This arid earth like cottonmouth,
on the tongue of these twin valleys.
Shriveled airs despair the vale
and stale soil cracks under my steps.
Not ten degrees relief by night when coughs again by eight,
rising every hour with a wave.
Would suffocate the day but for these oven-winds of summer,
thrashing up the orchards and the vines.
Fire season, danger:
and everything around here’s tinder.
And I’m walking after dusk, unable to sleep,
on a footpath by the river.
The hills have been on fire
for a week.
Ash has eclipsed the stars
and shaded the full moon orange.
Whatever it was which led me here
I see only what’s above: busy shadows
along a row of old oaks.
And hear only what’s below: my feet on gravel, grass,
I was not prepared for this…
and I realized only too late
that I had no notion of what I was getting myself into.
Now I’m half-way to the destination, yes,
the middle of the journey, and I can see far
in the direction of both the destination
and the point of departure.
There was a gradual change in the beginning,
where bit by bit of what I thought was altered.
And now there is a barrens between me and my homecoming:
dry will be the days, hot will be the nights,
and dust will rise up underfoot.
I will shield myself from sun,
I will sweat and I will groan
and I will thirst after mirages.
And I will not be happy, but will tell myself
that if I make it past these barrens I’ll be well.
Would I give up another happy day
for that life that I’ve envisioned?
Will I continue to believe it
or believe it is a lie?
Can I not just have hope for something else
and go in a different direction?
And to think, we could have avoided this,
had we turned ourselves to the left or right
those miles back, or at the start.
Yes, had our starting point been different,
had we turned when not this far in
for we are too far along now to turn back.
And lose these many grounds we’ve gained
all at once, it’s not enough
to make us so unsure of where we’ve got.
And yet we are unsure, yes yes and yet, that other path
those many miles back jetting off the main
has come to seem a welcome.
For here we are, in the middle of the wilderness,
with no other ways presented for our steps,
unless we’d walk headstrong into the thickets.
For a path is one which others wore
and now there’s none to follow.
Must we follow? shall we set? and tear the leaves of grass
from stem with only feet and shins?
We don’t have to, do we want to?
stay on this straight and narrow
while the core of our soul is about to scream or sink.
We’ll stay put, I’m sure,
and bring ourself to the breaking point,
if we have not yet come upon the means to break.
Off, or out, or in, on, or away, off onto that other way
that’s jetting from the main.
Out of these canopies and thickets,
into the world which we once knew…
changed as it will be,
well along without us I am sure.
‘Definitely makes me feel somewhat ridiculous by now
to think that I have been living in this way.
Which other way, by now, is there for me to live?
I’m too far down this path as it is…
and they didn’t make it all that easy
getting over to a new one.
It would be years before I make it through the thickets
adjacent to the way I’ve walked…
so overgrown in these parts,
that I can’t quite see the other side…
save but in some tinselings of the light.
But he got off the trails and his path and stays put,
he speaks in third person
to gain some distance from himself,
he sits, somewhat stooped, and utterly stumped
as to what went wrong and how to make it right.
He stares out of the window from between the metal blinds
while the sunlight passes by
from one side of the house to the other,
and waits for words
which rarely come.
While the pine trees jostle with the grazings of the breezes
and the oak leaves bustle
with the gustings of the winds,
and whatever it is responds
to whatever it is.
He sits there not quite stoic as he once was
when he felt he was in steps toward the goal he set
those many years ago. And ages now, it seems, to
him, that eternity before has come between his soul
and the life he had for so long meant to live.
Is this an impassable obstacle,
or am I just overwhelmed as it is?
Overwhelmed, not by just one thing,
there are several,
and may be that they are simply so petty
as to be off-putting.
The off-putting petty things are in the way
of the major works
which I must get to
if I’m to both fulfill a duty
and succeed in making it somewhere.
Maybe these ends
shouldn’t have been brought so close together…
But so it is.
By now, I have an unpaid debt to society,
and can’t seem to get a job…
and a not-yet-fully-paid loan to the world,
which I’m eager to get around to that much more…
but the world seems to reject me,
‘just keeps pushing me away.
As if there were some force of repulsion at work,
the signs read: “stay out”,
and I so yearn an entrance,
and thought I already paid the price of admittance…
but I must have missed something somewhere along the way,
for otherwise I’d think it wouldn’t be that difficult.
But this one has me stumped,
now it’s as if I were “The Thinker”…
never brought to some resolve,
never reaching a conclusion.
As I sit here pondering instead
to an end I’m either losing sight of,
or an end which isn’t there,
or an endless, open-ended sort of end,
but an end which seems indifferent to my efforts.
For what then might it be? enjoyment? enlightenment?
is it simply conversation, or communion?
for the sake of itself?
for the sake of something else?
I’m lost, or at a loss, and am in need of some direction,
or a hand to help me out
of this abyss I seem to have dug myself.
