Clouds and Trees

"Nothing ever goes away enough or arrives enough,/ and I want to cry when I think of my heart,/ muscle pounding in muscle, greedy always for joy." – 'A Warning', Eric Anderson

Month: February, 2010

My Ghost, Whose Name I Do Not Know

In the homes of our heroes
we hold our hands high
We cut them down from the ceilings
W hold their heads as they cry


I can’t escape the smell of burning plaster
as I sleep in your home
It’s the taste of your mouth
that bites my tongue when I cough
and spit up little bits of your soul

I still see the spot in between my eyes
where you pressed with your elbow
until I could see through your sides
and understanding was left in place of a hole

When I was born
I was afraid you would be there
waiting to show me the meaning behind things
I cried out Let me find myself, they are waiting for me

As you lie dying
I appreciate you for giving up your secrets
in pieces over time
and when you called yourself Life
I laughed and wrote a thousand poems about you
and maybe this one will help me understand things
the way that I used to



It became poetry
when I learned to write
like drowning
in clear water
Not too shallow
Not too deep

with rocks resting on the bottom
becoming smoother over time

The end of every poem
pulls the hair on the back of my head
I emerge, gasping but not wet

Reflect on the feeling
of being
perpetually out of breath
except for the shallow wells left over
from even before the poetry began
Every day I draw upon them
and am angry at my inability
to hold my breath
to keep my head beneath
the surface of springs
ever-drying on my mind


Until I find the final thing to write


Writing which, like the afterlife,
makes death at times
both significant
and indefinite


I watched her rain down
leopard-print basement steps
her mouth muffling noises
I didn’t hear until she’d been lying there
tangled in her sweat
toying with the edge of death
for only as long as she would never know

I’m not sure why
I force myself to remember these things
perhaps to put some perspective in this cafeteria
where classmates consider
the seating arrangements of their cliques
and where they will live
when they are all together, inevitably,
in the future

But sitting here allows me
to settle back into memory

A food court
where the sweat began to condensate
on her forehead and neck
It was my birthday I think
another experience in responsibility
as she dropped out of reality

I wonder why I never find
the ends of these memories
My own actions are oddly absent
the indispensable son–
invisible to me

I remember the first time
she drove past our driveway
It became an obvious sign
that I was going to have to think like an adult that night
The scene must have looked ridiculous
from behind our neighbor’s windshield
An eight-year-old running alongside a car
trying to guide his mother
who was driving with her eyes closed

More lessons in adulthood–

after we got lost in the snow
I learned never to fall asleep the way she did
otherwise I’d end up pushing on her legs
depressing the pedals in an attempt to reach
our neighbor who I imagined to be
an endocrinologist

I realize now that there are too many memories
for me to write down without overwhelming myself
I suppose in relation to the years over which they took place
these isolated incidents were infrequent
but nonetheless they convinced me I was an adult
by the time I was a child
or at least that it would be easy,
to grow up

Occasionally, I still see
all these moments
threaded together —

Her neck coated with sweat
knotted into a lump
as her head falls back behind the headrest

Her arms suspended by kitchen cabinets
over the field-stone floor my father was so proud of
suddenly dangerous every day after that

And worst —

The things she’d say
sometimes I’d compare it to inebriation
but really she was just lost to herself
her brain constricted by unenriched blood
My dad and I have to believe
that she really isn’t this belligerent
or childish
or full of such infectious

Of course there is the fear —

Her death which I’m afraid
even to write about

My father’s, even worse.
I’m forced to imagine
what would happen
Myself living the life
to which I abandoned him

And my own, comes sometime
around the age of twenty-six
when I am diagnosed with my mother’s illness
and finally I’ll have to ask
What is the weight of my life?
and Am I strong and weak enough
to leave it collapsing on my family’s shoulders?


I wander between these shear-thin walls
I make endless left turns
I know that escape is a matter of time
not distance

I crawl making fist-prints in the skin
that plotted against my own revisions
since the day it wrapped around me
and the places where my emotions hid

I fail to see something brighter
in the overwhelming light
but I look anyway
and believe there is something
biding time behind the blindness

I fall down the stairway
built with my own hands
as if I was never meant
to lay the boards beneath my feet

I hold up a bundle of sticks
hatchet in hand
and cut open a new tree
I gesture slightly to where
you stand beneath me
carrying a netted bag of oranges

We fall upside-down if we pause momentarily
You are never around
when the sky escapes
these are not my clouds
to watch wisping through the trees


Here in my own parade
I’m a castaway
I’m a terrible kind of alive
Would I mind moving aside?

Here on a carousel
which spun very well
was a boy who was swelling with pride
as he kissed her on the eyes

When we are old and gray
I’ll be somewhere safe
I’ll be wrapped up and warm and inside
and I hope we’re both alive

To stand on arbor’s edge
hold the vines in our hands
and pluck them, sweet and divine
but from them runs some other man’s wine

I was born to my brother’s arms
and to my alarm, I saw an image of you
as it was carved through to my eyes
and I’ve waited my whole life
while you pray for happiness
and I pray for blindness


Here is what I want to remember:

The experiences that appear
in the most stunning reality
after moments of contemplation
That occur as the room blinks into black

The realization that this night has the potential
to be different than every other

The way things begin in swirling consideration
and are lost in the unfolding of events

The disappearance of time and thought
in the moments between being myself
and kissing you

The significance of simple words
exchanged in the space of a few crucial minutes

The realization that it is possible to skip loudly
while walking home

Noticing my silhouette as I shed my sweatshirt
framed by the streetlit window

Terribly worded goodnight messages

Telling you “I’ll see you after the sun rises”

Deciding now if its worth going to sleep
when my skin is rippling with this much energy

The attempt to write this all down in poetry
if only as a way to save it in memory

Postscript —

Writing “not a dream” on the back of a receipt
so I would find it in the morning

Finding it in the morning

Witness Ghazal

Conceived in the wake of a watery grave
I cried out impossibly into silence

My hand are pressed against windowless glass
and it chills my diluvian skin into silence

The scene unfolds through the ceiling above
where my ears are pressed against a house cast into silence

I watch mountains collapse in projection on her back
the kind of escape you can only see as it settles, into silence

Sometimes I dream of her lying in a stream
sinking slowly, completely, into silence