Saturday, July 31, 2021

Deeper into the Dolmen

A lot depends on how you define magic. It rains and then it doesn't. What works?

What helps?

We drive to Vermont together with coffee, visiting town centers where we hung out pre-kids. Farms using old tires to hold tarps down against loose hay. At midnight the groundhogs eat apples in tall grass in moonlight.

Biology is a frame! Chrisoula forwards an article on how to sleep better, upshot, take some melatonin. My legs below the knee now remind me of my father's legs: skinny, the calf bone arching like a poorly-made bow. Wading through shallows at Upper Highland Lake, disturbing turtles, giving loon nests a wide berth.

Eggs and sausage drenched in maple syrup. Coffee stains. At an early juncture Bob Dylan lyrics defined a lot of how I thought about relationships. Also, what do you not want to hear?

We lift lanterns, lower our heads, we go deeper into the dolmen to see if anybody is awake. There is always so much sorrow when we try to step into meetings that are not ordained by love.

We drank whiskey in a little pub near Ballyvaughan Bay, talking about the loneliness of Hank Williams, Woody Guthrie's courage facing his long interment and illness, and Bob Dylan's comment about links in a chain. I have daughters now, now I have a son.

So many years ago, all those loose Benzedrine tablets bouncing around the Rambler's carpeted floor, a sense that something wasn't working and it was our job to fix it, and the life that followed, this one.

Friday, July 30, 2021

Pages of the Family Bible

Plato's Phaedrus. Gently washing my hands at midnight after tripping in wet grass visiting the horses. Taking Roland Barthes' The Pleasure of the Text out of the free bin at the transfer station because come on. Hot air balloons floating over the deep green landscape, marriage proposals, photographs, promises unkept. Why did we - and by "we" I mean homo sapiens - decide to make jewelry, right?

Roadside Queen Ann's Lace, purple clover. Wispy pockets of mist floating where the river follows River Road. Herons, helpful hints, happy faces. Mountains called to me but in a foreboding way, and my life has been mostly judicious in terms of which ones I'll climb, which ones I won't. Cleaning trout aside the stream, their guts in a pile for bears to gorge on at dusk. 

It is not your sunset and anyway the sun doesn't set. Imagine, people once lived without coffee! Algebraic equations in my dreams, a reminder that math, like the Lord, is everpresent. Rich waves leaving. Breakfast sandwiches, hot coffee. Shall we press this violet into the pages of the family bible?

Brittle roses, first dates. We drove station wagons with holes in the way back, you could see the road passing but oddly didn't feel unsafe. One is never not wanting a kind of solitude. 

And forgiveness, always forgiveness.

Thursday, July 29, 2021

Especially Clear and Glittery

What is silence to a radio or a cricket? Machines that learn for us, shape us, transform our understanding of love for us. Nothing is ever truly anticipated. Teaching, that's where it's at.

Low rumbling thunder on Saturday morning. Neighbors arguing over who drank more the night before. Life now is one big fucking Turing test. Morrison's command to "break on through to the other side" feels quaint, uninformed, too easy. Forgive me, I was raised with certain biases towards money that have greatly complicated my ability to manage a career. This comes from the top.

Quartz rocks after days of rain especially clear and glittery. She writes to ask are the robins "singing sweetly" for me. You wish you could've heard Jesus preach, at least once, those hot afternoons on the outskirts of some miserable village, you wonder would you have been one of the ones who was changed, went after him, et cetera.

Rain falls, calm and steady, like what I imagine older brothers are like. In my dreams, I-90 is mostly empty, swans fly across it, and the sun to the east is almost blinding.

What is the other side of this awful chemical haze? Why did God make marigolds, why are marigolds so beautiful and sturdy. My Greek wife brings me Greek coffee while I write about Socrates, a Greek. Making sushi as a kind of flex, saying "flex" as a kind of flex.

I'm sad but not forsaken, my happiness is the whole sky and its endless billows of light.

Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Only So Many Destinations

Silver beads of dew on clover in a far corner of the field. Remember corn pushing up through cracked hills of dirt, how surprised you were, like it was magic. The eaves are cracking after all these years. And in my dreams, oxen bellow and groan, and the mountains respond with gentle songs of encouragement.

Stars do not actually move in the sky they only seem to because of how the earth turns, is a fact I was bitter about learning for a long time. At night I let the demon out and explain for the ten thousandth time we aren't knocking any mailboxes over but if he wants to climb a tree then fine. Some days are over, some are just beginning. I gather fallen apples too bitter to put up and spread them over the compost. Chrisoula and I sit on the back stairs after running early, roseate mallow light filtering through maple trees, our knees touching, talking about Vermont. 

The ones who have no grave.

Who listens and who only seems to? Exposure to poison ivy turns me into a terrified idiot, a child, and two days pass in a benadryl haze, limiting everything, but whatever angry ghost was living below the skin of my left arm is gone. How angry a lot of white people are! The sun is bright early but then disappears behind low-hanging storm clouds. Democracy is a way the other gets in, hence attacks on it.

I can't sleep, can't find a writing or reading rhythm, and so end up watching crappy action movies, my brain lulled by the familiar narrative structures, including bursts of violence fatal mainly only to bad guys. Keep reframing, notice who is reframing, reframe the one who is reframing, keep going, you'll figure it out. There are only so many destinations so there are only so many road trips is inaccurate, misunderstands the reasons we travel.

