Friday, December 31, 2021

The Mother of All Queens

This Luciferian tongue, this taste for salt and fire.

This home outside the cave.

So it's a story not a promise then?

Landslides ruining familiar passage, forcing us into scary detours.

While in another sense, my heart is an angel's heart, and my body a boy's just trying its wings on an empty beach. 

Snow blurs the only map left, mutes our voices as we hike deeper into the swamp where my father first threatened to leave me for dead.

Deeps we pretend are deeper than they are.

The Fluorescent Telepathic Octopus is the mother of all queens, including you.

Bluebirds in late November, a troubling loveliness notwithstanding the sentence prior to the sentence prior. 

That fucking basket floated in muddy reeds a long time before it became a manger then a hospital on fire in Burlington, Vermont.

At critical junctures he did not hold me, being deprived of a mother to teach him how, and so now my grandmother has to leave the company of the other shades to try and make clear to me that no matter how hard I try and demonstrate otherwise, I am loved. 

Chrisoula healing us both in and out of the pantry. 

Still Corners' The Trip.

Why do we insist that trauma is not the cause of suffering? And why do we need the one who suffers to be responsible for their suffering by failing to heal their suffering? 

Stop making us watch the water for signs of monsters coming up from the graves to which you consigned them - this is not our war.

We sleep on wasp eggs now. 

At night Chrisoula touches my cheek and murmurs, "ghosts are feelings you're still scared to feel." 

Ways in which there is only one kiss.

Something we are together, even though one of us doesn't know it yet.

Thursday, December 30, 2021

Weary Dogs (are Never too Weary)

Wanted to be Dylan, ended up a poor man's Gordon Lightfoot. Something the shallows can teach us about skimming, something the deep teaches us about standing a long time on shore. Whose container are you now? Years later marveling at how I didn't die, the sun so bright I went mostly blind. "You know that ghost is me." You think something is moving in the corner but nothing is moving in the corner. We pause on the bridge, watching water pass in moonlight below us, one hand tightening in the other. As if? It's true, you know - we get everything we want and it's not what we want. The desert crosses interior oceans to rest in our shared heart, sort of like how weary dogs are never too weary to keep an eye on those they love. Falling in love again, miserably. In winter the prism is everywhere, is why winter. Some women don't know you're alive, some men wish you weren't. You get to a point where there aren't any good arguments left and then what? At dusk I drive home, fulfilling my part in a vast ancestral narrative. Nothing left to win, nothing left to lose. Hemlocks in my skull tattoo the sky with prayers only She can read. 

Wednesday, December 29, 2021

Around a Big Fire

We meet at the back fence to discuss an informal cannabis cooperative, exhausted with how readily corporations steal what heals us. This world is not your father's world, it's closer to your great-great-grandfather's world. I put the music aside - Liszt's Von der Wiege bis zum Grabe - and try to make sense of the order inhering in snow falling. When he cried I slammed his head into the steering wheel. Her yellow shirt falling in - oh Christ, not that again. What do you say we all meet at a remote campground in Maine, eat a bunch of mushrooms, dance around a big fire, see what else the Miracles of Jesus have in mind for us? In those days you had to figure out alone what "faggot" meant. Mirrors need a light source and boys who have to save themselves need dictionaries. By not making sense in ways I'd come to expect, Gertrude Stein loosened certain bolts in my skull. A nightmare featuring snakes swallowing toads, hungry witches, Robert Frost poems and Newsweek articles about Gary Gilmore. She watches me cry from across the room - everybody backing away, nobody helping - whispering in me "go deeper into the grief." Look at all these prisms! Look at how easily that crucifix became something beautiful. This woman saying gently in the Country of Grandmothers: begin.

Tuesday, December 28, 2021

Five Shots of Whiskey

All but three of the poets who changed my life are dead now. This sentence arose in trance. Touches that indicate later more intimate touches are forthcoming. My uncles and cousins meet at the bottom of the sea, wreckage all around them, mocking my efforts to reach them, knowing that my destiny is sky. Something in us that won't give up, keeps trying to make it all better, damn what the void and common sense point out. Five shots of whiskey left in this life, five more mornings without Her. Imagine baking a pie in such a way that the birds inside it are alive and still remember how to fly! How fast my father killed things and how only now that he's dead do I understand what he was trying to not remember. The One Mind is not always full of blessings! We shit the bed dying, we puke our guts out in the back yard, we go to work and get it done, we aren't complainers. Oh hey, look at the pretty snow falling, listen to the river murmuring in the distance. I'm in you in the way you said you wanted, now use me.

Monday, December 27, 2021

The Hammer of the World

And just like that the basilica comes down around us. She led me by the hand away from the village into a grove of olive trees and we made love in hot dust, birds I'd never heard before rustling above us in the twilight. Jesus visits to say gently he's happy to get nailed to the cross again - will it help et cetera - and when I say importantly "brother we are finished with that evil now" he smiles and points to my right hand in which - but how - the hammer of the world is poised to drive yet another nail into that famous body. The storm comes on slowly, rain then snow, then tiny gems of ice tumbling across the back porch roof. You could be happy with less. I remember a picture of my mother when she was eighteen on the wall in Nana's last apartment and something awful in me makes a sucking sound, like a body being drawn from mud. As if? One hand on the shelf on which the pinto beans we grew this summer are stored, the other gently cupping her chin. Number of women I remember kissing on a Vermont river: five! We think we're too special to die is the problem and it follows us literally everywhere. Meanwhile, deeper in the forest, Grandmother wakes the great bear and betrays your grandfather. Oh this bitter salt, this humbucker heart. Face buried in the holy fur, tongue praying the only prayer it knows. This family you undo in me kesidca, this dream of being finished swimming in pools of blood and semen. 

