27 April 2009

So, I haven't actually written a blog, blog in a long time, but I guess today is as good a day as any to start. I keep hearing the voice in the back of my head saying "blogs are for self-obsessed people" and why would you want a "diary" online?"

So, the blog is about how I'm going to stop writing for a while.

This is how it is.

Listen to music, now. Actually listen.

Read something without a thought of regurgitation.

Enjoy the day without analysis.

Divorce my need for validation via writing.

Why is the ego so wrapped up in it?

Why did Rothke repaint the same picture over and over again.

I was told I was writing the same thing over and over again.


Same form, same images, same ideas.

I'm a broken mixed tape.

I found a form and now it's overdone. My form is a cliche. I need to break out.

I don't even know what any of that means.

Perhaps it's because I have begun to hate writing.

Perhaps it's called being burnt out.

If I don't have a novel, stacks of pages, by the time I'm 26, I'll certainly throw myself out the window.

Or, that's what you'd think by how much I have become dependent on work.

So, I'm going to try and STOP writing.

No more attempts at poems.

No more attempts at blogs.

No more attempts at weighing my day's productiveness on the page.

But I'm scared.

What am I supposed to do now?

Find a new form, she said. Break out. I've overused my current form.

What does that even mean?

Jackson Pollock, essentially, painted the same thing over and over again.

Why can't I write the same poem?

It's done.

I'm done. Need to see a movie or read.

No, reading is off limits. Too much in the mind.

I need to get out of the mind.

We'll see how long this lasts.
I woke up this morning and thought,

I should be excited about the day. I should walk as though I'm only here now.

Something reminded me about the idea I read in "One Year to Live" which said,

Practice "dead days." Walk around as though you've already died. Accept and see your reactions to the idea that everything moves after your death.

Everything moves. Is this comforting? I feel an anxiety smog through the door at this idea. Anxiety married to my desire to leave something here. Place something on the hallway buffet table. Words, works.

But something tells me this is just the ego.

So I will wash my hair and, in the mirror I will repeat the serenity prayer and tell myself to love others, to consciously live today in love.

Though all I really want is to read John Cassian in the library.

26 April 2009

A Girl Wants

Last week, to the man I’ve never met, I sent a text:

I don’t know…what I have to
say, who’s it to? I’m still trying
to figure it out. We write into
each other.

Later, the man I’m sleeping with leaves a sticky note on my car,
One word, blinking in my face:


The next morning, I text the man
I’ve never met, again:

What can I do?
I don’t want to be here.

He responds:

OK. If not here, then where?

I text:

Where? Nowhere.

He responds:

There is no nowhere.

I think of the nowhere where there are long baths, and sound.
Where nothing is eaten like honey on a spoon.

The man I’m sleeping with tells me it’s ok to cry and not talk as he’s listening on the other end of the phone.

A dog howls in the neighborhood while I’m sitting in cold bathwater.

The howl seems to come from the deepest part, so deep I do not want to listen, but I am sitting in the water, not wanting to move, ripple things, so I listen.

A girl wakes, crawls out, shudders.

She’s been roaming for days,
I thought, inside.

Shut me away,
I plead.

Go back inside, shut up, stop
howling, I can’t make my arms be her arms.

As my friend read her poetry to an audience, I dug my nails into my forearm.
I want nowhere.

Still, now,
As I write this, a girl wants blood.

Still, the howling,
Hanging in the air, in the heat,
Missing a fan, sanity.

I called the voice in my head.

There’s a train out now. The dog’s
Not howling anymore. There’s still
The heat pressing on me.

The voice says

Fuck the poets. Why write for anyone?

So I text the man I’m sleeping with after he reads this poem and says

It’s good.

I reply:

It’s shit. And I have no fan. And
My landlord won’t get it out of
The attic. And I’m going to
Fucking throw my phone out
The window.

Then, an ex professor sends me an email:

I always considered writing to be the “unnatural” equivalent of a hard on.

While the man I’m sleeping with sends me the serenity prayer,

I write:

A girl wants blood.

23 April 2009

Actually, to be honest with you,

Sometimes I wake up with so much doubt, I don't want to get out of bed.

The boulder won't move.

And on into an ocean I go,

Words drowned out by waves,

As they will be by an energy

Bigger than me, lasting.

To be honest with you,

I don't know why I'm here at all

But to be one long praise.

22 April 2009

Under a Rock Face

Something occurred to me in the gym shower today. Yes, I was surfing the highs of endorphins and thought, I know what will help me push through this word-hurry, this undefinable silence.

I will come back to you.

When I was working the 8-5, finding my way through the excess, I fell back on speaking to you.

Who are you? A you that I know but have never seen.

And I've missed speaking directly to you.

Help me, help me gather my thoughts. Where did you go today, for instance? What were the paths you walked?

Did you notice how your body felt, reawakening into the world this morning?

I laughed, once, so hard in sleep that it woke me up into night. It felt like a beautiful shock. A shock sweetened by joy. Have you ever woken to laughter, as though some voice inside passed their hand along your belly, like a smoothing stone or as your parent did to put you to some calmer state?

Lovers do that, too.

As does the grass.

I wondered, if I stopped writing you, would you fade? Would the tree-house we climbed together, crumble?

Wait! You think,

We never met at a tree-house,

but we did. Or maybe under a rock-face.

Watch me, I say, jump off the dock into the lake!

Oh, I remember an evening near to a voice,

near a skimmed lake.

And you never stopped, faded,

And even, I remember, today I called your name.

It was raining and the grass reminded me of England.

It was raining and the smell of pine drifted me to New Mexico,

It was raining and the wet is the wet the voice tells me about sometimes,

How, underneath a rock-face or in a tree-house,

What was uttered once will be uttered again,

Even in the words we use to undo each other,

In the text messages and emails,

In the little notes I write to myself, on place mats,

On the back of someones hand, on a lamp-post,

Or the pillow where things unsaid tremble against the weight of my body.

