Thursday, September 30, 2021

The Loveliness of my Own Absence

Discerning in all the sounds the sound of the blind horse calling because he is lost. Rain in the gutters making a sound unlike the river. Dead coyotes on the side of the road, three over the course of a mile, a mystery I decline to solve.

And I will hang the prisms, and rainbows will fill the room at all hours of the day, and what is sad will become happy, and what is happy will become happier. Calls we do not take, do not return, but cannot forget. 

"I received your letter yesterday" is the beginning of a verse tying up a song that has always felt perfectly hallucinogenic. Tire irons. Praise falling in the souls of men no longer inclined to welcome it. The battlefield, I mean.

Goats on their hind legs watching me mow. Strands of baling twine by the groundhog's hole, making us laugh. Give me black Jesus.

Oh lethal salvation, how you make my throat ache. Stunted buttercups brushing against the fence post. Slivered apples dipped in hot chocolate.

Who sleeps in Heavenly peace? Mare's tails floating over the river. 

Fathered by starlight, mothered by dust. Stepping out of the painting briefly to look back and admire the loveliness of my own absence.

And begin.

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

In the Shadow of the Ruined Family

We for whom pageantry is a valid psychological approach to living in the world. Hand-sewn scarves, potted marigolds, tea pots made in Greece and mailed to the states. What is a memory again?

What happens on Tucker Road stays on Tucker Road and yet, it goes with me everywhere, is the starlight gleaming in every thin smile I can't stop smiling

In the far field, four deer graze. Do you recall when you forgot her and realized for the first time what it meant to be free? This is the Holy Spirit on drugs. Black socks, sky blue eye shadow, a gold bracelet and two tattoos of swans.

Distance has a name now. We will be left with Greek flowers growing in the shadow of the ruined family house. Octopuses dreaming of moonlight on white marble.

It took the Titanic two and a half hours to sink, basically the length of a good story, which it was. Sifting through a box of postcards in the antique store in Vermont.

We are dust floating across the attic floor in early fall. Books read to a point where they're mostly ruined. 

Evidence of what crime. 

Early afternoon we walk to the park to talk, end up not saying much, just listening to the river behind us, turkey vultures loping through low-hanging clouds. 

To what Kenya are you called now and who will you take with you. 

How shall we judge the quality of the apology? Hands dusted with flour, listening to NPR, a light rain falling, everything always a thousand miles away.

Tuesday, September 28, 2021

Maybe I was Lonelier

I always knew death was coming. There were bluets everywhere until there were not, and even then the future remained viable. Remember walking and pausing in the middle of the tracks, knowing you stood where not so long before a moose had stood.

Owls watching us at a distance.

One studies evil and also errors that led not to evil but could have, and thus ends up a tarnished optimist. Grace is a folded blanket where you need it most. Snow falls in the gaping wounds of my heart, bells ringing in a muffled way, indicating distances we cannot be assured of crossing.

Making her come, both hands on her thighs, heart racing after, striated moonlight falling across our naked bodies propped against the headboard. Hot buttered rum, gin and tonics, especially those giant ones they served in Burlington, when the future remained mostly invisible.

One falls a long way, blood falling from both wrists, only to learn they can fly, not unlike bats fly, diving and tucking in the most livid twilight ever. 

We are episodic. Tossed aside?

Flowers in the moonlight, that old charm, the witches coming down off the tree tops to sing the old songs for you. Fire does not forget itself, even when it dies.

Getting wasted beside fires on the shore of Lake Champlain, playing Johnny Cash songs, Hank Williams and Ernie Tubbs, everybody listening, mostly nobody interested in Leonard Cohen, which with Dylan was all I listened to or cared about, so maybe I was lonelier than any of them could say.

We are back in Cambridge! Lights flash in the room - blue squares bright and metallic - like something from the mid-eighties I mostly can no longer remember.

To Wordsworth all I can say is "yes and no." "You look like a rootless man who needs a friend," said the potato. 

How precious our unity, how staggering the obligation.

Monday, September 27, 2021

Devotion to the Only Syllable

Between fast-moving rain clouds, the sky. Summer gone is always a sadness but why. Put your hand in the hand of the man who stilled the water, indeed.

We are filled with birds now, many of which do not have names and have never been seen before except by angels. Narrow door frames through which ghosts pass, single file, long past haunting, celebrancy dissipating.

Even now, even now.

What I fear has a name and when I learn the name the fear subsides. What is a breeze but what passes?

Is the city or the family a better microcosm of the cosmos? There is all this confusion, there is all this sorrow.

Angus Young in the 1970s, Jim Morrison's grave, stolen photos of Kurt Cobain's suicide, and dreams of Randy Rhoads lost in a space age disco. 

If you settle into looking for love, you will eventually reach the Cave of the Heart, and there begin a long apprenticeship in semantics which ends with your devotion to the only syllable there is. 

Her hand lingering on the lamp. Before bed, talking, her feet warming against my calves. 

What is chocolate for. What is the lake when you see it in dreams vs. when wading through its shallows.

Reflecting on the ongoing wedding, i.e., the marriage subsumed now by a ritual which transcends time and space and thus ritual itself.

How deeply can you go - how deep are you willing to go - into John Lennon's "All You Need is Love?" Lemon bread with tea at the kitchen table, finances spread out before us, worry a faint cloud encircling our heads, ceiling-level, like pipe smoke.

