this side of heaven

God’s own calmness is a sign of God.
The surprisingly cold smell of potatoes or money.
Solid pieces of silence.

— Anne Carson, excerpt from “God’s Work

photographer: Ashley E. Walters from When the Moon Was in the Seventh House series

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.

a rendering

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

David Bagnall, Eating by candlelight during a 1972 power cut (Ironbridge Power Station, Shropshire, England, in the background)

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

fake crowds

The past beats inside me like a second heart. —John Banville, The Sea

A Marilyn Monroe Simulacrum, December 2011, Sioux Falls, South Dakota

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.

zugunruhe

Gelatin-silver print (1925) from the movie “Ways to Power and Beauty” by Wilhelm Prager & Nicholas Kaufmann

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.

pink noise

Pears cannot ripen alone. So we ripened together.” — Meridel Le Sueur

Lyndi Sales. What are your chances if the game is rigged?, paper & thread, 124 x 115 cm

I remember helping my father feed the boss’s cattle.
My sisters and I would watch him shovel hay
from the bed of the slow-moving pickup, driverless
and pointed in the general direction of home.

In winter, the cab’s heater blasting,
we were witness to the cattle’s eager breath
etch a chorus of hungry moos into the frozen air.
The chore was done when the hay was gone.
Wavy furred lines transformed the barren prairie landscape.

I remember the weight of your loudest threats
mapped onto your hands. You hit us to teach us a lesson,
to be quiet, because you couldn’t hit the boss.

As we got older, and bigger, you perfected words
into weapons, making your impact invisible.
Then came tender gaps of amputated time
when your anger spilled vengeance
against those you had declaimed to love so fiercely.

Forced to move into the deepest parts of nowhere,
packing tempers and testimony
this time would be better than the last.
Starting over was the goddamn point when
all you have for a legacy is your name.

That may have been one reason why
no one knew us where we were headed.

Our mutual legacy now an extension of reputation,
much like how only female cottonwood trees
shed their obnoxious cottony seeds
into the most distant, wind-driven places.

red line

Endpoint, paper collage, Annalynn Hammond

Dinner was the same: ground beef — a portion
of a six hundred dollar monthly salary — tomato sauce,
and elbow macaroni. That winter night, when he reached
for another helping, she noticed a thin red line
flowing from his thumb to his armpit. The blood infection inching
forward in proportion to the pounds of noodles, canned sauce,
and slaughtered cattle that filled our child-sized stomachs.
Weeks before, he cut his thumb skinning a dead lamb.
Orphans are draped with the skins of the dead to deceive
mothers in lambing season. A forced rebirth through the smell
of the familiar. When they left for the emergency room,
we watched the trace of their brake lights in the empty darkness.
As orphan bonded to new mother, we ate alone in committed silence.

blue noise

artist: unknown

Maybe if I loved her enough, my mother would heal. – Chana Wilson, Riding Fury Home

My mom officially disappeared from our family when I was thirteen. To be fair, she did not know she’d be leaving her four daughters that day either. When she left the house, she had packed nothing but her purse. Dispossessed, my memories are inscribed into a tight buzzing chest, rushed breathing, and anxious as self-doubt. These memories are my limbic system, the circuits of my mood board. I learned decades later my father took her purse as the only door out of the mental institution shut in her face.

The memories I have exist because I was there but that is as far as my truth can extend, the rest are now privatized myths. To be honest, my mom had been disappearing long before that fateful day. The silence in between seeing her was seasonless and evokes the dreamy concept of eternity for me.

It is true some winters the prairie grass reached taller than the snow drifts. To be obnoxious, you can read snow drifts as a noun or a verb. In that way, my teenage years were a righteous alchemy of oblivion and riot. I remember watching my mom’s need to earn her perfection and how she absorbed all his taking. I deducted a respect for witness and learned early that quiet violence swells. Infinite in its exhaustion, my realities are at best uncertain, which means I have the capacity to refine and revise.

