Monday, May 31, 2021

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.

Sunday, May 30, 2021

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.

Saturday, May 29, 2021

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." 

Friday, May 28, 2021

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. 

Thursday, May 27, 2021

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.

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

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?

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

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.

Monday, May 24, 2021

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.

Sunday, May 23, 2021

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.

Saturday, May 22, 2021

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.

Friday, May 21, 2021

Eight Years Outside the Monastery

Afternoon passes going over the week's writing, watching some birds - grackles I guess - fly in and out of the decrepit apple tree I refuse to let anybody cut down. Bees drowse in the barn where the light is thicker. Clouds follow the valley where I listen for the river in the sound of passing wind. Was I saying something or were you?

Apple blossom petals fall through the air, swallows dive and tuck. Remember learning cursive? It's mostly cumulus but near the church steeple there's one that's gray and blurred, like a dream in the morning right after waking. Baby maple trees, sunlight in ferns, crickets in tall grass, that kind of thing.

Sunday is for thinking clearly about possession - the various kinds, the way they sync up with fallacy, and just generally how unhappy one becomes on their account. Salmon with honey mustard, brown rice, salad and lemonade. Jasper comes by around nine with a six pack and we drink it on the back porch, talking about our fathers and wives, and the way things were once, and we realize when the beer's gone that we're in the past now too, like ghosts haunting ourselves. They aren't my violets, is what I keep trying to remember.

Danny, the male mallard who is now sixteen years old, offers up guttural quacks, and I offer up a prayer that he'll die this year before the ground freezes, so I can bury him down near Alice, the Indian Runner who died in her sleep, as dear to us as a horse (instead of throw him in the forest for winter foxes to eat). Perhaps in my next life I'll be a lilac bush, or maybe somebody's side yard, a nice place to sit and read and maybe write poems. Lunch three days ago was hot dogs with sauerkraut, minced onion and pepper relish all wrapped in bacon. Be still my beating heart - I always wanted to say that.

Imagine waiting eight years outside the monastery for the head monk to acknowledge you, grant you an audience, let you in. In Vermont, snow on the apples still clinging to cold trees. We bring tea and what tea needs with us to the lake, sit on the causeway and drink and talk, while old ladies from Holyoke fish for trout nearby. Belatedly, I mean, but not in a way that means never.

Thursday, May 20, 2021

Giving Away the Hives

On my knees in soil, tearing at grass, listening to chickadees raise the proverbial question. Turkey vultures circle a mile or so west. Late in the day we walk upriver as far as the bridge, turn around and come back, stopping now and then to scour the banks for water-polished glass. When the light blurs a certain way, as if angels were nearby, or a fine mist inexplicably still and prismatic. The strawberry plants wither and then rally and it's hard not to be happy. I've gotten closer to understanding (the first step to undoing) the possession fallacy, and am annoyed at how difficult certain teachers made it. Coming to peace with never keeping bees again, giving away the hives, or aging maybe, or something. I doze off in the rocker, almost miss an early afternoon meeting with students, but make it in the end, a little dull but still competent. Deli meats rolled up with cheese, all of us standing talking about later in the day, who's doing what. "There are still tractor parades" I say, quietly reverent as the tractors rumble up Main Street, to which Chrisoula responds, "yeah and most of the men driving them are racist assholes which you damn well know so can we dial down the nostalgia a bit?" The wedding becomes the marriage, and the marriage becomes the refectory and the refectory becomes the "finer Forge / That soundless tugs—within — " I mean, why do we call it a garden? The sky full of swallows - what is it saying that we have so far managed to avoid hearing? And yes. Yes my love. Yes.

