Saturday, December 27, 2014

one cast of christmas characters

it's christmas and so we gather. we stand at the island in my kitchen. my niece, just home, plucks, year after year at her open blouse near her breasts, or this year at her full blown scarf flowing up like magma, covering each inch of her snow white skin, plucking and primping as though she is feathered; my nephew keens his small voice past his big hands and distributes, at personally devised intervals, his snort and his snicker; my sister leans forward like a wire and rips story after story into the wintery air; her husband, addled by sickness, tries to maintain the face he once naturally kept, but looks, to me, like a boy slightly afraid but hopeful, so tenderly endearing; my step father carries his eager laugh quietly like a basin of water, low down, unassuming, near his hips, trying not to spill on purpose until the right moment, when he'll quickly hit a new grade and lose decorum, willingly lurching it upward, allowing, welcoming, all loss, and then begin again; my mother sits inside her skin, happily, plumply, at home in this moment, or successfully trying to seem so; my husband is wide in his unerringness like the sky is to a coyote, quiet on a stool, having gotten over the awkwardness of meeting new families; my son winds back his mischievous eyes and waits for a joke to find him, his soul fitting ripely into his muscles, ready; my daughter practices shy indifference, any accidental smile quickly sudbued down her face, her lips a little too high on her teeth for her liking; i try to balance everyone like a series of loaded plates and wait for this all to be over, happy for the time as though drunk on helium, but confused as to what exactly any one of us is comprised of. i tell myself that in order to find myself i must rid myself of all things extraneous. there i will be reunited. there i will rest in what i truly am.

two days later i will walk down an unlit country road late in the evening. will the stars slice the sky, or will the sky hold the stars like a handful of shelled walnuts? i will still be unable to truly see myself. what i had hoped was a knot will feel more like a change in the direction of the wind.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

seeking salvation, running on a country road, december 23, 2014

from out of the clustered and boisterous festered mouth of the holdiays i shoot like a bullet,
pumping my arms and legs up icy caddle road where i'd dreamed of wolves just the night before,
wolves, elusive and bright, clean like arrows,
in my right ear jeff buckley pouring out his earthly guts into the celestial sieve-like bag,
in my left, hail striking the palsied hands of shriveled oak and the stubborn blustery arms of conifers,
in my body a hunger for holiness manifesting itself like a desperate jaw engorged with sickness.
i think of the church i won't attend (can't find) and run my body as hard as i can into oblivion.
and then from behind me approaches something dark, steadily advancing.
i hear it in my upper head, not like a sound, but sense it like a form: danger, bear, phantom.
with a surprised grip to my heart and some, later, laughing,
i see that it is, with a quick glimpse back, truly a dense black body, a mennonite wagon.
we pivot each other, the adults held to the darkness inside (or are they even present?),
the children blank faced and bobbling in the backdoor opening.
i smile at them as i run on, they gaining advance, then past me, saying hello with no answer.
they are. and then they aren't. i continue running on the holy tract of ice and snow,
for me the blessed path of little distraction, the world whittled down to the few essentials.
but might something else be happening, now, up ahead? i tilt my head, but nothing.
what might be puffs to naught on the wide expanse of shifting air shafts. it's all in my hopeful mind.
as i run the ice-white track i stride over one black beech leaf, then another, 
the wagon ambling on through ice ruts and frost upheavals into the distance.
then i stop at one peculiar beech leaf opposite a rare house out here far from the comfort of town, 
not a beech leaf at all, but a mouse which has obviously ingested poison, swollen like a ball, 
its tiny tail poking out comedic, or solemn. i look at the house as the source and hang my head.
but as i hang my head i have angled it and as i have angled it it reaches me, small voices,
the children now unseen in the wagon quite far ahead - they are singing, 
although i can't make out one word of the song that finds me there.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

the trip (why i still want a record player to hold what is impossible to hold and to go beautifully outward without going)

there's a personal legend that goes something like this me being four wanting to go to the big town mall so bad my belly ached like spoiled sugar the muscle in me swelling like a dead fish on shore and so i ate a yogurt pop to settle it down but instead it came up all over our neighbour nimki's carpet and so i had to stay put and as i held my sorry self of betrayal while sitting on the stool waiting on them heating up their car for adventure me waiting for my momma to pick me up and take me back to my sorry room in our sorry house looking out onto sorry snowy fields we listened to danny kaye tell six stories from faraway places how i loved that record album turning staring at the circles moving the stories progressing but the record none the less standing still

