Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Finished with the Inquiry

(i)

We hollow rotten wood from the west-facing wall of the barn and suddenly reach the nineteenth century frame. We are quiet before the hand-carved joinery, the massive beams resting on stones so large and heavy they were surely dragged by oxen. When at last we speak, our sentences are short and efficient, as befits men who have caught a glimpse of what language can only hint at.

(ii)

Yet later, out front, reframing the rickety stairs, we end up talking about farmers we knew in the early 1970s, men our fathers called to build pole barns and haul calves from struggling cows, who could measure with their eyes a 32nd of an inch, and for whom a team of oxen would stop, turn and start again on syllables so gently uttered it is hard to imagine a less-adorned intimacy. We agree that we were fortunate to know these men, and the world they made that was even then departing, and wonder what, if anything, we might have done to preserve it. It quiets us, our complicity. How blunt our hands are! And how elaborate the semantics by which we justify their emptiness.

(iii)

Main Street - which is behind us as we work - runs west and east on a slow curve, like a resting bow or a woman's shoulder. Scudding clouds forecast rain; the north wind is voluble and cold.

(iv)

She lives at a distance which saddens me, a grief made starker by her poems. When I am sad I consent to longing, which is to deny the boundaries and constraints that naturally attend existence. In time the longing becomes bitter, and the bitterness becomes toxic. It takes a long time to walk off one's dream of a different woman and a landscape in which loving her is viable. You have to ask what makes a dream like that possible. You have to go very deep into loneliness, very deep into despair. You have to find out what necessity truly is. And when it is time to come back, you have to come back, whether you are finished with the inquiry or not.

(v)

In time my feet hurt so I take the road that was made to lead me home. Chrisoula sits on the stairs, hands folded on her lap in the dusk, and rises to greet me. "Thank you for fixing everything," she whispers; her hair smells like smoke and sage and something fainter I cannot say. I want to spill my unworthiness here. I want to tell her my life is a series of losses and betrayals no measure of love can either halt or redeem. But my tongue as always fails me. My beginning and my end remain hidden, unmapped.

(vi)

We go inside and sit at the table. Our reflection in the windows is wavery and thin; we hold hands saying grace. "Bless this bounty and may we not forget those whose hunger tonight will not be met." Do you know how sometimes when there is no light you can still find the way? "Forgive us our sins that we might in turn forgive one another." The bread steams when I lay the knife against it. "By your mercy are we fed, by your justice do we live." I fill Chrisoula's plate with food; I fill my children's plates with food. "Alleluia, alleluia." Amen.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

The Only Monastery That Will Have Me

(i)

We try to gather all the apples but of course you cannot gather all the apples.

(ii)

In the morning, tracks of animals weave in and out of our little orchard as if to make clear how confused we are. How hungry we are and how lost? Well, hand-in-hand anyway, like dolls who don't know who made them. The geese cry out as they pass overhead, their guttural cries as deep and wild as the sea our ancestors crossed to get here. A man who can't remember his dreams has reason to be wary of speech, but on the other hand, the night never passed any quicker than with you.

(iii)

Remember when we used to wonder if we lived under a bushel? Now we wonder if some old woman came by with a lantern and decided we were unworthy. Asleep when we were supposed to be awake? These roads were last paved in the 1960s, and the bells do grow silent when I step into the steeple's shadow. Morning passes trying to get the old Massey-Ferguson to start, and when it does, you realize it's too late to start haying. You and the neighbors can't agree if it rained last night - you are pretty sure it rained - but who can forget the story of the day their father died?

(iv)

A riddle: say that when you open your mouth, instead of words, little glass rainbows - like tear-shaped prisms - tumble into your open hands. You can't hold them all, and you can't kneel to gather those that fall because you're afraid of losing even more. Are these gifts to be given away or is somebody trying to tell you something important about your heart?

(v)

Distance is a word that explains what we can act on, or what we are in relationship with and so might choose to act or be acted upon by, but "far away" is a story we tell so that our attention won't wander when we need it most.

(vi)

When I look up, the field is full of shoulder-high goldenrod swaying in an August breeze. Yellow was the answer just long enough to clarify that yellow - like red and blue and purple before it - is never the answer. My feet are shoeless and pale, like a blind man's idea of the moon, or like walking's idea of a loveless marriage. When I look up again, my daughter is talking quietly to a horse, and the horse is listening as if to a secret, as if to a language it never imagined it would hear again.

