Refusing Conclusion

What do you want the most?
 
Her letters came from England, they were long and hand-written, passionate and beautiful, I read and re-read them a thousand times, and in a nontrivial way, nothing has happened since. 
 
Clouds move across the sky, the apple trees shiver.
 
I remember Sophia listening to Watts Brooks in the dark, then pointing at the water and saying quietly “god sounds.”
 
Wishing you were here to share a joint and watch Scooby Doo, reflect over ice cream on its cosmic connection to The Castle of Otranto.
 
“All I knew about awakening was that it meant digging graves,” or something like that.
 
Quartz in sunlight after rain showers pass, still the only thing I really need.
 
We spend an hour or so sitting under budding maple trees, talking about how we might redesign the chicken space, eventually realizing we have aged out of that.
 
Trudge drops off a dozen bales of mulch hay which we stack behind the barn.
 
Wind late at night, Chrisoula turning to throw an arm over me, which helps less than knowing that she means to help helps.
 
Merry go-rounds in late summer sunlight.
 
We who are watched through windows, unbeknownst.
 
Chrisoula and the kids surprise me by getting Box of Moonlight via interlibrary loan and we watch it together and later at night – when I am alone and the ghosts come – I cry quietly for the man I will never become because of the child I was forced to be.
“Would you say that’s red,” Chrisoula asked, pointing at a tractor in the far field and I answered “it is the color of the blood on the thorns that Christ wore while he was crucified,” to which Chrisoula responds, “god you can be tedious,” which made us both laugh.
 
For a long time I thought rewriting meant shortening, tightening, but now I see it has more to do with refusing conclusion, declaring beautifully one’s fidelity to infinite beginnings.
 
And did you, in the end, dig more graves than your father did?
 
We study the last half dozen chickens in the freezer, we wonder what is happening to us, to all of us, that this should be how they live and die and how we eat.
 
Women I have known who alone have made clear that Jesus is not fucking around.
 
I wrote poems entirely by hand until I was twenty-one or two, I think word processing screws up your intuitive sense of where a line ends, hence sentences.
 
In their apartment in Fall River it was possible to play dangerous games and I did, to my ongoing detriment I did.
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Something Inside Me Throws a Fist

One grows tired of grieving, says so to the hemlocks, who gently respond, “Sean you have not yet begun to grieve.” Cardinals remind me the surface is not given to be ignored. How happy it makes me, thinking of the history of narrative, the classic stories that are forgotten now or live as faint hints in Beowulf.
 
Who is the observer? Mountains appear as the mist thins, the late morning light insisting we relate to distance this way and not another. I have hurt people and I have hurt animals and some nights I still can’t find a way to accept forgiveness. Lines in the sand, lines in our heart.
 
One day I will no longer need to write these sentences but today is not that day. Your heart is my real home, only you and I know this, only you and I need to. Madonna at a late juncture. She calls it “the Reagan curse” and something inside me throws a fist, I’d forgotten how much pain I was in.
 
Giving attention to the fir tree I am growing out back, grateful the cosmos allows me to love in this mute but care-filled way. How starfish felt in my hand, how I wanted to tame seagulls, how sometimes I would swim deeper than was allowed, feel the depths and currents, and wonder how far you could go, was there really such a thing as the bottom or the end. Pancakes with blueberries, butter and hot syrup, is there any other heaven. Fionnghuala’s relationship with color.
 
Was never really a bachelor. Night falling everywhere, wading through darkness. Around noon the mail comes, through the hayloft window I watch Chrisoula get it, then linger to talk to Patricia who is passing by with her little dog. Cleaning up the fallen fence, not bothering to replace it: this this.
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When We Go Together

In my head, always, minor chords, clouds, crucifixes. My first lesson on the low D whistle was, sit for an hour with your whistle giving attention to breath and “don’t fucking play it.” Mist softens something in me by drawing the relevant horizons closer. Smell of rain on asphalt, oh.
 
How deeply we go when we go together. I felt myself dissolving, discovering a vivid thread in a swirling block universe, a single spark of light traveling nowhere through nothing, happily. Insight is a distraction, self-awareness is a distraction. Oh luminous ocean pouring through the sockets of my skull, may your salty exultation seed our broken earth.
 
