The pattern is there is no pattern. Only thrills split from the inside of nightly dreams. Fireworks imploded. In the background of Jaws, the captured sound of the ocean insistent. Tumbleweeds untitled. Lives carefully leashed. Forgiveness now sold at cost. It’s cheaper than a full-bodied excavation or postponing uninsured vacations. Those flag waving contests, sacred competitions, enunciate the ascendant feelings. Clear and bright. Rising suspicions, surges of delusion, all of it natural as dredged wetlands or pipelines exploding to spectacular affect. The variants are just following the rules of long division. A simple prayer; please. Insert more coins to keep living. The transactions of ordinary time. Freedom to fill an empty page. Phantom whisper networks now interstellar contextual markers. Parabolic welcome wagons. There is no pattern, only recognition.
“How innocently life ate the days.” —John Updike, Couples
All day long, she sits behind windows
watching swollen ancient clouds
echo along abraded front lines.
She traces their carved patterns
and records distorted stillness.
Parting seductive, the bruised grey sky
swarms off to her west and opens wide.
Some might say she’s damned
but that’s a different parable
for a different time. Today,
she’s thinking about sanctity of attention.
Relationally vast in its deviant transience,
she listens to sovereign urgent voices
like well-fingered coins tossed into wishing wells.
This form of anticipation reclusive and incessant,
unyielding as the agency of water.
An observant song now broadcast as western light.
Time is visual—
the sun an arc,
we are the curve.
On the cusp of a new year
time has been absorbed;
last year not yet finished.
Unless otherwise stated,
no one is coming to save me.
Time now swarmed with qualifiers,
its own forgotten circumstance.
Lead me gently back to place.
My tense present perfect—
For the first time in any recent memory
the sedimentary accumulation of details shift.
Cloaked like nerves and tucked inside,
we weren’t on any kind of edge at all!
Sometime, much later, Mars reflected bright
suspended above the light-polluted city limits.
Clouds clocked MPH. A smooth sense of validation.
The poets disagreed on the finer points
but we all agreed faint light still finds shadows.
Some called it art. For now, it was simply enough.
Our tea leaves will have to broadcast what’s next.
Our questions endless: courage or nostalgia?
Our timelines no longer mediative glory holes.
We, the animals, will follow the sun rising.
Loving feels lovely in a violent world,
—first line in “Community”, Marge Piercy
I relished pleasures of the mind and the flesh equally.
—Marge Piercy, Sleeping with Cats
mind that gap
somebody must know
the biochemical difference
between fear and excitement
trees with new leaves
look fresh next to those
who keep their looks all year round
same view, thoughts recycled
40 more hours squeezed
into future dollars
performing “ordinary life”
(overheard on morning NPR)
all of this so-called-living
to be cherished
“I shrug whatever is gone and welcome the changing truth.”
—William Stafford, 25 September 1975
* crosswalks are supposed to keep you safe *
Consider this to be a true story, send a self-addressed stamped envelope to learn more.
* a moment, a chance, they are everywhere *
The orange tree has been gone for at least a year now?
It was one of those bright and sunny days.
* perpetrators hidden in plain sight *
Home is a loop, shadowed at its edges.
Go out and gather. Return /
On Wednesday, I learned trees are biologically immortal.
The sun-warmed puffed clouds stray. Daffodils bloom
in trickle-down light bent abstract buttercream, back swallow,
just breath and heart beat. We configure ourselves
to fetishize normality as told-you-so’s make history
then serve up alignments so remote multiverses constellate.
Skies of baby blue, that texture, now future tense.
It’s ok if this revision won’t translate just yet.
