Thursday, March 31, 2022
I had a sister once and once I had a mother. Reading half a dozen memoirs about Cape Cod, ending with Thoreau. Cities in my head, lakes in my heart. We talk about money, I pick at the chair arm, wishing there was another way to live. You grow old and die, yet something does not grow old and die, yet remains mostly a mystery, why should this be. Simon, Bridget, Seamus, Jake, and Song – I’m coming my loves, I’m coming. Lemon trees, fig trees. When we killed the goats I collapsed in the kitchen after, moaning with grief, and I still have not finished making amends. You can’t fake jazz, he said, to which I said you can fake anything, to which he said, not jazz, and his confidence made me so happy I forgot what we were arguing about. May our uselessness not lead us to forget the Lord’s love! In my dream, corn tassels whisper over the miles, assuring me that something wonderful is underway. Near dawn the living room fills with divine cephalopods so yeah, I’m still feeling the effects of the psilocybin. Maybe I don’t want to be crucified after all? Sundays are for cleaning the prisms, the rest of the week it’s just how much loveliness can you stand. Whole days strung together like jewels, a song in their structural extension that I cannot help but love to hear.
Wednesday, March 30, 2022
Try another writing tool or move to a different location, I tend to face North when writing but this sentence faces South. Pizza from A-1 in Mansfield, nothing met my hunger like those pies we ordered on Saturday nights. Trains coming and going while we walked the tracks, looking for old stakes and glass insulators. Imagine being scared of kids, and yet here we are. Memories bunch up like weeds, crowding out whatever happiness remains in the dusty coffin of my skull. Nobody wants to get lost in saffron robes around here but the situation is more than a little desperate. Old maple trees coming down, younger ones allowed to live a while longer. Tell me again the story about Krishna and Arjuna? Just once I’d like a therapist whose office wasn’t so obviously decorated to appease me. Separation’s got me by the balls and I don’t have a clue what will help, any ideas? We were better before screens, everybody knows this. Remember knowing how to write a love letter? Emily Dickinson reconfigures how I think about haunts, leaving me a little more trapped than before. Timbers creaking, tides shifting. Imagine looking back a last time at Ireland. Turning the spit as the sun sets. You better believe I’m serious. Will nobody help me discern between what’s real and what’s a story?
Tuesday, March 29, 2022
Bruises. Blank pages. It's like bringing order to what is formless, like how happy you can be seeing sunlight on the lake or in a prism.
Consciousness is non-dual, you say? Smoking stolen cigars in the mall parking lot, a year or so before the troubles began in earnest. Quarry jumping to impress a girl, story of my life until very recently.
Calves dying in the basement, all I knew falling asleep was that waking up meant digging graves.
I remember nothing now but the absence of any explanation, which left me to find my own way out of the matrix of language and grief which, for better or worse, I never did. Cold rice and peas for lunch, washing it down with day-old tea, what else is new. There is a way to not play this game, would you like me to show you?
Repetition. Refusing rituals and all experiences, even those masquerading as enlightenment. At a late juncture discovering stillness, settling into it, may my body be carried by my chickadee wives home.
Between wind gusts, horses crying out for love.
Alarming lies. How happy I was in those days, that corner in the library, that little apartment on Church Street, that spiritual oasis before I cast myself into a desert which I only recently stumbled out of, unwise and nearly ruined. The Queen has abdicated, leaving me with ten thousand poems and a sense that something is even wronger than I can know.
I mean a juncture where metaphors stop working. Moonlight on snow, something blue and fine grinding all the cursed miles between us into dust.
Monday, March 28, 2022
And were there, in the end, diamonds?
One stumbles into the realization of who and what they are, makes peace with it, goes on. Death was hard to countenance in Fall River, it was cold and everybody had a story to tell. Trees creaking, crows flying off under the lambing moon. At a late juncture I find myself wanting to live in a city, a place to sit with coffee writing poems, a library within walking distance. Sit with me a while?
Rice noodles fried in sesame oil, tossed with leftover chicken and broccoli. It feels good to be forgiven and even better to forgive: this is a law. What is wrong with my heart, opening as it does for dogs and falling leaves and little else? Grocery shopping with Chrisoula on Friday evening, happy by the seafood, happy by the crackers, our foolishness (our foodiness?) our salvation.
Cloud-busting with the kids at Child's Park, later getting ice-cream at Bart's, eating it on the steps of City Hall. I get teased for talking about the hippies but I saw it how I saw it and was saved accordingly, to what else could I possibly witness? Looks can be deceiving indeed. Finding that old notebook in which the sonnets I wrote in my head while driving back and forth to Hartford are kept, my handwriting hard to decipher, flipping through before tossing it into the burn pile. Imagine fearing children.
I was happy on trains in Europe, and driving alone around northern Vermont before dawn, and with Denise who was beautiful and wrote better poems than me, which she did not know she could do until I showed her how. White birds flying into the light. I've lied a lot about New York City and what we did there.
No is such a lonely word. This river has carried me to the sea a thousand times and here I am saying again, again.
