31 March 2009

Other Than Me

You intrigue me, you said.

I thought, how so, how can this body be anything more than dirt.

Don't be unlike the movement you profess, you said. Or I imagined you said this, in my head.

Two hours ago, I wrote that nothing could move me but the image of you washing dishes in a road-side bar, crying for a woman, broken.

Your rhythm is the same.

Mine, I mean. My person stands up each morning, feels some kind of worried weight.

So, a man climbed Buffalo Gap with a woman who wrote lyrics on the tires of run down cars.

They thought about when their bones couldn't hold up, about the fact they never think of getting older.

And something happened when the sun refused to peak through.

Something stuck, like a piece of gravel when you walk, or a bluebonnet between a bridge on Interstate 20.

Don't read too much into the earth.

Don't settle your thoughts on the mesa. It will spit things out, like handles of whiskey from 1972, used condoms, chipped arrowheads.

Look, she's imperfectly climbing the stairs in your dreams each night. Admit something other than the fear you get, riding along the side of the highway, listening to grit getting stuck.

About you, dirt.

No one said anything the moment you woke and realized

That though one minute weighs differently than the next,

There are lovers climbing Buffalo Gap today,

As they will do tomorrow.

And so another cries, cleaning dishes at a road-side bar. He's not you, but that doesn't mean the trains don't pass through him each night.

Or that I'd banish

Anything other than myself.

I'd banish myself. Just to stand on a mesa and sing about how I'm made of dirt and bits of broken things.

What's the difference, really, between the heartache inside woman who once wrote lyrics on tires by the side of the road, the one you loved, and me?

One Flower Said to Another

I am trying to write something from my belly, but I'm not coming up with anything.

Yesterday, in Marie Howe's class, we were talking about how writing is like singing, and something should be allowed to speak through us.

I started crying because I wanted more of this. I took off my glasses.

Shannon, tell us what you're feeling, she said.

I was just thinking about having things speak through us. Maybe we have to empty out. Our ego.

I cried because I want more. Or maybe it was someone tipping their hat and saying, OK.

OK. Walk barefoot. Look silly.

OK. Let your body feel like a million stones lift you. If the sky wanted you, it would ask.

So, I told myself to feel loved.

I was standing in an archway, waiting for a meeting. The sun was on my face. Then it wasn't.

The impulse to kneel and chew on the grass. I mean bite. Chomp.

When I was younger, I'd bath my horse with a hose then let her graze. When I'd place my face to her body, that was praying, too.

Now, I have the memory but nothing solid.

To fill in gaps, I study someone's eyes, nose pushed close to theirs.

Thinking we're two eyelashes, or flowers, side by side.

You're God, too, I said.

You make me want to believe you, they said.

I thought I was too small to become the sky.

So I told myself to feel loved.

OK. Feel yourself in particles, one flower said to another. But it will hurt, loving God that way.

27 March 2009

My Ego is Shit

I don't even know why I write notes. I guess if imaging in my head that there are some people out there that read and benefit from my ramblings helps me to write more--even if it's nonsense words jumbled up in Ivory soap and canary feathers--then I will continue to write notes, blogs, etc.

Being sick aside, I have had a most interesting Spring Break. The universe is testing me, perhaps to be more humble, to count my blessings, or just to say "Hey Shannon, just when you thought you were on a roll, well, HA, guess what? You gotta work harder, sweat more, climb a couple more thousand feet, and THEN, maybe your brain will be able to perform again."

I go through these cycles of writing things that seem to come out of nowhere, as though some brilliant ghost has descended and handed me a marginally good piece of work....and then, BAM. It all goes away. Just like that. And sometimes, this "absent ghost" period can last for MONTHS.

And I play the usual self-deprecating mental tape over and over again, knowing all the while in some corner in the back of my head that it will all come back...one day I will write something and not want to hide in shame and embarrassment.

Oh, but Shanon, don't you remember why you started writing in the first place? Don't worry about "audience" etc etc.

Easy. Easy said.

Yes. A long time ago, I used to write journals to guardian angels or to my horse or my dead grandmother.

And now? Perhaps I've lost my writing-spirit.

Tonight, I got tired of writing, spilling tears over my laptop, getting frustrated and saying for the twentieth time today "SCREW IT!" that I decided to take a break and read some Larry Levis.

I feel very close to Levis. The first time I opened up his collection, Elegy, which was the first book of his that I read, I cried. I read the first poem and burst into tears, right there in the library. I didn't care. His words, his images, his feeling...I felt a kinship. Which isn't surprising considering a professor of mine told me to read him.

And so, I read some essays, some interviews, hoping he'd have some sort of power to kick me out of my funk.

Well, it didn't kick me out of my funk. When I have lost my muse, it takes a miracle from God to get me back to writing descent poetry, or even prose, again.

But I did read this, which gave me some comfort.

"I write first, for myself. I'm afraid if I stop I won't do it anymore. And someone asked "Well, why. What are you afraid of?" And I said, "Well, writing keeps me feeling good about myself, keeps me feeling alive, keeps me....," and then I said, "It's the only thing that keeps me interested." Suddenly, everything comes back and it's at once crystal clear and also meaningless: that tree disguised in shadow of summer, sunlight on a doorstep that transforms it into a threshold of desire and then of loss, just the pure phenomenon.... And we're stilled, bewildered by those people who are truly happy all the time, who have a cash box for a heart. Almost everyone else has en enlarging kernel of doubt."