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Death Breaches the Calm

Spring frost already collapsing to beads of water bright with sunlight. Lilac on the far hill, blurred by distance to a degree that makes my heart ache for something it remembers once loving but which no longer has a name. Well-fed robins - is that a thing - paired up, watching me pass. The inclination to take pictures is mostly gone, not unlike my interest in sex. Lost dogs trot happily beside me, then turn back to where I can't say. Death breaches the calm and we become religious in an instant. Farms described now as tax write-offs. "I love snow," she wrote, and they altered it, making her sound more pious and circuitous than she was in fact. I'm okay, you're okay, is not the worst way to begin a dialogue (or to end one). Morning rosaries, morning ambles. Jeremiah and I debate the correct pronunciation of "casein," then listen and realize we were both wrong. Morning coffee in the upstairs rocker, somehow elegant, somehow a joy. These are not the sentences I intended to write when I sat down to write - these are the sentences I did write. And begin.

Tuesday, May 18, 2021

Insisting on Graces

The wasp draws closer, sunlight making its wings appear like polished mahogany. Thérèse returns me to Dickinson, who homes in me like rara avis, getting me close to a fire I am still too scared to sit beside. I'd like to help others more than hurt them, and often this is accomplished simply by being careful not to be around anyone too long. The care some people take dressing! Apple trees, hemlocks, maple trees. Rose quartz. All around me now are hundreds of unfurling ferns, each insisting on graces that are no longer secretive, mysterious, hidden. If I still kissed, I'd kiss someone which, I kind of do so, what are you up later today? Let me walk a little way toward to the river, see what happens in the tall grass among butterflies and katydids.

Monday, May 17, 2021

Back When I Wasn't Scared

Steep stairs at the foot of which ferns grow, vividly green and faintly spiraled, ascendent witnesses to what can only be called - in this writing, this way - the beneficent cosmos.

Let it rain, who'll stop the rain, raindrops keep fallin' on my head, et cetera.

Say what you will! Crows land in the driveway, oddly unafraid, and it's hard not to read into it. So the lilac bush isn't blooming, so what?

Go into it, the question of evil, and see where it takes you, see what you learn. Soft pink apple blossoms on the remaining apple trees. Rose quartz. Words we're not supposed to use, words we use anyway.

Dandelions along the flagstone path out front. How do you know God is good after all? A triangle of light ascending the bedroom wall while I work out the sentences of my latest autobiography in which one finds God after crawling a long time through cut glass to a vinegar sea. 

Manufactured consent. Cold cuts.

All these lies and the lying liars telling them.

We take Fionnghuala to be vaccinated on our anniversary, after pick up burritos at the place we used to go to when we met in law school, exhausted and stressed but happy in the other, at rest in the other.

Labels don't help really but they do help a little and so some of them are: vegetarian, feminist, activist, Christian, Buddhist, guitarist, knitter, gardener, father, mother, recovering nihilist, crazy cat lady and so forth.

I didn't really lose God until my late twenties, and I didn't lose God so much as refuse God in favor of logic, rationality, just generally the myth of objectivity, and I found my way back around fifty thanks to some very open-minded biologists and one eighth-century Irish Catholic mystic. 

You don't actually die but the part of you consoled by this fact does in fact die and is in fact already dead.

Back when I wore bandannas, back when I wasn't scared to walk away from everything.

Sunday, May 16, 2021

Apostles are Never Caught Surprised

The birettas of dead cardinals. We move the Christmas tree outside, leave it where both shade and sun will find it, and carefully tend it that it might serve us another year. 

Here where there are no bluets.

Here where the righteous are bound up in planning, here where apostles are never caught surprised. 

Spring starlight, shivering in darkness a little after three a.m., the river a softness off to my right. Word by word, poem by poem, relationship by relationship. It's like we are hellbent on finding a way to keep things going.

I have three chess sets, including my late father's, and I don't even like chess! Chickens visit from three houses over, nestle under the front porch, lay eggs, and move on. I fill in groundhog holes, level the earth, but toss no grass seed, preferring to let the wind and rain bear what living gifts they will bear.

We walk together along the river, watching ducks float in the shallows. At dusk you know yourself in a way that's close to how the Holy Spirit knows you. Pink blossoms on the apple trees out back, a desire to give her head beneath them.

