DISTRACTION[S]

  1. Finish planting the variegated sage, Russian and blue kales, and leaf lettuces of chartreuse, butter crunch, and red-green Matisse cut-out, small oak hands. If too tired, at least free the snarled roots from black-plastic squares.
  2. Junk drawer number one. Dump contents. Separate coins from paperclips from pens. Look for stray buttons, the bottle opener.
  3. Call your mother. Hope to hear your deceased father’s recorded voice.
  4. Coax the dog, apprehensive of storm, outside by announcing “CAR”—and walk him briskly in the steady, light rain–to the field. Crane the neck back slowly to confirm hypothesized dearth of star.
  5. Peel and chop the fresh ginger from the inner-city market. Don’t think about the altercation. Boil. Drink from the French bowl-mug, blue hands wrapped around it and warmed—in the largest chair of the House—knowing the hot broth tastes a million times better than the boiled slime of flax seed your father had to drink for his stomach all those years ago. HE never complained.
  6. Sock puppet number seven. Choose large black buttons from the bequeathed tin. Sew them on the stranded fleece lavender sock–a bit crooked. The children will like that.
  7. Soak in baking soda in the bath for the reoccurring rash. Then add lavender oil. Then slip under, hold your breath, hair free seaweed. Yes, pretend the sea. Pretend everything.
  8. Find the worn cardboard box of photographs in your study—fifty years heaped into random piles. Look once more for the new album.  The one you bought after the one you tore apart for the oleaginous, retro photograph paper.  Make a note to find the hinges.
  9. Junk drawer number two. Separate the take-out menus from tape measures, tools. Candles from playing cards. Return the stray nails back to the flipped over plastic divider. Look for the pipe cleaners. Remember you need to buy some bright-colored ones for new sock puppets.
  10. Don’t call your mother. Imagine what she would retort.
  11. Read a few more short sections from where you left off in Italo Calvino’s INVISIBLE CITIES—or the next handful of pages in THE FIVE PEOPLE YOU MEET IN HEAVEN. Try to make it to the end of the second person before sleep takes you.
  12. Sock puppet number eight. Fashion round eye glasses from the largest buttons you can uncover from the antique tin with a woman in yellow reading on its lid, the one your mother knew you would like. Cut hair from the tan yarn from your mother’s mother whom you couldn’t tell you didn’t, at that time, knit. Attach glasses and long yarn-hair on the solo light pink, cabled sock–with school glue purchased yesterday to fasten the two broken clay pots. Congratulate on the great job you did gluing the square terra cotta one that cracked in half under the snow. Cut yourself some slack for not bringing it into the garage (there was no room, remind yourself) or the cellar as it gets heavier by the month. Yes, a nice job with the level-two plan of new KRAZY GLUE and filler of potting soil. It’s now pink and white like the favorite, old brick house in the Historical District. And how fitting—it looks Italian with its weathering and patina sheen.
  13. Read a little Rilke, play a few Bach Suites, read a little Rumi, play a bit of Chopin—the Noturne pieces, read a bit of Tagore, play a bit of Satie until it has become too sad, read a bit of Virginia Woolf. THE WAVES or TO THE LIGHTHOUSE. Flip a coin. Let fate decide Everything.

 

 

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DIRECTION[S] – 2

Don’t touch pigeon feathers either. Like the feathers you wanted for bookmarks from the over-sized pigeons on Hayden Avenue that lurked atop the fourth-floor Victorian peaks. The ones that fascinated you despite the three-inch nails your father implemented, sticking straight up, to send them away–that didn’t deter. The gray and blue dusty birds you watched for hours—there in your pre-school childhood–where you hide.

Don’t look for long silver hair to excommunicate from the village of brown, red and blonde long hair—finally sun-kissed. Well, maybe five to ten strands per day, so you have that sense of accomplishment of doing something– and in this case, uprooting old age and death. You know the strands will resurface in the same spot like tenacious silver-green weeds in the garden. That sea grass that cost so much money you purchased to line the patio crab-bisque color pavers– but jumps underground through the cracks and sends shoots also through your embarrassment of lawn. Keep resisting the neighborhood pressure to use chemicals and don’t look across the street at the neighbor’s emerald sea of golf-quality, expensive variety that chokes out the dandelions, clover, violets, buttercups, and more.

