the far side of which Emily Dickinson lived and wrote.

Mourning doves on rafters in the lumber yard's barn.

What if your Mom was a lightning bolt and every time she visited the world lit up electric and purple?

I roamed the earth until utterly scarred and ruined by lovelessness I could only crawl in circles in the dirt and whisper secrets to crickets.

Who interferes?

Who emphasizes littleness?

Chrisoula falls asleep after, holding my arm across her chest, and I lay there quietly, wide awake and thanking God. 

A dream in my early twenties of all the stars in the sky gathering into a three-masted square-rigged ship which I would one day board in lieu of dying.

The good news is not that Jesus is risen but that you may yet remember and live by the law of love.

A history of beekeeping intersecting with our perception of joy and peace.

Oh I am feeling the sweet prayer vibe now!

In the shadow of the barn, blue frost, half-remembered moonlight.

She said that if anything changed, she'd let me know and I never heard from her again: articles of faith. 

Secrets cats keep.

Driving the long way back from work in order to catch a glimpse of Greylock on the horizon, something wild in me surfacing at the sight of it.

A brief interval of homelessness in my early twenties that declines to be forgotten, as if I were in the proximity of a certain witch.

But how do we know that mirrors don't work without access to light (and is there ever such a thing as no light (and how do we see darkness))?

Reading Frank O'Hara poems on a bus to Vermont, now and then closing the book on a finger to hold my place (and gazing out the window at the shifting landscape), working out my own poems, loving even then the ability to efface oneself with words. 

Stunted juniper bushes just off the trail begging a visit, which I cheerfully grant, being more interested in healing cursed fig trees than in the assholes that curse them.

Thursday, November 18, 2021

In Love or into Error

Sunlight, the barn accordingly. Did you fall in love or into error?

Dust on the window sill, marred by overlapping circles where a coffee cup is set. What is salvation again?

You can read anything into this sentence and basically just did. Promises that went unkept in order to keep other promises: it happens that way sometimes.

Leaning our rifles against a hemlock, leaning ourselves against two other hemlocks, and sharing a thermos of instant coffee: deer hunting in a heart that does not want to kill any deer. Loving dancing.

Driving at dusk through Vermont towns whose names I forget, all those years ago, mistaking anticipation for happiness. Fine dust on the mantel in which a single cat's foot appears.

Early November a kind of red I long missed. We wrestle with monsters of our own making, and our wrestling is the making.

A week now looking at the moon thinking "wait - is it monosyllabic?" Drums stacked in the corner, guitars lined up unplayed.

Who in the end is worthy of this love? I wait a long time in the presence of crucifixes and rosaries for peace and peace always comes, always. 

Not "back" to Sartre so much as reviewing what one always suspected. Too often we consent to the other's projection, live out our life in a kind of bland drama.

Driving a certain way to see a certain mountain, wondering which if any of my kids will acquire this particular habit of travel. Stop insisting transgression is bad, see it instead as a form of creativity?

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Zoos and Ice Cream

Hard rains. Hard passes. Dodecahedrons. Derrida on gazes, O'Hara on zoos and ice cream. There is a connection - there is always a connection - and yet we insist on not seeing it. How as a child I despised Hide and Seek and Tag. Editions of Treasure Island lost now, yet in memory bright blue - the cover somehow greater than the text (the image transcending the extended narrative impulse). Something scratches in the darkness, as if pushing against the wall, and I listen with a gentleness that was missing from own childhood. Cheating, lying, stealing. The forest falls away from me, replaced by a desert through which enormous butterflies with scarlet wings drift, inquiring in soft whispers do I know them, do I want to. A rainbow is a form of sunlight, sunlight is a form of energy. Into which sentence shall I place the word "love." What about not? My hands meet on her back when we hug, this woman who is basically an olive tree or a warm breeze that smells of olives, or the dry hill on which the trees grow, redolent and strong in ancient light.

Tuesday, November 16, 2021

Even the Dove

Splitting wood. Wondering did early Buddhists sing. Raking leaves as the dusk grows heavier, mind emptying of even the dove customarily sent forth. Ages pass, bridges pass. Mist on the mountain, floating slowly south towards the river. The bridal chamber is empty, save for two cigarette butts half-hidden by a gray quilt and a coffee cup with stains indicating two mouths sipped from it. Loneliness gets you. We all need a detective from time to time. One lingers in the morning at the barn - not rushing to ferry hay to the horses - listening to the chickadees reminding the world of a great love. What is this ongoing emphasis on correction? It begins to rain again and so I leave the quiet light of the apple trees and go inside to try again to pray in the way I am asked to pray. Om shanti om shanti om shanti. Something something something. 

Monday, November 15, 2021

Miracles Appear as an Interim

Against nearly black storm clouds a single gull turns gracefully in hard winds, its body pure white, so of course I mistake it for an angel.

Dozens of flags rippling in the same wind, currents that are somehow reminiscent of melodies.

Acceptance is the answer to all my problems because acceptance is a form of love suitable to my current ideas about suffering.

