seven years and a day

artist: Yuko Shimizu

Police found nothing but pairs of empty shoes inside abandoned cars stopped on the freeway that carved edge lines between city and suburb. Stereos were still playing upbeat songs or blaring ads for insurance, spicy chicken sandwiches, eradicating skin rashes, and a cloud that promised to secure memories. Coffee left warm in secure cup holders.

I have my own, obvious, working hypothesis for the dispossessed.

I can feel you wanting more. More analysis, more details, more quantifiable truth. I recognize that desire. If left unchecked, it is a serial and extractive response.

Instead of getting stuck in that kind of particular production, what spiritual inclinations were you born with? Will your future prove the past?

The ending is coming. How wild is your hope?

________

title is reference to seven years and a day is often the period of trial in fairy tales (Denise Levertov, The Poet in the World, page 13)

enter

Out One, 1971, Jacques Rivette

“Variety, multiplicity, eroticism are difficult to control.” — Barbara Christian, The Race for Theory, 1988

the world has been ending
since humans monetized time
selling stories elegant as tree rings
interrupted only to loop

together, attention affects gravity
softly gathered in quiet
found in the folds of endurance
atoned — we focus on the migrating season

elegant in its infinite chase
an autumn sun rose ripe
peachy explosions
light bloomed dandelion bright

take my hand, let’s walk
to the edge of town
I promise our sky opens
if you listen to its longest shadows

moving diagonally in a blur

Lill Tschudi (Swiss, 1911-2004), Venetian Lines I, 1950. Linocut, 26 x 28 cm. Number 16:50

god is absent these manic days
and still, we try to be our best selves
(even my plants have grown inches)

find your lazy gaze focused
there is forgiveness in being temporary
(pink light burns morning fog)

abstract detachment feels like coping
dreamy summer days tumble us smooth
(bone white clouds break open)

private investigator

When I added the dimension of time to the landscape of the world, I saw how freedom grew the beauties and horrors from the same live branch. — Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

Blind swimmers (Effect of a touch), 1934, Max Ernst

Planets square, conjunct, and align according to ancient calculations. A replicable physics of perpetual routine and abstract distance. The wise have correlated collective visceral feelings to this constant celestial movement and, of course, gravity’s determinate pull. There is grace in this kind of emotional profiteering, an abundance that forces us to confront unknown questions inside a mapped-out-for-you future.

I’m days away from another year around the sun. Three hundred sixty-five unbroken days of editing mistakes and expanding my realm of intuition.

These accumulating memories are a landscape bound to cycle back around to vanishing points. Gathered as collages and smelling like warm marigolds, all those shades of consciousness tend to the task of a well-paced axiom eventually becoming their own runaway speculative fictions. Nostalgia clutches just as much as it cascades.

The sky is always moving. I intend to continue investigating the figurative dancing light from that motion. Etching inventions into my own shameless shadow.

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 let go of contempt for she also holds dreams of the horizon inside her.

two or three things I know for sure

In three years and just shy of three months I intentionally curated one hundred hours of aesthetic meditation. For six thousand minutes, I listened and watched the ocean perform. Thirty-nine months of my darkest fears and saddest days were added to the epic drama before me. The consistency of each unique breaking wave reminding me that this, too, is living. That doing the same thing over and over for no purpose other than pleasure is the goddamn point. Time worth its exchange in salty kisses. I’ve written how empty landscapes are familiar, safe. Home. Blank page, empty horizon. Now, neither scare me.

31 August 2018

I respect the crash and appreciate the ability to pull back into myself. It is energy in motion. To swell. To release. To be seen. To be heard. To be so elegantly agitated. To retreat. To join. To rise. To start again. Already good enough.

Home is here—and out there. I wish to never lose my quiet roar.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

title is Dorothy Allison’s Two or Three Things I Know for Sure (1995)

elaborate form

Here is what we have to offer you in its most elaborate form — confusion guided by a clear sense of purpose.  –Gordon Matta-Clark c. 1973

From the daily writings of William Stafford, 1976. (William Stafford Archives, Estate of William Stafford)

eyes
food, religion
to the sky, to the land –
bowed in turn
that precious treasure
fire, fire
expired
or a thought, maybe, too strange for us

This found poem was created from fragments of William Stafford’s daily writings (1975-1976).

 

I woke early to catch a bus into a city so rich it begs. Finding traces of the first quarter rising moon, I watched a skyline break blue. As ocean waves disappeared into infinite replication, news of another massacre weights the expansive and empty horizon before me.