Kernel of doubt.

I have wheat fields.

There are times I feel myself wandering about in an alley of stalks.

And, yes, though I know the field ends, that somewhere the clearing will happen, I can't help but fall on my knees every now and then, wondering, lost, uneasy.

I don't even know why I wrote this.

Such a small Universe that I live in. I want to be a dirt devil that, though it spins for such a short amount of time, it knows its purpose and never lets up. It has shape. It has fury. Energy. And never once does it stop to wonder, am I destroying a crop field?

No, that sucker just rips a path straight through you.

You feel it. It speaks a truth even it doesn't know. Dust and cracked lips.

So, yes. I work, a madman at times, tearing things up and crying out some pathetic prayers.

But don't tell me to quiet. I rage.

Even when I'm filled with love, I rage.

One day, I won't be able to cry or sing. The winds will stop altogether.

And when the words abandon me, I'll find some other way to move my body. To bend this way or that.

I decided, that while I'm in this nonproductive, writer's block stage, I'll still write a poem. One long poem that babbles on and on about whatever the hell it wants to say. It's the most horrible poem you could imagine. It hurts just to write it. Just to look at it. I walk away ashamed. Horrified. Like I've committed a dirty act. Sold my body for a buck. I don't know. But I figure, what the hell. My ego is shit compared to how much I love Poetry.

25 March 2009

Insist on yourself

Someday, the words will come back to me—they always do. This is my profession, my life-love. My movement. It will not abandon me. I must keep the faith tucked away inside me, lean back a little more, breathe, know that my destiny is already written, that I have little control. The control I do have is to keep heart, to continue growing my passion and to stay true to my love—dedicate my body and its pulse to words, to faith in the muse, that my brain is always working.

And so I read. And what sort of selfishness must I have to demand my production be swift, shining, and many? I live my words, without speaking them. I step forward into them, gather words around me. I must not pressure myself to produce for audience, for the tiniest of recognitions. The words are their own bodies, despite never being spoken. They do not thrive on applause and neither should I.

If I could sit back and allow myself to sit in silence, in faith, then maybe my words will ring truer, as I will have allowed moments to pass through me.

If I can relax in the knowledge that what has come will return, then the confidence will begin to grow—not overbearing and insolent, but humble and nestled in its place.

To have faith in the wholly other—as my works are said to be, risen out of a dirt, a soil that is not my ground, not my making.

And why not communicate with others? Would I always keep my words from them? No. My works are just as much theirs.

Why can’t I trust this? Why so anxious?

“Insist on yourself. Your own gift you can present every moment with the cumulative force of a whole life’s cultivation; but of the adopted talent of another you have only an extemporaneous half possession. That which each can do best, none but his Maker can teach him. What is the master that could have taught Shakespeare? Franklin or Washington, or Bacon or Newton? Do that which is assigned to you, and you cannot hope too much or dare too much. There is at this moment for you an utterance brave and grand as that of the colossal pen of Moses or Dante, but different….
Abide in the simple and noble regions of thy life, obey thy heart…
Nothing can bring you peace but yourself.” –Emerson

Also, why would I want to constantly dig my way through days, always demanding product? Why immerse myself in the stress of demanding each day a perfection?

So my soul longs to break out, so I desire to speak and commune, throw my words out like long strands of gold, but how I need a pause, a hold. To digest, to being into me newness, gestation.

If I daily wait and kiss works, I may overwhelm and not gain perspective.

Like new lovers who want to stay bound to each other’s side, but how much sweeter the memory from a distance. How time apart brings the gift of contemplation, of breathing ones own light around the body, of waking into the self again and then to sing as singular and true. Then, when the lover returns, how much stronger each touch, force, independent and stable—a sure-footed stance from which to leap that much higher in the atmosphere of Bliss!

So I, too, should accept the departing of my muse, the long breath of Silence, thank my incapable hand as I would thank a soft flow of assured words and perspective.
From letters

From letters

From letters

24 March 2009

Emerson, My Pathetic Journal and a Couple Llamas

All things left unfinished. Even as I walk from the bath to my bedroom, things drip and evaporate. I mean my thoughts. And where is the trust? If I have no trust, nothing will learn to settle, nothing will uproot from the sky and settle into my allotted plot.

I cough and my sides ache. The shirt drapes over me in the wrong way. I lift up my shirt and assess that I have gained approximately 10 pounds since getting sick and not being able to do my daily running. I feel a heat gathering.

Then a rolling down in my gut. Not hunger, but anger. My breasts hang a bit heavier. My stomach does not sit comfortably around my jeans, but leans over them. Perhaps this is all in my head, but the anger is still present.

You’re so damn lazy, I say to myself.

Of course, what I really mean is that I haven’t been writing. And when I sit down to write, it’s as though I’m running against a chain-link fence, my face cornered against the wires, but I’m watching the neighbor’s llamas stare into the fields.

I wish I were a llama, I think.

What lies next to me at night? I don’t know. A weighted being. A tall guilt. I try and breathe into it. Out goes the heat in my body, and in I am filled with violets. No.

“Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string. Accept the place divine providence has found for you…We but half express ourselves, and are ashamed of that divine idea which each of us represents.”

Emerson. I feel tied to you, somehow. As though my only boat was your dead body.

I am so damn lazy.

