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I shake a bucket of grain and whistle through my lips
under the summer sky
and the horses thunder in from the south pasture.

I lose favor with a teacher
because I beat everyone’s score
including hers.

I grow up,
but really I don’t.

She tells me I’m weak.

My folks never hold hands.

My sister is popular,
and skillful, and still mostly humble.
My sister is successful.

I live in the shadows.
I love from the shadows.

My truck breaks down.

I am selfish.
I give up everything.

You take me in a night of rain and darkness
and the universe opens to our cries
and we enter the kingdom of heaven.

I am in hell.
I drink the flames.

I work overtime.
I work two jobs.
Life is a third.

I apologize to my grandmother as she’s dying
because she won’t live to see me get married,
I’m not even with anyone,
and she shushes me and says it’s ok,
yes she will.

Before he passes,
my grandfather agrees there is nothing after death.

Her eyes pass over me.

I lie in bed and listen to the storm.

I tattoo my body with text.
I tattoo my heart with your memory.

I drive down a dirt road.
I fish in the dark.
I sharpen my knife.
I am strong.
I am unbreakable.
I cry alone in the night.

There’s neon.
There’s drifting smoke.
There’s a hole where you should be.

I sell my soul.
I let my heart get ripped out and eaten.
I grow a new one.

He threatens me.
I don’t care.

I listen to windchimes.
I load 1,000 bales of hay.
I stare into the arm of the Milky Way.
I want you but I don’t know who you are yet.

She doesn’t understand.
They don’t understand.
I don’t understand.

You tell me you love me.
You mean it.

I am three sheets to the wind.
I am tacking sail into the eye of the storm.

I drop out.
I write.
I tread upon paths of stars and faint imaginings.
I live.
I die.
I breathe.

My mother teaches us.
My father teaches us.
They still never hold hands.

You see my soul, undressed.
You tell me of its shape.

I dream of mountains and oceans and deserts.

I wander the museum at 9 years of age
and wonder why everyone else isn’t here.

You’re gone.

Light moves through the trees.

We try to tell each other of the light
we see in the other
and we don’t believe a goddamn word of it.

I watch people destroy the goodness we’re all born with.

You show me your demons.

I beat him because he deserves it.
Then I realize no one deserves it.

I watch children and dogs give freely
from hearts bigger than we’d ever admit.

My nostrils are filled with red dust
and I make money at brandings.

I sign a petition for equality.
I join no party.
I write for the paper and document campus protests.

On Saturday night
I break bottles against old brick and howl at the moon.
I am saved.
I am damned.

I abdicate my throne
and they don’t understand.
I’m late
because leaves and grass fill me
where shiny parades of nothing cannot.

My family wonders what I am.
I wonder what I am.

I wonder.
You wonder.

I’m not confident.
I don’t join the Master’s program.
I’m too confident.
My horse stumbles on deadfall
and rolls backwards over me.

I sit in the pickup bed with my dog
and we watch the sun set.

I take you in a night of fire and thunder
and we burn and die and are reborn.

I write a research paper on biological science.
My life is a country song.

I am not practical.
I don’t want to be practical.
I should be practical.

I burst into flames.
I immolate the darkness.
I fan my wings and fly out of reach.

I am invective incarnate.

My fist makes a hole in the wall.

I bury my dog.
I bury my horse.
I bury my flame.
I bury my heart.

I run.
I hide.
I give my old saddle away.

I love.
I dream.
I shouldn’t dream.
But I do.

I love the way you dream.

I work too hard.
I don’t work enough.
I move too fast.
I don’t move fast enough.
I help too much.
I don’t help at all.
I love too hard.
I don’t love the right way.
I care too much.
I don’t care about the right things.

I don’t understand;
but I hope, I think
maybe,
you do.

I shake a bucket of grain and whistle through my lips
under the summer sky
and the horses thunder in from the south pasture.

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Directions:

(found among my grandmother’s letters)

 

So dance, then-

on the sidewalk,
in the backyard,

under the naked lights,
in the depths of the dark,

awkwardly, utterly, ridiculously,
or as smooth as you are

(or think you are);

after work,
on vacation,
on pavement,
on grass,
on sand,
on water, if you’re that good;

dance alone,
or close with another;

whether free, flowing in the air,
or guilty and perhaps weighed-down…

dance with no alibi.

There are little things
in the rooms of wood and brass and string and spotlight,
in between the rock and the roll and the jazz and the jive;
little things with no price-tag
that hammer together the house of the soul.

Did you know
you’ll most likely attend an equal number
of weddings and funerals?

Yes, you may have to tidy up afterwards…
but dance in the kitchen, for heaven’s sake!
What exactly do you think you are?