My mother is the strongest and most difficult person I know, the light in her so bright at times there is nothing but light, and the darkness at other times making you forget about light altogether. Something shifts when you begin living from the altar that is within you and from which you cannot be separate. Is it all a question of translation then? Ruts on the side of the driveway Chrisoula asks will I fix.
 
The early chapters of A Course in Miracles emphasize its nature as a work in progress, which shifts the nature of the relationship. Suddenly all these cats. Who taught you what death was, who taught you how to bury the dead, who said what at what juncture that allowed you to consider that the church, so called, was lying to you. Notes by hand.
 
A lifetime of writing poems on the margin of a life in which being a poet was a secret, always by necessity, though the terms and conditions did change over time. Going to Bronson Brook, sampling the Ganges, leaving an apple for Abhishiktananda or a black bear, whoever visits first. Her halo which I cannot bear to remove, though everything else comes off in time. Is this fiction, it feels like fiction.
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Rocks I Don’t Remember

I ask Chrisoula what is the Greek word for blowjob and she replies, “Tha fáo to fídi kai to fídi tha pethánei,” which roughly translates to “I will eat the snake and the snake will die.”  
Finally able to run outside again. River water sluicing hard near rocks I don’t remember, probably carried downriver by late spring torrents. Two redheads changed my life, both used the word “melt” in their spells, I barely survived, truly. It turns out you aren’t obligated to attend every ritual. 
Distressed confessions.
In my heart it is almost always Good Friday.
When you don’t know how to love, you write sonnets.
In the morning the hemlocks point to where the sun rises, river flowing fast below the mist. This forgotten song, this metaphor I have finally had my fill of.
Thank Christ literally.
There is more between us than the heavens, she wrote. We look back, we reclaim a vital simplicity. We who understand the language of the sword.
Misapplications. What wordiness in the end are we allowed?
Melodies just before dawn – the stillness, the crows, the eighteen-wheelers on Route Nine, the river fading, the juncos waking up.
Et cetera is not for nothing. Suddenly seeing him drift away as if never to return and I realize I miss him, no matter how damned it makes me.
Om shanti shanti shanti, hallelujah, amen.
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Son of a Cemetery Commissioner

Clam cakes. Moss on the north side of the maple trees. Stone walls that no longer mean what they meant being built. How guitars sounded in the 1950s, especially Link Wray’s. I never cared much whether someone swallowed or didn’t until I met you when all of a sudden I cared a lot.
 
You grow up the son of a cemetery commissioner you learn how to dig graves, you learn a certain way of seeing death. Pan-fried chicken with onion and garlic on a bed of rice. He sang Janis Joplin songs, he had a nice voice for the blues, I don’t know what became of him. We kissed a little, she was lovely and a good kisser, but it bothered me were near the quay in Galway, and “quay” and “kiss” didn’t fit in the poem I was mentally writing and she broke away asking “what’s wrong,” I told her what I was thinking, which she was not as charmed by as I expected. Composing using only the black keys.
 
In a lot of ways my writing process can be summed up as: will this hold a woman’s attention? Still not sure how Stephen Foster songs fit in the canon. I was too close to sex as a child, it hurts to write that, it wasn’t my fault and it did a lot of damage, I have no idea what’s next. Snakes in the barn. Men who are covetous and quick to anger.
 
The devil takes the form of cats sometimes, sometimes crows, and sometimes you look in the mirror and glimpse something terrifying and familiar. Ruinous grapes. We walk through sunlit fields, we trail our hands over tall grasses, we are getting somewhere together but only you are allowed to know where. Mercy unto all sinners! This dance we share, this cup we hold to one another’s lips, murmuring prayers of forgiveness and mercy.
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Hearing a Different Song

Bartenders I’ve known, including one whose name I forget, middle of the day in Burlington, the two of us talking about our Dads and how good they were at tracking deer. So much of this life passed in explanations, only a few of which ended up mattering. At a distance, voices, or are the voices themselves the distance. Stargazing never gets old.
 
