I would like to state
as precisely as possible
what I don't know;
but because it would take many books
and several lifetimes
to get it down, I settle for the easy questions:
Am I living, or dying?
What makes for the difference?

There are times, though,
when questions are not enough;
when all I am left with is a word, or words--
electricity, cosmos, raincoat--
to hang on to, like so many stars:
burning, living, and dying in the dark
unknowable space

that surrounds them



I am trying to reconcile opposites.

In one hand, I hold the game; in the other, love poems to God.
How do I make my life complete?
There are so many stars I could
hardly name them all; yet I barely know myself,
and the names of my own being.
What if a lifetime isn't long enough to love the world,
and be in it? Who will I be after I die?
Sometimes I feel like I have no choice, but no--

choices are all I have.


One Step

It happens that I am tired of being the man that I am. Tree branches bend in conspiracy toward each other when I pass by; the moon keeps telling me what to do. Is there no place for me to be King? Even inside my skin the rivers are rough, and unpredictable. At every synapse someone is pushing an agenda. I am tired of it all: my skull, the sound of my voice, what I am always asking for. I am sick of sleeping through the same mysteries at night.

When it finally became unbearable I knew what I had to do. At the edge of the forest, there were two ways to go: forawrd, or back the path I had taken. The woods were dark even in the middle of the day -- even on a Wednesday -- like a black hole letting out only the scent of sap and pine into the high, clear air. Somewhere, from under the earth, I could hear my mother saying No; I heard my father stomp his foot. My teacher assured me there were other factors -- love, work -- and urged me to reconsider. I shut my eyes and listened hard to the heart beating in my chest. Faintly, very faintly, I began to hear a voice which I did not recognize coming up between the beats; and though the words it spoke were nonsense I began to understand and did the only thing I could do: I took the only step I could make, which is off the path, which is into the darkest part of the wood -- that is to say, away from life and into the arms of time, waiting, waiting to make me perfect, before I die.


The Angels Speak

This is a map. With it, we can move our fingers from Florida to Washington and cross the ocean to Japan. We can draw in the houses you lived in, the people you knew, the roadsides you remember with particular clarity. We can mark the places where your mother died, and your father, with Xs, or a sign of the cross. With this map we can have our hand in two places at once: sucking in the strange sea air at Coney Island while simuleanous standing under a canopy of trees in the thick woods of West Virginia. Or we can fold it up: introduce the Adironacks to Salt Lake, deliver Long Island right into San Francisco's lap. There are many things we can do with this map. We could tear out the very land we stand on, invent islands, or even crumple it up, and fly away.

This is a man. He has a spine, a heart, and brain. He has four limbs and twenty digits and can count to well past a trillion, but don't ask him -- he won't. He is not the sum of his part: spine + heart + brain + (air in-air out) does not equal his name; although truly his name is another one of his parts and is therefore not who he is. Who is he then? We know he can move his fingers or move 3000 miles. He is not an airplane, or an alphabet; though these things are part of him. He has a mother, and father, and when he dies he may have a son who is him but is not, and he may or may not be thankful for that. We have so many questions. Is he the same in New York as he is in Colorado, watching the sun rise over the body of a deer ten days dead and nothing left to show for it than snow white bones? What color are his bones? If he should die in a meadow like this one, and if the sun shines on him early one morning like it does today, will that light become part of him? Do bones + light = this man when he is dead? Or does he become his bones then, and the way they send light back through the air, and our eyes that are watching him? If so, then he is also the brain that sits in the bones' nest behind the our eyes that watch him, and the electricity in our brain, and the roses in our breeze, and the land our breeze moves through as it pushes its way across the planet, opening and closing doors wherever it goes. This is a man. He is not a map, or a flower; though he can fold himself up; he can disappear; or he can invent a reason, and stay; and then he is here.

What is that reason? We are desperate to know.