I will come back to you, laughing, high up in a tree-house or under a rock-face.

Rambling off Into a Morning Sky

Thinking about my ghosts.

What / Who speaks to me--

How do I move through these voices, do I stop and listen, really?

Kierkegaard has something on double-mindedness.

"Is it not double-mindedness: to be ill, to put oneself under the physician's treatment, and yet not be willing to trust the physician, but arbitarily to break off treatment."

I need more focus--faith, patience, silence.


No words this morning. I do not even remember my dreams--but if I wake and start the day writing, perhaps that will help.

So, I try and examine this pull, need.

Do not explain me! It wants to say.

But it breaks me. Sometimes, I wake and it has walked into the morning, silent. I sit and stare for hours, abandoning the stillness by panic.

Don't tell me I am erratic! Don't tell me I am wild for myself.

Yes, OK, for myself, for something out there that holds myself.

The voices are inside, somewhere, teasing me.

They are standing on a cliff, somewhere, holding my heart-creature above their heads, in their hands, threatening to hurl it into greater silence.

If I move wrong into this day, will my heart-creature be another month in silence?

I was going to say, don't tell me I work hard enough,

But why waste energy worrying what others think,

It is the door, against my forehead,

that will not open, that I worry will never bang

on its hinges. Don't tell me to stop kneeling here,

Go on, I don't want anything but this door and

The voices to step closer, my heart-creature in their hands, unharmed,

Rambling off into a morning sky.

21 April 2009


When I try to grip the world and fight against my ego,

That's when I come closest to loving

Only myself.

So I thought I'd jot this down on the back of my hand,

Thought I'd walk for a while in God's spit,

Watch it wash away, say,


Forgive me,

But in order to keep my words true,

I have to stop writing for a while,

And in order to live more fully,

I need to be dead for a couple days.


Yeah, I need a little bit more of you...

More from the man who calls me Hannah,

More of the days where I'd walk in God's spit, singing.

Does he know how long Hannah waited?

I don't mind,


When I was having an anxiety attack

Last night, when I was punching my forehead

To feel a sting, he said, Think of something

calm, beautiful,

I thought about the time I rode my horse for six hours,

Got lost in a storm,

Called out to no one, held on to her mane--


19 April 2009

Low Sunday

When I watched her smell the tulips on the way to church,

I wanted something to hold on to, write down.

Later, we walked around the city, worried

About not writing poems, then decided

To live was a better choice—

Get lost, browse books and skirts

Instead of the right words.

17 April 2009

the Other-than-Myself (Stage of Becoming)

This post was inspired, partly, by this video.

In the stage of becoming

I have been thinking a lot lately of the ties and relations between my spiritual faith / journey and my faith (and lack there of at times) in writing and the journey I am on as a writer.

There are times where I am on top of the world. The words come easy, the muses are by my side….and then. And then.

It’s as though something has left through the back door. I cannot write anything that remotely sounds like my voice. Each time this happens, I despair and assume I will never write again. However, somewhere in a tiny cell with one candle lit, sits the part of me, whispering, “you will write again, have faith. Be patient.”

What quiets her? Fear. Fear and perhaps pride.

Pride because my body is useless without the walk-through of thoughts. Fear because my pride hangs on the hook of brain waves that conjure the words into the air, through the skull-cap and into my belly. From the belly, I hope it rises, again, through the chest and up toward the skull again. There, I pray it reverberates and sounds its song until I record it.

But when all is silent, I am left with nothing but my worrying thoughts.

I believe very much in cycles. Nature has taught me this. So have my notebooks.

Years and years, I’ve kept record of my thoughts. From a small girl questioning God to a teenager questioning herself, her writing, her worth…and one exceptional gift that that recording has given me is the chance to see the cycles, the patterns, the wading in and out of hope, despair, fruitfulness, mini-deserts and long grasslands—the great expanses of time that hold out its hand as though to embrace and I only see what’s immediately missing or immediately available, but not appreciated.

And so I’d read and re-read my old worries. My depression, sadness, my dancing and holding grip of joys that seem now only like shifting sand that I only faintly recall now, here, at a desk in New York.

Worry. Up, around, inside the gut. Writing, not writing, torn between singing and violently silencing myself.

And so I’d say, Look, obviously you’ve been through this before. Look, it will turn out, it will open up again, the words will fill the belly and float to the top, again, again, like seasons.

Easy, isn’t it? To study patterns, make prediction, calculate when and where and how it all ends.

But no matter how many times the girl inside the cell whispers “this too shall pass” I tremble in fear that perhaps THIS TIME it’s different and I won’t write again, I won’t fall in love or feel a burst of joy walking from my car, singing in the shower, crawling off the treadmill and onto back to breathe.

Faith, sometimes, is something altogether unknown.

So, I go back to the stillness that I fear. The exact quiet that makes me afraid.

Reading the journals, I see myself doubting the universe, which is myself.

But where do I turn when I recognize the very place that holds me here is the place I call my own heart? The hand that writes this sentence?

I have been reading a lot about the movement and seasons of Faith, of voice. Of the Voice. Of my Voice…and it has brought me back, again, to my writing life. Or perhaps my writing life is informing my spiritual life, I don’t know.

But in the chamber of doubt and suffering, I try and remind myself to listen to the whispering. Sometimes, I cannot hear her at all. Sometimes, I sit on my floor and cry for hours, not knowing why I am so desperate and sad. There are no reasons. But both joy and desperation can lift the spirit to something other than its self.

Within the doubt is a gift, too. It keeps me going back again to the desk. Back again to the journal. Back again to the little girl who said to Angels, FRIENDS! Speak to me, I am listening!

And I’d record even that.

As an adult, I block their voices. I say, I must be my own poet, must climb toward an adult way of writing, of singing, of keeping record.

And so I lean too much on a mirage of self. A mirage of perfection that I try so hard to keep controlled.

I go to the gym.

I read at the library.

I expect results.

So when the silence happens, when the writing abandons me,

I bang on my own chest.

