Saturday, April 30, 2022

A World of Servants

In the winter my heart is a wasp nest. Waking early to make coffee, sitting with Jeremiah in the kitchen, talking about changes. When we speak of war, we are never speaking of good news.
Jesus welcomes me, teaches me he does not ask for followers, you can do what I do, et cetera. Pulling the curtain aside to see Venus between empty limbs of the side yard maple. What is heavy, what is heavier.
Nobody eats bread these days, the sourdough starter languishes. Jack whinnying incessantly near midnight, we go out to find him lost in a corner of the pasture, unable to find his way into the run-in. What are you when you are not visible?
Yet if we cancel hunting, deer will eat our yards and gardens. Crows in the driveway, unusual to see them so close to where we live, is this what death looks like. Burdens, bear dens, grain bins.
A world of servants – a world where we all aspire to be last and least – is a world of peace, and a world of peace is a world in which we remember what we are in truth. Oh Holy Universe, thank you for including rivers, stars, chickadees, weed and blowjobs. Are you ready now to make the call?
Finally able to leave certain gatherings of certain men, not in anger or argument, just not needing that performance any longer - that posturing, that panic, that pathos. Make no assumptions, yes, but don’t neglect the importance of a well-developed epistemology. Brace yourself.
Creativity includes both no and goodbye, which I am only just learning. This lovely woman growing old before my eyes.

Friday, April 29, 2022

I Can't Keep My Hurt to Myself

All desire is suffering.

Two barns in Vermont, opposite sides of I forget what road in Morrisville, which I thought of as sisters.

How happy I was on the mountain, stirring puddles with a stick, not yet boxed in with photographs.

Vast landscapes hidden by mist.

She cries because I can’t keep my hurt to myself, freeze up after, endure every alienation, every punishment, then feel sorrow as the house goes quiet I can’t decide where to sleep and or remember how, again. 


Access to reality matters, we need to preserve this for as many people as possible.

We meet after bread, in a room with open windows through which moonlight pours, reminding me the experience is fictitious.

She teaches me to be a peacemaker, she suffers the confusion that mars the passage of all who must journey from fear to love.

Time is in part a container.

A hard battle.


I long for the road, which is a form of the road longing for me, or is this why my feet abjure shoes.

Sentences written in rain, sentences written by the rain.

An exercise in which we must reduce our autobiography to no more than a sentence. 

Bearer of tidings, slayer of dragons, servant of queens.

Rethinking the early '70s in Worthington Massachusetts.

Shadows on snow can be helpful in clarifying the way in which snow is not white but blue.

Poor connections through which we struggle to express our desire.

I am Christian, I say, not a Christian.

Thursday, April 28, 2022

Cleansed and Obscured

Folds emphasize isolation, is one way to see it. Touching the rose with my tongue. Remember how it all fell apart, Burlington Vermont washed away in tears.

Stray dogs dragging my heart into unfamiliar cities. Windmills. How the blue light is pervasive now, showing up everywhere, making me almost giddy.

Eating falafel in Amsterdam, meditating on evil night after night. So much lost in our childhood to alcoholism, griefs and ghosts we did not know were not our own. Pour me another, I want to be five again.

I want to see starlight reflected in frozen gravel for the first time again. David does not respond to my email, which I expected, but you have to offer yourself, you have to make yourself the offer. How we are so much water and light.

Our daughters teach us what our mothers forgot? There are warning signs on this road, you have disregard them, they’re head fakes designed to slow you down. Nobody owns the veil by which the Face of Christ is both cleansed and obscured.

Losing a lot of what he says in the wind but nodding anyway, that’s what matters, being there, telegraphing love whatever you can. The silence of whales at night surfacing on moonlit seas. What word functions as a verb, an adjective and a noun without its spelling changing?

Growing up you learn to hide what you want and forget what you need. The Judge is ready to pronounce sentence, do you need help finding your feet, are you ready, it doesn't matter if you're ready. 

Wednesday, April 27, 2022

The Disco of Forgiveness

Made safe for what is nocturnal. We discount her tears, focus on arguments for and against, determined to be guided by reason: that old dream. Sitting on the back porch, late winter, stoned in the way I used to be when I was young, that is to say, full of wonder and joy, the river humming beyond the horses, the stars doing little pirouettes in the heavens, and this wish – this desire – to remember an ancient secret.

Making the world safe for pollinators. Sold the land, left a few wind chimes hanging here and there in the forest, who knows. Fern-shaped orgasms. Trying to explain that television is a sterile extension of fire, you have to go out into the world, you have to learn to stoke the flames yourself.

What is sacred, safe, saturated, sent. In my dream, the city is ruined, blasted and empty, not even stray dogs left, not even rats, and I walk through it singing a song in a language I forgot that I knew how to remember. We’re like ripples, kind of, kind of like eddies. I buy her chocolate, leave it in the kitchen where she’ll find it, it’s not enough, not even close, but willing as always to risk dancing in the disco of forgiveness.

This sorrow-flavored life. My father often saying “God hates a coward,” which I believed for a long time. Summer nights following the river deep into the woods, staggering through risky currents, dipping into moonlit pools, dreaming of women I have yet to meet. Something is opening in me, something is saying we are ready to remember what we are in truth.

It’s hard to read the bible, gets harder by the day. What are we if not communal is the question we cannot quite bring ourselves to answer. Watching her walk, getting off on it. Skunk passes by – pausing when he notices me noticing him from the porch – but I tell him we’re good, it’s okay, and so he ambles on, my beautiful brother disappearing in shadows.