Sunday, March 27, 2022
She is lost behind a window. Dim light waking up. I make coffee, take it to the bedroom, drink it while she sleeps, her dreams a tangle of dark vines just above her head. Oh Jesus, make me better than I am, I don't even care about heaven, just don't want to bring so much suffering into the world.
Was told often to listen, and did, and judged what I heard, which I don't think anybody planned for.
George Winston songs, Goa Gil songs, Johnny Mathis songs.
Morning passes reading the news, too tired to write, but then abruptly writing in the old way - clear and hot, beyond the reach of any editor, the cosmos in the sentence like a sweet seedling rooting. Problems as a way of looking, i.e., would you like to change your mind about the Lord? When the moon is full I go outside, wander past the horses to the river, slipping on thin ice, the old one-man church still welcoming me. We ate donuts with black coffee, smoked cigarettes and wrote poems, and just generally celebrated the wordiness we'd been given in Creation.
Unable to sleep I go downstairs and pace, hands folded like a monk, rehearsing a speech for God (do you have a throat by which to strangle you), who I expect to meet any day now. Winds so strong the house shakes. I said "leave me alone" too much to people who were only too willing to let me go.
How many words equals a poem? That year driving back and forth to Hartford to work, writing sonnets in my head to pass the time, then before bed writing them out in a notebook. It matters, what you choose to read, because what you read is reading you, nobody wants to see this.
Was I without shoes all these years just to learn how to beg?
Unexpectedly on top, her left hand holding my left shoulder, her right hand trailing up and down my spine.
A tenderness begins to appear, a silence that wants nothing but to extend itself through me to the world. We let go of the wedding, we let go of the marriage, we meet each other out back in the windy pasture, yet-frozen snow, the Goddess we do not name speaking to us in low tones, making us a chapel for Her flame.
Saturday, March 26, 2022
A life given to wordiness, half-assed prayers, always navigating between devils and witches, apples and deserts, the dead and what the dead are not. Holding him on his birthday, saying through sobs that I love him, am proud of him, professing fatherhood in a way I learned mostly by feel since no man taught me otherwise.
Witnesses to the crucifixion. Stories are the problem, nobody wants to see this. I make pancakes, throw a couple outside to the juncos and blue jays, the kids laughing at me, what will the chickadees think? This road, this life, it has included so much suffering, all self-imposed, and for what?
The orchestra is warming up.
I did not know the future was real, I did not enter it with an army or a plan. I remember dating her, two times or three, she worked at a little floral shop on Church Street, she was pretty and quiet, with a vast sorrow nobody was allowed to touch but which she briefly allowed me to touch.
Nothing is lost, nothing is wasted, nothing is taken away.
Nor church anymore, nor religion.
Jasper says the disciples were idiots, had to be, and what does it say about Jesus, letting fuck-ups like that represent the twelve tribes of Israel? Steadying myself on the stairs, catching my breath on the landing, slower and slower as winter ends. It will never be Halloween again, not the way it was, once upon a time.
Walking where leaves fall, not knowing any other way.
I grew up with the idea you had to be ready to die at a moment's notice, had to kind of want it even, for was it not the ultimate pain and were we not men for whom no pain was too terrible to contemplate or bear?
We are ruined by sacrifice.
Generative poses abound in the wicked. We say goodbye at the door, follow the rule for kissing in public, and then I am alone for the long drive west. The joy of the rosary, which I cannot explain to anyone, not even Jesus, not even you.
Friday, March 25, 2022
Something is wrong but what? Drinking coffee in morning darkness, rehearsing later encounters. Beyond Christ, there is no other way, that is how it is for me now. What you are calling order, is it really?
Mountains deep blue, here and there a maroon blur. Wanting to see deer again, wondering how it came to be I don’t.
I remember walking home after hunting, circling the potato field, how Dad stalked before me, silent and disappointed. The moon is what tenuous link to our shared history?
Straightening, setting aright.
Afternoon blowjob in the pantry, both of us laughing after, my cock so silly and beautiful how can you not. She is kind in reply to my email, and my nervousness evaporates accordingly, replaced by the frustration I always feel at having to navigate complex social dialogues. Unknown save for the little towns in which my bitterness became a monument.
Losing it again. The universal plan so far beyond us it's crazy even to think about. She looked lost when I ended the conversation, and it entered me, her lostness, and became a great sorrow that haunted me for years. Sweet sixteen, what bullshit.
Winter collides with desire, breaks up the ice jams, letting the sea breathe as it flows through channels we carved into the cosmos with sincere but unkeepable promises.
Neither praying nor not praying. Cider doughnuts sprinkled with sugar, how did it come to this.
Waking from a dream of lilies to Chrisoula moaning in her sleep, old fears, old Greek gods overseeing familiar terrors, the bad things men do, so I murmur Dickinson’s “My Life had stood a Loaded gun” over and over not to wake her but to settle her dreams and it works, her breathing slows and quietens, she shifts to her side, and then there is silence again, then there is this silence.
Thursday, March 24, 2022
Broken plastic cups roll across empty streets, I cannot see the city any other way, what is wrong with me. Sunlight on the walls of the library. Briefly homeless or not so briefly, one can never say, the late eighties and early nineties are blurred and shadowed, mostly lost. You call it love but you could call it anything and it wouldn't change.
