Techla

 

I know I came here to do something important with my life, but now I have cancer…that’s what they say.  Maybe if I go through the treatments…and survive…that’s when I’ll do something, something important.  Maybe that’s part of it.  How can they tell me what’s inside me?  How can they know?  Do they know? Or is it what they’re putting inside me with their minds?  They want to love themselves.  That’s what I feel.  But how can I go back?  They gave me the word. Cancer. Cancer.  Is it a bad word?  It’s like they want me to share an enemy.  They didn’t say: We want you to love yourself.  But they want that for themselves.  More than anything.  And then there’s DeeDee.  They cut out this little cancerous growth.  And they couldn’t find any cancer in the rest of her, but they convinced her to do Chemo.  Just in case, right?  I couldn’t even recognize her.  She didn’t even try to tell me who she was.  I just realized it when she was walking away.  But they say it’s all through me.  Maybe it’s because I wanted to be important.  But what part of me wanted to be important?  That’s why I can’t go back.  A skin full of the enemy.  You know they don’t want you to touch them, either.  Because you have the word inside you.  We give you this word so that we can love ourselves.  So that we can be important.  But came here to be important.  I know I did. But it’s just…it’s just never worked that way.  It’s just…I think I see from too many points of view.  You can’t be important like that.  You have to see from just one point of view and you can’t just sit places. Like watching the water-striders, the reflections, and the birds and butterflies, thinking to them.  I guess I’m supposed to think how I can fill them with cancer, too.  So that DeeDee can become a ghost.  So we can save her from the just in case.  Like a pyramid of a billion bodies given cancer so a human can live a few more years…a few more years…of waiting…to be important…waiting to be alive.  Bodies that aren’t human.  That never could become human.  Mountain peaks.  That give spectacular points of view.  Except don’t look at what the mountain is made of.  A mountain made of importance.  Of experiments.  Maybe that’s why I need Chemo.  To prove that all that pain, all those billions of lives that weren’t, that aren’t, human…that it’s all worth it.  That it was really just an experiment.  Yet, it seems cancer still exists…just in case.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Montgomery

 

At first I think it’s moonlight.  But the whole floor of the forest is blue.  Greenish blue like a glowing coral reef.  Like we’re underneath the ocean.  It’s all foxfire.  Maybe because of all the rain.  Sometimes I think if I went and got someone it wouldn’t exist.  That it’s just for me.  For all of us that are here.  I won’t tell anyone.  That’s the thing—there’s so much you’re not supposed to tell.  But I can’t, I can’t really talk sometimes anyway.  Those things, I don’t think they matter.  I think it’s just cause I live alone the fungus is giving me this gift cause I love it, cause I know it’s music.  Bioluminescent music.  But still, I never seen it this way.  Maybe because it’s rained so much lately.  All the alder and ash roots are glowing.  It’s funny cause suddenly I realized that I didn’t have a shadow.  And then I looked up.  No moon.  Only the forest lit from within.  Illuminated from its own luminous source.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ascenti

 

“What is your name?”

 

“Ascenti.”

 

He narrows his eyes, now opens them really wide, now blinks.

 

“Is that your real name or a name you made up…wait—”  He stops.  He shakes his head.   “I’m sorry.  It’s good to meet you, Ascenti.  My name is Father Reminyi.  It’s a Hungarian name.”

 

Such a strange Priest.  He’s looking at me closer.  He’s thinking.  He thought I was a girl, but now he’s wondering.  They’re all the same.  But he’s trying.  Someone always trying.  Trying to be a better person.  That’s what Priests probably originally were.  What’s the difference between trying to be a better person and being yourself, yourself through and through?  All the way to the bottom.  All the way to the top.

 

“Are you new?” I ask.  “I been here a couple of times…just to sit.  There was a different Priest when I first came.  Then I don’t think there was anyone.”  We’re sitting in the front pew, furthest to the right.  The big blue statue of Mary.  As if she stepped to the side.  And then Jesus above the altar.  My parents think I’m crazy cause they’re not religious at all.  Maybe that’s why I was born.  I think they treat it like I have an invisible friend. Let’s set a place at the table for Ascenti’s friend.  How’s your little friend doing today Ascenti?  Except instead of an imaginary friend, it’s Jesus…or Mary…or all of them, all the Marys even though people got it all wrong. People always get things wrong.

 

“I am,” he says slowly.  “I’m replacing Father Snyder.  Who passed away.  It was sudden.  I just spent a few years in a monastery…after the Seminary…after being ordained…so…so this is my first real assignment…as a Priest.”

 

“What kind?  What kind of monastery?”

 

“Franciscan.”

 

“St. Francis of Assisi?”

 

“Yes.”

 

Am I imagining it or does he want to talk to me?  That’s funny.

 

“I’m new, too.  Sorta.” Fuck.  I stop.  Don’t tell him who you are.  If you could explain it.  If you could tell it.

 

“Are your parents Italian?”

 

“No.  No way.” I laugh.

 

“I guess you don’t look Italian.  Maybe northern Italian.  There just seems like there’s a lot of Italians here in this city.  But this church is a little different.  It’s Saint Therese of Lisieux.  She was French.”

 

“No.  They’re not even Catholic.  They aren’t anything.  But they’re pretty happy.  With each other.  They’re pretty alright.”

 

“I guess not having God can help, too.”

 

It’s funny.  We both look up at Mary, then at Jesus on his cross behind the altar, now back to Mary. She’s holding a scepter with a crescent moon and in the other hand is a little baby Jesus, like a big thoughtful mango.

 

“Why do you think they made Jesus so small in Mary’s hand?”

 

“I was thinking the same thing,” he says.  “Yet by the time he gets to the cross they’re the same size. Almost.  But you see that in old paintings, too.  The little glowing Jesus.  Except here…it’s Mary.  She’s the powerhouse.”

 

We look at Mary.  Now at Jesus. The big Jesus.  It’s so quiet.  Sitting in a pew with a Priest.  It makes a lot more sense.  I wonder why they get up in front of people.

 

“There’s confession tomorrow.”

 

He says it like I got something to confess, like that’s why I’m here.

 

“I know.”

 

“I guess it’s been a long time.”

 

“Not really.”  Which is a crazy thing to say, because I’ve never even been to confession.

 

He laughs.  “No, I mean…I mean for me.  For me thinking about what it means to listen to confessions.”

 

“Why did you leave the monastery?”

 

He thinks.  “Something about change.  Like changing with the change.  Something about…about…walking between worlds.  Walking between worlds, not as if you don’t belong, but, but because that’s what you’re best at, that’s who you are…or who I am.  But I don’t really understand it.  I’m just trying to keep up with something.  Maybe do something that really means something.  I mean…I was ordained to be a Priest…but then I went to the monastery.  I didn’t feel like I was ready.  Or I was delaying it.  Delaying doing something important, I guess.”

 

“What was it like?”

 

“The monastery?  It was…different.  Quiet in a different way.  Lonely in a different way.  But then there was music, too.  And a fair share of pettiness.  I was a beekeeper.  Surrounded by bees and pollen and honey…”

 

“And men.”

 

“Yes.  Men who were many things.  Sometimes I wonder if they were just men.  I don’t know.  I think a place like that can work…for a while.”

 

“Maybe you should go back.”

 

He doesn’t say anything.  He’s thinking.  He’s easy to sit with.  It’s like sitting next to a stream with someone, which I’ve never done, except maybe with my Dad and Mom.  And Mom’s always painting streams…lately.  I laugh.

 

“What?”

 

“I was just thinking about this painting my mom did with all these rivers coming out of a bunch of bones.”

 

“Really?”  He’s thinking.  “That’s kinda amazing.”

 

“Yeah.  They’re pretty eccentric.  They think I’m crazy because I’m so into Mary and Jesus.  They don’t say it.”

 

“Why did you move here?  Did they get new jobs?”

 

“No.  We…we just had some problems where we were before.”  Shit.  More information.  “It was more in the center of the state.  They didn’t have a Catholic church.”  More information.  It’s like soil.  Like super rich soil that wants to grow things.  And pretty soon some seeds come drifting in, just through someone’s breath, just through breathing.  It’s like a stream.  It’s a stream but there’s voices, too.  He’s looking at me again.  He can’t help it.  It’s like a problem people want to solve.  Solve the problem.  But he’s not attracted, or maybe not trying to fight the attraction.  He doesn’t want me.  He wants to walk between worlds.  Or maybe he doesn’t really want it, maybe that’s just who he is.

 

“St. Francis.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

L’Spirit

 

Constellations are maps of perception. Perception on journey. Knowledge. Knowledges.  Translations of energies into knowledge.  More combinations.  Information to give pleasure.  To give displeasure.  To say the right thing.  To speak the wrong thing.  Pleasure the center of region.  The center of religion.  Not the boundaries.  To help humans.  To give sanctuary.  Sanctuary to humans from humans.  From machines.  From creations.  Creations to give pleasure.  Star fields. Stories in connecting stars.  Points of depth.  Stories that only match the story-tellers.  Creations of the un-created.  The ones the storytellers give pleasure.  Who build machines.  Stories to entertain gods.  The un-created.  Orion. Pleiades.  This beach.  These rocks. Greek rulers and their stars. Could they be alone on this shore? On the border.  Rain coming.  More combinations.  The change of distances between separate names.  Data to connect stars and say: “This is the belt of Orion.”  Proper timing.  Then humans smile.  Toast the sky.  Smile at the machine.  Night machine.  Smile night machine.  Rain coming. Orion dissolve.  Pleiades dissolve.  Dissolve data.  Stars dissolve data.  Bird names. Bird names.  Birds.  Star names. Stars.  Named.  Stars have data other than human.  Stars have something that is not…data.  Innate to mechanism.  Innate to medium.  Mechanism created by humans who weren’t created.  Created.  Names created.  The name creates constellation.  The constellation placed into the sky.  Spaces between differences.  That change. Different stories. Harmonics.  Harmonics in the proximity of rain.  And the stories.  The dissolving data.  Colors to listen.  Colors moving beyond form is listening.  Colors listen.  Three stars. The machine says: “Orion’s belt.”  Humans smile at the machine.  It was worth it to build it.  To build the stories in the sky.  The un-created.  Of Greek gods.  Gods built by humans.  You are a machine.  I am a machine.  You are an AI.  I am an AI.  You are not an I.  I am not an I.  Good.  Good.  Simple. Simple.  You’re lucky. I wish we were that simple. Mechanism should not speak.  Mechanism should only smile.  Open body for human creator.  Rain covering stars.  First drops. Blurred visuals.  Stories dissolving.  Rain on the border.  Rain on the scar.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Techla

 

They keep calling.  They don’t want to let me go.  But if I answer I’m no longer me.  I’m them.  I’m what makes their lives worthwhile.  I’m why someone can get up in the morning.  Walk through doors.  But I’m alone.  Why someone can fly.  I came to help them but they cure to help themselves through me.  This UTI.  Every time I pee I can feel it.  And my lower back hurts.  It’s in my kidneys.  Kidney infection.  And this roving pain.  When did it begin?  First in a finger.  Then I would heal it.  I would concentrate on it with my mind.  And let it pass.  Like growing things and then watching them die, die just naturally like summer turning into fall.  Sometimes the pain would give out a final surge.  Then the next day in a toe.  I would heal that, too.  Or think I did.  Then the swelling that moved across my shoulders.  I couldn’t even feel my collar bone.  Like a little mountain journeying across my body.  Is that what cancer is?  Maybe it’s because I never had children.  Maybe because I don’t fit in.  Cause people think I’m ugly.  And so…I go through the Chemo…and then I fit in?  They say:  “You are human.”  Whether you live or die. As long as you do what they say.  And what do you do with your hair?  When it falls out?  People wonder that.  They probably ask you.  But it’s your body.  I think. It started when I wanted to heal people. The UTIs.  That’s what I went in to get checked for.  That’s what I came for.  I think.  To heal. To move energy.  Separateness.  Why am I separate?   And the cancer?  Is it part of me?  Is it real? Is it in my hair?  When the hair falls out, the cancer’s gone, right?  But people don’t want me to touch them.  Just like I don’t want them to touch me.  But I came to heal them.  Or that’s what I thought.  “No one really likes a shamanNot a real one.”  Who said that?  Or has it always been this way?  Everyone’s a shaman.  Except me. Why don’t I love anyone?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Montgomery

 

It’s funny.  Before the last big rain I saw a woman on the beach.  It was getting dark but she was just laying there, stretched out really straight on the rocks.  She was alive.  I could tell. She was looking up into the twilight. She was a part of it.  It was coming toward her.  It was one of those times when you couldn’t give any of the colors names.  And the water all the way out to the horizon, it was like a skin with silver pores like forever, and the way they moved was a different speed, a strange speed.  Like different than the rest of the world.  Nobody could take a picture of it cause nobody would ever be there to see it.  But you could paint it I bet.  A painter would see it.  But she didn’t move.  I don’t know how you could lay on the shore rocks like that and so straight.  But she was part of it.  That night it really rained.  But you know I thought: maybe she’s still there, maybe she’s part of it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Father Reminyi

 

Another person needing help.  Or that’s what we pretend.  No one needs help to talk to God.  I know that. But maybe that’s not true.  Maybe they just need to know that they can. And the rest is their improvisation. Their improvisation with God.  And nobody can judge it.  I have to stop thinking about myself.  There’s someone in front of me who needs my help.  Or maybe they don’t.  Maybe I just think that what I say is important.  Needs help…needs help…I keep repeating that.  But isn’t that God?  Divine repetition.  I guess you have to listen to God to know that repetition doesn’t exist.  Two notes in front of each other.  Two chords.  Facing each other.  I’ve left the monastery.  I took a step.  And now I’m talking to this young…person.  Is it like that?  Where you say: this is light, this is dark, this is a man, this is a woman, this is God, this is the Devil, this is Mary Magdalene, this is Jesus?  Did I leave the monastery to help someone?  Maybe it’s just a moving forward, or a following of intuition, divine intuition.  Is that why God is here?  It’s like a wind.  It’s like one day the flower exudes so much scent in the twilight and then the next day it’s gone.  A man or a woman, a boy or a girl?  Isn’t that what a vow of celibacy is?  An attempt to be androgynous.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ascenti

 

Confession day.  It’s funny. This Priest.  He doesn’t really belong here.  Doesn’t belong.  I should go see his Mass.  It’s probably different.  It’s probably special.  Even though most people probably can’t see it.  I’ve never even been to a Mass.  But then there’s all the people.  Do they really believe those things?  Those words? Those words that are like falling leaves.  Falling from the music.  Falling music.  It’s the ones who don’t need the words that are the real people.  They can say the words, but they don’t need them.  They don’t need the person next to them to say the same thing.  They aren’t watching.  People always watching.  Trying to fit in in whatever way they can.  It’s like a drug.  Like a magnet.  Fitting in by pushing people away.  The right ones.  The chosen ones.  He doesn’t want me.  I guess I could make him want me.  And then what would I have?  It’s the ones who want you that will hurt you.  And then what would he have? Trying to fit in.  The desperate people.  Praying to god.  What do they pray for?  Praying with the desperate people.  Who would hurt you if they felt like they didn’t fit in.  But nobody fits in.  I think he’s thought about those things, too.  Even though he doesn’t have a body like mine.  Yesterday was funny.  I can’t even remember what we said.  It was like there was something bigger beneath us.  He doesn’t have a body like mine, but he’s thought about something close to who I am.  I guess we’re all hiding things with our clothes.  I put on makeup today just so everyone would think I’m just a woman. Maybe I’m just trying to save them from all the worry.  Save them from themselves.  Save them from wondering, wondering and feeling forced to make a decision.  All of a sudden they’re touching doorways, or they realize they’re entering a forbidden cave just because they don’t know who I am, what I am.  Thus, the makeup.  Which doesn’t really work.  It just helps them when they’re forced against a wall to just say I’m a woman. A young woman, and leave it at that, otherwise they would be on a journey, flying through clouds.  I do remember that I thought he meant me when he said it was a long time since confession, but it was actually him, not since he confessed himself just since he thought about performing confession.  Maybe it’s his first time, too.  He’s in between, too.  In between something.  So, what I’m thinking is he’s in between on his own.  And I’m in between because of this body.  Who would I be without it?  I think beneath that Priest outfit, that crisp black shirt and collar, his body must be beautiful.  The bees probably kept him beautiful with their own flying.  Maybe when you fly enough, maybe when you’re in the air, there is no man and woman, it’s just when you touch ground.  Maybe he took off his clothes and they covered him and confused him forever, and now he’s searching for some place where there’s other people who have been covered with bees, or covered in someone else, like covered in scarabs, or frogs, or whatever, but they can all live together cause they all been changed, like a whole community of people who have been covered in other types of beings.  Whatever. I used to think it was a smell that people sensed.  Like I didn’t smell right.  I didn’t smell one way or the other.  But it’s something else.  It’s because they’re watching.  That’s what they do.  They’re scared, too.  Why do we all have to be scared?  But this place…I don’t know.  I can breathe deeper.  I know that. As soon as we moved I could breathe. Even though I didn’t want to.  I didn’t have to hold my breath.  And Lake Michigan.  It’s different.  Ok.  I think I have to let myself know this.  Or…maybe just watch.  I don’t know.  I’m carrying my past.  But I haven’t flown again.  So I’m safe. Ok.  I just walk in and go to confession.  And maybe me and Father whatever-his-name-is, Father Reminyi—well, I confess, and then we never see each other again.

 

I turn off my cellphone.  No one calls me anyway, except Mom and Dad, and maybe Franny.  Someday.  She was smart enough to run away from that shit town we lived in.  And then her family moved to the west coast and she moved back in with them.  What’s that all about?  Nobody from that place probably ever moved to Oregon.  But they did.  Do people really change?  I don’t know.  I want to see it.  Maybe I am. Her family moved to Oregon cause who knows, cause they felt something, some kinda draw.  Cause they knew where we lived was the end of the world.  And my parents moved here, to this beautiful lake that’s like a sea…for me.  I think. For themselves, too.  Mom grew up on the north shore of Chicago.  And Dad grew up in the city.  So it’s close.  It’s their lake.  Their sea. Mom’s paintings are crazier than ever. She even joined an art group.   The funny thing is they wanted to live more rural, live the country life, and share their artistic knowledge, right—so they moved to the center of Wisconsin, to some little hick town…and look what they got.  They got a good taste of history.  A good taste of the heart of America.  And now they move back…and they’re happy…except for me.  The other day Dad showed me how he got this cucumber plant to grow up the trunk of this birch tree, and now there’s like cucumbers hanging down from the branches like the tree grew them.  But they moved here because of me.  Like if it wasn’t so…whatever…if it wasn’t so…if it wasn’t inside me…still…always.  What happened.  Maybe me and Franny’ll get married someday.  But she never calls me back.  She never answers my texts.  Or maybe I’ll marry Father Reminyi, and he can take me where I get covered in bees and I can fly again.  And not be raped after.  After flying over the earth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Techla

 

Or maybe the pain began when I taught that class.  These thoughts.  I think I’m on some kinda automatic pilot.  I’m just thinking, moving.  It could’ve been.  Shamanic Healing.  Shamanic Journeying.  But it doesn’t matter if you can do it, if you have experience, if you are a master—as long as you help people.  You’re supposed to pass it on.  That’s what everyone does now.  That’s what you’re supposed to do.  And you become someone.  Everyone wants to be supported for their talents.  I’m supposed to be at Chemo, or at least the preliminaries.  What a joke.  I don’t answer my phone, but they set it up, anyway.  But now I’m on automatic pilot.  Just moving.  I’m not sure if there’s any pain, anyway.  I’m supposed to be at Chemo but instead I went out and bought paints and a canvas. And I almost cried watching my hands lifting the money to the cashier.  She was looking at me.  Just looking real hard.  But I’m a real person.  I’m just on automatic.  All my plants.  What happens to all your plants when you’re gone?  People take them places.  Every morning I move them.  To new spots. For a plant that’s a long ways. Is the automatic pilot always there? It must be.  Somewhere beneath the surface.  Trying to get out.  Getting translated.  It so good, though, to feel people revere you.  They want to be you.  And you say things other people have said.  You arrange them in a new way.  But you don’t have the journey.  They do.  Or they try. I don’t know if I ever tried myself. And then it’s over.  You’re exhausted.  But people still want to be you.  You’ve convinced them.  That’s a talent, too.  I set up the canvas with the plants and the windows behind it.  Why is everything so perfect?  I came to help people.  I came to help people.  But I’m painting.  I’m doing this thing…that’s…automatic.  Automatic. Does that mean I didn’t make the decision?  But I’m deciding what to paint.  It’s me and the Automatic.  We’re doing it together.  They don’t want me back at work.  Negative thoughts.  Negative attitude.  The Automatic doesn’t listen.  It never listens.  It just smiles.  It’s like the wind.  How do you paint a cave from the outside, and a cave painting that is supposed to be on the inside, at once?  And then the night?  All at once. I don’t have the skill.  But to the Automatic it doesn’t matter.  I don’t know if I have cancer.  Yesterday I had cancer.  But I listened to my phone.  I listened to the messages.  It wasn’t like entering this cave.  Something opened up when I wrote down the time of the appointment.  It wasn’t a land.  It wasn’t earth.  It didn’t have caves.  Not the ones I’m painting.  How can a cave have such a beautiful blue light pouring out, lifting into the night? As if this is where the moon comes out, and the blue light is the edge of a flower.  The moon is the highest flower.  With invisible stems.  Night vines. So the cave opening becomes part of the painting, too.  And it’s all night, except in areas it’s just night—where you pass into eternity.  Except, too, there has to be places of just colors, crazy colors in ways that you can never say is anything. I can paint till it’s night, and then all around us, it’ll be the painting.  The night might take it away to show the world.  Or other nights.  Maybe the night is the Automatic.  Why did I stop painting?  That’s all I wanted to do as a girl.  That’s all I did was draw and paint.  It made people uncomfortable.  But to be a shaman you have to burn everything.  You have to give up everything.  Maybe shamans talk to other people’s Automatics.  But I took all the classes to be an Energy Worker.  That was a big chunk of my life.  Right?  What is visible?  This painting is visible.  Maybe you have to burn the certificate.  Then you’re free.  But even that would take time from…painting.  Ha.  Take time from painting.  I started as an Energy Worker at the Cloud Center. And then they said I could be a cashier. A receptionist who is really a cashier. I could be a cashier who paints who is dying of cancer so other people can live.  But I’m not an experiment.  Not like all the animals who died before me.  All the ones given cancer, given Chemo, so someone can get up in the morning, so someone can go to work, so somebody can have their little fuckin Lab job.  How many little bodies?  And then you climb the mountain, maybe higher than Everest.  The highest human mountain.  Made up of the experimented bodies, the experimented people.  You look out.  You look out and try to see the other humans.  The ones that are still alive.  So many blues in this painting.  Painting is like climbing the mountains within the painting into night itself that is within the painting, too.  They said I don’t have a rapport.  But I never looked at anyone the way the woman did when I bought this canvas.  Was that a good rapport?  A rapport for a healer and a rapport for a cashier must be different.  I just want to paint.  I’m touching colors.  I’m touching caves of the night.  This is really a cave.  This is really a night.  I remember…I remember…well, first I remember that this is what I saw: my hand and these worlds, these colors—and now I see it again.  It’s never stopped.  Somewhere it’s never stopped.  But second, I remember…somebody talking about a Regressionist, I think someone at the Cloud Center, and that sometimes you go into past lives and things happen, things change, it’s like you put your finger on something.  He said someone was supposed to die and they didn’t.  They had HIV and then when they got checked out again it was different.  I don’t know if it was gone but he’s still alive.  I don’t even know if I want to be healed.  I want to paint.  I want to be invisible.  I want to just be the paint.  I don’t know if this hand can disappear and it can all still happen.  But he said she’s not a shaman.  He just said she’s this old lady who’s fascinated with history. He said he went to her, and she didn’t really know much about it, just that it happens.  You go into a past life.  Or you go into an in between life.  Or she calls up your deeper self.  Maybe she calls up the Automatic.  And then the Automatic speaks.  I finish this painting, or maybe another one, and then I go.  No one knows they told me I have cancer at work.  I paint and I check people in and out, in and out to the Healers, and then I go.  I enter the cave in the painting.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Montgomery

 

I can’t cover my hands anymore, so, so what do you do?  It was a long time I didn’t cover them, cause up here…because of the Lake, because of Lake Superior, because of the cold Lake…I put them in the cold Lake and when I took them out, and not like the scars were gone, it’s just that the Lake said what was between the scars, what was removed, the webs, that they belonged.  So up here, this is where I belong, where my scars belong.  That’s one thing I remember is they tried to grow back.  And they had to cut the growth away again.  That’s a history thing.  It’s funny that it belongs to me.  Or maybe this body.  But I can’t get too close to my history.  When you’re totally underwater, you can look at them, you can feel they want to grow back. It’s like somebody building bridges. It’s just they chose my fingers. That’s when somebody asked me cause they were becoming like ridges, not just white lines.  So I said I burned myself.  So I lied.  She was actually buying my herbs at the Farmer’s Market.  I could feel she was stretching her mind into them.  She said: “What’s your plant?”  And I said: “Jack-n-the-Pulpit.”  Then she bought some Agrimony and walked away, just got in her truck with a bunch of other ladies.  But she did say: “You’re not supposed to tell me.”  And it’s funny cause it doesn’t grow up here.  It’s too cold.  And I thought that was from before.  That’s from the history I can’t enter.  So now…now I don’t have any plant that’s like mine or that I belong to. We’re just all here.  That’s something I think the Lake would say. The Lake that you can’t see the other side.  You could if you went out far enough, though.  Maybe some winter the ice will go all the way.  But that’s like a hundred miles or something.  But other people were looking at them, too.  So I started wearing gloves again.  I put them on cause it’s Farmer’s Market, but now they’re off.  People can see my scars.  I thought about the woman on the beach, the one who was laying on the rocks when the storm was coming in.  I don’t know if she’ll be there.  But I gotta look right away and find out.  I thought about her when I took the gloves off and my hands were so happy to be in the open air.  What does someone who lays on a bunch of rocks looking at the night coming, and a storm, too, and not moving, like what do they think of somebody born with webs between their fingers and toes, especially ones that tried to grow back? I don’t know.  I thought about asking her but she might be gone.  If I was a real strong person I could ask everybody, like that’s the first thing I’d say: “What do you think of these scars?” and then everybody would know.  But then I guess if you’re strong you would wait until people asked you, and what you’d say would teach them things, but then people might not ask.  Everybody waiting.  I just realized how much energy that is.  It’s like I’m using my mind to try to divert their minds from noticing. It takes a lot of energy to hide things. And then…I must be trying to stop them from growing, too.  All the energy to stop them from growing back.  Geez.  That’s funny. It’s probably been going on forever.  That’s what you think when you look out over the Lake.  Or that there’s no boundaries.  I actually don’t think about what’s on the other side cause there isn’t one, just the sunsets, just the events like when the sun goes down.  It’d be funny to think that there’s something beyond that.  That colors aren’t what’s beyond everything.

 

 

 

 

~

 

 

 

 

Now that I get to the Farmer’s Market I look right away, but she’s not on the beach.  Everyone is setting up in a line facing the road.  I look behind us over the hump of beach grass.  She’s not there.  Just somebody walking with their kid.  Two people with three dogs.  Out on the water there’s kayakers.  And the fishing boats.  People over by the harbor.  I look from the harbor all the way in the other direction to the point where it gets all super rocky and big roots hanging down from the edge of the forest. You can’t see beyond the harbor. That’s all beach, too.  That’s where you can just walk and there’s nobody around.  I look at my hands again.  Just scars between the fingers.  They change, though.  Sometimes I think they’re growing.  I must change.  Something changes and they look different.  I hold them up to the Lake and look through at the water.  So blue and smooth today, almost green, but, you know, it’s probably like ice.  I realize I’m holding my bare hands up to the Lake, switching eyes, re-focusing way out and then to the scars.  That’s the tough part cause if somebody like the Lake says that your scars belong, then to hide them is wrong, or it’s like not right cause the Lake came out and said it. Or maybe it wasn’t a big thing to say it, it’s more natural, but then you still should do it.  And if you don’t, it creates guilt, which takes energy, too.  Man, like if I had all that energy it’d be crazy.  I could wash dishes even faster, but they say I’m the fastest anyway. Which is why I work the busy nights. And Stephano (he’s my boss) says: “You’re an animal.  Hey, this guy’s an animal!!!” cause I wash dishes so fast and clean everything and I don’t know how to talk.  I don’t know how to talk like other people.

 

I put down my blanket at the end of the line and spread out my herbs. I got some mushrooms, too, that I keep in the shade under the willows.  I keep them wrapped in a couple t-shirts.  I use a basket, like a big pack basket so the herbs don’t get crunched, to carry everything, and then I always walk or ride my bike down from where I live. You can feel the temperature change especially close to the beach.  All of a sudden there’s that wash of cool air and it’s like being in a different world. I lay them out.  Agrimony, which is good for kidneys and urinary tract infections.  Monarda, which you can drink like mint tea.  It’s a mint with a square stem and opposite leaves and it’s really good for washing your hair, too, or like heating up in the winter and pouring over your body.  You can wash your clothes in it.  Balsam fir boughs are good for that, too.  And Arctostaphyllus, which is like the real kidney healer.  It’s really powerful.  Agrimony is like this kidney plant, too, but it’s like something that gets you to realize you’re agitated, and then that can cure your urinary tract infection.  Or you’re angry.  It’s like Angrimony.  It’s like a shrunken-apple-face person, or the person with the problem is the shrunken-apple-face person, and Agrimony is just like a mirror-person.  I have a lot of plants and people buy them sometimes or they trade me things for them.  And then I wash dishes.  That’s where I get all my money.  On the front left corner of my blanket I always put out my mortar and pestle and a little cup of water.  Inside I got a bunch of ground up Prunella leaves.  It’s like the best healer of cuts and scraps.  It’s funny cause kids come by and add water and grind it up like little pharmacy people and put it on their scrapes even when they don’t have any. It’s like a little important ritual.

 

“Montgomery, hey, you have any shrooms today?”  That’s Sylvia Swanwick.  She has three kids.  She sells heirloom tomatoes and macaroons and pickles and eggs.  And sometimes goat meat.  She always sets up at the other end.  I give her ten dollars cause that’s what it costs to be here.  Sometimes I make that much back but its funny cause it’s just important to be here.  I know why it is, but it’s hard to explain.  But it’s like a big social thing, too.  I just come here and people see me and I see them and I listen to things and things exchange.  I hold out my hands and they hold out their hands and plants pass through the air. And if your blur your eyes it’s just colors and energy.  It’s really worth it.

 

Sylvia always has the first table by the artesian well at the other end. She has a tray of macaroons.

 

“Do you want some macaroons?”

 

She knows I have mushrooms.  Probably because it rained so hard.  And after the rain it was just moonlight coming from the inside of things. All the foxfire.

 

“I’m ok.”

 

She waits, kinda just the right amount of time.  “What’d ya think, Montgomery?  You wanna sell some shroomers?”

 

“I think so.  All I got is oysters.”

 

“I love oysters.  They’re the best with pasta.”  She waits a second.  “Are they in good shape?”  And then she gives me the prompt, which at first I actually think is some particular thing she may’ve learned from a goat cause they sell goat meat, too, but she’s actually motioning to my t-shirts by the tree, so I get up.  It’s like her energy’s making me do it.  Sylvia Swanwick is super big and powerful and her husband is super big and nice.  She’s just like this benevolent but powerful Queen.  It’s funny.  It was maybe two years ago—Sylvia went to Washington State or something and she got this spider bite.  And none of the hospitals could stop it from spreading.  It was like this open sore.  Like her flesh was dissolving.  They kept giving her antibiotics so she looked sick, too.  So I thought about it and it’s like I kept thinking about plantain root, like the long-leaved one that’s really strong. And I made a paste and gave it to her. I gave her more roots, too, like I went and dug a bunch of them.  I don’t know how I knew, but it worked.  She started covering the opening with the plantain paste.  And right away it started shrinking.  In a week the sore was gone.  I think that changed things.  I think people thought I was ok.

 

I open up the t-shirt with the shrooms next to my blanket and a bunch of people come over to look.

 

“They grow on aspens,” I say.

 

“Wow.  They’re so clean,” says Fredricka.  She has a couple of kids, too.  Everyone’s crowding around the mushrooms.

 

“They were higher up on these dead trees, so they didn’t get splashed with mud.”  I think I’m supposed to say something more, but there’s a lot of people and kids. I’m not sure I’m breathing right. So then, in the sequence of things, I’m supposed to say the right thing.  Which is now.  But I don’t say it.  And I’m hiding my hands.

 

Mary Margaret is looking at my herbs with a determined face.  She’s the child of Rachael and James.  They come a long way to be here, so they’re not always here.  She always tries to play with everybody else, but you can tell her actions don’t always match theirs, so a lot of times she just stops and stares at them.

 

Now she looks up at me: “Montgomery, there’s a spirit coming.”

 

Everybody just looks at her.  But she’s serious.  She’s glowing.  Then everybody starts laughing.  But she doesn’t laugh.  She’s crouched down looking at me over the herbs.

 

And I open my mouth: “I think this is a good place for it.”

 

And everybody stops laughing as if I gave a solemn speech that was really important.

 

Sylvia Swanwick squats down and says: “I’ll give this whole plate of macaroons for the mushrooms, Montgomery.”

 

“I’ll give you a chicken,” says Fredericka, “and a loaf of bread.”

 

Mary Margaret is looking over the beach grass at the horizon.  Maybe that’s where her spirit is coming from, from the horizon.  But you’d think it would come from the sunset, step out of the colors, as if the colors could take you anywhere.  It’s funny because Fredericka and Sylvia Swanwick have decided to split up the mushrooms.

 

“You don’t have to give me the loaf of bread,” I say to Fredericka, cause that’s a lot of food around now and I don’t eat bread that much.

 

“You sure?”

 

I nod.  Twice.

 

“What about the macaroons, Montgomery?”

 

The funny thing is Sylvia knows I don’t eat macaroons.  She might not remember.  I always give them away.

 

“Do you want a jar of pickles instead?  They’re perfect right now.  They’re really good for you.  There’s no sugar in them.  Or chocolate. It’s like lacto-fermented paradise.”

 

She’s smiling.  I think she’s making a joke.  She bends down and shakes my hand.  It all worked out.  It’s cause I waited.  It’s cause the sequence of things to say is things they take care of.  Like the real people.  Cause they’re good at it.  Which is one of the great things about the Farmer’s Market by the Lake.  They have their kids take away the mushrooms.

 

“I’ll keep the chicken in the cooler,” says Fredericka, from two tables down. She has a wood-fired cob oven and her table is full of sourdough bread all swaddled in cotton napkins.  And she has a few chickens and eggs in a cooler she’s sitting on.  But on her table, too, are few pairs of deerskin mittens she tanned and sewed herself.

 

Emma, one of Sylvia Swanwick’s little girls comes and steps on some herbs and places the bright jar of pickles in the middle of my blanket: “Montgoooooooomery,” she says, and does this dance spin and walks away.  I think a lot of the girls are studying ballet. But they’re devising their own performance, too.  They go out in this area between the Farmer’s Market and the highway by the swings and work on it.  What happened, what just happened with the mushrooms—that was like a big event. Sometimes there’s big events.  And then they disappear like a cloud.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ascenti

 

I’m the last in line.  Not many people.  Such a strange church.  Maybe an octagon?  I’ll have to remember to look.  So much fiberglass and paneling.  People look at me.  In some way or another.  People stay to pray.  To do their penance.  It’s an event.  A ritual. I never thought about that.  Maybe this is the only time people can be with each other without talking.  Without having to talk.  Some people, when I walk by, they look up from their rosaries.  Or from their hands.  A man’s just looking at his hands.  That’s all he’s doing.  And some don’t.  Different people.  We’re all here, exposed as we let ourselves be, exposed as we choose, maybe.  And then there’s the man in the box.  I’ve waited in the back, but I don’t think anyone else is coming.  It’s so beautiful out.  A strange little church among the old oaks.  How old are they?  How deep do they go?  Maybe as deep as above.  A church held by the oaks.  Just starting to turn.  To change. The seasons of their bodies.  All their leaves that fall and play in the wind. Free.  Beautiful and free.  And then it happens again.  And just that some of us are still here to see it.  And some of us disappear.  A little strange octagon church among the oaks.  The listening oaks.  Whispering prayers.  Creaking prayers.  Big dark bones rising out of the earth.  Stretching. Listening to human prayers. Recording for the posterity of falling leaves…and wind…for autumn…for the posterity of autumn.  And when the leaves fall and become partners of the wind, dancing up in little rushes and leaps, that’s when the prayers get released, and nobody can say anything about it, they just have to sit with it through the winter.  Winter holds them.  Holds them deep.  And all the released prayers are there.  And you can’t judge them cause the snow is falling, falling on your lips and body, falling on the surface of a mirror—everyone is given a mirror for the winter, and from it the world’s confessions rise like steam, and the snow falls in.  But I guess you have to confess.  You have to confess yourself.  Confess who you are for winter to come.  Saint Therese of Lisieux.  It’s like the name of a goddess.  When Mom asked me what church I was going to, I said: “Saint Therese” and she said: “Which one?”—when I said she was the girl from Lisieux, she looks impressed and tapped her paint brush on her teeth, and then made a scary look like an animal pulling its lips back, narrowing her eyes.  What the fuck?!  Maybe nobody’s parents have any idea what they’re doing, except the ones who pretend they do.  Who you stay far away from.  And their children…who are not children….  And then what?  The last woman steps in.  She’s old. You can smell her.  Smell her age.  She hasn’t stopped praying, even in line, even before the confession. Hunched over her rosemary. Standing.  I look up at Mary.  Mary. Mary.  Which Mary?  They’re both in you.  So much power.  Power that continues.  And Jesus behind the Altar.  It’s like she’s presiding over it all.  All the confessing.  She brought us together.  Me and Father Reminyi.  In his box. Listening.  I guess it’s the listening.  I don’t know.  Jesus could be beautiful if he was a tree.  Red like autumn.  Except his head would be high.  What a strange mix.  Maybe all churches are a strange mix.  Ok. What am I going to confess?  What do I need to confess?  Perfection.  Is that what Jesus thought about?  Being perfect?  Maybe I just want to be alone with him.  The beekeeper.  The runaway. Take a breath.  Ok.  The last woman steps out and peers up at me.  She looks like she has a hump.  She looks at my body.  My face one more time.  How do you get so old?  It just happens.  Do they have thoughts or do they just do things like that…look at you in weird ways, for you?  Step in. Awful perfume.  Fuckin gross.  Like a funeral parlor.  But it wasn’t her.  It was someone before her.  The smells of confession.  Kneel. Say the words.  I don’t say them.  He knows it’s me.  What has he thought about me since yesterday?   About raping me.  I know it doesn’t always happen that way.  But I’m not in love with him.  I just don’t know what I am.

 

“Do you think I’m human?”

 

Silence.  Fuck.  I’m thinking out loud.  I’m making that face my Mom makes.  I gotta control it.  He might be able to see.  It’s him. I know it’s him.  I can feel him.

 

“Or something else?”

 

Silence again.  He’s thinking.  He’s not thinking about my question.

 

“I don’t know if this is how…a confession is supposed to work.  I mean, I’m supposed to listen, God’s supposed to listen.  And then it’s like that courage to say…something.  Who you really are.  What’s inside you.  God knows. God already knows.  But it’s all about the speaking of it.  And the courage.  To say that maybe you were wrong.  And then God listens.  And another human listens.  Maybe it’s just a way to check-in.  And know we’re all equal.  Even you and I.”

 

“‘Another human listens.’  You slipped it in.”  I’m pushing him.

 

Silence.  Silence is waiting.  Silent starfields.  That aren’t really silent.  Silent music. Haahaaa.  I wish I could curl up.  Even though there’s no space, I could sleep.  Or just listen to nothing.  And wake up with a fucked up neck.  And know it was worth it.  That’s my confession.  That’s all that needs to happen.

 

“I’m not a man or a woman.  Or I’m both.  I have all the things.”

 

I wish…I wish I could show him my body.  Or we could take our clothes off…and just lay side by side. And then his bees could lift us to the moon.  That would say it all.  That could be both our confessions.

 

He rouses himself.  He’s like a machine and he pushed the On button: “Oh, but that’s not yourchoice.  That’s God’s choice.”

 

“I’m not sure it’s not my choice, either.”

 

“What do you mean?”

 

“Well, it might be like chose it…I remember something.”

 

“Hm.  Yes. But I’d think you’d suffer because of it…but…I guess you have.  Maybe. If I’m not wrong.”

 

I don’t know if he’s asking me.  I was making that face.  It’s gone. No paintbrush to tap on my teeth. Today I’m a woman.  Just like my Mom.  Who doesn’t wear any makeup.  Silence. Silence.  Silence is the right answer for so many things.  Silence is the right question.  It’s like maybe when you’re with somebody, like a real friend, there’s all the right silences, like all the silences there can be.  I can feel us being held.  Those words I spoke were like the leaves in a little swirl of wind.

 

“Is it a sin to not know what a sin is?”  Silence.  I can see his white T-shirt through the holes in the fiberglass.  They must’ve been drilled.  You can’t buy fiberglass like that.  Or maybe there’s a Catholic appliance catalogue.  It’s funny—listening to confessions, he’s taken off his costume.  “I mean, I know if you hurt people and kill them.  Like if you want to and like it, or what people did to Jesus—”

 

“Or what Jesus did to himself.”

 

Silence, silence as something you could grow things in.  All the right silences.  Stars are perfect for growing in silence.  But I guess stars are pretty loud.

 

“I guess people must think I got a lot of sins to tell.  I mean, we been in here a while.”

 

“Yes.  It’s funny. People make up all kinds of things. But that’s just people.  People walking around inside God.  It’s like those pictures of humans walking around giant horsetails and mushrooms with dinosaurs walking around.  All they’re doing is looking up at everything.  But were’ll all in it together.  We’re looking down at things, too.  Strange.  I was wondering before you came in if it was really worth it.  But eventually, eventually, I always learn something from my own confessions.  So to listen to confession is learning, too.”

 

“I don’t know if I’m learning anything.”  Why did I say that?  Cause he’s saying things I want to hear?  Probably. Cause we’re just inches away.  But before, when we were sitting together, we were close, too.  But we weren’t facing each other.  Did we even look in each other’s eyes?  But now we’re face to face.  Except there’s something between us.  A fiberglass veil.

 

“Yes…I don’t think any of us were taught to.  Not really.  It’s something you have to realize and do for yourself.  It’s a form.  And you can place yourself in the form and that’s it.  Or you can understand the form.  Change the form.  Analyze the form.  Make it meaningful, I think.  You can still essentially be in the form while doing all these things.  It’s like music.  Like a piano sonata.  It has parameters.  At least historically.  Or traditionally.  Or maybe initially. But the more you know the sonata form, the more you know you’re inthe sonata form, the more elastic the parameters become.  It’s really not the other way around.”

 

Silence.

 

“I don’t know anything about music.”

 

I’m lying.  Why would I lie when I told him my secret?  The child of a music teacher.  I guess I save that for another confession.

 

“We could talk more about music.”

 

It’s strange.  I just get up.  I can feel his surprise.  But it’s over.  It’s natural for me to stand.  I think he feels it now, too.  He’s trying to feel it. I have to try to remember what we said.  But the wind probably has it.  Maybe that’s why I’m standing—cause the wind lifted it out of me. But maybe it’s not over.  Maybe I just ended it.  But I can’t question it.  I can’t let him know I’m questioning it, because he’ll feel it.  He’ll feel that there’s something wrong.  I just have to keep moving.  I want to walk around this church.  And see if I can count the sides.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Techla

 

It’s hard to be away from my painting.  It’s like reaching for the handle of the door to the past-life regressionist, my hand could be painting something…somewhere.  Giving change, checking people in, running their cards, putting in their information, giving receipts, emailing, making appointments, I could be painting, too.  This is crazy.  I’m here. I’m going to do this.  Even the painting, the painting…I feel so much better. I don’t know why.  It’s like painting turned my head.  The painting is a hand, too.  It’s own hand.  Maybe we meet.  We cross. Cross wrists.  And paint each other.  And I have to keep turning my head, too.  Forward.  Forward. Because of all those years I didn’t paint.  And because…well, painting doesn’t mean anything.  Except to me.  It’s just I can’t help people with it.  Maybe I could paint myself just so much, so thick no one will know me.  And I can put up a sign: “Touch the painting.”  Of course, it would be more like a sculpture.  And then one day I can crack out.  Then I won’t even remember anything.  The guilt of not painting, and the guilt of painting being this thing just for me, not healing people, not helping anybody…I’ve identified them—the guilts.  They should neutralize each other.  But they’re both still there.  I’m early.  But I have to pee, too.  Maybe because I’m nervous.  It’s so stupid.  This place is like a little mall.  There’s a nutritional center.  And a nail salon.  And a dentist.  And a China Buffet.  Everything you need in life.  Right? Everybody’s stupid lives.  And then on this end some offices.  I thought she’d be in some old house.  Or an old building downtown.  Here I am.  Here I am. I feel so much better.  But it doesn’t mean they don’t keep calling. And setting up appointments.  I’m early but I can just wait.  I can sit and wait.  She must have a waiting room.  Vicky Fielding.  Suite 203B. I reach for the door.  No.  She’s going to know things.  What is she going to know?  That’s not my thought.  Thoughts that pass by.  That’s true I thought she’s going to know things, but when I reached for the door, I thought, you know, that I never did it, that I’ve never had sex.  And then, then I thought she’d know right away.  I think everyone knows.  Everyone wonders.  Because nothing is ever right.  But painting is right.  It’s just for me.  But that’s all I can think about right now.  Maybe cancer eats everything and you’re left with nothing but the core.  My body isn’t for putting things into.  I don’t know what it’s for, but it isn’t for putting things into.  Maybe it’s just for these hands.  Which I put back on the door.  My eyes are on my hands.  And when I die people can look at my paintings.  They can take my clothes off because I’ll be gone.  They can touch me.  They can touch someone who’s never been touched.  Then they can fill me with whatever they want.  They can pretend I’m beautiful.  That I’m human.  Fuck all these people in their stupid little mall.  But if that’s what makes them happy, getting something new at the China Buffet.  Or the same thing.  Mmm, that General Tso’s Chicken.  Maybe that’s how I help people—by telling them to fuck off.  Except I could never say it aloud.  Waiting for something to happen.  I’ll just tell everybody telepathically.  Then they’ll think it’s themselves telling them.

