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) and persistently yielded 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 feel 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

to transgress

Margrethe Mather, Billy Justema Wearing A Kimono, 1923

The past is a space of eternal occupation, a place to shout violent things and lust for an afterlife. The present is active and in transit. What was is now future. For today focus on the perceived differences of a winter sun, how dedication can become a shroud, and the way throats absorb sound. Traces of a map, a line to pursue. Such directional shifts define evolutions of time. As the ocean laps shorelines, patterns artificial as intelligence bind like curses. Our days flare dandelion sunlight.

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. The 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.

cracked

Christmas fell on a Sunday, as ordinary as on a Tuesday.
Wants were absence so we honored each other’s realizations.
A modern birth narrative.

Cleveland Dec05
Cleveland Dec05

Liturgy presupposes witness as its baseline function.

Transitions have made you partisan.

escape
escape

Dancing as walking.
Sidewalks are walls.
Stoplights are lamps.
Eating as warfare.
Bombs are poems.

We find comfort in staying warm and undefeated.

bow to the middle

I want to stay as close to the edge as I can without going over. Out on the edge you see all kinds of things you can’t see from the center. –Kurt Vonnegut

November16
“Last year. Last night. I’m tired. Let’s fight.” – Superchunk Yeah, It’s Beautiful Here Too

I was radicalized. Force-fed ancient beliefs. Required to center sin instead of self. Drank from an endless well of false promises – an afterlife.

Then I learned the sun holds all our light. Holy fact: sunsets are 8-minute delayed images of an absent sun. Divine visuals of calculated perspective.

Beg for satisfaction. Wring hands and gnash teeth. Look past stains of neglect. Ordain historical trauma as profit. Prick arousal.

One morning, after I left, I walked into buttery light. The City coated in its luminescence. Clouds billowed pink and shone unconsciously.

Acknowledge how ghosts bleed out.
Embellish for clarity’s sake.
Honor nothing but this subtle effort.

purpose

Los Angeles 2012
Los Angeles 2012

Summer, by academic and capitalist time, is over. The light, the light, the light shows phenomenal nominal change.

There are silences bestowed and silences unbecoming. We are taught we are broken: mind, body, spirit. This evangelical conservative belief that the future is not yours is an organized robbery of imagination and self-determination.

Conceptually, we must collectively conceive our own destinies.

die vorfreude

She called exactly four hours after the earth stopped moving.
While we waited for contact, wave after wave, we sat.
Through repetition and capture, we learned to stay constantly aware.
It was a lesson worn familiar as the day when I gave my soul away.
An unbecoming strategy for some; survival for others.

Protecting misgivings and intentional reactions,
we spent our remaining days building machines
that ran on unrequited syllabic utterances.
Flip back, back track, forward leaning free verses
flowed as patterns, as privileged misdemeanors.
Our hearts grew to beat metaphorically.

After pausing to ask how the earth breathes
under the weight of concrete,
she said act like you’ve been here before.
It was a coded reminder of legacy.
A collective fantasy replicated endlessly
in anticipation for moments we never took the time to define.
For some, wanting more is our purpose.

erotic plasticity

behave_Elizabeth Isley
Behave_Elizabeth Isley

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

enough

“We need, each of us, to begin the awesome, difficult work of love: loving ourselves so that we become able to love others without fear so that we can become able enough to enlarge the circle of our trust and our common striving for a safe, sunny afternoon near to flowering trees and under a very blue sky.” – June Jordan

August 7, 2015
August 7, 2015

The truth?
I knew a long time ago.

I shouldn’t deny that I don’t practice conscious love. I do.
All those times when I said no.
All those times I said yes.
All those times worth was mine to know.

July 12, 2015 (photo by Atlee)
July 12, 2015 (photo by Atlee)

“Use the power of man. Use the word. Fuck. The word is love.” – Kim Gordon

over OK Feb16
some where over Oklahoma, February 2016

Overhead, the backyards had pools and trampolines.
A land of only oxbow lakes.
A land where delayed gratification is a religion.
A land where there is no sympathy for the devil.

ceremony

Look how much you
love me. Little maps.
from Bruises by Leah Horlick

Berlin Aug14
Berlin Aug14

The clouds formed an amphitheater
over a city transformed, a super city.
Its atmosphere thick with performance
and domination outside its own limits.
Listen to the bubble pop—pop—pop.

Queering our gratification
becomes an American economic ritual
with historic reputations.
Golden greeds and lust deep
as the veins financing this spectacle.

Watch as ceremonies of repressed aggressions
become baptisms unfurling (catch and release).
Physical bodies manifesting—hands cupped—
entertainment as reward and pleasure,
a violence that feels good.