I wrote in my journal. Last night, I wrote:

We should let something else move within us. It is always written, whether I write it or not. Don’t I understand? That my mind sometimes fails is inevitable, that my arms freeze in mid-air, mid-sentence, this happens.

So nothing. I don’t look at You. But why do I rush what I already own?

This journal. Writing in a journal, not good enough. Not good enough, my own pathetic word-garden. It’s not.

So I focus on my weight. As if gaining a few pounds leaves my brain incapable of writing.

Sometimes, I’ll sit and write emails in the dark, trying to find a way to a door I didn’t know I closed. Not a lover, god, nothing as pathetic as that. My own heart.
Emerson, why don’t you climb up here and give me a hand?

Here’s another journal bit. A bit I’d chew into a spitball and throw out at passing cars:

“How can I expect great and wonderful things to pass through me if I am not patient, guided, strong, disciplined?

Can I rediscover this moment, as though it is the most precious moment of my life and I have stumbled upon it, somehow?

Thought: this is my root: this, this self that’s questioning, but not in a worried sense, but in a stretching ones hand out, sense. This is my constant.”

No, not your constant. Silly garden. Words. Like I’ve lost all ability.

Everything unfinished. So I focus on the body. What forms are taking shape. New curves. Creation without my doing.

“No law can be sacred to me but that of my nature.”

Emerson. I like how you think. Just as this blubbering attempt is mine. So I move through it. OK. Yes. My face against a chain-link fence. The llamas.

But I want to throw myself into something diligent. Something with age and there it rolls, underneath me, rolls my frustration. A god that never delivers.

I knew a man like that once. He’d talk of my brilliance in abstractions. Praise the shade of my skin. Sometimes. But leave me edged, high in some hayloft between his brain and mine.

I can’t see any way down! I’d yell.

And he’d be in the trees. He’d send notes, every now and then. Something like:

“Try the ladder, under your feet”

And I’d insist, no, no it’s jammed! Tell me about your mother! Your father!

He’d ignore this. As I sent strings of coded intimacies into the wind. I’d send them, as though I was playing strip poker at a bar. As though I was his.

“Nothing is at last sacred but the integrity of your own mind.”

Emerson, again. Yes. And so I built stalls for things.

It is easy in the world to live for the world’s opinion.

But Emerson, what would you think of my babbling on like this? What would the currents say to the wire between us? I can’t undo the heat, the anger at myself.

I’ve spoken. Headed strait for the wire and chain-link fence. I knew I’d fail, but damn the llamas, their natural bodies, I’ve spoken.

All things left unfinished. I’ve gained 10 pounds. The water isn’t water once it drips. Evaporates. Between the bath and the bed. Between my journal and the phone call.

I wanted to say something about how I miss cutting myself. But the heat rises instead. And Emerson, not one word, my man. Not one word about society and my truth.

20 March 2009

Time to Breathe (Thought Out in my Head While Taking a Bath)

Suddenly, I cannot make all of the choices I once had the liberty to make. My body is telling me to slow down. And the writing desk bares its teeth. Glenn Gould is my only comfort of late. Though, it’s a song without a song. It’s a movement without the dance. I listen to him play, my mind spins, but I cannot write.

I should learn something through sickness.

I have never actually listened to Glenn Gould play before, only listened to how the notes move me, move in and out of my cochlea and hit strides upon my wired mind. But am I listening to the notes? Or simply waiting for them to lean against me? Please, against me, lean your visions.

No, not listening.

And I do not wish to wait. Do not wish to sit and feel my days pass by without accomplishment. The writing desk is baring its teeth. And I feel like crying. I feel like my only line to a landscape is gone. My body takes control and I do nothing but fight. But stand in the doorway, one foot in, the other impatiently out, waiting for the ringing bell, the gates to open.

Am I listening to ballads or forming them in my mouth? Are the notes independent of my ego?

How this moves me, when I listen. If I really listen, his notes take me to the widest forest, or under your ear lobe.

But I do not want this long language, the many minerals here under me. How can I make my words as minerals? As an array of sheets in the earth, cool, light, or heated and porous. Why make them anything than what they are?

Against the backdrop of these ballades, your hand.

Does something really need to be produced by me today? The calm will still be there, if I’d listen.

I took three baths today. One to fill the room with steam. And though my glasses fogged and the pages curled between my fingers, I was able to read about the anatomy of thought.

Then I read the letters of C. S. Lewis. “All the things you like to dwell upon are outsides. A planet like our own…Or a beautiful human body. All the colors and pleasant shapes are merely where it ends, where it ceases to be inside. Inside, what do you get? Darkness, worms, heat, pressure, salt.”

Yes, yes. Like the caves my sister mentioned at dinner. Not caves, caverns. And out near them, the salt flats. And the time I rode in the car, listening to my mother gesture one way or the other, writing in a notebook, seeming sad for no reason, watching the salt flats sprinkle ghosts at me. What’s that? I asked. Salt.

The days or moments remembered. Where in the anatomy of thought do they reside. And why do I need to write to prove this? That one moment I was 14, driving to Carlsbad and the next my future self sits listening to Glenn Gould—moments will rise up and fall away, no matter the writing.

And so I am back in steam, glasses fogged, reading. Thinking, somewhere, there’s a day I have yet to live. With you. You who do not know the anatomy of my thoughts.

I read this tonight, between coughing and wanting to reach for the pen. Between meditation and stirring up my insides.

