MEASURING WINTER /e

 

  1. Today’s topic is entropy; the rotting side of the garage exterior wall that will cost $950 to rip out and install new cedar shingles, according to the contractor whom you fear ripped you off on the work done on the House the summer before last. [And the friend who painted the other side of the house you had to unfriend in the physical and cyber world.] No invoice; no straightening of the slats at the apex, small attic, as promised. When you remember to call him about the slats, you’ll get the answering machine, and it will take weeks for him to get back to you for a job for which you already paid.

 

  1. The temperature has dropped, freezing rain throughout the night—and the driveway, a sheet of ice without enough salt to melt it.

 

  1. A wise decision to call out from the half-day at the day job vs. risking your safety, and aging on the treacherous drive there and back. Just you and the dog and cat in the living room with the Christmas tree adorned with the extra sets of lights and more ornaments than you thought you’d have the energy to hang on the hooks that always get tangled somehow while in storage in the cellar.

 

  1. With the cold, your hands are not cooperating, so you’ve turned the heat up now that the oil has been delivered; the worker traipsing through the snow with rubber boots up to his knees. You watched him surreptitiously through the gauze curtain, thinking he has on his ice fishing gear.

 

  1. Sickness has settled in again, and there doesn’t seem to be enough ginger ale on the closest drug store’s shelves since it’s fortuitously on sale this week. The lemon hard candy helps though.

 

  1. What if I’m dying?, you ask yourself—before the inevitable answer, we’re all dying.

 

  1. The living will presented to you by the kind technician in the too-small, ever-shrinking examination room at the doctor’s four days ago is probably protocol for any adult, no? And then the awkward conversation with your next of kin about the decisions you made and his name and cell phone number on the form.

 

  1. The day seems stuck again in the cogwheels of late afternoon. It’s time for a new distraction since sleep didn’t come as beseeched when you went to lie down with the dog in the still-fresh bedding. Kicking him out of the bedroom every morning to make the bed properly has eliminated the prevalence of his fur.

 

  1. The disgruntled cat does not like any other wet food except Friskees but not any of the patés, which you have to admit looks like shit coagulated in a can. Luckily, you had the foresight to buy her small tins of sardines; their eyes staring up at you from the dead.

 

  1. The Christmas cards are almost ready to travel to the post office, replete with cheerful stickers of silver-glitter snowflakes and absurd dogs in Santa hats and stockings riding in wheelbarrows.

 

  1. There have been more deaths; some unexpected and some, the cause of old age. The manuscripts that need to be finished seem to burn in your hands that ache from wrapping all the small Christmas presents, early this year though you may still add some more ribbons, bows, and other ornamental flares.

 

  1. Not everything is art, but it all should be, you muse—even entropy.

 

 

 

 

 

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MEASURING WINTER /i

  1. I am losing things. My ducks are not in a row; they have gone rogue at twilight while I was watching mindless TV instead of the world news, unable to bear today’s tragedies.

 

  1. I am losing my ideas and such. They wander off the rail, into the embankment of last night’s deadly car crash, off the grid. I’m looking for them in the dumpster behind my favorite restaurant I can no longer afford, in the swamp behind your house with my industrial-sized flashlight, but the batteries are dying, and I’m not sure how many flickers of light are left.

 

  1. I lost the velvet emerald dress for the holiday party this weekend that I bought matching shoes for, the long coat that would be warm enough for the cold weather predicted. I’m stuck in the labyrinth of my own making again; on my hands and knees, reaching for the words that fall endlessly through the gaps of synapses, memory.

 

  1. My failures with syntax glare at the periphery of day shifting, winding down without me, perpendicular lines, or beautiful symmetry.

 

  1. Do the math, I tell myself, enumerate the missing and dead with stick figures in the cave of the self. Measure winter appropriately with the rusted ruler, the distance from— [your disappearing House, all the lies I told].

 

  1. The river between our delipidated houses is overflowing now the December night has gone oddly warm, and the blue snow beneath the streetlights melts. A Siberian land of ice chunks, floes; the cracking ice moans, an old woman who has lost her own visage in her broken compact mirror, echoes out above the evening traffic, hovering.

 

  1. We should walk together out of this melting ice land, holding hands until we reach the southern border, but we mustn’t speak of any of this.