“I set the limitations. The limitations of course are the color, the size, the wind in the room, and how I put the paint on.” —Pat Steir, Pat Steir: Artist
Can you quit something that doesn’t exist?
trace the traces
stay curious or die
“All of our reasoning ends in surrender to feeling.” ― Blaise Pascal
I was told salvation is coming. It could be any day now. My earliest memories integrated this knowing as a worried occupation, equal parts faith in and fear of the odds. Much later, I learned trees share similar survival stories—expressed urgently as generosity with occasional pause to report danger—through elaborate, networked underground comms systems. This year, they’ll wait for a response not aware their friends and family didn’t survive wildfire season. We all wait in this sense of unknowing as predictions of unimaginable loss dampen relentless holiday sales pitches. Our cumulative temperament is tuned towards intermittent reinforcement, an addiction to hope.
Lately, as a ritual of escape, I wander between landscapes of turning Japanese maples and persimmon trees, flickering reds and faded orange, as palms stay evergreen while limes and lemons transform sour. Take this lust and ride its crest. I want to believe this could be a new beginning as waves of survivor’s guilt swell, then spread.
Poetic principles like allowing for improvisations and diligence of testimony guide my guarded thinking these vanishing days. I create deliberately, in curious inquiry of being in a state of suspended exile. Forgive me as I loop.
During the war, we felt the silence in the policy of the governments of English-speaking countries. That policy was to win the war first, and work out the meanings afterward. The result was, of course, that the meanings were lost. —Muriel Rukeyser
I consumed so much “information” throughout this very long weekmonth that this post is what it is. I know that too much intake isn’t good for me and yet I binge as if satisfaction could be found in declaration. Refreshing will tell me something new, smooth these edges of unknowing, and fill all the holes. At saturation, it physically hurts. Early symptoms are a tight chest and shortness of breath. Today the sky is a perfect California blue absent clouds and smoke. Fact: you can believe it but that doesn’t make it true. The barrel of the camera can cause dramatic harm. This is a threat. Surely witness reifies reality. I know some will say angles and their slants are beholden to the power that frames and seduction laps those edges but there’s more. There’s always more. Urgent thinking and wanting immediacy always take us away from the subject who doesn’t want to, ironically, be seen. The next spectacle must definitely be worth it? Any similarity to a person living or dead is entirely coincidental.
“Without touch, God is a monologue.” — Andre Dubus from Broken Vessels: Essays
edge of collapse
I’m craving land
orange primary sun
a macabre atmosphere
the news scrolls
trolls concern for structures
to make decisions
humans are hardwired
to scan for threats
there’s a moment
after the emergency
I feel stupid
like I overreacted
but didn’t stay calm
making everything sacred
takes so much
in my dreams,
I asked for time
I don’t think I have said enough about the splintered disorder of June, July & August. — Virginia Woolf, The Complete Works: The Diary
Sustained turbulence becomes a gentle mania.
Where violence shapes, hope shelters.
Redwoods may represent us more than we know.
But it’s the love you don’t give
yourself that’s got me worried.
If skin is cut off from oxygen, you will die.
It’s also true the last part of the body
to burn when cremated is your belly button.
A finality to an already severed attachment.
By gathering this evidence as a way to signal
private grief, I reckon these traces of darkness
will eventually find you brave.
cracks of blue
wisps & whiskers
swaying in light
In ways both unique and entirely common, being alive during this pandemic is re-iterating me.
— TC Tolbert, Also, I’ve Slept in the Backyard for the Last Five Weeks
I’ve been here before.
I am sure of it.
A year-day that has
no beginning, no middle
and no benevolent end.
Some argue this absence
must be lived, that it
is more of a felt sense,
similar to elaborate escape
routes dreamed nightly
and soft as bodies
You’ve been here before.
You are sure of it.
“The number of people here [New York City] who think they are alone, sing alone, and eat and talk alone in the streets in mind-boggling. And yet they don’t add up. Quite the reverse. The subtract from each other and their resemblance to one another is uncertain.
… It is the saddest sight in the world. Sadder than destitution, sadder than the beggar is the man who eats alone in public.” — Jean Baudrillard, America (trans. Chris Turner, 1991)
Nearly a year ago, I carried America by Jean Baudrillard around the Bay Area and all the way down to the most American of places, Los Angeles.
I wanted to capture Baudrillard’s idea that eating alone was the saddest sight in the world.