How far have I got from where I was?
only now recalling my younger-self
at the start of my walk.
Confused, and nearly lost,
and on my own with some books
and a beaten heart repairing itself.
And the bruises left no mark or trace
which I could see to sense
its coming along in the process.
Eventually I forgot it even happened,
yet went on saddened even laughing,
as I shied myself that much away from others.
Next thing I know, here I am in the spot in which I sit
for hours on end everyday alone,
sending S.O.S’s through the wavelengths…
to which none have responded, and I’m anxious
that I’ll never leave the island
which Calypso’s tried to make so cozy.
And I’m sensing my defeat in the hands of a warm bath
and a bed in which I sink into the springs
by nights end when I think that I can rest.
Till now I haven’t, and I can’t…not until I clean up this mess
and remake this bed,
and hug the only loved ones I have left,
so I can go on to become the kind of man
I’ve made myself to be.
For now I go on split between two camps, that,
for so long as I have lived, have not stopped yelling
back and forth above each-others heads.
And it’s sometimes like it’s tennis, but I’m usually the net:
‘gets hit time and again
by servers who can’t get beyond the faults.
There is a stir by seismic activity,
shifts, and upheavals,
for better, or worse,
from frictions at the faults,
and from subductions of my soul.
And I was pressed into the molten core of earth,
and interworked there with the other elements,
before being drawn back up, exploding outward
through the crust, and oozing on out over the edge
of once capped and snow-peaked mountains.
The tensions at the faults they drew
have at last been enough to slip in opposite directions.
And the alcohol is frothing from the tops of the bottles,
and down the aisles…
and I can very nearly taste it on my tongue as I pass by,
as it goes ’round still within me
in my psyche, and experiences
of a warm-belly full of whiskey,
or a head spinning with wine.
For years they seemed the best, or only, “friends” I had
in lieu of living breathing beings,
and almost seemed to make up for the lack
of fulfilling relationships which has been a plaque
on the teeth of the whole of my young adulthood.
When its enamel was wearing thinner and thinner every year
from corrosive mixtures of the substances
which I over-used.
And it’s taken some care to clean off the gunk
which built up over those years of my estrangement,
and for me to have finally had enough to call-out
my mismanaging my self.
To what end, I know not…and still have but
of something somewhere there afar
toward which I’ve been moving,
even when I wasn’t going
anywhere beyond my room.
And at one time or another I lost sight of it entire,
and a chasm opened up below me,
my whole being
in an abyss of despair.
When I succamb to my distresses, put faith into my vices,
and fell completely out of touch with others,
slipped out from my grip, I floated in an empty space,
and went on with my routines
without any sense of what I was,
or what I was doing there at all.
Which wasn’t much but typing,
but the type,
just turned and twisted,
and I didn’t write anew…
need I some rite of passage
for to be a sign that I got through
my younger self and on to full adulthood?
And it’s becoming quite a bother:
this lack of all response from any other
who would care to walk beside with me a while.
But who can find the time?
which has been lost on the hunt
of ‘looking out for number one’.
Who, if found, would every spend it
on a gift for those they left
for that which they have loved?
And who could ever find the vein of gold
which was buried long ago,
and kept well within this earth,
when it was just walked all over or even passed right by
during the fray of the foray for a dime?
How is it I’d maintain any sense of self in such conditions?
in this aloneness,
reverberations of my soul rarely returning.
with unresponsive airs, here
in the scattered fragments of my particularity,
Writing trying to find my self,
or conjure it from out of verse,
and every time I tried it fled,
and what emerged did not return.
I was nearly slandered out of my existence,
and I fell off from the face of earth.
I had to draw up, as from a well, and bring forth every aspect
of my self which had been buried…
which lay there, waiting, underneath,
in the aquifers of my being…
so that my soul was at last able to see, and be seen,
and hear, and be heard.
And I’m unsure if the cavern which was left
is stable enough not to collapse in on itself,
but hold firm for those who might walk upon the patch
of the land with hollowed walls below it.
The arch at its top
has become but a thin crust
as others have not yet seemed to stop digging up or at
its foremost layers.
the vices of my past besiege me.
I suspected one intruder, easy to deter,
but I looked and sensed the force
of legion at my door.
And I thought that I was keeping a hold of myself,
but alas, I found that all along
the clash eroded my defenses.
And I’m standing at this gate now sliver-thin
rally-crying out: how strong, o god,
against this must I be?!
Let this be what leads you,
it is the only way we’ve gotten anywhere.
And yet, it hasn’t gotten us out, it has rather kept us in
with a sense of needing to be here…
where the conditions seem more conducive
to the demands of such a thing as this.
But, where also, my vices would harass me
with their scabs upon my psyche,
which I pick at when they’re itchy…
and reopen all my old wounds
all at once.
The loneliness, the smoking,
drinking and yet thinking that my psyche is still sure.