 

  1. When you find the rust-orange leather glove and the moonstone earring I lost that day you kissed me languidly last week when the river was frozen, that day we knew our equation would not be a summation, but rather a subtraction, please package them in tissue and leave in my mailbox that the plow knocked down again three long days ago. You’ve become part of the negative space where I live huddled with blankets and an odd assortment of talismans to protect me from what is to come.

 

  1. I know you are pacing along the river on your side of things, flicking daylight through test tubes, picking apart the malfunctioning parts of the machine, pulling out your silver hair—all for the sake of some shabby catharsis, a fabricated antidote. You’re predictable that way; trying to pass the night with a steadying branch over the newest abyss.

 

  1. The clock seems stuck, but it has been wound and cooed to. It’s funny how some days stretch larger than one’s imagination can.

 

  1. The rooster windchime outside my bedroom window is clanging away the night even though the clock is slow to move, and all the devices seem frozen on 9:11 PM.

 

  1. When you finally find this, I’ll be gone again, back into the corner of our dark game, stitching my nefarious seeds into stone, your collar bone. You mustn’t panic or tell the others. None of them should know.
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MEASURING WINTER /d

  1. Waking to winter snow often requires every iota of energy; your favorite bathrobe on the door, a continent away.

 

  1. The Ghosts of the House gathered around you in your sleep last night, you’re quite sure, in communal whisper, hushing it was all going to be okay from the ceiling. Heat rises and they, too, without flesh around attenuated bones, are cold.

 

  1. The House has gone very cold overnight; a hundred gallons of heating oil was not delivered yesterday, as scheduled. Call when the office opens; light the fire with the latest stack of discarded drafts for the two hours before you need to alight in the metal-box chariot for the day job.

 

  1. Stalk with your stronger eye the rising winter light above the pines when you take the dog out after your first cup of coffee. Note the iridescent glistening at the edges of branches from yesterday’s new snow and the forecast for rain. If you don’t don your hooded winter coat, an umbrella in order.

 

  1. Write a note to stop at the post office for Christmas stamps for the cards you are definitely going to send out this year and mail the two parcels of books to Pennsylvania and Kentucky.

 

  1. A hot shower with the bathroom door closed will loosen the stiffness in your neck, back, and knees from sleep. If you open the drawer to the vanity next to the door, the cat will not intrude successfully, dispersing the steam.

 

  1. Don’t obsess about the medical test results in yesterday’s mail atop the kitchen counter where you left it for future worry. Press delay.

 

  1. Driving on the roads winding through the proliferating snow-laced trees, lean into the road and don’t panic about the eighteen-wheeler to your right amidst the relentless rain; take heed of what the Ghosts proclaimed. Pray the rain doesn’t wash away all the snow from last week, so there may be a white Christmas in Connecticut.

 

  1. Remind yourself that it is, as the calendar indicated before you left the House, Friday, and nothing will change that. Friday the 13th, but you don’t believe that the Gemini full moon will impact that number. It’s just a human construct, the dates, the time, to make it all manageable, compartmentalize infinity, no?

 

  1. The blank canvas of the weekend looms out the dashboard window, out into the skies blanketed with clouds of milk that has turned gray, past its date of recommended purchase.

 

  1. Visit the pawn shop tomorrow to see if the small cello for sixty dollars has been sold.

 

  1. Don’t miss exit 8 on the highway like you did yesterday. Pay attention; it all goes on without _____. [you].
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MEASURING WINTER /f

  1. The looming white winter landscape—blurred by dream. The fog is still with us.

 

  1. Thirty-six hours of rain have washed away six inches of snow; now water dripping from the gutters that weren’t cleaned yet of fallen, pale brown autumn leaves. You worry about potential ice build-up in the Arctic days to come and jot down a reminder on the chartreuse post-it notes to text the family landscape guy, who has become an odd friend.

 

  1. The pines, colossal sentinels against the obscured sky, lack any discernible symmetry; their hawk, invisible, cawing into Tuesday.

 

  1. Buddha, in the blue light, motionless; still up to his chest in snow in what is left of the winter garden: truncated rose of Sharon and butterfly bushes that preened fuchsia, lavender, and dusty pink origamied petals just six weeks ago; the errant sweet pea at a standstill high up your privacy wall.

 

  1. Four pieces of mail: two bills, a credit card application that you won’t qualify for, and an advertisement for solar panels on the house you somehow afford; no Christmas cards yet.

