They walk like cowboys, recently dismounted. He eats slowly out of a Trader Joe’s bag, the one that has the laughing donkey on it. We wander to find new ways of understanding old ideas. Innocent babies continue to be born into privilege. Ordinary trauma is a slow build—swinging from want to need, and back to want to be taken. The multitudes of being consumed becomes a careful process of discernment like knowing the addictive taste of dispossession. Although sometimes, with frequency, the loop closes on you. Don’t worry. There is space here, stored as evergreen desires, located between patterns of waves formed from swallowing knowledge by association. It’s been recommended we might feel at the edges for faint annotations of alchemic personality. In the same way, men have learned to cross their legs at their ankles and global fantasies of catastrophe make us proficient in technology. Ritual is perfected suspense. It has already taken place. Events such as these are mere dreams; a tiger, white and mangy, tries to eat my hands from taking up too much space. A way to show how time is wasteless.
Praise in the sense that it is an embracing of emerging experience. —William Stafford
A cloudless sky, mostly blue,
held remnants of peach
at its opening edges.
This longing permeates, resisting
a horizon—a working class assumption
Our culture from men who recorded tides
before gravity from the moon was proved
by future men.
And we must keep living
in that absence.
The past beats inside me like a second heart. —John Banville, The Sea
From football to cult rallies on glacial plains,
America excels at strategies of deterrence.
There is generational learning behind knowing
the difference between submission and giving.
Release is forbidden.
Americans reflective accolades penetrate the best
as fervent belief converts to trembling devotion.
The point being none of this is supposed to make sense.
As true as death, reality always fades.
This feels influenced…
in the same way as
believing in tomorrow
is a predictive narrative.
Futures become quid pro quo
throbbing, mid-life lust.
Thank you but
worry is my addiction of choice.
Fog pushes inland, offshore swells.
Well-earned suspicions form furious
visceral optimized expectations,
soaked in publicly circulating emotions
from day-trading warlocks and wardens.
Waste is fantasy. Plastic generations
replace curiosity with optimism, a commodity.
Hoarding ironically creates emptiness.
Ask any aspiring millionaire.
Habitual behavior now discounted reward.
one hundred hours spent
+ one hundred hours taken
= affectual transactions
a certain level of suffering
is required to earn a dollar
I put enough here to fill that hole
“These are my Confessions and if I say nothing in them it’s because I have nothing to say.” —Fernando Pessoa, The Book of Disquiet
is to know where the bones are buried.
Synonym: institutional allegiance.
Why is risk so often in your mouth?
Your answer, “That’s where the desire swells.”
It’s true the end of a river is also a mouth.
Waves form unnoticed. We tell each other stories—
unanswered questions worth more conceptually.
Wanting words that hold their form
both as concrete nouns and confluent verbs.
No subject is stable you often tell me.
Following the principle of least astonishment
is probably how we got here.
The living room pictures hang crooked
from the last noticeable earthquake.
Lesson: survival is a false dichotomy.
“What use having a great depth of field, if there is not an adequate depth of feeling?”
—W. Eugene Smith
The park’s grass is ankle deep,
again. Promises of everlasting life
continue to hold their sway.
It’s 2021, and I just learned
gold seeks gold.
Bounty hunters still scheming.
When will the rich suffer equally?
Is that even the right question?
Forests burn to their crowns
while babies drown in basement apartments.
What frequency will you hear
the trees screaming? Repeat yourself.
The neighborhood birds continue to sing
their morning songs. We must still be ok,
for now? Surrender—then acceptance—or
is it the other away around?
Certainty needs urgency
to keep it potent.
Embody your devotion.
Watch the ocean replicate.
All those Sunday sermons
soaked deep within.
Knowing, that convinced feeling.
Accuracy a worthy reliquary.
Be an animal, again.
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“To imagine that turmoil is in the past and somehow we are now in a more stable time seems to be a psychological need.” —John McPhee, Assembling California
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In Audre Lorde’s 1984 Creative Writing Workshop in Berlin, she had two requirements:
- Read at least 10 poems a week. Keep a log of the poems—name of poem and poet—and write a sentence that will help you recall how you feel from the poem.
