Thursday, December 31, 2009

A count down and a kiss

You get to the bridge just in time to see that it is burning. All flames and fumes, the startling tactile fizzling of an inferno of steel, blazing bright above the callow mirror of a winter sea. You know at that moment, the heat and hubbub all the sibyl needed, you are never going back. The calendar is spent, so much for candles flickering with secret wishes, so much for chores put off without faith or regret. Everything that is done gets done today, or it gets lost beside you in that relentless tide of tomorrow. The last year only can last so long.

So quickly you sort through the memos and the margins. The well wishes sent you in rose colored envelopes, the smoke you spent in want of virtue. The one you got and the one you wanted, now all but forgotten, mingling in the burn of re-entry and the tell-tale vapor trail. The bookends of dusk and dawn, the faltering signet star, the day creased with the entreaties of some fabled rebel angel. From frost to swelter, to the gray leavened plains of the autumnal pause, the finger laden scale of spring always behind your eyes. If only you had the means to measure. If only you had saved something bright.

What happened to all that we waited for? All the changes and completions, all the finales and curtain calls and triumphant returns? The firmament spun by above us, changing little but the drapes, all the cluttered constellations maintaining a safe distance, all the asteroid collisions near misses for decades foreseen. We drank our coffee, scribbled at answers. We walked slow paths and short streets and to that one place we always liked. The clattering of cutlery, the rustled trust of a morning paper. All is lost, save the vague resolve that time begins its count again. A count down and a kiss, and who knows what way this one will turn. The ache settles again in well worn eyes, the world again plays innocent. We toast our varied fortunes, so famous and so scorned.

Monday, December 28, 2009

the red line writ

I am mostly still through these days of travel, mostly silent in these crowded and celebratory days. My fingers sting from the cold dry air and the mischievous ink, cracked and rough and numb of the finer tense of touch. Icy fog parting slightly for bright and blinking lights, a chilled rain pattering upon windows and roofs. The closer some truths come, the further the living gets from the facts. The humble boil of this reckless blood, slowly toiling away at these varied wounds. The sickened call of distance, the aimless prisons we call homes.

These are old wars, slight discrepancies between measures, conflicts over the propriety of the ratio of portions. Ten thousand tipping points into failures that seem like glory, a handful of hobbling paths that lead to that resolution of greatest goods, seeming like ambivalence and loss. Stupidity is blessed in the absence of self-reflection, cleverness hobbled by the line check and the mirror. Simple wisdom and capacious foolishness our only hope. The days I have burned, tentatively on the mend. The nights I have scoured, in glee and excess. The balance only works itself out in a scale of years, those wasted and those looming in the shadows of tomorrow's tomorrow. These garbled poems have weaponized my shrift of wit, every admission an omission of perilous intent, of fabricated honor in the face of work-a-day duty. Nearly a year of incapacity have whetted my edge, and claimed a direction for my aim.

Our oldest stories are of invention and of wander. Claiming lands lost to our distant kin, honing our vengeance upon the stony road, slaying our hidden fathers over the right of way. The sagas tell of threats and of journeys, of the necessity of strangers and of the sanctity of blood freed from the servitude to the flesh. Gods and ghosts make up map and motive, beasts and birds strange alliances. We are the maps, we are the stories. The sins and the gifts of the oldest glimmering revenant arrive in our dreams to guide and deceive us. Tricks and treats indistinguishable at this point in our endless sojourn, we imprint our hearth and our exodus upon the surface of every day. I rest, as stones rest beneath the river. I wander, as the river does, blanketing a bed of silt and stone. The change is upon me, another day settles in, ready to be the last.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

so the pot calls the kettle

Come in from the cold, that first breath of transition from chilled starlit air to the bruised seepings of a dusty furnace seeming such a revelation. The gifts of culture excreted so clearly this once, electricity and gas heat at a finger's beck. Much of the labor of living spread through vast conspiracies and layers of cunning machines. The blood so imbued with intent that it spreads its hungers into the landscape and the mantle, bleeds shine up into the firmament, reaches for every bone it may break towards this ancient sacrifice. Life ekes by and boils on, but the ghost binds its tinsel to everything that is. Warm this coincidence of flesh upon the cusp of all these penny-ante eternities. Thread the needle of meaning with every held tongue and spent word.