15 March 2019, Ocean Beach 

In “How the Mind Works,” Patti Smith asks Can we truly separate the how and the why? This logic is why Midwestern letters from home are factual and often lack ornate descriptions. The news relayed is a list—bills overdue, doctor visit Tuesday, crops flooded—to extrapolate and to elaborate reason would only waste paper and time. The weight of how to get where I do not yet know forms my most elaborate creative patterns, and those lines buried between what is said are code switches. I want you to imagine what that would feel like. I assume you are real on the other side of this virtual divide.

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.

a decade of clouds

1 September 2014, Berlin

the tail end of consequences is probably not the best way to start off but proportionally speaking, I suppose I am ok. it’s exchange rates I always have trouble with—their constant change and their false equivalencies derived from broken treaties. I learned last week remorse is an uncertain form of knowledge. I have to be ok with with this too. wanting can get costly.

that same day I learned a new approach to remorse, I saw a man deliver, under weighted wraps, a bunch of floating silver alphabet balloons. the balloons were claimed by a group who had walked in earlier and said oh good, the ropes are here. I’m wondering if I may have been over-influenced.

I have a junkie mentality when my class triggers flair. last night my dreams were so strong I woke up to the smell of wood fire heat. a connection to childhood when we’d spend Saturdays in the dead of winter trespassing and gathering wood pieces near frozen creeks, a wild and rare oasis on the Northern Plains landscape. my heart holds space for what could let this go.

it’s in these moments, between the waves, where future memories rise.

difficult knowledge

Below Zero (Fahrenheit), Lake Erie, Pennsylvania, Josef Hoflehner, 2015

as perennial pipelines heat prairie homes
I dream of drifting oceans & waves of snow

effluence      affluence

I have been told so many times & so many ways
this  world   is  ending

omen        amen

I’ve taken to stealing lines on borrowed time

censor       center

somewhere in this self-immolation is discipline
the denomination of need

graceful omens

America in time of war (September 11, 2018, Mission District, San Francisco)

if attention is the beginning of devotion
then acknowledgement of witness is where I will begin

from street level view, I am an island

a butterfly, hummingbird, & a dragonfly
float through smells of rotting oranges

jump cuts of urban landscapes

in complimentary opposition
the people bartered & exchanged energy

an elegant observation of intimacy

cleaving to an aesthetics of division
loyal to self & other

in chorus, our mutual true horizons were laid visible

_______

quote is Mary Oliver from Upstream: Selected Essays

processions

“…I believe our survival demands revolution, both cultural and political. If we are to survive the disasters that threaten, and survive our own struggle to make it new—a struggle I believe we have no choice but to commit ourselves to—we need tremendous transfusions of imaginative energy.”

—Denise Levertov, from her essay “Great Possessions,” January 1970

Angela Pulido Zorro, The ordinance of a history that arranges itself in a loop, or how to spell a scream, 2014.

It is February. I think about ruts carved into thawing prairie soil—how violence echoes. I pull your sleeves right side out every time I do the laundry. Shapes of familiar ceremony.

In March, rusted satellites fall to the ground. I find the ocean, again. A litany of land and shoreline.

Then May repeats to the present day. Silver glints from in-flight airplanes catch the attention of wandering minds. Our elegies no longer unconscious prayers.

The frontlines have finally reached us.

tautology, as a fault of style

“with the evolution of awareness came the possibility that existence could be more than survival, or that survival could be more than a response to fear, and could include the encompassing of joy” — Jeremy Wolff, excerpt from the essay Thots on Pot

April 2018

Northern Plains’ cottonwoods spread their seeds this time of year
thick as snow their white progeny coat lawns and 4×4 pickup trucks
a soft blizzard similar to the way Saharan dust reached Texas this week

both are dramatic
all that settling
          (it’s probably nothing)

this feeling of apocalypse came on swift
like gaslighting
    like wildfire
        like bad news

when adoration and permissions share the same open mouth of devotion
it is recommended that you consult your prophesies to justify blanket explanations

transpose unknowing into thoughts and prayers
a crash disrupts into eventual silence

the pace of light that finally reaches you

artist: Robert Roth

born from a place stubborn as time
untamable as the patience of trees
a place whose history begins with land stolen then plowed
now transformed to weed-filled lawns anchored by rusted swing sets
as early-to-open Main Street bars drown committed repentance
a place where there’s nothing left to let go
where abandonment is a reluctant hero
& stacked clouds convert prayers into myths
like there can be no forgiveness for sins
we commit against ourselves

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 June 8th;
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.

sortilege

Efficacious Grace, notebook. Jonathan Edwards, 1703-1758

Thursday was a broken conversation.
My voice silent as the air around me.
Buried and born again,
I made the day useful to me.

