A Child Between Winter Stars

Everything revolves around the blind horse it seems. Even time has this specifically gentle way of being utterly still in moonlight. A space makes a stanza, a silence makes a poem.
Here are the hemlocks, which are like my grandfathers smoking cigarettes and drinking whiskey, professing confused ideals about their Irish heritage. If I could ascend, I would, but I’m stuck here praying that the mountains will be lifted up. Going down on her in the warm pantry, one of her hands on the back of my head, the other against her mouth, muffling moans and come cries. 
Yet another invitation to read tarot cards for profit which, much like poetry and prayer, I have so far avoided doing. The dogs recede a little in death, as from time to time in life they did as well, going farther off the trail than I could manage. You would be surprised I’m sure by how much blood is in a pig.
Grace begets more grace. Friends who died young, mostly from drinking and/or driving too fast, and how I didn’t understand how to be sad at their funerals. She put her hand on my cheek in a way I remember.
Sure, go ahead, call it love, in the end that’s all anything is anyway. The connection I made one night as a child between winter stars and frozen gravel and how sad I am that it will probably die when I die, unless reading this you are somehow able to make the connection too. You develop a certain attitude about question marks and commas and then talk about them at apparently odd times, people looking at you like who invited this asshole to the party?
Playing piano again, just a little in the afternoon when I don’t feel like opening a guitar case, those notes that always reminded me of sailboats out past the harbor. I remember on the shores of Lake Champlain, turning our backs on the wind to get high. Ghosts are not dead is about the best way to put it, unless you put it that the dead are not ghosts.
It’s not really poetry so much as a sickness trying to heal itself with words. Who doesn’t fear snakes.
Categorized as Sentences

Travelers Parted By a River

Waking before the crows wake, while the rooster still dreams. In the family bible, custodianship of which fell to me, are several dried roses in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians which nobody can account for. What Jonathan calls “spiritual condoms.”
Though driving through the city in early November after dark does make one rethink their indifference to holiday decorations. The skin on the back of my hands grows thin and wrinkly, and my father weeps in the dusk he now inhabits. Who needs a comma? 
Commence! We fight wars, we build walls, but we can also change. The woman behind the counter selling weed was puzzled by my ineptitude, a somewhat new feature of my relationship with the collective.
Mice scratching in the hay loft walls, the one heater rattling. Coffee is what my brain is not disappointed by. On the other hand, it’s projections all the way down.
Everybody wants a lover who wants what they want, but what I want is peace, and the lover who brings it forth in me does not have a body. I remember telling Denise I liked a good sneeze as much as coming and she said, “so next time I’ll bring pepper.” Zen Buddhists abound.
Early snowfall, the potato garden spackled. Chrisoula’s loneliness grows in rough tandem with my own, it’s like we’re travelers parted by a river we’re unaware you’re allowed to cross. Or else what indeed.
Sophia and I both laughing at “well well well if it isn’t the bridge I said I’d cross when I got to it.” It’s happening again, isn’t it.
Categorized as Sentences

In Terms of Fairy Tales

Trembling driving away from where we gave the guns away. Such a beautiful terrible childhood, one understood mainly in terms of fairy tales. Sunlight on the hemlocks, a cold that seems to begin inside you.
Mornings when there isn’t enough coffee. Watching Charlie Chaplin videos. I remember the 1970s, and know the specific peril posed by nostalgia, and yet.
Let us not be apocalyptic. At night I sit quietly on the back stairs and listen to the river and look at the stars and remember I have been doing this for at least ten thousand years. We are mostly what our limits are.
How hard the story tries to find a victim, and how willingly I acquiesce. Gravel in the driveway freezes as winter comes on and at night I find myself on my knees seeking whatever light hides there. Bob Dylan albums I postponed listened to in order to have a lifetime of new Bob Dylan music, a goal he has consistently neatly confounded. 
Roald Dahl’s story about Danny and his father, a loveliness that even as a child I could hardly bear. Many mouth injuries, many broken limbs. And will you say when the last goddess comes to kiss you good night forever “thank you?”
Unable to sleep, unwilling to get out of bed I simply lay in the darkness and think about the pasture behind our first house in Worthington. Nobody builds an altar who actually understands what an altar is. Voices the mushrooms use are angels who use the mushrooms to reach me through the dense fog of confusion and pain that is mostly my mind.
Left alone to wake up. Even now, even now.
Categorized as Sentences