Sunday, December 26, 2021

Virgins Wandering Around with Buckets of Yak Milk

Look at her looking at the camera and ask what she recognizes if not you gazing back from a visitor's gallery in the Utah State Prison. Iron gates closing, books flying off library shelves. Oh relax, the nineteenth century will not be done with us for another couple hundred years. War is coming, the very crucifixion you dread the most is coming, i.e., not liking what's next has arrived. Coffee with cocoa and cinnamon, the kids playing Christmas music baking. There is a loss in me that sometimes reaches my throat - not unlike a snake or a ribbon - a spiral whose ascent never reaches my clenched jaws. Welcome to my education? You don't have to tell me the blind horse is more than just a symbol, I'm the one living in his eye socket! Sucking dick in a Ford Scorpio at the far end of the Alewife parking lot, drunk and in the void. We are not the only ones with secrets! But this is neither a poem nor an apology, nor - actually - a history. I chased the witch from my dream into the earth, went in after her, and came to the stillness of right before the the cosmos is born. Stars in the east, virgins wandering around with buckets of yak milk. Sure, whatever, go ahead, begin.

Saturday, December 25, 2021

Wounds with Grace

All night I was saved by voices in my head that like to play with words. I remember her last apartment, this woman whose anger I was created to heal. Look at the chickadees giving glory to God! 

The hemlocks are set in such a way that dawn and not dusk fills them with light. Fuck forethought, am I right? A woman whose gaze has traveled all the way to the summit of Kilimanjaro, whose songs circle the earth, binding every one of its wounds with grace. 

What else is "part of being human?" Listening to Fleetwood Mac, wondering what Thérèse thought of dance. I shall not continue to deny my perfect imperfection! 

Go your own way indeed. Chrisoula and I stay up until nearly four a.m., talking about our grandparents, their sleeping habits, and their grandparents, who are lost to us. Theora asks why I always get and give head in the pantry and I anwer it's obviously a critical living out of the connection between hunger and sustenance, no? 

One longs for the peace that comes from knowing what they are in truth, which they already know but expertly hide. Nobody broke me in a final sense but goddamn there's a lot of hurt in here. Look at all the separated ones auditioning to be the One!

Recovering the truth is like telling a story but also like understanding the story already being told and somewhat paradoxically consenting to live the story which - in a way I cannot really explain, probably because I'm wrong about it - has to do with being destroyed. Firestone wasn't stupid so why didn't he take the last step? The shirt to which I refer was yellow and still floats in that Albany motel where every guest sees it in their dreams and wakes up afraid of the void.

Firestone writes " . . . most people reject, manipulate or control their environment to avoid personal interactions that would contradict or disprove their early conceptions of reality" (43). Troublemakers of the world unite!

Friday, December 24, 2021

Forever Falling through the Cosmos

The earth turns away from the sun, the sun forever slipping away beyond the Taconics. The moon is a bundle of clouds. The Christmas cacti are blossoming, they look right now like pursed lips, teasing a future kiss.

Truth is so pure, like melted amethyst, like our love before either of us were born. My uncles and cousins drink at the bottom of the sea somewhere off the coast of Rhode Island, forgetting me as our shared mother insists they must. This is not darkness - this is another way the light appears.

When the petal fell off the poinsetta Eleanore left as a going away gift it seemed to call for a poem and yet I resisted the impulse, holding the petal in mind - seeing it fall - and thus know it falls forever through the cosmos, like Denise's yellow shirt in that Albany motel. We joke via text about Doritos, sex in the shower, fudge recipes and our tax returns. It's reflections all the way down - did nobody ever to tell you?

At a distance voices that have no gender but are clearly happy. A way that cities appeared in the 1970s when I was looking with eyes that had yet to declare their allegiance to prerogative. On the other hand, maybe it would be nice to fuck another woman.

Whiskey shakes. I pause as always after throwing morning hay to the horses, letting them know I love them, checking the fence lines and the sky. We are like molds through which quicksilver flows, we are like whatever the molten metal poured through on its way to becoming a mold for the quicksilver.

Moonlight at three a.m., wandering through the pasture to the town park, sitting on a swing and floating a little, happy and amazed that such gifts are still given, the world the way it is. Days pass without word and one grows quieter, going deeper into an interior landscape for which no map or fellow traveler has ever proved sufficient. The things one misses when one is attentive mostly to sentences.

Sorrows, solaces. I mean going back to bed for once, letting suffering go.

Thursday, December 23, 2021

Capitulating Near Dawn

A petal falls off one of Eleanore's poinsettas. Years pass. In Albany my heart broke, ever after in need of suturing, and yet I would undo none of it, not even the yellow shirt nor the cheap motel in which it floats forever. How lonely one can be at Christmas! The moon half full, somewhere off to the west, pulling with it many seas and rivers. We are all mountains capitulating. Near dawn an octopus waits for me by the hemlock trees, a loveliness undulating I accept on my knees. We can in so many ways fly and do! Moonlight in early December renders the whole earth a cathedral, and one passes through it both wondrous and grateful. You are not forgotten but nor are you precisely remembered. Eden becomes Purgatory, Purgatory a city you visited as a child, and the child a confused but not unhappy man. The envelope is closing - you must choose quickly to leap inside or out! A storm coming, a bad one, whispering to me in a language I am sure to one day learn. 

