Not Exactly Light

Waiting on thunderstorms to cool things down, which they won’t. Why yes I do live in a one story town, why do you ask? Adjusting – slower and slower – to the sleep patterns of summer. In a past life, crickets were less prevalent, indicating an arctic locale perhaps or maybe a hearing disability. A stray dog wanders up Main Street, clearly lost but cheerful enough, not yet desperate, and my heart does that thing where it opens too wide too fast and I fall into it like a kid whose parents are always drunk, can’t help, et cetera. Three houses up, a rooster begins crowing the same time the wild birds start singing and the cats start going from window to window chattering and Chrisoula groans (in not a good way) and this is also waking up. Longing configures me a certain way and morning passes imagining blowjobs and the loveliness of reciprocity, her hips rising, grinding, under the apple trees under my tongue. There’s no right or wrong time for meditation, if you’re doing it, you’re doing it right. Moths in the kitchen beholden to the physics we currently agree explain everything. When it’s not exactly light, not exactly quiet. You salt shaker you, you umbrella.

Half A Dozen Murderous Traps

Oh you are in the wasp’s nest now!

Unable to fall to my knees by choice I was gently forcibly brought to my knees.

Unexpected turns in the road. Cats sleeping on the back of the couch, opening their eyes when we sit down to read.

Bowls of popcorn with peanut butter powder and cannabis oil. Rib roasts with fresh sage and thyme. Has anybody ever told you that you look like an envelope that fell in love with its contents?

Kid scissors. Hints of death.

Red hints of hell.

The rules are there to be followed, then gently broken, and then one discovers – on the far side of breaking, outside the so-called law – that they are inside another law, and that it’s basically laws all the way down.

That summer they sent state police scuba divers into the lake – two days running – and came up with nothing, much less a body. Suddenly nobody was talking. 

Yet it matters where the comma goes, relates back to speech, to how we think, and finally to how we love. Old barns in which motorcycles are parked. 

Who knows what the rats think up there in the attic, navigating a darkness in which half a dozen murderous traps are set. It’s true: choice is the last illusion.

Cardinals in the apple tree, morning coffee and rosary prayers, six a.m., oh grace, oh joy, oh my love.

I find a little wooden turtle at the take-it-or-leave-it shed, and take it, and put it on the dashboard of the ancient Subaru, and drive around with a sense of blessing that is intimate and clear and which I very much want to share with the world.

Bumble bees drowsing the side yard lilac, reminiscent of Emily Dickinson poems, the reason we are all alive.

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Ruined Soil where the Hemlocks Lived

Sparrows on the side yard fence, one following the other. We say the maple leaves are green, yet how many greens?

It came to pass that I had to transform my life in radical ways, and this involved submission, obedience and willingness, which was why I had never done it before, and still had reservations, readily found distractions, to wit, this sentence.

A fantasy of becoming a rosary maker, sort of like my fantasy of becoming a clothespin maker, both of which reflect soft spaces in me worthy of honor and attention but let’s face it, I’m not going to become a rosary maker. Shades of blue, and the way blue becomes purple when it risks pain.

Mergansers paddling upstream as we pass. My very first D&D character, forty some odd years ago, was a cleric named “Casavoie,” after Casanova, so you know, a priest who fucked a lot, which was for so long my confused – I mean really really confused – strategy for navigating the social world.

Perhaps our lives are meant to be devoted to study, simply giving attention to what appears, radiant and lovely, rich and vivacious, better even than television. 

Owls hooting somewhere near the river, foxes coming halfway up the pasture before turning back. No fireflies yet but God willing, soon.

The side yard lilac blooms a little on its northernmost side, a triumph of some kind, a joy. First hummingbird of Spring, so we clean the feeders, set them up. 

Cleaning and oiling the cast iron pans, talking over plans for putting up zucchini and apple this year, anticipating heavy yields. Who’s a good boy?

I rake the ruined soil where the hemlocks lived, spading and hoeing, gathering up the fallen bark and limbs, spreading fresh horse shit, thinking maybe bee balm, maybe forsythia, maybe both. Iced coffee in the nearby shade, then taking an ax to the fifty year old wooden chaise lounge that has at last outlived its usefulness. 

Frost’s “Mending Wall,” being the guy who is always saying between gritted teeth “that’s not what he meant,” and knowing that twenty-year-old me would be proud of fifty-four-year-old me, and also knowing that’s not necessarily a good thing, but still, it’s not what he fucking meant. 

Black bra straps.

Sophia tells a joke that begins, “if hummingbirds were men.”

We kiss by the fire, second one of Spring, leaning into one another, and it makes me think of stars for some reason, intelligent stars who are happy we are kissing, and who burn a little brighter and lean over us, like ceremonial candles saying “yes – this is the way – yes.” 

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Twenty Miles with Her in Silence

Minnows in brown shallows, red-tail hawks in widening updrafts. How far back do we have to go to find happiness?

