Sunday, November 30, 2014
Four a.m. is the stillness that receives me in (order to empty me (of me)). Or something like that. I could ramble all morning if she'd let me. Each exhalation is a tide falling away and yet remains welcoming, which is exactly the mystery I long ago resolved to solve. Coffee, not tea, and candles instead of the overhead, and curtains parted just a little so one or two stars remain visible. The tractor metaphor is clumsy because it implies there is something to fix. I am not trying to fix anything because there is nothing to fix, but there is something to see. Earlier, in the moist fields behind the old homestead, a sort of mist rising from punky snow, and a warm bellows coming up out of the cattail, I saw it. It is always there but we are very insistent on the prerogative of narrative-as-self, which functions as both shield and a veil. Also, we are very attached to the body's eyes, which are a mansion when a cottage is all one really needs. A distance that is not neglectful is the closest I can get to what you learn in your sojourns outside time. I wake to write, and write to awaken, and so the words are there. Well, they are always there, which is an answer if at this late juncture you want one.
Are all my walks a search for mercy? I wonder sometimes what he discovered on his coast-to-coast drives, his life-long beer-filled sojourn to nowhere. In my dreams he is often looking for a place to live but also being honest about who wants him around. It only hurts if you let it? Loneliness is the third teacher, I see that now. A little rain falls, a soft cloud enfolds me, follows me. Maybe you, too. Lost dogs of the world forgive me for falling so short of my heart's dizzy agenda. There is no middle in love, as there is no distance in here. And you are here. Now you are here. I stumble as I go - oh Lord how I stumble - but still. The dog settles on the bed and I drink coffee at the north-facing, yet dark, window. The prayer writes itself and writes us with it. Word by word is the only way I know.
The belief that we are something (good or bad, a poet or a seamstress, a sister or a lover) is different from the name we give that something. The latter is a matter of convenience - beautiful communication - but the former can screw us worse than those years of booze and sleeping in the park. Oh holy night indeed. I paused where the deer had kicked at the snow to get to fallen apples, the few remaining a red blush I instantly loved. Paused, too, where the hill crested near the old parsonage and looked out over the landscape that is shifting so fast it might as well be a dream. Headed back thinking if I wasn't so Zen I'd think that somebody ought to kick that dreamer's sorry ass. The puer in me is repulsed by the doggedness, the tedium, of writing, and also by my willingness to dog her for attention. Dignity avails the lonely nothing! A lot begins at the throat and then you have a decision to make, i.e., where to kiss next, and don't think I haven't got a preference. She said I was softer in person, as if my sentences were merely defensive, and I liked that, I held onto it, I "ate it up." Icicles never melt the way you plan but wordiness goes on forever. Distance and waiting are two parts of a holy tryptich. I never met a dog I didn't love or a dog owner I didn't judge. The altar is everywhere but it can take a while to see it, huh?
Saturday, November 29, 2014
I nearly slipped going east down the hill and the dog paused to look back but I righted myself - arms extended - and went on, wondering what other falls await me and who, if anyone, will right me when I can't. Distance means we aren't distracted by sex, or are distracted differently, and also that we are obligated to use words to communicate. Lucky me. God does not need thanks but the thought is nice, if one is inclined to gratitude. The glitter of starlight on snow remains a favorite image, reaching all the way back to the beginning of memory, but I am less and less partial to the cold in which it happens, despite a bulky jacket, despite a handmade hat. I am beginning again a particular landscape that scares me, and yet to which I seem to return again and again, as if there were a lesson to learn. But in the end all we ever see is that there is no seer, and then we have to choose: will I turn back to the false comfort of the known or will I enter the unnameable flux in which all differentiation - including that which I believe composes me and you - ends? Well, that is one way to look at it. Probably there are others. A few cups of coffee, another thousand words or so, and the Beloved remains ensconced in her holy faroffness, her sacred now-you-see-me-now-you-don't. Perhaps it was always that way. We leave the hive and fall in love with bluets while all the while someone waits for the nectar we were sent to find, and found, and then forgot in the face of beauty, forget in the reflection of love.
