Thursday, September 18, 2014

The Machine in the Field

I can never get a quorum. I would like, just once, to hold a plenary session with all the various parts of my heart, brain, and soul present, and really hash things out. But they never all show. In the midst of enthusiastic resolutions and votes by acclamation, the continual nagging thought: "isn't this an awfully small crowd?" You can look at all the concord and say, "oh, this is the real me!" but it's not. It's just the bits of me that showed up this time. The others will be along by and by, surly and bitter, doggedly pursuing their own ends. They never signed on in the first place.

Frustration: and I don't know how to put it to work. On the one hand, I want to quantify absolutely everything and lay out the rules and control everything. But that's not the solution either. There needs to be give in the system, I know that. But the formula escapes me. And I don't really know where I want to drag this ramshackle machine. The day shift pulls it one way, the night shift another, and after a week or two it remains in pretty much where it was. But older, shakier.

I really do not know what any of us want any more. I'm adrift. And have been -- I suddenly see -- for years. Or maybe forever. Maybe even to ask for a direction and a goal is to ask for falsehood, ask for blinders. It may well be.

I have never quite appreciated how finite my resources are. I've never really built that into my plans. There is still, after all this time, a tinge of grandiosity in me. Once the golden boy, always the golden boy: never mind the white hair and the occasional old man's hesitation. "I am as fierce and wild as ever," somebody mutters. But I look over my shoulder to try to see who's talking.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Toll Road

It's like waking from one of those long, complicated dreams: slow discoveries of deceptions (major or minor), the resolution of a vague, large, looming disaster into a coat flung over a chair; the slow focus whereby north is fitted to north, south to south; and the room revolves, finds its groove, settles.

The disappointment and relief of plain day. My heart has been wrenched and wrung and left out to dry: now its rough and prickly fabric, though stiff, is serviceable enough. I can dress, and walk at dawn. Nothing has changed.

What did I think? Well, I didn't think. I put off thinking as long as I could. And now what? 

Well, I know two things, now. That this is not enough: and that I am utterly alone.

I walk along the warped and faded piers, where the boats nod, and count the morning stars. The wood is stained with salt and long pounding, the rasp of painters, the droppings of gulls. The morning still has more of the night than the day in it.

I think of yesterday, of the grooves where the beach grass has never been able to take hold, the streaks of white running straight up to the crest. The wind throws the sharp edges of the grass against my arms, and the sand fills my shoes. Sometimes there's a second, even a third crest -- you never know -- and then the sea opens out on either hand, running out of sight in the misty distance, miles of beach north and miles south, and no two- or four-legged creature in sight. It's a fine pale loneliness, up there.

Well. Good morning. I'm all out of dreams: I must make my way as a waking creature, whatever the tolls.

Tuesday, September 09, 2014


Oh, you were right to fear it. Once ring that bell

and all are invited. They will take your title deeds
and scribble them over with red crayon,

they will caw from the lectern,
they will peer with their masked faces

from the roofbeam, framed by 
the pounding moon, and all you will know

is small dark hands twisting
till they feel the tumblers of your heart fall.

Monday, September 08, 2014


"Is anything going on there?" I asked.
"Oh, there," she said, and she looked 
possibly about to laugh, as the dark 
came over her face:
"everything, everything is going on there."

The knocking starts then. You can knock
even on the end of a straw, did you know that?
or on a scapula, like the muffled
of a glockenspiel.

We papered it over. But everything,
everything was going on there. And I, 
with my blunt, unwoven hands, alone 
to stop the long
hemorrhage of -- what? Well, what not?

rage, loneliness, wanting, injured pride.
Every place that opens waits to speak.
And how many get to? Few enough. 
I may have told you
I am done with the rules, I am done 

with letting the sharpened pendulum
draw its lines in red on captive flesh.
Shaky as we are, it's stand now or lie forever.
Everything --
everything is going on here.