Monday, December 22, 2014

huh... the mall

lying in bed last night my thoughts, my secret midnight thoughts which usually take me to forests or blank tapestries in search of one or two ringing words, took me instead to a strange place. the place percolated up inside me and was no less something non-negotiable than the flooded basement in the spring. i remembered how the mall was when i was a child, but the flood was not, as intuition might suggest, unpleasant, nor was it a broach of the sacred, but it came to me and filled me surprisingly, lovely.

there is but one local mall and hardly a mall at that, a large (everything being relative) building that houses a dozen or so businesses, but these days the businesses flounder. many of the spaces stand empty. how many different faces the mall has worn over the years! but once this mall was mecca. people traveled for miles, sometimes for hours and hours maybe only once or twice a year, to attend its filled out spaces. everyone came to the mall. the corridors were swollen with warm bodies, especially this time of the year and everything, anything that you could imagine could be found there. there were places to shop for clothing and enough diversity to match every critic, or at least the few offerings ran the gambit and nothing else existed as choice elsewhere. there were electronic gadgets (such grand things as clock radios and cassette players), a record store with aisles and aisles of albums, stereo systems on display and guitars lining the walls, a book store for god's sakes, books you could open and peruse, practice your fingers over, magazine racks to slobber over, and a camera shop with a photo processing department, real things to touch and be had. people moved close to one another in their big winter coats, greeted each other, saw and were seen, visited at the doughnut shop or had lunch! there was a restaurant with restaurant low lighting! a grocery store, a department store, two formidable anchor businesses that we all believed would be there forever. everything was immeasurably bigger.

and it wasn't just shopping. someone incredibly brilliant saw that it was community. school work was often taped to the glass of shop windows, remembrance day, christmas, easter. i remember once a poem of mine was taped among the throng of hundreds. i was probably nine then. i visited santa claus there a few excruciating times, waiting the length of the line, shy but curious, when now it seems even most children ignore him. once, much to my consternation, i danced the highland fling there with a dance class. people spoke at the mall, sang there, performed, gathered. my mother bought me jeans there (at The Jean Shop) when my shape was boyish. she bought me my first bra there at The Saan. i remember too she bought me a scarf as i was phasing out of being a daughter (just home for the holidays from university) and phasing into being a woman, about to buy things for myself.

now there are a few haggard stores barely hanging on, selling a few needed things, a couple coveted, but mostly jack shit barely shining. this close to home the mall means nothing any longer. the brand couldn't possibly be illustrious enough. in fact there is no brand. local is mute. few shop there. only the bedraggled gather there, a ragged handful, the not quite well of mind, or the constantly unemployed and desperate. maybe those who haven't learned well enough... yet.

mostly people get in their new trucks and drive further to bigger malls with better brands (not then an option but now i wonder why) or sit at home and punch buttons. soon the drones will deliver.

what a wonder it is that i miss it. what a wonder it is that buying stuff in this more traditional (for a kid born in 1970) way, closer to home, from the hands of all the (employed!) mall workers who worked their various positions for decades and who we would learn by name and recognize in the community as important, through the thrill of the familiar buzz of crowd, felt, in a way, like an extension of home.

today i will go out with my children and bring them christmas shopping so that they might experience giving a few token things. we'll move through the empty mall as we usually do on the few rare occasions we attend (aside from grocery shopping we don't, in practice, shop very much), laughing, touching one another, as though we had expected a crowd and so we stay close together. if and when i see someone i know i will smile and say hello and my children will whisper and nudge, "who was that?" and i'll tell them their names and explain how i know them; they'll seem like people from another time.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

what to wear, the black or yellow

i wake into the bitter sadness of the world
deciding who to be, how to participate.
i drink my coffee, listen to the news,
read james wright's "the first days,"
how the
huge golden bee (ploughs)
His burly right shoulder into the belly
Of a sleek yellow pear
i consider fortifying my reclusion,
after all, each of us is shat into being
through the whip of his or her mother,
bulb condensing at the tip of branch,
something round and pearly, isolated
like a pear, or a drop of water.
but something in the determination of the letters,
in how the words fill the mouth with a syrupy saccharine
suggests i am not only the poor pear pendent
but also eating the pear - and 
   being consumed.
the poem shoulders me into presence,
cleans me as a river does, water over soil and dirt.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

important things to note about the corner stone of reisterdam

it took 600 men to right her originally and those that followed packed her in like an initial idea, an axiom serving as axle for all future thought, with mud. in fact there were generations of mud daubers who didn't know why they were mud daubers. like most, they just followed their fathers.

