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

Category: life



Hole in Blue

Dad is driving me home from the train.
“That hawk dive-bombed the window
and died on the table. I got rid of it.”

I think of garbage, our bones. I walk down
To the edge of the woods. No power;
I can’t use the toilet. Our ground is hollow:

Years of Dad seeding grass, grubs
Eating roots, Dad poisoning them.
Nothing dies, just hollows out.

We never begin that tree-house, broken
Glass grown into the ground, bits of sky
Reflected as in lakes seen from your plane

Crashing over Minnesota.
I am at my friend’s house, doing laundry,
I tell him how I sat in the yard playing

And how that hawk cawed with me.
I wanted to see its eggs then, to know
it found a mate around my house.

I come back a year later. A few days
Feeling hopeless until I see a hawk
Against white, winter sky. A baby,

Alive. How old could it have been?
I want to speak to it, to tell it I’m sorry
for living here and leaving it empty.

Virginia Woolf


My joints are weak; I almost lose
balance on the cobblestones.
Even this poem-writing I do
to keep my mind from eclipsing
or being eclipsed. You see—
by what, by whom?


I am walking towards the girl and she is walking towards me. I am trying to make her real when she smiles at me like her mouth has been stretched across her face and I thought only I smile that way. She is walking towards me and the tree gets in the way and I think I will never see her again.


I am losing it.
Not my mind, no,
don’t think that.

It’s just, people do
go insane sometimes.
They probably seem

pretty normal.


Oh my friends.
Oh my words,
dead in the mist.
The waves! The waves
of the River Ouse.
Oh my friends
in the mist.
Oh my god, my god
my god.

The Devil Reads Poetry

Full crowd tonight– all of Niobe’s kids,
Eurydice, who’ll be leaving early,
and Persephone’s here. It’s Spring in Hell.

I spent this morning crossing the river
In Charon’s boat; he’s gives the best feedback.
I’m still trying to write this one poem

But it just won’t come. I think it’s about
Filling an empty place up with something,
And how the emptiness grows around it.

Sisyphus takes my shoulders in the wings;
Inside I’m trembling over this line like:
I made my world one endless metaphor.

I almost called my brother yesterday.
I just want to figure out everything.

A Blind Spectacle

I think I can see you more clearly
If you would move the windows
Please? Paint on the shadows
And if you can, the light.

What I mean is, the dog
Came splashing towards me,
His head all in white shells
And also scattering them.

I underline the dog, there.
Then, he is lost.
I dive into bushes, looking
Behind them.

I am smoking a cigarette
In your robe, turning my radio
To the lake. I listen closely
to our old, sealed letters.

I see a face through the woods.
It is like the open spaces between
Trees: like our so many windows.
One grand sheet: a painting

You can see from only one angle.
I cannot walk into that flatness:
My own right eye taking over
The left. The lake is inside it.

There are rocks and the water
Is freezing. My father is in it
Somewhere. It is flat like this
But only if you can remember it.

Reaching Off

“I got it,” the girl says, laughing
at how incompetent I am
because I fumble at the door
as we leave the coffee place.
It is early in the morning.

And I remember this
as I am walking to school.
I regret that I didn’t ask her
to walk with me. Imagining
that could carry me all day.

We would have split here.
That song, “Can’t you see?
Oh, can’t you see…” in my head.
“It’s not that I miss my ex-girlfriend,
it’s that I miss having a girlfriend.”

My marine friend said to me,
“I just want to be back overseas.”
My professor calls it a cycle
of fullness and emptiness and he rolls
life in the air with his hands.

I cannot remember on what end
we write poetry. Does it drain
or fill us? I wonder how a marine
feels when he shoots his gun,
how it feels to truly fuck.

I went to class two stanzas back,
talked to someone, took a shit,
thought about masturbating.
Am I fuller or emptier now?
Maybe I just ruined the poem.

My mom called me.
The only other way it could be:
either you are entirely full
or empty. Like honesty, pregnancy,
you can’t be sort of complete.

I want to call my mom back,
hold her voice in my head.
It pours in and strengthens me.
Poetry is like that—
fullness shooing emptiness away.

