Empty

Awake, is all.

Rising without inspiration, revelation, recollection, premonition, venture, horror, or scripture is a gift. I like to wake up empty & dull.

I like waking up with a soul of ice, undripping with dreams sloshed over the sluice of sentience.

You don’t see Jesus prancing around the flight deck when he rose.

I like to awaken blank and bare, without mother or father, past or future, book or speech, laurel or thorn.

° ° °

The orphancy of waking, the umbilical cut from a dying dream.

The poverty of sunrise. Last night evicted yesterday, dropped its shit on the street.

Yesterday is morning breath.

° ° °

The screaming poverty of birth. Every time I write, I’m born again.

Yesterday is afterbirth.

° ° °

The poverty of resurrection: even the grave is empty.

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“Trill” are my Twitters. Tweet suites from @slowreads.

Photo “Denver Sluice” copyright Nick Ford. Used by permission.

Good Friday

1
A slab of cloud hisses on dawn’s gas stove. Across the vale and atop the steeple, an ornate, Latin electric chair glints.

2
All in white, the candidate knelt before the gallows, awaiting the bishop’s hands. Around her neck, a sterling noose, her godparents’ gift.

3
The megachurch tore out its cup holders and cushioned seats and installed 1,300 electric chairs. The service was amped that Sunday.

4
Our parish is low church. When we genuflect before the gibbet, we choke ourselves with just one hand.

5
“For the word of the firing squad is to those who are perishing foolishness, but to us who are being saved it is the caliber of God.” [SRV]

6
“If any will come after me, let him deny himself, shoot up his lethal injection, and follow me.” [SRV]

 

“Trill” are my Twitters. Tweet suites from @slowreads.

Photo copyright Randen L. Pederson. Used by permission.

Poetics

1:0  Fillip

1:1  A poet finds his fillip in a poem’s flushed lips. She eats him, and he starts to work, carving psalms, like Jonah, in her taut, wet maw.

1:2  Poems’ lips are everywhere: in halls, on walls, at balls.  A poet who hears the lips a lot or who sees the lips part is a sort of sot.

1:3  A poem: part lips, part ways.

1:4  A painter’s subject can distract him from his first idea, Bonnard warned.  But poetry is distraction from the poet’s fillip, his first idea.

1:5  Poets in their ecstasy don’t channel poems.  Instead, poems in their lassitude channel-surf poets.

1:6  Poets think of parted lips, splayed legs.  But the urge to write, the fillip, is really for the propagation of poetry.  Poems understand this.

1:7  A poem is domestic, farouche. There’s nothing wild about a poem, even one through Whitman or Thomas.  Dickinson, a savage, understood this.

1:8  I recall dramatic poems at college, like Browning’s & Eliot’s, but most were psych majors. (Never English; one dorm poem sniggered at my poetics paper.)

2:0  Silence

2:1  Poems part their lips, but they aren’t hookers. Many live chaste. In fact, the best poems aren’t spoken or written, & so it will always be.

2:2  Some poems are silent from the womb, some their recalcitrant poets silence, while others have gone ineffable for the kingdom’s sake.

2:3  Even a poem, if she holds her peace, is counted wise.

3:0  Shadow

3:1  A poem is apophatic, farouche.  The paper’s the poem.

3:2  The poet sculpts paper until the paper’s poetry.  A stodge of verse breaks down at his feet.

3:3  As a lawyer, I once deposed a guy at CIA headquarters. Afterwards, agents scissored the classified words from my notes. All I kept was the poetry.

3:4  The poem’s shadow is the poem.  And what’s the poem.

.Instituto Pasteur, Lisboa, Portugal

“Instituto Pasteur, Lisboa, Portugal” by Biblioteca de Arte-Fundacao Caoluste Gulbenkian. Used by permission. “Trill” are my Twitters. Tweet suites from @slowreads.

Southern winter

3PictureBlueRidge01a

The sun rises in the south and sets there. East and west are refinements, dark and white wines we describe with migrating adjectives.

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Snow we can sled on hails from the south, riding the coast where we stare past the swells summers, holding our boards.