And of course nothing and everything can change in a year.
Contemporary America is at an epic and fevered hyperpitch with an advancing crisis of reality. What is refracted is what will be. Our ascetic online lives more fake than ever. Asepsis is an arousing and obsessive state in this quarantine simulacrum. Hygiene a cult. The habitual repetition of survival, an amplified fascination of being alive, its own seduction.
But one day soon—in the scheme of weeks or as quick as when you notice your neighborhood trees blaring their blooms—restaurants will open for sit-down meals and I will prove Baudrillard wrong.
Listen—this is a faint station
left alive in the vast universe.
I was left here to tell you a message
designed for your instruction or comfort,
but now that my world is gone I crave
expression pure as all the space
around me: I want to tell what is. …
— William Stafford, TUNED IN LATE ONE NIGHT, first stanza
We were told to get extra, but not hoard.
All professional sports, including NASCAR,
and all mass entertainment cancelled.
Church and work shifts to virtual platforms.
Even the Pro Football Hall of Fame
shuts down for “at least two weeks.”
Tourists won’t hear the bronze busts
speak in stiff-lipped whispers.
Witness begins to require recalibration.
An Italian doctor corrected the British talk show host –
bomb metaphors are inadequate for this pandemic.
A bomb implies “one moment in time and space.”
The doctor begged viewers to grasp spacetime physics
as Florida’s spring break beaches swell.
I scrolled and
for good news
Freeway traffic flows in east/west lanes
like ants on a crumb score.
I’m waking up later each day,
blending home and work
into a double-stitched seam.
It is the first day of spring.
I beg you to prepare for the future you want.
Yet nothing has really happened
Place has even more significance
than we can consciously hold
now cracking open at its weakest points –
where we are isolated and approximate distance.
News moves relative to a wide margin of incompetence
and displays itself as curved lines.
I bless the bus drivers keeping their ghost routes.
New leaves spread wider each passing day.
I am hyperaware of my phantom wants:
a balcony and family. A dopamine loop fueled
by anticipation. The future now a fermata.
Money cancels criticism. — Alissa Quart, SINKING IT ALL INTO
I thought, maybe,
I might know myself better by now.
I’ve gotten as far as:
I have a shy crown
with deep roots and
I peel oranges,
with my left hand
separating the segments,
for my future self.
I’m not ashamed to be
loud by omission.
Yet listen well. Not to my words,
but to the tumult that rages in
your body when you listen to yourself.
If it is true we are floating through space
& each of us contain the stardust of a million galaxies
then the sun glittering receptive is our asylum.
Exuberant in this signification,
we propel beyond daydream nations.
Expressive attraction becomes its own tender gravity.
Change is accelerating
is feedback looping.
What do you believe in: violence or power?
It is our right as poets to be suggestive
to value a secure spirit & apply logic of affect.
We know why the grace of a curve invites.
“She peels an orange, separates it in perfect halves, and gives one of them to me. If I could wear it like a friendship bracelet, I would. Instead I swallow it section by section and tell myself it means even more this way. To chew and to swallow in silence with her. To taste the same thing in the same moment.” — Nina Lacour, We Are Okay
My dreams were unpleasant so I changed the subject.
Crooked clouds, galloping waves, open sky, rapid heart beats,
30-mph curves, a quiet moon. I feel invited to be in witness
differently. Superstitions abound this time of year.
Ebb, the movement of the tide out to sea, is a noun.
It is also a verb, to recede. A delicate pull to want
complexity in concrete form and a desire to contract,
its own learned impulse. This withdrawing is not quite grief
but something deeper—like prairie grass roots growing
fourteen feet into rich Northern Plains soil or inversely
the stretch of centuries found in straight-as-arrows Coastal Redwoods.
I want nothing but that kind of time to observe the unfolding
of our revised lives. How far will I let this instinctive incantation
take me and what existence can we carve out in the shadows of endless wars?
Maybe the answer is where our holy and mundane days adjust into
a darkness soft as our breath subsiding and just as gracefully rising.