What is allowed is what happens, that's all.

Sunday, September 26, 2021

Before and After the Wedding

Where there is frost there are geese. A last cup of coffee, a last goodbye. At night I hear the river in the distance, and know I am hearing the end of song that will be hard to recollect in the future. Potato digger, pothole misser. It's like we're travelers or else were raised by travelers. For her birthday this year she has asked to spend the day at Upper Highland Lake in Goshen where we used to camp right before and after the wedding, happily hiking through forest and alongside the water, our joy reliable and merited. Stolen hours of sleep crystallizing into something nonresistant and translucent, which for too long I have denigrated as "soft." We write poems so the tag sales won't be forgotten, which is really to say that we love everything and don't want any of it to die (i.e., being forgotten is all death actually is). Life saver, loss mitigator? Love letters parting lips to whisper yes come. There are pumpkins in the tall grass beside the garden transforming light into something so beautiful I forget to breathe before it. Forget to pretend breathing is what matters most? I mean really, what are we so scared of in the end? That altar inside us all along and all the light.

Saturday, September 25, 2021

Snow is Finished Falling

Perhaps I will die on a winter's day. I miss small towns, and I say that as a man who lives in one, and always has. Let Jerusalem be a symbol, and hasten not to assign it any meaning of your own. 

Imagine those condemned as witches watching others hanged, awaiting their turn on the gallows. Granite lips of stone spitting late summer grasses.

Oh, God is joyous and also many butterflies at once. Continents of dust adrift in the bedroom, the window letting in an early autumn breeze.

Emily Dickinson's servants.

Snow falling or a little after snow is finished falling, the bark of the maple tree frozen and dark. Sleepy cats, tea steeping for hours.

Something electric snaps. The brain is a field of light. What the sugars do to you, what energy they evoke.

Long-suffering Irish stone-cutters, dark-haired selkies visiting the bay. There is never a time to panic. What is new, necessary, and what is never again.

Her jeans folded on the wicker chair beside the bed. Everything illumated.

And then I got used to drinking bad coffee, because it was cheaper and easier, and that was the requisite economy of discipline for the work I was doing, which was leaving lines for sentences, and otherwise consenting to the dissolution of the false. 

Sitting in Christ, haloed with starlight and violets. 

Friday, September 24, 2021

When Love is No Longer Consonant with Beauty

A break in the trees through which the river shines, deep blue and glistening. Bookmarks in Abhishniktananda's Ascent to the Depths of the Heart, life changing so fast you can't keep up. Kissing in the way back.

Asked by God: do you want to see me if seeing me requires dying and I answer "no" and my whole life finally settles into something clear and gentle and sustainable. 

Salting eggplant slices, making space in the backroom to store more potatoes. What will you do when you undo one button and I fall to my knees weeping with joy and gratitude?

Foxes pass through the horse pasture, fleet and lovely, not looking at us looking at them. Flames lick the sky.

We soften into one another again, grateful at last that youth is gone. All these gold leaves filling the sky, as if there were no other way to see anything. Here is where the coffee goes, here is where bowls for cream and sugar - the ones my aunt made by hand when she was seventeen and the neighbor taught her pottery - are kept.

The rosary I pray smells like a woman I kissed by a river a long time ago. 

Yet ask: what are lifetimes anyway? 

Chrisoula says "you should read this book" and I say "I just started watching the tv version" and she asks how it is and a few minutes after that she asks shyly will I start it over so she can watch with me and I start to cry, right there in the sideyard where we're talking I start to cry, I don't even know why exactly, it feels stupid but also so so good, and I say "yes, of course," of course I say yes.

A kind of writing one does when love is no longer consonant with beauty that the world calls beautiful. She says, "I never met anyone who cared so much about a single punctuation mark," to which I reply, not kidding, "a significant spiritual aspect of my life's work has revolved around making peace with semicolons." 

Trout leap into the sky, glide between stars, laugh at how delighted I am, as if anything I could do could ever have impaired their freedom. Rolling cannabis with yerba matte and a little lavender, smoking on the back porch in early September, wondering will the sex stuff ever settle enough for us to be friends.

Always ask: "who is we." You write these amazing sentences, I can't figure out your relationship with virgules, but your relationship with grief is so utterly perilous and also so visible and obvious that I don't understand why everybody isn't rearranging their lives to make you safe, give you time to do the work, write it out, et cetera.

Thursday, September 23, 2021

The One You Want in Bed

Waking to geese passing at 5 a.m. or a little after, their guttural honking tearing a seam in the pale sky through which light pours, waking us.

I remember telling what's-his-name a few days after his ninetieth birthday that I was getting married to a Greek woman and he said very seriously "Greek women are the most beautiful women."

Yellow maple leaves sifting through moist air like symbols of the soul in a poem by a poor man's William Wordsworth. Just try not unlocking that heart!

Arguing cheerfully over how many notes are in a rooster's morning cry.

Remember Memphis? Remember the drunk preacher we beat up, how he sounded crying in the grass behind the sheep building where we left him, and how for years after, every time we talked, we had to talk about how he sounded, as if that was the only part of the memory that needed managing? 

As I was saying.

Bruce Springsteen on the cover of Darkness at the Edge of Town. Where the bartender knows you and says when you reach the bar, fuck off. 

