Tuesday, April 28, 2015

The Certainty

So quickly by, the distance, between the electric poles and the expansive prairie,
between the ruminating cows and the voltaic braying of mules,
between sweet long sentences of silence and the agitated dynamism of traffic,
between the sunrise and the terrible isolate moon as the two companions move,
one at 10 o'clock 2 o'clock, and the other with feet up on the dashboard.
What is this world before us, the one almost close enough to touch -
Blooming? Heraldic roses? Funeral bouquets? Ashes?
One listening to a National Public Radio programme,
the other plugged into the central programming of the new world,
Liv Ullmann speaking on art, acting, perception, direction,
Radiohead jamming atonal, distorted, dissonant.
Liv Ullmann...now here's someone to consider,
having admired and loved a man, one of the world's most forsaken,
but being and remaining lively, bright, unblemished, hungry for God and beauty.
Opening scenes of Shame, her lovely lips, her breasts, her skin, a rose herself.
Mountains now and deep shadows progressing,
cold patches mixing amongst the last fading pools of pink light, 
the levels of silence and sound adjusting themselves - but against what?
The companions traveling onward,
the windshield before them like a bent butler's arm, a battering ram,
or an extended lens of the eye keeping them at distance.
Is it distance from, a looking glass to, or something through which to touch,
an implement of braille-cum-fingers being?
They talk, yes, exchange pleasantries - complain, encounter, remember.
They might even love one another, but in the front seat, measurable or not,
there is an interminable continent, ocean... no, bodiless distance between them.
Liv Ullmann, how lovely she is.
In one hour she points out only one fault of anyone she's known,
they tell their little lies, everyone, including herself.
Where is the truth? Is this world good or not? Are we alone or are we together?
Radiohead scratches its hieroglyphics into the pig mind with acetylene torches.
Bergman may have secretly thought Ullmann his Magnum Opus (and maybe she was)
but in the end she'd never bear it. She has Sophie turn toward us (and the camera) and smile.
It's like hanging a crescent moon in the sky - it's an emblem,
but yet it tells us nothing.

Monday, April 27, 2015


Being a baby means it's five after.
Learning a word, tack on cavalcade plus noon.
Having a baby, half past and holding.
When that baby speaks
The clock's door is thrown forever open
And through the dark and empty ticking spaces
Midnight is lurching through.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

his hands are circles

such an accident, we - in these bodies;
all of these intersections, interstices and friable wires
a haphazard heap, an unsurveyed intermission resulting in we,
or you as you, or me as me,

but when i sit back as quiet as a tree unseen and see 
my husband's simplest gesture, fingers hesitating, then drawing a ring in the air
before he touches his keypad, turns a page, takes up his fork or his pencil,
they are the very same fingers he licks before he applies them to me at my nipples,

before we tip back crying each other's names out into the everlasting blackness 
that exists embroiled, exactly one integument behind light,
where nothing is singular, fugue or significant, but where everything's significant 
in its culmination, its absorption, its denouement, 

where Opus plays out enduringly 
long into the pregnant night.

Friday, April 24, 2015

above matter floats a dream

the poppy sends out its scarlet sails like bronze sheets of rain in twilight,
its scent like distant smoke signals, sensed but not stifling, plucking at secret impulses; 
its enigmatic allure rises off its empty core 
like a penumbra of collarbone daring to be kissed.

it if didn't send itself out, 
if it didn't give itself away to you
then what would it be that you received in your heart 
in those unanticipated moments of encounter?

many years ago a clamor of refugees boarded a ship with dreams of better living, 
a home that welcomed, a table of grapes, of goat, of wine and bread and honey.
the congregation had even sewn dreams of love into the hems of their hirsute skirts and jackets.
this ragtag crew of dispossessed were the poppy's essence.

they endured, like the imagination's seeds, below the deck, sleeping, dim,
a shadow of themselves, sustained by wait and promise.

they sail now through spring's early bird calls of drunken earth-lust riot.
how exciting to be upon the precipice of casting anchor!
ready yourselves, all those who are susceptible to resurrection and rapture!
the ship is searching the shore, intent on finding its way, to burst into the harbour of you.