My wrong-doings and the dodgy things I did
to make them into something more…
into something more than flaws and faults and failings.
And, bleeding, I would hermit there for months,
while the old wound’s covered up again
by a fresh new patch of skin…
so rough to the touch,
so irksome that this cursed thing
won’t just heal in full…
and leave a knotting of flesh in the place
where the tears were made
by the nails.
Making the furrow all the more noticeable as I go. The earth,
becoming finer and looser, the plow,
becoming heavier under my weight
as I lean more of it on the grips of the handles.
And I’ll say now that sometimes it seems as if this ox
has led me to where it wanted to go,
and I’ve just held on and followed
from not too far behind…
and it’s been grazing, and I’ve been absent-
minded, looking upward
at the skies: ominous and orange, the sun,
just below the mountain line
on the western side of the valley…
the sign for us to end our work and go home.
The full-moon’s in the east
just after the night begins.
I’ve often wondered about this river
which is flowing in between us…
and the mountains surrounding me on all sides save one,
and the ocean beyond those in the west…
and the expanse beyond those in the east,
and the wilds among those in the north.
And I could follow the current of this river southward
and be at ease in open spaces…
and see for miles in any direction
with that river still between us,
or those mountains still around.
Looking down the hallway of your past
at but a corridor of closed door after another,
locked after you passed…
with loud music drowning out the knocks
you’d give to see if they would open.
And you’re pacing with these omens following you at home,
outdoors, and to the only kind of work
which you’ve been able to perform.
And by now are so buried in your modes
that you cannot fathom doing anything else
or other than that which would, on a daily,
dog your steps.
So you’re relented, going mad,
resigning in the midst of those
your heart no longer goes to.
The ones who once had loved you…
And on the brink now of inhuman,
and you feel you’ve been mistreated,
that some unfair life-tax
has been imposed on you your whole life
now in pieces. And in ruins
is the life you then envisioned you would live.
Now nothing more is precious to you than a respite
from the torments by which you are surrounded,
at the weeks-end when you do as you see fit,
but even then, in this, you’re only met
with what now has
your warrior-like spirit weakened.
But we got too close to fire, and, so riled, reckless pyro,
out of our enthusiasms straightway to exhaustion.
And now we’re bulwarked by a distance,
tired but always restless, out here on our ownsome
and devoid of all commitment.
Floating in the empty space of instant satisfactions,
pushed on by whatever force
in absence of direction.
And tell me then, are you unable to see
what we’ve become here in our distance?
With a thrashing soul, a heart still pulsing heavy,
yearning for a homecoming,
and even just one other to pass along through life with.
Ambivalent by now toward both, for the length we have to go
without any certainty of arriving
at an unknown unfamiliar destination.
And the loss that we’ve endured these many years
of looking back and forth with doubt,
with uncertainty, and regret,
and almost ceaseless longing.
And we lost our love for this?!
and I guess this was the better?…
and may be it is best that we admit it to ourself,
so we might at last be at home.
When this is who we are, whether or not we like it,
for it’s all that we have been these many years.
And we’ve tried to make friends, we’ve tried to fit in,
we’ve tried to fall in love again,
but we’ve been stuck here in this spring,
in rebirth since our birth…
and it’s become so very dizzying
to have an end as ours in view
while ever tarried right before the start,
wondering when we will begin.
The rest have seemed to be moved on into winter,
huddled warmly, close together,
in decorated homes.
I look out from my aloofness,
so long sailing into the winds and the tempests
that landing seems a little less than home-like.
For out here I befriended undulation,
whether it was tranquil or was violent.
And became more familiar with the seagull and the serpent
than the Graeco-Roman pillars
or the fruit of good and evil.
But no longer am I timid of the deepest parts of earth:
the lava and the soot that have been pooling
from the oceans floor, or the magnificent creatures
in the most imposing leagues.
The pressures which have crushed me twice before.
But, unapproachable, and not so much aloof,
or so I heard it said:
that I’m a stoic in a solemn stance
with a leave-me-alone-like look in his eyes…
and a misguided religious sense of obligation
to an existence he’s envisioned and projected
misting from his skin, intimidating with the distance
which he’s putting in between us.
And yet for all this all along I have been attempting to express
the way I feel about you and us and this
and the way you make me feel about myself.
But the signals I send keep on slipping from my grip
and you read about my sins in them instead
…or you read about yourself.
Seems though I must admit that either way is well
in that, whoever you might hear here
would be either you or me.
And the rolling off my fingers and my tongue
run me into a ground by dawn.
And there are flickers from the part of my soul
with little hope…
I cannot help but show you here
for bleeding through my censors.
And I see now it wasn’t anger
for surely it was sadness,
so often I confuse these.
And in this way I’m drained,
whatever that worked up with me,
And of all the energies I’ve routed here
will any of them transfer?
From the ‘X’
who is no longer matter.