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Snow coats only the lane’s southern berms, the low, white hems of the Blue Ridge beyond. In Virginia, winter skirts all but the mountains.

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Winter’s a Southern belle. Her blue mountains swell like breasts beneath her trees’ sheer bodice.

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In outdoor chapels, the hymns are hers.

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Her drawl thickens like a casement around each word, like a darkroom’s development, like the tongue’s film.

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The Southern drawl: the flesh made word, the word made morpheme, the morpheme made phoneme, the phoneme made flesh.

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The mouth that says, smiles. It eats. It kisses.

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Winter’s green on winter’s terms. What I thought was grass was moss.

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I don’t know dormant from dead as a doornail.

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Death is both. It’s an abstract process & a concrete product. If time is a river, then death is a frozen fountainhead.

Photos from a hike on December 31 along the Appalachian Trail. “Trill” are my Twitters. Tweet suites from @slowreads.

Obsequies

Where are my dead buried? Have the dead buried them off?

Where did we bury Uncle Gi? I hopped on his grave when I was five. The fulvous grass was lined with white in the white, winter sun.

He started being dead the year before. But I grew up and have mislaid him. Is he laying low in my folks’ attic? Or in this very sock drawer?

Time was, we knew our dead and called on them under the birch on the way home from church. Who beat me out of their communion?

I have not organized my closet or my dead. No shoe trees, no family tree.

No shoe trees, no family tree. It’s either a forest or a pair of curled shoes, like the witch buried under the house.

° °

Why are the dead face up? Wouldn’t she rest on her side, just as she turned for him in bed with arms that yawned with years?

° °

The grave at sunrise. The grave buried in snow. The grave in recession. The grave at war.

A rain gauge of departed flowers. Twigs, too. One twig and a knot.

° °

Obsequies are marriages of time and time again.

A bugle plays reverie. In the distance, I don’t recall.

Dirt falls from her hand, from her cloudy face. Leaning back on an awning pole, a funeral guy wrings a fag against his sole.

What is over? After the obsequies, my car door makes a certain thump.

 

“Trill” are my Twitters. Tweet suites from @slowreads.

Above photo adopted from ClintJCL’s photo. Used by permission.

Proverbs

1
A thin, blue dawn rims hills with orange corona, and a wound in youth is a rocket launch.

2
Dogma falls crisp as hoarfrost, but hormones open new worlds.

3
Aphorisms fall from an uncle’s lips like tough steak, but an artist’s life is lean.

4
Perennials die to see the sun, and the counsel of a father is magic.

5
What, my son? What, the son of my five fingers? What, the wet eye of our backyard springs? What? What?

6
Is that you, my son? Ache of my withers & rod of my stump? My son my son my seed my seed my son

7
I wave at black windows as the orange bus sets. My son, where do you sit? Do you see? look?

8
My son? My sleep’s discomfiture and my age’s disconsolation? Yes, my son? What?

9
You stare amazed from every bowl of stew, my son, (5) You die at the cry of every distant beast. I am the purblind Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob

10
Before you hung from an oak, three darts through your heart, you carved your pillar and spilled your seed, my son, my son!

11
A summer moon carves cold clouds, and windshield frost is the tombstone of stars.

Colorful slip jomon plate (biscuit)
Photo “Colorful slip jomon plate (biscuit)” by Yuya Tamai. Used by permission. “Trill” are my Twitters. Tweet suites from @slowreads.

The long home

That my uncle would scream.

That he would scream at all hours with his grandchildren downstairs.

The curtains drawn, the dormers dark and alive with death and my uncle, restrained and unrestrained, working the limits.

º º º

At my aunt’s funeral, my uncle called my name. That was all.

It was spring when she died. My uncle lived to not see another spring summer fall, to not open a blind. We buried him in the cold.

Walking through the graveyard, the journeyman qua nurse, my cousin’s hire, regales us with my uncle’s last two years.

º º º

The silver cord, the golden bowl, the long home. The cord slips, the bowl cracks, the long home.

The silver chord, the scratched CD that plays a snatch of song again, again. Where will death’s foreplay scratch me, scratch me?

On what will I fix, what neuronal lifeline, my golden bowl at sea?