Tuesday, April 26, 2022

Beyond the Semantic Verge

I remember fishing, sitting quietly by the river, attentive in the way one is when you are hunting. I watch clouds pass, murmur praise in broken Greek, I bring the blind horse to the fence line as by grace are all things possible.

Rain blown by wind into our face walking, making dialogue difficult. The strange territory of the monosyllabic.

Driving north into Vermont, third time since summer, my heart lost now, like a dog gone for decades, you can’t get it back. All the earth’s kings are wrong for there is only one Kingdom, and it has no ruler, only servants.

I talk a certain way about Jesus and loneliness, making her cry, and after want only to wash her feet. I remember coming to in Boston once, a basement apartment in which half a dozen men were playing poker, ignoring me in the corner, not knowing how I’d gotten there, not sure if there was – then or now – a way out.

This loveliness that transcends all light. Listen, if it can’t be put into words then it doesn’t exist, okay.

Saltines, soup. Ma calls, her voice brittle with anger, the struggle of her life, which became the struggle of mine, to which Fionnghuala has laid claim, brave in ways that my ancestors tell me is characteristic of our women.

Don’t blame me, it takes river ice a long time to break up too. A dream I am gazing at eternity and waking to realize while pissing that we are always gazing at eternity.

How happy we are when there is somebody beside us! An hour of the day when the Taconics are purple, not like the grapes of childhood nor Bacon’s screaming popes, but something quieter and deeper, like the river you are as it reaches at last the sea.

Lost again. For whom was I writing all those songs in my early twenties, why was it so hard to learn that art, why even now do I sometimes hum instead of talk, as if beyond the semantic verge lies the purer garden of simply rhythm.

Something Roman.  You don’t profess, you don’t promise,  you just go stand by the water and throw your bread, then wait on her to make up her mind.

Monday, April 25, 2022

Time for Another Disclosure

It’s not what you save but what you don’t save that defines you.

Our allies are not as enthusiastic as they once were.

Making summer plans in winter.

The sound the seal makes breaking on the cheap whiskey I buy each year on the anniversary of my maternal grandfather’s death.

You see the snow, you say it’s white but look closer, see the blue, bring the blue forward.

In my heart a little boy is walking around pretending a stick is a sword, he has no idea yet what a plowshare does or why it matters.

Once I understood that therapy was narrative, it stopped working and I had to move on to prayer.

Lately I cannot escape a dimly-felt memory of Halloween – something beautiful and dark, magical and strong – that was the antithesis of the demons I have spent a life wrestling to various standstills.

Is it time for another disclosure?

What we covet.

The nexus – for me – between seeing and writing, as if going blind were the worse fate, is this why I have struggled so to say Jack’s name? 

You have your Penuel, I have mine.

Steadfastly gazing at Venus in the cold dark of winter, the love I feel in my heart for Lucifer, for all the forsaken and loveless, for all the despised, I don’t care anymore who knows the ruins my love makes welcome.

Clouds coming out of the sky, much as the adult we are comes out of the child, or seems to.

How tired I am of this long sleep, this cold dream, these nameless helpers who are not actually helping anyone.

Perhaps every kiss is forbidden, who knows.

Dad was mostly remote save for the very early years when he told me stories every night before bed, I don’t know why he stopped, don’t remember many details, only that it mattered in ways very little else would matter ever again.

This is your brain, this is your brain on Chopin.

Saltless broth and other elusive stags.

The lake freezes, truck tracks embedded in sweeping arcs across it, we walk carefully, hand in hand, determined not to be scared of everything we know can even now happen. 

Sunday, April 24, 2022

Deserts I have Never Visited

Pushing the writing into deserts I have never visited, only heard about. Pausing by the lemons, amazed as I so often am at the existence of yellow. Nobody is actually from anywhere. He couldn’t talk much in the end so we were quiet, admiring landscapes and certain trees, he would coo over the oak tree near the driveway’s end.

We live in loops. Corn stubble jutting through snow. Thinking is behind the eyes, yearning in the chest. Yet a critical aspect of effective writing is knowing when to end.

Fantasies of Gilligan’s Island, being eaten by witches, and a sense – hard to dismiss, even now – that dreams were realer than waking. The hanging weight of pigs, the sorrow one feels in the darkness there. It is possible to rely too much on italics? Free coffee which no joke I don’t think I’ve ever refused.

Falling to sleep, dreaming of moonlight filling the bedroom, waking to darkness, Chrisoula moaning a little in her sleep. Nobody awakens, there is no awakening, you have to see this. Bare limbs of maple trees in the dim light, evidence of a text I’d mostly forgotten. I push her away, ferocious and intellectual, a shitty way to treat anybody and yet here we are.

Barber shop poles. We talk quietly at the dishwasher about growing up in an alcoholic family, how long it took us to realize that what was wrong was not us, how we are still struggling to understand it wasn't our fault. You don’t visit this circus, this circus visits you. Melting with praise, is there any other way to be a body?

Saturday, April 23, 2022

Songless but not Shoeless

Perhaps we are all just ornaments? Little streams of light that are stars.

Holy octopuses visit, remind me of my promise to relax and let them handle things. We meet in a little room after dinner, he is gentle and kind, he refuses all my attempts to place him over me.

