Wednesday, June 30, 2021

We No Longer Speak of Guns Here

Old men talking about their knees at the dump. Chrisoula asks if I'm getting a fishing license, I say no, she says gently lucky fish. Grackles picking through dewy grass together. How angry my father could get! 

Childhood is a museum.

We replant my mother's azalea by the remaining hemlocks, unearthing broken glass as we go. Goldfinches soar by. One hand on a stack of bibles, the other in my pants. 

Apparently the blue glass bottles I've been collecting are officially worth something, though "they will never be worth in the marketplace what they have always been worth in my heart" I say, liking the phrase so much I tuck it away to tuck into a poem later.

Writing cross-legged in the over-stuffed rocker, my toes a little numb. Groundhog scootches out of the raspberries and nibbles the dewy grass, freezing when he notices me noticing him, then going back to feed but with an eye on me. I'm less like a snake and more like a weed.

Something is missing, is it sex? Nobody knows this but Bob Dylan named one of his tours after me, the "Why Do You Look At Me So Lonely" tour. Reconfiguring the compost according to an evolving understanding of how gardening and horses and the land works.

Blowing cannabis smoke at the stars, the stars burning a little brighter. Oh holy maple tree.

Naturally we no longer speak of guns here. Chrisoula asks me to help her carry old kid bikes, baling twine and feed bags to L.'s house where they will be gloriously repurposed. 

Eating just-picked strawberries and snap peas at the kitchen counter, becoming something familiar, winged, beyond argument or place, grace-filled, gone.

Tuesday, June 29, 2021

A Plastic Rosary

Desolate, bereft, without consolation, or else it's pantomime, masklessness is the mask, et cetera. 

I read a Holy Book once, it was pretty good.

Something insists on us.

I remember falling in love with nurses in my mid-twenties, working through law school at the hospital, shifts at odd hours, blowjobs in supply closets, sharing coffee in the mostly-empty cafeteria or out front on wooden benches, dark all around, the beginning of a long and troubled sleep.

Childhood is a plastic rosary, blue for boys, pink for girls, black for the ones who will become soldiers.

The sun rises behind banks of low cloud, mist hangs still and low in the meadow.

Her dogs bark and growl as she passes, and I don't want to talk but she stops to talk, and briefly the heat of mid-summer is more oppressive than I can stand.

What do you call it, this honey-colored quartz, and why am I always wishing for names but also oddly not bothering to learn them.

A package of cigarettes.

Glow-in-the-dark bones.

Plastic whistles in the shape of birds that you filled with water to get the right trill.

Feet up on the chair to write.

A catbird hopes through the ferns, aware of me as a danger, a nontruth I cannot convey.

History is too much, all those beautiful stories fighting the weight of facts.

Imagine grace were the top button of a winter coat and it's always cold.

Chick peas with tomatoes and onion.

Cauliflower dipped in teriyaki sauce, eaten standing in the kitchen, talking about our youngest daughter's passion for gardening.

And the coffee gets cold while I write but it's that kind of poem in that kind of life. 

He did not rise from the dead and yet he is here, and that fact is more amazing to me than if he had actually risen from the dead.

Back to Abhishiktananda, the luminous spiral tightening, or am I being gently held now the end has come, over and over reminded it's okay to say goodbye and go. 

Monday, June 28, 2021

After All These Years I Really am Shoeless

There were many shades of green that morning, and lots of unfinished poems. My daughter walks away with an umbrella, and I remember that photograph Dan took of me walking away from our apartment with an umbrella, and fuck if I don't still miss him. We kneel, we pray, we rise and bake bread by lamp light, we eat and give thanks for our eating. 

The point is, some things work and some don't, and it can take time and energy to figure out what. Greek columns on falling-down houses in towns where property values are all anybody talks about. Lack of epistemic humility is an actual problem, trust me. 

What if we hold onto our compass and chart, will that work too? The rain falls earlier than expected but we're not complainers, we're gardeners. I don't want to think about what happened to the chickadees who were nesting in the pear tree because they're probably dead.

What happens behind churches does not stay behind churches, as what we write in our early twenties does not stay in our early twenties. The ape becomes an angel who cannot for the life of her let go of the ape. Reruns again.

I remember he told me not to worry about titles, which confused and frustrated me, as I loved titles, felt like they were ermine stoles you draped across your poems to emphasize their divine, their royal lineage. Cross-stitch patterns, cannabis smoothies, unmade beds in which the various folds and wrinkles are like something out of Saint-Exupéry. Fanning ourselves with the missals.

Remember when Dad gave up on animals and also basically disappeared from your life? Trying to seek  the origin of a certain phrase she uses leads directly to the National Gallery of Ireland's show of paintings from the West of Ireland between 1800 and 2000, in which for the first time I see Mainie Jellet's "Achill Horses" series, in which, I can't say why or how I know, I know all the horses went blind after being painted. Kneading red pepper into breakfast sausage, talking about what it was like to grow up in Greece.

