Wednesday, March 22, 2023

December 2019: A Dream

I dreamed last night that I lived inside a wave - a literal wave of water. It was frozen somehow - not because it was cold but because I was moving at the same pace it was. The effect was stillness. In the wave I was publicly demonstrating an holistic way of living. How to eat, how to grow what you eat, how to regenenerate the soil. It was kin to the 1970s biome we used to drive past in Amherst.  

Dan Gallagher was in there with me, and someone else who I knew but could not name. The three of us were making to leave - to step out of the wave back into the world - and nobody believed it could be done, but I knew it could be done, and I was ready to do it. I was the one who was demonstrating, this is the way that you do it.

This is how you leave Eden. This is how you begin the journey home. This is how you bring Eden with you.

As I rose out of the dream, I found myself asking Eric (who used to post at my ACIM blog a lot) "do you understand the distinction between phenomenology, ontology and epistemology?" And then saw with utter clarity that one can have a phenomenological experience but that they have to go slowly when building an ontology with or on it. And I remembered then the gentle insistence of von Glasersfeld, that ontology is not possible and cannot be justified under any circumstances. One can neither argue for the world nor against it. 

I lay awake for half an hour beside Chrisoula thinking, is that it? For it seemed so sensible - as if so much confusion arises from trying to force phenomenology into ontological frames, and trying to derive epistemologies from ontologies. 

There is an experience of oneness; how shall we talk about it? I mentioned this in passing to Chrisoula hours later and she said, well, didn't the dream answer that?

Notes from Another 2017 Letter

From a response to the letter that was a response to the letter from which these paragraphs were culled.

If ritual is a social technology by which God/ground/source/etc appear to and in and for the individual, then folks who are already in that relationship or subject to that appearance aren't going to need the technology. I don't call and leave Chrisoula a message if she's in the room with me.

Emily Dickinson talks about this in her poem "Some Keep the Sabbath." Her dome was an orchard, her chorister a bobolink; she would have understood instantly and gratefully what you mean by "cathedrals of nature"." Again, on that view, who needs a ritual? God is right here. You couldn't be apart from God if you wanted.

Indeed, you are so close you don't have to go looking.

So I think ritual - and its integration with sacrament - can be helpful to the individual in terms of restoring to memory both the Divine and the means to be in sustained contact with the Divine, especially where that memory is lost or dim or otherwise compromised. They point to the Divine, they do not inaugurate it.

In terms of ritual's utility for the collective, that feels trickier. One of my concerns with monotheism is the quick route it takes to "us and them," believers and non-believers. A whole class of heathens, apostates and heretics arises and you have to deal with them - convert them, torture them, execute them, marginalize them. It's nontrivial and we've fucked it up a lot over the centuries. Mea culpa.

This feels like a monotheism problem, rather than a strictly Christian problem or more broadly a religious problem, and it's a messy one. I think it underlies a lot of Hillman's (and Lacan's before him) concern that Christianity was going to "eat" psychology. Its viral qualities are substantive. 

I don't personally experience this as starkly as Hillman (or, say, Dennett & co) do, but I understand their position. I understand how that frame arises.

So it's good to notice: where are the rituals and sacraments in my living that dissolve structures of thought that make an other against whom "I" am pitted, often subconsciously? The seedlings of what comes next?

It does seem like the earth offers a lot of ways to alter the structure of thought - whether it's a walk in the boreal forest, black bear sightings, ingestion of certain plants etc. The Great Mother heals us outside churches in which the father can't figure out why nobody comes to his house anymore . . . 

He should have listened to Emily Dickinson. 

I think often of those shepherds long ago who, in a polytheistic culture, dreamed a father god to end all gods. How vulnerable they must have felt in the darkness! How seriously they took their responsibility to protect those even more vulnerable sheep! We live in their dream, which somehow includes the dream of waking from the dream . . .

Seedlings of what comes next somehow - for me - involve responding to those shepherds in the context of the dream they made. The effective response seems to be actively manifesting nurture, consolation, assurance, equality etc, all outside monotheism's zero-sum paradigm. Going slowly, practicing epistemic humility, giving (rather than paying or demanding) attention, etc . . .

Tuesday, March 21, 2023

Notes from a 2017 Letter

. . . Your comment about reforming the Catholic church reminds me a bit of James Hillman who feared Christianity. Hillman sometimes characterized his work as part of a vanguard to save psychology - what was therapeutic, mythological, pathogical, complicated etc - from the ethics of Christianity. 

You are acknowledging the power and influence of modern psychotherapy & psychology and arguing the Catholic church should adopt it, integrate it, learn from it. 

But Hillman did not believe Christianity "integrates" anything. Rather it eats it alive to live, more Moloch than Christ. 

But Hillman could be dramatic, as puers are wont to be . . . 

I'm certainly deeply Catholic & will carry that legacy - longing for ritual, sense of ethical and moral binaries, the transcendent Lord who is close but not too close  - for the rest of my days, though it's been a couple of decades since I attended mass other than for funerals, weddings, & I don't raise my kids Catholic etc. 

I do find A Course in Miracles a helpful bridge, blurring as it does the boundaries between Christian imagery & Freudian psychotherapy (and dosing it all with "self-study," a preferential modern salt).

But in general I think the move into monotheism wasn't the end game in terms of raising the sanity waterline, and I'm nosing around the far borders for what's seeding, growing, gathering, coming next. What in us longs for ritual and consolation and meaning-making doesn't need the Catholic church - it needs ritual, consolation and meaning. If the Catholic church no longer serves - and I agree that global attendance trends suggest in signficant ways it doesn't - then new ceremonies & structures will appear. Inevitably.

I'm not saying burn it down! I'm saying it's okay to let what is compostable compost. As Hillman said, to work with psychic realities you can't put new wine in old bottles.

Saturday, March 4, 2023

Dead Dogs Grew Less So: February Poems

January poems here. December here. November here. October here. February. . . 

Man, February . . . I don't know what to say about February. Some long-standing engagements finally ground to a close, taking with them a lot of clock and rib. Sometimes walking felt like being followed by the ghost of a tractor or tripping unexpectedly into a photograph from the nineteenth century. A lithograph? A love note? My struggles with language grew less so, as if some hitherto-unacknowledged block to Love were finally being dismantled. It's possible I'm still confused.

I saw God at an orchid show, brotherhood in melting icicles, love in a feral cat and healing in a handwritten sermon my father wrote in the early nineties. I was angry a lot and sad that I was angry and dialogic because I was sad. The dead dogs grew less so, as if some hitherto-unackowledged block to Love were . . . but I said that already.

I don't remember when - October maybe, maybe November - I asked for another winter and got one, this one, and the current upshot is, don't ask for anything else. Which, fair enough and thank you Jesus. A lot of the pain is chronic now, the writing and teaching less romantic and more urgent. If it's over it's over but if it's not, maybe one more poem?

You want something from me, what? This came up a lot in my thinking, walking around the place, up and down dark roads at odd hours. Always trying to miss people save the few given to save me. You make the monastery and then you find your fellow monks and then it's ora et labora as if life itself were contingent. Robert said gently several times we need to talk about food, and I would say "hunger," "witches" and "1950s television themes" and he would say quietly, food.

It was like that. It wasn't precisely that but like that. The heart keeps thudding but the journey does end. It's okay but worth asking: when do you know? 

