Tag Archives: meditations

How Patriarchy Will Meet The Virus

Warning: when the man
finally apprehends
the full weight of all his sins,
he will explode and taint all.

When the extent of his damage
becomes apparent to him,
there will be such a storm of aftermath
that it will redefine the word.

It shall not be driven by guilt
but by the all-encompassing understanding
of how vast it was, how impossible to escape
for anyone, how central he had been

without even knowing his role,
having long contended his weakness
made him secondary even as he primaried
and centered himself. But right now

the burst has not yet happened.
He stands sure of himself
for one last moment before that.
More and more of us

see what’s coming,
but it’s too late; 
there’s no safe place to move.
All we can do is cover up and wait.


Sitting Around

Originally posted 2012. Revised.

Mostly, people are sitting around waiting for it.

It’s not going to be like a tsunami, or a war.

No one wants to admit that we peaked at Lascaux.  

No one wants to admit that we were pretty much at our apex right before the first grain was planted, the first lamb was tamed…that it started to fail with the first surveyor who confidently said “this plot’s yours, this plot’s not.”  

No one wants to admit that we were OK about the God thing right up to the moment we shook God loose from a particular geography, the one outside the hut door.  

Get up every morning, yawn, stretch…hello, God.  Turn another direction, there’s another God.  Say hi to that one, too.  

It kept them small.

No one wants to admit we knew something back then we don’t know now, and we don’t even know what it is that we knew.  

I have some friends — oh, I cannot call them that as it’s untrue now and will be even more so after this —there are people I know  who are activists.  

They think they’re doing something.  They think…I like them because they move now that everyone’s mostly sitting.  

But do they do what’s needed?  No one can do what’s needed now.  Not on anything but a small scale, no matter how grandly they practice.  

Because when it comes, it won’t be much different than it is now —a slew of abandoned houses, a lot of rootless people. They’ll leave because their wallets betrayed them; they’ll leave looking for work; they’ll leave looking for food.  

The lawns will recall their heritage and swallow houses while making jungly noises.

We don’t know what we’ve lost.

We peaked at Lascaux; all those hunter-gatherers knew it.

We sit waiting for what’s coming.

We ought to be moving though it won’t come as tsunami or war, not at first.

No.

It will be as it is now. 


Coyotes Came Out

As we disappeared
from the roads and retail plazas,
as the parks were shuttered
and the playgrounds were locked away,

coyotes came out
to run the roads looking for us.

When they did not see us
in our usual numbers, did not find
our fast food remnants, did not see
our deadly cars or hear us chatter and rage
at each other, they did not wait

but came forward, more and more,
to go in daylight where they’d rarely gone 
before dark till now. It became clear
to them and to all others
that at least temporarily,

something had shifted.
The air, the ambient sound,
the ground itself
all seemed less troubled.
Lawns and meadows
grew longer, wilder, wilder,
opened up old blooms; 
after it was over, everyone
noticed the honey 
was richer that season

even as the coyotes melted
back into the dark. 
They’d tasted
a different sweetness;

enough for now.


Moving Day

Dreams got tired,
settled in my head.

Stopped working, 
didn’t move much.

Tried to nudge them
back into action — 

they knocked me back,
refused point blank.

I’ve had to let them
take up space.

I’ve learned to let them
do little and rest.

No idea if they’ll someday
turn back to their tasks.

No idea if I’ll be invited
along to do my part then

or if we’ve run
our conjoined course.

If I’m left behind,
may they find a road

to somewhere
they can really move.

My head has grown too tight.
My head is too small

for them to work, I know.
I get that now.

In spite of that I tried.
I did. I tried to make a space

for them up there,
but there was never enough room.

They spilled stunted
works and I know they felt 

every pain I did over that,
but harder, longer, sharper.

I tell them they can go. So far,
they remain in place;

surprised, I think, 
that it has come to this.

When they leave — and
they will leave —

there will be sorrow
but also a release of long-tense breath.

Perhaps something new
then for those dreams. It’s fine.

They were never truly mine.
They just lived here for a while.


Abeyance

Put the world in abeyance
as singers are passing and dancers
are passing from among us;
these will be spaces
we cannot fill at once. 

Put this life we’ve known in abeyance.
How far we have yet to go is uncertain,
and with the holes in the map
left by the passage of those
who knitted lives together, our way is unclear.