(vii)

My throat is falling snow, my tongue is a russet glow in the hemlocks, and January is the chapel where I was taught to pray without anybody noticing. It comes to this, for those of us to whom it comes. Godless and alone, and happier than the tribal scriptures implied was possible, I turn back to the only monastery that will have me.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

When Isn't August A Love Note

(i)

I remember waking to chicken feet scattered through dewy grass, and I remember long nights of howls that even now haven't ended. What is the purpose of psychological pain? Who doesn't want the address of the interior Cartesian Theater so they can burn the damn thing down? The chickens did not willfully climb into the coyote's waiting teeth and whatever the moon wants, it does not want for canine wails. This is for those of us who leaned on the window sill praying, who knew that life was utterly neutral, and that neutral was as close to fair as anyone with an imaginal soul could get.

(ii)

Well, the lilies are mostly gone and we are nearly ready to bathe ourselves in the streaming light of the Perseids. May all beings be safe and happy, preferably snuggling on back yard blankets under skies of trailing fire! When isn't August a love note from the one who sees us through winter? Tractors pulling hay wagons back slowly into the barn, and we set up the radio to listen to the Red Sox while sitting on the back porch. Moths flutter around the Coleman lantern, a reminder we have entered that stage where you no longer need to touch to touch. And down by the horses, the kids' voices float through the dusk like strings of holiday light. Perhaps it is the stars who gaze at us and not the other way around after all.

(iii)

In the hay loft at night, thin bands of moonlight extend across part of the floor, and you sit quietly pretending not to notice them. Was it always like this to fall in love? To notice beauty, to long to possess beauty, and then to let beauty pass because what else is possible in the world of coming-and-going? All that persists is the reference point, by which all else is made relative. Or something like that.

(iv)

There was an enormous quartz rock in the pasture and when the sun was just so in the sky the glassy stone would light up with shimmering rainbows, lovelier than church and more stable than any breathing. Later there were words, and later yet, sentences, but even now the vast interior library is simply a record of what light insists is possible. What can be said has been said a thousand times but even the author of Ecclesiastes found a reason to say it again. This is for those who study, who leave home to become students, and who eventually disappear while seeking increasingly obscure - but not unfructive - texts.

(v)

Chrisoula knows I am writing and brings me coffee - black with a little stevia - in the hand-made mug I bought for her at the Snow Farm seconds sale two, maybe three Christmases past. Briefly I set aside the world - which is this writing, this way - to say thank you: thank you: thank you.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

These Sentences, These Penances

East, with what passes for wings. Mist rises off the turnpike, especially in the middle of the state where forest is still abundant. Distance is a comfort because it reminds us somehow of time. Washing the rice, soaking the rice, steaming the rice, and later eating the rice with salty eggplant and homebrew teriyaki. Hints of the sea are never not abundant: scrub pine on 495 South, texts about an extra room on the Cape, shells on family graves (distributed when we buried Dad). The guy mowing pauses but you wave him on: this is going to take a while. Thank Christ for thought or else the mechanics - of grief, of sex, of writing non-discrimination policies - would be too damn terrifying. Ordering a bagel and iced coffee for the drive home, fingering a smooth nautilus, Avalanche a not-unwelcome ear worm. The lie is an invention of the truth, so that the truth can expand its understanding? Or are we subject to dominion by that which is not yet - and may never be - entirely known? I was comforted by a crow that circled the cemetery, choked up when Chrisoula called as I was re-entering west-bound traffic. What matters and what doesn't matter doesn't actually matter, and yet. There are these sentences, these penances. There is this woman saying I'm home.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Beneath a Chalice

There is a way the butterfly - a swallowtail - appears to fall into the faint pink morning glory rising from tangled forsythia near the barn. One watches and thinks again of the dream from a few night's back - in which one asks why is experience subjective and realizes instantly it is not.

Combing through deadfall apples in tall grass, thinking of winter waffles covered with melted butter and warm sauce. Another night of poor sleep, this time owing to dogs howling at a distance, triggering a neural interstice that says "check on the livestock" who, as it turns out, are sitting quietly, only mildly interested in my visit. And yet the moon does seem to pass through the sky and sink into the horizon and reappear hours later opposite. Stars do not sustain the darkness, nor is darkness what makes them possible. When Ramana Maharshi died, why didn't the inclination to write about him also die?