Friday, November 28, 2014
Up past midnight tending a fire while the others sleep. What am I - what are any of us ever - but an escort to ash? I dreamed of raising the dead and getting lucky, and I dreamed of ducklings tumbling over one another in sunlight, and I dreamed of the futility inherent in cameras. Yet grace does reside in the image, even the ones we never receive. Nobody is going anywhere is a hard lesson to learn, given the cartographic nature of relationship. I am here, he is there. A preferential dishonesty, like a sudden opening where the hill crests, is neither an answer nor a question. The truth admits no distance, which is why you can see right through it and still see only truth. At dawn a little snow falls like some Nordic god's afterthought, or maybe a little winter god still learning how to walk. A book called Dogs I Have Known would be too sad for any of us, but cardinals at the feeder are a real joy. I sneak outside before anyone else wakes up and thank them for being red, thank them for this open marriage full of chickadees and bears, starlight and you. And you. You.
Wednesday, November 26, 2014
Snow and starlight a welcome shelter, though one wonders what the killdeer think. Tuffets and buntings the fine line between lovely and starvation. Last night's skunk returns, leaving tracks over the now-covered garden. Meandering is an art premised on radical inclusion, which is simply love. Some things we try to settle into over and over and they keep spitting us back and when will we learn? We can only be home when we're home and with whom we are home. An interim of kisses will not distract me, nor will I say no. How quiet the landscape is after the first snow! How slowly I walk through it, like not even walking at all. The sourceless light goes with me now and you are its favorite lamp.
You could burn every clock ever made and I wouldn't mind. You could grow the perfect rose, too. Reheated coffee tastes different, depending on the mug it's in, which is part of what I am getting at re: form. We were lost in that diner a long time, exiting as if from a singularity, and I still couldn't love you the way you wanted or needed, could I? Loneliness teaches us what we have yet to learn about how to love, which is obviously why I spent so much time with it. Response matters whether you're drunk in Burlington, Vermont or sneaking into a Dublin convent. What you don't share remains a secret and to that degree you go unsaved. Unclothed? Unrobed, maybe. Metaphors, of course, are essentially a form of violence, despite our sense that they are unavoidable. They aren't. Yet what a castle can't do, a cottage in the woods often will. It's fun to think there is a single note song out there and we are it but sooner or later you have to come clean about God and Love. I mean, snow falls and deepens all morning and it's the same old story as it ever was: we ignore the proffered hand in order to go on with crutches.
Tuesday, November 25, 2014
I had a sense as the moose disappeared into shadows that we had informed one another, in the way that water fills a mug, or starlight my cupped palm. One struggles at times to see any imperfection at all anymore. Cutting bittersweet where the yard falls away, adjusting the oven so the the bread will crisp just so. A world of coffee will not long sustain me, nor do I dream anymore of anything frightening. Syllables precede us, lighting the way, exactly as Roland Barthes suggested. Or was it Gertrude Stein? Well, someone pointed to a window, someone said "here's how it opens." And does it matter now, being no longer on either side of but rather in the bourn? Its eternal beneficent flow? He said to me a long time ago, when he knew - but I was yet learning - that I had it, what do you want to do with it? And now this: sentence after sentence becoming yes. Yes.
Monday, November 24, 2014
Rain at 4 a.m., soft and unexpected, and Chrisoula whispering "do you have to?" as I slip out of bed to stand by the window, dressing for a walk. Dogs almost always say yes, which is part of why we love them so. No stars, no moon, but D. forgot to turn his porch light off, its faint rays slipping over the fire pit and barren garden. Her dream of me matters, as does getting past it into whatever else - if anything - this life is for. I turn south into old fields despite the mud, despite the cold. We go where the heart says go? While the mind pries open its prismatic vastness. Well, maybe. I'm a wordy guy in the end, more interested in trisyllabic utterances than getting anything right. You do what you can. For a long time I was scared of the devil, carried flashlights and guns, and sketched a map of the world in my head. But then I realized he was just like me: disgraced in Heaven, missing his father, and stumbling accordingly. Prodigal children abound! For you then this rain which I entered and was blessed by. And for you the trail I followed back alone.