Fire Rather than Smoke

Sharp light bleeding off the edges of clouds themselves sinking like tired oxen into leafless hills. There is no cooperation without at least the illusion of the other. Blue prayer beads my wife bought in Greece before we met, a sorrow for me, brightly-lit.
We are compositions, seamlessly integrated into the composer’s heart. Ask what you see when you are not using your eyes but your mind. Stars wheeling through the sky, now and then trailing off like milky dust.
I walk two hours up Main Street and into Plainfield, the cold become as still as the interior of a stone, flakes of snow drifting through the dark like planets. Spirals, spelling errors, Spanish lessons. How as a child I longed to break open quartz rocks to find the pure light, unmarred by contact with the world.
Blurred minds. We are fire rather than smoke, crackling above fast-disappearing logs, ash always a symbol of what we long for. What helps?
What happened? Reflections of Christimas lights in windows facing the pasture and river. Early maps of Cape Cod.
Loose folds of skin around her throat, stretching as she lifts her head in anger, a familiar look and way of being that’s older than I am. How in my early twenties I would spend hours painting my guitar case – crosses, rainbows, flowers, furling galaxies, soap bubbles. At dusk the horse whinnies half-heartedly, less demanding and more just checking does his voice still work.
Creaking clothesline as laundry is brought in. But this is not a story, is it.
Categorized as Sentences

Closer to Murder than Not

Travelers are subject to clouds. Between the mountain and the summit of the mountain there is nothing but a journey. We are antiquated, discarded like old calendars, we are made of what nobody wanted anyway.
Hand-painted rocks on the shelf by Sylvia Plath’s three books, making me smile briefly, before slipping into the specifically intimate sadness I feel about all suicides. It rains off and on but the horses don’t care. Speaking of which, I’m leaning into adjectives now, damn the many teachers who tried to counsel me otherwise.
Other ways? Jeremiah and I debate the merits of buying a car, but my heart is only halfway into it, as it’s his life and money, and I won’t love him differently either way. Pumpkin pie with vanilla ice cream.
The abiding interest in Socrates, even as a little boy, how his name danced on the tongue like a hot little tri-syllabic knife. We do not die and believing otherwise is a cognitive error that’s stubborn as a fucking rooster. Talking for a few minutes with a stranger heading to the river, rod in hand, remembering all the fish I killed over the years, and choking back my “good luck,” praying silently after that as nice a man as he was, the fish confound and deprive him.
What do dead kings say when they meet at the bottom of the ocean? The moon is before me, the color of the peonies whose yearly blooming feels closer to murder than not. Wordiness goes farther than sight, every single time.
How she tilts her head coming, eyes squeezed shut. On the wall of the hay loft where I write are half a dozen rosaries and handmade necklaces. Place a small rock beneath your tongue and watch stars flicker in the early absence of light in November: I will join you in ways that are mysterious and intimate, better than sex, finer than prayer, and darker than the interior of that stone in your mouth.
We talk about mood swings and all the while I keep remembering that pendulum I saw in some Washington D.C. museum some woman insisted swung only because the earth was turning, and I longed more than anything to hold it – make it still – and let it rest, i.e., projecting even then. Carrying my grandmothers with me, trying to get past doom in a way they insist – when they visit – is possible.
Categorized as Sentences

