Never Peripheral

This, too, is what happens.
Nothing elides anything else. Rain on maple trees with only one or two leaves left. Chain saw grinding a quarter mile away. What man would I be if I had never had a son?
Hawks cross Route 202, I get beeped at because I swerve to see better, raise a hand to say my bad, hawk indistinguishable now from a crow. Blue light in the reservoir. Afternoon is what rises out of morning.
I remember skipping class to eat mushrooms, just sitting on the bed, watching numbers on the digital clock turn to meaningless lines and squiggles, knowing at last a language that transcended understanding. Poems left in Virginia Woolf paperbacks. I cried and each tear was a chunk of broken glass.
Light everywhere, even in death.
Context is decoration, extra, but never peripheral.
Between hemlock trees a seam opens, it’s like gazing into another world beyond this one, Monarch butterflies the size of small cars.
Polishing the hardwood floors with watered-down vinegar, the movie Sophia is watching floating through ceilings and walls, happy-sounding dialogue, punchy music.
How I let everybody down, how I crawl back, obfuscating any effective healing with performative penance.
Early tricks, moves we made that worked but don’t any longer. Bittersweet drying in moonlight.
But what?
The apple tree asks why we we never made love and I smile happily, grateful for trees that have not forgotten how to talk.
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Beyond the Ability to Harm

Chainsaws drone a couple yards over, voices now and again rising to give directions. With difficulty, the writing is put aside. Last week the last Monarch butterfly rested in the spud garden while I dug up half a dozen rows, its wings slowly drying in the slow-rising sun. There are neither secrets nor mysteries, only games we play and conditions we agree to forget. Remember that! My heart is a Love Boat re-run, no better way to say it. Cinnamon raisin bread toasted with butter alongside hot tea. Ham dinners at the Congregational Church which we never attend, being given to something quieter, less social. I am passing beyond the ability to harm you, for which I am most grateful. Wind in the hemlocks, rain falling amid falling maple leaves. All this! A love letter one’s life becomes, late and unexpected, the familiar grace getting more so all the time.

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Mirrors Our Minds can Be

Late October graves. Who will tell us how long the dead must hang before their bodies can be claimed. Leaves falling, apples rotting in wet grass. A sudden craving for Christmas decorations, moonlight on snow, the magnetic clarity of brandy, toy trains endlessly running. The Hall of Mirrors our minds can be. How certain of the dead were touched by frost before they could be buried. River notes. Notes to the dead, once elaborately written in crayon, are now hasty I love yous scratched with whatever pen or pencil was at hand. One is never not asking how Emily Dickinson handled this or that interior way station. No wind but a cold like the inside of iron. Tom McGrath poems at the wedding, one of the last times I knew the audience. Crows flying against the wind, high up, their cries a kind of warning. All these languages barely remembered! Going outside at dusk to listen for the river, that moment in darkness when its song is restored to the world. 

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Atop the Low Hill Sighing with Happiness

Mist rises in the meadow. Translucence is angelic and always has been, I can say that now. Wedge of moon right where I left it.
Time to take down the scarecrows. The blind horse stumbles more these days, which we wonder is it winter coming or is something new going wrong. A phone ringing which you cannot find, though your searching grows increasingly frantic – that nightmare.
One day I will just leave, easy as a screen door closing in summer. Steam rises off the coffee. It is not that I am haunted but that I am predisposed to haunting.
Say what you want is hard precisely because what you really want is the end of wanting, which is the one thing want won’t let you have. Monasticism is the last prism. It is time to take down the scarecrows – don’t let me forget.
A few stars reminding me it’s cold. I shake my arms after tossing the hay, gold threads sailing off my body into the sky. Dad didn’t mind me suffering physical pain and had no idea at all how to address the not-unrelated existential crisis, hence our shared role in the atonement.
“Baby please don’t go.” We kiss a lot outside, always have, as yesterday at the garden gate, the dusk making everything hard to see, we kissed in the new way we have discovered of kissing, and after walk hand-in-hand to the house – lit up, atop the low hill – , sighing with happiness. On Sundays one sleeps in.
What is carved from quartz and floats above the apple trees singing. There’s something about up but what. 
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Through Deserts Others Insisted I Construct

Frosty morning tossing hay to the horses, sun not yet peeking over hills (on the far side of which Emily Dickinson lived and wrote). Tilting my head so the waning gibbous moon is hidden by the decrepit – yet still fruiting – apple tree. Chickadees singing on a pile of junk wood past the garden. Neighbors exist to remind me my heart is not neighborly, life somewhat resembling a crossword puzzle, one I am determined to finish. Regret and restraint shaping (sometimes violently) one’s sense of what is possible, basically the reason I’m so often in therapy, i.e., help me tell a happier story. My daughter’s paintings everywhere, a sense of world emerging through them that is beautiful but less frail that my own reckoning indicates. Chrisoula asks me to wait on the dump run so she can go with, and so I sit with coffee in the kitchen later than usual, writing sentences (which, unlike lines, are always there to be written). What would a bell do at the bottom of the ocean is not a hard question to answer but in another sense, is impossible to answer. A friend asking me to clarify the blue light to which I respond – oddly almost desperately – place yourself in the presence of blue light and find out. The whole point of childhood was to reach the books of Tolkien, which settled so much of my fear of evil, instantiating a long aimless walk through deserts others insisted I construct which I am only just beginning to understand can end whenever I choose. What I’m saying is, no more penance, no more “not yet but soon.” This heart, it asks for nothing but what can be given away, over and over and over.

