Thursday, February 28, 2013

when my children are happy i am well

i do not know how to save the world.  i do not even know how to make my children happy.  but when they come to these moments on their own and they shine with simplicity and goodness, i have nothing else to do in this life but be well.

beforehand my son said, you know, mom, i am not even excited for this birthday, and yet at the end of the day, although nothing very special happened, he said, mom, this has been my new favorite birthday of all.  such generosity in spirit could destroy a mother.

my daughter laughed with no guards on her spirit and genuinely loved her brother.  even said so.

they found fun.  they were children.  it was noisy.  there was peace.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

i'll die if i have to
                 to live.

the tragedy

what a tragedy, his mouth on my skin, my greedy hands,
sweet pleasure like fruit breaking on the tongue,
the heat of a yielding body,
warm stones in secret places sculpted from time, crescent fit like the underarm,
milk let down;
damn my longing for more, for more,
my passive assent.
if i could just manage to love nothing,
how neat then my heart.

connected/unconnected remembering

what adult does not have a child in them that is looking longingly out the car window as they drive away down the dusty road?
my very able two fast feet.
i do not think: what to eat or when to sleep or who am i?
i am born of my mother's whim, wrist and mid-drift.
rushing through fields of dandelions
with the bobbling force of body, laughing,
shadows happy adjuncts,
my knees the greatest joke
:  before fear.
blue ball swollen like fish and dreams
in the car's back seat out of reach
mutable finger clenched in dog's trigger jaw
(who knew they guarded open windows?)
retreat beneath the vast blank bed
no bodies above you in sleep
not yet, at least
your body taut like your father's future rigor
your mother, empty handed, bent on knees
toward you blindly sweeping
(a memory, but in truth without the ball.  i only meant to touch/love the dog.)
what extreme delight
to have two arms
and a chest
that shoots a tube down my body
through regions as regular as bone
to legs that carry me!
i am everything possible!
and i sleep when i am tired.
i am as good as cake.
beneath the shelf of my adulthood
plays a child
not yet ruined

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

i awake with a hunger inside me
like the body of a whale inside the body of a whale.
you know it.  you have it too.
it talks with a mouth that never shuts up.
oh, it's greedy and wants more and more,
clangs the sides of its cage with its metal pot
begging  feed me, feed me absence, feed me emptiness, feed me hunger
and with your foreign ears you throw it candy bars and noise.
your body longs to become thinner and thinner, more real and more real,
your spirit longs to find its way out
but instead it gets trapped inside the fetid fatty corridors of being.


i open the refrigerator and take out the large rectangular glass container with the red lid.  cradling it in my right arm i remove the lid.  the smell finds me in a rapid assault, me temporarily becoming its container and then it quickly dissipates as it fills the container of this room.  i lift the container.  there is weight to it.  my wrist expels energy and leans toward becoming tired.  as i tip the container i wonder if it is the container or what is inside of it that consumes the most energy from my wrist.  i begin to pour.  i pour the contents of the container, not into a bowl or onto the counter, nor onto the floor or into the sink.  i pour the contents into the vast world.

where do the contents go?  what do they become?  are they anything at all without their container?  what if even the world were gone?

without a container who and what am i?

Monday, February 25, 2013

i want to say something
but on one side of me sits a black crow
and on the other side there is an empty branch,
or the sky,
or the space around the echo of the crow's call
this is the same as kissing my lover's soft breast
while weeping because i don't exist

Friday, February 22, 2013

february 22, 2013

how jarring it is to see a photograph someone else takes of your child, as though you ever owned that small body.  the   body   slipped   out   from   you.  the body is always slipping out from you.  no one owns anyone.  see how the bones grow.  see how the gaze touches things you can never know.  it is a difficult fact.