Wednesday, December 22, 2021

My Loneliness is Nothing at All

I write hastily - shitty coffee, Jeremiah making breakfast, cat on the table. When we want to run, is it towards or away? Nontrivial questions that it turns out are trivial, my attention about as sharp as soft butter these days. And yet always "and yet."

Bittersweet encircling the second-oldest apple tree grows dull as temperatures climb in unseasonable ways. Conversations about ice-skating to pass the time, mind ranging - skating perhaps - over half a dozen memories of skating, each moving me further away from all frozen surfaces. How much of our childhood reflects our parents' experience of childhood! I prefer mittens to gloves unless I am working and even then.

We are bound to repetition in ways reach beyond our narrow sense of "self." I write "desert" - and it's the right word - and yet there are oceans hiding somewhere, happy to be noticed, not needing to be chosen for this or another poem. When Rilke felt his rhythms go slack he started sleeping on the floor, and James Joyce often sat in the backs of Catholic churches across Europe, thinking God knows what. What is the moon but clouds embracing?

Jogging past the village into darkness thinking about bears and trout and what it means to be hungry. Stars are not lonely yet sometimes when I watch them alone - the vast celestial landscape against which my loneliness is nothing at all - I wonder if maybe they're lonely. City traffic. Somebody mentions their dog in a conversation I'm not even part of and I start gasping and choking back sobs, have to leave the room, wander outside to where I think nobody will go and curse certain ghosts and allow certain others to come close enough for whatever thin comfort in my grief I know to offer. 

There is only ever truth and the winding roads of which it is comprised. "God is in all things" is a way to see it, but "there are no things" is better, and God is beyond the reach of language but - Wittgenstein notwithstanding - you and I shall speak of Him, and all things shall be made luminous thereby. Kisses at a late juncture in order to learn that time is beside the point. Damn but that manger filled up fast!

Tuesday, December 21, 2021

Lewis Powell on the Gallows

What, in the end, were we thinking? The radiators hiss kicking in and something inside me near the shoulder buckles then straightens, possibly Lewis Powell on the gallows, by all acounts stoic to the end. Pushing aside so much in order to make room to sleep, or try to sleep, or pretend to sleep. In this story I chase a witch into the floorboards and beyond into mossy earth, both of us dissolving like salt in dark waters that birth no light (as if only without us is a prism prismatic). It's not a secret but on the other hand one does love to have a secret doesn't one. Windows through which hope passes, sunlight filtering through the village, pies cooling on windowsills, atomic bombs as yet unimaginable. Somebody wants to argue about God again but for once it won't be with me. Lemon-scented letters arriving almost every day now, the return address hard to make out but a little clearer each time. She kisses me jacking me off, a sweetness - something hidden coming to light - the hitch in her breath while my back arches more precious than fire. Quartz was a trap, I see it now. At night I stand beneath the stars and rehearse an old prayer, the one you taught me lifetimes ago. Between crucifixions, shall we begin?

Monday, December 20, 2021

Distances that Surprise Me

Mornings with the blind horse I try not to lose track of my grief but let it rise, tidal and clear, a Herkimer diamond in starlight. I buy Chrisoula a hand-made tea mug for Christmas, the artist and I talking after outside his studio about the old days, our sense that for all our particular collective gained, we've lost something too. Cold winds off the mountain, leaving the village darker. Who needs old men? My uncle used to sail for days, drinking and smoking, snorting cocaine, until lost and out of drugs he had to call the Coast Guard to bring him back to land. Always ask who is paying, always be aware that sometimes the answer is you, you are paying. Bleary with fatigue and the effort of not drinking (and confused by all the voices at the party) I start crying remembering an Irish Setter dead for fifty years and everybody in the room looks away, embarrassed. In the mailbox is a new life, isn't that what you always wanted? The clothesline groans as we haul it in, everything stiff with frost. Her voice recognizable at distances that surprise me. Sex at various junctures, strange women and familiar, real and imagined, all of it always opening lines of dialogue that spiral into the cosmos, wordy and luminous filaments of love. Losing myself in you, losing the church in you, wandering a long time in you wondering will anybody save me. Is now when I remember it's not a crime against God or nature to lay down, get quiet, die.

Sunday, December 19, 2021

Something I have not yet Learned to Give

Moonlight on the river, a thousand hemispheres floating through the night. The first time a woman took my balls in her mouth, how I thought about them differently for days after. Soft clouds at dusk, Mount Greylock jutting rock-like into the sky. When you were young, what promises did you make that you did not keep, and what is that child saying in you, in the corners to which you have banished her? Pine cones around the chicken pen, tracks of feral cats. Fewer and fewer hayfields and other losses I opt to mentally catalog, to what end who knows. I miss Worthington, have always missed Worthington, and in so other many ways am never not in Worthington. Little babies keeping secrets in baskets floating through reeds. You have all these ideas about Jesus and then somebody looks at you sideways and every mailbox you ever swallowed starts spitting rocks and sawdust. Christmas decorations on the porch, ads tacked to phone poles for missing cats. Would you lean, would you kneel, would you swallow. I write "desert" and stop, wondering why in my mind I see oceans, how soft and beautiful the sea is when you're out of sight of land, each swell a continent, full of light and grace. Proving Machado wrong, a step I did not expect to take. My mother's mother visits often now, occupying the same corner of the bedroom as the rest of the dead, but unlike them she does not speak, only stares at me, as if waiting for something I have not yet learned to give. I always sit to remove my belt, I learned this way of being clear with respect to power. Saint Jude pray for us indeed.