Nobody likes a drunk post-structuralist.
Forgetting a birthday, being that lost in prayer, thus waking up to the actual problem. I see her still on the top stair, wind blowing her hair into her eyes, laughing at me asking her not to move so I could memorize the scene forever, which I more or less did. Call it what it is, or try to, this too is a spiritual practice.
Brittle maple leaf skitting over gray ice, no other sign of the wind.
We work together to obey a mute god? In the bedroom I come face to face with my desire to conquer, overcome, denigrate, defy.
This sacrifice leaves a bitter taste in my mouth.
The moon blurred by snow clouds rising over the far hills quicker than you'd expect. Talking about trout fishing a sense of fatigue overwhelms me, i.e., this again. She leaned into me and nothing happened I thought would happen so I drove home and began again. Shaking a little on waking, wondering if this is the day my life will collapse around me.
A photograph is wrong, in all ways wrong, I see this now, I accept this. The hemlocks are amused at how I write about them, deifying cardinals resting on the high branches, gently they remind me they are not looking for a savior or an ally but a friend.
I cannot explain my heart, cannot explain these wounds. It's like how capital flows away from us leaving nothing but a ruins, it's like saying "what else is new" when you know nothing else is new nor ever will be again.
Wednesday, March 23, 2022
A new place to feel pain. Flower arrangements encirling the coffin, lines going into and out of the church. A dumpster in Burlington Vermont in which all her letters were tossed, which I still see, the red, white and blue of the air mail envelopes disappearing in shadows. Who needs Spring?
Doing the dishes, staring at myself in the black window above the sink. One cries privately, knowing there is no bottom. The horses in moonlight, mid-winter. She moves the blankets how she likes them when I get up to write and it makes me sad, I can't say why.
Saying goodbye to dogs. On the one hand our minds hold only what they think with God, and on the other hand, even God is just an idea. What did she say when she hung up the phone? Dan and I hatching plans on a fire escape, a craziness in our living that was not meant for the long haul.
Read me, ride me, write me. The part of me that longs to rest grows tired and vast, like oil gliding over a hot cast iron pan. Jesus way out in the hinterlands, spreading sweet love. Imagining the lips on my throat are another's.
Tom Petty songs getting me through a difficult space. Cats nudge the door open, saunter in, curl up on the bed and sleep. Radios we built in our teens good for mostly static. Antique keyholes through which a little light streams, but enough, at this juncture, enough.
Tuesday, March 22, 2022
I'm okay mostly, most of the time, just lonely. Waking up, doing it all again, falling to sleep on strong winds that rarely let me dream in peace.
At night while others sleep wandering back and forth - living room, dining room, foyer - gazing out windows at blue moonlight on crisp snow, the village quiet, the stars joy-filled but distant. Daisies fill the cosmos, tens of thousands of them, spilling and blossoming, rehearsing the resurrection.
Women who scare me still, octopuses who comfort me. Bright sun all day.
Ghosts remind me they are dead, wonder when I'll let them go, bored with my fear. The bible, that generative unbelievable but intimately livable text.
Suddenly a fatigue to which I am alien. My mother finds old silverware in the basement, knives and forks from childhood, and I take one fork home and use it all the time now, praying God it will help heal this fear of hunger.
Ceramic elephants. A child, a man who protected the child, together blind in a world that was never as bad as they were taught - and taught - to believe.
Raveling, unraveling, re-raveling. Jesus gently reminding me he does not want followers but fellow healers, which shifts our relationship totally.
The bank to the river was steep, a cliff at times, and this, too, was a metaphor that could not be ignored. Chrisoula folding laundry, filling me in on her dying uncle, family in Greece mourning.
I don't know how it came to be like this. At night wondering what her body would be like in bed, not sexually just companionate, as a place one goes to remember peace, rest in peace, et cetera.
Eventually the cranes leave the far field and we are more alone than ever. The man without shoes - who struggles to sleep - now wonders if at some critical juncture he was left unbaptized?
Monday, March 21, 2022
Waking to snow falling. Warm billows. Jeremiah makes pancakes, talking loudly on the phone with his friends. What is it with me and long goodbyes? Frost's crow stretches its wings in the hemlocks and my mood darkens, Emily Dickinson-like. Our chickens have aged out of egg-laying mostly, we call them "old ladies," Chrisoula has taken over their care. Dried cosmos. The sounds we make making love. Other falls I've known, might yet know. On the far side of the river a handful of Belted Galloways who will not see the Spring. Fuck men. Suddenly this anger, suddenly this righteousness. My brother is so far away when he is my enemy! My heart basically a paper bag, reused over and over, thin and a little grease-stained, as when growing up there was no other way. Drinking instant coffee with Ma, talking about church, who goes and who doesn't, who talks too much at the liturgy committee meetings, all the while praying Lord make me worthy of forgiveness. Little bits of Jesus. What it takes to drive nails. Promises I did not know I was making but have faithfully kept over half a century now, probably to my detriment. Little cathedrals, little sacristies. Kicking the mouse traps to close them, exhausted with dealing in death. Imagine enough: what are you imagining?