 

  1. The white plastic bird bath [the ceramic salmon-colored one that cracked last year, finally thrown away] held down by a stone removed years ago from the sea you didn’t manage to visit the past two summers. Sigh.

 

  1. You find the tape measure in the broken drawer of the chest in the garage and measure the distance on the wall map to New Zealand’s White Island where yesterday a volcano erupted in a tourist location—6 confirmed dead, 8 missing and presumed dead, over 30 hurt. 17.5 wooden inches; 8,750 miles; according to a later Google search, 8,783. You’ll measure again tomorrow in morning’s light through the garage windows.

 

  1. Death causes you to remember the news anchorwoman who delivered the local news on Friday during supper like she did for 33 years and didn’t wake up on Saturday.

 

  1. The new fleece-lined slippers are still magical and warm; you’ve properly refrained from wearing them to walk the dog across the street to the empty lot where he likes to go after meals. A pat on the back in order, a hot chocolate with a heaping fist of baby marshmallows; tiny faces afloat in the froth.

 

  1. Side B begins [the day job over] on the couch under the picture window that frames the still-dense fog just as the towering streetlights flick on. No YouTube, just rain.

 

  1. Dinner can be fetched from the freezer [or maybe New England Clam Chowder from a can since there is milk in the house] and eaten at the counter like a horse; no one has to know you live this way—the floors without sweeping; the scattered rugs collecting particles you don’t usually notice; dust bunnies, and more dust; last month’s mail, too many notebooks to count though you’re tempted.

 

  1. Then the dream from the morning fills you again—lost inside the moon, a cocoon of milkweed-silk-sadness wrapped in light; looking for your father, the one who sent you there.
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MEASURING WINTER /c

  1. Take the last train before quick nightfall out of the city you love, where someone you’d been trying to remember all day once loved you.

 

  1. Secure a window seat [and one not going backwards], so the frozen lights of towns from there to here, to where? to home can find you—huddled by the Christmas gifts, nodding off, remembering all the lovely strings of words the beloved gave you too many lifetimes ago.

 

  1. When the train conductor rouses you for your ticket, smile wanly through your tears; he’ll assume someone has died, smile wanly back, and hurry along onto the next passenger. There are paper napkins crumpled in the Dunkin Donuts’ bag from earlier to dry your face.

 

  1. Cautiously, count the twenty-two steps over the ice the clusters of gray salt didn’t melt on the driveway that needs to be repaved come spring. But that’s five long months away; no need to wince at the now-diminished checking account.

 

  1. Make a note to ask someone to assist you with installing an automatic light atop the garage door before you fall and break your neck. [You know you won’t think of it, otherwise.]

 

  1. Put the cold metal yardstick that the last snowstorm towered over back into the garage for the next Nor’easter to share the plentiful snowbanks on Facebook. People in warm climates, you know, dream of snow.

 

  1. Though exhausted, dispense the pills for the week into their cheerful, little apple green compartments and leave next to the refrigerator. Yes, Monday, so soon. You mustn’t forget to get gas for the car in the morning because too-little gas in the tank can freeze.

 

  1. Let the dog find your hand in bed and soothe him when he dreams of his other life before you; the life of his ripped left ear and muffled barks in his agitated sleep. You should have washed the bedding, but next week will be just fine.

 

  1. As promised, refrain from “X”-ing out days on the last month of the calendar in the kitchen while the water boils for coffee; use the thick teal marker to inscribe in each box that has passed, a wave, to be connected across the weeks.

 

  1. When you arrive home from work, plug in the eight strings of tiny blue star-lights [masterfully connected to just two electrical outlets] on the Christmas tree, tune the smaller of the two cellos with the pitch whistle, and perfect “Ode to Joy,” finally.

 

  1. Let the split pea soup simmer longer, so the tiny bits of carrots are soft before you bring four servings across the street to the woman who no longer knows your name, though she will recognize you.

 

  1. Be confident, the vertigo will lessen in the coming days [when the wavelength of the week finds the right margin]. Hold yourself upright and very still. Hours later when sleep still won’t take you, count the satin blackbirds in the skeletons of trees, three thousand of them in an ancient Persian text, backwards.
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from The Eternal Loneliness of Clocks /2

After the torturous night of fever and not being able to sleep or write, Noah woke to words again—and the calm they created for him: a path he could not see all night opened in daylight, after dreamless sleep, to the estuary, to the sea—that was still there quiet at low tide without any wind. He was calm again. The sea air on his face reminded him that his feverish state had finally ended and that its departure had paved the way for sleep.