No more kisses! Dippers full of cool water, ladles full of stew, margins of error shrinking so as to be all but unnoticeable in this new, this glorious Cookout with the Lord. 

Tuesday, July 27, 2021

A River I Am Not Afraid to Cross

Where have I been? Dreams of Florida, going down in stormy seas. We who never get past the book cover. Faint voices urging us to song without clarifying the words.

How much I have lost. 

First night in weeks without rain I walk to the river and look for the moon among shiny silver stones. Going all the way under. Look at the bookmarks still all where we left them!

We want what is down below but we are unskilled at descending invisible stairs. Trumpets, hallways, preachers and other things prayer can fill with wind. Married a quiet woman and at a late juncture - nearing the orchard gate - grateful.

In my mind, the sun streams through maple trees at the foot of a hill on the other side of a river I am not afraid to cross. 

"Be my Emily Dickinson" has so far not worked as a Valentine. Remember penny candy. Praying the rosary in a plastic chair facing Main Street while it rains.

Paris, London, Munich, Rome. A hill in Ireland surrounded by sheep, smoking with a woman whose name I forget, sunlight on the harbor of my ancestors blinding me to how naked she got and how scared I was of literally everything. 

Wanting suffering is a flaw that can be ended. We are together now, like the hangman and his rope. This Love undoing even what I did or didn't do to deserve this Love.

Monday, July 26, 2021

Emotionally Vivid but Otherwise Unspecified

The house is quieter than usual and full of sun. Somebody lowers a spade into the earth. At a late juncture I begin to study cats and, by extension, cat people. Chrisoula is speaking on the far side of a field full of mist, there is a blue light behind her, and I am not afraid that I cannot hear.

Three happy kids, what a fairytale! I write through the morning, diligently aiming for idleness as always. The phone rings, it's Trudge saying is it okay to deliver hay tomorrow. There were a dozen or more swallows on the phone wires looking at me and our shared past life was emotionally vivid but otherwise unspecified. So you're a bum narrator, so what?

Between the horse pasture and the river is a little skip of forest, partially owned by us, partially owned by the town, where three days ago I tossed the neighbor's dead hen. Falling apples. Scattering lime on the compost, letting later thunderstorms work it in. When you are hurt, it is okay to ask for help, which I somehow translated into "ask for help making it hurt more," a very fucked up thing but I am what I am, I guess. Tomatoes and basil on corn wraps, eaten standing, as always.

Men who like the sound of their own voice and think they are liking intelligence, wisdom, insight. Let us calmly ascend the gallows and pray we make a pretty corpse. Cloudless.

I like the sound of fans, it helps me sleep. Harvesting begins in earnest - mostly greens and early squash, but the raspberries too - and you remember that you, too, are being harvested. Pray a rosary for Jesus and hold a good thought for the poor!

Sunday, July 25, 2021

Complex Interlacements of Identity

Morning coffee close but not too close to a swallow's nest. When you're trapped in Max Ernst's body of work everything feels like Italy at the end of the nineteenth century. Mist on the river thickest where it's flanked by cornfields. Blowing kisses. Shades of blue, shades of not knowing and being okay with it. We laugh waking up, our bodies stiff and soft, apparently readying themselves for some journey we only barely understand. I took prayer too seriously for a long time and though understandable the effects were painful. The hay loft is full of prisms, my glass bluebird collection, guitars and banjos and penny whistles, a lot of polished stone and crystal. Sunlight streams through maple trees at the foot of the hill, somewhere between orange and yellow with hints of pink. Let's reinvent us! Other times not seriously enough and honestly it's impossible to tell the difference so I've mostly given up. Ant hills moist with dew. Another swallow. A dozen small birds on the phone lines nearby, obviously visitors from a past life, but which one? Draping sweaty work clothes over the cold radiator to dry for tomorrow. In a dream a couple sentences related to awakening to reality from which I woke up thinking "not this again." Skies are just big spaces full of light but rivers are complex interlacements of identity. These arms were made to make windmills! Or as we say behind the church, discovering in one another an actual helpful scripture, "om shanti shanti shanti amen."

Saturday, July 24, 2021

The Last Chalice

Hauling laundry off the line in mid-afternoon, timing it so most of the late-arriving rain misses it. Walter Benjamin's Critique of Violence. Yet at times I am still scared of going hungry - going under? - and act accordingly. We kissed on the steps of City Hall, holding hands in the December cold, beautiful and sincere, breath gusting after, like carolers in the nineteenth century. Letting certain calls go to voicemail, later regretting it. Molasses cookies with extra raisins. We drive between towering pine trees to the beach, let the dog off the leash and walk all the way to the canal together, not talking. When at a certain point in our living we knew what books the other needed most. Butterfly lists. Steering by stars, knowing how. The many shades of moonlight filtering over the lawn, apple trees, run-in, far hills, Emily Dickinson's grave, the sea. The last chalice is beyond us now, the church in which we encountered it folded up into an envelope. Look at me arguing about the mail with shrineless gods who adore conflict.