Remember your first beer with your Dad? Remember how the calves gasped dying, and how the pigs screamed. Identity politics doesn't go far enough.

What's muddled, chaotic. First time to the gallows?

Sheets of music on fire when Jim Hendrix walks by. Places where we are quieter naturally - graveyards, churches - and places were our voices rise, like in the kitchen, say, or when riding horses. 

Giving away all our horse books, having reached that juncture where one no longer has to read in order to piece together what's going on. Yet at night when the others are asleep I go outside and beg the Lord to take my sight and restore his.

Early afternoon, slipping out of our clothes, getting in bed the way you get in bed when the one you want in bed beside you is beside you all the while. 

Wednesday, September 22, 2021

A Little Like After it Rains

At dawn there are strange feathers in the sky, enormous folds and ripples of light, as if to say the day of death were greater than the day of being born. And my heart opens, and the leaves fall and spiral into the opening in my heart, and compost there, and become vast forests there, full of bears and rivers and dragonflies. Kisses that taste a little like after it rains. We count the pieces before giving away the puzzle, but we do not make it. Fair season ends, ribbons go up on walls, and plans begin for the season to come, as if the world were one in which planning was actually allowed. One grows tired of negotiating with biblical scholars for the peace they feel reading certain scriptures certain ways. Early September mowing, soaked through with sweat, kneeling after to ask forgiveness for the crickets and toads who died in the whirring blades. Dialogue hastens to its end naturally. All this decoration, all this studied emphasis on blindness, and for what?

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Moving in the Heavens

It will rain, they say. Night is a long time to be alone. 

What is related to solitude that I am not seeing and thus continue living in this pleasant but non-luminous mistake?

The roses being roses, the marigolds marigolds, and you making a vast poem of it all - sentences and lines, ideas and rhythms, you and not you - as if the cosmos requires admiration, or as if study and love are the same movement.

Something shifts inside, like a fist loosening, or a stone being pushed by frost heaves into sunlight. Bottles on the hayloft window sills filled with sand, stones, crystals and marbles.

And childhood lost in weeds and gravel, a road that goes nowhere and so isn't even a road anymore.

Hating the phrase "heart attack," a part of the family lexicon since before I could speak, always terrified that the essence of you - the engine making you go - could also go to war with you and win.

What God wants priests? 

Whisking Greek coffee right before it boils, not adding sugar. Parking in the farthest lots to leave space for walking. Leaves fall, one or two spiraling through moist air which makes me think of the soul again, an old dream that got me through law school and the early years of the marriage.

What is leaving, what has left. My mother and I sit on lawn chairs in the shade, talking about dragonflies and death. 

Headlights in the dense mist coming slowly up Main Street, a sense one is watched, wanted even. Ended.

Hemlocks draped across the damp flannel of sky, love letters rely on shared language to function. What a funny couple of monkeys we are!

What is moving in the heavens, what is born in you each moment, what is your responsibility to this habit you have of engaging with certain memories as if they're real. 

A dance, a duel, a dinner, a date, a dig, a dare, a dialogue.

Monday, September 20, 2021

Sudden Influxes of Disorder

Stork moon. A bitterness I cannot shake.

Diesel engines heating up at four a.m., low voices of men saying what they say over last cups of coffee. Footballs left out overnight on the lawn. 

Old clarities. Newish rehearsals.

The bedroom window brightens behind heavy curtains, seams letting in a soft light that rests partially on our feet. Why kissing.

The late juncture at last brushing gently against the white moths of death, their whispers assurances there are neither ends nor beginnings.

Sawed-off limbs of the maple trees dragged into the forest. Familiar resentments, plans that went sideways, something that works by not working. 

Saying something is a mystery is a form of invitation, an attempt to create dialogue where one is yet to exist, i.e., communication is a form of light.

The Titanic was always doomed in our narrative impulse, mythology insisting on itself despite the grandiosity of our technology, or is it simply that we love a good story and anything will do, tra la. 

What happens at a tag sale stays at a tag sale, but not really. The profanity of "it is what it is."

It is not that we understand ego but that we recognize it and choose instead the other way.

Filling a glass decanter in the hay loft with polished marbles from childhood, a gift from my mother who found them tucked away in her basement. It is not the size of the rosary that matters, yet one does prefer those that fit well, that satisfy - that elevate the prayer to what is transcendent - and this is not a penis metaphor but it could be. 

Sudden influxes of disorder and yet also a last day for summer dresses.

I mean the monkey we are, the angel we wrestle on the river bank, and the mountaintop encased in mist, a perilous height against which we hurl ourselves, astronaut-like, as if merely by wishing could a thing be made so. 

Sunday, September 19, 2021

Being Winterish, Aquarian

What is lightning to a blind horse? With what are we in relationship? What does it mean to say there is only one question and therefore only one answer?

Writing in the kitchen, second cup of coffee and the darkness deepening, grateful beyond measure that happiness is finally possible. 

A spiritual practice predicated in part on punctuation (e.g., what happens in the space created by an ellipsis, what energy is generated by a comma, what baroque fantasy does the semicolon evoke).

The waiting is actually not the hardest part, since everything is given all at once, but it's still a good song, one that my son understands musically in ways I do not.

