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 seanreagan.com (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.

Sunday, February 2, 2020

A Certain Malignant Angel

It takes hours to write even a few poems, not one of which broaches what seems to want to be said. The themes of the past month's writing (which I admired and felt helped by) are exploded by a day with my mother. By traveling to where I can catch glimpses of the sea? Oh Sean, don't make it harder than it has to be. The poems insist on their creation, you didn't ignore them and were lifted a little thereby. So the god who attends these ceremonies keeps muttering "meaning ain't my jurisdiction, pal," so what?

After the coffee, a cup of tea. After the tea, this.

Yet meaning does attend, if only subsequently, and only to argue (persuasively) for the virtue of surfaces and skimming. There is no law that says joy and peace are only recovered in the psyche's muddy depths or by those who strip naked in the public square. Why make it harder than it has to be? Why pretend Jesus is even related to the symbolism of crucifixion?

My mother put on makeup before the visit began while I watched a seagull swallow a chicken thigh bone right there in the Starbucks parking lot. I worried it would choke but it didn't, reminding me yet again that perception of crisis does not equal crisis. Maybe it doesn't matter who comes to our funeral, nor where we are buried, nor whether we are memorialized at all. Is the "I" the dead used less viable than the "I" the living use?

Well, an intensified combination of elation and despair anyway. The writing approaches warily, as Irish fishermen in the 1860s readied their boats under the watchful eyes of English soldiers. Icicles melt on east-facing eaves and I feel an obligation to work them into the writing not as images but metaphors. Yet the real work - the serious work - is to not hurt my own kids or wife after a long day in the familial hurricane cesspool. So the way I chose didn't pass Dad's grave, so what?

Oh, fuck all this anger! Fuck all this confusion! Fuck all these tides I have never been able to do more with than admire at a distance. Bless the snakes who slough off their skins, new but not different. Bless the coupled swans, bright against the cold dark sea. Bless the little cranberry bogs I treasured by not mentioning. Bless unsolvable traffic patterns that somehow bear us onward. Bless my coffee and bless your tea. Bless our clumsy truce, which holds despite our shared inclination to forgive nothing by remembering everything.

Bless the man driven to his knees, face planted in the dust, greeting happily the worms and toads and beetles. Let me take my place in the low banks of heaven, in the far corner of the choir. Let me let me.

Near the middle, Turtle said "brother thank you for seeing me" to which I replied "brother it was my honor." Nobody else heard, being attentive to different gods. As a child, the crown of thorns reminded me of barbed wire which made the calves bleed when they grazed it, and I was angry at the Romans and also angry at whoever's bright idea it was to iconify pain. Will my sorrow never end? Will yours?

Turtle clears his throat - am I Turtle - and says, "there are no motherless gods, there no godless children."

And it helps a little - it does. A certain malignant angel briefly shuts up, as if embarrassed by its insistence that grief and suffering are identical. We learn what we learn, we learn as we go? Forever is such a long time and all our memories are hungry and have teeth.

Saturday, February 1, 2020

Aware of my Coveting

Nobody really knows anymore how anybody dressed prior to 1950, yet photographs abound. She sets a bowl of sugar cubes on the table and I can't choose between gratitude for sugar cubes and admiring the bowl, which is white ceramic with intricate spiraling vines of purple and yellow flowers. So much comes down to where we locate ourselves and how much flexibility we allow ourselves in terms of travel.

I had to call Chrisoula from a grocery store three hundred miles away and ask for a definition of "opaque," it was that kind of morning, that kind of trip. Even in a wheelchair - even in the early 1970s in a wheelchair - she was the strongest woman whose hand I would ever take. Sausages thawing on enormous silver radiators in the living room.

One notices that nouns are disappearing from their brain, as if the interior lexicon were being emptied, like a Catholic church being stripped of icons before bulldozers plow it under. When he played accordion, he turned his head to the left and slightly up. Who do we mock, who do we admire.

Under the influence of cannabis, I do not get angry but instead experience the deep shame that anger is designed to efface, and in this way learn that vulnerability is the cure for shame. Despite temperatures hovering just below freezing, morning sun melts icicles on the east-facing eaves of this, the former parsonage. I cannot help but circle back to those moments when the dialogue was aimed at explaining their illegal pet turtle.

How I am never not amazed by tides, menstruation cycles, lycanthropy and other expressions of our indebtedness to the moon. Writing through breakfast to where you could as easily call it lunch. The title emerges from the piece in a way intended to marginalize the significance of titles (theory is form, form theory).

Insomnia that can no longer be healed through this or that sexual intervention. He collected sextants - including a couple from the eighteenth century - and I was covetous and aware of my coveting and thus not exactly covetous. A paperback copy of A Christmas Carol and the memories which make it dear.

At home it's easy to pretend the roads you use are not the point but absent roads there is no such thing as home. I am not godless yet my sense of what is sacred does drift a lot, reverential posturing coming and going like wind.