Little Dashing Hiccups

With the slightest turn of the prism, the teacher still has something to give. Because the black bear processes life as a bear, it is a teacher – and so the squirrel and the red-winged blackbird and the mosquito. Neighbors have cut down a tree and now dawn is different. Sunlight's arrow pierces a hermetical darkness, so I am cracked. So I am grateful. So winter finally fades.

Folded and breathing; can I finally be still? What is left when the archives are silenced and intuitions are stretched as far as east is from west? Pines sway as a puppet master might, creating flickers of light and shadow along a damp path. Walking with seriousness into the east, the sunrise seemed inexhaustible as it untangled and unraveled every intention. Cardinal chirps lifted my chin with their musical fingers.

a few steps
bring me here –
after one thought
I’m gone

I love the ease of rain shushing on an early Sunday morning.

Candles – writing – tea.

When one forms words in way that feels like art, one can realize herself free and full of spacious impulses. Tilted just right, these little dashing hiccups, these letters sewn with intention, resonate to catch the universe. Also in this way, the teacher makes no promises. They just write us together on the unyielding path; there is no otherwise.

A rabbit kit the size of my palm takes measured hops beneath the rain-stained pine. Its ears barely pop higher than the wild violets. My attention joins the current in Sunday's somnolent stream. Let's take a nap together near the open window and dream along side the falling rain.



Slipping Through the Net

A ladybug in my red wine causes an involuntary “oh!” Chit-chat continues as if nothing amazing occurred. Small little blips in the background noise of conversations become a reminder of hearts attached to beliefs which descend from my own. Yet I wonder how much longer I can let it sip from my sense of space in the world.

Spring's delay has thrown everything into the spin cycle – spitting out random blooms here and flooded fields there. In that way, June feels like a stranger. I don't yet know what spring wants to say in its reach to arrive.

While making the bed I bruise my shin on the corner of the bed frame. Birds begin their song before 5 a.m. and it makes waking so lovely. I wonder if he can hear the floor creak as I move from side to side, straightening and tucking blankets. I wonder if he says, “Oh, she is awake, doing her thing,” or does he filter out the sounds in the attempt to sleep further into the morning? The things we no longer know slip through the net that holds it all together.

Lately a few cardinals pose in the corner of my vision. They arrive as a bleeding flash but leave as a soothing salve. Birds as messages. Red as life. My gratitude is quiet but intact. On these cool nights, especially around the fire, my countenance wanders . . .


east towards sunrise / north into the origin of pine / into God's gaze / blue



Between Lips

I tip-toed across the bridge, watching a heron watch me, until he lifted away like a ghost who simply had enough. All night, storms ripped apart the darkness but in their wake, a clear blue morning pierced a sleepless fog. How close I am to intuiting heaven when sunlight zings off the water! A painted turtle slipped back into the ruffled pond and truly my day brimmed.

Hundreds of Lily of Valley bloom in the backyard. Their sweetness rises along side the yard work. I pick two or three for a small vase on the kitchen sill, yet even the fragrance from those few make my eyes water. You who make me feel like water — the water-bearer carries a hundred secrets in his jar but spills nothing.

petals –
a border
between lips

Your sweet what-if's no longer kiss me in dreams. However, I did plant Forget-me-nots around the mailbox and near the creek. Their diminutive showing is a modesty to treasure. And their blue – oh that blue – the eyes of God. Look down upon me so that we both may be saved!

The lakes are too high and some bridges and roads are closed. Lake Michigan is predicted to rise another 9-12 inches. Though the snow is gone a harshness of season lingers. My spirit rolls around in the arms of pines like thunder. Maybe June will melt all that begs for protection.


Rain, Bears and Ball Caps

My mustard colored baseball cap has the shape of Michigan on it and it's my new favorite. Today it goes with ripped blue jeans and a gray T-shirt sporting an elephant on the chest. Thunder grumbles like hunger pangs and morning birds mock me. My eyes are swollen and I wonder how much longer I can use the rainstorm as camouflage.

Another black bear was found within the city limits. Yesterday, I leaned on my shovel and thought about the bear. I thought about how often she has lumbered through my life.

Rain – latent birdsong – bears leading.

Today, the truth is harder to confess than predicted.