Saturday, December 18, 2021

Filling the Heavens with Dreams

That's too much light for one face, I think, putting away the photograph for the ten thousandth time and turning back to my reading (Firestone's The Self Under Seige). The old trestle table rocking in the hay loft while I pick up and put down my coffee, a good brother, an old friend. Chrisoula folds laundry in the pantry and I lean in the doorway to watch, neither of us speaking but looking up as she folds the ________________,, smiling at each other. So war is coming, so what, we've survived worse, is one way to see it. At night like a few other men in our tribe of confused peace-makers I go outside and star gaze, dizzy and stumbling, filling the heavens with dreams of the end of conflict. People say the stones on my desk are pretty, and I explain how moving them a little calms me. One's life shrinks and then suddenly expands, waves rolling over the sand, darkening it to the color of a certain kind of shadow. I understand that the first image is the self, and all else a recursion, a complex idea until you see at last there is no first image (and thus no death). You had to be smart and you had to protect yourself, stop pretending kids have choices. Remember yesterday that cardinal swooping across the road to alight in snowy bracken? My brother, my killer, my savior? I tell you - She tells me - we do not have to live this way.

Friday, December 17, 2021

On the Banks of a River Somewhere in Vermont

I am falling again. Kissing her on the banks of a river somewhere in Vermont, tasting the pinprick night that hides in all things. Not this god but another? All night it rains and three times I travel outside to check on the horses, coming in each time comfortless. Remember records skipping. What did she think in those last hours, did she know this time was it? Adrienne Rich on Ethel Rosenberg, reminding me a good man stops what a bad man says must go on. Attention drifts, rose petals drying in bible pages, evidence that somewhere in the past are stories that can save us. I remember crossing the river on slippery rocks, one after the other, "each making possible the next," refusing all hands, and reaching the other side in a light that grew dim but never went out. In the dream a crow brushes my face with its wings wakening the crystaline stillness that is the center of all things. Your Highness, sweetheart, your worship.

Thursday, December 16, 2021

How to be the Other's Servant

Abraham looking at the stars and worrying about sheep.

Gods who leave and do not return.

An owl cries and I remember that week in Vermont reading John Haines, wanting to like him better than I did, and realizing there was something to learn in the dislike and wanting, and learning it. 

At night I walk through snow to the river past the horses so later I can write "at night I walk through snow to the river past the horses."

Ma's mother just wanted to be happy and forty years later a little boy had to figure out how to live in a dark basement and I have not really slept since 1987 when the dreams began. 

Mandolin notes floating through summer evenings, love letters a grandson finds tucked into the family bible, and death sentences, always death sentences.

The second solo in Comfortably Numb.

In a dream, John the Baptist laughs at me trying to remember everything lest it all happen all over again, saying "Sean, it's all always happening, that's what he couldn't see, throwing his body against a wheel that's never not grinding." 

Jason interrupts to ask me to stop using the word "demon" and then says quietly, "yeah, sorry, I know."

Let us learn again how to be the other's servant.

Remember sex in the fallout shelter her Dad built?   

I remember coming home from painting houses and getting high in a little apartment in Burlington, listening to Dylan and watching fish swim back and forth in tanks both real and imagined.

Each breath a continent as she presses me inside her, gently rocking, the heat of her something electric from high up in the cosmos saying "yes - there - there." 

Nobody scares you like you scare you!

A light goes out of her eyes and I know what happens next and still I stay, saying is there anything else I can do.

Leaning my head against the barn pissing, rain falling on the back of my neck, forwarding an old family story. 

Advent candles leaning in the wreath I made with Fionnghuala.

White chocolate.

Learning early what a photograph could do to me, against which words were a poor army, but going to war anyway, wanting only to live and to stop what it seemed like always had to happen next. 

This anger, it has no gender. 

Wednesday, December 15, 2021

Your Mother Staring at the Christmas Tree

Jesus, too, is illusion. How red the light is in the hemlock trees, four of them left near the chickens, alternately begging and haunting me. Late in life I want a new story about dying, one in which I am not required to hate myself in order to live another day. 

Do you pause between stanzas and if so how long? I remember wanting to kiss a woman on the banks of a river whose name I refuse to remember. Jesus says quietly "I would climb on that cross again for you" and I scream and punch the wall because it's still what I need to hear. 

I don't set traps despite promising to set traps, knowing the mice and rats are getting into the potatoes, yet wanting so badly to be finished killing animals. I read that fucking story ten times ten thousand times before I understood who Pilate was and whose hands were being washed. I remember kissing a woman on the banks of a river in Vermont - a river whose name escapes me - and being briefly perfectly happy.

How bored one becomes! Going outside to piss at midnight, mist rising off piles of snow alongside the barn. You think you're finished with anger and yet here is your mother staring at the Christmas tree you just put up for her and you know you are not done with anger because your mother is not done with anger.

