Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Mad, Bad, and Dangerous to Know

I regret nothing except my occasional half-hearted gestures towards making myself acceptable. There was a time when I thought might find a home among like-minded people: I'm grateful to them for making clear that it will never happen, and so keeping me from wasting my time.

There is so little time. My awareness of that deepens every day. No: you can take me as you find me, and that will usually be gazing at the sky, while points of rain or starlight patter on my threadbare scalp. The riddle is written up there, and I stop and puzzle out a few phrases, and wait for the lightning or the sunrise. And still the sphere turns, and turns, and turns in its faint wash of darkness. There is nothing else, not really. We are traveling at immense speed, even in simple terms of the earthbound physics Newton propounded: we are falling toward the sun at somewhat more than 67,000 miles per hour. Once you actually absorb that fact, the speeds at which we creep around our falling home take on a comic aspect. In the time it takes us to walk to the store we have also traveled ten thousand miles through space: yet the quarter mile's incidental movement on this blue-and-white marble's surface is the movement that impresses us. Well. Not so clever, for all our airs.

No. Stars and rain are real, the silky hair threading between my fingers is real, the pulsing heart that lifts my fingertips is real. The rest? Toiling from speck to adjacent speck on a marble that's been thrown off a cliff? No: not so real. Not so real at all.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

This Time of the Year

Morning comes. This is my favorite time of the year, when the days are short, quiet, and tender; when the nights are long and fierce with stars or rain. Not even the so-called holidays can entirely ruin it. For all their desperate music and laughter, their garish lights and sweet wine, their candies and rich sauces, their gatherings where they earnestly assure each other that everything they think is dead on correct -- they know, they know that this is my time of the year, when the forest is most awake and you can hear its deep, intent breathing, when the rain comes long and hard and the light comes only in glimmers. They hold their loud, noisy festivals now, because they do know it, and are trying not to know it. This is the time when the old world is near and undeniable: cold water, damp wood, hard stone. This is when slow, deliberate creatures open their eyes and consider them: not with contempt -- that is a motion of the spirit these creatures have never known -- but with slow, impartial curiosity. You can meet their eyes, and learn something about yourself; or you can scuttle indoors, switch the TV on loud, and make all the lights in the house blaze. Well: it's no secret what most of you will choose.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Bad Religion

"I don't care for Bad Religion, never have," and it took me
two heartbeats to realize it was a band. Of course. A band.

And there, where the hills meet, in a smudge of eye-shadow,
just where the edge of your hand would settle

on the breastbone of the forest; where the fog glows
with a certain latency of sun, and its tendrils open

(still generous, after all abuse!) to the warming air;
there where a person might pause, resettle packstraps,

and make sure of direction: well, there,
we don't much care for bad religion either.

There is too much at stake: there is the brightness
where the sun might or might not clear the mist;

there is the fold of garden-smelling earth
running down to darkness.

Friday, December 13, 2013


You said you were afraid always, all the time,
and yet you play it like a matador, you make it
plunge this way first and that, and then 
you stand tip-toe -- at the last --
your shimmering edge held high --

Oh, you uncoil as if you had a millions limbs, or none --
glistening black, oh you dear segmented woman

(how you fold into my arms, as if each limb
was made only to nestle in some hollow of my flesh;
and how you flare your supple, beaded wings:
they open like a huge intake of breath.)

Your heart is cased in oiled leather,
and leather frames the love lock on your cheek.
The blue square window lets in winter light --
beetle-shapes of mercury --
to crawl and skip and trace  
the contours of your iliac crest and thigh.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013


Sometimes the sound of a faulty airlock hissing,
sometimes the wail of stars walled off by cloud,
sometimes spiring grains of iron gathered in by frost:
sometimes salt water subsiding through the sand.

Listen, dear, I hear her song
all day, though it's never old,
she sings to me daylong of absence and regret,
she holds my elbows in her cold hands, she steps between
me and the bank cashier whose mutter moves the air.

She stops
even old friends, and new ghosts, with her
sudden, flattened face and her finger at her lips:
"Quiet there, can't you see he's listening to the god?"
For I am stepping out of line
and turning to
the sun behind the sun, the moon behind the moon.

It is the song of nothing, conceived of by a knot
or not of neurons, a flare of melody; it is the hinge
of darkness, the silver of unsaying, it is the rising,
falling tone of whatever can't be said.

Friday, December 06, 2013

Rising Fish

My friend Lekshe once expressed the wish that my troubles would become so dire they'd drive me back to the cushion. She's a serious-business Dharma girl, not a dabbler.

Snowflakes dart sideways across the douglas firs like swarming insects over a river: I expect some enormous fish to rise out of the ground and snap them up.

Fifteen years before I'm seventy. I have never much minded decades going past, and I've been a little impatient with people who fuss about thirty, forty, fifty. But seventy is a sobering thought: the three score and ten allotted by the Bible. Nowadays, when I find myself dreaming up schemes for a new life and a new way of being, those fifteen years rise like the fish. If all the years hitherto haven't brought the new life, why should the next fifteen do it? Is there time to hammer out a whole new frame? No, this is it, this is my life, to adorn or embellish, but not to really alter. I have set my life upon a cast, and I must stand the hazard of the die.

The phantoms that have crowded so thick begin to disperse, and the light grows: it occurred to me yesterday that there are only two probable turns to my story now, towards joy or towards freedom. There are evil chances, of course: my country has become uglier and less safe than it was. But mostly, the paths lead this way or that. And either way, I'm content.
It tikleth me about the herte roote,
Unto this day it dooth min herte boote,
That I have had my world as in my time.