I look down at my fingers on the keyboard and have to remind myself that there is nothing here to be ashamed of. These twisting bones should be honored.

But it’s not easy.

For months I’ve been working on the manuscript for Impermanence, which is all about embracing change because there is nothing else real.

It’s as though most of us were immortal creatures swapped at birth, faeries misplaced among humans. Puzzled by our strange bodies. The cellulite that comes with menarche, the skin-tag-chaos of cells gone feral. The relaxing, the what’s-all-the-fuss attitude that these creatures, our bodies take on.

“What’d you win for all that work?”

I make a lot of things harder than they are. Putting my attention on ornamentation and packaging instead of the essence of this thing that is living. Even in the middle of a delicious bit of creation, I can step back and judge it. Shift the point of view. Objective, not subjective. Passive, not active. Contemplative, not experiential.

Clearly, I believe in the value of contemplation. But in service to the experience, and not vice versa.

Oxpeckers prevent parasites from sucking the blood of an animal by plucking them from the skin. But an over-eager oxpecker can open new wounds. Can prevent healing.

All medication is poison.

And the metaphors go on. And on. Because this neutrality is the truth of the world.

The neutrality of time. It is interesting that we say, “passing”. Because the metaphor fixes “time” as a thing that moves past us. Personified as a series of creatures that wander through our lives. Or through the world. This time, that time that was.

I am having a difficult time (!) conceiving of time as a continuous present and nothing more. (And believe me, I’ve been toying with this idea for months now). Time does not pass. Time is the only constant and the only reality and everything else is a story in the present.

Maybe this is what the faerie knows. And just can’t relate it to human semiotics?

spaces between open:
the highs and lows, the terrain
of years – a topography
of living more visible
before the final closing

This morning feels familiar. A dog on the little rug near my feet. The coffee machine grinding in the other room. The delicious click-click of this cheap keyboard that is beginning to look like a mysterious, archaic tool.

This isolation.

The light is streaming in through the window already, but next week we move the clock backs and I will be writing in the dark again. I rather like that phrase: writing in the dark.

Yesterday I was thinking again about a drawing exercise I did so very long ago, but that has stuck with me. Mr. Shannon told me to draw my hand in detail. Every detail. But I had a kind of table over my paper that prevented me from seeing it. I wish I had that paper still. I remember being fascinated by the quality of the lines. The fragmentary nature of our sight. Of ourselves. I’ve been working on this again these days. Playing with pencils and lines. Simultaneously going at it “blindly” and yet seeing more than one normally does.

There was a time when I kicked myself for not being able to pull it all together – all the pieces – all the sensitive lines – to make a whole that was representational, recognizable. But I’m fine with it now. The sensitive lines convey just as much truth as the representational image. Something is always lost when you zoom out.

Everything is a metaphor.

I gravitated toward what I was told I was good at. Always relying on what I was told I was good at. I think it’s funny that my poetry has always been as fragmented as my drawings. These days I think it is all one. I’m reconsidering what poetry is. Reconsidering what kind of verification I need and don’t need from others.

To be honest: what kind of verification I don’t want to need from others.

My son tells me I have beautiful handwriting. He can’t read it though and calls it a secret language. This is the same kid who has zero interest in poetry. I have no idea if those things are related.

I have students who refuse to write anything by hand. None of them have ever learned cursive writing. I know there are a lot of theories about learning and handwriting, but I am just thinking: what a flat world without it.

Do children still finger paint in kindergarten?

Now I want to finger paint.

Maybe the drive to be more childlike as we age is less about reverting to innocence, than a call to engage again with the physical world while we can?

a rock fits nicely
in your palm – and you scratch
a white scar into
the wall of the bluff shelter
your will will shape the world after

They predicted snow last night, but this morning there’s just a soft rain. Still, Leonard doesn’t want to go out in it. Neither do I really, and I am a bit ashamed of that. What I wouldn’t give now to lie down on a green lawn and stare at a blue sky. To feel the sharp blades of grass on my arms, knowing I will itch for hours afterward.

Maybe I can get to the beach tomorrow. Maybe the wind will have died down but the sea will still be agitated from the storm. But it is a while yet before I can take off my shoes and walk along the edges of the tides.

I guess winter is really a season of sensual deprivation. Or it can feel like that, at any rate. The cold is numbing. The body’s instinct is to withdraw. A hot cup of tea, a hot bath. But the air is so stale inside.

I haven’t used the outdoor yoga room since summer. Sometimes I get in a groove that is difficult to rock myself out of. I guess we all do. Even though I know I would feel better if I could just… get up. The doctor says that just to walk in the evenings is enough. But it’s not. At least that is what I tell myself, and use that as an excuse not to do even that. I set the bar high.

I flip the house so
I’ve a sea-bed perspective –
eyes looking up, but
the thresholds between each room
are ridiculously high

A single sun salutation is a kind of secular prayer this morning. An upward salute, pleading for something to take this weight from my chest. Finding a willingness, the courage to actually let go of it.

What would be left in its place?

Sometimes it is easier to cling to the weight than deal with the hollowness.

Between raindrops, ………………

………………………space, certainly,

but we call it all rain. …………..

Camille T. Dungy, “There are these moments of permission”

Leonard has something in his mouth after his trip around the edges of the garden. I don’t notice until he’s in the dining room, his nails clicking on the floor as he walks in circles – clearly unsure of what he’s supposed to do/wants to do.

I press the sides of his mouth gently, just in front of where his jaws hinge, “Slipp“. (My youngest son has always been annoyed with my code-switching, but my dog doesn’t mind.)

It’s a rat. A very dead rat. I wish I could write mouse because that seems less disgusting. But it’s a rat.

I think about living in Kentucky as a teenager. In a little house at the bottom of a hill, surrounded by farmland. An anachronous 4 years of shovelling coal into a furnace every morning before a quick shower in the corner of the unfinished, unheated basement. A quick shower because the cistern was low in the winter. I’d try to remember to look in the mirror before leaving for school every morning: to check my nostrils for coal dust.

Every spring those four years my mother’s cat would wake me in the middle of the night. She’d bring a mouse into my bed, then let it go – chasing it into the hallway and living room, before bringing back and repeating the game until the mouse died of exhaustion. Then I’d get up and dig an empty can from the trash to scoop up the furry corpse and put it in the trash. And go back to bed. It was “just” a mouse.

Maybe Leonard wouldn’t be overweight if I let him chase mice around the house. Or rats.

What is it about rats?

Last spring a cat raised her litter under our deck. So the whole thing could be much more macabre than it is.

A few months ago I ranted a little about someone claiming in their TED talk that a poet would choose “hare” over “rabbit” for the associative value of hare/hair. I pointed out that a poet might well know the difference between a hare and a rabbit. I wrote that I expect hare here, but if I were to see a rabbit, I would know a pet got loose.

When I walk Leonard through the fields around here, I know to be aware he could catch the scent of a hare and his hunting training kick in. But yesterday, rounding the corner near the house, he suddenly shot into a hedge and then nearly dragged me off my feet – a rabbit ran across the street back to its hutch no doubt.

Apparently, Leonard isn’t concerned with the hare/rabbit distinction at all.

when I write about
coal dust, it is coal dust and
not the wet topsoil
of the kitchen garden, not
the dry shit-dirt of the coop

Sunday morning. And sunshine. And resistance.

There are so many things I should be doing and choose not to. It starts (or rather doesn’t start) with making my bed. Changing the sheets, walking the dog, vacuuming the entrance hall. All the things I will do today. Grudgingly.

Unless I manage to adjust my attitude and find a way to let go of the resistance.

This has been a week of settling into myself. Not that it has been easy. Friday, walking home from the doctor’s office, I saw two sparrows in the bushes. Ragged-looking, bed-head feathers sticking in every direction, looking hung-over and crotchety.

I’m projecting.

I think settling-in requires a good shaking-up first. Taking a good look around at what you dropped without realizing it. What you didn’t even know you lost but explains the peculiar hollow feeling in your solar plexus.

These things that slipped out of your hands in a moment of weakness — of self-doubt.

When I catch a glimpse of myself in the mirror I see a woman disheveled and swollen. Who hasn’t stood up straight and smoothed her clothes, sliding her hands down along her sides — who hasn’t lifted her chin, in months.

Isolation is a complex experience.

I’m filling out a nightly questionnaire regarding how the coronavirus restrictions are affecting mental health. One of the questions asks if you felt lonely today. Another asks if you felt close to another human being. I answer: no, and yes respectively. Near the end of the nightly list of questions, though, is how many minutes you spent socializing in person. 0. It’s been 0 for a very long time. So this questionnaire makes me wonder if I even know what “loneliness” is. If I even recognize it when I feel it.

“Did you avoid social situations today to avoid stress?” Well, now. That’s a stupid question. When have I not done that?

I kind of doubt this little research project by the University of Oslo intended to make people anxious, but I am not convinced it isn’t making matters worse for me. I am not sure I am benefiting from a meta-awareness of my own isolation.

On the other hand. I haven’t been this creative in years. With no one looking over my shoulder (except the ever-supportive E., who serves as a touchstone of reality), I’ve rediscovered a sense of play so far gone, I thought I misremembered ever having had it.

Losing a sense of community can mean losing the fear of judgment, too. Maybe that is why so many poets are loners?

Several places in the New Testament state that no one is a prophet in their own land. And the explanation for the verses is about the people in the community taking the prophet for granted. But I believe that self-censorship plays a role. Why risk a tenuous belonging?

It’s a gamble to stick your head above your prescribed station. It can lead to exile or execution. Just look for yesterday’s tallest poppy. Either way – censored by them or us – we can so easily lose ourselves.

But I think by circling this space, again and again, I am picking up what I lost. Colors, textures, dreams. In this isolation I can forget to look over my shoulder to see who’s looking over mine.

It’s a long, slow route, but I think I’m getting there – wherever “there” is.

tiny, twig-like claws
scratching the palm of my hand
a quiver of down
a ticking-tiny lifespan:
catch it now — quill on vellum