Perhaps if I tell myself I’m failing, I’ll find some outer force to punish me back to writing again. Back to production and output and perfection.

What do I deserve if that’s the case? And still, I do it.

Instead of embracing the pause, the silence, I spit in its face. Never mind Faith. Never mind trust. Never mind the cycles.

Of course, this is all part of the cycle, the rejection of the cycle is part of it, too.

March 24
“Hate myself for being lazy. For writing crap. But I read Emerson, who said:

‘To believe your own thought, to believe that what is true for you in your private heart is true for all men, -- that is genius.’

Still, I judge myself too harshly, against what others think and most of all, what I myself think. What I wish for myself. What, exactly, am I doing? I have nothing, know nothing, and if God…I cannot say that, I cannot.”

March 25:
Reading Emerson. He keeps going on and on about self-reliance and trusting the movement within ourselves.
Have been desparate for something to emerge. This tug of war gets me nowhere—then the self-doubt comes in and, slowly, the anger. And I try to write myself out of it, but that fails and makes the cycles even wore.
I need to remind myself that it’s OK if I don’t produce. It’s OK if I write nothing but whiney journal entries. Someday, the words will come back to me—they always do. It will not abandon me. I must keep that faith tucked away inside me, lean back a little more, berathe. Know that my destiny is already written, that I have little control, that the control I do have is to keep heart, to continue growing my passion and stay true to my love—faith in muses, that my brain is always working.

And so, I kept on. Though, the doubt still bites. And what was happening here other than the pouring in of words through the skull-cap and down into the belly. And silence came, yes, it did. But in that silence, in the struggle, was a tilling of the words in the belly, was a tearing away of old ground and a getting-ready for a new under-world of churning words, their bodies growing and vibrating inside.

What is the anxiety, the heat, other than the new words pushing through the soul, ready to pass up through the chest and into the skull—ready to make the trip the room where I would feel their whole strength, once they were ready. And through the skull, eventually, they will leave me again and out into the wide-world. On they will fly to find their way into some other body—where they will wait to germinate in the belly of another.

This is the conversation between us.

To trust the exchange is to open our whole body up to being receptive. To have faith in something bigger, more far reaching, than our body.

And so I will write:

March 26

I should sit in silence. Allow this. Sit in faith. Maybe then 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 then being to grow—not overbaring but humbly, and nestled in its place.
To have faith in the wholly other—as my works are said to be, risen out of a dirt that is not my ground, not my making.
And why not communicate with others? Would I always keep my words from them? No. My words are just as much theirs.
Why can’t I trust this, why so anxious?

So it never ends. Never, never ends. Walking back and forth between remembering my Faith and abandoning it. Between hearing the whispers and drowning in white-noise.

But, like today, when I climbed out of bed and into the sun, when I read of the desert fathers and their patience, when I lashed out at a loved one, when I felt humbled, when I remembered the kind smile of the pine trees….

Between the moments, a breath. And then another. And I’ll re-read lines from a journal. And I’ll scour my body for light. I’ll turn up with hands full of ash. And perhaps, for once, I’ll remember Faith, I’ll remember the cycles and I’ll take the ash, smear it on my face, and dance.

Perhaps. I'll remember the Other-than-myself.

And then. Perhaps.

15 April 2009

Good Morning, Morning

I woke up this morning.

Read in a book "today is a good day to die, because it's here. I'm here. Now let go."

Let go.

Of the idea that the ego rests in accomplishment,

Of how small we are, in this world,

But how our spirits are, in fact, the whole universe.

I love your shell, he said.

And everytime he says that, I smile,

because I told him, once, that I read a meditation about how the body is simply a shell,

And when we pass through, our Easter eggs break open,

On into a lighter place,

where a cell is a galaxy,

and atoms are light years apart.

In me, a galaxy, I said, as I woke up, dreaming

about a horn through the skull.

Good morning, I said, to the morning,

teach me this is all that is promised to me.

So, I let go into the current, walked out the door.

If I see you, how my chest wants to sing, to embrace you and say,

We're here!

14 April 2009

Keeps Me Here

I have been sitting at a desk.

I am sitting at a desk thinking about my body.

My body, which rose with me this morning and is settled with me now.

But nothing escapes into another realm,

even when my mind takes to the field

or folds its body into a corner

or jumps into a wide canyon

or laughs into a starless oblivion,

my body stays put

even if I'm stirring to escape myself.

So, I am sitting in a desk, trying to breathe into a space,

wanting to think about sex, not wanting to think about sex

and how I miss my silent space,

my long spine, or book, sliding into a yield,

a yield where I wrote about God

and dust, about you and how I miss your emails!

So, I'm sitting at a desk, reading essays by Roethke,

wondering about my contemporaries

and how the man I've never met, texted me that he felt separated

from what? I texted back

from God, he texted. From you.

But we've never met but I know what he means,

I know what it means to want to be a bit lighter,

just a tad, just a lifting off the window

or a sliding about the edge.

How my brain works and doesn't work

even when I sit for hours in a bath and tell myself

"but you couldn't sleep with women"

No, I can't sleep with women, but I sleep with voices,

like when I was a child in a bunk bed and in my head the kitchen sang out.

It sang out and I felt lighter, I felt power within like a source where God stood and said, Yes, Child, I have spoken to you.

And there wasn't a doubt, and if I walked to the kitchen, there would be angels.

I wonder why God has to be in a business suit.

No, really, he's in a business suit.

Last week, a man was doing Tai Chi in the middle of Grand Central, his suitcase against the wall. I had to stand there for four minutes and watch him, because I didn't believe it.

There's another man I've never met who wrote me an email, just now, about how, when hope fades, maybe the intellect is a threat.

Maybe, then, it's most dangerous when we know there's an exit.

An exit as is Glenn Gould's piano was an exit.

As though a lover's curved side is an exit

and the pull on my mid-section when I see the red dessert in pictures, when Utah is a drive away,

but, the man doing tai chi created an exit in grand central.