- Keep a pen/pencil and paper with you at all times to write things down (“it will not stay in your head”).
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In claiming this emotional space every week, anchors of memory and experience structure a highly unstable body of work. I arrive inhabiting this swath of living, or as Lauren Berlant said in her essay Cruel Optimism, “deflating the symbolic into the somatic”.
After all, islands are the tops of mountains. Perception as slant, signaling both perspective and insight. That sweet trigger of embodied habit. Writing from an ascetic life.
What earned reward lays in wait? Is it focus as illumination? Maybe the reward is endurance inside an anxious limbic system. Simply, a need gets satisfied. A temperance of honesty that there is no final outcome to this effort. That this predictive text, and its energy, may be read as art. That this is worthless.
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“If I resisted, I was lost. If I gave in, I was saved.” —Didier Eribon, Returning to Reims
Everything is just enough to be the same—
delusional observation—everything except
for the unwelcome return of an orangered sun.
The sky is no longer a place to look up to.
Wednesday news: 34 wildfires
have started in the last 24 hours.
Have started is an example
of present perfect tense.
As in, trees of all types and ages
have started screaming.
So many remain illiterate
about events they claim
have never happened—to them.
Blind to the sound of yellow. Deaf
to exploding blues and facile ghosts.
Forgive me, you wanted this memory to be precise.
with the animals dying around us
taking our feelings we are saying thank you
with the forests falling faster than the minutes
of our lives we are saying thank you
with the words going out like cells of a brain
with the cities growing over us
we are saying thank you faster and faster
with nobody listening we are saying thank you
thank you we are saying and waving
dark though it is
W.S. Merwin, last stanza of “Thanks”
Afghanistan is falling. Call me.
Pulling out resonates
inside the soft mouths of liars.
Strategic slants concealed
into compressed scrolls [timelines].
Repeat. The future of artificial
intelligence will be a series—trying and failing.
Like the original version of intelligence,
it presumes. It bleeds into itself.
Audacity is roiling. Shhh—
your contemporary affect is showing.
In rooms with no windows, meetings crosstalk.
Taunting, we call out to god and beg
his celebrity angels to rescue us.
Suckling angst between pauses of incidental music,
our atmospheric knowledge tells us to take comfort
knowing even the rich are mutually suffocating.
Our shared psychosis now bonded as emotional reality.
I lean into the throat of summer.
—Jenny Xie, “Chinatown Diptych” from Eye Level
You assume you’ve seen this before,
this familiar demarcation of transition.
What promises or expectations did you bring to this?
You know you can never step in the same river twice.
Are you listening to remember?
“No matter what disintegrating influences I was experiencing, the writing was the act of wholeness.” —Anaïs Nin, In Favor of the Sensitive Man and Other Essays
A local politician sells
subtext. Mixing patterns
of outbreaks, denial, aggressive
neglect, profit, waste. Time
monetized into relativity of spectacle.
Subterranean realities. July descends into August.
Clouds sail by dry as bones. Crowns above spread
shade. Our vernacular noisy wagons, isolated
oak savannas, quarantined in translation.
Wanting to do what we see; evidence.
Let’s take these metastasized days
and ride them into darkness. Be silhouettes,
featureless. Are you aware of all the consequences
when accepting the advertised risks?
Write about love,
about the endless patience
of the light.
Adam Zagajewski, from “Letter From A Reader”, trans. Clare Cavanagh
The sun is out,
bright marine layer.
A bus kneels at its stop.
An honest question: how do you balance hope with truth?
How good it felt: to want something and
pretend you don’t, and to get it anyway.
—last two lines of Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz’s “July”
Trust your gut. I don’t want you to get lost in the details. This is a map, a blueprint, a ledger of interactions, process or form or whatever you’ve been taught to see.
Guests of former selves clamor. There are fires and no water. Heat domes and variants. Return-to-work and shelter-in-place. Critical race theory and Big Lies™. Long division and 4th of July car sales. Blueberries are rotting on the bush and border theatre sells out. The routine of keeping it together. Line by line, word by word, click by click. 21st century prefabrications.