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A Flawless God-lit Landscape

North now. Scarecrows tilted in hard winds. At dawn shadows of the marigolds reach the shadows of the sunflower stalks.
And begin.
Driving slower than usual, rehearsing something that my grandmother approves of on behalf of angels who appear to me now with increasing regularity. Melted crayons. Slow-roasted pork. We take tea to the gazebo and sit through dusk, now and then chatting with passers-by, as if a difficult thing were suddenly not.
Smoke rising off local chimneys. They are not ghosts but nor are they human. A sound water makes that pleases us, a light within that consumes all signifiers. A dream of darkness in which snow falls, each cool flake whispering a secret origin story.
Sword-swallowers, glass-eaters, women with beards and children with only passing ideas about who their parents are. Welcome to the Kingdom of the Bereft.
Mountains on the summits of which I’ve kissed a girl. The silent choir, the blue light in my throat illuminating a world.
The Connecticut River a blue braid forever bisecting the wilderness, a seam in a flawless God-lit landscape. Not chaos so much as disorder, driven in part by an internal sense of futility, passivity. Would you like to read a book I think will help?
All the ones who with us wait for a grace the forsaken insist on receiving by degrees.
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Rivering the Cosmos

And when I do die, who will throw rose petals before the coffin as it is born up the street in a horse-drawn wagon? The light in the hemlocks is always new if one is looking carefully enough. I mean, yeah, psilocybin’s great but have you ever tried growing and harvesting your own spuds? Sex when you can’t tell what the other is thinking or whether what you’re doing is working. Sun on the far hills as if it’s been away from us for years or am I only just figuring out sleep. Putting away the guitars.
At midnight I lay down on cool grass in moonlight and ask myself what happened. Remember nonviolence?
All monuments are blind. Male psychology matters but only in certain contexts, most of which are becoming less frequent. Train tracks buried in snow. 
What did you say the mystery was again?
Rewatching the trailer for The Omen which was an early confirmation that my suspicions about evil weren’t wrong. Society, man.
Chrisoula asks why certain bottles on the hay loft window sills are set the way they are and laughs when I tell her it’s beyond what can be explained. Trout gathering into schools, disappearing into a single point of light high up in the Milky Way, that semen-colored spiral stream of stars rivering the cosmos.
A sound tea makes being poured, largely unreplicated since the nineteenth century. Monsters we are, monsters we are becoming, monsters we will never be again. When the sentences are short it’s because they’re being squeezed through a rainy aperture.
Speak, rose bush, and I will do thy bidding.
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Shifts in Both Function and Intention

The next steps are dark ones – shall we take them together?
Night lights, flash lights, floating lights that signify our confusion about the Lord.
Turning to the rain, turning to the wind.
Who is dear. Slowing down at certain curves in the road to gaze into sloping fields in which sunlight rests.
A way of thinking in which Medusa is synonymous with simulacra. On the other hand, not everything needs to be explained. Geese pass, “geese pass” passes, and “‘geese pass’ passes” passes too.
Even to long for liberation is an error. From a distance, muffled voices rise, reminding me of how in winter we often speak into our scarves.
I kept dropping, layer by layer, into ego. Suddenly the story shifts and it’s no longer about witches and sex but angels, salvation and gardens. “Libras are inclusive as fuck.”
Small group dialogue. What is left?
We learn to touch each other a certain way, and as we age, our touching shifts in both function and intention, and this too is a form of love, this too is a mode of desire.
Crushed basil leaves, crushed mint. Finding a way back has been the familiar project of this life. The wanderer, the sine qua non.
Even in apologies, even in apologies.
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All the Dead Pigs

What else is prismatic slowly became the realization that everything was prismatic if you looked at it right. Hemlock trees in cold rain. Glass bottles full of polished quartz and amethyst. Fewer and fewer mornings writing while the coffee goes cold and more mornings holding the coffee in both hands, gazing into space as if a window somewhere were about to open. Crayon angels slip through the gaps, telling lies about the trinity. We who were keen once on psychedelics, for whom the world was malleable and only amenable to brief moments of clarity. She runs the shower and I picture her leaning, then play the games of memory: when did we last shower together? We gained a lot of control over temperature and speed through the years, which control is related to the assertion – not made enough in my opinion – that Buddhism is not the answer. One rolls through stormy tides of sleep, waking over and over to various stages of moonlight. Regret over all the dead pigs. Prayer as distraction, prayer as denial. Days pass before the stomach pain passes, a reminder that “eating out” – really any meal not originating in the garden – is no longer feasible. Slowing down where Montgomery Mountain crests in order to search the foggy fields for deer, that happiness. While something maternal awakens, rearranges the calendar, and orders all ships to sea. Oh this watercolor life, oh these soft pastels against which the awful guns of childhood were finally beaten to plowshares.
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All in on Turtles

If you look you will notice trees growing, softly expanding into space. I find a handmade ceramic turtle at the take-it-or-leave-it shed, I take it, I am all in on turtles, I always have been. How in the middle of the night one wakens and decides to go to sleep again. Making love on marble, slaughtering pigs on marble, arguing about the nature of reality on marble. The ghost of Socrates alive in each of us. Fallen maple leaves so dense not a single blade of grass is visible. We meet in the garden to discuss the final harvest, and agree the flowers must all be allowed to remain, for however deeply we are lost in October, the bees are with us still. Imagine no longer relegating madness to the attic anymore. These bodies are like churches, political movements, like history even. Narrative is a container into which we pour and out of which we spill. All the dead, they wrap around me like a blanket.
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