Rising

One by one, muted lights dab through a predawn fog. During the night a thunderstorm's ovation dropped in and out of my sleep. How misplaced the rain is in December. How unmanageable the gray. With morning, the hush knows what I know.

Sunday eventually lifts from the stove with soup and roasted asparagus. Affection. Attention. Maybe apprehension. I see it all through because existence demands it.

Love as a messenger swings the gate inward to invite the loss of time and tears and unknowing. Caught off guard by the billowing comfort of a chesty fullness, I sit for long stretches as if basking in some unseeable light. An awareness of beauty has begun to sharpen and seems to have no resting place; it simply rises from everything that must die. What is pursued, what is expected, what is defined, what is captured must perish. In this death, one forfeits purpose and motive and usefulness to finally see. Beauty. And where there is beauty, there is love.


white pine waving
woodsmoke on the rise
winter loves me, loves me not


Love Unsettled

Sleeping below a winter's moon the night groans with a colder version of day. In one dream, we know each other's hands by now. In another, I sit in my room alone wondering how to make things different.

The wooded creek collects fall's last foliage. One day the air is 22 degrees, the next day it's 47. Yet one thing remains the same: gray after gray after gray. On the way to Pentwater, the solemn remains of milkweed – a parade of bare sticks standing thigh-high with nothing but cottony tufts atop to be directed by wind and snow and rain. They stand in groups in front of long, sleeping fields all the way to the highway. My thoughts wander to growing Cannabis and what that would mean for my community and family.

For breakfast, a feta-potato-chorizo omelet topped with a hint of jalapeno cream sauce. Aggravation simmers over the meal as I watch adolescent squirrels drain the squirrel-proof bird feeder. “Squirrels gotta eat too” no longer overrides or placates the intention of the feeder. One realizes one must get smarter or relent.

He reported that he intended to have me sign a copy of my book (which alone is an entirely ridiculous to consider) but when he arrived, he realized he had left it on the plane. “Well perhaps it was meant for someone else,” I quipped. This is an example of how I can mean something whole-heartedly and at the same time, feel the corruption of something entirely opposite.

accept / override / reset / repeat

Lately, considering love. Thoughts mound and heap and yet, build nothing. Whatever love is, it cannot be thought. Labels and ideas and restrictions should be rejected because they enslave. I see myself diving, using my arms to push aside water in order to go deeper and further beneath all that I have considered love to mean. Running out of oxygen, I begin to see that I am guilty of defining love, restricting love, of marrying love and sorrow together. Something more radical is at stake here. Deeper than desire, more alive than duty, beyond turmoil and chaos and conflict – love is perhaps a place that rejects all maps and calculations and efforts. Maybe love is just right now. And now. And now.



Missing Red

Curled up conversations reverberate like an old player piano in need of tuning, fully committed to it's own sound. Your ghost walks with wayward courage right through the song. This mesh gauze around my neck – this red cape shouldering winter's gaze.

holly berries / scarlet / making a scene

It's been weeks without sun. Lake effect cloud cover stretches taunt across a blue sea of waiting. Wanting? Coffee / happy lamp / sleep / tea / yoga / sleep

Where are you and why?

What do you think: was I kindled from the lake or woods or mountains or the field? I pace the floor feeling grains of dirt and slivered planks and thirsty oak. Bare maples and scrubby pines gather the gray sky. The thing about birds is that they do not visit on command. Lately, nuthatch, titmouse and chickadees. But the cardinal is not here. Missing red, missing fire.

Nineteen Bibles on the top shelf, black or brown bound, some gilded in gold. To be fair, three of the holy books are in another language. The next shelf down is Biblical historical commentaries by desert fathers and philosophers and saints, mostly bound in varying shades of wine. Can one donate who one used to be? The books are dusted without reverence but dusted nevertheless.

Whatever light there was today slinks away long before dinner. Spicy Korean beef noodles, red wine and a blushing fireplace. Or maybe just red wine. It's okay to melt; good even.