Sunday, November 23, 2014
To the extent we are traveling, we are now slowing down. Now we are taking small steps designed not to move us to a new location but rather to see where we are clearly. Prisms are helpful, also mirror balls. The smallest shards of ice at the tip of the lilac bush, and - once or twice a lifetime - the radiance of trout leaping at dusk, perfect rainbows emanating from the river spray flung from their muscular bodies, all in the last beams of the far off falling sun. Your mind holds what the light puts there, and everything else is simply the flotsam left by your habit of embroidery. One dream of one kiss can obscure awakening, despite our best intentions. That is one way to think of it; surely there are others. A day of darkness eventually sheds its shadowy woolens and you find yourself on a rickety ladder scraping ice and dead leaves from the gutter, at the far end of which is an empty robin's nest. Remember in summer when hummingbirds visited the bee balm, hovering before the bedroom window? We never forget what reminds us God is Love and Love is Reality perceived - for now - in lovely lonely fragments. Butterflies, shoulders, moss, peas. How cold and blue my hands are and yet how steadily I work, removing detritus that obstructs the needed flow. It's a metaphor, yes, but not only that. We don't really have wings but in mid-November, with her eyes upon you, it can feel that way. You can feel that way. And so what? She always comes to me early in the morning before I walk, pulling the blankets over us, and I am happy then, I am more than happy.
Thursday, November 20, 2014
At three a.m. you wake up a suspect but ten minutes later the wild stars and frigid air insist you are held and beloved. How grateful I am for tea on mornings when the coffee grounds spill to the floor. When I cry, I cry hard, and the months that pass when I don't, well, what can you do but what you can do? There is a sense now that some lovely vista will remain unreached, some critical insight go undiscovered. Yet when you know you don't know, you basically know, right? Or am I only being clever? Coming back from teaching last night I pulled over to watch a bull moose trot north along the road, eventually ducking into a little clearing below K.'s house. How big and glorious they are in thinning moonlight! How shaggy as the year turns winter! And a dry snow spat from unseen clouds, hissing a little on the driveway when I pulled in, tired and angry and scared, despite the great Love of which I am mostly now aware. It turns out that saying what you don't want to say isn't the answer either although it does move you in a helpful direction. I love you in ways for which I am just beginning to be thankful. Yet I still stagger through sleep in a hurry to reach the other other side (repetition intended!), a habit that I refuse to give up, even though it doesn't really serve. I meant to write "the same old dream of mail" but snakes - who, like the witch in Hansel and Gretel, are a symbol of death in the maw of the hungry Other (for I am terrified of being eaten above all other fears) - abound, and so. Thank you Meister Eckhart for going silent at a critical moment. I chose the wordy - not the religious - life, and am only now reaching the desert you promise I will not die in.
Tuesday, November 18, 2014
You want quiet but the dog snores. And moves a lot in the night? Well, something is stirring and it's not just the old dream of snakes. It's okay. I cried hard remembering dead horses but a little before three a.m. the stars own a wild blue light you only see a few times after childhood. It is okay. A manageable hunger never hurt anyone. I remember Mr. Tower describing death as "over the bourn" and in that moment becoming a linguist. Be agile but bold, too. All trails take you somewhere is my implicit faith, and also you didn't make all trails. Saturday I bought a new mug for my coffee (the old one busted while Sophia and I were loading the truck). The woman who made it - a librarian with admirable taste in graphic novels - said "it's a flower vase" as I studied it and I said to her "not anymore" before plunking down my last pair of tens. Form is use, right? In poetry or pottery both. On the other hand, walking in the cold, I do wonder about the extremities. Frost is Persephone's mother's wedding dress cast aside in the frantic search. Something knocks in the woods and the dog abruptly turns, disappearing, leaving me alone with a buck who stepped wrong in the dark. Compose your own epitaph, Old Scratch! I smile a little back on the porch, wind blowing dead leaves over my feet and the lawn and Route 112 in the distance. You learn what you have to give and then you give it. The rest is a story, a good one more or less, but nearly ended now, and thank Christ too.
