Tag Archives: 8

The Instructions

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The Instructions

You unfolded the instructions like a bedsheet
And smoothed out the words with your palm.

First we identify all the parts, you said
To find the thing that’s missing. Or things.

It’s hardly ever just one thing.
The tools in the instructions, you pointed out,

We’d never seen before. Might have to make
Them out of scraps of other things we have.

Eventually that toolbox will have everything you need
but for now we just need a level and some sandpaper

So you can sand this grief to a shape that fits
the frame. Of what, I said. You read from the

Instructions: of that gap you fear so much.
If you look in that envelope included in the box

You’ll find the hinges of your life. You helped
Me sand and sand and mount the door

So oddly shaped and hear the bolt slide smooth
Like a finger through a ring.You folded the instructions

So the last line was all that showed and placed it
On my palm. What’s left, I said, the door is built.

You take your time, you said, and then walk through.

Skylark [series of dreams 1]

Life isn’t about finding yourself, or finding anything.
Life is about creating yourself, and creating things.
-Dylan

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Skylark / series of dreams 1

O spirit I never wanted to catch you
And you never wanted to be caught

Like the small owl my son and I found
In my father’s garage in last night’s

Dream the door open like a diagnosis
The strange bird looking out at us

Sitting on an old office chair
We rolled it out into the driveway

Where I spent so many hours
Playing basketball and one new

Year’s eve climbed the pole and stepped
Over to the garage roof and watched

The new year’s silent entrance the sky
Unchanged for my gratitude and unchanged

To this day I can still remember it the steel
Cold dark the pinholes of stars the blinding

Emptiness overflowing the horizon
Inside the muffled whoops and in the lowlands

Of the suburbs assorted firecrackers snapped
Like small minds and while i remember that step

From the pole of childhood to the roof of my second
Decade I still do not remember

Ever coming back down and below there in the dream
Through the open garage door the owl

Flew with a silent explosion of motion
Across the street and then came back

Night song

Night song

Your god is the back of a bluebird
Song of the inside of night’s clear lid

Your god is the thing before it’s seen
Color of waking from the dream

With an image cooling like lava
Into the shape of an empty hand

as full of air as the starling’s wing
Yet solid as the slow shore of dying

Your faith the driftwood to which I cling
Established proof of land if not direction

Broken map of the edge of each breath
And the way back to morning

*

Note: Last night my wife Mary was preparing for her first Sunday as a eucharistic minister, Pentecost Sunday being a fitting time to start such a journey. As someone who has long ago abandoned any sort of communal religious ritual, I nevertheless find that many of my closest friends are those that undertake spiritual paths whose directions seem authentic to me in a way I can’t quite register but can feel. This poem was a nod of respect and admiration for how others’ faiths often keep me afloat.

The Mays

The Mays

 

I walked in the scattering
shadows beneath scrub

oak those Mays each step
Compacting years whose

Deaths I’d not earned
Such leverage from

Toward wild blueberries
And the cairns of earth

Behind the drive-in past
Hokum Rock Road and

Its eponymous stone dropped
By god or glacier– if names

Went the other way I didn’t
Care — if the stone dropped

The god and abandoned
There it turned to stone it

Hardly mattered — all the Mays
Sweetened to summers

The water warmed in the bay
And at the drive-in the boundaries

Of story cut corners of moonlight
Now decades later and deaths

Cantilevered one on the other
And anticipating the next step

After messages passed while
Thunder flexed against the rainless

Night comes a quiet whisper
In the trees reminding me

Of rumors in the scrub oak dark
The unvisited stone cracked

Down the middle a gap a child
Of a dozen Mays could leap

Squinting like a dimming eye
That’s earned all it’s seen

Rock before names eyes before
The warming waters

May’s riot

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May’s riot

The sun was a mirror with an image of you
Painting a picture of the sun which was my eye.

The turtle like a moon sliding beneath a horizon
Of lilypad, the day’s thin layer skimming aside

For memory’s bulk to submerge
To the murky safety of living matter.

The slaughter of peonies behaved as you passed
Then carried on with May’s riot

Guest from the past, ghost from the future

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Guest from the past, ghost from the future

Here inside my body is a table for all time.
From some place in the future my ghost arrives,

Disoriented, not remembering how or when
I died but carrying a newspaper that sat

On the grass throughout the night I expired,
Saturated with dew or rain, does it matter,

And now all the words are gathered so close
from both sides of all pages, the odd and the even,

they form a single unreadable sentence.
There are no chairs around the table because

Ghosts don’t need chairs and the guest
From the past is not welcome anyway. He will be here

Any moment, even though I lied about when
Things would start, that’s how early he always is,

The past is never late. I invite him hoping my ghost
Will scare him, make him understand his end

Is inevitable. But of course he can’t change.
I end up scaring myself, my coffee goes cold.

By the time the news is dry it’s not worth reading.
This is the best table I could imagine, too, all wood,

Like the big table where Melville wrote Moby Dick
In the middle of the room on the second floor

Of a landlocked house with a view of Mt Greylock.
I can hear the turtle in the alarm flexing his muscle

And the morning air rushing in. Everything
Will be the same next time I visit, except me.

The storm that was a pause between things

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The storm that was a pause between things

Unmoving white sky, after two hours of sleep.
Like a view for the morning after you die:

No color, no sound. Only the rhythm of dogs
Breathing at the foot of the bed, those animals

To whom death, like life, is just passing weather.
The snow has fallen or is yet to fall but is not falling.

Two ages like thick glass tectonic plates
Clasped me as they passed against each other.

One an age in which I existed, the other
Where I was absent. I could not see

the difference. So little would change,
So little that had to happen for the morning

To come no matter what. That is when
The dogs left me. We are not alone in death

But we are alone in despair. Numbness coming
In from the arms and legs toward the heart.

The brain a battering ram turned inwards.
Then I slept. So many things we can’t control

That happen anyway. The memory of deer
in the backyard the dawn before. The deer

Themselves. The paths that brought them
To nibble at a birdfeeder the day before a storm.