“I am attracted to the ellipsis, to the unsaid, to suggestion, to eloquent deliberate silence.” —Louise Glück
At their deepest hibernation, groundhogs slow their heartbeats
to three to five beats per minute. Dangerously efficient.
Orange blossoms take almost a year to resemble fruit.
Did you notice when the undulations became ritual?
When time, found in the sound of light, was earnest and seductive?
You may well be the narrator, the narrative, and the narrated.
—Mahmoud Darwish, In the Presence of Absence
Generally, analytic predictions are only worth their final outcome. To help explain the magnitude of our current predicament, experts frame our collective memories in context of 100-year old floods, fires, wind events, drought, and storms. It’s an affective perspective born from habits that deny discovery, and it becomes boring—this cycle of forgetting. It’s obvious they never bothered to ask the swollen streams and eroding mountains what they know. Patches of grey swirl in a wanting-to-be blue bruised sky. This familiarity, both as place and mood, is its own form of disquiet energy. Memories of transverse understanding are leisurely folded inside melancholic miles of distance and above tangled root systems bolting vigorous. I prepare these filaments of imagination for when the apocalypse finally arrives out-of-breath and panicked. I extend no shame in its direction. It knows how late it is. I close my eyes and taste the sacred in all its contingencies. temporary, temporary, temporary
“Ask yourself: Why am I seeing and feeling this? How am I growing? What am I learning? Remember: every coincidence is potentially meaningful. How high your awareness level is determines how much meaning you get from your world.” —Ansel Adams
Yesterday, not an ounce of sunshine so I read old love letters.
I hoard my integrity and stash joy wherever I can find it.
There is muscle memory and active imagination.
There is something called living in between these extremes.
I kept the love letters. I liked that they still held their refrains
from a recent past. I remember to cast its spell.
There is ceremony and letting go.
There is something I call living in between those extremes.
“I won’t see this year again, not again so innocent; and longing wrapped round my throat like a scarf.” —Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek
Recent times is a reference, well-worn and specific enough to create a shared understanding. I read an article that used the phrase “deaths pulled from the future” after reading another article that claimed the word “robot” wasn’t publicly used until the early 1920s. The framing for both pieces was replaceability. What comes next becomes a question of narration. Can I claim to know the moon without having been there?
I listened to a recording of an exploding volcano thousands of miles away. It initially sounded like gunfire, then I heard a blast from a force unimaginable, a process of release and eventual settling that is so unknowable it has been ascribed to the gods. This is a story to find a way, a hook to hold onto while the world spins.
I wanted what the future would bring. When and how was what I was most interested in. I think the best poets break the conventions of language. Passive writing is aggressive. Darkness holds its own light. Trees absorb sound. Bodies shelter. I write deliberately. I’m acutely aware of how time can get one-dimensional when influenced by the dollar.
It was only February.
I imagined a time where hope has no currency because there is no fear to weight its over-inflated value. Neglect should have been the word of the year; acting as both a verb (a failure to care for properly) and a noun (a state of being uncared for—deprivation). In between the cracks of clouds, blue. I dredged, flayed, and autopsied the past into quantum bytes. I tried to stay inside my bones.
The palm trees hissed and swayed. A Home Depot burned so hot they saw the fire’s heat signature from space. I found quiet inside a frequency where the sacred is buried. Wars drag on, more brutal and unnecessary than yesterday’s justifications.
What can be palmed is what I want. A random ray of sunlight; the trill of unseen song birds; a break, nearly inaudible, in the freeway traffic. I gather the most extraordinary mundane moments—the astonishing present—as proof of my witness.
August arrived and asked an ancient question: will any god save us?
What reclamation can be shown from the exchange of a year lived? Inside this daydream marathon, I toast to multivalent miracles. Nobody survives by accident.
Fortify yourself with contentment: that is an impregnable stronghold.
Let’s look at the ocean until we grow old and
drag the thread of time in between murmurations
as their shadows break the bright winter sky.
To our west, memory spools present tense
as a setting sun moves into its next future.
We are movements of repetitions, constellations,
imaginary museums, ancient light.
Out of all the days and all the cumulative years,
what we hold together is dedicated to what remains.
Maybe all of this has a simple explanation. I don’t remember
how I got home. I was feral due to generational circumstances.
I started this life from a deficit. I am a self-described opt-out.
What might be lies and what might be inaccessible misunderstandings?
The tail of history wags in all our faces, stubborn as possession.
It is an earned intimacy. The subject is abandoned, an allusion of comfort,
if that’s an orientation. It is a pattern recognition.
I want to try and describe an image of a hole but it’s more extravagant
than that. Hole is more of a preferential reference and also a moment recognizable only because this thread is a fractal.