How can I hurl myself deeper
into this life
—Ellen Bass, “The Long Recovery”
I’m a maximalist by virtue. I want more than an average understanding. I’m the oldest daughter of an amateur bull rider. Surface-level commonality is temporary as an ocean wave. I want to be like the tides, consistently influential to the point of unforgettable. Inverting the fates, nothing unimportant.
Hope was my greatest sin. —Clarice Lispector, from “The Disasters of Sofia”
Your and my immunity are fated these dragged, hot days.
In a burning world, my dreams saturate. Mostly trees,
thick, green, with moss thick as absence. Caution—
only longing and sunny winters ahead. Toward is a feeling.
Away a noun. What luck has found us both still breathing?
Our futures have become increasingly jealous of the past.
Portents of death a spammed life—forgettable.
Self as a frequency. Do you know how to want less?
The pattern is there is no pattern. Only thrills split from the inside of nightly dreams. Fireworks imploded. In the background of Jaws, the captured sound of the ocean insistent. Tumbleweeds untitled. Lives carefully leashed. Forgiveness now sold at cost. It’s cheaper than a full-bodied excavation or postponing uninsured vacations. Those flag waving contests, sacred competitions, enunciate the ascendant feelings. Clear and bright. Rising suspicions, surges of delusion, all of it natural as dredged wetlands or pipelines exploding to spectacular affect. The variants are just following the rules of long division. A simple prayer; please. Insert more coins to keep living. The transactions of ordinary time. Freedom to fill an empty page. Phantom whisper networks now interstellar contextual markers. Parabolic welcome wagons. There is no pattern, only recognition.
“How innocently life ate the days.” —John Updike, Couples
All day long, she sits behind windows
watching swollen ancient clouds
echo along abraded front lines.
She traces their carved patterns
and records distorted stillness.
Parting seductive, the bruised grey sky
swarms off to her west and opens wide.
Some might say she’s damned
but that’s a different parable
for a different time. Today,
she’s thinking about sanctity of attention.
Relationally vast in its deviant transience,
she listens to sovereign urgent voices
like well-fingered coins tossed into wishing wells.
This form of anticipation reclusive and incessant,
unyielding as the agency of water.
An observant song now broadcast as western light.
“What happens when you reposition agency away from power?” —Ocean Vuong, episode 227 of Talk Easy with Sam Fragoso
I’m writing this down
as proof of memory.
The sky is almost always
a solid backlit blue
unless it isn’t.
A specificity shared
by anyone who lives beneath it.
Not unlike knowing poppies don’t unfold
until midmorning and being aware, now,
how summer here blooms—
if you’re paying attention.
Gradients of time punctuate
while light cascades unnoticed.
In other words, there’s devotion
and there’s feral experience.
Time is visual—
the sun an arc,
we are the curve.
On the cusp of a new year
time has been absorbed;
last year not yet finished.
Unless otherwise stated,
no one is coming to save me.
Time now swarmed with qualifiers,
its own forgotten circumstance.
Lead me gently back to place.
My tense present perfect—
Pleasure is productive; it produces itself. —Arielle Zibrak
Clouds stretch fluff
over million-dollar hills.
That clock stopped years ago.
The plants grow taller.
Evacuations have started,
master prompts. This land of fault lines
under a sky so blue, suspended in hope.
Responsive is the desire, a memory.
as the jet stream moves
torrid seasons west to east.
The Arctic Circle holds tropical.
We start to make summer plans—
then actually book them.
“Space to breathe” or “create
new memories” congregate
fragmented within threaded comments
like when Roland Barthes says
in A Lover’s Discourse,
“this is the paradisiac realm
of subtle and clandestine signs:
a kind of festival not of senses
but of meaning”. Maybe this summer
will feel more like a communion—
public intimacy sanctioned.
Stay longer in me, take roots. — Vera Pavlova, “If There Is Something To Desire”
In this kingdom, we intend to be recognized
as permanent guests and move around like trees.
Semblance is our currency. We become fixed
points on a map, a place arranged
by analogous topography and revelatory grief.