how often i have wanted us all to be one body. (are we?)   how often i have wanted to lie down with those in pain, as though i might have any ability to assuage the pain, but it is not really the pain to be assuaged, but the separation itself.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

the distance between worlds

it happens like this. it is as simple and uncouth as it is with me sprouting directly from my body with no great distance ever having been achieved. we have two houses, two residences, and we are, of course, only in one of them at one time. this morning i do my bathroom business and turn from the toilet to reach the apple spray which we quite comically use, a christmas gift from my mother i am quite sure intended for something else. but it is not here, not in this house. it is in the other house in canada and we are in the house in the states and so my hand finds nothing. but yet my mind and the history of my body suggest to me that it should be here! i imagine death is just like this. i think of alix cleo roubaud and her jacques, or vice versa really as it is she who dies first (but quite stubbornly i hear the world primarily through her voice), and jack gilbert and michiko, and then jack gilbert and linda gregg, or first linda gregg and jack gilbert, their losses both linear and non linear, so intermingled and not well behaved, and i think of my mother and my father, my father and me, my children and myself, and of course my beloved and me, and all of the impending losses. it will be as simple as this, always is and always will be, our bodies accustomed to one world, but we will turn around and suddenly exist, or rather not exist, inside that other.

i have been thinking about how the body works, again with no great distance between my body and myself. i have always been clobbered by the presence of my body; she and i are so much like a punch and judy show. i have been thinking about all of those times of looking between my legs and willing the slender and meek initial appearance of my period, those first few irrefutable drops of blood that no will can call into existence but that appear of their own mechanism and herald the freedom of responsibility, the averting of pregnancy for one more month. but that was then, in my younger years, trembling and staring, hoping and praying on a science that is body and vastly removed from spirit or will. more recently i stare hard between my legs and hope to ward those first few drops of blood off, pushing into the distance the temporary (and self chosen) impossibility of making love. but no matter how much will is focused on the crux, on the V, upon the apex of physical being, the will has no effect. a drop of blood will fall, or not fall, the body will do what it does, and the rest of the world will adjust around this.

the last photograph that alix cleo roubaud took remains between jacques' bedroom windows, a physical manifestation of the time she was in her body, of when she was, as jacques puts it in his poem, "Meditative Portrait, III,"

  Her jeans, her breasts, her socks, her ass, her sneakers.

the light continues to fall through those windows and moves ungrudging over the photograph in its stubborn fashion, never the same twice, always demanding jacques to know, to know, to know, to relentlessly know it was her last photo and that she is never to be in her body again, never to take another photo, never to speak, never to utter his name or hear her own name uttered. just as the blood falls from my cunt into the toilet, it fell from her fingertips to the carpet below (or hard flooring, i do not know) causing her body, her being, to be transformed, for her to be (re)moved from this world. there is no turning back from this world into the other.

in jack gilbert's poem, "Married," i die in my throat to the consequences of profound love,

I came back from the funeral and crawled
around the apartment crying hard,
searching for my wife's hair.
For two months got them from the drain,
the vacuum cleaner, under the refrigerator
and off the clothes in the closet.
But after other Japanese women came
there was no way to be sure which were
hers and I stopped. A year later,
repotting Michiko's avocado, I find
this long black hair tangled in the dirt.

and i die again inside the beautiful pain of linda gregg's love of jack gilbert and the loss of him, which she writes about in her short essay, "About Jack Gilbert," almost by not telling us,

It is hard for me to write about Jack. My mind goes everywhere
at once. I feel sad and don't want to tell you. I remember the
photograph of his young face twenty years ago looking down
through the glass in the library case, and I don't want to tell you.
Or me sitting alone after everyone left the lounge where I first
heard him read, because I couldn't imagine anywhere else to go
after that. Or rain and Chinese greens soup. Or eucalyptus trees. I
don't want to tell you. It's too sad. All that love. Huge things and
pleasures. Things that don't go together easily.

she goes on to write of the death of jack's mother, and to not write about Michiko's death,

I did know his mother. I remember her smell and the way
she called him Jack. He rubbed her back in the hospital at the end
because it hurt. She was ninety and it was the first time he had
touched her body since childhood. She was afraid, but as if it were
a moderate ordeal. Which is unspeakably sad for me because a
blackness was waiting . . . And Michiko's death.

