Remember the lessons of the past. Imagine the possibilities of the future. And attend to the present, the only part of time that doesn’t require the use of memory. —Sarah Manguso, Ongoingness: The End of a Diary
You want to know the details so you can tell the story.
There was a feeling of a passage of time, then a return
almost sacred in its magnitude. This fluctuating affect
bound to ghost objects is still holding their shapes after all these years.
There was an act of becoming visible, inventing new ghosts; unclenching.
Why this instinct? From who, and where, is its intransitive source?
But those answers are not the reason we are gathered here today.
This is about our roots growing deep underground, unbothered.
Those are the details I want you tell the others when they recognize
themselves in a familiar situation. Your intimacy—and mine—
now consequence of bright flares inviting creative echoes.
keep my mind on what matters,
which is my work,
which is mostly standing still and learning to be
excerpt from ‘Messenger’ by Mary Oliver
It was like a dream—and a paroxysm.
Downtown was covered in fresh tags.
As the city bus sped through red lights,
I read the scrawl as “cosmos” but
up close I could not determine its message.
What intent was behind this expression?
The next day, on the exact same bus, I saw
a lone pamphlet asking “Can the dead really live again?”.
That answer, and its implications, was also unknown.
Yet clouds scroll by already knowing having lived
a thousand lives before I even woke up that fateful day.
When the light hits blue, I knew an answer.
The astonishing present cannot be ignored.
When living in the unease of ongoing questions,
I must rupture the false integrity. I must seek what calls me.
I don’t have an answer prepared. My geology is unwritten.
Now that most of the neighborhood trees have leaves,
there is extra music, percussive, inside the offshore winds.
Grieve the affects of a closed throat. No sound, only devouring.
Bright—brilliance in its injury. An echo. Observe the moment,
vestigial and temporary as spring’s abridged shadows.
In the end, it’s only abstraction and phenomenon.
I hope you have choices too. The ability to revise.
That you demand the real, and push beyond memory.
This movement is discretion at its finest.
Refusal, grace and her technicalities, extends perception.
That angle, visceral, is what creates this poetic materiality.
An open prairie, a reservoir, raw mediums of nomadic attention.
This urge is to live my life swollen with blank spaces.
“Thinking is more erotic than calculating.”
—Byung-Chul Han, The Disappearance of Rituals
I’m dreaming of digital music evaporating inside fancy buildings,
of piss-stained city sidewalks, of stars born inside black holes.
I’m dreaming of facts not found in science, of poetry observed,
of what goes unsaid when the wrong people have power over me.
I’m dreaming of words and phrases forming infinite questions,
of line breaks matching my psyche, of wilding time to stay feral.
You insisted on an open casket. Hard proof, evidence of generous witness.
I remember it was rhubarb season, early spring, and your absence
deepened the long shadows laying gently across your receiving body.
Lilies (yellow, your favorite color) and fresh cut dandelions,
still dripping defensive sticky milk, held the light of your horizon.
Your life’s silhouette now full circle. Our mutual failures
vanished into pedantic memories and obscured the reverent silence.
I force myself to swallow the always-disappearing now.
There is pleasure in this remembrance, a type of muscle memory,
while I actively grope for a future. Even this specific meaning-making,
if shockingly ordinary, is superstitious in its suffering.
I’ve learned to gather these blurred edges, glints of everyday living,
as gravity compliments a recursive temptation towards animality.
Deity is in the details & we are details among other details & we long to be
Teased out of ourselves. And become all of them.
—Larry Levis, “Elegy with a Bridle in Its Hand”
When I am able, I sink slowly.
Shadowed in warm marigold sun,
I shed my skin and all its identities:
scripts, claws, bruises.
I felt nothing sinister, just adrenaline
from knowing I was doing something wrong.
An ambivalent refrain—courageous as an eclipse—
pure movement vanishing into exhalation.
“…those who fight against prophesy only draw it more tightly around their throats.” —Madeline Miller, Circe
First, I heard the whispers—then screams. A public audience
formed opinions. Within that poetics, an image burns beyond
what used to be memory. Like a curve seen from a highway.
Not quite perverse but ordinary as a Sunday. After the crowd left,
I heard the graves sing. I thought about sugar, fire, and energy
taking the shape of a ransom. Formulas of demand and release.
Nervous echoes continue to fill the gaps. To receive, I take.
“The absurd does not liberate; it binds.” —Albert Camus
I catch a rainbow in my hand.
You remind me that even in stillness
light breaks sound. I take that fracture
and bury it deep inside myself.
I want my darkness to mean something.
You stand desperate. The concept of “self”
broadens into a flattened “we”. Self-appointed,
I anoint you and under faith’s observation
we begin to believe we matter.
“March, all that deceptive light but no fruits yet.” —Talvikki Ansel,
from “16 Stanzas in February,” Field (no. 98, Spring 2018).
In the kitchen, the light disarms domesticity. If you know, it is the same indistinguishable process as Mt. Tam’s cleaving iterations in the golden hour light. Always with breakneck speed. A world without material things, maybe more anti-internet, and certainly like the undead. This buried architecture of alleged domination, and its long-term parter submission, are binary witness to a blueprint of only translated secrets. The light resting inside corners, its own container of space and structure—mathematics, hypocrisy, or anxiety of memory—ensures that all our futures wait rushed and uncommitted. Swallow the miracle of ritual. Startling in its immediacy.
It’s mathematical, distance and time add up to shadow.
—Li-Young Lee, The Winged Seed
The speaker’s ear is etched in memories
like a fragrance as faint as margins
of collateral or remembering a dream
of who used to be here. An erotic mania
exchanging an ever-present now.
Retrograde amnesia. Lazy echoes. A headline
claims we can’t grieve if we don’t remember.
Displaced pretext, panic attacks, then ghosts.
Wind chimes glitter as place separates from time.
Snow falls in the lower hills as if in documentary.
It is like a prayer to what is empty.
And what is empty turns its face to us
“I am not empty, I am open.”
—last 4 lines of “Vermeer”, Tomas Tranströmer (trans. by Robert Bly)
I was straddled, briefly, inside a space hollow with intent.
My clarity took the shape of a human-shaped hole.
Repetition became remembrance. Bright angles broke the plane.
I remember the camellias were dropping as headlines portend
false security. In this dreamed reality, sorrow penetrated remorse.
Something moved sideways as if in confession. At this edge,
just beyond, nothing. Blank imagination untangled into simple objects.
I heard ballon, small car, bus. I saw light dancing as if a whetstone.
Starlight hissed sharp. My hands held my face like a bell jar.
Wherever I was, my gravity kissed itself goodbye. I was an entire creation.
Light and shadow and universe.
Between us and god—
open mouth, open paw—
we count the seconds
inside a clap of thunder
and crack of lightening.
Someone spills a prayer—
blushes of winter sun—
troubled by the quiet break
in diminishing sound.
That switch to without—
eclipses the gathering light.
“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 thought about how the best poets break the conventions of language. How passive writing is aggressive and how darkness holds its own light. As 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 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 we 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 last 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.