We are sitting in a circle, talking. Up above the sky is blue, and clear. Someone makes a promise; someone else shakes his head. Finally I get everyone's attention. I stand up and speak:

"If the world that comes after this is not one-world, but all-world; and if the life that comes after this is not my life, but all-life; then what should we do? I mean today; I am talking about the morning -- this morning, which began when the sun rose in the east and slowly burned over the clouds until they were all gone, and there was no trace left of the way they turned purple, then gold; and no reason to cry about it. Doesn't everything end, and soon than we think? Today I am bones and skin and soul. Tomorrow I may become the nothing for which we have no language to describe, the best words just signs pointing past themselves to something we can never imagine. Will you spend your life trying? Should you?"

When I sit down I feel the grass beneath me, and a wind comes in from the west and it runs through us, or we are spun through it. Someone leans in to tell me something; the rest are talking again. I overhear Jonathan and Wendy:

Jonathan: I am interested in ideas. With the right idea, I can stop time. I can build a thought, or a city of thoughts, and disappear inside. God is an idea and if I understand Him right I will find Him inside me, waiting for me in my mind, which is where He's always been.

Wendy: What about things?

Jonathan: What things?

Wendy: The table, the chair, the sunshine the sunset.

Jonathan: They are not as interesting, and besides, whenever I want I can think "chair" and there it is; and I change its shape or color or stack them so high, I might find God there at top, waiting for me.

Wendy: But you can't sit in it. You can't pass the time.

Our circle has gotten smaller: three of us left, explaining they would like much to stay but were tired and needed to be up for work, bright and early. Two others must have quietly slipped out. Jonathan is watching Wendy and Wendy is watching the horizon, where the north star has quietly slipped in and joined us. Some others are talking in hushed nighttime voices, though it is only dusk. Ivan stands up, and makes a speech:

"You spend a lifetime trying to please people, but when you die, where are they there? I think you die as you dream, which is to say: alone; whether or not you held, whether or not you were loved. What should we do about this? If you cannot come with me, what good are you? If you cannot love me enough to make me stay, why--"

Ivan breaks off and sits, suddenly. He is crying. "There there, Ivan," I say, and rub his back. His strong shoulders jerk each time he swallows a sob. Jonathan stands:

"The Self is the author of all creation. The mature person has awareness of this: whenver I speak to you, I am speaking with an aspect of myself. Because the immature person does not have awareness of this, he becomes attached; unforuntately, for him all his attachments will be unbearable so long as he does not recognize himself in the other. The more he tries to run from himself into the arms of others, the more he will hate them; for they each reflect back his own emptiness: the eyes of his lover and the eyes of his killer look exactly the same."

Someone interrupts: "What about love?"

"Love for the mature person is the voluntary surrender of awareness. It is a metaphysical transformation in which I confuse you for me and me for you -- like when you are little, and cry whenever your mother does. What emerges is a single Self, which in turn creates a new world around the lovers accessible to and understandable by only them. For all of us, waking life is like a dream: all the people you meet are your own creation, and in each of them you find an aspect of your own Self."

When he finishes I look around: Ivan is still sitting with his head in his hands, there are a million stars above us, and only Wendy is left. Jonathan seems unsure of what to do next, and then sits down.

Wendy: That was a very nice speech.

Jonathan: Thank you. It's true, you know... what I said about love.

Wendy: I know.

Jonathan: Do you love me, then?

Wendy: I don't know.

Jonathan: Will you love me tomorrow?

Wendy: Maybe.

Jonathan: That, at least, is something to think about.

As he starts to walk away, Wendy calls after him: "Don't stop time too long... you might miss something." He looks back and smiles.

But he does.


Boundaries, Part IV

You know me: I don't believe in ghosts. Let them walk through the bedroom while we are together, let them wail on the walls. I treated a woman once who did believe -- she believed in them absolutely, so of course they really did her in: for half an hour a day they lit their ghostly penises on fire and slooooowly pushed them through the western wall of her room, just as the sun was setting. Well you can imagine how that went. One held the door shut so she couldn't run, so she had no choice but to ball up arms around knees, shut her eyes, and scream until it stopped. They always stopped; but not in her mind, and no matter what I gave her -- a holding environment, stability, psychotropic drugs -- still they kept coming, pushing through the wall in her minds' eye, which is the eye that never shuts not even to sleep or dream so for her there was no peace. Her name was Lori, and mostly I felt sorry for her, but she made her choice: she needed to believe, and ghosts got what they wanted: her life, which came sceaming from her mouth, half an hour a day.