I read, from Etty Hillesum’s diary:

“The will flows smoothly into the deed, the barriers I couldn’t cross before have at last broken down. And I no longer say, ‘Yes, but I have not yet found my “territory”.’ I no longer suffer because I have not yet discovered the right ‘instrument,’ the right ‘object.’ All that matters now is the ‘deep inner serenity for the sake of creation.’ Though whether I shall ever ‘create’ is something I can’t really tell. But I do believe that it is possible to create, even without ever writing a word, by simply molding one’s inner life. That too is a deed.”

That too is a deed.

And I took another sip of water. I took time to breathe. Caught in between the ballads and the desire to write.

Between this one long breath and the next, is a pause. And You settle things, or throw them about. A mess or a calm.

The days or moments remembered. The anatomy of another’s thoughts against mine. And thinking of yours, and C. S. Lewis, Glenn Gould, and the stranger on the side of the highway, passing the salt flats so many years ago…

between each one lives numerous other lives. Could this all be our words, then, together? And if I am silent, is it so I can hear You speak?

I was thinking about myself, about writing, about leaning one ballad against the next. I was refusing to listen.

And I took another sip of water. I took time to breathe.

19 March 2009

I've Said This Before, in a Kinder Sense

My head aches, my joints linger over a sharp edge inside the bone.

I cannot push myself into healing, which is their destruction.

Can I sing the bacteria out?

Plants. I see them as plants with long vines, curling themselves against my insides.

Within me, worlds. I have said this before, but in a kinder sense. Worlds imagined and swirling, in visions, notes, words. Aren’t they also there? So curl round in me.

How many times have I tried to write and nothing happens. Nothing but the desert outside the window. Not in the way I’d love you, not in a quiet hour, stretching toward something that does not have wings.

Words need stillness. Not to be pushed forward, gathered.

But like the hours before a train arrives, how I shake with anticipation. Tearing a little something from my notebook.

What of bareness. So my mind has nothing. No thing to celebrate or approach or kiss.

I want a vision. I want a vision like a charge. Taped each morning, I want a letter. Or your picture.

So nothing fades.

In sickness, taped against the lung. Something has slipped away. The outline of a skirt. An idea.

Don’t words need stillness?

Stillness. The gift.

As though I thought I owned my bones anyway.

Are my words mine? Or something passing through? As though, out of the window, other things are searching other bodies.

And when I sit very still, perhaps the words will once again curl up next to me, reside by my ear, land on my nose. Not that I’d know. But the point is that they are yours.


Not how I’d love you, how I should.

16 March 2009

Write a Day. Write a Day and You Are its Child.

long day. I was tired, I was nervous.

I had a conference with Marie Howe at her apartment. Nothing felt prepared. Nothing. Had I written enough? Was I ready to defend the “poetry” I had been producing?

What was this, anyway? This “prose” or perhaps it was “poetry”? Or perhaps it was simply a string of things, a little bit of words strung about on a page…. a transcription of how the day had passed…how my memory told its longest history.

How did I end up here, anyway? I thought, as I boarded the Metro North Railroad at New Rochelle.

God. Look at me. I have a notebook.

I have a black messenger bag. I have a ticket and I’m going to Grand Central.

Look at that man, sitting across from me. He’s so beautiful. He’s holding a child. I am rocking my body to one of the greatest cities in the world. And I am worried about my meager words?

So I arrive. Do not doubt this. Do not doubt the day. It is real and you are its child. You have lived to breathe this breath. THIS BREATH.

I took one and found my way to the shuttle to Times Square. A man looks at me on the platform.

You don’t look like a New Yorker, he says…Are you a New Yorker?

Um, well, I live in New Rochelle, I say.

Oh, well, that counts, he says, and laughs.

I smile. I beam my smile toward him. Because my iPod has some Monks chanting Psalm 19 in my ears. I can’t discern their exact words, is this Latin, I don’t know…but I feel rooted.

And he spoke to me. I smile, smile. He smiles.

Actually, I’m originally from Texas, I say.

I look down. I look down and remember a friend of mine said that when I look at my shoes, people think they did something wrong. So I stop looking down. I look back at him.

He says, I knew it! Well, I could just tell. It’s refreshing, don’t get me wrong. You’re just. You have a nice smile.

We get on the shuttle. He sits next to me. I say, Thank you.

Do you like New York? He asks.

Yes. I smile. The monks are saying Amen.

I have some land upstate. He says. I like the country. I bet you miss the country.

Yes. Sometimes. But when I’m in the country, I’d miss running into people like you on crowded shuttles to Times Square.

He laughs. He says, True.

I leave; find the 1 to Christopher St. Where’s such and such street, I ask a random dog walker.

One block down, he says as the mutts paw my jeans. I’m sorry, he says.

No problem. I don’t mind. Cute dogs, I say.

I walk, listening to the monks and the bells. The bells. The bells.

The dog walker taps me on the shoulder

I’m sorry! It’s actually three blocks down!

Thank you, I say. Thank you so much.

Smile. Smile. It is glorious, this day.

Still, my hands are shaking. How are my words doing? Am I writing? Right now, am I? Who should I be writing to? Which ones should I show her? What’s my whole body saying, right now? What…what….what is this moment in the scheme of things?

There’s a theatre on the corner. People are standing in line. It’s 7:00 pm. And this exact 7 pm will not be repeated. Remember that, Shannon. Remember this is THE 7 pm. And no other. You are a child of this 7 pm.