Friday was open secrets.
My voice tuned the melody of a cable car.
Found ideas inside words,
I made the day useful to me.

Saturday was repetition of witnessing.
My voice cracked open at its spine.
Threading connections,
I made the day useful to me.

Tomorrow will absorb sounds
of irresistible landscapes
each graceful expression
making the day useful to me.

dirty light

“The shutters were stuck. Then I grew absent minded.”
Des Moines Register, Iowa, July 3, 1938

stretching beyond monetary value: this is more freedom than security can buy

if I wake up open to what will unfold
I am ready to claim I had a good day
specific as memories stored in the creases of expanding curves

& still         I rescue myself when hope feels violent as an open hand
where fortune’s fault line is externalized validation
nested into dreams of trying to get somewhere
my body craves stillness

I press the coffee before anything begins

remember when we took turns burning wishes into the folds of our stomachs?
it was the safest place we could think of
no one dared touch us
there

I heard you took my name
and sewed it into your eyelids
stitches fragile as trusting strangers & friends
an exquisite waltz like light shining in distant flat darkness

radical ellipses

what survives in me
i still suspect.
–Sonia Sanchez, “Fragment 1”

Thanksgiving 2007, Seattle, WA

time signatures bridge memories spread wide, open as my early childhood landscapes
we moved most often when work got too hard or you simply wanted a change of scenery
self-destruction a competitive pursuit, or why my syntax lacks a particular kind of self-love

Christmas 2003, Mobridge, SD

I found an aesthetic: beg
more of a grasp than a hold
& I define how tight

Halloween 2017, Berlin

shattered pieces create the best whole
naked sounds vibrate the loudest
most thoughts end

find a way

It’s sweet
And it’s sad
And it’s true

– REM, Oh My Heart

December 31, 2015
Here
waves mimic earth’s rise and fall
a frequency known as home

Here
hills slope at similar angles
nearly invisible expressions

Here
fog settles thick as love
a passive reflection

Here
place contours memories
the body an unreliable narrator 

Here
we are
whole

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 sacred rivers and creeks
as roadside memorials blurred into permanent mile markers
horizon x distance = distortion

horizontally speaking it was a longing
pressure folding into seductive resistance
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 are pulled to you

devotion

august 2008

what weeping hearts we have
always moving
like the ocean
a perpetual reclaiming

what if we used gravity to resist
creating a soft tension
its own function
an opening, a fulcrum

expansive horizons become essential
as we unravel tragedy
spun into inspiration
like slowly peeling oranges on a Sunday morning

holon

Christian Furr, That My Heart Should Explode with Tenderness (from the Juissance series), 2015 Inkjet with hand painting in acrylic with diamond dust on linen
Christian Furr, That My Heart Should Explode with Tenderness (from the Juissance series), 2015 Inkjet with hand painting in acrylic with diamond dust on linen

experts have named our environment “rape culture”
fueled by an economy that exports & imports incertitude
funny how even the state’s gospel won’t accept no
even with a sovereign request
another way fringed borders bleed reciprocity
thick as oil as war as water

desire can transform anything
corporeal physics as vim and vigor
like soft kisses melting hard intentions
it’s why embodiment alludes enlightenment
& landscapes matter when our eyes close
horizons become their own grounding binary

pressure is a gilded warning signal
jouissance its own casual experience
how deeply our metaphors inform us
as angels, as deviants, as complicit
love is in here somewhere, or should be

interlude

It’s been a rush, as in glamour or gold.

Naked Lunch 1.16.15
Naked Lunch 1.16.15

This week the morning sky met the Bay by gently laying on top of itself. Low-hanging clouds smelled of cheap cologne, saturated with the kind of hope that only comes from peer pressure or digital capitalism or the start of a new year. The price of oil is less than $50/barrel which means the Financial District’s transactions have had less swagger. Instead calculated bets are placed on commodities like complex sugars, protest, Taylor Swift, and war. Pipelines born from speculative fiction landscapes are on pace to divide community from livelihood.

What if what I’ve been wanting is to find love in that space found between deep breaths? A capacity just beyond the quiet terror of behaving. A boundary traced around dangerous desires.