We fought hard about things that weren't really the thing. I threw a bowl of grapes and when they hit the kitchen cupboards they smashed into their separate worlds, rolling under the fridge and the island and the dishwasher. The dog came out of her den to see what was happening and then she shrank back into safety. It's been day since we saw each other's face. I'm scared that we somehow simultaneously love and cannot stand each other. There are stories we tell ourselves and then there are other truths.

Around the fire I thought of all the things I want to burn; my own bones come to mind. How satisfying to think of my grayish smoke drifting over white pines and dunes and the Great Lake. I think of Emily's grave and what it would feel like to visit the soil of those who loved her. I think of being on the same page and pages burning and having no more paper to read or fold or write upon. I think of the bones of dead dogs buried next to quiet trails. I think of the bones behind my eyes – no longer tangible yet still igniting.

I meant to do the grocery shopping this morning while the town was at church. Instead I sat in the three seasons room surrounded by a lessening night, listening to the world wake. I'm still here, thinking about amends, wondering about viability and hope and powerlessness. A shredded heart makes a huge, grotesque mess. I don't think rain or bears or ball caps can cover up the stains.



Tending the Backseat

Work at the greenhouse is slowing now. The hours are exhausting, but the pace is definitely less. I am waking again with that familiar panic in my chest – soon I will have nothing of value to do. Housework and yard work and relationship work all needs tending. Yet, there will be long summer days of wide open hours demanding to be somehow filled. Despite waiting all winter for this warmth, for this sun, my countenance grinds upon itself like metal against metal. Is the remedy to just do something? It can all feel so very empty.

On my back in the new grass I watch an oriole weave string and thin reeds and fluffy things into a hanging nest high above me. The sway doesn't bother her task. Nearby, the male blazes like a torch; his sing-song whistle carries everything higher.

Spring planting is behind schedule. Even at the greenhouse, the lack of sunlight has delayed shipping. The dogwood on the corner of the house blooms, but barely. To be born under pine shadows is to know the scent and sound of whispers. I am grateful for the Michigan I hate. When her sunlight tingles one might forget about the months of granite ceilings or the snowflakes gathering in the cracks that once held all the incense of summer. With one sky-blue day, all is forgiven. Writing is relegated to the back seat. A friend asks to go hiking and maybe hammocking, because hammocking is a verb now. The earth tilts and all of the sudden I can gaze into the campfire and slowly simmer in a bottle of beer. Days are different now but everything is still laced with the residue of deep and abiding connection. The ripples of heat from July are not yet here. But love is. And I want so badly to let it be.


certain birds
and stars I know –
May I




Facing East

To watch spring rise from the ground like a symphony is to breathe like a sparrow. How the heart hops along with light little feet! Yet tulips remain tightly bound and the daffodils now begin to lose their sunny disposition. Rain and more rain softens every hard edge. I am alive now, though. The dog and I stare out the window – she is facing the direction of greatest protection – I am facing east. Always east.

Every perception in my scope has been informed. There are no pure explanations or thoughts – no untainted prayers – no discovery whispered as absolute truth. I used to have this insatiable capacity to melt into complexities. The push into complicated hemispheres was to be admired and more than that; it was proof that this life, this world really, is a fertile existence that can not help but yield the birth of that which is deeper. For so long, there was a pulsing drone: dig, find, allow. Nowadays, there is just this little creek bubbling towards and away from me. My little creek has mossy rocks settled along the banks which have become a host to those wishing to drink or bathe or reflect. A cardinal couple has been there already this morning, dancing from stone to stone, taking sips and flinging up water into the air as they rinsed. Ferns are now overtaking the unfurling hostas in height and the Lily of the Valley pips have begun to outflank the wild viney ground cover that simply refuses be managed.

This whole world as viewed from my east facing window is just that: my whole world. The quantum physics and the metaphysics and the myriad of explanations have thinned into an early summer mist that has both not quite arrived and has already been long gone. Squirrels eat the birdseed and ask for no pardon. Late frost nibbles the hyacinth's perfume and can't be bothered for reconciliation. Why would we be more than these?

I still think birds make the best poets. They don't seem to be interested in the pattern of results or commercial literature or theories of our time. They just accept what emerges and continue in the beauty and full-feeling of whomever they are. Cardinal as philosopher. Creek as teacher.