“Walking on the land or digging in the fine soil I am intensely aware that time quivers slightly, changes occurring in imperceptible and minute ways, accumulating so subtly that they seem not to exist. Yet the tiny shifts in everything – cell replication, the rain of dust motes, lengthening hair, wind-pushed rocks – press inexorably on and on.” – Annie Proulx, Bird Cloud
I’ve learned enough to be dangerous. I’ve failed enough to feel successful.
Lessons learned, in the order they showed up:
- Expectations are different than boundaries.
- Shame is a form of self-abuse.
- Distinguish the difference between meaningful work and paid work.
- The stories I tell myself matter the most.
- Maintaining a conscious awareness of abundance is the work of being open to inspiration — being fascinated feels good. Acceptance is eternal work.
- Establishing new routines takes time.
- Trust in self is a sacred commitment.
- Patience is its own desire and trust in myself is sacred energy. Learning stimulates: both focus and curiosity are required.
- Creating poetics inquiries deepened my capacity for patient discovery.
- Breathe through the urge to have answers.
- Staying present and having curious inquiry is the process of accelerating joy.
- It matters how you show up.
2020 is one of those future-forward years, like 1999 and 2000. Every year has its own biography of echoes. The list above are some of my loudest.
The hills are thick with creamy fog these late-August mornings, then fade into brilliant blue. My dreams have been performed in airports and church vans. I rode a mechanical bull pleading to get to where I thought I wanted to go.
a different summer morning
you joked that Red Delicious
was put there by a witch
I’m disciplined to distraction
the peek of a thigh
roses at the edge of on-ramps
yielding to pressure
“Push button to stop the train”
her wide open as the sky tattoo
following clouds shaped exactly like breaking waves
The sky is mute.
My palms soft.
The future broke.
Your hands found me wanting.
Shared recognition creates intimacy
when the public body is an impulse.
Wild as blessings, and just as sacred,
I come wide, spread open.
Living a literal life
is an obedient life.
My feed is deepfake informative
so I reduce truth to metaphor.
Wandering ribs is a radical referent.
We’ve been promised what does not exist.
Birds bob and sway
above the frothy noise.
This may be the exact amount of now that I can continuously absorb.
deposits of memories make a body
or a pulpit
Despondence, according to plan, is a fevered imagination.
should I revise, again
or stay as is
After all, even light has its own form of pollution.
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
a series of lines / unbroken
as promises they hold their value
remind me, again, what constitutes forgiveness
where hypocrisy fits in context to perfectionism
in a universe of endlessly revised incarnations
most mornings I stare out the kitchen window
wishing I was moving at the speed of a morning commute
I don’t swim away from
the greedy snapping of breath,
but my throat…well,
terror owns each kiss.
stanza from “Here” by Amber Flora Thomas
As waves of morning light
survive extravagant centuries
I follow a thread of words
primary gravity safety
broken just enough to fit in
my jaw has been clenched shut for three days
in a trance, I wait
sounds of skateboards grinding concrete float
common as the sun rising above distant freeways
this is a scene framed by palm tree ascensions
bus stops concentrate waiting strangers
wanting lives that respond versus react
a wish more violent than fading starlight
fear-riddled dreams are an intuitive compass
the future is bigger than we can ever pretend
metaphors swell as waves of silent witnesses scroll
in transit, temporary, I thrash
we practice small-scale empire building
our bodies conduits of conquest and currency
there is an untouchable light
when reflections of past experiences
pull from distance and probable cause
no longer placid as orthodox perceptions
our over-reliance becomes reflex
we just assume mornings start new
repeat until you believe
what survives in me
i still suspect.
–Sonia Sanchez, “Fragment 1”
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
I found an aesthetic: beg
more of a grasp than a hold
& I define how tight
shattered pieces create the best whole
naked sounds vibrate the loudest
most thoughts end
drawn from the month of August 2017: the dramas of poetry
Internal struggles are creative escape. A quiet move to form a space where survival can be shown joyful. Today this emanates as imagination externalized into poetry, an archaic organizing structure. I find active comfort in writing. A motion that has desperation as its wings. I write because it feels good. Not from a place of fear, but from a deep place of longing that has expansive connections. I write because I love.