And so one begins at last to see the way in which metaphors and analogies only cloud what is otherwise clear. How else could we long for what we cannot have? All you need to know about the image is that it is always a reflection.

Children's voices rise softly next door after their parents fight about money, finding their way back to what passes for normalcy (in days and nights such as these). We pause when the church bells ring, then carry on with what we were saying which, hours later, is forgotten. Bright yellow lilies near the barn, as big as two hands cupped beneath a chalice, make it hard to pass without stopping. Time is what fills up with what appears, that's all.

Glancing at Patchen, that lovely line from In Shadings of an Obscure Punishment that goes "I watch my life choose its own awakening." Hugging a woman with wet hair and no regrets. Driving past Sawyer Farm where wild turkeys graze just-mowed fields where forty years ago our cows summered to come back pregnant. Of course a heart cannot break.

Your father is still dead but fathers are not dead and you too are a father. This is what Sunday looks like when you know there is nobody watching.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Songs for the Man Without Ears to Hear

Yet what is the nature of willingness? Of justice or love? What does it mean to say God is neither trivial nor real? Just after dawn I take a hot black coffee out back and scuff through fallen apples, making a brief but intense study of red. Machines don't do better but they do go faster, obviating those of us disposed to linger. There are seams in the door to the hay loft, each bleeding prisms of light, as if this or any other journey were capable of ending. There were days when all that mattered was the sound a woman's shirt made falling to the floor. Wordless prayers? Prayerless hymns? Well, songs for the man without ears to hear anyway. I walk to the river where the ghost of Heraclitus presumes a familiar argument. I ignore him, remove my feet and knees and ankles, and continue dissembling what remains of intent.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Mute Offers Crackling Like Lightening

What Lilla Watson said - "If you have come here to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together." The students stay with me for two hours, no breaks, all of us pushing hard on the God question, the being good question, the getting it clear question. My exhaustion when we finally stop makes them laugh. Earlier I noticed buttercups absent from the meadow, the replanted fir tree alive but leaning. Elm and maple logs I should sell or split or maybe just leave to the slow burn of time. We who are haunted by honey bees that died in hives we were unprepared to care for . . . You can ruin anything - a sentence, a sandwich, a marriage, a dog. Ferns on the west side of the house are thick and luscious, hinting at how to finish what keeps you from the work of love. A long letter unsent, a simple prayer unsaid. The ones who think I have something they don't linger after, mute offers crackling like lightening. How can I explain? Whatever happened is gone, and whatever will happen is gone as well. The woman who taught me not to fear my poverty lays down with me beneath a cross that is  little more than splinters. It hurts but we are not cold. For all our lives alone.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Somebody Out There Bereft

A little rain falls while Finnie and Chrisoula feed the chickens, their voices soft in the soft summer rain. The way life can at times be a wordless song, a just-bearable sweetness. What is it about reciprocity that matters? Or seems to matter? How readily we slip into the conditional mode, as if the Lord ever withheld anything . . .  One's study turns now to the gift they were given in creation, and the way in which they can no longer avoid the call to extend it. You have nothing but that which you give away? Or did we only dream there was somebody out there bereft? Writing all morning about how to write about that which cannot be written about, a paradox that yields to love, which is to say, there is nothing to be solved and we are the ones who solved it. What are peonies after all but holiness showing up as peonies? What is Christ if Christ is not the buttercups? Be kind, and if you can't be kind, be still, and if you can't be still, then don't worry about it. Yesterday I went to the river and learned there was no river. Today I am being carried away to the sea.

Monday, June 26, 2017

The Landscape Together

An oven mitt made in Guatemala that somehow ended up hanging on the wall in the hay loft where most but not all of my writing is done. Icarus falls and dies in the sea, but his death was preventable or, at a late (but not too late) juncture, has become so. I remember walking the hot streets of Jerusalem, lonely to the point of tears, and sad that one who was so unhappy at home should be so homesick when so far away from home. Chrisoula asks me to drive with her to Grace Hill Farm and I do - we park in a little cut, she goes inside to buy cheese, milk and butter, leaving me transfixed by a red-and-yellow wind spinner stirring in the breeze. Plans for the second vegetable garden begin to take shape now the strawberry beds are settled. We go out often in the morning before the heat rises and study the landscape together, often without really talking. We are of one mind but of course it is possible to make both too much of this and too little. Attendant risks abound but love abides no caution! Visiting the river near dusk one notices the eddies are like gold and silver threads raveling and unraveling on a swift dark surface. This loveliness is like bread to me: a single crumb is equivalent to a thousand years of prayer.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Maybe We Are Simply Lifted