Life is that wished for kissed constantly in the act of consummation. It is the wreck and the reef, the eggs offered up to the greater truth of the omelet. It is the plaintive note sustained despite the direction of the song, the beauty of the song in how it changes while it stays the same. Life chases its tail, it races the moon, it lets us drown gorgeously inside it for a time. But it is the soul of motion, the rapid transitions that birth further change. The distilled wisdom of existence is always pulled in every direction at once. These words are seeds, nurtured only by more sentience. Reflection is always ultimately a kind of weather.

This is not ink, rather the idea of ink reinterpreted. A kind of stage magic where the art and the truth are known by the depth of the shared deception. Just as words are not letters, language not symbols but the simplicity of breath itself. That the universe acquired the mirror where before there was only light passing through matter, that the stories have compounded and become more stirring, these are only natural for the speaking beast. We refine our notions of settled questions, create arguments where there is nothing but the world. It is silly and sorry, sad and devastatingly beautiful. Red blood and blue veins, singing songs of stars long ago shed from the icy sky. These brittle gifts, these gleaming boxes bound to break. Lean back and linger a little longer. Feel the warmth, and watch the lights as they change.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

the parable of the broom

The work of a push broom on cold pavement, the work of a lawn rake on a sea of leafs, the labors bereft of love that long ago stopped costing blisters. The sweep of a tidal gray sky, the geese honking their way somewhere warmer, children bundled in their games of shrieks and scrapes. Saturday morning traffic, swift and idle, full of stung intent as it careens around the blind corner. Something of the gutter in this life. Something of the weight and the fall in these hours passing by.

Coffee comes after sunset, while I mix my potions and my media. Television shoves some romance past me as I pick at a paper, finish a puzzle in ink. The dogs fed, the cat condescended to, the porch light on and the neighbors keeping to themselves. Weather forecasters mention a little rain here and there. The aches swaddle this drift of bone and momentum, a spike, a moan, a clearing of the throat as the mind grows cloudy. It is the alchemy left between mirrors, these moods and hungers. Vision growing sharper as the shadows come home to roost.

The labor of the blank page and the key stroke, the labor of synthetic souls and inscribed spells unfurling, the work of a life of determined omission dragging chains beneath these dreams. The sway of unseen stars, vast conspiracies of desperate passions colliding with the impartial substance of creation. Poems and stammered sagas, the comical vanity of artless art enduring despite oblivion. The secret of life left to the spaces in between the telling, something about style that imparts the insubstantial with the unsettling heaviness of fate. Something gracious in this dedication to detail, despite its cracks and devils. Something of the river in the consistency of all this change.

Thursday, December 17, 2009


It is these ink-stained fingers, never deft enough or strong enough, but endlessly working still. It is these halos of light and fog, the dull lift of vapor parting lips, the endless accommodations to the workings of this most native tongue. If you could fly, the world would swallow all your other possibilities. If you could speak, the world would listen, rapt and breathless in the longed for spell of voice. The questions beg the question that the answer can't evade. All these riddles unravel, leaving you like the clinging of a cotton robe shed before the bliss of a steaming shower. Everything washes over you at once.

The text itself is at fault. There are never words explicit enough for the glaring eyes of absolute truth. They approach life with caution, drawing scent from the air, nerves seething at every flick of shadow unspun from the moon. Language bolts when it is too close to being the thing it describes. The implications of this complicity in being is more light and heat than any comfortable fire ought to provide. Escape is the only option that will not wind up singed. So the explanations always need further explanation, the seduction of culture the closest the human heart may ever get towards the eternal. Sentience finds mirrors hiding everywhere.