my own mother was forever changed by my father's death, remains forever removed by a fraction from the center of her living by the absence of his body. she watches the stars, light that has died forever and a half ago, and talks to him inside this void as though the dying light is his voice, she, simply and densely real in her wilting and withering body, sitting on her wooden deck outside her home. my father died once for me when i was five, drowned, became a swollen and lumpish thing, and then has died a thousand more times, strange mutations of him living on in resemblances in my younger brother and even in my son (and in my mind) continually being shed, but his one particular touch that he shared with me, his whisker rubs and bouncing on his knee, his deep voice borne light toward me, forever done and gone with and tied up in memory. i can lament and call into existence any romantic mythology i can imagine in regards to my father but the truth is that i can go and stand on top of a shabby grave on manitoulin island, a grave badly in need of care, grass that is mangled and ill behaved, and he remains, for all of my standing there, gone from us all, barely a memory for me any more. my children's growing bodies lean toward a future well directed away from my body, the place from which they came. they are so similar in metaphor to alix's last photographs and the light in them and that which passes over them that my breasts ache with emptiness and my hollow cunt whistles as though filled with wind, dramatic but true. and even though today my beloved and i press our bodies so densely and eagerly together in the desire to penetrate at a cellular level, to find our way through to that which stands beside our bodies, but are stopped each time with the dumbness of physics that we lie resumed and panting on the floor, only to become reinvigorated and determined time and time again, replaying the whole impossible series, determined, determined, unerringly determined, until one of us is left alone in the space of this world, only one body against which there will be no other body to try to mount the quest with and against, we will be stopped as though by a wall of inevitable and irrevocable absence. how pitiful we will be then, crawling on the floor like jack gilbert in, "What I've Got," or again as he did in, "Married," unable to breach the impossible space, the final determination of body.

jacques roubaud writes of the coalescence of alix's person around body in, " I'll Turn Away,"

   I'll turn away and write down words to address you with
words of address my only way now       of reconstructing
an identity which might be yours without compartments

   Your printed photographs     the printed pages from
your Journal       with its peculiar punctuation:        one.

   Shreds of your body decomposing       crumbling
toward dissolution's sober, rigid flowering       unimaginable
utterly       except via the archaic the resurrection of certain
words       biblical       which are not my tradition:       two.

   This box of a room papered with brown Japanese wall-
paper       and the arrangement of things in it       yours
almost untouched for almost thirty months       where I
Catch the light by the handful:       three.

   Three times       thee       three of your irreducibly separate
        realities ousted      lost in a scatter held together only
by this pronoun:       thee

   Can't slow down now       but by saying it       your name
with its syllables drifting apart, your name which

   While it was not yet this rigid designation       was said
over and over in a possible world       simply by virtue of

   Speech around a living body

   Alix Cleo Roubaud.

or as again in, "Pexa et Hirsuta,"

   Dante calls hirsute those pebbles among words that stop
the flow of verse along its course.

   Like "multiple consonants, silence, exclamations"

   Combed, he says, is the opposite

   Your pubic hair which didn't interrupt your belly,

  Hirsute the fragmentation of your names

  I always said together, one clashing with the other: Alix

  Where the missing vowel sign was: 'naked.'

  What was hirsute in your nakedness was not the pitch-
black hair around the moisture where my tongue would
drain you

  Not your nakedness, your name. Saying it, on coming with

i am 42 and i bleed today. do you understand? it falls from my most private of places as evidence that i am as meaty as any thing and as evident. (yesterday he put his mouth to me in spite of this and i could not be more grateful for this temporary breach - you understand - breach of everything) but the truth is that tomorrow, one tomorrow, i will be gone even from myself.

Friday, February 15, 2013



it is no easement to know there is a god. what can a god do? how can a god save you? do you think it helps to know this dress was sewn from the stars? i still bleed from inside it. my face is still haggard, is still falling off its youth. so what if there is a god? yesterday there was this pain. today this pain is equally real. and tomorrow i will not exist. does this make my heart beat less?

in this way god is irrelevant.

in this way i am irrelevant.

and you?

what is relevant then? what has meaning?

there is a little boy who follows a foot worn path through the woods to a small wooden structure. you know his knee high child head. you know the length of his stride, the unevenness, yet certainty of his foot placement, the never staying stillness of his hands, how the earth meets him, how he meets the earth, how creatures belong in and out of his pockets. his mother is inside or was inside or once there was a mother. the path and the hem of her dress are the same, stitched with the most tenuous, yet resilient of threads. mama, he tugs without forethought, just as he walks the path. and mama will or will not look up from her busy hands. either way she will know: how that boy was from her breast, how that boy was from her body, from her hope, her love, her story. mama, he says, into the folds.

i am a little boy. i am his mother. i am a path, a piece of thread. or at least, i sense it all.

you are a little boy. you are his mother. you are a path, a piece of thread.   i sense this too.