State of Mind

     My state of mind strikes me in the head as I wake up from another unintended nap in my seat on the airplane. I had been sure, without realizing it, that in this transitional space, this quarter-orbit of Earth from a place I will never be again to a place I haven’t been for a year, the place where I grew up, where my parents are waiting for me, that my memories, or rather, my outer-layer, somehow reliant upon context, which I thought I must need in order truly to have ‘been there’, would drift away and disappear like flakes of skin into the plane engines. I must have thought that I would arrive and, with my first step onto American land, be an entirely new person, or just that layers of experience, my accumulated self, would be washed away by time and distance. Once at home, in my natural environment, I would be renewed, like a deck which, when power-washed, reveals clean wood beneath or even like a book whose new and temporary owner holds in his hand the same binding, the same words, the same unbuttoning of story, but it is a matter of debate whether something in the pages remembers hands which have held them before, the person who, in releasing their secrets, could not help also being released and becoming something entirely new.

    It seems to me that this is what is crucial to understand: either I always am the same self, or no such thing exists, and either way, it makes no difference. Just as the eye dilates when I look back into the plane cabin after having gazed out the window at the sun-bright absolutely blazing white clouds and at that instant the cabin appears in an entirely different range of the visual spectrum before being adjusted back to a more appropriate level, so that either there is a standard of light and thus change has significance, or everything is just a perceptual mish-mash; it makes no difference. What is lost? I am, it is.

2. A Revisioning

“Do you think that someone who could make both the thing imitated and its image would allow himself to be serious about making images and put this at the forefront of his life as the best thing to do?” – Plato, The Republic (599b)

Poetry is a measure of confusion.
To explain — we poets, the confused,
write about love because we don’t know what love is,
or about clouds because we don’t know if God exists,
or about our mothers because we want to talk to our sadness
a conversation we’ve never had, but should’ve.
And the only way to do this well — is to not realize it.

Because the moment we can be in love,
and we begin to grasp what we think God is,
and we are strong enough to talk with our mothers,
after all of this confusion has been lifted,
we might find ourselves at a loss, asking:
What’s left? Do we still turn stones for poems?
Anyone can tell you that a fool is someone either
convinced that they understand everything,
or that it’s not worth trying.

1. The Standard Metre in Paris

“There is one thing of which one can say neither than it is one metre long, nor that it is not one metre long, and that is the standard metre in Paris.”
-Ludwig Wittgenstein, Philosophical Investigations (50)

I realize around age eighteen that poetry
is a measure of confusion.
To explain — we poets, the confused,
write about love because we don’t know what love is,
we write about clouds because we don’t know if God exists,
we write about our mothers because we want to talk to our sadness
a conversation we’ve never had, but should’ve.
And the only way to do this well — is to not realize it.

Between the ages of fifteen and eighteen
I write about two hundred poems to “you”.
Sometimes they are love poems,
or heart-broken poems, or surreal,
I live with you in a screen-doored house,
in the middle of a grassy plain,
and one day you disappear leaving
only a white dress and your marigolds
and the threat of rain from one of those huge
only-in-the-Midwest thunderstorms poems.

At the end of my long sentence of writing to “you”,
I realized that all poems are measures of confusion,
and that I was alone when I wrote in my room,
with too much light or not enough light
and in my bed or at a desk, but always alone
and almost in silence, I was the insane man,
utterly confused, as he talks to himself,
convinced that he’s talking to you.


A bump has risen on my finger.
It is much like a pain-button
in that I can press it on anything
and then I experience pain.
It’s becoming pink and tough,
I’m afraid my pain will be permanent
with a button to touch
which heralds it in. Pain!
I wasn’t sure you would come!
I don’t know where the door is–
so it must be left open
in case anyone comes to visit.
There are many doors,
all just the right shape,
for things you see, all the tastes,
smells you expect and smells you don’t,
degrees and types of hot and cold,
and all the sizes of pain —
but this one sensation has risen
like a bubble to the surface
of boiling water, and formed a button.
I worry that soon
everything will boil out of me
and I will be covered in little buttons,
so that when I touch —
or accidentally bump into things,
I will experience
now headache,
now heartache,
now soreness,
now the color white,
now the shapes of a horse,
now the sense of space,
now the smell of air,
now wetness, now warmth.
One button is touched — I feel Being Born;
Another — Death.