And if I don't weep, right now, at my desk at work, books around me as though God is found in its words, as if my center lies in their spine--

if I don't weep right now, I'll pull at my body in fear of breaking,

I'll scream in the car, driving home,

because I watched a video of Gerald Stern, I watched him dance through his words a kinder man for his honesty,

and what's keeping me from weeping but the world of the body,

not the spirit. Not the spirit. It's not the spirit that keeps me here.

I See Math Problems Floating Around

Why, when I entered the mental hospital, did I finally feel sane?

I remember they took away my shoelaces. My favorite American Eagle sweater is now missing its hoodie drawstrings.

You can’t write with a pen. Here, use this, the nurse said.

I was sitting by the bay window after they had taken away all of my
shoelaces and various other objects deemed dangerous in my bag.

I looked down at the stubby pencil, missing an eraser, dull, rounded at the tip.

How am I supposed to write with this? I thought.

We can’t have erasers, a girl sitting by the other bay window said. See that boy over there?

She pointed to a boy, hunkered down into his knees, shaking his feet side to side, shuffling in place, curled into a ball.

He’s a burner. We used to have erasers until he decided to rub them
into his skin. Stupid. I don’t get it. Now I can’t fucking erase
anything. Hey. My names Sarah, by the way. What are you here for? Took
pills? You look like a pill taker, she said, smiling.

What am I here for?

No, no I’m here because I cut myself, I guess. I said.

You guess? Well, do you or not? I took a lot of pills, but you know,
that wasn’t the real problem, I mean, I just drink a lot. And don't
eat. Oh, I mean, I used to drink a lot. We have to practice seeing
ourselves as someone who doesn’t drink or whatever, she said, putting
ellipsis up around “used to” “doesn’t drink” and “whatever.”

Sighing, she stood up and walked down the hall into what I supposed was her room.

Keep the door open all the way, Sarah, said a nurse by the fichus.

Do I or not?

I looked down at my last effort. They had bandaged it when I checked
in. At this point, I’d usually take the band-aide off, keep it from

But I knew I had to keep it on.

What am I doing here?

At night, for an hour, family members could call us.

Hey sweetie. Is everything all right? My dad said into the phone.

Is everything all right? He knows he’s calling me at then mental hospital, right?

Hey. Well, I guess it’s getting better, I said.


My dad continued to make sounds….


I shifted from one foot to the other. My tennis shoes looked silly without shoestrings.

I just don’t understand why you’d want to hurt yourself, sweetie, he finally said.

Well, I said, why did you drink, Dad?

What do you mean?

Why did you drink, when you used to drink?

I didn’t expect a response, so into the silent pause, I continued.

It’s my coping mechanism, I said.

I see. Well, I’m glad you’re getting help.

Thanks, Dad.

Why are you smiling? The girl in the blue hoodie said later that night.

I don’t know, I said, looking up from my journal.

This isn’t the kind of place where people go around smiling, she said.

How old are you? I asked.

Eleven, why? She said, trying to look taller.

No reason, I said.

Why aren’t you in the adult program, she asked?

I don’t know. I’m seventeen. I guess you have to be eighteen to be in the adult program.

God. I know, I’ll be eighteen in two weeks. TWO WEEKS! And I’m stuck
here, said another girl who looked like she hadn’t washed her hair in a
while. She sat down next to us and started pulling out her hair. She
looked up again and said,

I mean, fuck. You know, they get to have smoke breaks and shit. I’m fucking dying for a smoke!

If I hear you curse again, Sarah, you’ll have to leave the common room! A nurse pointed her finger at Sarah and continued,

And stop pulling out your hair…I could write this down, and you know what that means.

The nurse spun around and walked toward the front desk.

Fuck, Sarah said, whispering.

What does that mean? What happens if she writes that down? I said.

It means, the eleven year old said, that she’ll get free time taken away and have to go an hour longer in therapy.

The food here blows, said Sarah.

Like you’d care! Said a boy, sitting down across from us.

Fuck off! Sarah yelled, throwing a pillow at him.

I noticed her frame was tiny.

I could break her in two, I thought. Suddenly, I had the urge to throw up.

The boy caught the pillow, laughed. He had burns spotted over his arms. He stood up, walked away.

What are you doing? Said the eleven year old.

Writing, I said.

I see things, she said.

You do?

Yeah. That’s why I’m here. I see math problems floating around. Give me a math problem! I’ll solve it!

I’m not very good at math, I said.

She’s fucking lying, said Sarah, still pulling at her hair. She’s just got behavioral problems.

The eleven year old looked down at her hands, picked up a pencil and started drawing on a piece of paper.

I can see things, she said, under her breath.

The calm came into the room like a buzzing hive. Around me, the lights
started going in and out, breathing like starfish and gold flakes,
coming down.

Perhaps I’m seeing things, I thought.

I wanted to tell her that I used to see things, too, but I caught myself.

You don’t say things like that in the hospital unless you want to stay longer.

Maybe I do want to stay longer, I thought, smiling.

Later that night, a nurse came in every hour to take my blood pressure.

It’s ok dear. I’m just checking in on you. We have to do this every hour. You’ll get used to it.

The light outside the window seemed neon. The cinder blocks poured into my eyes like a holding pattern.

The nurse took my blood. I watched in a sleepy daze as the red went up the wire.

I’ll only do this at the beginning of the night, she said.

Strange, I thought, that this is so comforting.

I wanted to cry because I was happy she was there, sitting by my bed.

I’m OK. I thought, and went back to sleep.

The showers were cold.

No hot water.

I have to stay here while you shower, said another nurse in the morning.

I’ll stand outside while you dress, she said.

I lied down on the tiles. The cold felt good.

The lines stretch on forever, I thought.

Later that morning, after cereal and orange juice,

No fucking coffee. No cigarettes and no coffee, said Sarah, her razored-hips pushing past me to the cafeteria table,

Later that morning, after cereal and orange juice,

Eleven year old sat next to me on the couch in the common room. We watched the adults stand outside on their cigarette breaks.

