What went Wrong went Somehow Right

Well, it’s just a fact: sometimes the apology comes too late. Patterns enfolded in patterns, women who read knitting magazines before bed. Snow settles on roadside maples and hemlocks behind the barn, and I remember childhood games, and something even older and more precious that does not have a name. Putting a certain emphasis on yellow made us rethink our shared commitment. She shows me the bedroom, taking one step further into it than necessary, and the possibilities becomes heavy, like the air before a storm. One drives home slowly, in no hurry any longer to be anywhere in particular. Snow buntings on the lilac, chickadee prints near the stairs. My son sobs in my arms and I rub his strong back, saying over and over “you are a good boy,” which is what he needs to hear his father say, and in the afterlife my own father clutches his gut, hunched over, seeing how what went wrong went somehow right. The body illuminated briefly, then released like a fistful of dust. Chrisoula pulls the quilt tighter at my shoulder and though it is the rest of a wary dog, I do rest. Om shanti my love, amen.

Categorized as Paragraphs

The Illusion of History

Life goes on, says the dragonfly. Yet in dreams, nothing is actually repetitive. Reflections of Christmas lights. Snow-encased hemlocks.

Pattern-matching through inflection. All night hearing footsteps in the attic, wishing the deceased preacher would cease his confusion of Heaven with once-familiar heights.

As want fades.

We pause on the outskirts of Bethlehem, as if recognizing a last opportunity to avoid history altogether, and yet go on, as if recognizing the illusion of history altogether.

Ferrying hay through darkness and snow to the horse. Barely visible figures of men moving around the lumber yard. When I was little, briefly, I believed that trucks were the right answer to a question all men had to ask to be men.

Leaning one’s head on the other’s shoulder. Loving darkness and starlight, and ready to release it all in favor of Love Itself.

As want fades, the song fades, and what remains is what you understood a long time ago: there is only silence and stillness.

Graven images again.

She is sad but willing to work through it, visits me in the hay loft with tea in the mug we share when we share tea, and talks quietly about her parents who are increasingly unable now to speak to her in English.

Doors close, hallways are the only way forward. Dreams of Emily Dickinson.

Given to doubt, discernment, denial, delight. Well, we are all nobody, yes?

One or two passing snowflakes, reminders of a nontrivial origin story, and ears that can hear because longing made them thusly.

Categorized as Sentences

Attended by Serious Women

We forget that the minotaur doesn’t just eat people. We sleep and wake and our waking is another form of sleep. She relays all the bad things men have done to her over the years and we begin to realize that deepening our study was not the kind of answer we thought it was. Legato then.

Liberated then.

Pretentious clowns next door, overly impressed with their role in the culture, making arguments that nobody takes seriously. Always ask: what is the light in which darkness is visible? Narrative threads that are themselves a maze.

Amazed, amazing, amazing grace. Salty waves crashing over the bow. We leap into starlight and land with a thud, the fire low but attended by serious women.

Absent names, what?

Bad luck.

Oh but listen, reading Darwin and Freud is super helpful! Being performative, practical. Dad’s pride when it came to handguns. Kali energy. Always ask: whose loss is this exactly?

Skipping class, skimming texts: that guy.

That death, last breath, that bread.

Categorized as Sentences

Neither Falls nor Lands nor is Lifted

How oddly specific one’s dreams become at a late stage. Confirmation in fantasy. I mean, yeah, let’s meet in that little cafe off Mason Street, talk about our marriages and our dads.

Shoes that men wear when they have little or no money. Fireflies higher in the hemlocks than one would have guessed. A thousand years pass and I remain a secret. We fall a long time before learning what we are neither falls nor lands nor is lifted.

The specificity of language mostly a myth, hence my confidence in our ability to be cooperative.

In winter, what is a frog?

A way of using one’s hands, a way of using one’s mouth. A way of being settled long after one has given up on dreams of settlement. Narrative, always narrative.

A way of giving attention to what is being lost, and seeing in a specific way how it cannot be lost, and thus knowing the self in a new way, which was heretofore missing.

Our tongue in the gaps. Our poems reinforcing a regrettable mileage. Fat Santas.

Wandering west, thinking about Minnesota where Denise ended up before returning to New York, and points further yet that lack a historical context.

Contexts, always contexts. Turtle metaphors, without which my life would be merely the space in the air where a chickadee was. 

Shall we gather at the giver?

Categorized as Sentences

Entombed in Possibility

A dream of balustrades again, hiding behind enormous containers of grain while she gazes into moonlit distance.

Undoing her hair, unhooking her bra, always that smile, that intimation of what’s next that somehow remains entombed in possibility.