East
as light

initiating
me

Heal Thyself

The countenance arrives before the poetry. After her visit, words began to sink down or float up or move out from the place they go to rest. Now, silence gives way. My ears hear tingling in my fingers; my eyes see the smell of tulips. The unlatched gate groans a little in fainting rain. Tell me beloved: how far do these spirits swim? They paddle out, float for weeks and head back in towards hiccuping shores. Ah, but that's the metaphysics talking again. Pour me another, won't you? Sitting kitty-corner on the couch, we both slightly rise to clink wine glasses together. Heaven works without interference; one day you look around and you are it and it is here. Prayer is a whisper for your mind, a way to settle, a way to open to what is already alert. In that way, she is a prayer answered. A monk arrived here one time in sheep's clothing. He took my hands to kneel but at the last minute, grabbed my wrists and held them high against the wall. Prayer is that, too. I can no longer kiss, though. Medice, cura te ipsum. April begins with daffodils and hosta fingers clawing up from the grave. Hyacinth tries to bloom but its faded purples and pinks are damaged from the late snows. This inventory has become the color of survival. At night the earth smells soggy and alive; my benedictions live here. May you, who is we, know the extent to which you are loved – like the surprise of first bloom with the power to heal.


This is My Well

Timing and mood.

A wintry mix of snow and ice falls with hesitation, maybe apologetically, on unopened daffodils. Tiny balls of ice bounce when they land on a ground whose breath smells so hungrily of spring. It happens every year – this icy hiccup of timing. First blossoms are always ruined by this kind of storm. Michigan has her way of staying honest no matter how many ways one tries to romanticize her dunes or pines or bears.

Movement against the descent catches my eye – a nuthatch works its way up the oak – two hops forward, one hop back. Otherwise, the entirety of spring has hunkered down for the storm. From my nest in the couch I can see where I had been working the dirt yesterday. My shoulders and back ache as a reminder of how hard I had reached. Now on the other side of this white veil, the toil seems a little bit silly. But this is my well . . . this writing, this Michigan, this untamable yet utterly mundane existence of here and not here. I draw from it – drink and swallow – and invite others in my own quiet way.

Logs in the fire crackle a bit and the wind growls. I am cold, even with a dozing dog curled at my feet. In these moments I write. Signals and awarenesses and the deep lisping of internal shores all converge to urge. It's the way in which the world gives in and gives to and gives up. And then after, when there are words somehow on the page, it is all abandoned. In the wicked white light of April's unmanageable storm, this creative abdication is how I know love. It is the proof of knowing how to be home.

Burbling

Morning asks to begin before dawn – before I am ready. Though it has taken a week to crawl away from the clutches of a virus, my body tosses and turns, unable to squeeze any more sleep out of 4 a.m. Lately, dreams contemplate the luminous faces of past teachers. A musing of time considers the nonlinear appearances of light – of wisdom – of love.

Yesterday's daylight dipped into the west and a chorus of birdsong continued to burble into a warmer darkness. Night is not as empty as it was in February. The greenhouses are warming enough to warrant shorts and tank tops but I'm the last one to shed the winter layers. It is strange how the work and the building and the people and the plants all amalgamate to affect a million mirco-changes in me. Entanglement is less and less subtle.

Hours of repetitious planting causes the musculature of my fingers and hands to noticeably change. Even the skin underneath my fingernails presses up against the nails somehow differently. While planting, the dirt and oils and chemistry of the plants is shoved deep into the pores of my fingers. Sometimes green or black residue stains the spaces in between my fingers and begins to cake. That feeling makes me feel uncomfortable and irritated. With each shove of the plant plug into the dirt flat, (because really, this type of planting is a violence) I try to conquer or ignore or endure the compulsion to wash that feeling away. We get two breaks, one at 10:30 a.m. and one at noon for lunch; I play it cool but I'm always in a rush to be the first in line to wash my hands. In this case, exposure and repetition does not lessen the trigger of duress. In a 7.5 hour shift, planting by hand, 6 planters in our greenhouse can fill a hoophouse with 100,000 plants. Compulsion – control – repeat.

Yet I grow here. And I am grateful.

East falls on my face before work. And I see

how love is managed –
spring robin bathing
in the creek




Michigan's Way

On the breath of dawn cardinals and sparrows hang notes like streamers in rose-gold air. A red-bellied woodpecker churrs his throaty trill a little off in the distance. There is a stir – an activated murmuring of life and it feels so very much like opening. Whoever is me is now moving more like blood or creek or sap.