So the words turn you, they scrawl across the heat and earnestness of your flesh, scratching every itch with dense, luscious hieroglyphs. They open up your thoughts to the notions inscribed upon the glimmer and drawl of your life. They mingle with your blood and ghost, becoming only yours. This, then this, then the next, then the other. The very alchemy of being suspended then enriched by removing every detail. Expunging the evidence being the confusing proof that faith requires, becoming special through the compilation of endless denials. Someone whispers that god is only the kindest of coincidences. Someone once says your name, and forever that whisper is upon your lips. Every sentence needing that one last look.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

the tinsel and the shine

The first stars were simple and pure, too fey and thrifty to give much thought to mass and matter. It was of the stars that followed the death's of those earliest beacons that we are marked, the heavier elements arriving in time to craft our hearth and kin. The crawling accumulation of chance growing into fact, the fiery carnage of heavens ending birthing our quiet little corner of conceit. Our favors from the stars, our heritage chemical and contingent on the gathering of error and substance, on time so deep that there is no clock that can contain it. Time so deep it is only measured in the stretch and spin of galaxies, on the blush and burn of atomic half-lives. Against the broad swathe of improbability that seeds our past again and again, the immeasurable millennia of sacrifice it took to find us here, our seasonal myths seem silly and quaint.

The deafening silence outside is in part all of those collapsed possibilities destroyed utterly so just that you can be just there at just this moment. The lives burned, buried, devoured and negated for the sake of this absolute moment shared make the charnel house of history seem like a gracious conceit. Starlight funds this terrible profligacy, this conflagration of life consuming life, the rich fecund soil built of ash and death. This gift of purest luck is the sweetest morsel of existence, the bewildering improbability of creation's bounty. To be here, in the great bright empty, with all its teeth and steel, is a beauty unequaled in all the deistic machinations that people have ever spat and proffered. Right now, right there: each and every one of us.

I am a construct of culture as well as essential acids, a product of engagement as well as of pre-programmed call and response. The language of a contentious Germanic tribe seeded the one my writing is rooted in, a language weighed with cultures witnessed and robbed, bent with conflicting ideas. Messiah myths from the Hebrews, Greeks, and Romans, Greek thought mingling with Norse heroics, blended with the cycles of the Celts. I grew up with a ghost called God watching, and a strange sort of multiplier called Jesus that lived in my heart. The image of this loving hippy cysting like a tumor beneath the workings of my pulse was a very real childhood religious vision, my native tongue conveying the concrete much better than the abstract. Then there were the masses of ghosts and monsters, Satan and Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy and assorted spacemen and aliens. Frankenstein in the closet, a whispered voice that awoke me paralyzed in the depths of the long, terrifying nights. That the darkness was watching felt more real than all the hosts of heaven and the hordes of hell. Though most of these feelings have faded to vague transparency, these threads of myth and sensation never fully fade.

So the holiday lights go up, and I like the tinsel and the shine. I believe in none of these inherited ethereals, none of the clamber and bleating that makes up the stampede of scripture and tradition. The smell of pine trees is better than the stories of the Christ or of Mithra, better than the fly agaric mushroom colored toy-slinger or the brutal price of wisdom through sacrifice paid by Odin or Hercules or Horus. The crisp and distant constellations are better as nuclear fusion than as ornaments to human selection by the divine. The work towards meaning rather than meaning revealed is the course I favor. Still, sometimes I speak to God, and the Devil, and the dead. God supposes this argues for His existence (the inherited God I got stuck with is that buff, bearded fellow from the Sistine Chapel ceiling, thus the incongruency of gender on a self-creating cosmic judge and sustainer), but I think it is more the residue of nurture and bad chemistry in my poor brain. Whatever the mystery might be, it is something very different from all those seances and revival meetings. Watch the tree do its work in the forest before you condemn it to be Santa's tree or Jesus' cross. The decorations are bright and fine, but they are there to please rather than as proof. I say see how the house was made before you go and haunt it.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

a chill in the night

You think it feels like waking, though you are certain that you are awake. The slow unraveling of that dirty bass line, the voice so light and sweet and yet somehow smothered by the shaping of words. As if that flavor of redwood and rusted nails had seized the tongue, and shorn beauty of every pleasure. As if the god that abandoned you had marked you on the inside, your mark of Cain a tumor or disease. The music feels so sudden, so strange that you are momentarily both of and outside the world. Waves of abstraction slide up your cold fingers, notions of identity and impermanence cloud and clot your thoughts. The song ends, you think, but it has done its damage. There is no language like awake and alone at four in the morning. There is no calm like that arriving once every spark subsides.