Maybe this hurt is not a mystery? Firestone reframes separation, every sentence a heavy nail against a very familiar cross. In a dream a woman I want to kiss on my knees in a river says quietly "you can't keep taking symptoms to the healing fire, Sean." 

My poor grandmother! Gazes we avoid, gazes we cannot avoid to save our lives. Chrisoula calls to say the kids expect me for Sunday advent dinner and so I appear after many days away, unshaven and unsteady, the interior uncle saying quietly haven't you hurt them enough. 

This is one of the ways it happens apparently, you're not special. Yet another morning with the blind horse, learning this new way of seeing. 

Tuesday, December 14, 2021

The Ten Thousand Mile Gaze

Can we agree that it's late - not too late but late - or will you deprive me of even that small comfort?

Imagine how tired the prodigal was when at last he arrived home, and imagine the nature of his gratitude, and then ask: is this a story about the prodigal or how the prodigal's father learned how to forgive? 

What the magician learned, what the priest learned, what a woman learns who is not consulted but chosen to be a queen, and what I learned by trying over and over and over to choose nothing. 

A therapist, he said, is a storyteller and seeing it that way was helpful for a surprisingly long time.

The wind makes an angry sound high above us, coming down through the valley in early winter, cirling the pasture, ascending and descending, reminding me of the old argument: when does a hand become a fist.

The sentence lengthens, becomes complex, losing itself in itself, and fantasies of a cell somewhere begin to appear again in my mind.

At night in windy sleet howling I guide the blind horse back into the barn, lose a shoe in freezing mud near the door, tumble around in the darkness for what feels like years protecting my toes from the great weight of God.

Photographs haunt me worse than any ghost, noon is the darkest part.

What we don't want to say but must is that I am a mother's son with an awful secret, a gift for talking his way into and out of every room, and a tolerance for physical pain that only in my fifties did I realize wasn't a virtue.

After, the bedroom fills with blue light, angelic and clear, and something in me briefly stops trying to keep track by counting.

Things I was wrong about include labeling the Holy Spirit attention, though a day after realizing this, I wonder again, what am I doing?

A great deal of what appears appears to co-exist with what else appears.

One slips into recursion again, or awareness of recursion maybe, and remembers the early days of discovering the separation was an illusion, not a mystery but a puzzle, one that could be solved, heady days when Dad was still alive and it felt like the cosmos was preparing some grand gesture of welcome, inclusion, ordination.

The mice in winter in the barn are happier than we are: this is not an easy lesson to learn.

The question is, would you accept the gift of total and perfect peace from God if the sole condition was, you will forget about God entirely?

The wedding, the marriage, the infidelity, the suturing, the realizing it's all sutures and always was, and the ten thousand mile gaze still traveling through the galaxy in search of the perfect woman. 

The rank profanity of "it is what it is," which I reject utterly.

Days after her own orgasm Chrisoula reciprocates by giving me head in the pantry, jacking me off at the end, ropy semen shining on her fingers, which she uses to trace and touch my lips, running her palms across my eyes, trailing her hands down my throat, all of it to mark me, bless me, remind me what gifts are and recognize better the Giver.

Between hemlock branches, morning light, last night's snow gone down the river to another town, briefly the end of all loneliness.

Oh it is Advent again, let us put our shoulders into carrying the five loaves and two fishes through the snowy meadow, our whole heart a lantern ablaze in other hearts, starving and merely hungry and otherwise.

Monday, December 13, 2021

On Our Knees in Secret

A scratching in the walls, mice probably, nesting up for winter. Distant holiday lights, as perhaps Bethlehem might appear to certain travelers, or Jerusalem to certain others. I don't bother with candles or the lantern or poetry, just accept the modern age and answer emails, happy as always with any evidence of love. Vast plains in the cosmos are not uninhabited, all of us coupling in ways that don't readily fit into language. Yet Thanksgiving passed quietly, me and the horses alone together, the whole world a child dozing on flannel sheets while adults talk quietly in another room what to do now the war is come. Secrets: did I mention secrets. In a dream I shout about the cosmos waking up to itself in our bodies, and everyone is bored and annoyed, but I wake up hard, breathless, and jack off in the dark, imagining you. Stars sweep slowly over the river, sparks of white light drifting across an enormous onyx hearth. The discipline inherent in any prayer, the one we profess before the collective, the one we swallow on our knees in secret. The salt of God always our one shared throat. Om shanti shanti shanti, amen.

Sunday, December 12, 2021

The Concept of Rescue

Without lovers or followers, that desert.

This is soon.

Snow gathers on the empty limbs of maple trees over a century old. Nobody lives without a camera around here, the ghosts have become prolific but bitter. Sexual whispers.

Certain theories about cooperation that found a welcome home in me, as a drowning man reaches for flotsam, and then floats the swells for days waving at seagulls and distant ships, thus failing to understand the basic concept of rescue.

"When you write the word 'begin,' you are referring to the Country of Turtles, which is neither a place nor an idea, and which has no Queen, only infinite divine companions who are perfectly equal to you, as I, for example, was given to demonstrate." 

Context generates many demons, but others just appear - their source remaining obscure - and these are the ones you can't under any circumstances take lightly. Walking where in summer my children walked together talking about a future that would never arrive. Last of the violets, frozen but not unlovely in tangled grasses upwind of the apple trees.

Patchouli on the skull of a ceramic elephant. By mid-morning the weather changes, the sky dull gray, like a sheep's eyes after it's dead, or the underside of trout when it's too late to throw them back. 

