A Long, Shallow Hill


we will make the right question

which will have no answer–


what is silence but the most precious possession?

the deadened sound? the nevermore?


what is not beyond touch?

voices? the past?


a sound that’s called your name

to be where you are–here on this hill–


a heaven for birdsong

would lengthen death’s worth


coiled inside the extended field

toiled & countless wonders


a substantial plane of erstwhile fingernail grime

stovepipe hats, binoculars & sunshine



The Town’s Cathedral

“The Town’s Cathedral” in TYPO 22

The summer the lake on top of the mountain

dried up completely & forever, I left

the place of my birth.  Then I left the mountain

altogether after having been the last to stay,

finally giving up any hope for the lake to return.


I have since rented a one room hovel on Main Street

in a nearly abandoned & forgotten mill town.

I have learned in pieces of hearsay

that my father spent his boyhood near here,

that his father was a preacher in a small church close by.


These facts are merely chance as I feel little connection.

At times I find myself at zero.

I sing myself hoarse in the dark.

I notice I am stared at when I walk through town.

I think many more words than I say or sing.


We create what we want as we want it to be.


The town & its dwindling people have been erecting

a gray stoned cathedral for over three hundred years

since the town’s founding.

I walk past the unfinished cathedral daily, eat my fruit

on the shaded limestone slabs in its yard

as if they were tables hewn for centuries

for a single day’s gathering.

I have come again to zero


after I awoke in a large empty aerie atop a smokestack

within the closed paper mill’s fenced campus.

I wrote ‘You have earned your shade’ with my forefinger

into the grease & dust on a remaining pane of glass

after I climbed down the smokestack’s side.

As I descended the ladder, I imagined I was being watched

by a child who stood on a distant mountain, who sensed

he was observing something miraculous & impossible in the distance

in the town of the eternally built cathedral.

To him I was a bird that had changed into a man

overnight & now, unable to fly, slowly & clumsily

was making his way down from the sky

to join humanity as humanity diminished.


The man outside of town thinks that I’m foolish

but he still pays me anyway as always to toil in his fields.


I rotate piles of rocks from field to field,

one rock at a time, with a wooden barrow

that the man’s mule drags through the ruts.


This seems meaningful work for me to complete while the cathedral is being finished.






This Book is for My Sister

I do not have a sister.  I do have a brother.

Though we share the same parents, my brother

was not weaned on our mother‘s milk.  We channel

this harped & hided world.  I have my many echoes.

My brother has his own—myself, which I suggested he lose.

He did, & I waited nearly twenty years to see him again.

He showed up with a folded newspaper under his right arm

which hid a long sharp knife.  Discovering his knife I told him

of the many spiders & their many eyes that shared my house.

I said, Ultimately, everything I do, I do for our sister.  He said,

Indeed.  It was then that he doffed his hat, made his exit,

& went in search of the graves of our grandparents.

No Sign of Getting Much Better. But Good Luck to You & India

I clutch the hazel eyes of my father

in my sleep dreaming of walking

the tracks with my father’s lantern

looking for bodies

of deer & windblown derby hats from town

& the entirely underlined book

from the night before on my mind


the aureate nature of my telling


brutal grace follows realism


the transcended field I will tell you of later

my only one we were born in the same place & now lie down


what in the dark is essential?

I’ll be that

A Nickel for Every Time


I was standing in our sixth floor hotel room window watching cars silently move below me in a famous city we were visiting.  Again it occurred to me that there are all these things & places that are said to exist & events that are said to exist, but how can they exist unless I experience them myself.  The old problem: the hackneyed wooden wagon that wanders the streets of the mind calling for dead cinder filled ash boxes & vials of gathered pollen & stamens for cures.  The herbivores congested with swarms of teeth.  The talk of it all amongst the neophytes, the glib news subscribers.  The unemployed instrument tuners.


What a collection of wine-stained tapestries.


Beauty has not died of sweat or starvation.


I suppose the series of rather inarticulate notes I pounded out upon the piano in the church as a child were not composed measures but a song still.  I welcome sleep by thinking “oh so long ago, so long ago.”  What in the world that won’t affect my dreams I will. Attending the national pastime with parasols & Russian novels.  Falsettoed ceilings of azure.  Anything brought back from ruin.  The first cup I shattered whole again.  The cup of my friend’s childhood.  The anniversary of your voice.  You, the last word, you.