After a few moments of mosaic sunrise, gray rolls over any hints of spring. Later: snow – rain – snow.

It's colder than usual in the greenhouse. Most of us leave our sweatshirts on as we fill dirt, plant, tag and pull flats off the conveyer belt. Walking the flats and baskets to their spots in the greenhouses requires great physical exertion and yet, shivers. These little green spirits grow because we said so! The “runner” job at the greenhouse is my favorite. Hundreds of times over I grab the flats or the baskets off the belt and carry them to a certain spot on the greenhouse floor. If they are hanging baskets I carry 4 in each hand and bend down to line them up 10 or 12 across. If they are flats, I carry one in each hand. Sometimes the distance from the belt to the resting spot is 20-30 feet. Sometimes it is the entire length of the greenhouse aisle. Muscles mound under my skin and I can feel all my parts working together to accomplish something. The gals yell from the filler to check on me. I always smile and wave.

Winter as a teacher. Who would I be if the temperature was always 73 and a little sunny? Michigan's way always leaves a mark. Could I love spring so desperately if it wasn't a spectacular chisel cutting the dormant from winter's tomb? There used to be these verses I loved . . . these poets filled with magic and tragedy. Now there is January and April and October. There are leftover leaves covering new beginnings. There is a hint of pine-tinged woodsmoke greeting the open door. And there is me, doing this sort of twisty dance between loneliness and complacency and what feels like ridiculously naive hope. That's too simplistic, of course. But it is one way to color in the lines.

Another way to shade and shape is the writing. There is a sense of thinness when it doesn't arrive. Waking and walking and working – if not noticing and recording the smallest bend of sunlight or the faintest hint of damp earth, then why? Why collect and carry a million details of an infinite story? Every day, despite the weather or illness or the general busyness and grind of American life, there is an awareness collected – jots pushed along in a stream of existence. A telling burns inside but I cannot coax the alchemy of creation forward.

An opossum the size of a large raccoon lumbers across the backyard fence line. In the morning fog it isn't easy to keep track of it and soon it disappears into a familiar grayness. K. says we need to find someone to get rid of it. He knows I won't allow that; I'm not sure what the point is in testing me so early in the morning. On my day off, new glasses, meet with a contractor, clean the house, put together a care package for L. We'll travel to Mount Pleasant this weekend to hear her play but really, I just can't wait to smell her hair as I tuck her into my arms. This and other ways to be home.


God at Last

Ah, east and its radiance unslaked! Moonlight will return to the garden path I paced. March will fade to reveal how much I have vanished. Or how much I can vanish. Who returns? The red-winged blackbird trills from yellow-crisped cattails. Spring is near. God at last.

B. puts MIT on the college visitation list. Finally Massachusetts – maybe summer – maybe autumn, like I always dreamed. We'll see what admissions has to say. I pour a dark, chewy beer in consideration of all the implications. Cambridge is so far away from here. How can so much of my heart survive that far east? I will arrive eventually. It's always been known.

The woven trail continues to rise under my pace. Spring creeks rush ahead. Day becomes a bullet beyond my half opened door. Pilates, greenhouse, shower. Dinner, stretch, sleep. This is how the in between days pass. In between spring and now. In between blue skies. In between that day we spoke of Tara Singh and the day it all just disappeared. I guess it's smarter to just say “in between days.”

I'm not lost in this winter aftermath. Pine litter carpets the base of trees and downed branches lie upon the ground like fallen bodies waiting for collection. I am strong and I still know what I want. Folded by ancients – unfold – wrap around. The moon says we should be friends. That's okay; I’ll wait for what I have always known. There is no otherwise.



Tilt

It's raining. She calls me from the middle of the dormitory courtyard and shouts into the phone, “it's a double rainbow! I'm sending you a picture!” This girl and my heart.

Weather gusts of spring. Rain slants into screens and snowbanks with a jarring force, especially after a winter of whispery precipitation. The ground is gradually exposed after months and miles of white. Fog is released as the snow melts and lingers like a final specter of unfinished business. Over a few hours, shrubs come into view and then the deck and finally a few dog toys long forgotten. My mind zings with thoughts of planting and yard preparation. There is always another snowfall in April and the permafrost needs time to let go. And yet, daffodils dance as a shimmering mirage in the almost knowable distance.