Any Uttered Word

A prayer that includes the word "crustacean." A spell that keeps bad men away. Explains why some men are bad at all? Well a night to ourselves anyway. A fire from which no body is excluded, and a woman who makes it so. Do you see the problem, do you understand my dilemma, do you. Bread not bombs, books not bombs. Roses in every moment as if beginning itself were familial, a beauty. What letter has finally arrived, what light is possible in which it can be read. I broke the promise, shuttered the church, I forgot everything except what pointed at family. Answered the call? Found my love in the hills, made love to her by a river. Locusts and wild honey until the real grail appeared, map made flesh, the territory greater than any uttered word. The crows say nobody cares about your sentences, the fox says write them anyway. Out back past the horses, professing, pleading, weeping. The cosmos neither for nor against us. And yet.

Leaning to See

Moonlight on slick ice, so cold it hurts. Always this hurt, always this anger. Injustice everywhere. Not why but how. Gary Gilmore leaning to see the shooters, John Denver rushing at the sea. The dogs die and my loneliness grows vast and dense, like a garden nobody tends. Orchids are not a metaphor but sex must be?  What is allowed, what is desired. What is called forth. Your body a horizon my breath just catches. North north and west west. Even off the map with you I run into a limit. As if movement ends but never in stillness. On purpose? "Soul" is just a word of course but why. On my knees again before you, uttering with my foolish tongue a prayer the world forgot.

Escape Plans

After the storm, after the marriage. After poetry and after women. After all this time. Letters arrive from a forgotten town in the interior indicating we are not yet finished learning what is true and what is not. Refuse then even mercy? Scratching escape plans on the walls of a prison in which you are the only jailer. Reading Freud (Anna not Sigmund) over coffee, taking notes for later. The psalms in Latin, John's Gospel in Latin. How you look at me when I am trying to decide what trail to follow next. Crows on dead trees out past the river, their cries cold and sharp, like being guillotined in Paris in the eighteenth century. Forgetting as spiritual practice, i.e., remembering as an error forgetting is given to amend. After writing but not yet after speech. Dissolution begins with bodily death, not meditation or insight, remember this. After the map and after the territory. After sextants and travel. After a music one cannot find anywhere save alone in darkness on their knees. Bring what is sacred with you, I always do, so you say, you who never found a relationship you couldn't desecrate with charming rhymes and semen. A cry in the heart growing louder and more insistent. From what can you not be separate? A space in which we translate everything from body to spirit, spirit to essence, and from there into beginning. A silence after unto which no syllable is worthy, unto which even the idea of worthiness is an error. I mean wordiness? Well, us anyway. Always us.

Familiar Fire

I am lost again. At the beginning again? Well, emptying out again. 

Walking through heavy grass and patches of ash-colored snow to tell the horses I will no longer use them as metaphors, they say what they always say, where's the hay, pal. Starlight before midnight, the sky is our shared heart, it is no longer possible to be unclear about this. Thank you for reminding me what matters.

A robin at rest on a maple limb tangled with bittersweet, a bluebird at rest on a rotting fence post at least two possibly three generations old. In a dream the bluets say I have refused them, I beg forgiveness, they say quietly - little kings, little queens - you know what to do. How tempting it is to enter the river, allow it to carry me where it will, to end where it ends me, without grief or clinging. Trying to make it clear to certain women that nothing can be lost, nothing losable exists, all because I am the one still confused.

Talking all day about the miracle of joy and peace, dancing all night in our moonlit bodies, making coffee at dawn to share with those who like us are out of time. Let us create the new world together, one that is fitting for our troubled sons and daughters. Say yes, always say yes, even if it means saying no.

After the prayer dims I go outside with cold tea to see if God remembers me. Five, ten minutes later the door opens and Chrisoula steps outside. It's what, two a.m.? We don't say much. We are trying to find each other in a dark place, darker than we knew existed but in which oddly even seeking is a comfort. It's like the cosmos doesn't abide separation. Undo your illusions! A cold wind blows down Main Street, our shoulders touch, and the old fire - the familiar fire, the home fire - rekindles. For a little while longer my travels and wandering do not mean I am alien.

For all this and more - much of which must pass without reference, there are no words and there is not time - not inquiry any longer but thanks. 

Stillness and Hunger

The river flowing under banks of ice, silent and dark, without intent. Fionnghuala's art gone beyond what is familiar, what is childish ending in an angel the cosmos invites her to wrestle with all the long night. Forgive me, child, I did not know the way out of Eden, I gave up too early, I built a mansion where a cottage would've done. Nothing real can be threatened, nothing unreal exists. Is that it? Is that the poem? Currents of which I am merely an eddy, a spiral braid of the cosmos briefly naming itself? Birth is always a celebration, death only sometimes, why, because there is only one mother. A class of being in which non-being does not factor. Sometimes driving west I become a pine tree and realize how mistaken I have been about stillness and hunger. Ease with language - must this too be released. Kate suggest a trip to India, a walk up Arunachala, I tell her I'll run it by the telepathic effluorescent octopus the mushrooms showed me in lieu of God. When in therapy you no longer need to discuss your father, that's when. Not happy so much as unanchored, how else do we recall the flow we both long for and are. Is it possible I am mistaken about this capability to name literally everything? In the morning a crow cries and decades later the answer is given. This this, amongst other things.

Second Chances

At some point I stopped even wanting second chances. Bloodied my knuckles on the world not for justice but so that suffering might continue unabated. Truman and Hito are my brothers, the camp guards at Dachau are my brothers. My god my god why did you forsake me, did you forsake me. 

Sleeping on the couch again, passing each other in the kitchen again, kindness masking the radical healing we neither one of us know how to manage. Wordiness is being, dialogue is being, okay then, what is non-being? Falling to my knees not in prayer or surrender but defeat. Whatever has to end in me Christ let it end in me. Not one more step through this godforsaken valley alone. Please. 

Oh look, there's the moon again. There's the blind horse walking slowly through the pasture again. 

Yet another poem only you know how to read again. 

There are no flowers around here in February. Rosary prayers don't work anymore. The poor stay poor, the rich get rich. The frozen lake groaning at dawn, our tracks all over it like scripture.

This ice, it does not last forever.

Not a Bad Life

Waking early to kick the furnace, make coffee, mutter and stretch. Not a bad life - is that why suddenly I don't want it to end? Pace crusty snow in starlight, the indifferent stars, wondering how come nobody told me it's all okay? Moonlight whispering maybe because you knew all along? 

Why do I have to do so much of the work alone, and what else am I not allowed to say aloud? Listening to Blood on the Tracks with Jeremiah driving west, happy in a way that for most of my life was mysterious, alien, or plain inaccessible. Deer in the far field, crows in trees, perched on guardrails. Near the Windsor line a mostly-crushed fox. John Prine sings summer ends so sweetly I choke back "no shit." Bitterness becomes you, be gone. Nothing real can be threatened, nothing unreal exists. 

What happens in the middle, what is balanced, balancing, what balances. "You don't have to be alone/just come on home." What happens when you say what you know? Wapnick telling everyone be true to your own truth. What happens when you stop cycling through crucifixion/resurrection? Karma is a cat, remind me again what the collective is. 

Pretty skies at dawn. Horses with frosted faces nudging the gate for hay. Heart breaks, heart heals, Love holds everything. What did we have at the beginning that we no longer have? A love that is impersonal, vast, that is the absence of exceptions. Including the exception of us at the beginning? For once not dreaming, for once not waking tireder than when I went down. Clouds bunched on the horizon like roses, gold filament, black bears rolling over in the cave. 

My steadfast Eve, our exhausted Eden. I work hard, who knows this, who helps. Chrisoula cries past where the fire goes. At last it is clear. Study zero, see truth, be not confused about love. Love. 