And time passes, or seems to, and the Holy Instant of A Course in Miracles appears as an interim, a brief reminder, a stay against the horse tides of fear.

What happened when in high school I discovered the poems - not the songs but the poems - of Jim Morrison.

Ways in which loss appears permanent, not as a feature of living but as the condition of living itself.

Stars sailing through the sky half an hour before the rain begins.

Going outside to piss on the little garden by the back stairs, the dead stalks of tiger lilies and the already-rotting maple leaves bunched around their base.

At what point - both in time and place - do we enter the earth?

Before the wedding we placed two ceramic turtles in the church - secretly, telling nobody - going back later to gather them, certain we had done something pleasing unto the Lord, about whom we were both about to enter into separate decades-long and painful relationships.

At last I am able to face the silence - which is a form of order, which is a form of love, all I am able at this juncture to manage - to which I am called and - at least to this juncture - unable to accept. 

How I am in love with forests, especially as they intersect with rivers and streams, the soft slope of hills and the tidal excitation of mountains.

A distance at which differentiation - male or female, for example - becomes obvious, less obvious, et cetera.

What it takes for us to say "I am what I am" without rancor or drama, as gentle as snow falling on pine trees on a planet which nobody has visited.

Fifteen blackbirds baked in a pie.

The silver splash each drop of rain makes upon reaching the pavement, prisms dissipating without remembering light.

Living now the struggle - the interior quagmire, the darkening swale - of wishing to bring only joy to one's enemies.

We are confused who insist on echoes.

In a field are seven hemlock trees, beneath which deer graze, and beyond which a narrow seam of forest knits earth to sky, calling it a horizon.

Was alone once, am not now.

Sunday, November 14, 2021

Full of What Must Die

I wake up earlier than usual, dress and walk up Main Street to Plainfield Road, going where it is darkest. Chapels abound, a lesson I forgot and remembered with considerable effort. Running into your therapist years later, both of you happy, keeping it simple and inside bounds that seem to be to be transgressed. A thing for gamblers’ daughters in my early twenties, a theme that helped me organize my ongoing living in relationship.

Rain begins a little after midnight. It’s true the moon is only there when you look at it but why does this matter? We who are exhausted by clowns, doctors and poets. Funerals at the nearby church, people parking everywhere.

It was raining when we left the theatre – that tiny basement on Pleasant Street, now gone, in which we watched Little Buddha with seven other souls – and Chrisoula hummed Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on my Head, happy and clear, carrying me along to the next step our lives together made possible. Letting thoughts come and go, easiest thing in the world. Dead goldenrod leaning into the road where we walk, a hushing sound as we brush it passing, a sorrow somewhere that we have not yet reckoned with.

Remember reading Moby Dick for the first time, remembering reading The Strange Case of Doctor Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Strangers at whom we smile, strangers in whose presence we feel an almost unbearable happiness. This is not an argument!

Certain men, certain ways. That which ends up other than you expect. I guess I’ll go the way of circumstance, same as when I was twenty-three and couldn’t stop smiling, unsure what else was called for. Denise if you are reading this say hi.

That half-finished house on Route Nine I hear the mortgage fell through on, its roof beams oddly beautiful – symmetrical, linear – in the dawn when I drive past, slowing to admire what can only be defined as a failure. Owls signaling unto darkness their intention to hunt, then sailing forth in waning moonlight, the landscape surrounding them vast and full of what must die so others can live.

Saturday, November 13, 2021

Faint Traces of Paisley

Rain making distant mountains harder to see. So this is the new country. I run harder than I expect or intend, anger in my chest at imaginary grievances involving law enforcement, as if certain errors had gone further sideways than they did. My cousin is tired of waiting and I cannot explain he doesn't need to - I'm okay, not ready, et cetera - but there he is, loyal and bored, altogether familial. Flocks of grackles diving and swooping in distant skies leaving faint traces of paisley in mind. Would you dissolve if you could like salt sprinkled in water. When you talk I cannot help but listen, and when I listen to you talk something inside me expands, opens, gives welcome, and I am tired of using any other word but love to explain this. Chrisoula texts a grocery list, including code I haven't seen in years. Word for word. Pumpkins and gourds line the front porch, left out until they begin to decay, and then we toss them into the compost out back. What is picked at, nibbled on. Inside the crow's cry was another crow, silent and attentive. There is, you see, a space beyond death, and it is where we all live. Grinding wheat, grinding cannabis buds, grinding hips kissing, all of it intensifying, bringing about time in which we are lost. I chose a certain flower as a child and half a century later my father died, worrying had he forgotten anything. How the light changes here so often. How it takes so little to be happy in the end.

Friday, November 12, 2021

Every Time We Reach a Door

Bent cattails encased in frost. Why do you say the things you say? 

I remember walking the dog at four a.m. in Worthington ten years ago, new to A Course in Miracles, and falling to my knees beneath rioting stars, aware that I was mistaking my confusion about God for God. Our bodies make a warm tent of the blankets in which we touch and kiss, gentle and kind in a late and dangerous state of world.