In this kingdom, endlessly contextually forsaken,
such transfigurations build our shelters
and show up in our mentions. We augment trust
by automating our needs to the indentured bidder.
Occasionally, we find survival inside failures.
In this kingdom, probable threat is enough to act.
Near future, present pasts, all of it exchanged
under systems of calculated instinct. We whisper
feelings and their cousins opinion and belief
as our syntax preserves its subversive hiss.
I regret to inform you the rich have begun
harvesting Mars’ oxygen;
inter is in the written news again.
They claim no correlation nor ask for forgiveness.
I am worried you aren’t worried.
You might not be paying attention? Public
policy is stillborn. Impulse
thoughts and prayers are batched releases.
I want to relax. Find a way to watch
the Milky Way spin its slack spiral.
This slow death of heat and tempers rising
does not hold the sweet promise of sublimation.
I need rapture, not the heavy-breath version
on repetitive pulpits and news shows where
mouths of pundits and preachers whip
contagious affect for our infinite reconciliations.
I crave that immediate pause
left behind after release. Once shared,
this can no longer be mine nor exclusive.
Now, simply, the evaporating breath of a stranger.
Having the equilibrium of a poet, I kept falling in love. — Frank Stanford,
“With the Approach of the Oak the Axeman Quakes”
And everyone’s competing
For a love they won’t receive
‘Cause what this palace needs is release
— Lorde, “Team”
The neighbor’s laundry hung drying in the wind generated from our conversations below. It listened like well-placed ears as your observations unraveled my patterns: cold penetrates while the sun strokes. You said in order for this to work, we must agree to be happy but your gaze was hard, questionable. My tone grew suspicious. Wandering fragmented and feral as virtual imagination, I drifted. Our poetics of pleasure and devotion now kindred mysteries. Illusions of prophesy, or was it property, told us we could own each other with infinite monthly payments—no money down—an absolute steal! A flashing sign said Don’t Eat, Touch Only. Absorption may reduce your wing span and there’s not an airport within hundreds of miles from here. Yes, of course this is a competition and you’ve been eliminated before knowing all the rules. Love, now a cathedral built from simulation, was defined for us. The laundry, dried hard as bones, was pulled back inside.
… Be like the fox
who makes more tracks than necessary,
some in the wrong direction.
— Wendell Berry, last four lines of “Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front,” from The Country of Marriage (1973)
Beneath a gray sky, backlit bright,
the persimmon tree is full of leaves
as if it hadn’t just been naked for months.
If you find an orange
on the sidewalk,
one solitary orange,
what kind of luck is that?
In Olivia Laing’s opening essay in Funny Weather, “You Look at the Sun”, she references Eve Kosofsky Sedgwick’s concept of a paranoid reader. “A paranoid reader is concerned with gathering information, tracing links and making the hidden visible. They anticipate and are perennially defended against disaster, catastrophe, disappointment. They are always on the lookout for danger, about which they can never, ever know enough.”
Distilled: “to prove what we already feared we knew”.
I fingered the begging-for-it jade trees.
As the flowers slept,
still curled tight,
the sun floated above me
already round and bright.
Abstract as repentance or glory—a transitory representation—is the distinct learning from unknowing, an experience of active living. A day of rituals, smooth from habit, bloom into conscious discipline. Nothing less than a lived response will do in these warped times.
Another week soft as cat paws sneaks past me. The sounds of the radiator and freeway now so familiar, I consider the silence around the noise. Maybe this form, an oblivious infinite loop, finds function waiting like the persimmons? Or maybe this release continues to demand merging threads fleeting as sunlight passing through morning clouds. It’s just as possible all that happens is that I learn to love myself a little more.
this whole time
I’ve been writing my future?
For the first time in any recent memory
the sedimentary accumulation of details shift.
Cloaked like nerves and tucked inside,
we weren’t on any kind of edge at all!
Sometime, much later, Mars reflected bright
suspended above the light-polluted city limits.
Clouds clocked MPH. A smooth sense of validation.
The poets disagreed on the finer points
but we all agreed faint light still finds shadows.