Friday, July 23, 2021

Terrified or in Mourning

Afternoon rain, the nineteenth century briefly visiting, percolating in thick blood, dark grounds, your funeral or mine, etc. Profluent green landscapes in which poetic compositions lean to the baroque. Muted barks of distant and thus nameless dogs. In my mind a black bear is always on the move, always drawing closer to my heart's capacity for imagining itself outside itself. There was more space in the world back then, and less to be scared of, and even in winter we were outdoors all the time. After working in the garden almost until noon, we come in and reheat the night before's rice and beans, finding not much to talk about, as if the past month were the very aberration we'd feared all along. The trail past the horse pasture narrows to an uncomfortable degree, raspberry prickers dragging our skin. This quiet is almost ready to give up speech, never mind writing. Faint breezes move tree limbs up and down like men in the 1930s greeting one another after church. Why am I always so surprised to still be here? Here, the house eaves weep see-through tears and all the birds are silent as if terrified or in mourning. Tell me again what your favorite book from childhood was?

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Not Stardust

What would this look like to a cricket? Can you say with assurance a dog's life is less full than your own? How many times has the river out back made you a promise and you missed the specific way it was kept (for rivers always keep their promises)?

Turkey vultures in loping circles high overhead and a little west. The lilt of the church steeple, the lull of a spire. Something beyond books, something beyond what we can say with ease, yet still, something we know. 

Ceramic Buddhas. Sharing the last of the ginger snaps Fionnghuala made with Chrisoula, leaning against the counter on the side of the kitchen that's hotter, listening to her gripe about work. What groans beginning and what beginning is made better thereby? 

Sunday morning, morning after. Cardinals come back to the compost, even after I've stirred and moved it in anticipation of fall distribution, and why? Who is not always in preparation for what they cannot say. 

The world seen from a Ferris wheel, love played and replayed in Ferris wheels, this old idea of romance borrowed from what cultural patterns now repatterning in our living the way we live now? Forgive me brother trout - I was a fool who thought he could sit at the table with men who'd given up communing with God and I was wrong and as a consequence you strangled to death with a metal hook in your throat. Plans for replanting the Joe Pye Weed. 

Grilling chicken, drinking gin and tonics, radiating nontalkative vibes: sunset. Dousing the light, hunkering down. As we all know, we are the monster of which we are so frightened.

Oh risk a dangling preposition for Christ's sake! We are in dialogue with all life, as life is in dialogue with laws beyond itself, even now converting our narrative identity and spaciousness into not stardust but something finer. 

Wednesday, July 21, 2021

Jackdaw Soul

My mouth is full of the ocean, blissfully. 

Warm bread with salty butter, wordless grace. 

I carry hay to the horses barefoot, stumbling a little over the early fallen apples, which are hard as marble and make me happy.

Struggling to explain to folks it's not Sappho but Anne Carson's Sappho, and that's not a bad thing at all, just a thing one needs to realize about reading.

No wind, four grackles flying away south. My mother's voice on the phone low tight and clipped, like when she's angry. My Vermont baseball cap soiled with sweat after all these years, hanging on the doorknob of the bedroom, a mystery.

What am I so scared to forget?

My Jackdaw soul.

Woke wondering if any of the kids whose parent's tragic deaths I wrote about years ago as a reporter will ever seek me out, ask for inside scoops, did I keep my notes.

There is less roadside chicory this year than in year's past, and the crows seem worried about something, and aggressive in their worry, and turkey vultures circle, as if knowing something we don't.

With what do you write. How I love falling to sleep at night, those first few hours all the rest I can count on, not knowing ever what will happen after midnight. 

We finish one project - the compost - and begin another, adding more gravel to the horses' run-in, filling seams around the house foundation and gathering fall apples.

A party the neighbors throw, to which we are not invited, watching the preparations occur over days and reflecting on how judgmental we can be. Remembering making out in the parking lot at your cousin's wedding in Montreal and how happy we were dancing?

Clover drying on my feet while I write. Scattering crushed lime over the new compost beds. Not once so far forgetting the daily rosary.

Thérèse of Lisieux visits, following up, so hey, my grandmothers were right all along.

Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Pretty Collages, Misbegotten Plans

Long rumbles of thunder. Obeisant roadside daisies. Antique tractors and my late father's checkbook. When you shorten things, you hurt them, you fall for the devil's lie that convenience is a virtue, and thus cause pain (this is how the devil works didn't you know). The ruined bodies of birds colonized by nesting maggots tossed into tall grass just shy of the forest. Casting for trout on the Deerfield River near the Vermont border, remembering a brief phase of living where I took photographs of the moon and turned them into pretty collages. Misbegotten plans for what my body will do given certain ideal circumstances, i.e., that old confusion around sex and death. Stop, listen: my dead aunt is speaking, the one who wore men's clothes, smoked a pipe, and bragged about cheating on the night before her wedding. Asparagus spears, smoked hocks. I only liked Led Zeppelin twice but no joke, when I liked Led Zeppelin I really liked Led Zeppelin. The blue hills of Massachusetts are dusk headed west. Oh tell me again professor in that dulcet voice with that faraway look in your feline blue eyes: what did Emily Dickinson say about one sword per scabbard?

Monday, July 19, 2021

Enlarging the Dialogic Space of Love

I dream my daughters are I are listening to a band named "Gutfad," i.e., Give Us Teens, Forget About Dads, whose best song is called "Philosophy," the chorus to which goes "and we want to go down in the sun/ we want to go down in the sky/???/Give us philosophy or we'll die" and I wake up so happy my chest hurts, with no idea how Jesus fits into anything anymore.