Writing at 4 a.m. like the old days, in prayer with a Loving God whose only desire is expression.

Our curious obsession with personal history.

What is justice, what is mercy.

Whiskey with long-dead uncles, a blind horse that somehow feels like a curse laid on my daughter, and my dead father trying to reach me from an afterlife that is not what he expected.

Bridges failing.

Northbound traffic. Finding oneself in winter with ten thousand otherwises.

Long talks while walking up and down Main Street in the dark, neighbors who have cancer, neighbors who refuse to wear masks. Settlement papers.

The woman years ago at kirtan trying to explain to me how her teacher lived perfectly simultaneously in both the sacred and the profane. Another woman years later updating that confusion by altering “profane” to “mundane.”

Me always writing, always in the confusion in the graceful way of a learner, neither alarmed nor at peace, but deeply wholly textual.

What my grandmother called “the troubles,” by which she meant our family history of drinking and related violence, which evoked the whole damn history of Ireland, which was such an Irish way to look at the problem.

What is sexy, what is not.

For this – and that, always that, that that – we give thanks.

Oddly driven to be a certain kind of member of the species, hence sex.

Fine, I’ll look at the Latin root of special!

K. writing in that odd way of hers, trying to break through the hierarchy and bureaucracy, but quickly distancing when she realizes on my end there’s nothing to break through, I’m just there, and what’s possible is possible.

Getting in a canoe a little after dawn, steam rising off the pond which rippled softly around us, a vast plains open, one that I am as yet still crossing.

Categorized as Sentences

So Long Ago Consigned

We wait on transformation albeit mostly alone.

The distance grows voluble, full, but still without meaning. 

Flakes of snow rise off the pasture, mica-bright in the cold, swirling and dissipating in brief gusts of icy wind.

This is my heart. This is not my heart, but another heart, or not a heart at all.

How we square-danced on the second floor of the library, three hours in early spring (lilac reached the window) and later learned that many of the couples swung in other ways too, and opted not to return.

Exposed beams strewn with dust. Dogs crying out in my dreams. 

A little after six a.m. I pause by the hemlocks and ornamental birch, face Venus and piss, stretching as I do, exhaling happily, briefly unalarmed by the proximity of so much evil and dissembly in the world to which I was long ago consigned.

Fixing radios. Polishing crystals with two kinds of cloth. Drinking my one coke through a straw while he guzzled beer after beer, rarely talking but when he did, doing so in that clipped voice that always intrigued me, as if something had been stolen from him once and bitterness at the loss had done something to his throat. 

Gutted bucks hanging on racks in the side yard. Steam rising from puddles of pig blood which didn’t – but seemed they ought to – steam. 

Always ask: where did this begin?

What is another word for a fatal blend of misunderstanding and misidentification? 

Night does not “fall” it simply appears all around as the light grows dim. 

These eyes eying unspoken desires. Ragged delights?

Well, deconstructions really, pouring out of what cannot help but pour itself out, over and over and over.

Categorized as Sentences

Deeper in the Pasture than Expected

Blue though the mind says white. 

A problem mostly understood by painters, now trivialized mostly.

Where I pause. 

The blind horse whinnies earlier than expected and upon going out I find him deeper in the pasture than expected and bring him back through crunching snow speaking in low tones, one hand light against his neck.

Guttural cries of ravens in memory.

Dissolving line breaks by looking within and understanding what the sentence is.

My dead father approves of her, envies the far fields through which I travel to meet her, saying he only went so far.

Pausing by the lettuce in the supermarket, dizzy with joy, murmuring to whomever needs to hear, “I made an angel come yesterday.”

Seeing the drive home through her eyes (which are my eyes).

What is downstream.

The ones who help me work through the material, the ones who make me pause and go slower, ensuring that what I want to say arises in love and understanding.

Fairly haunted by Elvis Costello asking what was so funny about peace, love and understanding, and the long history of my living being seen in one light as an engagement with the question, bringing forth an answer.

Christmas decorations that stay up long past Epiphany.

Kali energy, facing it and becoming obedient unto it, and realizing how much of my life has been that of a toad negotiating with a snake, let me live a little longer please.

Asking her questions when her mouth is full of me.

Lake snow. The “clitoris area.” Awed by her singing softly in the bedroom, the day unfolding in euphonious tones, a love that baffles me.

Befriends me.

That ends me, om shanti om shanti amen. 

Categorized as Sentences

Not Past Prayer

These flakes of snow falling just after the sun rises. 

The blind horse stepping back delicately to let me toss the hay.

Tossing the hay.

My hands are light, never more than when they dream of touching you.