Some called it art. For now, it was simply enough.
Our tea leaves will have to broadcast what’s next.
Our questions endless: courage or nostalgia?
Our timelines no longer mediative glory holes.
We, the animals, will follow the sun rising.
Loving feels lovely in a violent world,
—first line in “Community”, Marge Piercy
I relished pleasures of the mind and the flesh equally.
—Marge Piercy, Sleeping with Cats
mind that gap
somebody must know
the biochemical difference
between fear and excitement
trees with new leaves
look fresh next to those
who keep their looks all year round
same view, thoughts recycled
40 more hours squeezed
into future dollars
performing “ordinary life”
(overheard on morning NPR)
all of this so-called-living
to be cherished
“I shrug whatever is gone and welcome the changing truth.”
—William Stafford, 25 September 1975
* crosswalks are supposed to keep you safe *
Consider this to be a true story, send a self-addressed stamped envelope to learn more.
* a moment, a chance, they are everywhere *
The orange tree has been gone for at least a year now?
It was one of those bright and sunny days.
* perpetrators hidden in plain sight *
Home is a loop, shadowed at its edges.
Go out and gather. Return /
“I find it easy to admire in trees what depresses me in people.”
— Marge Piercy, last two lines of “The Doughty Oaks” from The Moon Is Always Female
Spring finds us haunted. A seasonal feeling after witnessing winter’s passing, but it’s acute this year. Blue skies expanding. Nests of birds explode in sound. Time is the fulcrum. I love you fills the past, present, future. Now weightless, light cracks through early morning clouds. I thought about the scam of resurrection. Some never fully accept death as loss, permanence unchanged. They believe death can be cheated. The obvious irony is you’ll suffer from wanting what is not possible. Time is the fulcrum. Flexing, palming, sucking off temporal attention.
Through the eyes of a non-believer, the sharpened edge of dilution, I miss you.
My stride is for life, a far place. —William Stafford, Run Before Dawn
The first thing to know is everyone but you, and a few precious others, will move on. Push that reactionary and perceived disrespect to a corner in your heart you’ve saved for petty grievances. Forgive them, eventually, for they simply did not know your joy. You’ll be better served, in these early days, to center your scattered energy by paying attention to the way your days and weeks advance as you begin to revise your life. This or that part of your previous life is no longer applicable but you’ll still find yourself performing the phantom shapes of a visceral routine. The memories you form in this emerging now will feel like new bones growing, indescribable aches. When you notice you’re no longer performing for the past, breathe. In that space of awareness, allow laughter and evocations of pleasure to strengthen you. Remember, most of all, to praise the mutual life you were able to create together.
The next number of infinite steps is to continue gathering the integrity of love.
When translated to English, zugunruhe (German) literally means “migration anxiety”.
In accordance with their inherited calendars, birds get an urge to move.
—William Fiennes, The Snow Geese
It is restlessness with a specific depth—you can feel it. I know because its anticipation first pools sweetly and intimately inside my dreams thickly layered into a time-bound mix of memory and myth. We can call it instinct. I didn’t chose these fragile liminal structures but I listen to them for the survivor messages they inevitably surface.
Those messages, that calling, is from a place where threshold holds both its meanings; what must be exceeded for a reaction to occur and an entry. It is rudimentary—basic at this point—that I must relearn anticipation is also a kind of hope.
I imagine myself arriving new, and again in return.
The western sky was a blaze of pink, the east still rising blue.
A new page to fill: birds, sky, trees, feelings.
The jade trees pop pink bright with crowned extensions.
That flutter in your heart? That sensation is the path to stay on.
Forward; dedicated. External validation is a half-life, decayed.
The bus stops. No one gets on.
Passive, it holds its line.
The news talks. I’m pretty sure the crows called out my name.
On Wednesday, I learned trees are biologically immortal.
The sun-warmed puffed clouds stray. Daffodils bloom
in trickle-down light bent abstract buttercream, back swallow,
just breath and heart beat. We configure ourselves
to fetishize normality as told-you-so’s make history
then serve up alignments so remote multiverses constellate.