Hewn

Heat from the fireplace crawls past my feet, up my shins, over my bent knees, then directly to my paper cheeks. The air cools a bit when the dog walks between me and the fire. I feel drowsy enough to dream about hell after falling asleep here. As my eyelids pray, they come to rest on the old hatchet leaning against the brick. Its white paint has peeled almost entirely off the wooden handle, leaving the impression of spongy age. What can be hewn when held properly? The day never brightens above highway-gray.

Michigan's cycles secure me in a loop. November curls into the downward arc that will tuck me into the bottom of months. Coffee, sleep, coffee. Voiceless light. Shoreless seas of night. It is my only mission to forget about winter's duration in order to tread water today. And maybe tomorrow.

Blowing leaves come to rest amongst fallen brethren – a cartography of brown hands at peace after a few moments of freedom. I can't hear the birds singing. Therefore division. And loneliness. Through the dark, one follows the notes of light up ahead. What song of light do I live by? I curl up into the blanket, thankful to teachers who have taught more than they know. Gratitude / survival / repeat.

At last, October lets go. Love must win; there is no otherwise. I open the gate and watch it all pass through.

A Bare Song

This day under infinite gray. Yellow and orange trembles a bit against the low light. Staring out into a slow fall, nothing in November anchors my eye. Where are you?

Rain begins to patter a bare song. A burning persists with unseeable light. Missing are the syllables of our secret name. Missing is the contentment of place.

In a dream, Amherst called. Her bees and butterflies mentioned you, but it was the violets that sang of the sting. After the dream, a small glowing spur nestled on top of my heart. Presence struggles with mind. Whatever love is to you, show me. My eyes are dim with ache. Well, that's what I said to the sorrel sea of leaves.

Even now across the muck fields, the eye eats an expanse of black soil topped with illegitimate green – stolen hints of April – savored long after the deep, open-mouthed kiss. Acres race past before an eye can blink. So, too, the construction of time. Remembering is different than never forgetting, beloved.


Roil Sink Rise

A chalice declined.

October gray engulfs me in a disorientating sea. At least tell me how wrong I am or how inconsequential my homage has become. This unfeeling day. This rain that sounds like applause but is only just water on the move.

She said, “ the terrain of paper . . .” That is how a heart hears love. Yet the muse wraps itself in gauze and batting. One insulates and protects. Another struggles to breathe. Thank God for yellow maples imitating the sun!

Which do I want – to drown in the sea or to be left orphaned by its departure?

Roil – sink – rise. You know I am not my words, yet you do not know who I am. Beyond the utterance of pixel and ink is the extremity of love. Married by what we have not done, not said, not believed.

The long, drawn out stories of aspens on the hill. Wind writes the narrative for a few more weeks. Each papery emissary hints at the falling sky to come. I know it's wrong await the running rivulets of April; I'm trying to stay here. From my dining room seat, I side-eye the nuthatch at the window feeder. He warbles a few notes every time he picks through the seed. The chickadee waits his turn on the pine branch and hurriedly flutters in after the nuthatch has gone. These visitors are enough but I do wonder if the cardinal will find his way here.

My beauty lies, but you are not looking for that. Instead you thirst. Drink where you can. This cup of wholeness, of offering cannot be poured out.



Vibrato and Heart-notes

October ends with maple trees trickling yellow in a rainstorm. Before the house wakes: a fire, breakfast, tea and coffee. Sunday takes a few extra hours to brighten.

More news of deepening hate. How quickly we forget our roots. Rot blistering, bursting its infection amongst the compromised. Who is not implicated? I struggle to accept these moments. More bodies put at rest. More sermons on love.

She plays a concert for us in front of the fireplace. The dog bows and wags her tail between the second and third movement of the eight minute piece. Along with vibrato and heart-notes, our daughter's essence lifts from the earth – away from home. I don't try to collect it any longer but I do tilt and bob in her waves. As she drives away in the old red Subaru, I remind her to vote. Be heard, child.

Chickadees wait their turn at the feeder, shaking raindrops off pine boughs when they arrive and leave. There'll be no yard work today. No fishing for leaves in the creek. No piling or raking or tarping. Grass begins to dream and bulbs curl into a lingering torpor. The ossature of January drinks strength from October. Hollowed out acorns reveal that survival pulls no punches.