A perfect quarter moon behind fast-moving storm clouds which clear abruptly to reveal Ursa Major upright in the heavens. Is this where it ends? Northern wind as always rolling down a vast marble empire I could walk through in my sleep. I follow the old dog's lead now, the gift I couldn't give the other because all I wanted was to keep him alive. I am still more or less a member of the fuck death school, notwithstanding the breadth of my reading list and generally knowing better. Quandaries lead to proposed solutions which lead to yet more problems, as if we love being lost. Or is it a game? I can tell you this: if you can't reach the paradox yourself it will kick the door down on its own. I'm back in the relationship that yields only guilt and fear: I cannot leave and I cannot stay and she is the only one who knows. Imagine being given a voice only to learn your beloved has no ears. Oh Christ what did I do in a past life to stumble so in this one? There is no answer and there never was and that is the answer and yet. How I long to sleep but rise over and over at the hard hour to go as far as the dying dog will take me. You kneel by the frozen fire pond and pray it again: the wordless plea that birthed you: abandoned you: and still.
Monday, November 17, 2014
Salty aftermaths abound, as egrets can sometimes be seen at a great distance over marshes no biped can traverse. Or else it rains, and the rain mixes with snow, and the dog and I come back sopping, and cold the way you sometimes have to be if you're going to find God outside. There are days you open the mailbox and there it is, the letter you were waiting for, and you light up inside like a polished crystalline prism. How many hours have I spent in trees, listening to snow fall, or watching the light change slowly to the blue that precedes darkness, or wishing I were someone or somewhere else? Moments go countless, as does love, as do the number of feathers on a given crow's wing, all of which is to say that the limits to mathematics are never not helpful. Slowly the old impulses fade and the need to be wrong or to pay some high price fades too. No gallows for me, thank you. Beware a man who uses the word blessing too much, who maybe makes you feel like you owe him. A lock of hair, a photograph, a kiss. It unfolds gently, Life, like a ripple that could topple marble walls, and carries us along for a little while. We are temporarily flotsam, capable in a limited way of knowing what is happening, and this insight inspires the relevant inquiry. I don't think we're going to grace any motels the way we sometimes say but I do think it's possible we will share some time near the end, when we are very old, and to all other eyes it seems futile or just silly. Truth be told, either way works for me. As always, I slip a little coming up the hill, and as always, right before it happens, I know it's going to happen. And so what? We play at life a long time before asking if there is anything else and only then do things get interesting. The symbolic tractor I am repairing leans against the symbolic barn in which I first kissed a girl and behind which all my symbolic dogs were executed. There are no accidents in language! Happiness involves chance but joy has an element of rootedness. What I am trying to say is thank you, and be patient, and give attention to what arises as I will too and what happens, happens and we will be the ones who are okay with that, who are okay with a love without conditions. The sun rising, the sea falling. The dog sighing a little before sleep.
Saturday, November 15, 2014
One faces the day with a thousand names fluttering through their skull like butterflies made of ice, like salt flecks of the sea when the ship is going down. As the moon settles beyond the hill, shadows lengthen across the yard, and the blue light long believed to compose us all begins to radiate from the trunks of trees and the breasts of passing crows. Accept no kiss upon which conditions are placed, implicitly or otherwise, and resist inclusion in another's spiritual drama. Afternoon darkens like the interior of each piece of wood I stack, and I dream of warm fires, and of undoing what one learns when they go a long time without her touch. Your story unfolds within mine as mine unfolds within another. It is turtles all the way down, cooing and whispering, while gold light and bales of hay scattered through the loft beg yet another prayer at the altar of sex. Our bodies are maps and the hands of those we desire are travelers discovering the limits of prodigality. Welcome love! Kneel if you must but remember chickadees make me joyful beyond words.
Friday, November 14, 2014
What is midnight as the first snow falls but midnight as the first snow falls? And it's no use being clever but the gifts are there to be used. As D. says when burning deadfall and passing the Old Crow, "God made man and God made trees but it was man made chain saws." And whiskey? Well, we do what we can, and what else really can we do? Awareness, properly understood (how tired I am of that word), is never not here and that realization is the beginning of what we call awakening (I do think that's a pretty helpful word). Seeing the seer, realizing the observer and the observed are not separate but one, and so on and so forth. By midday the snow will be gone but at midnight or just after it falls so quiet that you don't want to go inside but only stand in stillness always. Our brains are mechanical more than anything: just try to will what you don't will and see how it works (or doesn't work, actually). What is God but accepting that resistance to what is is futile? A lot of people appreciate my poetic bullshit but fail to see I'm basically describing the same tractor over and over. God made the field, God made the farmer but the farmer made . . . what exactly? Sometimes ardor dims the closer we get to the object of desire. We insist that Heaven is getting what we want but that's not it at all and never was: we don't actually want what we want. Want merely obscures what knows it already has everything. And the snow falls anyway, doesn't it? Ten thousand times ten thousand soft flakes settling aimlessly on the living and the dead and all that lies between and it doesn't ask our permission nor give a goddamn about beauty. Grace it turns out is only letting go so you can let go even more. Darling when I turn my face to the dark sky a thousand cold kisses reach me and behind them float a thousand more and I am standing there still, arms open, embracing you the only way I know.