You know me: it is not what comes after that worries me. I heard a story once about a man -- a man you loved, actually -- who was the softest, kindest man you had ever met; and swept you off your feet with his quiet words, over dinners and from across the sheets; until you told him you were having his baby. Was it you who told me? How badly he beat you then? I had heard about men like him: who transform, as if triggered by scent or idea of their child, into monsters. Who torture their women, too shocked and ashamed to believe-- who in many cases end up killing the baby before it ever sees the face that ended its life. I am glad you got away. It seems like another life ago, yet here you are, a whole new you -- is that how you feel, too? How different, the many ways to transform yourself! Once I was a pirate; now I am a social worker. Once you were little girl; then you were getting pushed down the stairs; now you are lying next to me, and if I wanted I could reach over and touch your face to memorize its curves in the dark. I could learn the topography of your skin and commit it to memory: dip, curve, lips, chin... Would that keep you safe? Well you know me: I don't think so. There is at least one more change waiting for us up ahead, like a tree in the road and for miles we can see it coming. Some nights I wake up and don't even know where I am. Is this my first home, or my last? Are these really my hands? I touch your face anyway; I do it so the ghosts can see I am not afraid of needing you. I can listen to your heart and breathe deep in the silence between beats. This gets them angry, I know that. The tree! The tree! They keep shouting it. But I do not believe in them; their failure will not keep me from holding you, even as you turn and toss through restless dreams, even as you become a thousand different things before day finally comes to push you through the wall and back into my arms.


II. Culted

The room is white and there are beds in the room and there are men in the beds who turnover in their sheets and urinate on the floor. The floor is marble and smooth. The floor is black and white squares and when the men urinate the black and white squares become like ice.

There are pictures on the walls of the room. The pictures show men that look like light and stand like light and have crude spears through their chests. The pictures show men that are light and have red lines running out of their chests. In the pictures, native eyes stand around the impaled men. The native eyes look and stare as though they cannot see.

The impaled men are dead and they are pale and look like bloodless men. But the impaled men have eyes that do not think that they have died. The men in beds turn in urine and stare. They think that they would rather have dead skin than native eyes.

“They do not weep.” She says. She is a woman in a black and white robe. The women in here wear white and black robes. They are slick. They are virgins. They are prostitutes. They hold the hands of the men in the beds while the men in beds sweat and turn into themselves as vagrants and fragmented urchins. Over them, on the walls, the skinned lives of the impaled men do not weep. It is not unjust or incomplete or unbearable.

“Cu-cu, little men. Cu-cu.” The church women whisper. The church women whisper of hot fire and hell. The church women sit in circles and rub their hands together and make their bodies into the sirens and the whores of the underworld: it is a meek and insecure hope of unearthly justice and emaciated deathless sex.

Eventually, in twilight, the ins and outs of the snake are firmly loosed on the nobled faithful, the legged. In the twilights of the white room it is not simple to discern the black and white robed women from the black and white tiled floor. They lead the men on haunted paths out—out—out. To the undead, it is sickness. In front of the fallen suntanned room, the women plant visions of hell.

And we all walk from sick to dead.



Unidentified Objects


Instead of seeing you this Sunday, I leave for Philadelphia. I take the train, and on the way this time of year there are certain sights I expect: (1) telephone poles descending like a staircase into the frozen marsh; (2) scratched into the eastern wall of first tunnel, the words "HEAD FEDS"; (3) sunlight coming in low and from a great distance to strike the train windows and make my reflected face invisible. Long ago I hoped to see these things but because I have not been disappointed hope has been replaced, calmly, by the certainty that they will be there: always. In two ways this makes the sunlight and the telephone stairs and the warning of HEAD FEDS completely unlike you; it also makes them "constant," I suppose, though of course they must always be changing -- time is not just breathing on glass, after all. They change like the birthmark on your chest, above your left breast, which you say you have had since birth. But isn't it true that skin dies, always? The cells that made your birthmark when you were born have collasped and grown again billions and billions of times over. Does that mean you have had billions and billions of birthmarks, each secretly different from the last? I happen to know you call yours Billy (though I don't know why). If Billy's parts are constantly broken and built by time, who is the real Billy?