but time, while she sets, she also slips.

as pretty, as well behaved, as efficient, as predictable and (according to Reisterdam) as right, the customer stood like a symbol of the corner stone at the cash register. (bravo, the forebearers would whisper.) but it was inside her that the slipping began, and so the light got in.

she asked, might i have a box for that, only bigger? i'm mailing the trinket along with a jar of venison to ireland for christmas.

Friday, December 19, 2014

during which we loved one another

we're so loud with the ways we hate one another.
what do we live? what do we know?
where does memory take its place?
what about the long monotonous and cold quiet winter?

Thursday, December 18, 2014

taking stock

what it amounts to at the end of 2014. more broke than ever (broker). at the mercy of not one but two governments (merciless). workplace politics and home front maneuvering (mercenaries). one fragment shy of wanting the translation of the crush-in-chest to be uttered as the crush-of-skull. the ten thousand failures. the ten thousand disappointments. the mirror. and yet - something indomitable in the spirit. something patient like burlap. waiting. for that which will find light. grow.

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

a christmas concert

once i might have thought it was for nostalgia that i mourned, but it is not. something is already dead in us. we lug it around, the rotting corpse, inside the living body.

christmas concert 2014. and while the young ones, the smallest ones, still find their way stingingly into our hearts, small arms raised, small feet stumbling, mouths opened into the greatest O's imaginable, mournful, praising/lamenting not what they know, reverential, and hopeful too. beneath their cognizant abilities an awareness is being born as they herald their small costumes to the stage. while singing carols they are already grasping backward to something which is lost, which is being lost to them. in two or three years, in the middle grades, their skits reveal that philosophically we are on the wrong path, santa and greed, christ and - what? - the litany of goodnesses that so many of us espouse but so few of us actively cherish. by grade seven they stand in the dark wearing glow in the dark bangles and jostle around mute but eccentric, letting the music play for them meaninglessness, jingle bells. these are real things that have happened. real events. indicative of where we are now. my son in the back row for prayer raising his arms and opening his mouth loud and laughing for benediction.

when we began going to christmas concerts only nine years ago, we were not lost yet. there was yet the awkward pausing between skits, the drawing of the heavy red velour curtains, the patter of feet in the small accidental opening as children hurried to take their places, the scuffing of props being dragged to new locations. a teacher everyone in town knew played the piano. jokers stuck their heads out from between the closed and waiting curtains. the principle cleared his throat to introduce each act, trying to speak loudly enough. we all strained in our seats to hear what was (of importance) being said. and then one after another each awkward class, headed by their teacher, took the stage, and for a brief time on one night each year they imperfectly delivered a performance they had agonized over, something simple which seemed terribly complex and risk taking to them. but we welcomed in their risk and we loved them for it. we took greedily into our hearts what they dared to perform.

now everything is orchestrated. everything is perfected. audio and video is plugged in between each skit. no error is allowed to be witnessed. no moment is allowed to open into silence. or worse, open to the presence of a chair scraping or a baby crying in the audience. the teachers are invisible. instead a large white screen looms faceless at the front of the auditorium guiding us. the acts the children perform are too often accompanied by a sound system blasting someone else's perfect libretto. why the hell do we care any more? why should we? what are we there to behold, every household holding up a device to record each antiseptic performance, translate it into a commodity to be played back and passed around like a token. where is the precious one moment? where is the glaring moment of happenstance that must be paid attention for, your own child's awkward appearance, one amongst the many, risking the scope of fallibility in celebration, one child shyly cowering, another leading the charge, someone picking their nose or scratching their nethers, someone only moving their lips, another belting it out like there is no tomorrow, each child with the opportunity to be themselves, to test his or herself against the world, the opportunity to be, to shine sweetly, or to shine even more brightly.  we gather to gather, not to be entertained into abject dull silence.