Ginger snaps dipped in peach tea. Soup on the stove all day. The sonance of migrating geese rising over Chopin and other sounds of sabbath . . . such precious occurrences in an economy of violence.





Still Always

In a muted room next to a dying fire maybe it is easy enough to imagine letting it all fade. House noises thin to an almost-silence broken here and there by the refrigerator hum or climbing heat from the furnace. October's best moon burns through its foggy veil. I burn too. Still. Always.

At the new feeder, birds tell the only news I want to hear. Hours liquesce watching tiny antics. Light upon light. But it's still not enough to end it all, my wordy friend . . . is it? In the distance of that memory, purple hills rise out of the gentle clearing. Soon winter's bride will be all we can see. Yet for now, the heart and mind backpedal towards summer's heat of almost. Pines stand around us like a grove of chaperones. Eagles lead the way home.

Now, stacking winter's wood and clearing piles of absent minded leaves. July is estranged but October has its charms – ripped blue jeans, puffy jackets with loopy scarves, and warm kisses beneath cold noses. Our walk in the woods is louder. Our chesty sleep is heavy with blankets. Only, you know . . . our dreams cry out for heat that has left.

Yoga before dawn. Ceylon tea. A walk with the dog as far as she will go. The world wears me until skin shows through the husk. Move. Make the bed. Carry the weight of everything unsaid. Let's not do it this way, okay?


More Honest Than Vows

Learning language in order to read One book . . .

We travel through a copse of meadow shrubs and leggy grasses unto a shared opening.

A heron rises on golden air from the shallows leaving only rippled hints of what was.

The watcher and the watched, intersecting and calling it love.

It's too cold for crickets and the frogs are finding a place, deeper.

I've collected the wood for burning but it's a little too damp to burn easily.

How terrible to hold the coming winter in the same hands as acorns and pinecones!

And yet . . . acorns and pinecones!

Where we arrive, out of the distance, the woods are familiar and filled with the songs of birds we know by heart.

Only, it is time that allows for shadows and seasons and the reclaiming of fallen things.

It is time that shackles the body to days and longing and the parameters of light.

Accordingly, that learned language becomes a knowing gaze.

And such a look pulls silk across my shoulders, shuddering to the floor.

More intimate than life – more honest than vows.

Black bean soup and a struggling fire in the fireplace.

Woodsmoke, an “I love you” . . . and I do.


A Little Wincing

Dawn hardly breaks despite a late morning hour. October's struggling light reveals an archipelago of rusted leaves dotting the unkept lawn. Clusters of windfall give proof that last night's storm was more than a dream. A chickadee and I chuckle over the idea of anything being more than a dream.

Everyone knows that waking at 2 a.m. is not as poetic or sexy as 4 a.m. No unraveling of the great memoir or the dismantling of men-driven power at 2 a.m. No profound peace. No prophetic expansion of consciousness. Instead, podcasts. A stiff neck. An inventory of acorns rolling off the roof.

Lately, the practical lessons of learning to skate on thin ice. What is this frigid thing? A layer of immobility covers a lake teeming with life. What love means while lacing up skates is different than what love means while doing the breast stroke. It is all overthought and not thought of enough. Tell me the story again of that lumbering bear finding her way through stars and northern forests and the cold caverns of hibernation. Tell me again about how she knows what to do because she can do no otherwise.

For dinner, black bean soup over brown rice, green onions, broken blue corn chips, and the smallest smattering of cheese atop. That's the thing with cheese – the full impact of flavor comes when used sparingly. A fine meal re-smelts all stories and sleepless nights and trails left behind by sauntering Ursidae. It's my latest hope anyway.


geese rising
against fall

and pebbles
in my shoe –

a little wincing
before home



Say Something

Say something that matters to me, to all of us.

Oaks turn green-gold and suburban maples begin to singe. Yesterday's rain drove through the night and continues unto a darker dawn. The elixir of rain, acorns, leaves and earth grabs me by the back of the neck when I open the door for the first time today. October arrives.