Q: How does Philadelphia unfold to reveal itself: like a flower, or a love letter?

A: A flower.

Q: Which alley is the best in Center City?

A: On Sansom Street. I can't tell you where, so the tourists don't find it and put it on a t-shirt.

Q: What is the best t-shirt you saw a Philadelphian wear?


Q: And where is that located?

A: 2nd sub-floor, City Hall. Below the jury duty waiting room, below the floor of justice, just above the wiretapping chambers. Ask for Arnold.

Q: What will he know?

A: Everything. You can learn anything in Philadelphia.

Q: Just by asking?


1) Reading Pynchon: "They are touching now, without urgency, still, neither of them, quite over the surprise...."

2) Eating chicken.

3) Not watching the moon hovering outside your window, like a UFO.

4) Going to the bathroom.

5) Examining Billy in the mirror.

Does he look smaller than he used to? Larger? Worried? Does he seem less sure of himself? Burnt out? Is he losing his hair? Has he lost his way? Or is he finding it? What is the difference?


Instead of seeing you this Sunday, I leave for Philadelphia. I take the train, and on the way this time of year there are crows rising up like black spots on the sun and telephone crucifixes gripped tight in the ice and a few hundred other human beings passing through it all: smaller, larger, worried, balding, sleeping, dreaming of you. Meanwhile Philadelphia is working hard to raise as many tall buildings as possible; so tall that they will cast thick shadows like paint over homes and shops and turn the Center City skyline into teeth on a key. What does it open? In Kensington, Jose M. is sticking a needle into his skinny arm exactly at the moment I enter the men's room in Suburban Station. Or is he? For the years I knew him he would wait until nightfall before creeping to his brother's room. What he did to him is a lot like sticking a needle into a skinny arm; is that what he is doing now? The skin might be gone but the hole is not; no matter how long the shadows fall they never hit Kensington from Center City, which is where I am instead of where I should be, which is with you: lying in your bed, lying in your arms, neither of us sleeping nor exactly sure of what we were before -- neither of us watching the moon outside your window, hovering like a UFO, poised to discover what we are.




"How are your reflexes, son?

"Honestly, sir?"

"Yes, Skip, honestly. Please. Always."


"That's fine."

Jorn had played tour guide to Skip all morning, showing the new employee around the Tower on his first day. The tour had wound itself into the cafeteria, where Jorn had bought Skip a heaping portion of Turkey Chili. Jorn himself was not eating.

One table over, Tim and Ray:

"I should apologize."

"I've eaten with you before. I had no illusions about what was gonna happen here."

"To Clara. I accused that guy she likes of being a breech birth. It's not right."


"His head is weirdly shaped."

"You need to just ask Clara out."

"His head is dented."

"Ask her out."

"I can't."

"Then leave her alone."

"I can't."

Jorn put his hand on Skip's shoulder and leaned them both towards the adjacent table. Jorn angled Skip's shoulders so he was facing Tim:

"Skip, do you remember a dating show called "Entrances and Exits"? Well, Tim and Clara, she works in development, you'll meet her this afternoon, they were both on that show during their college years. You'd gotten recruited at your local mall, is that right?

Yes, good. Now the two of them had each made it through several elimination rounds. They'd answered questions about their hobbies and their…proclivities and they'd been selected by both audience members and fellow contestants as desirable. Finally, they stood alone. Tim had more points so he was offered an option. He could walk out one door with Clara on his arm, a savings bond in his bank account and two passes to a jazz festival in his pocket. Or he could open the Surprise Door.

They had to cut away to commercial and then show highlights from previous episodes because of how long Tim sat in the Decision Chamber. But eventually he emerged, approached Clara and took her hands in his. Then he walked her over to the Exit Door and had to look into her eyes as he closed it in her face.

Tim, I do believe your hand was trembling a bit when you reached for that Surprise Door."

"I learned my lesson. There were snakes behind that door."

"We know, son. We all have the tape."

"I thought Clara was amazing. I still do. But damnit you know what had been behind the Surprise Door the week before…. "

"Oh, we have that tape too."