amongst the music videos and comic strips (and one unusual advertisement for catholicism), a strange short movie was played while sets changed and children were shuffled off of and onto the stage. it was a movie depicting the christmas truce of world war I in 1914, allied and german soldiers gathering peacefully, acknowledging their commonalities, in the end the movie encouraging one thing, sharing, as though this, the exchange of goods (in this movie a box of chocolates secretly exchanged for a can of biscuits) was (is!) the highest possible act of the human spirit. as though seeing equality or fellowship as incidental only.

and then of course the fighting, just beyond the narrative, resumed. the men pulling back and hammering relentlessly against the other he had just moments before acknowledged and loved, as he must have loved himself and his own life.

i can't begin to imagine what the audience thought. were they happy? were they buoyed by man's potential?

my husband and i sat holding hands, crying.

we were not buoyed by the one moment. were not cleansed by a momentary act of goodness. were not absolved, even from where we were sitting.

our potential? our potential for fundamental goodness given up time and time again so easily. and for what?

do we learn from what we know?

what are we, mankind?

and what do we want to be?


the children filed off the stage and were reclaimed by their parents, shuffled into their coats, and then into their cars, and then into this larger world which is still at war, only for us lucky ones with enough distance that we are yet comfortable and entertained into dullness and apparent safety in our seats.

at what cost?


it is not gone from me. it is still in me but i wonder if it is in my children. i want a place to sing. i want a place for my children to sing. i want to resurrect what is dead inside us. i want risk. and i want the benefits of risk. and i want to risk singing, all of us, off on our own, yes (out of necessity of song and necessity of being alone), but also on that field that lies between us, together.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

two more baking poems, "goddess" and "failing at Now"


five six, 
raven hair soot black,
eyes blue cut 
which: cleave, 
saw, brute, 
seldom polish, 
but leave to quiver, 
regardless p(m)aternity,
promethean flayed, 
breathed upon, razed 
by the cold clean white brutal light 
of an ancient sybyl.
like all good supplicants
raising doughy lit faces 
to the east,
so too is her prostrate skin
like skies, 
peopled villages.
saturn rings string her pelvis, 
phase-lust moons,
the neutrino
fired to zenith!
each fleshed ounce
of sexual nuance
yet unnamed
but thrumming 
like this season's salmon's poaching head
through tidal thrusts
to cusp of estuary.
she's 14,
has written
by pencil,
not cursive,  
her scratched crabbed script,
in her mother's cookbook
a recipe for "Kid's Favorite Cookies,"
if just eating dough,
add no chocolate chips.

failing at Now

his face like an eager puppy dog's mugging
over his favorite, chocolate covered oatmeal pudding,
cutting a gigantore piece for now,
asking, when'reye-gonna make this again?

Monday, December 15, 2014


the poem works like the thrust of pine mountain, 
   despite language 
   because of
funneling itself up through the russell fork, 
it's trenchant body in the breaks between.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

relic, the bricked dream

    St. Joseph's Hospital

accumulated, man claimed monolith, 
so many sure men bet their wages on it,
many fearful men tried to erase their fates against it, 
autumn brick, russet, oxblood, cold and scouring.
my mother dragged me from the nexus to this world through it, 
the spirit pulled like the force that holds a cork to its bottle.
1970, linoleum corridor super highways, 
life in, life out, sagas and iv champagne.
plastic breathes around its doorways now,
ventilating the abandoned structure,
its windows empty, many of glass.
1970 - benign brick - and yet - everything began for me,
continued for her,
nothing but a notch for the many, most,
breathing machines, pulleys, alchemy and chains 
and the many fevered pater nosters.
1970 and behind one of those windows 
everything burst into being through my bloodstream,
crimson bloom, flight, and fancy.
it looks dead now, emptied,
but it`s like that, always, 
one darkness exchanged for another.
a pigeon takes sail in through a glassless window,
sideways, debonair, post destruction`s suitor,
one nest swapped for another on the endless quest
until it`s finally over and the bricks, too, return to their root
and break.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

how wild and wonderful this opportunity for coffee

after a conversation about the world's myth of progress,
considering that each of man's wily machinations will inevitably be undone,
the husband and wife embrace one another beside the kitchen cabinets.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

in the presence of

wanting to know the real world, the world beyond the soot of self,
i decanted that night with the wolf and set it on the bookshelf,
pressed it like a flower between the words fæger and hwīt,  hlūtor and clǣne,
left it there for years, quietly, while i walked off into forests
and itched while watching owls and scratched while watching stars
until my skin scuffed off and fell like eiderdown down
and then was again like milkweed's last spike to its ragged refuge,
until it too was gone even in its likeness
and i was finally pure enough to understand the eyes that held neither
right nor wrong or resulting drama, not one iota of conspicuous conscience,
or even lack of scruple, no name like victim, no name like foe,
only eyes mathematically mitigating approach or withdrawal,
freosan infinitude, not one thing else in between.