Oh, are you trying to get in? A man asks as I stand outside the door, waiting to buzz Marie.

Oh, um, well I’m just waiting. I say.

(I am supposed to wait until half past for my appointment).

Well, wait inside, where it’s warm, he says.

Oh, OK. Thank you. Thanks. I say as he pulls his keys out.

Thank you. Thank you for your keys. And your blue jeans. And those lovely shoes. You’re gorgeous. I think. You’re a fine man.

The stairs are so narrow. It creaks. So many bits of shoes have kissed the carpet. And now I am one of its suitors.

Should I knock on her door? Should I wait?

Again, again. What do I do? As my words cling and clatter in my messenger bag.

Hold on, I say. You’ll get a chance to speak. My little ones, my poems. My half-lives. I don’t know what exactly to call you. Call you. Should I knock?

Break to the scene where I am sitting on her couch.

You should never wait. This is your time. You’re having a hot flash, aren’t you? She asks.

Yes. I am sorry. I say. Fanning my face.

But I didn’t…I didn’t want to interrupt. Don’t be patient. Be aggressive.

I just don’t feel like I’m writing poetry….

Lucky you.

The poems, they kind of do this dance.

I am on my feet. Don’t you see? I mean my knees. And how does the city curl inside my guts?

But the monks! The monks have their bread at night. And sing about the earth. Holding their breaths until mass.

This is going to sound cheesy, I say. I know. I know. But I feel like they are like my children. And I don’t know what to do with them yet. What can I do to help you be who you are supposed to be? They are just running around, you know? These “poems” these “works.”

It’s to God, isn’t it?


Why. Are you ashamed?

No. Yes. What can I do?

On the train home, a man with a field coat and the Financial Times. I told him, hello. Hello. Man. Man I know I shouldn’t say this. But you have kind eyes. See? We both have blue ones. Blue pearls. Did you sail once, as a boy, into the deep corner of some canyon? I held you then. Though, I was not alive. You were 10 and I was 20 years to birth. Remember? Yes. I loved you just as I love this minute.

What will I do with all of the words?

The field coat, he hung it on the hook behind his seat. He put on tortoise shell glasses. I was still listening to the monks chant. I was going back to New Rochelle. He was on his way to Connecticut. I know. I looked at his ticket.

This is how it feels to love the railings. So much. Are these to God?


I have a notebook. I write in it. The man next to me, he has a kid going to college. In California. Didn’t want to follow his dad’s footsteps to Harvard.

What to do with the string of things. These words. She said, keep writing. Are you ashamed?

Later, I will write:

Work must take time—so we can appreciate its gift. Not to demand, either from ourselves or the work, swift production—but that the work demands our attention, patience, servitude. How else will be become intimate with the infinite, with what cries out to last long after our shells crumble? Its not about us, our reward or fame—it’s about the complete body of what forms through us, what waits to speak to generations.

Oh, and then I will read:

“Is life so wretched? Isn’t it rather your hands which are too small, your vision which is muddled? You are the one who must grow up.”


“Dare he, for whom circumstances make it possible to realize his true destiny, refuse it simply because he is not prepared to give up everything else?

Thank you, Dag Hammerskjold

Your will to unearth the running stream of passion. Your only moment between the hardest of hours was to question your own voice.

This is the feeling. What I felt on the train. In Greenwich Village. In a kind of longing. Where my words were to be up front and center. In this blessed day. Does it matter? What are the smallest bits of me to say?

See this as my prayer. As I ride the shuttle to Times Square with a man who tells me of his land upstate. As I ask for directions from the dog walker. As I tell the stranger in the filed coat on the Metro North that, in fact, I love him. As I learn to ask for patience. As I lean into the couch as she tells me to read the diaries of a Holocaust Survivor. Who, who, am I to converse with her?

Humble words. I have a notebook. On the train to New Rochelle, I have a notebook.

Dare I refuse? Are you ashamed, she asks.

Me: straddling a fence between the immediate and the lasting—the night of someone’s body and the voice which outlasts the body—to dedicate hours to study or not, to choose social thirst or spiritual, need for attention now or after death. And who’s attention is it toward, anyway? Am I not a creature in thought? A mere shadows of the Universe?

Hello, he said.


I have the Beatles playing. He said.

I noticed.

And so we danced. Moment to moment. Danced.

What did she say? He asked.

She asked if I was ashamed. Said I should keep writing what I was writing.

I said as we danced. To the Beatles.

Is this writing? He asked?

Yes. I said. This is.

Tend to it. To Nothing. Tend.

"You have been concerned about this vine, though you did not tend it or make it grow."
--Jonah 4:10

What does my mouth taste like forming “worth”?

I want to be moved by you.

Between so many things. God.

Maybe, love, maybe, I’m unkind to things, too rough, light barbs, stuck, stuck, stuck.

I ignore. The light across my back. The bathroom fills fireflies. It does.

No, something's undone.

He laughed, surely, when I said the sky was my cousin. When the pine trees tickle my mind.

The mountains curve into me.

My fingernails broke against the stone.

Breathe, you said. Breathe.

Drink this. (hands me fireflies)

Make a mud-fist, you said. Break open weeds.

Pull on the fences until the horses call on you.

Until someone’s kinder words spit grains or pebbles into your ear.

See, in me a movement.

This is why I do not go to bars anymore.

A man once asked me if I believed in Purgatory.

You’re from Texas, he said. You must know this. Or kiss me.

My fingernails broke against the stone.

I said, When you sleep, your eyes roll back, don’t they?

This is why I don’t go to bars.

He said, One day, I’ll see you standing in a tree, looking lost.

Yes, I said, yes. This is how the sun comes down, how my days ends.

Speak, or I will not sleep. Or I will, but I’ll wish I died.

He sends you a vine, to cradle your head. When all else fails, tend to it.

Tend to it. Tend to it. Tend to it.

Or break your fingernails against a stone. Go to bars. Men will question about Purgatory.

Don’t you know? This was my old skin. Full, a wine-case.

Don’t you want to be a flame? He asked.

No. A raging fire.

Fireflies in the bathroom. That kind of softness. The kind God leans toward.

The kind that inspires. Worth something.

In me a movement!

No, no. Make a mud-fist.

Between so many things, breathe.

Does this mean it’s ten to one? Are you leaning toward me?

Is Purgatory this glass of wine?

Fireflies. Skin. The silence of wind. A row of pine.

Among the smaller things, agony.

Agony was a beautiful woman, I said.

Agony had shadows, like you. Like a list. Like stone. Her fingernails broke.

Eyes rolled back when she slept. When love was a kind of mud-fist.

So break it. Break and tend. Lean down.

Between worth and the bar. You’re inspiring the masses.

What’s wrong with breathing me a pine, a long silence, something across my back?

Break open weeds. Listen. Fires eat acres. Flies burn their bellies.

Tend to nothing. Skin.

Tend to it. To nothing. Tend.

Do you want to be a flame? He asked.

No. A raging fire. But first, ask me about Purgatory. Or barbs. Or worth. God, love, isn’t broken.

Well, first of all, Agony was a beautiful woman. She made mud-fists and broke things across her back.

worth, Agony said, was nothing in the end.

11 March 2009

I Woke, Late, Remembering That Dream You Had About Me

"May my tongue cling to the roof of my
if I do not remember you,
…my highest joy"

My window blurs with rain this morning. I woke up too late.

Mirror, brushing hair.

Wondering, what to write?

Caught in the tangle of rush-morning-minutes.

I stretch my sides, rivers of blood, spots in the air. I am curling, brushing.

Have I thought of what I wanted to write?

This is my kneeling. By the bed, in the morning, the rain outside, the calm somewhere other than my mind.

Have I breathed?

Someone wrote “Shannon, I dreamt you were reading God” I brush eye shadow, lips. God. “Shannon, I dreamt.”

When was the last dream God was standing in a row of cows? In a field?

You placed your hand on me. I wondered. Have I breathed?

Rain, 80% chance. By the bed. This is my kneeling.

In the rush-morning-minutes.

You wanted to know, what I compose to. Is it Bach? Brahms. The sideways cab-drivers.

Somewhere, a man is drinking gin.

But inside a room, somewhere. Shannon, I dreamt you.

My window blurs with rain this morning. It’s late. But what will I write today? Your movement.

You push me through the door, into the rain.

I've loved your belly before. I felt rolling into me, your dream.

Is it raining? Have I breathed?

Somewhere, You're dreaming I'm reading God.

Is it in a field? Am I laughing?

10 March 2009

Letter to You Because I'd Say this to Myself


Everything is transient. Nothing stays. It all circles each and each.

Do not be deadened. Rejoice because of it. Take up something like a stone and hurl it
into the sky. It comes back, but not for you. It never was something to be had.

Sure, Beethoven or Bach. Even Tchaikovsky broke through chambers
just to seal them up again. He beat the thin bones each night,
and when he wasn't, he was
coursing the lines in his head,
the scales of his pain, out into an ocean.

He'd rise,
drink, throw himself into a wall, record madness
and think nothing of it, muttering all the while
about circle eights. About the Black Forrest.

After his mother's death, he began composing.

it circles. Get down on your knee. Grab the clay.
Use something more substantial than guilt to grind into.

Run into a wall. Hook something out of lime.
Your own hand. Not hope, darkness. Where hope recovers.
Grate it against your teeth. Tell the ground stories.
Lie. Learn something
about the stars: not beauty, but that they'd rip your bones
apart if they could. Just to be near you. This is intimacy.
And it comes back. Waves of sound. Or on a keyboard,
or in a postcard. Something is calling you forward.
I had a hand in that.
I said to the pine "hold him down."

Round again. Uncurl a fist,
learn a fugue by heart. It plays again
in your oval window and through it, to the midbrain.
It locks itself away. Until you push through.

Escape into lines, that's fine.
Escape into the codes, linear transfers.
But the earth will push you out again.
Grass will sing about God.
You'll feel something lighter than a woman's body, you'll feel air.
And all around you, eights and nines.
With gods writing about movements and the opera.
About auditory space.
And you'll think you've been here before, on this plane.
You'll think we've been the same person.

Tchaikovsky saw stars in his mind. But he composed anyway.

09 March 2009

Your letter arrived today. Maple leaves stuck to my shoe.

I said, my ghosts, my ghosts. Again in the bath, sang about fields, opened things up just to shut them out again.

What did you do when everyone went silent, when your ear wouldn't stop ringing?

My ghosts, my ghosts. I wait. Nothing passes by the window.

If I held my stomach, if I dug my nails into sides, would I lift somewhere toward you? Would the corner hold your shape? I ran out of wine.

My arm, half in bubbles, extended to you.

It’s been months. Sometimes, when I touch myself, I stare at the bare light bulb.

Maybe the walls will melt together. Maybe I’ll eat less, feel lighter, get a buzz.

Today, I walked until my feet hurt. I held the rock in my purse, curled my hand into a fist. Knew you wouldn’t speak. Knew the sky wouldn’t reveal you.

When I wrote “God, speak to me” I meant that my body was a mess. That the order of things was changing. That I couldn’t stop repeating the number seven. That eight swirled around like jellyfish above my head.

The pages spill into the bath with me. Your words blur into my midsection.

I make up the letters. I seal you at night, whisper imaginings, small tulips, under my sheets.

No wonder you’re silent.

06 March 2009

Today, I Woke Up

Anyone who knows me, knows that I spend the majority of my time at the library. I even have a specific place in the basement where I like to sit. My friends, when they cannot get a hold of me, know exactly where to go...down the curved staircase, past the government documents, science and psychology books on the right with the literature, computer-science and math books on the left and over by the square-windows...there, you can find "my" desk.

I love how I can see trees wave to me. I try and figure out the names of the trees. I think there's a juniper and an ash. My favorite is the pine. I like to look at their arms when I get tired of reading. It is winter, so all but the pine are bare, exposing their tender veins which remind me of dendrite webs.

I imagine my brain is made up of countless tree branches upon smaller tree branches, their expanding twigs stretching out to almost touch one another, the synapses gaps keeping them eternally apart.

So, I spend many hours trying to read, but the tress usually have their way of distracting me. When it grows dark, their bodies are still there.

In the library basement bathroom, there's a sign someone put up on one of the doors. I noticed it a couple days ago. It reads:

Today, I woke up and ______________

When I first read it, I was having one of those days where words are dry bones. Where I'd sit and count lines on the back of my hand, wondering when the gods of the library would appear. Where did they go? Where is their joyful dust? I'd ponder my palms, the lines God drew before I breathed the cosmos in my lungs. Bits of dust, dust, dust. I couldn't write. I was uninspired. I was stubborn and raw.

I read the note on one of those days and felt a simple voice inside whisper "Today, I woke up and...."

I woke up and read, I thought. I woke up and I tried to write. It wasn't anything brilliant or even coherent. But look! It is true!

Today, I woke up and read, wrote.

Today I woke up and

and do we love this minute? Do we notice it's clothing? Do we wake and breathe? Yes. Surely, we breathe.

It's easy to forget. This morning, I woke up and.

And I cried, thinking I wasn't listening to you. Thinking I was losing track of the words. Thinking my mind was blind and the library gods thought me a bad steward.

It's easy, so easy to forget. This morning. How there are trees that keep their heart-wood radiating from the inside out. How there are friends longing for our voice, how our parents still wake, astonished we were born.

This morning, I woke up and loved you.

Sometimes, there are signs.

I don't know who put up that sign in the bathroom. But Thank You. And thank you Sarah Lawrence, for encouraging the spontaneous, creative spirit that reminds me....

Today, I woke up.

05 March 2009

You're Not Failing, Child. You're Singing.

I want to live fiercely. Like I’m climbing for my minutes. My days.


You are not failing poetry, child. You're singing. You're whistling footsteps. You're guiding a thousand gods when you cry, when you think you've failed.

They see your passion. They can smell it from the mountain.
Then they come down.
Now you’re wondering when you’ll die. Just as they rejoice in having seen you born. Let all the grass tickle your eyes.
Do not despair. Or, rather, despair. Despair into darkness, climb down the hole, but keep a candle lit, close to the chest.
Because despair sleeps at night with passion. It strokes her hair, it loves her gently.
She will return.
Let the darkness understand, but do not understand darkness.
You have not failed.
About you are lightning bugs. These gods. Your whistling sent them messages.
They’ve come from the mountain to glow about your head. Warm bodies.
There is hope.

You’re guiding a thousand gods when you cry, head in hands. Look up! Angels.

They have walked toward you, gods of the old country.
From your childhood.
From the tea-lights.
From the garden.
You cannot see them, but around you, messages. Look up.


I was running five miles, I was singing.
But in breathes. I was running and breathing, sweating doubts out.
Calling your name. I was singing. Your name in breaths.

This is how I fail you. I breathe in.

Before I know your name, I sing it.

The dark spots build hives in my eyes. I am running.

Speak of how I will come back to you. I have come back and do not know it.

At night I compose long theories in the air about how my heart is electricity.
But it fades with morning. My lips seal the dream. Kisses the theory, smudges the lines so I wake with smudges. Nothing makes sense. Have I failed?


You’re not failing, child. You’re singing.
You’re making your way through what will be the map of love.
Breathe in. Your palms.
Despair already licks the skin. But clean.
It is whistling the theory. In your ear. A thousand gods build hives.

It is hard to believe the streets have stone-bodies.
It is hard to love the body of rock.
The gods against you, this is why you bleed.

You’re full of theories. Nestled, there, in cell-homes.

One day, you across the sky.
The gods rejoice, seeing you, child, sparkling.

You are not failing, you’re moving. Singing. Inside you, the world.

Barefoot, Why Give Me a Voice

"We are brought down to the dust;
our bodies cling to the ground."