Untucking my shirt, remembering how Denise used to unbutton it slowly, then bend down to suck my nipples. Smiles floating on the lake, the lake floating in our mind, our mind a brief fire in the void.

We are not songless but shoeless, get the analogy right! Those of us who seek answers, as if questions are an insult to the cosmos.

What we learned about war in the twelfth century which we really need to forget. We are growing Hubbard squashes this spring, we are not killing pigs, we are entering without fanfare through the east gate.

How quiet one can be near the river! My open heart, its livid flame, these wraparound thorns, each one marked by my savior’s name.

Malvina Reynolds songs, which I used to sing to Sophia when she was little, which still from time to time echo in leftover neurons slowly blinking out. Sunlight on the crest of hills which I insist are shared with Emily Dickinson.

It’s always Lent in this heart, brother. I remember how I got good at hiding, accepted as normal the danger of family. 

Roads both in and out of the village. Later, unexpectedly, snow begins so we move the horses’ hay, talking to them in low tones, this love we share unto which weather is irrelevant.

My cluttered soul, bereft of any helper. Guns I still hear, fists I still feel upside my head, will I never be safe, will the one who will make me safe never find me. 

Friday, April 22, 2022

Begging the Stars for Answers

The taste of my lover on my tongue, always.

Apples so cold my teeth hurt.

Abandoned factory buildings on the edge of the city, driving past them, wondering if there are fish left in the ponds just visible in the distance.

Wanting more is not the problem, the logic justifying want is the problem.

So you see we are not actually going anywhere or moving or changing at all!

At night begging the stars for answers, then remembering I am past that now, and so sitting quietly happily in the darkness with all my loves attending.

Dylan’s Street Legal, a joy in the canon to which I came late, am still from time to time surprised by.

Between pine trees, a cardinal, and at last the willingness to let the red bird be without forcing on it my convoluted sexual theology and obsession with images and symbols.

To gaze is to live, to be gazed at is to die.

It’s minor, no big thing, but I do think about it from time to time, the way I cannot seem to make peace with bells, their relationship with hands, how certain women embody the conflict - and how hard it is to include them - bells and the women who ring them - in poems.

Everything corrected, i.e., everything accepted.

Local Greek festivals we haven’t attended in years.

Bald eagles at rest by the river, facing north from an honored hemlock.

Dad’s focus on trees and flowers, living things that did not speak or move, especially in the last decade of his life when so much went wrong. 

How tiny this cell, how fluid the calendar on which my death is marked!

This late interest in Madonna’s Hindu-influenced work, as if something inside of me is settling deeper than I realized.

The function of the holy relationship is to generalize so that you realize all your brothers and sisters are, in fact, brothers and sisters.

Playing with dogs, a joy I have almost forgotten, remember now and then with strangers mostly, a sorrow and more than that, nearly but not yet gone.

Stitching together a marriage on the outskirts of a desert I wrongly thought I had already faced down. 

Beginning to wonder whose baby I am for real.

Thursday, April 21, 2022

Jesus and the Difficulty

There are little clouds bunched along the hills, they remind me of spring lambs, but not the fate of spring lambs. Long conversations about how tree stumps factor into ecosystems so maybe stop grinding them for aesthetics? Jack, the blind appaloosa in the pasture, tosses his head, his white mane briefly wild in wind-blown rain. Remembering visits with King David, and last night’s with Jesus, and the difficulty inherent in balancing the complex reality of those dialogues. We are tougher than we used to be, we are like made of stone.

But wait, is the metaphor using me or am I using the metaphor? War again, a grief that has haunted all my days since I remember, always laughing at me, mocking my resistance, my arguments, my anger and frustration. In winter I briefly miss the crickets who sing in the barn, their song reaching the hayloft where in summer I write and dream of a long rest. If monotheism has to answer to anyone, it’s to women, can we please not fuck around about this? Fried eggs, first in weeks.

One makes a list of things they are grateful for, adds a last item nobody but God is allowed to see. Learning something about hearts, about openness, about joy. Drinking cold green tea from a mason jar, remembering camping before the kids, how happy we were in the forest bird-watching, and swimming at night in the warm lake, the loons both giving welcome and prophesying hardships to come. Shadows move quickly across the landscape, as if chasing something. No more watercolors please!

At a late juncture making peace with lines and circles, being the intersection of both, especially when they are being forgiven. Who asks permission anymore? A week of punishing myself passes, and all that remains is sorrow and loss. Remember tobogganing? Making pancakes at the altar, which is to say, making pancakes because the altar is everywhere, especially when you’re making pancakes.

Wednesday, April 20, 2022

Dirges About What Happened

The song lives in me as you teaching me so deeply I live now breathlessly. 

Look, I'm sorry but it's true: getting naked with the other - outside the social compact, transgressing custom and law - is sometimes how the cosmos teaches us to remember we are together Christ, Who knows nothing about husbands and wives, disdaining both ceremony and ritual. 

Doors opening, doors closing but not in an obvious - more a metaphorical - way.

Claims we must investigate, claims we discount, claims we take at face value, all because of our judgment of the one who makes them.

A truth so far beyond choice even to say this much is to abuse it with dishonesty.

She cries out coming, my favorite hallelujah.

We get something and give it away almost by accident and discover that was how we got it in the first place, very nice.

All these desecrations passing away - mouthing gun barrels, slashing at my wrists with knives, blackouts and fist fights - bad memories now, that's all, not destiny or fate.