The mower rattles around the chicken pen, and the chickens flap out of their dust baths into the shade of the barn, and eye me warily. The ferns this year, as if we needed more proof of God’s love.

Broken leg, broken arm, broken jaw, broken nose. I remember misfiring a shotgun and getting hit hard upside the head and say what you will, I never misfired a shotgun again.

Riding around town in the back of a pickup, nestled in bales of hay. At 5:30 I feed the horses and water the strawberries and rhubarb, all barefoot, and the grass is so wet and cold my feet ache.

Between grading, making potato salad. My next dentist appointment is on my Dad’s birthday, and I oddly thought of canceling it, then thought, no, that’s stupid.

I mean, who turns a perfectly functional breather into a stress test death match? Marigolds.

Moonlight. At dusk trout leap in the river and I hold my hands open as in prayer, letting the cosmos know I am not here to hunt or kill.

Her poems are so full of grief – a surrealism that can barely sustain itself (a reminder that sorrow disdains metaphor) – that you’d have to walk twenty miles with her in silence just to earn the right to say, hey, listen, are you okay? Last of the kale tossed in a blueberry smoothie, two cloves of garlic and a little stevia to take the edge off. 

It’s summer, it will be for a little while I guess. The neighbors mention putting up a fence but don’t, and when I mention it to Jasper he mentions Frost’s “Mending Wall” and I swallow a dozen screams. 

Yet I like to roll and smoke a joint from time to time, especially in summer, the moon lolling in soft skies, a rivery hymnal in faroff darkness, just sitting with the crickets and peepers, and now and then an owl on the outskirts of the village. Scouring the sky for signs of rain and angels. 

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The Monkey who Invented Angels

The existential crisis goes with me apparently, even to Cape Cod, where the sea speaks of what is beyond death. What is pearl-shaped, palindromic, possible.

What is palatable.

Driving back from Dad’s grave I always stop and buy McDonald’s, as close to a sin as this life gets for me, but he always insisted when we drove together, it made him happy to treat me, it meant something to him in a way that means something to me, and for all the bullshit there was a lot to honor in him, so in this way I honor him. 

It does seem as if certain days are gone forever, like, say, last Saturday. Days later the kids laugh at how Chrisoula upbraided me over my nostalgia for tractor parades, repeating her taking me down, and I repent by accepting their teasing, grateful the Lord has not left me teacherless.

The side yard lilac blooms. My heart is not leftovers wrapped in foil.

Before heading back I drive forty or so minutes further east to that fish market in Eastham, buy clams and swordfish, bury them in ice in a cooler, and ferry them home up the turnpike to a half-assed clambake in the hills of western Massachusetts.

I remember going down on her at a rest stop in Vermont, the windows steaming, and an hour later – just outside Burlington – reaching a terrible loneliness that would stay with me for almost seven years, and that was the last time there was “sex in cars.” 

Collectively we are the monkey who invented angels who proceeded to call the monkey forward into angelism.

Raspberry shoots in the fire pit.

Walking at five a.m., cold and alone, numb fingers working a child’s rosary, studying a hill on the far side of which Emily Dickinson once lived and wrote. 

Baby rabbits in the bee balm. Our brains are being remade by the technology we made with our brains and it’s not good, it’s really not good. Feral barn cats scale the withered apple tree in search of baby birds. 

At a late juncture one realizes they are in dialogue with local rivers – that the rivers are speaking, their voices rising and falling – and thus becomes religious in a new way.

Sophia and I discuss the way that “reality is a social construct” can be a useful means of expanding the domain of love while Chrisoula listens, making dinner. 

I will no longer argue with you about what constitutes a helpful reading of Ecclesiastes, deal?

Take the sky, the stars and the moon, the sun and the ten thousand galaxies, these wings weren’t made for flying.

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No Metaphor is Immediately Available

Waiting on Cedar Waxwings. Strawberries. Bobby comes by for the all-but-ruined chicken hutch in which my father kept a small flock of Rhode Island Reds the last year of his life and I help him heft it into the pickup. Sunlight on sagging tulips, soft breezes for which no metaphor is immediately available. As a child I prayed a great deal, but also posed questions that went unanswered, which eventually devolved to negotiations with God, i.e., you want me to be good and I want more baseball cards so . . . So I’m lonely, so what? Things happen, seem to happen, and their happening occludes other happenings. We listen to Bob Seger driving to Northampton, my son and I, and it occurs to me that those lyrics were nontrivial influences on my thinking about time and memory. In order to work, mirrors need a source of light. The horses look up as I water the rhubarb, and I make familiar clicking sounds, letting the blind one know it’s me. Clouds bunch in the crook of far hills, then trail through the sky as if following the river: late afternoon thunderstorms. At dusk the crickets begin, and the river begins its soft adorations. Whatever is over is over, and whatever is beginning has been with me a long time. Want to talk?

