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: August, 2011


Two vultures in the morning
Arrive the same time as crows;
Some insanity I wake up from.

Vultures are noiseless except for wings
Which dull-thump the air as if far away,
Heavy things keep falling to the ground.

Vultures who love each other
sit side-by-side on the pool-house roof
opposite my parents on the porch.

I visit home again, watch them
shade each other from the sun,
bones black and stretched up.

They fly over my brother. He looks–
grotesque feet, grey genitals, confused fingers.
We feel their shadows on the family porch.

They live in between us.
Nobody looks up. Just Mom’s:
I have no idea what that was.


Grass …from A Portrait of a Bird

That morning they decided to take a walk in the woods. He thought they should spend a little more time outside. Downstairs, she stepped past him through the screen door. Her shoes flapped against the patio. He looked up. The sun was white through thin clouds. Nothing had changed for a few days. He wanted to take her to the field.

As they walked across the yard he turned to her. “You should’ve worn long pants.”

She looked down at her dress. “I’ll be fine.”

He pushed prickers out of their way. The path was hard to see. He walked ahead of her. She was stepping carefully through a tangle of bushes when he stopped.

“This is it.”

He didn’t expect her to be impressed. The field was small but special for a forest like this one. Low grass was mowed down in so many lawns or shaded to death in the forest around the house, but it flourished here. Each blade came up to their waists and resisted their legs. The crushed stalks unfolded in their footsteps.

They flattened a circle to sit. He watched her hesitate, her lips tightening a little bit, her fingers pinching her dress. She lowered quickly, legs folding to the side. He sat across from her. The grass rose over their heads, borders became invisible; the field, endless.

He kissed her. He didn’t know how to make the day beautiful but this was close, he thought. She smiled with tight lips, leaning back on her hands. She tilted her head toward the white sun. He stared out into the grass. She was looking at him.

“What are you thinking about?”

He coughed into his hand. A car passed down the road, far away, snaking through the woods. He was silent for a second.  “Nothing. All this. How young it is. Where you’re from trees are hundreds of years old, or you don’t know until you cut them down. Here, everything started growing fifty years ago. It was farmland, then pastures my dad mowed. What we’re sitting in is overgrowth.”

She ran her fingers along a blade of grass, looked at him. “Don’t do that.” She blinked. Her eyes stayed closed for too long. Not quite a grimace. He felt the urge to apologize.

She looked up at the sky. “I’m tired.”

“I think we stayed up too late last night. Ok.”

He stood and gave her a hand. Tiny grass-colored spiders were crawling up the fringe of her dress. He brushed them off.

“What is it?”

“Nothing. Just grass.”

A White Season

A white flower blooms
from below or a cloud, air,
water, blossoming.

Looking In

I feel disconnected from my writing, looking back on it, the same way I feel disconnected from myself, remembering. It is literally incredible, impossible to believe, impossible to comprehend the working of the mind in the present and the past. Words which describe function of the brain are all not only inadequate but made irrelevant by their redundancy.

Try to comprehend your own mind — with what? Try to see the world as it truly is — think about what this means — to shed the filter of the mind. The best we can do is to achieve something we call mental clarity. It has been a long path for me to understand what this means. We are fooled about clarity by the very obscurity we are trying to clear away. It is not mere mud on the windows, it is living swamp that will embalm you living in your own brain fluid. Memory is one of the keys with which I became, have been, am obsessed. I say, “It is as if my ‘memory’ is a scroll of incidents described to me by another person.” I have a strong feeling that my memory used to work in a different way than this.