He had four days to write; well, three and a half after meeting with Serena, which he craved, to be in her presence once again. He had been worried sick on top of sickness—that the empty canvas of the three and a half days would stretch empty and long; a missed opportunity because all his sentences, creative thoughts, resonant images, and word combinations—had vanished in the night. Usually, he woke with words pouring forth from his waking mind onto sticky notes that he numbered and alphabetized, color-coded—but it was night, he learned, when he saw that the clock by his bed indicated that it was a bit past midnight and not the next day, as he originally thought.

The sheets of his bed were wet with his sweat, but he stayed in them, too tired to alight from his bed or remove his articles of clothing, his soft flannel shirt and lounge pants. He had been very cold, he remembered; the cold that often takes hold of one’s bones before illness. Finally, he stood, turned on the paler of the two lamps of the small bookcase by his bed, and went to the hallway to turn on the heat. Wallace, confused, followed him.

“Want to go outside, boy?” he coaxed the sleepy dog that had been cuddled up next to him for hours; strong head nuzzled in his chest. The cool night air would calm Noah, and perhaps a cigarette, as well.

When he looked up in the backyard and found the stars in their new places, crisp and lovely, he sighed a breath of relief. He couldn’t afford to be sick; not now. He had so much writing to do and the days off, finally, in which to complete a few chapters of the new book and finalize the almost-finished book before sending it to a suitable publisher, he convinced himself, while squinting up at the sky.

It was a mystery to him how he lived in New York City for ten years, sandwiched between skyscrapers and then apartment buildings with too many faceless strangers. How he had hungered for the open sky, the presence of stars, the sea and moonlight beaming down softly with its watery light. The first few years in the city were especially lonely with so much anonymity and dearth of human eye contact, but the museums and art galleries made up for that during the initial years of displacement. But his studies became problematic, and the next six or seven years felt more like a prison sentence than a cultural nirvana.

His gaze shifted in the silence of his backyard to the edge of pine trees, sentinels still standing watch even after all the winds. There had been no rustling in the yard. The rabbit did not appear; the bat he had heard a few days ago did not make a sound if it were there at the tips of darkness. He hadn’t heard the owl in weeks, but she disappeared like that without notice, but he always feared that her lifespan came to a sudden end behind the dilapidated shed. He had looked up the lifespan of owls native to the area a few years ago and thought it was just two or three years that owls lived but was confused, still feverish, that he was thinking of the birds and not the owl. He would check again when he was feeling better, able to steady the phone in his hand, find his reading glasses.

He had been listening to Paul Bowles’ The Sheltering Sky for hours after returning from work, too depleted to do any of his own writing, tend to the laundry, prepare any food. He needed to recline, rest his neck that was stiffened by the tedious work on a mammoth spreadsheet that was particularly stressful—and to be distracted by a human voice that was not his own. He had listened to the chapters of Port’s worsening typhoid, the fever taking the character in and out of consciousness far beyond the desert landscape of Algeria into a minimalist, strange, yet comforting place without language. The novel was causing him added anxiety, however, about his own fiction; the new novel, specifically.

Why was he still listening to the existential masterpiece? Wouldn’t it interfere with his own writing? He never read novels when he was writing one, but without TV, he needed a respite, some entertainment and his new take-away was that he was studying, though tired, his craft. How long did it take Bowls to write the novel?, he wondered; hoping it was years, which would alleviate the welling intimidation.

Without being aware of the sudden motion of his hands, he blessed himself, which had become a strange gesticulation after so many years of being a self-proclaimed part-time atheist, as he liked to explain it, to make sense of it, and partly, he knew, to throw the person in earshot off his or her gait into discombobulation. This automatic practice of touching his forehead, chest, left, then right shoulder and then, ever-so-briefly clasping his cold hands together had come into play after surviving his row with cancer. And it surprised him every time, this new punctuation he used to end-cap a bad spell, however small or trite, like the last twenty-four hours, which fell into the former category and not the latter.

Now that the prior day had distance, he could look at it, understand. It had all turned badly when his debit card was declined in the drive-through, when the kind teller with the sad face returned it after the odd bells of the sales machine sounded. “I’m sorry, sir, your card was declined.” Last week’s work compensation must not have hit his checking account, which he mumbled to her embarrassingly as he drove into the Church parking lot next to work and proceeded to check his bank’s phone app for his balance.

