Saturday, March 28, 2020

Radios Who Think They Invented Music

Yet was there ever time? So many roads are empty of everything now but echoes and nobody ever gets anywhere anyway. In my mind, Judd Nelson is always walking across that football field at dusk, pumping his fist, briefly not doomed. How tiresome the world becomes when you've stopped believing in magic or God! Between sanding the driveway and fixing the fence, my hands freeze into bluish claws and for two hours the world is one in which I cannot write. How do you tell folks that angels have taught you to fly, errant but vast hops over the pasture to the river, the horses calm beneath you? Something unloving, something that won't trust. Do keep your eye on the chickadees who will miss me when I'm gone. Coffee softens the inevitable blow but can't undo it altogether, yet really, what does? In the old days we studied the sky and read the air, now we're like radios who think they invented music. You turned from me once to remove your shirt and then kept going, through the window over the valley and gone, leaving me to self-soothe by folding and re-folding laundry. A dog gnaws a bone, cancer gnaws your gut, absence knows your soul. Look at us pretending we're one with the whole story! Look at the moon getting drunk in a bar only a handful of people know exists.

Friday, March 27, 2020

Fragments of a Misbegotten Fairy Tale

Let us go into this.

[May I go into this]

It was a law that if I dreamed of something - in the sense of longing for it with embodied intensity - then it was thereby made impossible. To dream was to be denied.

Yet I could not stop my dreaming.

[Can anyone stop their dreaming]

[Is this dreaming]

I wanted a horse, a guitar, my own cookbooks, to cook, not to have shoot a gun, not to have to always read inside . . .

But why was it a law?

My father taught me how to be easy with death - how not to cower before its finality nor presume any theology could undo it. He favorably quoted Uncle Eddie who, when asked what he wanted for a funeral, said "stick a bone up my ass and let the dogs drag me away."

[God, my father said, hates a coward]

Dogs, cows, chickens, ducks, turtles, deer, snakes, kittens, sheep, geese, squirrels, foxes, trout, crows, mourning doves and bear: some I killed, some I buried and some I watched others kill.

Much of what died I prayed would live.

What I tried to save was killed.

I lived on the verge of tears but never cried.

I became an expert with secrets. Hardened against loss.

I rejected the salvation offered by the religion of my fathers.

Yet it was also law in part because of the mysterious need my mother had to make sure nobody was ever truly happy, never truly satisfied. This was our shared penance for the horrors of her own childhood, which I would not wish on anyone.

It got to where all you had to do was know you wanted something and you heard - echoing in whatever recess a mother's grief carves in us - "no."

[I rejected the comfort of women]

Yet I questioned all of it.

In time I questioned all of it.

Alone and without any clear sense of the risk or why it mattered, I questioned all of it.

Learned to play guitar.

Learned to cook.

Gathered cookbooks and read them at night in bed with Chrisoula, who was amused but supportive, saying try this recipe. Try that.

Got horses for the girls.

Gave the guns away to be destroyed.

Gave the fucking guns away and thanked Christ for their destruction.

Gathered the fragments of a misbegotten fairy tale and told it less broken. In a way that allowed for beauty.

For holiness.

[What is sacred, how shall we say it]

Treasured violets, chickadees, quartz rocks, prisms and the early hours conducive to whatever passes for prayer in the heart of the confused, the heart of the lost, the heart of the not-yet-forsaken.

Insisted on happiness, however dim, however half-assed.

At midnight go out to the horses who in moonlight step gracefully to me. As if I am not broken but healed. As if in a dream where I am not broken but healed.

In a dream with you, where I am healed.

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Back to the Well

And begin.

We shall let what is holy be holy.

We shall make no assertions that contradict holiness, ours or anyone else's. We shall not worry about the moon in the sky.

When the horses gather at the gate to be fed, we shall bring them hay and speak to them in low tones of our gratitude and amazement. Love shall be the lantern of our shared Greek dawn.

We shall let our childhood be healed by not insisting it be other than it was.

Where mountains rise like cut stone into orange skies we shall kneel, and where the waters lap green and leafy banks we shall stand and open our throats.

The two-note spring song of chickadees becomes us.

Wind as it rustles in the low tangle of violets becomes us.

For have we not asked and been answered? Have we not opened our hands to make a home for the light? Have we not read the bible in full, each page going blank before our eyes?

Do we not have eyes?

Beloved. I will not worry that I cannot say where the moon will next show up in the sky.

I will not worry do you see the moon as well.

All appearances are blessed. All appearances are themselves the light in which they are perceived: this is the blessing. There is no seam. Division is the Lord another way.

It was ever thus. We leave the church for another church and learn there are no churches.

Walt Whitman caroling, determined to leave out nothing. Thomas Merton listening to himself pray and loving what he hears, despite knowing how fractured the prayer is.

Emily Dickinson listening to the Lord, humbled by what she heard, ruined by what she learned, going over and over back to the well, even after it had crumbled and blown away.


Dandelions, milkweed. Snake skin.

Every mile between us has more than one poem to it now. This is the distance we made: the highway we cannot cross for every step lengthens it by one more step. This is the mansion in the sky where we run from room to room crying.

This is Hansel saying "not again."

This is Gretel trying in vain to remember what she swore she would never do again.

This is my heart, this is my prayer, this is this morning's writing.

This is the hungry witch, her tea cup filled with moonlight, crooning a song the tulip bulbs taught her.

This is the dark that knows it is light.

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

Something in Me Uses the Art

Late afternoon and the house uncharacteristically empty and so I write and go on writing and the writing is oddly unsatisfactory. I want something from it that I struggle to allow it to give me, and cannot yet allow it.

Afternoon: this afternoon.

The house is quite like a monastery yet the neighbor can be heard running a tractor, somebody shouting at kids to step back followed by thumping of hay bales being tossed to the frozen ground. What do I want to say or is it a question of what do I want to hear?

I turn a light on to see better and wonder if I am being reckless by writing and not preparing dinner - sweet and sour chicken with rice, spinach salad, toasted baguette with garlic. If I bring my attention to the writing in any other way than slant, the writing begins to perform for me, it begins to seduce me.

Something in me uses the art to distract me from what the art wants to say.

I go askew.

The bit of sky visible from where I sit to write is clouded but still full of light - we are slipping towards Spring notwithstanding the coming storm. I give myself to you. Before you I fall before you helpless.

Finnie and Chrisoula are at the town hall collecting paperwork from C's office or else visiting neighbors along the way. Jeremiah is in the hay loft playing guitar.

Sophia is in her bedroom writing, Sia playing low enough I can't say which album.

You fall with me, you go with me into my helplessness. In my weakness, you are weak, and in our shared weakness we become not strong but rather no longer weak.

Stars fill the sky: a song eclipses my lips and tongue.

When writing, it is important to study carefully your relationship with pronouns, to notice their effect on the writing, and what readerly presence they tend to evoke. All writing is invitation: all invites are unto the Lord. The quiet becomes a kind of emptiness in which not even writing can bring you forth as a solace.

In your absence, even absence becomes holy for it reminds me of you.

When writing, it is important to locate oneself in the specific mythology in which one is brought forth as a living creature. Nothing else satisfies. I cannot be fulfilled but with you.

Earlier, driving back from Holyoke, I found myself reflecting on the psalms and wishing I could read them in Greek. Or listen to James muttering as he worked and reworked the fluid prose. When my thirst becomes acute, you pour yourself into my throat, and when my hunger twists me into dross on the threshing floor, you soothe me with dreams of salt and buttered bread.

Listen: He comes out of the sky to profess His love for all appearances in the singular light of being, and I am lifted with Him above the pasture and carried forward to the starlit river.

My tongue shall be your tongue and you shall sip the river from the well of my cupped hands.

For this body shall pass away.

And this storyteller shall pass away.

And this story shall pass away.

But you will not pass away.

Passing away will not pass away.

Grateful in the low station you made for me I enter the kitchen. In the silence, I wait for the sounds of you who are my life.

Tuesday, March 24, 2020

The Chickadees Came Along

Morning coffee, three a.m., moonlight slivering the room in ways that deepen my prayer. What is Jesus but the one idea that brings us to stillness, the whole fulcrum of self perfectly balanced. There is only this: this this.

Yet one does go about repeating themselves, being more like a parrot or a mockingbird than not. In my early twenties, not without notice but certainly unaware of the long-term consequences, my life assumed a certain posture of worship and adoration. We laugh making love because our hips hurt and because I say near the finish, "it's more fun to make sandwiches."

Things we assume because long ago someone we trust asserted them. Bronson Brook rolls through old forest, fed in part by a tiny feeder that tumbles through old sheep pastures down into the dingle. Maple syrup on snow, pickles, hot chocolate and brandy: we were outside a lot in those days and we fed ourselves simply.

In moonlight the horses - who are the heart of my daughters - remind me of the little boy who dreamed of horses despite knowing that the very fact of dreaming them meant they were impossible. In other words, who shall we trust? The reverence we feel beside bodies of water is simple recognition (they really are mirrors) and can - but needn't be - gussied up with theology.

A legacy of Greek mountain women pervades my living, especially as we age and begin to care for one another in an old way. One loses touch with what turned them to brandy and acid, and yet what one learned while drunk and tripping remains viable. Back then Linden Street in Fall River still had old trolley tracks running up its middle and my sense of what matters and what is possible and what is not is informed accordingly.

One works through their biases, one rearranges the various interior shelves. Around eleven snow begins and I wander up Main Street onto Plainfield Road pausing now and then in the pure susurration. Someone asks what my favorite Latin word is and Chrisoula answers quickly "fellatio" and everybody laughs, it was that kind of gathering.

Of course, it is possible to be happy without perceiving a deluge of sorrow about to come crashing, isn't it. I thought I'd figured it all out when I said don't build churches with doors that lock, but then the chickadees came along saying, "why bother with doors at all?"

