Longing, we say, because desire is full
of endless distances.”

31 March 2011


Letters from the Outside, #38

Bellyache, maybe the spectre of something i successfully parried with last falls flu shot.  who knows what else they put in there.  but grief settles in the lungs and anxiety sits in the belly like bones.  i think i said that before.  so theres this ache set under my rib-bones, hostage of my diffidence, my rabbit-mind.  deeper down they tell me there be cells fomenting a mutiny.  the goldfinch at the feeder is complete in its light-half transformation.  not the goldenrod of summer courting, but each feather bone filled with serum to carry the current for color.

The first law of thermodynamics says energy can neither be created, nor can it be destroyed.  the Whole Thing shifting and churning, everything expanding away to converge.  but expand into what if It is all there is?  Life expends energy.  everything sheds light, cells, fumes.  weve built our culture from the molten bones of the Old Gods, now reaping their vengeance.  Something about the earthquake in Japan causing a wobble that lengthens the terrestrial day.

 i patter and bang on the djembe with the intent of casting out some of these haunting squatters but i dont think the style is right.  my instincts -- in my middle life i begin to allow them their "still and quiet voice within" -- indicate something Arctic, Boreal.  the dry hide of a reindeer stretched over the outer ring of Evergreen, or Birch, or even Ash.   struck with a blunted stick or a wingbone like a bodhran or the drum of some Sami shaman.  im getting my fathers banjo restored, and will play it wearing safety glasses if i have to.

Ego is a drug, is an addiction.  It --we use it-- validates and magnifies our Fear.  Love and Fear cannot exist in the same place at the same time.  And all our choices come down to that dichotomy:  Love or Fear.  From which spring do we choose to drink?  For the great majority of us, Ego is a deeply ingrained habituation, which we are all infinitely stronger than, but its imprint upon us from the start, its intrusion and stealth, makes it like the river for a fish or the forest for a tree.  Inextricably interwoven.  A package deal.  But thats simply untrue.  Days old, an elephant is chained by the leg to a log it cannot drag.  As the elephant grows, only the size of the shackle must grow with it.  the log need never change.  the creature believes it is immovable, implacable, ultimate.  The weight of the log is an illusion now, maintained faithfully by the creature itself.
and only one step forward would set it free. 

Letters from the Outside, #37

Upon the Equinox. The dogs paws break through clear thin ice on the culverts running gravity's perpendicular. The Big Dog celebrates the water, however challenging the temperature must be. He is half water-dog, and I suppose it takes up the whole half. Blue Dog is decidedly highground, dryground. Big Dog longs to lope away in great concentric arcs, the wily deluge of smells rushing through him, his long limbs falling into some ancient and effortless gait. Blue Dog trots forward purposefully and slightly away, but always the return, the brush of a nose against that latitude of my leg, and away, over and over, the Earth and the Sun and the Moon.

The frozen edge of everything softens. For days the cellar pump has ceaselessly run, and it gives a kind of tugboat/trawler penobscot romance to the house. Me and my purple crayon...

Long days now, were all thrown off by seven o'clock sunshine, used to dinner in the light of a kitchen inside the outer dark. But cold, mercury hanging off the twenty line with admirable tenacity.

Canary colored sunrise spreads through the feathers of the finches at the thistle feeder. There is birdsong in the morning, and robins, their proud breast the banner of Spring. There are fuzzed buds at the very top of my young apple trees, pussywillow bunnytoes along the roadside. 

Commencing greenhouse operations with the dark moon in April (once it moves out from void-of-course), the tomato plants, maybe those orange-flesh honeydew seeds I saved. Parsley. Peppers, if theres any of those seeds lying around, usually the orange or yellow bells, some hot Hungarians. Everything else should probably stay tucked into their sleeves until Beltane. Could get the lettuce and greens going, those dont have to wait until the end of May. Some Calendula for salves and salads, my Matamorph and Cempoatxochitl Marigold garden sentry devas. Peas, beans, radish, carrots and beets will go straight into the ground. Less Chard, more Broccoli. Collards, Cabbage, Squash. Sunflowers, Hopi Tobacco and Corn. I think my Outhouse Hollyhocks will come back this year in the sun, and the Foxgloves in their shadow.