Grotesque white men in their anger and power leave indelible strangle marks around my throat. I watch those men writhe in the same way the school children did on the coast of Kenya when the demons were excised by the village elders. They pound and flail, spit and curse. Their indignant sputters reveal the blindness that has taken up residence. Blessed be the peacemakers, but where the fuck are they? Mine might be missing.

October's soup and apples by the bushel. I watch the creek push fallen leaves into frog-homes and over rock-cliffs. It overflows in this rain but we're all used to that by now. Soon enough it won't be rain and soon enough we won't feel at all comfortable with the way things are.

Did you hear her voice describe what she can never forget? They laughed at her. I vomited. Did you actually hear her? Not ALL white people, not ALL men, not ALL Americans, right? Baby and bathwater and all that...I'm running out of ways to keep violence at bay. Pretty soon I'll just be running.

The sedum in the garden lie flat under all their purple weight. One last rose bloom surprised the deadening of summer. How soft yellow can be! How pure in its reason for living! Sweatshirts, jeans and jackets. And all my pretty scarves. The beauty of October snaps open the breastplate like celery. My color leaks.

Say something that matters to all of us; would you?



In the Lake

A persistent rain at dawn. I sit in the garage staring at an incomprehensible world. Cowboy Junkies sneaks through the screen door and all of sudden it's easy to remember – my bedroom floor, studio headphones, a boy who wrote lyrics for the band. Quiet passion with a loud guitar. No need to return.

And also there was that boy who had to have me. In the lake. During the day. One year or 30, it's the same. Women work the land as if it might someday give us something whole and healthy. Yet we exist as what, helper to man? Your Bible, your Cain and Abel. Please write another story. Christ as a bird, maybe?

After a few storms, the rain moves east but leaves behind a thick, soggy air. The smell of wet earth, onions and Lake Michigan is invaded by too many mosquitoes. They land, bite and repeat as I cut the grass. Afterwards, dinner. Potato leek soup, salad and lemon bars.

Am I built to last?




Fighting for October

Waiting for October’s light, my priest in training, newly called to absolving indiscretions. How her red tassels would fall around his face, and how fiercely he would grope for fidelity.

Lately I am rolled like the sea – one minute surfacing in a weightless release – the next, brought ashore in a weedy pirouette of struggle. Days pass without a certain sense of grounding. Still: laundry, dishes, cooking, cleaning, and neatly tying up the loose ends of a homemaker's fray.

And patriarchy . . . the rancid air that crushes breastplates and gags pretty little mouths. Being angry is supposed to matter. Speaking up is supposed to matter. This rigid dichotomy of gender roles is not built for intimacy. Or happiness. Why are perpetrators protected? And why are they so often women, too? Where is the remedial empathy?

Power. Consent. Privilege. We need to become whole. Air needs to become breathable, crisp, October-ish. Speak, participate, to be believed. Our predators have ravaged through the centuries unchecked. Why do I have to ask for respect? The weariness of contraction is a thief.

The nuthatch and the chickadee take turns at the small feeder on the dining room window. Another chickadee hovers in flight, waiting. Acorns still fall, all day, all night. Nature as distraction and as every thing.





Magic and the Mundane

R.E.M., red lentil chili and summer leaving. Lately, starry nights lead to foggy, gradient dawns tasting like earth and damp leaves. I arrange and rearrange a sunflower bouquet to remind myself that sometimes a passive aggressive response is better than no response at all. I'm trying to make others happy because that is the trick, right?

A strange resurgence of mosquitoes. Bees abound now, too. The dog is allergic to bee stings, yet she snaps her jaws and swallows the bees whole.

I can't remember the last time there was anything to say. Where does the roiling and insistence go? The remains of orchid light slides away without so much as a word. It's all connected to this body – this way of being in the world – an entanglement of magic and the mundane. Language is arbitrary. Yet I pull it all apart and bring it close in order to fashion a thing I love.


bluejays / crickets / frogs –
summer's final say
slips through
backyard
pines





On Love

 

Bits of Wandering Jew broke off the main plant when carrying it to a location more suitable. Some time later along the watering route, I saw these left-behind bits on the ground. Kneeling to clear the debris, I found them attached to the earth.

How very deeply purple this plant is; how easily it roots and renews!