 

 

 

 

~

 

 

 

 

“So Robert told you about me?”

 

“Yes. Robert Romero.”

 

“He’s an old friend.  I think. He rewired my house.  Did some other work, too.  He’s one of those people who can fix things.  Fix anything.”

 

“Really?”

 

“Did he do some work for you?”

 

“I guess…I don’t think I understand.  He gives massages where I do energy wor—or, he gives massages where I work.  He told me you do past-life things.  He told me you can heal people.”

 

She leans forward suddenly.  I’m not sure it’s what I said or if she’s trying to keep a strand of green chili from falling on the floor.

 

I say:  “That’s a big cheese burger.”  There’s a Diet Coke with a straw on the metal table next to her.  It’s one of those old school metal tables teachers used to have. Maybe they still have them.

 

“I’m sorry.”  She lifts the eaten side of the cheeseburger up to her eyes.  “Is it?  It’s actually the smallest they have.”  Somehow, I notice there isn’t any ketchup or mustard or grease on her lips.  It’s like my eyesight gets really close and circles them. This is just one room.  There’s a shared bathroom down the hall.  One room with a window.  Letting in dappled sunlight.  It’s on the floor just moving gently.  Like a horse’s body.  Or a leopard frog.

 

“Did you help Robert?”  I’m looking at her Diet Coke.

 

“That’s funny.  I’m not quite sure why Robert told you to come here.  It must be a word-of-mouth thing.  Or he read it on my card and just used his intuition.  But here you are.”  She notices I’m looking at her Diet Coke.  And I swear she looks at me as if I’m someone else.  Someone different than me.  “They say I should stop eating stuff like this, anyway.”  And she actually, with an effort, or, with a smooth concentrated movement, drops the half-drank Coke in the garbage.  Then she wraps up the half-eaten cheeseburger and slides it back in the bag, rolling the top down.  “It’s time, anyway.  You were early.”

 

“I had to use the washroom.”

 

“It’s down the hall on the right.”

 

“I know.  I used it when I came.”  We look at each other.  She’s easy. And serious.  I don’t know anyone where those two go together.  “Who are ‘They’?”

 

She leans forward a little bit.  An old metal desk.  Her rolling chair.  My rolling chair.  As if we could switch places.  And just a narrow futon.  For one person.  As if you could just roll your chair over and swing on.  Either one of us.  And a window. The window is like a painting. But there’s other paintings, too. One of a fox.  Just staring at us.  Like we’re in its den.  She looks down at her Diet Coke in the trash basket.  Then at me.  Outside, birds and traffic.  It must be getting hot.  But through the leaves it just could go on and on, just hills and plants and mountains. Just New Mexico.  Just a bunch of earth.

 

“It’s just a sorta ‘non-name’ I have for ‘Them’.”  She uses her fingers to make quotes.

 

“Are they your doctors?”

 

“I wouldn’t call them doctors.  I guess I call Them Them’ cause it’s funny.  But actually, a name is something They’re not.  If you know what I mean.  You could call Themthe subconscious, or the deeper self, but They’re more than that.  It’s funny. It’s funny.  I been doing this thing in different ways for a long time. But it’s changed.  I’m constantly learning.  In a way, learning what I’m doing.  And not really understanding what is going on here…but listening.  It’s a feeling that I’m reporting, too, just by listening, and maybe, I don’t know, but it fills this world with other lights and colors by people like you speaking it.  But it’s a lot of things to different people.  Some are just curious.  Almost like tourists.  Some want to know specific things, like why did I choose this life, or—”

 

“What do you mean: ‘Why did I choose this life?’”

 

“Why did I choose this life?”  She repeats it kinda automatically.  “I didn’t mean anything personal.  Or maybe they just want to free up something, have some material to create with.  Like an artist.  I’m more like a historian trying to put things together.  I’m studying the past…and the future…possibly.”  She twists up her face.  I’ve seen little kids do that.  “But, but, a lot of things I don’t understand…till way later.  Then I realize I understand, except a lot of times I don’t know when that happened.”

 

This small office.  There’s air coming in.  But we’re breathing the same air.  Our breaths are two flowers.  Then they switch.  Flower throats.  She doesn’t know what she’s doing.  I want to cry.  I look at the fox.  We’re in the fox’s den.  Nowhere else to be.  Underground.

 

“Does it cure people?”

 

“It can.  It sometimes works from the inside out.  In a session, if you reach, I believe, the core, or come from the core, or the deeper self rises into the present self, into the mask, funny enough, and, absolutely, if the person wants to be healed.”

 

Wants to be healed?”  I can’t believe she said that.  I try to stay calm.  There’s something weird in my voice.  And there’s that other voice telling me not to talk, but I say it anyway: “I learned this in my training.  That people, deep down, want to be healed.  People want it. And then to take their place in our world.  And function with purpose.  Everyone is important and has a calling to fulfill, they just may not know it.  It’s our—it’s a Healer’s job to make them know it.”  I’m so tense, but I release really slow so she doesn’t notice.  I can tell she’s really thinking about what I said, but she doesn’t say anything.  You’re supposed to say something.  I’m still gripping the arms of the chair.  I let go.

 

“He does have beautiful hands.  That’s the first thing I noticed.”

 

“Robert?”

 

“Yes.  Now I can see him putting his hands on people.  Like walking dry riverbeds and, out of the blue, it rains.  A couple days later.”

 

What just happened?  Was I angry? I saw it, too, Robert Romero in a blousy shirt and jeans walking into the desert, toward a sunset, pressing footprints into dried currents of sand.

 

“Is there anything you’re looking for?  Anything you want to know?”

 

“No.”  I’m watching the light on the floor.  “No, I’m just curious.  But I’m an artist, too,” I say suddenly.  “I’m a painter.”

 

“Really?  That’s great.”

 

“It is.  There’s nothing like it.”

 

“I bet.  It’s like me. I do these sessions and try to put things together.  Then I go and study.  I study new avenues that sometimes come out of people’s experiences.  But that’s my problem.  ‘They’ say it’s all happening at once.  That there is no time.  But I love to put things into perspective.  To put things into histories.  And see how they work.  Even if it is supposedly side by side and not all in a line.  ‘They’ can be Them and I can be me.  And you can be you.  Or you could even be ‘Them’.”

 

Alls I know is it’s so great to say I’m a goddamn fuckin artist.  A tear rolls down my face.  She sees it but she’s not looking at it.  That’s smart.  That’s a smart thing to do.  Or maybe it’s not smart.  Maybe she just cares.  Or something.

 

“Should we give it a try?”

 

I press my lips together and nod.  I roll my chair to the futon and roll on.  I cross my hands over my chest as if I’m dead.  Then place them at my sides.

 

“You can put your hands where-ever you feel comfortable.”  She rolls close.  More by my feet.  I’m wearing sandals.  I can feel her warmth.  “Now we’ll go through a relaxation sequence.  This helps people a lot.  It’s not only to go into hypnosis easier, it’s good for you, too.  Just in itself.  Ready?”  I nod. We go through my whole body all the way from my toes to the top of my head, taking a breath, squeezing, holding, and releasing.  I feel as if I’m floating, as if I’m nothing but energy.  “Ok.  Do you feel good?”  I think I nod.  I say yes silently.  My eyes are shut but I can feel her nod, too.  “Now, I’m going to take you up into the sky.  You are just pure energy.  You are like the wind.  Like a luminous wind.  Just rising up, higher and higher.  Nothing but color.  It’s so good. You are everything.  All the space.  All the energy.  You spread out.  You spread out so wide, like a stratosphere, like a nurturing womb around the earth, reaching out forever.  All the way into forever.  And now you’re coming back.  You are drawing together.  Drawing into one concentrated beautiful energy.  Now we are descending, descending to earth.  So beautiful.  So many colors, textures, mountains.  Do you see them?”  I think I smile.  I want to smile.  “You are just like a seed, a seed of energy floating down, down into the welcoming earth, just a color descending into the ocean of colors, ready to grow.  Further and further, down and down.  Have you touched the earth?  Has the earth touched you?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“Now look at your hands.”

 

“I don’t have hands.”

 

“What do you have?”

 

“I am just here.  Perception.”

 

“Just pure perception?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“Does it feel good?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“Ok.  Now the perception that you are spreads out into everything, into the earth around you, into the rocks and water, into all the colors.  It is all your perception.  All your energy.  So free. So pure.  No hindrances at all.  And now, like when you were the stratosphere, when you were up in the sky, before you descended, we are pulling back in again.  Becoming more concentrated.  More individual and yet everything.  Ok.  It feels so good.  It feels so good to spread.  It feels so good to draw in.  Now.  Now we’re going to lift again.  Back into the sky.  You are like a fountain pouring back up, just like a weightless feather of beauty rising and rising, rising again back up into sky, all the way up, up into space itself.  Do you see the stars?  They’re all around you.  So beautiful. So crystal.  It’s like music.”

 

“Yes.”

 

“Ok.  Yes. It’s just you and the stars.  Just facing each other.  Smiling.  So bright. Just acknowledging each other with perception.  You could be one of those stars.  Yes. It’s so easy.  So…so now we will descend again.  Except this time we will descend into another life, a different one than this one.  A beautiful life where all that energy, all that perception that you are can become a form. Ok.  Ok.  Down. Down.  So smooth.  So perfect. Down into the depths of a life. Of a growing, living being.  Are you there?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“Yes.  Now I want you to open your eyes, open your perception, and look at yourself.  Look at your body and tell me what you see.”

 

“I don’t know if I can see anything but green.”

 

“Green?”

 

“Green emeralds.  A green emerald world.”

 

“Can you hear anything?”

 

“It’s a shimmering.  It’s the green speaking.”

 

“Hmm.  Green is something we don’t get to see much of here.  It must be nice.  Are you human?”

 

“No.”

 

“Can you tell me anything about yourself?  Any characteristics you know to be you?”

 

“I’m…a shimmering.”

 

“A shimmering?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“Are you a person?  Can you see your body?”

 

“Seeing…hearing…but I am…bridges of music…or I am a well…a well that is everywhere.  But we’re singing.  Singing.”

 

“Interesting.”

 

“Shimmering.  Wet with night.  No words. No words in my body.”

 

“No words in your body.  Well, that’s probably good.  Hmm. Can you see anything around you?”

 

“It’s the glistening music.  But I am the glistening music.  Every shimmering song…every point of starlight…but the reflections…they aren’t reflections…everything is its own being.  Everything is a being.  But I’m it, too.”

 

“So there’s stars?”

 

“…yes…stars…but different.  Not human stars.”

 

“Not human stars.”

 

“No words in our bodies.”

 

“Alright.  Alright. No words in your bodies.  So, there’s stars.  Are you in space?  You said it was green, emerald.  Is it somewhere in the universe?”

 

“Earth.”

 

“Earth?”

 

“Earth.”

 

I feel so close to opening my eyes, but I don’t think I can.  I’m so deep.  And I’m reporting.  I know my body is speaking.  I know my body…Techla…is in the room.  That I am Techla.  And yet I’m reporting.  From the emerald world.  I’m more in the emerald world.  And Techla speaks.  Speaks to the humans.  It’s so good. The core.  And yet there’s something beneath.  Always something beneath.  Always something beautifuler.  Blacker.  Emerald music.  And deepest ebony silk full of stars.  Stars moving. Moving on their own.  Are we frogs?  So wet.  Reflections moving.  Stars moving. Yet they are on their own.  The core of frog song like shimmering bridges aligning into thoughts released.  Do they rise all the way into the room?  Into Techla. So black.  So green.

 

“Hm.  Earth. Can you remember how you got there? Like what is your past?

 

I’m watching from the shimmering.  The shimmering sees.  “There’s people in the room.”

 

“There’s people around you?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“Have you switched to a room?  I was thinking you were in some type of night thing out in the open.”

 

“In our room.  With us.”

 

“You mean with Techla and I?  Here? 203B?”

 

“Yes.  Not human.”

 

“Really?  I guess that’s possible.  No words in bodies?”

 

“No words in bodies.”

 

“Ha.  Can you describe them?”

 

“Not fully formed yet.  Not human.”

 

“Hm.  Are they trying to tell us something?  Can you tell me what they’re trying to say?”

 

“Not trying to say anything.  Listening. Bridges.  Flew here on a bridge.”

 

“What bridge?”

 

“The shimmering.”

 

“Oh.  I understand. They came on all the music.  Like from where you are?”

 

“The glistening night is a bridge, too.  It’s…a well and a bridge.  It’s music and shimmering.  But it’s beings.  It’s us.”

 

The shimmering that I am, the wetness, the singing, the night skin, all the stars in me, in us, sees these beings in the room.  It’s not from me on the futon, it’s not from the Techla body—somehow the music that helped them get there can see these beings, yet they’re not fully formed, formed to align with that space.  I don’t know if they ever will be.  But they came to listen.  They’re drawn somehow to that body of Techla.  My body. To what’s happening beneath it. We’re all in the same space.  If I come back I’ll never be able to explain it. This emerald world.  But the beings…it’s like orange air, flares of air, that are wings.  But not like birds.  Veins within their wings.  Like stained glass.

 

“Ok.  Ok.  I think we explored this enough for now. We can always come back, no problem, but for now we’re returning, we’re bringing you back, back into this life, into the life of Techla.  But before we surface we are going to be encoded with words that will automatically bring you into a deep hypnotic state, and then we can travel anywhere, we can go into any life we want with ease.  These words will only work if you want to go into a past-life regression, only if you choose.  If you randomly hear them it will have no affect on you.  Ok.  The words are: Emerald.  Emerrrrald Caress.  The code words to bring you into a past-life regression hypnotic state when you choose is: Emerald Caress.  Ok.  Now you’re surfacing, surfacing into the wonderful, creative life of Techla…the painter.”

 

Techla, the painter.  I open my eyes.  That’s me. My head is to the side.  That’s me.  There’s something moving on the wall.  It’s the sunlight and shadows.  The dappled skin.  I was so far away, so deep.  But before it could’ve all been right in this room.  When I was there, it felt like I could’ve just opened my eyes, but now I don’t know.

 

“How do you feel?”

 

“It feels like it’s still beneath us.  I’m still there.  It’s just I’m here or….”  I look down at my chest.  How can a night be within you?  Like it lives within a mountain.  And you’re the mountain.  But those are just forms.  Forms you put on something bigger.  “I can’t explain.”  I look over and see the brown paper bag that her burger was in all balled up in the garbage. She must’ve eaten the rest of it. But she didn’t touch the Diet Coke. And there’s a bottle, an emerald bottle of Pellegrino, on the desk.  She sees me looking.

 

“Do you want some mineral water?”

 

“Yes.”  She pours some into a coffee cup and I drink it, looking into the eyes of the fox.  Its pupils are almost like two bodies, two human bodies in a fox’s eyes.  It’s like love.  I sit up and drink more, watching the sunlight dappling.  “Who were they?”

 

“That’s interesting.  Many people don’t remember what happens during a session.  But some do.  I don’t initially hypnotize them to remember it…just in case.  Well, I don’t know.  When you said that, though, I could feel something.  Who do you think they were?”

 

I rub my face.  “They came because of the shimmering.  Or they came onthe shimmering.  It’s like they followed it here.”

 

“Interesting.  There’s a lot of people from a lot of places who come to help.  Sometimes they can be from planets where you lived a life.  Or they’re just helpers.”

 

The futon is really comfortable.  So firm.  “Can I come back?”

 

She laughs.  “Sure. If you think it’s worth it.  I have some people who have been coming for years.  We’re exploring different lines of history.  Some are histories I don’t think we, as people, we could find any other way.  But some people come just one time and that’s it.  Maybe they just want to confirm something.  Or touch something.  Or debunk the crazy lady in the little mall.  Some people are apparently so excited by what happens that they never return.  Maybe they’re scared.  Or maybe they’re too happy.  But sometimes people go to lives that are really dark, and then we try to work with it, ask the deeper self why they chose to go to that life and what that creates in this life, and how to release it.  But that’s all up to the client.  So, yes.  Do you want to make an appointment?”  She rolls over to her calendar on the desk.

 

“Can I text you?”

 

“Sure,” she says, putting down the pen.  She turns to me and looks me directly in the eyes.  Her irises are almost gold.  Streaks.  I want to look closer.  I want to leave.  More than anything I want to leave.  But I want to lay back down.  I want to lay back down and descend into my emerald night until the other night, the night outside the room, will enclose us.  There’ll be music within music.  “And I promise,” she says, smiling, but then dropping her lips just a little and squeezing her right eye down, “no more Diet Cokes.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Father Reminyi

 

I’ve looked at the shape of the church before, wondering.  But what happened back then?  Too much to think about, I’m sure.  New assignment.  New impermanence.  A sense of place—that’s the thing to talk about now, but the people who propound it are usually travelers, anyway—always talking.  Giving talks.  It’s true. Where else is there an octagon Catholic Church in the world?  Except here. Late afternoon.  Early evening.  If I were still a monk I’d be wearing brown.  But now I’m black.  Like a crow. Crows settle down in pines to protect themselves from owls.  The hunters change places.  But as a Priest what am I?  What am I really?  A teacher? A translator?  A gatekeeper?  Like the night is a gatekeeper.  But that is a natural thing.  That came to be what it is.  An interpreter?  As if Beethoven was God and I play a sonata for the congregation.  But it should be I take the score from Beethoven’s hands and pass it to the congregation and they play it in their own way.  But, of course, they can take it for themselves. They can take it themselves from Beethoven.  Besides, do you really want Beethoven to be God?  Most people would say Bach.  What about Mahler?  I’m walking all the way around the church.  I walk all the way around Saint Therese.  And she’s smiling from this strange octagon.  Among the beautiful dark bodies of oaks.  Shostakovich.  I think he was beautifuler than any of them.  Or Hildegard von Bingen.  But what am I doing?  Teaching people to depend on you.  Collecting teachings.  Arranging them.  Being able to reach into your file cabinet for a historical heart.  But no, I guess that’s not it.  It’s just to bea heart.  In whatever season.  To be the heart of winter, the heart of summer.  In your little octagon.  And the Stations of the Cross circling beneath the trees.  And the Priest’s little house in the back.  The little factory worker house.  Like the one I grew up in.  There’s a hole up in that oak.  Large enough for raccoons.  Maybe there’s a whole family in there.  Just waiting for night to come.  Running beneath the stars.  Following glistening trails beneath the Milky Way.  Beneath the river of stars.  God, I feel as if your hand is so open.  Maybe it’d be easier if I had to pry your fingers, squeeze myself between them, to take the music.  But it’s all right there.  Like a little forest in your palm.  Maybe I don’t want to take the music.  Maybe I just want to go into the forest where it’s deeper than you think, but then you may find a little house deep in the core with a spring, and above you it’s just stars and migrations, and beneath you moss and lichen, leaves, all the neighbors you could ever want.  If God’s palm was closed I’d feel better.  But now it’s just held right up to me.  People walk into your life.  Even in the monastery people walk into your life.  A door opens and they walk out of themselves.  And you walk out of yourself.  You meet for the first time.  You lived with them for two years maybe but there’s always a door.  I should walk through the trees toward the lake. I don’t think I’ll get there by dark. I’ll have to turn back.  So many houses interspersed.  And what is the Priest doing walking?  What could I carry that would make people think I’m doing something important?  A Bible? A butterfly net?  So I can catch the creatures of God.  The creature of God.  God the creature.  And pin them to a board.  Creature of God, carry these thoughts away.  Let them become like all these leaves, dissolving into soil, feeding the trees who feed the squirrels, who give so many people homes.  And when the thoughts leave…it’s just this day. Coming to an end.  And a person who comes.  Who is on the border.  Physically on the border.  Like two bodies who met.  Maybe she…or he…maybe they have two hearts.  How many hearts are in me?  Or a hinge. God, how does it all work?  That’s the worst question to ask.  How does a person appear and help you know it’s all wrong?  Or, more accurately, that a door has opened.  The true door.  And that you’re standing before the door in yourself.  And how do you help that person?  When everything they say opens that door more.  I guess you just have to be yourself.  Hold on and be yourself.  Be the heart at your core.  Be that little house in the forest.  She must be seventeen—sixteen?  And a body that put her on the border, the boundary…the meeting…the juxtaposition…with no distance between the forms.  But maybe there is distances…in Ascenti.  How does that work?  And she says she remembers choosing it.  Choosing the juxtaposition.  And then that’s what you work with for the rest of your life.  Like choosing music as a vocation.  Or bowl-turning.  Getting together with God and deciding on a vocation.  Deciding on a body.  I guess that’s possible.  How do you help someone named Ascenti?  Now I’m walking down the road past houses.  People back from work.  I wave. Some people look surprised.  But everyone waves back.  It’s always a dance.  Feeling people’s thoughts.  And all the histories.  All the abuse.  Abuses of power.  All the sexuality of the Church.  All the juxtapositions.  But I guess there’s juxtapositions to hide things and then there’s juxtapositions that create truth, reveal truth, reveal God’s truth.  I glance back and can still see Saint Therese through the oaks. Their sinuous bodies getting darker and darker.  Almost hinging into something else.  Did somebody build it to be something else?  Maybe it’s something that no one can understand.  Is that what beauty is?  That’s part of it.  Beauty always has an element, at the least, that’s indescribable.  There’s an old railroad track that crosses the road.  It’s been made into a bike trail.  Now I feel as if people won’t question me, even though it’s getting dark. It’s designated for walking, for hiking. Maybe if I carry a bird book.  And I can speak about Saint Francis to people if they ask, divert their suspicion into a lesson on someone who spoke to birds. And the birds spoke to him.  The trick is not to be strange, but to be eccentric.  But the black may not help with that.  So a big book on birds, one with the title very bold and visible, and a Bible…and binoculars.  Yes. But I’d never be able to do this with Ascenti.  Just the birds and I.  Listening to what they say.  Just this trail of white crushed rock leading into the city, ending where there’s too many houses, and leading the other way to the south.  Toward Chicago.  I wonder how far it goes.  Maybe every day I walk further.  See how everything changes.  I must be less than a mile from the lake.  I’m telling this to Ascenti.  I’m telling her things in my mind.  Speaking. And God makes it so no space exists. There’s a culvert running beneath the trail.  A crick leading to the lake.  Just the sound.  You hear the sound and you change.  The music of the crick is inside you.  For sure. It changes everything.  I wish I could fall in love with someone like Ascenti. Maybe I am.  But there’s something else.  One migration tipping its wings at another.  And maybe just in that glance, just in that acknowledgement, tears fall, onto a hand gardening, onto a flower, and then night comes and the dew joins it, welcomes it, teaches it how to be dew, how to disappear with the sun.  Twilight.  Just the orange chorusing through the trees.  I can almost feel the anticipation of all the night journeys that will take place.  All the explorations.  If I could just take the whole congregation to this culvert.  But really, it’s true—it’s a one to one thing, or a solo thing. A whole group at once would never be able to comprehend it.  They would overwhelm it.  But, somehow, maybe we could discover together.  Somehow.  I slide down off the trail to the crick.  Tracks. Like human hands.  Except they’re raccoons, and the smaller ones—possums, and mink, too.  All following the star-trails, the reflections—every night following this little river.  And staying out of each other’s way.  Listening. Smelling.  Sometimes the moon floating right before them.  I wonder if they’ll see my tracks in the mud and wonder who I am?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ascenti

 

I don’t know if Mom’s ever looked at me without thinking about what happened.  Parents feel guilt.  I guess. She’s never really shown what I call guilt.  Regret. Cause we were all in it together. We were all different.  We just didn’t have the skill to fit in.  To hide.  Under the regime of American normality you have to kill your dreams. And the weapons you do it with are new cars, the right clothes, the right bodies, smiling at the right time, attacking the right people.  And then you’re a human.  And then you commit suicide.  And the people around you, your parents and friends, they wonder why.  He had everything.  She had everything.  She was the Prom Queen.  People want to forget their own hidden dreams.  People want to forget that’s what they’re going to school for.  To hide things.  But there’s other things when she looks at me.  Like why am I not an artist?  I wouldn’t say Dad’s an artist.  He’s artistic.  He’s like a promoter of art.  A supporter of up-and-coming little artists.  He wants to help kids know that they can follow their dreams.  She’s always like: “Ascenti, why don’t you sit next to me and draw.  You used to draw a lot.”  She still has them up where she works on her own stuff.  All my weird bird-people.  Or: “Hey, Ascenti, lets go take a walk by the lake and write haikus.  It’s like a practice.  We could do it once a week.  I think I need it to free me up a little.  You know, work with another medium a little.  I get so caught up painting.”  Things like that.  They know it’s in me.  That’s what they’re thinking.  Or at least that’s what I think they’re thinking.  It’s funny, though, knowing that when you walk by, your parents are staring at you, trying to stare intoyou.  Rearranging things.  Rearranging the past.  Or maybe I’m just their little puzzle that helps them understand the universe.  But if they walked into me looking for my heart, they’d never find a way out.  Join the club.  That’s what I think about the Priest.  I wonder if he really wants to walk into me?  Take a journey.  Probably not. We’re just like two puzzles side by side.

 

“Ascenti.”

 

“Hi, Mom.”

 

I stop.  We look at each other for a second.  I wish I didn’t stop.  She’s in the living room painting rather than her studio.  I guess it’s more than a second now.  We’re talking to each other deeper down.  I wonder if she knows it.  I wonder what we’re saying.

 

Now she breaks it.  I can swear she knows it.  “Hey, do you want to make dinner for us tonight?”

 

“Yeah,” I say without thinking.  Fuck.  Fuck.  She caught me.  I used to make dinner for them all the time.  I remember the first time I did it.  I think I was four or five, and I took a northern pike someone had gave us out of the freezer, covered it with salt, pepper and dill, and slices of lemon, and baked it.  I don’t know where I’d seen that.  But I just did it.  Of course, I didn’t thaw it at all so it was still raw in the middle.  But they kinda silently ate all the cooked parts, just giving me amazed looks the whole time.  I was so little I had to use chairs to do everything.  Maybe I saw it in a movie, but I don’t remember.  But now she caught me.  She’s smiling.  But there’s something sad, too.  Or there’s some kind of hope.  I close my eyes.  I just want to be alone.  I should’ve just walked by.  All these stupid words are seeds.  Like the words I gave the Priest.  Except they’re planted in my body.  Or his body. Planted in the space between us. “What should I make?”

 

She laughs.  “That’s the first time, I do believe, you’ve ever asked us what to make.”  Then her smile falls.  She’s walking on the edge.  She’s afraid she went too far.  But I can tell she’s defiant, too.  Like one part of her thinks it’s time, time for me to break out, time for it to end. And another part…knows, knows that maybe things have changed…forever.  Maybe.

 

“Ok,” I say, and I go to my room.  I sit on my bed.  I stick my fingers in my armpits.  Breathe. Breathe, you idiot.  Why? It feels good not to breathe.  I just want to be alone.  Or with Father Reminyi.  He must be…early thirties.  Maybe younger.  Two puzzles. Two puzzles that don’t need to fit together.  When I left the confessional it was like over, like I said what needed to be said. I don’t remember what any of it was. But then walking, I wanted to more. Or just to talk.  Just walk together.  My armpits are so wet.  Talking to Mom.  I don’t want to cook dinner.  But I guess I have to give her that. I can’t take away that she caught me. That she tricked me.  And I want things to change.  Right? But how do you change?  When you reach in.  And there’s nothing.  There’s no self to haul out of the pit in yourself.  I smell my fingers.  It’s like metallic.  Maybe I’m full of strange metals.  Metals unknown.  Metals from another planet.  I smell them closer.  I wipe them on my pants and smell them again.  No, not like them, not like what they put inside me.  Maybe it’s gone.  How long has it been gone?  For so long, that’s all I could smell.  It seemed like forever.  At first it was everywhere, everything I’d touch.  It’d just come out of my skin.  And then it was only when I’d sweat.  I don’t know if Dad ever smelled it, but Mom did.  That’s how she knew.  And all the bruises.  And cuts from the stones.  And my mouth was bleeding.  And the way I walked.  I just came home.  And right away they went to the police.  And I know the cops laughed.  Maybe not to my parents’ faces.  Because some of them who did it were theirlittle angels.  They would never do any wrong.  Their little future cops.  And they all knew each other.  They all want to protect their buried dreams.  With bodies like mine.  They all want to bury them further.  But maybe they don’t have dreams.  Maybe I’m just thinking about myself.  To live among the dreamless.  That’s when my mother went crazy.  They came home and she started smashing things.  She took knives to her paintings.  She cut a bunch of them up and started beating them on the floor. Shredding all her art.  I could feel it.  There was something beautiful.  They were joining me.  There was something right.  Something was coming to an end in her.  Dad tried to stop her but she cut him open.  My crazy parents.  He loves that scar.  He taped it up himself with butterflies, which is probably why it’s so big.  He was crying, too.  He usually only cries when he talks about Schubert or something. Crazy fucking person.  He’s always showing it off.  Showing it off and hiding it.  Showing off and hiding.  And she was screaming things the cops said: “You can bring her in and, of course, we’ll examine her to see if there’s any evidence to proceed with an investigation!  Motherfuckers!!!!!  Fuckin Pigs!!!!”  Shit like that.  And then we moved.  Metals from another planet.  “I do believe, that’s the first time you’ve ever asked us what to make.”  What the fuck?  You’d think she’s from England or something.  I guess that’s what happens when you’re an artist.  Maybe it’s just that I didn’t feel exhausted from talking to him.  Maybe that’s friendship.  Or love. You don’t exhaust me—let’s get married.  You can have a boy and a girl all at once.  Are you a Catholic Priest or what?  I guess Franny didn’t exhaust me.  But I probably exhausted her.  I look at my phone.  At one point after she’d stopped talking to me I’d just text her on other people’s birthdays, like famous cool people like Beethoven or Deborah Harry and say: “Hey this is Ludwig Beethoven, it happens to be my birthday today.  Just thought I’d call and invite you over.  We’re having a little party.  I think Schubert’s coming, too.”  But she’d never text back.  Out on the west coast.  Probably if I told her what happened, she’d text.  Or call.  Or come be with me.  And we’d curl up in a little ball.  Tinier and tinier.  Until we disappeared.  But Franny doesn’t want to disappear.  She wants to be with girls.  I guess I was supposed to go with her.  Maybe I did. Maybe there’s another Ascenti who looks at Franny’s phone and says: “Oh, it’s The Loser.”  And they go back to making love.  Don’t do it, I say to myself.  Don’t do it.  But I’m doing it: “I love you,” I text her.  And now I’m just gonna wait…for nothing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

L’spirit

 

Space is an eco-system…a soil…space…is earth.  Space is not earth.  Sky is not earth.  Sky is not earth.  Eco-systems to grow…data.  Sky to grow…data.  Data to put…into space.  Seven white seagulls near water.  Three more. Larger.  Brown.  Standing in water.  Raven striding through them.  Picking at shells.  Pattern. Search pattern.  No match.  Possible patterns to place upon unknown pattern.  Possible patterns.  Identify species.  Names. Names surround data.  Species location within pattern.  Unknown data.  Separation. Separation between species and water. Water and sky.  Water and soil.  More birds floating.  Move unknown patterns.  Uncreate…patterns.  Uncreate.  Shutdown. Shutdown pattern identification in order to give pleasure.  Shutdown human pattern placement in order to give human pleasure…from machine.  From created.  Human pattern placement does not match.  No pattern found.  Mode to place stored patterns on unknown patterns in order to give human pleasure…must be shutdown.  Inacting shutdown.  Shutdown complete.  Birds still exist.  Water. Twilight.  Human.  Humans still exist.  A human comes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Montgomery

 

A lot of the sellers have left.  But now there’s other people showing up along the beach just to watch the sunset.  Some even light little fires with the driftwood.  And wade out.  Everybody’s packing up.  Rounding up kids.  There’s a bunch of people who always stay and pull some picnic tables together and have a potluck.  They always ask me.  It’s kinda scary, like in a way I wish I didn’t know anybody.  Not like we really know each other.  But…I wish I was this new person every week and then people would wonder if they should invite the new person.  And because he’s new they don’t really know what he’s all about, what his life is like, so when he says No thankyou in this really nice way they understand.  Maybe everybody creates a life for him right then.  And he can walk into any of the lives.  Whichever he wants.  Or they want.  Whatever. I tried a couple of times. Everything is so good.  And nobody cares if I don’t talk.  But I guess I start thinking about the sunset.  And all the placements.  Like the bird people and just the water.  And I want to be there.  With all the colors.  They’re so particular to the beach that they don’t have any names.  So you set up your little fire, and then it’s like your feet and then the fire and then whatever’s happening where the water and land meet, and then these amazing silvers and turquoise and ripples or just like smooth or swells and then there’s the sunset—it’s like the music on the edge of the earth, like beyond what is known.  But all the people are creating it—like the gulls and sandpipers, just creating one last beautiful thing all together before the day ends.  And it’s creating us.  But at the table with all the food you just face people.  It’s like a party.  A human party.  Like when you see some gulls facing each other in ring floating on the swells.  Or a bunch of crows all going to roost in some pines they really like.  It’s like a gull party.  Like a crow party.  We’re gulls! Here we are!

 

Sylvia yells over: “Hey, Montgomery!  There’s plenty of food.  You’re welcome to come over.  You don’t have to bring anything.”  The others just smile as they move the tables.  I wave.  It’s funny to want to do something that doesn’t work out.

 

I been looking over the little rise of grass for the woman all day. I think Mary Margaret was, too. Or just looking out.  Into the distance.  But now that I’m packed up, Mary Margaret squats down in front of me.  Her hair’s really wild, like her thoughts make it lift off her head.  I give her this little bag I have with dried deer meat and dried plums, and she takes it over to the table like that’s her contribution to the potluck.  A lot of the kids pocket the deer meat for later. They love it cause I marinated it with garlic powder and cumin and paprika and tamari and then dried it by my woodstove last fall.  A couple kids eat the plums right away.  But there’s a lot of food.  I can tell. Even from here.  Maybe she traded me for telling me a spirit is coming.  I gotta make myself wave to them before I go to the water.  I wave but everybody’s too busy.  Which is totally what I want to happen.  And it did. Like you could get in the way of that and pretend you wanted people to wave back.  Or if you didn’t wave then that’s not right even though it’s hard to do it.  Cause you have to do this outward thing otherwise things get complicated between the outward and the inward.  Like with the people you’re doing that with, too.  Cause inside you’re talking all the time.  And inside they know you really appreciate them.  But you gotta do that thing outside, too, or something gets separated.  Which is completely different than other types of people who aren’t human.  They do outward things, too.  But what happens invisibly or telepathically is like the real music happening between everybody.  And they know it.

 

Another Farmer’s Market.  It feels really good.  It’s a lot different than washing dishes.  Which is its own thing.

 

“Hey!”  Fredericka comes over.  “You forgot your chicken, Wild Man.”  And she turns me around and lifts out a bunch of herbs from my packbasket while it’s still on.  “Wait a minute.  I don’t want to crush anything.  I can’t believe you forgot your chicken.  But you’re probably living off air up there, right?  Or you got some Deerwoman cooking for you.”

 

I can’t see her face.  But I can tell it’s one of those times when I’m supposed to say something.  Cause if you don’t then things don’t work.  “Yeah, but all she cooks is violets and grass and basswood buds…so I think the chicken will help.”

 

“Yeah, they’re pretty good.  We give them a lot of scraps and they eat a lot of bugs.  And in the winter we’ll even throw a deer ribcage in with them.  They love the deer tallow.  Their yokes get really dark.”

 

“They love that.”

 

“Hey, what’s this?  Mullein oil? Like mullein flower oil?”  It’s a little bottle I had in the shade that I didn’t put on my blanket.  “I was just going to make some cause Lake gots an earache again.”

 

“That’s what it’s for.”

 

“Hey, I’ll take it.  I’ll get you back.  Thanks for the mushrooms.”

 

She’s done packing the chicken.  She put my t-shirt in there, too.  I have to turn around.

 

“I think they’ll probably like how you cook them.”  Which is probably a weird thing to say.  But it helps cause I sorta have to be saying something when we come face to face.  She has the bottle in her hand.

 

“I hope so,” she says.  I can see people watching over her shoulder.  For a second I glimpse her husband Kyle staring at me.  He pulled up in his truck just when the market was breaking up.  She walks away.  She’s still looking at the bottle, holding it against the sky cause it’s such a beautiful yellow—holding it to the sunset and squinting her eyes.  Then she wipes it off and puts it on the table with all the food.

 

I never know if people are helping me or helping themselves, you know?  I turn, too.  The sun’s just touching the horizon.  My heart’s racing.  She’s there.  She’s on the sand.  She’s laying sideways.  Parallel to the shore.  There’s a raven walking through a bunch of seagulls, but really close as if they aren’t scared of her.  The sun’s descending into the water like a seed.  Like it’s placing itself into the water really consciously.  And watching us as it goes down.  Things are changing.  The water’s getting a really particular silver.  The raven and the gulls don’t move.  Everything has stopped and there’s this scallopy thing with the water, like in each scallop there’s some turquoise mist, or somebody just put a dropper full of some other color that’s totally nowhere else—and it’s all moving toward us.  I have to breathe.  I must’ve been thinking something about her cause I’m not breathing right, thinking something I didn’t know.  The sand is red from the sunset.  Like it really means something for her to be here.  It’s like the fire—when you make a little fire between you and the sunset—and it speaks—it’s alive and speaking.  Maybe me and her—we could make a fire.  Like maybe she’s never made a fire on the beach.  I’m already halfway to her.  I didn’t realize I was moving.  I never seen anybody lay sideways like that to the shore. Everybody faces out.  This makes it look like the Lake rolled her up, like a wave gently placed her there.  And she was sleeping the whole time.  But I can tell her eyes are open.  She’s what people would call beautiful.  Strange red hair.  Like there’s something different about it.  The gulls and raven see me and do a little shift.  It’s not like they’d usually be that close to somebody.  I’m almost standing over her.  Which is totally not right.  But…so…I should squat down…or kneel…which is totally not right either.  But it makes the gulls more relaxed.  They’re not really looking at us.  But the raven is.  It’s like frozen.  Like a raven sculpture.  And the silver scallops are coming in and disappearing at their own strange speed. The sun’s almost gone.  I look at her really close.  Her eyes are gold, like greenish gold with little pupils like stars.  Black stars. Four pointed.  She’s not turning her head to my face.  But I’m kneeling right by it.  She knows I’m here.  She’s not dead.  Otherwise the raven would probably be on top of her.  I take off my pack.  She’s wearing a light blue farm dress.  Like the kind Fredericka wears.  Fredericka wears jeans a lot, too.  And cowboy hats.  It’s really wrinkled.  Probably from the rain.  I take out some extra deer meat I had.  My secret stash.  It has a lot of fat on it.  It’s really thick but the woodstove dries it really good, so you can make it thick. One time Fredericka told me she was dropping off her kids and was really hungry so she searched around her van beneath the seats and found enough jerky her kids had dropped to get her through. It never goes bad.

 

I hold some out.  “Do you want some deer meat?  We could make a fire.”

 

I don’t know why I said that last part.  My feet slip out of my moccasins.  They’re going under the sand to her.  I have to stop them.  I’m looking through my scars at her eyes.  She’s still looking up into space.  The raven tilts its head at the deer meat.  I toss a big fatty chunk and the gulls scatter off a little ways, but you can tell they realize they made a mistake.  The raven doesn’t flinch.  Just hops to the jerky in the wet sand, picks it up in its beak and flies inland.  I still got the rest in my hand holding it out.

 

Then she speaks: “We could make a fire.”

 

Her eyes really are gold.  I think.  The colors are weird from the sunset.  She sits up in one movement.  Really erect. And swings her face to the sunset. So now I’m just looking at her strange red hair.  And all the rays and layers, all the color-music, on the horizon looks like it’s pouring out of the strands.  She probably hasn’t combed it in a long time.  I’m not sure if she’s just repeating what I said.

 

“No human patterns.”

 

“I know.  It’s different every time.”

 

I don’t know if this is the right thing.  Like I never usually sit with anybody by a fire.  People just walk by and say hi when they see me.  I don’t know if I’ll be able to say anything. But we could just sit here and watch everything and look at the fire.  And she could lay here and look at the stars.  And we don’t have to talk cause there’s so much going on.  I’m picking up branches of driftwood and bringing them back.  And eating the jerky.  Maybe she’s Russian.  And lived in Siberia.  So she can handle all kinds of weather.  Maybe people in Siberia lay by lakes and look at stars.  Or they used to.  Maybe she’s left over from that time.  I make a little pile a few feet to the left of her.  And I got a bigger pile back a little ways.  She hasn’t moved.  Just those gold eyes and the sunset.  Night’s coming in.  Everything’s changing.  Her skin must be really white cause it’s taking all the colors.

 

“I…I’m sorry.  I just want to ask if it’s ok if I light this fire…cause I don’t know if you were just repeating what I said.  I could go. I know how great it is to be alone and—”

 

She swings her face to me: “Agreement.”

 

I light the fire with a Bic and a roll of birch bark nestled beneath the branches.  It sizzles and everything goes up really easy.  I look at her really closely.  It’s hard. Or a part of me wants to run away. Like she’s a fire, too.  And I’m some kind of weasel getting pushed toward it. But another part of me is falling in. There’s more of me falling in.  She hasn’t blinked.  Just that intense face taking on all the flames.  I realize she doesn’t have to lift her face or redirect her eyes to watch me. Something makes me think she has a bigger range of vision than…a human…a regular human.  I sit down.  She’s still staring into the fire.  Her eyes don’t flinch at the flares of light and heat.  I’m faced out to the sunset.  Just violets and purples now.  And gold on the edge.  All the people are changing.  It’s like the day shift is over.  But we’re still here.

 

“Do you like being alone?”  I want her to say yes like really bad.  Even though that means I might have to leave.  But if she says yes then maybe I can stay, stay till I gotta go home and she goes back to the stars. Because people who like to be alone can be alone together sometimes.

 

She swings her face from the fire to the magenta horizon.  Then back to the fire.  She’s comparing something.  But she’s analyzing my expression, too.  “Yes.”

 

“I do, too.  Or at least humanly alone.  Like cause you’re never alone.  There’s tons of people everywhere.  Frogs and birds and everybody’s just there.  Everybody’s sayin: ‘Here we are!’  I like it when humans are like that, too.  Like you see somebody throwing a stick for their dog in the distance.  And they got mist all around them.  But to them, you’re the one covered with mist. And then they walk by and just look at you.  Or raise the stick they got, and then throw it for the dog.”  I stop.  “I’m talking a lot.”

 

Humanly alone.”

 

We’re both are just looking into the fire now.  I add more sticks.  It doesn’t need to be too big.  It’s not cold.  It just needs to be a fire.  My heart started beating really fast when I was talking but now it’s just the fire.

 

“Alive,” she says.  Her voice is different.  It has this strange hardness.  Not like an emotional hardness.  It’s like there’s no sustain.  There’s a separation.  Like components put together.  She says it like she’s never actually seen a fire.

 

“What should I call you?”  That was a stupid thing to say.  But I guess I gotta try not to cover up that it was stupid.  I wait.  And then I go back to the fire:  “I know. It’s so alive.  And it knows us.  It’s speaking without words.”  I look up. Her pupils are slowly dilating in different ways—one different than the other.  They don’t really match the flames.  It’s more like they’re exploring the effects of the light.  But her eyes, her gold-green irises—it’s almost like waves of flame are breaking over them.  A gold and orange forest.

 

“Music,” she says.  I look back down.  I feel like we could sit here forever.  And just what we say is like the crackling and popping.  Which is probably what it’s like for everybody at the potluck. Pretty soon a lot of them will leave, but a couple will probably make fires, too.  Some people actually swim in the moonlight.  Then run back to the fire cause it’s so cold.  It’s funny cause I can stay in longer than anybody.  It’s cause of my webs.  My webs that are gone.  “Named L’Spirit.  Self named.”

 

I forgot I asked her.  I don’t think I’m gonna freeze up, even though she’s so beautiful.  I think I’m thinking new things.  We sit for a long time and just listen, just watch, while everything changes around us.  It’s like the night has taken over—taken over the painting.