The light is so strong in the cold; atomic hope streaming into everything as we lean for awhile toward our star. The hummingbirds are coming soon. Snow holds onto northern exposures and the ground is frozen. Ragged flannel nightgown clouds turn April to February. Monday saw most of my chores completed, so tuesday seems the day I drape myself into the library hammock and read. 
Ceremony (“the greatest novel in Native American literature”)
Go With Me (“the most suspenseful, frightening, memorable and best-written novel about backwoods America since Deliverance”)
Inside of a Dog (“Enter the sensory world of your dog”)
So Long, See You Tomorrow (“One of the great books of our age”)

At the surface of the backburner stack are Fight Club (the first published Palahniuk)
The Hidden Reality: Parallel Universes and the Deep Laws of the Cosmos (“its only prerequisite the will to persevere”)

The nightstand queue holds translations of The Metamorphoses of Ovid(“from the time chaos is transformed into order at the moment of creation, to the time when the soul of Julius Caesar is turned into a star”)
The Real Middle Earth (“a fine tour through the mythology of early medieval England”)
The Bardo of Waking Life (“a magical artifact materialized out of a future dream”)
Thoreau (both Walden and Civil Disobedience)
Ravensong: A Natural and Fabulous History of Ravens and Crows
 No Time to Lose: A Timely Guide to the Way of the Bodhisattva,
The Solace of Open Spaces (“Wyoming has found its Whitman”)

Still repotting in that burgeoning dirt urge, bought two more Schlumbergia 'cause these have different flowers, slender petaled desert flowers with scrolling filament stigmas, and came in two colors. Bookshops and Plant Nurseries. I suppose that accounts for the d├ęcor around here. Brownies and 1-2-3-4 cake. One of the orchids has sent out a long, thumbed stalk to bloom from, and the Hoya with its nectar weeping fuzzy compound flowers . Oxalis blossoms profuse, more evanescent and subtle than paperwhites. The Banjo as an exercise in conquering Fear.

One of those days you wonder if the snow is over, for now, and then they call for three days of it before a weeklong of rain. Everything is rising from its dormancy, but the heavy baffled clouds make the brown fields and bare trees seem more desolate and witholding,like November. Its one breath at a time, and I need to believe that theres something to it, so I do. We love you.

29 March 2011

and many happy returns, Mr. Idle.

25 March 2011

its the birthday of Flannery O'Connor.

"When we look at a good deal of serious modern fiction, and particularly Southern fiction, we find this quality about it that is generally described, in a pejorative sense, as grotesque. Of course, I have found that anything that comes out of the South is going to be called grotesque by the Northern reader, unless it is grotesque, in which case it is going to be called realistic. ... Whenever I'm asked why Southern writers particularly have a penchant for writing about freaks, I say it is because we are still able to recognize one."

22 March 2011

its the birthday of Billy Collins

For Bartleby The Scrivener 
"Every time we get a big gale around here
some people just refuse to batten down."

we estimate that

ice skating into a sixty
mile an hour wind, fully exerting
the legs and swinging arms

you will be pushed backward
an inch every twenty minutes.

in a few days, depending on
the size of the lake,
the backs of your skates
will touch land.

you will then fall on your ass
and be blown into the forest.

if you gather enough speed
by flapping your arms
and keeping your skates pointed

you will catch up to other
flying people who refused to batten down.
you will exchange knowing waves
as you ride the great wind north.

14 March 2011

11 March 2011

Letters from the Outside #36

The mist a thin scrim, an intermission between events sent from Ohio, the deep snows. But now its water in the air like by long falls and liquid music in the rills feeding creeks and east to the Sea. Stacked maybe two face cord, baked an apple crisp. My heart was sad out there in the side yard, thinking how cool it would be to wave hey to you across the sound of the water, through the thin twigs of the hedge. And then came in and listened to knopfler and ate warm apple crisp with vanilla ice cream and I thought maybe sometime Potter will come over and well eat warm apple crisp with vanilla ice cream in the kitchen and listen to music and laugh.