Friday, February 24, 2023

Journal Fragment from June 2020

Sometimes you are a given a brother or sister in whom the whole complex puzzle of the world appears, and with whom - in whom and through whom, in what A Course in Miracles calls a Holy Relationship - you are able to solve that puzzle, become coherent, and at last be free of ego and world and all their attendant suffering.

In this way - in this relationship - the world disappears. God disappears and Jesus disappears. Even A Course in Miracles disappears. What remains is Reality. What remains is Love.

It is not easy. It is a practice that unfolds in time and space. The potential for error is vast.

And yet.

Ascended masters know better than to approach me, and I left supernatural gifts and abilities a couple dozen altars ago, but this I have been given, to this I am given and to this do I give myself, shamelessly and without reservation: relationship with the one in whom Christ appears, over and over burning away what is not Love, in the fires of sex and dialogue, prayer and commensality, in public and in secret, leaving only the pure light of being, this heart. 

Thursday, February 23, 2023

Turtles Dreaming

Naguib Mahfouz writes "Home is not where you were born. Home is where all your attempts to escape cease." I forget this.


Chrisoula and I drive to Worthington. The point is to talk about X outside the house, away from others, but we never talk about X when we're alone. X is not the problem, X is what hides the problem. We walk from the center of town to the fire pond in the woods where growing up I smashed beaver traps and decades later sat for hours on the grassy bank with Jake watching butterflies and turtles, dreaming I was Christ, playing with words, hiding from the world. 

We talk about healing, how supporting others in their healing can easily become a way of avoiding our own. It's an old story; this is old ground.

A golden eagle glides north over the soft ice, the green pines.

I don't want the past anymore. And Chrisoula never did.

I love this life, I don't care who knows it. I don't want to die. I'm tired of pretending I know anything about non-being. I miss my dogs. 

I miss my woman. 

Walking back my throat hurts. Why did so much in this life have to be so hard. Chrisoula is scared I'm not okay, might backslide into self-harm, I'm scared she can't actually forgive me. I tell her in Spring we will come back and see bears. What I really mean is, tell me there will be a Spring.

She doesn't answer but it's okay. I asked for one more winter, was given one, this one. Nothing real can be threatened, nothing unreal exists. Our shoulders graze leaving the forest. Once upon a time she lit up the interior brighter than Dōgen, brighter than Tara Singh. Now the lamp is shared and its little glow reaches barely past our fingers. 


Driving home the long way, something else Mahfouz said, I don't remember exactly, but it had to do with the heart and its secrets. I don't remember the context; I don't know if it fits here. It feels like it does. But I don't know.

Tuesday, February 21, 2023

Kisses: An Essay

I wrote this in the late Fall of 2021 when the grim tide finally turned, and it was clear I would be allowed another winter or two at the fire with you. I don't know why it languished in my drafts. 


A name I will not say. 

What was lost and what can never be lost. 

What are weddings. What are dances. What are kisses. 

Morning sunlight on hemlocks, a roseate glow that make my throat ache. 

This poem is for you Chrisoula, Helen, Denise, Jessica and Dan.


I remember dancing with her, surrounding adults pleased with how we followed the steps. I could not stop feeling her hand in mine - soft, warm, a little moist - while marveling how our bodies executed identical moves. It was like gazing into a kind of mirror, one that reflected movement but not a discrete self.

A decade later, reading the Dungeon Master's Guide, I learned that mirrors need a light source to work. This was offered with respect to Medusa, i.e. douse your torch and hope for the best. Yet for me, having never once feared but rather always coveted a woman's gaze - as if outside rather than inside it one dies - Medusa was not a threat but a lifeline.

We walked in a circle side by side. When I lifted my arm, she turned in another circle.

I remember how happy she looked when she looked at me, the two of us alone in our perfection, a thousand miles and lifetimes away from the ones who applauded and praised us. 

That night - by where I later learned her father buried the horses he shot - Watts Brook gurgling in darkness - we kissed. 

That kiss was forbidden though how I understood this remains a mystery. It lasted only a moment; it was never repeated; we said nothing. A few months later, at the end of summer, her family moved to Kentucky. I never saw nor spoke to her again.


My mother taught me about secrets and the difficult loneliness inherent in keeping them. 

My father taught me that pain was a privilege, a sign of God's favor.  

I learned early what words were for. I saw even earlier the oldest paradox of monotheism: how can a loving God allow pain and suffering?

I did not run from answerlessness as most do.

Nor did I redress it, as the few do.

Instead, I collected quartz, licked the sap of leaky maples, and talked a lot to the moon. 

I did not deny my breaking heart.  

When, decades later, I learned gassho rei, I practiced gassho rei as if my life depended on it.

A crow followed me everywhere telling me a story about a fox who couldn't decide what to do when he was cornered. 

I turned myself into ten thousand sentences and each sentence into ten thousand poems.

I always know exactly what to say.   

Kisses are mirrors in which the one shared gaze grows still and quiet as quartz in moonlight  


So these were some factors leading to an early equation of God with (or as) Light, kisses as forms of divine revelation, sex a vital ritual of communion, all spiritual metrics that would last until my early fifties when crisis forced me into an interior swale from which I did not surface alone. 

In a cave established by Chrisoula - decades after the wedding, in a Greek village that was five thousand years old, before a space in the air where an altar might go - I learned that light and gaze are one.

God became Goddess, Goddess emptiness, and emptiness, essence.

There is nothing. This is it.

We dance slower now. We are practically still. Other bodies move around us like satellites, coupling and uncoupling. The world appears and disappears. Life and death pass unconcerned. 

The cosmos in its indivisibility has no name for us. 

(Socrates wondered about the man who named Her). 

I was confused when I thought I suffered and even more confused when I thought I was healed.

Over and over She reveals Herself and in revelation offers Herself.  

Says yes to Herself with my mouth which fills with kisses but not Her name. 

Proscription is the ritual by which we remember Her. 


And even then, my lovers. Even then.

Friday, February 17, 2023

Manifesto: Talking with the Holy Spirit

I like winter fires, don't make them as much as I used to. But still. Sometimes I drag a plastic lawn chair over; mostly I stand by the flames alone. It is what it is.

If the Holy Spirit visits, I ask questions. He answers or he doesn't. How come people get divorced? Same reason they get married. I'm confused. You have said it. What if my son doesn't respect me? Are you sure you're not really worried that he does and now what? 

He says a lot: "tell me what you really want." Eventually I realize he isn't being rhetorical; he really wants to know. Or rather, really wants me to know.
Taking my cue from Peter Maurin, I want to help create a world in which it is easier to do good and to be good, by supporting others in their (natural serious) happiness, e.g., they are safe from violence, they are fed, they have clean water, their work has meaning, there is time to play, they can see a doctor if/when they need to, they can go to a church of their choosing or no church, and so on.  

I want to know the world as a village and everyone I meet as a sister or brother doing their utmost to remember - with me, for me, through me - our shared Creation in Love, by which Love we are all of us sustained. 

In order to live in that way, my mind has to heal. Here, I take my cue from A Course in Miracles. I need to see reality as God creates it, not as I in my separated state would prefer it. This means discerning between what is true and what is false; it means becoming responsible for projection and denial; and it means valuing according to love and not fear. 

I want us each to be the other's savior. 
Stir the fire, throw another log on. Gaze shifting from stars to fire and back to stars.
What you are describing takes work, hard work. Work that requires discipline and willingness. That requires faith, goes on in the face of not-knowing, goes on in the space of un-knowing even. You have to be strong and humble; you have to give everything away; you have to give away your identity, you have to give away even your right to an identity. It's hard to understand let alone apply. There are lots of ways to fail, lots of ways to go astray, lots of ways to quit. Almost everybody does.   

