Three Masses From Afar

Ember rest
Again
Reset when

Twilight falls upon this vermillion-
Washed lakeland feel at home feel
At home here laughter like
Landscapes puncturing aqueous mirrors;

Islands unexplored in true measure

Incendiaries seen incendiaries
Felt beating
Away at tree trunks add
Another ring another year tied to finger left of center

Aluminum cans popped
Open fizzling, silently we roar,

Silently we all roar

Tamping gravel to dirt,
Memory to stone

Which of us will bear
The brightest constellation?
Carry the boulder-blasted torch songs
Towards empyreal horizon?

All dancing
All dancing
Trances set
To still-life in motion,

Cricket orchestras illuminated as if
Actually fireflies

Smoke,
A burn
Smoldering supple
And endearing

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A Collective Obligation

Carbon caked to barren
Feet walking on ash then
Dirt ran to water wash
The mess away, right
With grace, if anything at all

Fire forlorn fighting aphotic
Precedence set aside sticks
To burn set aside each other
As well birch bark wrap old
Wounds in words carved from
Apologies and cambium, if
Anything at
All a semblance of sentiment perhaps
It’ll be found
Clinging to wayward horizon

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.

Camp Lonesome Pine Family Portrait

Found between tree lines and an open
Field
An old photograph half
Relinquished to nature,
Stubborn in part-a portion refuses
To yield
Barely visible
Plucked with fingertips painted
A specific shade of dirt and wanderlust hiding
Amongst bluestem lean-tos,
Thought to crouch, to
Get down on two knees
Catch a better view
Make lakes for small animals,
Crawl under the poorly thatched roof
Maybe fall asleep for a little while,
Strip bare absorb newfound bliss
Use old focused light as a blanket
Finding comfort in an unfamiliar image-

Is life not simply just
Discovering pieces of ourselves
In foreign situations?

It was a tarnished analog log cabin
Hew marks like calligraphic
Brush strokes visible on the wall,
Window rotted mostly
Slightly off-center
Small glimmer hinted
At a sill brimming
With coffee cans and tin mugs,
There was a mixed group of maple faced
Pioneers standing middlemost,
Smiles falling off the photograph,
Flipped over ever so faint
Was the date “1994”,
Two years before I was born but
Yet it seemed,
As rays of sun in brilliant
Reflection of cedar gold and wildflower periwinkle
Merge and dissolve and bare foot trails
Rise into wilderness,
That we were smiling together

Where The Light Shines

It’s the weekend, Friday forever and again. Commemorations are cut into cedar logs; between branches children run from front porch to aching maple. A vision kept close a memory once experienced now is in the process of being created. Fleeting from nest buried amongst a web of rafters, birds sing above our heads heard faintly beyond mechanical repetition, scrag engine roaring fervently from forest to moment trees dissipate and in their place is a heart and home. The birds sing-still persistently heeding no recognition to intrusive noise- songs lathered in shades of purple and braids of love- tea whistling on woodstove mixed with coffee roasted to full city in contrast of the wilderness looming just outside the entryway. Porcelain basking on windowsill wisps of steam floating; remaining motionless for a second then evanescing. It’s ready, beckoning.

It’s 8:30, determined by the streaks of vermilion glistening through a receding doe corridor. By noon, an hour prior, the last tooth would have taken its last bite for the day and we will begin bathing in the warm rivers of laughter. It’s 9 currently though- first break, the only for today. A jittery fawn shuffles between piles of fascia jumping over vague gravel roads between bundles stacked like jenga minarets into the ditches before appearing again just around a corner. Coy yet curious, walking to the mechanic’s garage for breakfast, strange fur colour catching its attention, following seemingly close yet asunder, my shadow has competition, for a little while at least. The door opens unwillingly almost stumbling, moth-eaten, the passenger chair from a Chevrolet Silverado catches me almost purposely. The fridge is opened, revealing amongst two peanut butter sandwiches, half-a half-a dozen bottles of Ketel One, a stale bag of roasted garlic bagel crisps and approximately fifteen hand-rolled cigarettes. The room is cozy if defined by size and stubborn decision to not rot. Space is scarce, flat back against the wall as if to walk along the precipice of a mountain. A picnic table born of monolithic pine occupies center, lack of capacity fails to impede rapid ebullient fables. Talking lambent with tones of joy, five episodes of Seinfeld and Friends is bolstered into nine seasons fully reenacted, an entire cast played by six lumberjacks.

