Monday, September 01, 2014

In The Doorway

No: I've said it the wrong way, or at the wrong time, or wearing the wrong mask. Whether it's true is actually not particularly an issue, if the other criteria for right speech are not met. Walk it back, erase it, start over, read and listen and think.

I feel as though I had been repeatedly kicked in the face (or sometimes the stomach, or sometimes the balls) and I was kicking back, as one does. But one does not have to believe in oneself. I am horrified, horrified, horrified by my friends, sometimes. All the more reason to shut up, sit tight, gather more info, mull it over. What are friends for, if not to kick you?

And of course the real sources of my vulnerability are deeper and more troubling. Never have I been more aware, painfully aware, of the crookedness of my relationship with the world. So many things I must feel and not say, so many caveats and trapdoors. And in the meantime minutes, hours, days, years, even decades trickle away. I am awkwardly placed in the doorway, where everyone has to apologize to me as they squeeze by. It's one thing for a cat: a grown man, and a stout one at that, is supposed to handle his bulk more conveniently.

And in the meantime, the rage of the world goes on, without missing a beat. It's the relentlessness that's so wearing: that and -- at this age -- knowing that it's not going to stop.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Pregnancy Massage

I take three large pale green pillows
to each pregnancy massage:

once you're on the table, on your side
I pack you in. One goes under your head;

one between your knees, spacing 
bottom leg from top;

and the third is to hug
to your chest. It keeps

the top shoulder from cranking down
and keeps you modest

when I undrape your back.
That's the theory. In fact

This configuration takes on a thousand shapes:
magnifying the sweep of the spine

into a character written with an impudent brush
on my massage table: this woman is

a cedilla, her calves the only 
exception to the 'c';

and this one an extravagant
'h' in the insular script,

a splendid lumbar lordosis
kicking the ass way back 

while the top thigh 
reaches high and forward.

I never know what you
will write, or whether 

you will hug the table
or the sky. The belly 

argues with its own logic,
yours and not yours.

We all start here, in 
the warm, swollen fruit

of aching flesh,
carried on diagonals

of endless variation.
Above, the ribs rise and fall,

and the strapping-tape abdominals
stagger like a little man 

carrying groceries. But each
of you, having written

a glorious letter of your own,
sighs "oh, this is comfortable!"

As if I had planned it all.
I fuss and tuck and adjust

to support the illusion;
but you are writing this letter,

you are building this house, and these, my hands,
are yours.

Friday, August 29, 2014


Clouds: not the foreign thunderheads that global warming has brought us, but real Oregon clouds, blurs of shifting silver, white, gray. The rumpled covers of winter, who has just opened an eye and checked the clock, before rolling over and getting in that last hour's sleep.

How quickly it all runs away, winter after summer after winter! Feeling I need to set the house of my spirit in order. I have been gone too long, and everything is untidy and askew. This breath of winter is unsettling, disturbing, exciting. I am ready to work.

I have not taken much seriously, in this life: it's so short, and the sides are so steep. But I do want to make a few things while I'm here.

I need to be careful, to guard my tongue and my time. Too much has gotten away from me: I spend too much time chasing my chickens back into their coop.

This strange, translucent convalescence continues. I grow stronger and steadier every day. I spend my time pounding stakes into the ground and marking them with orange blazes, making approximations, waiting for my surveying gear to arrive. I know the ground pretty well, now. Soon I'll be ready to start.

These days, when I come to the top of a rise or turn a corner, and pause to take in the new country, I find that word on my lips. "Soon now," I mutter. "Soon."

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Summer Triangle

Here is the triangle: Vega, burning blue and white
and straight overhead on a summer's night;

Deneb, the yellowed tail of Cygnus
(or else the jaundiced head of the canted Northern Cross);

and Altair, with its glint of red, a hawk falling down
falling through the dark to the hazy shores of dawn --

Alpha Aquilae, southernmost: outflung arm
of that slow sky gymnast, rolling along

the ecliptic, above the blazoned creatures,
the overflowing, categoried futures,

that say too little and too much: let them go!
Ours is not to say what will or won't.

Ours is only: the blue Queen of Ecstasy
the yellow Haunt of Age, and the red Apostasy

falling, oh falling, through the long soft night,
falling through the dew to the morning's field of light.

Monday, August 25, 2014


Sometimes people seem like blobby, bumbly gray ghosts to me, bumping against each other like balloons. Or like particularly stupid flies who can't find their way out of the open window.

I want to say: think! Think about what you actually want. Not what you're supposed to want, and not what you crave at the moment as a release or a respite. No: what's your heart's desire? I think in most of us it distills to a few simple things. We're making it a lot more complicated than it has to be.

Still. The morning comes quick, with jagged sun splinters, and the day ratchets up and kicks into life, and the momentum of all my past compromises and makeshifts sweeps me into motion, and there I am, running with the tide of it, a little phototropic creature leaning to the sky, but moving always slantways with the current.

I am not big on fresh starts and new beginnings. Americans are too fond of them. "If only we could escape history first," they say, "then we could get on the right track." But we are our history, we are nothing but our history. Our past is all we have to work with. I know the impulse all too well, but I think we had better abandon it. No. instead, say "what is it that my heart wants?"

And do the same with the people you love. You don't have to give them what they ask for. You have to give them what they want. A far harder task, but a far more rewarding one.

Inquire, inquire, inquire. Ask again. Don't assume you know. You don't.

Sunday, August 24, 2014


Well. We will walk on the long empty beaches, and climb the headlands.

Captain Cook named ours Cape Foulweather: apparently he arrived on a typical day. Foulweather's profile is as familiar to me as my wife's. He rises from a lagoon of sorts -- successive rings of black basalt worn down into bracelets -- and lifts his head up into the sky. We have a gorgeous sideways view of him from the balcony. Often the clouds are low enough -- or the fog is high enough; these terms lose much of their meaning, at the Coast -- that his head is lost in it: you just see his black throat, muffled and wreathed, fading into a bare loom, and then vanishing into the pale shifting gray.

This is all prospective, you understand. We're not there yet. At this rate we won't even make it today. Who cares? I'm on vacation. I am unfolding my time like an origami goose. --Well, I admit I don't really know how origami geese unfold time, but I'm trying to do it as like them as possible.

I have been working hard and steadily for many months: I'm happy for a break.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

An Essay on Love

comes toppling from the crest:
it starts at the full, and by the time you realize,
it is different, dispersing, differentiating,

falling. It is not the more
or the less real for that.

If we are careful
we will not confuse
recollection with collection,
but we need not be persnickety.

It is by design that most of love
is caught in the nets of memory,
shaped, formed, reformed
by the pressure of the mesh.

Don't fuss too much.
Don't insist on priority
or authenticity. It's all real:
just real in different ways

at different times
for different purposes.