Matter by Jean Follain (translation a composite by W. S. Merwin and me)

Above matter
floats a dream
a slave
in the house of an infamous master
the glass vase
holds a dark rose
the gold gleams
and the red iron
makes the frail naked beauty
in the night of being.
Reduced to things
dead furs
hang on the pallid wall.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

regarding the fullness of emptiness and silence

it was some time in my forties that i turned 
from the drunk man in a football jersey at the party
into a bison, and with my last thrust of hairy hormones
ran full force all over my stinking penned up field.
when i grew tired i knew the candles had been blown out.
then i morphed down low into the fox 
that had been waiting to become my body.
now i sit lightly, as still as a feather
caught slightly in the sedge at the edge of the field,
watching, waiting.

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

between never and forever brews the scent of a flower

she told me that he died 
and so i turned to my own
and led him upstairs

there is not enough time—

this is precisely why
the jonquil longs for
but will never reach its shadow

it is the excruciating impassable—on this plane of the possible

i love you how you smell, james~

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

notes on being not good

talking with my daughter about her perhaps getting her first job, she says exasperated with the ways of the world, but we are good people! because of this, why doesn't someone just give us enough? i don't want to work!

for a moment i am suspended in what i must confront. i am a little stunned. i would like to agree with her but i can't.

why would you think we are good people? we don't do anything to be good? maybe we aren't bad but we don't help our neighbours; we don't contribute to the community; we don't do anything to improve the world.

people are not good by default. i think somewhere along the line we have forgotten this.

i think of the james wright poem "A Secret Gratitude" in which the characters see five deer and don't let the dogs out after them, don't kill them. but more importantly, they could have. wright writes, 

We can kill anything.
We can kill our own bodies.
Those deer on the hillside have no idea what in hell
We are except murderers.
They know that much, and don’t think
They don’t.
Man’s heart is the rotten yolk of a blacksnake egg
Corroding, as it is just born, in a pile of dead
Horse dung.
I have no use for the human creature.
He subtly extracts pain awake in his own kind.
I am born one, out of an accidental hump of chemistry.
I have no use.

driving my son to school yesterday morning, a tremendous raven tore through the air only a foot or two off the harried rocketing of a small white bird. at first i thought the raven was merely chasing off the small bird but now i wonder if the raven wasn't trying to kill and eat the smaller bird. and who could fault it either way?

we are animals. the only way we are otherwise is by choice. goodness requires will. will is work.

at dinner the other night i remarked to james that i hadn't heard the news for a few days, didn't know what was going on in the world.

what happened then in his eyes? a kind of glass developed on their surface. he was measuring through it what i could bear.

do you really want to know, he asked.

is it terrible, i wondered.

he didn't need to answer. i could see it there. mankind was yet alive. terrible things were yet befalling.

Monday, April 20, 2015

notes from the trading post, a question, and the boy who smelled badly, the crazy boy, the boy

if i die each day i have to serve in the world of cash and trade, if my soul shrinks and my eyeballs roll back in their head and i desperately search the crowds for someone alive, anyone alive, anything— then what of you poor world who casts its desperate sad bulk toward the shelves and checkout out to find to find to find to apprehend significance?


a separate story:

he was fresh from the hospital but far from fresh. he was dirty. soiled. smelled. offensive. his hands rubbed with relish in tobacco and the accumulation of days of dirt, decanted to a high pique which would catch and pull in anyone's throat. he was maybe 23. he wore a gentleman's hat with a feather. was accompanied by a ruddy faced small man, wrinkled. the young man was agitated. he repeated, four things. i need four things. and began to place, what at first seemed like random things, on the counter.

turkey vulture feather, hand painted, $39.99.

he never once looked at me from under his hat's brim.

the man who accompanied him told me a story. twenty years ago. maybe forty. north of timmins. there was an eagle's nest thirty or forty feet up in a spruce. limbs like this (holding the girth of his own small arms). he climbed it up and up. or did the limbs only start thirty or forty feet up and he climbed higher? (reality was taking on new meaning. reality is always taking on new meaning. how could he possibly get to the first limbs?) up and up he went and when he got to the top he climbed into the eagle's nest. and laid down. he could lay down inside of it! he demonstrated. he could lay down in any direction!