(this is god.  we are all god.  and yet we die, while god does not.)

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

from: my daughter, who passed through me

he walks past me and lays his hand to my face.  
- i touch his hand there. - my bones to his bones.  
we exchange skin.  
our knuckles and rivulets between our fingers, 
ex{panse of skin, 
small cheekbone. 
someone's nose. 
a finger rests. 
there is a small bone inside}. 

three years ago my daughter and i found the remains of a deer.  
to release the meat from the bones she soaked the still connected, 
sliding and integrated bone units in a bucket of water.  
within hours all that had held them together - was released.  
we were all shocked 
but shouldn't have been.

Monday, February 11, 2013

i will forget this over and over again, creation

knowledge comes to me beneath my mind and yet above my body.  you are kissing me or not kissing me or about to kiss me or you simply exist and so my skin begins to leave my body on its journey to find you.  in this way the yearning in me takes shape, becomes hands i desire to remove the muck of me, your hands, the muck of me the muck of my body.  through my body i need for you to dig to find me.  through my body i need for you to excavate all of the earthly bits of me, my body, my history, even my being me now.  please, i beg, throw from me the round caps of my shoulders.  please, i beg, throw from me my knee caps, my collar bone, my pelvis.  please, i beg, crawl through the earth shuddering vacant hallways of me to find me.  i am a small orb, glowing.  i am inside of me, in the deepest region of me.  and i know that in saying this i am not inside of me at all, but beside me, beside the coalescence of me, the illusion of me.  i know that i am the muck upon the orb.  i know the orb is me and i know that i no longer exist inside the orb.  i know that you too are muck and bones, story and articulation and that the orb shines inside of you.  it is a sad orb.  it is the saddest orb in existence, the most hopeful orb.

once it was everything.  once it was all that there was.  then it was sad like a stone without hope, for it had nothing to hope for.  it was beyond sad.  it was unbearable for the orb. 

as everything we can not begin to understand how big or how small it was for there was no perspective.  there was nothing to measure it up against.  it was everything and as everything - we might think, it was perfect, but what the hell is perfect, such a misleading notion?  as everything it had no reason.  it was all.  it had nothing to work toward, nothing to work against, no love.  it could not bear its own being.  it was an intolerable state of existence, this allness

and so it fractured itself. 

in our mind we see it making itself into small bits and pieces.  this is and is not true.  it does not exist in the way a pie exists.  it is the essence of being.  it fractured itself into small bits and pieces so that it could allow much and many, bones, story and earth to coalesce around its varied shining orbed selves.  in this way it might have a reason, it might have a purpose.  the purpose, to seek itself; the method, to love.

you kiss me and my skin begins to leave me.  i yearn for you to dig through me and expel every handful of muck and bone to find the essence of me, which is the same essence of you, which is god.  in this way god must find itself.  in this way there is love.  i can not help it.  you can not help it.  god can not help it.

god's togetherness is unbearable.  gods separateness is exquisitely painful, but bearable, bearable, bearable...unbearable in moments, but bearable because there is reason, because there is movement toward love.

we make love and it has nothing to do with our bodies.  our bodies are doorways which we storm through.  making love is the excavation, our way through the muck and the bone, our way through the story, through our particular articulations so that god might find itself where it has hidden itself from itelf so that there might be a reason.  our eyes are closed and we become one another.

perhaps even god, in dividing himself/herself/itself, ignorantly and graciously forgets because of the distance.  and then perhaps god remembers in a moment, in a shuddering moment, when we close our eyes and find there is no difference between us and the distance is breached.

but we must forget.  we must all forget.  even god must forget.

and then we must begin again.)))))