There is no dream and also, this is the dream.

Arriving late to the "Emily Dickinson Atheist" party but nonetheless.

I have driven through southern Vermont so many times, on behalf of so many ideas about grace, never not in love, always resembling a creature in a snow globe, fascinated by the see-through skies and blurred gods beyond.

Meditating on one's skull, and on the dust which one's skull must become. Dry snow tumbling over flagstones out front, a softeness somewhere hardening at the bounce of each flake. 

Acceptance is the answer to all my problems save one.

The chess set my father gave me on which the jade turtle Chrisoula gave me now rests, gazing at the hayloft in which I work out salvation one sin, one blowjob, one sentence at a time.

I know I know: begin.

Saturday, December 11, 2021

Neither A Sin Nor A Crime

A fine snow falling at six a.m., unexpected, a loveliness, a setting in which to stand by the horses muttering versions of "thanks for loving my daughters." It was the speed with which the guns killed that frightened me most, as if while bleeding out the sheep and pigs and cows could at least manage a last look, a farewell, a final cry or bellow from the gushing ruins of their throats. Imagine being nine years old and knowing that Gary Gilmore was a bad man who deserved punishment, yet also knowing the terrible loneliness of a man who is dead and knows he is going to die. The river flows in darkness all night, its low murmur reaching me on the cold back porch where I go for whatever comfort remains to be scratched from the world. Everything I let go of comes back - old pains, old stories, unworkable ideas, embarrassing love letters - as if I were a kingdom, a black hole, the cosmos. A woman who takes your hand at the right moment, finds you in the hayloft with that look on your face and approaches removing her shirt, no word spoken much less needed. The terrible penance visited on my mother's mother for what was neither a sin nor a crime, and how all her children paid, and how all their children paid and now look. Tell me again it's okay to be scared, wade into the deeps, build a fire where it's darkest. Remember throwing pennies in the wishing well at the mall growing up and remember wishing? We fuck tenderly, kissing after, both of us crying a little because of how long it took to find our way back here. Between stars, darkness, yet between darknesses, this light that never goes out.

Friday, December 10, 2021

To End Along the River

The pain intensifies, maple leaf smoking under a magnifying glass. Turning the couch to face a new direction. Watts Brook sang bearing down on Sam Hill Road, and Sam Hill Road said nothing after the voices in Center Cemetery, that half-assed cacophany that didn't know it was a collective. What is cruel in me, what is lost in me. What is quartz in me. Wind in the far trees, the far hills like enormous black stones laid end to end along the river. In which birth is a beginning only for parents. I write wrapped in an old quilt, coffee gone cold in the mug to my left, nothing in particular save the old devotion to process. At a late juncture one's resistance to order begins to soften, and order appears, as if the world were suddenly a library. Holding my lover's hair back. In the morning distance many crows, the horses stamping their feet against the cold. And what else can a body do but grow up and die? Apple pie, oral sex, Frank O'Hara poems. One last fling in the twilight? Pretense, pretext. Death comes for the mosquito. Oh this sorry heart, this pile of smashed plates. This kitchen in which nobody ever learned how to keep a secret.

Thursday, December 9, 2021

Foxes Enter the Barn

Night winds. Terrors that stubbornly resist being symbolized. "You're a good boy and I love you" is not a bad mantra. Gulping coffee in the barn, listening to the last of the chickens scratch and mutter to itself. Rain turning to snow, snow to watery blossoms. Thought is the problem but also, is it really? Bales of hay on which we sat to talk. There is such a thing as happiness, it turns out. What are ancestors anyway. What is Fall River, Massachusetts? When kisses are hungry and what you learn about hunger by feeding them. Empty mailboxes, invisible missives. I remember in summer talking in parking lots after movies and whatnot, in no rush to get home, save in some deeply abstract sense that would not be comprehensible until my early fifties. The willow trees of childhood cast silver shadows, women unfurling from watery roots. Grace is abundant, is basically the lesson I resisted most. What else can we do? Foxes enter the barn and then flee as we approach. At night I remove my clothing, lay down on the bed, and in darkness wait for Her.

Wednesday, December 8, 2021

On Apophatic Winds into the Cosmos

Something must matter but what. 

Not a Christian story but not not a Christian story either, that manger reconstructing itself as a pain in your left shoulder.

Single note trance in the soft billows of cannabis - sitting still in a ladderback chair, hands open on my knees, eyes closed - undoing thirty years of bungled meditation and fake contemplative prayer. 

How deeply we sink into judgment, and then through its swampy bottoms on apophatic winds into the cosmos where equality - the absence of differentiation - i.e., where love - is the law.

Blue sky early, first in over a week, cloud-streaked and low, crows going back and forth across it, roughly north to west, stealing glances at me studying them studying me.

One begins the journey back into the woman they are by becoming the specifically broken prince they are by leaving the kingdom they are to join a feminine collective, which has known for a long time what's really going on here. 

Her mouth on my neck opening old wounds for salting.

There is no chaos anywhere for the cosmos are cool and stopless, unlike death - Sister Emily said it was so - for it is all governed by laws we did not make, in which entropy is a form of coming forth more whole.

Fairy lights in glass bottles presenting non-flimsy evidence of angels.

Early mornings in November, the earth frozen and smoke taking hours to float away from the village, pilgrim ghosts swatting at cats with storm-blown sticks. 