I see butterflies, too, she said, so quietly I could barely hear her.

I know, I said.

You see them, too?

No, I said, but that doesn’t mean you don’t.

She looked up, cheeks wet from the tears I didn’t notice.

I don’t want to leave, she said, grabbing hold of my hand.

Me either.

Later that week, at the family therapy session, before they let me go:

Shannon, what do you think you’ll be able to do now, instead of fall back on your old coping mechanism?

The therapist leaned back.

I listed off the usual responses, but secretly I had no idea.

What do you think you’ll do now?

Seven years ago, I would have gone into the bathroom and


Why do you hurt yourself?

Not that the lines go on forever, but that they don’t.

This morning, I woke up and held a pair of tweezers to my palm.

Pushed in.

No, read something, I said aloud to myself at 7 AM.

So, I chose Thomas Kempis:

“When you rise in the morning, think that you will not see evening; and
when evening comes, do not be too certain that you will rise in the
morning….Wise and blessed is he who, during life, strives to be what he
would like to be when death finds him.”

I got down on my hands. I breathed the carpet bugs into my lungs. I said:

No one is this blessed.

I thought about the girl in the hospital, seven years ago, who saw things.

Gather around her, I said. Gather the grass around her and be something solid.

I am something solid, I said, thanks to this.

I pointed into my chest, a pen.

I pointed it into my chest, just a bit more.

The tip almost called out to me.

It almost said, “stop!”

But I knew not to go too far.

I knew to feel through the spirit, not the body.


Why do you hurt yourself?

Sometimes, passing through me, a list of things.

And the lines go on forever.

That’s the point.

Forever, they go on, and through me.

I drove to campus and lost myself in worry.

Why haven’t I written anything?

I texted the man I've never met:

I see visions but don’t even know it.

What visions? He texted back.

Things like how I’m just a long line or how I want to kiss
girls legs or tell everyone I love them.

Too many trying to speak at
once, I texted, but I need one clear vision at a time. It gets jumbled.

Later, at work, while I’m writing about the mental hospital, I read from Dag Hammarskjold’s journal:

During a working day, which is real only in God, the only poetry which
can be real to you is the kind which makes you become real under God;
only then is the poetry real for YOU, the art true. You no longer have
time for—pastimes.

I feel separated, he texted again.

Visions are a licking of the tongue. Or something under the length of
how I feel, floating each morning toward the carpet bugs, singing in my
lungs as I kneel.

Do you see them, too? She asked.

No, I said. But that doesn’t mean you don’t.

11 April 2009

Then Roethke Said, I Believe in Ghosts, Too!

I was reading this today, and it helped me, again, like things seems to do...always drifting in as disembodied voices, knowing exactly what to say, and when.

Roethke wrote an essay called "On Identity" and in it, said this:

"Let me say boldly, now, that the extent to which the great dead can be evoked, or can come to us, can be eerie, and astonishing. Let me, at risk of sounding off, recite a personal incident.

I was in that particular hell of a poet: a longish dry period....I was 44 and I thought I was done. I had been reading -- and rereading -- not Yeats, but Ralegh and Sir John Davies.

Suddenly, in the early evening, the poem "The Dance" started, and finished itself in a very short time--say thirty minutes, maybe in the greater part of an hour, it was all done. I felt, I KNEW, I had hit it. I walked around, and I wept; and I knelt down--I always do after I've written what I know is a good piece. But at the same time I had, as God is my witness, an actual sense of a Presence--as if Yeats himself were IN the that room. The experience was in a way terridying, for it lasted at least half an hour. That house, I repeat, was charged with a psychic presence" the very walls seemed to shimmer. I wept for joy. At least I was somebody again. He, they--the poets dead--were with me.


If the dead can come to our aid in a quest for identity, so can the living--and I mean ALL living things, including the subhuman. Why not? Everything that lives is holy: I call upon those holy forms of life. One could even put this theologically: St. Thomas says "God is above all things by the excellence of His nature; nevertheless, He is in all thigns as causing the being of all things." Therefore, in calling upon the snail, I am calling, in a sense, upon God.

Snail, snail, glister me forward,
Bird, soft-sigh me home.
Worm, be with me.
This is my hard time.

...the identity of some other being--and in some instances, even an inanimate thing--brings a corresponding heightening and awareness of one's own self, AND, even more mysteriously, in some instances, a feeling of the oneness of the universe.


Once we feel deeply, to paraphrase Marianne Moore, we begin to behave"

So, yes, Roethke, yes. I was once in that room, with the ghosts, and have found myself there again, again when I was so sunk in my own dark that I didn't think words were things themselves anymore. That spirit couldn't be the tiny hairs on their backs and I wouldn't find a way to make them crawl across the green of our world.

But then, something happens.

And some spirit lets us move again, with their breath.

But only if we feel deeply. Let our gazes become active and silent on a solid thing. Let our gazes become rocks of faith, even if we grit our teeth against them night after night.

A couple nights ago I woke with a pain. Looking at my arm, I noticed I had bitten it in my sleep. Why would I do such a thing.

Then, in the small part of my chest, where the ribs sort of meet at the top, I felt a skipping joy.

Pain is something gorgeous, when you feel it out of context. When no thought attends to its play.

So, some spirit moved in me to rage against my disbelief, bit into the arm that writes and doesn't write. And when it doesn't write, it doubts.

But I said, then, to my biting ghost....

Tell me something I don't know, something I have seen once, but forgotten, or get out.

Then, the sun broke in.

I thought I was dreaming, but

three weeks before, I sat in the library and cried, reading Larry Levis' first poem in Elegy.

His black-box windows are now looking at me.

Now, waiting for me to say something about the community of trees.

Larry, I got in late last night. I missed your call.

Forgive me. Whisper something to me again.

No, tell the others I haven't forgotten them either.

Tell the universe I try so often to remember myself being not myself but dirt.

