plastic as plants

A bitter taste lingers—
stringent, with punchy
mouth feel—tongue maps.

Rebound special—
I dreamt, again, of moving.
A task of packing things
you forgot still exist.

We lay in bed, innocent
until forced to engage
with the world under a sky
quiet, grey milky light.

NICE KID, June 2014, Portland, OR

In America, I regret to be informed
war and rising gas prices
are equally traumatic. There’s panic
at that trigger-shaped pump.

Some reread biblical stories—
extracted citations of plagues, salt,
and sin. Fear finds us hungry.

Evacuation trails of refugees are littered
with what is no longer essential. Left behind;
rapture. Calculations shape bitter mouths,
reactions and policy becomes oracle.

In America, I regret to be informed
speculative fantasy and prosperity, a state,
are the gospel. Instead, demand nothing exists.

Some claim emerging trends tell the story
not knowing all data expires. The disconnect
of what has been with what is becoming unravels—
desperate inflations to make sugar from light.

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.

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.

wish you were here

“I find it easy to admire in trees what depresses me in people.”
— Marge Piercy, last two lines of “The Doughty Oaks” from The Moon Is Always Female

ART PEOPLE, Sioux Falls, South Dakota, March 2021

Spring finds us haunted. A seasonal feeling after witnessing winter’s passing, but it’s acute this year. Blue skies expanding. Nests of birds explode in sound. Time is the fulcrum. I love you fills the past, present, future. Now weightless, light cracks through early morning clouds. I thought about the scam of resurrection. Some never fully accept death as loss, permanence unchanged. They believe death can be cheated. The obvious irony is you’ll suffer from wanting what is not possible. Time is the fulcrum. Flexing, palming, sucking off temporal attention.

Through the eyes of a non-believer, the sharpened edge of dilution, I miss you.

time as delusion

“Instead of becoming preoccupied by the extraordinary things the deluded individual believes, we should turn our attention instead to the ordinary things they no longer believe, the absence of which have allowed the bizarre to flourish.” — Huw Green, “Deluded, with reason

Jill Friedman, Christ Loved Men Only, London 1967

I was born on the east side of the Missouri River. U.S. Route 12 segregated town into north and south. If you drove west, time moved backward one hour from Central to Mountain. A sign on the bridge let you know you were crossing the threshold when you reached the middle of the river. Everyone west, within a certain driving distance of town, set their clocks to Central. Awareness of time in this way, coupled with growing up immersed in seductive Evangelical promises of attaining an afterlife, shaped absolutely how I perceive time and place.

Living in a community that so willfully defied authority (whoever put that arbitrary line of what time was supposed to be) while persistently yielding to a prophesy that believed you were doomed unless saved, was ordinary—normal—to me. Technically, every day was urgent and distorted.

What was delusion and what was habitual enough to thrive in that unique cultural echo?

Learning so young to measure time as both borrowed and flexible expanded my ability to conceptualize reality, an immense landscape of what I knew and what I saw. It also helped to construct a very specific concept of suspension of disbelief. I recognize and am familiar with waiting as an anchor of suffering and its twin—earned anticipation of endurance.

As the contemporary drags hot and dangerous, I wonder if these times, right now, are worse than other times of war, protest, fire. To pull an image from the last line in William Stafford’s A Ritual to Read to Each Other …the darkness around us is deep.

What revelations lay at this undulating edge?

I don’t know. For now, I’ll keep translating evocations into poems and finding pleasure in trying to answer unanswerable questions. Where I come from, we call that feeling for miracles.

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

paradox of desire

October 2018, Brooklyn

I almost never buy in bulk, although I appreciate the expression of commitment. My lack of bulk desire is rooted in one of those childhoods funneled through scarcity politics, of all kinds: spirit, body, voice, resources, access, stimulation. My earliest taste of cultural politics were synthetic extractions grounded in epic narratives of fatherly protection. A practice endured through sacrifice.

There was a seduction to all that nurturing, an attention and encouragement to focus on one’s most intimate self—the soul. If followed correctly, there would be saving.

In all that repetitive redemption, there was a sense of safety—false as it was. I ache for those early feelings of learning about abundance. When the simple was profound, like the sound of snow falling.

These days are starting to feel retrograde, astrologically speaking an illusion. My dreams are looping, again. I’m taking all these memories, the bulk of them, and feeling nothing but an offering to grieve for what was taken, withheld, starved. An invitation of acceptance, a different kind of suffering.

 

the cumulative impact of reaction

“As if a tenderness awoke, a tenderness that did not tire, something healing.”
— Sylvia Plath, from The Collected Poems; “Three Women,” (1962)

I was born into an isolated, literal Evangelical culture. A place where time was on always on trial and faith was righteous as pride. Our promised future had already been written. We were urgent. The rapture was past due.

All of us who knew even a fraction of the story internalized why Jesus hadn’t returned. Acts of a vengeful god are common and welcomed in this scenario. It was also true when you knew the ending tipped in your favor, knowledge became seductive. A blessing disguised.

To have learned about the world this way feels like a subtle theft. Trauma works that way too. False recognitions bound to real sounds, smells, touch, twists of phrases, and, if lucky, fading re-creations. A true con.