At night, before sleep, I tuck my glasses into the arms of a teddy bear who sits on the low bureau Chrisoula painted blue. Lamb souvlaki with rice at Glendi, followed by a dozen or so loukoumades and an awkward conversation in the parking lot. Alone, not alone - what's the difference?

Puzzling over the apparently universal association of the quality of sex with temperature, i.e., the hotter the better.

Being winterish, Aquarian, given to summits and the way one sees the world when ascending great heights. Anticipating long drives and the visits and relationships created thereby. Unexpectedly bereft of a lifetime's worth of vinyl.

Can one be good at walking to the river? A poem is not just anything yet I'm reluctant to assert that it's this and not that. Fallen fences in the side yard signifying internal shifts with respect to what we can talk about with others.

And rippling clouds spitting rain passing leaving clear views of the blue depths in which we remember what we are in truth. A little after five a.m. the roosters begin, their calls echoing up the valley, a morning song, a this-is-a-new-day song.

Horses stepping through the last of the buttercups. Monarch butterflies, even in the city where we meet for lunch, finding ourselves on benches in the park, somehow farther apart than we'd expected.

Saturday, September 18, 2021

Up from Syllables and Glances

And then it is afternoon, the sky full of light and soft folds. Crossing the road to say hi, then a conversation struggling up from syllables and glances, and staying with it because how else does the world get better? Women who appear in dreams but at a distance, dreams that appear in women even more distant. Sun setting over Springfield, the cathedral lit up in a pale red light, the wedding a thousand years ago still echoing in my skull, still rendering me disinclined to wander. Wind moves the ruined prayer flags, a shred of paper tumbles over the hardtop, comes to rest against a maple tree. You make contact with you - some essence, some purity - and you linger in it but there are other levels, next steps, and you are tired, so so tired. Mowing over the rotting apples, filling in abandoned groundhog holes, gathering deadfall for late fall fires. Something stirs in the underbrush, a couple bees drift across the overly-bright goldenrod, and somewhere on the other side of Route Nine a chainsaw rattles starting. Grateful these days, keeping it simple, coasting on a tide of joy attended by the last violets, et cetera. 

Friday, September 17, 2021

Towards the Invisible Moon

Softening into people, all of them. Luminous tea cups and other leftovers. We who are happiest in the kitchen. Well-salted cast iron pans given away for free. Scrambled eggs with avocado on corn wraps, onions fried to a crisp in butter, maple syrup drizzled on breakfast sausage. Who lives in the Irish whistle that we never play? Cat fur on the zafu, a metaphor to which I return from time to time, ever bent on remembering what seems to require it never be forgotten. The mind has structure, its structure is not separate from its function, and its function is your joy, endlessly looping through the critter you are in the company of all the other critters. One day there will be a last apple ever, and it will fall or not fall, and it will not matter what I know in that moment, or do not know. Blossoming mosquitos. The patience our living requires, one step after another leading us slowly towards the invisible moon that is our shared heart, in the sky that is our shared body, the cosmos of our love.

Thursday, September 16, 2021

A Mountain Moving the Mountain

Little red candles. Candy hearts. Ego is me, my and mine - the deep yaw of it, mute but intent, like a river under a mountain moving the mountain. Peace, my child, peace.

Waking at midnight to cats yeowling in the yard, going out to check on the horses, shiving in early fall, moon gone and the sky a riot of stars and lost dreams.

Jerry explains to us the doctor has recommended "the can-a-beeze" for his insomnia. Plot lines, character development, setting - the outlines of the story inhere in your mind, are, in fact, your mind. 

Let us pry.

She looks up laughing, the veins in her throat soft blue. Joan Jett songs. Leaves fall, sifting through moist light, making one think of the soul.

The calves were wrapped in burlap, then unceremoniously lowered into holes we'd dug by the grape arbor, or did I tell you this already.

Losses, longitudes, lateral career moves. 

Chrisoula and I sit drinking coffee on the porch, happy in ways that require attention to remember. How we walk with those with whom we walk. Decision-making.

Clouds of Easter. Interior sailors making marks in me to remember where they've been and where they're headed next. Roaring falls in Vermont.

Jerusalem is psychological.

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Heart is Plural

Metaphors. Croquet mallets.

Money animus.

Starlit hills along which monsters stride, their dark arms swinging, their seven-fingered hands full of fire and steel.

No more sex in pick-ups. Trade-ins. References to rain as liquid sunshine impossible to disallow.

The freedom to name things the only freedom there is. Distracted fathers ambling up Main Street, gazing skyward while talking to their kids. Let nothing pass unnoticed is what level of allowed?

Pumpkins ripening in tangled skeins of rotting vine. Something passes into the light, something remains that insists on saying "something passes into the light."

Stone Buddhas resting in hollowed-out tree trunks, Jesus passing on the secret to eternal life. Can you ever really say what anybody else sees with their own eyes? 

Horse shoe tournaments. Free ice cream.

Antiquated chairs in which our asses settle. Fields of cattle is not the next sentence but this one is. Shall we be grateful, shall we sell nothing, shall we love one another wrapped in blankets outside, starlit and dew-filled?

Heart is plural is all you need to know and all you can know. 

Tuesday, September 14, 2021

Suddenly All These Aunts

Feeling the mess. Tag sale culture. Voices at a distance, resolving to gender. We who stand while eating, while doing the dishes, but later sit to write, this.