above all else, he wanted me to believe him.

we still got that eagle feather, he told me. it was on the ground. that's how i found the nest in the first place.

it all made sense.

well, kind of.

wow, i said. what an awesome experience. that's pretty cool.

it was. the tree, the nest, the feather, the story. where truth began (and i'm sure it began somewhere) and where upon this god's green earth our interpretations lead us.

the young man put four arrowheads on the counter. he counted that as one. (last year we would have picked off the made in mexico shiny gold labels.) $1.99 each.

he counted his items. got stumped. counted again. two.

i helped him at the display case. there was some self argument over the smudging pipes and the navaho talismans. in the end it was to be a smudging pipe, if that is what it was. that's what we, the company, the manufacturers, said it was, $29.99.

at the counter again he touched his items, counting. why four, i wondered. it was established they were all for himself, so not four people.

but perhaps four people.

it seemed he was trying to acquire tradition, vulture feather, smudging pipe, arrowheads.

muttering: more medicine! more medicine! so much more medicine! too much to keep track of!

some small controlled pounding of the head.

i get confused, he told me.

i still could not see his eyes.

that's ok, i assured him. we all get confused sometimes. it's completely understandable.

the small man. a small nervous laugh, searching, ah, he just got out of the hospital... looking for my intolerance.

what was the fourth item he chose? only one day later and i can't for the life of me remember. another native good. i hit the native goods button four times. i wrapped them all in tissue and bagged them. (oh! i remember! it was a wolf t-shirt, $19.99!)

came to over a hundred dollars and i thought, it seems he has more to spend than i do.

not proud that it took a conscious decision - i willed myself to be near to him. i willed myself to smell him. i willed myself to be patient. i gave him his bag and thanked him. it wasn't hard. this boy was everyone.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

the red shoes with a heel

i'm considering an affair -
turning away from the reliable
hum-drum hands in pockets
hair sweeped to the side
regular oil changed
evenly breathing

who made me marry him anyway?
what!—was i betrothed upon my arrival,
handed by the doctors, the shamans, the healers,
from out of the darkness, directly to the light?

i mean, how sexy would it be
to put my greasy hands all over him,
to slide them down his svelte-like rivers,
to quiver in that loving place that boils,
to love death?

Friday, April 17, 2015

in this amphibious flesh

not plant
not rock, not hull, not seed

bulges - whatever the crow has in its beak
only the animal's life bulges to be free

it was a long lean winter for everyone.
knuckles dragged over the field's frozen fallowed seams

i'm glad for the crow

but whatever is scissored in the crow's black beak
—let it not feel terror

not plant not rock not hull not seed
i fly, i bulge, gravely i seek

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

root and all

practicing buddha
feel so unperson

who said person red 
who made person boom

practicing buddha
feel so wind so grass

who said person brick
who made person trammel

practicing buddha
feel so everything

who said person one
who made person sad

Sunday, April 12, 2015

a lark

- for the steve thompson not on wiki

how many poetry books have been written?
his was one among the inhumane peopling of shelves,
one grain of sand beside the vast trackless ocean,

unread, unloved, unrecognized, a heavy gut middle aged nothing,
he attracted, miraculously - beers to his hands, but no attention,
much like stevie smith's drowning person.

it was through a cloud of music, drink and smoke
i barely made out his ironic tragic form, a little vodyanoy, 1980's,
my own shocked seaweed eyes just beginning to see through to existence.

we looked at each other across the crowded gulf (ya, cliche, but it happens),
wordless, lost, but strangely (to each other) illumined beacons;
sadly not even lying together would do anything for words, no salvation,

so we fake laughed a lot that night through to the purer laughter,
punch-drunk on this world of stars, cauls and hysteria,
the strange watery phantasms that people cast disquieting us,

the insides of our mouths swelling like lamella.
our lungs grew heavy with water, so we turned up the stereo.
he'd die some years later - his cells inundated with radiation,

but i knew this meant he had drowned.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

tender shoots

if you journey too far out
into the world
with all the dusty soles of people

be sure to come back here
where your child has cut a slip of ivy
and placed it into a tumbler of water

