Seeking Physical Presence In A Stock Photo

Teenage intuition seeks alternatives to baring witness
Conversations  delayed till no longer relevant

Legs run
Tracing root systems to river’s edge
Flames whisper from peripheral’s blur
Time capsule’s accordance
Flesh is buried
Trinkets sewn of heart string
Reunite with hand prints on hinges
Pulling heavy breath through narrow openings
Stumbling still abled
Safety in knowing but not showing face,
Translated shoe laces missing
Tied a knot somewhere
Stopped the bleeding for a little while longer
Scrapbook sheets left behind
Licked a stamp as last chance exit
To be returned anywhere
Except every moment not shared

A picture framed
Gravel roads kaleidoscope stained
Porch light projecting a phosphorescent montage of letters kept
Context shown as postscript flashbacks
Narrated by voices in tones of bodies present,
Pressed together pen under skin
Wrote in cursive slender yet elegant,
A signature and hyphen followed by
A smile with some numbers added
Replaced the thought of never seeing you

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Asunder

Sleep within us Great Bear
Ever shifting as we wander, oh beautiful
Land of unknown pockets and
Crevices brimming with innumerable
Narratives passing passing by,

Not a minute before ten
The car speeds seventy-five,
Landscapes and hands collapse in cacophony
Speaking a crossbred language of consciousness and abundance,
Stopping at a river coloured meadow unassuming
Stopping at a crosswalk downtown Traverse City
Nursing cups of tea noticing that familiar feeling
Of being somewhere previously unexplored,

Fervently kind, comfortably gentle
At sight this trio of denim and nylon would be
Placed in a coffee shop cloud cover casting threats of rain,
A map would have us be bountiful-
A brilliant constellation dotting the state,

Every footprint or photo taken
Becoming another piece set free still to Michigan’s wilderness-
A story a few years from now
Seen in a valley deep down a field
Between monoliths Dwarf Iris blooming
With the colour of our laughter

Driving home felt like night turning to day

A Long Weekend Away

Received in the mail today
An image and handwritten statement
Declaring that someone was somewhere
And they thought of me,
Stamped and dated visiting Paris April 26th,
From Europe over ocean
Great lake to Michigan
To all places I never thought
To inspect

Given context or suppositions,
How do I know when wandering with no destination
In mind that I’m wandering in the right direction?
These trees and faces all look the same
Seen from a distance, following a map of convictions
Hoping this faith in getting lost will somehow
Lead to a place where I’m comfortable
In my own skin, a place occupied with laughter
Vistas vast and brilliant and I can sit for a moment
In company of coincidence and evanescent idleness,

Flipping the Eiffel Tower over
Reveals a string of numbers and letters
That resemble a familiar address
One that I’m still trying to discover

Expedition Lost

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

Stepping Stone

Roaring like a muffled whisper speaking
A secret falling on deaf ears
What’s perceived as wind or a warbler
Singing is always so much more
But English is the only language I know

In spring buds begin to enunciate
From birch boughs frozen plateaus
Shout free flowing water this barrier
Doesn’t prevent an ear from trying
To interpret,
So it’s Friday night- band practice
Sitting cross-legged in the living room
Margaritas sitting adjacent
And we talk wholesome
Skin flaps pinned to panel boards
Rib cages splayed open
Reading our cicatrix
Laughing mad at circumstance, persistently
There exists
Silence between tongue movements
A razor breeze though the window’s closed
I can’t help at being distracted like
I’m constantly being left out or always
Longing for a family member that doesn’t exist,

Now it’s summer
Flowers dancing to cricket choruses
And we’re on a lake buried
Deep in deciduous forests, far away
And only out of context are we lost,
Daylight surrenders to lullaby evening
Sleep takes hold and I am alone
Basking amongst an open forum
Breathing and not a human speaks
And for a little while there’s an understanding,
Clarity coming through darkness
It’s not loneliness,

They’re calling me from home

Maybe Hope or A Huge

The trees

If you turned the lights off
Let night saturate atmosphere as embers of
A once roaring fire now smolder beneath
A blanket of ash glowing just so softly,
It might look like a bustling city,
From a few miles away,
Grasping at silhouettes of oaken statues
Reaching for a familiar hand
The space between main street and this palpating heart
Has grown so distant
I tell my heart to slow down
Driving back home to where lights
Shine a different context,
Not to get excited
A memory once sung has buried itself
Once providing strength
Now wormholes long and hollow
Leave me fragile and petty
Not to get excited,
The lake has evaporated the fire
So going 55 seems more a punishment than celebration,
Not going to the infant incandescence
The pyre waits as debt and birthdays fill empty space
After all
What burns better than dead devotion?
Eyes lock to the sky as we get closer
Pretending for a little while longer
That the memory of being alive is tangible
And my heart beats fast
And the city climbs atop the statues
Glowing just so softly
And something’s waiting for me

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.