lately i have been thinking about that thing i long for in its one glaring elusive form, the purity i lust after in the nighttime, in the quiet hours, akin to erasure, the ultimate place of peace, the place on the other side of being human. of course i'd rather like to quaintly hold it like a stone or a word, safely. i'd like it to cleanse me like a talisman but keep me whole, send me off again, new. i've been thinking about this a lot lately, trying to conjure it, get close to it. but it is like wanting to warm your hands near the stove knowing the stove is made of ice.

and then, despite any sweet endeavor, even despite the pilgrim's work (physical or mental exertion), there it was. last night. on the bridge in the dark. a wolf. only some feet from me. not afraid of me. not influenced. not carrying stories of me onward. and not one deep throated projection from my mouth was going to change its action, but time and the arrival of its (the wolf's) others was calculating what was to happen next. but there was for the moment, only the moment, us together, its figuring/deciding how it would act. like light, this way. or like light, that way. which way would its beam next lie? and then, as a consequence, the darkness?

my mind is incapable of fully understanding. and yet i try to see beyond sentiment.


this poem from last week:

fowen, freed from the extraneous, set pure

zero the line like the arctic fox
tendoned  famined
biting upon no complaint
suffering no audience
pouncing no applause

only the body's red blood cells   
   globbing to
then   globbing naught.   


and this poem too:

inside breast pocket

some might think:   button's envelope of cocaine
thin mint to keep the mouth tethered briefly to the savor of time
moon plumped to neck and chest like grandmother's talcum

who might see it for what it truly is -
the owl lancing briskly down 
with nary a sound
talons extended
lust   for the purest silence


and this journal from a couple weeks ago:

searching for the second X, the silence which calls us

i have always been a yipping pup, a young and ungroomed fire. sparky, they'd have called me, if i were a dog. (for the record, i don't like dogs like this.)

once, when i was about 20, someone tried to teach me how to meditate. i complained (loudly, in short bursts) that i couldn't even imagine my feet, never mind see them!

now i think it was something like this with me. i think there are two selves. one is the personal self, the one born at the intersection of all personal circumstance, body, wiring, cross hatchings of environment and a peopled and eventful history. draw an X there. this one yips, or blats, or heralds, or fist pounds with its mouth. the other one is the penumbra of spirit self, the self with no self but the ultra self, the one we all share, which is to say the breathing beneath the breathing, kind of how stone perseveres as stone, or wind as wind. it's quiet. draw another X there.

when i was 20 those two X's laid precisely upon one another. there was no distance, no perspective. i could not see my feet. as such i could not see past the puffy bits of inflated skin that were me which swelled up under my eyes, impairing my larger sight.

i think this is how it is, perhaps (and unfortunately) for many (most?) people. i think this is why we have so many misunderstandings, so much greed, so much violence. in a word or two, why we suck. we are stuck in ourselves. we see through ourselves. and if we can't see our own magnificent lucky-to-be-here feet, then how can we possibly see the world, the real one?

(and certainly as such we can't understand one another. it's a good time as any to examine Wittgenstein's koanic quote, "If a lion could talk, we could not understand him.")

insert time, infliction of pain and violence (the world's happenstance and my bad), a series of accidents, encountering some really great poetry and art (literally and metaphorically), two children, a few men (*see again: time, pain, violence, a series of accidents, my bad, great poetry, art and children and world events), and a profoundly speaking northern landscape juxtaposed with the taste of many others, and i think i begin to see my toes. i think one X begins to drift away from the other. i think i begin to see the world, the real one. (or at least i am nudged incrementally towards it, having no real idea of the vastness of scale we might be dealing with.)

