Horizon

music brings you out of bed like a puppeteer retrieving her showpiece from its box / old stories and new stories are all the same but you still love them especially when dawn is foggy and the dog complains that you are a don quixote of sorts / your lovers complain you are a tracker of your own self that you spend too much time doing this tracking but you pay it no mind because you know it’s what drew them to you in the first place / your life appears to be informed by world myths not the daily news / if people paid more attention to the myths you think the contents of the daily news might begin to change / pilgrim of roads wanderer of open distances your heart is magnetic and you’re pretty certain the Horizon is the best thing you’ve ever seen the most beautiful thing the biggest thing the place where you’re bound to arrive / feathers crowd your pirate-smile mouth your birthmarks ripple and glow / you come from a long line of shapeshifting storytelling compass-reading card-shuffling fire-eating boundary-penetrating contortionists / you explore landscapes borrowed and abandoned / territories uncharted and unknown / trails overgrown and forgotten / if they think so much as one tiny detail has escaped your notice they are radically off-target / details do matter they say someone is always looking / that’s why you are a book and will always be a book everyone is a book everyone has a spine a cover a type everyone has chapters highlights cross-outs everyone has a contract with something someone somewhere / at times you are open at times you are closed but inside you always have a story / this is who I am you tell people take it or leave it and so they set about taking you or leaving you and you’re pretty certain they must have misunderstood / but it’s too late to worry about all that now so you burn the newspaper put dynamite in the TV leave the den of dogs and no-sleep behind / you set out to do all the things everyone has always said you shouldn’t but first you go out for a walk and listen to your new playlist that makes you feel like you just hit a homerun in the biggest game in the history of baseball / with paintbrush eyes you take in the world you canvas it with all your heart you take it in over and over like stars brushed across someone’s forehead as if the sky were the world’s forehead / knowing the time will come when you have to leave and return to your Horizon / knowing a departure time will come for each of us who it has not yet come for / bringing our heads up from whatever we’re involved in / bringing our attention back to the most basic thing we know about our lives here as we scramble to quickly review whatever it is we feel / whatever we think we believe / beliefs are prison guards who have us convinced we’re free / meanwhile we’re living in confinement

 

 

One Road

Once you have traveled in the four directions and along the main thoroughfare, and spent a great deal of time on the back roads, putting one foot in front of the other until you reach a measure of satisfaction, then you might find a clearer vision of what you’ve been searching for, of why you set out in the first place so long ago.

From this high place you can look beyond. You can look far and wide, and see how your own road is intertwined with all the others. It is not separate, yet it is yours and yours alone. The One Road, the sequence of your choices, the order of footsteps that led to this.

At last, at last. One road, at last.

Genesis

Good morning swollen and veiled moon, trees whose blossoms are about to erupt. Good morning sun, disc of fire piercing the place where stars froze and crackled in monumental quiet only moments before.

Good morning to the owl’s hushed song sliding outward from a deep pocket among the boughs, to the banshee-wailing of belts beneath the hood just after the key is turned.

Good morning to beets and barley, to salt and hot liquid, to nuts and apricots, to the mottled memory of cloves, cardamom, dark chocolate and red wine.

Good morning to the engine of life on earth, its whir and hum, its clatter and bang at counterpoint with a stillness too vast to contemplate, to certain death and the inexorable quality of passing time, to the eternity of now, the inhale of a day pinned between all that came before and all awaiting their uncertain turn, the exhale of night in its thrilling position as a frame for things that hardly seem possible in the day.

Good morning to the flat concrete jewel of glistening pavement, to the staircase with fingers sliding along its banister, to city apartments and country homes, to dresses and neckties, rickety old elevators, one-night affairs and decades of longing.

Good morning to those who never leave us, to those who never stay, to those who never come to us when we want them, then come unbidden in some secret hour with vanity and thirst, desire and hunger, tired hands, worn-out knees, blurry vision.

Good morning to rain, smoke, wooden tables, the cosmic weight of ourselves that we drag with us everywhere, inflammation, air pressure, fish and mango in a bowl, burning torches, the smell of the sea, meteor showers.

Good morning to our bodies drawn close together, to you tough as mountain-bones, to me with my carved face, to Spanish moss along an orange clay road, to shoe-boxes of old photographs, to hope and surrendered dreams, to love pursued or left alone, fulfilled or unrequited, to the lullaby of a train going any direction you want it to.

Witness

Again, I rose early and walked in shale gorges both smooth and jagged, by the wild water and evergreens.  I moved through the day like an athlete though my feet are broken, my throat so sick of onions.

Again, I sense the presence of a bear, and wonder if that is your animal spirit – vast, warm, strong.  Steam rises from a bowl of soup, the wind sways the treetops, and I long for company.

Again, I long to burn, a flare in a dark wet cavern.  I long to illuminate, pluck at the beaded web, reach for a single strand of – not transcendence – something earthly, simple.  Fill my rib cage ordinarily, break my back over the knee of witnessing the world.

 

Many Brothers

Connection erases age, weakens constraints, strengthens the bond of brotherhood.

I have crossed many valleys. I have loved many brothers.

Treetops creak and bang the way the screen door did in my own lost boyhood.

A wind has risen.  Dying leaves pray for us all as they descend, knowing how to honor their own wisdom.

A final stretch of weather will come, driving me into the finger-shaped lake, but today is bitter enough to invite stillness.  Today is northern tundra, Canadian coastline.

I puff and snort the way my grandfather once did, hiding an empty wine bottle among indifferent stones.

Backbone

This poem first appeared in Red River Review in 2013.

Backbone

A favorite thing of mine, he said,

is a hot drink in early morning,

taken to cut through phlegm

and shake rust out of the brain,

usually around six o’clock.

 

And then to have a walk, he said,

in the company of my brothers and sisters-

the river, forest, sky and stone,

all that is natural upon the earth.

 

And then to have a swim, he said,

whenever and wherever possible,

to awaken the pores,

refresh the mind,

and again make the brave attempt

to view the world without judgment.

 

And then to have a nap, he said,

to gain the healing daytime rest

that helps prevent diseases of the body,

to dream of sex and other wildness,

to dream of perfect silence.

 

And then to do some work, he said,

a few hours of honest work,

whittling away at whatever the project might be,

all the while grateful

for eyes, ears, lungs, hands and heart.

 

And then to die, he said,

to die a little bit each day

because that is what we owe to life,

what those who came before us had to do.

And though we may not live as they did,

it does not change it.

 

Cooperation

The waterfall,

with all its power

and noise,

took none of the majesty

from the small stones

downstream.

And the stones,

in turn,

borrowed no wisdom

from the waterfall.

The two only

respected each other.