Listen.

To dance,
darling-

this does not require wings.

for when you ask

well
because

it’s so easy,
so very, very easy to love you

alright, then
let me tell you some little stories–
and they’re not true, nor false;

but they are real.

some days you sound like a metal guitar,
some days, like a jazz piano,
some days, like the wind in the trees
or the rain on dry dirt

we walk on the sidewalk in the days of autumn
and i am the sidewalk
and you are the leaves
(take away the amber, umber, ochre, crimson, gold
and it’s just a sidewalk, you see)

sometimes you feel like snow on a barn’s roof
sometimes, like the light of the sun in a summer field

and because
lightning
is what makes the sound of
thunder

i hold you
and you fit
we sprawl down on the bed
and you fit
you gather my flame into yours
and i fit
we dance in the kitchen
and you fit
perfectly

because there was a star that died
so long ago,
giving up the atoms of its heart
that made you
and me,
and sidewalks,
and leaves,
and guitars, and pianos,
and trees and rain and dirt and barns and fields

because you are not the pledge,
nor the turn;
you are the prestige

(i watch so closely but i’ll never figure it out;
and since magic is built
into the fabric of the universe anyway,
why would i want to?)

because your defiance flashes
always with reason
and i like the way you swear

because you chose to learn from the earth
and all the wild and growing things

because you didn’t grow up;
all you did was get a bit older

because you look up at the stars
the same way i look up at the stars

because you think out loud

oh, yes,
and because the curve of your back
is the spine of an old book
and your mind
is the scent of the pages
and your soul is the protagonist
and your heart is the words

and i can’t get paid to keep writing this,

(not yet)

so i’ll have to end it here
even though
(just so you know)

i could go on
forever

The Demon Rose

And her demon rose out of the shadows behind,
unfolding in the night,
twice her height,
his breath a pale fog of nightmares.

The monster stopped in shock.

She stood.
The weight of the darkness she had labored under,
years ago born,
now watched. Waited.

The monster’s eyes widened
as the demon hunched down over her,
pillars of arms knuckled into the pavement,
pinpoints of flame deep in the eye,
jaws in blackness dripping onto the ground.

The monster’s mouth opened.

“Not possible.”

The demon’s voice rumbled in the ebon air.

Many things are impossible.
Yet they are.
Is it possible that you will exist tomorrow?

The monster froze.

Deem it death, little brute.
Deem it what you will-
for thy soul smells like a tasty snack to this one.

The monster smiled.

“I’m already going to Hell.”

There is no place for you where this one comes from.
There is no place for you
anywhere.

Not among the eons and spans of distance
into the ink of heaven
and the worlds between worlds
is there solace for one as you.

The monster looked at her.

She met his gaze.

The demon faded through,
re-forming in the space between her
and the monster.

This one’s eye sees farther than you can fathom.
This one’s sensing reaches past dimensions.
This one does not sleep.
This one does not dream.

The monster looked up into the demon’s face,
and opened his mouth to speak.

The demon’s fists left the pavement,
embracing the monster’s head.

This one hungers.

The demon leaned his face in close to the monster’s.

His voice was the thunder of death.
.
.
.
BEGONE
.
.
.
The monster wandered off into nights of half-sanity,
shaking,
weeping,
broken further than the word itself allows for.

The demon turned to face her as she dried her eyes.

“Thank you.”

This one has seen many strange things
in the world of men
since you called me into being.

This one cannot tell you all he has seen in others;
yet he believes humans
to be among the most fascinating.

You invent shades of darkness
we never thought to create.

“I suppose… we’ll never be quite parted, will we?”

He smiled.

Impossible.

Her mouth twitched into a smirk.

But this one is learning not to feed on you.

The stars danced in life and death over the city.

She breathed in, and out.

He held out a nightblack rose
plucked from the vale of worlds beyond.

I am here when you need me.

20/20

Wait, just a moment.
Stay a minute more.
Take this with you, please.

Listen,

I’ve seen you

begging in the streets,
dancing of your own volition,
digging through the refuse of souls,
sloughing your own skin,
reaching for the horizon,
tracing ancient trails of light,
railing against the coming night;

rebelling for the sake of rebellion,

feeding until your heart splits open,
giving until your heart is barren,

pierced,
crucified,
hurt,
shamed,

chasing redemption rising on the wind,
screaming into the dark,
drowning in tears,
broken upon the years,

and sitting in silence,
wondering.

So
here we stand.

Are you not the still same child
who gazed up in awe
at the stars?

I’ll tell you why:
you were born of them.

Yes, the world has watched you
through the eyes of judgment.