I wonder what meal was invented first - breakfast, lunch or dinner? There is a stone in my shoe, or else the laces are broken, or maybe after all these years I really am shoeless and this is what it feels like to die of love.

Sunday, June 27, 2021

In Mailboxes, Under Apple Trees

Don't even think about the pearls, son. Ticks will remain, cowbirds will remain maybe. What I can't say begins to leave me, like how years ago we left a Jackson Browne concert early to get a jump on traffic, saying hours later on 91 in southern Vermont, it wasn't very good, was it. 

Liminal green haze in mid-summer, running at the park, then detouring to the river for a "dip." Stars fall into tall grass by the pasture. If I dreamed once, I do not dream now.

Disclosures which end marriages, marriages that are themselves the site of disclosures about power which naturally deepen the couple, enabling more and better disclosures. But who is listening? One gets confused about the meaning of "literary," wanders away and then back, like seeing did the party get better in their absence. 

Hiding in mailboxes, under apple trees, and in behavior designed to obscure my fear and basic goodness. Suddenly all this hostility. At four a.m. listening to thunder in the distance, my dead uncles limping around the garden in the dark, confused by how Chrisoula doesn't plant in rows. 

Watching Mike Tyson videos, knockout after knockout, thinking of my grandfather, and how we all have to learn what to do with our pain. Vodka shots, drawn blinds, fantasies involving guns. There was a little room over the library, with Civil War uniforms under glass, and she took me up there and kissed me, holding me against the wall away from the window.

Ham steaks. Something slips past the filters, reaches awareness, and we name it, we welcome it like the prodigal, but at night when we sleep it watches us from the corner, awaiting orders from its maker, who does not mean us well. Funeral songs.

Cold apple pie and maple sausages for breakfast, hot coffee to go, getting on the road before it's light. Who are nothing if not obedient, for whom God is all the glory.

Saturday, June 26, 2021

A Mythological Birth Story

She declines the bonnet my grandmother sewed in piss-smelling Fall River tenements, I pass on her collection of African art. We papered one wall with pages torn from a bible, but somewhere in that joyful altar-making we fell apart and drifted away, and it still hurts, it is still felt as a loss. There's sand in the sheets, the oyster shells are broken before we collect them, and the grave of the last dog was missing for several hours the other night. If you listen, the bellowing goats remind you how everything comes down to hunger. I was lied to a lot, there's no getting around it, and have become a skillful if reluctant deceptor. At dawn, when everything is soft and luminous, you can most readily perceive the one life behind all appearances but oddly still miss the final step which is realizing that life does not love the way you were promised it would love. Leaping off the quarry wall, carrying the sun down with me down. Mice eat through the floorboards of the barn, and the barn leans dangerously west, like sliding off a sheet of ice into the sea. Oh look, we're mixing our metaphors again. There are so many uses to which a sentence can be put, why do we have to choose just one! As I am writing and this is the writing I am writing. As what is broken is very close now, like a rough beast or a mythological birth story. My love, my secret, my unnamed and never kissed. 

Friday, June 25, 2021

Happy in a Way We had Forgotten

Why did I care so much about Thomas Merton's little book Contemplative Prayer? My family in those days were scattering far and fast, and I chose the road another had chosen for me, and ended up with lots of questions and no real interest in answering them.

The skill of knowing how to make a fire, how to kill an animal and prepare it for cooking, and the skill of knowing how to know these things at a late stage of the world. We who are still making up for it.

In darkness the amethyst speaks.

At night she visits when I am watering the garden, coming down the hill in loose pastels, her long graying hair pulled back, and we talk about our day and what our friends are doing, and it makes us happy in a way we had forgotten was our own. None of this should be understood to exclude the moon.

There were more fields growing up but fewer cows, and nobody understood what my father was trying to do, and nobody helped him do it.

Beneath peonies, already falling to the dewy earth, dead chipmunks grow stiff, their dark eyes gazing in opposite directions. Even the word game at which I became so skilled was not itself the answer, as any corpse reminds us.

Any mystery can be solved, any knot can be untangled.

Cup after cup of lukewarm tea, reading that self-impressed prose, and realizing what I cared about was possessing that level of confidence which I learned too late came only from indifference to the fate of those still yoked to observation. There is always hospital drama.

How happy the old dog was around water, sitting in it, paddling around in it, lapping at it while I walked slowly through the forest, still working on the first problem in a little text I like to call "The Sermon on the Mount."  

There is always another drink, always another night in which we will rise and use the earth's bounty to briefly overthrow the patterns and rhythms of our body, the better to catch a glimpse of the soul. I have known one ghost and her feet did not ever touch the ground, and she was entirely uninterested in me, making clear in the end that I was the one haunting her.

Square-dancing steps I still remember, can still execute, a little smile on my face, as if my body were remembering something and saying hey, this makes us happy, can we do this - really actually do this?

Hand-whittled black bears with salmon in their jaws, their legs and ears chipped. A couple three doors down lives the hippie astronomer I've known since I was nine-years-old, whose gracefulness and kindness have been important cosmic mirrors in my life.