a thousand oxygen bubbles
adhere to the plant's torso
and the glass's surface

heed this

Friday, April 10, 2015

the ubiquitousness of everything

first: mist, water, snow

not the cow in the meadow
not the wolf against the moon

then: sound, word, staccato

not the unmanned nighttime
not the immeasurable silence

where form begins, for instance: iris
a blooming against the rain dappled window

where form begins, for instance: abscess
a pressure calling for laceration

where form begins, for instance: deixis
the purple plug of birth slipping forward

the butcher's hands are stained
the hilt of his kopis vibrating

Thursday, April 9, 2015

an everyday crisis, notes

standing in the grocery store line. two people, older than me, seniors, anxiously shifting their feet behind me, speaking aloud, this is ridiculous. a few seconds lapse. i swear i can feel the air around their hackled shoulders. this is really ridiculous. can you believe this?

there are three check-out lines being utilized and the lines seem long, but are essentially only four carts deep. the cashiers busily scan items. one after another. cart after cart. it is a simple mathematical problem being addressed. we will get served. i've no doubt about it. more shifting from behind me. oh my god, i can't believe this!

i turn my face toward them. believe it, i say, as light as a breeze i hope. i don't mean it with malice. i just mean, open your eyes and see the situation. this is not a big event. this is not injustice. wait your turn.

ohmygod, they share between themselves, loudly enough to be heard. they want to be heard. they are playing at increasing everyone's exasperation.

it's ok, i say to them. it'll be alright.

silently a tall thin woman with a short red hairstyle, very plain, not suggesting any decade in fashion, with a cardigan style sweater on over her uniform, buttons done up, slides between two carts in our lane, motioning with a hand, never saying a word, to one of the customers in front of us. they veer off and are served in the next lane which she has just opened. the anxious folks behind me part ways in our river and say, i can't believe you had faith! we had no faith!

if this is the crisis we think we are facing, jesusgod, we are in trouble.

meanwhile, ahead of me a man i recognize from our small town is unloading his cart. i recognize him but don't feel there is any way he might recognize me. years ago i saw him in a play and he struck me as so unusual. he certainly did not strike me as an actor. he wears blue mechanics clothes. he keeps his faux leather glasses case clipped into his front shirt pocket. i think he is a farmer. to even further his strangeness (people willing and wanting to be on a stage seem strange to me, especially in this rural town environment), is the fact that he comes across as perhaps being simple minded, or maybe even clinically other. and yet there he was on stage, his lines (more or less) memorized, taking such a beautiful risk.

he looks up at me and in what is a bit of a goofy voice says startled of what he deploys onto the check-out conveyor belt, holyheck, how did all this healthy food get into my cart?

i laugh and say, it's not too late. quick! behind you! throw some chocolate bars on there!

he unloads about ten cans of pineapple. i have two in my cart. they were on sale. and strangely for me, someone who doesn't usually eat pineapple, i craved it a couple days ago. he tells me that he likes to eat pineapple and cottage cheese in the evening as a snack. i say, well, now, that's a whole bunch of evenings you've got there.

the cashier asks if he brought bags today. he answers yes.

then he waits for it.

she asks, do you want to pass them here and i'll fill them for you?

no, he says, good naturedly. (he had been hoping she would ask him.)

as he's handing her the bags to fill he leans toward me and says, i like to give them a hard time, you know.

she's laughing a bit of a perfunctory laugh. i'm laughing a lot. he's delighted.

she asks for his money. he pulls out a hundred dollar bill and smooths it out, says he just made it last night.

i have heard this joke a thousand thousand times. i know men like this. usually men. and i love them. all they want is to make someone laugh, to be harmless in the world.

i guess the other folks are gone now, the ones who were so upset about waiting. i don't know. i don't hear them complain any more.

it's my turn now at cash. the cashier with the short red hair is very quick. i'm bagging my items trying to match her speed. i lean in to her to tell her something, but as i do a neighbouring cashier asks her a question and my words go unheard. i am saying, isn't it wonderful, people like this who want, more than anything, to make others laugh.


the ever important speech "This is Water" by David Foster Wallace

"How to keep from going through your comfortable, prosperous, respectable, adult life dead, unconscious, a slave to your head and to your natural default setting of being uniquely, completely, imperially alone, day in and day out."