Stillness and peace are effects of remembering oneness with our Creator, by knowing ourselves as an extension of that Creator. This means - among other things - accepting that only loving thoughts are true and that there are only loving thoughts - that everything else is an illusion. 

Love holds everything. You either know this or you don't. Either way, you can't fake it. 

All fires are altars, all flames a grail. I hold my hands up to the starry sky; smoke trails through my fingers. "Love holds everything."  

When we accept that Love holds everything, then we know Love's effects in our life; in that way, Love becomes the foundation and the light; it becomes the word. It becomes us. On that day, Love is all that we bring forth because there is nothing but Love to bring forth. 
Night comes on. Starlight recreates itself in beads of melting snow. An owl cries on the other side of the river, murmuring in darkness. Now and then a pair of headlights where Route Nine bears down into the valley. Loneliness comes on.
I want to remember that there are no favorites anywhere, that God knows one creation, not many. Therefore, there are neither enemies nor competitors. A holy relationship is any relationship which recognizes the other's fundamental equality because it shares that equality, because it is that equality. 

What do I want?

I want you to transform my confused mind, turn it into a prism unto the light of Love, so that all it brings forth is whatever is most good for all Creation, so that all it wants is to bring that goodness forth. 
Teach me to remember what I am; let me be the light by which I remember that the only peace is the peace I bring forth in, with and through you.   
Silence then. The fire dead, the night heavy and dark. Imagine you are the only one in the world. 

Imagine you are not.

Wednesday, February 15, 2023

A Reading Note

It is possible this was supposed to be here but I confuse easily between my various writing projects, including the ones that I am not doing publicly, so . . . Offered here, just in case.

I wrote it a couple weekends ago when I was half-assedly listening to kirtan and somehow ended up reading the psalms and got that feeling one gets from time to time when reading the bible - where the fuck has this been all my life?

The intensity has since receded but the point stands. The psalmists were doing familiar work; they were trying to reach us; we gain nothing - and possibly lose a great deal - by pretending otherwise.

Tuesday, February 14, 2023

30 May 2020 Journal Entry

Woke up thinking of something Dave Carse wrote. 
The sense of caring and importance runs very deep in the conditioning and is not easily seen through or set aside. Even seekers who are familiar with the concept that 'none of this matters' will be brought up short by this idea that even 'awakening' is part of the script for the dream character in which it occurs, and is of no significance. "Do you really mean to say that the total Understanding is only part of the dream?" Indeed yes, even the occurrence of this realization is an event in the dream, part of the unfolding of the dream, and nothing has happened (254).
And comparing them to the journal entry of 29 May 2020, which is a vast and intricate self-assessment and self-criticism, notes towards a love letter, notes toward awakening, all undertaken after an evening with the mother. 

There is such a deep and welcome sense of insight and understanding in those moments and subsequent reflection. A place at the fire, a seat at the table. Yet a day later it all appears shallow and ineffectual. Do I lose something? Or was there nothing to lose? 

I want to be helpful with Jessica but it's clear that is just a fantasy. Which, fine, but then why am I vomiting from stress. Why the constant nightmares. Why is everything so secretive yet always spilling over, never quite resolving in either insight or its application. 

Jason said the other day after a walk to the river, "the dark night of the soul is not inevitable but that doesn't mean it is negotiable." 

Is the answer then no relationship? Healing my shit in relationship?

I think the answer, whatever it is, has not occurred to me yet. Or it has and I forget it, or don't recognize it. Remember it?

I am at the beginning again. Again.

Thursday, February 9, 2023

February 15 2020 Journal Fragments

from "Power and Gemeinschaftsgefuhl" by James Hillman: 

"The way to overcome division [between psychological schools] is not merely to bury the hatchet and promote sweet harmony. Rather, it would be to see the necessity in the sympton. What is the value of this phenomenon, division, as such, rather than we divide further over its causes and arguments? What's the purpose in this guiding fiction? What gains does division give?"


"To go truly deep is to go into the soul of the world."


"What notion of the world do we have that makes it a place on for the masterful? Why must being in the world, as the existentialists would say, require the power of mastery, of superiority?"

I forget how clear and helpful he is. Is is not clear how this is what A Course of Miracles asks of us? This willingness to accept without qualification or condition the symptom? To gaze upon the nightmare without explaining or describing it but letting it appear to us over and over? That the only way to the soul is through the body and the world and the mind bringing both of them forward as body, as world? It is not a question of expertise but surrender; we empty out of everything - including power, privilege et cetera.

Hillman goes on to suggest that our innate sense of inferiority is not merely a cultural artefact, not merely a result of our status viz. other folks - is not merely pathology - but rather is "native" to the cosmos. It is the human soul in deepest communion with the soul of the world in deep communion with the soul of the cosmos.

. . . 

Fell asleep after writing that and dreamed. In the dream, a question, loosely phrased: how much can or must the sannyasi forget?

And was then jerked crudely awake by Chrisoula cursing in the kitchen downstairs. Midnight, a little after, the neighbors racing ATVs, the roaring keeping Finnie  awake. 

I got dressed and went outside. I remember a nurse in Boston, saying, "you're the guy who forgets who he's fighting and why he's fighting, he just fights." Told the neighbors park the fucking ATVs, waited until they'd done so, then went back inside. Finnie and Chrisoula were asleep within an hour; I didn't make it back to bed. The ledge, it just keeps getting narrower. 

The answer, dreamer, is: a lot. 

. . .

Hillman again, same essay: "There's obvious chasms all over the place that don't have anything to do with sex."

Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Everything went Under: January Poems

January was watery, everything went under. When I looked at the stars, they didn't look back for the first time in forever. I understood the specific loneliness of childhood from which we all must necessarily flee. Flee and find again? Well, heal anyway. 

We are the stories we tell, is one way to see it, but if we don't from time to time also see the way in which we are the teller, then our happiness is going to be compromised. It's not a crime against God or nature to be unhappy, but there is - there is always - another way. 

Also parenting, not only in the local sense, but the cosmic too. I thought about this a lot in January. (I wish I wasn't such a slow fucking learner which, if you're reading this means, I wish you weren't such a stingy fucking teacher). Great Mother, God the Father, et cetera. Our models are inherent. What is inherent isn't a trap nor even a mirror but a mode. You can't help but be an author, why author your own suffering let alone anyone else's? 

In January I fell out of falling in love, saw the way in which sex is basically a failure of communion because it rests on the confusion of seeing "I" as this or that body/object, became willing to live religiously (but did not live religiously), understood death is not "the end" but "an over," in the sense of, I'm grateful for Deleuze, Barthes, et alia, but I'm also over them. You have questions, I don't have answers. What is hard to explain may not need to be. The one thing I can comfortably say re: the Holy Spirit is it's not my place to speak for Him. But I do think a relationship with Him is worth nurturing. Also, if it's not scaring the shit out of you then you're not nurturing it, you're playing at nurturing. Mother up. 

"Nothing matters." Or everything does, right? When you see it's the same thing, a lot of joy and peace automatically attend. The party is ongoing, we're just too busy being too busy to notice to notice. Once or twice a year I dream of Emily Dickinson, the dreams follow a familiar pattern: there's a house, the house is haunted, she's the haunt and it's my job to teach her that she doesn't have to be scared anymore. Most recently, she could move through walls and I could not. How grateful I am for this mind!

In January, the poems were hard to write. I doubt them. The art doesn't erode so much as reveal itself eroded. Now what indeed. I'm not who I think I am and neither are you. And we never quite go away.