Those who miss the confidence - which arises in the earned clarity - of Thérèse, including that dumb fuck Thomas Merton.

After a while it stops mattering what you know or what you do and you just float - neither living nor dying - through the cosmos like a happy neutrino, a neutral angel. Trees bending in hard winds like the rest of us. Somebody didn't read their Plato!

Oh let me be a sunbeam, a sunflower, a chickadee, a smooth stone in the river, oh let me be that which knows the sunbeam, the sunflower, the chickadee, the smooth stone in the - oh right - that's what I already am, thanks Jesus!

Fixing the plumbing, planting potatoes, walking after dinner, driving together to the food pantry to help fill shelves, sometimes going to church and sometimes not, waking up when it rains to check on the horses, praying on a child's rosary, making coffee, forgiving my dead father, replanting strawberry plants, dressing for funerals, remembering dead dogs and horses, et cetera.   

This is how I understand love, this is how I pray.

Saturday, May 15, 2021

The Cosmos is Fundamentally Regenerative

Places my reading takes me where I don't want to go but must, for now. Playing non-zero-sum games now. The blind horse politely raising his hoof to be trimmed. Spring sunlight, always a promise.

One goes slowly through the piety of Thérèse, comes to her clarity around kenosis, and wishes - not for the last time - that some other form of dialogue were possible. We are attracted to Luciferians, no other way to say it. Pan fried fish with chips, all of us eating on the front porch, laughing. A dream in which neighbors pass with open beers, stop to say hi, hey did you hear about Dick Thayer, et cetera, that happiness and ease.

Wherever I go next, pray they have coffee. Azaleas everywhere. One mows down the bluets - one goes headlong into grief - knowing the cosmos is fundamentally regenerative. There is only this: this this.

And yet. One leans into the monastic impulse, one finds the rosary is a fine lantern for the various darks that attend. Halfway through turning over the new garden we come to a clutch of stones, excavate them one by one, and find beneath them bones, hence a cairn over a pet but deep in the earth so at least the nineteenth century. All the stuff they try to sell me, all the emptinesses that can never be filled.

Sister cannabis, brother psilocybin? I remember making love in truck beds, hasty and unsure, but happy after, in a loose and flowy way, holding hands on our backs looking up at the stars. Encouraging the wasp to take another path to its nest. I must have solved some problem for my dreams now are all of gardens through which butterflies float singing songs of praise and joy.

Friday, May 14, 2021

The Risk of Bad Translations

The crushed body of a milk snake on Sam Hill Road, its ancestors hovering in the form of rainblown honeysuckle blossoms, beside which I grew still for seven long summers. I'm stuck on Frankl's idea that "meaning is objective," aware of the risk of bad translations, and also general error but also, I mean, is it? Driving into New Hampshire by way of Vermont, wondering what I knew in my early twenties that I don't know now. Progressing where and by what means. Sunlight bleeds through thin clouds that move quickly across the hills. The poets who help me cross this vast dangerous river, each a stone making possible a step onto the next. Bald eagles on towering hemlocks off Dawes Road. All night it rained and in the morning we make love, padding around the bedroom after looking for clothes, saying at the same time "thank you," then laughing and going to the kitchen for breakfast and coffee. Violets in the tall grass but no bluets, as if I were forgotten in some critical way. Nothing is missing but the sense something is missing goes on, like a rowboat nosing the mist at dawn. If you know you are lost, are you still lost? Or is it that the urge to pray itself means we already know the answer?

Thursday, May 13, 2021

Alone Despite Requests for a Companion

Violets which against our will are torn from the earth, left as bright litter wherever attention rests on them. Yet what is a gift, what is a giver. Chris and I talk about cannabis, local history, the challenge of holding coherent world views these days, et cetera.