War Industries Enlist American Children, 1944

WANTED: Silk for War (children!) - Armed!
Boy scouts, Girl scouts, 4-H club leaders: agents.
Soldiers, marines, amphibious warfare, danger, death...up to the boys and girls.
Any which fall, retie and shake.
(Elusive substance...tenaciously lose moisture, shrivel.)
Seed all children! Urged - notes on locations!
Fall the natural two million, annually.


this is a found poem from a 1944 article in The Erie County Independence
"Lactuca Pickers Wanted: Silk is Needed for War". title taken from associated
article in the Washington Post, September 25, 2012, "Milkweed fruits: Pods of Plenty".

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

the lost wild gentle thing

it is seven years ago.
we are leaving the fair.
my son is sad 
because something 
is being left behind.

it is not the fair.

seven years later,
the pinwheels long stuck
and the cotton candy 
as brittle and forgotten
as last year's 
milkweed pods,

both our childhoods 
continuously flossing out
and raking through the air,
filling our eyes with a sting 
that disorients, burns,


Milkweed by James Wright from The Branch Will Not Break

While I stood here, in the open, lost in myself,
I must have looked a long time
Down the corn rows, beyond grass,
The small house,
White walls, animals lumbering toward the barn.
I look down now. It is all changed.
Whatever it was I lost, whatever I wept for
Was a wild, gentle thing, the small dark eyes
Loving me in secret.
It is here. At a touch of my hand,
The air fills with delicate creatures
From the other world.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

undressing the cave

the russian guy 
gives me five dollars;
tells me he wants to undress me
i don't know what this means, 
but i believe him;
his gold eyes glitter.

my husband 
gives me no money
but wants to, he says, 
undress me
a thousand times,
our saliva quickening together,

my fingers 
blindly undo themselves
to bloody ribbons 
as i work the knots
to the accoutrements 
of the four letters
which bind my name.

what's your name! the russian chokes.

the mortal creatures

all villagers 
thought my mother wicked,
her algae covered speckled eyes 
betraying her origin,
the vacillating viscous heights
of the coruscating lights
of aurora borealis, 
her look - at them, 
awry, askance, askew,
simply being, breathing,
stirring the pot 
of bitter order.
when it was time
she dragged herself 
like a bitch with broken legs
out back
under the boscage,
an estral trickling
ludicrously unscented 
dappling nest and annex.
did she understand 
what was happening?
beyond theory 
does the drum 
have intimate knowledge 
of pulsars?
so yes, she did.
she grit the runes in her mouth
allowing black pluto 
to pass 
like a solid shadow
through her silvery orbit,
the strange mask of sequence
casting her dizzy
against raw-maw fact,
dice to infinitude.
she shed me and shivered,
planted me to loess.

i, terrible creature,
come, dare
insert your finger.
i, star to shelf of earth,
home in this homely body 
know thyself.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

under the influence of french poetry and wine

in order to see the sun, 
the real sun, 
i lift my leg 
and let my red dress 
fall to the ground 
like a feather.

in order to see the moon,
the real moon,
i pry open my chest,
lift my ribs
and like a bird from its cage,
let my heart fly.

in order to see myself
i step outside myself,
the red dress
now a corona
embracing the white moon,
a bird with a frightened heart.

(the influence of french poetry)

a departure, in Reisterdam

he was mad. dog mad. red in the face. he stood there fuming from his creases, pants, shirt, hands, face, breathing hot. it made her sweat to see him. and she wanted to say. she wanted to say the thousand things that stood on the other side of them, just as real as the thousand that stood beside him. one, the wild flowers. two, their favorite song. three, her hands smoothing his planes, trusted. four, his fingers, his tongue, his manhood, a flame inside her. all those things. including forty-four, their dog, dead. six-ninety-seven, the movement of the moored boat. nine-twenty, his mother's eyes, dry like almonds. there were a thousand things any woman could say. a thousand more in particular if she thought harder.

ten true things she should never utter.

ten more lies.

he breathed his nostrils even wider. hate pumped his brain full, unctuous.

but did his cagey eyes search for something else?

she sat on the couch, a room away, looking at him through the doorway.

she was eleven birds being wrung by their necks.