The routines that usually contain this all fail, the television blunted, the words all too vain. The excessions of soul you thought could save you if only you could endure the sinking feeling of empty that all that feeling required have left you cold and weary. Haunted by invention and indifference, you braid sickness and sin in your mercurial drawl, jabbering aimlessly beneath the tide of your breath. Steer clear of mirrors, stay off the phone. Every evil of survival has a price. Every habit that sustains steals some secret value, some measure of hope, some taste of freedom. Nothing as sobering as an urge towards the impossible.

The world seems plainspoken, stripped of these coddling myths and whispers. It has its shimmers and its fires marked more clearly than any road, more honest than ten thousand bibles. Energy is spent and it wanders and stills. The fever bright of fire, the dull calumny of libelous ice. The sky salted with all these stray dreams and wings, storied constellations and hunting owls, nothing of note in your ambling hopes and wounds. Another song is playing, and there are tears flowing hot and quick. The tricks of these idle moods are so clever and varied that you manage to feel yourself spread thin over the course of your life, from womb to whisker this soulful sustain. Time contains all these changes to mass and mien. The boneyard stirrings of loss, the feasts full of surprise, the sway of calm and violence. You weep for all the losing, cry for all the joy, embrace tight all these attachments. The chill night air will teach you this lesson, skin tight and too close for dancing: embrace this suffering. There is only one direction ever. Follow it with each splinter that poisons your heart.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

after ever after ends

It is in the chemistry of the moment, these long chains of ache and sighs. It is that keyboard full of lows and highs, dark bass and bright treble. These worn through shoes tired of walking on water and eggshell-thin ice, tired of the framework and the wood. Chimney smoke and the soaked leavings of sleeping trees, streets lit with the haphazard intensity of holiday cheer. Even in fields where anise and thistle grow, these wayward thoughts of mistletoe. Dawn strikes with lingering seabirds and the lurid fauna of the marsh. Dusk falls minutes away from coyote and caribou I never venture near enough to see. I am too awake not to worry, too tired not to love it all.

The magic is built not so much in the boundaries that the wandering mind broaches, but in the seal that remains unbroken in this peerless focus. You can drug yourself into parody, drink yourself oblivious, and still remain upon the road where you pace and strive. Stupefied long enough, you might see yourself clearly, without apology or deceit. The crimes of passivity, the sins of commitment, the lies of omission and wish fulfillment all there, bright and untroubled. The scars, the wounds, the blanket of hubris and heresy-- the itch at long last home to roost. The strength that arises from digging all those shallow graves still surprises.

I slog through the remnants of this latest storm, walking too quickly through mud and shit and detritus, letting the long grass paint its portions of water upon ankle and shoe. Letting the weather leaves welts and soak through clothes. I parse the stars still visible between my coiling breath and the faint smattering of clouds drifting above, looking just long enough to catch that hint of sparkle, that vast conspiracy of shine. It might be that my blood has infused a will with-in me towards ruin. It is likely that all the obligations of inheritance have been wasted upon me. Beauty costs this much, and more. The dedication to distance, the need to arrive very early or far too late. I carry all these blessings bound as a burden, the borderline set as definition only good for obfuscation. Everything I say meant in opposition, everything I see so painfully clear. Culture works on a molecular level, crafting the story even after ever after ends.

Friday, December 11, 2009


There is a path crafted of salt and resin. The scent of every prayer tainted with pine tar, each emulsion vaguely crystalized. The itch of division mounted brutally upon you, the scratching of this passing rain some kind of call to arms. Identity becomes chemistry left out long enough. You are what you breech, the siege engine, the trumpet solo. Love and war, and art aping everything in sight.

I clear my throat, I stay on the porch. The rain falls in spits and spatters, making drum line patter from the roofs and streets. Gutters clotted with water, cluttered with deadened leafs, the dead end notions and balcony glamours all pass. I am the steam, I am the fog. The water as it flows, the ice just freezing. Give me a kiss for luck and go. Every good gift ought to have a shelf life. The radiance of life is only the most vested recipe. Live well and life grows sharp and slow. Live like I do, everything blurs and blends.