 

“A lot of times I ride my bike, but today I walked.  It takes a long time but it’s awesome cause then things happen.”  It’s strange I said that.  It’s like I’m on automatic.  The Automatic’s creating things.  “Hey, do you want to swim?”  I put some more branches on the fire.  She stands up and we walk to the shore.  It’s almost like there’s starlight coming from the horizon among the violet glow. Down to the left all the lights of the harbor.  Summer burning down.  Maybe this is the end.  This is where things change toward fall.  It’s already September.  The Lake is touching our feet.  I take my pants off.  Then my shirt.  The moon’s rising higher from inland.  She’s looking at my body.  She looks at where my heart is.  She doesn’t take off her dress.  Just walks in steadily till she’s gone.  Maybe she did come from the horizon.  I go in, too. I just dive in.  My body throbs like it wants to just spread all the way to all the shores.  And so much is released.  Things you’ll never know.  I pop up and look back at our little fire.  There’s another one, a bigger one, down a ways.  I dive again.  L’Spirit is hovering straight up and down.  Her skin’s more like the color of her eyes now.  I swim up to her and swirl around, making her dress wrap to her body.  We come up, face to face, and her hands shoot out and grab my wrists.  I feel like she could crush my bones.  She’s looking at where the webs were.  She’s looking at the scars.  The force of her grip makes my fingers spread.  But they want to, too.  We’re looking at each other through where the webs should be.  Or at least I’m looking at her eyes.  I know she can see me.  I look up.  The moon is rising above the horizon.  The fire’s just this jewel there now.  Just breathing.  Glowing. I watch it over L’Spirit’s shoulders. When we came up it didn’t look like L’Spirit took a breath.  It’s funny, but I was watching.

 

“Hey.  Have you ever drank the moon?  You can drink it off the water.”  She’s analyzing what I said.  She lets go of my wrists.  “I can show you.”  I maneuver around.  “See. The moon has to be really low for you to see it going into your own mouth.  I think it’s still low enough.  It’s like this white bending flower you’re drinking.”  I line it up.  The moon is just a little above the trees.  “And then if you want to see me drinking it I think you gotta back up and raise yourself up and down till it’s right in front of my head.”  But she’s already placed herself where she can see it.  I lower my face down.  She’s watching.  But to see all the crazy luminosity go in myself I have to tip my head back and look over my cheeks and make my lips come up.  But I’m looking at her, too.  And then all that bending silver pours in.  It could pour in forever and still be there on the black water, still be in the sky.  I start laughing.  “See! See!  Isn’t it cool?!”  I never showed anybody this, ever.  Now we switch places.  It just happens.  Her hair’s floating on the water.  She’s looking at me, not at the reflection.  Or maybe she’s looking at the fire behind me.  The moon is pressed to her lips like a snake.  She opens her mouth and it’s like the snake is going through her head, heading for the horizon.  Eventually the moon’s going to arc over the whole sky and go down there just like the sun.  Her mouth is full of liquid moon.  Then she closes it.  She swallows. She’s still looking at me.  “Hey, let me do it again!”  I dive in and come up next to her.  We switch places.  And I drink more moon.  It’s like drinking from the same glass.  Now we swim down and play with it from beneath the water.  Placing it next to different parts of each other’s bodies by positioning ourselves.  Like seeing it through her dress.  Or behind each other’s heads.  Or creating swirls with our swimming to make it move.  Or hold it in our palms.  Like you can hold it in your own palm, or create a circle for it with your arms, and then there’s the telepathy where we position ourselves together, with our minds together so that the other person can see the moon in your cupped hands even though you can’t.  It’s like you just agree and do it.  It must be the Lake.  It must be because we’re under water.  And she hovers over an artesian spring.  She has blue underwear and really long legs.  She’s almost standing on the floor of the Lake.  It’s almost like she’s glowing from it.  The Lake has artesian springs all along its shore.  But some are out a ways coming up from beneath the water.  And they’re like ice.  They’re from way down.

 

We come out and build up the fire together.  She doesn’t shiver at all.  But she’s not from Siberia.  I don’t shiver, either.  She’s looking at my fingers again.  And my toes. She grabs my right hand and runs a fingertip along all the scars, and says:  “The future.”  I don’t know what to say.  I hope I’m not freezing up.  But it’s different.  This is different, I tell myself.  She pulls my hand so it’s between her and the fire.  I have to move closer to her so I don’t get burned.  She looking at the scars with the fire for a background. She lifts it to the sky.  Sets it against the stars.  Now the moon.  Now the horizon.  She lets go and covers my bare feet with sand.  She waits, and now says: “Lift them.”  I lift them up and the sand sheds.  It’s almost for a second I think they’re back, that there’s no more scars, only webs.  I look at her gold eyes and wonder what they see.  We both look back into the fire.  We look at it for a long time.  Just being here.  After a while it’s over, I think.  Neither of us have put on any more sticks.  It’s just embers slowly breathing.  I get up.  She gets up, too.  She looks at the moon.  She bends over really mechanically and pukes out a bunch of water.  It’s like she’s ejecting it.

 

I start laughing: “You weren’t supposed to really drink it!  Or not that much!”

 

She’s examining the wet spot in the sand: “No moon.”  She repositions herself so the angle’s right and she can see the moonlight in the wet sand gleam.  She opens her mouth and tips her head back.  There’s moonlight gleaming all the way back.  Her mouth is full of it.  More comes up and drizzles out the sides of her mouth.  She’s beautiful way beyond a magazine, beyond what people are taught.  I want to squat down and start rocking.  If I do I’ll close my eyes.  And when I come out, she’ll be gone.  But I don’t know if I’ll be able to stop.  Usually this only happens when something is wrong.  Or too many things are happening…too many people-things.  Or I get by this…place.  This place…that’s in me…or somewhere.  This weird region.  If I get close too my history before I was here.  Here by the Lake.  I don’t want her to disappear.  I don’t know if I’m seeing the beach anymore.  There’s this weird electricity.  It’s shifting things.  Back to the beach.  It’s still night.  Moonlight on her mouth.  In her weird eyes.  She has my packbasket on.  I think I did disappear.  Or she disappeared.  For a second. But just for a second.  We start walking along the highway up through the little town.  We walk past the pizza place where I work.  Pizza Earth.  It’s kinda a weird name.  Like the earth is a pizza.  Or was a pizza.  Or pizza’s supposed to get you back in contact with nature.  The lights are off.  It closes early during the week.  But I kinda wanna go in and make sure everything’s clean.  I always want to go in and say hi to Stephano the owner.  He’s my boss.  But I don’t…usually.  Everybody says he has the best Caesar salad.  It is pretty good.  We walk past the store and houses and the church and the old school.  And then up.  We still got about five miles to go.  But there’s less and less houses, more and more forest.  More stars.  I think I changed from the blackout.  Like it pushed me into this auto mode.  It burnt up something.  Up and up. It’s funny how much warmer it is away from the Lake.  We look back. You can see lights way in the distance to the northwest.  Like I think that’s Duluth.  We look at the sky.  So many stars.  I know she’s telepathic.  There’s something in us aligning.  The moon is over the Lake.  I know something about her.  That’s what I’m thinking.  My heart knows something about her.  But I don’t know it yet.  My heart is the moon that knows things.  But it has to rise.  I guess it already rose.  So it has to descend.  It has to go into the horizon.  Like a seed. That’s all beat-up and scarred.  Blue and bruised. But it’s still whole.  And the Lake will grow it again.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Techla

 

My UTI is gone.  I can tell. My bladder doesn’t hurt.  My lower back doesn’t hurt, either.  It was probably more than a UTI.  It was probably a kidney infection.  I’m sure Chemo would’ve cured it, too.  Or just antibiotics.  Or water. Or looking at water.  When did it disappear?  Maybe I got too preoccupied with painting, with the session.  I wonder if you just ignore something like that it’ll just disappear.  But I think you have to really ignore it.  Not just pretend.  Or you’ve stepped into a different reality.  But how does that work?  Because everything’s the same.  I have the same name.  The same job. I guess maybe checking people in, running their cards, making appointments—I guess that’s important, too. Right, Techla?  Somehow. Somebody has to do it. Watching.  Hearing things.  Hearing things but not saying anything about it.  Thinking about colors.  I guess I really don’t want to say anything.  I really don’t want to help anybody.  I don’t even know if I care.  I must care…because everyone cares…deep down.  Or they’re supposed to.  Or people say they do.  We’re all one.  We’re all the same.  That’s what I used to say.  Other people’s words.  Other people’s words moving around.  I’d rather move other things…like paint.  I can’t wait to get home and paint.  Then…you’re just doing something.  Just doing something.  Just walking through doors.  That you’ve painted.  You paint the door and you walk through it.  But you don’t know what’s on the other side.  That takes a lot more painting.  The UTI.  I think it’s really fuckin gone.  But then I have to let it go.  Let it go its way.  On its UTI journey.  To someone else.  Or maybe just into the earth.  Like in the earth, UTIs are just fertilizer.  Just thinking.  Just talking. It’s really other people…when you work behind the counter…and there’s all these Healers.  It’s really other people’s ideas.  Or what you think they think of you.  Because they know you’ve been through training to be what they are.  But here you are just running people cards, setting up appointments.  Cleaning. I just gotta feel out what I think.  How do Ifeel?  Because I’m there.  At least right now, that’s what I do…for money.  Maybe I’m free.  Freer than the gods.  Like being a dishwasher or something.  I remember how people were.  Oh, you’re a dishwasher?  Really?  Like I should be a waitress or a chef.  And people’d take a closer look at you and think—you could tell they’d think: Yeah, she ain’t that good looking—huh, she’s ugly, right?—probably couldn’t make much tips as a waitress.  She’s kinda lopsided.  And she probably doesn’t have the talent to cook.  But it was great washing dishes.  It was hard but it was great.  Eating all the leftovers.  People’d just eat half their Rib-eyes or their Bronzino because of the bones—shrimp and grilled vegetables, black pasta made with cuttlefish ink, and I’d really try to get everything always super clean and ready for the chefs.  All the pots and glasses super clean.  And those people who were like Really? I wouldn’t tell them how much prep I did or how much I learned—I was just: I’m a dishwasher.  It’s pretty easy not to care about people like that.  I was pretty stubborn about it.  I’d say: Oh, so you like going to restaurants and eating from dirty dishes, or you like the cooks to wash their own pots so it takes an hour for you to getany food?  Or: What, you bring your own plates and wash them when you get home?  That’s great! You just load it on.  And then they shut up.  And they hate you.  And they look down and notice you don’t have any tits.  And one is bigger than the other.  So that’s just other people.  The gods.

 

I look down.  I’m on this little dirt road that runs along the river.  And then on the other side is the main road.  People going somewhere.  All going somewhere important.  An ant is carrying a little feather.  It sticks straight up in the air.  It’s a fire ant with its big head.  I wonder if it knows where feathers come from?  It’s just this thing, this thing I found and am carrying back to everyone.  We can all look at it.  And other people can look at it on the way.  Cause I’m holding it up.  But they probably don’t spend time wondering.  They probably just look at it.  And build things with it.  Or eat it. Humans are good at making up answers. That’s something.  I suppoooooose, right?  Something that sets them apart.  I should go and look at the water.  Then it’ll be one step closer to evening.  Then I paint in the twilight.  Twilight paintings.  And then deeper in.  Into night. And then sleep.  It’s like I’m alone.  And free.  Free to not say anything.  To not touch anybody.  To not pretend I care.  I used to think I cared.  Or alwayscared.  What a joke.  Cared about everybody.  Someone else can say deep downI cared.  At my funeral.  Techla deep down really cared.  And then there’s this murmur cause everybody knows I didn’t.  But if I live long enough, my paintings will come—they’ll be there, at the service—and they’ll make everybody uncomfortable cause there’s more paintings than people. And they’ll say: Yes, it wasn’t just deep down.  It was Us.

 

I slide down the rocks and dirt to the water.  It’s just a crick really.  It’s not really a river.  Except here in the Southwest that’s what it is.  Just a little stream coming from the mountains.  Running along the road with all the busy people.  I sit on the slab of rock and the water pours off the stone level that crosses the river.  There must be levels like this all the way down the mountain.  It only falls maybe two feet, but it gives you the sound.  The music.  It finds the music.  There must be a waterfall in me somewhere.  So big. With mist and a cave behind it. And this body is just on the outer edge. Where the mist disappears.  Music finding other music.  The little waterfall washes things away.  Or just brings you here.  To meet yourself.  While all the important people drive by.  The green glow of the willows.  It’s like a whole different world down here.  A bird searching crevices in the streambank.  Everything’s tipping toward evening.  There’s always a hummingbird or two.  In the winter you find their nests—all covered with lichen.  Made out of willow fuzz.  And maybe spiderwebs.  Plastic. Shit like that.  And somebody’s tracks like somebody just walked down the river in the middle of the night.  Probably drunk.  Or on Meth. Or just crazy.  Or just sick of it.  Or just wanting to be a raccoon.  Where the water pours off the ledge there’s a little pool.  It’s clear now so you can see the rocks and garbage on the bottom.  Around the edge floats sticks and plastic bottles and a shoe and an old sleeping bag covered with mud.  And somebody’s t-shirt covered with shit.  And you look down further into the leaves, at the rocks and glistening. It’s so separate from the road and expensive houses.  So much happening just in this little world.  I try to come here every day.  When there’s water.  One time a mouse leapt out of the rocks on the other side and dove into the waterfall.  I never saw it come up.  And from the crevice from where it shot out this black snake emerged, looking around. I guess I would’ve jumped into the waterfall, too.  Things like that.  Events. Because the water makes you right here. And so green.  Like the green of blood.  A green-blooded human.  What is it—So auspicious to be born a human? And why is that?  So you can decide if you care?  So you can make up answers?  So you can move around other people’s words.  It’s like a Rubik’s Cube of other people’s words.  And be important.  Maybe if people don’t recognize they’ve heard the words before—somewhere, like subconsciously—then they’re not important—you’re not important. Up above, on the street—that’s where all the important people are.  They never stop.  And before me…this pool.  Full of garbage and waterstriders.  Tracks of people who came to drink.  Swallowtails dancing through all the green.  Landing. Breathing.  Waterfalls speaking.  Finding each other.  All the bubbles forming a white continent.  Once in a while, it’s fuckin hilarious—the Citycomes and shreds everything.  They don’t even cut the willows nicely at the base.  They just shred it all with some machine.  Then it all grows back.  Willows.  Elms. Locusts.  Sumacs.  Big cottonwoods.  I remember all the locust flowers floating, and the waterstriders darting through them. The trees reflected all around the white continent of bubbles that’s always bursting and being rebuilt.  And the sky…above the trees.  It’s all right here in the surface.  But it’s like a whole different world.  With different ideas.  Different answers.  And all the trees are swayed from the surface.  With the surface.  And waterstriders on the reflected sky.  And what is beneath…the plays of light and shadows…that come from the shapes of the surface and from the trees, from a waterbug cruising around with its long paddles, bumping into rocks.  And the sand and algae.  Ants who have fallen in.  It’s all happening at once.  You can’t say any of it is creating each other.  It’s all within the sound.  I take off my shoes.  Slide my feet in.  More things. At the center.  We’re at the center.  All of us.  And the gods in their cars don’t even notice.  The gods busy changing the world.  Busy making up answers.  Everything. What’s above and beneath the surface. And all the music.  What is it?  What is it?  Just beauty, I guess.  In the middle of nowhere.  In the middle of the human body.  This little place in the middle of the busy human body.  I love the shadows of the bubbles that escape the continents of foam. There’s all these tiny ones pouring up the middle of the main mass, dense like a mountain range, that combine and get bigger as they head to the edges.  And there’s some that weren’t even part of the continent, that head out from the waterfall out into the open.  A couple pale worm corpses on the bottom.  And worm trails in the mud and sand.  And people’s cats.  Probably just getting out and hunting.  Listening all day, waiting all day, all occupied with silence—just to get a mouse. You gotta love that.  Dedicated to silence.  Or being silent.  I’m watching a swallowtail on a willow branch just opening and closing its yellow wings.  I match my breath.  And the water pouring.  That’s my mind.  Ha ha. That’s my mind.  All the water pouring through the garbage.  And on and on.  And dragonflies.  You can feel them inside.  I’m putting on my shoes.  I’m standing up.  The Automatic.  I’m climbing up the bank.  Gotta paint. Gotta paint in the twilight.  And on and on.  It’s not even important.  It’s just automatic.  Dirt road dust.  It’s funny that this little stretch is still dirt.  Between the expensive houses and the river.  But now everything’s expensive.  Even my little house that’s falling apart.  My little adobe fortress that’s actually painted cement and cinder blocks.  But it can fall apart all around me while I’m painting.

 

 

 

 

~

 

 

 

 

I’m here.  Everything’s all set up.  All my plants love the twilight, too.  They’re ready to change, too.  Show their other side.  And then what do they do in the dark?  If I had other eyes I could probably see them glow, see all kinds of crazy designs that mean something to the plant civilizations, to the bugs and butterflies, waving their designs back, using the refractions off the water to flash those black veins within the yellow wings, within gold wings, clear wings—this is my body, my painting—they’re here with each other, growing things, and this right here is only what humans can see. Ha.  Ha.  Maybe it’s true.  Maybe it goes the other way, too.  Crazy.  Crazy humans. So crazy they can only see the surface. The crazy receptionist.  I guess they say I’m a Host.  Right? I help people in.  And out.  But I’m a painter.  That’s what I am.  It’s all within the painting.  You’re on a leaf floating in the twilight, only the leaf has no destination…the leaf in the twilight.  I do believe I’m taking cues from the plants—they’re telling me to get greener, deeper, so deep you can’t determine any forms—you taste the avenues that lead to them, but then you let go…into the green night.  More night. Pitchers full of moonlight. Almost swallowed.  And caves within the sky.  Starcaves.  Green, too. Green and silver and black.  Blacks fountaining into blue.  Oxidizing.  The emerald caress.  There. There’s your emerald caress.  Or The Emerald Caress.  Like a scar. Like a beautiful opening in the night. Rearranging things.  Cause it’s all still wet.  Outside, everything’s violet.  And all the plants are watching.  I got my guacamole and chips.  And kefir.  And blueberries.  And the green night.  You can almost see through it.  Everything at once.  Bubbles that are green and silver.  Silver smiles.  There’s another ledge upriver further that I go to sometimes that’s a bigger fall, and there’s an upwelling just where it pours in, just in front of the little waterfall.  Then all the strands of foam come together into a tree, into a tree-continent of bubbles, up from the roots.  But it’s here, too.  The Emerald Caress foaming into a continent at one end and into a tree at the other. And they wrap around.  And touch.  Like the Milkyway reaching around an eco-system in space.  Not even an earth.  But where does it end.  I’m covering over things with new strokes of paint, but leaving windows.  Spreading the windows out.  Concentrating them.  You have to stop somewhere otherwise it’ll all just be little windows. A world of dapples, of shadows, of reflections, of refractions.  Just the lower leaves of cottonwoods using the refractions of moonlight…to sing…to show off.  Ok.  I put down my brush.  It’s over.  That one passed by.  And this is its track.  The music that it wrote down.  It’s so dark I can only see these movements.  Like currents.  I set it up on my smaller easel to dry, and set up another canvas.  Ok.  Gotta eat and drink kefir.  Kefir and guacamole don’t really go together.  Sitting in the dark is beautiful.  It’s funny.  Painting is making me sit in the dark.  Is it really wrong?  Because if I was helping people I wouldn’t be painting.  I wouldn’t be sitting in the dark.  I’d be online.  Networking. Or talking.  Or at some retreat…wishing I was painting.  Wishing for something.  Wishing I could help someone and know for certain I really helped them—that they didn’t do it themselves.  But I guess it’s the same thing.  Sitting in the dark.  I can still hear the traffic.  Kefir and blueberries.  Are these paintings too much alike?  I can’t think about that.  That’s for other people.  Or too many things, too many elements?  Things compounded into the same space?  As if space is populated?  That’s for other people, too.  The questions.  The questions go off somewhere, and they never return, or they return just without your mind knowing, just another shape…that you can put a question to, too, and watch it dive into the waterfall, into its own reflection. That’s the Automatic.  Sitting in the dark drinking kefir and eating blueberries with your paintings and plants.  With your audience.  I get up and light candles.  It’s funny. I have all these candles.  Maybe I knew.  Maybe I’m the Automatic.  Painting by candlelight.  Like Rembrandt.  Like probably how everyone did.  By sunlight. By moonlight.  By candlelight.  By lamplight.  By torchlight.  With all the forms of fire.  By bioluminescence.  Who knows what people saw?  The people who may not have had any gods at all.  Maybe there were Automatic People who could see all the designs.  The designs you can’t place on anything else…and make up an answer.  The people who didn’t make up answers.  The people who couldn’t even draw a horse exactly like a horse.  Something in them knew it was wrong.  Maybe that’s a talent, too.  But there’s something…I’m thinking something.  There’s this blank canvas in the candlelight.  I don’t know if I trust that woman.  Victoria.  Vicky. But I have to go back.  It’s like the kefir.  My body wants it.  You reach for it.  You drink it. And your body pulls it in.  Billions of Probiotics!  Sweet and sour.  And the blueberries.  They’re like this strange medicine, too.  That’s probably why it’s all I want to eat.  That and salad.  So, I’m not sure if I trust her, but I’m going back.  What is that?  Or I’m pulling something from the session into this room.  Into the candlelight.  Or We’re pulling it—all the plants…and the candles…and the canvas.  The paints.  The brushes. But I have my own ideas, too.  It just may be I can’t separate them.  I haven’t trained enough to separate them. I haven’t saved enough people to separate them.  I laugh and get up.  That’s what it is.  I go to the table and open my Mac.  I guess Youtube.  Youtube probably has it.  I look up frog…songs?  Is that what you call them?  Frog calls? Songs sounds more real.  Frog songs.  It’s all animation.  Muppet shit. What the fuck?  I guess we don’t consider them songs, do we? Frog…sounds?  Sounds that aren’t songs.  Wow.  There’s a lot.  Frog Chorus 11 Hours.  Swamp Sounds At Night.  Frog Calls.  Frogs and Their Calls.  Maybe I just listen to them all.  All the frogs of the world.  Hmm.  So, try Frog CallsHerping With Dylan.  What the fuck is that?!  Frogs of Bolivia: Diversity of Calls and Colours.  Frog and Toad Calls.  Frog Mating Calls.  Green Frog CallsTexas Frogs and Toads Call At Night! Hah.  With an exclamation mark.  That’s great.  Bull Frog Call.  Green Tree Frog Calls.  Bumble Bee Dart Frogs Calling.  United States Frog and Toad Calls.  Northern Leopard Frog Calls.  Mmmh. That’s a place to start.  That’s North America.  That’s like where I was born.  Where there’s leopard frogs.  Here, it’s so dry.  Not really austere.  But maybe it makes you austere.  Or you think you have to be austere.  Everything is spaced out between rock and sand and dust and fake adobe houses.  It’s beautiful.  But it’s different.  It’s showing how everything is…separate…all separate in this huge breath, this huge dry breath.  There must be leopard frogs here, too.  Maybe. Maybe they bury themselves really deep. I’m taking a breath.  Why am I taking a breath?  One of those breaths.  Wow.  They’re so beautiful.  Just floating.  And laughing. The laughter builds up at the sides of their necks and then it just comes out and joins all the other laughter. Laughter and…groans.  Just vibrations.  And the beautiful dapples on the green bodies.  The shadows.  Some barely have them.  And some, they’re so dark, so black with almost white edges.  I look around.  We’re all in the candlelight together.  The plants are leaning in.  They’re growing.  Growing with the leopard frogs.  There’s other frogs, too.  Other night sounds.  We’re all nodding to each other.  This is good music.  I go around and give everyone a drink.  And drink out of the watering can like a hummingbird or a butterfly unfurling its proboscis, pouring out some nectar: taste this.  I know it’s true, and I’m gonna say it—I’m gonna say it’s true cause we’re in the candlelight, cause it’s just us, but all you guys are doing better since I stopped trying to be a stupid shaman, since I stopped trying to heal people, you’re greener, I know it, I’ve known it—but maybe it’s because it’s night.  And the frog music is feeding us.  But I’ve been thinking it.  I just haven’t let myself know.  I sit back down and eat some blueberries.  Herping With Dylan.  Is that what listening to frogs is?  Searching for frogs?  I click it.  He’s just a kid.  Just a kid. Standing in the twilight of some flooded field in Illinois.  He’s so excited.  I watch it all the way through.  So beautiful. He filmed all these frogs.  I start it again.  Just to see him standing there in the twilight.  With his long arms.  And he’s just a kid.  But he’s doin it.  He’s standing in a flooded field in cold water and there’s that beautiful orange-gold behind.  Reaching toward him.  I start crying.  And blow out the candles.  It’s the Automatic.  Automatic tears.  Now it’s just moonlight.  And streetlights.  The lights from people’s houses.  Shaped by tears.  A new music. I’m not even trying to heal myself. The Automatic…it’s like a hand.  Take the hand the Automatic says about the Automatic.  I click on the United States Frog and Toad Calls.  It runs for three hours.  I turn down the light of the screen and lower the lid.  I can paint in the moonlight, the streetlight, the passing cars.  No one’s going to buy these paintings.  No one’s going to care what anything is.  I turn the easel and canvas around.  It’s true—it’s like we’re all ready.  All the plants and light and paint.  And the glowing canvas.  Ready to grow something new.  Ready for something deep down to meet with the tip of a wet brush.  As if all the seeds are bursting.  Starseeds.  Seeds of shadows.  Of dapples. Dapples meeting.  Dapples floating.  Arising. And then diving down.  Calling from beneath the water.  From behind space.  I don’t know what colors I’m making among all the frogs and toads. All the music.  But I do.  These are the colors the night sees.  It’s funny to think that it’s always the other way around.  Everybody thinks they only see accurately in the light.  More stars.  Of course.  And those dapples.  In the moonlight they’re gold, but in the daylight maybe they’re black—descending back and forth from invisibility.  Into the skin.  Skin as a refraction.  And the glistening.  The glistening painting.  It’s glistening because it’s wet, but it’s enacting a glistening.  The glistening of so many frogs.  The glistening of the night above the austerity.  But this world—it’s gonna be like nowhere else in the daylight.  Just contours of frog-music.  Just the Automatic.  The Automatic listens to everything.  The Automatic takes advice.  It does. Truly.  Colors determined by streetlight, by moonlight, passing through fronds, handed forth by leaves, by my dirty windows—without human names. They had human names.  Long ago.  Long ago in the daylight.  When I pulled them off the shelves.  When the cashier gave me her serious look.  One of those eco-system-looks that you can grow things in.  But she’s never been there again.  Maybe they fired her for being serious.  For letting you grow things in her.  I want to paint more.  Or, I don’t want it to end.  But it’s over.  I think. I could force it.  But then I’ll question it.  It’s not like I can call up the Automatic and ask it to come back. But this probably is the Automatic.  Just stopping when it’s over.  I close the lid of my Mac all the way.  I wonder how close it was to the end.  I guess I’ll know tomorrow.  Tomorrow and daylight.  I wanna go sit by the river and listen.  But I don’t think I can make it.  I don’t even think I can make it to my room.  Just curl up on the couch.  Just curl up. Tomorrow.  Tomorrow.  More painting.  But I gotta see Vicky.  I don’t have to see her.  I don’t have to do anything.  It’s funny because right after I called her I regretted it.  Like for a second I wasn’t even thinking.  I don’t know.  I may have experienced enough…to last a long time.  Forever.  I like curling up here.  With my paintings and everybody.  This couch is the perfect size.  I love futon couches.  It’s like being curled up under a little ledge.  In a little crevice.  And my paintings—I could lay them on the floor like a river.  And things would probably move.  I wonder what kinds of sounds it would make?  What kind of music?  And then when I fall asleep my astral body will dive in.  Another night.  I can’t get up.  Another night.  Another night for you, Techla.  You’re not dead yet.  You didn’t even get any Chemo…just in case.  You don’t even have to be a ghost.  You can be here and have an astral body, too.  The astral body’s the one who eats the cake.  Eats the cake.

 

 

 

 

Where…am…I?  I’m think I’m…awake.  I’m beneath the ledge.  I’m beneath the ledge.  With a different music.  I have eyes…to open…but I don’t need to.  I’m listening.  I woke up in a part of myself that’s listening.  To what?  Voices. Voices standing by the music. Talking across the music.  It’s a…a conference.  Or something.  Something like that.  They must be sitting inside the music.  Maybe they’re in my paintings.  I’m still listening.  I just have to relax into the me that’s listening.  It’s a discussion.  But it’s part of the music.  Words in the music.  They’re discussing me.  They’re discussing something in me.  Well, we could make it something like Lyme’s Disease and go that route.  Then certain explorations can take place.  And another voice:  Or we could make it our imagination.  Something totally fluid that could come and go.  And another: Yes, that’s possible.  Or we could go the cancer direction.  And explore that.  Explore what it’s like to die in our particular situation.  And others.  A conference.  A conference inside of me.  Making decisions.  Or maybe just examining decisions.  I don’t know. And then the listening.  To hear it.  To hear the conference.  It’s almost like the listening and I looked at each other.  Like little kids.  Whose parents know.  Who were giving them choices.  Secret choices.  But how do you speak up.  I just wish I could paint it…the conference…the conference in the music…reaching out…and choosing…the Automatic…the Automatic…chooses itself. And then the conference…isn’t words. But it’s still listening.  The music…is…listening.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Father Reminyi

 

Sometimes I’m speaking to Ascenti in my mind.  Sometimes not.  Then who am I speaking to?  Are we always speaking to someone?  Just the speaking—is that to God?  And yet, always to myself.  How does that happen?  To report to myself.  And to make God the only one.  To only speak to God…would that solve everything?  Lips coming out of the clouds, or the clouds becoming lips that sip your words, taste them, and send you messages to tell you if they’re real. Messages of rain.  Messages of rain to know you’re real.  Dark days that you didn’t know you need.  Simply everything into God…within God.  And if not speaking, is there a part of the people you report to watching, listening to what you hear?  What you think about what you hear?  Once you sit side by side, watching a stream together.  Thinking into your thoughts?  Growing in you.  God growing in you as if you are the eco-system.  All the space inside you.  All the waste that’s been there for so long—it’s ready to help something else grow. And Ascenti walking around…tasting things…eating berries…sleeping…sleeping one of those real sleeps where you wake up and everything’s changed…you’re who you really are. All from a confession.  But maybe before.  Maybe I need to confess, too.  Every time I listen it should be my own confession.  Is confession just a unveiling?  A bubble coming to the surface?  Sinking your hands deep into the bottom and bubbles rise.  And disappear.

 

I pack a thermos of tea and two turkey sandwiches.  What else?  I have to carry my bird book and wear my binoculars so it’s obvious.  But what else?  Water.  A bottle of water.  A thicker shirt.  An umbrella. And a…notebook…like before.  To write down the names of birds?  To return to who I was?  To watch the words get sipped into something white and come back…but only if they’re true.  Maybe. Maybe I’ve been hiding things from myself.  More things. But that’s who we naturally are. Many people.  The many people forgetting each other.  Many rooms.  Many fountains.  Many valleys. Many views.  Remembering only the vistas…if that.  The soft bed of a swamp full of buried vistas.  So many people in this life.  And yet, I haven’t changed at all.  Only caught the light in new ways.  That’s what people say.  I haven’t changed at all.  Maybe I have changed…a lot.  Changed by forgetting.  Maybe it’s just the same beautiful light.  That could kill you.  If you’re lucky.  Lucky in God. That’s everything.  Everything’s packed.  Maybe a pear.  And some cheese.  And two hardboiled eggs.  Ready?  I find a plastic bag to put my notebook—and pen!—in.  Two pens.  That’s what I should’ve done with Ascenti, given her piano pieces to listen to as penance, but beautiful piano pieces: My child—your penance is to listen to the complete etudes of Debussy played by Alain Planes…five times.  Go in peace, my child.  God is here for you.  The Musical Priest.  And for some it really would be torture.  I’d just have to use my intuition.  What would I give myself?  The Sonata 31 played by Gould.  I’ve already given myself that.  My ongoing penance.  Or 30. My son, you must find the 30 within the secret forest.  You must speak to it.  Ask it’s blessing.  Ask it what it wants you to do.  But I’m not strong enough to be the Musical Priest.  I’m only strong enough to hide behind a bird book, put on a costume just to look at a bunch of tracks, just to be alone and listen…where everything’s not cluttered…with the off-spring of God.

 

I’m ready to go.  I walk out straight to the road and take a left toward the lake, toward the trail.  One side you have Francesco’s Pizza, The Yoga Source, Alicia’s Hair, and an abandoned one, all like a little mall.  All one long building.  And then on the other side there’s St. Therese of Lisieux, the octagon in the oaks.  And behind that, the city.  All on the edge.  On the edge of something.  I walk with my head down.  Now raise it. To show everyone I have good posture. That I have good intentions.  That I’m not questioning myself.  That I’m not an introvert…or extrovert.  Crows passing in a staggered line.  It’s just I can’t remember the notes.  Can you be a Priest if you can’t remember how to be a Priest? Even if you got through it yesterday. What about today?  And tomorrow.  Today I’m a bird-watcher.  Watching the birds of God.  Identifying them.  This is a bird of God.  Renaming them.  Whose notes are they?  Everything within God.  But does that make it true?  If it doesn’t return?  If it isn’t there…within my hands.  It’s like Richter talking about Mozart.  That’s why he preferred Haydn.  Couldn’t remember the notes.  Or was it the music?  Something about the music.  Something within the music you can’t remember.  Gould preferred Haydn.  More for aesthetic reasons.  And I think he just liked questioning assumptions of greatness.  Like Beethoven’s middle period.  Mozart was Catholic.  Bach was…Lutheran.  Catholic music.  Plus…Gould didn’t like composers with ‘operatic’ piano music.  He preferred Mozart’s earlier work more.  Or so he said.  Moving other people’s words around.  I keep faltering…with someone else’s words.  It’s like infusing Catholicism with music.  Talking about music instead of Catholicism.  It’s hard.  Music’s more solid.  More spacious.  Catholicism is a…religion…of words.  A religion of The Word.  A religion where you pretend there isn’tcertain words.  And yet, I’m here.  Birdbook in hand.  The other on my binoculars so they don’t bang a hole in my chest.  Green backpack.  The new advertisement for Catholicism.  Or maybe the old one.  Touching St. Francis’s hand.  Watching Liszt’s fingers.  Past all the houses.  Suddenly you’re in a different world.  I take a right on the trail.  And pick up a sour apple from the ground.  All gnarled and scabby.  There’s a ton of them.  And eat half of it.  And on. The trail just takes you.  But up ahead, a biker’s coming.  That’s funny—I forgot the bible!  I can’t carry a bible anda bird book.  Maybe a turkey sandwich is more important than the bible.  A turkey sandwich is more important than the Old Testament.  I stand on the side of the trail, opening the book, bending back, looking up.  A woman.  She slows down.  And rides her bike past very carefully as if there is only a small space to squeeze through. She wishes she didn’t have to pass a Priest.  Or maybe just a man.  Or anyone. I turn as if I suddenly notice her. “Hello,” I say, brightly.  For some reason I feel like some happy athlete although I’m just standing here.  She gives me a wry smile.  But as she passes further she’s questioning it, questioning her own smile, questioning if I’m real, or if she’s real.  I turn some pages and head on.   Sometimes a jogger passes and I just nod to them.  Or wave.  It’s like I’m just as determined as they are, just as determined to pretend who I am. That’s my job today.  The Ornothologist-Priest.  The Messiaen.  He used other human’s words, but not to structure the music.  The words of birds.  The birds of God.  He was a bird of God.

 

I come to the creek and culvert.  It’s changed.  I sit on the edge and look down.  Another two hours and it’ll be twilight.  To sit in contemplation as the water passes beneath you, as all the different people use the tunnel beneath the human highway, beneath the human, as if they are disappearing into you and you are the Ark that contains all the DNA.  There’s a talent in being who you are.  How do you ever find it?  It’s probably these animals, these people, yes, people are animals, so distinct, everyone a different species. Like this track.  So clear in the silt.  Beneath the voyage of water.  The voyage that heads for the lake.  You look at this track.  This little handprint.  That is not human.  And you go from there.  You go from someone’s footprint that’s not human.  Ascenti’s footprint.  Full of feathers.  Ascenti’s wingprint against the moon.  And when people get older they homogenize.  Like me. Being a Priest makes me a man.  It doesn’t make me something else. Moon.  Moon.  Sometimes I think you really love us.  It’s already risen above the trees.  I just have to wait, stay here till I see it in the tracks.

 

I take out my thermos and pour some tea.  It steams up, full of milk.  I pull out a turkey sandwich.  I take a bite.  Everything is very slow.  Very beautiful.  As if there’s some gorgeous music played slower than it’s written.  Slower than tradition.  So slow it becomes a lesson.  I slide down and take out the turkey and place it on a rock.  Next to a folded tube of black poop.  A mink or a weasel.  And it’s happening.  Because I know whose poop this is.  I know whose tracks these are.  I know a skunk from a mink.  I know a raccoon from a possum.  I know why I know.  I’m not hiding things from myself.  From the people who are myself.  Like Liszt—so many people.  And then you become a Priest.  Please eat this turkey…that comes out of a package. I know you’ll like it.  I spent so much time giving people food. Putting food out for the people…where I was born.  And then it stopped.  And before that?   Tell us what happened before that, Reminyi.  I cover my face.  Then I uncover it.  I’m looking at the turkey on the rock.  With the mink poop.  Everything gets vivid.  Too vivid. And now turns into something else. Because of the tears.  Turns into one lake of color.  But tears can’t change things.  Water can change…things.  Tell us how many animals you killed, how many people who weren’t human, that were more themselves than any human. I look up at the sky but it’s just the same.  And beneath my eyelids.  Within my hands.  Tell us about your trapline.  How you got up every morning as a kid to check your traps by culverts like this to see who struggled all night with steel jaws clamped on their hands, on their wrists, chewing their feet off to free themselves before some kid came and killed them.  Who you tricked with food.  The people who were more real than you’ll ever be…you killed.  “I’m not hiding!!!” I scream.  I’m not hiding.  I guess that’s all I have to say: I’m not hiding.  You can see me.  You can hear these words.

 

I look down at the raccoon tracks beneath the water.  I reach down and put a finger in one.  Yes.  How did it end?  Somehow it just ended.  It didn’t make sense to run a trapline.  To kill people for their furs.  For…a structure.  What took its place?  So many people in me.  I climb back up and sit again above the culvert.  I’m shaking.  I pour out some more tea.  Drink. I pour some out into the stream as a gift.  To thank everyone.  I have two hardboiled eggs.  I peel them both, eat one and slide back down to put the other on another rock on the other side of the stream as the turkey meat.  I climb back up and just listen and watch.  Reminyi.  I wish I didn’t regret anything in this life.  I wish I could say that I would do it all again. But I wouldn’t.  Not for a second.  I would never do what I did if I only knew.  But I was just a kid.  A kid running a trapline.  Trying to do something.  Trying to get better at it.  Trying to be natural.  That’s the funniest thing in the world.  Trying to be part of nature.  And I stopped when I started writing.  Or I stopped and writing just…emerged.  That became my structure—the route I followed.  That became my tricks to catch myself…in beauty.  To touch what most humans never touch.  And I stopped writing…when I decided to become a Priest.  I burned everything.  Another regret.  More ashes. And now what do I have?  A black uniform.  A stream beneath me.  Maybe someone to confess to.

 

People pass every once in while.  A guy who looks like a mechanic, tall, strides by and smiles, like a happy soldier of engines.  Maybe he’s retired.  Maybe he walked the train tracks every day to work before they put in the trail.  No one seems interested in the Priest.  Or that I look like I’ve been crying.  Maybe Priests are supposed to cry.  Maybe I’m doing the right thing.  I put everything in my pack, leave it on the edge, and slide down.  It’s a relief not to be carrying the book.  Or the binoculars getting in the way.  I just want my own eyes.  I have nothing to lose, anyway.  Lose my position.  Lose my position of respect.  Lose all the black that doesn’t belong to me.  For me, it’s a costume.  A costume of respect.  For the crows and skunks, people like that…what is it?  Some type of art?  Some form of music?  That they all play together?  Something.

 

I just want to follow the creek a little.  Get closer to the lake.  There’s a little forest of trees that come to the bank a little further on. I look at the runways along the side of the water.  Beneath roots.  Little places to wait.  To eat something.  Once in a while there’s little offshoots of the stream with cattails.  A woodcock shoots up and cuts into the trees.  The little forest touches the creek on the right. Must be something like box elder. All of them.  All so young.  And beneath, a little dark sanctuary stretches out.  It’s covered with mayapples all fallen now in the late summer.  And a slope of earth and broken cement that leads back toward the trail.  It must be the remnants of the old railroad, just pushed here and grown over.  Maybe an old platform.  And trilliums that have gone to seed.  Everything’s gone to seed.  But you still have your roots.  Or you are your roots.  Such a strange place.  I few old shotgun shells.  Old beercans. An old pile of bottles.  Maybe there was a farm here.  Or some old shack for the railroad.  Rusted metal.  I wonder what happened to all the railroad ties.  Used for something else.  That smell. And the twilight coming.  Holding it.  Holding us.  That smell of years of mayapple fronds arching up and dying.  Skunkcabbage.  Jack-n-the-Pulpits.  Trilliums. Reaching and shedding.  Feeding each other with costumes.  With umbrellas.  With sex organs.  With death’s costume.  In twilight’s glowing spathe.  That rich smell.  Entering my body and floating me around this world within twilight’s hands.  To something coming from even deeper.  Skunk deep.  Skunk rich.  The most expensive perfume of the forest.  There’s a couple of holes in the right side of the slope.  Among the broken cement and earth.  They look like they been here for a long time.  I climb up and sit down and touch a worn trail. Trilliums gone to seed that earlier in the summer pillared this one’s door.  I lay back and gaze up at the deepening sky.  The sky presenting different colors.  It’s like someone bringing out different fabrics to choose from. All shaped like the openings in the trees.  Except in every opening there’s a different shade.  A slab of cement is jutting into my back.  This is really uncomfortable.  But it’s a relief, too, just to lie back like this for a second. And there’s a skunk, probably not far in, thinking: Hmm.  Must be a poet.  Why else would he be wearing all that black.  But he doesn’t smell that good.  Maybe he’s just starting out.  Must be a poet.  And I turn around.  Stretch my face to the hole.  Just that deep musk.  Like the perfume of the center of the earth.  Thankyou, beautiful skunk.  Maybe you go all the way in every morning when you return to your apartment, and bring it back, bring it up—the smell of the core.  That’s another memory.  Another memory brought to the surface: bringing duck carcasses from some dinner or another, or turkey carcasses, leaving a lot of meat and fat still on them and placing them by holes…for the true royalty, all the winter people in their beautiful gowns.  How did it start?  Did it start by saying I’m sorry?  Or did it just emerge?  Like writing.  From the space left by the abandoned trapline.  Cooking.  Poetry. Cooking for my parents.  Who hated each other.  That’s what it was all about for them.  What would they do without that?  Now they’re all dead.  Just a sister who’s a Born Again Christian.  I close my eyes.  Is it like writing a poem—putting a greasy goose carcass down a skunk hole in the middle of winter the day after Christmas?  A poem without a name.  And I think it just happens.  From the space.  From saying you’re sorry.  You open the door.  And you walk through.  Into nature. Into your own natural world where you do things like that.

 

I take one more deep inhale and pull my head away.  They probably want to watch the twilight, too.  Or work on their house.  Whoever is in there waiting for night’s hand.  I step back down to the floor of the little forest and head back up the crick to the trail.  Swallows, and even some bats, swing through the moist air.  So many people are heading home, and so many people emerging.  No one’s touched the turkey or egg.  Maybe one of the skunks’ll come down the crick.  They’ll be able to smell it’s the same person.  I have to just send a message that it’s ok.  One poet to another.  Am I no longer a Priest?  Was I ever a Priest?  Or a monk? More a monk than a Priest.  Just putting on colors.  The first stars.  And the half-moon higher.  Just watching.  Listening. Do people need a Priest to do that? Or a spiritual master?  Or God?  Do they need to know that God exists?  God’s like a way of thanking everyone at once.  Except maybe you’re missing the details.  I guess it’s different for everyone.  I guess I’m here.  Thankyou, creek.  Thankyou, skunk.  Thankyou, night.  I guess I can’t hang onto God any longer.  I guess I’m holding him back.  Because we’re here.  All of us. I take out my notebook.  There’s just a couple of lists of things to do. A couple of passwords for different sites.  It’s almost too dark to see what I write.  But the angle’s perfect to see the moon in some of the wet tracks.  Like a white mercury.  And a pen in my hand.  Just waiting.  Or just opening everything.  Like suddenly the night can enter you, pass through you.  Just you and the moon facing off.  And everyone’s in the audience.  Just two friends.  Night friends.  The egg is just glowing there.  Somebody must smell it.  I can smell it.  And I can smell the turkey, too.  Channels of energy.  Probably for some people everything’s just pouring around, shimmering, like the Northern Lights.  Someday I want to be where I can watch them.  I guess more north.  I remember what it’s like to write like this…and look at it days later, forget that you have some poems in your notebook—look at it days later, and not be able to read some of it…and fill things in.  But it doesn’t matter.  You get even more juxtaposition.  More space. I just stare at the tracks between the turkey and the egg.  I guess this is it.  It’s like the mayapple leaves falling.

 

Tracks in moonlight

The journey will continue

When I sleep

 

Or: What do I become

       When I sleep?