Summer must give way to whatever is next. A grief still lingers over a lost month, swallowed whole by the impossibly soft and bottomless muck. Love heals. Seeing it clearly is the trick.

All of me is mine, she said. If I could kiss her to taste it, maybe I would believe it for myself. This and other little bits of honesty.

Acorns already. Green-hatted shot gun rounds, day and night, hitting the roof and rolling. Onto unstained decks. Onto cars. Onto arched backs working in the garden.

Cicada thin above it all. Michigan, I am so in love, except when you bury me in granite clouds and entomb whatever is left. But you know, even then, a love slanted towards the earth.

It's in my chest and I need to tell you; I need to give you what is yours. Two hands crossed on the clavicle.

Curling leaves, yellowing like a bruise from the edges in. For hours the Hairy Woodpecker pulls bark off the old oak. How summer is sighs.

October is wanting the now, not the after. How else would Libra keep in all in check?

Whisper your cold lips closer to my ear. Then, turn to hear what only I can say.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just a Diddy

This part of summer is a little quieter. Bees sketch the red edges of rabbit-sized begonias and screaming blue jays finally find somewhere else to be. 

From the adjacent pine, chickadees take turns flying to the feeder suction-cupped to the dining room window. Lately chickadees are near while I take tea on the back deck and walk dewy trails in the morning and water the summer garden.

Tiny kamikaze acorns liter the deck and fall into tea cups. Tom Petty and Perseid and Poplar leaves, too.

On the way, Joe-pye Weed, White Clover, and the petite, buttery kiss of Evening Primrose. Milkweed seed pods are gathering their cache now, so it won't be long before it all flies into September.

Words cannot render the nature we know. I assure you, prison houses are built this way.

fallen birch
opening the church
door

Leaf to creek, pine cone to ground – inevitable meetings keep the coil in season. Less and less, the waft of lilies.

And yet. More and more, Summer's ukulele strums heart-chords, and I know all the words.

 

This Far North

On the island of bicycles and horses, we peeled the compass rose petal by petal. The craggy shoreline sprayed Lake Huron's dramatic memoir – sometimes angry, sometimes at peace. Pine trees stacked upon each other higher than any path and their dense green mounds kept reaching and reaching, clear against the sky. This far north, I could breathe. This far north, my blood buzzed with belonging or recognition or knowing.

At night, stars leaked through the blackness all at once into a great stillness. Huron's half moon slipped in and out of filmy clouds, but it was still easy to see every thing. No manmade lights were visible and no sounds other than crickets interrupted the silvery silence. One can hear one's own heartbeat in the unbearable immensity. How I imagine things to be has no place this far north; there is only this reality.

The Monarch has miles of milkweed bloom to visit this far north. Even along the windward side of the island, butterflies would alight against gusts and sway and breeze. Watching them feed, my mind was settled yet very alive. There was no agenda in observation, only presence. Only natural proximity. Only a holy passing of one moment to the next.

Previous wanderers stacked the lake's stones in cairns all the way around the island. It's a joy to come upon the first one, but something a little less after that. Every now and again, the smell of horses would tangle with the indomitable air off the lake. Belgian Drafts pull wagons and flatbeds up the lane. Their power ripples with every step and thusly, a wave of awe registers. Which other creature offers such radiance?

Up this far north, the lightening bugs flashed a bluer light. This glinting asked if a love could exist outside one's longing. The sages say so. I'm not sure what to think anymore. I'm tired of thinking it all through and would now rather rest in the excellency of light as it touches each branch and stone and grain of sand.

Yet thinking or not thinking, the tidal ebb and flow remains. On the bed, in this northern light, the process for allowing it all begs for gentleness and truth. These words are the honesty that keeps asking for a stage. Please applaud now.

 

 

 

Threading the Lungs

The sun setting behind my shoulders caused the screen to cast a gridded shadow over the pages. Words hopscotched from one tiny golden square to the next while I thought about how unusual it was to have the sun at my back this time of day. Westerly light is warming, sure. Yet it is the east's edge that slices corseted breaths. With long strokes he butters sleeping fields and threads the lungs of pines and oak. And after supper he teases silken indigo between his finger and thumb, gently coaxing the cover for fireflies and french kissing. What is unseen still has an indelible hand. I write around and under and through as it holds me by the throaty gasp.