in this new position there is more silence and less noise. in this position there is more white space and less chaos of flitting form. in this position my yearning for clarity sharpens. kind of like this:

at the end of a day i sit still and look inside of me for what seems like a still room. perhaps a rock to sit on. a swamp to walk through. two stones to rub together. clean words to pass my non-hands over. bells with no tongues. it's important to note that the room is not in the me me, but i leave the me me and walk toward the penumbra of the spirit me, the second X, and search the larder there (an empty kitchen in a deserted farmhouse) for a moon, a silver fork, or the sound of the sound of a sound, the sound which was pre to all sound: silence. there's something we crave essentially which must be found there, and if not found there then at least searched for, visited, considered, even the absence of nurtured.

and so i must apologize, for daily, so often even on a momentary basis, i return to the first X. yip a lot. and it is difficult to witness. maybe most difficult from my own point of view, as i recognize the vaster silence as being distinguished, without error, immeasurably perfect. but for better or worse this is my one opportunity to be and so i rattle the chain, pull at the links like an errant pup.

but i could weep for the grace or dumb luck that has separated the links in me and grants me forays into that deserted farmhouse. perhaps one day i'll sit down in an abandoned chair and feel no need to get up or move again.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

cute, how she'll save us

power banged, cherub lipped, calf booted,
already eating meat no more (but leather accoutred),
only seventeen, having gauged (just last week!)
the world's injustices, and rightly so.

look how smart she looks.
look how sure she is (ssh, in tomorrow).
seventeen years of product school,
how to take in, how to put out - politely.

one cute lightning bug in a metropolis of night,
six billion plus light bulbs 
sucking greedily the teat,
milking   the mother wire.


                we are to sell you something
which you are not

consume rs,

recognize your measurement
want more

dear sweet earth,

                          tremble under the strain,
but hold

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

lunch pail

my mother puts my chicken sandwich with tomato into a sleeve of saran wrap
which we will be soggy by lunchtime, two cookies like surprised eyeballs into plastic,
a thermos of peach juice, which is really just sugar water. the thermos clips into
the lid of my metal pail by means of a thin radial arm. my hand finds the handle
of my lunch pail like it finds its mittens, its pencils, the buttons on its sweater 
near my lap, its textbook, its desk lid, its shoe laces, its hair caught on my lips, 
its snot, everything which is intimate to me, my hand finds the lid of my lunch pail
like that, in one swift motion, without thinking, it belongs to it.

in my head rests in its cradle a plug of day old yorkshire pudding, my brain.
this is how i approach the world, exerting by wage of being, my hold upon things.

Monday, December 8, 2014

story of plenty

what if you could call it? would you call it?

what if it could eat from your hand? would you let it eat from your hand?

what if what you offered was emptied? would you let it eat from you still?

before this story is lost to plenty (for it will be lost to plenty, already is), i must say it, although i only remember it now like a dull shadow. and for this i am so sad.

but i will remember it again, i know. in fact because i have forgotten it i will know it again. and this makes me happy.

and this makes me sad, as well, never being able to remain inside the blaze of grace, awareness, being.

two years ago in march, after walking topless with my husband in that time when winter lets go the hem with its icy knuckles, the spring's first dramatic pivot between clench and declension, i said, chickadee, and a chickadee appeared. and not only did it appear. it clearly answered what was underneath the word chickadee. my longing. it flew alongside us chirping to us, engaged with us in the world.

and then a year passed.

and i was alone on a winter path. the world reduced blessedly. and i exposed, but exposed so glaringly that i was as nearly wasn't as possible.

chickadee unseen in brush. chickadee wearing bracken like fur body.

and then the body of it, feather imbued, coming at me.

how difficult to withstand the sudden body. chickadee like a drum before my eyes. body flooding my ears. filling my veins. chickadee like a mountain suddenly dancing. proximity razing me. chickadee like a forest on fire. me, ash, embers.

and then another year.

how i admonished myself for never having one thing to offer the chickadee.

i filled my pockets. i brought seed.

it happened so quickly.

no matter how full i make my hand it still feels empty.

and yet it only took one scrap.

but. now i think that if i were to have extended my hand only, my hand empty, all those times ago, it would yet have happened.

like an impulse. a direct and instantaneous communion between what my eye saw and my eye. chickadee in my hand. chickadee claws on my fingers.

all i had to do was extend my hand.

we spoke, the chickadee and me.

you might tell me this has happened to you. ten times before. a thousand thousand times. might be happening to you right now. this makes it no less unlikely. no less incredible. no less holy.

the first one took a plump black seed.

the second one, likewise.

the third one (was it the first again?) pecked through the seed to my hand.

ow! i said.

it pecked again.

ow! i said, again. louder. looking at the chickadee's face. each of us questioning.

it pecked again.

i am not a tree, sadly. i had nothing else to give but the moment together. with pain i gently threw off the chickadee.

but now i know, as complicated as it is, i can simply stop, extend my hand, and face the depths of what one must face in communion.

what if you could call it, would you call it?

what if it could eat from your hand, would you let it eat from your hand?

what if what you offered was emptied, would you let it eat from you still?