Ask: what power do you hold and how?

It's internet all the way down, isn't it.

I am saying, go where you are happiest, but don't forget that you can't be happy without others being happy. Dogs are here to teach us what lesson? 

Wading in shallows, laughing at the minnows nibbling my toes.

Remember hating washing cars? Cigarettes before the movie, shotgunning cheap beer. How tall the saplings grew that summer, at last resembling the trees I would cut down four decades later. So we are in community and not hooking up, not dating, but rather enlarging the dialogic space of love in the Maturanan sense, cool!

We have to insist on something or else. The feral cat we call "Kitty" - a neutered male who adopted us because we leave a bowl of water out and the farm he was born at made him hunt water too - sometimes leaves dead headless birds by the back door. "Murderer's Row" is a sign of what now.

This is first person. Barn doors with landscapes clumsily painted on them. 

Swallows, grackles, turkey vultures. A nontrivial influence on the sadder aspects of my life is symbolized by how Star Wars turned into such a narrative and commercial clusterfuck after the late seventies.

This is what an unreliable narrator sounds like.

"This is a poem because I say it is" and other mistakes for which we are at last being forgiven.

Sunday, July 18, 2021

Everything is Downstream

I mean obviously what's going to save us are hydrangeas and octopuses working in concert, right?

Bugs with luminous assholes flying around the meadow. I'm like a rose bush who knows that my intentions are no longer relevant to my destiny. Remember that nice cop in Boston who let us ride the T for free because we couldn't figure out how to work a touch screen ticket dispenser? 

Everything is downstream of this moment, is one way to think about it. Nobody asked how I wanted to dress, I just sort of stayed with what worked in fourth grade. Eggs fried in olive oil aside baked spring potatoes mashed with cottage cheese and thyme. 

Everything we know about one another based solely on our names. A cemetery in Fall River I visit once every five or six years. A pace we cannot keep and other definitions of paragraph. There were trolleys once, and rotary phones.

One grandfather was a boxer, the other a field overseer in Guatemala for the United Fruit Company. All beer tastes fucking awful, can we agree on this? Sinking into the swale again to make a point.

Categories which include "things I won't say now or ever but which I did say once." The first time I saw The Hateful Eight was in a theater with my Dad who had about seven months left to live and the second time I saw The Hateful Eight - roughly six years later, alone in the living room - I was like, oh, I see what he's trying to do. Look at my cousin barely keeping his head above the waves, refusing to see the buoys we throw and the life jackets.

Joe Pye Weed, Tiger Lilies, Forget-Me-Nots (e.g., excuses to practice hitting the shift key consistently).

"Complicated skies" are compositions we didn't author or co-authored or what? I can't tell anymore what's past or present, what's mine or anybody else's, everything given in such a beautiful helpful way.

Saturday, July 17, 2021

Oddly Private, Internally Voluble

Reading Saussure and finding a way to work that fact into practically every conversation, hence the ongoing difficulty with making friends. Replanted Azalea bushes blessed by a God who cares about my mother and daughter. Sunflowers at my shoulders now, loving the intermittent rain and sun. Plastic army soldiers and other props queered by my oddly private, internally voluble childhood. Who decided potato blossoms would be pink sometimes and sometimes white, the Gods of Cotton Candy? Scooby Doo reruns. Smoking pot after midnight, sitting quietly on the front porch, listening to peepers and owls, watching neighborhood cats strut like bosses across Main Street: small town New England. We were invited to be sacrifices at some grand cathedral with extra-pointy spires once and we said no, we had plans that included beaches and bonfires, weed and tie dye, and no suffering at all. Murderers becoming Buddhists in jail and other life sentences. Do Mormons moan when making love? Look at me, a "collection of paradoxes" remembering how to be happy in public.

Friday, July 16, 2021

A World Made of Mirrors

Did the disciples have to audition for Jesus a little? How grim certain landscapes are but not in New England, home of ghosts and forests and warranty deeds and - far back but still vital - a very dramatic conflict in which we are implicated. More whiskey please, I'm about to talk about my father.

Whereas my mother and I could talk a long time if she was in a mood and I let it be all about her, a kind of selflessness that ran headlong into a love that was only yet learning what love was, doing a lot of damage in the process.

Carrying boxes down from the attic, emptying them. I am the man who buries the pets, all of them, I am the one who sees them a last time, stiff and hard, caked with dried vomit, some torn open by foxes or weasels, some beautiful and bright, like parrots that fell asleep dreaming of a world made of mirrors.

Thunderstorms pass, breezes rise up, wanna-be acolytes talking about Christ days after he left for Jerusalem.

Shoveling compost into the wheelbarrow, lugging it twenty feet down hill, the project part clearing for winter horse manure, and part to stir the compost. Kneeling to see closer: dew on the marigolds. I-90 east, torn as always between Cape Cod and Boston.

Let us remember the dead, and remember the dead once remembered by our dead, who are more than dead to us because they are forgotten.

A poem is a kind of reply. 

I read too many ghost stories as a kid, they got mixed up with the New Testament - Jesus dying and coming back, basically - and everything after that has been trying to retell those stories in a way that makes storytelling feels less like life-or-death, more just fun, like James Clavell's Shogun.

Street parties in Athens, we wore masks and got drunk, but I repeat myself.