Sunday, March 20, 2022
So I have to make peace with Gordon Lightfoot now?
Islands in my dreams, double moons and books about how to talk to dolphins.
The hemlocks are dying, I cannot let the hemlocks die, whole nights are given to the prayer this dilemma makes me pray.
Kneeling to see how waves don't roll back so much as sink into sand.
I was in my forties before I could allow myself to own a rock tumbler, no wait, that's a lie, I was in my mid-thirties.
What was it Oscar Wilde said about sex?
Tri-syllabic words with "l" sounds in them, a nontrivial part of the reason I married Chrisoula, which she knows and is not scared of.
This is my way of telling you everything is okay, okay?
The blind horse turns his head when I approach and because my heart is sick I go to him and he lets me rest against his neck.
Winter mist, that specific way of encountering the Lord which arose in childhood around the time Dad was trying to raise sheep.
Record albums lined up on the floor along the wall.
Wine on the table, moon in the open window beyond.
What is after the light?
Jesus speaks quietly in the bedroom as I write, gazing east where the Westfield passes between hills towards Northampton, saying over and over "there is nothing to choose."
Driving to Williamsburg for gas, remembering that moment as a child driving through with Dad, neither of us speaking, realizing I was going to hurt for the rest of my life and maybe longer.
Dust in the creases now so we have to figure it out, what we are doing in love.
I slashed my wrists with a pocket knife in my early twenties at a party arguing I wasn't scared of death, it felt perfectly reasonable but it scared the shit out of everybody, it basically ruined the whole night, to this day folks still say to me "Jesus Christ, what were you thinking?"
What curls up as it rests in us, so happy.
Oh Christ, the dogs, where are they.
Saturday, March 19, 2022
Calling all crows. At four a.m. I get out of bed and stand naked and shivering in the darkness, unsure where I belong. How hard it is to read history!
I was not born and yet my mother and I sit with instant coffee and struggle to talk about Jesus. Clouds falling lower and lower. What are we but winter by another name?
I remember him fiddling while I played The Praties, how beautiful he was against the blue of Lake Champlain, and how sad I was that Denise was gone, apparently forever. Remember waking up and knowing it was the wrong bed? Coffee in Boston, late Fall.
Blood thrumming coming in darkness before silent witnesses indifferent to condemnation and approval. The later work of Tom Petty. Always the way shows itself, always my feet kick off their shoes and travel.
Silver hairs. Voices carrying across the lake. You face a difficult choice and I regret to say I cannot be the one who helps you make it.
Sitting through mass. Relationships that are outside time, briefly breaking through, like actors unexpectedly on the wrong stage. So it is a work of imagination then - thank you, I did not know this.
Pulling over to finish talking. Moon blurred by clouds: my brother, my lover, my killer.
Friday, March 18, 2022
How the scale of some questions defies the possibility of answers. Reading Barbara Deming's essay On Anger with Sophia, talking about the difficulty of imagining peace clearly enough so you know what the real obstacles to it are. What Dad missed in the 1950s, demons Ma fought in the 1970s. On your knees, boy. Steeping tea. Chrisoula watching me from across the kitchen, listening to me knock Bonhoeffer, something in her eyes reminding me to remember what I have learned in this life about silence. How the cock channels desire in a way that confuses the ultimate union. Bronson Brook, properly understood as an extension of the Heraclitian project, was a door opening, a seam in the cosmos through which divine light flowed. Clearly Socrates has something to say about this. Oh Abhishiktananda, beautiful man, brighter than any sun or star I know, so carefully hefting that perfectly empty bowl, the Ganges is everywhere! Kisses at the beginning, kisses at the end. I remember the sleigh cresting the hill beyond an ice-covered pond, the harness on Kip's Belgians jangling in a way that meant the starry sky was in my skull and my skull was in the sacred heart of Jesus, and Jesus was with his Father in Heaven, and oh how happy I was all the way home and a little after. This is not amen. This is not even about time. Teach me the way to join you.
Thursday, March 17, 2022
Jagged pines atop low hills beyond which the river runs under buckling ice. Oxen in winter, moose in winter.
Waking early to drink coffee in the darkness, an old pleasure. The world opens - a seam appears as the sky - and light pours through, redemption-like.
Jugs of wine, getting ripped at poetry readings, getting thrown out, walking around Burlington hooting the way bears did in Worthington - me, Chris and Andrew in the late eighties, beautiful, strong and innocent. Something slipping inside, some psychic grip loosening.
The Devil in Rachel Pollack's new deck. Moss on the north-facing arc of maple trees, green as Saint Patrick's enormous mystical cock.
Smoke rises over the village, still billows floating towards the stars. In the belly of the whale are many books, many stubbed candles, and near the baleen, a yellow thread.
So much of childhood was pain without context. I remember praying, I remember how luminous the world was, my faith total and the Lord pure but distant, like prisms before I had a means to gather them.
People being helpful, the old mandate. Distant mountains on which snow appears blue, a loveliness my heart swells to accept.
Lake water whispering near the jetty, always an invitation to take her hand, blend the many darknesses into starlight. The Latin root of "redemption" taking us to "buying back," God as a retailer of grace, that old fiction which Jesus worked so hard to upend.