Thirty minutes, a rest worth a lifetime falls through animated reconciliation and soon enough the engines are roaring again. Two hours turns into a victory lap. Narrowly dodging thunderstorm of foliage, we chuckle. Later recounting the near death experience as if we’d been exiled, left to build again our own society from scratch. The volcano erupts spontaneously, violently an avalanche crashes toward what little progress has been made. Silence follows, a hand is seen, reaching up from a small desecrated hut, another appears then another, the bodies attached slowly become visible. Stubborn survivors who defied isolation and Mother Nature is how the tale will be told. The mess is cleaned up, logs loaded back onto the dock, blades re-calibrated, a few details ironed out, some key points cleaned up, feathers in line, the alarm goes off. The weekend is here, we meet in Maplewood.
It begins with music, subtle songs of crickets and warblers in the morning we whistle in tune in attempt to capture the tenderness of being feral. Fluctuating with cyclic evolution the melody transcends scene a new movement orchestrated by the guidance of memory and reverie. A single note held from this symphony whispers of unrelenting presence. The crescendo soars at first rest, crashing into reiterations of timeless rendition, the body is a pit for the theatre of Earth.

Pattern gives way to tradition, at 11 pine violins and raven trumpets ease into caesura, feet trace familiar path to truck, heard faintly between door and hallway, “Sultans of Swing” is sung softly. Driving home a moment of bliss is held in a deep breath, close enough to see the familiar neon faces of recognizable wildlife, far enough away to get lost in an amiable world playing hawk-dove with theory and knowledge. Drifting routine alone at high-noon pacing hot water sanctuary, garments exchanged for expression. A slice-pair of toast is burned to crisp taken a second to cherish- the simplicity of being so early in the day, often times taken for granted is the essence that built these bones. A text message is sent on the feathers of local pigeons. Feet crossed standing up facing the window overlooking austere terrace, a colony of sunflowers watches over the garden whose abundance is annexing the woodshed and dog pen. Returned minutes later metal band clinking against porch sill, to take my time is all that is requested.
Animals breathe for fuel, plants breathe for fuel, all living things breathe for fuel. This is without fault for every second the creature remains alive. One of the more notable qualities of humankind is the ability to take something that is intrinsically archaic and fierce and make it rest at our heels. Breathing, an absolute necessity to living has lost its control over us. Humanity rarely breathes for fuel, for survival. Humanity breathes for happiness, grief, to form relationships, to send nations to war, breathing has become a part of language. On the drive to Maplewood, I breathe for Arcadia.

The cabin smells of bitter coffee and wildfires, a knock isn’t necessary but it’s best to build a second’s worth of anticipation. A rhythm not broken for years the inhabitants understand that these things are absolute and essential-the knock, three light taps, two are heard faint as a fire crack, the last is given to nature for her to make. The door opens, lunch is well on it’s way through the digestive tract. The coffee strong as ever is only just starting to fertilize the soft whimper of wind outside- the sun burns perfectly crystalline. Greeted with piano teeth and an apology “It’s basically water today”. A rest may be needed. As now the river, a tumble weed away, runs black as it runs red with iron ore.

Perched on cobblestone wall a calligraphic sky dances with vermiculate figurines; at once like falling leaves shadow puppets, against a backdrop of cedar vistas, scrawl cursive portraits like pointillistic novels. Here, we are dew drops embracing shaded blades of grass.

Thrown as if apple cores to the forest, rest takes form in tracing corridors of birch and pine. Taking note of deer paths, serenity is found in beaver tracks. Rolling lopsided from clearing to clearing we stumble upon a bird’s nest resting in a willow tree. A timid glimpse offers the beauty of newborn life. There’s a stretch about a mile south that leads to a decrepit concrete foundation, where colored glass peeks weakly above verdant moss beds. A remnant of logging’s past, it’s said if the wind blows right on a cold Autumn night one can hear the steady chug of a steel axe cutting relentlessly at a defiant weald. Lost in the world before, a steady breeze carries us back to the cabin. In celebration of simplicity, to living together with nature, the evening is set and the fire is started.

Babbling a brook away the branches join in harmony to the trickling of water flowing so steadily. An occasional splash, kaleidoscopes flicker, fish gallop seemingly aware and seeking invitation. The pot has been drained two or three times, each increasing in strength from water to wine Friday ends enveloped in amethyst. South of the river we stop and holding everything, as if it was actually ours alone, today and tonight, forever and again. A joke is spoken, laughter finds wings to fly slipping up our throats the motion soothes cracked lips placing perspective on the monument like an aerial view of an eagle soaring over the Grand Canyon. Speech is reserved for the flame, gathered in storm debris formation we wait for the eulogy, breathing delicately and in rhythm.

Hitchhikers

Days spent in the wood
Laying between cedar trees and grasping arms,
Wandering from
Wisconsin back roads
To river stone reverie
Inveterate vulnerability
Ritualistic tendency
Mutual feelings of faded love
Maintained for good memory,
Traded photographs for sweatshirts
Poems for moments
Oh,
We as we are,
Spoke of forever and mattress matinees
As if their length and definition
Were equally determined
By words stated

How passionately painted
Was grass rising through
The cracks of our souls,
Whiskey encores pressed to spine
Hands pressed to outcrops,
Gripping rock structures
Clinging for support
Cartographers,
Map makers
Fervently in the making,
Studied each other’s topography
Remembering only,
Slightly
The similarities
Of a new environment
Wanderlust,
Wonderment,
Wind blowing your hair
Like it was meant to
Be
In passing,
A drop of rain raised the river