How happy the demons are when you teach them they are angels, Lucifer the brightest light because of where and how healing is.

Love is not a feeling, try that.

The taste of her in the back of my throat falling asleep is why.

Hubbard squashes, hot asses.

No more disasters.

We are broken when our heart will not open is what I took from Hillman's The Thought of the Heart or am I thinking of Madonna's Frozen or am I just begging someone - anyone - to read this and heal me.

Shifts in the intensity of the snow falling or am I learning something new about attention.

Hansel finally getting clear on the end of fear, wondering is it too late to tell Gretel, basically forgetting who taught him all those years ago what consolation was, and bravery.

It's true the blind horse sometimes turns his head when I approach and knowing my heart is sick and old allows me to rest my head on his neck. 

Pasture mist in winter floating in non-specific ways I nontheless insist on working into poems, over and over, until suddenly it's spring.

Everyone laughing at Ma taking my question about pancake recipes seriously, but we know something now, she and I, and with what time is left we aren't fucking around.

I mean it this time: no more crosses and no more lonely journeys, no more writing dirges about what happened behind the barn. 

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

A Given Moment of Hunger

Early flutes - neolithic - suggesting what relationship with silence? Prettier architecture wouldn’t hurt anybody, we’ve lost something with respect to aesthetics. Is it too late to better understand economics? No to discipleship, that was never the point. How we walk slower growing older, following each other by going side-by-side. Reaching out at 2 a.m. for her hand, not caring if I wake her. Pushing the writing – this writing - beyond where it makes sense, beyond where “making sense” makes sense  - or at least deserves to be rigorously questioned – altogether a way of seeing if it’s really over or what. Idling in traffic, eyes straight ahead. Sitting by the river on an unseasonably warm day in winter, wondering how the trout and crayfish are doing. How many more days? Discussions about building a greenhouse trail off, some of what mattered once mattering less apparently, who knew. Houses that are right next door to cemeteries, ancient ones, the headstones leaning, chiseled names and dates blurring smoothing out. Every ghost I ever met was annoyed with me for haunting them. Trying to relate a given moment of hunger to how my parents thought about food, a surprisingly difficult exercise but not invaluable. Visiting Plymouth, no reason in particular, and later Berkeley, where Dad owned land. Small bodies of water on the edge of the city, presided over by steaming factories that seem to belong to another story, one I do not know how to tell. Listen.

Monday, April 18, 2022

Curious Mostly, Without Intent

Seriously, who has enemies? Venus between maple branches almost touching the eaves. The ghost of the minister who oversaw the house’s construction sometimes visits, curious mostly, without intent. I sleep in for once, wake to Chrisoula having made me coffee before leaving, a note tucked into my favorite mug. Bawling sheep two houses down. You let go and suddenly there’s this hand reaching for you through the cosmos, all you have to do is close your eyes and let it lift you. Reading William Corbett poems, the Vermont ones, sad he’s dead, grateful I found his work when and where I did. Communion wafers, what a scam. Happy kids whose happiness is predicated on having no real idea what’s going on but you have to love them so I do, happily. Rethinking the argument in favor of arguments. A view of cardinals in the hemlocks I wish I could share. A better question might be who has secrets and start dissembling from there. Dancing in shitkickers, then unlacing and removing them in order to twist. How scared of me certain of my teachers were, and how I did not know this until many years later. This is the end yes but of what exactly?

Sunday, April 17, 2022

Letting Go in the Back Seat

Inside the insides. I drive slowly through the city at seven a.m., wondering what any of it’s for, lonely in the way I am sometimes lonely, when I cannot easily find answers nor one who will help me search. Snow falls, turns to rain, the sun comes out, nothing is new ever.

Therefore Heaven does not include colors, much less favorites. The hayloft reeks of skunk, less bothersome than it used to be. As far back as I can remember, this craving to possess what was fun, beautiful, interesting, et cetera.

Holiness does nothing, merely is. Men walk by, some of them carrying familiar burdens. That hill in Vermont on which I realized I was not going to become Buddhist ever, and so resolved to better understand and follow Christ, and the life that thereby followed, this one.

Writing is a form of play, also has more in common with math than a lot of people realize. Kissed three women in Ireland, only one of whom was Irish. Hank Williams letting go in the back seat, Lord let your poor son rest.

Control shift a. Long hours driving back and forth, Vermont to Massachusetts, I-91 a well-worn track in my soul. The Divine Turtle of Cosmic Understanding and Oneness has a thing for resting in the sun, napping on logs, there’s a lesson in that.

This new distance, this new silence. Chickadees carol as the dark fades, sunlight breaking where hills meet beside the river. Joy is brief these days, a tender bafflement more the norm.

Rosary prayers in late winter dedicated to world peace, why not. Angels pushing the ark all night, a dove resting on it at dawn, the rest of us letting something vital slip away, a shadow under the currents that will get to us later.

Saturday, April 16, 2022

Her Bag of Black Stones

How the moon confuses me in my mid-fifties, never where I expect, staying full for days, sometimes coming close enough to touch. Magic has always been a question of what works, and being able to make things work assures status. Spider plants, their pale green fronds falling for days. Making sense of Jesus seems to require understanding his commitment to itinerancy. The culture lives in us as we live in the culture, there is no free will anywhere.