Beautiful towering cumuli over the apple trees, further hemming in our little farm. Perhaps Christ is observed relationship between ourselves and observing ourselves, and perhaps we all just need to go barefoot more.

Thursday, June 24, 2021

A Handful of Bones Remained

Wrens nesting in the run-in come out to pick at fallen hay. The neighbor's sheep graze in sunlight, rest in the shade, come back to graze in the sunlight. How lovely to live in a way that allows one to notice clouds and the phase of the moon! Rhubarb growing "nicely," already harvesting onions, the milkweed bountiful where allowed to grow. 

There is a song I hear and when I do not hear it, it is not because I love the silence. At night the river says what it says between stars and darknesses. One psychic told me I would die from a wound in the throat and when I questioned this, grew irritated and ended the reading. Swallows at midday, another grace.

Yes I am counting. Yes I am cultivating. 

Yes, I care.

We lay row cover over the squash, scatter fistfuls of mostly dried manure at the base of the tomatoes. Peel potato bugs off deep green leaves and flick them to where the sparrows hunt. Are there too many birds in the sentences? Is there not enough song in the world or are we just not listening?

Thérèse wrote the credo in her own blood in the pocket-size gospels she carried with her everywhere, and when her body was exhumed years later, only a handful of bones remained. I'm not a gambler but women who are attracted to gamblers - or who were fathered by gamblers - are attracted to me. 

My hands in soil lifting rocks and setting seeds, my hands open to receive and not to kill.

At night when everyone is asleep I go outside to see what the daisies and ferns do under moonlight. 

I'm not dumb, I know that sometimes Satan comes as a man of peace, I see how it's falling apart, but I'm telling you, sometimes even the evil one is subdued and made happy and everything works out in what I'm not ashamed to say is love. 

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

I Travel East Alone

Chipmunks and sparrows nibble the strawberries, mice die reaching for sunflower seeds set just so in spring-loaded traps. It's not okay really but what are you going to do. A lot gets elided by et cetera! We talk about Civil War photography, especially that one of Lewis Powell, e.g., Lewis Payne, about whom it was said - forgive the shitty paraphrase - he is dead and he is going to die. We bond, one way or the other, and thus deal in bonds. Shards of glass were scattered on North Winooski Ave, streetlights making them glisten like diamonds, all of the light blurred because I was crying leaving. Sliced grapefruit, black coffee. Penance. Horses grazing between leggy buttercups followed by cowbirds followed by a swallowtail. And if it were possible to make her happy, would I, and what would my living look like then? We plot to cut another hemlock, no way around it now the tree is mostly dead. Wind makes a big noise above the meadow. Wouldn't you like to know? At the last minute I travel east alone, unhappy but accepting it, as in this late stage of love one does. When you go, I will hold a good thought for you, will once a year drink a coffee for you. The letter arrives and I don't open it, wondering how we do it, all of us confused and the hour late. I mean lay down our burdens and go. 

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

The Failure of Love that is Our Whole Being

As one, the sheep move to the fence to watch two boys walk by with fishing poles, the river behind them, and no fish to show. Wind blows tiny clouds away from us - the grassy surface of unmown fields ripples and waves - and the moon is faint in the afternoon sky, like soap dissolving in water. I have to remind myself all the time that holiness as such does not exist. Slowly we begin to face the failure of love that is our body and see with clear eyes that we have not yet begun the journey we are always professing to have nearly finished. With your hand in mind? I make peace with Chrisoula's occasional antagonism, contextualize it with my own emotional challenges, and end up wanting to be helpful without any earthly idea how. The shadow of the turkey vulture - so much larger than the bird itself - passes over the leaning peonies and I tremble, tremble tremble. In a dream I am lectured by suffragettes and cannot keep my cigar lit. Where is Mary now? To whom shall I address the poem? Bittersweet ascends distant trees, beyond our reach, thus not decoration? It would have to be a miracle, would it not? And other understandings hiding in the river where we cannot lay our hands on them.

Monday, June 21, 2021

The Church You Sometimes Visit

Low-flying turkey vultures, sunlight on their wings at a certain angle making me blink. Buttercups, cowbirds. Cutting down sumac to no avail. Do shadows point to the object blocking the light or to the light? Heavy rain two days earlier still pooled in corners of the horse pasture. Goldfinches, chickadees. How happy a ripple can make me, how ecstatic I feel upon noticing eddies where the river softens in warm shallows. A mile or so away a backhoe grinds around an old barn's foundation, folks with money rehabbing postcards. What's green, what's not. So much of what is gone is not worth missing, pulpy froth generated by misunderstandings of time and matter, and yet here we are. I remember making love in the fire tower overlooking western Massachusetts, five a.m., the sun just rising, knocking a thermos of chamomille tea with my left foot five stories down, the dent - like so many other effects - still visible, even now. Grazing sheep. And in the distance a willow tree I had not noticed before. Tell me again about the church you sometimes visit, the one you discovered as a child, between pigs shrieking as their throats were cut and your mother's voice hitting all the notes of "Be Not Afraid?"