Skies of baby blue, that texture, now future tense.
It’s ok if this revision won’t translate just yet.
“I set the limitations. The limitations of course are the color, the size, the wind in the room, and how I put the paint on.” —Pat Steir, Pat Steir: Artist
Can you quit something that doesn’t exist?
trace the traces
stay curious or die
I am not writing a history of these times or of past times or of any future times and not even the history of these visions which are with me all day and all of the night.
— Anne Boyer, “Not Writing“
You asked me if I had responded to the response.
I thought about those high school boys from Tennessee
bragging about their football conquests in the Mariott hot tub.
They were beautiful, hard like toy guns
full of manufactured bravado.
Again, you asked me if I had responded.
I remember witnessing a new moon’s illumination.
A simple and ordinary texture of perceptual darkness
worn resilient and smooth as a natural pearl.
You asked me when I will respond.
I answered with a question wound around reactive
need, a homegrown suspicion. Where, in my body,
won’t I respond based on all this surveillance?
People don’t notice whether it’s winter or summer when they’re happy.
Anton Chekhov, The Three Sisters
The new year feels rushed, already flush with grievances.
Obscurant clouds glide smooth as lies repeat
until slick with intent. The news claims
we are living through revolutionary times.
Remember, there is no trophy for second place.
Record the collapse as memories as silence
fills the jagged edges. I wait to receive
repressed strategies from punk lyrics.
I close my eyes and rotate my plants toward the light.
The sun is eager to begin. Birds have started to sing.
Are your feelings loud enough to be heard?
Will they last long enough to remember
these stretched thin and cheated days?
How should I trust the slant of this sound —
as a temporary glance, as weather, or as
a debatable response? Is this everyday
violence dystopia or social change?
As if the media makers and media takers
are building the same empire. As if they
fantasize to the same thrills.
Explain where god can be found in this.
Rectify the impossibility of knowing.
Show me the value of undivided attention.
Where faith’s enforcement tends to
get stuck is wanting results. Shame on me.
: you use a multiplier factor, the language. — William Stafford, 11 January 1976 (source)
It’s always the details.
You know the cliché.
The public is personal.
It’s just business
or boys being boys.
Years ago, now,
I asked about the narrator
in a room full of narratives.
I was told “story not facts”
is how we would “win.”
All the narratives nodded
into well-trained echoes.
… read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life,
re-examine all you have been told in school or church or in any book,
and dismiss whatever insults your own soul…
— Walt Whitman
This just-past year was a hard and impatient year to live through. All the ways that living had been previously measured—flesh on flesh, breathing in blue sky, talking with your eyes in crowded noisy rooms, curating analog conversations—were inverted. In my sheltered place, I watched as the pace and geographic scale of global suffering became buried in disembodied aggregates. Paradox ruptured.
“Everyone remains aware of the arbitrariness, the artificial character of time and history.”
—Jean Baudrillard, The Illusion of the End
pleasure | obsession | distraction | instinct
This list contains references from a calendar year that borrowed time to push its own way through. It began as it ended, incomplete.
- 40 hours online is not affectively equivalent to an embodied 40 hours
- consciously inviting imagination and reducing perceived need of others’ assumed expectations cultivates fascination, which is an antidote to manufactured boredom
- making assumptions wastes time, and more importantly, energy
- change is unquantifiable malleable entropy
- morning walks adjust the perceived stillness
- step into the slant
It has been enough to record the honest and the irreverent interruptions. There are whole days, months, ideas, and precious witnesses missing. An almost unbearable time-lag of consciousness is now felt experience. To survive what? An optics of promise, a future?
distance + force = gravity
the signals we give — yes or no, or maybe —
should be clear: the darkness around us is deep.
—William Stafford, “A Ritual to Read to Each Other”
What I continually draw from this poem’s well is not hope but alert perspective and prophetic predictability. I anchor on should — indicating both obligation and possibility — as the holding ground. “A Ritual to Read to Each Other” is a solicitation, or a prayer, to listen to your clearest signals — yes or no, or maybe — and bravely claim them.
“The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has since said that the risk of being infected from a dead body is low, because they do not exhale.”