Monday, March 23, 2020

Both Nakedness and Bread

Our hunger and tears, our favorite books, and the secrets we share with only one or two others. Orphans and witches know the forest in a way you don't which is why dogs were for so long necessary. A last gust of wind sails through the sky and one contemplates yet another apology. Long ago it was clear that not withstanding our gift for words, the work was to consent to an interior transformation of which one would likely not be able to speak. In fact, the devil does keep his promises - it's you and I who like to tease the future with cheap transgressions. Twice in the past week I have flown over the pasture as far as the river, Emily Dickinson clapping in delight. The firmament is a shared dream and this is why we have tongues. Oh do plunge your hands in the cold river, make of them a fleshy bowl, for I am thirstier than words can say. I walked back shivering but delighted to have seen so intimately what the Lord longs to give. How confused I am by both nakedness and bread! Our hearts are less bellows than vocal magisteria. Even this poem is not so mysteriously the light by which it is read.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

A Brief Note of Interruption

These prose poems are published daily but were written some months ago. They should not be read as reflections of what is happening today; what is happening today will appear in the poems that are published in early May or so. I say this because glancing at the poems this morning, I saw that current events do not appear in them, and I don't want anybody to think I am being cavalier or trite or insensitive. Our living is very affected by COVID-19 - a lot of hunkering down, a lot of helping others when and as possible, and a lot of plotting spring, summer and food production with an eye toward extending our self-reliance and - as Tara Singh often said - thereby extending our capacity to help others. Yet these poems are dear to me, and if you are reading them, even a little, then you are dear to me. I offer a prayer for your wellness. I am here, wordily. I'm glad you're here too.


Below the Metaphor

What prayer, what god? At five a.m., the quiet in me unfolds into something wordy. Thusly comforted, thusly settled. We are not bodies precisely but guests, and not guests precisely but strangers given to teaching the collective how to love what it yet doesn't recognize. When the wind blows one thinks of the horses bearing with it. One thinks of loose hay skating across the frozen snow. If I grieved once, I do not grieve now, and if I laughed once, I do not laugh now. The ceremony, begun a long time ago, at last becomes my attention. A great river is our love and if I sometimes flail as it flows to the sea, well, like the rest of us I am learning. Jesus visits often now, vast and specific, willing into the languaging brain a previously forbidden dialogue. Shall I sink below the metaphor? The dark is a fructive soil and we are seeds not calculations. Something stirs on my left shoulder, something else insists it is finished. Are we were long ago or are yet to come? Between this breath and the next, Her unique alleluia and my nontrivial - presently borrowed - wings. This world, Beloved, it is made of moonlight.

Saturday, March 21, 2020

Beyond the Horizon My Body Defines

Yet ask: can anything in fact ever be ruined? Hours after morning prayers that were haunted by an angry and displaced angel, one cleans the kitchen and reheats tea, humming Dylan tunes from the 1970s. What we name "rain" and what we name "loss" and what - deeper yet - cannot be named for it is itself the origin of naming. Fill one tea cup with moonlight and it becomes a spiritual practice, one you can't stop indulging as if God or the ghost of your dead grandmother was made unceasingly happy thereby. Begrudge no woman her honor and due. We kiss in the foyer, dry old lips grazing drier older lips, the movement rich with apology and promise, the whole history of love, each the other's help-meet unto eternity. At noon I go off to teach, adopting a stance towards the world premised on half-remembered readings of the Rule of Saint Benedict. You think you're getting somewhere, or getting away from something, but mostly you're going in circles, mostly you're pretending you can do more than just float. The chickadees say "welcome" as if I've entered a church but I don't remember seeing any doors. "Oh yes," she breathes in the vault of my attention, enshrined with Jesus and Henry David Thoreau. "Now bow," she says in the bells of my adoration. "Now slowly turn and behold the world," she cries from beyond the horizon my body defines as unapproachable. I mean this Heaven of possibilities here: this together we never aren't in.

Friday, March 20, 2020

A Non-Trivial Salvation

What is grim in me passes and what lives in me asserts again we are blossoms not machines. Satan wasn't the only angel, just the most aggressive in refusing to study his error. Can we agree that love at least feels better, even if it's only making the bed together or deciding to shop on Tuesday rather than Wednesday? Rehearsing nonstandard liturgies has become a de facto career, against which my poverty no longer needs to defend itself. The visible mountains are gray against grayer skies, all blurred by February rain trickling down the window an hour before noon. My family of origin and its sundry tentacles mock my obsession with glass, my collection of bottles and goblets and prisms, yet the loveliness I have discovered in the company of the breakable has been a non-trivial salvation. So I was born and will die, so what? This marriage abjures the wedding in order to hold me through uncountable nightmares. Mercy abides in the antique heart. I thought my suffering was private or necessary but look! When I crawl towards the light, the light expands to include me, exactly as if it were home all along. This poem - a poor note of thanks at best - is a sacred warrant, sufficient to us both.

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Another Noose

Struggling up through watery depths in order to breathe again, standing on the edge of a cliff awaiting a stiff wind, star-gazing under cloud cover that shows no signs of abating. How and with whom shall I think about this body?

How we take our clothes off at night when we are tired and ready to sleep vs. how we took them off when we were young and hot and ready. Fourteen books on the bureau, my reading list through early May.

One chooses among many options without realizing it, commits to the one chosen as to a religion, else what is childhood for. The cows came up from the pasture to greet the little boy for whom their presence was a metaphysical condition related to God's mysterious love.

Luciferian pride begins to gleam through rips in the moral fabric of me. We are selves in part but not in sum.

One faces the classroom uncertainly, desiring to be loved yet unsure of their commitment to the requisite ideals, and thus risks a damaging exposure. Artists with a gift for self-promotion, artists whose work elides the self altogether.

Chickadees perch on nearby pines for all the world studying me as I pass. When I kneel I do so swiftly with efficiency and when I rise it is only because the other is sated and no longer needs me or any receptacle in a posture of submission and when I leave after it is in silent fury like a loaded gun that cannot die.

To call wordiness "given" is to create expectations and obligations where none naturally abide and this too is an error to be avoided. That diner in Vermont where we ate Saturday mornings, sharing each other's pancakes and coffee.

The old dog's grave is a mountain that I climb at least once a year. One enters the forest aware of what changes when one enters the forest, which includes the awareness that one cannot be aware of everything that changes when one enters the forest.

At bedtime we could barely speak owing to fatigue and stress yet at three a.m. were bound in a shared pocket of warmth in which something that does not love us was vanquished, if only temporarily. One takes their grandmother's tea cup outside and holds it over their head so it will fill with moonlight, determined to enact every possible ritual of grace.

We who were raised to gaze unflinchingly into the barrels of guns, to accept unconditionally the ruthlessness of the God of Jonathan Edwards, we for whom every death of an animal was another noose we were made to walk by before risking a fretful sleep. Abide with me now in the wreckage, console me in this vale of snot and tears.

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

A Plastic Emphasis

A last swallow of tea. Hills to the south emerge from dense clouds, morning rain fades, and I walk two houses down to apologize for Friday night's outburst. We have to help, and we have to allow ourselves to be helped, or is that just the way we were told we had to say it.

One begins to sense the presence of Lucifer, especially over the first cup of coffee in pre-dawn darkness. Muddy snowbanks seep into the road, forcing traffic to go slower and pull to the side. We share but not happily and bad things happen.

An early insistence that ethics was always situational, as if. Half a century passes with nothing to show but glossy metaphysics and a plastic emphasis on joy. Ferrying hay to the horses at dawn, surprised when they linger looking at me rather than going on to eat.

A tea cup filled with moonlight. Four a.m. or so waking from a dream of my mother demonstrating compassion for her own mother at a picnic table, a family reunion of some kind, a late afternoon full of blank faces and unarticulated expectations, and thus the day becomes a long slog through shitty applications of intellect and fake smiles. Submission, always submission.

Exhausted by caring for sick children we can barely face one another in the kitchen at breakfast. Who cares how frozen apple slices fare in winter pie? Psilocybin-fueled escape fantasies dominate now.

Yet immortality remains a theme, one we are bound to explore. Mutual recognition eschewing equality? We who were given the sky but opted instead for low pastures and cows, a happiness that in retrospect was a bitter settlement enabled by already-dying fathers.

Buddha chokes saying grace at the table and some of us thump his broad back and some of us just laugh. The Man without Shoes hoards shoes, seduces the cobbler's daughter without considering her own needs, and does not pray the way he tells you that he prays and really - I mean really - can you say you are surprised?

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Stones in Our Shoes

Four a.m. is not sacred but at four a.m. what is sacred finds itself in me and is not scared to blossom. Best decision ever was putting the old green couch - scavenged from a Cape Cod house-cleaning fifteen years ago - into the kitchen facing the stove. Sometimes the poems write themselves and sometimes the loneliness won't even let you remember that you write poems. Throws its tendrils into still morning dark? A point at which pajamas no longer mattered, at which sleep and sex began to commingle in deliberate - if not always satisfying - ways. The church steeple in gold light in Burlington Vermont in summer '88, reflected in broken glass in the driveway where I knelt crying. Bamboo bird cages, turtle shell combs, diaries in German covered with dust. One does not rebel against that from which one cannot meaningfully or otherwise separate, and yet rebellion runs its viral course. Dreams of absolute certainty break upon waking, like dropping a tea cup in winter. Hand-delivered ultimatums? The mail was never for us anyway. A fever, a favor, a fortune, a fall. A thousand years pass - ten thousand years pass - and neither the gift nor the giver change. Why do we go on troubled, stones in our shoes, unsure of our companion? Waxing poetic under winter stars, cardinals asleep in the pines. The absence of Jesus is Christ but what is the absence of Christ?