Sunday, June 20, 2021

Emily Dickinson Lived and Wrote

It's settled then. The horses walk slowly away from me into a corner of the pasture I recently cleared of milkweed. We used to eat steamed clams at Buddy's in Tiverton, Rhode Island, and those are among my happiest memories, sopping up the plate after with snowflake rolls while Poppa smoked and everybody drank beer. My father had many subtle ways of making sure you knew he was right and you weren't, a gift he got from his father, one which I do not have, preferring to be somewhat more direct about the many errors that go uncorrected in you. Clouds drift east, their shadows darkening hills on the far side of which Emily Dickinson lived and wrote. Not tired, really, but something like tired. Why yes, I have touched a shark, why do you ask? Beloved gardens, still-fruiting apple trees. A sense one has of everything turning out just fine, and being briefly able to live with it.

Saturday, June 19, 2021

Wildflowers in Moonlight

What does a daisy do at midnight? What looks up at the moon and says "sister?" What is the function of a question in a deterministic universe? It's a laugh a minute with that guy. A silver staircase at the top of which she turned to look back, very much not the way a condemned man turns back a last time after reaching the scaffold. I walk a mile or so south to the swampy meadow off Fairgrounds Road in order to look at wildflowers in moonlight. Nothing is absent, not even the sense that something is absent is absent. Rain clouds move high and fast, roughly in the direction of Cape Cod. Sagging peonies near the chickens. Remember catching crayfish and roasting them at dusk? There is so much pain, often where we least expect, and yet hunger goes on, eating goes on. Sunlight as when I was a child the sun was everywhere. The luminous green of certain mosses, the luxury of promises. We talk about kissing, we recall certain kisses and later, in bed, fall asleep without kissing. 

Friday, June 18, 2021

A Milkshake with Infinite Straws

What can I do to be helpful? It takes time to sit by the window and become quiet. Lifetimes pass watching maple trees grow in the side yard, robins hopping through spindly grass. Say thank you? Even death is overshadowed by love, and even life. It's like I have a canoe that's never been used, it's like I'm a lake that's only just learning it has a bottom, it's like I'm a bale of hay that has no word for horse. When I was little I went fishing alone all the time and I don't know why but I liked rivers and forests and the sound of my own voice and how pretty the trout were, both in and out of the river. Honeysuckle blooms. Green moss that hinted we weren't wrong when thinking in supernatural terms. Witches know how to feed themselves, a nontrivial skill. Letting birds eat the strawberries I planted, letting happiness just splash everywhere, as if life were a milkshake with infinite straws. We watch thunderheads gather above the church, pausing coming in from the garden, briefly adopting an Old Testament view of our living. We are the observed link between ourselves and observing ourselves. Begin! Broken vows, broken coffee cups, broken chains of logic relating to being happy. Over and over I remind myself that the lost dog was found on the mountains growing dark and for this I am never not grateful. A last turn and then we don't know what or will we ever.

Thursday, June 17, 2021

What Happens to Apples in October

What if I did not make promises? Or breathe. Like fireflies going back and forth in the pasture, looking for each other in flashes of green light. At night the horses' feet make a hollow sound against the rainy earth. You can be forgiven, apparently, but not always and not totally. Alleluia alleluia? Mountains like cut stone against orange skies at dawn. The writing is mostly a matter of listening now, unalarmed about what is remembered and what is forgotten, much less what is reduced to text. If I had a name for morning, it would have more than two syllables. Throwing rocks at the water, talking and not talking. Like polyphony or field of elephants or something full of grace from whom the Lord is never absent. Whatever sex was, it's something else now, not unlike what happens to apples in October. Receding like a vanquished ghost, taking most communication with it? Rain clouds block the stars, and still the many maple trees attend, their prayers alive in us like rhizomes.

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

Through Rough Forest to a High Pond

Some things I don't want to say. Wandering around at midnight looking at moonlight on ferns. It's not fireflies we admire but the darkness they're up against. You wonder sometimes who invented stairs. Bear skulls with bullet holes in them, that sadness. Hike a couple hours through rough forest to a high pond I camped by as a kid and stand on its banks, knowing full well I am a turtle dreaming he's a man. And sunlight streams through rustling maple leaves, and atoms of the sunlight are not separate from the atoms in my blood. Walt Whitman lost now in a handful of photographs and countless library shelves. Rainbows grow dim above the river and the afternoon lengthens in a way that makes breathing difficult. Peonies and blue flag, honey bees circling. We take our coffee to the little table under the birch tree and sip quietly, not talking, letting the morning be morning without interference. I dreamed I was talking to Thérèse of Lisieux, trying to explain something about the Diana Vaughan affair, how I believe it affected her, especially the spiritual crisis of her last year, and she listened while curling daisy stems around her ring finger. Lucifer visits the day after failing to ruin me, and sits quietly on the bed while I write, humming a song we wrote in my early twenties entitled "Somebody is Lonely, Somebody Wants to Die." That train we're waiting on is almost here.