I could try to name all the details, get them just so, while also aligning them to a truth I’ve silently cultivated. Yet dear reader you will bring yourself, whole and fractured, to my exposed interpretations. When I write about light, darkness, or a combination (such as stars) I may try to steer you in a direction that makes sense—to me—but you will pull yourself along freely, or not. All I know is how much you desire days that open themselves.
I believe that kind of desired stillness can be found in a “good” poem. A temporary place of collaborative movement where desire meets an experience that shows effort.
I witnessed the sea lion lay still and bloated. A murder of crows took fur and the wettest pieces of its eyes. Obscenely exposed, tender in its inability to no longer defend itself from harm, there was both stillness and flurry of excavation to what the crows found most useful.
The truth from that image is not mine to tell. My privilege as a writer is to show. May I be so fortunate to connect you dear reader on another experiential plane. Not forcing but gently holding together a moment of stillness, an honoring. And I may tell you one thing as I adeptly show another disparate possession. That gap is not mine to control. I owe myself only the structure and integrity around the truth of this moment.
I evolve. I decompose. I exist here.
*** *** ***
*** *** ***
curated from the near past: self-immolation
Fixing fences is a full-time job and a hard way to make a living. Those edges form a territory where scarcity implies there is something to want. It is not absence or loss. There is a lack but it’s expansive, wide and open.
This lineage has been stored as power taken—a binding agent of trauma and songs shared in darkness. Fear becomes us like the secret textures of a thousand trees.
If it’s true that perfection is a scarcity never to be fully actualized, my life was first performed where sin delighted to now wanting love when wrong. This claiming is mine and its purpose is to make meaning.
This is a collectively sourced confession.
We’ll let you guys prophesy
We gon’ see the future first
— Frank Ocean, Nikes
our houses red-tagged fragile
a state of taking up too much space
an absurd strangled feeling
broken into atomic structures
we forget the stars survive above
business owned is personal
witness morning’s stillness
how the days pull forward
swallowing quiet movement
what weeping hearts we have
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
sunsets are starting to look Pacific coast again
pink light lengthening its reach
as clouds become incarnations of stampeding horses
(apocalyptic if that is your orientation)
the crown of flowers was her own creation
made from remnants of first-date napkins
forming a graceful relationship to reciprocity
those echoes found delayed in repressed rhythms
where she returns to these kinds of questions
as murmurations as stimulations as exchanges
(our intimacies measured by exhale)
she dreamt in currency, in time
scaling up as undoing: euphoric
this consecration mine and yours
News cycles are dominated by Russian dramas.
No one mentions rape in context anymore.
We’ve taken solace by decoding mass rhetoric.
I can imagine you beautiful and calm.
Our wandering like scrolling.
This landscape so literal.
Receipts as evidence as expressions.
Fisted conclusions neglect.
A rote search for light in darkness.
Time stretches into manufactured units.
By heart standards, this feels eternal.
Populist hyperbole interpreted as desire feels
Some argue identity is residual.
You know it by its attributes.
These compulsory dreams are viral transfers.
Motives unmoored as debts to consent bloom.
Layered political pontifications soothe like lullabies.
I dare you to find love in this absence.
Liberation aside, how does this make you feel?
Inductive reasoning seduces. It penetrates.
Yes, this conversation is a calculated intermission.
Wait. This is my understanding of your manipulations.
A respite of obviousness – of borders unarmed.
Let us, both, reductively fade into this capture.
We ignore the narrator by only focusing on the frame.
The city moves, bends, and swallows.
An act of congress, a coming together.
He presented himself to me. I kissed, gently,
his upper thigh. Curated outfits, a collection of pants
and blouses, roll past me. Lunches bounce inside bags.
I keep writing to feel around the noise. Reinvested
memories, commitments, and occasional flashes of violence.
Internalized scandals are my own reputation to manage.