Statutory evidence gathered like exhale and escape.
The Office of War called yesterday.
All I heard was long in the tooth
when I hung up. My sins caught in a swallow.
The shape of my throat a specter.
Inside a rest of breath, the devil entered.
Its own mouthed amnesia performing miracles
for an imaginary audience. Held in conversation,
duplicitous like looped lights, our testimony
has officially become an unsanctioned occupation.
My collusion its own astonished tradition
as the days spill forward as brave and holy spasms.
Capitalism fracks the sensorium.
—Lauren Berlant, On the Inconvenience of Other People
At some point, your conception of the universe eclipsed mine.
It’s none of your business how we sorted out the important details
like why are all the planets round and who took winter?
I whispered the projected significance of seeing 333 predictably
patterned to arrive when yesterday’s headlines became a dirge. Bright,
overexposed, and not unlike prophesy I read between the images
and placed my gaze elsewhere. At this point, it’s an omission
if I didn’t disclose your mania kept us alive. We were shrines buoyed.
The energy of attempt is greater
than the surety of stasis.
You too can be carved anew
by the details of your devotions.
Mountains were backlit to look like cat ears
and the golden hills, deceptively gentle,
were engraved with generational cattle trails.
Sagebrush squat, tilted west. Backyard pools lay
calm behind rows and rows of houses maximized
to worship light from a perpetually setting sun.
Spacecraft occasionally crash-land this far west,
missing the Pacific Ocean by a magnitude.
And then the hypnotic groves of ripening oranges
murmur my fate. The trees changed. So can I.
To say that trees are immobile results from an anthropomorphism that impedes our seeing beyond our own time scale. It is as stupid as the history of aphids: In my memory, says the aphid, no one has ever seen a gardener die. Everyone knows that gardeners are immortal.
A day-to-night sky fades shades of purple.
Impermanent referents. A bruised ending.
I tried to tell you otherwise, before I knew.
We’re not quite trapped, but not free either.
Poetics are drawn from our dreams: escape
and waiting. Similar to the way cat’s paws
mean rip currents. That specific kind
of dissociation. What do I want to be?
What a terrible question to get stuck inside.
“Sanity is our power of perception kept focused. And it is an open ended endeavor.” — Etel Adnan
Even starlight, and its perceived distance,
holds darkness longer
as these new days grow shorter.
Shadows spread. It’s their time of year
and we must learn to adapt under revised conditions.
The trees have begun shape shifting through color
and through ritual loss. We leave each other
in the waning dark of morning. I make the bed,
still holding warm from our collective sleep.
Our dreams now embodied and out walking in the world.
Physicality isn’t always an obvious feeling
like love or violence or how Earth’s atmosphere
blends, eventually, invisibly into outer space.
But here, now, I want to think about low-strung colored lights,
long-distance horizons, and desire lines back home.
There are easier ways to say these things, but some things shouldn’t be said easily. —Octavia Butler, Imago (1989)
The first season’s snow dusted the highest Sierra peaks.
Much later, I heard the falling morning light beg for attention.
In this origin story, and its evolving landscape,
the changing trees become the loudest voices.
I learned early that submission requires indulgence.
They called it grace, which was also a sympathy.
I remember there was laying on of hands.
At the edge of town, someone advertised a rummage sale.
Within this temporary interval of speculation,
fate feels systematic. I carry absence like an autopsy,
an examination as method towards truth.
I know how to hold time as a promise.
“It is a time for tons of verbiage, activity, consumption.” —Mark Rothko
The end of the year is coming, again.
Will you claim you are satisfied,
so far? How will you commit
to these remaining days? In this interlude,
what to cherish, what to improvise,
what to root, and what to let go?
I am still learning to pretend
the difference between memories
of a past gone and memories of a past unknown.
A loop on its return becomes a harbinger
of sentient evidence, now personal phenomenology.
It’s best to surrender to messianic joy
at this horizon point in a vanishing year.
Update your maps of what remains of your calls
to provisional responses. Name your beloveds.
There’s still time for passionate cadence and
appreciation of light’s lengthened silhouettes.
That space, that pause, is an insider’s point of view.
These longings pull from long-shadow days and nights.
Return, again, repeat. That kind of essential
permanence, palpable. Cross reference your embodied index,
then become a territory beyond meaning.
Enable new, interpretive beginnings. I flicker—an epic
verse. Your alterity is my resonance. Ride with me.
Based on rumors of math, scientists believe if they move Jupiter’s orbit the Earth will be “more habitable”. I have the same foolish desire when capturing moving light by using future perfect verbs and modified nouns.