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Always in the Poem

Rain falls. At five-thirty a.m. you hear too many birds to count. I is always in the poem - how is this a problem?

The semi-feral cat who in winter sleeps on our back porch leaves a dead chipmunk by the peonies, and I use a flathead shovel to bear it gently away. It's not loneliness exactly, or it is but I don't like admitting that. There are ten thousand questions, each bringing forth ten thousand more, are you sure apologetics is your thing?

Confused by the dandelions this year. Moving ferns and forgetting they don't like sunlight and so also killing ferns. The many uses to which midnight has been put.

Adaptions which we execute without regard for their function being mostly biological. A maroon rug which came from my parents, on which my son stands playing music. Crescent moon slipping into rain clouds moving slowly in the direction of Boston.

Shades of green in the surviving hemlocks. I have been mistaken in my use of conflict as metaphor. "Jesus loves you" infuriates me, and I am coming to terms with what that means about how I feel about myself.

Who notices what is sort of the whole point of living, no? I went without a career, and while it hurts economically, there are things I am allowed to see I almost certainly would have otherwise missed. Grieving aunts, the subtext I never quite reach.

Cleaning up melted butter. It is many things, including dawn, the idea of angels, and the sentence "It is many things, including dawn, the idea of angels, and the sentence ""It is many things, including dawn, the idea of angels, and the sentence . . .

Monday, June 14, 2021

The Other Side of the River

What exactly is happening. Why does what matters matter.

And who cares and who cares who cares.

Moonlight in dewy grass at three a.m., owls on the other side of the river. Do you know what night is because I know now what night is. 

Yet another cousin dying a hard death, refusing help, maybe not even remembering how to ask for help, and maybe - probably - just standing it because what else. 

In the sweaty kitchen at midnight my body begs me to break it - cut it - or do bad things to other people with it - and I sit trembling, bearing it, breathing through it, as thirty-one years ago Jesus promised would be best, and has so far kept his promise.

Beans and squash pushing through dusty garden soil. Swallows coming closer than I remember.

When you just plop down in the middle of the maze and say fuck it, let the Minotaur eat me, by which you really mean, fuck the maze-maker, may he choke on the bones of unforgiving birds. 

Trying to explain lust to Thérèse, surprised at how readily she gets and contextualizes it. Is there nothing a rosary won't encircle?

Coming to terms with misunderstanding Emily Dickinson, going back into Jack Gilbert for hopefully the last time.

Blue hills at dusk.

After fucking being almost always better than fucking, the softness after sharing what we are when we are naked making what we are in truth easier to welcome. 

We drive to Upper Highland Lake and walk around it twice talking about what it means to be married at such a late stage of the world and our bodies. I remember catching and killing trout, perch, pickerel, bass and pumpkinseeds.

There is so much for which to atone, it's like repentance all the way down.

Fireflies in the remaining hemlocks, chickens that just barely escape a passing dog's jaws. 

Some people think a miracle is when things work out but a miracle is when you realize things don't need to work out because you are beyond the reach of things.

Sunday, June 13, 2021

What We Elide with Et Cetera

A star has fallen into the grass, its whispered pleas rising as I walk past. What do we refuse to notice? Baby robins. Leftover pizza. Going back to Louis Kauffman's work, finding it hard to read and so moving on, secretly scared I'm making a mistake. The blue light in you, the blue light in me. Baby foxes at the dump. Strawberries appear, as if the cosmos were bound to order, as if all that is asked of us is the willingness to be forgiven, i.e., just give attention and generally let be. Setting up an oil change for the battered Subaru and hours later wondering when and how I got so bad at phone conversations, or is it about scheduling, or is it just a bad day in the middle of a challenging month? In a dream writing poetry naked. So much of what we elide with et cetera yearns to be expressed. Can a dance be amended? Well past midnight I wander around outside, watching fireflies in the maple trees and down in the horse pasture, and listen to the river quietly praying for me in moisty dark. I will not be your hippie priest! Yet on the other hand, if there were more than this I would refuse it, happily, for this - this this - is sufficient, it really is.

Saturday, June 12, 2021

There are Bad Men

Watering the garden early, traffic on Route Nine picking up and drowning out the river. You contain crows or rather, patterns by which crows are brought forth. Apparently there is a world! I question the validity of war, both as a practice and a metaphor, but don't have any immediate solutions. Reading out back by the pear tree in which chickadees nest. Crucifiers gotta crucify. Yet what is happiness. So long as there are bad men then what? What is drifting across the highway? Swallows land in the garden five feet away from me and my heart stops and another heart - a heart I did not know was mine - lifts and carries me past the ten thousand universes into the Great Furnace of Love. I have feared losing a lot in this life and it has made certain relationships complex. Beer for the horses indeed. My brother, my killer, my sister, my angel. Go to bed and it's just a pile of manure slowly composting, wake up to a beautiful mushroom sprouting. I can't tell because I don't know which one of us is happier but I hope you. The poem is a bottle, the scrap of message is help.