Tuesday, November 11, 2014
The dog and I - how many times have I used that expression, how many times will I - go out at 4 a.m. and it is sacred. As soon as I step outside what is God is there and I remember it never left - for how could what is all things in all places for all time go anywhere - and I breathe. My body lightens: the stars are blue: and faint trails of mist pass quickly under the moon. When we breathe, we are with life, and that is what it means to breathe. And in the old field, behind the old house, my walking slows, and I become still in ways that are as yet not fully all my nature. Yet I am not without hope, for blessings have never not followed my attention, which is only my willingness to remember love, which is remembered. Trains to the west, eighteen-wheelers on Route 112 heading south, and north pulling at me like a bulky lavender magnet. What is tangled undoes itself when we no longer insist it be untangled, and that is how we learn that we can only be hurt by our own thoughts. The pine trees remind me that I have no problems; the owl reminds me too. They rejoice with me quietly in pre-dawn darkness. Oh you who drew from my tired shoulders a scarlet streamer of grace, these words are not enough. Yet for you I come home early to write. For you - for a little while longer - I kneel.
Monday, November 10, 2014
Up past midnight reading Einstein, one eye on the moon. I've lost count of all the years that have passed now without whiskey, not to mention the stories I tell in which I still hit the bottle hard. Well, maybe holiness is what we do, not what we say. Francis de Sales proclaims a loving God, which makes me happy for most of the hours I'm awake. Chrisoula waves off a proposed drive through Vermont, which makes sense more or less, but my blood remains in its Go North boil. Clean the garage, rake half the lawn, write a few poems, look again at Einstein, especially where he references Schopenhauer. "A man can do as he will, but not will as he will." It must mean something, but what? The days pass for which I am never not grateful, as I am grateful too for the grackle on the back fence, preening calmly, despite my relative nearness. Every fall I wait for that night when geese can be seen flying in frosty moonlight but it seems this year it won't happen. Or happened but I didn't see. It's okay. There's ponds the bottoms of which I still haven't reached, there's dreams that keep occurring, as if something inside me yet begs to be known. Begs to be let go? I take my coffee and study the far field, itself a study in brown. What we can't say haunts us, while what we won't say remains - for now - redemptive.
Saturday, November 8, 2014
A little east mostly, brief warmth after yesterday's snow which lingered a few hours on crepuscular leaves still decorating the lawn. Who catalogs reality necessarily goes without it. Goes beside it? Falling asleep I scratched the dog who sidled close, her bones both felt and visible. One accepts with sorrow yet another mortal reminder. You can be pretty damn broken and life will still not accommodate your plans. At three a.m. one sees in the moon a loveliness that is wholly projected, and so is not seeing the moon at all. What then? Chrisoula comes in to ask after me, typing in the back room, writing the little poems I discovered when we met, drinking coffee from a Mason jar. I chew the nights with an intensity most people call dangerous but it's what I know. There are other maps and other ways but you walk the path you was given, no? Stole in a moment of creation? Or perhaps just covet, the way I once made love to strangers whose shoulders moved just so. Even now - letterless and lost, prone to the loveless comparison - I keep writing as if.