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

my ego
is a feral little animal
with teeth
i need.a hammer
i need.a good strong boot

the prevosts happily paint their walls

i hate running into those terribly wonderful people.
we had such good times together.  together we knit
the gossamer fabric of our young children's lives.  how much
sun there was cresting their toddling heads.  how warm
their hair, their ears.  everything in the world was yet
potential between us. and then i fell off the wall into
some other story, a trashy crime novel. i became grimy,
real and me. there's a sadness, a wonder, a fear sewn deep into
the pulpy paunches couching their curious eyes. 
why, erin, why did you leave us? why did you open the door
and walk out on your husband, - on all of us?  
how could you ruin everything?

black figures crossing white

yesterday we came upon a scene. two men, black figures on a wide expanse of a snow covered lake pulling a black boat, leaning their human bodies in work toward a horizon i could not name.

immediately, knowing there was only a brief window of experience to be had, i pulled the car over and ran to the side of the road with my camera. understand, this was not about taking the photograph but about experiencing the photograph. like light, what they were engaged in was disappearing. they would arrive at wherever they were going and my ability to see would end. madly i opened and closed the shutter, all the while looking over the photograph and into what i was witnessing, two black figures pulling a black boat over a wide expanse of snow, leaning their human bodies in work toward a horizon i could not name.

i took a series of shots, the last when they stopped and stared at the frozen patch between them. i lowered my camera as one man picked up an auger to set to making his ice fishing hole.

i got back into the car elated. elated. i didn't know exactly why but i knew that what i had witnessed was important, the human scene, engagement with the environment, and everything reduced so. elementally reduced. we drove on with me laughing and smacking the steering wheel until i was so overwhelmed i became shattered and weeping. i didn't know why but i knew that whatever the reason, it was important. some things that occurred to me then were, it is too beautiful, too painful for me to bear this sort of perfection. and, i am too separate from it. it is so beautiful i want to be smashed onto it like transparent gold leaf; no, not onto it but into it and so much deeper so that there will be nothing left of me. and, how can i deserve to witness such perfection?

in these last few years i drive through the landscape and toward the living earth, and if not drive then walk or run through and toward. when i am there, when i am passing through or when i have nearly arrived (for i can not truly truly arrive but i can come awfully close, pointing in the right direction) i feel intimate with the world. there feels little barrier between me and the ice, the lake, the rock, the snag. there feels little barrier between me and deer, the crow, the owl, the hawk or the field mouse. i feel intimate with the world, and truth to be told, i feel moved to touch my skin, my body. my lover remarks, how is it that i see the crow and turn to you? how is it that i walk among the trees and am walking with you? and of course, i feel the same toward him. and this is no case of poetics. this is no case of myth building. this is a case of attention and recognition. we are the natural world. our bodies are the rock, the snag, the water, the high flying birds and the lowly field mice. we are painfully separated into individual bodies (but what gifts we garner here! what opportunity!) and we remain mystically, beyond this separation, always connected to everything.

what i saw on the ice was both a metaphor and a truth. what i saw was perfection. what i saw exists in all of us, always as spiritual potential. the scene was reduced to a few elements. if i could lay small smooth stones to my tongue and hold them, small tokens that could be intuited through their weight and perfection in being, that is what the two black figures were, leaning in work, crossing the wide expanse of white earth toward the horizon we can not name.

(on the way to the island, February 4th)

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

if i ever lose my way again
(and i will lose my way again)
i must remember that this is about living through the body
which, with the kiss of breath, allows the existence of the spirit;
that the body both seals us off into distinct entities
and, if we care to notice, renders us a fluid part of the whole

Friday, February 1, 2013

i'm alive, so what

my uncle henry's dying.  he lives about three streets away from me.  i don't know him very well, and by this i mean to say, i don't know how he might move around his kitchen; i don't know if he pushes meat around his plate hungry or not hungry; i don't know how many shirts he wears when he's cold or if he even gets cold.

about eight years ago i was sitting on my front porch with my son on my lap, a blanket over us, rocking, dreamily considering the footprints of our resident chipmunk plunking through the late spring snow.  (one does what one can to entertain a two year old boy, especially when his older sister is in school.)  a truck pulled up and over onto the side of the road near our driveway.  the driver dismounted and moved toward us. something moved through my body, that metal-like light that is reservation articulated, a natural response for any mother to a strange man coming toward she and her son.  he came and stood some three feet away from us right up on our porch, considering me, giving me the chance to consider him.  he wasn't very tall.  he was white bearded, broad chested, not exactly friendly.  his look toward me was daring, but he stood still, not threatening, his shoulder on a pillar.