Carry the sea from Saturday, from last year, five summers ago, twenty, thirty, forty-five–from kindergarten (even though sea glass sliced your left pinky toe—but your father carried you on his shoulders that whole week (so your stitches wouldn’t get wet) to and from the blanket on the sand where he sat with you). Yes, carry the sea, the shoreline, the energy of the little-legged wind plovers, the washed up dead spider crabs that you reassembled like a bizarre puzzle that will have pieces missing–bleached corners of worn away clam and oyster shells, mermaid purses, razor shells that look like fragile, long angel wings or the still-hinged blue wings of mussels that have shed their home. Remember what he wrote in the sand for you, the one who loves you so perfectly—before high tide took everything.

Forgive yourself. For shunning the cubicle, the annual six figures that don’t ca-ching in your bank account. For sensing the sadness behind your  father’s suits and ties that he wore for thirty-eight years. For jettisoning his actuarial plans for you. Yes, forgive yourself. For the children you don’t have. For your impatience with your elderly mother. Your cultural fatigue, chronic spiritual malaise, social ennui. The unfinished book that grew and grew larger than your shadow. You swam two thirds to the island, he said. Why would you turn back? All of it, forget.

Differentiate the dead from the living. Gardening, dreaming, and such. Keep hearing, however– the voice, accent, tone and words of your deceased father, all the lost bits of wisdom, metaphors—his drop-everything-else happiness when he heard you on the other end of the phone. Listen to his voice in the future– from so far away– where you miss the necessary ablation. The wound you try not to pick. That the dog licks as he is drawn to the chronic avalanche inside.

Don’t go to the store for cigarettes in your water-logged, black velvet slippers with the faux jewels that make you happy. The neighbors are whispering behind their curtains. Don’t metaphorically slap the others in the face, nor you—the hardest of all.

Don’t imagine yourself crippled, riddled with cities of lost tissue, lost immunity, thinning bones, swelling kidneys and heart. Nor should you imagine being wheeled out to finally see the sea again. Being carried when you want to walk in lost solitude. That the car and you will blow up when you pump gas. That the vehicle following too close behind you will send you through the windshield. That the fall will render you useless. Radical acceptance–of only some of it, you are told. Accept the entropy, the dilapidating House, and the tiredness that brings the rest in nesting Chinese Boxes of lost imaginings.

Let the sudden fireflies of this June find you at night when you are stalking the ghosts in the house at the cellar windows—their tiny, phosphorescent, blinking green lights. Go, go, you must–through all the traffic lights you have created.

Don’t forget to water the plants from your deceased aunt—the anemones that have spread so nicely around the lamppost, the tiger lilies that shrink their petals back at night, the gray-silver-blue ornamental  grass that reseeds itself in a circle around the trunk left from the fifty-year-plus crab apple tree your father paid to cut down–the peach tree an unknown resident bird of your woods has delivered.

Remember how your mother’s father loved to wander in the over-sized yard of the house on Hayden Avenue (since he and your grandmother never owned a house), tending to the tomatoes with his wizened, shaking hands—his old black studebaker parked for two weeks every summer in the long driveway the entire family had to shovel–to the garage and its chicken coops, club house, and loft for drying harvest.

You must keep focus on what will really matter. That one Book you are writing. Don’t be bitter—hide, delete, erase too much. You must love  the sequence[s] themselves, Rilkean lists of unanswerable questions. The rooms  perpetually opening where you are.

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DIRECTION[S]

Don’t touch owl feathers because owls are dirty and you may end up with more diseases—and you have more than your share already.

Similarly, do not touch the dead squirrel in front of the house, What you first thought was a fluffy kitten because it wasn’t flattened at all.