Ray spooned some of Skip's turkey chili: "You need to let this girl move on. Pull the trigger or leave her be."

Jorn nodded. "Ray has a point. But jealousy is a compliment. It's also honest."

"Babies are honest."

"I'm not a baby. Babies can't close doors."

Tim let his head drop to his chest. Jorn mussed his hair affectionately and then gently pulled his head up until his eyes met Skip's. Jorn then did the same with Ray. They all sat together for a moment. Jorn cleared his throat:

"Tell me again Skip. Tell us all. How are those reflexes?"



I. Committed and Culted

There is one tree on the land and the one tree looks like it is skinned and unclothed and when the wind is on the tree in the morning the fined branches of the one tree begin to clamor and some of the branches break and the woman watches because she is naked.

The woman is in the house that is next to the one tree and she is naked and she is barren and she does not like her body because it does not turn round in the afternoons after the dry skin dripped men come and do the returns in sauced dribbles and re-runs.

Around the sides of the house—torn into the foundations like a pebbled troop that ate the inside of its leaders and spit the nearly beheaded thrones onto the broken earth—is a cemetery that the supposed great Colon was buried shortly after he murdered a sorceress woman, a woman whose grandfather lactated at the sight of cow blood and told white man ghost stories in his smoked adobe house.

“Cu-cu, a come again and come again!”

The woman turns to pray and already she has eyes that make her look like a church—these are the seeded women that bare nakedness and flaunt themselves as collapsed and re-created individuals so defined through the mercy, and pity, and dearthless sanctions of the fathers.



the day and how we saved it

everything we needed suddenly came to us in a flash, like an idea or lightning; and once we realized what we wanted was mostly ours to start with, well, we let the days roll over our heads and watch the nights turn into an aquarium of stars.

how did we do it?

it started with the city: everywhere we turned was something larger and longer-lasting staring us in the face; so instead of saying "skyscraper" or "powerlines" we decided to say nothing at all. no sooner than we tore down the words did we recognize that wherever we turned, we found ourselves: in the buildings we built, the cables we strung, the orderly streets and yes even the collapse of that order; and once we began we found we could not stop. soon we could not watch the birds or climb a mountain without finding ourselves waiting at the top. even our greatest abstraction became a window opening up to a mirror looking back at us: god made the world because he needed us to behold him into being, and so everywhere we turned we found proof of our existence in his creation. without us there would be no leaf, no tree, no church -- neither skyscraper nor the sky it scrapes.

years before, when we didn't know, many of us were lost to madness. if a rock is a rock then how did it get there? who made it? what is it for? what makes a rock a rock and not something else, like a sunset or a pear? what makes a pear a pear? who made it? this was the madness of questions, and many lost their lives to the horrific inability to rest; to just stop; and eventually they died, fists clenched, in their sleep.

there was worse madness than the questions disease, though, and worst of all was the madness of separation; namely, attachment -- for if a rock is in fact a rock and not a road, then that rock is something we can hold on to when all is else is swarm and uncertainty. well, we know how that one goes. those who held rocks to keep themselves anchored ultimately forget what was what and mistook the rock for a part of themselves, like an arm or an eye; and whosoever tried to take the rock was treated as anyone who might try to take an eye; and the limbs were always piled up high, and there were no rocks nor pears nor sunsets nor love for anyone.

no matter how far we stray from the things we built with our hands, we cannot avoid the circle leading us back to the Self. so now we follow paths through city streets and bedrooms and mountains in the dark. we keep passing through, and the days keep rolling over our heads, into our hearts, and through our open hands...


A Conversation

Is death the only thing worth thinking about? Or should it just be put out of our minds? I ask you this over dinner, casually. You are eating salad with spinach; I have a plate full of untouched pasta in white sauce. I don't outright say it, of course; that would be crude and I am trying to let you know that I am a gentleman, honestly -- my intentions are good. But there are questions pulling at the edge of my attention all night, so it is only fair I ask them: If death is not worth thinking about, inevitable as it is like heartache or constipation, how does one *not* consider it? Is it not like the old line about the elephant -- someone says don't think of him and there he is? Is death like an elephant, who never forgets, or like the stars, who never knew we were there? You chew thoughtfully. I am pretending to ask you something about your parents, but if you know me -- and I know you are trying to, or, I think you are -- then maybe you can hear the words under my words, saying: What is meaning of love, if death is waiting? Once while walking home from work it struck me that this was it: my one life. Quiet houses and the dark bodies of trees rose up around me. I don't know what world comes next -- but how could it be anything like ours, with its red evening skies and church bells and soda cans and mudhuts and fires and wide open fields?