Because it is a gift, there is nothing you need to do but say yes which, oddly, is a very hard thing to do! Dylan's Up to Me, a song that always made me sad, the truth of it an emptiness forever grating.
A crow flying all alone north over the city. Standing under the apple trees at two a.m., listening to the river, prayer bringing me forward as a song someone else is learning to sing.
Wednesday, March 16, 2022
Smell of hay, winter morning. Snow on the roof sliding down by inches in sunlight. Skin on skin, the old dream of healing. Shall we no longer defend ourself or otherwise take conflict as real?
Morning coffee and other elisions. Jasper comes by with a pair of lake trout, Chrisoula groans while I prep them for frying. The body is invisible sometimes, the way at night stones in the river appear to disappear. Brushing away salt, not finished with tears, not by a long shot.
What would Socrates say? Dust on the shelves through which I trace a finger, bring the finger to my lips, kiss it gently, gratefully. Collectors of elephants and other symbols of this love we can only manage in increments. Act justly indeed.
This loneliness, does it have a name that might distinguish it from other lonelinesses?
Years ago going for long walks down the river at dusk, ending up in the forest at night, swimming through deep channels, facing two women the only way I knew how. In the cosmos, a single daisy to which my father's life is tethered, which I dare not pluck. The holiness of the apple trees in mid-winter, how easy it is to miss the Lord.
Rachel Pollack's devil, the most helpful presentation yet. Hours later, Chrisoula visits me in the hayloft, asks if I am okay, and the sorrow I feel at the grief I bring forth in others once again rises to my shoulders, drags me further out to sea than is safe or viable. Gunshots and Gary Gilmore. I have never been lost in a forest, never met a witch I could not pacify, but my heart is a dead vault, and the red bird that gave it life long gone to the other side of a vast lake my sins forbid me from crossing.
Tuesday, March 15, 2022
The moon plays tricks on me again, never where I expect it to be. Earth undulating, gliding through heavens or is this what it feels like to die. Suddenly a way of speaking that does not recognize the risk it takes, spilling like water down a hill. In a dream she kisses my throat, and my throat opens and hummingbirds pour out, thousands upon thousands, her delight in the effulgence tangible. Is it all okay then after all? A light snow falling all afternoon, the writing steady and clear, as if steeling its author for a fatal drop. I remember making model ships and airplanes with Dad, and birdhouses and cutting boards, all the while telling myself stories about lost boys with secrets maps and books, and the ones from whom they have to hide. The solace she offers, the spaces in me that her solace does not reach, and the loneliness beyond those spaces that is the cosmos begging to be remembered. How happy we are when thought finally slows, petering out like a river in high summer. Photographs in which I appear and the ones who look at them now and think, I wonder what became of him. It's turtles and chalices all the way down, of this I am sure. Letter upon letter, poem upon poem, sentence upon sentence upon sentence. At night the stars whisper to me songs they've never sung to anyone. In the envelope I am, the screed I am. In the world of us, a single note carrying itself unwavering through eternity.
Monday, March 14, 2022
Assembled snowflakes. The only crow I ever shot did not die right away but dragged its ruined wings away from me towards the forest and I finished it through tears. Nothing is left of the past: when will you see this?
Early afternoon I settle into half a dozen poems and lukewarm coffee. This body growing weary, its parts no longer fitting, a light begging to slip the lantern’s glass, cross an ocean, ascend. As what happens?
Apples with cheddar cheese, pickles with maple syrup. Listening in on the conversations of others, as if. The cat gods are amused by me, agree to let me live a while longer, I do such a good job taking care of one of their daughters.
Travel plans that don’t extend beyond the back yard or up the street, that man. I remember that cup of coffee – the two of us at the fence watching oxen walk heavily through the rain toward us – and how I knew then how precious the moment was, and is. The dead are not dead, I don’t know who came up with that idea but it's bullshit, utter bullshit.
Slick trunks of maple trees. Junco tracks near the chicken pen. The canoe is a metaphor but also not a metaphor.
There are no crystal balls is not precisely accurate, better to say there is a shortage of folks who know how to scry, i.e., the crystal ball is everywhere. Jasper asks if I’ll be growing psilocybin again and I shake my head, still bearing the wounds of two summers back. You missing seeing black bears, you miss listening to dogs howl far away in the hills, middle of the night, late summer.
Living with his implicit “or else” all my life. This is the end of magic.