Larry helped me write a poem, once, even before I knew him.

You're thinking, how is this possible?

Check out Godel and his concept of time. It's all there. We're in this together, alive or dead.

So, Larry helped me write a poem once. I was sitting in Borders, having beaten myself up about not writing a poem, not getting accepted to Graduate School, and losing too much weight.

But he invoked in me a Fish, and at the end...my declaration, at the end of the poem, was:

Field. Cows. Flies.

And, a year later, after Marie Howe told me to read a man named Larry, I sat in the Graduate School library that I didn't think I got into, and read his line

Cattle. Field. Flies.

I got chills. I cried. I sang something in the small part of my chest, where the ribs meet in the middle...

I said...

Holy Shit!

And cried some more.

Now, Roethke says, Well, yes, Shannon, of course I believe in ghosts and dead poets.

I want to hold your hand, Roethke. Can you hear me, now?

From the Therapist / Client Series

CLIENT on a train. THERAPIST in an office speaking into tape recorder.


(to God)

Sometimes I walk next to You, swallow words, theirs, thoughts, collect things.

Imagine a wading pool with whole novels!

Someone said this was a problem, a way out.

Of what? Reality?


Patient romanticizes the imaginary. Distractible speech, incoherence…




…Rather than meaningful relationships…


Sound, sounds.


…sounds, sounds appear to govern words.


(to God)

I told therapist, too many bookshelves will kill a man.

I’m hopeless, I know. I believe in the Utmost.

Or Highest.

(to passenger)

Not once does God write Christmas cards to electrons

I don’t know. What do you think?




(to passenger)

They’ll tell you I’m schizophrenic. I see words in waves.

(to God)

Clarity is morning daisies through a bay widow after You’ve spent all night dancing.


Client has effectively manipulated environment of thought. Quarantine.


(to God)

Your poetry plays into fantastic behavior, an orange and red macaw.


One fears the room will fill with pages of her script.


(to passenger)

I hang thought-maps, damp canyon girls, along the running board.


I wake in sweats. Perhaps losing the mind is a communal disease.


(to God)

Searchlights: I cry about holiness. Searchlights.



Her voice in my ear. She’s in mirrors,



(to passenger)

How I sound like blossoms. Inside another’s ear.

Hopeless, I know.

(to God)

Someone must have stored a copy of You in a filing cabinet.


(to God)

She’s in mirrors now.

Light taps between ear bone and verbatim.


(to God)

Thought babies born between us. Same brain.



08 April 2009

And that your hand is on her every morning, and that you are testing her every minute...

Somewhere, a shadow of me is sitting against a tree, reading.

I want to believe that what I am writing will set your heart going.

The thought, I am not working hard enough. Each night,

The gathering of the day's minutes nip at my toes at the end of the bed. I tell them, tomorrow, tomorrow, little ones.

Tomorrow, I'll concentrate on my thought baskets, I'll pile little books into my hands and really hold them. Not just pass them over with a light touch, the tips of my fingers.

I am simply a fool. Listen, I haven't said anything to you yet because you're only a light in a corner, a blue globe, hanging there, waiting for a word, or the barometric pressure to drop.

Just keep silent. I know, lock myself away. I want to. I long to go for hours or days and say nothing, nothing to anyone but the carpet bugs.

Just a few hours ago, I saw a carpet bug pass by my desk.

You're working harder than me, I thought.

To be alone is to be in kindness.

Not that I don't mind the bugs.

Or the lamp throwing things around, scooting under my skirt.

But, when I miss hearing from you, or you, or you, I get a tinge in the side.

I walk from one place to another, chanting the syllables of your name.

And they taste sweeter by the minute,

like listening, taste as though I've said nothing but Yes! for a month

So, it doesn't matter, if you heard, if you saw the note I left on your car,

It just matters that I miss you again,

and home is still inside my chest.

07 April 2009

Lust Helps Us Along; On Psychoanalysis, the Artist and St. John

I am currently reading an array of books (my bedside is surrounded by piles of books I’m “currently reading,” which is somewhat a lie, but only somewhat…I pick at things here and there, scoop things up and place them down again, like little birds).

Today, I am reading The Psychoanalyst and the Artist, along with St. John of the Cross.

It’s interesting, because there’s this call for Union with the self, in both cases…(if, as though rocks cast from a mountain, we are a bit of God).

Uniting with the self, with the unconscious, with the mountain from where our bodies were hurled.

And the Artist? What of her? What of her long hours, standing on the shifting weight of feet, gargling mysteries around on her tongue, convinced that there’s nothing, absolutely NOTHING new to be spoken or sung or written…

Union with the self? How can that be possible when it feels the search is never over? One work after another, broken off as acorns from above which refuse to grow. MY GOD! They are imperfect shells.

That’s a poem-baby. And yet my unconscious has failed to wean it into the wide world.

Or our spirits hang above the window as doves do, calling for their mates.

God isn’t a ghost-man out looking for bits of string to tie to trees.

We do not have to look for days for the right word or line break.


As though the artist is gargling the same words around in the throat. (Or, should they be a painter, the same images, color schemes, and such) Someone said a poet essentially writes the same poem, over and over again.

And hello! The telephone keeps silent. The rocks are not falling as often as they should, as though, if you sat in your room long enough, some work would curl up in your lap, complete, lovable, worthy of prizes and Grants.

Vulnerable. I am sitting at work, listening to a sociology class discuss intimacy.

Floating through the classroom and onto my desk:

“I think lust helps us along, helps us let go. Exposing ourselves is a process.

Whatever those vulnerable parts are, they need to be exposed.

But most of us are on guard.”

Says the professor.

This my mind picks up on while I’m trying to write this piece about psychoanalysis, God and the Artist.

But I am at work, writing this piece on psychoanalysis, God and the Artist because the universe works on a string of things, branching out like your veins or the capillary system in a maple leaf. And if I were any other place, I wouldn’t have heard:

Intimacy explained in a professor’s words, drifting over to my desk, reminding me:

Lust helps us along.