Monday, March 16, 2020

Off the Fulcrum

Gritty eloquence bearing me forward on hot black coffee at the strangely comforting four a.m. Or was Dylan in the Chelsea Hotel channeling Emily Dickinson and not knowing it? Back then it rained less in winter, back then when we were cold we didn't complain. Technologies function as metaphors the way God functioned for our ancestors (who didn't know from metaphors but that's a different story). One cherishes guitars, knives, ceramic elephants and prisms, doesn't one. My body has many parts, each with varying degrees of utility, and the whole as such ceases to matter the way once upon a time it did. We have followed dogs deep into the forest, the joy of those travels marred only by regret for the discomfort we brought to black bears. I sit up all night with Jeremiah who sleeps in throes of sickness, moaning and tossing, and remember doing the same with my father as he died, and wonder when I will finally slip off the fulcrum attended by a man. Who argues with me that moonlight is not blue has yet to reach the preferential garden. Shadows of maple trees elongate over snowy lawns. Quietly saying "I too dwell in possibility," hoping she will allow the reference. So night passes unto day, mansions unto homes unto restoration projects, and bones unto crystals in which emptiness rehearses yet another role for the interior critic. My umbrella is broken my love - would you mind sharing yours?

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Outside Sparta

I am always trying to "get away." It is like visiting Vermont and discovering Vermont is trying to hold onto you for reasons of its own. But always, words are convention-dependent assignments of meaning and thus evidence of that-which-is-not-us. I mean, who shall I praise if not you? We are now that juncture where we make better bread, pizza, muffins, fudge, stew with dumplings et cetera than one could buy anywhere, and so we are no longer safe for the market economy that is our Lord and Master. Remember the ruins of your great-grandparent's camp in the olive grove outside Sparta which we hiked back up to after everyone went to bed so we could see it again in starlight? Something happened, something else happened, and so on. Or are we someone else entirely over and over. One walks through the forest visiting graves of dogs and brooks where the dogs splashed and muses on the way one uses landscape to assert identity. Beginnings are helpful in calculating probabilities, regardless of the ontological status of "beginning." Curtailments are what narrative is. Poor monkey, somebody stole your typewriter and won't say where it is.

Saturday, March 14, 2020

Certain Kinds of Happiness were Briefly Possible

"It has to do with" and then you just add whatever shit you feel. Fire-red guitar picks (medium) on the dresser in the foyer next to fingerless gloves and mail for the woman who lived here well over a decade ago. When you insist on anything, it becomes a part of you, and eventually begins insisting on its own prerogatives.

I remember a long time ago walking through an enormous hay field to a small but neat apple orchard that followed a gentle slope into a forest predominated by old maple trees - a forest the nineteenth century and its resolute emphasis on sheep-farming had left alone - and felt something close to holiness which I could never regain or replicate. One studies the mostly rotten beaver carcass, getting a sense of how deep those teeth reach into the skull. This man wades in the shallows but never swims and this man longs for someone to tell him the secret isn't hiding at the bottom of the lake.

One gets up to stir the soup - dried peas still percussive in the broth - and then comes back to write this sentence. It seems like we make allowances but life just happens and we just float - butterflies on a breeze, milkweed dander in a brook - telling stories in which the teller is always the center of narrative gravity. Leaving the church on Friday night before anyone else, struggling a little with how utterly confused I am about almost everything and yet - hours later at midnight, going downstairs for a glass of water - glimpsing the moon, its silver light illuminating swirling frost blossoms on the west-facing window, and swimming - drowning, really - in impossible-to-measure joy.

The bread she made! One's dreams are clunky now, slow and jumbled and always on the verge of dying, sort of like those old cars from the 1970s our Dads made us drive, a rite of passage that mattered mostly to them. A woman I knew a long time ago with whom certain kinds of happiness were briefly possible and then unconditionally not.

Wicker baskets in which months-old chocolate are gathered, remnants of holiday excess which embarrass us now, yet which we cannot throw away. The conversation at breakfast turns to the garden, possibly expanding it to plant more potatoes, with no decision being made save the general sense that potatoes are good. Ambiguity even here in the marriage, arising as always from my inability to manage the many losses forever reminding me the Lord is neither presence nor absence nor paradox.

What does it mean to live religiously? The students push me to where the fractures in my argument become obvious, even to them, and we end up laughing and agreeing there should be cookies next class. The calendar is not your friend and it's not making anything easier, no matter what you think.

Ghosts of dead sheep haunt the ghosts of ghosts of ghosts. We are built for something simple yet here we are, you and I in the twentieth sentence, throwing ourselves yet again on the (as yet unbreakable) logjam of distance, prayer and desire.

Friday, March 13, 2020

A Sort of Cosmic Orgy

Pea soup thickens, the house grows quiet.

Second Saturday of February given to composing this love note to the anniversary of my death.

If I look up and a little right the steamed windows show faint blue behind a still-blossoming Christmas cactus.

My cold toes, my shoulders.

Traffic is dense near the exit where the hotel I worked at in 1987 is visible, a near-daily reminder of the only time I made out with a man, Luis from Columbia, whose mirror sunglasses folded in his breast pocket were what instructed me "not this."

Cumin, salt and smoked paprika.

If I lean a little right and narrow my eyes, the soup pot blurs and fingerprints become visible right below its handles, as if someone had deliberately refused to use them to heft the pot.

The Heath Fair on Sunday last August, the heat making us silly, the ox draw making me angry, which was hard to explain in that context.

What healing is contemplated by her visit, is brought forth or stifled by her obvious frustration with how the visit goes?

One confronts their inability to use a camera, wonders how it relates - or does it relate - to their ongoing infatuation with image to the exclusion of sustained narrative.

He does not write, he does not call and we do not forget him, ever.

The Man without Shoes is married to a woman who collects onion skins to dye loose cloth she will later use for patches on his tattered jeans.

Picking blueberries at dusk as a child, staying close to Dad because of the pistol he wore on his thigh.

Among the many things money measures, power.

Yet in the 1970s one glimpsed something that was a relic of the nineteenth century - and lacking at that age any understanding of how relics actually functioned - was able to enter (in a way that was to some extent irreversible, as most spells are) the deep past.

Stained coffee mugs on top of mostly-unused coffee mugs on the shelf below tea cups stacked on tea cups on the shelf below the shelf where all my thumbprint goblets and 1940s-era matching cordial glasses are kept.

Tra la.

Forces of nature against which we hurl ourselves, our own selves forces of nature, the whole experience a sort of cosmic orgy of intention, adaptation and confusion.

If I ended it, it is not ended: that, too, is a law.

Open-ended travel plans, open-minded travelers.

Thursday, March 12, 2020

The Sharp Shock of the Cut

The full moon hidden behind gusting wind or is it my hunched shoulders make it hard to look up. In winter the river is quieter and one can imagine a space in which the river does not sing at all. What questions must I consider, what answers must I set aside. Lorenzo Snow said that "as man is, God once was, and as God is, man may become." Grating ginger for tea I drift and drag my forefinger over the blade, blood leaping into awareness right behind the sharp shock of the cut. Yet in the morning, some wind still abides, so I gather loose hay behind the barn where it's less likely to blow away. One does lean towards rituals that are fairly described as Christian, yet eschews so much else of what the label implies. One avoids the dance in order to study the band and, by extension, learn better where one's own healing work is compromised. Be careful of measuring progress simply by comparing present to past, lest you confuse any amble for a direct stroll. The icicles are nearly gone despite the cold and one briefly allows a dream of green and bluets and forget-me-nots. Aquarians are only sometimes excellent lovers? My heart circles an invisible God, a hummingbird of mind, a temple whose doors refuse to be locked.

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

I Stand in a Corner Watching

To call anything harmonious is an assessment, yet happiness is not imaginary: be not deceived. Without icicles or raindrops or quartz or dew or sunlight, who would have dreamed the idea of prisms?

All night strong winds battered the old parsonage, windows rattling in nineteenth century frames, and yet we slept soundly, folded into one another like loose scraps of cloth in Chrisoula's "et cetera drawer." To lay down and gaze at the sky and realize one is simply seeing home another way - that joy.

I pat the old man's shoulder in lieu of a hug and later wish I'd risked the hug, asking internally will I or am I that kind of lonely forever. A blonde woman in tie-dye dances close to me where I stand in a corner watching Jeremiah hunch over his guitar getting the solo just so and the distraction, while inevitable and possibly even on some level invited, displeases me in a religious way.

"Wanting anything to be other than it is is a form of violence" is a form of violence. We talk quietly in the foyer of the old church, preparing to go deeper into something real come Spring.

The many ways she risks - and also fails to risk - Kenya. Gendlin on low idle, a sort of mental soap I use to now and then remember my body knows things and so oughtn't be ignored.

In a dream, I stepped through a window into crystalline clarity, only to see yet another window opening unto another crystalline clarity opening unto yet another window endlessly. "Death is the end" strikes me as an error though I can't always say what kind, let alone how to fix it.

Walking after midnight on Main Street, turning onto dark side roads going all the way into towns in which I am a stranger. Notice the themes, let them teach you what to write, and always write for the one who notices.

Working the sourdough so that later Chrisoula can make her famous pizza, frying bacon and onions in oil before adding homemade bone broth and split peas, frying chicken with chilis, all before allowing myself to write, this. Mornings the horses are waiting vs. mornings they linger in the run-in.

The facet is judged by other facets which together are the whole but judgment is not rendered moot or unhelpful thereby. So it is settled then: we will grow old together, we will build a secret Vermont by hand and bury it in the forest, and when we are both dead we will live there happily, each the other's help-meet.

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Terminally Incapable

It's cold and my stomach can't bear even mild tea but I'm wordy so here I am, writing writing at three a.m., listening to rain, wondering how my ancestors made it through the night since I seem so terminally incapable. January allowed for an interior green to assert itself but February - which is usually a brief hallway - has become the sort of organ Bach couldn't leave alone. Nobody has ever asked am I okay which is mostly a function of me learning to live in a way that deflects the attention of others, especially when it is kind, soft, welcoming, et cetera. At night by the river a longing to topple - to fall forever - overwhelms me. Can you imagine how a letter feels when it's folded and tucked into an envelope? Our living is messy in the way of the poor, folks for whom appearances take a back seat to just making sure the kids are fed, one toilet works, et cetera. Something went wrong in Fall River that 1970s Worthington attempted to correct and I am the ongoing possibility of healing albeit fading. Imagine this poem against a bright yellow background. Imagine something dim struggling out of the clouds. High atop the highest mountain, God turns Her glaucomic eye towards us. Armies move across the earth. Smart men make persuasive arguments, horses go out of fashion. After the wedding comes the marriage. After the marriage, this.