Lately I hear geese overhead while I work in the greenhouses. The rise in temperature by even a few degrees is enough to invite an entirely new song. After sunset now, birds sing as they eek out the last bit of balmy foraging before the next icy blast.

Distance or space or elongation helps in considering what it means to open into whatever love is. To whichever love is. To whomever love is. In my most clear moments, love cannot be mouthed or scratched out with pen. It is not a penny thrown over the cobblestone sides of the well. It's not mine or yours or ours. And whatever it really is, it just is. But I most feel it as the earth's sweat – river, lake and sea. In moving itself, it moves me. It takes parts of me away, yet leaves me whole. I can't break it down into any intellectual modicum. The metaphysics ascribed added a familiar language to it for a time, but then, didn't. I don't know what to do with it . . . how to hold it, how to let it go. I can float or sink. Swim or play. I can walk away and redirect and plunge myself into bodywork or cooking or Netflix. I can face the flow in awareness and benevolence and recognition. I can drown in confusion or the power or the lack of ability to be a proper conduit.

It's March. Michigan's waters are frozen. We wait on the tilt to bring it all back.





Shrines and Saying Nothing

Saying nothing over and over.

A 4 a.m. nightmare shatters any remaining sleep. Before everyone wakes I build a fire, fry bacon and eggs and cut up a fruit bowl. Somewhere between roasting vegetables for the week and reboiling coffee, B drifts into the kitchen to give hugs and to ferry a few pieces of bacon back to his room. I tell him the sad story of a spider that dropped from the ceiling into hot bacon grease before I could save it. The spider sizzled on contact, making my stomach lurch. L is home from college for a few days before heading off to Indianapolis for performances. Her life as a musician is grueling. She puts in 16 hour days on top of performances, tests, homework and travel. My heart bursts with equal measure of pride and worry.

Another round of arctic air surfs through the area. With a high temperature of 5°F, the greenhouse will add another layer of sanctuary tomorrow. There is a certain sense of gifting and joy when growing plants for others. Sometimes I feel like an elf in the North Pole preparing toys for Christmas morning. Will they smile and love and care for these treasures? This and other myths we build into our lives.

Being in the moment means not building a shrine to the longing. And yet, the longing arrives — for sweaty summer nights or the smell of fallen apples in October's orchard. In the now, wind bounces pine boughs into a dance. And the biting air curls azalea leaves tighter and tighter until they look like short, worn down pencils.

Winter secrets held tightly. Now and not-now at hand. When the rind of night gives way I see spring burnishing the tree line for a few moments. It is true that I wait on the renewal – the resumption of living – the melt. But even waiting is the awareness of now. Please write, even to say nothing, over and over.




Sizzle the Stillness

For less than a handful of heartbeats, magenta-orange rises and arcs over the forever white and deep. Like a dream. Like a whisper of a story.

Before gray settles into its day-long rest, sunrise creeps through white pines and spruce and fir to sizzle the stillness of dawn. Kora makes quick work of canvassing the backyard; the rabbits have been busy overnight making dozens of intersections and pit stops. Even with her light frame, her paws squeak in the snow. Another polar vortex is on its way but I try not to think about it too much. Instead I buy potted daffodil and hyacinth to strategically place around my psyche. Celebrating what ultimately must unfold is one way looking at it. And I am looking at it, love. This bipolar dance of study and turning away is tempered by the embrace of awareness. But listen, the music is always playing for me. “Tell me something, boy . . .”

The greenhouse work is consuming. We are shorthanded this year so the hustle keeps our pace under pressure. But I like my dirt tan. My body likes some of the work but not all. At night after my shower, I ice, stretch and dream about massages. My fingers are thickening with muscle and scrapes because of the work. My wedding ring chokes my finger so it's time to it take off for a season.

Brokeback Mountain, A Handbook for Creative Protest, Dickinson. Winter, greenhouses, gin. A white rose, gentle and thorny. We are always growing a garden; who walks through is up to them.



What is This?

It's not always the moon with its bluesy light floating between feathery pines. Nor is it the way the lake takes small sips at the shore after sunset. It's not just poetry or how I have already seen the first kiss. It's not the angle of elbows leaning on the railing as the mill below pulls the river. It's smaller than that.