Threading a Fine Needle

And in the end, did you actually gain a prism? Morning skies in November, mist blurring the jagged line of hills to the north. One is lost when one is looking at a map – there is nothing else to say.
Lambs at dawn. Cardinals sharing a hemlock limb, an image I offer to those for whom such images are helpful. Foxes pass through the pasture, looking neither left nor right.
Walking through the village around ten p.m., tired and bothered by family haunts, letting what will slough off slough off, and noticing all the televisions in all the houses, all set to different channels. Michael was right all along it turns out. Folding flannel sheets, carrying them upstairs, setting them on the bed for later.
Misunderstanding communion. Falling asleep on the couch, waking to find the house shadowed and quiet, a couple of cats resting beside me. The hinge where one’s thigh becomes something intimate, soulful.
Let us now give thanks in the way we have learned to give thanks! Kneeling to scrub the floorboards, scent of vinegar rising, reminding me of something difficult from childhood. Threading a fine needle for the Lord, indeed.
Mindfulness. Like a resurrected zombie I stumble out of the wasp’s nest and cry out in praise to the one who raises all the dead from their slumber. The river where it turns, the harvested cornfield beyond.
Or else what, was the question I was never able to get to, as they could never stop with the threat, but always had to follow through immediately. How soft and quiet the back yard is in the morning before anyone is awake, just me and the horses reminding one another we’re still here.
Categorized as Sentences

The Beautiful Loneliness of Burlington, Vermont

Dumping coffee grounds in the compost. One is grateful for fires, and the gift of knowing how to make them. What is the horizon but our shared ecstasy at realizing at last there are no limits? 
Venus floats perfectly silent in darkness above the village church, inviting me to rethink my obsession with family demon dance parties. Christmas cactus on the shelf above the sink blooming in a modest way, unlike both my grandmothers. Whatever you insist upon will become the fulcrum on which your prayer for salvation balances.
Water boiling for tea, the kettle rattling a little as people enter the kitchen, the day at last a collective beginning. Reinvigorated rosary prayers. Descendents of the chickens I have killed to eat do not plot against me.
Once again waking up in an Irish dolmen. My body grew foreign and what was living declined to be contained by, limited by it, and I was frightened but also happy to have found at last the narrow path. Shall we kneel to peer through the keyhole?
Tiny pumpkins, mole-gnawed potatoes. Jeremiah makes savory oatmeal with sausage, only grunting when asked what spices he’s using. Rain falls, turns to snow, and I remember again the beautiful loneliness of Burlington, Vermont.
Never hasten to “amen!” Driving west an hour or so after dawn, mistaking fallen leaves blowing across the highway for small animals in need of attention. Dried apples and blueberries and other signifiers of the end of hardship.
We shuffle on and eventually up, even off the windswept mountain. Those stars promising us we have been here before. 
Categorized as Sentences

We are Happy Lingering

Writing under cosmos hung to dry in the kitchen, the sentences slow but fluid, like Bronson Brook in the middle of summer. We are all antiques.
Certain books – A Course in Miracles, Ascent to the Depth of the Heart, John’s Gospel – so full of book marks it makes you rethink reading altogether. Women with whom we are happy lingering, talking about nothing in particular as night falls around us.
Tiny ferns near the back porch stairs encased in frost, lovely in a paleolithic way. The many ways in which our minds receive and offer Venus.
She undresses near the door, gazing at me in a way that means I cannot take my eyes off her eyes, each article of clothing folded and set on the dresser, the moments extending into a single unified infinity, her nakedness entirely peripheral to the power of the shared gaze on which she insists – which she creates – and in which I realize at last and with utter clarity that we are none of us bodies. Pan-fried trout at dusk and other old joys.
Half a dozen Macintosh apples in a wooden bowl on the counter, reminding me that in a past life I painted watercolor still lifes, and made a decent living until a late affair with a neighbor taught me that life is not actually still. Invisible angels pray at the lake, their voices a low melodic hum you have always wanted to hear. 
Flu shot season. Cold brown rice with half a dozen dolmathes for lunch.
We drive into Northampton talking about family, holidays, cannabis and money. The afternoon passes roasting a turkey which, when finished, I am uninterested in actually eating.
That juncture where you realize no form will ever truly satisfy – will never bring you the peace and creative freedom for which you long – and the humility and willingness that become you then. Both horses whinnying at dusk.
Chiseling ice off the windshield, waiting for Chrisoula to uncover the kale so we can drive to the transfer station. The way that we forge relationships never changes, and in this is a clue to what we are in truth.
And how after – when she had fallen to sleep – my body grew still and rock-like, exactly as my father’s had in death – and I saw the way it was merely an aperture through which living passed, perfectly beautifully neutral. You tell the mushrooms you’re done, it’s over, no more, and the mushrooms form an interior chorus somewhere near the center of your right shoulder and gently sing their well-known hymn We’ll Be The Judge Of That.
Categorized as Sentences