The given is merely what is present. Precedent?  All morning on my knees in the new strawberry beds, stopping now and then to watch cowbirds pick through the pasture, turkey vultures execute their broad slow circles through the sky. The buttercups, the phlox, the honey bees and milkweed. Nothing exists - can be experienced - outside the circumference of cause and effect. The plants are thin with broad leaves and already fruiting. Towering cumuli where the Lord once lived, where the meritorious dead went after the earth became inhospitable. Where we trip, where we fall, and where we push ourselves back up. Or maybe we are simply lifted by one who isn't troubled by our ingratitude and ignorance. The dark nights of Thérèse were about as surprising as mushrooms after it rains, but on the other hand, she knew what the priests could only pretend to know because they'd been taught how to say it. That which is planted, grows, that which grows, fruits, and that which fruits, dies. God is the common denominator in human experience - that which all humans recognize, regardless of what they call it, or whether they bother with naming it all. Late but not too late a requisite orthopraxy offers itself. "Read me closely," says Thérèse, her voice dreamy and clear. The strawberry plants will need rain. Rain falls. Look! A word is missing and for once it's not my job to find it.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Not Looking Elsewhere

Heavy rains give way to blue skies and the world is thus made safe for laundry. It was always so. One postulates a theory of Christ predicated on attention, on not looking elsewhere. On no longer insisting on the personal prerogative? Travel plans, writing projects - at last perceiving an end to favoritism. What is it about the sky that makes the wingless monotheistic? Snakes don't ever seem Godless or confused. Thérèse wrote that her only guide was self-abandonment, and quoted favorably Saint John of the Cross saying "I've finished all other work except that of love." What happens when you no longer insist on this or that medium? When you accept the utter absence of either merit or demotion? We who - having tasted the lovely division - push back from the table so that others might partake of our share. There is this tempest, there is this shore. There is this cloaked stranger huddled sleeping in the boat, whose rest matters more to me now than than any guidance or safety.

Friday, June 23, 2017

The Slow Burn of Familiar Errors

Bereft of sleep - unable to articulate the prayer that insists on a home in my throat - I go out back and plant a shoulder high fir tree near the horses. Worms writhe in cool soil the color of my cut-up hands. In June, the slow burn of familiar errors multiplies. Buttercups, clover, and where last year I started a little riding trail, wild roses, a pair of them. Each face of the church steeple - hazy in the distance - tells a different story. The irises die too fast, the peonies crumble before our eyes . . . Tom asks why I don't ride horses and it's hard to give words to that messy conflagration of penance, love and forgiveness. All afternoon sitting under the apple tree reading Thérèse of Lisieux's Autobiography, hallucinating it was written for me alone, a sort of theological valentine straddling three centuries. After supper I grab a cold Narragansett and head out back. It took Therese a year to die, which struck her as a long time to forego consummation, but what can you do? I'm strangling on the word God gave me to give to the weary. Strung by grief between sun and moon, the fatherless man sucks nails from his palms and holds them in his mouth so that nobody will be crucified again. Such beautiful confusion! Such happiness and pain! Such a long - and getting longer - way to fall.

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Sweetness is Given

You wake up - the bed as vast as the end of war - and think: sunlight matters. A perfect loneliness ensues, like Venus at dawn. It's okay to talk to God and whoever Jesus was, you know he was a listener. Last night's rain stripped the buttercups, the pasture looks empty. Our hands cannot hold the world, therefore we hold the other's hand. Or is it that the world is a difficult text - a finished text - and we are its scrawl? "I just want to look at one more pretty thing before I go." The swallows matter, the irises matter. "Apple tree" this summer has been both a totem and a place one likes to sit. Life is fluxional, also fabulous. One resides where the other says "blue." Sees blue? Oh, let others be right, let others be wrong. These sentences didn't ask to be written and neither did I. How sweet the clover is, for those to whom that sweetness is given.

