The Turns of Mary Magdalene

Wind barreling hard along the river. Dreams I have visited before, as if my brain is tired of conjuring new images. Will this do? There is no ideal: can we say this at last? 

Who around here is in charge of admissions? Power structures in which I am embedded against my will and yet, once aware of, grow oddly – perhaps unsurprisingly – passive about undoing. The turns of Mary Magdalene, which I stubbornly insist relate not to conversion but degrees of insight. The sense of ahead, the sense of behind. The graves of long-dead dogs.

Salvation by degrees is an error, salvation in non-relational contexts is also an error. Scripture about where I long to use my tongue. Our Greek origin. Our amethyst.

Writing early in place of prayer, as if driven. A world without metronomes is what error? Driving back from Hadley I wonder if I’ve got it wrong, these recent insights around gender and power, the specific way they play out in my living. Can we measure willingness.

It feels like opening a space in which one can only be hurt because the revelation of desire will not be reciprocated, may in fact be used as an attack. What are you waiting for? Who taught you to want that way, speak that way, be happy that way?

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Even when Broken

Imagine reaching the top of the mountain only to find a trap door through which you must now fall into the heart of the mountain. 

Imagine the heart of the elephant beating high above the world guiding us all. 

A new music for us.

Six a.m. pissing on winter Forsythia, listening to birds in all directions. We find our way through rhythm, sometimes melody, and lyrics are always an afterthought.

Say nothing, just open your mouth. Be disco for me, Christian in me.

We walk the fence line, ostensibly talking about what needs to be done to make the pasture safer for the horses, but really talking about the other woman.

Seedlings, sapphires. Depression-era Santas.

Imagine starting again.

Jake died on the living floor, I remember his eyes darkening, I remember losing the prayer, I remember everything loosening in me.

Choice is the last illusion. Waking up from a dream of her straddling me, nipples grazing my lips and tongue, and breathing heavy in the darkness after, wondering just how grateful a heart can be even when broken.

We hear nothing, see nothing, yet know everything. Remember Miami?

I remember getting drunk on champagne, buying cigarettes at that little shop at the bottom of Church Street, and walking to the lake where you said sadly, a little to my left, wind blowing hard off the still-icy water, “this is not the answer,” meaning us, and briefly I felt like somebody had blown a horse-sized hole in my chest.

Pictures in mind that just barely make their way into language. Cresting in order to go down unto the Lord. 

Dad jokes, pussy I’ll never lick, and this: this this.

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When I Last Gave Anyone Head

In a dream I profess that I am ascending in order to at last descend into the heart. Folded quilts. Eye infections.

Sacred texts, spiritual direction. My son is annoyed with me all the time now, and I think of my father and his father, which neither helps nor hurts. A single rose.

She asks me to go down on her in the hay loft, just that, no reciprocity, and I do, of course I do. Sounds of rain, sounds of traffic far away. I remember as a boy fishing alone in deep forests, attended by God.

A single rose. The champagne was piss-colored, bubbling in flutes, and the wind off the lake smelled faintly of trash. I proceed in a monastic – because I am desperate – way.

Yet later I sit quietly going back over the sentences, rewriting, realizing I don’t remember when I last gave anyone head and wonder will I ever again. Broken tree limbs, spongy soil. The horses beckon and I rise and dress in darkness, observant and obedient both.

Are you listening? Chrisoula points out the first hornet of Spring, later asks if I want some beans and rice and is my headache gone. We are going slowly now, as befits those for whom deconstruction and dissolution are the law.

Moonlight in the pasture, my heart opening in this familiar – yet entirely new – way. The only problem has been solved indeed.

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Symbolic Wafer

Drafts of letters rewritten by ghosts. Earlier poems. Chunks of ice bobbing in the river. Remember fried bananas with melted chocolate, washed down with champagne on the house, sun rising over Lake Champlain, all those years ago? Nobody knows what’s coming next. This always involves some sense of not living as I am meant to live in the world, of not being home or situated as I need and want to be situated. If wishes were Catholics, indeed. Or who will help. She asked why, wiping away tears, staring out the window to our left, and there was in that moment – which was the only moment ever – no good answer. Tiny buds on the lilac, the neighbor’s chickens scratching beds of fallen leaves, a dozen essays on Abhishiktananda still unread. The way narrows even more and I grow lonely thinking about those who walk it. The center, the savior, the servant. I am in you now, like a memory or a stain, a symbolic wafer, the word that in the beginning was the word before any beginning.

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What Became in Time Unhappiness

When we fall into a long note to her. When we are love, lakes, long drives beyond the familiar. 

Morning passes in the back room writing and reading, occasionally glancing up and being surprised that there’s light. Rain still, the earth soggy underfoot. We can barely restrain ourselves from hope.

We are relational and resist this: why?

Photographs of me and my father, his confidence against my uncertainty, which became in time unhappiness for us both. After the narrative, what?