In the welter, a woman, and in the woman, a path forward that is clear and coherent. It is relationship all the way down. Four renegade tulips: two red, one yellow and that's red and yellow both and leans more than the others, as if determined to discover and then re-enter its source. 

Mowing the front yard less regularly as a way of discovering oneself in laws that are unrelated to how things look to others. Falling fences, falling hemlocks

I am a vast cosmic blossom watching itself blossom, you? 

At last one goes beyond "or else," at last one attains a brief but divine rest. The obsession with objects - my grandmother's salt and pepper shakers, my other grandmother's tea cups, my prisms and stones, the crucifixes, books, glass bottles, candles and ceramic birds - are simply lovely images by which one remembers over and over that loveliness is unrelated to images. 

At dad's grave - alone despite several requests for a companion - I cry quietly, what feels like uselessly, sagging against the car, forgetting what I meant to say/ask/forgive. Raucous blue jays in nearby scrub brush. Fear, and everything that comes with it, and that which fear is not, nor can be, ever.

Things die, or seem to, and it's okay, is what I tell myself driving west on the turnpike, eschewing the lovelier but longer Route Two because I miss the kids, want to be home for dinner, et cetera. When we turn our backs on the sea, are we actually turning our backs to the sea or is something else happening that we can't yet put into words? Even the demons know Jesus and so our knowing alone is insufficient unto grace, hence both study and works.

Carrying coffee to the hay loft I spill a little on my "new" sneakers. A rosary for those who remain open to what is yet mysterious, that it might be revealed later.  

I mean this love flowing through me, this radiating joy - what did I do to earn it but not resist when I was gently - insistently but gently - pushed out of its way?

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

The Ruins of Perfect Love

Family tie-dye parties my youngest daughter convenes, a joy I can neither explain nor bear, as if some thread of light or color were binding me up in love despite myself. 

Let me not forsake that which has not once forsaken me. 

The side yard lilac which for yet another year I will not cut down though it does not bloom and never will again. A cockroach heart, quivering neurons not sure where to send their beams of sodium light. You learn how to live in prison, he said, tilting his beer as if to remind himself there was a bottom. That was what century, what version of Irish.

That was which protagonist.

The sea is a daughter of the moon and the moon is a daughter of the dark and the dark is an outpouring of divine love we fear and therefore worship and thus fail to love as in these human frames we are called to love. 

In confusion and grief the Man without Shoes brings his body to yet another ceremony that does not require bodies and agrees to yet another painful execution. Oh look - a guillotine - where should I put my head?

Fireball shots swallowed in secret. Beer cans hurled out open windows into roadside grass. I remember whiskey, I remember thinking brandy might be less brutal and I remember not remembering after. 

I remember Chrisoula crying, taking Dad's Ruger .22 out of my hand. I remember years later taking all the guns to the police station, shaking uncontrollably in the car after, Chrisoula saying over and over - one hand on the steering wheel, the other on the back of my neck - "it's okay it's okay it's okay."  

I remember Mike pointing at me saying "that's the guy you don't want to fight 'cause he doesn't care who he fights or if he wins, he just wants to fight," and everybody nodding and that was family, that was history.

For the longest time, that was how it went (which included when it could go that way again). 

I think a lot not about Christ crucified but the dumb bastards who, following orders, killed him, who were kids probably, bored probably, for whom it was just a job. And it was - for them it was. 

Dad's grave two hours east calling like how sometimes at night the river calls, asking me to stand mute in darkness beside it, antennae for whatever grim song the universe wants to play in me. 

What makes me sad, what feels like a lifetime, what never goes away.  

Golgotha in the rear-view before he'd even died, before he'd even said "forgive them for they know not what they do," you know? 

Tell me, what lives in the ruins of perfect love? A motel just off the interstate you only stop at because there's nowhere else to stop. When we look at the mirror under the shroud, when we look at death, when we look at the emptiness even death cannot consume. 

There is no bottom, is what we can't quite bring ourselves to say and instead get religious and say "it's turtles all the way down" or "be still and know that I am God" or "whose kingdom is the world for you today." 