Monday, March 9, 2020

A Winter Turtle's Dream

It's hard to get the lights right at 3 a.m.. The kettle hisses and spits, embarrassing me because it reminds me of sex two nights past, unusually intense and messy, like when you're twenty. Metaphors are clunky mostly. Both shoulders ache and my right arm can barely move. What I am not telling anybody has become a kind of novel, one that at last appears to be nearing its end. These long walks are my life, these unread poems are my life, and my life is far away now, like a black bear's birth. It's hard to get the body to settle in a way that doesn't feel like a couple horses ran over it. You lose this or that dialogue partner and only later realize it as the best thing for them and your job is let that be okay. I slip a little on the stairs and blame it on the ice. Don't kid yourself: deadlines are not an illusion. Maybe something is wrong in a deeper way than we thought? Who can say they are not a passing image in the far corner of a winter turtle's dream? In the eyes of the Lord I am free. And still the roads all beckon.

Sunday, March 8, 2020

Picking Up Where One Left Off

How to begin?

At one a.m. a skunk ambling up Main Street pauses when it senses me ambling the other way, and when I pause as well, it decides to keeps going, taking a left into the Historical Museum parking lot. When it's safely past, I walk again.

At an early age I detected a fundamental lawfulness in living that was baffling, given the obvious - often personal - pain that filled the world. God was no answer - God was the question.

There are other questions.

It is raining, lightly, just shy of freezing, and my jacket grows heavy and cold, my shoulders stiffen. I am ice man, encased, slower with each step.

Is this anything like what it will feel like to die. Is there anything it feels like to die.

We are stories, not story-tellers. So much softens and settles when we realize this in a felt - in an embodied - way.

Looking up through tangled maple branches at dim clouds. One a.m. or a little after or did I say that already.

What did I say already.

We are the particular observer for whom this world arises in the particular way that it arises, and no more, but also no less. So much softens and settles when we realize this in a felt - in an embodied - but wait.

We are a way of deploying commas that has to do more with rhythm than with the structure of content in the sentence, but we are not just that.

The skunk was not alarmed by me so much as briefly cautious, which I took as a compliment, being that sort of man. Other encounters with skunks - when there is less time to prepare for the encounter, and less space in which to allow minds to assess and choose among various responses - have been less amenable.

All pain is nontrivial.

In a sense, there is no beginning but only picking up where one left off. And then what happened?

Insomnia again, the toxicity of no sleep again.

This again.

Nobody comes downstairs to ask if I am okay and the secret that I want to tell you - which you probably know - is that I wish somebody would. I don't know if I would know what to do if they did but I would like to try. I would like to ask for help and then accept help. I think I might be that man now.

Two onions left from the garden, a couple dozen squash, and what feels like uncountable pounds of frozen apple sauce and apple slices.

What do you get to, what do you let go.

I make tea and let the various narratives quieten, which they do. Something in me is broken and asserts itself by whatever means it can find, and I am listening, but I am also scared and not sure how to care for anyone, let alone myself.

So much of what we say could go unsaid without the world dissembling accordingly and yet here we are, writing and reading together, as if the last sentence were somehow related to the first in a way which is not mysterious and very much acclimated to love.

Saturday, March 7, 2020

The Promise of No More Mirages

You visit in winter darkness, remind me it's okay to bundle in quilts, take tea instead of coffee, stuff like that. If I lean a little to the left, where the curtain doesn't quite reach the window frame, one or two stars can be seen. Did I mention it is winter? Or how I look especially forward to mica glittering in early Spring runoff? The cold this year is a metaphor for how lonely and sad I am but I am neither lonely nor sad. Also, when I ask for things, you don't say yes or no, but nor do you leave. This is a prayer. "This is a prayer" is a prayer.

This is a sentence in a prayer which knows the one who reads it does so slowly, lips moving to bring it forth audibly, aware of the one who for a thousand times a thousand years believed he was its author. When you visit, something somewhere opens, welcomes me, and becomes us. When I say "light" I mean that which makes everything - including thought, including "light" - perceptible. Holes in my boots let snow in and my gloves are too small so I don't really bother. When I walk, it's a kind of wobble, as if something in me is no longer sure where it is going. Has already arrived and doesn't want to leave? Well, travelers gotta travel.

When I was little, open fires outside were a comfort, and when I grew older they became forms of seduction - vast wild bedrooms in which our bodies smoked and glowed - which means eventually you have to let them go. These days, the monks in my quirky order build their own cells out of the psyche's mostly-unreliable alignment with narrative. Denial and projection become rivers one sips from, then wades through and swims in, then foregoes altogether in favor of a desert and the promise of no more mirages. When I fell in love with you, I wanted something, and when I no longer wanted it, it was too late to explain or escape. We are many marriages, we are many weddings, no one of which suffices unto our deep interior longing to celebrate and be celebrated.

Fellate and be fellated? Well, something worth returning for! I learned a lot of lessons in Worthington that were mainly about surviving Worthington, and only late in life did I learn that Worthington itself was an illusion. "It's turtles/elephants/family all the way down" is silly but going down is not silly for where else do we learn the value and meaning of service and attention? Unfold me like toy origami and what remains are creases indicative of the original form. I'm not saying "lost" and I'm not saying "visit." I'm saying that angels can be terrible guests, eating all the pie, smashing thumbprint goblets, and never once remembering to relay the message their creator sent them to relay.

Or maybe it's a letter, who knows. Between the vanishing beginning and my dreams of a sacred finish, something small and ordinary goes about its business. Those who have ears, et cetera.

Friday, March 6, 2020

A Certain Grim Assessment

The cemetery any morning can become. Fields of snow in moonlight, the moon narrow and bright.

Crows pick through the compost, flapping away when we come too close. In the side yard lilac, two chickadees are what I think happiness resembles when embodied.

A prayer that aims at quantifiable results is a plea or a plan, not a prayer. This pine forest that long ago was a sheep farm.

Yet is it possible death is in fact a process rather than an event? Two glasses of whisky argue that what we argue over is not what we actually want to promote or defend, and yet.

One fails countless disciple application exams, ends up in a little town on the edge of the desert teaching basic math to the cobbler's daughter, and unexpectedly discovers happiness is natural, already given, et cetera. The hard part is saying what you want because when you do the world instantly crystallizes and you have never been good at recognizing what is static.

Visits to where the sea is visible have a discernible effect on consciousness, enlarging it somehow, or maybe supplementing its natural light. Looking back to see who is entering, readying ourselves for what comes next.

Every teacher knows that some students are better than others, but only a few understand that this is a reflection of the teacher not the students. Chocolates wrapped in gold foil, roses on the floor of the shut-down factory.

God is a nontrivial idea, helpful or unhelpful according to context. We who balance risk in the interest of gains we would otherwise deny.

In a dream, a woman who troubles me appears happy and I sort of dance around her - mutual elision abounds - and we laugh and our eyes fill with blue light. One wakes at 3:16, mentally notes the gospel allusion, and gets out of bed.

Judgments were made, sentences given. At the bottom of a well, one executes a certain grim assessment, one learns the value of looking up.

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Our Shared Insistence on Secret Histories

Laying down loose hay where we walk so that it will warm up in the sun and melt the ice beneath it. One plans, plots, prefers. In the distance, at roughly what's called the property line, maple trees rise leaflessly into the sky like the fists of witches. Art, you call it, while I say it's just passing time the way I taught myself, back when time was a thing you could escape. Women occupied a lot of my attention once poetry won the mostly-fixed race but now the tenor of my focus is shifting. Wind blows and I look away from it towards the river. A camera is an argument that one no longer needs to make, which is to say, one is confused about what made that argument seem valuable in the first place. An emptiness follows our shared insistence on secret histories, as surely as meaning derives itself from the past. Here, the stoves are mostly ornamental and the stairs unreliable. Loving chickadees is no defense against the darkness you allow by refusing to speak her name. How close we get to Jesus, those of us who sold our ears for a song.

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Reasons for Letting Go

A thousand miles is poor sustenance for a man who can neither travel nor bear more than one sexual partner at a time. These shoes were made for praying!

Or so I say on Sunday afternoon in mid-winter, puttering in the kitchen making chili and writing poems. Chrisoula is sick upstairs, third day running, and the kids lean into playing nurse. If I was unhappy once - which I surely was - I'm not unhappy now. Though not every problem solves itself so neatly.

When we walk, we tend to take Flat Iron Road past the sheep farm down to the river bisecting Route Nine and then up Lilac Street between acres of open field. A familiar landscape allows you to forget certain indiscretions, while the bittersweet entangled in the crest of rotting maples - a red blur because you forgot your glasses - is a reminder you'll never be finished apologizing. The world is a thread sustained by other threads which together we call narrative.

Where the road dips, I take your hand. In one dream, we picnic by my favorite childhood lake which you call a pond, which amuses us no end. I remember her going to her knees the way I approached certain mountains and realizing that no matter what happened next I would always be alone. The radio plays Dylan and somewhere not here it is Spring, or nearly.

Do you remember in Ireland climbing hills between ragged sheep, our own breath ragged because of smoking too many cigarettes, going all the way to the top to get a better glimpse of the Beara peninsula? And you going down on me and later fucking, our cries whipping through the windy mist, and later yet saying "I know you're never coming back?" Thirty years gone and I can still feel your thin shoulder moving under my hand, which had its own reasons for letting go. What is the Welsh word for regret?

What is the best way to forget? Two glasses of whisky argue our bodies will go on walking a long time after what they remember has faded. Starry skies await all of us whose wandering was beset by a secret love we were for whatever reason unable to rise and accept and call our own.