Friday, June 11, 2021

Call My Sigh a Prayer

Chrisoula asks me to empty traps in the basement which are filling again, and a sorrow begins again for which there is no solace, only resignation and service, the world the way the world can be. The thing with Jesus this time around is his insistence I'm not a bad man which kinda fucks up the long con I'm running on myself but hey, saviors gotta save. I fall to my knees at three a.m. and call my sigh a prayer. There were a lot of losses over the years, including two dogs, a horse, and half a dozen bipeds. There was a lot of pain when I was little, when I couldn't stop what was happening from happening, and the ones doing the hurting were supposed to be the healers. I don't like it either! Oh Cape Cod, why are you so happy when I visit? I have these dead and dying cousins, I have these uncles sawing fiddle in Purgatory, and I have a dead father living in me the way you do when forgiveness and a better way abounds just a little out of reach. Find a therapist who isn't scared is harder than it sounds. Maybe stories we could tell really are just stories? Does it have to be Hansel and Gretel all the way down? I have this image of you on the other side of a table with coffee smiling at me. Something happens praying the rosary and I like it, I like it a lot. Knots I can't untangle suddenly revealed as bows! Om shanti shanti shanti, my Lord, om shanti shanti amen. We are in the middle of a vast cosmic blossom, you and I. Insert happy face emoji. I mean, really: how happy I am in my little cave, roots and a little rainwater, the God of my childhood visiting daily, bringing bread and a bouquet. 

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Closer than We were Told

Could be thunder, could be an adversary getting closer than we were told they could get. The raspberries flower, the strawberries flower. Down past the horse pasture, a ceramic angel planter - one where the angel is a chubby cheerful baby posing with his chubby chin on his chubby fist - rests on a tree stump and shines so bright even the neighbors a quarter mile away ask what it is. We talk briefly about cannabis while planting elderberry, and in the middle of that difficulty I realize where the once-indoor-soon-to-be-outdoor Buddha statue will go. What works, what helps. At night - 3 a.m. or so - I stand outside and listen to owls, saying quietly to myself over and over, "this is night - this is what night is." Fionnghuala mulches her garden, Chrisoula puts up twenty-four tomato plants, and I drift happily along the perimeter, planting forsythia, gathering rocks, admiring violets, talking to Thérèse of Lisieux, wondering if so-and-so will ever write to me again. Everything happens because we talk, and what we talk about is what we think about, and what we think about is what we talk about, so give attention always in all ways. Won't you be my neighbor? Don't forget our shared mission to make every day Valentine's Day! The cosmos my dear, it rushes to completion in us.

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Accidents are the Cosmos

Dawn comes. I am a notoriously bad planner, through no fault of my own. What did you expect the clouds would do - genuflect? 

Too cold to walk to the river so I just stand hunched over in the side yard, pretending to pray. The call of familiar crows. Nothing is absent but one does have a funny habit of noticing. Sell to me please, insist on me please.

This is art and other declarations that ruin the mood. Rats gnaw bread left out overnight, what's the word for that. Accidents are the cosmos in a way that says our desire for order is not without limits. Legalized antipathy. Boredom man, boredom.

Buy some! I get tired of the ghosts, tired of the demons, even the angels don't seem to try very hard anymore. Where in Vermont we lived and worked and strangled our voices trying to say something about happiness.

His hands trembled on the hurdy-gurdy, a factor not of nerves but late-stage alcoholism and oh how we loved him. Building stuff like boats and guitars. He makes a conscious effort to exclude the hemlocks from his poems since it's obvious they're doomed and - oh wait.

Yet another broken plate, yet another reference to umbrellas. First the birds, love, then the light.

Tuesday, June 8, 2021

What Color is the Rain

Nothing is actually new. Eggplant, rice and onions. The old argument since I was a kid, what color is the rain. There is never another place you could be, there is always the sense there is another place you could be, and why exactly? On Saturday it rains and on Sunday we write poems about the day before's rain. Beyond the domain of bodies means still thinking in terms of bodies. Rivers do not "find" the sea, any more than a garden "needs" rain, i.e., be careful with your verbs or just anthropomorphize less. Places in the world named after mountains. A way of lying that amounts to pleading "please don't hurt me." When I die, bury with me with the dog tags of all my dogs (which you will find in the wicker basket on the highest shelf of the far left bookcase in the hay loft). Biography is rarely helpful, yet seeing it that way is helpful. That door in your heart you forgot how to open, I know who has the key.

Monday, June 7, 2021

The Optimism of Angels

Some days you miss the band, other days it's just you on the front porch with a banjo, sun going down, rippling notes rising like the optimism of angels. What is missing when not even the insistence something is missing is missing?

A robin flies low across Main Street, just missing the grill of a black pickup going five maybe ten miles faster than the Good Lord - via the State of Massachusetts - intended. Salad with stuffed grape leaves, black bean chili with cheddar cheese.