Sunday, December 7, 2014

the body's latent language (anatomy of the orbit of desire)

hidden inside bone are glints of diamond

the lexicon of bones tries to (re)iterate the truth to us

(while we did not create bones
we sure as shit created the words for bones
and so essentially we try to tell ourselves
what we already know but are continually forgetting)

my husband traces the bone beneath my eye
beautifully honed horizon field, zygomatic bone

(did you know the zygomatic bone articulates with the temporal bone?
need anyone say anything more?)

my sight twitches near his thumb
(which houses the whorls of his individual identity, particular quirk)
like an anxious bird
taking in, but predominantly wanting more

it seems fair to say - here lies the fleshed out ruby organ of desire

as he moves his thumb along the arch, i feel, reflected in my body
further down 
(for we dimwits must be reminded)
the same kind of curve
the crests of ilium
which draw (again) my body's contours like his thumb

in the cradle, between ilium wings, rests emptiness like an egg
(the strongest essence of any organ of desire, scent like sperm)

ilium: flank bone, pelvic girdle
also latin word for ancient troy

Saturday, December 6, 2014

errands, december 3rd

i went to the hardware store to get a light bulb. i asked for an incandescent. i asked, are they outlawed yet? i don't trust the mercury in the so-called solution. i nodded at the shop keep. i nodded at the man who helped me. i nodded at the cashier who i've known since i was sixteen. a man came in. i knew him. he nodded at me.

i went to the post office. i had a parcel. they brought me the wrong package. this is anthony's, i said. oops, they said, our bad. here's yours. they retrieved it by name, not number. cross your fingers, i said, we're waiting on passports, so the kids can see their dad at christmas. they looked at each other knowingly, knowing my story. the passports were in! i clapped, rejoiced. silently they lengthened my story.

i went to the pharmacy, got medication for back pain, oragel and ibuprofen for my daughter's wisdom teeth. huh, the pharmacist's kids are probably having mouth pain too, i realized with wonder. our kids have grown together. her husband is out front banging the carpets clean.

i stand beside the highway, these three businesses comprising almost all the businesses in town, all within the same block. i am a 44 year old woman. i have a tube scarf over my messy hair, an oversized woolen sweater on, big black winter boots with holes in the toes. there are two transports i have to wait for, a couple cars. a cold wind blasts thin snow in my face. it could be any time, any decade of the last few. from this perspective the world is not yet dying. from this perspective this life is more than enough.

Friday, December 5, 2014

december 3, a love letter

you have blessedly slowed.
you leave signs of where you've been,
tracks, trees bowed.
the more i move toward you -
heat, to overcome the cold.

up ahead - frozen mist
- your breath!
   we're almost one.

notes from a walk

-long shadows draped darkly across the graveyard snow
-the thundering conjunction of two strong arms of river
-small scattered mystifying tracks through snow 
    (raccoon? porcupine?)
-aspen screeching on their hinges, reaching patiently up into the 
    late day sun 
-while silently on spirit legs attached to bodies - animals (foxes!
    wolves!) through the broader woods
-i stick to the darkening trail, late afternoon, december

Thursday, December 4, 2014


(i have entered into such a period of love with my children, such a low lit and protected time that i dare not articulate too loudly for fear, for knowledge, that we will, with a shudder, be violently delivered once again into harsh and brutal light. but for now we gather quietly in the red glow of the late afternoon light, which in early winter is darkness here lit by lamplight and familial warmth, something baking, something soon to be cooked, stories of desk talk, homework, pop culture, all the while the cat jumping up between us for affection. we languor here together as though newly sewn to womb again beneath the bulb of hymen, the womb two beats before menarche cracks the door, peaks around the corner and strides confidently into the room.)