Put the long view in abeyance;
measure progress now by inches
or less. Creeping forward without song,
blind to the path, each step a martyr’s 
touchstone in the pavement;

there is now, in fact and fiction,
only today. Put tomorrow
in abeyance while waiting for 
a new song, a new dance,
a new map for what’s ahead.


The Foragers

Outside the Dollar Tree
on Providence Road
which is strangely closed
at two-thirty
on a Saturday afternoon —

no sign, no explanation.

Several of us standing 
widely spaced before it,
having heard 
a rumor of a delivery

of needed things —
I’m getting a hunch
I’m afraid to share.

A newish SUV shows up
and a guy leans out 
of the passenger window:

“Is it closed? We heard
it was closed for two weeks —
someone on the staff
tested positive –“

“Shit.” 

“We heard there’s a delivery
at Walmart, they’re staggering
the times they put stuff out.”

We scatter slowly
as civilized people do,

every one of us walking
to our cars as wary of the others
as if we were all
carrying spears.


Words At Night

Words now come
more often at night
than in daylight.

I would like to say
there’s a good reason,
but there’s not.

All day I fight and 
drain, struggle and 
sink. By bedtime

I have barely enough
breath left to admit
my terror out loud, 

but I push myself
into the keyboard and try
to come back out with

something fresh and hopeful,
even though often
I choke on the effort

before falling into 
a sleep I wouldn’t wish
on anyone: one so rife with dying

that most days I wake up dry
and brittle, my head a casket
full of other people’s bones.

No wonder I cannot
move for an hour
after waking, and no wonder

that to rise from bed
is akin to digging out.
Don’t ask me to give you art

made in daylight.
You’ll read it and

reek of graves.

Instead, 
take the words
that come to me at night,

when there’s at least
still hope we’ll wake up
alive tomorrow and stay alive.

 


A Little Dark Musk

He was not usually
given to nostalgia,

by which I mean
he routinely lived
without surrendering
to a suspect, edited version
of his own past.

However, he’d recently taken to recalling
past intimacies: dim lit faces; 
the sound of close beloved breath
in the dark; doing this not so much
(he told himself) 

out of nostalgia
as from a longing to hold onto
as many people as possible
for as long as possible
while facing a tidal wave of loss;

the people he had known best,
known their best and their worst,
who’d known him at his best
and his worst, the ones
who’d taught him his full identity
in the dark corners
of long-lost bedrooms. 

It was not for lust or love,
not from a yearning for rekindling,
not even a touch of what might have been;

it was because his world had faded
to such a pale imitation of life
that he hoped
a little dark musk from the past
might remind him
of how bright it might still be.


Polytheism

Originally posted 2014. Revised.

This God the atheists
do not believe in

is nothing like the Ones I know
who have always been

as numerous as leaves,
slippery as free mercury,

devoid of faces, disinclined
to interfere even when implored

as they are yoked to larger purposes
than we can know — purposes

they serve as surely 
as we do our own. 

Omnipotence, they laugh,
is a child’s dream — 

what God of Sound Mind
would desire that

considering how much
needs doing in the universe?

Having spoken they turn back
to their 
appointed tasks,

not caring much at all
whether or not we follow.


Meeting In A Time Of Contagion

We talk to each other from across streets
and through screens now, slowly becoming
acquainted with the low-touch rules; still, when I

see a long lost friend in a store, someone I thought
had moved to Florida decades before, it is natural 
and innate that we shake hands in the center aisle

and then immediately with regret we both look at the floor
and say, “we probably shouldn’t have done that,” and so
the conversation continues for the requisite few minutes

of catch up before we move on to his purchase 
and my car, though I stop in the lobby before I go
and scrub myself with wipes meant for cart handles

and door knobs, the sting of the sanitizer tearing into
the cracked skin on my hands like the fire of knowing
that acknowledging joy and friendship without thought in these days

might be fatal to one of us or to someone we love
or someone we never even meet, as if we are the wings 
of the metaphorical butterfly who destroys the entire world — 

as if we have never been
that disastrous before all this happened
simply by living our casual consumer lives.


For The Fancydancers

Within days
of the contagion’s start

something inside took over,
rolled my hands
into chafed red fists,

and started punching through 
my pale shell. 