It takes a long time to say it hurts, doesn't it. Lifetimes. More than lifetimes.

I have all these cousins, all these uncles - I have all these brothers - and my father didn't teach me how to love them and now what. 

Who needs an apology, who needs to apologize. 

This is which protagonist. This is which narrative.

Two or three days ago, on Fairgrounds Road in bright sunlight walking, I prayed a rosary to remember I am forgiven and I remember the rosary, I remember the sunlight but not the forgiveness. Never the forgiveness.

In this life I got as far as saying "fuck off" to the ones who said "here's a hammer and some nails, go kill yourself" but I got no further.

What is further.  

This morning I put a shirt on - blue, green and yellow softly swirling - the sea in summer moonlight - the one Fionnghuala says is best - and prayed. "Please God let me hurt no one today."


See, this is how I enter the story: something beautiful but splintered, a stray dog that won't let you get too close, a broken window you can neither fix nor clean. But it's not my story it's your story. And it's not a story it's a prism, one that reminds you we are all daughters reminding the father - that misplaced dream of holiness, that misbegotten kingdom - it's okay to slow down, rest, draw a breath. It's okay - at last it is okay - to be happy. 

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Anger and Grace

There are misguided prayers I am only now getting clear on. Bittern resting in swampy flats. Broken vacuum cleaners, toasters, microwaves. We make gluten-free waffles and slice leftover baked potatoes into steak fries while I lecture everybody about the ham-handed symbolism in Star Wars. What do you know by heart? Miscellaneous guitar cords and pedals. My youngest daughter's reading habits pointing towards both anger and grace. There is in my heart a deep longing to play D&D again, and I wonder who among my peers will say yes at this late - and getting later - juncture. It's band-aids all the way down, is about the best way I can say it. What one sees when they hunker beside puddles, a face obscuring the sky.

Monday, May 10, 2021

Haunted by Self-Generated Concepts

We made cowboy coffee in Dublin and I learned a certain bitterness. Tufts of grass in which gray mice rest, appearing pensive, unsure. Chrisoula calls them "a sea now," my violets, and I beam inwardly, as if I've swallowed too much sun. 

We are waiting on blue flag, we are surprised by tulips - four of them - jutting up along the front porch. No more notes from Santa, a writing project I had never anticipated caring about. Frisbees that no longer fly. We agree that Saturday is a hard day to figure out the morning of. We are "over" coffee.

Here in the envelope things are getting hot, said no letter ever. Yellow linen pants which I wash by hand, and drape over the unblossoming lilac bush to dry, and then wear for weeks on end around the house, happier than I want to say. I call them poems but they're more like notes or lists, obligatory except when they're not. On the drive to Belchertown we talk about the kids, her uncompromised moral compass, and what it means to be haunted by self-generated concepts. Allow everything, resist nothing?

A sense of loneliness pervades, a consequence of not fully embracing one's calling to live a certain way perhaps. We have parents and they teach us how to use certain tools - guns, say, or typewriters - and other tools we have to learn ourselves or live without. 

I mean lonesome when driving long distances. One's father's grave beckons in ways which make visiting non-negotiable, which, big surprise. Fast food on the highway, washed down with tepid coffee. Greek icons in the bedroom, a crucifix replacing the clay Buddha who now rests outside near the violets.

I can still see all those turtles surfacing - loving us loving us at Fitzgerald Pond - and I pray I might see them forever.