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Anything with Roots

Jasper comes by on Sunday with two six-packs of Narragansett and we drink to our fathers to just shy of drunk. His point is that why one apologizes is more important than what one apologizes for, which makes me feel like somebody somewhere is getting away with something. The front porch in early February at dusk, cars going slowly up and down Main Street, house lights blinking on both west and east, switching from one foot to the other to keep the blood flowing. How much one expects to be elided by et cetera! And the moment as a teen-ager when you realized that Latin and Greek mattered, that abbreviations were a form of sloppy thinking, and women a complexity worth giving attention to. Out back the horses whinny, aware that we're out and wondering why we're not "out back." I confide my intention to purchase a single rose bush and plant it by the apple trees, and confide too my reluctance to put down anything with roots. Stars come out and wind begins and temperatures in our shared valley drop. I've done things I wish I hadn't, not all of which were bad. Is it dark where you are too?

Monday, March 2, 2020

Not Red At All

I would like to tell you about an event that occurred in early spring of 1971, when I was four years old. I was at my friend John's house, swinging in the hay loft, when his mother called us. We went into the kitchen. John's mother - I forget her name but it might have been Jean - was standing by the stove with her back to us. She had a beehive hairdo which I loved. If you had asked me what color her hair was, I would have answered "red." She turned and took a single step toward us, which placed her perfectly in a ray of sunlight streaming from the west. "Sean," she said. "Do you want ketchup on your hot dog?"

And I could not answer. For in the light in which she stood her hair had become so luminous and beautiful that I forgot everything. Her hair was not red at all! It was mahogany and gold, livid like outdoor fires in winter, glassy and rippling and glowing like Bronson Brook at dawn. I felt that if I touched it my whole body would become a lick of flame of the sort that inspired the apostles. I felt that if I looked away I would lose the only thing I had ever seen that was worth seeing. Those who have eyes indeed!

In that moment - not wordily but with all being composing me - I saw clearly the poverty of language. What I had called "red" was orders of magnitude more complex. I saw that a word was dead compared to its referent. And I saw, too, the inherent unreliability of perception. For how had I missed this beauty? What games and other stupidities had distracted me?

I did not fall in love in that moment! John's mother was not then or after an object of my adoration. Rather, I learned that what we call "beautiful" is always the Lord, and that the Lord is always with us, but we have a bias against noticing this. What a gift to be alive and what a terrifying allowance, that one could overlook the gift entirely. Like prisms and chickadees, the external world was aligning with an interior map which pointed only at the Lord, if one would only vow to not forget. In this way, my course was set. And with only trivial exceptions, I have neither deviated nor turned back.

Of course this never happened, but telling you that it happened did happen - is happening right now, in fact. If you understand that I am not lying here but rather telling you the truth as it is given me to tell it, even though it never happened, will you hear? Between this sentence and the emptiness that by law follows it, will you say yes to the proffered light?

Sunday, March 1, 2020

You Could Miss Them if You Wanted

In a dream I lied but did not realize it was a lie until later in what felt like another dream. Describing my spiritual journey as "alchemy en route to chemistry" and not getting the expected response. What light allows this and other sentences to be evaluated? When we speak, the errors we make are not spelling errors and this too can helpfully inform one's writing practice. The chickens natter when I go in to the barn at dawn, a pleasant sound to which I almost always murmur "good morning" or "yes" or "hey there." The world welcomes us welcoming it? Maturana's emphasis on love was resolutely biological and in that sense, I have been a poor disciple, given as I am to the abstraction and idealization of romance. At a late juncture, one realizes that vows of any kind are a signal unbecoming those of us whose concept of love is necessarily entangled with our concept of the Lord. You see the problem? [The height of the hill is the depth of the valley] is less interesting when one understands the whole thing as yet another distinction and turns instead to the one who - or maybe that which - distinguishes. I've given offense, yes, but always in the service of trying to learn something that will be helpful to others. If my nose was glued to the map, it's free now. One looks up from writing to see snow falling, the flakes so tiny you could miss them if you wanted.

Saturday, February 29, 2020

Interim Note!

This current sequence of posts began on December 18, 2019 and is slated to finish on April 21, 2020 (all the posts are written and scheduled). I seem to be shifting away from this version of this project and towards something new. What that means exactly I can't say, which is somewhat unusual for me. The desire to write is strong but the mode is not clear.

There are generally four modes of writing for me: short traditional poems (which now and again show up on Twitter), longer prose poems which are housed here, spiritual-type essays that I publish here, and then a pretty traditional journal which I don't publish anywhere.

[I say "traditional." I don't know what that means. The journal entries are pretty academic (what I'm reading, what I'm thinking) but also pretty high school in their emoting (so-and-so said this at work and I hate them and hope nobody invites them to an Xmas party ever again etc), but the emoting is generally linked to the academic stuff which always has a general theme of healing. I'm not trying to be immature.]

Every few years, the writing doesn't fit into the forms that exist, and so one of two things happens. First, and most typically, the writing accommodates itself to an existing form (this happened in late 2017/early 2018 when I began writing about radical constructivism at (for example)) and from time to time here (as the recent sequence indicates).

Or - in lieu of accommodation - the writing makes some new demand on my living that in turn brings forth a new form of writing altogether. This happened in about 2000 when I began a ten-year journalism career, which included writing and publishing fiction.

The "new demand on my living" is actually more exciting than squeezing into existing forms but you can't insist on any outcomes (timing or otherwise) in this domain. It's really about being attentive to a process that's unfolding in the interior which - like any gestating entity, be it a baby or a loaf of bread - can't be forced. Bread's ready when it's ready; babies too.

That said, I do dislike the interim period. Long ago, in a different context, a friend called this experience "hallway hell." You've closed one door and the other hasn't opened yet so you're standing in the hallway waiting. And waiting. And waiting.

What does one do?

Since I firmly believe that writing is a craft, then one writes even when the writing is obviously falling shy of itself. Even if it's shit that you delete upon finishing, you write. Serious musicians practice every day regardless of whether they're "feeling it." Writing is not so different. I think of it as showing up at the altar, even if I'm all but empty-handed. Eventually, the gods recognize you and gift you back. But you have to be there.

Okay but write what? Well, write this for one thing. Or twenty sentences, Harry Matthews style. Or an email to a friend. One of my teachers long ago pointed out that writing is writing, period. Do some. If you can't find any, then invent an exercise: Write five quatrains with collectively include every color you can name. So long as you write, it doesn't matter what you write because it matters so. fucking. much.

So that's where I'm at. I don't know what shows up after April 21. Thank you for reading through then, if you do, and I hope the poems are entertaining/interesting/insightful or some other form of helpful.

And if you are a writer yourself, keep on keeping on! It's not the result that matters but the process and - truly - it's not even the process so much as our willingness to show up for it.

~ Sean

Another Thing Witches Do

At last one's dreams clarify - in particular those after waking at 3:16 as always - and the cities we never visit visit us and insist on their legitimacy. The calendar says winter but living is modular: nothing can be trusted absolutely as nothing operates outside of the collective.

Side yard maples have been a persistent image, right up there with chickadees and blowjobs. Lately the recurring fantasy is just a couple of days alone with sandwiches, cannabis and a pile of books, free of the many expectations that have so resolutely dogged me in this life.

We join so much with "and" and "but," often without exploring the nature of the subsequent implied relationships. Aches in my back and shoulders that make morning chores difficult but not impossible, not yet.

It's not that I'm not scared of death but that I don't understand the given reasons to be scared and so it remains a possibly solvable problem. Something lovely, something luscious, something to lick.

One of the tricks in writing is to keep going when you'd rather stop, to risk not being bad so much as bored, and to see what happens next. So much is hidden away and really who has time to go searching for it?

The dolls she makes by hand over a period of weeks put me in the mind of the witch in Hansel and Gretel and force a new reading of that familiar text, which is another thing witches do. Remember that little Greek island, drinking bitter coffee in the morning, watching fishing boats leave the harbor and wondering was it wrong we wanted to live there forever.

There will always be birds I do not know the name of, and there will always be this relationship with what I do not know. The Man without Shoes asks what are the odds.

Early February, the south-facing window barely reflected in the west-facing mirror, the frost blossoms faint and narrow. We who collect images, create interior totems thusly, and lug them everywhere as if God were more than an understanding of probability.

What is it that you defend? The (deceptive) simplicity of subjective awareness, again.

A prayer aimed at Jesus unexpectedly hijacked by his mother informing you you aren't even close to the source of the generative mythology. The moves one makes when they still believe what can be kept a secret can also be called love.

Friday, February 28, 2020

Not a Prayer, Not a Poem

I wait for you. In the morning, before anyone else is awake, I wait.

I give myself to you. In the morning, before anyone else is awake, I give myself to you.

Between folds in the curtain, a single star glistens. Where the the curtain does not reach the sill, I see the side yard covered in snow. It is cold here, but not too cold.

My waiting is not a vigil. My waiting is not a penance.

My waiting is not a prayer. Nor is it a poem.

Last night the crescent moon shone so brightly over Main Street that I felt it enter my body. Bright like mica, cold and hard like ice. My heart shuddered, my shoes grew thin then disappeared.

Yet when I woke up the ice had melted and my shoulders were full of light.

Quietly I came downstairs, made coffee, and sat in the darkness facing north, waiting.

Waiting for you is a form of remembering you. Memory rises like a slow soft tide saying "you have never not been the sea. The one you wait for is here. Your solitude is conjoined, your loneliness shared."

In summer, violets will spill through the grass beneath the apple trees, a profluence impossible to measure. In summer, swallows will trace their hidden-to-me alphabet through dusky skies. Thunder will fill the valley, the river will flood its banks.

In summer, after midnight, the horses will settle on the warm earth, legs folded, waiting for the sun.

Summer, winter . . . the nights and mornings are not different to me thereby. Yesterdays, tomorrows . . . the fulcrum of time is dusty from not being used.

[Every step I take makes the map you gave me grow fainter, as if the point all along were to be lost in you]

How quiet it is before anyone wakes up. How gently the darkness appears to the one in whom the moon travels, endlessly cycling through declarations of light.

How easy to say nothing but let it all pass and only rest in you, in whom all travelling, this and everyone else's, unfolds.