To draw another line towards the center, it is also interesting how many aspects of a person, defining aspects, can be traced back to common time periods in their lives. There are two things which I think define me creatively – poetry and paper folding — origami, to the point where if I do not think about it, I would say I have done these things for my whole life — my whole remembered life — that is to say, what is a life? It blew my mind, and I think in a way, changed me forever (again) when I realized that I began playing both these creative instruments around the age of 13, 6th grade, the same time I started liking girls, puberty. My mind says to me — there must have been some defining moment. Because the most significant thing is — this is also where my memory begins, truly. Or in the way that it now exists. Before that point, there is almost nothing. Snippets, pictures in a scrapbook, I can’t say that quite literally enough, images I have seen, not experienced, this is how it feels. After 13, I can more easily imagine myself in these historical accounts, I relate to them more closely. I can see myself sitting at that cafeteria table, those blue curtains behind the stage where I later played a salesman on a train, behind those concrete walls where Logan Shanney, beautiful, blonde, freckled, hid behind a corner on one of the three days we dated and never spoke, across the hall, the round math teacher’s classroom who would solve rubix cubes in under 6 seconds, through the door to science class, 6th grade again being where I began to fail in science classes, my memory expands down those hallways, relates, connects brick to doorway down x and y and also z, the time line represented by the smallness of hallways, the brightness of walls, the size of classrooms, somehow seeming larger, teachers, larger, I reach back, back, and the names fade, and the faces are no longer real, and again I am telling myself what happened.

It is incredible what the mind can hide from us – because we are inside the rooms it designs. It was an important moment when I read that line – “You are not your mind.” It began a significant line of thinking. I also note that I have always described my memory as a story being told to me. Who is telling the story to me? I have, for awhile, thought of the mind as an obscurer, a shadowy figure blocking the exits. But of what? of who? I have just begun to refine my thought of — the “self” and the “mind” — or the “id” and the “ego” — all these theories of duality — I am not something battling against something else, I am, and it may seem obvious, we all are, two people, two things, we are both these things, and when we experience this discord, when things are lost and only half-found, when things remain unexplained — such as endless distress and unhappiness and hopelessness in the face of utter, unabashed hopeful circumstances, it is not because there is some rebel in the head, it is because the two sides of the self are out of sync.

Something significant happens to a person. I do not fully understand how this works because I have not come to terms with my own experience. But this thing happens, and it is at an impressionable moment, and somehow it causes a break between the two sides of the self. It seems that it usually has something to do with a young child being convinced they don’t actually matter very much. You have not been able to figure out why you do not feel whole, because you cannot remember and will not accept that something happened, occurred in your life, which made you that way.

Let me break from the path again here — like I said, there are many theories about duality of the self. I learned of an interesting one recently, which I think is ironic because it comes out of a theorist who I think may be suffering from the problem I am talking about, thus leading to a failed theory trapped within a paradigm, or something like that. The theory says that when we first recognize ourselves in a mirror, we create an impression of an ideal self which can never be achieved, and from that moment on we always have this empty, perfect mold-hole which we can never fill, and we will always feel imperfect and unhappy because of this. No, this is not an irreconcilable position, and it is not necessarily innate to the human condition, and it does not have to do with looking in the mirror, for the most part. But people do feel sadness and incompleteness and unfulfillment and they don’t know why and they want to make a theory about it.

So like I said, something happens in your life, and that schism is created, and that experience will never be perfectly remembered again until the two sides are reconciled, because it was experienced when the two sides of your self were in sync, and that state of experience can never truly be related to again until you are once again whole. From the moment that break occurs, all experience must be fed through the person’s false understanding of reality based on that one experience and the schism it created, the successive structuring of false assumptions and understanding based on that foundation stone, the first truly wrong data which diverts us from reality. This is where confusion comes from, the feeling of not being in “the real”, the endless seeking, the drug use to find some “truth” beneath the grass, but all that is needed is truth within the self, mental clarity, wholeness.

What is to come, where I do not know enough to write about it, is how to get there, because I have not done it myself. But I have seen it done, partially and wholly. We all know there is happiness. We have the feeling of a ghost passing through us that has never left — happiness — it is the word we become obsessed with then stop using because it is “cliche”, no, it is terrifying because, what if it never comes? This is suicide — when we abandon the ghost within us who says you cannot know dissatisfaction without satisfaction, that even the most unbalanced are still on the scale, something accessible on the other side. You have felt it, and at some point something snapped and at some point, around the age of 13, life became an endless journey to get it back. We become obsessed with the golden age of what we’ve always had, but have lost the clarity we need to see it, to be with it– that balance we call happiness.