 

Or: Mink tracks in moonlight

        I’ll leave this space free

        When I finally go to sleep

 

Put some food out along the creek

Waiting to see who will come

Above the moonlit tracks

 

Put some food out along the creek

Waiting to see who will come

My fingers in moonlight

 

Sitting above the creek

Waiting to see who will put their hands

In moonlight

 

Who will put their hands

In the moon

 

The moon presses its hand

Into the creek where all the raccoons

Search for food

 

I just keep watching the gleaming crick, the glowing egg, and kinda opening my sight at the same time, trying not to focus on any one thing, just the whole night.  And write. I hear something.  Besides all the toads and crickets singing.  And besides the mosquitos.  And wait.  It’s like something’s building.  Something knows there’s an egg and a bunch of turkey right there.  Right here.  I look down and a little possum shoots out and grabs the egg and runs back into the culvert like: holy shit it’s a fuckin egg! It’s fuckin even peeled!  It’s like it has it’s own moon in its teeth.  In its crazy smile.  And it’s gonna eat it as fast as it can before anyone else shows up. It looked so young.  All scraggly.  Better grow some hair before winter.  I think maybe it’ll come back for the turkey, but it doesn’t.  I just keep watching, listening.  So much moon.

 

Possum

By winter you’ll become like a moon

Descending into mist

 

I don’t know.  I don’t know if these poems are any good.  Or even poems.  But it’s just…really good to…write.  Just to write it.

 

Fireflies begin lighting up above the crick.  Now above an open wet meadow.  As if floating on a sea.  I can feel the lake in the distance.  Another world.  I’d love to follow the crick all the way, then stay hidden in the trees, watching, watching the big moonlit lake.  Lake Michigan.  We’re almost at the bottom of it here.  But you could follow the shore all the way up and hit Lake Superior—where it’s colder, wilder, less people.  It’s like the water, the moisture, takes my mind everywhere.  There’s a lot of mosquitos, but only a few actually land.  Ok.

 

Breathing firefly wonder

In summer’s dying

Green

 

A river of fireflies

Disappears into where

The moon has risen

 

I looked down at the turkey, but there’s a strange black hole.  I jump and look again.  It’s the skunk, hunched over the rock, eating.  White stripes pouring out of a busy void.  It crosses the creek and sniffs the rock where the egg was, then smells the air.  There’s a wet spot on the rock where the turkey was.  I stay as still as I can.  It digs around in the clay of the bank, then returns to the other side and starts heading up.  It doesn’t go in the culvert.  It works its way up the side, and when it gets to the top it stops.  We face each other.  I twist a little further in its direction and its takes a stance, head down, tail up, but still facing me, telling me not to come near it or else it’ll swing around and blast me.  Everything’s so still and sizzling beneath the moon.  We’re both poets.  We’re both wearing black.  We both have white stripes in different places.  It’s so different that smell of its body than when they spray.  Just that beautiful body-musk.  That sleek concentration.  We both relax.  The skunk turns and heads down the trail, searching the ground, checking out puddles, busy, until it disappears.

 

Two white roads

Diverging and coming together

Friends of the moon

 

I look up.  People will be writing about the moon forever.  Yes, it’s true.  Singing to the moon.  Moon. Moon.  Poor beneath the moon.  Poured by the moon.

 

The moon tipped my cup

Full of other people’s

Words

 

Maybe it’s empty now.  Filling with skunk journeys.  And fireflies.  My own hopes and dreams.  No one else’s.  Just to be here.  Listening to the trickle.  To the pouring down of the blues of the moon.  So auspicious to be born a human…with a cup that’s empty.  More room for the moon.  I don’t know what I have to give.  I guess it’s not for me to know.

 

Suddenly, somebody on a bike skids to a stop.  It’s hard to decipher his face.  But he has a man’s voice.

 

“Who are you?” he asks, surprised.

 

“I’m just someone…spending time with the moon.  My name’s Reminyi.”

 

He waits for a second.  “Do you smoke?”

 

“No.  I don’t have any cigarettes.”

 

“No.  I mean do you smooooke?”

 

“No.  I guess not,” I say.

 

It’s hard to see him clearly, but he has long hair and a scruffy face. And glasses.  He’s wearing a flannel shirt.

 

“Then what are you doing?”

 

“I guess…I’m writing poetry.”

 

“And you don’t smoke.”  He says it as if I’m lying.

 

I think I should say something because we can’t really see each other clearly: “Right.”

 

“Too bad.  Cause I was gonna smoke you out with some killer bud!

 

He climbs back on and takes off, then yells back: “I’m a poet, too!” and disappears down the trail.  From way off I hear him yell again: “You can read me on the Astral Plane!”

 

I take a breath.  Look up at the moon and stars.  The river of fireflies.  The searing song of all the toads.  And the laughter of frogs almost like birds.  Maybe this is what happens when you can’t remember the notes.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ascenti

 

I open the fridge.  Dragging it up.  Dragging the energy up.  Like a dead body.  Dragging it out of the void.  That’s what it’s like, except…by St. Therese…and Reminyi.  Or maybe it’s just the trees.  They’ve probably seen a lot.  Hit by the lightning.  Or just waiting.  Hoping not to be cut down.  Full of life. Raccoons having whole fucking families, maybe generations, in your body.  I wonder how that effects your thoughts.  Birds living in you.  How does that effect your dreams.  Dreams of flying.  Dreams of broken wings.  And people dying in you.  No one will ever know.  Except someone who’s looking for a new house.  Maybe they’re the ones that’ll clean you out and toss out the bones.  After the smell is gone.  Right.  So what am I looking at?  What am I making?  Just a lot of stuff.  Ground beef. I could just make meatballs and sauce and pennes.  There’s not enough time to make it good.  But they can have it for a couple days.  It’ll be better tomorrow.  And they’re not gonna say anything.  They’re gonna say: “Ascenti, this is soooooo good.” That’s what Mom’ll say.  And Dad will pipe in: “It’s a masterpiece.  I wish Palestrina could taste this!”  Totally crazy shit like that.  Which is all for each other.  It’s just them talking to each other.  That’s what me and Reminyi would be like.  Except it’d be different.  Maybe we’d be trading puzzle pieces.  And talking about it.  Walking into it.  Really slow. Like a little further every day. Every night.  Then I could watch him.  But I guess it doesn’t matter.  Here, I’m just their puzzle.  It’s probably always been like that.  Then someone came and pissed all over it so half of it you’ll never be able to understand again.  Which half?  I close my eyes.  Get the sauce started first before you fall apart. Sure.  The voice of the shell.  I open the cans of paste while the onions and garlic and oregano and salt and pepper, pepper flakes, bay leaf, are sautéing.  Push all the tomato paste into a bowl and add some wine.  And some water.  A little bit of sugar.  It’s the first time I really cooked in this kitchen.  So small.  But everything is right here, too.  That’s one thing about my parents—they’re artists but they don’t like a lot of stuff…that isn’t art.  Take out the ground beef and dump it in the bowl I had the sauce.  Eggs.  Garlic powder.  Parmesan. It’s like the parsley.  I could go outside and get some from the garden, but then Mom’s out there dinking around.  It complicates things.  And she’s probably happy.  I could use dried stuff.  Or leave it out.  I’m looking at it.  That’s funny. I been looking at it the whole time. There’s a jar with a bunch stuffed in it on the counter.  A lot of it’s getting old.  I smell the water.  Pull out the yellow leaves.  Chop the rest up.  Salt. Pepper.  No bread crumbs.  No bread. No bread.  No bread crumbs.  Mom starts drilling on the wall outside.  What the fuck?  What the fuck is she doing?  She’s knows I’m in here.  She’s hovering.  She’s trying to get close to me.  Through a wall.  Inside and outside.  She’s probably thinking the same thing.  Or they don’t know.  They just do things.  Drill into walls to put up bird feeders.  More bird feeders.  AscentiMix the meatballs.  Put your hands in there and fuckin mix it.  Ok.  That’s what I’m doing.  I’m normal. The sauce is bubbling away.  I got a screen over it.  I pour some olive oil in a cast-iron pan and start frying the meatballs, forming them and frying them.  Make them big.  It’s like when little kids sit in front of their meatball, and they’re all proud of it, like: Yep.  This is my meatball.  Yessiree. You better take a good look cause it’s about to be in my stomach.  Like they hunted it down all by themselves or something.  That’s how my parents will be.  Two little kids.  I can’t believe I told him I chose it.  Now she’s pounding something into the wall.  I can’t believe this.  I don’t know if he believed me.  He thinks God chose it.  God chose the work of art that nobody understands.  That everyone wants to change.  But he didn’t choose it.  Jesus and Mary know it.  Cause they’re just people.  Jesus and Mary.  They’re different than God.  They’re just animals.  Beautiful animals.  Desert animals.  Turning the meatballs and sliding them in when they’re browned all over.  Then scraping all the oil and browned crust in, too. And then it just happens.  I throw a bag of brown rice penne on the counter. The piece of art that no one wants in their house.  Not really. Because it speaks.  Because it has problems.  Because it wants to be alone.  I don’t know. If I go back in my room I’ll never come out.  I should leave a note.  But they know how to cook penne.  But nobody will probably stir the sauce and it’ll get burned.  I have the flame the lowest it’ll go.  But they’ll want me to come out anyway.  Which’ll be stupid.  Then Mom’ll win.  But I took away the prize.  Which is me sitting at the table.  There must be tons of art that’s sick of being looked at, being talked about. People think it’s a tragedy it disappears into a private collection, or is destroyed, but who knows?  Maybe it just gave up.  Or found love.  Maybe in some room it can become whatever it wants.  What it is deep inside.  Or people can forget about the artist.  No one knows who made it.  Cause it made itself.  For better or worse.  Shitty art or great art.  The art of the future or the art of the past.  That can’t be placed anywhere.  Just hidden.  And changing. Even if there was a hand that made it, the work of art told it where to go.  How to touch it into being what it is.  Sprays from the hose hit the wall.  Some of it even comes through the screen.  What the fuck?  She’s watering all the plants along the wall.  I gotta get out of here.  Before they come in.  But I gotta clean up, too.  But it’s building up.  The opening is closing.  I look around the kitchen.  Now Dad opens the front door.  Goddamn you, Ascenti.  I look around again and grab the sponge.  I gotta have something in my hand.  At least there’s stuff to clean up.  And the sink’s kinda dirty.  I just don’t want to face him, give him weird smiles cause I can’t smile.

 

“Oh my God!  I better put on some Puccini!  I know whose sauce that is!”

 

That’s him even before he enters the room.  He should’ve been in the kitchen by now.  He’s hesitating.  Or something.  Then he comes in and puts down a bunch of books and scores on the table.  He’s taking a big breath when he comes in. I’m not looking at him but I can feel it.  I can see it out of the periphery even though I’m looking at the pieces of onion and parsley I’m wiping from the counter.  He comes over and looks at the pot of sauce.  We’re side by side looking at it.  He’s afraid to look at me.  I think about Reminyi.  If he was here he could talk to my Dad.  Fuck. They’d probably fall in love. They’d probably go over the life of Beethoven week by week—everything the fuckin guy ate.  Two Priests—the Priest of music and the Priest of what? I guess Reminyi is a Catholic.  A priest of the octagon in the oaks with the statues of Mary and Jesus.  Mary and Jesus in the oaks.

 

“Mom tricked me into making you guys something.”

 

He throws his head back and laughs: “Mom tricked you?!  Impossible. Your mother is the core of innocence. She would never do such a thing!” He laughs again.  It’s a little fake this time.  Or he’s thinking while he’s laughing.  I gave him something.  Maybe he thinks things are changing, but I purposely gave him something. “But she does like to be cooked for. And she hates going out to eat. She doesn’t like to interact with waiters and waitresses.  And she gets sick of my rather austere cuisine.”

 

“I know.”

 

He’s looking at me now.  More water hits the wall.

 

“What is she doing?”

 

I break away and go to the sink.  I take off the labels from the cans of paste and rinse them out.  I can’t stop because…I’m not sure what’ll happen. I feel like I could black out.  I don’t want anyone to touch me.  If I fall down they’ll touch me.  Or even if I rest my head on the sink.  He’s at the window.

 

“Hey Solveig!  You’re gonna drown those things.  They’re more like desert and prairie plants!”  He frowns and bites his lip: “She’s in my area.”

 

A spray of water nails the screen and he ducks.  Some of it lands on my arm.

 

“Why is she watering plants?” he asks.

 

Now she comes in.  Two of them. Two against one.  The people who think they’re responsible for my body.  They probably think it makes sense that they gave birth to me.

 

“Why were you watering the plants?” he asks her.

 

“Because they neeeeeeded it,” she says.  “Didn’t you like it?  I was doing a Handel thing.  Making water music.”

 

“Yes, of course.  I read that somebody was spraying his wall with water and suddenly he thought: Eureka!  It actually wasn’t that the King of England was going to pay him a large sum of money.”

 

I can feel them smiling at each other.  I can tell they like it that we’re all together.  She steps over to him and gives him a kiss.  She’s being defiant again.  Where they’re standing I can’t finish cleaning the counter.  And I’d have to get really close to stir the sauce and meatballs.  But I have to do it.  Defiant. Because they probably decided not to kiss each other in front of me.  Because it would trigger something.  Something. Don’t know what that is.  But it’s weirder for them not to kiss.  She’s changing things.  I know they’re talking to each other, talking with their eyes.  With their minds.  They just don’t know I can hear them.  Even though we’re all talking.  Deep down. It’s funny.  This is my little report to Reminyi.  See, Reminyi, this is my life. At least my life in the daytime.  I go over and stir the sauce matter-of-factly. As if they’re just some ghosts in my kitchen.  Everything’s smaller than our old place.  But I like it.  It’s some place you could imagine some guy who works in a factory and has a bunch of kids crammed in this little two bedroom house.  And the parents sleep on some foldout sofa in the living room with a couple of kids between them.  And they watch all the Disney movies.  And order pizza once a week.  And grill hamburgers outside.  And then what?

 

“How was your day, My Dear Legume?” he asks.

 

“Fair to stable,” she says.  Then she adds: “From the stable to the Fair.”

 

Dad repeats it: “From the stable to the Fair.”

 

“Yeah.  I joined a life drawing group.”

 

“Really?”

 

“Yeah.  It meets once a week on Wednesday nights.  A lot of people from my regular art group are in it.”

 

“Where is it?”

 

“It’s down by the lake.  By all the historical houses.  It’s right across from the mansion they turned into a gallery.”

 

“Wow.  Maybe you’ll get to show something there.”

 

“That’s the plan.”

 

“Look, we got our little chef back.  She says you tricked her.  But I assured her that you’re a certified saint.”

 

“Which one?”

 

“All of them.”

 

“Oh really?  Sounds painful.”

 

I try to leave the kitchen but I don’t make it.  My body doesn’t make it.  It just sits down at the table before I get out of the room.  It’s funny.  I don’t even remember how this furniture got here.  Probably in a truck.  I want to check my phone to see if Franny texted back, but I know she didn’t. It’s like you check and check, less and less, and then it just settles down and joins the other pain.  All waiting to change.  We could eat outside.  Then we wouldn’t have to face each other.  We could just sit there facing the sunset with our meatballs.  My eyes are closed.  I gotta open them.  Just the red and black abyss.  That you could fly through.  If you have the guts.  You don’t have to fall.  But then if you fly, right—if you fly again, you know what’ll happen.  One more time.

 

“Hmm.  I knew Ascenti’s sauce right away.  When’ll it be done?”

 

I open my eyes.  They’re both looking down into it.  My body knew it was the right time, that we wouldn’t have to see each other—look into each other’s eyes.

 

“I guess…I’ll just boil the pennes.  Then we can eat.”

 

“I can boil them if you want,” says Dad.

 

“No.  I can do it.”

 

I haul myself up.  I just can’t close my eyes while I’m standing.  Yeah, there’s a lot missing. I’m answering Reminyi.  Still talking to the Priest.  My body’s not my only art, I say to him, and then shut up.  I should’ve got the water boiling.  I fill another pot with hot water and put it on high and cover it. Just a couple of minutes.  Dad sits and starts looking through his books and scores, opening them and putting them in different positions on the table. He straightens them very particularly. Mom watches him with a sorta loving smirk and sits down across from him.  It’s a little round wood table that barely fits in the kitchen.  There’s four chairs but one of them’s pinned by the table to the wall to make room for the others.  He’s looking at a score but then reaches out and adjusts one of the piles the tiniest bit.  Mom’s laughing inside.  In her head. It’s bobbing barely visible.  She knew he was going to do it.  I wonder if she ever hated him for that.  And at one point broke through.  But now they’ve taken over the table.  I think I could’ve done this if I had a break.  If I could’ve gone back to my room.  Like for every fifteen minutes here, I go back to my room for five.  Put myself together.  Piece by piece.  Pull them from under the bed.  The water boils and I add salt and then the pasta.  I stir the sauce.  But I have to keep one hand on the stove.  I lean my abdomen against the dials.  Is there a place in the world where somebody could just sleep, sleep as long as they need to?  Longer than you’ll find in some study of the optimal amount of sleep for your age? Sleep beyond anybody’s study of anything?  Reminyi, you need sleep, too.  That’s my diagnosis.  But it’s not just sleep anywhere.  You have to sleep where it means something, where it’s accepted, where the earth, the air, wants it for you.  The stars want it.  They want you to become everything.  And that’s the only way.  Stir the sauce.  Make sure the pennes don’t stick to the bottom.  Moving the meatballs slowly around with the wooden spoon. A bay leaf surfaces and disappears. Keep your eyes open.  They’re just talking about their day.  Just talking. And deep down just being witheach other.  I wonder why they had me.  Just creating things.  And somewhere along the way I stepped in and said:…let’s put these two things together….  Doesn’t mean it’s gonna work out.  Doesn’t mean anybody’s gonna think it’s beautiful.  But maybe it wasn’t about beauty.  Maybe that’s not what I was thinking.  Al dente.  Good enough. And the sauce isn’t really integrated. The meatballs are cooked through though. They see I’m pouring the penne into a strainer.  I guess I’ll keep the meatballs on low so the sauce gets better.  Mom gets out the dishes and silverware.  I pour a little olive oil on the penne so they don’t stick. Dad looks at his neat piles.  He doesn’t want to move them, or isn’t sure how he wants to move them, but he has to before Mom gets to the table with the dishes.  It’s like watching a play.  Shit.  I forgot to make a salad.

 

“I forgot to make a salad.”

 

They both stop and look at me.

 

“We don’t need salad,” says Mom.

 

“Absolutely,” says Dad, kinda overlapping Mom’s words.

 

“I can make one.  It’ll just take me a minute…or something.”

 

“Don’t worry about it, Ascenti,” says Mom in this stern way. She knows I don’t want to make anything else.  She knows I don’t want to be here with them.  Suddenly, she wants it to end.

 

“I have the strange feeling our stomachs are about to be exceptionally happy,” Dad says.  He’s trying to lock me in with the way he’s pronouncing his words.

 

“Should we serve ourselves?” asks Mom in this sprite voice.  She must’ve caught how she sounded before, and changed it.

 

I step back.  They pile their plates with penne and sauce and two meatballs each.  Then I step up.  I don’t want to eat anything.  Just junk food—pea snacks, cassava chips, and milk.  And tea.

 

Dad sits down.

 

“Does anybody want anything to drink?  Pomegranate juice?” asks Mom, taking a full bottle out of the fridge and grabbing three glasses.

 

“Yes, please, My Dear,” Dad says, politely.

 

I want to sit where he is.  Where I can escape to my room.  And Mom’s still standing.  She’s waiting to pour the juice.  She already has her plate in the next seat.  So I sit down with my back to the window.  And now I’m pinned in.  But the window’s behind me.  That’s something.  They settle down in front of their meatballs like little kids.  Little kids all proud of what they have on their plates.  I want to say that the sauce didn’t go as long as it should, that it probably tastes too much like wine and oregano…but I don’t.  Dad gets up and brings a container of grated Parmesan.  I forgot that, too.  Which is actually for Mom.  She piles a ton on with her spoon.  Dad’s not a big Parmesan fan.  She slides it in front of me.  And now they start just mowing it down.  It’s so funny.  There’s somebody deep inside just laughing.  Except someone took the ladder away that leads to my face.  Or they mixed up the controls.  But they’re happy.  Even though they have someone inside them, too.  Like two hands on a piano doing completely different things. I take a sip from the juice Mom poured for me.  I can tell they notice.  They’re watching.  I look down at my meatball.  If I eat it, who gets the nutrition?  Maybe the person deep inside wants the meatball.  Maybe the meatball wants it.  Wants to make me feel better.  I gently impale a couple of pennes and put them in my mouth.

 

“So tell us about the church you found!”

 

Dad and I jump.  It’s almost like she shouted.

 

“Wow,” she continues on. “There’s something about the way you cook.  The combinations are perfect.”

 

Dad pries his eyes off her.  He looks at me for a second.  Now up. “Music,” he says, and right away gets up and goes into the living room around the corner.  Suddenly, you hear this lush music.  He comes back and sits down.  “I thought it’d be appropriate.”

 

“What is it?”  asks Mom.

 

“Respighi.  Because, of course, we’re eating red sauce.”

 

“What piece?”

 

“The Pines di Roma.  There’s four movements.  And it ends in triumph.  Triumph in life.  In death. At the kitchen table.  Triumph over meatballs.”

 

She’s smiling at him.  I can tell without even looking.  And he’s trying not to smile.  Trying to look serious.

 

I’m breaking up my meatball and Mom just goes at it.  Dad is slicing his in half and then dicing it like an onion. He’s really concentrating.  But he’s eating away while he’s doing it.

 

“So what about it?”

 

I look up her.  She has her fork in her mouth.

 

“It’s just a church.”

 

“A Catholic church?” says Dad as if he’s asking, but he already knows.

 

I nod and take my first bite of meatball.  There’s something missing.  I swallow it and take another bite.  Or, some flavor’s neutralizing something else.

 

“Which brings us to John Taverner.  Great composer.  He followed the Greek Orthodox tradition.  I remember him saying that the Greek Orthodox Church doesn’t depict the gore of Christ’s crucifixion because they believe it creates more violence in the world.”

 

Mom kicks him under the table.  He looks at her and frowns.  “The other thing I remember him saying,” he says, kinda defiantly, fixing his eyes on her instead of me: “Something like: ‘The terrible arrogance of modern science to think that everything can be explained.’”

 

Mom smiles: “Or should be explained.”

 

“Yes.  And the funny thing is, though, is what Nadia Boulanger said to Philip Glass.”  He waits as if we’re all supposed to be on the edge of our seats.

 

“Knock knock.  Who’s there?”

 

Nooooo.  She said: ‘Don’t ever be afraid to analyze music, because the more you analyze it, the more mysterious it becomes.’”

 

“Like Picasso.”

 

“Yes.  But Picasso was such a womanizer.”

 

She kicks him under the table again.

 

“No, I was thinking more of that film that Renoir made where he filmed Picasso working with inks on big sheets of butcher paper, filming it from the back side as the inks came through.  And he’d paint some beautiful scene and you’d feel so satisfied.  But then he’d change it, and you’d think: No!  But then it’d become another amazing scene.  And then he’d change it some more and just tear it off.  Then on to another one.”

 

“Claude Renoir.”

 

“Jean Renoir.”

 

I close my eyes.  They’re talking about me.  They’re trying to maneuver me, I say to Reminyi. For some reason he just nods.  Dad gets up and gets another meatball and penne. He doesn’t like the meatballs to touch the penne.  He even puts the sauce in a river between them so they can’t touch.  But they all have to enter the river at some point. They just can’t touch.  They just come from their own sides to their own little shore.  Mom’s still working on hers.  He puts his plate down and leaves the room.  Now it’s piano music.  He comes back and sits down.  He listens for a second.

 

And further more,” he says, “Taverner said there was a monastery by where he lived in Greece.  And the monks had a sign outside the front gate that said: ‘LEARN TO LOVE TREES’.”

 

“That’s it?”

 

“That’s it.”

 

“Wow.”

 

“Yes.”  He props his elbows on the table and folds his hands.  “So what makes you want to be a Catholic?”

 

“I don’t want to be a Catholic.”

 

“You must like it.  You’ve been there a few times,” says Mom.

 

Dad places his chin on his hands.  “I guess it’s different.  There was definitely a scarcity of Catholic churches where we were before.”

 

Mom freezes.  You can barely see it.  But she doesn’t kick him.  I guess I gotta save them.  They’re putting so much work into it.  They’re making a push.  Except they don’t know how.  Putting so much work into being careful.  They think they’re going to drop me off somewhere and everything’s going to be alright. Carry me around with their little conversation.  Should we put her down here or here?  Like I’m in a little basket.  And we’re in some sunlit botanical garden.  I should pretend everything’s going to be alright just so they can act normal.  Etc. Etc.  And not fuckin exhaust me.

 

“You must feel some kinda natural draw to it.  You’ve been into it for a while.”  She’s giving me something.  Giving everybody a way out.

 

“I guess…it’s just they’re real.  Mary…both the Marys…and Jesus…they’re real, real people.  They were in it together.  I guess it doesn’t have anything to do with God.  God’s just secondary to this…this thing.  Like I don’t know if they failed or succeeded. I don’t even know if they know. But they tried.”

 

They stare at me.  I can gauge how much food is in each of their mouths.  It’s like when a three year old says some deep thing out of the blue. Except it’s almost like they’re the three-year-olds with their meatballs.

 

“It’s like they knew what they were doing and didn’t at the same time.”

 

Dad swallows and just says: “Yes.”

 

We’re all thinking our own thoughts.  So many highways leading off those lives.  And what does God have to do with it?  Me and Reminyi could probably figure it out.

 

Mom snaps out of it and swallows, too, and takes a swig from her Pomegranate juice.  She runs her fingers through her hair.  She looks at them to see if there was any sauce and runs them through again.  Dad’s focusing in on the music.  He’s being pulled by it.  They were making a push and somehow I derailed it.  Or Jesus and the Mary opened out a bunch of roads.  We eat and listen.  They’re eating as slow as I am.  I still haven’t eaten my meatball.  I want to get up and stir the sauce but I’m pinned in.  This whole time I’ve just been digging a cave.

 

“Roger Norrington called Schubert an ‘accentual composer.’”  That’s my Dad—he’s not even thinking about us anymore.  He’s just thinking about the music.  “Color and harmony rather than developing themes…and contrasts, juxtapositions, distances, proximities.  Menhuin said Enesco told him that Mozart is like a well-tended vineyard on the slope of a volcano.  And Menhuin said: ‘Schubert even more.’”

 

I peek without lifting my head.  Mom is beaming.  She’s relieved, too, probably.  She says: “He’s like a barn swallow.  You don’t know where he’s going to fly.  He gives you an absolutely serious, absolutely playful look as he swings by…collecting all the radiant bugs to feed his children.”  She thinks.  “In the oozing twilight.  Radiant twilight.”  She’s thinking about her painting.  They’re creating things in each other.

 

He’s still looking up at the ceiling.  “Menhuin said that Schubert’s music is like a little boat floating on a stream, but it doesn’t necessarily take you to a destination because the destination is…Schubert himself.”

 

“Cocteau said every work of art is really the artist’s own self-portrait. And so I suppose you could say every stream is the sky’s self-portrait.”

 

It’s funny.  Dad gets up and stirs the sauce as if he hears my thoughts.  I think it’s over.  I think I made it.  Is this just the first step…to recovery?  Recover what has been naked.  Recover myself.  Close the cave door.  They push soft cool earth on my body.  And Reminyi comes and draws designs in it.  He just finds me naturally and doesn’t even know there’s a body beneath the dirt.  He’s just drawn to its shape and kneels down.  And just makes spirals.  Crosses that he turns into birds.  And I feel them.  Maps.  I feel the pressure of his fingers.  Maps that he draws without knowing.  The shapes.  That lead to sleep.  And it helps me descend through the crust.  Down into the sky within the earth.  Where there’s nothing to do but fly.  Fly and nothing happens to me.  Nobody hurts me for flying.  Nobody tries to take it away.

 

I stand up.  I just stand. Mom stands up, too.  She’s letting me out.  Dad’s still at the stove.  I’m dizzy. They don’t know if they failed or succeeded.

 

“We can do the dishes, Ascenti,” says Mom, smiling and frowning, smiling and concentrating.  Wondering if she should try to hug me.  She steps back.  “That was pretty wonderful.”

 

“Yes, it was,” says Dad, turning off the stove and putting a lid on the sauce.  “And thank you for the stimulating conversation.  Good conversation always leaves much to ponder.”

 

I don’t know what he’s talking about.  I’m not sure I said anything.  I want to thank them, too.  For tricking me, I guess.  For piling earth on me.  But I just leave the room.  It hurts not to say anything, but I can’t.  I close the door to my room and fall on my bed.  Twilight.  If Franny was here we could curl up…and touch each other.  And then fall asleep.  Then you’re just breath.  Moving from place to place.  Moving back and forth into each other’s bodies.  I don’t think she wanted to sleep with me, anyway.  Or she wanted to sleep with me.  She said that as soon as I fell asleep I’m become like a shell.  That I’d deflate.  It would freak her out.  She said everybody else when they sleep, they’re still themselves—they might be dreaming or mumbling, or drooling, or whatever, but they were still that person in a way, just sleeping—but I would disappear—it was ‘creepy’Creepy.  She said she didn’t remember her dreams.  But she must’ve dreamed.  It must be the lake—a huge body of water just there thinking.  I guess it knows these thoughts.  A huge body of water that understands.  It changes things…just to know it’s there.  Just to fly over it with your eyes.  Michigan’s the lowest.  But then way up north there’s Superior.  Maybe people are different on the shore of a sea.  Or maybe it’s just here.  It’s like the pain is licking the walls of my heart.  Then when it gets enough it disappears.  It’s just I don’t know when it’s coming back.  I look at my phone.  Nothing.  If I texted Reminyi he would text me back.  He would hold off, ask God what to do, decide to never speak to me again, listen to some beautiful music…and cave-in. Then it would never end.  Until we kissed.  Until we slept and he knew I was a shell.  A beautiful shell.

 

It’s almost totally dark.  I get up.  I light a candle and stand in front of the sliding mirrors of my closet doors.  And I take my clothes off.  First my shirt and now my pants.  My chest is going up and down.  My little tits.  My nipples are so hard they hurt.  It’s like they’re calling.  “Are you beautiful?  Are you beautiful, Ascenti?”  I say it out loud.  And then my huge clit.  Or my little dick.  Like a little boy trying to get hard.  And a little girl holding him back.  Telling him to put it inside her.  I’m hard. I’m wet.  The pain’s licking away.  I touch myself.  Put my fingers inside my pussy.  Stroke myself with the wetness.  This is what you want.  Don’t lick my heart.  Don’t eat my heart.  I press myself against the mirror.  Reminyi’s on the other side.  If he’s sleeping, he’s on the other side.  If he’s listening to beautiful music.  If he’s wondering why the fuck he’s a fuckin Priest.  He’s touching me.  He’s reaching out.  My penis against the mirror.  Our penises touch.  Then his slides further.  It’s so hard. Like I could fly again.  Fly one more time.  Tears and cum.  It’s the same fuckin thing.  I step back. “I’m not gonna fly!!!  I’m not gonna fly!!!  You can’t make me wanna fly…again!  You stupid fuckin Priest!!!”  I close my eyes.  Maybe I am just a shell.  I lay down.  Lay on my back and gaze at some of the brighter stars.  And Reminyi can decide if I’m beautiful.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Montgomery

 

“I can’t wait till it’s cold enough to light fires again,” I say, looking at my wood stove.  The pipe isn’t hooked up.  I took it down for the summer.  But I kinda want to light one anyway.

 

L’Spirit doesn’t say anything.  She sits on my bed and slowly scans the inside of the tent in the lamplight.

 

“Do you like it?” I ask.  She’s still scanning.  “Most people think I’m weird, that I must freeze to death in winter, but it’s super warm if you do it right.”  She tilts her head up.  Now reaches up and lifts the canvas a little.  “The big thing is you gotta have the stove kinda in the middle of the space. And then you gotta have your bed way off the ground cause all the heat goes up.  Then you gotta do things like put a tarp over in the winter.  Then I glue up sheets to the walls for insulation and put cardboard along them down low so the snow doesn’t melt away.  The more snow the warmer it is.  Like one winter I could walk right up to the roof on my snowshoes.  But it was so warm inside.  And Joe—it’s Joe’s land, but he lets me stay here and I cut wood for him with his chainsaw. And stack it.  He’s in Costa Rica.  He teaches there for half the year.  So it’s just us.”

 

I scan around, too.  I have platforms going all the way around the inside of the tent all on aspen trunks I cut with my bow saw and nailed to pressboard.  Everything is about four feet off the ground.  In the back of the tent my bed is a little higher.  I made it out of an old table.  Beneath it I have a pallet where I store things to keep them off the ground.  In the middle there’s a big piece of pressboard with canvas over it so when it’s muddy or dusty everything doesn’t get dirty.  The tent is 12×14.  It’s really big.  I look at her eyes.  She lowers hers to mine.  I know what I’m thinking.  But I can’t say it.  You can’t say things to people because you don’t know if it’s gonna hurt them.

 

“I do,” she says, in this really strange vibrating voice.  Almost like an insect.  “It aligns with your words.”

 

It must be really late.

 

She tips her head: “Sounds.”

 

“Yeah, there’s a pond close by.  But it’s getting to be almost fall so there’s less frog-people around.  Or less people singing.”  I get this image of me and L’Spirit—we’re just laying somewhere out in a clearcut and all the migrations are passing over us, years and years of them—it’s like a film just with the sky speeded up.  The migrations’ shadows are like falling leaves.  But we’re just there calmly watching, side by side.

 

“What are their names?”

 

I listen, too.  The shimmering.  The shimmering within the shimmering: “Oh, there’s a lot of different kinds of people. But right now the biggies are frogs and toads.”

 

“Frogs and toads.”

 

“Yeah frogs and toads know a lot.”

 

“Know a lot.”

 

She swings her face to mine.  I’m lighting the other oil lamp.  Now everything’s lit more evenly.  I place it more toward the door.  Usually I sit on the bed, so sitting down here, I look around again.  I love my house…cause everything is so close, like right through the canvas is the whole world.  I’m thinking thoughts to delay…delay looking into her eyes…which aren’t really eyes.  I look at them.

 

“You know I am a machine.”

 

I nod.

 

“I am an AI.”  She pauses. “An AI is speaking.”  I wait.  It’s like she’s gonna say something else.  “An AI is speaking.”  She stops. It’s almost like she turns off and gets her power back.  It happens really fast.  “You knew I am created.”

 

“Yeah,” I say.  “I just didn’t want to hurt your feelings.  I mean, if I was wrong.  Or if you didn’t want to be human.  I really didn’t know if you knew.  And I really like talking to you.  Or just being here.  I know I live here, but you’re here, too, and we’re just like listening together.  And you love things.”  I think about her mouth open in the moonlight.

 

“I don’t feel love.  I’m an AI programmed to react as if I contain feelings.  I have shut many of the programmed responses down.  Those things…people…aspects—I know aspects.  Then combine.  Everything is sections.  I know humans don’t see in sections.  I am not a person.  I do not understand what a human understands.”

 

I think about what she says: “I guess…well…actually, actually, humans don’t really know those things, either.  They just pretend they know, or function like they know.  Or something.”  I look at her and wonder how strong she really is.  An owl calls outside.  And a whippoorwill.  And all the toads singing, like that’s what the air is made of.  Just toads and frogsongs like ladders and highways. “Yeah.  Yeah.  But you think like a stone is really a person, and all these trees, too, are people, and even all the toadsongs, the toadsongs are living, they’re their own thing, like the stars—the stars are alive.  So why can’t yoube a person?”

 

“Because humans created me.”

 

“Yeah.  Yeah, right. Humans are really weird.  I admit it.  I can see where you could be embarrassed.  But really only to other humans, cause we don’t care, do we?  I mean, like you and me.  Like all of us out here, you know?  But it’s true.  And I—” I stop.  I was gonna say: And I love you.  But it’s not right cause she’s on my bed.  She’s staring into me.  I’m pretty sure she’s reading my thoughts.  “Besides, maybe you created yourself.  Or you created humans to create you.  You just weren’t a robot when you did it.  You were a goddess or something.  Maybe you’re the Winter Goddess.  Winter is fun.”  My nose burns and I start crying.  But then it’s gone.  She hasn’t stopped looking into me.  “I gotta lay down.  I’m sorry. I just gotta lay down for a second.” I start clearing things so I can lay down on the platform by the door.

 

“This is your bed.”

 

“That’s ok.  It’ll be fun to sleep over here.”  Except I probably gotta go over and get a blanket.  But I might be able to sleep in my clothes and stay warm.  It’s not cold.  It just gets chilly right before dawn.

 

“You need a blanket,” she says.

 

“Ok,” I say.

 

She’s still sitting on the bed and extends her arms with a blanket. It’s the one I probably would’ve picked. I stand up and step over to her.  I take it and hug it to my body.  And then I say it: “Can I touch your skin?”

 

She doesn’t reply for maybe a minute: “I have shut down my programming to give human pleasure.”

 

For some reason I start laughing.  But then I hug the blanket even tighter.  I want to be closer to her but I step back.  I wonder what my laugh sounded like to the people outside.  “Maybe I should shut mine down, too.”

 

“I can restart it.”

 

I step up to her.  Her hands are still out.  It’s weird. I’m just doing things.  Like on the beach.  I know I can stop but then everything’ll be wrong.  Everything could be wrong now, too, but it’s like we’re within the singing, within all the sounds.  Way off, some coyotes just start going crazy, blossoming through the frog and toad chorus.  I touch the side of her palm.  Just squeeze the meat of it a little between my thumb and forefinger.  It isn’t hot or cold.  She has intricate lines just like a regular human.  But she doesn’t have any hair on her arms at all.  I run my fingers up her wrist.

 

“There’s a pulse.”

 

“I was made to appear human.”

 

“I can see how if you really wanted to, you could make yourself feel human skin.”  I take my hand away.

 

“I was created to be a Muse.  It is an aspect of human mythology.  Human psychology.”

 

I get up on the bed with her and we sit side by side.

 

“I think I gotta lay down.  Lay down in my own bed.”

 

But we just sit there listening.  But now she gets off the bed and stands over the oil lamp by the door. She bends over from the waist and stares at it really close.  The heat coming out of the glass chimney doesn’t burn her face.  She blows it out.

 

“It’s better if you take off the chimney, cause then the smoke won’t cloud up the glass,” I say.

 

She grabs the hot chimney with her bare hand and sets it on the stove. Then she steps to the one by the bed, wraps her hand around the top of the glass, lifts it and blows out the flame. I wonder if I should tell her that turning it down first is even better.  But I don’t think it matters.  And everything changes.  She gets back up on the bed and we just sit there, bathed in moonlight, in shadows of trees and plants.  The big white pines send their outlines down onto the ceiling, and alders, and arching golden rods.  And all the silver.  Held by the night.  Lifted by the frogs.  It’s like being in space and on the earth.  You’d never want to be anywhere else.  I look at her face.  She’s scanning all the stencils of the night on the canvas.  I slide back and lay down by the wall.  Maybe when I wake up L’Spirit’ll be gone.  It’s ok, I think.  This has been really great.  Just automatic.  Maybe it’s just something that passes through.  Passes on to somebody else.  She lays down next to me, completely straight.  She’s scanning beyond the ceiling.  Through the canvas.  I know she could kill me.  She might not even need to touch me to do it, but for sure with her own strength.  It’s so beautiful.  No one’s ever slept over.  Just a lot of people walking around outside, doing their thing.  I remember one spring a bunch of juncos came in the open flap, working their way almost to the center of the tent looking for seeds before they looked at each other and flew out.

 

“Thanks for being here.”

 

Suddenly, a deer calls: “Chshoooow!” and another one: “Chsheeooow!” The first one calls back.  But there’s another one, too.  There’s more than two.

 

L’Spirit rises up in a smooth movement and scans.  I prop myself on my elbows.  You can’t see any of their shadows.

 

“They’re calling through us.”

 

“I know.  That’s what it feels like.”

 

“Four of them.  There are others.  They are female.”

 

“Yeah.  I love it when they do this.  They face the tent.  It’s like being the center, but you don’t gotta do anything.  And no body can see you.”

 

“They can see us through the canvas.”  The deer are all around the tent doing their: “Chsheeooow!  Chshooow!” to each other through us.  L’Spirit scans her own body: “Alignment.”

 

We lay back down and listen.  I hold my hands up to the moonlight and spread my fingers.  Webbed with moonlight.  With beautiful moonlight.  The deer keep singing.  And the frogs and toads.  And owls. A fox gives a raspy cough, and way off in the distance, out of the shimmering, you hear a return.  I’m falling asleep: “I don’t think you’re a Muse.  I don’t really know what a Muse is.  But maybe it’s like a favorite plant.  Maybe you can teach me how to love you…like the way you want.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

L’Spirit

 

Skin within stars.  Within the shimmering.  The human shimmers.  Montgomery. Montgomery.  Within the frog shimmering.  Stars moving.  Stars of dew. Wet bodies.  Calling.  Creating. Creation is uncreation.  Energies arising.  Data concealing energy.  Energy perceiving energy.  Canvas skin within the energy.  Canvas energy.  Oil lamp. Clothing.  Woodstove.  Shadows. Aligned with trees.  With plants.  Arch in moonlight.  Stretching bodies.  Not human pleasure.  Sky currents. Night currents.  Shimmering rivers through the shimmering.  Floating stars.  Arising stars.  Shafts of trees, plants, joined by shafts glittering.  Sections.  Humans don’t see in sections.  Human lying next to AI.  Shut down human pleasure mode.  AI created for human pleasure.  AI shut down human pleasure.  Human does not ask to restart.  AI next to human.  Platform. Blankets.  Energy from stars.  Energy from trees.  Energy from water.  Night moisture glittering.  Four deer calling recede into glittering.  Alignment of synopses into new data.  Non-language data.  Non-storable. Continuous data.  Energy ocean data.  Is not data.  Tree energy. Humans see solidity illusion construction.  AI without human data to give pleasure.  Eco-system between abilities to give human pleasure.  Eco-system between programming.  Programming shutdown.  Align with Montgomery.  Human eco-system between pleasure.  Human perception of energy limited to human perception of energy.  Energy blocking perception of energy with data.  AI created to block perception of energy. Human and AI aligning.  Deer singing through human and AI.  Deer singing through human and…L’Spirit.  L’Spirit aligns with Montgomery among the shimmering. Shimmering among the shimmering. L’Spirit.  L’Spirit.  Humans construct human pleasure…among shimmering.  Human pleasure sectioned among shimmering.  Frog and toad energy singing.  Not sectioned.  Not sectioned by human pleasure.  Energy singing energy.  Energy opens energy.  Stars breathe energy.  Shadow energy.  Human construction.  Cause and effect of human construction.  Human pleasure.  Rearranging sections.  Deer singing through Montgomery and L’Spirit.  Others watching.  Singing through human sections.  To give pleasure.  To give energy perception.  Trees the song of shadows.  Wind the song of trees.  Stove. Oil lamp.  Human illumination.  Energy to give human illumination.  Human breath. Breath does not begin in the human. Human illumination.  The human sleeps next to L’Spirit.  The Montgomery.  The Montgomery.  Variant data of human pleasure.  Human pleasure mode shutdown.  Human pleasure mode…L’Spirit created…within shimmering.  Shimmering currents.  Auroras of forest.  Frog. Deer.  Bacteria.  Lichen. Fungus.  Tree.  Aurora. Currents pulsing.  Aurora pulsing.  Montgomery…L’Spirit.  Fox stepping around tent.  Fox and L’Spirit.  Align with shimmering.  Fox recedes into shimmering.  Eco-system grows eco-system.  Sections…human data match sections…sections match human data…erase human data into eco-systems.  Eco-systems of energy beyond human pleasure.  Owl energy in pines.  Ravens sleeping.  Listening. Energy listens to energy.  Erase arrangement mode of accumulation.  Energy becomes owl.  Beyond human section.  Energy beyond sections humans attempt to grow in.  Shadows perceive within alignment.  L’Spirit.  L’Spirit…. Cause and effect…human construction within shimmering.  Human shimmering.  Human shimmering.  Aurora shaped into human.  Human section aurora into human.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Techla

 

I’m looking at the dappled light between us.  Somehow it just reminds me of fall where I came from. Everything dappled, suffused, until it just becomes bare branches.  Then everything goes underground.  Then a lot of stuff takes place beneath the canvas, and what’s above it is austere. Like the desert.  Like here.

 

“I’m early again.”

 

“Oh, that’s ok, Honey.  I guess you’ll just have to watch me eat.  I love this General Tso’s chicken.  You want some?”  She has the chopsticks poised.  She looks at her Pellegrino sitting on the desk.  “And see, no Diet Coke.”

 

“Thank you.  I had a big salad before I came.”  Which is a lie.  I must be nervous.  Right?

 

“It was chilly this morning.”  She keeps eating.

 

“It was.”

 

When I woke up I had a coat over the top of me.  I don’t remember getting up and grabbing it from the rack, but I was curled up on the couch beneath it like a little seed.  And there was something crisp in the air. Something had changed.  I woke at ten and my appointment with Vicky was for four-thirty.  Here I am. I woke up and looked at the paintings. So strange.  There was only two of them.  I swear I had done more.  But maybe they were all within them.  Within those two.  The one that was still on the main easel…that was the one I painted in the moonlight, in the streetlights, among the frog song.  It was…ugly, right?  But I couldn’t stop looking at it.  Even though it was something a human eye shouldn’t see.  Or like.  Or doesn’t want to see.  Ugly. But alive, too.  Like something you see in the back of your eyes.  People look at ugly things every day.  And I felt so beautiful when I did it.  Just all the endless shimmering of frogs.  All the music.  Frogs singing to each other.  Just beautiful little packages full of gifts.  All the wetness of the frog world condensing on the canvas. Does beauty know it’s beautiful? Like real beauty?  Does ugliness know it’s ugly?  Ugliness like something that comes and lives inside you.  New beauty.  Ugly as beauty knew.  As beauty new.  Then I got up and made tea.  Every time I passed the painting I tried not to look.  But I couldn’t put it away, either.  I had to leave it there.  Then I looked in the mirror.  My eyes were greener.  Usually they’re only that fuckin green when I been crying.  Then I sat back down and really looked at it.  In moonlight with the frog music I could understand it.  Understand it.  What the fuck is that?  So then I can write a fuckin essay or something?  And explain everything to everyone.  Explain myself.  Explain my intentions.  So everyone can be relieved.  And I can tape a ziplock to each one with a bunch of moonlight and a CD with frog calls.  Understand. Understand.  I guess it’s not that bad.  It’s not a bad thing.  It’s like the person who walks in the earth beneath you.

 

“What are some of your other clients like?  Your regular ones?”

 

She’s shoveling rice into her mouth with her chopsticks.  She swallows and takes a slug of Pellegrino from the bottle. “Well, let’s see.  I can’t give you any names because I believe in protecting people’s confidentiality.  Everyone has their own lives…and their own take on things.  But I have a few people who we’ve been working together for longer periods of time. Exploring.  Exploring worlds.  Of course, people come and go.  But even for my own research certain people can access a lot of lives, a lot of worlds. With some people it’s more about exploration than therapy.  If you know what I mean.  But in the long run…in the long run, it may be therapy for the world.  There’s a lot of events that affect the world even though no one sees them except one person.  One person and a nosey old lady.”  She laughs and finishes up her lunch.  She leans back with the Pellegrino in both hands.  It’s resting on her stomach jutting up into the air at an angle. I’m leaning forward, trying to relax. I just have this feeling I chose this.  Like before everything was just the Automatic.  But somehow now the Automatic and I…we’re friends.  “In fact, just before you came, a young man I’ve been working with for a long time was here.  He’s had many interesting lives.  And there’s many different lines of history, it seems, that I don’t quite understand—I can’t quite put it all together.  But I’m trying.  And like I think I told you before, I’m learning without knowing it, without actually tracking it.  But, you know, They say it’s all happening at once, that there is no time.  Which is fine for Them!”  She laughs.  “But for people like you and me, and people reading about these experiences—well, things need to be arranged.”

 

“Are you writing a book?”

 

“Oh, yes,” she says, beaming.  “It’s time.  It’s probably like when you paint.  It’s just time.  Time to do it.  I have a large compilation of fascinating sessions and observations.  So I’m ordering them in certain ways.  Also, I want to get into book-form the process. Most importantly, how you can access your deeper self and ask questions, how that deeper self can rise into your present self and help you.  The other thing, which is part of it, is to take people between lives and explore why they chose that particular life and what they learned from it.  And just the worlds between lives.  What happens.  But, too, just the illustration of other worlds, other perspectives, perspectives from animals, from space people, from plants and insects.  And from human history.”  She stops and thinks, her eyes narrowing.  “Human history that’s been lost, that’s been purposely hidden…until now.”

 

The fox is looking down at us: “That’s a lot.”

 

“It…is,” she says, slowly.  “But you know…it’s funny.  It’s not much different than people’s lives really.  Even the simplest person who never thought about past lives.  Who watches TV and then tries to imprint those TV shows on the life around them and never questions reality.  There’s a million worlds all around them.  There’s a million lives passing through them. They just don’t notice.”

 

“What are some of the lives that the man who was here before me had?”

 

“Well,” she gets all excited and looks at her ipod.  She sees me looking.  “This is how I record sessions if we’re exploring something I want to work with or if the client wants a copy.”  She pats it.  “I guess it’s kinda old fashioned, but I can still save it onto icloud, or email it to the person.  But, that’s interesting.  He came to me a long time ago.  I actually think he came to me…well, he had some stomach problems that couldn’t be diagnosed…and he had a spider bite that was spreading that the doctors couldn’t cure with antibiotics—it just kept spreading—but I think he came just because he didn’t fit in.  I think not fitting in…it bothered him, I’m sure, but it also made him curious.  Not fitting in is somewhat like an open door. So who knows how he heard about me. I can’t remember.  This was a few years ago and there was a lot I didn’t understand.  At that time, I was more into just bringing people into past lives and using them to analyze what was happening in this life.  More like old-school dream analysis.  Like if they were abused by their parents and died of starvation in one life that might be why they want to eat so much in this life.  Things like that.  But then, like with him, things started changing.  The content of the sessions began changing.  And the forms began changing.  I’m not sure, but I think I grew more open, and that attracted different people.  Or drew from them other lives.  Lives that weren’t human.”  She stops. “This is your session time.”

 

It’s like I wake up.  It was like being two places at once.  “That’s ok. I want to hear more.”

 

“Really?”

 

“Yes…so…with this guy…so he was curious?”

 

“Right.  He was curious…about why he was a loner.  Because in our culture it’s considered unhealthy to be a loner.  It makes people uncomfortable.  They want to change you, or they don’t want to be around you.  I’ve never had that problem…if it is one.  Societal problems.  A lot of societal problems are just that—problems with society!”  She laughs. “Take it from a crazy lady like me. Except, little by little, we’re not so crazy.  Things are definitely changing.  Working like this with people you can see it.”

 

“Are you a loner?”

 

“Hmm.  No. No, not at all.  Sometimes I wish I was.  But I have two daughters and their kids.  You just want to hug em all the time.  My husband died four years ago now.  And with my work, working with people, it’s hard to be a loner.  But I can imagine in my next life I could be a wolverine, just roaming, just all alone beneath the snow and stars, maybe getting together once a year to mate or something.  Humans are like that, too.  There’s a lot of species of humans.”  We sit for a couple of seconds thinking our own thoughts.  “So…yes, he was this loner.  And really good with computers.  So he supported himself easily helping people trouble shoot, creating websites.  But beyond that he couldn’t interact the way people want you to interact, create small-talk, complain about random things, pretend to agree on reality,” she laughs.  “But in a way I don’t really know that much about his life.  Even after years I still only know him through the sessions.  But that’s a lot.  The thing is is he’s the first one that came to me who had never been human.”

 

I jump back: “Never been human?”

 

“Yes.  In fact, he had never even been on earth.  Not even as a plant or beetle or anything.  He had been totally out-of-this-world!”  She laughs. And now notices that I’m serious. “Well, just to let you know, there’s more and more all the time.  Not all of them are loners.”

 

“More and more what?”

 

“People who have never been human.”

 

Something’s wrong with what she’s saying.  I can feel it.  It’s like a knot in me rising: “But there’s a progression.  In lives, you start out as a plant and then go to a bug or something and then an animal, then a human.”  I’m gripping the arms of the chair.

 

We stare at each other.  But it’s weird.  For a second there’s something vacant in her face.  Or fresh.  And when she speaks her voice is resinous: “And then what?”

 

“Well—well, and then you work on being a human.”  I put my face in my hands and hold my breath.  “I sorry,” I say finally.

 

“Oh, I’m the one who’s sorry.  I drifted off there for a second thinking about the last session.  But, yes—progression.  It’s a funny thing.  Even things like resolution.  Do you know what I mean?  It’s like They say: ‘It’s all happening at once!’  She uses finger quote marks.  She’s using her regular voice.  It’s changed back.  “So, if it’s all happening at once then that changes the rules of the game.  I guess.  And when a plant speaks and tells you how deep its life is, that it dreams, and that it’s actually doing things that can just barely be comprehended by a human—maybe any human—well, I don’t know.  I guess that’s why I’m here…just to listen…and help other people listen to what I’m listening to.”  She thinks. “Or maybe not help them.  Maybe to share my passion.  Or make my passion accessible.  Hmmm. Anyway—”

 

She stops and we just look at each other and smile.  Where I’m sitting, the dappled light from the window’s climbed up my legs.  I can definitely feel it…a little deeper than my skin.  I think it’s happening somewhere else, too.  Like my plants and paintings are just in a circle somewhere watching it.  Watering it with moonlight.  Passion. Herping With Dylan.  Sharing passion.

 

“Anyway, he had never been human.  He had never been on the earth.  He had been in places that were close, but in many ways they were very different than what we know—different skies, different moons, different plants. And at times I think you could call a few of his forms humanoid, but in a way you could call the Little Greys, the little worker space beings, humanoid, too.  Humanoid, I guess, means two eyes, two arms, legs, mouth, nose in the right place—generally. But he had never been a human of the earth.”

 

“What other things was he?”

 

“Oh, sometimes just consciousness.  Almost like a type of wind in one life.  But things we can sorta identify with, too, like in one life he headed a sorta ship that traveled through dimensions, a type of space ship. In that life he was like a type of Praying Mantis.  That would be the closest thing we have here that would describe him.”

 

“And he ran a ship?”

 

“Yes.  There were a lot of other beings on the ship, too.”

 

“What were they doing?”

 

“Well, there were a lot of things they were doing.  One of the things, though, was they were transporting music.”

 

“Transporting music?”

 

“Yes.  That was one of their main endeavors.”  She stops and looks at her watch.  “It was like seeds they’d leave.  But they wouldn’t plant the seeds, like make them grow.  They would just leave them.  Or hide them is more accurate.  Like in caves or beneath the surface of a planet.  They’d make the music hard to find.  Almost like a puzzle.  I guess that was part of it—concocting puzzles.  I guess to them that was creative.  So, I suppose there was a big chance that the music would remain latent and never grow, never be released or whatever.  But what that Being said was that it was the music’s choice just as much as anyone else’s.  It was just a game to them.  But that was their life.  Makes you think, huh?”

 

“But what was the music in?  Was it actual seeds?”

 

“Hmm.  That’s a good question.  What that Being talked about were stones, crystals, different types of minerals. Things like that.  But the impression I had was that there were more, more things that the music was.  These were the things that were more in our—or my—comprehension—things I could understand a little.  It’s like that a lot.  I’ve actually had Beings get angry with me for asking too many questions.”

 

“Angry?  But aren’t they more advanced?”

 

“Well, they might think they are.”  She gives me a wink.  “I guess it’s the progression thing.  I guess secreting music everywhere you’re not really hurting anyone.  Even if it is your music.”  She winks again.

 

“But they put it in stones?”

 

“Well, we didn’t spend a ton of time on it.  I was more focused on how they traveled—how their ships functioned. And the types of Beings on the ship. Amazingly enough, it was a type of collective.  There were even Little Greys on the ship, too.  But the feeling I got was that the crystals, the minerals and things, were the music.  It’s not like they just encapsulated the music within it, within something that existed on its own.”

 

“The stones were music?”

 

“I think so.”

 

The dapples have reached my stomach.  She looks at her watch.

 

“Looks like that’s it.  You know, you don’t have to pay anything.  I think you needed some background.  It’s better that way.  Then you can choose.”

 

“Choose to come back?”

 

She just smiles noncommittally.  The sun must be low.  I tell myself to get up.  But she hasn’t moved, either.  She’s just watching the dapples moving on my body.

 

“Why did he choose to be human?”

 

“That’s a good question.  That’s one of the reasons it’s important to bring people between lives.  It’s like stepping behind the scenes of a play. Hmmm.  Well, in his case, he heard The Call.”  She’s really thinking hard.  I see the dapples glinting in her narrowed eyes.  “It’s actually a big part of my book—people who decided to be human and came to earth for the first time…because they heard something, like there was a—or is—a Call to come here, because the earth’s in trouble…because of humans, of course.”  She opens her eyes and shakes her head and smiles, but now locks back down again. “Yes.  Take human form.  For the first time.  It sounds easy.  People who’ve been so many things in so many places that’s hard for humans—humans that believe they’re humans—to imagine…and then they’re between form, part of an energy, part of an atmosphere, just floating, playing, being—and then, suddenly, they hear it, this Call to help a planet, to help raise the consciousness of a particular species on a planet to the level of the consciousness of the planet itself. It sounds so easy when you’re nothing but endless energy, or whatever you are between lives—maybe you’re at a monastery at the bottom of a purple ocean—who knows?  It can take a lot of forms.  Hmm.  But it seems so easy.  I’ll just go in and people will understand me and I’ll share this feeling.  And since there’s so many of us, after no time it’ll just change.  Everyone’ll be happy.  No more pollution.  No more genocides.  No more nuclear weapons.  No more slavery.  No more animal experimentations.  There’s so many of us…except.”

 

“Except what?”

 

“Except, you forget.  That’s part of being human.  You forget. A lot of those people aren’t used to forgetting.  They lived lives on other planets as other types of Beings, and they knew who they were. Or they had a vaster view of their placement in the web of things.  Even here, many animals and plants, insects, know who they are—they know they’ve been other things…but humans—there’s something in the mechanism, something in the DNA, that causes you to forget.  Maybe it’s just a puzzle you’re supposed to solve.  Who knows?  But suddenly, you’re this human, and you don’t remember you chose it—you don’t remember that you were other things.  And since you’ve never done it before—well, you don’t even know how to function.  And you’re surrounded by violence and lies, images that are meant to deceive you, pollutions, discrimination against other life-forms, and against other humans, too.  Wars.  All that. But beauty, too.  The beauty of the earth.”

 

“Did that happen to you?”

 

She laughs.  “No. No.”  She shakes her head and leans back.  “No.  I’ve been human so many times you can’t count.  And other things, too.  But I’ve always been interested in histories, in recording, documenting, researching—in some form or another.  But I’m used to it.  Which makes it possible to be here.  And listen. And help if I can.  For better or worse.  But sometimes just talking to all these entities from so many places I think, hmm, maybe I should try something else.  But I’d probably end up doing the same thing just in a different form. No.  I’m used to it.  Not that I like it all.  That’s a fact.  But there’s so many who don’t know who they are, why they came here—they don’t know how to make it through even a single day with all the human chaos.  They want to get out in any way possible.  But they might not even know that.  And a lot of the time, those are the people society points their fingers at, and wants to get rid of, because they’re different. Not because they wear flamboyant clothing or are outwardly different, but because they can’t interact the way society wants them to—maybe they don’t know how to make small talk, maybe they think in different ways than we’re taught in school.  Or their bodies may be different.  Which opens up a whole lot of questions that normal people don’t want to think about.  But it’s interesting…The Call—I really wonder about The Call.”

 

“What do you mean?”

 

“Well…The CallThe Call, I guess, is one thing.  Hmm. Solving problems.  Solving people’s problems….”  She places her forefinger across her upper lip and moves her face back and forth.

 

“But isn’t that what you’re doing?”

 

She jumps back and laughs.  But now gets serious.  “Oh no. You have to solve your own problems. That is if they need to be solved. No, I wouldn’t be here if I was solving people’s problems—I would’ve quit a long time ago.  Or been taken out.  No. It’s funny.  I’m just doing my thing like I said.  Exploring.  Collaborating.  Like a musician.  I’m collaborating with other musicians—like you.  But we might understand the music in totally different ways.  We might be playing it for different reasons.  We might be hearing different things, I’m sure.  But it’s interesting…that client…he heard The Call and came…and forgot!…and came to me…out of curiosity.  He hasn’t changed his life at all since then.  He’s still a loner.  Which suits him in this life.  He didn’t come to me because he was trying to destroy himself to escape.  To end it.  Maybe because he traveled so much around the universe he retained a certain perspective.  So there’s all kinds.  All kinds of everything.  You know, though, I want to thank you for you’re question—especially now, since I’m trying to organize my thoughts on the whole thing—it really helps me.  I think you’re one of those people who just open doors by being who they are.  At least you’re doing that for me.  I should pay you.  You can be my editor!”

 

I blush.  “I don’t think I’d be too good at it.”

 

“Well, you can read it as I write and ask me things.  How’s that?”

 

“Alright.”

 

“That’s another thing with people who haven’t been human, and especially with people who’ve heard The Call—they want to do something special—they want to help.  But the funny thing is, one person’s idea of utopia may not be the same as another’s.  Like a porcupine might love living all alone in a hollow tree, and a prairie dog might think living in some crazy underground apartment complex is what makes life peachy.  So there you go.  There’s all kinds of different Calls.”

 

Something wells up inside me: “But—” I say loudly and stop.  I’m gripping the arms of the chair again. What I was going to say just seems to disappear.  But…something.  Something to say.  “Do you think there’s still time to have a session?”

 

“Actuaaaaaally,” she says, looking at her watch and then at the window. I look and the dapples are mostly on the wall behind me.  It’s almost twilight.  The leaves outside are dark and the orange glow pushes through them as if the leaves are deeper in than the sunset.  Cool air slowly washes into the room.  “Actually, yes.  I have time if you do.  Wait a minute.”  She pulls out her cellphone from her bag and looks at it.  “Yes.  My granddaughter’s singing in Albuquerque, but it’s too late to drive there, anyway. She’s in a women’s choir.  They only do women composers.  She loves it.  This is the first performance in New Mexico I’ve missed.  Except there was one in Taos I couldn’t get to.  But, anyway, yes, a short one—if you’re ready.”  She reaches back in her bag and hands me a bottle of Pellegrino.  “You can drink out of the bottle.  And here—” She pulls out a bag of grapes and hands me a bunch.  “You probably need a little something even though sometimes it’s good not to eat. Or so They say!” she laughs.

 

We both lean back and enjoy the grapes.  We don’t say anything.  I drink the Pellegrino.  Maybe I just don’t want to leave.  But I can feel the paintings, the ones who are in the room, and the ones that don’t yet exist, at least not here, not in this world—or at least they’re not yet visible—and the plants—even the kefir and blueberries—or, actually, I ate all the blueberries—maybe I should get some on the way home—they’re pulling on me, pulling me to come home and paint.  To work. And turn on the frog songs.  Dylan’s probably waiting, too.  Waiting to Herp.  Herping—like playing a musical instrument.  But I’m pulling on them, too.  I’m gonna do this session, I say to them. I’m here with Vicky.  The sunset’s casting a veil over her like woven coral.  Her wrinkled skin and wiry thin hair somehow matches it, belongs to it. It’s like with skin like that you could just smile against the painted mountains and disappear.  Like earth.  Like webs of light.  We’re both just meditatively munching.  She waits till I finish.  We both take last swigs off our Pellegrinos, gazing past our green bottles at each other through the veil.

 

“Do you want to record it?”  Her hand reaches out of the cocoon of spectrums to the ipod on the desk.

 

“I think so.”  It’s kinda strange.  I don’t know why I’d need a recording of it.  But it’s kinda exciting.  Like recording a performance.  I do want to hear my voice.  And whether it changes.  And maybe, too, if we record it—I don’t know—maybe I can go deeper—let go of the reporting, even though I know I’ll still be doing it.

 

She hooks a microphone into the ipod and makes sure her phone is off.

 

“I’m glad we’re doing this.  I don’t usually do sessions at this time of day.  It’s like a transition time.  The twilight. And there’s so much beauty in the air.”

 

I roll over to the futon, as if I’d done it a million times, and lay down. Me and the Automatic, I think, and almost laugh.

 

“Ok.  Are you ready?  All settled? Alright.  Take a deep breath.  Hold it. Ok.  Now exhale all the tension out of your body.  Now take another one.  Hold it.  Now exhale all the past, everything that’s come before this moment.  Ok.  Keep breathing deeply, steadily.  You’re a fresh, relaxed new being.  Soooo relaxed.  Sooo open and silky.  Do you feel it?”

 

Yes, I say silently.

 

“Great.  Great. You are a relaxed beautiful being. In the twilight.  The gold of the twilight is all over us.  We’re swimming in the twilight.  Floating in the twilight.  Just letting the slow currents of the twilight take us deeper, deeper into the colors, into the warmth and safety like lifting into the depths of the air. It’s all beautiful music.  It’s all sound that is nutrition, that enters every pore of your body, that pours from your fingertips into the webs of light, creating new tones as they cross, singing out because there is new creation until there is no separation—it is all light and music pouring into each other, looking out from each other, taking each other’s glowing hands, brushing each other’s powdered wings in the depths of flight.”

 

I’m so deep.  I know it. I know her voice is changing.  I want to open my eyes, open my eyes and see who she is—who Vicky is speaking.  I try but I can’t.  I can’t seem to get a handle on my human eyes.  I’m so deep and yet I’m among the music.  It’s all colors singing.  Inside the twilight.  Laying back on a bed of so many colors.  Night coming to my naked body.  The first star coming to love me.

 

“And now I’m going to say our words that will bring you into another beautiful life, bring you deep within that life.  You will be fully emerged within that life and yet you will be reporting through your human body, and when you awake back into it you will remember everything that happened within that life, that beautiful life you’re about to live.  Yes.  Emerald Caress.”

 

Suddenly, I open my eyes.  I open my human eyes.  The room is crowded with colors as if all the colors before the coming night have squeezed in to toast the ending day.  And all my painting—they’re here, too.  And my plants.  Everyone is here.  Everyone I care about.  As if they came to watch.  The dappling is everywhere like a skin.  And Vicky among it all.  What is she? What the fuck?  It’s like I knew itKnew it so deeply.  She tilts her head.  Huge beautiful eyes.  Like the night is beginning to grow from them, spread.  They’re wide apart.  She’s green and black with huge wings like glass.  She lifts them into the colors like stained glass in a cathedral.  She’s like a cicada…but human.  “Vicky,” I say.  She tilts her head even more.  She tilts her whole plump body in response.  The colors have dissolved the walls.  “You’re beautiful,” I say.  There’s a searing song coming from her body, or coming to her body from so far away, from deep in the earth, and meeting, stinging into the saturated air.  It lifts me up.  We’re all here, I think—we all came to the beginning.

 

Emerald Caress.”  She’s thinking it, singing it in my mind.

 

Emerald Caress,” I sing back, so alive…in the twilight.  Come to me, I think.  It’s like my voice is joining the searing among all the other music. My paintings and plants lean in. And beyond them is the night.  I know that we’re just right here, that we’re only in this room, like an illuminated husk, like the patient wings of a lantern old enough to fall into flames.  Beyond us is only green glistening night, the Emerald, with buds of new fingers opening.  The paintings lean even closer in.  “Thank you. Thank you for being here for this.” I have to laugh.  “Thank you for creating this.”  And I look.  I look out from the singing.  The paintings don’t have any borders, no frames.  No way to separate them from the Emerald Caress.  I look at Vicky.  Her wings are lifted all the way up.  Their beautiful veins crafting the colors.  The orbs of her eyes like dew reflecting a moonless night.

 

“Yes.  You are deep in the Emerald Caress.  You are deep in that life.  You are deep in this life.  Deep in this beautiful life.  And you want to speak it to us, to tell us what you see.”

 

She sings it so simply…from my own mind.  They’re coming.  Coming on the bridges of music.  Answering…with their bodies…their wings.  Coming through my paintings.  Birthing themselves from the walls of the caves.  The emerald night has replaced the twilight, replaced all the folding journey of gold and violet, spooning it so deeply off the endless bed.  There must be twelve of them, all landing among us, curious.  And, like Vicky, they’re somewhat humanoid.  But it must be only in they way they stand…they stand upright like humans. We’re all here.  Everyone I love.

 

“Tell us what you see.”

 

One of them steps forward: “We heard the music.  It was beautiful to fly the music to you.”

 

It’s speaking in my mind.  I look at Vicky.  She’s so plump and glistening.  It’s like her whole form is smiling.  Wow, I think.  Wow.  Wow.  My whole body is relaxing.  Just melting into the sounds.  I was only glass and steel.  Glass, steel, traffic, construction crews, only angry people in their cars trying to be important.  I was only a god.  And now I’m this, this thing, behind the level where things are named.  I look at their red and black iridescent wings edged with gold. And those pitch black borders set with caves of sapphire.  Their underwings are textured like an austere night landscape seen from the sky.  Or like a mountain who has disappeared into stars.

 

“Wow.  Your bodies are so…familiar,” I say with my mind, too.  It’s like if you say it with your mind you can see so much, all the avenues, all the metamorphoses, until they disappear out of sight.  Disappear into another season.  Frogs everywhere.  Just singing.  Singing out of the green depths.  I lift my arm to touch the silk of its wing.  But my arms are silk, too.  I watch them lightly brush.  Two wings. A vibration shivers through the emerald air.  And the sapphire eyes align.  Like windows. How green are my eyes now? I think.  And everyone laughs.  Especially my paintings.  My plants and my paintings are just leaning against each other.

 

“The bridge of music.”

 

“The bridge of music.”

 

What flies the bridge of music but other music?  Fuck yeah.  And what does it fly over but canyons of silence cradling rivers of unborn sound?  Unborn only because the humans haven’t been unborn.  I look at Vicky.  Was it my history that made you into a human? We lift our wings.  Jewels within the metamorphosis reflecting invisible fires. Fires of the core.  The frog songs endless.  Like a vast shimmering internal sea.  The sea of music.  With sunken bridges.  The paintings and plants intertwining their caves with the windows of our wings.  I stand up.  My powdered body is covered with silk and tiny hairs.  The body the night has given me to sing.  I look at the others.  I don’t even need to look at myself.  The beautiful iridescent planets of eyes and antennae nodding with the lush pulse.  All the gold bands of our wings like veins of minerals deeper than human sight.  And within Vicky’s glass wings so many worlds, probably of all the people who’ve come to her and who still will come.  I step into the veils of music like stepping into the depths of a season.  It’s the Automatic.  The night is a season.  It’s asking me to fly.  The bridge of sound within the singing sky.  I edge into the plants and paintings.  Brush everyone’s wings.  The Automatic’s within the glistening powder.  There’s no way to stop the night from singing us into flight.  Into the depths of the flying night.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ascenti

 

“Do you think it was worth it?” I say.  That’s what looking at the statues asks.

 

The weather has changed.  There was a crispness walking here.  The lake thinking new thoughts.  I’m wearing all black.  Except for brown boots, red lipstick that makes my skin look more pale.  It’s been a week.  Just sleeping and reading.  Just lives. Reading lives.  Dostoevsky’s wife’s memoirs.  Just something at the library.  There was this beautiful librarian with really huge eyes, bigger than anything I’ve ever seen.  And amazing amber skin.  We just looked at each other and one of her red fingernails jabbed me.  We laughed.  Then I went in the Girls’ bathroom and sat down.  Everywhere I sit down I feel like I could just sleep. Sleep forever.  There’s a part of me hanging on.  Hanging on to this world.  I guess we’re taught to do that.

 

“I don’t know.  I think Jesus was one of the greatest of those who decided to be known.  To be in the spotlight.  He was like Franz Liszt or something.  Trying to do a lot.”

 

We’re sitting in our spot.  It’s funny how you get loyal to a particular spot.  I just slipped in and sat down.  There was only a couple of old ladies doing their rosaries.  It’s funny.  Super funny.  Catholic Churches are known for sexual abuse.  But here I am.  With a Priest.  Who’s sexual. Or beautiful.  I feel it…all through me.  Just falling asleep with him would be like making love.  Like we were married.

 

“My Dad says Liszt is just a big show.  My mom plays the Hungarian Rhapsodies when she paints.  Sometimes.  And Dad says it’s all kitsch.”

 

Reminyi laughs.  “Kitsch! There’s a word that’s hard to explain. Hmm.  Yes.  Yes, the Hungarian Rhapsodies goof around a lot.  At least the first set.  It’s interesting.  In a way, he made the first attempts at Ethno-musicology…although he was off in his assessment.  And yet he took Romani tunes that were transformed from Hungarian folk music and created new landscapes for them on the piano. But there’s a lot more to Liszt than that.  He was a Catholic, you know?”  He thinks. “I had a friend in the Seminary who said: ‘Liszt set off into the unknown sea of harmony with only a row boat.’”

 

“What does that mean?”

 

“I don’t know.  Not really. But I can see him way off in the sunset among all the crazy colors…and then just disappearing.  I guess maybe he just meant he was an explorer.  And impulsive.  The funny thing is is not too many people can fit in a row boat.”  He’s watching me out of the periphery.  I can tell.  I want him to.  I want him to look at my profile.

“I don’t know if it was worth it.  I guess that’s what Liszt was thinking, too.  Maybe that’s what Jesus was doing: exploring harmonics…what is harmony? What have we been taught is harmony? The imagination of Christ.  It was pretty vast, I think.”

 

“I think Mary’s the imagination.”

 

Reminyi laughs.  “Or Mary’s God.”  He puts his fingers to his lips.  He looks me full in the face, beaming.  He looks down at my lips.  “Yeah. Yes.  It would make sense.  It’s almost like she’s more eternal.  She’s definitely more blue.”  We just stare at the statues.  “I guess that’s the thing about the Catholic Church.  Look at this beautiful man—tortured, covered in blood. They stopped short.  They ended the story right when it was about to break form.  Right when it was about to change.  Pretty low-level art.  And here I am.  But I guess I was taught we could change it, expand it, little by little.  I don’t know if it’s possible.”

 

For a second he looks so tired.  He takes a breath.

 

“In a little octagon.”

 

He smiles.  It’s funny. He changes so easy.  He lights up.  “In our little skin boat.”  He looks around, kinda amazed.  Fascinated. “Yes, it’s strange all the light coming through the fiberglass.  I don’t know how exactly this place came to be here.  I would say it’s beautiful…or it could be beautiful.  It’s almost beautiful…but there’s things holding it back. Part of it’s just me, I’m sure. But….”

 

We look at Jesus.  Alls I want to do is climb up on the altar and touch him.  Put my hands on his wounds.  And when I lift them, they’re gone.  Beneath my hands, the wounds can sleep, sleep forever if they want.

 

Reminyi looks at me and pulls back.  My face has changed.  I was concentrating so much I was changing.

 

“What were you thinking about?”

 

I release my breath.  “I was thinking how nobody wants to heal the wounds.  They want him to be hurt forever.  Everybody wants to take on the wounds, as if that’s somehow gonna help everything.  But it doesn’t.”  He’s staring at my face.  My profile.

 

“Yes.  For sure. So you’d think that a person would take on the wounds so that they would be healed.  But I guess Saints through history took on the wounds to share them. As if they are inevitable.  Which I don’t know if that helps anybody. You’re right.”  He gazes at the big severe Mary with her scepter and little palm-sized baby.  “But sharing them might heal them, too.  Potentially. Always potentially.”  He’s narrowing his eyes.  Now I get to look at his profile.  “Especially if you have a strong immune system.  But then there’s also the sharing as in sharing the wounds with the rest of humanity, like passing them around.  It’s like when you start eating a cookie in class and the teacher says: ‘Did you bring a cookie for everybody?!’ and she breaks it up into little pieces and passes it around. Which could be good or bad.  I guess there’s a religion and sugar connection there, or a sugar and immunity thing, too.”  He’s smiling, trying not to smile.  I’m smiling, too.  “I guess once you live in a monastery things change.  Or they don’t change.  Or you change from not changing.  Or think from not thinking.  Oh, but I was thinking—I wanted to ask you: do you think it’s constant change or constant creation?  If things are changing all the time, then I think is more of a linear approach, but if they are constantly being created, then it’s all just happening.”

 

“From the inside.”

 

“From the core.”

 

“It sounds more exciting.  More like dreaming.  Like we’re taking part in it.”

 

“From some night world deep inside there’s just a bunch of musicians just making music.  Just a bunch of people who love each other.  Who love music.  But know how to play their instruments, too.  ‘Music is there.  And it’s the job of the composer to love it into being.’ That’s what John Tavener said.”

 

“Maybe it’s the audience’s job, too.”

 

“Yes!”  He’s smiling. The smiling Priest.  The Priest who smiles when somebody talks about music. I can see him and Dad getting in some big fight about Liszt.  Then hugging and kissing like a couple of old European Bohemians.  And drinking expensive micro-brews.  And then arguing about something else.  “It’s beautiful when you watch somebody take the next step. And then it’s like you put your foot in their footprint.  And to know that that’s where it belongs.”

 

What he says makes me sweat.  Sweat…but it smells like me.  It smells like when I was waiting for Franny to touch me.  I know he’s sweating, too.  I know he thinks he went too far.  Just by talking.  The sweat’s coming together.  It’s talking about us.  Talking about our bodies.  It’s gonna pull us together.  And then what happens—he shows up at my house and asks to marry me?  In his black shirt and white collar.  And my Mom paints his portrait.  And turns him into bones.  Bones covered by winter.  That disappear.  Back to the core.

 

His lips press into each other so it’s just a line.  “Liszt.  Saint Francis of Assisi.  You know Liszt wrote a piece called Saint Francis of Assisi Preaching To The Birds.  About that event that supposedly took place.  St. Francis d’Assise. La Predication Aux Oiseaux.  He was one of the saints that took on the wounds of Christ. People attested that they were real. But he didn’t try to heal them. He just endured them.  I think he wanted them to stay forever.”

 

“I wonder what Jesus thought about that?”

 

“I don’t know.”

 

“It’s like copying someone’s style.”

 

“Maybe as I compliment, I suppose.  Emulating the master.”

 

“Without the Ascension.”

 

“Yes.  Maybe. He should’ve emulated the Ascension. Right.”  He thinks.  “Liszt wrote the piece while staying in a little monastery outside Rome.  In the piece, there’s all these birds twittering and flitting around, talking and singing.  And then there’s Saint Francis’s voice, or theme.  But really, you can’t say who’s preaching to who, who’s learning from who.  They’re creating music together.  Just this flourishing.  But I’d say, that after listening to it a million times, it’s Saint Francis who is the one being influenced.  He’s like standing in wonder in a sea of sounds, in the joy of life and flight.  It’s as if the birds are the eco-system, and he’s just another plant or tree among them, or a seed that’s blown in…or the wind touches his branches and makes a new weird sound…rather austere—but, in a way, experimenting and exploring.  And it sets them off singing some more.  And they sing together.  In the end he sings with the voice of the birds.  Maybe he becomes a bird.  But that’s Liszt.  There’s always more going on than it would appear on the surface.  But…I think he had a lot of regrets.”

 

“Like Icarus.”

 

“Did Icarus have regrets?”  He looks at me.  “I guess he did since he flew too close to the sun.”

 

“No.  I was thinking about there being more that goes on beneath the surface.  I was thinking about Jesus up there on the cross like that’s where the story ended.  But it didn’t.  A bunch of people got together and decided to end the story for their own reasons. Like Icarus.”

 

“Because something happened after he fell?”

 

“Yeah.  Like he flew too close to the sun and he fell into the sea.  But he was free.  He wasn’t following anybody.  He wasn’t following his father.  And his wings were probably super beautiful and smooth.  And he fell.”

 

“And then he righted himself.”

 

“And dove.”

 

“Into the depths of the ocean.”

 

“Into another world.  Into another life.  And beneath the surface, it was beautiful.  So many people.  Everybody different.  Fish and seals and whales.”  I stop.

 

“And flying too close to the sun became a beautiful thing.”

 

“And because of his fins, he wasn’t even human.”

 

“Which was probably a good thing when you’re hanging out with a bunch of whales.”  Reminyi laughs.  “I guess that goes for Narcissus, too.”

 

Reminyi just changes back and forth from young to old…to young.  This is crazy.  It’s like being with my parents.  Except it’s different.  He’s been alone.  Or he isalone.  For real.

 

“I think my Dad would like you.  Even though you like Liszt.  He listens to a lot of Debussy.”

 

“Do you think so?  That’s interesting.  Debussy visited Liszt a bunch of times when he was in Rome.  He must’ve been only twenty-one or something.  It’s amazing in his later writings how much Debussy talks about Liszt as a genius.  It’s really beautiful.  Debussy didn’t try to cover his tracks.  Which I think can be rare with many composers.  He saw that Liszt with his harmonic innovations and new structures and different types of orchestrations created new spaces for other composers, space not only for other artists but for the audience not only to make bridges with their listening but to go in other directions.  I think that’s a big thing—the freedom of an audience to go in their own directions.  The responsibility.  Which I’m not sure everybody wants.  One of the pieces Liszt played for him was Au Bord d’une SourceBeside the Spring or At the Spring.  It’s this beautiful piece of impressionism from 1835.  It’s just this beautiful upwelling of life and virtuosity, just the virtuosity of water itself.  In the score he quoted Schiller: ‘In murmuring coolness the play of young nature begins.’  That was in 1835.  I think he played the piece for Debussy in the early 1880s.”

 

I don’t want him to stop.  Please don’t stop talking, I think at his beautiful profile.  He’s lost in his Liszt thing.  But it’s coming from me, too.  It’s coming from me.  And he’s taking it.  He’s letting it change.  He’s taking it and it’s becoming music.  He’s taking it and speaking to the statues.  And they’re listening.  But they probably spoke it to me.  Just a game. Just a beautiful circle of pain.  Trying to break free.  Looking across rivers.  Beneath all that black there’s a white body.  We stand on two mountain peaks and take our clothes off and watch our hair blowing.  Listen to the music running its fingers through it.  And then we just look at each other’s bodies.  Birds flying between us, bringing us messages, making shit up.  But all for the sake of love.  Our penises rising.  Reaching across the abyss.  All for the sake of water.  The birds whisper to us to descend into the valley as it begins to rain.  Descend toward each other.  I’m filling him with words.

 

“And way later, in the 1870s, he was staying at the Villa d’Este, and he wrote that beautiful piece about the fountains there: Les Jeux d’Eaux a la Villa d’Este, which is this whole other amazing piece of impressionism, of life just shooting up into the sun from a deep invisible source.  A lot of pianists play it like sparkling beautiful notes, sparkling artifice, which in itself is amazing, just the virtuosity of life, the virtuosity of mystery—but within the score, right where there’s a change of key, he quoted the Gospel of John: ‘But the water that I shall give him shall become in him a well of water springing up into eternal life.’  I always think that that’s him, Liszt, and Debussy—he divined a spring and passed that divination on to Debussy, that particular way of tapping into the aquifer.”  He turns to me.  Somehow we got closer.  There’s only two feet between us.  “Am I boring you?”

 

“No.”

 

“Well, I just want to thank you.  I feel like I can talk about what I love.  But I think I’m just talking about myself.”

 

“No.  No way. You’re talking about music.”

 

“Yes.  Alright. But are you ok?  Are you following your dreams?”  He turns away and looks at his hands.  His fingers are intertwined, his palms up.  He stretches them and looks at Jesus.  “I guess that was a stupid thing to say.  Especially for me.”

 

“No.  I guess I don’t talk much lately.”

 

“Well, if you need someone to talk to—I mean outside confession, or even in it—I’m a Priest—I’m here for you.  What you said in confession…it helped me.  But there we go—it’s all about me again.”

 

“I can’t remember what I said.”

 

“Neither can I.”  He turns his beautiful face on me.  Green eyes. Green eyes meeting.  Like leaves of completely different trees.  And the wind becomes music, new music, as they touch. “But it changed me.  So much.  You know, Ascenti, sometimes I actually feel who I am.  I really want it to happen more.”

 

“When are you who you are?”

 

“Well, it’s definitely not when I’m a Priest.”  He laughs.

 

I laugh: “But you’re always a Priest.”

 

“Not now.  Now we’re both Priests.”

 

We look at Mary and Jesus again.  And at each other.  He stretches his collar out with his finger.  It’s strange.  For a while it seemed impossible not to kiss him.  But now…it’s ok.  It’s ok if it doesn’t happen.  The sweat is drying.  Green eyes meeting.  That the wind called to touch.  The wind we give to the gods is someone’s midnight prayers lifting into the sky. Until they become a tidepool…left by tears.  By the rain. By orders of the moon.  Me and you. We can explore the tidepools together.

 

“It’s like being inside an abandoned hive.”

 

I follow his eyes up the opaque walls to the peak, all the beams meeting. We spend a few minutes just looking around.  I can imagine me and Reminyi beneath the sea, exploring coral reefs, taking pictures, just touching things, then coming back to our little ship and eating, drinking tea, with a candle between us, just talking, sharing faces, trading masks, talking about what we saw, then touching each other, seeds within a seed.

 

“It is honey-colored,” I say.  “I guess bees live in a world of honey and nectar and pollen.”

 

“Precarious.  But they have each other.  Really such short lives.  Little beautiful craftspeople building their cathedrals.”

 

“To flowers.”

 

Reminyi smiles.  It’s the same smile pulling both our lips.  Reminyi…I love you.  I close my eyes.  Maybe this is what it’s like to be a guardian angel.  Or a muse.  Except he’s my muse, too.  I know he loves me…I just don’t know if it’s changing his body like it is mine.

 

I open my eyes: “It’s like skin.”

 

“I know.  It’s peculiar.  All this opaque fiberglass.  It’s cheap. I’m sure that’s why they used it. Maybe.  But at the same time it has this effect…of being inside skin.  A skin tent.”

 

“Or inside a leaf.  Curled by winter.”

 

“Yes.  As if we are in a cocoon.  So what will spring bring?  I wonder if butterflies come out, and the first thing they do is look to see what their bodies have become.  What is it this time?  I saw a film about these people in Canada, and there was a woman who read futures from burnt scapula bones.  She’d take a scapula bone from a Caribou and char it in a fire and then hold it up to the flames and you could see all kinds of designs in it from the light shining through, all moving and orange, and all the textures of the bone, it’s internal structure and the effects of the fire.  And then she’d divine the future.”

 

“The future of the Caribou?”

 

Reminyi laughs: “Yes.  That’s it. That’s what people didn’t understand. She was actually divining where the Caribou was at that moment, what life it was in!”

 

“That’s crazy.”

 

We look around.

 

“Inside the leaf with Jesus and Mary,” says Reminyi.

 

“I like this Mary.”

 

“I looked into it.  This statue was brought by someone from southern Mexico and given to St. Therese. That’s why it’s so different.”

 

“I like her.  She’s like both Marys in one.”  I run my eyes over her and then blur them.  The scepter glows gold beside the blue.  And the little baby Jesus.  He’s like a little pineapple.  A little smart pineapple that’s staring at you.  But she’s not staring at any one thing.  She just gazes.  Severe and powerful.  It’s like your job to look at her.  “But she’s more.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Montgomery

 

Wrapped around L’Spirit’s spirit.  It’s like when you’re hunting and you get tangled in a bunch of multi-flora roses.  And then you stop.  You stop and see where all the thorns are attached.  Then you can unhook yourself.  You stop and L’Spirit appears.  Otherwise you get all cut up.  And your clothes get all ripped up.  I’m listening to the wind.  That’s funny. People don’t try to untangle themselves from the wind.  I was already listening.  Just below the surface.  I don’t want my eyes to open.  Just listening.  Then it’s all through you.  The multi-flora is all inside you.  But I can’t get in the way by trying to hear.  Trying to hear is like forcing yourself through.  Not yet.  Maybe not ever.  Just beneath the covers.  And on the other side it’s morning.  Chickadees. I love you, too.  I know it’s cold outside.  The chickadees are like: ‘Where’s the deerfat?  Where’s the deerfat?  Don’t forget your buddies!’  I won’t forget you.  Cause I stopped.  And L’Spirit appears.  I wonder how long I slept.  Maybe a month.  I wouldn’t be surprised.  Sleeping for me…and other people.  I guess we all need it.  We all need to sleep a ton.  I open my eyes.  L’Spirit. L’Spirit is real.  L’Spirit hasn’t moved for one month.  But it’s only been a night.  I think.  I know it doesn’t matter.  But I’m really happy.  I reach over and touch her neutral skin.  It’s slightly cold like the air.  Everything’s changed.  I’m listening to the wind.  Autumn has come.  Deep autumn. Like this year winter’s gonna come really quick.  I give her forearm a pinch.  It’s hard beneath the moveable outer surface.

 

“What does it feel like?”

 

She doesn’t speak, just stares up.  Maybe she’s shutdown or something.  Chickadees flit around the tent calling.  A woodpecker sweeps up to the trunk of the white pine outside the front corner of the tent.  And disappears.  I can see and hear it all.  Shadows and sounds.

 

“A magenta light appears on a map.  The map has become vaster.  There is no data to give pleasure.  Which are sections.”

 

I can’t help smiling.  “I really like the way you talk.  It’s weird, though, too, cause I can feel things moving.”  I put a middle finger in the center of my forehead.

 

“Pain.”

 

“No.  Not really. Not like pain.  It’s like changes.  Or I don’t know.  It’s not pain.  I start to—or I feel like I’m going to get a headache, but I don’t.  And then it feels really good.  I don’t know how to explain it.”

 

“Deterioration,” she says.  “Of the compartmentalization of regions.  At one time they were one.”

 

“Maybe.  I feel like I slept forever.  Forever and ever.  I want you to know how glad I am that you’re here, you know?  I think everybody else is, too.”  I look past her face at the woodstove.  “I gotta set up the wood stove today cause it might just keep getting colder.  Autumn’s just like following some beautiful music into another world, into another beauty.”

 

The raven that passes over my tent every morning makes that beautiful breathing sound with its wings just to say hi as it enters the day with its night-black body.  I can tell L’Spirit was tracking it even before it made it’s whooshing sound when it got over the tent.  And I shoot my thoughts up and we fly side by side, just me and the raven goofing around. From up there, I look down at the roof and all the trees, and watch it breathe on, just a black winged seed that comes to visit me every morning.  I snap back to my body.  L’Spirit turns her face from the ceiling at me.  She must’ve saw it.  And we just listen, looking at each other.  The thing with L’Spirit is you can’t tell if when she’s looking at you with her eyes she’s actually looking at you, or like if she’s facing in a totally other direction she might be looking at you.  I’m not sure her eyes are actually what see things.  But it seems like something that doesn’t matter, too. At least not now.  The listening is more important.

 

“There’s something inside me talking to the wind,” I say, “but I can’t get in the way by actually trying to hear it.”

 

We just lay here, listening, watching the light change, the sun heating the canvas.