The knocking begins, and even if
I alone am here to hear the beginning,
this tone will rise in intensity till every city
of the breathing earth
collapses, spending itself on itself

in alien music. And it begins here. Oh,
you were right to fear it. Once ring that bell
and all are invited. They will take your title deeds
and scribble them over with red crayon;
they will caw from the lectern,

they will peer with their masked faces
from the roofbeam, framed by 
the pounding moon, and all you will know
is small dark hands twisting till they
feel the tumblers of your heart fall;

right, left, right, left; hatha, or hatha not:
the yoke lands now on rich and poor alike;
the rain falls on every upturned face.
That is democracy, if you dare: this is the door
finally swinging wide.

Friday, September 05, 2014

The Wave, The Particle, and the Holy Spirit

To many of us incorrigibly religious people, the fact of Presence is simply indisputable. We may, and do, argue all day about what exactly it is or isn't. We can be frustratingly vague or charmingly naive. (God is a free swerve of intention; God is an old man who sits on a cloud.) But to us God -- or Something -- is no more a proposition to be disputed than light is. If someone proposes to you that there is no such thing as light, you're perfectly willing to hear them out, but it's with a sort of indulgent tolerance. "All right, well, no such thing as 'light.' What do you call all of this, then?" And they point out that we can't see the light rays -- or particles, or wavicles, or whatever -- traveling from the lamp to the wall, and that we might very well be making them up, and we can see, yes, that's true, we might; but somehow the argument doesn't make as much of an impression on us as they think it should.

When all of our talking and thinking and feeling about moral life and ecstasy and affection has been phrased in terms of God, all our lives, and someone proposes that there is no such thing as God, it sounds like nonsense, as if they were proposing that none of the meaningful parts of our lives existed. Or it sounds like they are very horrible people indeed, if their lives have no moral or ecstatic or affectionate component to them. The truth, of course, is disappointingly bland. They just have different names for all these things, different ways of thinking about them. They try to do the right thing, they experience just as much awe, they love their kids just as much as we do. If there are fundamental philosophical contradictions in their point of view, well, there are fundamental philosophical contradictions in ours, too. My question is not so much: "are we right, or are they right?" -- but rather, "are we even disputing about anything?"

Well, except, of course, that people are murdering each other all over the globe according to the exact shades of the God color they wear. Really I think mostly they need to create a royal row to divert attention from their hand being in someone else's pocket, but the fact remains.

A sweet pale blue sky, and the leaves turning.

Oh, God, and such important things left undiscussed. That is the real problem. The things we aren't talking about.

Thursday, September 04, 2014


Sometimes it does seem queer, though,
that after so long I'm so little known:
I follow the splash of the song sparrow,
I follow the criss-cross splinters sown
 by the oak shadows of the half-cocked moon.
White breast (blue where the leaf flakes fall):
I follow the shoulder to the elbow spoon,
I follow the remembered sparrow call.
Slowly the tick of the music fills
the dark of the room. My piebald face
is patched with white and picked with quills,
lit from behind -- an old blind man, learning to trace
the ribs from the clinker-built overlapped spine
to the swaying gutter of the sternum line.

Wednesday, September 03, 2014


They are delicate, slender people, easily chilled: they wear droll curls, and shiver in sweaters and hoodies while I sit comfortably in my T-shirt. I watch their quick smiles and bird-like movements with some envy, some desire. Though truth to tell, I am comfortable in my florid bulk: I like my solidity and deliberation. Wind and tide are nothing to me. I hold my own, without effort, in the world.

These two now, they huddle in their clothes, and lean towards each other over the table, so that their heads almost touch; their gleaming hair almost brushes the table. When the waitress comes they fall back, like startled cats, but having ordered, they gain confidence and lean together again. They are so young, so young. They bounce in their seats, when they laugh. Their voices rise in bubbly little strings that tickle my ears.

They prop themselves on their elbows: one shoulder goes forward, and their heads roll over the other one. They peer at each other, with their heads on one side, as if they were birds peeking through branches. Are they in love? I can't tell. What does love look like, when you're that young, and that nervous? Would they even know?

I stretch, and take a breath into the huge slow bellows my chest. We saw a sitka spruce on Cape Meares that was already old when Chaucer was picking out rhymes for the Parlement of Foules: I feel ancient and gigantic, like that tree, with a momentum of life in me that could not possibly run down in mere century or two.


Yesterday, Martha said, "I think you better take me walkies." So we went to Bridal Veil: