Shadow Work

river in November light between bare woods and mountain

When you have a dream in which you meet yourself 
coming in the door of your childhood home and you look 

at the you looking at you with a level gaze, of course it is 
unnerving. The you in this visitation places his hand 

on your shoulder before moving past you— or is it through 
you—then proceeding up the stairs toward a skylight in the attic 

you don't recall ever being there. If this is the shadow-self 
coming from that place in you of mystery and wildness

and the unknkown, the message he bears is surprising—
You have to stop. Who is the you watching his shadow walking 

away, caught once again in a swirl of obligations to the world?
Perhaps you'll follow him up the stairs. Perhaps you'll lie back

in bed, into the fog of simple sleep from which you can't
retrieve or remember the dreams that visited in the night.


( a partially found poem; thanks to Drew Lopenzina)

A New Heaven, A New Earth

river in November light between bare woods and mountain
The land no longer provides without fail 
for those who faithfully labor and trust. 

In the dream, the hills are packed tightly together. 
When they open their arms, a thousand birds 

fly blind, like arrows into the sun. A smell of burnt
flesh fills the air, and news of cities exploded 

into sand. Through a spyglass, we can see  
a flotilla of ships pretending the pearl of the world 

has not yet been discovered. Even in the dream, 
I want to keep you safe. I want to tear down the over-

growth, to gather rain in flasks we can hide in our 
clothing. We look for round shapes to cup

in our hands. Even in dream, we know the brilliance
of time is hidden in the heart of secret things.  

Free Association

river in November light between bare woods and mountain
When your teeth tingle, you are reminded they are bones. 
Your fruit is your vegetable, your bread is a soup bowl. 

The need for utensils seems overrated when you’ve learned  
to scoop a little mound of rice around a piece of barbecue pork.

Don’t you sometimes feel the need to sharpen your tongue 
on a slab of rock salt or apple cake, because sometimes 

it loses the motivation to bloom? The wind is a pulley 
that can make even your knees creak. Do you remember 

how it sang a dirge that stunned the sun into silence?
When such a thing happens, your hair folds flat as a sea.

There aren’t enough days for sorting into neat piles 
but it feels like they’re always running into each other.

Fate has come that much closer. Is this what you were 
thinking as you adjusted all the clocks in the house?   

On Casualty

river in November light between bare woods and mountain
In this life, there is a language of wake 
and another for sleep. One blares its jangled 
notes in your ear at six in the morning. The other 

coos faint refrains from the eaves. 
You separate the wrinkled apples from the tray, 
line the coffeemaker with fluted paper so it's 

ready. There is a language that restores, 
and a language of betrayal. Casualty comes 
from casuelte, meaning chance, 

incidental; unfortunate loss viewed 
against the big screen called history. 
How do you make sense of that 

which happens, and what befalls 
another? How do you make  sense 
of the blankness on one side of the page,  

versus the dark stain where a body 
burned on the pavement? There's nothing 
that falls, that happens, purely 

by chance. Wind whips through 
the night, making the shingles clap. 
Another strip of paint peels off the gutter.  

Ghazal of the Uninspired

river in November light between bare woods and mountain
Lately it's been hard to feel inspired.
Every taste is chalky, every meal uninspired.

Fruit spoils fast, the bread won't rise.
The air smells oily, stale, uninspired.

The soup is bland as the window view.
Fingers trail no shapes in dust, uninspired. 

Sleep is late, is hard to come by. Dreams
dissolve—unremembered, uninspired.

In the mirror, the planes of your face are angled
and sharp. Color and shine feel uninspired.

Through Line

river in November light between bare woods and mountain
                                  "I'm sorry you can't have

an origin that holds you."
                                                          ~ Hari Alluri


Here's a new language to marble in your mouth;
a bowl of milk in which to dip it. You're told to hold 

your head in such a way to keep you from looking 
back, to keep from being distracted. In certain 

stories, those who give their souls believing this 
is how they become eternal can never change back 

into mortal form. But you love salt and sugar too much; 
and broth rich with shank bones and marrow. Shrimp 

paste, stinky fish sauce. In the pot, one eyeball 
comes loose from its socket in the head of the fish. 

Scoop it into your bowl. Suck on this chalky pearl 
because you want to remember the sound of church-

bells, cacophonous grammar of war as ships sail into 
the harbor,  unreeling chains leading to  this moment here. 

First, Last

river in November light between bare woods and mountain
Today I heard someone say it's better to live
       every day as if it were the first, rather than 
last—To think of the moment as if it were 
      the first sunrise cresting the rim of the hills, 
the first egg you cracked on the rim of the pan 
       before anyone else was awake; the first 
prayer mouthed before the first whiff of coffee, 
       before a cloud of white phosphorus spread
through the neighborhood in the wake of dumb 
       bombs. So many firsts now in rubble—at first 
they were dancing in the kitchen, working  
      on a new coloring page, or tasting a treat 
before being tucked, protesting, into bed.

Anniversary

river in November light between bare woods and mountain
 "...Walk into / the center of everything."
                                               ~ January Gill O'Neil


Altogether, I have been married forty years—
fifteen in a union that broke,  bit by bit until 
the inevitable, even without a formal name to it. I left 
that skin behind. Never thought I would do it again, 
but here I am. Twenty-five this year,  with a man who fit 
his fortunes to mine. We live in a green house fronted 
by a pair of Japanese maples, with a bright orange love 
seat in a room wall-papered with books and the hearts 
of plants spilling generously out of themselves. Laundry 
unsorted, coffee and noodles in the pantry, the entry 
adorned with favorite coats. We remember the thrift 
store find of a coffeetable, what we wore when we 
stood on the boardwalk that burnished day. Cake 
slicer in the drawer, file folders of the bankrupt years. 
Keepsakes we can't bear to throw away.  Everywhere, 
evidence of undimmed desire for life in this world. 

Rest

river in November light between bare woods and mountain
As a child, sometimes I'd lay my cheek
               on the desk and press my ear to the wood's
coolness. I'd pretend the clicking and scraping 
               I heard (echoes from other movements
around me) were proof of life beneath the surface
               —an army of ants or microscopic beetles 
carving roads, lifting stone out of hidden quarries,
                building settlements. Because if you listen 
hard even now, there are residues of sound 
                fallng inside the architecture of every 
stillness. And there are also long, rich pauses 
                akin to the quiet of sleep, which is what
others thought my bent head meant—a child
                always caught in the throes of dream.

Autopsy

river in November light between bare woods and mountain
—meaning, to look into the self; to open
that inscrutable cabinet of curiosities and see

how the gut, freed from its prison of flesh, 
uncoils and bounces toward the floor. Torn from

the Root, that wicked tongue... Those Eyeballs 
from their Sockets wrung. Around the corpse's neck: 

the noose, still warm. In life, condemned; in death, 
repossessed for "nobler" purpose of instruction. 

The body's open book under the gaze of these 
men professing science: unmasked, ungloved, how

they hold themselves apart through their station and
the richness of their dress. Meanwhile, a dog sniffs

at the heart no one has noticed in its eviction, 
since it is of smaller and less impressive size.
 


~ after William Hogarth