For I am not waiting but flowing in you, like melted snow on quartz. Not flowing but living in you like an orchestral heart that's never not in tune. Not living but singing, a little song for those with ears, the ones in whom this sentence nests, nestles, needfully and otherwise.

Thursday, February 27, 2020

Worthington Dies A Thousand Deaths

Morning glides through me, settles on the bare branch of a far maple, and turns. We fumble through rituals in order to reach what cannot be ritualized.

The subject is a mystery in order to hold our attention, not because of any interior interest in solving (or resolving) anything. A blend of ecstasy and pedantry, a happy discipline.

One grows tired of the word "soul" and yet comes back to it over and over, as if somebody somewhere were insisting on something. Worthington dies a thousand deaths so what's one more?

Our innate preference for certainty against one's personal experience of how that specific longing interrupts and confounds and informs them. By "hunger," I mostly mean the still heron in the still waters of the old fire pond at dawn.

A mouthful of coffee grounds. Acting in a way that teaches us there is neither intention nor sin (nor consensus about the fact that there is neither intention nor sin).

The warmth of her at 3 a.m. which I do not want to leave but do in order to better merit our shared bed by faithfully meeting the Lord in prayer. Last of the wine, last of the whiskey: April 27, 1990.

Morning glides through me and settles on the branch of a distant maple, turning to gaze at me with gold eyes full of love. If you meet the Buddha on the road, give him a hug, say "thanks, brother" and keep going.

Sorting through recipes for Kung Pao chicken, aiming at something that is derivative but original, as always. A way I whisper "honey" that she understands.

So much ends when we stop insisting that language be more than a coarse-grained form of love. Who feeds us, forms us, finds us over and over.

One slips certain shackles, one runs all night to reach the farm by day. Say in so many words what you want and The One shall make it so.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

The Days are Without Boundary Now

The barn at 6 a.m., chickens stirring in darkness as I gather hay for the horses, the emptiness of right before Trudge brings forty some-odd bales. The Christmas tree in the side yard, gaps between its limbs. I do care where the moon is in January. I love you, how could I not.

Ice in the Old Creamery parking lot so we take wide slow turns, minimizing the chance of grazing other cars. Jeremiah eats handfuls of yogurt-covered raisins, eyes slightly narrowed, listening carefully to what Dylan's right hand is doing. Making love at night by outdoor fires and then later remembering how we used to make love at night by outdoor fires, peepers in the distance and - at least in memory - an owl. Something composed, something comprised, something composted.

Main Street wakes up early, trucks coming and going at the little hardware store and the post office. I remember my father making fun of the titles of poetry books - Neruda's Residence on Earth, Carruth's Scrambled Eggs and Whiskey. Yet say that one day an envelope arrives and you cannot decide whether to open it or not but indecision is not the real problem - the real problem is that you cannot go back to the place where decision was inevitable, that is, you can't go back to before the envelope arrived. Chickadees scavenging stale pumpkin bread crumbs - that joy, that satisfaction, that gift.

Birthdays vs. the anniversary of our death - which as Merwin pointed out - we pass every year without knowing. In our youngest daughter's bedroom, I hear Chrisoula's voice low and comforting, itself a comfort. Meanwhile, whales are swallowing plastic and strangling to death in heated seas. Truth is, I never pictured you on your knees but rather pictured picturing you on your knees.

Well, what works, what's helpful, what's fun. The days are without boundary now and my library is shifting from an image of what I've learned to a statement about what I don't know. Tides, too, come and go, ever attentive. Say that leaving Massachusetts for anywhere other than Vermont were possible and you'd be saying what in this life cannot be said.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

We Live in Tangled Spirals

And so at last I am old. I enter the shallows knowing the depths to come are no big deal. Erudition remakes me yet again, but this time in an image nobody wants. Desire is always yoked to memory because memory is all a body is, in the end. Crickets are a recurring dream of summer while fireflies are promises we make in one life but keep in another. The prodigal who elects not to go home, who eats his fate without choking or spitting - can I meet him now? At 5 a.m. the house is quiet enough for prayer, but I do not pray, only lie to myself about prayer. What is recursive is always escalating - we live in the tangled spirals of what we'll never know. Greek coffee boils under the watchful eyes of cats. One privately mourns their father's passing, signaling in a faint but ongoing way (which is what "father" means after all) their longing to live monastically. The many fallacies that organize our shared being are like cousins you never meet but then meet only to realize you've never not known them. Have another beer! In Ireland I was less Irish than I would be ever again and never was I freer but that's not how you go home now, is it? I will miss sex by outdoor fires, long drives with coffee, and the happy confusion instigated by photographs. Always be seducing and always be willing to be seduced, says the Man without Shoes, who will seduce no woman ever again. At the foot of a mountain, one looks up. Below the sky one studies with the Teacher who explains the sky is everywhere, we are in it and also, there is no sky. Oh my tired heart, oh my weakening voice. In January I pull the quilt tighter and try to remember how it all began. You?

Monday, February 24, 2020

Already Planning the Garden

Well, not lost so much as fond of risk as a way of saying to the men who beat me, fuck you. In one's thirties and forties chucking the maps but in one's fifties chucking "chucking the maps." One writes all morning after dizzying prayers, insights falling like the diamond rain on Uranus. You reach the forest, you reach the clearing in the forest, you reach the chapel in the clearing in the forest and you keep going because what else are you going to do, you were made to keep going? When I was a little boy I knew where black bears wintered and where I was likely to see them in summer and I am the man that boy became, with Jesus's help. I died in 1990 and when they brought me back I was disappointed but also puzzled. Who knew death had so much to do with prisms! So much that I doubted has been proven true, so much that I sacrificed has been revealed as never needed in the first place. We are past kisses mostly but we still do kiss, our bodies soft and familiar. We are already planning the garden, as if we were in Vermont - and Vermont in us - all along.

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Halfway into the Prayer

I wake early and drink coffee and oddly leave a lot of lights on which I only notice halfway into the prayer. Being the smartest guy in the room has its charms but inner peace isn't one of them and anyway I'm only sometimes that guy. When you enter the church, do you bring your reasons for going to church with you?

I thought I was relegated to the far corner of the choir but in fact I was relegated to the broom closet and only enter the choir loft after everyone is gone and it needs to be swept. Drawing a deep breath after many weeks of struggling to breathe. Writing by hand, listening to the house hum, the faint interior hymnal growing fainter.

Sliced apples, halved grapefruit, bananas spotting in the bowl. My youngest daughter begins making a braid rug, converting our bedroom into her workshop. When you recognize a good story and then confuse your recognition for creation.

For a long time I feared I was as empty as the men I knew who were empty, but I am not those men but another man. We thought my wedding ring was lost and so we replaced it for ten bucks but years later we found my wedding ring. Tom Petty in 1985, 1989 and then 2015 or so.

I step outside at ten p.m. and the cold darkness welcomes me but I am still lonely in hard-to-explain ways. Often, what appears in the poems is not what we expect and doesn't exactly excite us and yet there it is in the poem. A dream in which I realize through the lens of fatherhood the importance of being happy and having fun.

Practice joy? When we wear masks we think we are anonymous or hidden, but masks reflect the self's preferences as well as any other face. Snow melts in late January to reveal the crest of a curated pile of quartz rocks, some of which I've been lugging with me for over forty years.

One begins to sense the virtue of order and leans into the woman who has proven she can make it so. Forget the dark - it's what your heart left behind when it fell.

Saturday, February 22, 2020

A Malign Enchantment

I slip a little going out back with hay, late January thaws turning pools of melted snow to ice you don't see when you hurry. A thinning copse of trees through which the neighbor's kitchen lights can be seen, a reminder that solitude has nothing to do with geography. It's not that I'm lonely so much as waking up from a malign enchantment, victim of a second-hand spell. Learning at last how to talk directly to the Lord? Sentences audition for the morning poem, clearing their throat, trying to impress me. Mockery is a form of indecision, pretending it's not you but another who made the wrong choice. Where once there was night, now there is deeper night, or more night, and insomnia remains our biological king. We for whom winter is a beginning, we for whom beginnings are are not enough, and we for whom "not enough" remains a viable strategy. Four days running I wake up and can't remember my dreams despite a pervasive sense that remembering them matters. Who needs ghosts when you've got clocks and calendars? Legendary scabs follow me into the same old desert, bloodless but loyal. A prayer is anything that moves you, and a hymn is not what we actually sing but rather what makes us want to make a joyful noise at all. On that note, this. This this.

Friday, February 21, 2020

Averse to Being Solved

Often, what works does so simply because it corresponds to some interior structure we've built up over time. Everything represents! There are barns in me, a gears-level appreciation of projection, there are rivers that others call brooks, and there is a trusted ability to tie folks who insist on distinctions (as between rivers and brooks, say) into semantic knots. May I tell you a secret?

One falls in love rarely and never forgets the fall, conflates the fall with the one for whom one fell, and so never doesn't love falling. My middle name should've been Ascutney. The Mysteries are not harmed when we learn about them, they are not averse to being solved. The scriptural is delightfully sexual: every child of God knows this.

We who linger at hints - who sip and never quench our thirst - what god or gods do we suppose have welcomed our worship? What altar - if it could - would turn and worship us? For we do not pray but in bodies that love a lot more than just prayer.

Imagine a long drive north, or in a direction of your choosing, to an end you can dream but not  guarantee. We invent the communion ritual by stealing joy from the ones who locked joy in boxes, invented compound interest and captured writers for marketing firms.

I mean picture the Eden we could make! The order we could restore! A kiss that exceeds anticipation of kisses, chocolate and bread and roses where the desert inclines towards mirages!

Witches know what works (you know). In our dreams a river, and in the river more dreams, and in each dream an image of a river. A hymn that is both our own and everyone else's. As if anything but this mattered.