Suddenly there are all these siblings, suddenly all these aunts suggesting this or that tradition be up-ended. First star, slivered moon, empty hands through which ghost trout glide, finally free.

Atop the mountain a body of water.

At what are you looking? The mail boxes are knocked over, drunks weaving up Main Street at 1 a.m., last call at this or that bar. Poetry is a form of magic, which is to say, technology, which is to say, are you giving attention to the effect you are creating with your wordiness?

Geese pass, pulling behind them an invisible thread to which winter is attached, a white sheet that sparkles when the moonlight reaches it just so. 

Hymns, heart shapes, hand grenades, holiness. 


Soviet-era percussion patterns. Apologies. Pink flowers - like floating gauze - I rename "Dad's Anxiety."

Everything is faster now. The tide we anticipate is a consequence of the tide we remember, there is no other way to be. Fundamental disconnects leaving us like sailors with no means of calculating latitude.

These luminous moons, these lavender hills.

Monday, September 13, 2021

Finding an Old Trap

What the pigs went through. 

First star, quarter moon.

Mallard arrowing up the river alone.

Growing up in a haunted house, never leaving it, nor being left by it.

Corn stalks, sunflowers. The marigolds this year.

Visiting the cathedral in which we were married, reflecting on an emerging understanding of what love is, entails, et cetera.

The tag sale. Come cries stifled at dusk.

Rhubarb pie with vanilla ice cream.

Leaves circling the sky, higher and higher, then settling in apparently random ways on the earth, as if there is no getting away, only leaving, this leaving.

One can be aware of bias, one can tell fewer lies, to themselves and others both.

Tossing hay to the blind horse, another summer over, all of us coasting now through asters and chrysanthemums.

Cleaning the attic, finding an old trap with a mouse skeleton in it. Gold ornaments hanging from rafters. What we find funny is less helpful than why we find it funny.

Denise Levertov's patience with my questions thirty some odd years ago.

All in now but on what.

Waking early with no desire to do anything but lie in the warm nest of the blankets and explore the range of this happiness I am late but not too late gifted with.

Life a study of pronouns, line endings, how a sentence is tidal, which is to say, contingent, and learning how to be okay with the way certain fairy tales don't end but go on in us, like breathing or psychology. 

Sunday, September 12, 2021

Somewhere Unanswered

The slow death we come to, day after day after day. Light rain, the sky made of rotting flower petals. Letters from both grandmothers still in the box where - like my father - I keep what matters. A crucifix made of smoke but not dissipating and other miracles to which psilocybin introduced me. Twigs scattered across the side yard. Grasshopper bodies on wet flagstone, intact but clearly dead. I fell a long time, woke up in a hospital, nobody else around, a phone ringing somewhere unanswered. Believe is an incomplete sentence now. We make gluten-free chocolate cupcakes, tower them with coffee-flavored chocolate cream cheese frosting, and eat them alone in the dark. Apologies I make, apologies I receive. And the traffic on Main Street slows, and we miss the ones we miss, and we do not miss the ones we do not miss. After all, nobody reads Moby Dick twice, as every text is always new each time it is constructed in the skull. Rolling away the stone, kneeling to peer inside. There was a point I was trying to make, perhaps you've intuited, could remind me, et cetera?

Saturday, September 11, 2021

If You Tell Me We are Going Home

Rain falls overnight, turning the maple trees dull green and early orange, and all of a sudden all the work in the garden goes mostly away. This interior graveyard forever mocking my tentative whistling. Whose hands are empty, whose throat is full of prayer. Three a.m. is mostly quiet save for the river, on the far side of which are owly hills on the far side of which Emily Dickinson once lived and wrote (and was buried when she died). Leaving the hay loft a moth brushes my cheek and I realize it's been months since I cried. A day that passes without news, good or bad, is a good day, or so one decides. Hidden keys, lost maps. If you tell me we are going home, then I am going to tell myself a story that involves spiritual light, a little town in Vermont I still don't know the name of, and a warm blanket for December into January. When I quit drinking my life changed, exactly as if an exorcism had successfully purged my soul of a demon. Folded quilts, drowsy cats? Jesus is a collage, a collaboration, and thus a relationship which, if you are so inclined, requires sustained attention to function well. Fear of dying becoming easier to confront at this late - and getting later - juncture because of the late and getting later juncture. I had some thoughts and put them down - did you happen to notice where?

Friday, September 10, 2021

Long After the Music Ends

Geese passing at dusk, angling west, leaving me hungry. Cattails turn back and forth in the swamp, bodies swaying long after the music ends and the dance floor swept. Just how close are we when all is said and done? 

Dry leaves skating over pavement, bumping into amber bottles that remind me of men drinking beer in the 1970s. I who never name the uncles, as if protecting them from judgment. Touching the bottom, lingering.

Always all these references to goldenrod, my heart turning forever to flowers, the brighter the prettier, and the prettier the better. Oh determinism, you are such a stubborn and lonesome god! Imagine unhealable snake bites.

Imagine those shepherds long ago, star-gazing, surrounded by sheep, the idea of one God, a Father who art in Heaven, calcifying in their minds as if what they hoped was true was true. The future is everywhere. Craving cookbooks but not cooking.

They say the weather will be bad tomorrow, rainy and wet, and so I hurry through the mowing to get it all done, happy to have a day where I can sit in a rocker and read and write and go nowhere. Making coffee for each other, a metaphor for the vaster love which carries us ever higher, our shoulders trailing clouds of glory. Trade-offs, tariffs, topless monks and nuns.