Sunday, March 13, 2022
Mist everywhere now, each morning a message, as if the cosmos were insisting on something hard to see but still lovely, even in part. Before anyone else is up I make waffles, eat a couple plain in darkness and leave the rest on a cooling rack. Love is as love does, apparently always. Grass just visible under melting snow. I remember the rickety architecture of roller coasters, I remember heat rising off the pavement in waves, I remember how there was not enough of anything ever. How beautiful the distance is, filling up with hills and trees, ducks and crows. Sex with satellites, main attractions, or just yourself. The neighbors invite us for coffee to talk about fencing, a production at odds with the simplicity of the ask. The stars are near enough to touch, we are in that specific sense the sky. Miracles are not a matter of belief but collaboration? This late bitterness, this childhood I wouldn't wish on anyone. Waking up periodically, listening to winter rain and Chrisoula breathing, the warm tent our bodies make all the shelter this life allowed me. Dicing garlic for the salad dressing, whistling a handful of songs my father enjoyed, ghost riders still loping over the transom, walking the line, hello darkness, et cetera. Deadlines, headlines, red lines. Finding my way by touch through an emptiness I did not ask for, just like everybody else. The wedding disappears the way the road disappears when you are no longer traveling, the marriage rises like a motel, broken neon vacancy sign, but for the next few hours, enough. Maple syrup kisses. I am still waiting on a letter from her, thirty years and counting, something something can we try again, this is not a joke.
Saturday, March 12, 2022
Begin with weather: mist rising in the horse pasture, ice slicks up and down the back roads, and the river moaning under plates of gray ice. All the purple loosestrife on the side of the highway in New York, and how happy I was to be driving west with her, professing my love in all the ways I knew how. The weddings in those days, the marriages. Tom McGrath poems, especially The Sound of One Hand Clapping. The sadness one feels when realizing how broken their models were, and wonders is it too late to do better? Photographs from Ukraine. I was hungry a lot as a child, there were rules around eating I did not understand, and sometimes it didn't matter what the rules were because there wasn't food to rule over, and why am I just now remembering this? Clouds traveling slowly across the sky, something opening in me deeper than what was open before. Healing is just a form of falling? When bruises made my knuckles art. He had a way of looking into the distance that scared me, as if he were looking at some faraway battlefield, the blood and iron of which could reach us even now. Stars at four a.m., temperatures dropping. How much changes when we no longer turn away the coffin ships of winter. Something gold unfurling somewhere. Something empty filling with grace, the light spilling everywhere. Sentence lifted, promise fulfilled.
Friday, March 11, 2022
Shades of blue mostly, sometimes purple. I miss having friends. The weekend passes baking bread and pies, no reason other than to do it. One works without facing a window, preferring a different distraction than the crisp loveliness of hills shared with the late Emily Dickinson. A stone wall behind which towering elm trees stand and in the distance a city whose name must remain a mystery. There is all this loss and all this promise. Preparations for war. The hunger of my childhood becomes a grief, days pass on the therapist's floor, sobbing and moaning, begging God for mercy. So much happens without our knowing! A lifetime of making allowances suddenly explodes into rank hostility, i.e., how could they? Lingering in the shower. The absence of order masquerades as order, so many of us are deceived accordingly. Walking slower now, pausing at the river, endlessly fascinated with horse-sized chunks of ice between which water flows, low tones attesting to the tombs of old gods. Answers abound for those still stuck in the inquiry. Cattails between which deer are visible. Mist where in summer the horses will graze. We make tea, share a cup while asking what else this spring in the garden will we plant. How precious this one life is, even falling apart.
Thursday, March 10, 2022
Unexpectedly ducks. The car slides a little leaving the driveway, winter rain making Main Street slick. We leave our Christmas ornaments up, subtle nods in the direction of a grace that is given to us all. A little cabin somewhere, tea at a Formica table, happily sinking to our knees when the other shyly asks. Morning is what passes and what passes is what comes again.
The ones who know what I mean? There are vast boulders on the trails up Ascutney, one becomes breathless before them, as if gazing at the Lord. Voices carrying over the lake, a certain reluctance to divulge secrets there despite the presence of comforting moonlight. Images of past lives gather now, slipping through the various walls I have built, reminding me that this life is neither an end nor a beginning. They circled the city, they angled away to the west. Empty parking lots.
Empty promises. The mailbox door hangs open, a starling peers inside it, flies away. A point comes in one's study when they no longer need to read Shakespeare, or that is the suggestion. My new therapist laughs when I mention the shoe museum in Toronto. How he suffered, my father, and how we all suffered with him.
One and two are different! She is angry at me because of what I represent and so I rest quietly in her attack, sad when she leaves that I could not do more. I was hungry a lot as a child, I don't talk about this much, what can you do. Kittens crushed by the station wagon backing up, a mess I was not allowed to bury or study. Oh my gravel heart, oh my frost flower soul.
Wednesday, March 9, 2022
The rough beast has reached Bethlehem, is moving on to Berlin. A quiet afternoon to myself for once, coffee and Freud's Civilization and its Discontents. "Oh yes," she murmurs as my index finger glides gently along folds to the meeting place of the Gods, the two of us praying in the oldest way known. Late but not too late the mind begins to empty, even of poems.
Rattling around on old bones? Framing the inquiry to subtly influence the answer is not the answer. Awakening in the Cambridge Public Library, Varela's ghost nudging me outdoors, into whatever the 1960s became. You took it because he gave it, but then you left and fought a forty-year war nobody knew about, a war to end making others take it on your account, and you won my brother, you won.
Dim light in the bedroom. Sex in our mid-fifties, a kind of quiet journey up a mountain where Christ waits, sipping tea from the cupped hands of a widow who knows from service, fucking and death. Or this maybe? Rats in the hayloft scratching at 4 a.m., infiltrating the contemplation, reminding me how far we have to go together still.