What might be translated from the way light sounds after saturating iridescent city pigeon feathers? I think light and time become sacred geometry. Ordinary as questions ruptured clever and bright.
Your majesty is now gender neutral. Please comply. Receptivity remains bearded as you wait for affirmation. That you found lack of detail a form of stillness means I can trust you to keep secrets. Plumb that male gaze.
“Die knowing something. You are not here long.” —Walker Evans
I don’t want to complain. It’s the morning light, bright and orange,
that is angry. Do not read this as a confession but more guided by the belief: a month of Sundays. It may be true; I have a furious wish to rearrange time. This is not a mare’s nest but more deceptively a half-full moon.
Breaking has an edge when the loudest crowd is guided by psychopomps
muted mouthing and demented.
I’m learning town names and their geography by following wildfires.
Not quite pastime, like writing, but more gradual like buried cities
now exposed. Reminders that the slanting light shares this memory.
A love for language and its capacity to remind,
to provoke, to destroy, to build—all ways
to make meaning within life’s chaos.
That duality of attraction and repulsion,
to be godlike, to declare a voice,
to make nothing something.
“Absence is harder to accept than death.” —Etel Adnan, Sea and Fog
August is a month of dedication.
Be like the cloud-burning light,
and ask yourself, was it on purpose
or an accident, and then try to decide
which wrong answer is easiest to forgive.
Is your faith in the disembodied voice of unlearning
or the recollections of a still life, untouched?
That’s the kind of sensory deprivation I echo.
You must assume there is truth in this translation.
sadder than green oranges
Diminishing returns on man-made misery:
take drinking water to put out wildfires
then create full-color murals of mercurial martyrs
underneath burnt contrails that suggest messages
of conscriptive curtailment. There is some hope
as we begin the slow pilgrimage towards autumn.
But, last year was a mast year. Abundant loss.
What should we barter for an underdog future?
Summer funerals, holiday funerals, GoFundMe™ funerals
become parades of divinity serving a false purpose:
time progresses. Thrust takes the shape of a noun
and a verb; slow entry
repetition is seduction is violence is compliance.
Mutilated men archive intimacy inside avarice
and finger the crumbs left behind.
We seem to be trending, again.
That familiar sense of ascension,
of a ride. Time given, if we may be honest.
Relentless associations: abortion and rape,
vengeful anger and ketchup-stained walls,
parasocial relationships; unaware and informed.
Is my morning bus late or did it simply not show up?
July arrives. Come, unknowing.
That things “just go on” is the catastrophe. — Walter Benjamin
The poppies were still asleep.
Cats, the ones who never let me pet them,
stare past me as the sun migrates west.
It is summer. I am feral, again.
Or maybe this rumor wants to be about withdrawal,
an urge for a substance being withheld. Within,
there can be acceptance, resistance,
and something possessed delicately in between—
unknown, suggestive and loose like spontaneous prayer.
The atmosphere, thick with notes of jasmine and rose,
wanders around my morning shadow. It traces vintage memories
swarming unsolicited and holy: 4th of July rodeos,
tomato sandwiches, shedding cottonwoods, and parental neglect
so pervasive it remains material witness to all those lost summers.
Of course gravity is physical, but who will study its somatics?
Blue fading pink light transitions the sun’s nightly disappearance as a star.
Earlier the concentrated sunlight, setting late, hit a distant window—
just right. The bright reflection took shape of an ordinary reminder.
A reminder that temporal sequence as closure is felt, a sense.
What if we are actually expanding instead of contracting?
Hours as measured by:
clouds slipping by
street pigeon’s stuttered coos
gossip economy news cycles
a flock of geese in V formation
rivers carving out gorges
Can we claim survival as the measured depth of a body of water?
An ending does not always need to follow a chain of events.
Duality alters thresholds, choices, interpretation.
These ongoing attempts become accumulations, layers,
a structure of ongoing being. There’s worship and fetish.
A complete world.
Perhaps I did not succumb to ideology…because I have never seen myself as a spokesman. I am a witness. In the church in which I was raised you were supposed to bear witness to the truth. Now, later on, you wonder what in the world the truth is, but you do know what a lie is.” —James Baldwin interview with Julius Lester, May 1984
The surge is back.
We are hosts, again.
Feeling nothing but empty.
A physical sensation.
I am left wanting, again.
Never not forgotten urges.
Restraint is an evocative need.
Its own stimulation.
Free will is in the news, again.
When the wave comes, go deep.
In a Christian context, responsibility of discernment
makes meaning a gambler’s holdout. I mean that literally.
It is the same mechanics when a moment can be a monument,
dramatic affect to overactive nervous systems—tense:
a knowing. Which indicators of such deception are most valid?