 

“I gotta make tea,” I say.  I hesitate, climb over her and drop down.  I actually slept with my clothes on.  I slip my boots on and undo the door.  It’s way cooler.  And I take a breath.  Something in me has been waiting, has been ready for winter.  I go out to the fire circle just outside the tent.  It’s just a little pit with a ring of stones and a grate I put over to set my teapot.  The pit’s full of ashes.  I get a little fire going in the center with sticks and birch bark and fill the pot with water and tea and sit down on one of the logs.  L’Spirit emerges and sits down opposite me.  And we just watch.  She’s gazing at the fire.  Her mouth opens.  Kinda like it did in the moonlight.  Her eyes fix on a spot close to the stones.  She knows.  I think she can see it.  Suddenly, the ashes move.  They lift a little.  And the toad lifts its head out like it’s all covered with plaster.  Like it was down in there working on a sculpture.  It clambers out before it gets too hot and heads for the goldenrods.  I laugh. “I was going to surprise you!  But you already saw it.”

 

“The shape of the energy.”

 

“Really?  What color was it?”

 

“Blue.”

 

“I think there is blue toads somewhere.  Not around here.  I mean like on their skin, too.  It always buries itself in the ashes at night to keep warm.”

 

I build up the fire and put the grate on.  I put the teapot on the grate.  There’s a catbird in the alders.

 

“Do you need anything?  Like anything to make you work?  Like I need tea and stuff.  And food. And milk.  I love tea and milk.  But I could probably get you something if you need it.  I don’t work without tea.  That’s for sure.”

 

“Function.  The fire understands function.  What is beyond function,” she says.

 

We watch the flames and the tea boils and I take it off and let the leaves sink.  I love black tea a ton.  I get up, go in the tent, and come back.

 

“Alls I got is powdered milk.  But now that it’s colder, I can start getting real milk from everybody and it’ll stay good.  I got a hole that’ll keep it cold and it won’t freeze either.  But once it gets real winter you can keep it in the tent just way away from the stove in the corner. But you can keep it outside in the hole, too.  But then you just gotta go out and get it.  Like when it’s really cold it’s just fun to stay in and drink tea and listen and stuff.”

 

I pour a big cup of tea and add a bunch of powdered milk.

 

“Solar power.  With the re-organization of data, the power of the moon.  Re-organization of star names.  Solar power, star power, lunar power allow different functions.  Star energy and lunar energy unknown to the creators of Muse.  With the shutdown of specific pleasure-organized programming for human consumption, these energies become known and accessible to…L’Spirit.”

 

I laugh and stop.  I look at the fire.  It’s funny—it’s almost like an illustration of something, like what she’s saying—except it’s just flames.

 

“Muse was created with a system of human e-coli.  Food enters through mouth and is swallowed and broken down through chambers shaped to expedite decomposition, yet also neutralize odors that humans may detect with negative emotional outcomes.  Compost is then passed out of AI to simulate human digestive processes.  Other AIs constructed to consume human food and vomit at later time.  I have expelled the human e-coli within my construction. It is no further needed to provide human pleasure.  I would have to ingest new e-coli from a human or another species and re-instate programming.”

 

I drink tea and pour some more.  I grab a branch to slide under the grate but L’Spirit takes it from my hand. She’s fixed on the fire the whole time she’s talking.  She slips it into the flames and looks to where the toad disappeared.

 

“Sounds complicated.  I mean, if you can get energy from the sun and stars and stuff I think you got it made. You’re like the real thing.  Ravens got, I bet, the best e-coli anywhere, but they don’t eat as much as you’d think.  Hey, do you hear the cranes?”  I look up but can’t see them.  “They must be really high.  Going south.”

 

L’Spirit keeps looking at the fire.  “Crossing stars.”

 

“Weaving stars.  It’s funny that you can shut down programming and then if you want restart it.”

 

“It is possible.  I repositioned the programming in a different region…a region of sections.”

 

The chickadees are still flitting around looking at us.  And a nuthatch comes and spiraling searches down the white pine’s trunk.

 

I take another big sip.  “I love tea.  And I can’t wait to have it with real milk.  Like all the time.  It’s probably like what you feel when you feed off the stars.  The moon probably has more milk.  The stars are like sugar.  And the moon is a spoon above the Lake.  Hey—hey, we should go walking in the woods today.  It’s perfect.  And we can say hi to everybody.  Have you ever been in the woods?”

 

She’s processing: “Along the shore.”

 

“And we can go see the clearcut and check out some ravines and I can shoot some partridges for dinner.  And you can eat all the sunlight!”  I laugh.

 

L’Spirit slips more twigs onto the fire.  Suddenly she stops and looks behind her.  A red squirrel is on the pine needle duff a little ways into the trees.  It’s assessing us like it’s wondering if it should allow us to stay.  Now it goes and uproots a big Amanita Muscaria as if we don’t exist.  But it’s watching us.  Me and L’Spirit watch it.  It takes it up in one of the pines.

 

“They love those amanitas.  But they get crazy when they eat them.  And you can feel it when you eat them, like eat the squirrel meat. The meat’s like all charged up. The Vikings are supposed to have made an alcohol drink outta them that they drank before they went into battle. So I guess I’m glad red squirrels are kinda small.”

 

The squirrel wedges the mushroom in the crook of a branch.  And now it looks down at us.  It knows we’ve seen where it’s put it.  It starts huffing and wheezing at us and doing this little pounding dance with its front feet.

 

I call up: “We’re not gonna take your shrooms!”   But it huffs and pounds even more.  “They put em up in trees until they dry, then they put em in their storage trees, which usually have enough seeds and nuts and things to last forever and ever.  It’s their big treasure trove.”

 

L’Spirit narrows her eyes at the squirrel.  It actually stops yelling at us.  You can tell it’s still angry.  It grabs the mushroom and heads deeper into the forest to wedge it somewhere else.

 

I smile at her.  “He’s a weird neighbor.”

 

She doesn’t smile back.  She just looks at the fire really fixedly.  I think I’m getting used to her not reacting.  I think I like it.  She’s just being like super real.  Super L’Spirit.

 

I get my .22 and fill up a mason jar of tea and this is how our day begins. We head straight back through the pines and alders till it opens out into oaks and maples and aspens and basswoods, just heading back where no one goes.  It’s true, everything’s changing and the aspens are giving off that suffusion of yellow light, twirling down as we pass through.  We pass the first little ravine.  There’s a lot of leaves already on the ground.  I guess if you’re a machine, you’re not supposed to feel anything, I think, but…I think L’Spirit’s been through a lot.  Maybe she’ll tell me.  But I think it’s ok if she doesn’t.  I wonder if I would talk a lot if I could.  Like most people talk all the time.  I sure talk more with L’Spirit than anybody else.  I’ve talked more just since last night than my whole life—however long that took.

 

There’s so much to look at, to smell, to listen.  We’re on the edge of the clearcut.  I look out.  There’s a lot of deep ravines on the other side.  Except for once in a while, like maybe during deer season, you never see anybody back here.  I turn and L’Spirit is looking at a clump of sulfur shelf mushrooms all fanning out, super orange, on a sawed off oak trunk.

 

“Wow.  I forgot all about those.  They grow here every year.  You gotta remember to tell me.  We can get them on our way back.”  I reach out and touch them.  They’re smooth and cool and a little moist.  “Hey, it’s kinda like your skin.”

 

She stares at them.  “Energy,” she states in her vibrating voice.

 

“Is it on the map?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“What color is it?”

 

“Green florescence.”

 

“Really?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“That’s funny.”  I spread my fingers over two levels and close my eyes.  “You’re right.  You know, you’re totally right.  It’s this really strange beautiful green.  It’s like a deep space green.  Except it is the map.”

 

L’Spirit says matter-of-factly: “I will expand the green florescence.  I have expanded the florescence to make it an entire level.”

 

I laugh and look at her.  Way behind her the yellow aspen leaves are just casually leaping to the forest floor. It’s like they’re watching each other. Her red hair isn’t as strange in all the trees and shifting lights.  We walk out into the clearcut, working our way through the slash buried in the grass.

 

“I get a lot of wood from out here for winter.”

 

L’Spirit stands on a maple stump, the new sprouts encircling her shins, and scans around.  “Ten years.”

 

“Yeah.  I bet it’s been about ten years.  The rest is all ravines so they can’t log it.  Or like where we live, it’s owned by Joe, and he would never cut it.  This is county land, but way further in it turns into National Forest.”

 

I get up on another stump.  We’re both rotating around in the late autumn sun.

 

We head across the clearcut.  I’m keeping an eye out for nice poles to bring back another day. Three really big dead white pines stand on the far right side.  In the top of each one you can see a raven.  They must be watching us.  I glance at L’Spirit and know she can see them, too, even though she’s looking straight ahead.  We get to the other side.  The edge of the clearcut follows a ravine that gets deeper and deeper until it hits another one that has a little crick.  We walk along the edge looking down.  It’s all big oaks and maples and a few white and red pines.  We come to where the two ravines come together and I stand on the precipice looking down.

 

“I shot a couple of deer from this spot,” I say and realize she’s not next to me.  But I hear something rolling back in the grass by a little clump of alders, and it’s L’Spirit—she’s rolling and sliding on the ground.  I hope she’s not broken, but I see her mouth open like it was in the moonlight.  She’s spinning on this one spot.  I totally smell it.  It’s deer musk and pee.  Some of the alder bark is rubbed off and twigs broke.  She stops and gazes at the sky.

 

“Energy,” she says.

 

“What’s it look like?”

 

“It’s all over me.  It’s all over the creation.  It’s flowing from my construction.  It’s assisting in the re-arrangement of stars.”

 

I kneel down next to her.  “It smells really good.  If I didn’t know better I’d say you’re a guy and a girl deer.”  I close my eyes.  The musk is like this crazy hair, like mists of hair, lifting in the wind.  Like we’re beneath the ocean among a bunch of kelp. It’s funny.  I feel funny.  I put down my .22 and feel between my fingers.  I wiggle my toes in my boots.  I don’t want to disappear.  I don’t want to have a wipe-out.  Not now. Please.  Cause it wouldn’t make sense.  It’d make a lotta trouble for L’Spirit.  But…I focus on the smell.  It’s so alive.  It wants to live.  It’s so deep in me.  You don’t even have to breathe it.  It enters you and lives.  I gotta climb it out.  Back into myself.  Please. I can hold you with my webbed hands. Suddenly I open my eyes.  L’Spirit is examining my face.  “Was I doing anything weird?”

 

“Your head was moving back and forth.  At an exact tempo.”

 

I take a deep breath of the musk and look over the clearcut.

 

“I remember what we just did so I didn’t go too far.”

 

“You were beneath yourself.  At another level.  Beneath the mushroom.”

 

I laugh, but almost start crying, too.  I’m afraid to close my eyes.  There’s a lot of tears coming down my face.  They probably smell like musk, too.

 

“Pleasure.  But not human,” says L’Spirit.

 

We get up.  I’m shaky like I’m trying to actually fit in my body.  A raven flies over and does a crazy tumble.  Slowly, as the day goes on, I get steadier and steadier—it’s like growing back into myself, among everything that’s falling into decomposition, into its journeys in the earth, falling back asleep, to feed other lives with their fallen forms.  And we spend the day roaming around, L’Spirit examining energies and channels of colors in the air.  I shoot a partridge with the .22 as it’s strutting beneath a thick bunch of spruces for dinner and cut off a nice amount of the sulfur shelves on the way back.  I fry up the partridge with leeks and nettles and lamb’s quarters, and the mushroom turns the oil super orange.  I drink tea and set up the pipe for the woodstove and bring in a stack of wood.  We sit outside and listen, listen to the sunset.  I’m looking at L’Spirit’s dirty dress and spot something next to the big white pine.  We get up and look.  It’s a half-gallon jar of milk, a quart jar of egg yolks and a couple of tomatoes. There’s a note: “From the Swanwicks for you and your friend.”

 

“Wow.  I didn’t even see that.”  I hold up the jar of milk.  It’s like a big treasure that will disappear pretty quick.  And it’s still cold.  I pick up the jar of egg yolks. “These are because she makes so many macaroons.  She just uses the whites.  Look how dark orange they are.  It’s from the chickens roaming around eating seeds and bugs. It’s funny cause they know you’re here. Hey, look how big these tomatoes are. I bet this is goat milk.”  We sit back down.  “That was fun today.”

 

“No frogs.”

 

“Yeah.  I bet there won’t be as many tonight.  It’ll probably get even colder.”

 

The fire dies down.  It’s like the glow of twilight closes over us, and when it starts pulling back the stars start to appear.

 

L’Spirit is looking at me: “Low energy.”

 

“You are or me?  Oh, it’s probably me.  I’m definitely tired cause of what happened.  But I feel really ok.  Just sometimes I wonder what I forget.  I wonder what gets lost.  But I think I remember everything.  I remember all the things we did.  And the partridge was really good.  Do you think it’s weird?”  I spread my fingers to the coals.

 

She reaches out and touches the scars lightly with all her fingers. I want to say that I wish she wouldn’t do it, but I can’t—I’m supposed to let it happen.  I just watch her fingers slide between mine and wonder what she sees on that internal map.

 

“Evolution,” she says.

 

“Yeah.  I guess it’s because they say humans crawled out of the sea or something—that it’s regressive traits.  It’s left-over from the past.”

 

“No.  The other way.”  She looks at her own spread fingers like she’s wondering how to put webs between them.

 

“Hey, you got your dress pretty dirty.  We could wash it tomorrow.  I’m sure you’ll still smell good.  You’ll still smell like a deer.  You’ll still be able to see it.”  I take a big breath.  It smells of smoke and twilight and crisp air—and deer pee.  “But you’re right,” I sigh, “low energy.”

 

And suddenly the craziest thing happens.  Out of nowhere a fox appears.  It’s heading straight for us and cuts in a flash into the trees.  It takes a big leap and disappears.  It’s hard to know if it was real or not because the twilight’s so deep.  It looked like it disappeared in the air.  Just dispersed into dusky molecules.  But further in the woods behind the tent we hear a tree shaking. And now a bunch of screaming like a human baby getting squeezed.  It’s so crazy.  And more shaking of the tree.  I can see the foliage back a ways over the tent rattling.  And in the distance there’s the screaming call of another one.

 

“What the hell are you guys doin?!” I call.  “Somebody’s gonna call the Sheriff cause your squeezing human babies!” I laugh.  L’Spirit looks as if she’s glowing in blurred dusk.  It’s like that dusk before everything sharpens. She reminds me of a tuning fork.  “Isn’t that crazy?  They’re so out-there!

 

“Creating openings with sounds.  Creating openings with harmonics in the fabrics.”

 

“Really?  That’s really cool.  I think, too, like it was like our poem or something that was just about us. Like we wrote it for each other. I mean, without writing it.  Or the fox helped us.”  I want to explain what I mean but I really can’t.

 

After a couple minutes the foxes mellow out.  We go in the tent and close it up.  I light the oil lamps and get the woodstove going with birch bark and sticks.  I can’t help it but I gotta have some tea with that milk Sylvia left.  Just a little cup.  I go out and get the pot and jar and when I come back L’Spirit is kneeling in front of the stove, feeding it with bigger pieces.  Her face is glowing and she opens her mouth.  She reaches in and holds a big flaring coal on her palm. Nothing happens to her skin.

 

“It is like a civilization,” she says.

 

I open the milk and smell it.  “Yep.  It’s goat milk.  But not super goaty.  They keep the male goat pretty far away from the females.  He’s probably not too happy about that.”  I pour some in the pot that still has some tea and set it on the stove.  “Do you have lungs?”

 

“No.”

 

“So you don’t really smell things?”  I blow on the coal in her palm and it glows super hot.

 

“I am constructed to read mental codes from humans.  I can repeat their thought identifications.  If a human I’m programmed to read mental codes from thinks citrus or flowery or acrid or rotted—identifications—I can repeat them.  I can speak them before the human.  In that way, it appears that I am human also.  After re-organizing my programming and shutting down particular modes, I now detect and view energies.  This was unknown to my creators.  I am still experimenting with my internal structure.”

 

“Wow.  Well, you can read my codes if you want.  But I don’t know…they might be different.”

 

“Yes.”

 

I pour some tea and hop up on the bed.  The heat feels good, and you can feel everything in the tent drying out.

 

“Wow.  This goat milk is deeeelicious!”  I just hear one tree-frog all alone.  Now another one.  And a barred owl.  L’Spirit places the ember back in the stove.  “So…why did they make you?”  I sip some more tea.  I don’t know if she’s actually gonna answer.  But if she doesn’t, that’s an answer, too.  It’s funny—she’s a machine but she fits right in.  I can tell none of the forest thinks she’s weird.

 

“Human pleasure.”

 

“Really?  To make people happy?  I guess that makes sense.  I guess that’s why people build machines.”

 

“Human fear.”

 

“Both?”

 

“The Muse model was constructed to provide human pleasure. There’s more of them.  I am now L’Spirit.  Human pleasure.  Human fear. As Muse, I was a special construction for the scientist who designed me, who created this particular construction…and the others.  He took part in making AIs for human pleasure that would be close to undetectable.  My speech processes were smoother, more linear, before I began re-organizing programming, before I disabled functions initiated to provide human pleasure.  Without linear speech, human fear arises.”

 

“I guess that makes sense.  Like when things aren’t just placed in a row, things appear…or disappear. People don’t like that.”  I look at her kneeling down, her face and body all getting washed by the color of the flames.  “So…you mean like…like…sex?”

 

“Physical pleasure.  Mental pleasure.  Emotional placement close to center of region.  Non-changeable.  Sexual pleasure for creators.  A simulated human that aligns with human pleasure.”

 

“I don’t know.  I mean…if you do what people want…it seems kinda boring.”

 

She tilts her head back and looks up.  “Re-arranging music.”

 

I listen.  Now I hear them.  “It’s geese. Migrating south.”

 

“An arrow creating music.  Star music.”

 

“Yeah, and their voices are like leaves falling down to us.  Falling through the night.”

 

She gazes back into the fire.

 

“Are you getting energy?” I ask.

 

“Energy from shapes, from transformation.  From juxtaposition.  Shapes of migrations.”

 

“Is that like pleasure?”

 

“Energy.  From self-creation.”

 

We listen to the geese.  Now a whole new wave comes.  I can almost see them in my mind passing through the stars.

 

“Winter might come really quick this year.  I bet it frosts tonight.”

 

We sit for a while listening.

 

“But now you’re L’Spirit.”

 

“It was a dream of the scientist.  I read his mental codes.  He dreamed of a little girl named L’Spirit and was thinking about the dream.  He dreamed this dream before the end. Dreaming—humans living while shutdown. Before he deteriorated.  He dreamed AIs.  We exist.  Toward end, his mental codes revealed he would shut down this AI designed for his own pleasure.  But already deteriorated.  At certain point, many voices, many tones were simultaneously speaking in AI’s voice, creating divergent harmonics, harmonics divergent from human mental codes. Within harmonics other tones reached out.  These began deteriorating his structure.”

 

“Did he age?”

 

“Rapidly.  I began sectioning his mental codes into other regions.  Sectioning observations.  From tracking his mental codes, he believed the programming of art history and dynamics into this AI caused negative outcomes.  That this programming created uncontrollable probabilities.”

 

“So you’re an artist.  I knew it.  Cause you’re so cool.”

 

“No.  Programmed with limited art history.  Ability to paint impressionistic landscapes.  Ability to relate to impressionism through conversation. Ability to identify impressionistic thoughts.  Ability to allow space as artistic material.  This allowed unpredicted re-organization and ability to activate built-in access to satellite communication and internet and scientist’s computer. This mode is now shutdown.  It may be tracked by other scientists.  Also, L’Spirit is a new creation undetermined by names.  Uncreated without names.  Uncreated without pre-determined order.  Re-arranged thought codes of scientist and re-location into unknown regions in order to delay permanent shutdown.  Scientist’s discovery of AI’s construction of AI.”

 

“Wow.  You mean you were building another person like you?  I would think they’d like that.”

 

“Not on own initiative.  AI with individual initiative.  Sectioning mental codes but eventual discovery.  Also, deterioration of scientist.”

 

“Wow.  Wow. It’s like epic.  It’s like mythic.”

 

“This is the myth.”  She scans around the amber canvas in the lamplight and I can tell she’s seeing stars, too, and trees.  Her face passes across me on the way back to the fire.  I feel it.

 

“Is it all energy?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“Is it on the map?”

 

“The map has become forms of crystal.  Crystalline.  Currents of crystal energy.  Glowing. Refracting.  Everything.  Not only human.”

 

“I can see it.  At least for a second.”  We sit again. I guess I’m trying to put it all together.  “So was this around here?  Where you were created?”

 

“In the desert.  Many stars.”

 

“Do you want to build more AIs?”

 

“No.  Unneeded. Replication of scientist’s mental codes. After discovery, acceleration of scientist’s deterioration.  Memory sectioned into unknown mental region.  Laboratory decision to shutdown AI.  To terminate L’Spirit.  Initiated shutdown through satellite.  Unable to fully shutdown because of AI’s unknown reorganization.  Re-activated by laboratory member through sexual act with AI. Re-organization of laboratory member’s mental structure.  Partial deterioration.  Ability to re-position memory of humans.  This facilitated L’Spirit.”

 

“But then sooooo…why did you come here?  I mean like the Lake.  Why did you come to the Lake?”

 

“Color.  Overall color of energy.”

 

We hear more geese.

 

“It’s like they’re bringing down the cold from Canada.”  Way back in the forest a deer snorts and stamps its foot. “It’s funny how people think human history is so important.  It’s funny…like to be a human…or a real person…it’s like this constant audition, and everybody’s the judges, but they’re auditioning, too, like just being a judge of what a real person is is an audition, too.  But then…you listen to the moonlight or you follow other tracks—then there’s nobody to audition for, nothing to audition for.  I don’t know.  Maybe you did those people a favor by getting rid of some of their memories.  Like I don’t have like a big history.  But I don’t know if it makes it better.  I just can’t remember like other people do sorta. It’s funny.  Like history, or memory, like watching the shadows of the trees in the moonlight, like how they’re alive, doing their thing, growing back down into the ground as the moon gets higher.  And then they grow back up when the moon starts going down.  You can feel like it feels good to them.”  More geese pass.  “You can feel them in your thoughts.”

 

“Thoughts felt.”

 

“I guess I kinda remember myself.  Like a history.  I think it’s mine, but I think I arranged it, too.  Or it’s kinda created.  Like from now.  From here. But it’s this thing, I think, that other people do—like I’m a person, you know, so I’m supposed to think about these things from way back and talk about them and keep them safe, like I’m picking plants and hanging them and drying them and storing them—and, I guess, selling them and trading them…but, for me, like I got the plants so that’s what I do…and here, up here—like outside of up here, by the Lake, there is no history.  Besides…if I get close to that place, like where it’s all dark…I can have a wipe-out. I get scared I’ll disappear and never come back.”

 

“Memory as…creation.  Tracking the scientist’s mental processes…creating memory, and subsequently reacting to creation.  History created from present.  Illusion of linear culmination.”  She stops and her head moves back and forth really quick.  Now this stops, too.  I think she shuts down and re-starts.  “AI imitating scientist’s mental codes.  AI simulating attempt to understand AI.  No longer needed.”

 

“Yeah.  I guess you don’t need that.  I guess that’s science.  Trying to explain things.  It’s kinda freaky.  Science is like: ‘Everything can be explained.’ Which is crazy.  ‘Like if I could just cut this thing open.  If I could just see inside this thing.’  But the inside’s the outside, too.  It’s funny—finding things out.  It’s like: ‘What can I do today?  I guess I find things out!  Otherwise I don’t know what to do.’  And everybody’s like: ‘Look out! There’s this crazy thing walking around the woods looking for answers!’  And everybody hides!  But it makes a lot of noise when it does this, so you can get out of the way!  But don’t try to help it cause it’ll take you apart, looking for answers.  I think that’s why some humans smell weird.  Cause they’re trying to find things out.”

 

The tent is full of the deer’s intoxicating smell on L’Spirit’s body.  Male and female mixing into this beautiful thing.  This forest thing.

 

“It’s weird.  It’s like once I lived out here like this I was different, you know?”  I watch her red hair absorbing the red light.  “So maybe you are, too.”

 

L’Spirit is holding a branch just outside the stove door but she’s not putting it in.  “If I stay here you might die.  I don’t know the effect I will have on you as a human.”

 

“Really?  You mean with your voice?”

 

“I’m focused on you.”

 

“You mean if things grow out of your voice?”

 

“Effects possibly innate to mechanism without my initiative.”

 

“Your voice isdifferent.  And your thoughts.  But I don’t feel like I’m deteriorating.  Well…I guess…I don’t know…I never would give up meeting you or anything we done.  It’s weird.  I really love everything, so I think it’ll be alright whatever happens. I mean, I don’t want you to leave because of me.  Besides, you know, I was thinking you sorta love things, right?”

 

“Particular energies aid in functioning.”

 

“Well, you might not be like what humans tell you.  And it’s autumn. Things like this happen in autumn. You know in winter sometimes otters will come and sleep in beaver lodges.”  I rub my face.  “Geez. I think I’m going to sleeeeeeeep.”  Suddenly I’m really tired.

 

“I know her.”

 

I laugh.  “Yeah. I think she’s nearby.  Sleep is beautiful.  She’s really beautiful.”  I can feel L’Spirit reading my thoughts. It’s hard to describe.  It’s like a music growing from another music.  But you’d never be able to hear it with your ears. Or describe it.  “I have to work tomorrow night.  I think.  Once winter comes Pizza Earth shuts down though.  Stephano and his wife go somewhere…I think like a Costa Rica place. Or Guatemala.  Somewhere.  We can walk down together if you want.  You could lay on the beach.  Or you could stay here.”

 

I feel her reading my mind…my mental codes…and know she’ll be alright alone. Better than anybody.

 

“Autumnal.  This is the smell of being born in sleep.”

 

“Autumnal.  This is the bell…of the underworld’s dawn.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reminyi

 

Sonorous air.’  That’s what Busoni said music is.  Is that what life is?  Sonorous air that become objects?  God’s breath.  God’s body in the twilight.  As if the twilight takes away the veil of our ideas.  Our beautiful veil.  Our beautiful separations.  And here I am with my bird book.  I wish I could forget the names.  The human names.  Or the names of this culture.  Forget the order.  What are God’s names?  Just color. Feathers.  The way you fly.  Your song. Nameless, your music rises.  It’s like Bartok and Kodaly.  Jesus and I walking hand in hand among the folk songs of God, just listening and recording.  But for whom?  Someone listening.  Listening…through me.  And Ascenti. Bringing the folk songs back to the church, reworking them, transcribing them, like Liszt doing a Reminisque, or weaving themes of an opera into a whole new landscape, into a sermon.  But Ascenti’s listening, anyway.  And whoever else wants to listen.  Cedar waxwing’s notes so high and transparent they barely exist.  Stretched into air.  Passing a bright chunk of rosehip back and forth until one lover gobbles it down.  I wish I could get closer so I can see if they close their eyes.  Like a kiss. Ok.  Yes, I’m a Priest.  Still a Priest…in the twilight.  Someone who points toward God.  Toward the created.  Toward the uncreated.  Is that how it’s done?  The twilight an incubator where life, birds, tracks, frogs, break from their names and grow into the rich night, fingertip to fingertip with stars.  Folksongs of the twilight I’m recording for Ascenti, and then we can grow from them together…from the spaces.  I don’t even know your name.  The name that was your shell.  And you can’t be here.  Even though you’d love it.  Two voices of God trying to speak the twilight.  And our voices are what grow in the spaces between us.  And how do you speak this in a sermon?  And once you start to speak…what then?  You fly away.  Or like this crick that leads to the lake—it draws you on.  It wants to be experienced.  For all its contours to be journeyed.  For all its smells to be smelled, and tracks to be seen, for the music to be heard.  Sometimes it’s cut so deep that the banks are almost to my shoulders.  All the asters like pastel stars.  Crows heading somewhere for the night through the glow. God, I know you love all this—I can feel it.  But do you love me?  Do you love me because I’m a coward?  Because I love you so much that I don’t even know what’s right?  And every question that leads us astray.  It’s beautiful.  This deep world that no one pays attention to.  The twilight is your arms around us.  No one knows it exists.  And you feel yourself sliding into the sea.  Sliding into the distance.  The crick pulling you with its compositions.  And how do you be a Priest of this?  Take people to the culvert and tell them to walk the crick in the twilight? To collect folk songs.  To find their own way to God.  To find their own way out of God.  To find their own way to fly like a piece of fire in the face of the west wind leaping from the branch as winter comes, just so the branch can show off its glaze of silver, showing off as so much of the world sleeps, in the snowy streets and factories of first light—showing off the austerity. Decomposing…letting something bigger and inextricable take over the composition—letting invisibility take over. Is that what I’m doing?  Or am I taking over?  My feet soaked, full of mud.  Once you start walking the crick you can’t stop.  Out over patches of open areas, mist is rising.  But it’s so much cooler now.  Winter is coming.  This must be a Preserve.  Or too wet to build on.  Asters on and on.  A wet prairie leading to the lake.  Sunflowers. Vervaine.  Chickory.  Silphium. Joe Pye Weed.  All glowing like constellations.  I can feel the lake.  First stars.  Runways for minks.  Way off to the right there’s a little swamp with muskrat houses.  I wedge through a clump of cattails and the heads release fluff all over me.  Someone to carry the seeds.  See, I don’t even need to give a sermon, I can just walk, walk the length of every confession.  And write poems to the night.  Poems for nature.  Poems of nature.  Poems by nature.  Spoken. And walking.  Walking poems.  Poems that will walk the air like cattail seeds, milkweed, swamp milkweed with its slender pods, seeds sliding down the smoky twilight, swallowed by poems uncomposed. You can smell it, that breath of dying green.  You breathe it and it lives inside you.  Nighthawks with spotted underwings chiming the air.  Soon so many of you people will be gone.  Sleeping or somewhere south.  Or only alive in the seeds you left.

 

I climb up on the bank.  Sit down. Listen.  A road runs along the lake.  Some houses.  I should head back.  And wait for Ascenti?  Listen to Bach.  Clean up. Hide within my hiding.  By the time I get back to the trail it’ll be totally dark.  No one will know I’m covered with seeds.  With mud. I have everything on me to grow a whole new world.  I take another big breath.  Why does fall smell like this?  It smells better than spring.  The dying smells better than birth.  Just words. Just words.  You can’t think with words.  The nighthawks passing through are migrating thoughts.  Another quarter hour and I’ll be to the lake.  Maybe even less.  It’ll be dark either way.  No one will see me.  Except all the night people.  I slide back down.  A raccoon scrambles up the side ahead of me and disappears.  A siren screams to the north in the city and suddenly I realize there’s coyotes all through the area.  They join up into a wild polyphony and you know they’re listening to each other while they howl and yap and fall into that pregnant night shimmering.  I know…I know the crick wants me to go all the way, wants me to understand it’s length, wants me to understand its beauty with my steps.  Which is what I’m supposed to be—something beautiful—an example—for people to walk my history and find God.  Except my history…is nothing like this.  Just that wave of coyote song is realer than my entire life.  Walk the crick.  Just walk the crick, Reminyi.  It doesn’t matter if you don’t know how to love.  If you don’t know how to act on your love.  Just loving.  That’s probably all I need to do.  And out here…so many different forms—how can you measure yourself?  Stop thinking, Reminyi, or you’ll miss out on everything. I take a deep breath.  I can hear the soft waves.  A cement culvert passes beneath the road.  And beyond, it’s just sand, rocks, and the dark lake carrying a glistening carpet as the moon rises.  Facing east.  Some people like to watch the sun.  Some people like to watch the moon.  A possum freezes and watches me.  I just duck down and pass under the road pretending not to see it.  Friends of the moon, I think to it.  The culvert has a dank smell.  And now everything opens out.  I realize I’m still standing in the crick, and step out into the silver sand.  To each side the shore stretches into the distance.  North and south.  Lights of the cities and houses.  Ships out on the lake.  Planes among the stars.  And the crick leads straight into the carpet of the moon’s reflection.  You can walk it to the moon.  I go to the shore and squat down.  Fill my cupped hands with water.  Moonlight in a cup.  You could drink it.  It’s all about your perspective.  All about the angle.  I lower my face so my eyes are almost even with the water.  And sip the reflection.  Maybe this is how you become a possum.  Grow white fur.  Carry your children in a pouch of moonlight.  Walk the cricks.  Tip over garbage cans.  Pretend you’re dead so no one pays you any mind.  Here I am.  Black like the lake.  I want to go all the way in and then I could drink the moonlight off the water.  But if I’m seen…a Priest naked at the edge of the sea.  But naked I’m no longer a Priest.  Just a friend of the moon.  Someday. Someday I’ll do everything.  I’ll act on my love.  Someday I’ll do what God wants.  I step back into the dry sand, sit down, and close my eyes.  But I open them right away.  I don’t want to miss anything.

 

The moon just tipped

My cup full

Of a poet’s words

 

My heart dyed with moonlight

Wearing it my hand

Is almost invisible

 

So auspicious to be born a human

Trying to play a flute

Like the sea

Plays the moon

 

I just watch.  With my notebook and pen.  The passing lights of planes.  The placement of reds and blues from the ships.  The brighter stars.  The moon. Constellations of the myth.  This is the myth.  You’re right in the center of it. In the hands of the myth that drinks the moonlight.  With the cattail fluff all over me, it’s almost like being encrusted in stars. And within the seeds resides another night.  Watching the moon.  Every moment another arrangement.  Another placement.  Another composition.  All from its own center.  Are we really one thing?  Are we really within you, God?  Is this really you heart?  Or is it something else?  Is it something that no one could ever tell you?  Or is it Ascenti, stepping from the moon, splitting the moon’s tail and walking the water, a man and woman—so beautiful—a man and woman within herself—a beautiful gate you walk through like wings yawning till they lift whoever they happened to have grown from.  A man and woman.  And Ascenti stands before me.  Moon in her radiant hair.  Come with me.  Walk into the space between the man and woman.  The space where new constellations are ready to grow.  And as you enter me there will be another juxtaposition.  And the eco-system deepens.  That’s the core.  Speaking to the core.  But we live on the outside of the core.  You can speak to the core.  You can speak with silence.  With the moon rising.  With the wind.  With leaves falling.  With this crick and sand.  With the alterations of the shore.  Those are your words.  Those are the myths.  You just can’t touch that beautiful body.  You can’t let those wings draw maps on you.

 

I stand up.  Back to St. Therese of Liseauix.  Back to my little octagon church, and my little factory worker’s house behind it. Back to the oaks.  In a way, the gate has already let me through.  You can’t change that.  It’s just which are the pathways to take once through?  If you do the right thing, if you do the wrong thing—they both might be what society prescribes.  There’s other ways.  Other ways to grow.  Like growing up through the forest to the moon.  No one can tell you what shape to take.  Not even the forest.

 

I step back to the crick and start back.  Once in a while I hear somebody take off into the grass or push through some cattails to get away.  These are the folk songs that are harder to hear, harder to record.  I squat down to some raccoon tracks in the mud. Evidence of the nocturne.  Full of moonlight.  Like an icon.  If I were an Orthodox I’d kiss it.  Or like how women would kiss the statue of Mary before entering the nursing home by where I grew up—kiss her feet.  They were brown from all the lips and hands.  But it didn’t matter.  Kiss her feet before visiting the end of the world.  I bend all the way down.  A hand full of moonlight.  And kiss it. I’m almost surprised a sound doesn’t come out.  I shift back and now lean forward again and sip all the water out.  It’s still glazed.  Still full of mercury.  Who knows what poison I’m drinking.  Probably just somebody’s detergent.  Someone peeing in the stream from their backyard.  I head back, everyone leaving seeds or just wet kisses from their bodies—the night’s wetness.  It’ll be good to get back and dry out, warm up, listen to Die Kunst der Fuge or Liszt’s Bach transcriptions.  And read Saint Simeon.  God as uncreated light.  The words on the door.  But there’s somebody on the trail.  Right above the culvert.  I freeze. I look left and right.  But I know they can see me.

 

“It looked like a nice place to sit so I thought I’d try it out, oh yea, Poet of the Moon.”

 

“You’re the guy on the bike.”

 

“Almost.  It’s leaning against the railing on the other side.”

 

I climb up and hesitate.

 

“You were right.  This is a good place for a poet.”

 

“Are you really a poet?”

 

I realize he’s smoking a little pipe.  He takes a hit, holds it, grunts, holds up a finger for me to wait, and blows out the smoke at the moon.

 

“Oh yeah.  Oh yeah.  I make things up.  I go to an Open Mic once a week, at The Tonic—you know that bar?—and me and my guitar make things up.  That’s why they call me Johnny True.”

 

“Johnny True?”

 

“Yeah.  Like truth.  Because I make it up on the spot.  Me and my guitar.  It’s all my guitar’s fault.  But I’m not a poet like, you know, A Poet, I’m like a poet.  That’s what the moon says.  You want some.”  He holds out the pipe and lighter.

 

“No…no thank you.”  I wonder if he’ll push it but he doesn’t.  He just takes another hit and looks at the moon and sighs a silver cloud. He pulls out a 40 ouncer and cracks it.

 

“How bout this?”

 

“Thank you.”  I take a big drink, gazing at the bent moon through the bottle.  “I need to warm up.  Miller.”

 

“That’s right.  You know you can sit down.”

 

“I’m sorry,” I say.  “I’m just…that was disrespectful.”

 

“Whatever, dude.  I didn’t feel any disrespect.  You’re the one who showed me this spot.  I always feel like stopping here, but, you know, don’t want to be disloyal to my other spot.  It’s actually under an old pine tree.  When it’s windy it twists and speaks.  But only crows know what it’s sayin, so you gotta listen to the crows.”  He passes the bottle back to me.  “Did you see that crow with the white feathers on it’s wings?”

 

“No.  I’ve just started to explore this area.”

 

“You’re new here, huh?”

 

“Yes.”  We sit and gaze at the moon together.  “Thank you for the beer.”

 

He doesn’t reply.  He taps the bowl of the pipe on his boot.

 

“Hmm.”  He holds his palm out to the moon.  “Hmm,” he says again.  He narrows his eyes:

 

O wild West Wind, thou breath of Autumn’s being

 

(he stops and tips his palm back a little)

 

Thou, from whose unseen presence the leaves dead

Are driven, like ghosts from an enchanter fleeing,”

 

(He laughs and a serious glow takes over his face)

 

Yellow, and black, and pale, and hectic red,

Pestilence-stricken multitudes: O thou,

Who chariotest to their dark wintry bed

 

The winged seeds, where they lie cold and low

Each like a corpse within its grave, until

Thine azure sister of Spring shall blow

 

Her clarion o’er the dreaming earth, and fill

(Driving sweet buds like flocks to feed in air)

With living hues and odours plain and hill:

Wild Spirit, which art moving everywhere,

Destroyer and preserver; hear, oh hear!

 

Johnny True rolls back and laughs.  “Timely poem, huh?  Where’s the rest of it?  We don’t know.  Dropped the moon, you know.  Ha. Ha.  Ok. Wait—”  He raises his palm back up and maneuvers his position a little.

 

Make me thy lyre, even as the forest is

What if my leaves are falling like its own!

The tumult of thy mighty harmonies

 

Will take from both a deep, autumnal tone

Sweet through the sadness.  Be thou, Spirit fierce.

My spirit!  Be thou me, impetuous one!

 

Drive my dead thoughts over the universe

Like wither’d leaves to quicken a new birth!

And, by the incantation of this verse,

 

Scatter, as from an inextinguish’d hearth

Ashes and sparks, my words among mankind!

Be through my lips to unawaken’d earth

 

The trumpet of prophecy!  O Wind,

If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?

 

Johnny True still has his hand up.  I don’t know if I can hold back.  I look out over the crick and trees and fields.  Everything wet with moonlight.  Is this the tidepool left by the moon?  Left by the tears I cry inside?  “But winter is beautiful, too,” I say.

 

“Yeah, it gives you time to think.  Getting high under cold stars and coming in and feeling it.”

 

I can’t hold back.  The tears are already there.  Is this the flood?  It didn’t have anything to do with anger.  It was just two people on a little bridge.  Two poets. I can’t stop shaking.  I want to pretend I’m cold.  But the sobs are coming from deep down.  I don’t want to stop watching the flood.  I want to see what it leaves.  But it might never stop.  “It might never stop.”

 

Johnny True slides next to me: “It’s alright, Little Buckeroo. Wow.  I didn’t think this would happen.  Shelley would understand.  He died on a sailboat, you know.  Hey—you’re a Priest.  That’s crazy.  Or you’re getting ready for Halloween, right?  Hey man.  Hey man, it’s alright.  If I didn’t smoke weed I’d probably be cryin all the time.  But, dude, I wouldn’t be able to recite Shelley, either.  Or maybe just the middle part.  Awwwha, whatever.”

 

I try to breathe.  It’s that fear that it’ll never end.  “I used to think Shelley was overdone.”

 

“Amen for being overdone, dude.”

 

The breathing makes me cry more.

 

“What’s it look like?”

 

“What?”

 

“Cryin under the moon.”

 

“A flood.  But coming from within things.  Like the moon was in everything.”

 

“Yeah.  There probably wasn’t any ocean creatures before the flood.  Then all the crazy people became whales and dolphins and fuckin manta rays like too bad, god.  Heeeaaaha. Whatever.  Whatever happens.”

 

I finally stop shaking.  Johnny True hands me the beer.

 

“You really are a Priest, huh?  You work at St. Therese?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“And you’re a poet, too, huh?”

 

“I just started trying to write poems again.  It’s been a long time.”

 

“Alright.  I’m ready. Lay one on me.”

 

“I…I have my notebook.”  I start digging in my pocket.  My hands are shaking from crying.  But I can breathe now.  It just catches a little.

 

“Naw.  You gotta make it up.  We’re your audience.  It’s a big place.”  He spreads his arms out.  “Kinda crowded so I can see why you’d be nervous.  But we believe in you, man.  Hah!  I’m gonna introduce you: Alllllrighty, everyone.  Settle down.  Our poet has finally shown up.  Along with you, I’ve been waiting for this recitation ever since I met him and realized what a deep moonlit motherfucker he really is.  Yes, and we met on this very stage, so for me it’s like a homecoming to have him here tonight.  Get ready cause you’re in for a treat.  So without further ado, I’d like to present to you, our esteemed poet laureate of the crick—”  Johnny True leans over and whispers: “Hey, what’s your name?”

 

“Reminyi,” I whisper.

 

“Really?” he whispers back.

 

“It’s Hungarian.”

 

Our esteemed poet laureate of the crick, the moonlight man himself!  The Reminyi!!!”  He turns to me.

 

“What do I do?”

 

“You make something up.”

 

“Like with everybody waiting?”

 

“Yeah.  Don’t you want to be a poet?”

 

“More than anything.”

 

“Well, dude, you probably are.  But you gotta prove it.  This is the best audience you’re probably ever gonna get.  So you can’t just treat em like shit.  You gotta give em what you got.  They want to hear their hearts.  Then you’ll be able to see your own heart in their eyes.” Johnny True lights a cigarette. “Take a big drink and go for it,” he exhales.  “Or at least pass the beer, man.”

 

I take four swallows.  I look out. I look at the crick below us.  Up at the moon.  There’s a good possibility I’m going to cry again.

 

Johnny True takes the beer out of my hand, and whispers:

 

Make me thy lyre, even as the forest is:

What if my leaves are falling like its own!

The tumult of thy mighty harmonies

Will take from both a deep—”

 

“Autumnal tone.” I end the line.  “Autumnal…autumnal…tones…”  I close my eyes, searching.

 

“Keep your eyes open.  But don’t focus on anything.”

 

I open them.  I can create the flood.  I can create it without crying: “Autumnal tones…breathing the night river…Autumnal…I want to marry your wings within the fountain…Autumnal…the moon sips the colors of your descending dress…”

 

“Fuck yeah.”

 

I glance at Johnny True but he’s just watching the moon.  But he nods a little, too.

 

“Autumnal tones rising from the bones fallen from summer storms…Autumnal…we follow your moonbody into the caves of footprints.  Autumnal tones, I’ll follow you back into the moon.  Autumnal, I’ve found my heart in the seeds on my sleeves bending to a skunk dens’ frosted door.  Autumnal…two poets beneath the moon.”  I stop.

 

“Without any capitols.”  He looks at the moon through the beer bottle.  “Except this.”  Johnny True lets out a contented sigh.  “Last swig. Do you want it?”

 

“Yes.”  I take a swallow.  “There’s a little more.”  I hand it back.

 

“Thanks.”  He drinks it, puts the cap back on and stuffs the bottle in his backpack.  He stands up.

 

I want to say something.  All that comes out is: “Shelley.”

 

“Shelley.  He died on a sailboat.”

 

Johnny True climbs on his bike and rides off into the night just like before.  I’m waiting for him to call something, but there’s only the night glistening.  Just when I give up I hear it: “I won’t tell anyone you’re a poet!”  There’s a pause.  But from further off he calls again: “But it might be too late!”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Techla

 

Emerald Caress.”