The morning passes by some necessity, one I have yet to learn or else knew and discarded without remembering why. Crows swoop low over the chickens, and a dozen juncos scour frozen leaves for whatever crumbs can be found there. Oh let me not starve who so long worshiped in the Kingdom of Hunger! Again the long walk after midnight, frosty grass sparkling in moonlight, and owls calling where the forest looks darkest. What dog would I become, what turtle, what chunk of see-through quartz and to what puzzling end? Wisdom's just another word for don't be such a fool. But the map in my head is crusty and hard to read and the one who was made to decipher it is far away and only writes from time to time. Nobody loves a cryptic know-it-all! A. reminds me of the perils of confirmation bias, and again I am forced to consider my fear of disappearing into the collective. Jesus is a long way off now, the way wood smoke eventually fades, becoming what else. When eventually I awaken the east-facing prisms have all fallen and the house is strangely quiet. Previously I have struggled and previously I have editorialized and almost always while wearing denim. It's the same old story: facing the void without explaining it, taking the next step anyway. There is a difference between stumbling and falling and the distinction actually matters. Always remember that who stands in the gap may become the gap. One more cup of coffee before I begin writing my dear, another mellifluous dream of thee.
Tuesday, November 4, 2014
Just before one a.m. the dog and I go alone into the old potato field. It turns out we aren't our bodies, but our bodies aren't unhelpful either. Or so I think, being prone as always to translation. Historically, when asked to explain anything spiritual, I retreat into sex. I said once to Chrisoula "take it or leave it" to which she said "or love it, you idiot" and pulled me into her arms where I am still finding myself, gratefully. This is where you turn towards the forest, this is where you hunker and run your fingers through the frost. It's cold but not too cold: my pheasant-hunting hat scratches a little pulled down. I leave my ears exposed, hoping to hear owls or maybe a deer bounding away. Mostly though there's wind and the sound wind makes when it passes through the tops of pine trees. Is it okay to love solitude? When life is simply what unfolds without effort in awareness anyway? Clouds make a ladder to the blurred moon, the way stories from childhood saw us through the years to here. From a distance, what is many appears to be and move as one, and yet. My feet make a whispery sound falling one after the other; the feeder pond is just visible ahead, a pale oval I wouldn't want to fall into. But how far will we go? How far must we go? There is so much I don't know and can't be bothered learning anymore. A life measured in dogs who love us in ways we can only imagine? Say I do. Back home I read and write until dawn, stepping out one last time to listen for the only song that matters. How clear life is when every morning one marries again the chickadees always saying yes.
Sunday, November 2, 2014
Wind, and the sound the wind makes, a bellows above landscapes I know by heart, and have never really left. The frozen exterior is only biology another way. When I was little, I memorized prayers and poems for fun, and recited them in the forest, also for fun. Swallows are a beloved, a nearly mystical bird but chickadees do the heavy lifting, in the way that I rarely bother eating crabapples but the trees themselves have never not marked the various paths unwinding before us. One step makes clear the next, which is a way of saying don't worry so much, and also, get on with it already. Men with hats, men with guns, and men with the burden of not knowing how to say what burned to ash in their throats. Was that what we needed to hear but didn't? Well, Jesus always reflected a confused but beautiful ideal and I am only just lately understanding there is a) no penalty for not lingering at Golgotha and b) no obligation to celebrate Passover in Jerusalem. Avoid a fatal tourism indeed! In the end, there is nothing to do and nobody special with whom to do it, and yet I still wait on her love letters, and remain grateful for her willingness to kneel. There is also the burden of finding one's way with words while knowing silence is the last and surest guide. The words settle like bread crumbs in our wake and hungry crows abound! On the other hand, how happy I am in the dark of 4 a.m., how gently the dog rests her head on my knee.
Saturday, November 1, 2014
A little after two a.m. rain clouds thin and a wedge of moon nearly all the way west brightens the landscape I know by heart. The right word matters! What we write writes us, as what we read reads us, a simple truth that for too long eluded me. A longing for mystery breeds iconic detectives, yet as Sherlock Holmes pointedly observed, the answer is always right there in the open. What did Bohm say? Hide what is sought within the seeker because the seeker will never think to look there? Something like that. Yet I do stumble coming back through the south field, a little moonlight glinting on frosty grass, guided largely by the dog's breath, faintly visible in noisy exhalations. L. is awake - hopefully painting, possibly worrying about her mortgage - and I can hear the train two towns distant, working its way through the Adirondack foothills. A welcome darkness of which our passage is composed? Well, we can only push the ones we need so far before crawling back to them needy and broken. A nest of blankets in which her nakedness is better than coffee? Yes, that. I feel my way to where she is softest and whisper going down, every temple more welcome than the last.