It's dark red wine pooling in the curl of my tongue before it slips into all of me. It's the first smell of dirt in the morning at the greenhouse, before the sweat, before the vents open to the sharp blades of winter air. It's the 4 a.m. me thinking of the 4 a.m. you. It's soup and song and snow falling through woodsmoke. It's metaphysical and logical and insanity. It's Cohen and Coltrane and the Cure. It's right now and always. And maybe the imperceptible never. All of this. All of me. Seen before I saw myself. Sure, the sentence carves a rivulet through the fidelity hearts. But what is behind the crocheted gift of words and intent and origin? No reason to rush to the mailbox; no reason to find a way. And yet.

Night floats down and erases all empires. I'm sorry, but there must be more. How many blankets do you prefer, my lovely?

It is a kiss goodnight.




Losing Wild

February provides the glassy hope of returning light. In the same way a single pinpoint of starlight reaches the eye, a chink in the granite corridor of winter allows for some kind of opening. A micro bloom. Clemency, perhaps. This exhalation moves the discussion another way.

Winter tamps down whatever wildness remains at the roots of my hair. This is probably for the betterment of those who choose to eat supper and tend fire and dance with me. Yet a new margin discolors vast miles of white on white on white. I get close enough to the crevice to run my tongue along its edges. Instead of sharp angles left behind by a chiseling or blunt force, the opening is rounded and smooth as if softened over time by moving water. Perhaps my heat will coax winter's relaxation. Maybe the locked creek will wake itself to sprinkle holy water upon feathered heartbeats at rest on high.


now
a little light

enough
to confess

truth

We let go of each other, I guess. Love becomes the Impersonal Everyone it always is. How unfair it is to heat and stamp and shape this existence into anything else. We would have ended up here with or without a kiss, though. Ya know? I watch our verse move like the tide – closer – away – shy – hungry – arrive.

Oak branches solder a flannel sky. Snow, ice, rain, repeat. As I load wood into the woodbox, the rough bark scraps the blistered skin between my fingers. Greenhouse work takes a toll but its a price I don't mind paying for once. Dirt floats in the air and it's warm enough to sweat and to wear shorts. The work takes all of me but having a purpose returns the favor. Back home, remnant downfall from the last ice storm is fed to the fireplace keeping the house just warm enough. After being in the greenhouse all day, every thing feels much colder, even after a hot shower. And finally, falling asleep, wasted from the day, suddenly I am deeply assessing all this work that we do – all this life that lives us – and I am asking: where is the unmanageable wild?



Bird Report

As the dog bounds through the back yard, a junco skitters up from the evergreen bush into a nearby pine. With rare morning light behind the tree, the bird's landing releases the finest glittering of tiny sparkles to fall in and out of perception – a slow motion dusting of prismatic wonderment. If winter was like this more often maybe it wouldn't seem so unrelenting in its ability to unleash misery and despair, especially for those who feed on light. A woodpecker's drumming breaks this dream with staccato bursts of longing. Judging by the volume and clarity, he is next door on neighbor's tree. Given the onset of late winter, perhaps this red-headed king is searching for a mate. All I know is how sharply he can be heard against the frozen silence of this subzero morning.

Yesterday a male cardinal appeared in place I hadn't seen him before. He tried to feed in the small feeder attached to the dining room window but was unable to fit. With multiple attempts, he'd fly in after pausing on the adjacent pine. Tilting and turning his head left and right, his sharp red feathers glared against the green of the needles. Eventually he was forced to pick through the black and golden scraps of seed beneath the window. It's the only feeder the squirrels cannot drain, although they do try. Muddy prints dot the window where the squirrels have managed to jump from the house siding onto the window, only to slide down past the feeder and fall to the ground.

When L. calls from college and asks what I'm up to, I tell her these little vignettes with the full realization that I am now more like my mother than I am not. L. will tell me a million details about her classes and her saxophone studio and her friendships. I love to listen to her chirp and chatter, her voice rising and falling like music itself. She leaves nothing out, or so it seems. Sometimes I curl up in her empty bed and stare out of her bedroom window. I imagine her life now as she grows away from home.