Lady pulls up with a clipboard and I override the pink sheet on the door what says “We would greatly appreciate it if you would refrain from attempting to sell us either your product or your god. Thank you.” shes selling cable. One of the first things we did when we got here was take the tv spacedish off the outhouse. She reads the sign and takes me in, psychedelic longsleeve with the collar cut out, wide leg linen pantaloons billowing, my hair haphazard in some yogi topknot, smiling. Admirably, she gets to the point. “You dont believe in cable, do you.” “I believe it exists,” I reply. The dogs are circling and leaping around her, and I can see shes filing through her gambits, exercising the remote edges of her training in sales. I ask her who owns the company shes trying to sell me. She does not know. I tell her that we may be interested at some point in switching internet companies. She gives me a number at which to reach her directly. She remains pleasant and agile throughout the interaction. I will call her, probably.

Forty on friday, the glacier recedes but taking out the recycling is still a small treacherous endeavor. A yard of long grass, matted maple leaves and thawing frozen dog turds is revealed. We throw the frisbee to the blue dog, who skids and cavorts through the slush and the mud endlessly retrieving. Therell be more snow before this is over, but we walk through the latest brief reprieve, the wind raging through ragged white sheets of cloud so that when the sun comes through its like some miraculous event, which I suppose it is. But theres deep damp in it, the air full of water from the creek that leads to the lake up over its edges, swamping the blue trailer and spreading over the back lawns across the street, a churning of pumps in cellars all down the row, I suppose.

Everyone tired; overstimulated by so much light is my hypothesis. The light is rising out away from november and back towards may, just the thinnest skim of cowslip to it, little flame slowly rising through the white. This is still a winters wind, just full of snow drawn back up into humidity, however chill. I study the wild grapevine, the wild violet already evidencing how hardy and hale it is, ready to conquer the northern flowerbed, whatever alternate plan I may have had. The rhododendrons made it, even today their waxy palms unfurled to bring sweet green light to sleeping xylem and phloem. The true canadian migrators pass over the house in twos and fours, that glorious noise that stops me like Mary Olivers muezzins. There are small bogs across the lawn, and the garden fence is wonked, entirely. This leads me to imagine the long days of breeze with more generous syrups of sun, bringing down the old sunflowers and corn, digging out the more formidable looking weeds before tilling. Remember not to till too early, I say. I could put in a patch of spinach and greens before proper tilling, I say. But I am an old woman and this damp cold, despite the visceral thrill of the sound of the air moving through tall trees close by, drives me inside, albeit half-heartedly, George Gordon dying slowly on the grey moor, something like that. Drives me inside and suggests time spent putting together another crisp for the weekend is just as well spent, the mind roving its memory and consciousness, the hands at work transubstantiating last years apples and dessicated discs of grain into something warm and sweet and excellent smelling to be eaten in a small bowl with maybe just a spoon of ice cream and some coffee.

If there was somewhere for the dogs and I to rove that didnt include passing cars and macadam, id go. But today, right now, im here in the four-legged squallor and piles and stacks writing letters to my evangelical friend about Peace, and Jesus and Love and Liberation Theology and why I wont attend her church service no matter what. Sent along two cds of old-time folk and country gospel. I cant sit there and vote with my butt in that pew when the man at the front tries to convince me that God is a vengeful punishing overseer, that the price of humility is damnation, and unless I pledge to disparage all who believe otherwise, its hell for sure, for me. Its a great comfort to resist the hook of shame, and fear. I highly recommend it. We love you.
the friday song, for martin and allison.

My heart's in the ice house come hill or come valley
Like a long ago Sunday when I walked through the alley
On a cold winter's morning to a church house
just to shovel some snow.

I heard sirens on the train track howl naked gettin' nuder,
An altar boy's been hit by a local commuter
just from walking with his back turned
to the train that was coming so slow.

You can gaze out the window get mad and get madder,
throw your hands in the air, say "What does it matter?"
but it don't do no good to get angry,
so help me I know

For a heart stained in anger grows weak and grows bitter.
You become your own prisoner as you watch yourself sit there
wrapped up in a trap of your very own
chain of sorrow.

I been brought down to zero, pulled out and put back there.
I sat on a park bench, kissed the girl with the black hair
and my head shouted down to my heart
"You better look out below!"
Hey, it ain't such a long drop don't stammer don't stutter
from the diamonds in the sidewalk to the dirt in the gutter
and you carry those bruises to remind you wherever you go.