Don’t tell the old man across the street of the fresh death. Hope that when you are out at the store, someone other than the old man removes the intact carcass.

Try to talk more slowly. People are afraid—that the glass chariot you have shifted to fifth gear on all cylinders will crash into the sun—and the shards will hurt them—before the glass melts back into sand.

Don’t lose sight of the horizon when you spin like a dancer you are too old to become.

But you must do something—move beneath the sky in time that closes in on you.

Don’t lose your temper as it will boomerang back to you, finding you alone under the arches of forest trees where you trace with your finger thin ribbons of light and river.

Stay calm when your shadow takes over you when you are walking the dog.

Do your best not to talk back to your elderly mother. Remind yourself how lucky you are she is still here and in her house, pulling out the weeds down the hill even though you tell her to wait for you.

Remember how she stroked your hair while you slept in the car and woke still in childhood.

Continue to communicate with the ghosts in the cellar. They have missed you of late.

Refrain from testing people if you no longer want them to disappoint you. Instead, test yourself but grade with a sliding scale when you leave a wake of small failures. Cut yourself some slack as you do for any other.

Do not expose your Achilles heel to any potential enemies.

Break apart the amalgamation of objects in the house, their papers, the dust, your worry—without throwing too much away. Recycle your beliefs in kindness.

Stop collecting useless souvenirs along with your grievances—those pillows and sad stuffed animals on your bed where you burrow.

Don’t underestimate the power of love—the small packages in the mail. The folded up letters written still in cursive, sewn with silver thread.

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E C H O E S 2

A: Who is in Charge of this Awkward Dance

of Broken Particular(s)? Admittedly, I am

Not Skilled at Following Leads, Reading

Directions. I Bore Easily, the Mind Wan-

ders with the Lost Violin off the Page

the Musical Score set on Fire. Absence

Distracts. Not Skilled at Waiting for What

Really? What do you have to Say for your-

self @this Juncture of Jumpy Birds?

 

 

Z: [No Answer].

 

 

A: Emptiness Echoes. I Throw flesh-color Rocks

At the Abyss. Too Tired too Stymied

to Know How Else to Fill Hours that Gather Dread.

What Matter – what Matters Here?

Silence Echoes.

 

A:  Such Bitter Cold, the Cage of Bones Rattling at the Fire where I have Destroyed all Letters but Yours: Z. Somewhere you Hold me in Blank Sleep, for my Dreams have Nowhere to Settle. Empty Sheets (my bed my paper), Sheets of Ice too Thin to Hold, the Fish underneath watching us. You, the Keeper of my Dark Fractions, Broken Poetry & Music that Hurts sometimes, You Keep me this Bitter Winter, but I am Afraid of what We Have Become.

 

Z:   What We Have Become. The Last Word.

Working working sleeping dreaming leaving

Dreaming sleeping working working leaving

Not sleeping not working breathing brushing

The horses, the horsehair brushes, the hair from

Your tired stone eyes. Tracing pushing out

their Worry Lines with calloused fingers love.

The ducks have Flown from my Hands love.

Didn’t They Find You?

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E C H O E S

A:   I Don’t Understand What you are Trying to Prove.

Z:   That I have – Nothing – to Prove.

 

A:   This Path is a Shadow.

Z:   Yes, This I know.

 

A:   Do not Follow the Other(s). Let x Come.

Z:   Yes, Right Angles, Perpendicular, Vertical Angels. We

are to be Adored.

 

A:   I am Waiting for the Path of X to my Frozen Window.

The Equipage Shadows Startle Me.

 

Z:   Yes, for it is Winter & your Bones are Colder

than Cold. I know This & many Other

Subjective Facts about You.

 

Z:    You Spill the Air. Your nerves aswim that sage sea,

They Spill You / Everything.

 

A:   Until I am Nothing. The canvas consciousness

A map to tomorrow next month next year

Confused as to where what I have become

Nothing again. My love.

 

Z:   Those pills for sleep, I am Sorry to Say

Made you different. Sometimes You Are

More Here. Others Further Away.