"know me?" he gruffed through his beard.

the sun was behind him.  i squinted and studied his face, his stature, tried to rattle my brain to shake out a memory of a common body i might have experienced once but couldn't.  here was a strange man on my front porch.  was there some rule i had to be pleasant?

"am i supposed to?" i posited back.

spring comes slowly to northern ontario.  one day there is cold and the next, well, still cold, only things begin to start melting.  life awakens directly through the stubborn grip of winter.  i'll be damned if violets don't give up on waiting and press their purple faces right up through the snow.

"i'm your uncle," he huffed back.

"oh," i smiled, digging back through the artifacts of my distant history shuffling much younger faces, my own childhood so far behind me, my uncle henry.  he had been somewhat of a mystery to me, one i had never bothered to think much about, my mother having had 13 brothers and sisters, most of them never moving farther than a few miles from the rock and snag we call home, but my uncle henry had moved to virginia, married, had children and joined the U. S. Navy.  how in the world could i dare know him, not the  U.S. dividing us, (i would have an american husband twice over) but the idea that one might serve his country in such a way, when it wasn't even his country?

"uncle henry, eh," i nodded in some kind of acquiescence, but what was there really between us?  wasn't he still a stranger?

he stood there a long time with his hands in his pockets.  well, probably only five seconds or so but with the time full of silence, greater distance was created. 

"i live down the street now," he gestured, recovering his shoulders from the pillar and standing up straight.  it seemed as though he meant to become a formidable presence, perhaps regain some semblance of enigma, but he was probably only five foot-two.

"yuht," i clucked my tongue and gathered my now sleeping son up closer on my lap, and not having much to respond with i stated the obvious,  "we're neighbours now."

that was eight years ago or so.  since then my uncle henry and i have waved to one another.  i baked a cake once and dropped off half of it for him.  he brought me a couple bags of tomatoes when he was done with his canning and didn't want to see another damned tomato for a year or more.  i ran into him a couple times at my mother's, the two of them playing cards together, rambling on through stories, regardless the decades in reference.  they're close, those two, but with no history between he and i, and the few racial slurs he absentmindedly snuck through the quick wit and tart tongue of that generation, greater distance was easily created.  uncle henry was my neighbour, my mother's brother, and not much more.

the last couple years uncle henry has been sick with cancer, dying.  i remember my high school english teacher, mr. stoss, tied up in his own personal bullshit barking at me down the corridor when i was 15, "hey erin, do you know - we're all dying!" 

well, only uncle henry's dying faster. 

last week on the telephone with my mother she crossed the line between wanting uncle henry to live, to wishing he could just be gone.  it's a fine line and nobody ever sees it coming.  he's in a lot of pain;  he's hallucinating; there's no room left in his shell for anything but shorts spasms of things that do not exist or the hard truth of what does, his body barely housing what was once him, but instead mostly only malignant tissues.

i've been thinking a lot about him while i bake pies or make love or walk in the forest that crosses in front of his house.  i've been thinking about the importance of uncle henry.  i wonder what his last days are like, what it's like in his head, what his body is like when he lies on his bed waiting, if he bothers much to be naked any more.  there was never much more than waving between us, over time a feeling of fondness, a batting at the common air and time passing between us, around us, mostly unmarked.  he had a dog once and then it died and then he got another.  we had a dog once and it left when my first husband did.  uncle henry would joke out his truck window to my children, they all the while growing, about how his small dog could take our big dog any day.  sometimes over the years uncle henry would give my mother, who lives in a nearby town, a few dollars to give to my children, who lived only down the street from him, in this way marking birthdays and other special occasions.  i feel pain for my uncle henry, for his pain (but truth be told, more so for my mother) but mostly it is the kind of pain i feel for all of us.  i wish i could sit with him and hold his hand, watch the frost on the inside of the window.  it's cold here now in northern ontario, spring a long way off, but that was never the way between us.  instead i shovel the driveway at my own house, play cards with my children in the evenings, read books and take photographs of moments that will never be reproduced, never in form or in content, the light always changing. meanwhile three or so streets away uncle henry dies faster and faster.  one day my phone will ring, or maybe i'll only get an e-mail. i'll find out somewhat after the fact, i suppose.