“Fuck!” Another installment of his bundled home and auto insurance had been taken out and yes, the paltry week of pay had been deposited, but now subtracted into the red, or defiant figures in parentheses, really. It seemed the insurance premium withdrawal had just come out several weeks ago, not a quarter, so he called, calmed himself, and listened to the options on the menu. His heart was racing, so he input a string of zeros to expedite a human voice on the line. It’s funny, he thought, how we think of it as a line, when the call is digital now or electronic. But he must stay on task.

The kind person that took his call energetically because there would be a brief optional customer service survey at the end of the call, explained that the payments were deducted monthly, not quarterly, for two years now—except for January, that month was free from payment, a kind of gift from the insurance company for holiday spending; she seemed proud of her company, he thought, and not merely reading from a script. She was young, he could tell; in no way jaded yet.

This poverty so soon again— immediately wore him down as if he were almost reclining, wanting to lie in bed but he needed to stay vertical, collect himself, impart cheer when he walked through the automatic doors at work, for which he was grateful. Doors, especially to one’s day job, can be so heavy, especially with the wind picking up, visibly shifting piles of fallen autumn leaves.

His sense of time was off, undoubtedly. So much money seemed to disappear from his bank account the last three months, and he was on guard, unlike when he is in the throes of depression or Melancholia, as he would rather call it; nomenclature was everything, wasn’t it? he reminded himself. When Melancholia had him in her arms, pulling him down with a disturbing, powerful dirge, he was unable to check his phone apps, his bank account, his voicemail, if there were any, and he hoped there would not be anyone trying to call him, ask anything of him, especially how he was. Unless it was a call from Gavin. For his son, he would promptly muster some fake cheerfulness, but Gavin never called.

He felt Melancholia in all corners of the theatrical half-public stage that morning suddenly; out of nowhere she had appeared, ready to pounce on his vulnerable state. The mathematical figures in parenthesis at the top of his checking account activity caused him to travel down the path in his slowing thoughts to the word failure. Yes, he was a failure—unlike Rebecca, Gavin, and so much of the Western world. He was akin to his dead father, whom his poor mother had found in the cellar, dangling from an orange electrical cord with the kitchen chair lying on the ground. That image always returned to him as if it were he who had found his father and not his mother. If only. If only he could have taken away that picture of time seared into her memory while she was alive.

And now, in the afterlife, did his mother see his father again? And did she forgive him for his premature, chosen departure? Forgive him for leaving her to support their two children on a librarian’s salary? His mother didn’t understand depression, but Noah did all too well, and forgave his father many years ago though he missed him; missed a father figure, a role model, someone to throw a baseball with in the backyard, conspire with against his mother and sister as men must do, he thought—but he really didn’t know.

The automatic doors opened, and he gathered his energy for the next six hours, a shortened day before the holiday. “Good morning,” his voice rose to greet the receptionist, who smiled at him warmly. His voice surprised him; how skilled he had become at acting the part of one of the cave inhabitants in Plato’s “Allegory of the Cave,” tucked back into the cave after, in his case, finding the light a bit too strenuous this morning.

He was happy for the reprieve of work, for sitting at a desk and focusing on work not his own. Six hours. He would not look at his watch nor the bottom right corner of the laptop. He would stay as pleasant and busy as possible. Once he reached the inside of his car at three o’clock, he would light a cigarette and drive the twenty-one miles home, not thinking of work but only of the four days in front of him, an open road that led to a beautiful field of tall grass and clover.

He would take Wallace for a walk and then lie down with him on his bed, thinking of the new sentences he would write, that would find him, Noah— a good man, who was rewarded for his goodness, saved from forty days of torrential rain, from prostate cancer, from himself. It would be a good four days. He did not know then that he would have a fever, anxiety, or that Melancholia would hover in the House, waiting for him. But he would coax her away; he would win again—at least this time.

 

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from The Eternal Loneliness of Clocks [novel; literary fiction]

Noah Ranson was alone on New Year’s Eve and okay with that, he half-convinced himself, as he watched the flames of the fire roiling in the fireplace turn goldfish orange, scarlet red, and light blue. There was something to be learned from watching the flames, he was sure, but didn’t know exactly what. It was definitely a Zen experience like raking the leaves, driving on a long trip down a straight highway lined with leafless trees in winter, cleaning and dusting his small house.