The Butterfly Conservatory

Sitting on the front porch, listening to snow melt. Tibetan peace flags gray and mangled. The sun falling behind the hill beyond Route Nine. 

I am inside something but what. 

There are no windows or doors, why. Weeks pass without a poem until at last I write one just to do it, remember that I can. Remind myself I can?

Who is with you in the dream you are alone? 

Irish Setters in memory running hard along the trail. Pine forests and mountain brooks crystalline and pure. Snow storms in memory, being lost in memory. 

Not lonely so much as confused about how to accept and extend love, same problem we all have, and not the worst problem to have either. 

It gets better? The guy who cries at the butterfly conservatory and, later, the guy who laughs with the wife of the guy who cries at the butterfly conservatory at the guy who cries at the butterfly conservatory, is the same guy, me. 

Who is angry, hurt, who is helping. The invitation to prayerfully deepen flows through the cosmos, is in fact the cosmos, but is often received in unnecessarily strictured ways, why.

We all live on unceded land, call it home, is there something else we should do? Beloved, the beast is everywhere, you cannot through effort extract yourself from its clutches, act and adapt accordingly. 

Moonlight on snow at two a.m., we are not bereft. We are not saying no, we are remembering alternatives. 

Fitted Perfectly

The Moon of the Sleeping Bear floats hidden in clouds, I study it carefully after morning chores, perceiving in my heart - which as Emily Dickinson makes clear is the world calling itself home - a sense of driftiness on cosmic seas. Call it prayer if you must but when you are ready there is something prior to language and outside the universe. What is rose-colored, amethyst, what is the interior of a shell months after its meat has been transfigured in an oystercatcher's gut. One doesn't look at the sky, one is in the sky, one is made of what the sky is made of. There are no secrets, there are no mysteries, only truth coming forth as through a prism. Act and attend accordingly. A thousand-petaled lotus, a crucifix made of light, a ceramic Buddha wreathed in ivy. Snow melting under apple trees where in summer we made love beneath the watchful eyes of a blind Appaloosa. What chooses, what accepts. What helps, what does not, and by not helping, helps make clear what does. Resting in Love with Her always now, getting better at not denying it, allowing even its utility to be undone in me. I remember gathering stones on the beaches of Cape Cod with you before the wedding, they are in the hay loft in glass containers now, symbols of spiritual ballast, witnesses unto the one shared journey we are learning how to share. Equals making clear what is the same and what is not? Look at me writing yet another poem in this briefly outpouring light, look at Chrisoula studying the melting garden, mentally planning rows of kale and spinach. January is four syllables fitted perfectly to the tongue, God abides no less. Look at Christ dancing happily in the shallows, splashing my face with tears of joy.

A Little Dance

Becoming unrecognizable. Sitting on the back stairs with coffee, watching yellow clouds skate across the moon. I have not been a child for a long time, now I am not even childish.

And begin.

Rain falls hard all night, I sleep on the couch, nightmare after nightmare, yet later, driving west on Route Nine bleary-eyed and unsettled, recall a dream of Dan giving me a letterpress chapbook of his insights on Dōgen. All day remembering the soft grain, and none of the words. My brother, my lover.

Half a dozen crows in the far field obscured by fog. Nacreous clouds, the inside of oyster shells. 

What is moonlight to those who have yet to learn they are not imprisoned. How we are lifted beyond mystery into the neighborhood of bells, domains of joy attended by angels.

Remember Aunt Muriel's sewing room, all the colorful threads, puzzled how anyone could ever choose between them? Fingers trailing over every spool, lingering where coveting grew especially intense. Of course I love to watch you suck my cock, of course I like to caress your hair coming.

Roads following the river between hills. What staggers, flows. What never leaves nor ever arrives.

Bring your awareness to Sahasrara, the thousand-petaled lotus of the crown chakra and begin. 

Falling asleep with Paul Watzlawick's How Real is Real on my chest, waking up to Chrisoula setting it down on the bureau next to A Course in Miracles, asking myself is this a dream.

Arguments passing, griefs abandoned. The devil undone over tea and a couple sentences of Wittgenstein. How happy I am in winter darkness! Between snowflakes growing old. Dancing a little dance the lesser goddesses teach to those who - without virtue or intention - remember at last the beginning. 

Old Currency

Unexpected snow, you never know when or how the heart will break. Last breath, last vow. Journeys that reach mountains and end, journeys that reach deserts and forget something essential.

What begins, what cannot, ever.

Throwing hay to the blind horse, who in certain critical ways sees better than I do. What we place in the river - bits of the past, good intentions, confusion around fidelity, half-assed confessions - and how the river carries all of it away to the unknowing - the endlessly forgiving - sea.

What are promises, promises are old currency.

Toppling through forgettable dreams, waking to pee, shivering peeing, coming back to bed grateful, so I'm getting old so what. There is no such thing as death, there is not even such a thing as life. Winters around here ain't what they used to be. 

Settling old debts, facing North a last time again. Visiting my dead father out back - he likes the horses, likes the gardens, doesn't remember what winter is - to let him know what I'm doing with loose ends floating through the hereditary thread shop. 

We who travel, transgress, we who are transformed by our commitment to transformation.

Suddenly understanding how sex is the opposite of communication, becoming troubled then, deeply, but then - after midnight, alone with the stars in January - a distant light appears in the interior and jogs closer - it is Dōgen with his lantern! - and I am free then, we are all free. 

Visiting the fallen apple tree. The devil folds easily, he wants to fold, he wants to be enfolded, it took me lifetimes to understand this, I'm sorry.

My brother, my killer, my face in the mirror.

Snow falling in the swamp opposite the transfer station, on hills on the other side of the river, and far away in ways I cannot name or place. Never less, always this, and yet.

We who - becoming responsible for becoming Christ - learn we are Christ, who knew.

A Study of Agony

For a few minutes there is no body, only rain falling in the pasture. Barn owls sailing in low arcs across Route Nine west. Now we are nowhere, now we are nothing. Deep in January, stillness owns the flavor of salt, and you remember how a righteous king makes decisions. Unable to sleep, I devote myself to a study of agony, and find in it a lonely, not unsterile joy. You walk a long way alone long enough the question what do you want evaporates, even want evaporates, but something does not evaporate, and that's what I want. Winter is in so many ways not the end it pretends to be. A single hill in the interior made of lifetimes choosing not to climb a single hill in the interior. All night rain falling, notes arriving from a country I was not allowed to visit. The world a cell nurturing prayer, surrendered without a hitch. How happy one can be in the fluvial darkness, no clock or calendar, no aspirin or bible, God so big and unpredictable.

Loneliness Obscured

You have always been here, Christ has always been here, if you investigate the beginning this is what you learn. There are no secrets and nothing is holier than anything else. Nothing is hidden that will not be found. Let it be, don't worry, be happy. 

Walking outside at three a.m., moonlight on sparse snow, grateful as always for the chance to remember silence. One or two stars visible from beneath the apple tree, I try to see them as tiny diamantine fruits and briefly they are, how lucky I am! Slowly the stillness in me recalls itself, and what cannot be spoken of gently arises, undoing fear and unhappiness through a process for which I don't and never will have words, oh well. What is the way is the question obscuring the way, the river is not other than the sea, et cetera.

What is the end of hunger, what is the end of war.

What is the end of fear.

Jasper comes back from Israel talking about the Temple Mount, how beautiful and old, what it felt like to be there, a nexus of Abrahamic monotheism, like that, and all I know is that it too shall pass.