I don't think I will find you there. When death comes to cancel out the distances between us there will be no room left for you, or me; and so we will have to say goodbye to love and seperation when it is time. Don't you think? I pour you another glass of wine and suddenly the whole room falls silent. We are looking each other in the eyes. If in death there are no differences, what does that say about life -- I mean this life, the one we are living right now? Are there things you want to know? Sometimes there are so many I can hardly think of one. Tonight, though, there is light falling on our table and our hands and and I see it in your face: you are tired. I am too. The room fills up with life again and that's when I realize I haven't really said anything at all, I don't know if we'll fall in love, I don't even know what I look like in the dark. So please -- ask me anything. Questions are all I have.



Close Encounters

We were in the car when we first saw the UFO, back when we were only beginning to feel the vast country of uncrossable space stretching between us, which is why we were driving in such thick silence. So when the radio snapped on it was like a bombing going off, I was that startled. My instinct was to break, hard and fast. The car heaved, and then stopped. I remember how you tried to press the off button, but your fingers were shaking from the adrenaline and the shock, they kept pushing but still the speakers blasted country song guitar coming in though the static and distorted talk.

And then, suddenly, the world got quiet.

It was not like the silence from before, or the silence over the dinners that came after, which was swarming with unsayable things. It was the silence of no-motion, dead air, no swarm or static; and then something indescribable came into our field of vision from somewhere in the sky; and then it landed; and I don't remember thinking or saying anything but maybe I looked at you, for a second, maybe I touched your arm.

Most people don't believe. I've learned to stop telling them. Those who do want answers I don't have, and turn angry, or incredulous, that I don't know. I tell them: If I knew, don't you think that would change everything? I once read someone say, When you become perfect, you disappear. If I knew, would I be here? You are the only one who saw it too, and though you have disappeared from my days and nights you are still here, I still see you in pieces of dreams and we are still in this together. What keeps me here is that I don't remember: did I look at you? Did I touch your arm? That bothers me most of all.



The night had been coming for the past two hours. It had come and slowed itself and twisted itself like it was snarled and shaken—-shake it out, lass. It was dark, then. And it looted. He had told her, earlier, he would go to death. After, he said. Now he laid, his hands together. The night takes things from her body. She is an alien. She wears tight space suits and walks in long dramatic steps and she has antennas and she does experiments to him and makes him want to walk to death. Or ride. His hands are tempted and sweated and the small parts of her back—-those parts are not human. She could not be a human. She does experiments with him and looks at him like the other girls don’t look at him, not like that—-not then.

He begins to think that he has missed the train and he would have to walk or sleep in his uncle’s basement and his uncle is on a mean drinking binge. His uncle is on a mean twelve year drinking binge: kept and urged and strained by the ins and outs of an unjust saddened heart—-he is in the pits of a tempered and tame existence. His uncle once put his hand through a windshield. His uncle was angry and round in the face—-he gets round in the face when he is drunk and impaled into the past deviled women (she stilled, in white). It is then that his uncle will say howler things: it is then, sometimes, that his uncle is a monkey.

‘I have missed the train. I will have to walk.’ He thinks and he is sure that he will not go to his uncle’s basement and she is in her suit now, again in her suit, zipped and patient. She has her chin on her fingers on his chest and she looks at him and it is like she does not breathe. She is an alien, he thinks again and now he is sure of it, even though it is darkened and hollowed and she is unseen in part. ‘I must get to death.’ He thinks again, and taunts the alien.

“You will take me?” He asks her, all of a sudden, but she does not twitch. Aliens do not twitch when they are shocked and taken by surprise. Aliens look back and say things that make the others think that they are alone, here and there.

“Yes.” She says. “I will take you to the train and if we have missed the train, I will walk with you there and I will not stop you.”