He had used the dead branches from the dying maple tree as kindling and some drafts of poems that weren’t going anywhere. It felt good to surrender the failed attempts at creating musical sentences with not enough or not perfectly amalgamated concrete detail, imagery, cadence, abstraction; linguistic and philosophical meaning. And the drafts, he knew, weren’t really failures per se, but part of his writing process of peeling and creating layers. Everything was so complex to him, and he longed for a simplification down to essential truths.

He would write more in 2017, he promised himself; the first on his list of New Year resolutions. And he also resolved not to be alone so much. His solitude was essential for writing and his mental health; he needed time to think and simply be, but at 52 years of age, he had come to the realization that he did, in fact, need to spend more of his time  around other humans.

But tonight, he was alone, as usual, with the exception of his dog, Wallace, who was half asleep in the glow from the fire, warm and happy that Noah was home and in close proximity. Going out on New Year’s Eve was overrated, and he wasn’t a fan of driving on a night when everyone was drinking and when the ball dropped in Time Square, one felt obligated to kiss the strangers within physical reach. Not that anyone had invited him to a party or to meet at a bar. His few friends were busy with their children and/or spouses.

The years he was married, he and Rebecca would make baked-stuffed lobster on New Year’s Eve and play Scrabble until midnight before going to sleep in the king-sized bed he loved sharing with her.  He usually won their Scrabble games and that frustrated her. She liked to be in control, the one calling the shots, and he was happy for eight years to let her make decisions that affected them both. He hated confrontation and drama but did pick his battles and stick up for himself a few times. In fact, doing so is what precipitated the collapse of their marriage.

He had had enough of her preaching at him and telling him what to do, how to behave. “I’m my own person,” he told her, “and please back away from me.” She was standing in front of him, blocking his exit from the kitchen; her face an inch away from his.

“No problem!” Rebecca yelled, as she walked out through the front door they never used and only returned to their home once to collect her things and all their furniture with a moving van, his neighbors told him, while he was teaching Camus’ The Stranger. When he came home to the empty house, he sighed a large breath of relief. It was over. He no longer had to give his will over to her to mold into what she wanted of their life together. He would no longer be living in a D.H. Lawrence novel. And just as he had suspected, she had found someone new; new clay that she could shape into the kind of man she needed. When she married Seth, he was glad that his son, who chose to live with his mother, would have a man in the house for safety and a somewhat conventional life.

He had to admit, for he had thought about it in obsessive detail over the last seventeen years that overall, she had been skilled at making good decisions; rational ones; whereas, he was often more emotional. They had balanced each other in that regard. He missed being married but couldn’t stomach seeing Rebecca when he had to at an event that involved their son, his estranged son, who had always been aligned with his mother, a mommy’s boy that Rebecca coddled. They were a team, a duet, whispering in a corner of the kitchen about things that didn’t include him and that he couldn’t even imagine. Were Gavin’s soccer clothes clean, was she going to pick him up from practice? What else could they possible need to discuss in whispers in their private world without him?

Gavin was still living with Rebecca even though he was engaged, so he could save money for a house. He was responsible and successful like his mother, unlike him. Both had a predilection for numbers and details; he was more of a person enmeshed in language and ideas. Gavin inherited more of his personality and way of thinking from Rebecca or had merely evolved by mimicking her. He was determined to be an actuary and had passed his first exam while working full-time for an insurance company; a job that Noah couldn’t imagine as he was not cut out for cubicle life. When he worked in an insurance company himself when he was nineteen, his day revolved around the clock, watching it barely move throughout the long eight-and-a-half-hour day; dreaded Monday to glorious Friday.

Regardless of why, his son was different from him, and they had a hard time carrying on a conversation once Gavin became a teenager. He couldn’t remember the last time he talked to his son. He had seen him at his college graduation but didn’t have the chance to speak with him one-on-one with all their relatives there and Gavin’s fiancée’s family. It was his son’s day, after all, but it pained him that he felt excluded from his son’s life. Gavin never responded to Noah’s text weeks ago, but that was par for the course.

The clock on the mantle was approaching midnight, and the fire was calming down. He felt too exhausted to carry more wood in from the garage and knew that Wallace was ready to go outside one more time. He put on his boots, and Wallace stood up and stretched, knowing that they would be heading out into the fresh air of night.