We take blankets out back, build a fire, sit together talking like in the old days before kids, until she dozes off, head on my lap, and I enter the beautiful stillness of the fire going out, the world going dark, this woman – this love – all that remains. Without warning. And the day passes, and I cannot find a way to be sad, it’s like all the grief just disappeared. Sunflowers dapple the cosmos.
 
Let it be known that you are not required to maximize everything. Licking her pussy, thinking of willow trees by the rivers of my childhood. Smooth stones you could hold a long time in your mouth. I’ve made mistakes, made amends where I can, forgotten a lot, what else can you do.
 
Slipping onto the back porch roof to smoke pot, stars breathing – or pulsing anyway – high overhead, my heart full and for a few minutes I am so happy I could float away. Ferns in shadowy places. Wanting to walk with you through the Heath Fair, hold your hand, not say much, maybe share a lemonade and fries. In my mind I am a good dancer, I ask Chrisoula if I am a good dancer, she says “well, you are a subtle dancer,” to which I say, “what the fuck is that supposed to mean,” to which Fionnghuala says – calling from the next room – “you always look like you’re hearing a different song than everyone else.”
 
Advances, advents, artefacts, alley cats. I wonder sometimes what sleep was like for my ancestors – the way far back ones, the pagans and nomads. Ma keeps Dad’s wedding ring in a heart-shaped bowl by a picture of them at what looks like a Christmas party. Driving at night, windows down, full moon blooding the horizon, let’s go faster further than we planned, yeah?
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Where Your Face Was

How “war” arises etymologically from words that relate to “confusion.” Witches riding bicycles up Main Street. Hot buttered rum indeed.
 
I once imagined this project would end when I repeated a title but now I know how it ends.
 
Life is a wave of sorts – an energetic profusion – rushing the watery surface, ascending towards the stars. Cornbread with raspberry jam. Standing by the window, playing As I Roved Out on the pennywhistle. It’s the attic and basement that remind us how old the house is.
 
It’s hard to explain the cookbooks, I just read them, mostly I cook from memory, and most of my memories are of my mother and grandmothers cooking, and these are the only memories I will miss when I am dead. Opening the curtains at night to see the moon and stars. 
 
I dreamed you were straddling me, baobab trees rose from your shoulders, and where your face was a moon shone, vast and bright, like a promise of peace forever fulfilled.
 
Umbrellas are sexy, what can I say.
Getting by. David, do you remember that time canoeing with our dads, the picnic in that field overlooking the reservoir, how happy we were?
 
Jasper says what if it was supposed to be twenty-one sentences.
 
Sixteen. Seventeen. I like Palm Sunday more than Easter, I’m that kind of guy.
What happens in a blackout does not stay in a blackout, sorry.
 
What if there is no more good news ever and what if you and I were the ones given to make it otherwise?
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Desire Knows the Limits of the Body

I’m tired, I’m not allowed to say this, not allowed to show this, why.
 
The fog lifts – or dissolves, who knows, who was watching – and suddenly the far range of the Taconics is visible, deep purple with bursts of red and gold here and there. How much sorrow there is in sex, way down deep near the bottom, where desire knows the limits of the body. Always ask: what is really going on.
 
It’s no secret why psychotherapy caught on when it did, just as we were sliding into a technological nightmare (which psychology has deepened rather than ended). Taking down the Hindu prayer flags. Many languages between us.
 
You got good at hiding but something happened to you on the inside as a result, those are the effects you live with now.
 
How happy Chrisoula is these days, how I sit quietly watching her, grateful for this note on which to end.
 
Not agreeing on what music to play while driving, settling on an old Windham Hill compilation, one of those winter ones, keeping the volume low. The twentieth century is not finished with us. I am not a righteous king writing psalms beside moonlit streams. We who are alive because a long line of somebodies before us survived long enough to procreate. Chips with salsa, Friends re-runs, her feet on my lap.
 
“We were not born with masks,” my aunt proclaims, to which Fionnghuala responds, “were you born with clothes,” and the look of anger that flashes across both my mother’s and aunt’s faces drives me to my feet in protective rage but Fionnghuala simply sits at the table and stares both women down, teaching me yet again what is strength and what is not. 
 