Let us all read Derrida, genuflect unto Frank O'Hara, and take Thérèse of Lisieux seriously as a writer. Kill Buddha they say then try to sell you a Buddha statue, so hypocrisy is not uniquely Christian. Korean rice dishes, white wine. That little restaurant in Burlington, a window in a wall, neon and no seating, where you get cheap noodles, carry them to the lake, and eat them remembering a woman you love who is definitely not coming back.

Yet growing up - in gym class - you didn't worry you'd get picked last nor care did you get picked first, you had other things to worry about, like how the word "mountain" sounded like some mountains but not others (it had to do with how jagged they were), and was there any significance to "four and twenty blackbirds" beyond the metrically obvious. 

All this to say, after order and the end of order, what?

Thursday, July 15, 2021

Feed Ducks and Swans

"I struggled with some demons/they were middle class and tame." Hey, what's the word for a comparison using "like" or "as?" Hanging gentians. Geriatric lilacs.

Reading Johnny Tremaine was my first conscious experience of the fugue states that would eventually characterize my living, sudden hard shifts away from the world into an extremely tiny movie theater with an impossibly bright - almost torturously bright - screen and the best damn stories ever.

I remember arguing with a guy in Burlington, I forget the name of the place, it had his name in it, put three times as much cheese on the pizza, it's what I want, and he insisted it would ruin the pizza and therefore he wouldn't do it "for my own mother, god rest her," and I think of him often when I start telling people this is what a poem is, this is what it's not. 

Battlefield medicine. Everyone should bake bread at least once a week, even if only to feed ducks and swans. What is sustainable, what is not. Where does the appearance of lightning go upon reaching the sockets of a blind horse or is that a cosmos as yet hidden from me?

All night I turn back and forth in bed trying to find a way to sleep. What is art. Art?

Garlic clove peels, dusk: what are two things that share the bluish purple hue of certain summer flowers. Trying to talk myself out of a gift for myself. Waking early, between thunderstorms, to check on things: the horse's hay, basement flooding, rat traps, Jesus's interest in listening to my ideas about ignoscency, et cetera.

Missing coffee cups. My wife at the hospital being brave. My daughter in the grocery store relying on me to make a better choice than I did the last time this happened. 

Probably better to say X can mark the spot, i.e., don't assume it automatically does, let the light come to you et cetera.

Wednesday, July 14, 2021

Just as the Leaves Begin Turning

Midmorning thunder passes, a brief deluge soaking the hanging laundry, and then the heat comes, heavy as wet blankets. Spirits dip and rise. The swale, so to speak, was inside you all along. Pickups with cobbled-together beds roll slowly up Main Street, going nowhere. Goldenrod as yet not gold grows stiff and lovely in patches along the pasture. I should have used "cobbled-together" with heart, as in "my cobbled-together heart rolls slowly up Main Street," leaving out "going nowhere," as it's here. Jasper brings a jelly jar of homegrown by, asks me to sniff it, says I should be honest, is it skunk, but it's not, it's mostly lemon with hints of late summer fields just as the leaves begin turning or is it how your mouth tastes the first time you see a black bear on the trail. Late coffee, late sentences. It's fiction all the way down is not the answer either, nothing is the answer when you feel clever or correct saying it. Ha ha, say the ghosts, the joke's on you, you're haunting us. Nearing the end of last year's harvest - half a dozen chickens, two bags of kale, a couple pounds of rhubarb. In a dream the wasps thank me for being open-minded but urge me not to linger because their nature is to kill and they have no concept of ethics. Grackles gathering into flocks, the sky enlarging the way it did all those years ago in Vermont. Somebody gave me a book and taught me what to do with it and that was it, that was the end, my life's path set. A million crumbs to make a single loaf of bread! Wiggling my toes in sunshine, lake shallows, the brook out back. How happy I am at this table from which - at last it is clear - no body can be excluded.

Tuesday, July 13, 2021

I'm the Dad Figure

Lamentable Orpheus, unfortunate Lot.

Cars going too fast up Main Street with canoes strapped to their tops. I am the other side of the electron you keep trying to work into a poem. A sad sound the drain makes late at night, washing a few leftover dishes, hoping she notices, wishing there was something more to do. Ice cold gin-and-tonics out by the horses, then later on the front porch, passers-by stopping to say hi, what's up, did you hear about so-and-so, he fell down some stairs. Sometimes I feel like life tries too hard and I'm the Dad figure trying to slow it down, get it to chill out, play well together, find what works. Platypus, cannabis, Oedipus, animus.

Black bear loping across the trail, only glancing at us once to let us know it knows we're here. Fire licks the darkness and darkness comes, hard.

Settlement negotiations. Pretzel recipes. Unhealthy obsessions with kissing the leaves of the birch tree out back. We who dwell un-self-consciously in a map of the map of the territory.

Why yes my grandmother was a lapsed Catholic who collected ceramic elephants, why do you ask? On borders in secret. 

The conversation turned in the direction of a terminus which was undesirable and everybody noticed my desperation changing the subject. That apple wasn't halfway to the ground before I'd worked out the basic laws of physics that would get us into the twentieth century.

Cats tear the quilt my mother gave us to shreds. Ravens mock us from inside a stand of maples by the river. Decorative pheasants, dwindling faith in the efficacy of religion but otherwise okay.