Replanting ferns. Pausing at the last daisy of summer. Remember fishing when we were five, maybe six, storms coming but but staying on the rickety dike, hair blowing, determined to catch one of the big trout that everybody said stalked that pond.

Warm rye bread with tomatoes and onions, washing it down with cider, listening but not contributing to a conversation about abortion. I mean no more dreams, not even the dream of dreamlessness.

Thursday, September 9, 2021

To Never Forget Again

Morning rain, horses whinnying. Traffic on Route Nine on Sunday morning a pleasant thrum. All night I listened to blood rushing through my body, as if trying to tell me something, or bear me away to cosmic seas, and yet I no longer know the language of death, and so merely floated through warm pockets of sleep, happy and gentle and alert. Milkweed seeds carried by the river east. I head into the hay loft before the others are awake and write, paragraph after paragraph about what I remembered yesterday, and hope to never forget again. Promises that cannot be broken because they cannot be kept, i.e., we remain confused about what bodies are (the answer has to do with what they are for). Fionnghuala's happy voice coming up from the garden, both hands full of flowers to make bouquets for the neighbors. Losing arguments more and more often now, as if trying to hasten some inevitable crucifixion. Lay the emphasis on barter and potlach and see what happens. It's late but not too late to take up the Irish whistle again, not for glory or praise, but rather to align your breath with the song. He knew the end to which he was consigned and went ahead anyway or did he know that choice is an illusion. Hence trust. This prison cell you insist was never locked, this heart in which the light is never lacking.

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Our Responsibility for Being Beautiful

This is the ninth month, this is where we are now. Mistaking shelter for home.

And leaves turning at the tops of trees. The last of the apples turning soft in cold grass.

Bear heart, elephant heart, trout heart, and all the other impossible hearts, and the one heart that holds them. Sunlight translated by a prism into beauty is a lie we tell ourselves to avoid our responsibility for being beautiful. 

Getting high alone after midnight, sipping coffee in the dark kitchen, arguing with myself and winning, that old unsatisfying pattern. Side-stepping a conversation that pointed dangerously to Dad's guns.

Lamps which no longer work. A new dream of living alone, only sometimes visited, and even then only for what can be labeled sacred.

Beyond the moon stars, the space they make possible, and the darkness, and this new happiness beneath them. One day there will be no more chickadees, and one day after that there will be no more memory of chickadees, nor any record of chickadees, and then what.

Consciousness dissembling in the vastness, not at all concerned for itself. Towering marigolds.

Decisions the body makes for us, and how we sometimes push back, always because we are in the throes of a story we agreed to be part of before we knew what agreeing meant. How when my uncle fiddled we all listened, his hands shaking which I thought was fear but was alcoholism, and how sad he looked after when we all clapped, which was both a mirror and a curse and I damn well knew it.

Back pain, headaches. The neighbors say nothing about the dog, and sometimes I see it tied by a rope to a maple tree, and my sorrow and pain expand then in ways I would rather die than feel.

Forgetting some of the rules, intentionally breaking others. The old apple tree mostly hollow, missing all but two branches, and still each morning I am happy to see it, my ridiculous heart opening as if its poverty could comfort anyone. 

Tuesday, September 7, 2021

Many Nightmares in the Vast Nightmare

Outside at night, a different day's rain quietly speaking in still trees, I recall how I loved Tolkien's many references to starlight. The way a sentence intimates the shape and subject of the next (is like how early texts intimate the shape and subject of a life). 

Going back in time to junior year high school, early fall, stealing two books from the library about the intersection of Zen and Christianity, the path of my life in so many ways thus set indelibly in stone. Also, this paragraph is dedicated to Bon Scott and Roland Barthes.

At what do you work hardest? To be loved is to be approved of, found worthy, accepted, et cetera.

The Titanic one of many nightmares in the vast nightmare which was the twentieth century with which I am still not at peace. The front porch prayer flags now ready to be burned and the ashes buried in the garden and finally no new prayer flags purchased.

Digging potatoes, talking quietly to myself, noticing later a toad sitting even more quietly beneath a renegade squash plant, listening. It takes no body to be home.

On the other side of the river, a certain breed of ancestor - Celtic, in love with song, fucking and war - watched me work through a thorny aspect of relating to God, and when at last I'd clarified the salient point (which had to do with guiltlessness), they lowered their shields and blades and knelt in homage, and I was then lifted and delivered into a new and unintended intimacy, and in this way realized that I had become an ancestor who would one day watch his descendent navigate holy terrain that for me involved spiritual conflict, sexual longing and poetry but for him will involve something I cannot imagine but still need in order to finally leave this world. Geese crying out in the early morning, flying north to south over the horse pasture, traveling songs I once mistook as my own. 

What happens when you stop pretending that anything actually happens? The water in this river connects to the water in all rivers, and all rivers are in motion, ever bent on the sea, which itself attends only to the moon and sky.

Estranged mostly from family I struggle with folks who continue to struggle with family, feeling like the bigger problems are internal, abstract, solved by God when we surrender, et cetera. I remember the trolley tracks in Fall River when I was five years old, and feeling a certain way about the twentieth century looking at them which I have not yet been able to describe or convey to another, and if I feel sorrow at all about my pending death, it has mostly to do with this.