When I drank whisky, when I stunted with cocaine. When I stayed up until dawn night after night reading Robert Burton's Anatomy of Melancholy, cigarette after cigarette, when I stumbled to The Other Place for gin and tonics at noon, my whole body trembling, my loneliness obscured as it so often was in those days by my desire to destroy myself but not before finding a plausible rationale for self-destruction which - thank Christ - I never found but found the opposite. 

Jeremiah brings me a rock he pried from an Icelandic glacier, and a couple of dice with Viking runes. Maple taffy from Quebec City. I wake early to roast a turkey on his birthday, writing at the kitchen table while everybody sleeps. Notes toward letters I no longer need to send because the other is not distant, there is no distance, there is not even an other. 

What I used to have to imagine I no longer have to imagine. 

What I am saying is, I suffered once, but do not suffer now, and this is not a credit to me nor to anyone, not even God, because it is not an accomplishment but a revelation of what I am in truth, which was not born and cannot die, and dreams it can suffer but cannot in truth suffer.

Chrisoula over my shoulder says I don't think that's the way you use commas. How we lift each other. And you, always you. 

Feeding not Eating

There are pancakes. Thank God there are pancakes.

My father strapped a gun to his hip to pick blueberries in the morning, I believed then he needed it, I don't know now, but still. 

Is this a poem about pancakes? 

Is this the end of fear, is the end of fear the end of hunger.

We are here now together in ways we can barely contain our joy at being. Our hearts are cardinals in the remaining hemlocks, our minds are rushing rivers intuiting the sea. 

We walk fast, shoulders grazing, we ask if we are doing enough. 

We agree yes is not the answer yet.

Is this a poem or an essay. Is it an argument. Will it destroy the universe, should it.

What is love, love holds everything. 

We make love in the bedroom, late afternoon, laughing together after, we are like old black bears sharing a last summer together, happy in a way that is rare in application but not possibility. 

Nothing left over, nothing not given.

The pressure drops, snow is coming. Sparrows take more risks at the compost, the horses trod up from the lower pasture to the run-in. 

Well it is almost time. I tell Chrisoula when I am gone there will still be pancakes and she says yes but still. I think about that while the others sleep and I work out the remaining hindrances to teaching, one of which happens to be death, another how feeding not eating others is the end of hunger. 

Flurry by Flurry

Snow falling in moonlight, no need to play the sufferer anymore. A lot of memory is unworkable narrative, let it go. The Kingdom of Heaven is a condition of coherence that is only possible when we understand how what is cosmic and what is local are one thing, then act and adapt accordingly. Slipping a little on ice in the driveway. When the affair ended, what was broken in the marriage appeared, whole prisms were unshrouded every time we talked. When you see what you have spent a lifetime avoiding seeing, then fear ceases to be your guide. You become an elder, take a seat at the fire, you say what is given you to say. The mythology of the cross is not unhelpful, once you understand myths are Protean, dialogic, healing. The unbearable loveliness, the unbelievable sweetness. The stillness seeding us, flurry by flurry. The moon is our heart, our heart is the shepherd of the ocean, and the ocean is the soul of the mother taking form so we won't get lost again. More lost? It doesn't matter, is the answer that none of us can quite bear, stunting as we do like Roman soldiers ticking items off their Good Friday to-do list. Lingering before going inside, happy to at last be happy. It really is "more than okay." We are called to a vast table, an endless feast, a literal party thrown by angels. To what else could the word "soul" possible point? Why else this quiet joy, this invitation to set what hurts aside. As hours later, when everyone is asleep, I write - sentence by sentence, poem by poem, work only you know how to read. Notes cast onto an endlessly beautiful lake saying this is what it means to be in love, this is who I am in love. 

Saturday, January 28, 2023

Birthday Notes 2023

We have the experience of seeing a flower - it is sensual, beautiful, evokes memory and desire in us. It moves us to a language suitable to such an experience.

Tara Singh called this "verticality." It is an expression that moves out of the earth, into the human body, into the language the body uses to communicate, to share what it knows, to ask questions and build a world in which answers are not constrained to turf and stone, river and sky, but to Mind itself, in the form of the ideal and the abstract. 

On this view, knowing the biological (and chemical etc) origin of the flower is horizontal. It is good - truly! - to explain the origin of the flower, but this in no way exhausts our attempts to describe our intimate local experience of the flower, and to follow those attempts as they lead us into the Cosmos, into radical Love, which is our own self.


If holiness surrounds us then reverence, joy and humility are the modes by which we relate with the Cosmos, both in its unimaginable vastness and in the intimate and highly meaningful ways in which it appears to us as our life. Holiness and happiness are intimately connected. 


When I use the word "radical" I mean something like: "opposite to, or orthanagonal to, conventional and traditional thinking." To be radical is to be care-filled and discerning, and to make one's choices based on Love, which is neutral and impartial, and always seeks to extend itself more inclusively and intensely. What else could Love possibly be?

By "radical" I do not mean: more intense or more extreme. 

"Radical" is the measure is the effectiveness of our shared goal of maximizing (natural serious) happiness for all Creation. To be radical is to be clear and simple. To be radical is to be devoted (that is the verb) to coherence by seeking the extension of coherence in all the apparent domains of our being - sexual, psychological, social, agricultural et cetera. All of it without exception. 

Saturday, January 14, 2023

Letter to Ron Atkinson

Dear Ron,

You are gone. I knew that you were gone, but I did not know when you left. My attempts to find you over the years were insufficiently calibrated. I could have found you. That I did not is one of my life's deep regrets.

This letter is in part an apology. And in part, it is a note of gratitude.

Ron I'm sorry that my efforts to connect with you while you were alive did not lead to a meeting. They could have, and they did not. I think you would tell me "so it goes," and you would be right, but also, I would have enjoyed talking to you. I thought about you and your poetry a lot in my life. I have not connected well with my teachers in this life. Late - and possibly too late, truth be told - I feel it as a real loss. 

When I was about sixteen I started sharing my poems publicly. In high school, in English class, we had to share and analyze a poem with the class, and I chose one that I had written. In response, the teacher gave me two of your chapbooks. She told me you had visited the school years ago. I had no concept of what a poet was, outside of history; the picture of you in tie dye with your daughter felt oddly familiar to me. You looked happy and clear. Later I learned that you had lived in Worthington around the time I was adopting all kinds of psychological survival strategies in response to the ongoing crisis of family, many of which strategies involved the local hippie and back-to-the-earth culture in which you were embedded.

You were kin to me; I knew this early, even if I lacked the words to say it.

Your poems frightenened me and the fear fascinated me. I couldn't stop reading them. Prior to your example I thought poems had to rhyme and be otherwise formal, include reference to God and nature, all of which reflected a kind of psychic distance from life and the world. Your poems blew that model up. I hid the books because I knew if my parents found them I wouldn't be allowed to read them, and I was terrified of going without them. I didn't realize how hungry I was for an intimate language until I read your poems. I didn't realize what poetry could actually do until I read them.

Because suddenly, the world was changed - suddenly anything and everything could go into a poem. No idea or image was unwelcome. Whatever I felt, no matter how scary or disturbing, no matter how dramatic or nonsensical, could be put into words and onto the page. It was a way of being engaged with life that I had not known was possible, and it literally saved me. It was like I'd been in a straitjacket bobbing in the sea, expecting to sink and drown at any moment, and suddenly I could swim. Suddenly there were all these islands, all these currents. Suddenly there were benevolent whales,  take your chances pirate ships, and multi-lingual octopuses.

It was hard to believe this world was real; my hunger for it was instantly legendary.