This sentence does not solve the problem of capitalism and Christianity, themselves foot soldiers in the yet-rising tides of patriarchy, but at least it doesn't kid itself what the problem is. The Witch of Bantry Bay, straddling me by a small fire, her nipples dark in the shadows. Leaving the world by the obvious road? Your letter arrived yesterday, wine stains on the envelope.
When the kitchen smells all day of bread. We visit Starkey's, look at the pregnant sheep, leave without buying, say nothing anything driving away. A long hill that one does not ever quite reach the bottom of. What we put up with indeed.
Tuesday, March 8, 2022
Perhaps age and not the dawning of eternal peace, who knows. Wind blows down Main Street, bringing nothing but more darkness. There was a woman once, there was a motel and a bookstore, and there was a long drive away from it all alone. This this, too.
There are murder zones and fill me zones and feel me up zones but no love zones? The car skids a little turning, the universe executing this casual flourish, a reminder of how little control we actually have. Dad was Catholic, eastern Massachusetts Irish, a high-functioning alcoholic, a brilliant historian, et cetera. Where does the other begin?
In a sense, your physical sight itself is a block unto the real world. Two red birds in the past now. She led me away from the village into an olive grove in the hills, I remember seeing stars wheel in unfamiliar patterns behind her as she straddled me. My starfish soul, my inkblot heart.
Your confluence or mine? Running when panicked might be the title of my autobiography. Anybody else see a blue light where the other's heart is supposed to be? When you know you know.
Pour me another whiskey. I lingered in Ireland as if waiting for some particular ghost or revelation, but neither occurred, and one day in Dublin I decided to go home, where nothing changed either. Yonder hills. You're exhausted, how do you think I feel writing it day after day after day?
Monday, March 7, 2022
What distance - what are you talking about? At this or that point in the great cycle. Writing is voice and voice is how we commune. Pacing the hayloft to warm up, sleet hissing against the window. Pissing in buckets, lugging them to the forsythia bushes to empty. Slowly the world begins to transform before your eyes, what was drab beginning to gleam and what was stiff and flat undulating like a sea. Old love letters I can still see but no longer read. Poor Mary Surratt, poor David Herold. Paper flowers we labor over, getting the petals just so, then give them away up and down Main Street. Daughters, you know? I suggest leeks and Hubbard Squash for next year's garden and Chrisoula agrees. Sit your ass down on a radiator if you're cold, i.e., adapt. New rosary, same prayers? Sometimes you realize just how big a fucking phony you are, and then you make peace with J.D. Salinger's craziness, because all along that body in the rye was yours. I wake up with Paul Simon in my head, Slip Slidin' Away. I don't know what's next, I never have, it's both a blessing and curse. Toast with peanut butter, hurrying. And so on and so forth, amen.
Sunday, March 6, 2022
Finally, seven years after I first asked, I understand Heinz von Foerster's eigenforms. Why would I deny the existence of wildflowers? And: begin.
Milder snow than expected. One drives slower driving over the Connecticut River in Sunderland. Sunlight decants: you must see this so you can say it with me.
She breathed. Sleep eludes me two nights running and I head to the chilly hayloft to write wrapped in quilts, rats running back and forth in the walls. Are you listening?
Love is learned by teaching, and only by teaching. Blankets ragged, dragged by cats. Heart as a bee's nest, soul as the nectar in the flower of the world.
Higher up where the trees didn't grow and you could see the moon rising, something in the Greek air making you feel a mystery had been solved, a big one. Men I've loved but lacked a way to say so clearly. Do we train dogs or do dogs train us?
Spider webs as symbols of relationships which are also the world. Now and then I meet one: a person who doesn't have a favorite book. Those who come alive in travels only.
In the end it's just another hard cock serving God, right? Your shyness at certain hours, your courage at certain others.
Saturday, March 5, 2022
Winter turkeys. A new way of experiencing fatigue. How shall we repent and how shall we explain it to others?
Voices rising in song. A crow circling the farm, the blind horse tilting its head as if to better hear the passing wings. Snow does not begin in the sky yet it seems to, we say it does, and this mostly works.
Morning meetings. Fragments of Sappho reminding us that eventually history erases everything. Working one’s way through a difficult text, sentence by sentence, taking notes as they go.
Deer coming up from the river, crossing into the pasture, grazing its far corners, far from the horses. The skull reminds us we are going to die, not that something endures. Polishing amethyst.
I remember Kathy’s wire figures, art she was making in the summer of 1988, several of which she gave me after drunk but not unwelcome, not unwieldy sex. Our hands age first? My grandfather makes a quiet sound in me these days, a ghost clearing its throat.
You see, whatever “it” is, it cashes out in this experience, leaving you with the pedestrian question: what works? We talk about what it means to do a thing we aren’t sure we’re allowed to do without asking consent first, the burden it places on others without their consent. Old feelings recaptured.
At a late juncture a new writing project. Christmas cacti blossoms, my heart opening like a silk parachute floating alone through the cosmos.
Friday, March 4, 2022
There is nowhere in my mind for blue. A dusk song, a traveling song, a getting away for good song.