The bitter cold air hit him in his face; the Arctic wind of the last few days was still blowing—cutting right through his coat, legs, and hands. He hadn’t put gloves on, so put his hands in his coat pockets. “Come on, Wally, be a good boy!” the phrase that signaled it was time for the dog to do his business on the pile of snow amassed on the side of the driveway. “Let’s make some yellow snow, boy!” Wallace complied as Noah looked up at the crisp stars in the clear, black sky—wanting to drink of their steady, faraway light.

It was going to be a long winter; three more months of New England snow, sleet, and ice. He would try not to cross off the days on the calendar this new year; he would try to live each one without merely trying to get through the day. Teaching had become draining, and he was happy to have three more weeks off before the spring semester began. He would have to revise his syllabi but would wait until a few days before classes started. He would write until then. Yes, he would write and try to be more social.

The now-January air was bitter cold but refreshing. His thoughts seemed untangled but that would change, he knew, when his head hit the pillow and Wallace nestled up to him with his head on his chest. He would listen to music and forget about his lonely New Year’s Eve. It would be a different year, he vowed, unlike any other—a new blank slate on which to carve new figures, designs, lines, circles, and dots to be connected like the stars that were steady up in the winter night sky, hoarding their own light.

He wasn’t sure how much time he had left with his sickness and deteriorating health, so he was committed to living fully every day, every moment. He would not watch the clock. He would be Noah, a new Noah, who was connected to the Noah of his boyhood, a simple person who loved being in the world, who collected fallen autumn leaves and picked wildflowers for his mother. He missed her. Perhaps he would see her in the afterlife or perhaps he would return to the calcium dust of the stars.

“Come on, boy.” It’s time to sleep. He and his dog returned to the warmth of the house, to the warmth of down blankets and the silence of night. He needed sleep; his body and mind needed to rest. He knew he would wake too early at five o’clock in the dark and light the fire again on a new day of a new year. He would be grateful for the sleep. He would be grateful for everything.

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iterations of summer /24 [september]

/24

Spiritual hunger has ebbed//

satiated, in dub[i]o[us] fact—

that desire to have things||

feed the null set ¥ stuff

new abysses with light, possibly color•

<< impossible

burnt sienna~~inside a company>>

an ongoing

conversation with

the universe.

 

It’s not like it was anymore~~ and thus,

never shall be ¥ >> merely another

super|imposition•.

 

varnished doors keep breeding

more doors, tunnels, and bridges

through nights of

crushed oleaginous velvet. My

forest owl continues

writing its poem; the once-homeless poet*

dog smiles. Wet peat-moss

ground has shifted our

common ground; bending

forever—the

roads with their

attendant anxieties. Imagination

knows what might

go wrong—or right, one

reminds the

self hopelessly lost

in shuffle–

 

The final days of sum*

mer eluded. There was no

music, just rain. The gar*

den ran wild toward

the sun.

 

Autumn began her

delicate footfall—stepping

in

with a slight chill;

condensation on

car windows. One

must clean the ga*

rage, make

room for kaleido*

scopic after*

maths of objects and

their objections

to memory.

 

This year, I swear

on my father’s grave–I shall

clean the gut[ters] aft[er]

the old red

maple gives up

her wither-crunched

tan [l]eaves–I will

answer when you

call [me].

 

Until then, you can

find me on the

rotting picnic bench

of my childhood

[adorned with soft,

emerald moss]—

 

singing atonal arias

to the discombobulated

Ghosts of the House—about

the cold, rusted p[or]ch s*wings

of the encroaching

long winter–

 

[ab]out longing

to be [a

better] human.

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/21 [from] iterations of summer [september]

/21

 

The holiday memo was email-bombed COB Friday to all

involved parties with some supervisors bcc-ed in, but none of

 

the workers fucking cared. Driving for too many days leaning into

the serpentine roads with cars following much too closely toward

 

a town that no longer existed, I texted you—asking to tape our worries //

splintered prayer boards to stones you should fasten to the hidden

 

river on the ancient map. . . but the cell towers were cluttered

with the aftermath

of another DOUBLE set {double bubble*gum*

style mass-produced} of

 

MASS {please note the irony} SHOOTINGS–

on the same fucking day—conducted with the skill of a

 

virtuoso European conductor HIGH on street-grade

CRACK. Yes, it’s true

 

