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.
What are children learning to feel in this newborn century?
“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. Sound waves are dependent upon temperature to carry their messages too. 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 it is the slanting light who is sharing 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.
The preacher leaned into salvation’s promise at the very end.
It was a funeral, no better time to coerce eternal life.
Another soul claimed and sweetly celebrated as taken.
The rest of us will just have to wait our turn.
How death gathers us together—memories of memories.
Grief a double-edged fascination, overactive,
a disorder of obsession. Not here, anymore.
But on this side of heaven we must find a way.
Not wanting to arrive too late for the inevitable call
to forgive what has been left behind, and its remainder—
the sky laid open in exonerated glory and surrendered
its filtered light to be just as definitive as belief in faith.
You can go home again…so long as you understand that home is a place where you have never been. —Ursula K. Le Guin, The Dispossessed
Winter constellations hang low in the blue-black night sky,
Gemini returns. Add homemade cherry strudel to the list
of memories unforgotten, folds and folds of circumstances
harmonizing with the grace of effort. Repeat the sounding joy.
Decades pass into desire for acclamation but are instead
filled with humble enthusiasm. Hard luck made this base.
Conceptually, all archived reality shapes heartfelt elegies.
Not even God knows all our translations whispered
into twisted defenses. Hope is the last to die.
repeat the sounding joy is a verse from “Joy to the World”
hope is the last to die is a fragment from A Breath of Life by Clarice Lispector, tr. Johnny Lorenz
Radiator hisses fill the space left between
a bright sun in an empty blue sky.
Expressive clouds reclaim their territory.
Rain and miso ramen for lunch.
Downtown buses trail each other like snails
as layers of buildings are held together by math.
The remaining oak leaves hang like ornaments.
This week, scientists proved birds sing in their sleep
but most of us already know how the body tries to protect.
Are you the audience? Have you been disciplined?
If not, pay attention to how the slow accommodation
of western light adds to the rapidly sharpening darkness.
Now I become myself. It’s taken time, many years and places.
—May Sarton, “Now I Become Myself”
I’ve traveled far enough to remain the narrator.
The beautiful distortion of reflection,
time arrested. Star gravity.
Symbiotic or parasite? It’s both
and there’s only one answer. Details,
I need to add details. Salt air stains.
I am not doing anything wrong,
which is where we disagree. What does it mean
when the middle ground is now the high ground?
Sometimes the only place to start is right here.
It’s the same kind of living that believes
challenges are opportunities. Experts predict
the rapture will happen in the early morning
during the hours of softening darkness.
Show a smile; brave a tooth.
Imagine this as it is—a holy exposure.
Stimulate me, please.
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.
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.