‘Humans need the ritual of saying goodbye’: the Covid life of a small-town funeral director
Some branches still have fruit, hanging heavy and waiting. Other branches broadcast their superior ability to let go. What is found in this imagined center is a hymn.
Do I leave the gaps alone and pick apart what remains? Flickering waves of mutilation swell tight and solicitous as an echo at the horizon. Curves turn into cliffs.
When asked how I survived this year, a question loaded with context, I answer: I’ve taken to stroking tree trunks to experience exotic touch, to feel materiality of time.
By the time attempts to describe loss become offerings of intimacy, the muted shine of flashbacks turn into conviction. I was always here — in this impermanent place.
I too remain untrustworthy like a cloud. What comes next is future’s damage. Replication, pattern, or suggestion: between “be well” and “goodbye” is tomorrow’s hopeful exhale.
Keep busy with survival. Imitate the trees. Learn to lose in order to recover, and remember that nothing stays the same for long, not even pain, psychic pain. Sit it out.
Let it all pass. Let it go.
— May Sarton, from Volume One: Journal of a Solitude (Norton, 1977)
As evening’s frantic pink light slips into a lavender twilight hour,
gravity continues to hold us in place like constellations.
We string and loop lights around the apartment to project
hope’s fractal reflections everywhere. Yes, we really do
have to keep going and salvage tomorrow’s fragile glittering promises.
Predictions of our survival will be found in the how of our doing.
When oranges begin to ripe on the West Coast, that’s the signal
to gather for the next new beginning. Heed tradition’s clairvoyance
and pull on the shiniest threads to prepare for a better future. Pop! Fizz!
Incite! Even in the expanding darkness, prophetic renewals
of mutual liberation trend as lack rages on. Hope brings so much to want,
manufactured and genuine, next year no longer waits.
Is there a way to be gone and still
belong? Travel that takes you home?
Is that life? – to stand by a river and go.
—last two stanzas of “Quo Vadis” by William Stafford
They come hard, and fast, and have worn themselves into a series with anchored images: rainbow sweater, double queen room, a noisy air conditioner full blast in December. Then sensations follow: a specific kind of scratchy found only from the machine stitching of cheap hotel blanket covers, the coldest setting on the air conditioner running full blast in December, recede. I want you to distract me. Corrupt this circuit. Find a way. This is phoenix as purpose, not process. There is no ending, yet, only restarting, again and again.
Large-scale logistics require brutality to properly function. It’s a consistent low-grade hum, not quite elevated to cadence, buried between the lines of the system’s dramatic rhetoric. Have not. Listen to the outgoing empire’s heroes—the obedient civil servants, the priests, and the keepers of fluctuating interest rates—as they transition their esoteric power. In this tenuous state, it feels risky to outright deny dehumanization is holding together our mutual cultural identities. Shut your mouth, withdraw. Are your dreams an onslaught of forbidden touch too? Historically, politics of a republic abandon specific kinds of astonishment. Buried seeds of exaltation. This year’s plans were just that, plans. Revision requires experience, which can only be earned through the passage of kairological time. Our collective scripts of possibility are now hardwired into the evaporating streams of multiple realities. We are conducted citizens. The death of illusions can be a gift with the right slant. I think philosophers of imagination make the best poets. Please love me as much as a skeptic’s devotion. Help me feel for the traces of memory around our capacity to forget. That’s grace. The last time it snowed in Los Angeles? 2019. If you want, you can call that feeling of recognition emotional regulation. Are you a canary? Am I? Were they?
“But I wanted never to adjust my explorations to the anticipated expectations of others. Writing was enjoyable for the reverberation I got out of it, and the reverberation had to be discovered, not planned. — William Stafford, You Must Revise Your Life
Were you raised in redemption?
You’ll likely recognize its siren
as a concept—a never-ending story—
a seductive and subjectively
generous way to live one’s life.
Were you born with a shy body?
There’s love there,
you just have to be patient.
Have you learned
fucks with stasis? See also:
acceptance, risk, glory, grief,
and madness. Winter light
breaks through in layers,
kernels of stimulation.