While this paragraph is dedicated to Randy Rhoads and Michel Foucault, who together are the clearest I've managed to be about sex in this life. On the other hand, the word "erection" always reminded me of erector sets - very popular among certain uncles - and it seemed to me a phonesthetic tragedy, given the joy and beauty of one and the bland stupidity of the other. 

At a late juncture making mostly Greek coffee, standing in the dark kitchen alone, listening to neighborhood roosters hollering like Jim Morrison hollered in the years before his early death became unavoidable. Me and my penchant for pretty glass, me and my happiness writing this sentence, me as close as you get in this life to the breathlessness of God. 

Monday, September 6, 2021

Beyond Orgasmic Cries

Imagine never finishing Moby Dick. Urging neighbors to resist the urge to write down stories that arise in - and belong to - the oral tradition. What is your problem with messiahs again? 

Cats begin sleeping on the bed with us, elongating at our feet, curling up between our bodies, sure signs of autumn. Living where main roads sometimes go miles with nothing on either side but forest. Who is lost at sea in more ways than one.

The earliest tools were sticks and stones, and I think often of my ancestors when I find myself gathering them. Waking up hard, full of longing, breezes in the window reminding me sex goes nowhere I haven't already been. Grilling the last of the zucchini, thunderheads floating lazily down the valley, the girls discussing their favorite books, only a handful of which I've read.

When I was little I used to pray it would rain in deserts so the animals there would have something to drink, a good example of my overall kindness and deep confusion. At three a.m., sitting in what might be called meditation, something is killed in the bushes between our house and the neighbor's. Slowly all the stories stop mattering and you are left with this: this this.

Once again work and money fall apart and the illusion my luck is bad or God doesn't love me finally dissolves. How the way one cares for the world changes in time. Peace is an effect of justice, and justice is a form of healing, worthy of our attention.

Music choices for the road trip are Bob Dylan, any era you want, which I'm told is no longer a charming answer to what do you want to listen to while we drive. Work clothes soaked through. You thought you could become less of a dreamer by removing the dreamy paintings from your home but that too was a dream, wasn't it.

A look in the grocery store signifying the old willingness, the familiar loneliness, the desire to be met in ways that include other bodies unclothed but which we now know goes beyond orgasmic cries in ways not easily settled in us. What is the name of what you are?

Sunday, September 5, 2021

The Darkness We Are Up Against

The joy inherent in noticing the unnoticeable. Trailing my fingers along the last of the apples, then bringing it to Jack, the blind horse, an offering to the darkness we are up against. Pickled cukes, green beans, summer squash and garlic. Overheated kitchens. Tagging trees for felling in October, not knowing the argument against it but for Christ's sake trying. Sparrows in the overgrown forsythia alongside the barn, dew on spider webs strung along the east side of the pasture fence, and two days ago a female cardinal singing high in the tallest of the remaining hemlocks. Rocks jutting through soil, last of the violets laid low. The question why are you always repeating yourself as if there is no other way answered always with is there another way, can you show me, do you know. Geese circling the cornfield, whole rows sagging from last week's rain. We harvest the potatoes, tear down the bean plants, we begin thinking about the garden in spring which is what it means to put the garden to bed for winter, which is coming. This sense of being alien, this kingdom in which your antagonism is murderous, this drama you are never not engaged in. "Be mine" was always a bad idea but "won't you be my neighbor" was onto something. 

Saturday, September 4, 2021

Into the Order Called Narrative

When each breath feels as if it's being drawn up through water, lungs struggling like cattle in thick mud. When it rains a little on Sunday morning and a feeling of disappointment passes through you, a touch of nostalgia, none of it unwelcome. The coffee goes cold while I write, unable to break free from a demanding text (about the history of Worthington from the perspective of a witty pine tree). And the apples fall and linger in tall grass, and the groundhogs churn up corners of the yard, and the berry bushes are cut back, and the fire pit is cleared, and the chickens nap beneath jewelweed. Whatever wants to be seen will be seen, while whatever hides is also seen, i.e., stop asking me to explain myself. One goes through journal entries for the prior month and senses something is missing in their life, a thing that as yet has not been put in words and begins again the only work that matters. Upon waking we put our dreams into the order called narrative, the telling always an abjuration of the original experience. Spider webs on the fence line. Oh and the swallows are gone, filling the one sky where my eyes don't go. Alas, this story! This is my heart, not a fist, and if ever it unclenches you will find in it a diamond.

Friday, September 3, 2021

Our Whole Being a Single Law

I am not a neural substrate!

God moves over the hills and pasture in the form of fear of dying though you may call it dawn. 

Bird watchers on Flat Iron Road doing their best to pretend they're not annoyed at me ambling past.

It's all a form of love, which is easiest to say when I'm not navigating complex social structures (which apparently are not so hard for others, who knew).

While in the ER a woman squatted to piss herself, then rose and looked around sadly, desperate to meet anybody's eyes, and I did not know what to do or say, rare for me but I was locked in my own crisis, and now feel only sorrow for all of us who are temporarily or otherwise alienated from the condition of grace. 

We are iron shavings in the vicinity of a magnet, our whole being a single law.

Hey Sean, the cannabis flowers you ingest are female so maybe dial back that whole "brother cannabis" bit you do?