Rare Pride

 I can’t do it anymore

shed the scent of my birth


& its undelivered light

stay here


inside the mountain’s fog

one mountain loves another


the shapes of trees

stalk me


I divine my sleep

the shape of snowfall & light


I’ve told no one the whereabouts

of my intent


to vow a silence

that cannot last


& then there is the shape

of light the shape of bird flight


the shape of my mind

the absence of a celestial


appearance announces

in the sky of our world

the births that do not give



Dear Sor Savant,


Once a sparrow fell judged by God for truancy; for truancy of man that He would not pardon for man’s looks or kisses alone—


I see a hawk has a sparrow rent wide & bad bad fan on the horizon down in ol’ Virginny

I walk no other way than downwind so the bad ones can’t find me


O to be home again.  SKOAL!  Yr Turrble Brother “Ghost Ship”

P.S. Will you be at the reunion in September?  Please write me back.


I watch people talk to people watching people how do people talk look at how mouths move

How does my mouth move does it move at all when I lie w/o wife or dog in front of the      stove


P.S.S. Don’t be mad but I left the hatchet out and someone ran off w/it.

Probbly the boiler man w/two left feet and a dead bride.  Hell—keep it.


Not many people understand me when I talk b/c I mumble so much

& get made fun of always have I don’t mind anymore but know that & such & such


I always wanted to be around baseball parks.  I never wanted to leave town but I had to.

When dogs bark when I can’t see them I wonder what at.  Look how quick hills fall down.


You & I down in ol’ Virginny Christ why can’t time stop not go back because that won’t

Happen but just stop you know how things change when you close your eyes so don’t


When I can’t sleep I close my eyes and think about a flagpole in the middle of a field

& the sound it makes when the wind clinks the chain against the pole.  There it goes.


I see I never learned to dress myself only how to look in the mirror are we taught that

The saddest songs don’t have words I don’t have words to tell how I am or am not


There was a circuit rider who asked “why starve yourself of light.  It’s all around.” Alright

I said, so to Hell I’ll go, even if my brother won’t be there with me.  But you will, right?


There are shapes there are contoured abstractions there is shape to the world

There’s always a way out there’s daily breads & births hands to grasp the void


No unavoidable surgeries I say.  Where did I hear that somewhere?  It’s funny the way

people just one day are sick they are told, and prepare to die.  One by one it happens it does.


Where is home to you where does yr blood hail from somehow every life is valid & sure

Where is it I go to to feel home I can’t say I can’t tell sometimes home seems like a door


You suffer of rare pride brother.  I finished this letter before I started it.  The jaybird told me.

I work hard to be an honest so and so.  Gawd is it easy to lie like Gawd don’t want none of me.


India India India where is home to you do you understand what I say when I speak

No one sings songs but say they do I would rather not talk I guess than not eat for a week


I’d be homeless without a wife.  I’d inhabit a hive of snow before I thought I was alive.

Beds & churches are hard to warm inside of.  If wakefulness were prayer I’d live forever.


Night drags its empty buckets against the trails with wrists smooth as well water

But this is not a dream—a somnambulist walking on stilts across the marsh to a muck-island


Sor, this letter is not a letter, like a baseball hat I swear yr soul’s on me like a brand.  You know what I’d

die for: the premise for yr embrace.  Most fields I’ve stood inside of.  This empty room.  That word. 


Do you think I’m here I think I’m here when the clock inside my head winds out

Like a broken lightbulb in the basement that you don’t want to change b/c it’s night


Sor, to bottle moths, & a lantern between his teeth, sor, is the insomniac’s only tackle,

the dipsomaniac that changed the world.  Remember the name: father, son, & holy ghost.

the other

say the mind is a crutch

-a tool for navigation

-an end table


say the imagination is an eye

no: say a hand


fondle a stone and say I’ve forgotten how to think


kiss the lover’s mouth and say you are god to me

say you are a warm smooth stone on my tongue


-say I do not choose you

-I need you-I feel pain most because you exist

I. Nights Alone with Frank

The First Night Alone with Frank


he left his boots to dry on the tin roof, the laces loose


there was a machete on the cutting block in the kitchen

& a black & white photograph of a finger with a painted nail


the blade smelled like rose water