Your odd Marble eyes Liquid then Stone.

I only Recognize Fractions.

 

A:   They made me itch, sweat, fatten, lie

About Happiness. Yes, I am Fractional,

Darling. My Mobius equation will Sing

Atonal Cacophony. I am Bleeding

Like You. Like Everyone Else. Take my Cello

& fix the wingfray of my Nerves. Stay with Me

Without Dream. I know. It is not Fair of me

to Ask.

 

 

A:   I am Watching You as a Boy hiding in your fort

under the dining room table at your grandparents

Watching Everything.  Yes, it is a type of Time

Travel.  You, my Boy of Twilight Swans. Even

Then.

 

Z:    I cannot Speak. My Words are Stuck

In a Gold Painting where a Beautiful Woman

Weeps Golden Tears.

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SKIPPING STONES

  1. It was the sea rushing at our ankles that was cold; our feet, hands, and fingers that would turn blue. But I wasn’t really cold, just cautious—throwing one equation after another.
  2. The Stones I chose all multi-colored—secrets to expose, complex. I had to throw them alone, cutting the planes of winter. Shearing the ice.
  3. I wanted you to know the Book I am writing. It is done but not finished. It beckons anew. Over and over again. It finds me.
  4. And that truly insane person does not recognize her insanity. I have seen her at the door clutching pigeons. She does not know, unlike me– she is afraid.
  5. I find these like so many other things, the shells and sea glass from the cold sand with their sharp edges – comforting. How odd.
  6. Things are evening out even as we speak. We are speaking of evening things out. Our eyes are speaking.
  7. I am afraid of only some of the uncertainties. There is space to fill with song.
  8. The cello strings shall be pulled taught and the horsehair of her bow waxed with renewed purpose. One does not forget how to bow—though the hands may, upon initial contact, tremble.
  9. The birds shift, flit, twitch, flutter, coo, complain until the bread hits the snow.
  10. The Book burns with a light that pierces at first and then quells into a safe halo-ing. When I close my eyes, the letters become birds.
  11. [I want you to know].
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RITUALS

I am swimming swimming swimming finally finally really swimming
tourmaline aquamarine teal peacock emerald sage air underneath the air
the lungs take hold of their own dust the dust of the House dust of mice in the cellar
dust of listening dust of being worried dust on all the things I am moving around
the House to find its order a working moving order a flux no dust underneath water
tourmaline green peacock blue sage silver emerald ink spill billow arm after
arm cupping water cupping what I think I know but know I don’t know really
arm pistoling moving carrying cupping the surface cupping emeralds diamonds pearls
arm after arm second hand on all my broken clocks disappearing into green veridian ink
swimming moving moving flowing swimming floating through tomorrow somehow
finally finally moving flowing throwing arms looking up to the forgotten surface sun
Plato-light through dark oily cul-de-sac nights of fractured lights thrown broken teeth
in my swollen cut up hands trailing pink in the tourmaline water ink
from breaking my own reflections with obstinacy my own teeth crumbled my own
lung dust trailing fingers pink swirls in the water mirror dust of teeth
in charcoal velvet tied with silk silver cord to carry into a different dream
make a necklace a prayer box my lucky rabbit foot my ladder of sorrow
my rosary of stones from the seventh sea my worry beads
my voodoo dolls their houses of worship in one-inch scale their books of science
their tiny mirths, one inch musical scores of dirges for drowned fishermen
too proud of their own lack of catch their wives long hair a nest in their beds of winter
ice sawed in circles to sit in sun of Artic ice for salmon perch mackerel herring sardine
I am swimming swimming swimming moving finally in time though the arms of the clock
flow in a motion blur lining up all my ducks in a row before sleep does not come
to greet the windows that I broke by mistake because I could not find anyone to listen
to the snow hush of my lost song from childhood that I left back in the wrong street
listening to frost the cold slush wind chill out of control the car the pull of one wheel
to the gulley the gap the contrail willowing cloud pillow above while I am swimming
lining all my golden ducks in a row for tomorrow one duck two duck three four ducks seven twelve fourteen thirty-seven, duck A, duck B, duck D, Z, 7, duck of E Minor A Minor
D Minor B flat a line of tiny new ducks shimmering gold in the tourmaline swimming swimming finally really moving in space though no one sees me I pretend to see myself
for a second then another then before tomorrow arm upon arm elbow bent for proper form to cut the water momentum so fluid the song I am lost in twenty-eight years ago
a tiny marble eye an evil eye from Istanbul from my professor who gave me maps of travel
a cup of sea water a residue of dust of salt a film on consciousness I could not pull off
putting my golden lost ducks in a row to flow one after another an army line at the cusp
swimming moving flowing finally skimming the surface of sleep
and not my endless thought.

