Upon Worn Spirits

Sheep’s wool woven crystal grey
Cascading braids of thunder and lightless theatre marquees

I came covered in caramel vapors
Rode around town on a pair of
Restless rubber legs
Started north and ended up
Along homecoming’s lakefront

Sidewalks and wave whispers
Decorated with the fermented remnants of kisses
Meant with good intention, concrete chipped
Intricate designs embossed on finger nails-
What a rainbow,
Colourful contrast created from sleep exhaustion
Hunger pangs staved off with nicotine

I got lost a little bit
Encompassed by the passively pungent smells
Of love’s sweet battlefield, I took my time
Knocked on your door
Opened revealing you standing there,
Entered and we talked as if one
Upon mentioning an interest in stitching
A hat was produced from an inconspicuous kitchen cabinet,
Handed it over graciously-crystal grey threading,
Braids of cascading thunder and lightless theatre marquees

What a beautiful gravestone it would become

Not Far From Maplewood

There were those trees in your backyard
Wild cedar growing in the gully
Near your woodshed basking in decrepit beauty
Situated above as if being the river’s shepherd

After we discovered that tea
Was literally just plants and hot water

Those cedar trees glowed silky
Smooth a hypnotic amber- such honey slipped
So efficiently down our throats coated
Our intestines and every breath
We spoke

The colour of those years
Between ten and seventeen
Was cedar’s milk

Crafting bows from broken boughs,
Using those freshest of buds as crow’s
Nest, survey flood basin’s reign
Blueprints written in sand script
Loamy soil serving as scroll,
We would attack at noon
And be back before dinner,

Then football season came
And those trees illuminated
In Autumn’s adolescent snow
Caught more passes than your father did

And every Spring
When those rusty red braids of hair
Caught fire releasing forth a flurry
Of gold we’d stand in awe,
Wondering where their children would land
And if we’d ever
Get the chance to meet them

Expeditions

We found it by accident. Drove the car 15 miles north of Rapid River, down a dirt road that had recently become a frozen river. Snow as deep as the bumper I looked at Shane and said “We’ll start wherever the car stops” and hit the gas. It was a ‘99 Camry hatchback, growing up easy in the country side of an Atlanta suburb, it’s previous owner, a college professor, moved to the U.P. to retire, he was selling the car to make room for a jeep which could better handle the winter weather.  It wasn’t made for anything more than a mild rain or whatever the hell is in Atlanta and yet, going forty-five it sputtered and spun through that snow like a damn champion-we made it about fifty yards, give er take. Shane had never been snowshoeing before, I don’t think, certainly didn’t act like it at least. Then again, putting on snowshoes never fails to fool even the veterans- we were snowmen long before we started walking. Cursing, shoving hands into our pants like teenage boys the walk commenced. The wind was viscous, a quarter mile of field to the wood line, threatening to rip the very jackets off us we tried to hurry only to quickly remember or realize running when you’ve got four feet of leather and ash attached to your feet the only possible outcome is to end up face first-our graves dug themselves, foolishly stubborn we got up and trekked on. The woods offered some comfort- a distant coyote sang out. No path to follow, no notable landmarks, there’s probably a river somewhere. A massive hill met us almost instantly, thankfully we were already at the top, unfortunately, this meant we got to enjoy ourselves-this adventure suddenly turned into an impromptu ski trip. Something to be mentioned, this had been planned out barely, we had a backpack, of pens and paper, of short torches, a pot, water, rice and bad coffee. The idea was to find a spot, start a fire, eat a shitty meal then mosey back to civilization, to cower next to a wood stove and gorge ourselves on coffee and well cooked food.

Every patch of forest looks the same with little variation, a few more deer tracks, some more of one tree and less of the other. If you walk in a squiggly line you’re more likely to end up somewhere magical, when near the brink of death the mind starts to hallucinate-close enough.

Post-high school life involves climbing mountains to write poetry, climbing trees to write poetry, having fires on the banks of various rivers to write poetry, scaling cliffs to write poetry, wandering in the woods for hours to write poetry, driving to Warped Tour with the exes, smoking weed while watching Mad Max at 2 am while eating Chinese food with the members of a pop punk band-Shane and the exes were oblivious to the THC, mostly- to write poetry all in the company of the same and only person except that one time involving Warped. Wonder what the greater expected class of 2014 is up to, in the meantime Shane and I are making sure a search team will never find our bodies.
A bird whistles, in the gullet of an idealized winter wonderland noise is obscure, our screams would be audible for miles not that that matters. Shane grows weary of my “instincts”, every patch of forest looks the same, squiggly line lead us home. We enter what summer calls a swampland and what winter calls a pain-in-the-ass-for-anything-trying-to navigate-through-it. The pain-in-the-ass-for-anything-trying-to navigate-through-it was entirely dominated by dense thickets of willow, our faces out of frustration became blunt axes cutting a path through, cursing again slowly meandering, the swamp cleared to a stream flowing mostly frozen.