The future is cooperation.

A day off from the swelter given to mowing, our lawn and the neighbors, and later my mother's.

The interoceptive systems and their constant mapping of the body - synchronized more or less with the world (which is sensed and mapped by exteroceptive systems) - are experienced as a self, it's not a big fucking spiritual mystery.

Homemade kefir, yum!

Picking blueberries, hot and tired, faking gratitude, listening to a mother a few rows over keep reminding her little daughter to stay close because of bears which I can't tell is she just trying to scare the kid into obedience or is she confused about how uninterested black bears really are in us?

A sense one has that the road is narrow, grows narrower as we go, and yet the urge to traverse it - in the interest of love, in the loveliness of sharing - intensifies.

Worthington stories, may I?

A demon who whispers "you're wrong" literally every second of the day and wins by definition every time you argue with him or try to explain something to him or beg him to shut up or even try to ignore him. 

People who affect moral outrage when asked to asked to say what a poem means, as if poets are somehow exempt for our shared responsibility for clarity, understanding and mutual support.

Prisms without sunlight are just glass which, okay, but beauty begs us to multiply occasions for its coming forth.

The river up past my ankles experienced as a kind of party, a kind of celebration of water, movement, flesh and dusk, so exquisite and rich one feels it as forbidden, and thus inaugurates a new level of inquiry.

Missing coffee cup found on a shelf in the barn (beside the nails), the grounds inside it lit up with stars made of green and yellow mold. 

On the one hand, I'm tired of everybody misunderstanding and thus misapplying Leonard Cohen lyrics, and on the other hand, who the actual fuck do I think I am?

Thursday, September 2, 2021

Platitudes that Serve Nobody

My secret plans for escape always half-hatched. A hat made of live starlings, sometimes lifting into the sky and dispersing, sometimes settling on my skull, fluffing and ruffling and cooing. 

I set a bookmark in Abhishiktananda's Ascent to the Depths of the Heart - a thin white ribbon - a passage I wanted to study later and now for the life of me - gazing at the indicated page all morning off and on - cannot remember what there moved me. In the far field in Goshen - just across the town line - two deer.

We argue in bed, end up cold and distant all morning, working around - waiting out, really - our mutual disappointment. Mother's anger, always.

Leaves fall in the river, turn in gentle circles, float away in the shadow of low hills. This man who is also an egret, also a black bear, also a beam of moonlight.

Making coffee at four a.m., watching a strange light on the western horizon, wondering who else, if anyone else, is also seeing. Reheated Buddhist platitudes that serve nobody well.

Playing guitar on the front porch, Poor Wayfarin' Stranger and Back Home in Derry, Christy Moore versions which I learned in Dublin, a city in Ireland, which I really did visit. A sound the latch on the door makes being drawn close.

Lily pads, lozenges, Lemonade, Beyonce's. Where whoever painted the barn red ran out and painted it white.

New teaching plans abruptly scuttled, same old poverty grinning through thin soil, a corpse that won't stay dead. I broke down leaving the ER, sagging into Chrisoula, who said "you're okay" and nudged me upright, kept us walking, which is our thing I guess. 

I don't remember asking for the car on Fridays but I must've. Pockets of cool air, reminders that Fall is coming, and later winter, altogether reconfiguring my happiness set point.

Canning peaches. Rethinking Tolkien - queering him really - under the fierce tutelage of a daughter whose liberation I attended but did not cause.

Wednesday, September 1, 2021

A Condition of My Penance

Towering clouds, fields of regret. At a distance, the first black bear in years, sitting on his ass beneath an apple tree. You listen to your son play guitar, you write the prose poems you write, and you let this life sugar out the way it does. 

When in Montreal reading Steven King novels on somebody's apartment floor and slowly coming to terms with what's helpful in your thoughts about writing. Ferns in a soft light. Scrubbing coffee rings off the window sill, hoping it will make someone happy who is mostly not. 

Doing laundry later than expected, the day mostly lost to patching the porch roofs, getting dizzy in the hot sun, whacking your thumb over and over with a hammer. Sprinkling patchouli oil on the cross that came from my grandmother's house, floating in the happy scent of my early twenties, years of listening to live Dead tapes, stoned and a little drunk, nobody expecting much socially or otherwise, which was always the real gift. Imagine growing up.

The little brook out back feeding into the river, a remnant of a hurricane thirty or so years ago. I am lost now in ways that no longer trouble me, and I will never be found, which also does not trouble me, as in a way I cannot yet articulate - and may never, as a condition of my penance - the Lord goes with me everywhere. Lukewarm iced coffee, better than nothing.

My father knew who he admired and who he did not, and had a subtle but effective of locating you on that spectrum, while my mother pretty much just said what was on her mind, audience be damned. Clutching a violin in lieu of roses? The goldenrod blooms around town, taller than usual this year, same as the marigolds which nearly reach my shoulders.

In what way is a collage a work of love? One thing that won't happen in this life is I won't ever eat turtle meat. Kneeling to clean the floor of vomit, spraying vinegar to cut the smell, saying over and over "it's okay, it's not a problem."

Unclear at the fair how I fit into the world of love, which is all I see now, yet no longer alarmed at my alienation, which I know is merely an aftereffect of something that shifted long ago. Always meeting witches when I least expect, Hansel and Gretel waking up inside me muttering "this again?"