Thursday, February 20, 2020

Reasons to be Distracted

Always indulging pathos. Always aiming for the roaring fires of the heart-as-oven, the heart-as-sun, the heart-as-a-nuclear-bomb. Chrisoula looks tired - more tired than usual - and I hide in corners and odd hours, buried in books and chewing pens. The man who loved his son was able to beat his son - badly at times - and so his son grows up with unworkable plans for world peace and the public roles of women. I'm responsible - I know that - and every morning swear an oath and pray a prayer not to make things worse. Yet winter is what insists it will not pass, even as the days lengthen. A long time ago dreams appeared in which I led many people over a river, baked bread and made tea for a woman whose excellent poems were clear and bright like cardinals. I danced with strangers in forgotten mountain villages. The Lord was near always, reassuring and proud, like a father whose children bless him without prompting. Yet I also drowned the poor, broke promises made in the confessional and lied in public about who I loved. At a late juncture, I see these stories as the products of an unwilling exile who's scared to risk going home. Close to the familiar border, he develops an odd stutter, forgets he can read maps, and sleeps with women who have their own reasons to be distracted. Chrisoula says at night when I come to bed: "that is one way it happens. There are others."

Wednesday, February 19, 2020

A Cluster of Signifiers

What are the living but hosts for the dead.

I drive slowly through small towns where I grew up, going home.

In my confusion, I forgot many things that were named and some that were not named but should have been.

Gazing north, frustrated with how certain readers are approaching the evolving text for which I am presently responsible, a brightness appears as the whole of the back field. It is like gazing through a halo at the creator of a beloved angel. Goldenrod encased in ice melts in sunlight and as it melts straightens, causing water and ice to fall.

One longs for a companion who needs no defense of these - and other - prismatic flourishes.

Deer prints, deer scat, blue jays. Ravens mistaken for crows.

The forest is a cluster of signifiers, beginning with the stone wall property line.

Growing up in Worthington, it was almost always summer. Winter came and went in a few afternoons. I don't remember much about school, save confusion about standing in line. Dead animals were a recurring horror, both at home and in the woods. Shadows fell, doors closed. I was always "getting away."

On my fifty-third birthday my mother gives me a picture of my late father at twenty-five holding me on his lap, three months old, both of us beaming. Chrisoula leans against the counter while I rant, then later in bed makes love to me quietly, gently leading us through a tender ritual, holding me after when at last I can cry.

Always we face the impossibility of how love comes to what love can come to in the space of what else love comes to. Somewhere shy of the end I sense the ancestors gathering, curious how these last chapters of mine are going to tie things up.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Our Shared Detriment

Let's say that at a certain point in history I was familiar with guitars, knew my way around a fretboard, wasn't scared of a little feedback. We both know that turtles blessed us and remain faithful guides and can never be repaid. An owl sails low over the pasture in moonlight and for the next thousand years I remember I am blessed. This?

Remember how I went out every morning to fetch pennies off the trolley tracks and came home missing fingers which you insisted was not a crisis? Ron Silliman may not be the judge we thought he was, yet the happiness one feels writing these sentences probably wouldn't have happened without him. The bright light of late afternoon is so brief in January that one might as well pretend it will never be summer. Shadows in the attic, ash on the bottom of bread loaves, and talking while driving about the joy of giving each other head.

The coffee goes cold, the front yard maple staggers through another ice storm. When you get down to it, what isn't borrowed? Right before sleep I make a mental note to begin drinking brandy again and when I wake up, think "damn, Sean - just how much religion are you willing to piss away?" Murmuring yes we'll swallow yes.

Jack Gilbert buying marked-down bananas, Wendell Berry smiling signing books. As a child, certain quartz rocks functioned as altars though this was not clear until decades later when it was important to refer to oneself as a man for whom as a child certain quartz rocks functioned as altars. Consent matters, holiness matters, but not always in that order and not always to the degree we anticipate. Driving through New York - farther than ever before - until "west" begins intimating forbidden pleasures trespassing the familiar - that is, the safe - definitions of self.

Toast with butter heaped with jam eaten in secret. A loveliness that was never meant to exceed the range of photography but did, to our shared detriment. We lean into one another the way the earth leans into us and our soft cries on the pillow linger so much longer than expected. Oh you who are always dancing with the idea of dancing, why not roll back the rug, why not move your body in the very way it's scared to admit it wants to move?

Monday, February 17, 2020

I Will Build You A Coffin

Cheap wine, Seinfeld reruns, leftover chicken from the town barbecue. The lack with which I live is the Lord a harder way, but at least it's the one I asked for. Remember growing up and hearing Dylan's Blood on the Tracks now and then at certain houses in Worthington? How essential it is to remember that children remember everything, one way or the other! Afternoon brightens right before dusk, and then the night falls very quick, like an experienced hangman handling a noose. Perhaps it does not matter when or where we profess our love. Me and my Ma drink room temperature gin, make fun of the crippled neighbor, and wait on the mail which never says anything new. Politely but a little annoyed I argue with the Lord - confused as always with His priorities and values - but wander away when He tries to explain. First the wedding, then the marriage, and then we meet the woman we love? Who cares if Pluto is a planet, so what if they find the Titanic. Trees fall all the time outside the range of our hearing, it's no use pretending we're clever. When you die, I will build you a coffin. In the interim, I am each breath when in the air before you - just after leaving your body - it turns to admire its origin.

Sunday, February 16, 2020

Who Would Give Me A Valentine

Lacking any Polaris - and the enemy's beaver traps all smashed past recognition - I lace my shoes and set out for a Vermont that has only ever existed in my dreams. A photograph, being itself a kind of preservation, is intended for preservation. It's no accident the veins on our wrists and forearms mimic trails in the forest. What is discernible under sufficient moonlight and what if anything is not. At the last bridge - fledglings chirping in the nest above our shoulders, long-dead Pharisees re-transcribing Leviticus - we invented but did not partake of a "last first kiss." Trouble is, the map of the territory is in the territory and we tend to overlook recursiveness. Words are coarse-grained, approximate, prone to rust so our tongues only ever do half of what they promise. So my plans to write a history of clowns has gone the same way as my plans to raise dairy goats, so what? The only woman who would give me a valentine doesn't give valentines to anyone. Forgive me, Beloved. I arrived a long time ago and forgot to tell you. The years, they have passed like a disease, leaving stunned survivors to begin again.

Saturday, February 15, 2020

I am a Specific Kind of Problem

In the Country of Turtles there are no kings and no beggars but there is competition. Elephants are carved from quartz and hidden in the bedrooms of the lonely. What a savanna our dreams become! At night, you and I sit quietly on sandstone ramparts, half-hidden by giant urns full of wheat, and watch the moon try on its ten thousand dresses. We like what we like and want what we want - is it that simple? Rivers float off the earth, swans are crushed on the highway. What is home but an idea, albeit a useful one? What is living but a process that cares about preserving itself? As a child, I went into Woolworth's with my father to buy goldfish and came out clutching a bent penny whistle in a paper bag, wondering who'd been left behind. All the icicles this winter are soldered to the house eaves as if to remind me that even the idea of beauty cheapens beauty. Every song these days is written by an angry woman for whom I am a specific kind of problem. In mid-afternoon, over a stolen cup of coffee, we plot our next move. Those dance halls on the edge of town, they aren't going to sweep themselves.

Friday, February 14, 2020

Devoted to Exile

Handfuls of dust on the stairwell, Mason jars brimming with lukewarm tea, and worry upon worry that the cold is not good for the older horse. In winter, I cannot decide what to call her - lover, friend, sister, wife - and "all of the above" won't work for a man who promised the Lord he would never not choose. Wedding bells, fried kielbasa and sauerkraut, and an old man with a greasy comb-over playing bouzouki on a folding chair in the corner. When you arch your back, when you suck in your moans. I fall asleep telling myself stories about surviving happily on a deserted island, yet it's not the comfort it was when I was little. Shadows cross the bedroom walls. A man in me is devoted to exile, another to fake prayer. Perhaps we ask too much of our genitals! You sway in moonlight, calling on all the gods. Your skirt the color of autumn, your heart an unwieldy throne.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

A Famous Female Race Horse

Our marriage is given to studying different stars, as if whole swathes of the sky were closed to the other, yet our togetherness is not without direction. The river froze, the ice patterned in low ripples, each crowding the next, which reminded us that death was inevitable but not permanent. It was bitterly cold - everyone agreed about this - yet somehow the east-facing icicles melted through the long night. Who haunts the ghosts, who shoes the cobbler's daughter? Our wedding was a thousand years of learning a certain Greek dance, fifty years of Irish wakes, and seven days grooming a famous female race horse. We fuck a lot in the old pantry where it's always warm and the only window is painted shut. Look at me scraping pennies off the trolley rails. Look at you eating bacon ends and cabbage in the dark.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

We Fall A Long Way

The earth leans into us, opens and enfolds us, bears us into its hollows like unfortunate toads. Roads unfurl along the river, allowing us to go east and west, but never both at once. When I wake up, it is as if I have been traveling for a thousand years.

Wrens bunch noisily on concrete overhangs near the off ramp, warming themselves in January sun, and I pause to count them. Birth establishes a framework but not an unalterable narrator. The thief steals from the beggar but leaves a gift for the judge's daughter, and in this way a basic injustice is allowed to continue.

A letter arrives, a sense of doom. When we dance we gather angels in our arms and hurl them into the heavens, farther than they could manage with their wings. I don't know how to refer to you now, I don't know where you are in the poem.

Voices in the rear of the theater, complaining. We go up and down the stairs, arms full of clothes we will never wear again. Often when I walk alone through the village, there is a feeling that all that's missing is the feeling that nothing is missing.

To be clever is to miss the fundamental simplicity of love, isn't it. Leaving Worthington was always about going down hills, as entering Vermont was always about admiring certain mountains at a distance. A thinnest wedge of crescent moon, a clock by which we are always counted late.

The halls are slowly cleared of learners and we find ourselves skimming old books nobody bothered to recycle. Grandfather's sweater pocket held coins, lifesavers, a box of matches, a penknife and the stub of a pencil that he used to calculate bets. When we fall, we fall a long way.

