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.
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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.
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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.
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.
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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.
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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.

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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. 
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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 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.
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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.
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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?

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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.
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