What was the first bible you read and did it have pictures you remember?

Reaching deep into the cosmos, her warm thin legs opening, something Greek in what you are together stirring, an old woman by a nearly-dead fire, unalarmed by death or anything else happening next.

Waving to the neighbors we not-so-secretly despise, and other gestural components of the atonement. 

We make mistakes, there's no question, but we also bake bread, also remind people, hey, look at all that starlight turning to coral on your ribs. 

Late to winter chores but laughing getting them done. 

In the distance, a mountain, and in the mountain a man who saw the Lord, and in that man a loneliness, and in that loneliness a vast desert, and in that vast desert a traveler who begins by writing "in the distance, a mountain." 

Or not, of course. 

A long-standing paradox dissolved by Quine in slightly less than eleven pages (am I really ready for this), moving one further into entrancing heavenly seas, sunlit and rhythmic, in which the fluorescent telepathic octopus undulates and speaks to me in a language we share with others I have yet to meet. 

Stirring oatmeal, bits of hay stuck to my sleeves.

Say you're grateful, ready to be, deeply, not my will but yours, say one more cup of coffee please, and say thank you for the coffee, thank you for the coffee.

Tuesday, December 7, 2021

Many Generations of Dove

Rumi's point about how rarely we hear the music and yet - as one - all dance to it anyway. Footprints in the snow, mine and a fox's, one of us knowing better than the other which way home. No trembling now you're holding the light and we're all counting on you. Who misses the forest? Imagine dance parties ten thousand years ago, drums and fires, how confused they would be with John Lennon. Family connections. Passing on the cinnamon coffee, then later not passing. A week after the last dose the mushrooms came by with a handful of hastily-done watercolors, mostly of cartoon demons but one or two nice ones of a manger, reminding me of laws I tend to take as suggestions. Cars sailing off cliffs, men riding on horses, letters in their envelopes whispering sonnets. There was not one but many generations of dove fluttering in warm rains above that ridiculous ark, those brave sailors and trapped quadrupeds. Always ask which story you're furthering, be sure it's the one you mean. Hemlock trees saying even the chainsaw, even the chainsaw.

Monday, December 6, 2021

Into Eden Came a Lie

Something terrible is happening, you did it and you will pay for it shortly. Reading the Hardy Boys, those monuments to order, in the barn because of who would never go there. Life, she said, is basically a spelling error, to which I responded, or a library, to which she said, yes, full of books full of spelling errors, and with that began one of the most satisfying sexual relationships of my life. Dad's guns are gone but his knives remain. At night I vomit stars, sweaty and trembling in frosty grass. Always go deeper into the forest. The manger was born in Christ, not the other way around, and until you see this we're going to have to keep pretending nuclear war's a real threat. Notes comprising melodies comprising hymns which - stitched together - make a ceremony. Horses are never unwelcome. It's not exactly a good story, is it? Last of the coffee, the wind howling in the darkness between galaxies. All loneliness is perilous until we realize that what we are in truth cannot be alone. Into Eden came a lie yet in the lie was a light. Begorrah be gone child, we're all getting on. 

Sunday, December 5, 2021

Shadows in which Gorgons Waken

Rather than pray I write, hours passing in the chilly hayloft, sentences like strings of holiday lights strung around the rafters. Stars brighter than seems possible. Mushrooms in me eclipse certain suns in me, leaving vast shadows in which gorgons waken, drag themselves to the cave's mouth, praising the sun and moon. This is not what it's like to have no clue! I spent four hours in the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam and all I remember is talking to a woman on a stairwell, we had met days earlier on a train, and how confused I was to be rendered familiar so far away from home. Mexican chocolate, German beer. Tides recede, leaving room to scavenge, an invitation I have never declined. Doors we wish we had never opened are now fallen off their hinges, and the world is what passes through, screaming and brandishing knives. We were always political. Chrisoula goes quiet in the face of Reagan family demons showing up around bedtime, a sort of ongoing wreckage, a high bridge collapsing in slow motion, a steam train spiraling into the river, a dialogue choking off at a seminal interval to begin again hours later in darkness. One begs, consents, forgives, uplifts. I was a child, young, the snakes writhed dying - somewhere in me I heard their screams - and the woman who killed them threw their bodies far into the forest, a grand and religious gesture that to this day I cannot help but celebrate. This is a garden, not a chapel, a pussy, not a war council. Together we remember to remember.

Saturday, December 4, 2021

Narrative Recreates Everything

Hard winds I wish on nobody. I remember phone calls by the river, loneliness and desperation moving everything inside me closer to the sea. You say "begin" without actually knowing what you mean. Old stories.

Old monsters, more tired than you know, ready themselves to sleep. Emily Dickinson in the early 1860s, moonlight on her lap by the window where she wrote. I remember Christmas as a season of promise, premised on getting rather than giving, and I remember the cold distances of January in which it hurt to think. Bobcats, bear tracks, blowjobs.

Every minute knowing oneself in a familiar way that somehow includes an absence that is intelligent, covetous, angry. It does not, in fact, come down to the words you choose but every mouse does clean up when dropped in the snake's cage. I have done bad things, and love men who did worse things, and God will not forgive me, and yet. Counting headlights on Main Street after midnight. 

Remember drinking? Flames lick the stars. The helpfulness of maps is contingent on our ability to look up and also change direction. Confession it turns out just complicates things.

