Saturday, September 28, 2013


It's as if I had a silk streamer tacked to the back of my head, and every time I stop quickly, or turn to look at something, a long colorful trailer floats across my field of view. It's my own motion, but it seems alien, colorful, distracting: and how it comes to be attached to me, I can't well say.

So. It's a small thing, but it jives all too well with feeling deracinated. I am awkward, ill at ease, at once too formal and too confidential. A species of survival guilt, maybe, though I don't honestly know if I've survived, nor if anyone else has perished. And anyway, melodramatic gesturing does no good to man nor beast. What's wanted is sober work.

I suppose. One of my clients always brings me a glass of water, and she or I always place it on the same corner of the same bookshelf. Sometimes I drink it all, sometimes I forget it: but that's our place. I feel like the pieces of my life that still work are like that spot: a bit of territory marked out by time and custom, comfortable, familiar, assumed -- and yet, it could be gone forever, in one flickering shift of intention. Nothing, I feel, is very stable or very assured. I have built up my life out of these little habits, these concessions, and one by one they will drop away again. I want to memorize that shelf, photograph it, versify it. But I don't even know if my memory of the wood is to be trusted. In my mind's eye it's raw, unstained, unvarnished, unpainted, but that hardly seems likely. In what sense, then, can I think of it as mine? But I can think of nothing I own in any more convincing sense. The silk floats in front of my eyes.

I want to reach out to people, but the old people are too old, and the new people are too new. I breathe in the scent of raw wood, and of the rain-beaten vines behind the house, and of my massage oil. This is, simply, an in-between time, and no good will come of denying that. It's like that moment in meditation, when I have settled my attention on my breath, and my breathing stops, and for a moment I am fighting an absurd panic: what if it never starts again?

What to do? Easy. Wait. The breath comes again. It always does, in the space of a few heartbeats. Or anyway, it always has so far. And the panic dissolves, and the swirl slows, and the sand begins to settle at the bottom of the glass. "Wait, for hope would be hope for the wrong thing."

So I will wait, and let the folds of fabric fall into place around me. The breath will take care of itself. The love I have set in motion will rise and fall again, lifting my ribs and my collarbone. There is not, in fact, any stopping it.

Thursday, September 26, 2013


On the other hand (I think) who could know
less about love than I do? And the blinds
rattle closed, and the light fails again.
Each step would be a stumble.

Should I, then, lift my voice? I don't want to.
It's late. And yet I would like for you to know,
since we have come this far together,
sister of my heart: there is more to say

than has yet been said, and in a queer way
there is justice to be done and there may be
speaking to be done for those
who have no voice.

And if, having come the bewildering circuit
of the water-glass's lip, an ant should find
his own scent before him, we might
forgive him imagining

that by hurrying forward he might find
company for the road ahead,
the homely speech
of his own people.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Blessings beyond their Writ

Careful now, careful dear...

None of this is going to change anything.

Parnell came down the road, he said to a cheering man
Ireland shall get her freedom and you still break stone.

Grateful, grateful for Neva, grateful for the violent rain. Grateful for a book arriving on my doorstep, while I was reading a library copy of it:

Grateful for blessings that run far beyond their writ: for the stormy skies clearing long enough for Vega to appear, and to lance me under the collarbone, cold and blue as shadowed ice. "You are still blessed," she told me sternly. As much as to say, "don't get any ideas about slipping out the back door, bucko."

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Putting the Sun to Shame

And if I tire of the weak, restless striving? And if I shake myself,
like a dog coming out of the river, like a god coming out of the river,
spraying a fiery light that is pregnant with my own breathing musk?
Well suppose. And if the flare of my nostrils takes in the valley and its hills on either hand,
and if my breath lifts the dust, if I snort the Willamette like a line of cocaine?
And suppose what comes into my hands is everything that ever longed to surrender;
and that the ferocity of my eyes
is putting the sun to shame.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

The Sea Creatures, Crowding Pinkly

At the end of the sea – where the white curls stiffen,
far away from toast or jam –
are the sea creatures crowding, pinkly.

At the end of the sea, and the end of the sky,
their humid lungs are heaving; the wheeze
and spume of their vasty breath
makes a fume shot with scarlet twinkling.

At the end of the sea, where the drawer of the world
snicks shut, and the water quivers –
there the emotional sea creatures crowd,
and the anxious anemone shivers.

See Niya Christine's story painting, Emotional Sea Creatures.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Leaving for St Helena

The chaff turns out to be
straw colored maggots of fruit flies
overflowing from the compost box;
Napoleon, the suicide attempt
when the opiate was past its sell date
(a tummy ache, no more)
the attempt past, I say, the morning audience
underway, had snuff all over
his blue cutaway. Strutting
was by that time all he knew.
There is only one spooky thing
and that is, for something dead to be alive:
I watched the chaff crawl for three heartbeats
before I understood. Just so, the snuff
would have crawled
on the simple blue
of his civilian suit: just so.