Monday, July 12, 2021

Splendid and Efficacious

"No more coffee," says the doctor to which I reply cheerfully "go fuck yourself," which makes her laugh. But still. Noon on the back porch roof counting butterflies and crows, busting clouds just to prove to the many skeptics I still can. Even the Tao isn't the Tao, which it turns out is a welcome development. Mountain Dew, cream soda with vodka, room temperature Narragansett beer. Sex in uncomfortable spaces followed by a discussion of the Kink's "I'm Not Like Everybody Else," by which I mean me putting the song on, you listening to one verse and chorus then turning it off, saying that one insufficiently reflective male was enough for one day. Grape vines slowly scale the chicken shed, followed by wild morning glories. Did I mention joy? Would you like a sandwich, I think there's some rye bread and mustard around here somewhere. And who will lead this secret assault on the Country of Tea, you? Those who are disposed to prayer will now lead us in a plea for divine forgiveness and ideally a relevant intervention will follow. Sunlight on my toes makes me happy. My whole body hums "All God's Critters Got a Place in the Choir," it wouldn't surprise me folks hear it a couple states away. Would you look at it, this new - this splendid and efficacious - this who needed an extended warranty anyway - heart, I mean home, I mean I'm happy man, can we for once just leave it at that?

Sunday, July 11, 2021

Right at the Dream's End

I'm a gorilla!

What I liked most about visiting the Boston Aquarium was the light, which was always dim, accenting how alien the whole experience was which, oddly enough, confirmed something important about the rightness of my life on earth.

Crushes include but are not limited to: Daniel Day-Lewis, Nora Joyce, Thérèse of Lisieux (the Joan of Arc photos) Winona Ryder, Scooby Doo, Zuko and Mai (individually and as a couple) Tom Petty in the early eighties and Helen McCarthy, who wore long white gloves and danced with me when I was five years old and thanked me for being a gentleman.

Think about how you pay to live on the earth, how you feel you are alone in the cosmos, and how most of your life is a tug-of-war between forces that want you poorer and lonelier and those that want you to wake up, be happy and hale, and help wake up the others.

Hefting lanterns, brushing away cobwebs: reading Emily Dickinson late at night. She observed a lot of ice in my attempts at fiction, wondered what my relationship with North was, and in a lot of ways I haven't stopped thinking about her since. Oh the garden my heart is, oh the salad of my mind!

Walking back from the park, side-stepping fairy nests, telling the Buddha "Dude, I don't care how many times you show up, I'm not going to kill you." Soup?


Well, the three maple leaves caught between the storm window and the wooden frame are becoming pale and crepuscular, like the bones of fish and still won't blow away. We are made to be accountable!

Waking up early, still dark, roosters hollering somewhere, wondering if it's too late to move to Vermont and sell hand-crafted rosaries at church fairs and chicken dinners. Watching youtubes of Ruffian and sobbing quietly so as not to disturb anyone/have to explain my grief.

The priest died of a heart attack because he was unwillingly subjected to a series of sexual confessions, each grosser and more dramatic than the last. Goldenrod before it blooms. Blue jays on the back porch roof, hopping back and forth, so pure and luminous I offer myself as a sacrifice unto the God in charge of Beauty.

In dreams lately my father appears worried about the kids, especially my daughters, and I reassure him it's okay, they're okay, it's all okay, only realizing right at the dream's end that he is blind and trying to find a way to ask for help getting somewhere.

Cloud scud over Ascutney, late Fall, snow squalls at the summit, my heart an iron box in which all my murdered ancestors compose poems for their killers.

Yeah, about that.

Saturday, July 10, 2021

What a Wasp's Heart Feels Like

Everyone knows the sound a zipper makes!

Going through old tools - wrenches and pliers, chisels and gimlets - most rusted beyond rescue or repair - remembering my father, who could not throw anything away. Stars fall in the tall grass beyond the meadow and glisten there in rain. One wakes early to bake bread, sits quietly in the kitchen, loving the way a sentence becomes musical.

Would you know me. Cardinals on the compost where yesterday I dumped whey. I wonder what it's like to not be wondering all the time. 

This is what a wasp's heart feels like, maybe.

What's a seven letter word for "happiness I'll never know again?" Carefully slicing dill pickles for the salad, carefully slivering radishes. 

I mean in many ways I wish I was a Buddhist but I'm not, I'm just a Christian with a lot of Buddha statues around his little farm.  

Certain hills in Vermont, certain dog's graves.

When it rains I am happier than when the sun shines, I don't know why, I think it has to do with having more time to read. Make a list of books that changed your life, then leave blank the number of lines representing how many more books like that you think you'll read in your life.

Grilled hot dogs, ice tea, Cape Cod potato chips. Lies we tell our mothers. Jasper goes into a long diatribe about THC content - how it's measured, why it matters, and how nobody really understands its relationship to the cannabis experience et cetera. The kid next door makes little abstract clay sculptures and leaves them around the neighborhood. 

Poems that leave you breathless, poems that make you want to travel a long way alone, poems that make you shake your head and say thank Christ it didn't come to that.

Oh, sleeping on the back porch, listening to owls across the river, wondering why I had to be so damn confused in this life, and yet so happy, if only at a late juncture. 

Friday, July 9, 2021

Walk Until You Die

How do they miss the crucifixion inhering in Picasso's The Old Guitarist. I remembering giving the guns away.  

The ghosts behind the things we do cautiously revealing themselves, as if new to these coordinated games of chance we insist are life.  

38 Special songs. Side roads on which we were only briefly distracted. 

It wasn't a supply closet really, it was a storage closet for the activities department and I remember staring at a row of "Happy New Year" hats, silver bands of glitter dimly sparkling. Strangers who become guests in our mouths. Remember when I said remember when and you said nope before I even finished.

We'll get a dog, we'll rediscover the part of us that is dog. Bells ring deep in the cistern. Leafless.

Loving dancing.

How sincere Tom Cochrane was singing Lunatic Fringe! Who has the secret book that tells us how to be happy. In a dream, my daughters point to gray skies in which a single hawk executes narrowing circles, shredding a scrolled message with its claws, the scraps falling on our shoulders like snow.

You will walk until you die, said the women who were my teachers, and then you will walk some more and after that we will not say. In those days, I really liked the idea that there was a secret to be discovered, a mystery to be solved, a prize to be won.

Like honeysuckle blossoms adrift in puddles, I was severed from intention and thus from possibility.

Who will free us or go with us. My father in vast darkness whispering "it was only a cathedral, never the Lord."

Thursday, July 8, 2021

Time for Another War

I am the one who is always stopping by for soup, asking for extra bread, do you have any cheese, hey is that a guitar et cetera. In a dream Emily Dickinson speaks a language I do not recognize. Hells I can imagine 'cause of hells I have seen. 

Softening then.

Picasso's blue period dragged me kicking and screaming out of postcard-sized Maxfield Parrish prints and later drop-kicked me into Max Ernst's whole body of work from which I did not emerge. Lost in Boston, a shark in the harbor. Steam rising off black coffee.

All hints are cerulean, all confirmations red.

In what way is this a reply? Weeks after letting sparrows pick through them, the strawberry beds are bare and hay-colored. It's almost time for another war. Toads in the garden and other murderous beasts, lest I get too comfortable lecturing others about love.

Hey, who are you doing background vocals for now?

Deconstructing deconstructing Joyce in dreams which are themselves deconstructions of ideas of rest. 

These hands were made to empty themselves of everything, including emptiness. Three rosaries later able to ask: my god, what have I done?

Let go, be a radio for Jesus.

The heart is on a journey that "prodigal" doesn't even begin to describe! Rhubarb crisp recipes modified in ways that mean we all can eat. 

I'm not usually like this, I'm usually like something else.

Wednesday, July 7, 2021

Overlooking Empty Chickadee Nests

The one I do not need to speak to anymore. Black bears on side roads in no hurry. Baby skunks, nobody scared.

The one who does not need me to speak.

Men for whom a muse was the whole point of poetry.

Minor chords. Rain falling until mid-morning then slowing. Mist in the garden. Did I mention lower back pain?

Look at all these unfinished poems. Look at all these boats that have been back and forth to Florida

Look at my cousin floating across the bottom of the sea pretending not to know me. 

Whiskey-colored quartz. Buddha statues overlooking empty chickadee nests. No really - what hurts?

I am lost in sodden flags turning back and forth like corpses at the end of knotted ropes.

Your equivalency is not my equivalency. We will die and the particulars of our love story will die but love will not die, it will only stop being "our" love.

Nobody cries "road trip" anymore. Nobody is suggesting Tschaikovsky was correct about angels.

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

Tangled Grass Beyond the Pasture

Hiding out. Hours after days of rain. In the distance - past the neighbor's sheep, past the lumber yard - a male cardinal's loping flight. No mountains near enough to dwarf these low hills.

Perhaps the heart is on a secret adventure, perhaps it is watched over by gods, perhaps everything unfolds according to plan.

For the life of me now I cannot remember happier. At night my heart seizes like the Titanic upending and briefly I can neither think nor breathe. Early alarms to remind us the blind horse needs checking. When I understood what I was becoming and did not say no or turn away.

What a maple tree knows about place that you do not.

Sunlight decanting into icy rivers in our fiction.

Stars fall in tangled grass beyond the pasture, become bright pink flowers I do not know the names of. Kind words. Pulling away from Le Havre, having finally sinned in an unforgivable way, night falling forever. Projection as a denial of God's Creation.

Something stolen, something unscrewed.

Something else that I am not allowed to say, that dies between my lungs and lower throat. Followers who leave to share the good news they learned by following. Light rain at three a.m., slipping a little on grass near the lilac. This prayer of you that lives in my bones and my shoes.

Monday, July 5, 2021

An Answerless Man

After two days dodging a fallen bird's nest while running at the park I carry it home the back way and set it down by a Buddha statue tucked into the rotting base of an apple tree where I have drawn the line on cutting. You never know what constitutes too much information, but a long sentence can be a journey endlessly. "Don't forget an umbrella." Jason and I talk about heart-shaped rocks, wondering at what juncture in our history they started to matter. Saint Augustine is seminal as always. Look for the level at which cooperation happens and work back from there. It's hard to think any way other than critically about crucifixion. Spring potatoes fried in butter. The rain stops and starts, then takes over the day, and I settle into a rocking chair to read Jack Gilbert's Collected Poems, my elder brother if anybody is, cycling through gratitude, disappointment and respect. Who is feeding who? Most of the many questions that once haunted me no longer do, but I am most definitely an answerless man. How close are you to my father's grave in Mansfield? The turtles are talking again, taking their lead from a fluorescent telepathic octopus. The rosary beads, they slip through my fingers like secrets, ant poison, drops of rain, coins.