The idea is: what you saw isn’t always accurate.
Are we simply machines preprogrammed to make complexity
out of the simplest of ideas, like wanting to be loved
unconditionally and without remorse?
In war, mourning the loss of art, be it actual or anticipated, is not separate from mourning for the senseless disruption and destruction of human life. To live is to build, to repair, to illuminate, to leave traces in the fabric of time and space. Until an empire’s fist hits it all and smashes it to smithereens. In the face of its onslaught, human life is as fragile as the glass that bears humanity’s loving traces. —Yuliya Komska, A Stained Glass in Lviv (emphasis mine)
Officially, it is spring. Wars are an endless reality behind opaque glass screens. We are learning to feel non-solid things in the hype. The sound of analog reflected in a digital world hits different. Open your mouth away me. Climb out from underneath those emotional thumbs. There’s overtime to be made fabricating virtual systems. Memory tracers betray our line of sight. Some rooftops grow trees and some of us are proficient in the logistics of nostalgia. Do your fantasies prepare you or scare you? Tongues are cut to remove coherent confessions; supplemental augmentations will cost extra. Always cultivate a feeling of waiting for the next disruption. Faith’s orientation requires an artifice, requite deprivation. It’s really like that. Geography as corral, gathered. A rotunda of light. The curtains hung themselves outside the cracked window. This dramatic neglect obscures strategic purpose and tides are never mentioned in the Bible. Its promises another proxy of obscene revenge.
Digitally speaking, I’ve trained myself to feel distracted.
I’m occupied. As numbed witness, in muted sound and fury,
today’s testimony dissolves into lyrical indirection.
Sharp, warm shadows of morning light strike a blooming spring.
From formalized fragilities of fear, from the perceived aggressor
in endless wars, or from slants of perimenopausal sales pitches
as rumor and pre-emptive threats, it’s all terrifying.
My daily diversions upsold. Propaganda is climax!
The psyops of weak kings is an advanced state of dissolution.
I imagine a moment that lasts so long everyone craves
its optimized chorus—it has been like this forever.
This is the loop, an exquisite incantation, that never deviates.
For most of the morning,
a banner declaring I LOVE YOU
hung visible from the hotel window
until housekeeping removed it—
to keep the room unsentimental.
Blue sky so bright, a harbor
to distract my voyeurism. Later,
a business man made a phone call.
Tie, no suit. Shadows from behind the curtain
portend a drama is breaking beneath the horizon.
Cherry blossoms explode on scene.
The trees have begun their spring planning.
Extending their grace & hope forward,
it would be wise for us to start doing the same.
We are well over 900,000 dead & barely counting anymore.
It’s the last week of February.
Angled rooftops, a single pane of glass
holds my wandering perspective.
I’m probably not telling you the right story.
Sun-marked rooms were the sentient witness.
A list, after all, is an incantation.
—Lia Purpura, from the essay “Sugar Eggs: A Reverie”
I almost paid attention every day this just past year. There might not be an instant memory to pull from but I remember:
new pages filled: creating a full, whole life
days moving with the sun
nothing urgent getting done anytime soon
a chain of days: learning
23 February, Tuesday, 2021 — we reached that unimaginable 500,000 deaths yesterday
By April, languishing was declared 2021’s dominant emotion. The experts were specific—we are languishing, a residual and continuously active tense.
But we are extraordinary now, more so than the before-times. Those of us who survived have an understanding, a swallow of temporary obedience, having squeezed through another dimension. In the same way Cliff Swallows, federally protected migratory songbirds, continue to build their nests on overvalued condos built on top of their well-known migration paths, we can claim we too are still living.
What’s next will be found in the ordinary, beyond the cleaved repetition.
Traveling at the speed of days per hour.
Is it okay to celebrate survival?
(All this death. It’s inevitable.)
Arranging for false openings—second endings.
What marrow should we salvage?
Oblivion becomes subjugation
when aesthetics have agendas.
Only at the very beginning
did the freeway quiet.
Now, faint signals of endearment are muted
as claw marks or socialized hope.
(All this death. It’s inevitable.)
At this point in time, there might be enough
to carry the rest of us curiously forward
full from holding unanswerable questions
in all this cropped light.
If we do not forget, what is there to remember? —Mary Ruefle from “On Secrets”
Suspension is a type of prayer
in the same way hard luck is still luck
or how clicking clocks make meaning.
Ending another year with reconstituted rituals:
unwrap an orange, warm the house with lights,
leave no trace and lament the echoes.
Interiors become accomplices
in a cascading culture of closures.
Reminding me the moon makes no light
of its own, and I don’t know
is the most honest answer I have to give.
This response to an unknown call,
how deeply personal an endeavor.