I woke clutching daisies, hair of some other world. There, I say, stay. Alive.

These are my words, dropping off, leaping off onto the carpet, scattering their language and cursing the nation.

How can I understand. Morning is slipping away.

Last night was a woman, barefoot in Grand Central, sliding her way to God.

The soft padding of her feet, past me.

Holding high heals, swinging notes, hips, dress-coat smiling at the lights.

all this and bells! In my ears, bells!

I want to kiss her feet. Now, it is morning.

Why remember the stitches in the night, before the 11:10 train, which I missed on purpose, why remember? On purpose, missed. Let go. Leave.

I do not want to leave my bed. I do not want to open my hands to you.

The daisies will not stay alive, I ask them to.

Things grow out to wither. If I write this down, I said nothing. The train is leaving.

Woman, take your shoes and run from here. I cannot kiss your feet. There are no daisies. The bells stop ringing.

Go on! I cannot get out of bed because of you. I cannot write but that I hate the day, and your smiling dress. Let go, miss the train.

Why give me a voice?

My words, they missed the train. To run away. I hate the day.

I cannot get out of bed. To tread on words. On the carpet. Your Bells.

I will wear images on my feet. The woman sliding to God. Barefoot. I will wear her. Like a dress-coat smiling to the lights. Imagine. Nothing for our feet to walk on, one day.

I woke clutching daisies, hair of some other world.

Remember, they said. You’re alive. Let go.

01 March 2009

Language, Pulled on by the Roots of its Hair

Coming back to You is cold water.

There are notes in my hand.

But here I am, sat with my knees to chest, canceling notes out one by one, refusing to listen.

I need to be honest. Need to go ahead with what the gods speak. But my body, my brain, slugs on.

I can feel you when I climb the stairs. Your light through the window, but I cannot hear you in others, in the night, on the train, in Brahms. Where did you go to? Lean into me. Push against me again.

I cried driving home from the store. And a stranger leaned out the window, throwing his words like barbs.

How have I moved away from you?

It happened I passed into St. Patrick’s at Mass. I knew only half-prayers. The ceiling filled in the gaps.

And just as I feel my body being lifted, there, again, the weight.

Did this anchor chase you in dreams?

I keep spinning off the corner of the bed. Each time I’m convinced I’ve lifted. I can hold onto that feeling at dawn.

But it vanishes. Parts of you vanish. Where in the water do you go?

It is useless to ask why the body tires, why my mind changes language.

But you know it is constant, this movement.

The gift, pulled around by hair, is singing. Singing by the window. Looking down into some kind of ocean.

This is where I lift. You know this. You know the grooves on my mind’s edge-work.

But it vanishes. Parts of the sensation into the water.

On the subway, it could be any year. And so I wanted to go back to that line. Not just the line of thought, but that line in time when I wasn’t thinking about speaking, when you were speaking to my loneliness as though in a box.

It is constant, this movement. So why the thought of jumping, right before the 6 arrives?

This is the gift, pulled by the hair—the end-notes running along ahead of the 6. Tied to their backs, letters from you. End-note pests, end-notes from the deepest gutter in the Earth’s bowl. From You.

And the ceiling fills in the gaps. I am sat at the platform, confused.

And now to You who do not think

I am addressing each letter-curve to your house.

Tonight, I want to line each thought in a row and pull their hair. And through the floor-boards, feel it. Up through your feet, feel the root of how pain wraps its legs. Of how you know the groove of my mind’s edge-work


I cried in the car, returning from the store.

The 6 keeps surprising us with joy. Letters on the back. What I wouldn’t give to cancel your end-notes.

You want to be spoken to.

Coming back is cold.

Where in the water did you go?

This is what I’d say to you:

Letter 1:

You will never believe. I thought something was saying my name. Out. Though it was just the train. I know, I know. Tracks clacking their teeth. And still, under my seat. A man to my left “I thought you were going to sleep through your stop.” How did he know my stop? What if I already slept through my stop? But I smiled, and gathered my things at New Rochelle. He laughed when my head hit the window, falling asleep. I heard my name. Called out. I know, I know. It was only the train. But perhaps I love you.

And, after making tea for the eighth time, I’d climb the stairs and compose this in my head:

Letter 2:

I didn’t mean I heard the tracks. I meant that I text a man each night I’ve never met. I meant that I don’t understand love.

Letter 3:

There’s a moment, in Brahms Piano Concerto No. 1, Op. 15 that makes me want the world in my mouth: 2 minutes and 55 seconds in. The strings break cages. Usually, I am on the train when this happens.

But 3 minutes and 30 seconds in, a soft bend. And I want to kiss you.

Letter 4:

You still won’t believe. Even when strings break cages, ceilings talk when you go silent. I tell myself this is your gift. Imagine, you in every turn. But, crescendos swallow themselves. Eventually, the advantage you have over me will weaken.

Letter 5:

I do not mean weaken. Can I ask, have you heard Piano Concerto B Flat No. 2. Op. 83? I know. I know. But the moment gets away from me, standing on platforms. The movement is more than likely your hand. The mice, philosophers ear-wings. I mean, yes, of course I converse with numbers. You are You only when I am not addressing her dress--plastic bag in a tree.

But I do not send the letters.

The gift I find, tugged on by the roots of its hair, when trying to comfort myself, is licking. Is tying its hands to mine. This is the language of grass. Of having a love and knowing it. Of walking each day toward a door that will not open.