I learned the art and practice of possibility from my mom. To be obvious, I owe my mom my life even if she wasn’t there for most of it. I had to let go of any contempt for her absence years ago because, like me, she also holds dreams of an expansive horizon inside her.

long division

“Success is someone else’s failure. Success is the American Dream we can keep dreaming because most people in most places, including thirty million of ourselves, live wide awake in the terrible reality of poverty. No, I do not wish you success. I don’t even want to talk about it. I want to talk about failure.” — Ursula K. Le Guin, excerpt from her 1983 Mills College commencement address “A Left-Handed Commencement Address”

Shujiro Shimomura, Poster Design, 1929

Mental maps are flashbacks of intertwined stories not to be confused with flash-forward dreams like visible clouds in the night sky backlit by 24-7 traffic lights, or knowing you are looking directly at an invisible full moon. I am sorry if this specificity of darkness is dense and complicated. I have historically avoided anchors of place in my writing because it feels safer to drift unmoored. It is entirely possible I do not want you to find me.

My past has too many inconsistent waypoints to map accurately—my mother is an unreliable narrator and my father’s sense of direction was absorbed as gospel, narrow and aggressive. Gathered, these scattered memories take shape as a specific form of isolation. The truth is, wrapping myself in distance feels like home.

This dark and expansive landscape I pull from is as familiar as counting landmarks on long drives back home, de facto mile markers such as wind-sculpted trees, mirage plateaus, and the occasional 4-way stop sign scarred with casual bullet holes. My expertise in understanding subtle changes as a sense of direction was earned honestly.

As an identical twin, separation is a practice of abundance.  Do you recognize that gift in yourself?

Stars are born when clouds of gas called nebulae infinitely collapse. The center of this collapse, a result of carefully balanced external gravitational forces and internal rising temperatures, fuses into light brilliant enough to witness from Earth’s distance. In this nearly empty darkness, collapsing coordinates are not fixed either. All these simple steps broken into a discovery of self, in excellence and always in evolution.

prominence

“writing…is a process of relying on immediate pervasive feelings, not an escape from them…”   — William Stafford, Writing the Australian Crawl. pg. 88

I’M HERE FOR LUCK. Louis Wain (1926)

I haven’t found a way to say I love you that isn’t complicated, so I practice loving you every day. Sounds of terrorized children broke through all those hours of visual noise. Hope is a map. A place to begin.

The distance of decades doesn’t always make things quieter. Calendars are more form than function. I learned early and repeatedly that love must be earned, and value is measured by others. An intimacy of detachment.

Addicted to seeking approval is one way of saying yes unconditionally. Instead, imagine a private collection of silent hymns. These days, I take care to mend memories as a way to create acceptance. A public chorus swelled.

Broken into speculative practices, writing things down reinforces pleasure and importance in tandem. Together, through famine and fortune, what stands out is love.  An oxygen where sacrifice is not born from competition.

Sunday, 4pm

photographer: Robin Cerutti

I think about the distance of fog
& find another way home
lost (as in damaged)
with all the sharp edges of a dog whistle
you left us nothing but absence — its own hope of escape

your mystery dominated empty spaces
so we reduced ourselves to survive
along pressure points (dislocated)
& under religion’s exploitation of bad luck
answers started rooting their own origins

in spite of darkness translating shape
light claimed its own space
showing influence (weighted)
we learned to feel
reverie

virtue signaling

                                                                     data are so emotional

Stéphanie Devaux ___________________________ . LosT. .fOr. wOrdS. …

Our inherited risks are not equal. This is an urgent incantation.
As visceral affect, I want to disembody and divest.

My father tracked weather patterns in free pocket-sized bank calendars.
Constrained, he archived basic data (temperature and precipitation)
occasionally punctuated with significance: two daughters born;
weight and height nearly identical.

His daily notes arranged into a practical devotion bound by time and repetition.
For point of reference, children and livestock born in storms were not isolated incidents. Shaping a landscape absent of variables, his pattern recognition became a survivor’s catalog.

Our futures signal forced reliance, an intimate risk. This is an urgent incantation.
As righteous affect, I want to feel god everywhere.

transference

and where
did that love
I gave
go?