Sunday, May 9, 2021

This Swelling Alleluia

Muddy gaps past the transfer station pocked with deer prints pointing to the mountain. Gray clouds far away, like when I try to listen to jazz but can't. The fine-grained sand - pebble-like - of ant hills along Fairgrounds Road, stepping around them. When it rains heavy, as last night it did, the river sounds different, less far away and deeper, the currents coming from the psyche of forgotten gods, and something in us that might otherwise bring the world to nightmare is briefly appeased. Snake-shaped sticks mistaken for - but you know this already. Minnows are the opposite of cursive. Before the familiar opening I cry out in joy and gratefulness and enter singing, a penitent, a postulant, a popover. Wind passes, bending the tall grass on which sunlight glistens, creating the illusion of beams of light passing one after the other through the field toward the hill. My heart today! This rolling tide, this swelling alleluia! So I don't know the names of all the flowers, so what?

Saturday, May 8, 2021

A Misguided Attempt to Love

Between raindrops, a cricket. Decorative wells in front yards, half-hearted daffodils like penitents around it. Dust in the eye sockets of the blind horse as if to remind those with eyes they won't always. Honeysuckle blossoms.

Unbuckled belt buckles. Dreams slip easily past the mesh nets of memory, leaving me with a sense of having traveled then taken some drug that makes you forget you traveled. What you do with me will be a secret unless the God of childhood is real. Fifty years ago one didn't see cardinals in these parts, a fact I remain astounded by.

Black bear sightings and other charms. The porch roof leaks, another thing we can't afford to fix. Mercy Buckets. The story and the story there's a story and, somehow, this sentence. 

Dancing with Jon in Rhode Island to that old Van Halen song Jump. Coffee is the thing that saves us. I wake late and the horse chores are finished and it's hard to write but easy to say a rosary. Sunlight passing through prisms and other solvable mysteries I leave unsolved in a misguided attempt to love the Lord. 

So it hurts, so what? She murmurs in the dark, fingers on my chin to turn me to her, turn me to kisses. It's not Ray Bradbury stories all the way down! Wondering do turtles pray, have gods, that kind of thing.

Friday, May 7, 2021

The Other Side of Sunday

Perhaps it is vitrails all the way down. Or am I lost and a piece of fruit is missing me. Did I say something wrong?

Mortifying personhood in order to see clearly the other. A sound rain makes when falling on tipped-over sap buckets. Slick hematite. As in a fairy tale, long ago.

Even no-sun is light. And there are no channels.

Forest a thousand miles away. Others ten thousand miles away. And the cosmos has eyes.

Flannel pajamas. Chaste kisses. Who is watching who?

"That something is God," she writes. Pretty violets. Miracles.

Nightmarish downpours after midnight a dozen rosaries long. At six a.m. exhausted one topples through sleepy recesses where dreamlessness doesn't quite take. Enya songs.

One comes at last to rest in the Star of the Ocean, the Queen of Flowers, the Mother of Christ. Tractor trailers on side roads going home. John Denver on the hifi, the other side of Sunday.

What is good.

What is suffering.

What is without limit, forever and ever? Why Om shanti, why amen.

Therese's sense that God has no need of our works but only of our love. Two-day-old bread fried with eggs and butter, topped with caramelized onions and warm maple syrup. There is no way forward now we are no longer trapped.

We learn to love looking away from the self. This sacred heart, this sanctioned hit.

Was it, after all, nothing? This exile, exhumation, this expression of turtles, this ongoing surfacing in love?

Thursday, May 6, 2021

Beautiful Shrouds

Something easy, something kind. Robins hop along the stone path and I try and fail to not write that it's really their path, not mine. Is it ever a good day to be a worm? Two days without starlight, rosary beads in numbing fingers, and dreams of political troubles for which I am unprepared. Leftovers from Greek Easter, gently scrubbing dried shit and straw off this morning's eggs, laughing together at something the priest said. I am a vast cosmic blossom, a bell sinking through greening seas. The neighbor's sheep bawl, a sound I name "sorrowful" but which is really closer to "hungry." A little rain falls at six a.m. while I spade the new garden, working through the psychological complexities of women saints in nineteenth century France. She ate the dried flesh of her lips while waiting on death. Maple leaves draped across spring skies, like beautiful shrouds for people who know dying is not the end. What mercy, what justice. This banquet that never reaches my tongue, this prayer that never leaves it. 