Seams in the light through which darkness streams, pure emptiness, the cave in the heart of the heart. Thriving poinsettias.
Blizzard conditions, everyone shopping accordingly. That moment when the stage darkens.
You can’t hate Judas, you can only see how you are Judas, and then and only then can you begin the long journey to peace. Maple leaves fell once, all in a hurry, as I was in a hurry passing by them, and only now am getting around to writing it.
Borders only exist because of our desire to cross them. Dust on my sandals that for the life of me I can’t shake off.
A letter I cannot write, an envelope I will never seal. In a dream, Emily Dickinson wore a long robe and spoke to me from the shores of a lake, and though I could not hear what she said, the low amber of her voice reached me easily, as familiar as the breath in my lungs.
Of course size matters – everyone knows this! The grief I felt in that Montreal strip club, drinking overpriced beer, sad for the men who were there alone, wondering when if ever it would come to that.
What is so seldom. Widowers who still wear their wedding rings.
A lifetime obsessed with red birds because of the way a woman took her shirt off in an Albany motel when I was twenty-one, can you believe it? How at night you can walk a long time and never arrive anywhere, only end up someplace, no prayer on your tongue, no word in your heart.
Taking it with you. One by one I revisit the old pains, letting them be healed by whatever it is in me now that learns how to heal by healing.
Thursday, March 3, 2022
Dazed by sunlight on fresh snow. Stumbling in the barn before dawn, the cold making my lungs ache. We’ve been here before but why.
Driving through the city, something iron in my chest sharpens itself in anticipation. There are no pigs, says Jasper mildly, mocking my ACIM stance, and the two of us grow quiet, there on the porch. Stars hang in the sky, the sky hangs in my skull, and my skull hangs in the void like a luminous black opal.
Eating cold rice with slivered apples and olives, nimbler than I remember with chopsticks. Imagining my mother’s death I start shaking and Chrisoula looks up, asks sharply, “what’s wrong?” I thought the world was fatherless but I was forgetting myself.
Something in me longs for solitude now, beyond women, beyond prayer. All those fictional detectives attesting to our need for order and our secret suspicion that we are not up to the task, need a hero, et cetera. The hills are not transparent yet I love them – am I wrong then about the Lord?
Chickadees sing up and down Main Street. Lukewarm coffee in the middle of the day. I remember writing poems by hand, always pruning them, trying to find the elusive “that” of which Barthes spoke.
Last of the rhubarb pie, everybody asleep. I remember Chrisoula coming up out of the sea holding a child, and living with her, her and her daughter a long time, on sand and wind and stone. Insufficient altars set aside in favor of this.
Point and name what you point at. Lilac thriving in our shared mind.
Wednesday, March 2, 2022
I take up watercolor again, mostly clover and rabbits, the occasional horse. Scrounging courage, what else is art? Loneliness was familiar, a whirling spiral from which I could never fully extract myself. Bus rides north, the bus mostly empty, jacking off just to do it, the Vermont landscape luminescent in moonlight and semen. This is your brain on coffee. These are late Jack Gilbert poems, unemotionally challenging. We were scared in the late eighties but much of what we feared did come to pass. Rotting fruit, poisoned trees. As a child the emphasis was on speech which could never contain the wilds I was encountering. Hours would pass firing arrows into the sky, imagining them landing on the moon, and a friend up there gathering them, waiting for me to come and collect. We gather threads and sit by the fire stitching them together into something resembling a quilt. Grandmother goes into the forest and finds a black bear to lay with, and a thousand years later you wake up from a dream of butterflies dreaming they are boys learning not to cry. Such concision for one for whom order was always an enemy. The lowdown, the letter, the lint screen. The cosmos watches itself and its watching folds into itself and we forget this and forget we forget it and still. In a world I am yet constructing, field upon field lit up with Mother’s Anger, I mean Quaker Ladies, I mean bluets, beauty, I mean this light in which it was so easy to get lost.
Tuesday, March 1, 2022
Undressing in darkness, slipping into bed, always the sense of settling into warm seas. Clocks were never allies, they only pretended to be. Where did my first guitar go?
Roasting steaks over hot coals, dusk after a long day hiking and swimming, you passing me a mason jar of cool mint tea, both of us naked, summer after the wedding. We all love minnows, I mean mirrors. In the ribcage of the whale, the initials of those who survived a difficult journey.
Antique barrel staves. Bird nests, Buddha grins. Something is getting easier but what exactly?
Psychology was manageable, a way of navigating both language and what language pointed to without losing time to write poems. The far hills lighten as morning passes, which is a sign of something, an answer almost. She used to bring me free coffee, sit and smoke between customers, ask what I was writing.
The one who understands. Making coffee without my glasses in the dark, not blind exactly but knowing the way without bringing sight into it. Corpses never become lovely and the world is a corpse, it is your corpse, please stop playing this reckless unwinnable game.
Mare’s tails drifting slowly away from us. Low tide was best, I went a long way alone, surrounded by pretty rocks and animals nobody could make me kill. Boyish but not bereft?
How bright the room becomes when one begins the final elision! A song on my lips no god or goddess taught me.