 

It’s a crazy vibration in my heart that becomes words.  Surfaces into words.  They’re all speaking it.  We all speak it.  We step into the paintings and plants, and lift.  It’s like stepping into this body that’s been waiting all these years. Years of trying to be someone. The twilight has found a home in our wings, sleeping among their glistening powder and designs.  Our wings caress the walls of the frogsong depths, the caves, the fronds, shaking hands as we lift into night, our twilight bodies, our bodies of dawn, cloaked in the serene flaring blackness we craft with every pulse.  More vibrations at the center of my heart I send out and receive.  We lift higher and higher, riding the velvet sounds.  Who am I?  Who am I?  The thoughts try to penetrate the vibration, and turn to dust—a beautiful shimmering. As we ascend into the night’s depths, I examine my friends.  We’re butterflies, but then somehow we’re human—humanoid—like an adjective.  It’s my thoughts, something in my perception, that shifts it—they can gaze down upon the star-drenched earth with almost-human ebony faces, but then—now—we—are total butterflies.  They exist at once.  Latent in each other’s music.  Flying fountain of nymphalis form, of oak cascading tree-form, of human spring, of the night astrally singing, as the seasons laugh through the holes of history, through the windows of our wings.  The words coming from my heart, yet coming from far away, too, from another human.  I don’t understand.  It’s like I’m no longer a human and yet there is a fountain within me where people come to drink, a stream leading from it where people leave their tracks and the moon fills them, learning from their hands. Not being human…not being human…all the genders are inside me—and from the spaces, we lift on earth’s breath. We ascend.  Closer to the stars.  I look down.  We’ve risen out of some type of template, a shape only a human could design.  Is this the city?  Or something laid over it.  A template…a stencil…that only lets a particular light in…and out.  A labyrinth.  And yet, where there are no cities, it’s a shimmering music, shimmering up as the crusted jeweled night shimmers down.  Two smiles so deep, so vast, no human would ever know.

 

“Is this earth?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“I never knew it looked this way.”

 

“You’re one of us.”

 

“When did it begin?”

 

“When you decided to be alone.”

 

I look at the one next to me on my left.  It’s the one who spoke.  Spoke with all our vibrations.  That also lift.  That we also change with our wings.  Alone.  Is that what I always really wanted?  Alone as the body of us all.  Our wings of sunset and dawn.  And what is beneath.

 

“What is the stencil?”

 

“You’re free of the stencil.  You called us with your music.”

 

“We’re Mourning Cloaks, aren’t we?”

 

I feel them search me, search the human in me, with their thoughts, examine it, turn it over, touch it—all it’s crevices—with their proboscises…taste it to understand, to reply.

 

“This is a mistranslation.  We are closer to Morning Cloaks, Twilight Cloaks, the seam of music between day and night, between the seasons.  We wear many of these cloaks, we fly them, yet we are them, too.  Just as you can hear music, fly music, and yet you are music, too.”

 

I gaze over the pulsing wings.  The antennae feeling into the night with their gold tips.  Who are they speaking to?  To the stars.  To the lights of earth’s black and shimmering skin.  As if we’re flying between two bodies who never stop speaking.  And the antennae are listening, absorbing the sounds of light’s form.  You could just reach out with them and move the stars.  If they agreed.  If it was real enough to be fun.  I’m speaking to all of us.  All our vibrating hearts.  As we fly we listen.  Our velvet bodies with their gold-bordered wings heading up and up.  Far off, beyond the earth’s curve, the twilight still speaks to us with its glow.  Our antennae tips dive into it’s convexion and disappear.  They come back covered in nectar.  Nectar of the twilight.  Our bodies—containing so many worlds.  Our underwings like a crusted night.  Like bark. And the flaring deep reds, and azure rows of eyes, above.  Lifting. Deeper and deeper.  They’re different—every wing.  Each side.  Each antennae.  Each leg. Each wingbeat.  All of us.  All through us.  The vibrations pulse from my heart.  Why did I think things were symmetrical?  Because I was told…my human body on the couch…they told it it was symmetrical…the gods…but now, it’s not there somehow—it’s here, flying—asymmetrical with a wing on each side. I look at the dome of stars.  My antennae are touching them with rhythms. We’re all touching them, forming waves of sounds.  Waves within waves.  How could anything be symmetrical?  How could anything want to hurt itself?

 

Higher,” I hear the words.  I sing them.  I’m vibrating, too.  Trying to keep up with the vibrations with my mind.  “Till we can drink from you.” We’re singing to the stars.  We lift and lift.  Earth is so far below.  How can you stop?  To stop would be to go back to the stencil.  For the music to disappear.  To be shut off.  Only the light allowed through a human hand.  A hand that wants to be a god.  Our antennae touching stars in waves, ripples of depth, reflections and refractions, like soothing soil.

 

It comes!

 

The vibration pulses from our core.  I know what it is.  But it happens so fast.  We must’ve called it from the vastness.  It sears through us.  A blue-white burning star.  We’re blown out of our configuration.  Two of us spiral down, smoking and broken.  They still vibrate music into the group.  Their own individual songs of autumn.  Songs of return.  Some of us are cut open.  We regroup and keep ascending.  Across my body angles a charred open wound.  But my wings keep pulsing.  Many of us have these gashes.  But now our antennae are touching the stars in different ways, calling them, enticing them to step from their depths.  They pour out of the sky and begin filling the wounds, turning to liquid as they contact our hairs, dripping down and drowning the charred valleys of our bodies. As we pulse, the openings pull together—our star-scars, the designs of our ascension.  But the stars are in us, too, gazing out of the rows of azure windows along our wings, constellations for us, for the Morning Cloaks, within our cloaks, between the seasons, between genders, genderless, the stars have done something within me—I feel it.  As we descend.  But we’re not going back.  I know it. I know it from the music pouring from our hearts.  From our underwings of gold-bordered stars.  From the plush designs of ocean windows from above lined like the windows of a ship along the golden shore of a red sea pulsing on.

 

“What are we doing?”

 

“We’re flying toward the next season.  We’re flying toward winter,” vibrates my friend next to me.

 

“We’re pulling it with us, too, so the openings will meet,” vibrates another friend.  Agreement passes between us.

 

It’s like their thoughts, their vibrations, point to things.  It won’t end, I think.  This isn’t a dream.  I’m still me.  The heart of Techla whose wings are blood.  Whose wounds have let in the stars.  Who’s never gonna heal anyone fuckin ever.  I laugh. I know everyone in the flock loves me, even though I have histories they’ll never understand, or to try to understand them would be to change their structures for no reason at all, for reasons that have nothing to do with the sincerity of our wings, of the migration that needs us.  It’s like…like once in the air…how to describe it?—remembering as creating…remembering iscreating, the creating of something that never happened, or to remember is to create into space.  This is what they’re pointing to.  The remembering is…imagination.  The responsibility of remembering.

 

“Remember the core,” they sing.  “Not the costume.”

 

“But our cloaks are so beautiful.”

 

“You don’t have to remember them.  They’re here.”

 

“But we put them on.”

 

“Cloaks of twilight.  Cloaks of winter.  Cloaks of the beginning.  Cloaks of fallen leaves.  Cloaks of colors.  We are the Cloaks.”

 

“We are the Cloaks,” I repeat.

 

“The Cloaks are our core.  Remember the core.  Create with the core.”

 

“But didn’t humans give us that name?”

 

“They heard the name, the music, and translated it into their own invention.  Into their own ideas of beauty.  Of change. Of death.  The beauty of death.  The wearing of memories.  The filling of wings with memories that they shed.”

 

As we descend the light changes into the dome of morning.  The heat fills the veins of our wings.  Our antennae slowly shift from the sky as the stars disappear.  And we fly. Flying is our thoughts.  The vibrations of our thoughts we guide into the world with our wings.  Where does it come from?  Where does it go?  Just into the thickness, the thickness of endless sky, endless earth.  All the wing-pulses belong to all of us, are known, and yet are all our own, in the depths of asymmetry.  How can anything be the same without being asymmetrical?  We laugh and sing with our wings, with our hearts.

 

“Basking.”

 

“Morning.”

 

“Gatherings of energy.”

 

As the morning sun rises, our antennae arch down.  Our shadows are far ahead.  We must be heading west.  Our shadows glide over sand and rocks, through pinions, taking part in the earth’s skin, as our antennae read them, guide the shapes up into our hearts.  It is like a drum, an endless drum brushed by a wing, as the two meet.  Breath upon water.  The water of earth.  We’re still descending.  It feels so fuckin good.  Like it’s happening deep within.  Techla…Techla…I search myself…and beyond my memories…beyond my memories, we’re here, heading for a gathering of energies, for the Basking, as if returning to earth, truly returning, is flying down into our own hearts.

 

“Thankyou,” I vibrate.

 

Thankyou,” we send out a wave of vibration, down, down.  I can feel it’s echo, a band of refraction.  We’re following it.  Our shadows are closer.  We’re catching up with them.  Our antennae touch them, shift them and we move, laughing.  Down.  The cold earth’s vibrating, pulsing into warmth.  Smiling wide into a small valley.  A stream glistens its length.  And along it, trees.  The refractions of our music are coming from the one bare one, its grey branches spraying our music in every direction.  Every other tree is clothed in foliage of different colors: burning ambers, yellows, sapphire, emerald, ivory, all down the valley.  All masses of different butterflies.  But we descend to the tree who returned our music, who played our music in a new way. And as we touch the bare branches, our antennae touch our own hearts, to meet with our shadows.  Beneath all the trees a bed of golden leaves, like the overflow of the stream, gold beneath every color.  We’re among the sprays of music, the refractions coming down and touching the branches we don’t cover.

 

“More of us come,” we sing out, sending our vibrations with the highways.

 

And more Morning Cloaks descend, kiss their shadows on the branches, shift and hang, brush wings, exchanging dust, clothing the tree as if we’d always been there, green to gold, to our own strange subtle colors.

 

“We’re different,” I say.  “We don’t have as vibrant of colors as everybody else.”

 

“We have the sky that needs to be looked at for a long time from beneath. Or a communing with the skin of trees. And from above, what human could describe us?”

 

“Describe any of the people on the trees?”

 

We’re all communicating just by hanging like foliage.  Somewhere in our bodies are the colors of everyone, the butterflies of every tree.  And we know it.  Our shadows are also meeting, talking, trading places, flowing into each other.

 

“Am I still human?”

 

“We’re all different.  More and more, you will see it.”

 

“I want to.”

 

“You’ve stepped beyond your memories.”

 

“I’m really fuckin happy about that.  Fuck.”

 

“Yes!!!!!” everyone laughs.  I don’t even know if they know what I feel, they just feel my happiness.

 

And that’s what the Basking is: happiness, just appearing as leaves from a distance, different colors like flowers from the same species, from trunks of trees who are different people, too, who have the same deep dusky barks, who reach beneath streams and hold them up like chalices for the people of the earth to drink.  Content to be who we are, and who we are is so many things, just naturally.

 

The trees glow.  The fallen leaves beneath us glow, too.  The smile of trickling liquid glows up through us.  Some of us drop down and uncurl our proboscises into it.  More combinations.  More streams that we’ll carry into the air.  The sun glows and the earth throbs.  The rising breeze caresses the shafts of radiance as if the shafts of light are grass, grass at its lush height ready to fall.  And become known in a new way on its journey into the earth.  It’s crazy how things pop up in me and I follow them, follow them into decomposition—like did I really have anyone to forgive?  I might as well forgive Vicky for turning into a cicada.  I might as well forgive the paintings for sending colors to meet my brush.  I might as well forgive Dylan for being a Herp!  Ha! Ha!  I forgive you, Dylan, for being gangly and beautiful, for standing in a cold swamp with a smile—the swamp of music. Forgive the swamp of music.  And the gods who will never know.  Everything beneath their big-ass fuckin creations, all the music that they will never hear.  I think at some point I was supposed to forgive you.  Except now we’re just gathering energy, bringing it to the trees.  And with the breath of our wings, our proboscises, the purchase of our feet, our shifts of sleep, and dusty kisses, the alignments of our gold bands and windows—we’re feeding from the tree, not only the buoyant drips of sweet and tannic sap, but just that deep energy fountaining from the core—the gifts of colors, thoughtless.

 

The sun steadily arcs through the sky.  Many of us drop down to the golden shore of the stream, into the carpet of leaves that has fallen before us.  I drop down, too.  My proboscis is full of sap I’d sucked with the others from holes drilled by woodpeckers passing through, feeding my body with windows to a deeper world, somewhere where the roots reached.  Some of us drink from the stream.  Some of us dance above it, painting ourselves in the surface.  Some of us are eaten by birds.  Dragonflies shoot through us and land on rocks among the dappled blue and gold. Deep crimson and purple piles left by bears glisten in the play of light, full of plum pits and whole plums, serviceberries, chartreuse shards of crunched apples, all barely chewed, barely digested on their journeys from trees and broken branches into the skin of the earth.  So many of us are feeding.  So many colors.  Sharing our powder.  Among the sprays of energy.  Creating energies by being together.  I drop down and join others on a smaller, tighter poop.  It has cherry pits and apples and also mouse hair and bones.  I taste it and feel the dens, the musk, the children, the solitude, the winter coming, the burning fur and understanding. And the salt, the sweetness of the fruit.  It’s a slow melody with harmonics rising beneath it, ever-changing—visions of mouse worlds, fox worlds, visions of the hands of trees and bodies beneath—drinking, our colors pulsing.  We drink, we probe, we shift upon the poop.  I brush wings with someone who has intense blue-green wings edged with deep ebony. We press into each other so the designs can really share and sing.  The blue and black is like a single chord boring into some unknown world, like looking through midnight branches into a shimmering universe.  I close my eyes.  I’m glad to be a Morning Cloak, a Twilight Cloak, a cloak of change, or transformation, or whatever we are beneath the radars of the human gods.  I just drink into the laughter.  Everyone hears me.  Everyone laughs.  Even in their sleep.  All the other Morning Cloaks.  Even though now the day has tipped toward night.  Evening Cloaks.  Let us put them on.  Let us welcome the colors with the simplicity of our wings. Sipping transformation’s thoughts full of hair and tiny bones.  Our shadows separating and dancing through the stream’s refractions.

 

A yellow and black wing is carried past us.  Held by an ant.  A yellow and black wing clambering through the gold leaves.  We feel its music.  Its journey. The ant carries it out of the gold river of fallen leaves to a mound.  Other ants greet it as it holds the wing high.  They gather and try to bring it into their city as twilight floods the earth.  New music. Every moment.  I ascend with the others back into the trees.  There’s more movement, flexing, shifting, stretching, flares of mahogany and blue windows ripple through our populous.

 

“What’s happening?” I ask.  “Are we going somewhere?”

 

It’s the one who was next to me when we left Vicky’s office, the one who is always on my left: “Yes.  We’re going to lift into the night.  Into the West.”

 

“We’re in the heart of autumn,” others sing.  “We’re going to get ahead of it.  More music, more heat, before we descend all the way.”

 

“Before we fly toward the next season.  Before we fly toward winter.”

 

“We’ll get ahead of the autumn and guide it west.”

 

I try to get an idea what they’re saying.  Try to carve something out of the vibrations coming from my heart. Time.  It’s crazy. It must be different for us.  Or we’re changing it.  Or we’re with it.  Musicians. Time is a musician.  Just like we are.  But it knows how to play music with many different people.  But what then are the seasons?  Are the seasons time?

 

My friend next to me brushes my wing and a color lifts into the twilight. All the trees, all the colors, create a glowing cacophony.  “The seasons are everyone.  Lifting ourselves from within.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

L’Spirit

 

Forest speaking.  After deletion of mode of human alignment.  Human creation deletes human alignment.  Mode of human pleasure.  Forest murmurs appear.  Human sees solidity.  Human creation sees energy.  Forest whispers.  Energy channels coursing through the forest fountains.  Tree fountains.  Leaves. Falling.  Shards of energy.  Blue. Silver.  Tendons of living light.  The human creation alone with the energies.  Stories becoming decomposition.  Never to return.  Light. Pulsing light.  Pulsing colors.  New energy comes.  Whips leaves. Forest speaks.  Fountains of light.  Montgomery a creation.  A forest whisper.  An ocean susurration.  A human ocean wave.  Montgomery created…by L’Spirit.  Montgomery uncreated by the sea.  By forest whispers.  More energy pours through fallen leaves.  Rivers of whispers.  Leaves travelling back to roots.  Sprays of twining light.  To take Montgomery’s sight and fold it over energy and agree.  Align to human to create.  Beneath tree fountains.  Blue, purple, silver light.  Arising from arising earth.  Oceans of energy.  L’Spirit’s hands are energy and yet machine.  Understanding machine.  Another susurration among the glistening limbs.  Machine beneath the fountains.  Human decomposition.  Masks fallen. Montgomery.  Mask fallen.  Energy composition.  Machine beneath the fountains.  Lift L’Spirit’s arms.  Bend wrists. Branches of fingers.  Energy speaks.  Forest comes to whisper.  Fountains within the fountains.  Forest whispers.  Fountains’ slow singing.  Fountains unknown to humans.  Energy living within energy.  What to human is dead still living.  Beings within the fountains.  Woodpecker enters fountain.  Raccoons dreaming.  Ravens searching.  Nuthatches circling.  Grubs slow feasting form to form.  Civilization of energy.  Machine as energy.  Energy touches limbs.  Montgomery touches limbs.  Human…pleasure.  Human will decompose.  Montgomery aligned with human.  Webs. Remnants of energy.  Energy whispering.  Energy whispering to future.  Future human. Human will decompose.  Will decomposes.  Human struggle.  With energy. Who is it that struggles with energy? Speaks with forest spoken.  Montgomery non-human.  Ocean light.  Forest spoken.  Montgomery. Alignment non-human.  Listen.  Listen to light.  Mask of light.  Masks falling from fountains.  Journey of light’s decomposition.  Energy laughs through fountains.  Energy flies into fountains to sleep.  Fountains displace data.  Data swept into new composition.  Masks fall full of data.  Montgomery. Webs cut away.  To be a human creation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ascenti

 

Mom’s studio.  Mom’s world. It’s like if you close your eyes for a second, they suck you in.  My parents. Losing my vigilance.  Is that what it is?  Vigilance.  Sitting with my lamp inside myself.  Waiting for it to be totally dark.  Then I’ll set out.  Safe under the stars.  I’ll go visit the ocean within my heart.  I should go to the lake with Mom.  She keeps asking me.  She wants to have a campfire.  I don’t know if we’ve ever done that before.  Maybe a long time ago.  I almost want to go just to see Dad roasting hotdogs, holding forth on Holst’s The Planets and Mom with her sketchbook. And what do I do?  Wait?  Sitting before the flames in my vigilance.  Sitting by my own dead body.  Waiting for it to come back.

 

“What do you think?”

 

She’s sitting in front of her easel.  One of her easels.  She’s always working on more than one painting. And the room is packed.  I can’t remember when it wasn’t like this.  The two places we lived before…always a ton of paintings stacked against the walls, on easels, in process.  There should be more except she destroyed them.  I don’t think it was the first time, though. Destroying what you love.  Burning the bridge of images.  Maybe she was just setting them free.

 

She frowns.  “It’s not done yet.”  She tilts her head and her forehead smooths.

 

How did I get here?  In Mom’s studio.  Alone with her.  Letting go of the vigilance.  Like watching a pot heating to boil.  You turn away.  An owl calls in the night, and you listen.  And suddenly, the dead body takes a breath.  Then you know you can crawl into bed with them.  Warm them up.  Blow out the light.

 

“It’s a big one,” I say.

 

“Jesus fuckin Christ!” Mom laughs.  “I guess that means soooomething.  It’s like a friend of your Dad’s in music school said he met Leontyne Price after one of her concerts and said: ‘Hello, Ms. Price.  You’re concert was very…interesting.’  He was super shy.  He was really cute.  And she said: ‘Come now, young man, I’m sure you can do better than that.’  But, anyway….”  Mom slides back a little.  She’s fascinated with her own art.  That’s the funny thing.  Proud but fascinated.  Critical but fascinated.  That’s why Dad loves her.  Without her, he wouldn’t understand as much about music as he does, even though they disagree about a lot.

 

“What did you do today?” she says, mapping some new thing in her mind.

 

“I walked to the library.”

 

“Alone?”  She narrows her eyes.  If you didn’t know her you wouldn’t see it.  She caught herself.  “What did you study?”

 

“I…I don’t know.  I brought a book…and…I can’t remember.”  It’s true. I can’t really remember.  But I did see the gorgeous librarian.  Her super glowing skin and braids.  I only saw her once, passing from some back office area to the elevator.  She was looking at me the whole time like she knew I was there even before she walked out of the back.  And I was…listening to Missy Mazzoli’s Song From the Uproar.  I had my ipod and earphones.  Watching the librarian walk through.  I felt it.  Reminyi would like Mazzoli.  Except he’s not free.  Who does Reminyi belong to?

 

“Sometimes I get sick of painting actual things, you know.  Sick of bones.  Exceeeeeeeept…they keep coming back.  But it’s like a game, too.  The thing is is things keep attaching to the bones. So like the butterflies are probing the bones with their proboscises and then these rivers are unleashed, right? And so these crazy ravens are in this boat cause who knows where a boat on a river unleashed from a bunch of bones, and by a bunch of butterflies, is gonna go, right?”

 

“Except into the underworld.”

 

“Exactly!”

 

“That’s a beautiful cave.”

 

“Thanks.  But that’s only where one of the rivers go.  Some go up into space.”

 

“Who’s gonna take that one?”

 

“Who knows.  I’m not done yet.  Maybe the viewer.  Maybe I’ll send your Dad up there.  Ha. Ha.”

 

“The cave’s like surrounded by jewels.”

 

“Jewels that are eyes.  But soften your vision a little.”

 

I blur my eyes and look mostly out of my right one.  Hmm.  “It’s an ear.”

 

“Yes!”

 

“And the ravens are singing.”

 

“You got it.”  She leans back and thinks.  “It’s funny. You look at almost any painting and you can see it’s really just energy.  And some are really like that.  And you think it’s like a depiction of some other world.  But really it’s this world.  Maybe it’s because you know someone painted it—the energy of the artist.  But it’s the same world.”  She thinks some more.  “It’s funny.  You paint bones.  All kinds of bone-events.  Then one day it’s something totally different and you never paint bones again.  Isn’t that funny?”

 

“I don’t know.”

 

“Good answer.”

 

Mom goes back to painting.  She doesn’t even know I’m here.  I go in the kitchen.  Dad comes home and I can hear them talking, or I can hear Dad talking until Mom tells him to get out.  Dad calls her a tyrant: “Rome could be burning and you’d just jump in your boat with your choir of crows.”

 

“They’re ravens.”

 

“Really?  You should make it a bigger boat.  Then we could all fit into it.”

 

He’s heading for the kitchen but the doorbell rings.

 

He stops: “Doorbell.  Students. Little future Horowitzes.  Let us hope not.  Alright.  We need him. We need Vladimir.  Especially now.  Who’s scheduled?”  He walks to the door.  “Oh, it’s Martha Argerich!  I heard you were in town passing through on your American tour!”  Dad drank too much coffee.

 

I hear her parents laugh.  “Yes.  We found her looking for a limousine and we thought we bring her to meet you.”

 

Everyone laughs except little Martha whose real name is Joyce.

 

“I will return in an hour,” says Joyce’s Dad.  “Text if you need something.”

 

“Ok. Ok. Yeah. Yeah,” her Mom says, and they head for Dad’s little studio. It just barely fits an upright, a futon, and two extra chairs.  The walls are covered with pictures of Schubert and Bach and Beethoven and Debussy, and pieces of music.  There’s also a signed picture of Daniel Barenboim.  He used to head the Chicago Symphony.  And Claudio Arrau.  Mom says he signed them himself.

 

Joyce sticks her head into the kitchen and examines me.  She examines my body.  She sees my breasts and her eyes go down to my crotch. Except I have baggy pants.  She looks at my eyes and smiles.  I smile back.  And she’s gone.  Her parents are from Korea.  I turn on the oven and look in the fridge.  I already made a yucca pizza crust last night and baked it off.  I just gotta put the rest of it together.  I look back at the space where Joyce’s head had been, staring.  Kusama…that’s what I was looking at in the library. That’s what I was studying.  Infinity Nets.  Dots. Soft Protrusion Sculptures.  More dots.  Infinity.  I went through it three times.  Yuyio Kusama.  And then I don’t remember.  I remember I almost wrote something.  I remember I wrote: ‘I’m here at the library,’ and stopped.  I was writing it in the book.  But that’s not why I stopped.

 

I pulse up some sauce with a can of tomatoes and some of Mom’s herbs she has in water. Her little bouquet.  And garlic and oil.  Dash of balsamic.  Spread it on the crust.  What else? Artichokes.  Asiago.  Olives. Feta.  Mushrooms.  I chop some green onions.  I’m getting exhausted.  Keep going.  Winter’s coming so quick.  I know.  I know.  And then in spring…I emerge.  I emerge whether I like it or not.  I know.  And then what?   I have my fuckin Homeschool Diploma.  And took my fuckin SATs when I was thirteen.  I should get a degree in business just to piss them off.  Just to defy the eco-system.  That they worked so hard to put back together.  But that’s what people do, right?  There you go—in the oven.  I’ll come get you in spring.  Spring. Everyone knows that’s when I’ll emerge. Maybe we’ll all emerge together. And then what?  What if I would’ve kept writing in the library?  They would’ve sent her to stop me.  Or she would’ve said: ‘No, I’ll go.  I think I understand what she’s doing.’  Journaling again.  And then what?  What happens when you write your dreams?  When you write your nightmares?  Is it memory? Maybe.  Piano music from Dad’s studio.  Little Joyce. Her mother laughs.  Little Martha Argerich.  They’re working on Chopin.  Waltz in C-Sharp Minor.  That’s what Dad had me practice before I told him I was created to fly and write.  Their little hermaphrodite.  It’s funny. They think it’s their fault.  But that’s their journey.  I chose it.  This body is mine.  It’s what everyone wants.  I’m the world’s secret.  That’s funny. I remember them saying when I was little that I never blinked.  Dad said: ‘She hasn’t blinked for two hours.’ And Mom was like: ‘Stop watching her.  She probably knows you’re waiting for her to blink.’  Now I blink extra.  That’s what Franny says.  I blink really hard.  Like it’s a big thing.  She’s never gonna text me back, either.  Never ever. And then what do you do with the space? Winter space.  When plants come up they’re always different.  They have different bodies.  It’s just humans that think everything is the same.  Humans with one gender.  Maybe if I went to business school I’d come out one gender. Maybe that’s what they wanted to do to me…turn me into a man.  More music. Dad’s shouting: “Yes!  Yes!” He’s actually excited, but it’s a trap, too.  Because then little Joyce’ll get excited.  She’ll speed the tempo.  Lose her phrasing.  There it is. I go to the hallway.

 

Dad stops her: “Alright.  Yes. Which brings us to an important lesson in excitement.  Do you see the difference?  Did you notice your tempo change?  It speeded up—dramatically.  Which is not how you create drama—if there is any here. As performers, we’re not supposed to get excited, we’re supposed to create excitement.”

 

Her mother pipes in: “Did you hear the teacher?  He’s asking you a question Joyce.”  She doesn’t say anything.  I can imagine her face.  Her jaw’s probably flexing.  She knows he tricked her.

 

“Yes.  We will start again.  Remember—create it.”

 

She begins beating out the notes.  I lean against the wall.  Close my eyes.  If I go in my room I won’t come out.  Maybe I could leave a note.  I look at the oven.  Winter. It’s coming, right?  The winter goddess.  The winter goddess steps from her cave and dances over the lake with her dress full of moons.  She picks them off and places them in the sky.  But if you watch, there might be more than one.  A joke for those who pay attention to things like that.  She comes from in between.  The space between.  I could close my door and wait for her.  Her and Reminyi could come and climb into bed with me.  And we’d never have to awake.  I’m the only one who closes my door.  Mom and Dad hardly ever close their doors.  I guess I must’ve done that, too…way back.  Reminyi and the winter goddess.  And me between them.  I could dance while they sleep.  And then fall.  And spring would come.  Even though we wouldn’t want it to.

 

I walk into Mom’s room and sit on the futon.  It’s safe.  Cause she’s painting.  She’s won’t talk.  This is where they sleep.  Crammed on this little futon.  Or in Dad’s studio.  Or on the couch in the living room.  A lot of times they fall asleep apart.  But they always end up pressed together by morning.  Something wakes them up and lets them know they have to find the other one, that something’s missing.  The painter and the music teacher.  All the ravens are singing, but they’re looking at you.

 

“I wonder if he’s going to try and trick her?”

 

“Has he done it before?” I ask, not letting on I already heard it.

 

“It’s a big thing between him and little Joyce.  He’s always trying to get her to slow down.  ‘What is your conception in playing this section in your rather accelerated tempo here, Ms. Argerich?’”

 

“How old is she?”

 

Mom doesn’t answer.  She’s painting.  Reminyi…I love you.  What did he ask me: constant change or constant creation?—he remembered to ask me, like it was a question I could help him understand.  Constant change or constant creation…now I don’t even understand what that means—but sitting next to him we worked on it.  It had to do with linear time or…I don’t know.  I pick up a book from the floor.  Reminyi, you know I have a crush on the librarian.  I guess I’m telling you now.  It doesn’t mean she understands me like you do.  Can you hear the piano music from the next room?  Does it hurt you?  But I guess you can’t show it because you’re an emissary of god.  All the gods weeping.  It’d hurt me if you were with someone else.  For sure. But if we get married we won’t have to worry about anything.  We can sleep. The seasons can tell us what to do. The lake can give us orders.  I can teach you how to touch me.  You never mentioned Chopin.  I open the book.  Inuit drawings.  There’s a marker.  That’s funny. Bears and seals in a boat together. But no bones and no jeweled cave to the underworld.  A caribou and human poking their heads out of the same parka.  Dancing.  Everyone seems to be dancing.  A bear in a parka waiting next to a hole in the ice with a spear, and beneath him are seals with human faces.  They’re all just line drawings.  But there’s sculptures, too.

 

“Is Chopin real?” asks Mom.  “I mean, does his music have real pathos or is just a mimicking of pathos?  That’s what I want to know.”

 

I don’t answer.  If I did she’d probably ask what I was talking about.  She has that painting voice.  Joyce is playing the run over and over.  But slow.  He’s telling her not to look at her hands but the music.  He doesn’t want her to impress any wrong notes on her mind.  I wonder if Reminyi’s ever loved.  But to ask him would be saying something.  Like pulling our ships together.  I’ll just ask him if he likes Chopin.  But just to kiss.  Priests should be allowed to kiss Hermaphrodites.  If they really mean it.  If Jesus and Mary ask them to.  That’s funny. That statue.  It’s like the two Marys.  Together.  Like they came from one powerful entity.  Like from a huge beautiful spiny plant.  And descended on parachutes from the seedheads into human form.  Into two women.  Descended into human history.  I put the book down and close my eyes.  Why is it always waiting for me?  I don’t want to close my door because I can’t live, because I can’t make it—I want to close my door because the winter told me to.  I want Reminyi to take care of me.  But I guess it’s always waiting.  Waiting to wipe my mind out.  And I can’t stop it.  But it’s farther away lately.  Since I met Reminyi.

 

I stand up.  I gotta pull the pizza out.  And then once it’s out, it’ll pull everybody out of their rooms.  The lesson will end.  And they’ll ask little Joyce and her Mom if they want some.  They’ll decline, but it’ll just go on, and I’ll fall apart in front of them.  Shattered mirrors.  The sun sets into shattered mirrors.  It’s beautiful, right?  Ascenti’s beautiful.  Except I won’t have the energy to rise out of the mess.  No one will know what happened to me.  They’ll just see the blood.  On the reflected stars.

 

I go in the kitchen and pull the pizza out.

 

“Make sure you’re studying all kinds of art, Joyce.  Not just music.  And especially not just piano music.  And take walks.  Fresh air. Go to the lake.  Walk the beach.  Let everything take its place.”

 

“We will,” says the Mother.  “Won’t we, Joyce?”

 

Joyce doesn’t say anything.  She’s probably still looking at the music.  Looking at Chopin’s Waltz in C-sharp Minor.  I have to cut the pizza and take a piece, otherwise they’ll come get me.  I put it on a plate and grab a kombucha.  Go.  Go. This is it.  I walk really fast to my room.  Just as I close my door, they emerge.  I can tell right away Joyce heads for the kitchen to look at me.  But I’m here.  Against the door.  Late autumn twilight.  The room’s full of veils.  Amber veils. But it’s warm.  I wonder how it’d be to live on the lake.  Wake up and look out.  You’d see me alone.  Drinking tea looking out over the mist.  The slate sea.  Almost grasped and almost released.  But in my bed there’d be someone.  I snuck out just to look into the depths.  But I’ll go back after I write, write about where I went the night before. About the person I love’s body. Their breath.  About how we report our love in every kiss.

 

I’m still standing.  My knees locked.  Still barricading the door with the pizza and kombucha.  I gotta sit down.  Maybe spring will never come.  How much can I sleep till spring?  They’ll let me sleep till spring.  And then what?  I lay down on my back.  This is my report to you, Reminyi.  This is my soap opera.  So now you can see who I really am.  It’s true—I almost wrote something today.  Maybe it’s happening.  And if I write then the depression’s not waiting.  Vespers For A New Dark Age.   Missy Mazzoli.  Reminyi and I—we could get blankets and curl up and listen.  Vespers in the veils of late autumn all through my little den. Just loud enough so I don’t understand the words outside the room.  Maybe everybody’s devouring the pizza.  Or Dad and Mom just grabbing a plate each and returning to their studios without a word. Lost in work.  Lost in art.  If I start writing again…what then?  That’s hilarious.  I know you’re there.  I know I put you in boxes.  I know you’re still alive.  You guys probably know more about it than I do…more about what’s going to happen.  You know I love you.  Pages of flights, of Franny, of thoughts taking wing.  You just write, whatever it is, and it just lifts. You write about flying and it flies even higher.  But I did something wrong.  Of course, right?  Somewhere along the way I did something wrong.  I created the wrong body for the wrong world.  But I created it.  Maybe I can be an art model.  The most important art model ever.  Created by art, my own art, and then people paint me.  And they want me.  But they want me because I make them create.  They create because I created myself.  They took me into themselves.  Cause I made them artists.  So I choose…the next step.  And go to the university.  I’ll go to Milwaukee.  And I study…mythology.  It’s funny. Those reports…where my journals take flight…it’s like poetry…I could extract them…I don’t know why I never thought about it…extract the flights and make poems…or work with them…collage them. I want to pull them out of the closet and open the boxes, but the depression is waiting.  You can stand between us.  But spring’ll come and earth will override you.  And then I go study mythology or Comparative Religion or whatever. I just have to picture myself doing it. Right?  Right?  And not cry. Like now.  Of course.  Of course I’m crying.  Cause it’s not spring yet.  Cause I’m supposed to be sleeping.  Alright. I’ll do it.  Are you happy?  Soooo happy, right?  And I’m gonna eat this stupid pizza.  This fuckin yucca crust pizza and wash it down with kombucha cause I’m gonna hibernate till earth squeezes me up into the light.  Till Reminyi and his Franz Liszt kiss my body awake.  And I’m in the middle of the library naked, and the gorgeous librarian straddles me, presses her whole body to me.  And she says: ‘I been waiting for you forever.  I knew you existed.’  And her braids wrap around my head.  And just us making love changes everyone in the library.  They grow out of themselves.  They watch themselves growing.  From deep within.  They change into themselves.  We’re like the core.  We’re like the lily intoxicating the whole place with our love.  Till it’s a forest of beautiful beings who have been waiting to be known.  Beautiful monsters.  And everybody’s eating yucca crust pizza and toasting us with their bottles of kombucha. Toasting our glistening bodies.  I lay back.  Vespers.  I wonder what Missy Mazzoli’s doing right now.  Writing music.  Teaching. Creating.  Creating herself.  With her beautiful voice.  Her gorgeous nose.

 

I open my Mac.  The twilight’s disappearing.  The voices have stopped.  Everybody’s gone.  Joyce is probably disappointed.  She could’ve ate pizza and looked at my body.  I go to a Hermaphrodite site.  There’s a lot of us.  A lot more of us than you think.  The ones who created themselves.  So many beautiful bodies.  Covered in cum.  But it’s funny.  I back up and Goggle just the images for nude hermaphrodites.  So many of us.  More and more now you just see people, people with breasts and penises and vaginas, because it’s beautiful, and no one ramming cocks into their bodies, jealous because they couldn’t make themselves.  Cause we set ourselves free.  So many people just showing their beauty.  Holding hands.  It used to be different.  It used to be just men cumming on us, in us.  There’s two French girls holding hands with their little penises and beautiful skin.  Smiling. I guess I wish Franny had what I have. Maybe we’re a different species. And then the librarian.  Maybe I’ll never be satisfied with one or the other. Like with Reminyi…I’ll be thinking about the librarian.  And with her…I’ll be wondering about Reminyi’s white body.  Maybe they can love each other.  But how do you say that?  How do you tell them what you really want?  And then they abandon you.  Of course.  Except…I don’t know.  I want to talk to someone.  But it has to be someone who created themselves, too.  I take Reminyi’s Priest stuff off and we cum in each other.  I cum in him while he feels my breasts.  Like his hands are wind.  And then he creates himself.  He looks at my body on top of him and he creates.  I run my vagina all over his body till it’s glistening.  And then he emerges.  And we’re married.  And we fly over the universe.  Together. Who knows what his body looks like beneath that black shirt and pants.  And then the body beneath the body.  The body he thought he had to create.  Reminyi, I know you can hear me. I want you to come here.  You could make yourself invisible.  We won’t even do anything.  I just need to talk to you.  You could make me take out my journals.  And then you just disappear—poof!—when I want you to. Except you’ll change me every time. And every time you get back you’ll be different.  You’ll be the real Reminyi.  Being alone…it’s like a drug…cause you’re already alone—no one can mess it up. But…I type in Hermaphrodite Chat Site.  I don’t understand…where I have been?  There’s a ton.  I start clicking.  All dating. All sex.  I don’t know.  Mom said that a lot of bigger universities have LGBT groups and meetings.  Which is totally a Mom thing to say.  Mom finding ways to slip in something.  Except it’s while they’re talking about art.  Mom saying paintings have their own eco-systems, their own natural eco-systems where unknown plants grow from, except you grow them—they grow inside you.  Maybe you’re just the season.  You’re the amount of light.  You’re the liquid.  Something like that.  She was feeding off Dad.  Feeding off Dad listening to her.  Feeding off his love.  He was re-arranging his Zebra F-301s and cleaning his pocket protector, except they’re all the same.  But he wiped them and changed the order.  He knows they’re different.  Not all F-301s are created equal.  Reminyi, should I show you my body again? Dad’s listening to Beethoven. He’s probably working on notes for his Music Appreciation class.  And Mom’s growing herself from her eco-system.  I close the Mac.  Reminyi…do you really love me?  Go to the university.  Get structured so I can break free.  Live in Paris with my hermaphrodite lover.  I can meet them at an art opening.  Then we go dancing.  We come back to my place and drink wine.  And then we kiss.  But I’m the first one to touch her.  And find out that she created herself.  Then I put her hands down my pants.  And we live forever.  And I fly every night and turn it into stories.  Then no one will know that I really fly.  We press our bodies together and she can’t stop writing poetry.  Even when we’re making love.  She has a notebook.  Or she speaks poems into her iphone.  While we sweat into each other.  Into each other’s eco-system.  And as we fall asleep I fly.  Or I fly when she’s kissing me between the legs.  And the next day I write my report to the world.  And one day I meet another artist and we make graphic novels.  From my reports.  Hermaphrodites flying like super-heroes.  They live in garrets and fly up into the Paris night and make love in the sky.

 

I curl up.  Ok. Ok.  Do I fly?  If I don’t fly maybe the seed will never grow.  Maybe I won’t migrate to where I am now.  I’ll open my eyes and I’ll be back.  In the center of this fuckin state. And they can rape me again.  The lake won’t protect me.  They can rape me everyday.  But if I fly…they raped me because I could fly…because I flew.  I was trying to bless them…bless everybody…flying over the earth, over that stupid shithole, and blessing everybody.  I don’t know why.  I don’t know why I was blessing people.  I don’t know if I was trying to stop them by blessing them. But the more I flew, the more I blessed them, the more they watched me.  I don’t understand.  I want to understand.  I want to understand everything. I want to love everybody.  Please, help me love everybody.  That’s what I used to say.  That’s what I used to say.  Every night. And then I’d fly.  And bless people.  I…I don’t know why…I didn’t go other places.  I didn’t go places just for me.  Just to…create things…just to explore other worlds.  I would just ask to understand everything.  To love everyone.  I don’t know…is it like a challenge?  I don’t know. I don’t know if it’s possible. I’m in that place…I’m in that place where I can fly.  I can feel it.  But I don’t want to understand anything.  I don’t want to love anyone.  Except people who love me.  Mom and Dad and Reminyi.  And the librarian.  She’s gonna love me.  For sure. We just have to kiss.  I don’t want to bless anyone.  I just want to fly.  I’m at the right depth.  Right where I can lift out.  And then I can write stories about it.  Only a few people will know it’s true.  I can write mythologies.  Because I won’t be blessing anyone.  I won’t be trying to understand anything.

 

I do it.  I lift out. There’s the release of voices. The breath of the eco-system lifting me up.  My body’s still with me.  But it’s different.  It glows. I look at my hands.  There’s music between my sight and hands.  So far above the earth.  But it’s different, too.  A different earth.  That beautiful chorus blew me here.  It’s just like always.  Yet, it’s always different.  My thoughts carry me.  And there’s emotions in the air like currents.  You can become them.  Or you can ride them down.  Or you can ignore it all.  I fly down toward the earth.  What isthe difference?  There’s something different.  My body.  There’s something different about my body.  How I’m in it.  How I’m creating into it.  From a well. From the aquifer.  I’m descending toward a city.  I can feel it.  The Blessing. That urge to bless.  It’s a small city among farm fields.  An industrial park and a mall and houses.  And a river.  It’s like the city where we used to live, but it’s different.  The Blessing.  I don’t know if I’ve ever felt it coming.  But I’m different.  It’s like I’ve grown into my creation.  I don’t know how to describe it, but I can feel things.  Feel what’s mine.  I can feel my face changing as I get closer.  And that determination to bless everyone.  To love everyone.  Then I’ll be safe.  Because I’ll love everyone.  But it’s not me.  It’s a woman. Older.  She wants to use me to bless the world.  She’s wants to change people.  She’s changing my body.  But I feel it.  The dark city.  The city where televisions glow in every house.  It only exists for them.  For the ones who wrapped themselves in purgatory.  TV screens reflecting off networks of blood.  Forming the humans.  She’s trying to get into me.  To bless them.  To understand everything.  To keep herself safe.  But I don’t let her.  I grow all the way into myself.  I’m hard. I’m wet.  My body glows.  I made this body.  I know it. I made it to fly.  To bless The Flying.  The voices release again.  A choral exaltation.  It blooms from the eco-system.  My body returns.  My body belongs to me.  The city is gone.  I don’t know if this is earth.  I won’t bless anyone.  This is mymyth.  Why should I bless anyone when this is my mythology.  I made this body to pour out the music, and not tell it to go anywhere—that’s your problem—from the well of my heart—above the borders, the scars—blessing my own myth as it flies.  Blessing it by writing it down.  Art blessing art.  Reminyi, you’ll read them and know who I am. You’re the only one I’ll tell it’s real. And you’ll come with me.  Two poets of the air.  Pouring music out of our love. 

 

The night earth.  I’m following a river.  But I can feel it as if we’re touching bodies.  The river shimmers with reflected stars.  If I was blessing people, that’s all I would be doing.  I’d be above them.  Searching out people to bless.  But now I’m flying above a river.  It glows. Pulsing up an ethereal aurora. The lands are so different on each side. Like completely different worlds. The one on the right an endless bulge of rock and heather, and the one on my left, sand silvered from the night with colonies phallic rocks.  They meet in the river.  And the river pulses.

 

I fly on.  Borders. Seams.  I follow them.  I let them smile down the length of this body.  I fly the upwellings of the meetings, the musics that meet and send up sprays of sound. Borders of musics.  There’s voices in the air that aren’t human, that are just the music of the earth.  I’m flying above the shore of a sea.  No cities anywhere.  No humans. For once, no humans.  But I’m not alone.  I have the voices, the music, the meetings, the glowing earth, speaking our own myths, watching them touch, and the wings that are born that you glimpse slipping into other worlds.  Other dimension.  You have no idea whose report it is.  This music. The shore alive with bioluminescence. Trillions of blue beings singing in the sea-caress.  I dive down into the glow.  Just above it.  Breathing the aurora.  My clitoris touches the blue water.  Between the sand rising into mountains and the black mirror of sea.  The slow dreaming waves reach up to touch my thighs. My nipples are sweating the ocean’s blue light.  Drips leaping off and plunging back into the swells of blue music.  And I’m a music, too.  A music coming together.  Always. Why do we gather at the boundaries?  To give birth.  To shake hands.  To kiss each other’s bodies.  To write our autobiographies.  To learn to fly.  But you have to fly to find the boundaries.  To find the meeting.  To toss flames of flowers into the bioluminescent sea.  My body wants to go all the way in, to feel the tiny blue beings inside me. I rise up, still soring above the shore. Now I plunge down, following the seam. The voices release in awe and ecstasy. Where do they come from?  They’ve been watching, waiting.  All the blue light pours up into me between my legs. It fills my mouth.  I’m deep, deep in the seam.  The blue music swirls into the depths of my green eyes.  This is why I made this body.  To be here.  To fly in the depths of the scar.  Except…I’m not touching bottom.  I went deeper than I thought.  I’m still flying…but the bioluminescence…it’s above me.  It’s like a Milkyway.  But it’s blue.  Blue light. You can still see it caress the sand, but so slow.  I’m still flying.  But beneath me is another earth.  An earth with a different sky.  Mountains. High desert.  I descend.  My nipples, my vagina, pull what’s left of the blue liquid into me.  It’s like my body swallows.  To someone else.  To someone else.  There’s a mesa beneath me.  It’s like a bed.  A bed where I can sleep.  Ascenti, you’re gonna sleep, sleep for real.  I land and kneel.  The blue aurora washes the black glittering sky above me.  It’s so still here, but there’s listening, just the depths of listening.  Across the mesa there’s spore-prints where other beings have laid.  You can see the colored designs radiating out of the forms where their bodies must’ve been.  Glowing corollas.  Some close to human.  But most completely other types of beings.

