Sunday, February 24, 2008

Coming Out of The Cold

There will always be nights
like this one, where sleep won't
come and the worries of the day
lay heavy upon the heart like the ice-laden

branches weighing down the magnolia,
taking at random the most frail limbs
of the dogwood tree whose bottom most
branch held the last gift your brother gave

us, the Christmas he knew he was leaving,
when his body and breath failed him and his hands
could not sustain the work of building a birdhouse
from the gourds his summer garden laid heavy

upon him, wrecked as he was with cancer, weariness
cradling him. I could go gather the remains, fashion
wreaths from the remnants, make a cornucopia
from the rotted shell he gave us, but what difference

would that make now, him seven years gone,
no birds ever having roosted in his attempts,
you sleeping away the night, his passing too real
for you to even visit in your dreams, me only

giving him this space in my own failed attempt
at sleep, loving him more in death that I could
in life, my intentions pure but wholly misguided.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Dead Can Dance Yulunga

. . . a stone, a leaf, an unfound door; of a stone, a leaf, a door.
And of all the forgotten faces.

Naked and alone we came into exile. In her dark womb we did not
know our mother's face; from the prison of her flesh have we come
into the unspeakable and incommunicable prison of this earth.

Which of us has known his brother? Which of us has looked into
his father's heart? Which of us has not remained forever prison-pent? Which of us is not forever a stranger and alone?

O waste of loss, in the hot mazes, lost, among bright stars on this
most weary unbright cinder, lost! Remembering speechlessly we
seek the great forgotten language, the lost lane-end into heaven,
a stone, a leaf, an unfound door. [Where? When?]

O lost, and by the wind grieved, ghost, come back again.

Thomas Wolfe
Look Homeward Angel

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

The Smallness of Large

If it weren't for Molly,
I would not be outside
on this cold night, head

tilted back like a Pez dispenser,
tilting back down again as she
continues her business, nothing

coming from my mouth
but the warmth of my own
breath, me blowing out over

and over again to see the whiteness
of living, looking up (to be polite
while she's in the middle

of her business) once more to notice
the outlines of constellations,
the vast emptiness of a sky

filled with the appearance
of small, the largeness of being
reduced to negligible.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

The Remains

I empty myself of the names of others. I empty my pockets.
I empty my shoes and leave them beside the road.
At night I turn back the clocks;
I open the family album and look at myself as a boy.

What good does it do? The hours have done their job.
I say my own name. I say goodbye.
The words follow each other downwind.
I love my wife but send her away.

My parents rise out of their thrones
into the milky rooms of clouds. How can I sing?
Time tells me what I am. I change and I am the same.
I empty myself of my life and my life remains.

Mark Strand
Le Faux Miroir
Rene Magritte, 1928

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Ice Storm Cometh

Indeed it did. Been home since Monday. Was just
leaving for work when the ice started. School
was called off early, so I was fairly certain we were
going to get some stuff, and we did, so Ididn't make
the 28 mile trip to work. Didn't want to be stuck
in storm-ravaged Greenville (tornado hit there last
Tuesday). Mess over there and no hotels (at least, none
close to the office). So, I stayed home.

My trees look a lot like the picture posted below.
During the early morning hours on Tuesday,
after our power went out, I heardthis loud crack
and knew a large branch was coming down. Then, I heard
more cracking. It went on for about 30 minutes as
several large branches kept falling, but
thankfully they missed the house and the heat
and air unit. Power was out for about 6 hours--
we were lucky. Still people here without power,
this now the second day, with temps around 22.

It's beautiful to look at, but it sure does make things
difficult. Then last night, we had snow on top of the
ice, so I am not going anywhere today either.

It's hard to even take Molly for a walk...I need a pair
of cleats or something for traction. I basically let
her pull me along yesterday. I guess you could say
I was dog skiing (and it was kind of fun), but I don't want
to risk breaking a leg or an arm, so we are just going
to the backyard to do the duty thing, and then back in.

Think I'll just go read for awhile. Got the new issue
of Poetry--want to read the Louise Gluck poems.
Will finish Crime and Punishment today, I think.

