Euphoria In Ohio

Driving home to New York from the headwaters

of the Mississippi after my father’s funeral.

I’ve spent three weeks handling his life and after it.

I’m in his car with the last of his stuff. It’s raining like

hissing, screeching yeows and guttural, frothing

ruffs. For miles and hours in this deluge

I’m behind an F350 truck pulling a long empty trailer.

It’s nearly all I can see. I’m following his lead

at 75 mph. I’m playing country music

and we’re passing everybody. It was overcast,

fog when I left Minnesota yesterday.

The same through Wisconsin. Nightfall

through Illinois. It’s been raining since I woke up

in Indiana. Now, somewhere in the middle

of Ohio, in the middle of the day, the rain breaks.

The road is high on a plateau– high for Ohio–

and overhead the darkest cloud I’ve ever seen

like the sky was turned off. Oak leaves

float by like damaged butterflies. I’ve

made this drive a dozen times and nothing

looks familiar. I sit up straight. Suddenly,

I find myself happy to be here, right here in Ohio.

I don’t know why; my father is dead,

the sky is ominous, and the music

is about dying young in prison. My friend,

the F350, has slowed slightly. I pull out, pass him

on the left. He pulls in behind me. Now

I’m going to take us through the rest

of this storm, the rest of this state

and the next, all the way to the Atlantic

and the end of life if I have to; I feel

that good. Of that, I am confident.

Morning Glories

I’ve spent my days trying to get closer to you,

my love. Frustrations of separation

pulse in me. The spark behind the life-force

remains unknowable. Like the morning glories

thick with splendor late in the season,

I only touch and gaze upon the skin of beauty.

Their life-blood courses

from underground, chemical origin

up through lattice work to bloom into unfolding

creation. Toward the light.

To travel my own roots—

the spectrum of aura, light branching

somewhere out in there, all that is, maybe

a place or an experience, a seed of soul—

to feel a connection to you past the sheen

of presence, close hum of the secret furnace.

These days pass with more white than red in my beard.

I have gotten no closer. You go on, as will I, until

outside time, beyond surface we synthesize, glow.

Why I Don't Write Like Frank O’Hara

We need more orange in our life,

you said out on Cape Cod. I agreed,

and we bought the coffee mugs,

discussed painting our bedroom cantaloupe.

Not garish, a cheerful,

healthy orange hue like the rose sky

reflecting off the low-tide beach, giving our skin

an Ivy League glow. Orange

is presumed a terrible color,

not as a poor choice for interior decoration,

but terrible as in painful for the soul

amidst the fierceness of life, orange

now meaning caution, hazard, warning

or way to find something, see plainly.

It’s a squirt of citrus in the eye. I do think

that each life ought to have the color orange

in it and even some yellow, though that brings in

a tone too much to discuss alongside

orange, which is not subtle, no matter its shade.

It stands alone. It is not afraid. The color orange

should be revered. Yet, on those brilliant days

when our lives are most revealed, rays of sunlight

illuminating orange do make it too terrible,

like our trespasses borne out among the gray of the world.

Farms Face the Rising Sun

It looks like just a few trees

cleared for a driveway

but beyond the hill there are acres

of cornfields being stripped,

paving the way for some type of center.

Here, in the middle of nowhere asphalt,

soil is encased. The roasted chickens

are full of fat, the pig skin is crispy,

the workers must be fed. Atop the scaffolding

one can see over the rises in the land

to the homes nestled with their backs

to the development. The man in charge

is excited about his endeavor

and sees comfort, the black tar,

concrete and steel girders. A cathedral

of the new plan for people to gather

for some purpose not to work

the land, but to view its beauty

from inside its destruction.

Taking Flight

Dragonflies rise into the sky, a widening gyre,

vortex near my neighbor’s stone fence

a bare place behind the cedars. I can wrap my arms

around the bottom as hundreds of dragonflies spiral

counterclockwise. Reaching the top, twenty feet wide,

they fly off, but the spiral remains continuous.

No nymph hatch feeding the swirl, the forest gives birth.

A rift in matter’s veil, dragonflies materialize

right out of the air.

Invitation from a nature spirit?

Step forward, exuviate your skin,

be sucked into the cyclone and transform, winged

illusion, iridescent fire whirling into a summer night.

I hold back. The spiral loosens,

the final few achieve the top at twilight. Scattering

to every direction, the dragonflies disappear

as birds fall silent and crickets take up the night watch.

I lumber home still in my skin, undress, crawl

into bed, close my eyes, intake then release

a breath; relax solar plexus,

dream in the speed of light.


Only we can burn our own hearts

at the proper temperature.

A requirement of transgressions against

our individual consciousness. Yet,

it is human nature to act against

our will, our iron discipline, our firm

personal beliefs, even when we know.

There is a weakness not composed

of character, but built into the flesh

that desires sensation when

face to face with aging and death.

No. 16 (RED, BROWN, AND BLACK) 1958

a painting is not a picture of an experience,

it is an experience – Mark Rothko, 1959.

Nearly ten feet by nearly nine on the wall it comes at me like a night terror, three rectangular, disembodied, blurred, stacked horizontal bands of color; dark red, brown, and black pulsating inside an enormous purple stain. I yield. Not my body that shrinks from its advance, inside the corridors of my flesh a body of light turns to its side, raises an arm for shield and hunches on its

knees before the propelled vision. It’s just a painting on a white wall, lights of the gallery set low. I have seen other Rothko paintings. But this one grows… to engulf my soul. Yes, soul is the word I mean. I’ve doubted its existence, having no proof other than vague sensations in the solar plexus and this consciousness, which may only be the mind. This painting calls out my soul… fuck! Foreboding, heavy in my chest, makes it difficult to catch my breath. This threatens me. Not abstract, this is palpable, a plum hum of nightfall, Earth’s shadow circling the

globe always on the hunt for light. To devour safety in what can be seen is the onslaught of blindness under a moonless night, shadows grow thick, swallow luminosity from streets and yards of even the most cheerful neighborhoods. Silence dense in unlit alleys. This is the ancient feeling that beyond the cave-mouth fire, the darkness will eat me. My scream does not have the force to escape the black. Thankfully, a bright winter day when I stagger from the building. I survive, freighted and possibly damaged. The image continues to expand into the interior of my geometry. Nightfall fills the cracks, allows nothing to escape. Lock the door, flip the electric switch, but one cannot see into the darkness when bathed in the light, only when standing in shadow looking toward a shaft of it. I recoil from the looming shade, its dispassionate maw. I pray to again witness the break of day when hope rushes and fear recedes, genesis of edge.

The Body Falling In Love

It was that old feeling again, you said, a spark the others

didn’t create with you though the coupling was good.

When the two of you made love you couldn’t get close enough,

felt like you wanted to crawl inside her in an effort to be closer.

I recall that feeling and thought it had something to do with love,

the being inside having little to do with sexual organs and all to do

with warmth, moistness, skin, breath, and eyes,

the windows in. Arms and legs embracing– not enough– never enough

closeness. Lying atop each other, the hearts do not line up. Only when

we spoon. It is the heart, spine, some place inside us wanting

to be enveloped by a womb, warm liquid salt crystals, total release

of surface tension which holds together the boundaries of the body,

to dissolve into a primordial state of glowing goo, every point tingling,

swooning, sparks in the water. Not to have nor to be a mother or cling,

but to be vulnerable, joined in a union of completed wholeness

so the body can attain what the heart desires. Afterwards,

the holding of hands, magnetic, pulsing with life.