This going nowhere vibe intensifying. We make noodles and eat them with leftover broth, a kind of beautiful prayer between us. Homegrown weed. Shadows cross the far wall as the sun appears between snowy hills. What you say matters less than how you say it, and how you say it reflects either fear or love.

The sea rises in me, my untethered heart floats far away, a dromon. Bunches of roses. Trailing my fingers along the mossy surface of ancient maple trees, learning something new about time that has nothing to do with birth or death. Strangers on the road, asking only to be left alone. "Bothamley catalogues more than 5,000 theories belonging to twenty-eight very different fields of study."

Breakfast in diners we will never see again. Family is an idea, there are others. My whole life basically a compensation for not knowing how to talk to people. An old woman with her bag of black stones walking through the Heavens. So much depends on attention.

Friday, April 15, 2022

Demons and Their Wretched Insistence

Lonesome deaths on the highway. Morning filled with the aroma of skunks. When I began this poem I was unsure, now I am not. The river in winter, snow crusting its banks, impossible to cross.

Something lost because we reached for the wrong thing? I pick up a couple frozen turkeys at the co-op, tuck them away for later roasting. Screens ruined us says the man who has never said no to a screen in his life. Yet I remember that sliver of Lake Champlain, how blue it was in the morning, how bright.

It’s not hard to be lost. We say goodbye near the chicken pen, both of us exhausted with the world. Fionnghuala painted tea cups once, now she paints landscapes of graveyards. Those demons and their wretched insistence on being included in creation.

Tired too of the effort to make everything theoretical, as if mere transaction is beneath us. You can believe or not believe, which puts the lie to your Jesus. Trying to be gentle and failing yet again. Not star-gazing exactly, more like trying to remember something about death with my head tilted.

Shifts in emphasis. Promiscuous metaphors! In my dream, Emily Dickinson weaves a flock of sparrows into a vast, light-filled sky. Quieter than I used to be but not wordless, not yet.

Thursday, April 14, 2022

Our Dangerous Game

Familiar mountains. Familiar green of pine trees in the far field. What is this world but an echo? What is the mind but a cosmos?

Folding up old shirts, putting them into bags to be taken to the shelter on Wednesday. There was a story I meant to tell but did not, and now it will never be told, now another story will be told. I always hated the way some seals died, and as I grow older I hate it even more.

You think leopard skin is hot but why because it's not, ever. We work on paintings of roses - purple, yellow, blue, green - and all the while our mind tries to remember the name of her, the woman in Shelburne, Vermont who gave me a sprig of lilac I held onto well into my forties. The road out is the road in, this is a law.

Sipping whiskey in darkness, daring my father to appear, which he does not, knowing the rules by which we play our dangerous game. Barbara Deming essays, especially On Anger. Dylan is correct, mostly we just float.

Yet the coffee is hot and delicious, the co-op parking lot full of weary travelers, and I cannot bear how deeply I love the world, don't even care I'll die soon, it's enough, this life. We have to be born again, humbler than even a manger, and then God will show us the way to peace. Crows do not circle!

From the perspective of separation, it's hard to figure out what anybody means by Holy Spirit, but you and I are not separated! Warm maple syrup drizzled over homemade donuts. I'm not far away but I'm not near either, and the last thing I know how to do is move.

Navigating reunions and amends, as per the therapist's suggestion. A lifetime without the taste of you in my mouth is nothing compared to the moonlight I've been falling for all these years. 

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

A Woman in Belgium

As afternoon deepens, the temperatures drop. Emily Dickinson’s death again. There were more storms as a child or am I saying something about memories or even selves? The earth allows us to walk, is the earth therefore in some way walking? Moss scales the front yard maples, no dialogue with it possible as yet. At a distance the mountain appears to be a smooth curve, yet the closer one comes the more deviation they notice. Do the sentences include references to current events or, more to the point, is there such a thing as non-current events? Adapting Socratic methods to where they’re least expected, not making friends thereby. Finding stuff rather than making it, that’s my jam. The fatigue which entered my life around twenty-one or so appears to be ready to leave, taking with it coffee. Plague tenors. Entering the kitchen, saying “I don’t know why I’m here” to which Chrisoula responds, “title of your autobiography, no?” I remember being disappointed with a woman in Belgium, I don’t know why, but I’m confident now it was mutual. You look into the mirror and it threatens to tell you something you don’t want to hear so you mentally talk over it: that voice is the real image. Gnawing at the bonds. Something broken in me that’s broken in all of us – please stop asking me to pretend I'm alone.

Tuesday, April 12, 2022

God's Love and Nothing Since

It made no sense to me, the fishermen analogy, as being a fisher of men meant catching them against their will, gutting them, killing them, et cetera.

Behind this stained glass window, another stained glass window, and behind that one a mirror which knows how to speak exactly one word to anyone who questions it.

Was the guillotine an improvement on the crucifix or it it hashtag what the fuck all the way down?

Hemlocks swaying in light breezes, scent of something freshening in the earth.

A photograph does not tell a story, it murders a story, and the unethical among us compose new stories from the corpse.

You cannot separate chronology from genocide, don’t even try.

I was fourteen when I realized the way words sounded changed depending on the words around them, and I did not see this in terms of poetry but spell-casting, a confusion that took decades to unravel.

The twenty sentences project is neither an argument, nor a love letter, nor a cartography but a specific kind of plea.

Paisley head scarves favored by my mother, hence my lifelong love of paisley, hence the futility of therapy.