My bed is busy with books these days. Blankets are heavy with words as they lie undisturbed beneath the weight. Work in the gardens has slowed to a pruning maintenance. What task can now equal the communion of green and black and golden mana? I watch the heron bow into the pewter sky at his feet. Though I am half-hidden, he lets me know I am fully seen. To consider his grace is to also be stunned by one's own recklessness. #sorrynotsorry #thisisme #love

The numbing creek rushes over my feet and around my ankles causing a shackling ache to clamp my bones. The constriction causes a headache as I move with kitten steps over river rock and shards of driftwood. Sometimes it doesn't pay to get your feet wet; sometimes it's more romantic in theory is all I'm saying. But summer does open up all kinds of space that might have been too condensed beforehand. Summer does breed magic and symphonic winds and that ineffable holiness that speaks for us when we cannot tell the truth. Summer can't help herself is what I mean.

Lucille Clifton and Strand and Oliver. Peepers and bats and owls. My spine bends towards the extravagant expanse. How I arch over the marriage of certainty and the lymphatic; how I finally collapse under the cumulous tide of racing clouds against untouchable blue! These are the words that are making room for light. For east. For love.

 

 

Corner to Corner

It wasn't until the storm clouds broke open that I realized I had been waiting for it to rain all day. A long exhale uncoiled as water spill over the eaves. Maybe it is honesty that is missing somewhere and the deficit looks like a smile and well-wishes. The rain curates a surrender – a quiet introspection of that which is not ever said anymore.

On the corner there were two mourners sitting on a patched blanket in front of a post of sorts, decorated with flowers and posters and offerings for someone loved. They were having a small picnic while looking down at their laps, engaging the dead at the last place they were seen alive. A blessing filled all the cracks and spaces in my throat. Yet after passing, a recognition of resemblance sent prickling shockwaves from my chest outward into the tips of existence and back again: I, too, return to the place where I was last alive.

I bring the writing and the conversations and the revelations.

I spread the quilt carefully on the grass as to not damage or kill what is growing.

I cradle the memories and count the connection as real – more real than the fact that I am sitting alone at the altar of my own making.

The red-winged blackbird's trill pierces the moment as he adjusts his balance on the cattail next to the highway on-ramp. And he's on the telephone pole that leans over the train tracks on 40th avenue. And he's sitting on the railing at Mom's house on Gun Lake. And he's at the neighbor's feeder, further in from the marsh than expected. This bird of seasons – here for the warmth, south when it all freezes. Because that is how it is. It's how Michigan is. It's how the living reaps what they can from the conditions of an unpredictable climate for survival's sake.

So maybe maybe I shake the grass and dirt off the bottom of the quilt, and fold its patches onto one another – corner to corner . . .

and maybe take the flowers off the post and set them in the passenger seat

and maybe I go home to put it all away

and work in the yard a bit

and go see a movie

past my bedtime

with my family

and count it all 

as living 

 

 

 

Offerings

The greenhouse work is done and now the days are laced with a sinister ache. I rise early to begin the day with movement and intention and production. Yet, by 10 a.m., claws poke through the upper chest wall, exposing bloodied barbs to the world. And to me. Watering takes time and so does walking with the dog, cleaning this and that, and pulling the never-ending vines that choke out more civilized plants in the yard. But then the day elongates with a nothingness only faintly spotted with reasons to do things. Sleep is dangerous because it is far too easy to carry on a love affair with the black forgetfulness of unconsciousness. If you love me, give me books to read. Good ones. Ones that convert my festering diseases into time well spent.

What images have I built of you and what images have you built of me? The space in between is an interesting interloper. Say hi to her for me.

The dog curls up in the cushioned patio chair from which she can scan most of the quarter-mooned back yard. I see a young rabbit snacking on begonias just out of her view. Another record-breaking heat blankets the day but there is no cell in my body that wishes it away; winter is still so very close. There is less to be worked out, but there is more here. It's what I have to offer.