Coming in from school, B. pauses at the window. He'll notice the feeder getting low or the mess the squirrels have made or all the dog prints around the tree where Kora tried in vain to nab the squirrely invaders. I'll ask him how his day was and he say that it was just okay. It is always just okay. His hugs tell me that he is glad to be home. We sit quietly on the couch after school. He'll pet the dog and ask her how her day of squirrel patrol was. He tells her in a cooing voice how badly her breath smells, as if he was giving her the most endearing compliment in the world. We share a smile over that. He scrolls through his phone and asks me if I saw this headline or that headline. Between long silences, he shows me memes and puns and jokes. We can hear K.’s voice through the floor register. Sometimes it's just his side of the conversation but more often it's a conference call with many voices making many decisions for many hours of the day.

Today the house is still sleeping. I want them all to sleep a little longer so that this silence can be stretched a little further. Here is where the bird report begins. In the bird report, the writing begins. And with a little sunlight, something breaks wide open.

Ah, now he stirs. The toilet flushes and I know my morning prayers are finished. Though winter has taken too much, February begins to give. Here and there, feathery amens start to rise. A chickadee leads the way.

Alabaster Aftermath

After five days of relentless snowbands and arctic freeze, a break in singular condition becomes a song. Rabbit tracks lead up to the front door it feels like the holy visit of a ghost. Hash and eggs on the stove. Coffee for him. Tea for me. The dog limps to her bed to lick her paws after a brief time outside. Today is diverting snow from drains and roofs before the warm up.

Blue, like unrelenting eyes, above for the first time in a million days. Like poetry pounding on my heart. Like the time I almost drove east into the sea. Who have I swallowed? Who's ego has been reinvested into my cosmos? We are not sundered, despite long white miles of winter's reach.

Seeds unsown. Empty buckets. The wheelbarrow sleeps in the shed. To ride out whole seasons is to be handed over in faith. February says sometimes there is a deep truth within a lie. That's the book I tried to write. Untranslatable. Untoward. Unshelved. Yet under this breakthrough sky, I can glint and shimmer upon that which is cold and barren. I can knit the belief of here and not here into a scarf wrapped twice around my neck.

After the outside work is done, a hot shower and this.

This before the melt.
This before the refreeze.
This before I write the book.



For a Kiss

I.

I spend the morning watching pine trees conduct a winter symphony. The last of January howls. Every window is white and ice builds on the inside sills. The furnace hums to keep the house warmhearted. There is no where to go and no way to get there.

faultless
laundered
dawn


II.

We are starved of the sun and obliterated by sub-zero winds. Snow adds to itself, unceasing, rising into new territory. Naked bulbs press into their deep sleep. Irrelevant of which way I write or to whom, my ruminations birth one manifestation.

of chickadees
taking turns on pine branches
to feed –
what I can taste
of January

III.

On occasion
I drink hot chocolate
and it hurts my stomach
I keep my favorite beer on hand
despite the allergy
And I pin you to the wall in the stairwell
so my eyes can ask
for a kiss
for the gateway of dreams
for the manifestation of what is always present
despite the ruinous fruit
because something is ruined, yes?
I am this, this




Tasting

Snow over ice over sleeping daffodils.

I'm up long before daybreak to roast root vegetables, make a batch of chili, shovel the driveway and spread salt. After a night of snowfall, day breaks into brief moments of silver. My cheeks burn from the cold air and the sting stays with me most of the day.

A blizzard bears down from the west, gathering moisture from Lake Michigan. Another 12+ inches and -50 windchill is expected. Preparations are in order: firewood, gasoline, candles, batteries. I clear as much snow as I can before my soft body gives way. After an hour of raking the roof, my arms are too shaky to wipe the freezing sweat from my forehead. I trip myself in the calf-deep snow walking back to the garage and decide to just stay down for a bit. The dog thinks I am playing, so I do. Fake it 'til you make it, right?

Still on the ground, tiny prisms melt on my face. When the dog sticks her nose into my scarf-swaddled neck, I remember my dream from last night in which we shared a bowl of soup. And tea. Through the fragrance of steam you said: when you love one, you love the whole.

Back inside, heating the kettle, I catch a glimpse of the pileated woodpecker at the feeder and it sends a shiver up the back of my neck. He is exactly where he should be but his large frame and fiery crest startles me every time. Winter wants nothing from me – but it is here – and I am here – between thoughts – shoveling – sleeping – dreaming under books and a mountain of quilts. We are not on the periphery. We are threaded through – led by a piercing needle – down – under – up over – down through again. I'm not sure what we are making but even now in this unrelenting winter, piling white upon white upon white, I taste the vibrancy

of what
and of whom
we are making