Earlier in the summer, or maybe after the following spring the ground was soft, decorated in craters of stagnant mirrors and button willows. Our feet, then nimble, hopped from sedge-mound to sedge-mound, scraping knees and exposed flesh, never dodging the brambles, the thin strip of skin connecting pant bottoms and low-cut socks became a scroll, detailing the adventure, the story would be told wordlessly in vivid cicatrix. With risk of getting wet, a bridge was assembled, cut and broken decaying monoliths were reborn to support the urgency of finding such peace.
It’s not there now, the craters have disappeared under a blanket of snow and foliage. The bridge lost in the surge of Autumn rain storms or maybe overtaken by the weight of time never happening. I don’t know, Shane doesn’t know, I ask about the bridge and he replies that it’ll be built again, for the first time at some point.
Winter has saved us this task, unable to jump or display the same gracefulness as native wildlife-the bridge need not be remade now. Skating across to a hollow of cedar menhir, long ago maybe in the future there was a fire pit roaring alive with laughter and serenity- everything is cloudy remembering life as a pointillistic picture; I was sixteen long before I was eight and what a way it is to live that way.
So we enter. Surrendering backpacks and burdens- on the southern corner of the cove there was a small pine between two massive continents. The fire was or will be there. With cotton hands and driftwood daggers we carve out a hole for the platform to burn. Singing songs of books read recently- desolation takes solace in our throats, howling like a sentient breeze asking from the most tiny pockets of frozen earth if our presence will go unnoticed. Let it be best that these hours are offered from bone hands to winter’s love, to melt and swivel behind the fins of rainbow trout in spring, let it be best that all we’ve done be reclaimed immediately as anthems leaving our lips break apart, crash into the emptiness of birch bark and switchgrass. In response a bird whispers, for now we are ciphers together and distant.
Gathering damaged branches to burn, conifer tapestries were woven into nest to keep the wind out, to establish a home amongst the wilderness. Stumbled forlorn, turned corridors into puzzles pieces, walked as if assembling the parts of one another we couldn’t fix before or memories that weren’t adequately captured. Stripped parchment from trees, taking away their gasoline and oil so we could stay warm and have room to write about places that aren’t actually places, at least not anymore. A lighter was acquired from a back pants pocket, gloves taken off and placed above the ground on rotting log made to be a couch comfortable and accepting. Shuffled and shivering breathing to reclaim the energy lost, a placid flick from numb finger, the brief shower of Orion and The Great Bear brings forth a bit of flame big enough to be shared. Spread over twigs of pine and mostly cedar did it so tenderly like folding a bookmarked kiss over a shared, unintentional smile. Grew into pensive recollection, a reflexive work of nature crawling into the pores of denim-sewn jackets, grasping for all that we could give and take and leave behind. An assurance to breathe in a little more and exhale just the same. Surrounding this long exposure of being and nothingness snow fell, defiantly passive against the relentless roar of wind taking bouts at exposed faces, intermittently fingertips available shaving off skin cells whisking them elsewhere and eventually, a mountain will form from what’s taken.
Absent long before ever present, embellished in warmth before succumbing to the vulnerable tendency of pastel epochs; as much as we are it is all that we are not that defines us. At an age of awakening when the ground yet again supple, and more accepting of memory,  fiddleheads will play their hymnals in rhythm to ravens plucking trumpets. A temporary home for serenity will succumb to an inevitable release, and in its loss of identity will rejoin the greater birthplace-returning to the absolute imperative of presence. Like everything else when you no longer can feel you know it was worthwhile.
Snuffed with ice water and a last wish. Packed backpack, boots tied to preserved monuments tracing fading trail path searching for old wounds signaling to turn here or continue moving forward. Brilliant vermilion diffuses above loosely stitched hats pouring through peppered evergreen windows; roughly a few snowflakes west following the coming night to return to a pockmarked field then even more so beyond with rubber and windshield wipers into flat rock and setting sun. Goodbye’s slipped from closed palms passed through language barriers as brief nods, transient instances of standing still not tired or wanting rather transitioning, inhaling reverence.