Lust for the body—of flesh or body of work.

And so we want to be done with it.

Why isn’t this poem working?

Oh, I’ve torn many strands from my head over this thought.

I’ve prayed, please, give me a vivid dream.

As though a poem would appear and I’d be writing again like I did when I drank too much.

So, I read in my book:

“The total life work of an artist is a more or less continuous dream-work.”

Total life. Throughout. Like when you set off to count the skylights and bridges form. You don’t understand until the lines begin to cross.

God laughs when you get a smirk on your face, when you want to hurl a cup of hot tea at his face and say

Why didn’t you TELL me my ex-boyfriend was a drunk?

Oh, young one. You’ll be free to feel the softness of girls skirts now….

Now that the poems are not each their own bodies, but a flowing string of things from the longest tradition.

Lust helps us along.

Psychoanalysis and the Artist says:

“You, you are an artist if you can weave together radiances of symbols in such a way and with such an interpretive relationship to reality that you can create the illusion of something alive and something manifold so that each who comes to look at it, listen to or touch your work feels himself caught in your dream-becoming-art….”

So, St. John wrote of passing through mountains and strands. Calling out that nothing, no, nothing would permit him passage if he did not grieve for the loss of his Love. Set about muttering on like a Mad Man in search of his unconscious dream-becoming-art.

His dream: these little flowers set out on a hill, or hiding behind a rock, which he will always search for. What can one flower (work) accomplish alone that many gathered together (one’s life work) can accomplish? Surely, the artist must have faith that at the end of life, something will have grown, some garden will have flourished that, in the young days of creativity, the artist could have never guess it’s rich pattern.

Will the garden be colorful, seasonal, limited, renewing? Will the work give one or many pleasure?

If the artist (gardener / gatherer of flowers) continued to worry about the end-result, nothing would get accomplished. And still, if the artist stressed and gargled over and over gain, over the same plant, what else could grow? What other works would be done?

So, I say to a poem-lilly: “are you grown? Are you who you’re supposed to be?”

I walk from my car to the train, from the train to Grand Central, from Grand Central to Union Square, thinking

Is there a poem to be found here? Here? Here, in this stranger’s pocket on the six?

And, while worrying about the little flower-poem that may or may not exist,

I miss The Garden. The City that loves me, itss bad breath and gorgeous breasts.

God, why have you loved me enough to place me here?

Why is this the city that’s kissing me, and will I find more poems in the side-streets?

Something keeps telling me, it doesn’t matter.

I am the Six and the rock from Your Mountain.

Once, when I was writing in a black notebook on the Metro North, depressed that Larry Levis had died so young after reading a book of his poems,

It suddenly hit me:

It’s enough I am here to read him.

And I’ll die having thought about his California.

Matthew Dickman’s New York Produce.

Catharina Evan’s New Jersey.

Megan Williams’ Idaho.

And God, why have you loved me enough to place me here?

When I got the letter about being on the waitlist for Sarah Lawrence,

I cried for 20 minutes in my apartment hallway, called my mother in Puerto Rico and said “I didn’t get in.” She said she’d drink a Margarita for me anyway.

But the Universe is made of a continuous string, like your veins or the capillary system in a maple leaf.

And Oh, young one, you’ll learn a lot about the Greater Picture through this, about faith.

St. John of the Cross said:

Who can set forth in words that which He makes them feel? and, lastly, who can explain that for which they long?

Assuredly no one can do it; not even they themselves who experience it. That is the reason why they use figures of special comparisons and similitudes; they hide that which they feel and in the abundance of the Spirit utter secret mysteries rather than express themselves in clear words.

Lust helps us along.

If it wasn’t for lust, I wouldn’t have called Graduate Studies every day, wondering if I was worthy of getting off the “list.”

If it wasn’t for lust,

I wouldn’t be singing as I do, about wanting to know my unconscious, climbing a mountain from which I fall every day, writing in the muddiest words the greatest love song of my life, all my life.

And each poem is a chord of it. A strand in a tiny fibre that makes up a piece of a long string within the Universe’s String System.

The Nature of this:

Vulnerable. Like when I cried, again, walking toward a pine tree and holding a hand for the first time since letting go of the last chord. The last poem-lily, waiting to be part of my garden, after I die.

Dear So and So


I stopped at a puddle, crossing the street, hoping I'd see your smile, or someone's smile, at least.

I was reading about God. I wasn't trusting my own voice.

And then on the eliptical machine, I heard myself pronounce:

There's a whole other plane on which to live!

Not that I knew, exactly, how to live on that plane, but I knew it demanded my silence.

Where do you turn inward? He asked.

And I was on my way to Starbucks to buy coffee, and I thought:

I have no damn idea.

Sometimes on my yoga mat, I guess...or when I'm walking to the library, hoping I can get lost in Goethe or a book on neurology.

When I was on the eliptical, sweating the worry out, I thought:

Jesus, why has it felt like time suddenly stopped being time, and instead became one big, sloppy cocktail party?

Last night, he asked me, What's it sound like, when God talks to you?

What does it feel like? I asked.

No, sound like.

Oh. Nothing. It doesn't sound like anything.

That's right. He said, because didn't you say you'd die if you heard God?

I breathed. I noticed, I was breathing, then said,

Surely, you cannot hear me and live.

Sometimes, when I was younger, I thought the ringing in my right ear was angels.

Later, I found out it was residual damage from so many years of chronic ear infections.

Once, I was so sick, the ceiling fan came down and told me to cut myself.

OK, I said to the ceiling fan.

No, God doesn't sound like anything.

But sometimes I hear symphonies, I said.

Yeah, that book I'm reading, Wittgenstein's Mistress, she hears things like that, he said.

You mean, the crazy woman? I asked.

No. She might just be the last woman on earth, not crazy.

I wanted to shout out at the gym, to the woman cleaning the treadmill,

There's a whole other plane on which to live!