I spend my mornings now
watching fancydancing videos:
little girls in jingle dresses,
little boys in full regalia
stomping, tall men and women
raising their arms 
against the contagion
on small and common snow-iced lawns,
on the edges of empty roads, 
in furrows left in winter land
by spring and summer plowing;
all of them elsewhere,

west of here, beyond this city
crowded still with unbelievers
shopping for safety from what
they don’t yet fully believe 
is already among them,
is no longer a rumor of plague
east and west of here,
but no, not here.

West of here
is where the people are dancing
toward healing. 

I think of my sister,
sick as sick can be now,
in her jingle dress
at eighteen.

Whatever is inside me
pokes me gently, reminds me
of smallpox blanket stories,
says: this is how we survived.

This is how we got through so much.


Clutch, Cling, Slip

Waking up talking out loud —

EVERYTHING IS DISAPPEARING

recall
the morning glories
climbing the chain-link fence
one tendril crossing the face
of the arborvitae in the neighbor’s yard

the monster heat of the bonfire
on Fourth of July
in the sandpit

what it was like to breathe and taste
before cigarettes

leftover vinyl of artie shaw
discovered in best friend’s barn
scratched to fusstone but still
revelatory

orchards in abandoned farms
gone back to poplar and scrub ferns
timid among the rotten fruit

lying awake at night
with nothing but dark and not
caring that there was no sound

EVERYTHING IS DISAPPEARING —

recall
names and dimlit backyards
names on shallowcarved school desks
names and names
and blame
and fervent hope of notice and friendship

stumbling fingers on the first joint
rolled with single wide papers
praying it wouldn’t fall apart before
the watchful gods of freakdom

recall
rare birds and longed-for cars 

far from famous bands
gone to accountancy and parenthood

slinky patch jeans and embroidered 
Big Daddy Roth army coats

recall
the first switchblade
hash pipe
condom stolen from dad’s drawer
long before the first
kiss

recall
hopeful
waking up
talking blue in the face

Fresca and vodka

recall
sweating in the middle of a broke-ass broken sleep
waking up talking VERY LOUDLY

EVERYTHING IS DISAPPEARING

everything inside is solving itself for zero
cutting larger and larger holes into this being
with its comfortable shoes and sensible coat
with skin and graying hair gone to pot
this battling hydra refusing suddenly
to grow its old head back

everything
yes

EVERYTHING


Wednesday Morning, March 18, 2020

Almost forgetting.
Delighting at the silence
in the street. Then: oh.

Sparrow waiting
until I finish the trash.
Settles back upon the feeder

as if nothing has changed.
Birds rioting here and
in the next yard. 

I leave the TV news off
as long as I can
but danger tugs the remote

into my hand. So much
for silence. So much for the 
delight. So much — oh. 


Everyone

Everyone’s planning
to become the fictional
heroes of historical novels
no one’s written yet.

Everyone’s
not quite
far enough
from each other.

Everyone’s 
in the soup
and no one’s felt
the scalding heat yet.

Everyone’s got
a lonely shoulder and
a broken throat to call from,
though not many have started.

Oh, everyone.

Think about this:
all the people
you could have been, 
and you still turned out to be everyone.


Raven Reconsidered

To go to work
in this time
is to take a raven
off her perch,
set her on your shoulder,
and set to your tasks

with her croaking
impossible instructions and 
vague prophecies
into your ear at exactly
the worst possible moments:

during meetings,
at the beginning of your commutes,
alone at your desk in deep focus
on critical concerns.

You try to brush it off,
to silence the bird,

but since you’re the one
who put her there,
who took her from the top
of the door frame and put her
on your shoulder,

you feel a little guilty.
“Shut up,” you whisper.
“I’ve got so much to do.”

She sits, and shits,
and croaks out far more words
than you thought she knew.
Everything’s so complex.
Meanings are so obscure.
You’d assumed
you already knew 
her whole vocabulary,

but no.

To go home from work
in this time
is to set the raven
on the seat next to you
and say,

“Traffic’s bad.
I just want to get home
fast and safe.
Raven, find a way.
Raven, take me home,”

but she chooses this moment
to fly out the window
and go home on her own
(or so you assume.)

You start the car,
ooze out onto
the clogged roads
and wonder how long
it will take
and what you will find
when you get there.