“Oh.” He says and decides that now he must go. He is caved and soiled and emptied, then. He is caved and the back and forth of the tantrums return to rid him of the blanket nested pills: he will not burst, yet. He is in shakes and he has held water—she will not see the bleeded and haunted street urchin turned in on itself: bitten, pierced and logged by its own poison.

That is for me.



Let’s consider the stars:

Above the Earth, where no one you know has ever been , there are enormous stretches of empty space. You cannot imagine it; it is like saying: Picture ten people, and now picture ten thousand more. It is like saying: Every time you move your hand six inches you pass through billions and billions of dimensions so tiny they curl up in invisible pockets between length, width, and height. Unthinkable: like God or death, like spending a lifetime to calculate the actual number of stars; but true,

or so we hear from certain scientists, whom we are inclined to believe, or not, it’s a question of faith so there are no answers. In this way belief is like the stars themselves, how they shine a light from great distances and die long before we notice. Take me, for example. I am so hungry for love that I left you buried by second-person singular in the first sentence, where no one would realize that it was you under there: your body, your small hands, your hair. I am so hungry for love I had to pretend I was full with my talk of numbers, and unthinkable things. Really there is no such thing as empty space, not in this Universe; and this is not about God or earth or two-dimensional loops of string that vibrate it all into being. You are not like a star-death; you are like a light that went on long before I noticed it. Forgive me; I was so busy reading my books I didn’t wonder why I could see them at all.


Untitled 2

Who am I? The more we talk the less I know about

the city lights,
and the starry sky,
and the moon pulling our blood
towards heaven.
Must I only know myself through others? If so then
I have already forgotten my body, which has

a heart
and a web of veins
and bones, too,
but is not those things, no,
just as I am not my hands or my parents or the hands
of my parents' parents, no matter how

they shaped me,
no matter what they did
or did not finally say.
Neither am I stardust,
though I knew a woman who said I am, and whenever she
kissed me I could feel her pull hard, sucking the air

from my lungs to hers,
so that when she opened her lips
it would return
to the stars.
I don't believe that I am air, or beautiful, or necessary.
I know that we die, and I don't know what comes after:

if we turn into dirt;
if we turn into light;
or if the moon, rising, will keep its promise,
and pull us towards heaven




Plans are what we make when nothing is happening--

take yesterday, for instance:

the snowfall, the rose bush, neither of us knowing

what would come next. Is the saying so important?

Or is it better to find the plan beneath the day,

like a stone in the snow--

crouch down, roll up our sleeves,

and dig in?

Holes are what we make when nothing

seems to be happening; though seeing is not seem,

and certainly something is happening--

(did you feel it?) it is happening

right now



henry had a heart of god he worn it round his mouth

no matter; the word had never gotten out round most folks most anyways,

and a lot of use it’d did fallen on deaf ears,

is what me, and some people said.

in the end, is the whole world waiting to eat us up

and what comes next, which is nothing to do with me

or you or anybody you’ve ever shook hands with,

you can be sure of that:

if you really need something to wrap your mouth around

I’d rather keep the answers till we’re on god’s time,

not mine, henry (talking like a soldier knows hes gonna die)

not mine



ocean springs

He is thin and he has thinned bones and he straddles a gray horse that stands in the tall grass and moves back and forth and whimpers. The mud marches, he thinks. Branches break in the march and they sound like chants. But they are not supposed to be in unison. The homes undress and wilt. They are spade. There are no children coming here. These are deserted monarchs. The mud huts want to die. God wants the mud huts to die.

The woman with the green and white headdress shouts something about god and the dirt and the mud and the hill. The villagers nod. It is god, they think, and they begin to kneel and pray and put their hands together like little churches.

The mudslides had been coming since the rain had started and the rain had been coming for the most part of three weeks. The men with guns and boots sit in tents and watch the slides and do not speak to the men and women in the town. They say the town is going to go into the mud river and not return. They do not believe the woman with the green and white headdress. “She did not talk to god.” They say. “Even he cannot protect this town from this rain.”