Touching you. Touching each of the ten thousand miles between our bodies.

Past church. Past altars

Not past prayer.

Praying in you.

“It feels like our light burns brighter and goes with me like a thousand candles just behind my eyes.”

Rise with me forever into light and grace forever?

May I go handless now. May I no longer be a body now.

Lights and graces I knew were there but did not know I was worthy of.

The one in whom I am made worthy by remembering I was created worthy.

Knowing peace in love with you.

Flakes of snow falling all morning, each one your name.

The heart I am in white now. The heart I am now ready now.

Categorized as Sentences

An Error that My Life Was

Smattering light where the hills break for Route Nine and the river. Going back to close the door, waiting to see if it will close. Prayer life, hair shirts, hot sex.

How fast the tide comes in and how fast it flows backwards.

How lost I am in me lost in you lost in you gazing at me.


Light hay in my arms going back to the horse pasture, slipping a little on ice under the hemlocks. Pissing later on ice under the hemlocks.

Coffee going down slow, amen amen.

The computer perched on a stack of the Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, this nod at scholarship, that dive into the nineteenth century from which I never quite surfaced.

Not touching, a sentence about not touching.

The space between touch and what is touched.

Laing’s Knots. The darkness in a prism. How when I told that story years ago to Jasper a shadow crossed his face and I realized I’d made an error, that my life was the effect of an error.

Remembering fireflies, Christmas ornaments. Lake snow. Letters from Denise.

Living without Denise.

Never quite surfacing. Never quite stopping.

Categorized as Sentences

Darkness in a Prism

Or was it “you talk slower?”

My fingers in her black hair while she slept, the fire dying and my back aching. Her lips moving in her sleep, saying what prayer, laying what spell.

Not knowing all that was in front of me contained all that was behind.

Holding the moment because of how happy I was.

Holding it because I knew even then it wasn’t real in the way I would need things to be real if I was going to survive.

Being happy in a way that wouldn’t surface again for almost thirty years.

Thirty years.

You could see stars through the cottage window. You could feel a breeze all night through cracks in the wall. You could hear the sea. The fire dying.

You could hear night birds.

In Ireland I heard night birds while a woman slept with her head on my thigh, a fire dying before us.

You could hear yourself think. You could forget what you thought.

I didn’t know what to think, could only see what was before me, and name it in the only language my father allowed.

We drank whiskey and got high, passing a joint back and forth, laughing. She drove an old bus with no brakes to speak of. She wanted to know if there was any “revolutionary left” left in America. She liked me singing Woody Guthrie songs, sang along in a voice that was lower than I expected. I told her about Denise, told her about Ana Laura.

Told her about ghosts.

I remember her asking what I wanted and being confused by the question and knowing the confusion as something I would not be able to work on for at least thirty years.

Thirty years.

In the morning I’d walk with my notebook up through hilly pastures surrounded by sheep, sit on jutting rocks and smoke and watch boats coming and going from Castletonbere, the only place my father asked me to visit in Ireland, and which I did not reach.

That meadow – that woman – that sex – was the closest I got to the ancestral nest.

The past already past.

How she would come up with bread and cheese after a while to see if I was okay, ask what I was writing. Her hair is easier to remember than her face but I remember her face was broad with sharp features, prettiest from the side. Passing a cigarette back and forth. I still remember her in sunlight, how still she was, as if listening to something only she could hear, and how something in that stillness made me sad.

Kissing after. Salty kisses.

She had a soft smile. She laughed a lot, in a way that suggested an understanding of aspects of life that I wouldn’t get around to looking at for years. Her tarot cards, her willow wands.

The dark she broke with fire, the shadows she brought forth in whispers.

How I was happy in a way I could only be because all the while I knew I would leave.

I used to wonder would someone knock on the door all those years later and say, “you knocked me mum up in Ireland.”

She said when I left, “I know you won’t come back.” We were at a fair or a market. I forget. One of her friends was going to drive me partway to Dublin. She was sad and the friend was impatient.

It was the impatience to which I responded.

She was thin and strong. Hugging her was like holding a fallen branch, one you could lean on, use to walk a trail. She wore a purple hat that was mostly cloth folded and pinned in the shape of a hat. I lied and said I would be back, just give me a couple days in the city.

I never meant to be one of those guys who says thirty years later I wish I’d gone back. Christ what we do to the ones who teach us most.

Anyway. Those were lonely days, broken days. There was a lot of pain going around. Some of us were luckier than others. It’s gone now mostly but still.

Sometimes I wonder what a prism would do if it could do anything backwards. Is there darkness in a prism?

There is darkness in a prism.

Categorized as Essays