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“Trill” are my Twitters. Tweet suites from @slowreads.

Childermas

Something you don’t see in a Christmas pageant: the slaughter of the innocents. But there it is, in the middle of Matthew’s account.

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When Bethlehem’s young children were slain, Jesus was in Egypt. Joseph had been warned in a dream.

But Moses was already in Egypt. As an infant, he escaped by water, the means by which his pursuers were to perish.

Matthew’s baby Jesus is peripatetic, dodging bullets & fulfilling scripture. “Out of Egypt have I called my son.” “He shall be called a Nazarene.”

Luke: baby Jesus with the lambs. Matthew: baby Jesus on the lam.

Caravaggio's "Rest in the Flight into Egypt"

Across from the school, a cemetery. Twenty-six stockings hang there tonight.

Lully, lulla, thow littell tine child; By, by, lully, lullay, thow littell tyne child. [from the N-Town Plays]

How many children were slaughtered? Byzantine liturgy: 14,000. Syrians: 64,000. Copts: 144,000. But modern scholars say around 20.

Peter Paul Rubens's "Massacre of the Innocents"

We’re always elsewhere. My father flunked a physical and missed the Battle of the Bulge. He and his seed. I am St. Elsewhere

All but two of his company died there. Each Christmas, we all give him books on World War II. He spends Christmas afternoons reading them.

Never met a soul who wasn’t, up to that point, elsewhere. Still elsewhere: my neighbor whose business took him to the WTC on September 10.

Giotto's "Massacre of the Innocents"

“That’s what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown.” But he wasn’t quoting Matthew.

One Christmas pageant tracks Matthew. A 16th cent. mystery play. Only one of its carols survives: a mother’s lament for her murdered child.

That woe is me, poor Child for Thee! And ever mourn and sigh, For thy parting neither say nor sing, Bye, bye, lully, lullay. – Coventry Carol

Wikipedia says some of the Coventry Carol’s words “are difficult to make sense of.” Well, we were elsewhere.

Carracci's "The Flight into Egypt"

The author is unknown. But she is survived by a carol, sort of as a wren is survived by its song.

Can one survive well? Can surviving make me “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” despite surviving?

Navez's "Massacre of the Innocents"

Here’s a good rendition of what’s become my favorite Christmas carol:

Happy Childermas (a.k.a. Holy Innocents’ Day and Children’s Mass), celebrated this Thursday (Syrian churches), Friday (Roman Catholic, Anglican, and Lutheran), and Saturday (Eastern Orthodox).

The above images of paintings are all in the public domain. From top to bottom: Reni, “Slaughter of the Innocents”; Caravaggio, “Rest on the Flight into Egypt”; Rubens, “Massacre of the Innocents”; Giotto, “The Holy Innocents”; Carracci, “The Flight into Egypt”; and Navez, “Das Massaker der Unschuldigen.” Click the painting’s image for more information.

“Trill” are my Twitters. Tweet suites from @slowreads.

The pull, the squalor

A gull squall lulls me to sea.

Are inland gulls missionaries? mercenaries? visionaries? vanguards? aliens? spies? runaways? draft dodgers? emigrants? interlopers? gulls?

Are inland gulls migrant workers? trespassers? settlers? conquerors? carpetbaggers? displaced people groups? gulls?

Are inland gulls explorers? indentured servants? penal colonists? seekers of religious freedom? emancipated slaves? native inlanders? gulls?

Are inland gulls overextended? Do they play outside themselves? Are they diluting their brand? Have they been drawn away from their core values?

The farthest inland I’ve ever lived was Charlottesville. Gulls there, too, or their cries.

Gulls’ squalls. Seagulls’ snow squalls.

Squalls: the heavy, sudden rain brought on by gulls, rain you can see through as through experience.

I hear gulls in squeaks & shrieks & in a distant, screaming child. Gulls mewing down alleys, too. The pull, the squalor of gulls’ squalls.

Why does the gull squall so? “That gull had a tongue in it, and could sing once.” – Hamlet

“There’s another: why may not that be the gull of a lawyer? Where be his quiddities now, his quillets, his squalls?” – Hamlet

The thunderhead passed; Azure reburied the squall skull.