Monday, June 19, 2017

Other Adorations

What I cannot get used to but must - that loneliness. In June then, you. In a dream she settles on her knees in the orchard. The clover sighs, the stars are clear and still. We are slow together and patient, we minister to each other, we who are confused about what what it means not to live by bread alone. When the glistening streams reach her shoulders, I clean them with kisses and other adorations. Was this the sentence for which I was made fit? We only think we choose the altar - in truth there is no altar, there is no choice, and there is no worship. Apples fall in early summer, reminding us how little we know about purpose and utility. There are entries in Thoreau's journal I still have not read but hope to by next winter. There are promises we made before we knew what making them meant. Questions the marriage raised but as yet has failed to answer? At times it seems the table is forced to hold more than just our books and plates, doesn't it? In a dream her name was Justice. There is this unexpected - this unwavering - proximity to peonies now, as if there were actually a God, and that God were actually inviting us to rethink our relationship to ecstasy (the nexus of forgiveness and consent?). In a dream she insists on joy. How few of our prayers require kneeling or words! How the other coming closer makes us holy! How the peonies don't wait on yes or no, just bloom!

Thursday, June 15, 2017

The Reach of Balance

What is falling out there in the distance? Something yellow, something that spirals. It's pretty, what I don't know, the not knowing unfolding, the unfolding knowing how without asking. What is open doesn't yield to analysis, while what fills it - briefly, slightly - is only partially addressed by Husserl. She says quietly she is tired of being a woman whose only job in life is to clean up after men who break windows. We are not placeholders, we kiss our fingers after, and we decline to rush past the infinite mosaic. Wait for her to join us before the infinite mosaic? Corvids intimate a mode of existence not predicated on promises. I want to tell you that even "sky" mistakes its own referent. One lingers over the intimate meal, one never gets past saying grace. For many years, the traveler studied her ticket, imagining a Venn diagram at the center of which was a name she didn't recognize. Far beyond the reach of balance it is I who am falling.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Reading the Signals

One begins to feel the way it would feel to confide in oneself. Insight happens but we are allowed to explore a broad - a broadening - array of stimuli. Pacifism is provocation! I walk with Fionnghuala to the river early, we wade through fast-moving shallows looking for green stones. Morning is a form of butterfly. Becoming the man who says to Icarus "I will catch you when you fall." Determinism breeds compassion or is it just that I am not alarmed by all this letting go? We who are no longer implied in what we study, who are a smooth channel of content. When there are chocolate chips in the muffins, when there are blueberries - those happinesses. In a sense, all that is happening is signaling, where reading the signals is also a signal. The purple iris is a lifetime fathered by earth and sky.

Sunday, June 11, 2017

Strays Nobody Else Will Take

Unfortunately I don't have any answers. She pushes the sheets back, straddles you without asking, and your body responds - you're hard, you're moving in her - but you are also somewhere else, you are always "somewhere else." Dreams of Leonard Cohen singing Hallelujah, his voice filling the room, my faltering scraggly own a poor companion. No wonder dogs have been the real totem, especially strays nobody else will take. Living as if there were a bargain-basement adoption fee tattooed to one's forehead. We for whom the stranger's mouth is a tabernacle. Waking early like the old days, recoiling a little swallowing coffee, foregoing scripture in favor of bird song and the strange - that expansive tremulous crystalline decidedly Christian - stillness that is fast-becoming the not-you you briefly embody. That stump stared stonily - sullenly - not stubbornly - at the sky, and I was the author of its death. The remaining hemlocks are russet when the sun rises, its rays briefly set a certain way, a loveliness in passing. Christ is not less, Christ is not more. Imagine some ground we share - that allows us to love one another quietly, fructively, actually. A bluet does not travel, therefore a bluet owns what relationship to narrative? It's settled: since sheep are complex, we will make use of a scythe. What will the world ask of you today? What strategies will you devise to avoid responding and - critically - avoid seeing clearly that strategy is your response?