-What was or is then. Sometimes I feel walking down Broadway or Delta or whatever street is snow painted that I am walking toward the great glacial chimney amongst those great cedar trees, burdened graciously with short-torch and wanderlust. Shane following nearby doubting my judgement, cursing the love-touch of wind. Flurries falling fastidiously and this feels real, for the first time inherently magnificent, entirely unsure if I am here or actually there or somewhere between. The difference means very little.-

Shedding cambium to reveal all that had enveloped us had kissed our cheeks raw, had cradled and cared had passed to our backs as death cedes to life; opposite the direction of movement was a forest in hibernation ablaze with a handpicked bouquet offered forth from the setting sun, underneath was only and ever human.

Probably The Revitalizing Warmth of A Maple Soaked Sun

Against the warmth of a shoulder
Breathing rivers in
Knees posed as naked
Cedar branches bent and reaching
For a sliver of sunlight-

Autumn

Quivering
A bolt of wind blows
Striking a loosely woven quilt of wheat
Vision is temporarily forfeited-

Ran off
To open orchards of punch drunk

Summer,

Dizzy
Falling beneath wolf river apple trees
Might the grass grow through our backs?
Might there be a chance
We can become bits and pieces of nature?
To bloom then die
To change states again and again
To transform into ferns
Sprouting in lowland libraries or lilies
Floating in an anonymous pond,
Rediscovering the other realizing we were
Always closer than initially understood-

A slight shift brings comfort to rest,
Leaning against the concrete
Base of an old rope bridge watching
Leaves fall from branch to be carried
Deep away
Down stream,
I thought about what I might miss most

By Coach Light

Cliff faces bled into Superior, cozy Scandinavian architecture clung to tree roots and mountain hollows, main street undulates between nature’s skyline and an inherent need to find home. The sun conceded to blue colossus becoming barely visible old bookshops and pottery dens dissipated the remaining light-a softened glow settled about the city like a comforting fog. A kaleidoscope fell in carefree pattern dancing seemingly to the beat of Michigan folding into Autumn, of the work week folding into Saturday evening.
We wandered as aimless as the leaves prolapsing to concrete, exchanging water vapor for purpose in search of continued adventure or fresh brew. Balsam firs slipped from heavenly precipice between our hands like pens or pipes held to mouth in a moment of meditation. Gradually isolation retreated becoming again, encompassed by a feeling of collective presence. Shuttling down narrow streets, sloped avenues everything was fervent, the city was enveloped, now by newborn constellations fluttering excitedly. Music could be heard faintly, not violins or brass horns but jangly guitars and gritty bass lines just as magnificent and soaring as Jean’s Symphony in E Flat. Entirely entranced we followed the beautiful soundscape, to dead ends, dive bars, our feet wrote in cursive as we navigated and traced it to the source- double doors brimming of color and youth in the vein of Dr. Seuss, covered in the hand-prints of children laughing with skinned knees. The doors opened like a theater curtain, revealing a whimsical world of Paleozoic flora clashing seamlessly with exaggerated organs- small parts becoming massive structures sprawling across the ceiling.

Crossing a train bridge, a voice screamed desperately giving a dying exclamation for change. The room was narrow with an ambulance bursting part way through the wall, a cluster of young adults began to dissipate with the growing chant of “Smoke break?”-they were like the seagulls of Nemo, the floor was checkered black and white, we stood on a chessboard or anxiously in a kitchen. In the absence of an audience a trumpet broke out mournfully singing scotch jazz, a walking cello faded in and everything began to erupt once more. Stationary dump trucks came alive, engines roaring with the buzzing lips of college students, painted turtles bathing under fluorescent lamps were named and included in games of hide-and-seek and tag, the bones of dinosaurs were re-imagined as breathing creatures chasing fashionable cavemen. All was frantic yet increasingly harmonious, alive with reverie hidden conspicuously in a two-story building on Baraga Avenue. A knee shaking guitar solo came forth drawing on the prismatic colors enveloping a glistening community. Brass breathed fire yet again and the words were spoken so casually in contrast: “I drink whiskey cuz my baby left me” and we all were there intoxicated on everything happening.

CO2

Body brush moving
Graceful
Like a thousand badger bristles-
a streak of red,
maybe violet too
New moon tonight
A mutual relinquishing
Of identity
As if everything is vibrantly
overwhelming,
A chill in the Autumn air
Raising mountains on plateaus
Of undisturbed growth,
Practically visible
The aluminum reflection
Of a smile
Is all
I’ll ever know you by