Your poems were mystical, profane, argumentative, irrational and beautiful. They declared their love for the cosmos and they celebrated that love. They were sexual and messy and comic. They were drunken ramblings, psychedelic hymns to gods so far outside the familar as to look like devils. 

They were (as for me, in this life, all poems must be) a map to survival - notes to the lost and forsaken about how to remember to be happy, salvage connections, really see the world in all its complex beauty, and how to remain true to your own truth, no matter how violently your family and community and the world at large tried to strip you of the grace, creativity and freedom that are inherent in all creation.

Suddenly I knew what the art was, and I swore myself to it forever, and the art and the vow saved me.

And Ron, I wish to holy fuck I could have let you know this before you died. You taught me that writing would save me, and I believed you and I was saved. You took the vow - the vow was evident in every line you wrote - and I took it as well. This life was never easy - it still is not easy - but in it I was able to be companionate, religious, and wordy. I gave myself - however ineptly - to the way of truth and love. I am a poor pilgrim and a crappy priest but I did not break faith. 

I did not let our shared gods down, and I did not let you - my first real teacher, my first real poet - down.

You said yes to living - despite the great pains and tragedies you faced, especially the death of your beautiful daughter - and your "yes" became the model for my "yes." I am more grateful than I can say but still. I would have liked to try.

I understand that at a nontrivial level, this failure to meet is ordained by the cosmos, because in the deeper way we did meet, are forever entwined as teacher and student, as brothers even, and that that level trumps by far the shallower level of appearance and experience. I get that. I know that we are talking about something here that in the ultimate sense is not personal but cosmic, that is in truth Love Itself.

And I know, too, that you might not see it that way. My path turned towards a form of spiritual healing, and the healing owned both an epistemological and a theological component that were Christian, New Age-y, and often imitative, especially of Hinduism. The language I use now, with which I have some basic fluency, and through which I am able to share my "yes" - albeit clumsily, falteringly - with the world may not have been your language. I never found any other poems by you; I have no idea how your work evolved, what it became. I accept that. Students move on, teachers let them go. It doesn't really matter.

Anyway. This blog post stunting as a letter is not enough, but we both know what is enough, and we both gave - both give - our hearts to it. Our shared bodies of work - mostly anonymous, mostly minor - are enough. Little lights will do, everybody forgets this. Thank you my brother, my teacher, my fellow traveler for letting me know the way forward. No darkness abides.

Thank you. A thousand times, thank you.  


Sunday, January 1, 2023

December Poems

December writing happens mostly in the dark, after prayer and before work. Liminal, lumious, labial. I thought there would be eight poems but was wrong. It's okay. The season, not the holiday. Writing, not the writing. 

I thought often of those who share the way with me, some of whom want more than I can give, most of whom I want but cannot find a way to remain congruent with. Chrisoula and I got clear, then clearer. There is always another level of fear, always another error. That too is okay. Knowing where to lay one's tongue is all the heaven a body needs. Act and adapt accordingly!

At night in the hayloft I gazed east across fields of stars gazing down at fields of snow, all of it terminating in a mutable horizon. Winter gazes back, it always has. Love undoes our fear of the void. Beyond the one who gazes, God, and beyond God, Love. No big thing, also the only thing, et cetera.

I remember the suffering of those who share my body, and in this way reach the end of time. Or rather, the mutability of time. Somebody somewhere wants me to learn something. Lean into something? Reality is a story telling itself to itself over and over is not the worst way to understand reality. There are others of course but sooner or later you dance with the one who brung ya.

Aunt Muriel said that. There's a time to play and be a child, there's a time to work and be an [elder brother or sister] or [whatever]. Family was the way but isn't any longer, don't lose the thread. No sooner does Jesus comfort you then you remember he isn't here to comfort you but rather someone else through you. Give it up woman! I wish I could extend to you the gift you give me in eternity but I'm at the beginning still, a child still, I'm learning how to tie my shoes and butter my own toast. Still. 

My mother read Wordsworth to me when I was little. Wordsworth and Keats and Ladies Home Journal. Hans Brinker and the Silver Skates and Grey Sprite the Silver Knight. Nobody was happier when I began to try my voice. Nobody ruined my body harder in order to point beyond it. In the presence of the snake, one learns quickly to be charming. "You can't handle the truth," and other bromides that may or may not be helpful on your knees behind the church.

And poetry, always poetry.

Welcome to the Anthology

Waiting on snow, nothing left to do. In Advent we study homelessness, the condition of the one who cannot help but seek God. 

Sighing coming.  

In the attic sweeping bat shit, studying briefly the knife my father's father gave him, which he gave to me, which has not been sharpened in decades.

We name our lovers, we grow our own food, we buy nothing new. 

We are not afraid of each other.

Making coffee in morning darkness, going outside with it to say goodbye to the stars, carry hay to the horses, gaze at frozen gardens, and remember - or forget to remember - to pray. 

Alert to what communes with us in order to be brought forth through us. 

Chrisoula and I make love in early darkness, I kiss her collarbone, fill her gently, and after she cries over all the pain in the world, tucked against me while I touch her hair, murmur her name, my cock softening and drying, night floating away, the world a husk, the whole world floating away, oh Lord make me worthy of your daughter. 

Beyond all promises, beyond all vows: beyond all beginnings. Forgiving the child in me who became the young man treasuring hurt and anger in me who became the husband who refused all plowshares in me, who is forgiven in me. Alleluia, alleluia.

Melanie says I should publish more and I laugh, what's so funny she asks, I tell her the truth, the cosmos is publishing me, it publishes everything, welcome to the anthology I say, welcome to the shared sentence of life, rejoice! 

The Goddess of Snow Flurries

Forehead to the window, promising myself I won't indulge yet another crucifixion, which posture is only necessary because of this ongoing self-deception. How bright the stars become when one is confused about where and how else to look for God! Yet all lost dogs find a home, or so I was told and yet choose to believe. Turning in all directions a long time to confirm that direction still exists. Is there in fact another way? Stumbling happily past trimmed-back raspberries, early December, the Goddess of Snow Flurries masturbating in moonlight, coming all over me. Family is the nightmare from which we must awaken, sex may not be the answer. What happened to everything not being reduced to a single image? Why are all the screens suddenly filled with local adaptations queering a great love in order to more broadly disseminate it? We open out into the cosmos, the true monastery is the heart, evangelist convert thyself. We learn to hold each other by opening our arms and leaning in. The other is always you. These are ideas yes but ideas are made of light and light is love. Flake upon flake advancing a storm we cannot help but open to as Christ. 

Eloquent Bones

Prismatic frost, praise these old eyes praising the new morning. The familiar adage needs a minor edit to be correct, beauty is the eye of the beholder. Shivering in sneakers and no jacket, the old trick of facing winter unadorned works yet again. How still the morning is, and how cold! A crow calls to another crow on the far side of the river and it's like the whole twentieth century crying out for forgiveness in me. What breaks, what cannot, ever. What breathes. The heart a bell, the body a steeple wandering back and forth across the earth, our shared church. As later we touch gently in the pantry, leaning into each other to warm each other, remind each other we are not alone, cannot be, ever. Advent is for crumbling, letting go of seeking, and rethinking altogether Bethlehem and its famous manger. Yeats in his grave is eloquent bones. Between a tree falling in the snowy forest and its decoration hours later, a single inhalation, and this: this this.

A Generous Extension of the Original Contract

Lucifer is complicated, and you are complicit, stop pretending otherwise. Stop doing this to yourself, do something different with yourself. Thoughts in a diner, writing by hand, a part of the country I know exists but don't recognize - when did this happen? Driving below the speed limit through moonlight alone in the Smoky Mountains. This is pushing sixty. The ones who swallowed, the ones who didn't and the One Who is Here, always, teaching me. 