The colonel says it is an on off switch and then spends most of the first week losing his property in card games. They are cheating, he says. But he does not shake his head. The mudslides creep and only move about an inch, maybe two, maybe three. Generally, they only move a few inches an hour. It is possible to get out of the way. The slides are not that fast. There are families in the basement of the valley that began to take apart their homes. We will rebuild them on the other side of the river, they say. One of them has a birthmark that looks like a black eye. He does not like the other men in the village. “Their houses can go away,” He says. “God is telling us to move.”

The man on the horse does not see god because he stares at his own house drown. His house is close—closest to the mudslide. He is on a horse and he cannot stop the mud. There is too much mud and it is raining and the water looks like it is in a bathtub. The wind is not too much but the hill will begin to drag the water down into the center of the village and the water will begin to look like a great river. He sits on his horse and watches his home split into two. The soldiers say some women can fall out of their dresses when they are not careful. He has not seen it. But it looks like his house. She falls out of herself and looks awkward and exposed and he is embarrassed.

It was not a good place to build a village, he thinks. The men at the basement of the valley will see the river soon. They will not get their homes out in time. They will die with the sticks in their hands. The sticks are their walls. The soldiers do not smile. They play cards and say the woman is wrong. God walks along the edge of the mountain. It does not rain on god. He rips trees out of the ground and watches the loose dirt slip. Silly woman with a green and white head dress, he thinks.

The soldiers are right. The village should have cursed the rain.



let will, child prostitute


She wills herself to suicide herself. She mourns and preps and wears black and makes her face look bloated and drowned: like it has swallowed too much water, too much urine, too much waste. I am a waster, she thinks, and it seems like it is mild and cooked water in her blood—oh sweet, oh sweet: I am alive again.

She smiles and ssh-es herself and stares at her rounded eyes in the oval mirror. Once, earlier, when she is twelve—on her first sauntered and dipped Tequilla binge—she wills herself to the less difficult and more simple return: to suicide her mother.

“She is a prostitute,” She says and she wears knee-highs and she is comforted in the twilight hold of the evening pantry. The summer has turned already. The heat that has made the men and women look stale and spared—opened by lynched drawls and So-Co wisdom. The heat has gone and twisted itself into the death marches, the staunch steps of a leafless and ironed flat.

“She is a prostitute,” She says, again, and now she is on the porch. Once, she is twelve. And then it is truly the orange and yellow and red and the crisp that is—that must be—the way it is to death if it is the way each year the world is to death. They hear, perhaps both times. They hear it in the living rooms, close to the swinging doors of the pantry, the screen door of the porch. They squat on the Italian couches and the rugged, offseason wallpaper. The inned men and the outed women are silent together.

But in the riffs of the next day, the waits are un-done. The open and deadfaced tongues run and come out. Soon, the town is in circles on her lawn. They hold fire on their fingers and they tell her: “You Whore! You!”

She was a prostitute, she thinks now, and stands bare. Her eyed opened tunic shows this now seventeen skin. Her windows are opened and see. The property is widowed into her name, or widowed-heired, or perhaps just left for her once. She stands, a smooth skin silk skinned, and wears the week in thought: my waked, alas.

The pauses and the wait are, generally, unbearable. Until she will actually suicide herself. Until she will walk to the bushes behind the school auditorium and urinate and turn herself bleeded.

The after party, for the woman, her mother, her suicided prostitute whore of an uncouth nature, was more or less adequate for the occasion. She even felt herself enjoying the company of the tonic downed men, the limp dressed men. They were often on site in heaved ho.


He wires himself into the pit of women. Perhaps protests at his own childlike death—no, the childlike death of his wife, after his mother. After these women, cut and bleeded on tiles and ice wells, swamped into the terror of web feet and prophetics, heretics: wizards. While he, alone and barred into a soiled solitude, is the hand holder, the hand soldier, of the ministers.

He is the leading authority on the nature of women and their tragic yet oddly familiar interest in death walks, suicides, passionless and egoless existences. Yet surprised and seeming to hawk their eyes into the resourceless, the women are benevolently disposed to dispose of themselves in horrific and necessary acts of heroism and stupidity. It is only fickle transgression, capped in the end by meager and pointless drama—boiling points. It is best to stand clear.