Friday, June 9, 2017

Beyond Guns and Appetite

Going out early to study the gourd-and-pumpkin garden - two hundred or so square feet of upended pasture, ready to be tilled. Why else allow for bodies? As a child, swallows were a kind of totem, although any animal we didn't kill or eat was worth studying. Divisions abound, each hinting at the whole from which it was rent (and the whole to which it will return). That which exists beyond guns and appetite intimates the sacred, or at least its possibility. Cycles are relevant as a model though they offer little consolation to the pigs who so clearly do not want to die. It's possible this is the resurrection. One wonders at their obsession with consent, how it becomes precious in a way that suggests something else is at work, perhaps a subtle - almost unnoticed - plea for forgiveness. Reading a recent interview with Volk, puzzling (appreciably) over his point about the visual field being an "organ" within the total field of one's consciousness. Having learned I will never learn enough, I have begun to appreciate sipping again. The last few hemlock branches await disposition, a last uprooted stump stares stubbornly at the sky where a few weeks earlier its limbs gave form to the wind. My resistance to chainsaws is legendary around here but my body is beginning to protest this insistence on sawing by hand. In the end it's like nothing matters but love (and its kin - contemplation, clarity and service). Therefore, be intentional, attentive. "It is written, that man shall not live by bread alone." The garden becomes us - our bodies, our prayers, our promise. And swallows have to eat too.

Thursday, June 8, 2017

As Simple As Swallows

The urge to speak a certain way, to say it in a way designed to evoke a certain response. One doesn't always know what's coming but coming - like going - happens. The object of desire cannot be denied language, though it may be a private one, all but unrecognizable. We harvest early radishes in a light rain, we plant an extra row of pie pumpkins. Is it as simple as swallows swooping through the purpling sky at dusk? The path steam from the tea takes rising . . . The garden defines us because it feeds us but also because we work hard within it. We are not not the garden. That moment when one notices the collective also notices. The neighbor's kids ask what I'm doing, it's hard to remember not everyone makes sun tea in Mason jars. I can't explain anything, let alone this. Thanks are not always in order but one appreciates the sentiment. It turns out that bearing the spiritual projections of others is not the Lord calling after all. Just because we contribute to ruins doesn't mean we aren't also tourists. The man who swallowed his passport waits on the woman who still isn't sure how - or when maybe (are those different questions - yes they are different questions) - to use hers. Sunlight brightens the back porch. I will go there now to write this.

Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Mostly after Dark

The way that we are wives, the way that we are husbands. When the spade strikes a certain way, you can hear the weeds sigh giving up. Ghostly mushrooms sprouting in pockets of damp manure gone hours later. Under the watchful eyes of sheep and horses, the earth submits to our intentions. Nisargadatta was confused but confident and confusion is what we want so . . . Prior to silence is after the flood, as after the flood is sitting down to undress. Massage my feet, rub my right arm? Every night around 3 a.m. you reach across the bed, forgetting that she sleeps in another room now. There is a river in the distance, audible mostly after dark, and further away there is a surf that roars embracing the beach. You can look for the source - you can turn quickly to catch a glimpse - but the source is neither behind you nor at the beginning. Rain falls while you work and you keep working. Why not? How soft the rain is on your cross-bearing shoulders! How happy you have become - against long odds - knitting a garden to the sky, leaving notes here and there for the ones who are coming after.

Monday, May 29, 2017

When Singing is Called For

A long day working in both gardens ends beneath the apple tree, sharing a little wine. Swallows at dusk, lovely in their hunger. The moon rises off shadowed hills at the foot of which the river answers every unasked question ever. Where could I go that Chrisoula didn't first make safe the way? You can only hold the hand of the dying once before the stakes clarify and the work begs you not to take it behind the barn. The teacher becomes the student yet it is the student who makes the teacher possible at all. Oh, what do I know, who wasted so many years on both ends of the same string? Yesterday at the fair three sheep watched me watch them and when I came back an hour later they rose off their knees to greet me. Of course I made arrangements with their owner to visit them! How quickly we pass through. And how easily our infirmities dissolve . . . I used to be the man who thought there was a cross out there with my name on it. I used to think pain was a privilege. But those sheep are neither lost nor confused. I sing when singing is called for now, and my tongue is the light of the world.