Decades later, I am still carving an existence that is receptive to invitation. There are no answers inside all these non-moments of relentless judgement. That clarity is its own rushed reality. Adapting gracefully to change is an ancient sermon. This is a map to all this undoing.

horizon note

Huseyin Sami, Cut Painting (Light Yellow), 2018. Acrylic on canvas. 183 x 152 cm.

I’ve never had the same address for long. My current streak is seven years. I’ve far exceeded all prior knowledge of living in one place. I am as far west as I’ve ever been, which means my reverence for home has changed. Somewhere between this nostalgia and the truth is the hard edge of acceptance.

In all this stillness, I forgot how to let go.

So I start over.
Again.

As a habit, writing is its own method of reckoning. An ecstatic attention to spirit. A positive deviance. Specifically, I want to create a feeling of communion. I want this feeling in spite of its dominant religious significations.

The concept and practice of being “reborn” was an early fascination. I’d watch my father make his way to the front of the church and confess his weaknesses. Our sins were made public. We wanted to believe, as much as he did, that each confession was his last. His liberation bound so tightly to our survival.

I choose to keep these collective epiphanies to remember how far from home I am.
_________

*horizon note = the beat or pulse underlying the whole of the poem (Denise Levertov)

we live promised lives

June 2018

And then will come my turn toward considering the poem as a set of strategies.
— William Stafford, You Must Revise Your Life

My aesthetic genealogy is borrowed from a working poetics. A magpie practice of creative slanted interruptions. One of my favorite writing habits is to post on Sundays. Years ago I discovered this practice as a way to reclaim time lost to benign neglect. It was a way to take back a day formerly dedicated to church services that framed ideal bodies as those willing to give up their souls.

Forgive this brief editorializing break. I’ve wandered to the edge of today’s subject.

It is safe to assume the forensics of great writers are investments in process.

For the last twelve and a half years, I traced the shapes of memory — collective and personal — in this wide open space. I anchored active examination into subtitled weekly posts. I curated evidence of expansion through parallel interpretations and felt for traction inside line breaks weighted by punctuation’s invitation to pause. I am aligned when tone reflects visual structure.

This time last year I was organizing myself to study Audre Lorde’s time in Berlin. Today I want to capture my emerging intention to study William Stafford this fall. The boundaries of this poetics inquiry are a promise to continue to carve out curious time. It is an extension of how conscious practice cleaves to the promise of honoring spirit. I aim to explore and investigate Stafford’s pacifist approaches — specifically conscientious objector — to writing poetry, his teaching methods of writing poetry, and his graceful rejection of competition.

Our days are urgent as parents wait for children to find them. Climate and change are conjoined into violent denials. Stafford practiced creative resistance strategies during WWII and the Vietnam War.

What might we borrow to alter our endangered lives?

speculative practice

I am moved by fancies that are curled
Around these images, and cling:
The notion of some infinitely gentle
Infinitely suffering thing.

T.S. Eliot, from ‘Preludes (IV)’, The Waste Land and Other Poems

Motonaga Sadamasa (Japanese, 1922-2011), Untitled, 1965. Oil and synthetic resin paint on canvas laid down on panel, 91.6 × 116.7 cm.

concerts of effort
sounds better inside a fragment
forgive that this starts out so slow
posting at me to me with me
I’m casual to realize
to follow your  our vision
is to be organized into spacial moments — threads
a witness of curation
the: father son and holy spirit

faith is within your standing
some think it is earned
as for me I was taught to be innocent
later learning curiosity had its own beneficiaries
a lesson on just how few original ideas are assigned majestic
fueling dark appreciations for wild abstractions
until it is as uncommon as creating reminders to breathe
I know this all sounds strange
you can call it: new wave vengeance

front lines

Eskimo Polychrome Wood Maskette, Alaska, c. 1880

In the distance, cars traveling the freeway became an auditory illusion of waves successively breaking on a transitory shore. The vehicular friction of simultaneous opposing directions creates a lullaby of persistence. Out of that euphony, a collective future sways.

Scientists agree that’s why our horizon is in flux.

I am from a place where personal belief in immortality shelters empty and expansive isolation. A place where desire modestly tucks itself into sanctioned quiet spaces. Its slow release is championed as strength, a virtue. Imagine all that repression sharpened into secret symphonies. How the fantasy of that released deviance dances in mortal bodies designed to betray through lust.

We return to where we came from.

There is purpose in the orchestration of such retrograde energy. As that motivation braids itself to creative practice, my habitual search for external validation has gone missing. This translation, more joy than sorrow, is a different remedy for endurance. Its harvest is ready and yielding.

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

tender data

Sioux Falls, South Dakota Nov16

I.

It’s not about truth. It is about faith. An orientation where the future has cult status. This brand of dislocation has been exalted to attract maximum anticipation.

II.

keeper of promises
a prophetic mothering
finally overcome, the sun pushes the moon to perform

III.

Our bodies warm with use.
Your eyes close in respect.
Private consumption whetted.

IV.

This is my origin: he celebrated our birth with strangers while she bled alone. As romantic as it may sound, this is not an apology.