Yet in the farthest reaches - where memory dims and narrative recreates everything, mycelium-like - there is this love, this openness. Crows in me pulling apple cores off what in time becomes the soil in me. A binding confusion symbolized by cigarettes in Ireland, sex in the afternoon. This wind in me, these wasps.

Friday, December 3, 2021

Long Ago Another Listened to Distant Bells

Twenty sentences again. 

The body stands by the window and watches snow flakes drift through sunlit air, while the mind ranges on cosmic plains, where no horse is blind, no daughter weeps and no son wonders where his father has gone. 

On Monday mornings I smear a few drops of Pogostemon Cablin on the head of each ceramic and marble elephant, remembering literally the specific joy the aroma bestows, discovered during a brief window in my early twenties when it seemed I might escape certain demons (who are not escapable but can be healed). 

And did you, in the end, gain a prism?

"Like Indra's Net," she says, and I shrug and smile, mostly beyond the ability to make distinctions of the sort I am being invited here to make.

So much given away - old bikes, guns, jackets, bibles, cups and poems.

We cross the street to reach the post office, remembering the story of the rooster who hovered on its porch roof, howling at every visitor, until one day he mysteriously disappeared.

Tradition is you have no choice - if you have a choice, then it is culture, yes?

Shotgun casings again.

Walking up Main Street in the direction of darkness, passing houses lit up with Christmas lights, the blend of garish and holy and commercial oddly pleasing, as if I am not separate from that which I spent a lifetime condemning.

One of these days it really will be the last morning ever.

Wracked by insomnia, I stay in bed rather than wake and walk, and listen to Chrisoula breathe, which is the whole cosmos breathing, breathing me even, and my body - that tired host, that cartoon nightmare - shivers happily at in the gathering light of departure.

Imagine being made of the salt of the tears of all the ones who had ever wept, and then walking a long time - decades, centuries perhaps - until you find a body of water to gently enter and dissolve in.

Solving problems again for the one that needs me to be a problem.

At night geese pass overhead, lost in the misty darkness of mid-November, no different than the one who listens to their soft shared murmuring, as long ago another listened to distant bells and remembered the Lord and was glad. 

Not fitting in, that old confusion again, arising in love and desiring justice, but going sideways in the world, itself inadequate against the riptides of fear.

Waking late and skipping running, instead writing the day's writing, gulping coffee in the back room, only leaving when the blind horse cries out for hay.

Gentle kisses, crying a little, holding one another in the shadowy stairwell faintly lit by the neighbor's red and blue Christmas lights.

Knowing Thérèse and the terrible darkness she willingly faced, braver in her way than even Emily Dickinson.

Now and then I wonder what the rules are for this particular writing project, and mostly there aren't any, or any that really need to be obeyed so much as noticed, waved at, as if the point were just to be happy and to learn that happiness is possible, even without the dread supervision. 

Thursday, December 2, 2021

Naked and Marked by a Woman

Snow on my running shoes. A heaviness in the general area of the heart. I cry a little after, the distance between the wound and the one who would heal it made of both lifetimes and miles. Bittersweet on trees beyond the pasture. Must everything always ascend? In the dream I enter Jerusalem naked and marked by a woman, my mission to end not the specific crucifixion three days hence but crosses generally. Who judges you is a mirror in which you perceive the depth of your own fear. How black the river is on an early winter morning! Mirrors cascading. Abide with me a little longer, you who who understand the home I fail to recognize? Fionnghuala and I decorate the Advent wreath with stones, pine cones and greens. Why is it that the light is always later? This prayer, this poem, this stubborn insistence on wordiness. Christ how it hurts. The one woman, the one god, the one son. 

Wednesday, December 1, 2021

Prismatic Fragments

Snow flurries in sunlight, life dissembling in prismatic fragments. Across the river, Trudge's Belted Galloways bellow. What is death but a comma?

Sitting quietly in shadows, sipping coffee, breathing slower, the body increasingly a mahogany table on which a meal is set, a repast I no longer crave. Jade turtles. Kim brings peyote by, a ceramic bowl full, and sings a quiet song on the porch while I hold the bowl to the snowy sky: blessings.

Of all the things I was wrong about, to have been wrong about that still hurts me the most. Chrisoula turns to me in the half-light of dawn, pulls me back into the warm tent of our bodies where we talk gently about guilt and letting guilt go. A whale-shaped candle holder I cannot bring myself to accept, a sense that somebody else somewhere needs it.

The narrative including extended family, the practice of forgiveness unchanged despite the apparent shift in intensity. Salad with grated gruyere. Wondering at midnight wandering up and down the windblown black ice of Main Street, is there any description of happiness that does not involve the word quiet?

Those who mistake us, and how we live with them anyway. Discussing rhubarb pie recipes with Fionnghuala who says she has perfected a gluten-free crust and wants now to figure out perfect fillings. The past and the future are black boxes, sort of like strangers we keep bumping into on a train.

Spiders, too, are beloved of God, a point Maturana made several times, indicating a psychic side-road I know exists but so rarely find for myself. Certain stringed instruments are returned to the attic - the mandolin, the banjo, and Jeremiah's first electric guitar - to make more space in the hay loft. I offer to drive and do.

Perhaps this is the last morning ever, wouldn't that be nice? Letters flying out of their envelopes, mergansers floating on the river, my eyes still smarting - possibly partially blinded - from my long-standing insistence on such intimate proximity to the sun.