What is the story your therapist is telling? Is it a story you could tell yourself or a story that teaches you that you are the teller? Remember poems when all that mattered was writing them down and that was all that mattered? Moonlight slipping through striating pine trees in a nearly silent forest. The river rushing its banks and falling back all the way south and east to the sea. Secrets. Seasons? Well, healing anyway. It matters - what matters - if you have to ask - .

Equal and the same are subtly different designations, they produce different worlds, study the nomenclature carefully. Praxis arises from theory, theory from belief, and belief is a response to fear. There is less time to screw around than you think. Your grandmothers knew things you didn't, they tried to teach you, you mostly forgot. It's not a crisis but we do seem to need to know, who owns failure? Waiting for Chrisoula in the car while she shops for yarn, praying a rosary. Sunday again, in the Church of the Quietly Joyful again. Church of the Foolish? Well, doing what works again. Not settling so much as consenting to a generous extension of the original contract. Four a.m., moonlight in the toilet, pissing anyway, happier than once seemed possible. 

How Hope Enters the World

Snow falls all night and into the morning. I'm going to die soon. It feels like a competition, who can outlive who. Why did so much in this life have to be so hard? Listening to Chrisoula breathe while the light changes. She shifts, pulls the blanket closer, her leg grazes mine: this is how hope enters the world. Murmuring hosannas, forgetting the words. In the end all that's left to let go of is the idea that letting go is valuable. The flakes drifting, not driven. Hemlocks stirring in slight breezes like whispering in church. Will it hurt? Be traumatic? I remember deer in glades in the forest, trout suspended in the glassy pools of Bronson Brook. I remember my father's exasperation with me hunting and how seductive my mother could be when it was only the two of us. Even Advent will be gone. Even Christ. What is the world when you are no longer in it? Remember confessing and the puzzling absence of absolution after? Snow through afternoon, deep into the night. The heart refuses all caskets, what else is living for. Holding open the book a little longer, grateful and happy, in a way that like dying is not at all mysterious. 

The Ninety-Nine

There are neither curses nor promises, only poiesis. I was a boy when they asked me to enter the forest alone. Trout strangling on the river bank, deer pausing on the ridge above the clearing. It matters, knowing how to make a fire. Crows everywhere, beautiful and terrible. "You fix this," said Dad because his mother had lost her youngest sister, who was a child, to a hurricane and said to Dad when he was a boy, "you fix this." You want peace, learn that only violence, not peace, can be personal. All this suffering, all this conflict. Where the river parts the distant hills, light appears. What did the ninety-nine think when the shepherd left to seek the one? All morning writing, translating body into mind, and mind into a prism, yours. Ten thousand years after the wedding we find the marriage bed and rest in it together. What is beautiful, what is terrible. What happens when you reach the prohibition on naming Her? Together we make a forest, together we are a trail. The found are a lantern unto those who believe in loss. It's not silence but stillness, and it's not stillness either, but still. Praise unto the one who showed me how to lay this body down. Chrisoula whispering here, Chrisoula whispering now.

What to Make with a Body

Always the belief that something was missing. Later the unanswerable question what do you lack. And then this stillness, both terrible and beautiful. 

What is haunted, what is no longer.

Icicles melting on the back porch roof, cardinals preening in the side yard lilac. 

For a long time I thought that knowing something was missing meant it was here in the form of knowledge which I possessed and could use but the error now is clear. 

We made love under apple trees at the end of summer, under the watchful eyes of the blind Appaloosa our daughter serves. I am warmed by this in early winter. 

Bronson brook flowed through a dark forest, cool and damp. Even in hottest summer it was hard to make or sustain a fire. 

I'm confused about fathers again but don't worry, it's good to have something familiar to write about. It's not a crisis, not knowing what to make with a body, this or any other.

Upper Highland Lake, given. Fitzgerald Pond where we walked together to the Country of Turtles, given. 

The Country of Turtles, given.

Owls in winter alone in the deep forest, given.

Learning what comes after fear, given. After what the dogs knew, after what the calf saw, tangled in bracken at midnight and, later, choking to death on brandy in the basement. 

What is given, gifted, what cannot be, ever.

The boy who is often hurt, always scared, the men that boy becomes. 

After grace. After samsara.

After liberation. 

I was stranded in Vermont, I see that now. Vermont was not my home, I have no home. 

I see that now.

I am here with you now, that is all I want now. 

What promises in me is taken in the dust behind the church of what is holy in you. Made briefly perfect in you. 

What cannot be transgressed or transmuted in you.

What is answered in you, what cannot be, ever. 

The End of Threads

In Advent owls come out of the forest to rest all day in maple trees behind the pasture. Sentinels, emissaries. Revenants. Language is no longer the answer nor even especially helpful. Irish Setters from childhood, nobody suffered more. Sunday afternoon in the hayloft, potatoes and grains stored everywhere, books everywhere. Ten thousand prisms. She removes her clothing gazing out a north-facing window, full of light. The end of seeking, the end of threads, but not the end of being given to her giving herself. Bethlehem and its famous manger are not the condition of peace to which they point. It took me lifetimes to understand this, I'm sorry. Moving gently in each other, the many mountains in us moving slowly to the sea. Earlier at dawn beside the river dark water flowed between ice-covered stones. I was here once and knelt. I was here once and left, wandered a long time before stumbling back, wingless and poor. From a distance now I watch the one who bends toward her thighs, whispering "almost there, almost there."

The World Waking Up in Us

Wandering further than usual now I cannot be alone. Mist rising off snow in the pasture, empty Adirondack chairs. Knowing in her the truth of me, which is the end of confusion, which is grace in us. Distant Christmas lights, no stars. Sheep watch me pass unthreatened. Strands of hay through which the wind carols, a little shy of silence. You walk a long time to reach the desert only to realize when you get there you've forgotten why you came. It's okay. Crucifixion ends in us, resurrection ends in us. Enlightenment et cetera ends in us. Cardinals come and go, the fallen apple tree remains useful without fruiting. Is it clear? Christ is what you remember when Christ remembers you. I remember wading through low tide on First Encounter beach with you, holding hands with you and not saying much, days after the wedding. The world waking up in us, and love no longer alien. I face the direction of the house the marriage built and bow. Skip a little walking back, a dance these old bones knew before lovers, knew before teachers, knew before God made knowing ideal. 

Survivors of the Roaring

The man formerly known as the Man Without Shoes rises, puts on wool socks and another man's shoes, and goes downstairs to make coffee. Three a.m., shivering and grateful, mostly alone, same old thing now thirty years running. At midnight snow was falling but now it is not. He writes after snow, starlight. Sits, kneels and paces in darkness, the house cold and the wind loud. What is wordy, what is not. Christ no longer visits, having taken up residence. In the heart is the only object in an otherwise empty cosmos. A long prayer that once again I do not know the end of until I reach its end. Imagine the Titanic, imagine Gary Gilmore. Imagine survivors of the roaring. At dawn a bald eagle floats low over the pasture, brushing crowns of snow-riven hemlock. Thank you Jesus! Thank you Bill and Helen. Crescent moon fading like the end of crucifixion. How happy we are when we consent to be happy together! The Nameless One attending always. Season of icicles, blustery radiance. Little rainbows everywhere. Chrisoula the other I agree to become, then forget forever, again. Season of the end of sin. Season of beginning, again, in love: this love, in which error is not possible, nor ends.