09 March 2011

its the birthday of Vita Sackville-West, of whom Virginia Woolf said,

"[She is] like an over ripe grape in features, moustached, pouting, will be a little heavy; meanwhile she strides on fine legs, in a well cut skirt, & though embarrassing at breakfast, has a manly good sense & simplicity about her. ... Oh yes, I like her; could tack her on to my equipage for all time; & suppose if life allowed, this might be a friendship of a sort."

07 March 2011

its the birthday of townes van zandt

and the deathday of alice b. toklas

04 March 2011

the friday song. 

01 March 2011

Today is the birthday of Robert Lowell.

"He had manic-depressive disorder, today called bipolar. He himself referred to his mania as "pathological enthusiasm." He once described a manic episode as "a magical orange grove in a nightmare."... He spent a lot of time apologizing to people, making amends, attempting some damage control..."The whole business has been very bruising, and it is fierce facing the pain I have caused, and humiliating [to] think that it has all happened before and that control and self-knowledge come slowly, if it all."..."
text by Garrison Keillor
Man and Wife

Tamed by Miltown, we lie on Mother's bed;
the rising sun in war paint dyes us red;
in broad daylight her gilded bed-posts shine,
abandoned, almost Dionysian.
At last the trees are green on Marlborough Street,
blossoms on our magnolia ignite
the morning with their murderous five day's white.
All night I've held your hand,
as if you had
a fourth time faced the kingdom of the mad -
its hackneyed speech, its homicidal eye -
and dragged me home alive. . . . Oh my Petite,
clearest of all God's creatures, still all air and nerve:
you were in your twenties, and I,
once hand on glass
and heart in mouth,
outdrank the Rahvs in the heat
of Greenwich Village, fainting at your feet -
too boiled and shy
and poker-faced to make a pass,
while the shrill verve
of your invective scorched the traditional South.

Now twelve years later, you turn your back.

Sleepless, you hold
your pillow to your hollows like a child,
your old-fashioned tirade -
loving, rapid, merciless -
breaks like the Atlantic Ocean on my head.
"And if the question were asked: What is more real, the mundane or the sublime? most would hesitate before they gave an answer. On the one side, details: say, the aftermath of a breakfast, dirty chipped plates in the sink, their rims encrusted with egg yolk. Against this, the unnameable: small aching heart with boasts, what can you know? Outside the cage of everything we ever heard or saw, beyond, outside, above, there lies the real, hiding as long as we shall live, there stretch and trail the millions of names of God burning across the eons. When all through this our end will come before we even know the names of us.

For many the egg yolk prevails." -L.M.

"Love many things, for therein lies the true strength, and whosoever loves much performs much, and can accomplish much, and what is done in love is done well."

"The perfection of the Absolute where all Becoming stops and pure Being, immutable, timeless, unchanging, hangs forever like a ripe peach upon the bough." -E.A.

"...and the whole incident was incredibly frazzling and angst-rod and filled almost a whole mead notebook and is here recounted in only its barest psycho-skeletal outline." -D.F.W.

"At the top of the mountain, we are all snow leopards." -H.S.T.

"Only when we are no longer afraid do we begin to live." -D.T.
"Cometh a voice: My children, hear; From the crowded street and the close-packed mart I call you back with my message clear, back to my lap and my loving heart. Long have ye left me, journeying on by range and river and grassy plain, to the teeming towns where the rest have gone - come back, come back to my arms again. So shall ye lose the foolish needs that gnaw your souls; and my touch shall serve to heal the fretted nerve. Treading the turf that ye once loved well, instead of the stones of the city's street, ye shall hear nor din nor drunken yell, but the wind that croons in the ripening wheat. I that am old have seen long since ruin of palaces made with hands for the soldier-king and the priest and prince whose cities crumble in desert sands. But still the furrow in many a clime yields softly under the ploughman's feet; still there is seeding and harvest time, and the wind still croons in the ripening wheat. The works of man are but little worth; for a time they stand, for a space endure; but turn once more to your mother - Earth, my gifts are gracious, my works are sure. Instead of the strife and pain I give you peace, with its blessing sweet. Come back, come back to my arms again, for the wind still croons in the ripening wheat."
-John Sandes, The Earth-Mother (excerpt, 1918)