Inventing Forgiveness

Do apples have hearts – of course apples have hearts – if you define heart the way I and Emily Dickinson do. Watering the rhubarb each morning after haying the horses becomes a ritual, like thumbing a hymnal, and I earn something out there in full view of the world, loving the scraggly plants as if I were their child or vice-versa. I remember filling truck beds with lumber, I remember carrying calves on my lap in the pickup, and I remember the many deaths in those days, each like eating a long road through the world so that nobody would have to travel it again. Robins in the front yard at dawn tearing words – I mean worms – from mossy soil. One by one the petals of authorial tulips fall to the earth, a message to the revolution: don’t lose hope. I stack quartz – white and rose – on the stump of the recently felled cherry tree, inventing forgiveness and its offspring joy the only way I know. One wants what they cannot have, and has what they cannot give away without becoming a Father of Pain. Oh I know how carefully one opens the coffin after, I know what it’s like to peer into that cave.

A Shared Way Forward

When you meant to say plenitude? I take my old banjo to the front porch and pick clumsily at chords my fingers still remember. “Whoo whee, ride me high / Tomorrow’s the day my bride’s gonna come.” Yet another patch on pants that Chrisoula says aren’t falling apart but are fallen apart, a nontrivial distinction. Days earlier we watched a tractor parade, fifty or so of them grinding along Main Street under mostly old men, and I sank into nostalgia – a kind of loneliness premised on dishonest evaluations of the local past – out of which I was unceremoniously drop-kicked. Thérèse stood between worlds, floating, sharing in “the family life that never ends.” We rue the fallen tansy, we plant and water the forsythia. I groan coming, shivering after, mind lost on back roads where warm beer greased a shared way forward, one I still treasure and from time to time travel. Coming to terms with how fucking scared I am of Emily Dickinson’s mind. Ordering a clam roll with fries but no soda thanks, carrying it back to the beach and eating a dozen or so feet upwind of an old man fishing, the rank smell of bait not tamping down my hunger. As the old days are the new days and the new days old. Long drives back through parts of Massachusetts I never called home, fingering a rosary, cried out but not empty. What happens in the easy chair, what goes down in the clearing off the trail. We who are one with whatever is one with whatever it is that loves this this.

The Enduring Platitude

One tallies up the monasteries they’ve visited, is disappointed, then ambitious and full of travel plans, and then – given gardens and prisms and Emily Dickinson poems – forgetful. It’s okay, or it will be, seems to be the enduring platitude. With respect to vacations, my life has never been one that required vacating, though I do drift a lot, have a tenuous sense of “here,” et cetera. All night I heard apple blossoms falling, my dreams full of them, pale white petals like discarded veils sinking through seas I myself can barely stay afloat in. Jacking off in the hayloft at six a.m., briefly intensely focused on a way her eyes have of narrowing. What is sex anyway. Later praying a rosary under the Marian apple trees, empty of whatever brings forth conflict, thriving in graces that feel human, ordinary, sufficient, okay. Going from the cemetery in Mansfield to a cemetery in Fall River, and then doubling back to 495 to drive to Cape Cod because I want to look at the ocean. When you go, hold a thought of me, that I might not live bereft in this light that endlessly spills in me knowing you, once upon a time.

Any Sense of Danger

Thérèse to Jesus: “To love You as You love me I must borrow Your love – only then will I know peace.” The geese are still and quiet when I pass, the distance buffeting us from any sense of danger or other opportunity. Later watering replanted rhubarb.

We have these hearts which beat in our chests, and we have these hearts which hover just outside us, in gold light, reminding us we are not alone. Who does not get religious around ferns in spring does not yet know the grace and mercy of God. The dashes of Emily Dickinson.

Half-opened doors. The early prayers melt away, leaving me talking to myself like when I was a child, delighted with the chambers of my mind, which were full of light and voices that were not my own. Indifference is always a manifestation of privilege, one of the worst.

Since the kittens arrived last year, I am only allowed to hang prisms in the hayloft, which makes certain joys harder to attain which, oddly or otherwise, isn’t the big deal I expected. Oatmeal with cinnamon and raisins. This morning’s eggs fried on top of caramelized onions and chives.

Broken windows in unused barns. One sleeps the way others body surf seas the morning after a storm. We reach the end of something – know it by feel – and the writing does not catch up and once again we have to sit quietly with the possibility that the wordiness in us – what lives in us by telling us what lives in us – is finished in us.

Swallows at dusk: learning cursive was one of the great joys of my life. The pile of books on the bureau ascends, reaching a height one might call perilous but doesn’t (oh wait). It is not my place to make demands any longer but to accept what is given.

A vast cosmic flower in infinite blossom. Turn: look: what is behind you: can you see how there is nothing behind you: can you see how you are sourceless, parentless, endless, bereft of pedigree, without origin: beyond the reach of et cetera, et cetera.

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