I wonder why I never read that. I started it years
ago and didn't finish it. It is quite fascinating.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

The Naysayer Speaks

Grief has strewn her goods before me, littered
my yard and house with glory and abandon.
The dandelions, their stamina thrusted
through sidewalk cracks, are but memories
now, and the wisteria, which budded last spring,
has been nearly pulled apart from the whims
of nature and my negligence, but friend, death
is not the great thief of joy, and life, not the giver.
Long before your loss barbed my heart, razor
sharp tendrils lacing each ventricle, apathy
had made her home there, moving along in the ebb
and flow, the captain of my sinking ship.
It has come to this: a need to count breaths, to listen
to the ticking of the clock, to ignore the garbage overflowing
in the kitchen, to walk nearly naked outside, wind
chill minus twenty and counting, to recognizing
the mundane and mindless myriad ways one survives.
And even in this place, joyless as I may seem, I find
myself thinking about the wisteria, hoping it will
flower this spring, about the dandelions who always
manage to hover low enough beneath the mower
to not lose a single head, about how ready I am to lay
myself down in a backyard, which is not really a backyard
at all but a rolling, fecund sea of wild violets, whose leaves
and blossoms have never failed to invite me--not once--
to abandon reason and lie down with them, spread-eagled
and delirious.

Neil Young - Heart of Gold

Saturday, February 09, 2008

When Death Comes

When death comes
like the hungry bear in autumn;
when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse

to buy me, and snaps the purse shut;
when death comes
like the measle-pox:

when death comes
like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,

I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?

And therefore I look upon everything
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,
and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
and I consider eternity as another possibility,

and I think of each life as a flower, as common
as a field daisy, and as singular,

and each name a comfortable music in the mouth,
tending, as all music does, toward silence,

and each body a lion of courage, and something
precious to the earth.

When it's over, I want to say: all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

When it's over, I don't want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don't want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.

I don't want to end up simply having visited this world.

-- Mary Oliver

Friday, February 08, 2008

What a week

Started last Sunday morning with a call
from my dear friend's brother telling me she had passed
away on Friday, Feb 1st. Then, Tuesday
night, we were under several tornado
warnings. The temp went from 71 to 25.
It was wicked. My town was pretty much
spared, but the town in which I work (28
miles from here) sustained major damage.
Three fatalities as well. My office is without
power and phone service, so I've been home
this week.

My friend's funeral was in one of the towns that got hit
hard as well, so it was difficult to even get into town--
National Guard, rescue vehicles, power companies,
state police, Red Cross, etc.

Her brother told me that the night before the funeral, just
after he and his brother had gotten their mom
home after viewing the body, the tornado hit her
house. It took off half the roof, blew out all the windows,
took down all the trees (two of them fell across his vehicle
and his brother's--only their mom's car was spared
because it was in the garage). So, on top of everything
else, there is no home to go to.

And, on top of that, her mom has a very rare form
of leukemia and is not doing well. They are in my thoughts

Not getting much sleep here--never do really. I say that over
and over. Just lie in bed worrying. Such a useless thing
to do.

Going to go get in my bed right now and read some more
Crime and Punishment. My feet are cold--temps have
dropped and this computer room is brrrrrrr!

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Let It Go

For all the nights you spent
sleeping with strangers, huddled
in cramped quarters, your purse
clutched to your breast, I applaud
your desire to live, I acknowledge
your right to be free. For all the mornings
you woke alone in a dark apartment,
shades pulled, no phone, no food,
I sing your praises. For all the times
I refused to let you sleep in this house,
bathe in my tub, rummage through
my cabinets, I ask your forgiveness.
For all the years you lived in fear,
certain there were powers greater
than your own controlling your life,
and I downplayed or ignored the drama,
I say to you now, who can know? Words
fail, as they often do, to explain this loss.
I gave you up years ago, after the breakdown
and before the illness that ravaged your muscles,
that made your eyelids close involuntarily,
that slurred your speech, that took you
out of the realm of my care. Forgive me.
Forgive me for the nights I didn't return
your calls, for the days I didn't pull
in my driveway if your car was here,
for the unmitigated way my tongue
would lash out at your stories, your truths.
Forgive me now that I have nothing better
to offer but these few words that can't begin
to describe your beautiful auburn hair,
your kohl eyeliner, your voluptuous
body, the incredible way your laughter
caught fire and spread across the bleakest
landscapes, the most quiet nights, the longest
afternoons. Forgive me that I thought
I loved you so much it was best to let
the night do what it would with you,
the summer turn to autumn and then
to winter without returning your calls,
waking each morning with my body
turned toward one of your paintings,
thinking as I woke how I never asked
you what you were thinking when you painted
it, feeling the fear only those who doubt
can understand, wondering if what took
you would end up taking me too. Give
me this moment to be your fingers
and to speak for you, you who will not speak
again. Let mine say what your voice
said those many times you knew the various
ways I found to loathe myself, to doubt
my heart, to question this life--let it go.