Monday, May 22, 2017

The World's Longest Midnight

It's late or it's early: it depends on who you ask. On where you stand? Can't you for once stop trying to get it all right? The man who was formerly the man-without-shoes and is now the man-of-no-office-at-all struggles through a vast country of yawns for yet another swallow of cheap (but certified fair trade) wine. What happens in Argentina is paid for in Massachusetts? You can't gloss over the violence of pilgrims - it's like shooting your gun at the guy in the mirror: some of those shards are going to fly back and cut you up good and the image doesn't care because that's what images are: the absence of the capacity to care. At midnight it was raining but now it isn't, now when you step outside it's just the sound of the rain that fell falling off the house eaves and maple leaves. Is it a sweetness or are you drinking again? The marriage saves you for its own purposes, the sentence implies it may be okay to let go of the whole subject-object-verb drama, and you can't escape the feeling that you're riding the wrong horse on the right road through the world's longest midnight. A long day given to clearing the fallen elm, dragging rotten limbs across fading trillium and tossing them in the fast-filling gully, later spading and raking the garden for twenty some odd tomato plants. You have a body, you might as well use it, else what is aspirin for? Somewhere between stars and no-stars the illusion of a wounded and wounding self is perfectly briefly undone. Oh so perilously won? Such happiness in the middle of the night! These remnant grapes singing hosannas on my tongue.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

A Wild Night with Emily Dickinson

Cardinals decorate the maple tree: playing at mating, as if there were any other kind of play. The light this morning is soft, summerish, and the raspberry bushes - which are skeletal and exhausted - blush briefly soft red. Gold crocuses illuminate the matted grass. Many cups of tea go into making morning what it is and I am only at the beginning of understanding what it means to be tangential, forgettable, easy. Grief is a flavor of experience, joy is a flavor of experience, and the collective is just that which cannot otherwise be presently embodied, i.e., the space in the air where the cardinal is cannot also be the space in the air where the rain puddle is. It's okay if the lessons seem to go on a long time, it's okay to die confused. Looking up from the revised sentence - which is a new sentence - one sees the cardinals are gone, as if the maple tree were exhausted after a wild night with Emily Dickinson. Nobody knows what's next. Nobody knows the absence of next. Jesus finished his propositional gesture two thousand years ago: sunlight falls through an ever-opening sky. Don't say "now what?" Every "but" betrays the gift by pretending some gap exists between the one who gives and the one who receives. There are birds and flowers everywhere. The seed you are has wings.

Monday, April 10, 2017

A Curious Development

In anticipation of tomorrow's heat (fuck the Republicans and their climate change denial and obfuscation) I start shoveling horse shit - which is really shit, straw, fall leaves, onions, squash, coffee grounds, tea bags, banana peels, orange peels and garlic - into a more compact - more compostable -  pile. My forearms ache, my back aches but my soul does not ache. Chrisoula works on taxes at the dining room table, later reading case files for upcoming appeals. The kids test the fence at regular intervals, groom both horses who are prone to rolling this time of year, then sit in the shadow of the outside oven and talk about their grandmother. Why am I angry and not empathetic? Why am I devoted to explicating difficult texts? Turkey vultures soar overhead, their vast shadows occasionally crossing the ground before me. Oh Icarus, someone was supposed to tell you your ideas about flying were idiotic. It's so thrilling to be alive, it's such a curious development. Eventually I'll rake the shit into long lines about a foot high, three feet wide and turn them regularly for the chickens. Earlier the soft folds of cumulus overhead were like a vulva, the faint stratus trailing after it like semen (glistening at the base of her thumb, visible tracing circles on my chest). We are what is happening: this is what is happening. "Look, Dad," Fionnghuala says. I follow the line implied by her finger all the way to five gold crocuses blooming by the backyard porch. And begin.

Friday, April 7, 2017

The Feeling of Being Lost

Some drives go okay, some don't. This one didn't. Got all the way into Halifax, Vermont before seeing it and had to do a three-point turn right there at the border. The rivers are moving fast, it's spring, the pine trees on the snowy banks dip low-hanging branches in the currents. The orchards are clearing deadfall, pushing it into huge piles for burning, the horses are unhappy in their muddy turnouts, the emu farm on Route 112 is closed. Two days of rain, some of it hard, then a little sun. The man who can't drink coffee anymore doesn't, but misses it, and so the drive is tinged with an unscratchable itch. Who said you can't get there from here? Giant chunks of schist jut from the soil, the pastures are mostly hills save close to the many rivers where they flatten out like little prairies, and everywhere you look a different horizon stares right back at you. Is the mirror asking for trouble or are we finding ourselves as we really truly are after all? Someone made a movie once, it didn't look like this, but the feeling of being lost was the same. After a while you find the missed turn and take it, end up scratching a dog's head in the driveway and then standing in some stranger's kitchen talking about how your father hit you, and sometimes it was okay, and sometimes it wasn't, and then what? Then it's time to go. Now it's time to go.