Cold and wet means postponing the next phase of gardening, so goes the general consensus in our valley. It's odd to find that there are still hills on which to die, still crosses about which one says, yeah, that looks about right for a guy my size, do you have a hammer?

The way you describe a given problem is the problem, so language is always the solution, hence poetry. Behind fast-moving rain clouds, the moon.

Caverns in Jack's skull where last year there were eyes, but he still sees, of this we are sure. No more apple blossoms, no more crows.

I do not stumble praying the rosary, nor ever find Thérèse of Lisieux unhelpful, yet the formal institution from which both emerge remains antithetical to my project of remembering love in a loveless place. Wind after dinner, a reminder we are in the world and will be a while longer.

One gets into an argument - a heated one - with folks a mile or so away about the right balance between church and state. Clearing the flower garden of weeds under the watchful eyes of bees.

The neighbor's goats. Two days ago, coming in at 5 a.m. after getting high by the river, I felt the warm and happy presence of my father's mother in the kitchen, her way of being okay with everything via spirited narratives that included many heroes, including herself. 

Yet in another sense, Marsha Norman was correct (here rephrased), we are not our parents' child but rather what became of that child. A sense the stars give a shit about us, not ready to let it go, nor especially interested in defending it before skeptics.

Guys talking at the dump ten minutes before it officially opens about a guy up in Hawley who trains dogs to run bear and feeling like, fuck that guy. Me with my rosary, my faith it will all get better, these words in me akin to oxygen, soap bubbles of love. 

Sunday, June 6, 2021

Nothing Else is Home

What we are looking for is a way to say I love you, that is always what we are looking for. Walking by the side yard lilac, brushing it, frail blossoms from its few flowers land on my shoulder, whispery but noticeable, and I am blessed. I remember hearing him say "cellar door" and falling in love with sound in that moment, and also disentangling how a word sounds from what it means, and I am not kidding when I say that moment was both lethal and redemptive. Born again means dying again, no? Blood on the Tracks, us driving north, getting salads and coffee some place, then driving back and that - the travel, the music, the commensality - is home and nothing else is home. Don't memorize, understand! By noon the heat was too much, and we sat idly in lawn chair with books we couldn't be bothered to read, watching thunderheads gather west before floating down the valley towards us. Not saying you're sorry so much as becoming the kind of man who doesn't need to say "sorry" so much? Stick with me, kid, I've got a horse. I carry four a.m. inside me now, the dream of it, the many prayers of it, and remain lonely but happy, in a way I can't say I was made to share. 

Saturday, June 5, 2021

The Soft Green of the World

I don't remember the full moon. Watering the onions at dusk facing east, the broccoli and cauliflower facing west. Occluded by the one who is in my thoughts always? Strawberry plants glisten in faint light of after midnight, what feels like smiles. Is it wrong to dislike Eric Clapton? When I wander I'm happy, but when I'm happy I want to be still. Roger Penrose essays, certain intellectual spirals. Pulling weeds from a shaded flower bed, discussing with Fionnghuala what to do with the excess ferns all over the place. Trouble is near, I can sense it. Yet at dawn I lay down in damp clover, ear to the soft green of the world, hear Ireland whispering through rocks and deep seas, and one or two women I will not forget, even in death. So it's cosmos then? The neighbors are drinking daiquiris, cheerfully drunk, their voices like dogs unexpectedly let off their leashes. Just how happy are we allowed to be? You hold my hand in your rough own, you revisit old hurts and agreements, what is marriage when there was no wedding and so forth. A nexus proposed by an image just now coming into view. I am a different kind of postulant, pages of text upon pages of text, a corner of the library nobody visits, I am a window with a light all its own.

Friday, June 4, 2021

An Unwanted Inheritance

Disclosures. Once again the yellow school bus rolls down Main Street a little after seven a.m., life briefly assuming Beverly Cleary levels of normalcy. What I am interested in now is not the story you tell but the sense of coherence it makes for you. Digging up daffodils at my mother's house, later eating hamburgers, cole slaw and ice cream. Sexual energies we can't avoid, just do the best we can, like growing up with an unwanted inheritance. How does it feel after giving away what you can't ungive? I whisper her name in the darkness, it has at least two kisses in it. Bee balm wavers under the old apple tree and one reconsiders their relationship to prayer. Lately it's as if the cosmos wants me back in a relationship with crows. You don't just forget about cause-and-effect! It's like chess - you think the board and the pieces are what matter but they're easily modified, switched out, re-scaled, et cetera, so no, what matters is the sequence of moves, the game itself, but no, what really really matters are the rules which define the allowable set of moves and make it fun. Swing by, let's talk. But I like holding hands walking! Copping a quick feel in the hay loft, a hot kiss even now. Crucifixion is a horror show, sister, that cross will suck you in to interior deserts and battles you never want to see, spit you out in worlds where the living don't bury the dead.

Thursday, June 3, 2021

Currents and Voices

In the morning after the horses I water the strawberries, fifteen or so plants that survived a rampant bull and then years of indifference to land in this new place. Jason and I talk about praying to plants, which he does and I don't, but not as a failure of love. Just be the observer you are, the moral being you are, the wordy project you are. 