his shoulder unhinged, hinged, with the force of his opening the front door.

he hesitated there in the dusty daylight.

could she not manage one thing, rightly or wrongly? could she not utter any one thing to be acted against?

her first self gripped the throat of her second and strangled her intentions into further silence. not even her eyes would belie her inner torment. she looked just like a lady neatly gathered on a couch.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

success to the failing novice

This was the character and this the unswerving creed of austere Cato: to observe moderation, to hold to the goal, to follow nature, to devote his life to his country, to believe that he was born not for himself but for all the world. In his eyes to conquer hunger was a feast, to ward off winter with a roof was a mighty palace, and to draw across his limbs the rough toga in the manner of the Roman citizen of old was a precious robe, and the greatest value of Venus was offspring …   Lucan

I'm at cash, not customer but cashier, practicing to be a human being
(thank you Marcus Aurelius, Meditations, 5.1),
exercising belief in what my good Buddhist friend explained 
(is he Buddhist? does it matter?),
"To have a stomach that rumbles, and work to do. 
And when all work is done, and nothing remains but the quiet hum of sleep, 
                           we are also blessed."
Trying to cut myself through the thin metal shell of needing,
to the wide inseptisol pasture of having - just enough.
There are four main concepts in Hinduism, 
                          Dharma being one of them.
People like Carruth had this difficulty, how to eat the moon
and have enough pebbles remaining to pay for heating.
We all have this problem, maintenance of these storage sheds,
these party favors, these blessed modes of locomotion.
I pay half my income, as perhaps you do, to maintain my car.
I need it to get to, to travel far to 
(doesn't this seem ironic or counter productive?),
                            this place of employment. 
Half my income for one machine;
the other half for the bodies and souls of everyone I love.

A mama swan comes in with her brood, three little ducklings.
They're in training to become professionals, cross species.
They waddle along behind her as she peruses all the pebbles
that have been shined and honed and manipulated 
into seductive and startling patterns, shit-chic,
and placed onto the shelves with their pretty life affirming labels. 

/insert function of the body here - unfortunate, does not compute -
they'll waddle down the hall to exert flesh to flush 
and return to non-nonchalantly exchange tokens for tokens/

While she pays, each young child, perhaps two, three and four, 
equipped with little blue plastic holsters on their ears 
(toy Bluetooth), is gesticulating like a tiny stockbroker
and speaking invisibly with authority into the air.
They are speaking directly to their mighty futures.
They're cute but I feel queasy;
                                     something somewhere's not quite balanced.
Their sweet disarming child-fat hands coil and wring, imploringly, nothing, 
while their mouths ghost words, in convincing charade.

I must apologize to my children for their lack of preparation -
just last week we sought out miniature cacti; repotted them, hands dirtied.
They are home now stringing themselves through the web of time
like spiders, waiting and waiting for their plants to become 
dry enough to water them again. 
                                     Just a little. Not too much.

Thursday, April 2, 2015


it's spring and the lilacs will bloom. and the rains will come and the wind and the heat, and dash them.
it's all an opening up into opportunity for beauty and ruin.

spring, and the calves are being born. they'll kick and jump and frolic like nursery rhymes on hillsides 
and we'll laugh again like we did before.

she's fourteen. she's sad. she asks me why she's trapped in her attitude. yesterday, having watched a cow calve, she asked if it hurt, not to deliver, but to be pregnant, hurt hurt, real hurt.

it hurts, my love. hurt hurts.  hurts then. hurts now. hurts after.
i prepare a pitcher of water for flowers.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015


morning, and it is time to speak the poem again

the tongue presses words like the joist is struck severely through to darkness

hammers and nails are religious 

and religiousness is sexual

my spirit yearns to be fucked, yearns for the structure to be struck  hard—

i part the curtains and light spills forward in through the opening like a man walking

the light is water on my tongue

 the man walking toward me is now a body of darkness

i open my mouth and say to him—

learning to be quiet

towns are littered with bodies
and bodies are littered with minds

when i go walking in life
it is as though through a dump

in india prayer flags are tied
by the hands of individuals

it's said that they
litter the countryside

but wind knows best
rain  sun -

words scourged
by elements

lungta snap like whips -
never rattle.