And I have
also
sold my body
and my soul
and was broken
open,
treading unto dawn.

Love waits. Love is.

You owe nothing.

Take my hand.

Darkhowl

My dear,
a dog, you say?

Yes,
and that’s how you might come off,
if you want to.
I do the same, you know.

Nothing wrong with that.
They teach us how to be better humans.

All life is an unfolding, though-
from the penitent,
the servient,
the agreeable,
to the undormant,
the lost,
the restless prowl;
and perhaps,
back again
in that long hunt for the pack,
for a kill of your own.
And even then, back again.

I got quite good
at holding in my howl too, you know.
They want nothing more
than a helpful bark.

Listen.

Who can see what lies hidden
in the secret fires of your heart?
Who can see your eyeglow
at the scent of blood?
Who can hear the sinking sun-chorus
fade into nightsong,
or feel the rain cling to their coat
as they slip through the deep-wood?

The very same lies in wait,
inside the faithful one
curled at your feet.
This you’ve seen.

They do teach us, don’t they?

It’s the same for anyone like us, I suppose;
it’s all in the way your soul walks the earth,
in the tracks you leave,
in the scent you follow-

je suis cage,
je suis libre,
je suis chien du maison,
je suis loup du bois
.

Inviolate

You could hear it in the air.
You could taste it in the water.
You could smell it in the earth.
You could feel it in the sunlight.

The western wind brought you your dreams
as you caught the scent of legend,
your soul filling with the breath of horizons,
baptized in the light of 100,000,000 stars.

But ignorant of the price,
how could you not fly into the riving storm?

For the world knows nothing
of the western wind.

This is how we become.

And so we learn to pay the world
with our dreamwings,
with our soulships,
with our heartfire.

But what in return?
What precious return for such a precious sacrifice?

A frail imitation of Pandora’s Box,
overfull with terrors and darkness;
and once opened,
nothing.

Nothing.

The eye’s spark
becomes a feast for the void.

Our heads angle
downward.

And then… on, and on. And on.

And in the small moments,
those fleeting scraps of time,
when the light angles just the right way,
a little breath of the air brushes past,
carrying… something.

You can almost remember.
It is a whisper, and then gone.

You can almost remember,
because you were written
in a convergence of the violent death of suns
and the birth of worlds ascending.

How peaceful, the mountains in their defiance.
How inviolate, the mote of your flame.
How simple, that wings must grow feathers anew.

Behold.
The wind rises.

The Time and Space of Humanity

Just over 4.5 billion years ago, our local solar system started forming. In the last 0.2% of that span of galactic time, against all odds, a species arose with the capacity for reason and the desire to dream beyond their little planet– to stare defiantly into the reaches of space, and wonder.

If the age of our solar system were 1 hour, we’ve been here less than 8 seconds. And despite the struggles that have consumed large parts of our history, and continue to do so, there’s no doubt that on this day, there is one thing that unites the members of humanity under its gaze– the total solar eclipse.

The Moon is almost 240,000 miles from Earth, and it will pass in front of the Sun, traveling at almost 2,000 mph in its tidally-locked orbit. In the prime region of its path, it will fully and perfectly eclipse the Sun, some 93,000,000 miles away. Light, the fastest thing in the known universe, travels at 186,000 miles/second from the Sun, reaching Earth in just over 8 minutes.

The Sun itself is middle-aged, and will live for another 5 billion years before dying a glorious and violent death, taking most of the immediate solar system with it.

How incredible, how strange, how humbling, to be a part of this young and wondrous species, to be able to look up knowing all this… and how much more humbling to realize that current estimates have calculated over 100,000,000,000 stars in our own Milky Way galaxy, and that there are roughly 10 trillion galaxies in the observable universe.

As you look up today, know that our Sun, the basis of all life on Earth, is one of a probable 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 (1 x 10^24) stars.

Our time on this planet has brought us to this point. The future of our species, of our fellow species, and of the place we all call home stands upon the edge of a knife. When the eclipse passes, after we’re all done talking about it, after we’ve gone to sleep, humanity will waken tomorrow with a faint memory, a whisper of something greater than ourselves. And work will resume. Conflict and struggle, hatred and violence will resume; ideology, irresponsibility, and pride will resume.

Yet so will the hope for peace, the love for our Earth and everything on it, and the call for a future built on the foundations of our better nature– the same one that took us to the Moon, and will take us beyond. As we speed through the vastness of space on this little speck of dust, we can’t help but wonder what’s out there, both at home and abroad in the universe.

Only time will tell what we’ll leave for future generations, what path they will have to take… and whether they will ever see the eclipse of humanity itself.