Second guesses, bane of joy everywhere.
 
And yet on the long drive home we are unexpectedly happy, all our sentences mingling and commingling, like the drunks of my childhood trying to finish each other’s jokes. Gazing at willow trees I briefly allow myself to remember how beautiful and innocent I am.
 
This savanna we swore we would never leave.
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While the Snake Unfurls

Morning is busy, all these visitors, but then is not, and suddenly there is this quiet, so you write poems, trying to find a way to talk about the weather without using the words “gray,” “drizzle” or “cloud.”
 
Drummer Hoff, thank you – thank you for firing it off.
 
Ritual exchanges designed to expose our unhelpful reliance on commerce.
 
She asks will I visit Mexico and I say no, try to explain how travel is not my path, is actually the opposite of my path but she doesn’t understand, Mexico is so beautiful, the people so lovely.
 
Far hills obscured, kind of like the way good intentions don’t matter the way we think.
 
Imperfections on the moon I cannot see but know are there – did I really write that back in 2000?
 
Praying with all my heart, let me not hurt another person, nor another creature at all, nor even a blade of grass or falling leaf.
 
Rarely deleting but frequently rewriting, you can’t make a mistake is basically the art.
 
Night swimming.
 
You forgive everyone – every last oppressor, what a journey – and something still stands in the way of peace and you realize you have not forgiven yourself and then you see it: the actual journey and that which blocks your way and then you realize even shoelessness will not be enough.
 
I drank hard in my early twenties, fought a lot, got hurt a lot, did some stuff I wish I hadn’t done, but mostly I just sat in dark rooms upending bottles until I blacked out, it wasn’t romantic, wasn’t sexy, wasn’t tragic, it was more like how a mouse frantically cleans itself while the snake unfurls.
Games we play at the behest of nature.
 
They took him in the garden, he had to be at least briefly frightened, knowing exactly what was going to happen next.
 
I remember my one dokusan, being confused at how angry Roshi seemed, I just wanted her to like me and  Buddhists seemed so nice.
 
This pressure now on the back of my neck, my throat narrower than I remember, each breath working harder than the last to find its way out of the body.
 
Please, no more language about how we’re all saints, all sinners.
 
Sunflowers fill the cosmos, my heart expands to say yes again.
 
Why did the United States fight a Civil War, how did that war begin, who won, what happened next, how confident are you in your answers?
 
Jasper wonders if I’ve bothered to reflect much on the image in terms of pornography, and I tell him no, it’s always been about intimacy in a different register than porn is meant to manage.
 
He died, he is still dying, and I am dying too.
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The Gross Abattoir of the World

Can I be scared? The last time I carried a gun (fifteen years ago?) I watched half a dozen pheasants arrow away from me, one after the other over a couple hours, felt grief but also release – something about the light, something about the gold of their wings – did not lift the shotgun, never hunted again. 
 
A lifetime of understanding collapsing now, all the fields and rivers welcoming me to this way of being alive. Let us be dragonflies together!
 
Heildung songs, how did I get this far without them? I hear waves now, Zen bells signifying the end of sesshin, women weeping.
 
The ancestors watched me, the men urging me to kiss her, fuck her right there on the river bank, but beyond them was a white stag who met my eyes then walked into the forest, making clear the way required yet more solitude. Sitting down to remove my shoes.
 
Stomach pain arguing don’t even try to make it better. This vagabond of a heart wrapped in blue veils worn by Mary when Jesus was still a child, not yet sworn to redeem the gross abattoir of the world.
 
We lied to doctors growing up, the doctors let the lies stand, to this day I don’t trust doctors. Green Dragon tincture touched with lavender, want some?
 
The last time you took your clothes off for me. Emily Dickinson making a new kind of sense, clarifying that the old sense was basically an error, the old longing for companions overriding common sense.
 
Old sap buckets. Trimming back the raspberries.
 
Fried clams are no longer sustainable. Chrisoula agrees to let me wash her feet, we cry while I do, and after we make no promises, that is the marriage now, this is the way.
 
Try this: there is no such thing as a lie, only the truth from perspectives you have yet to consider. Soup and crackers, Agatha Christie, this little light more than enough.
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