Atonement becomes a paradigm;
it is a grind to keep believing.
Maybe it’s time to examine
your one dramatic life
when inertia is salvation
in an authoritarian state.
Are you ready to receive?
The stimulus of showing up, here, is a fevered habit. Prompt: insert your abject wandering into a space consumed by right-leaning ideas of lack fortified by institutional memory. You may be thinking insufficient curiosities flourish in dank places or perceived stimuli explodes into slow release, but if you’re not thinking about death, or its cousin grief, are you even alive right now? Pull from intermittent signals so faint they remind you of the softness of privilege, an edge of feeling safe. Remember that feeling, you’ll need it today and every day that follows you into the future. I agree, this practice has earned the boredom of recognition. Say transformative like you really mean it. I want to glimpse that specificity, again. It may be entirely possible the change we seek is not propaganda, or won’t be recognizable in the way we’ve been told. Repeat until fully integrated, until expansion is assumed. What if we understood our respective divergence like the quest of a glacier crawling unnoticed across outwash plains? In other words, your finish line will not be the same as mine. It’s the lived experience between habit and ritual—an autobiography of coercive fragments—that reminds me, it’s time to re-read You Must Revise Your Life by William Stafford. “But I make the lines be the way they are by welcoming opportunities that come to me, not by having a pattern in mind.” Miracles demand that kind of attention. Come, gather with me.
“All of our reasoning ends in surrender to feeling.” ― Blaise Pascal
I was told salvation is coming. It could be any day now. My earliest memories integrated this knowing as a worried occupation, equal parts faith in and fear of the odds. Much later, I learned trees share similar survival stories—expressed urgently as generosity with occasional pause to report danger—through elaborate, networked underground comms systems. This year, they’ll wait for a response not aware their friends and family didn’t survive wildfire season. We all wait in this sense of unknowing as predictions of unimaginable loss dampen relentless holiday sales pitches. Our cumulative temperament is tuned towards intermittent reinforcement, an addiction to hope.
Lately, as a ritual of escape, I wander between landscapes of turning Japanese maples and persimmon trees, flickering reds and faded orange, as palms stay evergreen while limes and lemons transform sour. Take this lust and ride its crest. I want to believe this could be a new beginning as waves of survivor’s guilt swell, then spread.
Poetic principles like allowing for improvisations and diligence of testimony guide my guarded thinking these vanishing days. I create deliberately, in curious inquiry of being in a state of suspended exile. Forgive me as I loop.
Birds commute along shoreline drafts
as surfers gather before waves build.
Calm blue sky pulls from water’s light
moving along corduroy swell lines.
Sun burns through fog.
Temporary, temporary, temporary.
We’ve begun to thread what was held
together—memory and a different future.
“the war that matters is the war against the imagination all other wars are subsumed in it” —Diane di Prima
I’ve heard the future is worth fighting for.
Some ask, why now? Because of mob rules.
Declare your victory early so it counts
but I’ll decide how I respond from here.
Flattened into identity, winter light
reveals new shadows. Call it a gut feeling.
Only pre-show sportscasters and polling pundits
are wrong more than contemporary weather forecasts.
Handsome margins sell like gospel. Premeditated
as a salt lick, a new frontline is mass produced.
I’ve heard this before. This fear. This opportunity.
This emergence and its process of revelation.
As these days plow forward, I promise
to peel a thousand oranges for you.
“There is a sense in which we are all each other’s consequences.”
—Wallace Stevens, All the Little Live Things
Every day has been a chance
to live within the margins
that remain and maintain
the rigor of keeping it together.
Some normalized themselves
to a saturation point when
conspiracies’ realities are
unconfirmed real threats.
The calendar says winter is coming.
Where is this god that so many claim?
The one that protects and loves us or
that other one that enjoys mercy.
Queer as feelings, speculation has left
us wild. Go ahead—we might as well
make our own temporal decisions.
Loud, quiet, loud. Fringed dynamics.
The greed of men. A sagging breast.
Haphazardly adjacent as ecstasy.
Our animal consciousness seek
what we recognize, warm refuge.