I was flying high on polyphonous frequencies—

talking much too fast//frenetically—before the

 

inevitable underpass—collecting

torrential rains—a bi*product of

 

the catastrophic hurricane—for which the tourists weren’t smart

enough to evacuate. {When one pays for a desperately-

 

needed vacation on credit with 22% interest, the best

decisions aren’t always made.}

 

I was looking for the extra toothbrush for the

adolescent whose father might

 

IMPLODE again—because of the newly // non*binary

{gender*fluid} sexuality // self-

 

asserted {finally}; nomenclature

{warrior name}—to clean

 

out//urge//expunge aforementioned

COBWEBS—in our collective un-

 

conscious—when you caught me off

guard—with your

 

frantic//––// EVERYTHING*IS*

CRISIS* phone call.

 

Please forgive my NECES*SIT*AT*ED //

self-imposed quietude—

 

in the morning-garden light–

of this six o’clock hour.

 

There are some things I need to

 

get off my chest—in P=R=I=V=

A=T=E—while I scavenger-hunt

 

the missing clues—to share with

you later on your facebook timeline.

 

Adjust your privacy settings accor*ding*ly—

 

{{I’ll miss some of you.}}

 

to catch another

tidal wave*tsunami at the nu-

 

clear plant—trying to move

 

the frayed toothbrush through

the diaphanous cob*webs—

 

one leg in night-dream; O=N=E

foot

lost

i{n}

w{in}ter.

 

When we me*et, you

m{us}t

tell

me

Everything.

 

At the makeshi{f}t alt{ar},

the WEEP*IN*G

 

will{ows}

{w}ill es{sent}*i*ally sur-

 

render. . . .

 

three t{hous}an/d birds

{sh!}all

a*light.

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/23 [from] iterations of summer [september]

/23

 

The words were very hungry and, in turn, made the people who heard them hungry.

 

Some of the captivated audience would go for celebratory pizza and beer and talk utter bullshit;

 

others flew home in metal-boxes to their estranged spouses, disappointed children, mammoth TVs—

 

cyber blue light in the retinas too many hours of quotidian escape burned even in their half-dreams

 

 

[or, maybe] the pages of the Book would locate and drown them;

 

sentences dangling them over the edge-plateau Abyss. There were

 

metaphysical moments a few in the crowd wanted to talk about,

 

but the words ran right off the page—like a watercolor

 

on an incline leaving spider threads / maps. The dilapidated, lopsided mask-

 

constructions might banish the evil spirits back to their proverbial, macabre forests—

 

but We can no longer see the trees; stuck in being [pronouns].

 

 

A sign on the door signals the baby is, at last, sleeping.

 

The writing on the wall promised the war in someone else’s country would still be going on;

 

too many splintering teams, foreign interest / disinterest, complications of vested interests,

 

threats of terrorism / social media [de-]propaganda, [no breathtaking leadership]—

 

 

but what, in essence, should a concerned citizen do—make a phone call, send an email,

 

text the netherworld; tell them to come fetch some of the complicit / colluded crew?

 

 

Time should be carefully allotted before it accrues, fools you.

 

 

It’s silly to remove the lower pillars of the shifting construction,

 

but the heavy-metal soundtrack, replete with a chorus of electric guitars and five mammoth drum sets

 

made it all seem somewhat, temporarily bearable—

 

before the crumble-shuffle cumulative shock effects; how dizzying!

 

 

You really should un-knot the plush, golden rope for the disaffected cat; tired, she lounges

 

in the tall September grass; late lavender heather, Russian sage, burnt clover—

 

all the neighbors of the disenfranchised global neighborhood [almost everyone]–

 

hanging on by a spider’s thread. Saturday’s fifth gear will dissipate

 

exponentially by Monday, sigh.

 

 

It’s all esoteric philosophy [subjective sentences built out of private nomenclature] anyway, isn’t it?]

 

 

The cicadas will be even earlier tonight than the earlier earlier duskfall sky paintings, muted by cloud layers,

 

giving the illusion that all the pain is softer;  light traveling farther away to be closer to

 

someone / something else.

 

 

Objects, adjectives, prepositions, and complicated ideas [the brain’s strange pictures edited by someone who went temporarily psychotic with the scissors and tape]

 

will be defined by what they are not.

 

July is not January; money is not water.

 

Not everything can be counted; not everything can be lost.

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