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Nothing at all Yonder

A moon so bright we didn't need headlights. Water lilies, frogs, unfortunate sons. Everything is falling, failing, forgetting.

A peace that is not merely the absence of not-peace.

Resting heron at a distance off Flat Iron Road, unbothered. Birth trees. Obsessions with money. What's dirty again?

What are hands for? Answers which are easier than I am.

Doors, delivery services, dense amalgams of Being.

Flirting with her on the steps outside City Hall, Lake Champlain a blue melting hurting my teeth, and nothing at all yonder. Places I've hit my head, places on my head where I've been hit. What is the sound of your footsteps?

Late morning sunlight blurred by hemlocks. Leaks.

The doubt given me is often total. This endless series of dreams, the Luciferian cleverness of saying it out loud, effectively dooming understanding. 

Tea with honey at dusk before the meeting begins. There is a miracle for everything, even this.

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

This Fast-Scattering Life

I cut my hand working under the broken sink. This is one way a poem can begin. One nods at holiness, as if passing a stranger, as if in a hurry to get somewhere else. Wind in the hemlocks that remain. Rain in the only sky I know. Morning passes cleaning the hayloft, dusting the rocks, glass bottles, suncatchers and prisms, reordering the books, clearing - as once a year one does - their writing table. Ten fingers because it helps. A mouse at the foot of the back porch stairs, its face noble in death, its gray fur streaked with dirt. Horses trodding through mud for their morning hay - what is gold, what thumps, what is loss. What is the cost of pausing on the stairwell to share a few words with someone for whom a few words is many? You put xylophones into the poem so you can say you put xylophones in the poem. Advantage Jesus. A new phase of the moon, a new phase of you. One steps outside at night to finish their wine on the front porch, listening to the last of the rain, falling through what remains of this fast-scattering life. Cat fights after midnight, chickens with leg injuries, blood on the barn door. What else do I want to say about psilocybin? My son writes songs in which the protagonist does a lot of traveling and is resigned to complexly-structured relationships. Before sleep, as upon waking, a rosary. Ladies hosiery. Only one for me, thanks. I remember in Burlington a little side deli that sold two hot dogs for ninety-nine cents, and I went there a lot, poor but not unhappy. I mean there's more, right? We who leak subjectivity all morning all over the place, ever sinking into whatever they meant who said "character is destiny." I mock palm-readers but read Tarot cards - what the fuck is that about?

Monday, May 3, 2021

Stumbling at Alleluia

Is it time to move on? I have been here a long time waiting on a certain signal fire, and all there is is darkness.

I like women who can talk a long time between kisses. I remember reading Gertrude Stein for the first time and becoming instantly celibate, a state of ecstatic deprivation that lasted almost three years.

Altars. Chord changes the song calls for but for which you do not long.

Nothing to hold onto really. The mushrooms were sacramental but also leveling, humbling even.

If you don't turn the lights on, and you know to call what happens "darkness," is there not at least one light on? My sweet Lord!

Leaving even the ancestors behind. Smoking cigarettes outside seven-elevens in Holyoke, sad in a way I would not be able to articulate for another twenty years. 

Where the hill crests in Windsor and you can see the Adirondacks in bright sunlight. As the Buddha said, "the illusion of self originates and manifests itself in cleaving to things."

It must be intentional, it must be active. If we do not know the spirit then we cannot know Christ

She writes every week or so, a happy-sounding letter in which it is clear she sees the fundamental crisis clearer than I do. Oh we are getting somewhere now aren't we. 

Stumbling at alleluia. I don't want to live the way I lived, I want to talk about peace and forgiveness, I want to be happy, naturally and seriously, like I was before snakes and language and dead baby cows.

Sunday, May 2, 2021

On the Hayloft Floor

Waking to thunder at 1 a.m. - touching Chrisoula's shoulder - then going out to check on the horses, who bristle in the rainy dark but do not bolt. Yet later, from dreams in which the word "Aloha" predominated, the light was soft and the horses quiet, as if we had somehow stumbled into Eden. 