Waking early to pray and read, to review correspondence, and ask difficult questions. Pulling the sleeping bag tighter, the coffee closer. Eighteen-wheelers grinding on the downslope of Route Nine, Christmas lights a couple houses up just visible through the front door window. When we are home, and know we are home, and when we are lost and willing to say so.

Oh end on a better note!

Turning the lights on, washing dishes, throwing hay to the horses, then gathering scripture and heading to where it is quiet in order to be scriptural.

Teacherless but not bereft. At a late juncture finding the Lord, and knowing oneself in the center, the secret center, the Cave of the Heart.

Her refusal to meet me in the new clearing, a sorrow unrelated to loss. One shifts stacks of paper, trails their finger through dust on the trestle table. What is the way forward now I am alone?

Quieter and quieter, happier and happier, alone and not alone in the remembrance, refulgence, in the light. 

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Reframing the Blind Horse

In a dream this question, loosely phrased: how much can or must the sannyasi forget. 

I cry because all I see is Christ and even “all I see is Christ” is not enough before how I love her.

Peter Shaffer reframing the blind horse.

It is God problems and solutions all the way down, but there is a juncture where “problems and solutions” falls away.

Perilous reductions. Piano music. Who escalates evolves but there is no peak or valley.

There are no secrets in or to salvation.

The sentence because only the sentence bears what I have learned. Coming back through the rye.

Hound dog on my trail.

A theology predicated on ladders and lifting one another up over broken rungs all the way into the apple tree.

The longing to lay my tongue on the cosmos in her calls me back, past Moby Dick, past The Dead, all the way to the sentence, this sentence.

The Ganges out back in misty dark, Henri Le Saux waving, clutching his orange robes, reminding me to remember to leave Chrisoula a note. 

I was always lost as a child, lost in feelings that only resolved in words, all of them spilling faster than my mouth could manage. 

Losing men and losing a lot of time looking for them too. 

Light rain at dusk. Answer: a lot.

For this is love and nothing else is love.

Om shanti shanti shanti, om shanti shanti amen.

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Happier than I ever Imagined Being

Sentences because nothing else holds the truth of what I see. 

Driving north for the first time in years. Past the orchard.

Past Ascutney.

The problem is all these God-Shaped Holes to which we bring these Dad-Sized Solutions.

Waves reaching the shore, the shore begging them for a song before they go, and the waves going singing. 

Imagine holding her hand and listening, knowing what you are listening for together, and hearing it.

Imagine after.

Distance is the error for which we have fallen, widening and narrowing according to our capacity for correction. I dropped the china, lost the thread. Feeling her up at the lake house, happier than I ever imagined being.

Am good at long drives and what happens when you finally get there.

How long do I have to perch on the highest ladder, picking yet another apple while a storm approaches? Lightning flying high to low.

Witches in Ireland. Rain falling outside the monastery.

A sound her shirt makes falling to the floor.

It’s an abyss, okay, but more like a void, and even that’s getting out ahead of the horses, it’s really a generative emptiness.

Her cosmic pussy. Peace and this before the Goddess in her.

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A Familiar Road Back Into Jerusalem

Gray skies, leaky sunlight. I use a flathead shovel to open the barn door, easing it over rocks thrust upwards by frost. The distance settles into something manageable, traversable. Carrying hay to the pasture I remember Kate, sex in churches, the confluence at which my life has never not knelt in clumsy but sincere prayer. Hemlock needles lay scattered across the earth, itself exhaling after months under snow. As hours pass in the hay loft, happily studying, the lesson flowing out of one mind into another and then out again. Be my chalice, be my chapel. As after, returning on a familiar road back into Jerusalem, she only looked forward to sharing the good news.

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The Only Monastery

Filaments, fallibility. Fortunate sons. Bird song during morning prayer becoming the prayer, and then just a pleasing sound while feeding the horses. Frost in the pasture, reminiscent somehow of December. Fallen limbs from the apple tree I can’t bring myself to topple, despite hearing Dad say “somebody’s going to get hurt.” The true Walden Pond is internal, as the only monastery is of the mind, and yet here we are, with only the dimmest commitment to religion and prone to arguing with strangers. Nontrivial assessments related to future outcomes distract us from what insight? Your letters are not as welcome as they once were, is what I don’t quite want to say but do. And everything else rendering the day – this day – an Eden, an outpost, a stillness. 

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A Sort of Fundamental Comfortlessness

Morning dark. A dream of dead cousins, possibly deceptive suicide notes, altogether a sort of fundamental comfortlessness characteristic of me and my maleness. Yet walking with an armful of hay towards the horses – Lucifer hefting his dimming lantern just above the eastern hills – I hear cardinals in the still unblossoming apple trees and pause to try and see. Become unblinded? What is this emphasis on form save the longing at last to move beyond it? As later, steam rising off the third cup of coffee in sunlight is so delightful it’s hard to remember who is and isn’t with us. On the other hand, you isn’t with me. These steps we take! This distance we absolve without exactly traversing or letting go. And all along Love waits in the cave of the heart, far beyond prayer and sex and narrative. Om shanti my forgiven one. Om shant om shanti amen.

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