Skulduggery: I buried the gull skull in sand.

To hang in place over your beach lunch, a gull makes up to 14,537 adjustments a minute. That’s why you leave something.

Our gulls roar overhead all July, jets intersecting tide, intercepting time, picking off eyes and the glints of wriggling scale.

On our way to Mull, the sullen gull, never full, culled through our brill, then skulked about the hull.

All words’ etymology: the cry. The mother of all words.

All words’ Eve: the wail, the holler, the pull. The squalor of gulls’ squalls.

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“Trill” are my Twitters. Tweet suites from @slowreads.

 

Still noon

Noon drops and twists, as from the gallows.

Sunrise’s liturgy of sunset; midnight’s allusion to noon.

° °

Still creation. Still the still sun still atomized long after dawn.

° °

I love noon. The light’s bad for photographs.

Noon. Harsh and shadowless, we deliquesce into Ezekiel’s wheels with noses.

Negatives: the iconography of noon.

Noon’s dispassion play. “Value drawings (rendered in shade and shadow) tend to convey emotions better than line drawings.” – Matt Frederick

Noon’s plainchant: no feeling, by the grace of God.

Copts painted icons at noon. No chiaroscuro.

The dispassionate glare of noon: neither umbrage nor penumbrage.

God divided the light from the darkness. The afternoon and the morning: the first noon.

Noon: the beatific vision. Good might: noon.

° °

The day he died, the prick Mercutio pointed out the bawdy hand of noon.

° °

Bright and portentous, noon twists like midnight’s lighthouse.

Reset the Doomsday Clock to high noon.

Noon: a Mass for June.

Noon. Sun wolfs a new moon.

° °

June is noon overhead, its light a bright advent, though it grows a six-o’clock shadow by midnight.

° °

Noon. Bright streams of black backstreets. Black water windows.

Across the white courtyard against the black windows, I looked at noon. They, there: said, nothing.

An eclipse each noon. The sun’s shadow’s darker than the earth’s at midnight.

Office windows: noon’s black blinders. We team alone.

Earthquake after noon. The sun stands still.

° °

The orthography of noon: the A in apex.

Noon: sin cos sun.

° °

Once each year in the tropics, noon picks you out of a lineup of billions. I’m on the lam, north of Cancer.

Smirk at noon’s slight slant? The sun’ll cure the Tropic of Cancer and smoke you out.

Don’t be cocksure on account of noonshine’s slight slant. Nothing crows at noon’s bright still.

 

High noon comes like a thief in the night.

How will the end come? And what are the signs of its coming? High noon over the North Pole. An unhinged walrus.

The end times’ sign: spring tide of a blue moon’s high noon.

° °

Noon: the sun’s shadow.

The stare of noon’s glare.

° °

High noon’s hiatus: still hawks.

° °

Noon elsewhere: sunrise over the gunwale. An angler sights the sun in his oarlock and fires, finding respite.

The clock faces north, hour hand tracking the sun and tracing an owl’s eye, first here, then on the dark side. Our eye, too, tracking.

Noon over the barber’s pole: my black & white hair twists, turns, returns to the checkered floor. Swept with its fathers.

Snip, whisk; snip, whisk. Morning & afternoon divaricate, fall in wisps. “Where do you part your hair?” Noon.

° °

Aperture priority, aimed straight up. Sunrise, midnight, and 5:40 P.M. arc & blur around noon like stars around Polaris.

In the age of sail, the noon observation reset time & place. It was never noon, & you weren’t where you were, until the captain said so.

“Noon and 46 degrees 36 feet south if you please, sir,” said the master.

“Make it twelve,” said the captain. “Make it twelve,” said the officer of the watch. “Strike eight bells,” said the mate of the watch.

“Turn the glass & strike the bell,” said the quartermaster. “Pipe to dinner,” said the officer. The boatswain piped. Hoots & running.

 

The monks carried on man-of-war fashion: the close quarters, the watch and watch, the noon observations, the wooden vessels.

° °

Hard noon. A nail of a noon.

The hammer struck noon.

“Trill” are my Twitters. Tweet suites from @slowreads.