Snow disappears in the meadow but remains in the forest.

I remember once in moonlight watching a fox trot slowly through the field, unalarmed by my presence, which I took then as a compliment, and nothing since has persuaded me I am wrong.

You try to reject Christ and Christ stays, that is how you know it is Christ.

In an earlier draft of this poem, this sentence was actually the fourteenth, and the fourteenth in this draft had yet to be written.

Ursa Major over the neighbor’s barn, the neighbor stumbling drunk with a handgun, mumbling “sorry’ when I approach, ask him is everything okay, guide him back to the house where his wife waits on the back stairs, welcoming him without acknowledging my presence at all.

It’s okay, we prayed on it.

I don’t understand vacations, don’t understand a life one needs to vacate.

What we want most is not to be responsible and what we need most is to accept responsibility, however minor and irrelevant it makes us feel.

John’s blue casket, something specifically cold.

Trying to decide should we dump the sourdough starter, not reaching any answer (which, yes, I know, is an answer).

How I loved the maple trees on Sam Hill Road in spring, the red blush of them on either side of the road, mica glittering in little streams beneath them, all of which I understood as signs of God’s Love, and nothing since has persuaded me I am wrong. 

Monday, April 11, 2022

Just Now Coming into Being

Let's fuck for seven days, let's not leave the house, let's refill the cosmos with joy. Seams in the air where a hand goes, any hand. A bridge overlooking a slow-moving stream, lily pads with yellow blossoms, people speaking a language I don’t recognize. A feeling I said yes to something long ago that’s just now coming into being. Something pink at the center, tender and generative, lovelier than I can put into words. For what are you using this latest therapist if not to find new threads to tangle? River-smoothed stones. She remembers kissing him on a whaling cruise, one of those afternoon trips from Boston Harbor during law school, it comes up enough, the memory and how she holds it, it makes me sad, and its making me sad makes me sad. This ridiculous emphasis on measurement. How hard it is to imagine all the space in the cosmos, and how this is a kind of clue as to what the mind is and is not. Pushing the writing project to where it stops making sense, starts making something unfamiliar, uncomfortable even. Parts of me leaving, never to return. Shall we call it a day or a marriage? Shalom my dear brother, may the love of Christ confuse the fuck out of you, as it did me, and may grace rest unto our holy sister, in whose arms I am learning at last to be a peacemaker.

Sunday, April 10, 2022

Between High-Up Limbs of the Baobab Trees

How he leaned on me at the end, sometimes glaring, eyes filled with the old familiar rage. The swale in which I realized everything was the same, thus equal, and that only nonviolence was sufficient to undo the illusion of separation and personal interests. Glass crucifixes. Candles always remind me of church, I was so happy lighting them as an altar boy. I mean, who doesn’t want a penis?

Listening to ice melt, chickadees singing up and down Main Street, the dawn still soft enough that those who pass through it cause no disturbance. Decision-making. Chrisoula has stopped asking can we get rid of the bamboo wind chimes so, you know, small steps. We would walk at night away from the fire, lay down together in the grass and make love, and after I would rest my head on your thigh and watch stars flicker between high-up limbs of the Baobab trees. Shame is learned, guilt is natural.

A clock so far away I cannot read what it says. Birthday wishes received days late. There is no center anywhere, is what we struggle so hard to accept. It was hard to breathe down there, and when I came back, my chest was ruined, my throat a dry hollow. Caramels, Swedish Fish and Smarties, why do you ask?

Paramours. Do you remember being disappointed by the mail? Drinking wine from the bottle after everyone had gone to bed, leaning against those trees that grew next to the lake, the exhaustion that would later characterize so much of living just beginning. Sacred birch groves. Gaps in understanding it takes two to bridge, are you listening.

Saturday, April 9, 2022

By Starlight then by Stars

Dried mud on the toe of my boot. Once upon a time I was less fortunate than now. The Lord is my shepherd, for what shall I want? Imagine learning how to find your way by starlight, then by stars. Oral cultures in which I was happiest, long since discarded for the lonelier ransom of writing.

If you want me, come and get me. Bales of hay are symbols of joy, remain so after all these years, as often I will linger in the little barn to praise them, even in coldest winter. Monks are fools but so are the rest of us so relax. Yet another therapist whose voice can’t be heard over the rattling heater. My fingers on her chin, lifting.

I don’t remember much after that little apartment in Burlington, all those Woody Guthrie songs and Robert Bly essays, finding Wendell Berry and having my head turned around to stare directly at a fantasy of childhood. Chickens gurgle a little dying. Trails on the mountain I did not know were there. At night in winter I often walk farther than I expect, come back shivering with a sense of having just barely avoided a lonelier death than is called for. Floral patterns on her shirt I can’t take my eyes off.

Thanks but no thanks Eriugena! Denise Levertov told me to take commas seriously, holding the hand I’d given her to shake, and I did, I did, oh Lord I did. Ma and I have a long conversation about pancakes, the ones she made in the early years, when Dad would go out in the morning and pick blueberries with a gun to scare off bears. You can get better at being patient, but not at defying gravity – this is a nontrivial point you should not avoid looking at if you are serious about awakening. Juncos bathe in tinkling snowmelt right at the back stairs and my heart breaks but into ten thousand prisms, so it’s cool, we’re okay, just look.