The train was crowded. No one could complain
about unwanted touching. I imagined her hand
moving slowly, without detection, up and between
my legs. Her fingers, warm and steady, found
their destination. Leaving behind permanent
invisible notes, secrets scrawled on the inside.
Messages shared as rumors as indisputable
associations like light shining through solid objects.
Make me laugh so I can stop breathing in this sadness.
There is suspicion around all this effort. Parcel out the doses.
Not all poems are meant to be serious, or anything at all.
The ocean is self-conscious in that healthy enlightened way.
Gratitude notwithstanding how this will unfold is mine to own.
Each admittance a proxy for loving so deeply.
Frames are other’s dramatic interpretations.
Never forget water dissolves rock and values aren’t talking points.
Your subjective reputation precedes you, so does your community.
Create your own triplines. Let go of tipping points. Launch reflexive debates.
Send shock waves of radical thoughts, mythologize perversions, and make hope relentless.
Narrate yourself beyond binaries. Imagine yourself unbought.
This suite of dreams found the deeply conscious.
Formerly languished tertiary emotions unfolded
into a familiar and comforting serial thriller.
Absorbed as volition, rapid moving transformations,
these dreamy stories have been thick with meaning
personified by you, his posture, and breathless repetition.
Looping back to vorfreude, I weave my own meaning.
At climax, I am literally haunted in mind and body.
Multi-sourced sensations are now hardwired connections.
It is there, that specific detail, translation finds traction.
waiting to burst
low-flying clouds hang
this city visualizes virtually
while dreams bloom in analog
our breath is always moving
the pace of trees bending to find light
confession is my way of speech
the faithful will recognize these signs
she asked me about grief // I thought about honor
The day starts with blessings, with sacred reminders of what I know and why.
I’m grateful for the person who tagged “gender fucked” on the border of East and West bay.
This form of witness bears repeating.
I start packs on Sunday, bleed on Tuesday, and plan for French Fridays.
There are four core love asteroids: Amor, Eros, Psyche, and Juno, also the queen of Heaven.
There’s a desire to write from a place of softness, from sentimentality.
To record; to repair.
Make visible; resolve.
And did you get what
you wanted from this life, even so?
And what did you want?
To call myself beloved, to feel myself,
beloved on the earth.
–Raymond Carver, Late Fragment
The mountains found solitude,
spooning each other to hold their gaze
while hills white from not-yet-risen clouds
lay in contrast to the Bay warming blue.
Grateful for forgiveness and forgetting
time as construct, a gravitational force
wrapped around desire, momentum, abundance.
Absence has pulled your energy elsewhere,
away from me.
Every day we show our stories by waking
under cloudless skies as nests of nests
of birds clamor and inspire the cat,
a product of us: neglect and minimal care
unencumbered with material fancies.
All this, and things undiscovered,
guide our personal rhythms (fulcrums/hips)
like how our body’s most graceful state is to be at ease
not unlike that summer we moved across country
with every possession we assumed we would need.
An embroidered pillow littered the interstate
along with an unpartnered shoe and other items
mostly unseen like kisses blown into ocean currents
(small reminders dividing our morning gaze)
I am worth showing up for
bound by all those quiet erasures
pulling towards shame in order to remain prone
a worship of sorts, a ritual formed from survival
a lous péché miséricorde
an intimate maxim linking mercy to sin
suppressing repressed domination > perceived value
as artificial as the light and politics we are surrounded in
All my dreams have wound around need.
This time of year the radiator sings at night. The gray mornings are carbon copies of Cleveland’s skies. Those years full of bravado that only darkness holds or youth demands. To the east, the pastel light spins out into easter yellows, baby blues, and softened ripe peaches.
I watched him dip his boots into the fountain, one at a time, muddied from the urban forest he was paid to curate.
When we talk about the work be explicit.
Do you care
We all have somewhere to be
someone to hold (ourselves mostly)
accountable for what happens today.
ersatz lace and ruffles
the waves embraced me
* Hard to Find by American Analog Set