Hannah Höch, Bouquet Of Eyes, 1930

arousal is an anchor
like empathetic inquiry
or side show hustles

echoed relationships
redirected
form finds its subject

we commit to process
over outcome, again
shift to abundance of solutions

technically we are identical
with differences called out
our unconscious a shared language

the news repeats:
rot
patterns

it is a drowning
a baptism
an act of mercy

rosemary

“But your pleasure understands mine.”
— Clarice Lispector, The Sharing Of Loaves

Betsy Eby (American, b. 1967), Rise, 2017. Encaustic on canvas over panel, 35 x 48 in.

At 39,000 feet, clouds rose like mountains
fading to dark as the blushing sun set
to black as the thinnest winter ice.
Ice we learned to turn our wheels into,
and when done correctly, such surrendering
was proactive evidence of a survivor’s effort.

In spring, we plant rosemary to remember
our deepest buried beliefs. We harvest
and revise our most shadowed secrets like wanting nothing
but distant empty horizons and bodies that do not betray.

We sculpt these altered thoughts and declare them working dreams.
In trust, our shared wishes for a braver future were coming true.

smash and grab

Tell me, what’s the joy of giving if you’re never pleased?
— Blood Orange, Champagne Coast

Georgia O’Keeffe, Blue-03, 1916, watercolor on paper

the sun rises at eastern edges
yellowing twilight blues

when there is nothing
rest

if there were Christmas stockings
we always had an orange

such persistence can feel joyful
when there is no other choice

participatory witness

Deep in their roots all flowers keep the light. —Theodore Roethke

Jean Baudrillard, Saint Clement, 1987, Giclée print on pure cotton paper, 60 x 90 cm

these broken pieces are their own ritual
spirals of coping mechanisms
apparitions

***

I’ll give you something to cry about was a challenge, a threat, and a promise.
Your unmasked emotions always carried a visible regret.

These thoughts came through, wide-eyed and unaware of their tardiness.
Flowing the way water finds the least resistance, crooked and illogical.

***

first there were wild-maned horses on frantic wide open horizons
followed by scratched, then abandoned, lottery tickets turned city sidewalk confetti
both are remembered as tender memories so as not to tear open violently
in the same way a new moon rising is full darkness and as obvious
as even the smallest bird creating their own shadows in flight

epiphany’s memory

Boston Post, Massachusetts, April 28, 1895

peach sunrises softly open the day

inside plastic filters our light
outside the wind transfers blessings

we map these mutual relationships

independent to distance or space
interdependent we expand boundaries

may we witness all this effort as inspiration

allowance was silenced after permission
prohibiting an illusion of shared innocence

our girlhood pasts had both ponies and mystery

subjected to believe in gendered tensions
demand a reaction to keep pace with anticipation

as reworked verses are dropped every Sunday

continental divide

“I knew the tension in me between love and power, between pain and rage, and the curious, the grinding way I remained extended between these poles – perpetually attempting to choose the better rather than the worse.” —James Baldwin

May 23, 2017 (9:09am New Mexico)

I read all the names
of the passing sacred rivers and creeks
as roadside memorials blurred
into permanent mile markers.
Horizontally speaking, it was a longing.

When you knew you were in trouble, what did you do next?

These days, and for some time since,
I move with spiritual abandonment—
neglect now atmospheric radiance.
Habitual as landscapes,
my divided thoughts pull towards you.

open-sourced feelings

I’m here in a room and I have things arranged.
I have them likened to code, so they can often be changed. — Karate, Bass Sounds

Barbara Kruger (detail) LA2015

I haven’t found the perfect way to describe you
sincerely shouting victories is something else entirely

the sun rose bland and round
that space between sky and water
absorbed all this energy

such openness feels chosen
I taste frustration on your breath
advancing in spirit and stature

aggression is its own logic
he hit you for the same reasons
he hit us: for your own good

a model of volatile benevolence
in political frameworks, the body does betray

waking up becomes a compulsion
reengineering you get what you ask for
I send this postscript as an invitation