Purple flowers under the birch tree, small cones that seem more focused than the leggy buttercups already making the meadow lovely. Swallows make a vast poem of the sky, a language I love and knew once, and now can only admire, as if the parts of me given to discursive thought are dying. When you go deeply into any saint's story it becomes psychological, hence the ongoing value of A Course in Miracles.

After her second shot Chrisoula is sick and I slip into the role at which I have most sucked in this life: nurse, servant, maid, assistant. Something is ending that has to do with a way of writing, and like in Scotland thirty years ago when it first happened, I don't know what's coming next, nor whether I will be the one to narrate it. Eggs with home fries and kielbasa, later a kale smoothie, and later yet peanut noodles with fried pork. Mint comes back, lemon verbena comes back, and the peas are tiny but not stillborn in chilly soil. What do you learn about yourself under the watchful eyes of cats?

The side yard lilac blooms, first time in four years, and each time I pass it, waves of gratitude rise up in the cosmos and flow through me like electricity or love. A quiet in which kissing you would last a thousand years. In the wetlands off Fairground road, a bittern, and further yet - where it's forest on both sides - a black bear, limbs tumbling as it crosses the road. We are falling, all floating, and somehow you remain precisely nearby.

Two days running sleep is not bad but more like waking every half hour or so, running through various aches, double-checking dreams for any useful information, and then going back to work. What does it feel like to walk through Paris with someone with whom you want to walk through Paris because I don't know. The river is currents and voices, and who does not not see, hear and feel this has not yet known the river. 

My dad's obsession with land, having enough of it and using it rightly, and the way this became my own - not obsession exactly but religion - no, obsession, obsession is right  - and what has happened to so many people accordingly.

What I remember from Kindergarten are the beautiful teacher's aides who came from UMass in tie-dye and flowing skirts, who put flowers in their hair during recess, and were always so happy, sometimes actually bursting into song, and I wish I could find them now to tell them that the grace they entailed and extended remained in my brain a lifetime, becoming a thread by which I found my way out of many darknesses and into domains of light in which it was from time to time possible to know the cosmos were a vast blossom, an undulating sea, a woman who is just happy to see you and says so, in ways that make you want to build a fire for her and tell a long story with a happy ending, over and over and over. 

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

The Most Devastating Riddle

Heart-shaped rocks. Suisecki. Is this the right room for the haiku workshop? 

Sleepy scarecrows, pie tin hands dangling in hot sun, I'm past fifty. A little something something.

Jasper and I study the old beehives and he says "you don't have to give them away" and I tell him in my heart I know he's wrong and he says "think it over" which is what he always says when he thinks somebody who's not him is wrong.

Persuading Chrisoula to sit on the back porch roof with me in late Spring, the moon floating through balmy skies, me on my back, head resting on crossed arms, she sitting up, holding her knees, looking mostly east where the river drones gently in the night. Remember stealing Dad's corncob pipe to smoke weed?

Trout leap where the river grows still and dark. I am no longer a hunter, at last I can say that.

Dad and I buried the dead calves by the grape arbor, morning after morning after morning, and we did not talk digging their graves, and that silence became the most devastating riddle of my life.

The King of Swords showing up too often in readings lately, which makes me double down on rosary novenas. Chicken carcasses seem to multiply in the freezer and our souls are infected with disorder accordingly.

Oddly I can remember literally every lawn mower I ever used.

The barns around here are like grandfathers, decrepit and disappearing, while grandmother energy lives on in quilting circles and gardens. We replant the horseradish root, we are not immune to therefores. 

Everybody teases me about the gourds and baby pumpkins but not about the glass gem corn, which is weird, right? A few of my favorite things include talking beside lakes while barefoot in the shallows, long drives listening to early to mid-seventies Dylan, iced coffee out of season, and Gertrude Stein's use of commas.  

I want to hate Valentine's Day - I profess to hate Valentine's Day - but I secretly love Valentine's Day! 

My heart is not a cairn but a messenger who's so happy he was chosen to carry a message that he's forgotten the message. 

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Does God Allow for Anger

Toaster oven crumbs swept up and tossed outside, hopefully for chickadees. Baby snapping turtles. Why does God allow for anger do you think? We leave certain parts of the garden untended for now, letting last year's crops seed back, those that can and would like. I forget: are ants omnivorous? Profluent dandelions haunting me, as if yellow were less welcome than I've been saying all these years. It's not that language can't be gendered but that when it's gendered a certain way you lose something. The many ways of making sense. Hours pass wandering around the forest gathering chaga for tea, not seeing black bears but plenty of turkey, one deer, and moose prints in the far corner where the brook gets swampy. The ferocity of my mother's judgment, which is hard to condemn, being more or less my own. Morning sky a kind of lavender, a kind of rose, a softness in which I float, a silky strand of milkweed seed, a line in a Bob Dylan song from 1989. Neither ruler nor servant: that old dream.