We are beyond the writing, beyond synchronicity, we are beyond the claims of excellence we once applied to the soul. This loneliness, this awfulness, this open marriage with the end.

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

I Make Myself Your Bounty

The prophet stumbles to bed and the woman who meets him there softens and opens their shared heart, its hot blood. We wince when our mouths fill with lemon, we kiss away the salt. The moon is an arranged wedding, the sky a church without steeples or altar. When he wakes up at 3 a.m. to pee and write, he is called back to sleep by the memory of a dream of saving bees. Yet when he sleeps he forgets to dream.

I give you the melting icicles, those fast-receding prisms. I give you my anger and fear.

I welcome your judgment. I trust your perspective.

I give you this map to God, which is not a map to God but a map to end the idea of maps to God. In lieu of answers, I give you cheap metaphysics, sunglasses to blur the sudden intense light.

I give you off-brand aspirin, shovels with split heads.

In winter I dream of spring and in spring I dream of a late summer harvest and in late summer I face the interior pilgrim who faces the possibility he is despised by God and Nature yet somehow lives.

I give you this empty Mason jar.

I give you these scraps for the compost.

Bountiless, I make myself your bounty.

Another night the prophet stays up all night with his confusion, sorting the various voices into angels and demons and mother gods and fathers. His heart a bellows, a water wheel, a basket factory straddling a river.

He strangles on psalms the lesser gods call food. Given bread and butter, he reconstructs both oven and cow.

Without you, he dies to even the idea of absence.

Monday, February 10, 2020

Unworkable Recipes

Between all bees and flowers, and the pesticides killing them dead, and the futility of private love which is at last revealed to us - through us - what last poem or sequence of poems shall I write?

We who were undone in shadows. We who were made whole by admitting the shadows undid us, which was a simple utterance and not a war against shadows.

This public heart, this wide-open blossom, this not-forbidden photograph.

We who helped ourselves to sugar, forgetting we had been asked to cull the unworkable recipes.

We who mistook promise for a secret.

After a storm comes the sun but why do we think it is storms that are aberrational?

Daughters break ice on the horse trough with heavy mallets, timing their blows in concert, and the horses are watered accordingly. Juncos and wrens are not chickadees and "not chickadees" is a kind penance.

Sinners a kind of messenger.

Between the many prisms and rosaries - between reading what I write and studiously not reading what I write - what remains that is love?

The void that is a body these hands cannot touch.

The obsession that longs to colonize landscapes that cannot be colonized but only glimpsed and then hinted at.

For you Beloved I abjure the tyranny of oneness. For you I reject all partisans, especially the partisans of monotheism.

For you I leave you these notes.

Blossoming unevenly. Flowering unsteadily.

For you I invent distracting prayers to soften the slow blurred death of love, choking on poisons our ancestors pleaded with us not to ignore.

Sunday, February 9, 2020

A Kind of Evolving Hymn

Errors abound but the mountains don't care. Rust-colored light in snow-covered hemlocks is forever songless and still. I shovel paths for everyone, even the neighbors I'm mad at, and go inside and what appears but the same old poem. If you can recognize Jesus in a sunlit icicle, amazing, prismatic and impermanent, then you can recognize the Lord in your recognizing. Fried eggs, sausage, toast with jam and butter. A fresh pot of tea, real cream and sugar for the coffee. The silence feels private but it's a kind of shared worship, a kind of evolving hymn. The collective has one heart and we are together its beads of hot blood. Between me and you and our love and the world, what other religion will do?

Saturday, February 8, 2020

Before We Were Angels

Well, you can't go back, not after telling her for the ten thousandth time you won't be back. Is it a question then of quantity? In truth, the moon is not heeding new laws or patterns, it's not playing a game. We're lost, in a way, but in another way, we're not lost at all, and it was ever thus. These sentences are not a chore. Like a lake, every dream of us wants to be visited and taken home. There are no mysteries and we have no secrets.

Yet remain partial to an arcane penitential sequence? Absent chickadees, I am mostly comfortless, yet absent comfort, I am nestled in familiar psychological strategies, including the one that is always on the lookout for chickadees. The floor creaks when she goes to the bathroom, the bed creaks when she pulls off her shirt. Before there was speech there was sound. But what was before we were angels?

Well, history overwhelms us, especially those enthralled with a certain crucifixion, a certain metaphorical garden, and a certain ideal Bo tree. The art of Leonardo da Vinci was premised on many fine layers, no one of which could function without the others. Why say yes when no produces an identical result? I get only so far with the laundry before finding myself lost in swirling sunlit dust motes, folding and refolding a shirt I will never wear again.

Friday, February 7, 2020

Mostly Okay

Affectation as a means of not studying the actual text. The horses meet me in the blue light of right-before-dawn and I thank them profusely, which they accept as their due. Walking for hours in a storm without my glasses, snow caking my hunched shoulders, alone and mostly okay. Is it possible I am the problem? The ones I called "Teacher" withdraw into unlit caves, like eels faced with a sudden light. Morning passes shoveling broad trails and writing poems like this and yet a quiet voice inside me wonders if it will ever be enough. The heart unspools its yellow threads to reveal a crystal rosary which opens it thighs to the sun. Listen, brother: it's better to humble yourself in false prayer than build a church with doors that lock.

Thursday, February 6, 2020

Something Glad in Me

God questions and the practice one must sustain in order to ask them. I remember as a child feeling frightened a lot and going to the window in order to glimpse chickadees, who even then were a comfort. The moon fades quickly as if mocking our confusion about its shifting location. Sky without end, earth a bevy of limits. She insists on buying me dinner so we stop at Dad's favorite diner and eat quickly at the counter, as I am hungry mostly to be home with you. In what way and to whom do the many lakes in our shared narrative give up their secrets? Inside of each of us there is a text that longs to tell itself to other texts, to be enfolded with the many sentences, thematicized, anthologized. Sunday forever between us. The puzzle begins whole, else it could not later appear in pieces. Whatever happened is over now. Something glad in me sings, something crystal catches the sun.

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Just Another Moth

The storm passes, leaving half a dozen flakes circulating in the not-so-cold. The horses run in a big loop when I come with hay in morning dark, their glad hearts lifting us. So the waning crescent moon is farther south than expected, so what? I grab a shovel, I begin to work.

Family is a network of stories that tell themselves to one another. Our bodies are blossoms floating in rain puddles. When I clear the stairs, I scatter dirt and hay so nobody will fall. It doesn't matter where you're buried, but it does matter where you walk and with whom.

Or is that just a way to say it that sounds right? Hunched over the loose snow I imagine xylophones in the pine trees, then realize it's juncos and wrens waking up. The many colors snow assumes become me. When I widen the trail enough to lug water buckets in either hand am I being helpful or just booking later praise?

Against the pale dawn, dozens of icicles study the ground. Dancing is a helpful metaphor because it invokes intention, pattern and a lively heart. When I stand quietly giving attention to the eastern horizon, its radiant band of brightening coral, am I one with the Lord or just another moth given to the light? Turtles surface, then drop back down into the depths.

Later, over a second cup of coffee, writing and remembering. Something happened a long time ago in Fall River and we are just waking up to it. The moon says what about the whole sky? Beloved, it is never anticipating what comes next that troubles us, but rather managing what comes after.

Tuesday, February 4, 2020

Moonlight Streams Evenly Over the Pasture

We make love quietly, throwing the blankets back to go down on each other, our moans hissed whispers, our gratitude after like a warm low sea. Shall we go together to the library? I wake early and stumble through thermometer-busting cold to throw hay to the horses, then gaze at the sky which is the color of dead trout save for the eastern horizon's dim glow like a candle stub. It is as if we decorate one another for a private holiday, as if we are scribbling on our grandparents' maps with our eyes closed. Coffee gets cold when you don't drink it - this is a law. Moonlight streams evenly over the pasture, regardless of our ineptitude with origin stories. This is another. This is a prayer on the tip of my tongue that explodes us. This insistence is like a ruined ship at the bottom of a lake that one day will be found. My one, my heart, my light cone. Unity is a garden, a hot mouth, at home in us.

Monday, February 3, 2020

Stubbornly Alchemical

The woman in Michigan, the woman in New Hampshire, the woman in eastern New York, and the woman long ago on the Beara peninsula.

We are quiet and efficient at 11:30 p.m., covers loosening, expertly bringing one another to "the clouds and the rain."

Peering through frost blossoms on north-facing windows at low-lying hills on the far side of which - a little less than an hour's drive - Vermont vermonting.

A crow atop the compost.

A hurried meeting of neighbors to figure out how we will clear the sidewalk of snow now that D.'s wife is in the hospital and he cannot.

Travel plans that include Cape Cod, Derry New Hampshire and Brattleboro Vermont.

She calls on Friday to ask if I will take over a certain class and I say yes because we're so poor and later wrestle with the demons whose favorite game is "what if you weren't poor."

Night lights.

I think often of the shepherds who in Palestine dreamed the idea of One God, a single parentless father, the subsequent - and ruinous - ongoing effacement of mothers.

I think often of whaling captains.

The neighbor's pickup at an odd angle and pressed hard into the snow bank, indicative of a drinking problem that nobody - still! - knows how to talk about.

Communal barns we rent as a group - repair as a group - and which thus function as communal root cellars for pumpkins, potatoes, apples, et cetera.

Chafing that in context is not only okay but desirable.

Somehow we are able to take "no longer arguing" and convert it to something resembling a "peace" marred only by our subtle conviction that we - and not the other - are its author.

The turtle surfaces in its glass bowl and gazes at all of us, calm and reflective, indicative of our need to go slower in naming our shared pathology.

Family as a poorly-edited anthology.

My thumb grazes your nipple, low moans, car headlights sweep the far wall, your hand on the back of my head says now do this.

Wanting anything another way is a form of violence.

Puzzled this winter about the location of the sun and moon, and wanting to ask you in writing if you can explain it, or otherwise contextualize these unfamiliar latitudes.

My heart, that flinty curator, stubbornly alchemical, up all night with its obsession.