In the end this is molecular, atomic bonds pushing and pulling becoming fluids and solids, the seething and the massive passing to the left. The poetry of this particular poverty, the paring down, the parsing of linear liberty. Evaporation and consummation, fire and fuel, every one sings. Oh music, oh stutter--. The fingers slip and the words are altered, like that story of Beckett taking notes for Joyce. "Leave it in," he says of the mistaken interruption. Even art is bound to laws that are more than our native suggestions. Even this story is owned by the reasoned readers and the absence of wealth. I follow the smoke, I follow the water. In the absence of hope, I hope the rain will do.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

reasons left to leave

I don't know how you measure your portion. I don't know how you remember your name. I stay close to the curbside. The houses sleep while I pace the streets. I loiter near porch and stairway, smoking slowly, embracing the cold. Night falls, dawn rises. I only take the stranger's share. I only leave alone.

My sickness is such that every blessing is cut with poison. My sickness is such that I leave these pieces unmarked beneath the cold and sleeping ground. The skin I shed is draped over every shadow, following my every step and turn. I tire of the telling, and that is all I do. I wear, I burn, I tire. The sky is beautiful, the rain is cold, every color is a fresh argument for the invisible hordes. I swallow bile, hold my tongue, and litter the icy sidewalks with hints of weeping.

I linger, though everywhere I pause sheds evidence that I should leave. Go because the light is too bright. Go because every crowd is a conspiracy. Go because there isn't anything to be said, nothing left to gain. Go because you will always be the highway kind, loving the leaving most. Cherish every gift you demolish, treasure every love you have betrayed. I hang on, just to see what happens. I wait around, because the show isn't over just because you have left the stage. More color, more continuity, the feats of the maddening and the wrong. The motion of the host, and the absent answers given with each breath. Hands in pockets, I stay here so far. There is always a little more nothing to take.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

pain management

The ice settles into the earth as the day drains away. Our breath erases the windows, as it rises it paints the night. Soft, coiling gray, feathering the skin of the sky. Our measure only the moments we linger, exhaust blending us with the atmosphere, our press and pull between self and the rest of the frozen world. Nothing owned, nothing lost, nothing more to say.

Cracked fingers and hot coffee, the idle waste of time of typing spreading these missteps into spark and cypher. The power of culture, allowing all these scraps and weavings, things we are and never can be, all our flaws and fables stitched into these external impressions of our passing. The ice broken upon the steel buckets of water out in the yard for the dogs, the tangle of dusk and streetlights skimming the flattened skyline of the schoolyard just past the fence. Faint notions and clipped awareness, scratched out in clay and ochre.

This time is not mine, nor was the last time. Tomorrow is as unlikely as any star, as tenuous as any fresh recipe in a clumsy kitchen. Errors compound, possibilities close and compound, evidence is left to refute every alibi. I cough steam, I clear my throat. I can feel the bitter blade pressed into my side, a seething stone kissing bone and kidney. I consider the unleavened truth, the certainty of rumor. There is no fear, no horror of another sorry ending. Steam and stars, the sparkling of unseen eyes. The only bitter that gorgeous alkaloid hint of coffee, the only beauty everything left.

Monday, December 7, 2009

further still

My aging bones sing in the cold, the stars so bright and far. The lingering shine of evening lives, the icy rain still painting the pavement. My breath rising like the ghosts of old-- like a savior from beneath a stone, like a bottle trapped djinni. Time grows heavier as it learns to move swiftly, bleeding one moment into the next. The lonesome earth seethes with soulful moments, all the more beautiful for their brevity as they pass. Almost worn through, broken in every important way, vision at last exceeds these eyes. This sunken stone making lovely music for idle fishes. This forgotten shadow existing only due to distant shine.