two poems, "gently goes the rain" and "clementines sail on ships from china"

 gently goes the rain

remember when we were young
   (today - always today),
after the clouds formed and the planets parted
   on our bedroom ceiling
and you wore the chandelier glass in your hair,
   remember that day?
let's keep it near, like the bedclothes' edges,
   even though we know even in this 
the body doesn't tire of exactly,
   but forgets,
and then forgets again.

clementines sail on ships from china

no one can truly remember
afternoon light through slatted windows,
the smell of a clementine,
or the way chipped paint fills the heart
and so, the things i'm about to tell you,
i will tell you more than once.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014


all these years later i remember the man i came upon while walking the perimeter of Union Island of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. he sat halfway on the three mile walk between two small communities,  under a thatched roof, his black body coated in a shawl of grey dust. methodically, patiently, like Faulkner's protagonist eating ants in "Red Leaves" he struck one rock against another, making smaller rocks, then stones, then pebbles; behind him, a pile of gravel. not on any visit did i witness anyone bringing him stones, or carting away gravel. i just met him there under his thatched roof to nibble with him on his dirty ice wrapped in newsprint which he kept lodged in a tree, to exchange pleasantries, and then i continued on back to where i began.

i bemoan, what ignorant tools we have been given!

i beg, what task is really at hand?


placing the bones that house my eyes
into the bone cage of my hand
the word excelsior sounds off somewhere
like stars 
behind dark heavens

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

it's difficult because we don't want to invite it

it's difficult because we don't want to invite it and we don't want to invite it because it's difficult, the car broken down and so the three of us becoming its heavy momentum, pushing it with the full expenditure of our bodies through snow, sharing one screen between our computers like macbeth's witches share an eyeball, affording little meat and little heat, putting on sweaters, sleeping in jackets, wearing blankets like kimonos, loving our hot bowls of chicken and dumplings. really loving them.

andrew grace writes, "Blessed was the day my father in hipboots woke me early and made me shovel with him."

things breaking, doing without, or having to do puts us in contact with, tightens the tension in being. knowing our decaying body. knowing the world as its enduring mirror. laying our hands against that tense field between, and feeling the energy. really feeling. and really living.

who wants to ask for hardship?
but there's more value in loss than have.


from andrew grace's Sancta (written in the wake of losing his father)

The cold gives me my father's hunger. I cannot live on nuts, herb-tea and elegies. I am full of blood. I tune my brain to a burnt frequency and do push-ups until I feel like I am underwater. Blessed was the day my father in hipboots woke me early and made me shovel with him. I was wild with tearing at the real core. He had to make me stop.


and this poem by d. a. powell, what it implies inside the poem, and the dialogue it opens around the poem, the work that we no longer do, the earth that we no longer engage with:

autumn set us heavily to task: unrooted the dahlias

autumn set us heavily to task:   unrooted the dahlias
lay wrapped in the cellar.   cider pressing time.   grain milling
time to pick persimmons.   time to fix the leaky hayloft

slaughtering time.   rendering time.   time to put up chokecherries
take the woolens from the cedar chest:  britches mending time
rabbit hunting time.   tallow candle dipping time.   soap making time

count the butter and egg money.   count the diapers in the wash
time to split wood and clean the flue.   time that the pesky swallows
in the chimney took their leave.   molasses cooking time

kids sent to glean the fields at dusk.   yams laid out to cure
and the last huckleberries balljarred in the larder.   corn husking time
clay dull red in sunlight crumbling: abundant the harvest and the tithe


i remember being at my aunt's or my grandmother's house and being served food which i wasn't quite familiar with and didn't quite love. there was something essential happening beyond my strictly familiar environment, inside the mystery of someone else's household. it is a gift to not have precise personal desires met all the time. if they are always met, rather than challenged and occasionally met, they become mute. the food that came to me from a serving tray or an unfamiliar decorated plate was unlike any other food. certainly unlike food i encounter anymore.

in this modern world of self serving self satisfaction i have lately been craving that which i myself would not choose to create:


my grandmother's bovine arms set off in waves of cellulite
as she punches cherries into flour, sugar, suet.

how i hated her christmas fruitcake. hated it. but ate it.

all these years later her larder empty, her fat rendered back to soil,
i yearn to make and have and take into the right fit fine body 
that food, my grandmother's, which i wouldn't choose.