Women Who Tell Stories

Imagine green dragons in soaring flight over Ireland – near the coasts I imagine – and the women who tell stories about them. 
Morning breathing, silver and cloud-like, coils of steam unfurling in November cold.
A future of which I am afraid.
The dialogue extends to how we are – and are not – extending Catholic Worker values in our living and whether thinking this way is helpful with respect to undoing our reliance on the oppressor.
You are not your zip code.
Soft lights on the horizon at mid-morning, oddly reminiscent of Florida coral, confusing my sense of latitude. 
A sort of spiritual agility.
Men who look up when they talk – at the sky, nearby buildings, tops of trees, the moon cresting the far hills – anywhere to avoid meeting your eyes. 
Oh you bet I remember Milkshake candy bars.
That phase of living which requires walking in the dark further and further, shedding something, becoming lighter in a literal – a seeing-in-the-dark – kind of way.
When I drew disembodied figures in the margins of meeting notes, what was I seeing, what was I trying to bring forth?
Bear tracks in the first snow on the south-facing hill.
Echoes in the town hall setting up for mass and town meeting. 
There is now a longing to return to church, to experience again the beautiful confusion of a brokered holiness – the sacraments, the rituals, the vestements and the light in those glorious windows.
A deference to blue which one takes increasingly seriously as they age. 
Here was supposed to be a long sentence including the phrase “songs about trains” but it did not come together in the way I had hoped, so this will have to do. 
Cauliflower florets fried to a crisp, drenched with bbq sauce, and then we all eat them standing, pretending they’re chicken wings.
Tell me: what in your mind most resembles a recipe and have you actually followed it?
The meaning of one or two Latin terms, indeed.
Categorized as Sentences

Once Upon a Time You Wondered

Snow appears – high in the gray clouds over the flattened landscape – and I do not recognize my children.
Photos my mother cherishes, others that disappear, which she denies disappearing.
Bright red leaves on the neighbor’s bushes across Main Street, intimating divine outreach, as if the angels were giving up on symbolism and just being plants. 
Patterns on highways, patterns in grass at the park where in morning I jog, muttering to myself about what went wrong in childhood.
Dangling modifers indeed.
Wind in the hemlocks, loosening tiny cones. 
I remember resting in tall grass. The lake spreading blue depths away from the cliff. What is utter.
What is lost, what is found. What does it mean to ask questions in writing, not because you want an answer but only to remember that once upon a time you wondered.
Decorative crucifixes made by hand in Jerusalem by old women for whom money is not the point. 
Wishing again. Following salmon downstream again.
Jeremiah pan fries the trout over an open fire – lots of onions and slivered potatoes – singing Tom Petty songs, his breath in the air a silver cloud I would make into jewelry and wear unto my grave, were such a thing possible.
Confusion again. The interior passages are untraveled mostly, yet this new lamp I am given makes a new journey possible. One is riddled – literally – with a desire for desires.
How I pleaded not to be hit and was hit anyway, over and over and over. Gifts that in the shadows look like something else.
Categorized as Sentences