We all receive our portions, nature and nurture, birth and breeding. We begin as beings of staggering brilliance, dense with love and power and all manner of beauty. Slowly we wear our ways into the world, into each fast and feast we earn or are allowed. Some have kin, some have passion, some have the fortunate road. Some have glamor or intelligence, courage or the common touch. We age according to our states and our leanings, wearing the marks of pain and bliss accordingly, of kindness and cruelty our bones are shaped. We lose that factory gleam, through ordinary wear and tear, through acts of god and sham romances.

The frost seizes the gold and the green. Hands crack with each stress and clasp. Heat leaves, as life leaves, as love leaves. The fled energy only looking to balance each portion with every other. Fragments linger, though the night grows cold and bright. Farther still, that froth of life and beauty. Clearer still, for all the distance. Knuckles inflamed, wrists sheared from the joint outwards, that sharp metastasized illness expressed with every breath. The resounding sadness of a soul unsuited for rest, bones grown thick and tired around old vines and fraught barbed wire. The unyielding beauty of this gleaming empty husk of creation.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

cold rain

You find yourself when your limits arise, the boundaries of self, the end of the world. The road fades, the lights go down. All the contagions follow you home. The sick, sinking feelings that endure through these days and dreams. The cycling of every slow descent.

There are no notes, no flowers. Just acts of broken kindness, acts of misspent time. The snuff film of everyday life playing on and on. Every reason spent but one.

Shed these spells of smoke and stars. Shed these ribbons of aimless belief. All the best intentions burned and buried, seeds planted for fire and ice. Reach beyond these bonds, pretend that the words and the world will ever meet. Watch the road as it fills with travelers, all those nested intentions and directions. The cold rain settles every argument.

Friday, December 4, 2009

romance language

How is this whispered smile a direction? How is this heated pursuit more than a rate of change? How does the song on the radio become the song in the heart? The exchange of oath and fluids, the raising of surface tension as if by spell. The certainty that all other certainties were best intentioned mistakes. The knowledge that there is no such thing as an original sin.

It is as full as the manic moon, as empty as the waiting box, this hunger built in to the wager of our blood. The drizzled words slowly dissolving on the heat of another tongue. The periphery of scent and work, the animal magic of life as it is lived. The word begets language which begets culture, which invents origins and reasons that can not be reasoned with. The shallow grave attempts to hide the beast of chemistry and lightning, the creature that arises from the slab-- beautiful and bound for glory. Every angel an act of creation, every abduction the stunning truth of the hunt. Love burns brightly, entombed in shadows and skin.

The signal grows strong, painted with the hollow places, the stark insistence of beauty we grow into god. Surety and appetite, the tilt of a head, the steadiness of that smile, the burdensome mesmerism made from hip and sway. Alone in the crowd, famished at the feast, mortality stalks and swoops its fuels and its fires. Kisses nuzzling a bare, expectant belly. Stars that fall in no particular order. The ghost drawing its icy breath, thirsty for the flow of blood that binds it.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009


The moon is chrome and halogen, burning so bright that it nearly washes away the gathered shadows longing for midnight. The pavement is cold, the color of dirty snow, of tainted salt, of weathered bone. The night looms in the sway of leaves, in the spattering of stars, in that sound of footsteps never quite placed. The night waits at a distance, aloof and as useless as any quiet witness. The moon tugs at numb blood, at battered dreams, at a will so chilled it may as well be buried. Another dead pet for the stoney soil, another unmarked grief.

It is the creep of hateful strangers, the glacial speed of humors meant to be on the mend. It is the ache of absent tattoos, the gray breath of unspoken words, and unresolved woundings. It is the cracked flesh of little used hands, the feeling of sharp buried inside the joints, the feeling of burning arising from the cold skin. It is that sickly shining moon, like a searchlight hunting convicts from some conspiracy helicopter, seeping through the trees. All the sad songs so far above this. All the blue moods so soaring and breathlessly better.

A beauty so clear and kind it can only hurt abounds. The blissful miracles that surround, the lucky call and the stolen kiss, are too sharp and real to feel past this pain. The glowing smiles, the sympathetic words, the gentle attempted touch-- a world of rot and ruin. The feast is in ashes, all the bridges bright with fire. The ache of every hour, the call of sharpened steel. Another sleepless night. There is no escape.