Chickadees hop in and out of a recess in the oldest apple tree, whose blossoms this year are scant. Do we know what we are doing when we seek to know what we are doing? I was bereft for many years but a quiet joy is on me now, like somebody has decided to anonymously leave a sandwich on my writing desk, day after day after day.

This writing. Dissembled guitars on the hayloft floor, my son's desire to penetrate to the heart of all objects to understand how they work. Metaphors work. Crucifixes made of dried palm fronds pinned to the wall, a kind of mindlessness that is not - upon analysis - unhelpful. Blueberries, strawberries, raspberries.

This is the world. Now this is the world.

Sex passes and then returns, a low fire in the gut instantly begetting prose poetry for an audience of one. Minnows flash in the shallows. Disturbing resting heron in the swamps off Fairgrounds Road, wishing it had come to something else.

High school friends who killed themselves. We are all drunks, we are all struggling with migraine headaches.

"If it's easy it ain't treasure" and other bullshit the patriarchy slings. Salads, sordid college sex stories, Saussure and semiotics. This would have been a hill I might've died on, were I the kind of guy who cared about dying on hills but I'm not, I'm another kind of guy.

Saturday, May 1, 2021

The Cosmos that Way

Dark trucks before dawn rolling slowly up Main Street. Unfurling maple leaves, losing their jewelry essence in favor of something closer to a crinkly surface on which secret messages are scrawled, love notes from Jesus maybe, maybe just shades of green and red in late April sunlight which are themselves sufficient unto joy.   

If you say you are haunted, then you are haunted, and so we must perform an exorcism, which is less a religious ritual than a complex friendship lasting at least one lifetime. My heart hurts for the hemlocks, fifteen or so felled in a day without my consent (which was of course irrelevant on the human plane, unless you happen to know that I was recently appointed the Guardian Angel of Hemlock Trees in New England).

How I have always loved writing love letters, and always mentally edit the ones I receive, an unfairness - a self-centeredness - I am only now beginning to understand is problematic. Catkins skating across the fire pond's surface. Tell me about a walk that you remember, tell me about a walk about which you dream of taking.

In other news, I'm overeating again. We talk about all three kids while planting onions, fingers cold in wet soil, voices coming and going in winds that seem to never leave. What kind of problem does a sunflower have?

The river whispering at midnight, sharing secrets about love and happiness - that's what it sounds like, feels like, so that's what it is - and fuck off if you've got a problem with me being in dialogue with the cosmos that way. 

The bureau's surface includes a dozen or so rocks, headphones, two bibles, A Course in Miracles (FIP edition and Urtext), a dictionary, an English-to-Greek dictionary, an English-to-Latin dictionary, a two-volume edition of Shogun my kids gave me four Father's Days ago, a pen, two paintings by my youngest daughter (a seascape from when she was seven and a psychedelic flower garden from when she was eleven), my grandfather's broken rosary, a clipboard with teaching notes for a class on Walt Whitman from last semester, a bunch of guitar picks with doves on them, and emptiness, and now do you love me?

Wasps stepping sluggishly out of a hole in the window frame. Morning sun absent which makes us second guess our plans for garden work later. I will drive east along Route Nine for twenty minutes, I will arrive at a deep forest and enter it empty-handed, going all the way to the dog's grave to kneel in grief and confusion. 

The luminosity of certain mosses, the purple on the wings of female mallards, the bluish hue of fresh psilocybin. Falling-over mailboxes. I wonder are broken broken vows hence fixed?

All this order out of which we arise, seekers of the secret flame, lovers of the one male god left, disciples of the Goddess who reveals Herself in the luminosity of certain mosses, the purple on the wings - oh right, I said that part already, sorry.

Briefly stumbling happily through spring rain, forgetting everything, including especially prayer.