Friday, April 8, 2022

Happy in the Land of Shades

Wrote a song when I was twenty one or two called Nothing Matters but Love and it included the line “I live in a house of cards/I hope my house doesn’t fall.” We are not pronouns but do not in any way discount the power of pronouns, very little else in language has caused us so much unnecessary grief and anguish. I remember holding your hand walking on the Savanna fifty thousand years ago, we were the ones who discovered that simple joy, hand-holding, it caught on with the species, every time I see a couple holding hands anywhere I thank God for us, our love. Context matters, only an fool or a warmonger denies this. Pan-fried trout with onions and butter, cans of hash tossed in at the last moment. How she coveted gems, and how her covetousness frightened me, yoked in some way to sexuality, and yet how I could not - would not - look away as she showed them to me. What I recreated in order to make amends, an entire life compensating for the dead animals of childhood. How frightened Dad was and how only after his mother visited – shy but happy in the Land of Shades, sent by powers I have yet to know how to name – do I see this. We all want a nice sandwich and somebody to share it with. Nothing ends, you know, if the prisms teach us anything they teach us this.

Thursday, April 7, 2022

Bronson Brook in Early April

There are no errors. Trying to find my way back to being the man who had friends. Listening to songs Dylan was writing when he was fifty-five, Petty too, understanding something about love so thank you my brothers, my killers. Screens ruined us, there is no other way to say it. Grackles flying in ragged flocks above the horse pasture, something in me loosening as if interested in being sutured, but they’re gone so fast like saying "what wound?" Making peace with letting go of the many stones I’ve gathered over the years. Splashing myself in Bronson Brook in early April because Thoreau reminds me the Ganges is everywhere. Discerning between the drive to Cape Cod and Cape Cod. What happened in Saint Louis is still happening and not just in Saint Louis. I like cookbooks, what else can I say, there’s a sense of order and the kitchen was the only safe room growing up, I don't know why, or I do and I'm tired of saying it, after all, Ma suffered too. Kenya et cetera. Blessings which we do not count but accept and thus extend to others, kind of like a smile. The lies I’ve told in order to reach this sedimentary truth. How I loved watching Born Free. Gilligan’s Island always beckoned, still does. Dropping Doritos in the sannyasi’s bowl, making him laugh, and in that moment knowing that he and I are one. Do you remember the hotdog lady on Church Street Peter? Feelings of joy that are hard to hold but which oddly don’t have to be in order to remain with us forever. My dislike of skating which I have been averse to discussing since 1987. Yet upon waking recognizing myself as always here. We give the cosmos head and swallow its luminous come, the taste of divine climax forever on our tongue. And then this happens and then that happens, it's okay, it's all okay. Apple pie with cheddar cheese, alone in the kitchen at eleven p.m.. Where and when is the last amen?

Wednesday, April 6, 2022

Making Peace with the Limits

In my dream Ken Wapnick was surrounded by students, caught my eye and tilted his head towards a distant mountain as if saying, just climb that, it's enough, don’t worry who is your teacher and who is not.

Popcorn with soy sauce, cumin, red pepper and garlic.

How we walk as we age, slower and stiffer, but not unhappier.

My last pickup was sky blue, Jake and I rode in it all the time around southern Vermont, I had it detailed once and the guy said, "why you doing this to your truck, your dog's got it just the way he likes it."

Snow melts in mid-winter rain and the rocks I call Buddha appear and I genuflect passing because it is Buddha. 

Evergreens leaning in stiff winds.

Making peace with the limits of travel, sitting in the bedroom at night watching moonlight glide across the walls and floor.

Jesus clarifying.

Willow trees in a past life. Silver minnows darting through the cool brook rippling moonlight.

How hard it is to write while listening to music unless voices are present to mute it, provide alternative rhythms and wordiness.

What we hope happens, what happens.

Pausing in the library to gaze at a watercolor of cherry blossoms, the artist somehow conveying something angry and beautiful both, which mystifies and pleases me, which also mystifies and pleases me.

Imagine oneness, model it, we are social animals, there's a reason we know how to speak and how to listen to stories.

Honesty aligns us with Creation in ways that promote coherence, is really all I mean by happiness.

Practicing gratitude at 3 a.m. in bed, laying quietly between my wife and my wife's cats, now and then the faint sound of eighteen-wheelers leaning on the brakes as they glide down route nine south.

Discerning between "connection" and "join," helpfully.

The weather on the day that Emily Dickinson wrote about her life as a loaded gun.

How easy it was baking bread with her, as if my whole life had been angling for just that form of love. 

There is no center, let that distraction go.

Tuesday, April 5, 2022

Better in Yellow

Long dialogues about Gilligan vs. Shaggy, coming down on the side of Shaggy consistently, largely because nobody has read the Tao Te Ching and so can't evaluate my analysis of Gilligan. We are situated now, we are calling this home.

Chrisoula and I drive to Bennington for the day, wandering around drinking tea and coffee, eating wraps we made at home, and something in me settles in a way I will not allow to be disturbed ever again. Blossoms on the Christmas cactus slipping into the sink, pretty in a way that I don’t want to touch.

Never disregard the power of parenthetical afterthought? The prayer deepens at four a.m., ice melting in the chicken waterers we keep near the door.

Suddenly this obsession with flamingos. My heart is made of leather left out too long in the sun?

Rewriting the sentence with Jeremiah in it over and over and at last giving up. Losing it in the grocery store, walking quickly out leaving my cart, unwilling to hurt anybody. 