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SEA HYMN

The sea sings a hymn of time

Wave after wave follows the shore

Holds the shipwreck by the spine

 

Splinters every door to unwind

The most tautly strung, forlorn.

As the sea sings hymns, time

 

Washes eyes that can’t find

The horizon anymore

Holds the shipwreck’s spine

 

A shelter for fish gone blind

Grazing the dark sea floor.

The sea sings hymns in time

 

For the fishermen waiting to find

The hidden rusted door

Holding the shipwreck by the spine

 

They beg for the strength to climb

From September’s  final storm

The sea singing its hymn Time

Holding the shipwreck by the spine.

 

 

 

 

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THE TEMPLE

How shall I know when I have arrived

worthy enough and on time?

The stones to the altar

almost impossible to climb.

When the white ibis slams the cliff

her velvet wings disappear.

The pages of the book in hand

origami themselves into mini-ibises

that carry the wind like kites.

When I jettison “betrayal” and “lost”

With new knowledge in hand

I swear I’ll be more kind.

Their words will no longer burn

my fingers and eyes.

I shall compose a rationale to explain

how the poem should spill its odd music.

Sing with broken syllables

In praise of a different divine.

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CHANNELS

I left the composition books in the bath I mean the ocean today the pond last year the stream that carried the blurry mess of me through stones. Did you read me or by the time you arrived to the bed of the stream, the pages had become pulp? You can tell me. I saw you.

Before there was a distortion of sound across the water the wind of course under the water distortions still further under and within. Seaweed slime and the muting of voices from the shore. The lonely elderly woman telling her life story coming alive again to listening strangers the rescue divers carrying out emergency drills later asking her if she knew where she lived.

I texted but dropped my phone in the bath I mean the ocean the storm drain the channel of water I was hydroplaning before the car spun out of control and down into the rapids and all our communication was lost because the screen was cracked and none of the windows unrolled.

There were three of them:  low medium and high. Three I’s. The past the present the future. Three polyphoning into 3,000 Persian birds in that ancient scripture. The swoosh of their feathers when one glances up the blur of white feather. A sculpture in movement, gone.

Four seasons kept him. The 4-square of his childhood down the road. A symmetry folded in half twice, the cocktail napkin shredded by the dog that has different barks to alert him of his past creeping back to hurt him. He would eventually find the dial for the volume that had been missing for years phew. Sound again. The soundtrack to the backdrop inside. He became music he became you again.

The menu had too many choices too many pages too many tabs too many frequencies too many email addresses thousands of unopened spam. And yes I hear clunking in the cellar radio waves through the toilet you know they are listening humming at the edge of the driveway in my water-logged slippers waiting for the boy across the street to look out behind the curtains from his wheelchair and smile at me think nothing of my unwashed hair an iteration of you again.

We meet in an undisclosed location off the grid without our bogus GPSs at the border of two states of being a thousand channels multiple chapter headings with links to now not now a decade ago five years from now our lost brothers the children we never had the wars we started between us and the wars beyond us that we like the rest of the world  we would ignore.

We lie entwined on the floor of someone else’s boat anchored at the harbor of our imperfections on different pages blurred by the rain we drink with our parched mouths open.

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