But maybe I'll just write a blog about it, I thought,

And send imaginary emails in my head, like

Dear So and So

Your tree is awfully lonely. Talk to it.



05 April 2009

In Me. Hidden, A Coyote

As though longing for a grave or,

in my youth, blood,

I feel a stirring inward,

and when the inward refuses to unlock doors, there comes a stirring for a tearing away of the body,

for kneeling, as I did in childhood, against stone.

Why the desire to be still for hours, still and silent?

I am ashamed to cry or sing or pray,

even in a corner in my house,

even in the spare room in my ribs,

even in the dark of my eyelid.

But I’ll fall down, again,

down into a scattering.

Into a scattering a bit of bone, a hide, as though in me, hidden, a coyote.

And this desert, it wanders, takes branches into its mouth, hungers, racks the length of its back against brush.

Into a scattering, it howls, breaks flocks in the sky.
Hallow reeds tremble.

Into a scattering, flocks fall, feathering the ground.
How my heart feels, faltering.

And in this desert, the heat-body inside my body, rises, talks gibberish until my lips are parched.

Into a scattering, the coyote cries through the throat, star-light.

Into a scattering, brambles, so each step brings a pang.

As though for the grave,

the darkness hides in the hide of my thigh when the stirrings still

and the scatterings gather together.

I have laid my palms on the side and watched the prints lift, ghost-like, from the bed.

And then the tremble.

I have crawled, though no trail has been pressed.

The coyote, if it could, would let the tongue roll out, taste its own blood.

Turn in.
Turn indoors.
Turn the doorknob until the neck breaks.

I’d hurl my body into a corner.

Not to be impatient but to have a reason, solid, bruised, to whimper as I do.

04 April 2009

I Never Say Anything Bad About Anyone // Why Are You Telling Me This While I'm Drinking Shots?

I was in the corner, watching him.
It’s not like we go and socialize.
It will be easier in a couple years—
I’m very worried about her.

It was that summer they shared the house. I never told you about that?

He says to me: So, you still living up in Connecticut?
And I was like,
He says, Are you still happy there?
And you know what I said to him? I said,
My house is bigger than yours
(I was kind of drunk that night)

I hate him. I really hate him. I swear.
He’s setting himself up for politics. Ugh.

He would verbally abuse his wife in front of us, at parties and I felt so uncomfortable. He was so verbally abusive.

And like, her father, his wife’s father, he was very ill and he died. And she called me and asked if we could watch her kids. And I had five kids at my house! It was not an easy task and he did nothing!

And we decided to move, we, you know, we did…
It was a huge mistake.
I hate him.
I wish him ill and I don’t wish that on anyone.

Wait, who were the neighbors I met?

Um, Connie and Bill—across the street from the Garrons—our kids played together, went to ballet and everything!

You know, like things couldn’t be better for us in Connecticut, it’s our dream home.

...I have to support my mother, you know what I mean?

...I was crying, Why are you telling this to me….while I’m drinking shots!

She wanted to buy a house, stay home, have kids, but she was like, 25 years old. She should be enjoying herself!

Did you have a different picture of how it would turn out?

Totally. We all did. But you have to respect people’s choices. I mean, here I am in my breeches on the train!
I remember thinking, she’s turning 40!

She worships her, she does, because her husband makes so much money

Yeah, well, you know, she’s just….

She’s a princess! I know!

She said to me, No one called me to say congratulations on your pregnancy—I, I was on BEDREST!

I mean, I never say anything bad about anyone!

I mean, I wanna go to Vegas when I turn 40!

Ha, but who knows, we may be living with my mother by then, you never know. This is a bad year for us.

Oh, don’t say that!

I may have to sell my aquarium!

Aww, I love your fish!

They each have their own tank—the kids just love it!

I changed the water on Saturday. Some of the real colorful ones died. Mary said, Do you think dad poisoned them? I said, Mary, no! Don’t say things like that!

She’s only eight years old! Where does this come from?!

The nanny isn’t helping you Easter weekend?

Yeah. Well, the kids are in middle school, so they don’t get home until 3:15.

Who walks your dog?

Um, my mother. I’ll walk them on some weekends because I like it, you know. But I’m usually not at home.

I wake up at 4:30.

John says, You’ve got bags under your eyes
And I’m like, Thank you! I love you, too!

Well, my first class is at 7:30 and I have to set up beforehand.

The kids are so funny. I said to them,

Settle down.
It’s Spring.

There’s this little girl, she wrote:

Cells are parts of our bodies.
There’s blood cells,
Hair cells,
Sperm cells.
But sperm cells are only in boys

And she just went on and on.

Those kids, they just are something else.

03 April 2009

Jackals Behind Tongues

What do you want me to do for you?
Let me see again.
Receive your sight; your faith has saved you.

Let me see again, undoings, undone like last night falling into Your hands.

If I stand here until my feet check sensation,

if I told love to hide its face

if I crawled toward a door into darkness

if I hid in the dark until undoings were doing

their weight into my hair

could there be an ocean again,

again, in my hand, would there be writing

and when I held him closer than other nights

before, when I said to You in the dark,

on the side, unnoticed by love, bring us undone

here in the middle, let this feel broken,

let each touch burn a new word.

When we claimed to be gods, but didn't know we were

calling, was there an ocean, then, in between us

when I tugged eyelids, did this

undo enough to be Your undoing?

If I left, knelt, kept things close to my side...

Let our bodies be light, prayer-

bodies, undone.

We undo darkness, arms, each other,

haunting jackals, for eyes behind eyes

hurt behind pleasure-flowers under tongues.

Is love an instrument to play against Your ear

because when I knelt for him I felt undoing, singing,

though he knows nothing, nothing of being a god.

02 April 2009

In Love

"Show me, O Lord, my life's end
and the number of my days;
let me know how fleeting is my life. -Psalm 39: 4

Only a simple kneeling, but I feel it through my spine. To the top, which is the sky within me. These are today's joys:

Pine. Sunshine. Music. Reading.