Bird houses set too closely together. Wishing it was easier is only possible when you know it can be.

Dad's interest in rifles which I did not begin to make peace with until well into my forties. Family saying awkwardly, don't go, going anyway, and decades later struggling with the boundaries my son sets on sharing.

This would look better in yellow, no? How soft the world got when I drank, everything sort of hazy and glowing, and then abruptly turning wild and bright, unmistakably violent, shards of iron in the blood hailing angry kings with no qualms about sending young soldiers to die.

Understanding transcends orgasm. The kids joke, Mom is the Queen of the Country of Turtles, Dad is the Magistrate of Pancakes.

Writing when I should not be, apparently that old trick still works. As a child I climbed trees to find crows, wanted to raise one, later killed one with a shotgun, repented even as it happened, still repenting. 

Monday, April 4, 2022

Is It that the Wind Knows

Praying a rosary driving to Pittsfield, in no rush to either finish or arrive. Steamed bok choi with lemons and pepper. The closer you are to a mountain the harder it seems to climb, yet when you set foot on the trail and begin, it's no big deal. In other words, another dream of her. We sat together on a piano bench, we did not touch the keys, only each other's hands. I asked the Lord to forgive me, heal me, make me whole and this is what I got. In darkness assessing. Suddenly sex feels like a lot of work, a big responsibility, like running a small country, to which insight Chrisoula says, "who doesn't want to sleep with Switzerland?" Raw garlic for breakfast, tea and pickled ginger. Who is that singing in the meadow? Lies that remain the best way to get at the truth, which is that we are all terrified, of lovelessness and love both. How is it that the wind knows my name? Moonlight in the hemlocks, how can anybody complain about anything ever. A neighborhood cat passes by with a dead chickadee bouncing in its mouth, oh well, chickadees aren't bodies either. Notes on the back of an envelope, basically what these sentences are, this half-assed life happily passing me by. So much depends on status, estimations and our willingness to investigate ever-deeper levels. Crying at Emily Dickinson's grave, harder than I cry at my father's. This this, you know?

Sunday, April 3, 2022

Leave My Hands Out of It

We are never alone, I learned this the hard way, by being raised Catholic and - God knows why - taking it seriously at a young age. Paths that led into the forest, snaked out into clearings, collided with stone walls, themselves colliding with time. Rain falls and the pavement darkens. I always understood the motivation to be a writer or a painter but not a sculptor, i.e., leave my hands out of it which, incidentally, is sort of how I feel about sex, too. The oak tree at the driveway’s edge which Dad so admired in his final days, nibbling a fried bologna sandwich I made him, sipping ice water through a straw. I learned not to gamble, but the price was my willingness to be hurt. Weather reports indicate no more snow, we prioritize chores accordingly. Once I had to write a story about ballet, got to the theater early and watched everybody limbering up, felt a kind of constriction in the place that to this day makes me wonder what is wrong with us. Driving at night was my favorite, always. Fractals, watercolors. What must we shroud and why?

Saturday, April 2, 2022

Moving Quickly through Winter

Clouds moving quickly through winter skies. Is there, in fact, a better way? All those years wanting to pray, not knowing I was praying, and now there is only this emptiness. Asking Jesus why God made me this way, Jesus responding gently, “Sean that’s a non sequitur and you know it.” Imagine being the child adults are scared of and not knowing why. You have to understand, the man in the long black coat is real, I have been out where he stands waiting, have both chased him away and begged him to take me. A memory of laughter under the silver crescent moon. Falling off the high wire on which two wordy crows touch mouths. Sugaring season has passed, hot air balloons are next. We really were ruined by screens. Listen, something in the oxen made me sad, and being close to what made me sad made me feel like something somewhere was righting itself, so I spent a couple years around oxen and the men who raised them. Fixing flat tires at dusk, the kids watching, bored. What do you lack and other awful questions I spent a lifetime forcing myself to answer.

Friday, April 1, 2022

Our Voices Never Broke

The garden begins coming together in late February, plans intensifying through March, our lives rhythmically aligned with what we grow. How far from the dead must you get before they do not hear you cry?

The man without shoes is studying how to be a sannyasi, give him some space, let him figure out for himself that bowl is never going to be empty enough for his longing. The sound a tree makes just as it begins to fall, ripping and tearing dying, everybody standing back.

Windows that have not been washed since we moved to the place, seams in the wall where the cold blows in. There are bees in my heart and flowers in my mind, who wants some honey on their tongue?

Morning and night given to fucking up the yama, what did you expect. Into my cupped hands the moonlight pours, spilling over onto the earth, rising around my knees, soft currents calling me to a sleep I have so far refused to allow myself.

Voices rising, falling, spell-casting. This thing about fearing kids, what is it I don’t want to say but keep reminding myself every few poems, you should really try to say this?

Bells at the bottom of the sea. The world is a field of graves, we should all be walking more respectfully. 

Soon I too will be an old man with crumbs in his beard. Life is a crossword puzzle, did nobody tell you?

It doesn’t seem practical, refusing communion. As a child I used to count dandelions, even now I sometimes wander the yard tallying yellow, forgetting what number I'm at, beginning again.

Huzzah! Odd but true: a nontrivial challenge to awakening is the especially close way I read Homer Price stories as a child.

How do you not realize what a child wants? We hiked many mountains, canoed many rivers, carried guns a long way into the forest, our voices never broke, and was this in the end what you wanted?