Sunday, July 4, 2021

Only Little Boxes

Men who cannot write without muses. After all, what is apparent? The skies cloud over but not uniformly. It is midnight somewhere, and someone is haunted accordingly. 

Two months pass, three months without any serious writing - only these sentences, one following the other, like a carpenter who no longer builds houses but only little boxes. Mist rises off the lake, old ladies from Holyoke cast their lines in and smile when I walk past. There were dogs once, and now there are no dogs. Jessamine, a variant of Jasmine.

Between paragraphs, what? Reading through memories of those who lived longer than Abhishiktananda, thinking of what happened to the work of Thérèse after her death. Collapsing mirrors, one into the other. Let it rain indeed.

Folded ladders, empty watering buckets. I ask my son if he needs or has questions about condoms and he says "Dad for Christ's sake" to which I mentally reply "exactly, my son, exactly." Bawling lambs on dewy clover. Let us populate the stars if it is God's Will, and if it is not, then let us quietly fold up our tents and go. 

There are no prayers. Parts of the lawn die off, and it's okay. My mother calls, her voice higher than usual, as if she is unwinding in a perilous place, and my commitment to the Benedictine rules around travel waver. Oh forever, maybe longer.

Saturday, July 3, 2021

Cherished by Other Tears

Do fireflies mourn their own dead? What was going on in Robert Johnson's mind in 1930? Will I ever visit Asia?

Kale smoothies, grading papers, being generous because of the heat, now and then standing to stretch. Jogging early at the park, passing a bright yellow feather in the grass, too large for a goldfinch and gone the next day when I'm ready to actually study it. Remember getting high around midnight, sitting quietly out back and listening to the river, not needing to be anywhere else?

Skimming old journals, then burning them. Beyond the messiness of sex, the diminished expectations of love. How soft the clover is when we walk through it barefoot like clouds!

Snakes writhing away into the raspberry bushes, reminiscent of childhood. We are therefore given to nontrivial expectations of doom. Must it always come down to who approves and who does not?

Is this even a poem? Not why did you start a given writing project but why are you still at it, all these many years later? Not a single tear falls that does not have an origin story cherished by other tears.

After we die, does death remain? Down by the river after the sun falls there are voices in the water that speak but not to us. Noon is the darkest part of the road.

Trimming goldenrod around the garden, crawling in hot sun, the horses nearby watching me. At a late hour in an unfamiliar church all I can say is what's come over me.

Friday, July 2, 2021

Still Precisely Foolish

Afternoon naps, waking to low-rolling thunder west in the valley, a storm that never reaches us. What are rivers for?

Everything grows hazy and dim, even the swallows diving and swooping over the garden at dusk are merely connotative. The many insults inherent in metonymy.

Kissing birch leaves at six a.m., still precisely foolish. Blue hills in the distance.

I make extra coffee in the morning, put it up in Mason jars in the fridge, and as an afterthought for Chrisoula, a jar of tea as well. What have you been talked out of recently and why.

Sunlight as spectacle, even without the benefit of prisms. There is all this green, there are all these unfinished poems, there are all these ongoing opportunities for entanglement.

Folding quilts after sleeping on the couch downstairs, happily bringing order to order, the cosmos forever in a state of affirmation. Dizzy in the heat, leaning on a shovel in the compost, no longer young but okay with it. 

Early apples falling in tall grass, going under. Long drives to Ashfield, working out the terms of the marriage going forward.

Walking past the horses to the river, putting our feet in, listening to cows moan on sloping hills in the distance. You are not an envelope, you are a love letter!

Watering the garden at dusk, looking in vain for the moon. Forsythia shoots.

Remember arguing can a poem be one word? The dogs wait patiently at the forest's edge, unalarmed by the many crows intent on confusing passage.

Thursday, July 1, 2021

Toppling Through Night Remembering

The tears of George Stinney. Toppling through night remembering the summer working in Hartford writing sonnets until I met Chrisoula and realized the significance of turtles and began writing her turtle poems. Part of what we are getting at is what we can't get at when we think biographically. Rain clouds, faint breezes. Pointing out the potato garden to a friend who asks what we plant in it. The appearance of innocence. Merciful God.

We used to make omelets on Saturday nights, walk to the Cumbys a half mile away and buy two pints of Ben and Jerry's, walk back and eat them in the back yard of my apartment building, too exhausted from law school to "go out." Lightning struck. I called them "candle moths," who knows what they were really called. Making love in Syracuse and other signs of the end. What are peonies if not the cosmos in a frenzy of anguish. 

Toads rest beneath Hosta leaves out front and in paths in the garden, raising questions about travel plans. Sometimes people get a little too excited about evolutionary psychology. What do you see from your bedroom window, does it change when you pray.

Ambulances pass, a little while later a fire truck, and then we're all out on our porches, calling to each other to see what anybody knows, has heard, so-and-so forgot to turn his scanner on, and is this love or something else. I don't want to know I want to wonder do wasps have hearts.

When we won't say we're sorry, what we say instead. Hanging up was more satisfying on rotary phones, wasn't it.

This is every day.