Dusk in the city, headlights sparkling, dangerously pretty. Train tracks tapering off in grass shy of empty warehouses.

Culling old email addresses. Bold moves in the social sphere promptly rewarded. 

In early November one's thoughts turn to Advent, and Advent-related essays largely unshared. I am here to feed you, and if you are not hungry, then I am here to consent to being fed by you.

Jogging up Main Street a little after five a.m., roosters howling behind houses on the east side, stars fading in the pantheonic heavens. The form always fails but content rolls on forever.

Shall we be lovers then? One grows quieter at funerals, knowing intuitively what loss is and the viability of ritual to assuage it.

We who are not our father but to whom fathers appear in dreams both waking and sleeping, asking questions and posing answers, and generally asking for the welcome they denied themselves while living. Plans for the coming lunar eclipse, remembering our first together.

Lawyer-speak. Every time we reach a door we struggle a little with who holds it open, who walks through, who goes last, et cetera.

Demons are simply stunted angels in need of light and sustenance, which I am no longer afraid to provide. In the distance - scratching frosty grass - wild turkeys, a happiness I am happy to relay in words.

Thursday, November 11, 2021

Hiding in Your Fear

Early images of Jesus feeding the pond in my heart in which he appears and reappears as lilies, salmon, eddies and rippling sunlight. A shift away from familiar prayers.

People want to be forgiven, which is to say given welcome, which is to say, seen as equals by those they see as equals. Quarter moon as always its own poetry and yet here I am, writing.

Study the periphery, bring what blurs into focus, find out what's hiding in your fear of being bored. A dozen bookmarks in Ascent to the Depth of the Heart.

Driving slowly west into a city for which I have no real narratives, only a handful of fragments and images. Stopping on our walks to give attention to this or that chunk of rock or fallen leaf, Chrisoula waiting patiently, looking at the sky.

Who dreams? Morning coffee while wrapped in one of the soft blankets my mother gave us years ago.

Allowing Christ to be what Christ longs to be for us, which is to accept the gift that is given, not the one we insist - subtly or otherwise - on getting. Certain sorrows that can only be approached with the phrase "blind horse." 

All texts are reconstructed in the moment they are read - why is this controversial? With what eyes do we see and are there other ways of seeing we are not yet seeing?  

Bittersweet thickens climbing the dead hemlock. A softness for Catholic churches when driving or walking past them that apparently does not abate, no matter how clear my reasons for leaving.

When our minds open - when the heart opens - it no longer matters what caused the opening, because the opening reverses our traditional understanding of cause and effect. Getting to her letter days after receiving it.

The rosary I carry slips from my pocket and everybody grows solemn and quiet while I gather it up. I'll be your baby tonight, indeed. 

Wednesday, November 10, 2021

Always Perfectly

The suggestion is that we "give attention." 

Christmas lights in the hay loft, a mirror ball dangling from its rafters, all reflected in glass bottles and crystals.

What makes you happy.

What happens when we deliberately accept the division of subject and object, observer and observed? 

The neighbors bury miscarried fetuses in the little orchard abutting our property, marked first by candles which burn through the night, and then by small stone angels.

Definitions matter less than you think, same with explanations.

Driving through eastern Massachusetts to visit extended family, always a sense of trespassing on something alien and unwelcome.

Thank Christ for good therapists.

Writing in the morning waiting for Jack - the blind horse - to whinny for a flake of hay. 

For example, one might give attention to the way the mountains look as the sun appears, or how dogs convey their joy in play. 

Cold feet. 

The form of the lesson shifts, but learning continues. 

"Stained with regret."

Ron Atkinson's work in the early seventies in Worthington so profoundly influential it is hard at times to breathe, thinking of him. 

The gravestones of the poor, who are the only innocence, the only altar that matters.

Without fail, according to no plan, and yet always perfectly. 

The flower - like the lake, like the star, like the bird's wing - always points towards Life itself, towards Love itself. 

I too am nobody but Emily you are not nobody. 

Sprigs of dried lilac. 

Playing Greensleeves on Jeremiah's guitar, a little before midnight, the music easy and familiar, beautiful in ways that are easy to miss, like sex with a woman you have known a long time.

Tuesday, November 9, 2021

Weeping in the Dark Hours

Moonlit heart, chapped lips. We make coffee at home to take with us, being that couple, and this our way of coupling with the world. There are many chalices. Cardinals on the fence between the neighbors, knowing them by song. Rosaries hanging on bedposts, something else Dad and I have in common. How touching after becomes the sine qua non of love, how the late age holds us knowingly. The neighbor's haircut up close. I don't know, what do you write about? A studied absence of references to Islam, despite the emphasis on "Abrahamic monotheism." And the sky at certain hours of the day, and the smell of the air at dawn on a day when snow is coming, and how it felt once upon a time to wait on the mail. One grows tired of their anger and impatience and falls weeping in the dark hours, exhausted with the burden of selfhood. Familiar art, familiar joy. Almost always a river would help and does.