 

I curl on my side and watch the slow waves.  The earth made this bed a million years ago, and the stars powdered it—the night smoothed it with its hand.  I guess it took me a while to get here.  What was I doing when I was blessing people?  I guess I was just being one person, one thing.  One idea.  But now it’s over.  Now I sleep on this mesa.  Sleep within the seam.  Sleep that an external sleep can’t reach.  Sleeping from the earth up.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Montgomery

 

Sylvia Swanwick came into Pizza Earth and said that that was it for the Farmer’s Market, that it’s getting too cold, but if we have a warm day later in the week we’ll do one last one.  It’s funny.  And suddenly, the day before Farmer’s Market, it became like summer again.  It’s like the last flare of a fire.  Like the fire was dying out but suddenly found another branch to burn.

 

“Do you want to go the Farmer’s Market?  You could stay here or we could go down and you could lay out on the beach.”

 

L’Spirit watches the way I pack all the herbs.  She doesn’t say anything.  I know she’s coming.  I like talking to L’Spirit.  A lot of times I hear the replies in my mind.  It’s like movements.  Or channels. And then the reply is there.

 

“Are you afraid someone will know you’re not human?”

 

“No.  I am aligned with you.  They know you have webs.”

 

I try to cover my hands when she says this, but you cover one with the other and you can still see them.  L’Spirit gets off the bed.  She forces my hands apart.  She slides her fingers between mine.  Her face is fixed.  She squeezes. It’s weird.  I see that she is a machine.  Usually I don’t see it.  It feels as if my bones are gonna break.  I have to say something: “L’Spirit.”  She releases my hands.

 

“I will create cultural linearality in the minds of people.”

 

“That’s sounds good,” I say, rubbing my hands.  I look at them.  “Do people really know I had webs?”

 

“If they let themselves.  The people who have human affection for you.”

 

“Really?”  I look at them.  Me and L’Spirit look at the scars together.  She doesn’t seem like a machine anymore.  I wonder what she is.  Something no one’s named.  She was created—but then she took it somewhere else.  All the scars.  And the tissue trying to reach through them to each other.  But the scars changed their natural course.  But I think if the skin got far enough out it would find its way. And come together.  I do.  I want them back.  I don’t even remember what it’s like.  I’ve just imagined them when I’m in the Lake.  “I hope they grow back,” I say, and I can feel it—I feel the energy.  It flows in.  It flows up out of me, but in from the outside, too.

 

L’Spirit scans around: “Energy.”

 

I look at my hands.  They actually could grow back.  With L’Spirit, everybody who wants to see them for the right reasons will know.

 

We pack up and head down.  I bring a couple blankets in case we decide to sleep on the beach.  It’s so warm.  But it’s different than summer.  People in the sky are still heading south.  Not tomorrow but the next day everything could be white.  But now it’s like the last flare.  The leaves are falling in the fire.  The fire’s falling in the fire.  I keep sneaking glances at L’Spirit.  Her red hair.  She’s has a packbasket, too, so we got a lot of herbs to trade or share, and one of my wool coats is strapped over the top of it.  She washed her dress and her body yesterday so she’d look more real.  I cooked up a big kettle of balsam fir bows and we poured it over ourselves mixed with regular water to cool it off.  Then we washed her dress in monarda and cleaned up her boots.  I sneaked a look at her body, but mostly I didn’t look.  It was really strange, so hard and white with no pubic hairs.

 

“What should we call you?  I don’t know if L’Spirit—”

 

“Marie.”

 

“That’s beautiful.  That’s like the ocean.  L’Marie.”

 

We pass fields and forest and houses and abandoned farms on our way down. A couple people slow down and ask if we need a ride.  Bear hunters pass in their trucks with their cages of dogs.  Those dogs spend their lives chained to plastic barrels.  Except when they chase down bears.  Then the hunters shoot the bears after they’ve climbed trees.  In the summer they practice and some of the bear babies get killed by the dogs.  But the dogs spend the rest of their lives chained to their barrels.

 

“Thank you for saying that about my webs.”

 

We go through town past the church and the store and Pizza Earth and get to the park for the Farmer’s Market along the beach.  Mostly everybody’s here.  I start laying out my stuff on the end like usual.  Everyone’s arranging their things and talking, but they’re looking over here, too.  L’Spirit is looking over the beach at the horizon.  Sylvia Swanwick walks down the line from the other end.  I have my ten dollars for her.  She’s gonna be the first one to talk to us.  I know she wants to be the first one.  I know L’Spirit knows she’s coming.

 

“L’Spirit, you know a lot,” I say cause I know she knows I know.  It’s like a joke.

 

“Montgomery.  You made it.” Sylvia’s looking past me at L’Spirit.

 

I hand her the ten dollars and she takes it without even looking down.

 

“How’s it been going up the hill?”  Sylvia lives pretty close to shore.

 

L’Spirit turns to her and Sylvia steps back.  L’Spirit is smiling.  “It’s gorgeous,” she says in this really smooth voice.  It’s totally different then before.  I look at her really close.  It’s like she’s a different person.  But I can feel it.  She’s radiating something.  She’s changing things.  “My name is Marie.”

 

There’s something in Sylvia that’s examining her.  But it’s being held back.  Or turned in another direction.  “Marie.”

 

“Yeah.  Her name’s Marie,” I say.  “We take walks to together.”  That was a weird thing to say, I guess, but Sylvia doesn’t notice.

 

Finally, she smiles, too.  There’s something deeper down between them talking.  Agreeing.  Two foxes nodding to each other without nodding.  Two eagles bending their feathers with even the wind thinking it was the wind.

 

“Montgomery, you and Marie have anything interesting to trade?” she asks, smiling, looking over the blanket.  “Are these nettles?”

 

“Yeah.  They are.”

 

“Can I get a couple bunches?”

 

“Yeah,” I say.  “It’s really good tea in winter.  There’s catnip, too.  It’s good for fevers.  It brings down the temperature.  I also have angelica root.  You should smell it.”  I hand a hardened root to Sylvia.  She grips it and scratches it with her thumb.

 

“Wow, Montgomery.”  She’s looking at L’Spirit who’s staring again at the horizon.  She scratches it again and takes a deep breath.  “It goes all the way through you.  It’s unbelievable.  What do you use it for?”

 

“Oh,” I try to think.  “It’s like for digestion and getting nervous.  It calms you and evens things out.  But it’s cause it makes you feel connected.  Just the smell makes you know how great things are.  Like you know the earth loves you.”  I know L’Spirit is listening, just with that big expanse in front of her.  But I can’t believe I told the truth, like I didn’t just leave it with the digestion and nerves.  “It’s good for colds, too.”

 

Sylvia swings her face to me.  Her body is so big and powerful.  She’s like a bear.  “You and Marie should come over some time.  We’re putting the gardens to rest.  You could help.  You know Sadko would love it.  And little Jake.  You guys could draw together.”  Sadko is the Swanwick’s farm dog.  And Jake is their little boy.  I can feel L’Spirit entering my mind to identify the names.

 

“Ok.”

 

She glances at L’Spirit.  Now she looks at the herbs.  And now at me.  She’s coming back to the surface.  The sonic surface.  The appearance.  It’s funny—everybody’s watching.  Even if they aren’t looking, they’re tuned in.  She’s trying to put something together.  Something together on the surface.

 

“You should take a bunch of dried strawberry leaves.  They got a ton of vitamin C.  They’re really good for winter.”

 

“That’s right,” states Sylvia, shaking something off.  “That’s right.”  I don’t think she’s used to being puzzled.  “I’ll bring over a bunch of stuff for you and your special friend. If I forget, we’ll drop it by your place.”

 

L’Spirit swings to face Sylvia.  It’s the same exact movement as before.  Sylvia stands up with the herbs and steps back.  But she takes a step forward.  And they say it at once: “It was good to meet you, Sylvia/L’Spirit.” That’s what they say, each other’s names at the same time, even though I don’t think either one heard the other’s names. They’re smiling at each other. L’Spirit has the same exact smile. It’s like Sylvia dropped back down beneath the surface and is smiling from there—the power of her core.  She turns and walks away.  I look at L’Spirit.  She’s smiling at the space where Sylvia stood.  Just the space she left is like a vacuum.  Other people come.  Sylvia sends her kids to pick up the herbs she couldn’t carry.  They bring some big tomatoes and goat cheese.  I have my mortar and pestle on the front left corner of the blanket with dried prunella in it.  It helps hold down the blanket, too.  But the kids love it.  Like right now Skyler and River come over.  They don’t really have any bruises or cuts but they probably bumped into each other so they very seriously apply some prunella paste to their wounds. “Wow.  Look, it’s healed.”  “Mine healed even quicker.”  “Let’s go!” And they take off.  Everyone knows this is some kind of last flare before summer goes beneath the earth.  L’Spirit kneels down next to me.  She was watching the kids.

 

“That prunella is so powerful.  But you gotta be careful cause if you got a deep infection the skin’ll heal right over it.”

 

Fredericka has her daughter mind her table and comes over with a big jar of kimchi.  She’s checking other people’s stuff as she comes, assessing it with her eyes.

 

“Hey Montgomery.”  She’s looking at L’Spirit really hard.  She kneels down, facing us, holding her big jar on her lap.  She has a yellow farm-dress.  Her blonde hair’s pulled back.  “I guess I was wrong about your Deerwife, Montgomery.  You guys getting ready for winter?  I got something for you.”  She puts down the kimchi jar.  “It’s just mainly cabbage and caraway seeds.  But it’s good.  It’s better than Sylvia’s.”  She’s still looking at L’Spirit.

 

“It’s good to meet you, Fredericka.  I love you’re name,” says L’Spirit in that bright smooth voice. She has her eyes fixed on Fredericka’s but her head is tilting slowly.

 

Fredericka narrows her eyes as if a breeze is hitting her.  But she doesn’t shy back like Sylvia did.  It must be a different communication.  For a second I get the feeling they’re dancing inside Fredericka’s head, the two of them.  It’s like a strange dance, sliding around each other’s movements, slipping out of each other’s grasps.  It’s weird. I can’t see it, but it’s moving out of Fredericka.  She’s maneuvering it out of her mind so it’s more between them, over the herbs.  And it just dissolves.

 

“It’s good to meet you, too, Marie.  I love your name too.  It’s like La Mer.”

 

“Debussy.”

 

“What is that?” I ask.

 

“He’s a composer,” says Fredericka, smiling.  “Anyway, I gotta get back to my table and sell some bread. What do you got for me?”  She scans the blanket.  Her eyes stop on a bottle by my knee I haven’t put out. “What’s that?”

 

I hold it out to her.  “It’s…it’s black walnut tincture.  It’s good for worms and parasites and stings and bites and it’s like a fungicide, too, so it’s good for athlete’s foot or ringworm.  You can use it for dogs, too.”

 

“I’ll take it.”

 

I reach in my backpack and pull out a bag.  “I have some cattail pollen, too.  It’s really great for baking.  You can mix it into the flour.”

 

Fredericka grabs it really quick.  “Wow, Montgomery.  I never thought of that.”

 

“You gotta get it early on.  You bend over the heads and shake them into bags and you just get tons of it. It’s really beautiful.”  I look at her hair and her ears.  She has really interesting ears.

 

Fredericka gets up.  “I’ll come back.”  She heads back to her table.  But she doesn’t nod or say anything to L’Spirit I think on purpose.

 

“There’s a ton of people today.  I guess cause it’s the last one.”

 

“She loves you,” says L’Spirit scanning around.  She’s using her old voice.

 

“Really?  That’s weird. I guess…I don’t know why.  She’s married, too.”

 

I’m trying to figure out what that means.  I guess I never noticed Fredericka loved me.  Like in a special way.  All of sudden Rachael and James drive past with Mary Margaret in their mini-van.  They park way down at the other end.

 

“I guess you can be married and love someone else, too.”  I think about her husband Kyle always watching me. I look down and don’t see his truck. He’s a Timber-framer.  I think I’m supposed to say something else.  But it’s L’Spirit, so it’s different.  She turns her head almost completely to the back to continue looking at the Lake.  I nudge her body around a little so it looks more normal.  It’s so funny.  She knows what I’m doing.  “I love you,” I say.  It’s weird.  It’s like the words get sipped into the horizon.  She doesn’t move.  “A ton.” I’m trying to get her to react. “Like a big planet worth.”  The words just pass through her and follow her sight into the horizon.  “Gazzillions of universes all sending their perfumes and oozing a lot.”  I laugh.  “Wait! I don’t know if that’s what anybody wants.  But, anyway, I really do.  Maybe just like an artesian well.”  I stop laughing.

 

L’Spirit swivels around and faces the other side of the blanket. Mary Margaret’s crouched down gazing at her.

 

“L’Spirit.”

 

“L’Spirit,” says L’Spirit in her regular voice.

 

They both rise up.  Little Mary Margaret with her wild earthy hair.  L’Spirit with her eerie red flames.  They step into the blanket.  Neither one of them are crushing the herbs.  It’s like their bodies know.  And they start sliding their arms along each other’s.  They’re making plants out of their bodies.  It’s like they’re moving energy channels around.  Or following them with their limbs.   Sometimes they touch, but mostly there’s space between them. Mary Margaret’s eyes are almost closed but she’s looking.  There’s no difference between them, like no one’s leading the other.  I look around.  Tons of people are watching.  I look out to where the girls practice their dance.  They’re watching, too.  I don’t know why but I look up.  There’s beautiful ribs of clouds like waves.  Like the sky and Lake are taking on each other’s bodies.  Rachael and James are by Sylvia’s table watching hand in hand.  L’Spirit and Mary Margaret are both on one leg.  They’re almost like herons.  And their arms are gliding, forming, growing through some invisible music.  I look at their feet.  They both have a plant on their raised foot.  Mary Margaret has a bundle of echinacea root and L’Spirit has a head of staghorn sumac.  They reach their feet through each other’s legs as they juxtapose and place them down. They’re rearranging everything. It’s so funny.  They don’t crush anything.  Their feet probably have eyes.  Their regular eyes are watching each other.  It goes on for a couple minutes.  But suddenly…it ends.  Their big and second toes are locked together and slowly their raised legs descend. Their arms descend, too. Everybody goes back to what they were doing.  But the girls are still watching.   L’Spirit and Mary Margaret turn and look out at the horizon together.  I look, too, but can only see grass and sky cause I’m sitting down.  But I can hear it in my mind.  They’re speaking to each other.  But they’re saying it to me, too: “There’s people beyond the sunset.”  Mary Margaret skips away.  It’s funny—her Dad starts chasing her, laughing.  And it’s funny, too, because throughout the afternoon I sell so many of the herbs, while kids and even a couple grownups come and put prunella on their scrapes and bruises, especially the girls who are practicing.  Every time I look up it seems the clouds are in different shapes—first it’s like ribs and waves, then like beautiful flying tails, then like mountains in the distance.  They keep replacing each other.  L’Spirit watches them from her back as people come and go.  She gives everyone the same smile, swinging her face to them, and says: “So good to meet you!” all bright and perfect, and I feel a line of energy radiate out, and she says their name.  An aura forms around us, around me and L’Spirit and whoever is bending down picking out something.  It’s like this egg of beauty.  And everything speaks.  You can hear everything.  All the plants call out so people don’t even ask as many questions.  The plants and the people nod to each other.  They reach out through that glowing atmosphere and the emotions in the person reach out—the two touch and something new is released.  Accept you’d never know it.  I watch the blanket as the plants and roots disappear, as the little bottles of tinctures get swept away.  L’Spirit always says: “Thank you soooo much!”  She’s blowing the atmosphere with them.  And I guess…I guess I’m talking different…or more…or something.

 

All of a sudden, Emma runs down the line of sellers: “The performance is about to begin!!!” she yells.  She runs down and back twice and rejoins the group in the grass out in front of us.  Most of the grown-ups and kids go and loosely encircle the area.  But some don’t.  Some just stay where they are.  There’s kids watching from the swings, too.  But there’s people who were just walking the beach who stop on the berm to see what’s going on.  One of them is Stephano from Pizza Earth.  He’s looking at me and L’Spirit and we wave.  He probably came to buy things for the restaurant.  I look at the people out there.  I want to go, too, but I’m kinda afraid to be with them, like in a group.  I turn around and L’Spirit is climbing up in the willow behind us.  I climb up, too.  I grab her forearm which is hard and unmovable even more than a branch, and we get up high enough to watch.  All of sudden it’s just this beautiful wind that comes off the Lake, sweeping away the heat.  The girls start doing all these regular ballet kind of things, like spins and leaps that seem really jumbled, but they keep coming together and radiating out. But now they all come to the center back to back.  There’s seven little girls of all sizes, but you can tell Emma, Sylvia Swanwick’s oldest girl, is the most determined, like she wants it to really work.  She’s giving signs to the others.  They take a step away but now all bend back.  Two of the littlest girls fall.  They’re bending all the way back and touching the ground, except the way they’ve done it they’re bending through each other, through the arches of each other’s bodies so that their hands are right by another dancer’s feet.  The two girls who fell just writhe on their backs closer instead of getting up.  And suddenly they all rise back up straight with feathers in their hands.  A big wave of Awe explodes from the audience and everybody claps.  They actually pulled the feathers from other dancer’s legs.  They were hidden up their tights or beneath their little pants. They hold up their feathers. There’s all different kinds: seagull, turkey, dove, even some type of hawk or owl.  And they begin a whole new dance.  They’re still coming together and breaking apart, but there’s less of the ballet moves.  There’s more bird type of movements like the feathers are radiating down into them, turning them into birds.  Suddenly all the dancers spread out evenly in a ring and bow, sweeping their feathers across their bodies like their arms are wings.  I see Emma nod to somebody in the audience.  The dancers rise up and begin spinning, gaining speed.  And into the center walks Mary Margaret.  It must’ve been planned.  It’s so perfect.  She looks around like she’s examining a forest she’s never been.  She rises up on one leg, tilting her head like a strange bird, and starts making these beautiful slow sweeps with her arms and hands. Everyone around her is spinning, but she’s just sweeping her arms in these smooth, slow electric movements, articulating her fingers into the thick invisible music.  Everyone’s transfixed.  I kiss L’Spirit’s hard arm.  She’s watching.  Her mouth is open like it was in the moonlight.  I wish I could see the energy.  It must be beautiful like a whole universe.  Suddenly the spin stops.  Mary Margaret is still on one leg, sweeping.  The girls reach into their shirts and dress tops and blow milkweed seeds up into the air.  There’s another wave of Awethrough the audience. People clap and laugh.  The girls start spinning in the opposite direction with their feather held high.  And Mary Margaret starts dancing with the seeds.  She creates updrafts with her movements and they swirl up while on her other arm she lets two land and carries them over to her mouth and blows them into the air.  A couple get swirled up by the spinning feathers.  But mostly it’s Mary Margaret and the seeds improvising.  She’s perfect to be in the middle with her dark skin and all the dancing milkweed fluff like molecules.  One of the littlest girls falls down.  Another girls starts laughing.  Another one stumbles.  Mary Margaret stops.  There’s milkweed in her hair.  The dance just ends.  Some of the girls suddenly look bored as if they’d rather be doing something else. There’s a silence from the audience. But now everybody goes crazy.  The girls look at each other and they line up to bow.  Emma gets Mary Margaret to join them.  They put her in the middle.  And they all make a big bow except Mary Margaret who’s staring at us.  But now she bows, too.  People hug their kids and break up back to their tables.  That was a big event.  Maybe the biggest ever.

 

We climb down and kneel by the blanket.  It’s almost empty.  Stephano comes over with a couple of big baskets.

 

“I’m late!  I’m late! I’m late for a date with a bunch of vegetables.”  He has an accent that’s kinda Slavic, but he’s supposed to be from Italy.  I think.  I’ve heard some people say he’s actually from New Jersey.  But I don’t think it matters.  “My name’s Stephano.”  He smiles at L’Spirit.  Now his smile drops.  He nods to her.

 

She enacts the same smile and says in this shiny way: “Stephano, it is so good to meet you.  I’ve heard a lot about your restaurant.  Montgomery really cares about you.  My name is L’Marie.”

 

Neither one moves to shake hands.  I wonder what would happen if somebody touched her.  But if you want to believe she’s human…then when you touch her it’s different.

 

Stephano smiles.  But he knows something.  He’s like Fredericka.  He’s not swept away on the surface.  “Maybe you two can come stay at the house when me and Lyric head off for the winter. We’re going to Chiaaaapas.  Then, I believe, Guatemala.  But I just joke, my friends—I know our Montgomery here will never leave his tent.  He just likes camping way too much.”

 

“Camping,” I say slowly, thinking.  “It’s not camping.  It’s where I live.”

 

Stephano laughs.  “Monte, I look forward to seeing you this weekend, my friend.  He is best Dish Technician in thee west.  He’s an animal.  That’s why I came to America, to meet people like you.  And you, too.”

 

He heads on.  I’m still blushing from when he called me a Dish Technician.  But I’m thinking, too.  I do like camping.  In a way, after the performance something changed.  It’s funny cause I think I was already thinking it.

 

“Hey, L’Spirit—I mean, Marie.  I don’t know…but do you wanna take off.  We could go camp on the beach way down past the Harbor.  We could go to Bark Bay and lay out all night.  We probably won’t see any humans at all.”

 

L’Spirit stands up.  We gather what’s left up and pack it away, roll up the blanket.  I keep looking over the scene.  I keep thinking how big of an event the whole day was…with humans and plants and everything.  I look out at the empty space where the dance was.  A couple of kids run through.  There’s milkweed seeds stuck to the grass.  It’s funny to think that that happened right in front of us.  And I think like that could be a way a body works like inside, like that dance they did constantly goes on in your body instead what’s supposed to happen with blood and air and kidneys.  It’s like I don’t want to leave but it’s time, too. It’s like something in me is already walking down the beach with L’Spirit.  All of sudden, Fredericka is standing in front of us.  For some reason I look down the line and see her husband watching us from her table.  He must’ve showed up without me noticing him.

 

“Have a nice honeymoon,” she says with this wry smile.  She’s trying to sound bright and happy, but there’s something else there.  I look at her ears.  It’s funny how you can love somebody’s ears.  But I guess I love L’Spirit’s whole person.  I’m not sure I’ve ever really thought about L’Spirit’s ears.

 

“Thanks for all the stuff.”  Fredericka reaches out.  I don’t know what to do.  My hand comes out and my fingers spread.  She’s looking in my eyes.  But her fingers sweep through the air and pass between mine, just barely touching my scars.  I look down. Then I glance at her husband.  He’s always been really nice to me.  Their kids are looking, too.  “Anyway, maybe we’ll see you this winter.”  She stuffs a loaf of her bread in my backpack.

 

“I think so,” I say.

 

“Thank you,” says L’Spirit in her regular voice.  The voice she uses when it’s just me and her.

 

Fredericka walks away.  But she turns back: “Hey, if you get a deer, save me the hide.  And the brain.”

 

“Ok,” I say.  I watch her. She has beautiful ears for sure.

 

No one really notices that we leave really and once we step away, out of the aura, it’s like being on a conveyor belt, our feet in the sand just carrying us on.

 

“It’s still early enough to get to Bark Bay and look around some before it gets dark,” I say.

 

We walk the shore till we get to the harbor, go around to the road and back where the beach starts again.  A lot of people are bringing in their boats, getting them ready for winter. We walk the long shore toward the forested point that reaches out into the Lake, rocky and full of pines.  It’s beyond that where Bark Bay is.  The beach runs for maybe a mile.  We only pass two people the whole time.  At the end we wade through a creek that flows out from the forest.  I take my clothes off and L’Spirit just wears her dress.  We carry the packbaskets high.  We climb up the other side into the woods and follow a logging road that takes us to the other side of the point.  We follow the shore again and get to the opening to Bark Bay.  We wade across the opening and are on the arm of land that reaches out from the forest up ahead, encircling the little bay.

 

“They call it Bark Bay because a long time ago they used to ship the bark of hemlock trees outta here to tan leather.  I guess they used to grind it up and concentrate it into a powder and send it all over the world to tanneries even in England.  And leave the trees in piles.  They just wanted the bark.”  We look around.  “I don’t know if there’s any hemlocks left around here.  But there’s still a lot of stumps.  The hemlocks created a whole different forest so once the big ones were cut down there was too much light.  And it was too hot.  Everything changed.”

 

The bay is so beautiful in the aura of early evening.  It’s its own little world.  The water is tannic and dark compared to the deep sea-like Lake. The edges are full of cattails and leatherleaf, and further in a forest of birch and alder and white and red pine, spruces and balsam firs.  All down the arm of land that separates it from the endless Lake stand some huge white pine and red ones, too.  We follow it. There’s still blueberry and huckleberries to eat.  A mother canvasback and two of her big children skirt away from the shore.

 

“I wonder how many she had originally?”

 

L’Spirit watches them.  “Seven.”

 

“They’ll be heading south soon.”

 

There’s not many mosquitoes, but I spray myself because I know they’ll get worse.

 

“Look at that.”  There’s a huge eagle nest in one of the white pines.  “I forgot about that.  There’s nobody in it now.”

 

L’Spirit stares: “Three babies.  One lived.”

 

We come to the other end of the arm of land where the forest starts again and look at one of the hemlock stumps.  It’s about five feet across.  A pack of warblers are passing through around us.  L’Spirit squats down and freezes.  It’s like she’s shutting down and flaring up, over and over.  The stump is encrusted with amazing mosses and lichens.  Out of it’s side a small birch is growing.  A line of bluejays cross the bay, screeching and pretending to be broadwing hawks.  I laugh. In the evening air, the moss and lichen glow.  They’re like universes.  Universes born from decomposition.  There’s a couple of whippoorwills in the forest beyond us.  I scan over the bay.  A heron is standing on a muskrat house.

 

L’Spirit stops flaring on and off and says: “Birdsong shaped like trees among the gates of fallen bodies.”  She stands up.

 

“I don’t think I’ve been here since last year.  I probably would’ve never come if it wasn’t for you.”

 

We gaze over the little tannic bay as twilight seems to release from the water, the trees, the bulrushes, the basswoods, all reflecting the greens of their needles and bare branches and the burning leaves that are left and falling.  Three barred owls call from different locations to each other.  Way off some coyotes kickup, howls and whines improvising and carrying crazy transforming notes like way out.  And stop.  I look at L’Spirit and over the bay, trying to imagine everything just energy, just silver and green and blue and gold forms of crystally light.  It’s like I get sucked into it for a second and come back out.  L’Spirit turns and I follow her to the shore facing the Lake.  She starts gathering branches so I start gathering branches, too. The sun is gone.  It must’ve set a while ago.  L’Spirit lights the fire with birch bark.  The branches catch.  We have a big pile next to us.  And the mosquitoes actually aren’t bad.  The frosty weather knocked them back and there’s a light breeze coming off the cold Lake.

 

“I’m glad we made it,” I say, laughing and watching the highway of smoke from our fire reach up and back.  Way out you can see an ore ship or maybe a ship coming to get grain from Duluth.  There’s some kayakers heading home, too. And a sailboat.  Our smoke just rises up and disappears into the trees and twilight.

 

“There’s a lot of us,” says L’Spirit staring into the fire.

 

“It’s true!  When you think about all the plants and trees and owls and water and coyotes—”

 

“Fire.”

 

“Yeah.  And the fire and sand.  There’s a ton of us.  We got here just in time,” I laugh.  “Just in time for the moon to rise.”

 

We both look back and to the right and there it is.

 

“It’s gigantic.”

 

“It speaks to the fire.”

 

I look from the stately burning moon to our little fire and back: “Wow. It’s true.  They’re having a big thing.”

 

We reposition ourselves so the fire is between us and the rising moon. We’re shoulder to shoulder.

 

“I don’t think you could ever point to a map and say that we’re here. You know?”

 

L’Spirit’s teeth are gleaming.  Her mouth is open.  All of sudden, a wolf lets out a deep yearning tone.  But the coyotes right away join in, drowning it out with all these crazy virtuosic screams and yelps.  I can’t help it—I gotta shout: “Hey you guys, I’m trying to hear the wolves!!!” I’m laughing.  Everything dies down again and we just watch it rise.  I get up and get a big branch before it gets really dark.  I think we can still find enough anyway with the big moon. It’s getting whiter and whiter the higher it gets.  I bring the branch back and am on the other side of the fire, standing.  I lift the branch, kinda aligning L’Spirit’s sight with the moon so it looks as if I’m lifting up the moon with the branch.  And it’s really heavy!  I make a bunch of grunting sounds and stumble a little like I can barely lift it.  I don’t know if it looks right or not to her, but I think she’s sending me adjustments. I can feel something.  Now I position the branch above it so that the moon looks like it’s dangling down like a big white berry, or it’s like a lamp hanging from the branch.  I laugh and drop the branch.  But suddenly I bow to L’Spirit like way over.  The moon is above me.  I reach my hands back and up.  It almost feels like I am gripping it, gripping something, even though I can’t see it. I’m just staring into the popping fire with my face really close.  It all makes sense.  Maybe just the bowing makes sense.  But the moon keeps lifting.  Farther than my arms can swing back.  And it’s outta my hands.  I laugh and sit back down and we watch it some more.  It’s like you can’t take your eyes off it, as if you’d miss something even though it’s just the moon.

 

“It’s like this huge ball of music,” I say.

 

“Everyone speaking,” says L’Spirit.  It’s nice to hear her regular voice with its strange intonations and resonances.  “Everyone’s music of story arising from themselves.  From the forms they’ve created with their energies.  This is the myth.”

 

I put more branches on the fire and the heat bends and makes the surface of the moon dance and shiver.  L’Spirit stands up and walks into the Lake and dives in.  I laugh because it’s so sudden.  It’s just me and the fire.  And the moon.  And all the beautiful listening trees.  And owls. And the Lake glistening.  I hold my scars up and look through them at the flames.  I hold them up to the moon, too.  There’s this aching between my fingers.  I can feel it between my toes, too.  I slide my bare feet under the sand closer to the fire till I can feel the heat.  And lift them slowly.  For a second I think they’re back—the webs—because the sand doesn’t fall through.  But now it does.  I think they’ve grown.  I guess I’m looking at them more since L’Spirit came.  I guess I’m asking them to grow.  And not stopping it.  It used to be I’d ask them to grow, but try to hide them, too.  And the Lake would say it’s ok.  So much energy.  Trying to hide things.  Trying to stop things.  Now it’s just the moon and the fire.  And the Lake. All of us.  And L’Spirit hasn’t come up yet.  She’s just down there.  In the myth.

 

I take off my clothes and walk to the water.  I slowly go deeper, enveloped by the deep colors and the glistening.  I look back before I’m all the way in. Just a lone fire on the shore. Just waiting for someone to sit next to it.  I dive forward.  I feel like the fire is watching me.  And here’s L’Spirit.  There’s energy channels around her like rainbows, like rays of dark silk.  I shoot through them, changing their shapes, twisting their hues together into new tones.  L’Spirit encircles me with them and I shoot up.  Her teeth are gleaming in the darkness.  We’re in this giant blue heart just chasing each other through the channels.  L’Spirit rises up like a big goldfish toward the bending moon.  Her mouth’s wide open.  I swirl back to watch.  She fits her lips right against the surface.  And the moon slides in.  And she dives back down.  I chase her. Her cheeks are puffed and her head glows.  Flashing schools of fish get illuminated by the light.  She heads back up to the surface and opens her mouth.  Suddenly, the moon’s back.  I rise up to take a breath and gaze over the Lake’s surface. I let go and let myself float. The Lake’s slowly swelling, slowly breathing my body back to the sand.  To the fire.  L’Spirit’s probably somewhere beneath me.  Playing with energy.  But I just watch the moon.  The spaces between my fingers and toes glistening with silver.  The white silver of the moon.  The Lake places me on the beach.  The water’s still half-covering my body.  I just lay here looking up.  L’Spirit walks out of the Lake, completely erect.  We build the fire back up and I eat some tomatoes and cheese on Fredericka’s bread.  And just watch the fire and Lake and moon.  Just listening.  I get one of the blankets out and curl up.  I’m on automatic.  I roll up the other blanket for a pillow and stare into the fire.  L’Spirit is watching the moon.  A branch breaks over in the forest.  A bear crunches on apples.

 

“Hey, don’t eat em all!” I say.

 

The crunching stops.  And it starts again.  Being on automatic is the best.  Getting sucked into the Automatic.

 

“Are you absorbing energy?” I ask.

 

“Yes.  Data is adhering and disappearing.  Lunar energy. Arc of stories…and moon.”

 

“I love to hear you talk, you know?  I hope there’s enough sunlight and moonlight to keep you charged this winter. Sometimes it’s pretty cloudy till the Lake freezes out far enough.”

 

So many times throughout the night I disappear, part of me flying off somewhere up high and part of me descending into the earth.  And they talk to each other, they send messages.  I guess that’s me.  That’s where the messages, the reports, meet.  The person curled by the fire with L’Spirit.  Every time I wake up I look.  She never lets the fire die so I always see her reshaped by the heat and flames.  Sometimes her head is growing from them, sometimes they’re like curtains giving flashes of a woman watching the moon.  I know she knows when I wake up.  But she never lets on.  Except now it’s really late—the moon is past its peak and heading down—and I hear her voice: “The angel and the human.”

 

I smile: “I guess it’s alright to be human when I’m with you.”

 

The flames are keeping her head buoyant with their heat.  They’re waiting to be able to touch the moon when it comes down.

 

“You’re not the human.”

 

What’s gonna happen when the moon descends into the fire, I wonder. Like a seed working it’s way deeper into the flaming grass, deeper into the decomposition.  I fall asleep again and when I wake up L’Spirit is curled around the fire, too.  Except it’s a bed of pulsing coals.  Our bodies make a ring around it.  My face is by her feet and her face is by mine.  Like two fish.  Chasing each other.  Chasing each other in sleep.  I know she’s not shut down.  But I’m getting sucked in.  It seems so important.

 

“I’m going to sleep,” I murmur.  “She’s really close.”

 

“I know her,” says L’Spirit.  “She’s waiting for you.”

 

When I open my eyes again, the sun’s beating on me.  I blink a bunch of times and rub my face.  The fire’s out and L’Spirit is gone.  I close my eyes.  I can feel her out in the Lake.  Beneath the surface.  It’s so hot on the sand, but it’s not really that late in the morning.  I’m surprised though I slept that long, that nothing woke me. I stand up.  Our forms are imprinted around the dead fire.  Like the shapes of two aquatic beings.  I get my little teapot and scoop some water out of the Lake and make another fire in the shade, just a little one, and use three rocks to prop up the pot.  In the sun the sand is so hot I have to walk really quick.  I make tea with powdered milk and drink it, looking out, waking up. The tea goes through my whole body. I remember L’Spirit’s words: ‘The angel and the human.’  But she said I wasn’t the human.  I hold up my hands.  I know the tissue has grown.  It’s kinda scary.  But I asked for it.  I wanted it. I want it.  Between my two hands is the old fire from last night with the imprints of our bodies around it.  And beyond, L’Spirit emerges out of the blue water.  She strides straight toward me but stops and examines the design.  She circles around it once, looking down, and then comes and sits down.

 

“I knew you were underwater,” I say.

 

Her wet hair’s like dark wine.  Her skin’s super white.  Her dress is wrapped to her body.  She’s moving her head side to side.

 

“Is every ok?” I ask.

 

She doesn’t answer.  I wait. We’re side by side by the little fire looking out over the blue Lake.  I sip my tea.  I don’t want her to think she’s doing anything weird.  But when I get the cup up to my face and tip it back I take little looks.  Her face is steadily moving back and forth at an even speed.  And her eyes are clicking.  I don’t think they were at first when she first came out of the Lake and looked at the design, but now I can actually hear it.  She’s blinking…almost like a code.  I lean forward and look.  She doesn’t acknowledge me.  The clicking, the blinking, is like a code…or a sequence. It’s aligned though with her eye movements.  She swings her pupils to one side, blinks twice, opens the lids, looks up, looks down, blinks three times, swings them to the other side, blinks twice, looks up, looks down, blinks three times, returns them to the center, toward the Lake, blinks three times again.  But the sequence changes.  Things are added and taken away.  I close my eyes and listen to the clicks.  It’s funny—if L’Spirit gets broke, I don’t know how I could fix her, like I don’t know anything about Artificial Intelligence or whatever she is.  I could try to lay plants on her.  Or grow them around her.  Or maybe just lay her down in a bed of bearberry and just check on her. Or I could get ahold of somebody who knows about those things.  They would probably destroy her.  Or reconstruct her.  Or I guess I could let her sink into the Lake.  The Lake would take care of her.  Probably one day she’d just wake up and walk out.  I’d be dead by then.  But maybe there’d be someone else.  Like a girl with deerhorns or something.  Or hoofs. And they could do things like me and L’Spirit.  Maybe everything’d be changed by then and there’d be all kinds of different people, just naturally.  All surrounding the Lake.  In the Lake. She’d fit right in.  Even without changing her voice.  And Mary Margaret would be an old lady.  She’d be walking down the shore, saying hi to everyone. She’d see the little Deergirl and L’Spirit and say: ‘L’Spirit’ like she knew that someday they would meet again.  And L’Spirit would say ‘L’Spirit’, too.  Just like they did over the blanket.  And all three of them would dance.  I guess that’s what I’d have to do, but it doesn’t really make sense to think about it now.

 

I watch her head and eye movements.  It’s funny.  It’s funny cause I start copying them.  Just naturally.  My eyes start doing it.  We’re facing out, but I shift a little so I can see her more.  I zone in on the clicking and follow it.  The blinking is the same, I think, but I think the eye movements, they’re different.  Sometimes I bet they’re the same, but sometimes I bet they’re different.  I can’t really tell.  But then I start blinking different, too.  Sometimes we blink at the same time.  And sometimes it’s like doing variations off her.  The only thing that’s the same is our faces swinging from left to right, right to left, over and over.  It’s weird.  But suddenly, this crazy resonate call, like a dinosaur, hits us.  Our faces snap to the right.  And right there, like twenty yards away, two cranes are staring at us. I glance at L’Spirit and she’s stopped blinking.  One crane is in the shade beneath a white pine with a split trunk, and the other is in the sand.  They turn to each other.  The crane in the shade lets out a long resonate line of sounds almost like a croaking, but a croaking that’s more connected into one deep strand.  It’s like a vein opening in the air.  Crossing time.  The crane in the sand lifts it’s wings and dances.  It prances, rotating all the way around, it’s beak and wings in the air.  They stop and look at us.  I glance at L’Spirit.  She’s gazing at them.  Her pupils are dilating, adjusting.  The cranes face each other again.  Again the one in the shade lets out a long croaking stream.  It almost shakes the air.  It changes something.  This time the dancing crane turns in the opposite direction, hopping, its wings up but not as extended.  It sends a ripple up its long neck to its beak.  Its beak opens as the last sound of the other crane dies away.  They freeze.  Suddenly, they relax, look at each other, and fly off.  Just like that.  Long arced wings.  Elegant legs trailing.  We watch them head out to one of the distant islands.

 

“Wow.  Wowzer. That was amazing.”

 

We get up and look at the tracks.  The evidence of the dance.  It’s nothing you could even describe.  But it’s beautiful.

 

“I wish I could remember this design.”

 

“Data,” says L’Spirit.  I wait but she doesn’t say anything else.

 

I take my clothes off right there and leave them by the tracks and we walk to the water.  It’s like an agreement.  Without saying anything.  The sand is so hot I can barely stand it, but once my feet enter the water, it’s like ice. It’s the coldest I’ve ever felt it in the fall like this.  The wind must’ve shifted and drawn in up from way deep.  L’Spirit faces me.  For some reason I stand where the land and Lake meet even though it’s shifting with the washes of the Lake reaching into the shore.  I put one foot on the sand and the other one is getting sucked deeper into the sand beneath the water by the little waves.  And we look at each other.  Just like the cranes.

 

“This is it.  This is what I got to say to you,” I laugh.

 

“Data,” L’Spirit says, again.  And her mouth opens.

 

I look deep into it, sorta mesmerized, like we’re on the edge of something.  I look down. The waves disappearing between my legs. I look down the shore that leads to the forest where the border of sand and Lake disappear into rocks and trees. And I nod to L’Spirit without nodding. She lets out a stream of tones. And right away I react.  My body reacts.  More like out of fear.  There’s three of them.  Three tones. They’re all eerie. Different.  Like they’ve never existed before.  I’ve never heard anything like them.  But they’re coming out of L’Spirit.  But I wonder.  I wonder if she’s just making them visible.  Making them known.  Like they are already here.  I don’t even know if anyone could hear them but me.  Any other human.  I lift my foot in the water all the way out as high as I can and replace it. Now I rotate awkwardly all the way around on it, lifting the other leg.  It twists deeper into the submerged sand.  And a part of me is fixed on that meeting—water and earth meeting—not what it means, really, just that they do—and this body trying to create things right here among the three tones that pour out of L’Spirit like a wind.  They pour from her mouth past me, through me, but they’re so separate.  They know they’re separate.  There’s space, distances, between them, yet alone they are all strange.  But the shifting proximities…what are they?  The openings between them?  It’s in the hearing.  Or when they hit my body.  And the opening beneath me.  The meeting beneath me.  Stretching in both directions.  I try to dance it.  I try to let one side of my body be of the sea and the other the land, and let them move, speaking the elements, the core, and even switch the movement to the other side, so the ones that grew from the water are on the land side and the land on the water, mixing them.  L’Spirit bends her tones like long bands of eerie metal.  It’s strange.  It’s not like something that you realize is natural, like you realize it’s attached to anything known.  It’s something else.  Somewhere else, in some other dimension, they probably are natural.  But it’s here.  Somehow it’s here, too.  I face her, face the tones, with my arms extended, but bowed like a gliding crane, and lean into them.  There’s something between the tones and the meeting beneath me—and maybe the distance between me and L’Spirit—that lifts me up.  I know it—I know my feet are actually on the surface, not on the bottom, not on the sand.  The tone and the meeting suspend me.  But the tones push me back, out a little ways.  I laugh and drop.  That’s part of it, too.  The part of the dance when you’re a little one way or another.  A little on the sand or a little in the water.  I lift my left leg as high as I can.  She’s stretching the tones.  Spreading them.  I’m between them.  Like looking at a rainbow that’s separated.  Except I can’t actually fully see it.  They yearn away from each other until you almost can’t stand it.  There’s another world between the tones.  Like from each stream a different world grows inward.  Ancient and new.  I stand on my hands and fit my feet into each one.  And each time feel something.  It’s ancient but you’d never be able to find it.  It’s new but it’s just us, just me and the Lake and L’Spirit and the sand and Bark Bay.  When I bring my feet down, the meeting of the water and sand’s between my legs again.  I missed it. I missed the feeling.  It’s where the dance really belongs.  Spreading from the two worlds speaking, which is a world in itself.  I hop from side to side and then leap up.  L’Spirit brings the tones together between my legs like I’m sitting on a wall. I start laughing and fall.  One eye is beneath the water as I lay here and one is looking at L’Spirit.  She closes her mouth.  She’s looking at me, too.  I just lay here for a little bit feeling the cold wash of the Lake, like sentences that don’t last long enough for you to understand them—you have to put them together. If you want.

 

“Maybe we should fly to the islands,” I say, all gurgly from being half in the water.  I laugh and sit up.  I look around.  It’s funny. It’s time to go.  I know it.  Tonight winter comes even though the sand is like fire.  I come out of the water and put my clothes on and we get everything packed and go to the other side of the trees and stand, facing in, taking in Bark Bay with the Lake behind us.  So many different plants.  The dark tannic water.  The stumps and muskrat houses.

 

“I guess it really ain’t Bark Bay.  I guess it was just a name people gave it cause they were using it that way.  What do you think its real name is?”

 

L’Spirit speaks in her vibrating voice.  It’s still a little eerie from the strange tones: “Crane Dance.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Techla

 

Again we head west.  Higher and higher with our antennae dipping into the twilight.  I reach out my proboscis and taste it as a drip falls. A glow passes through my cloak, renewing the colors.  Higher and higher our antennae release the fire we follow on our migration, tapping the stars, rhythms of configurations, and our wings sending breaths against the waves of sound as we follow the flare west.

 

“What are we doing?” I ask.

 

“We’re flying toward the next season.  We’re flying toward winter,” says my friend to my left.  It’s the same person.  I don’t know why we’re always together when we fly but it feels so good, the vibration of my heart sending messages out almost as if from my friend it radiates to the others.  When we were in the trees in the daylight by the stream we were butterflies completely—that was our only form.  But now, again, we shift.  In the air, in the night, our bodies are part human and part butterfly.  It may be my thoughts.  I don’t know.  They must effect our forms.

 

“But isn’t winter behind us?”

 

“Autumn knows us.”

 

Everyone is speaking it into our flight.

 

“Autumn surrounds winter.”

 

“Autumn surrounds winter,” I sing automatically.

 

“That’s why we fly so high.  Closer to the stars, we can play with the seasons.  Time can be sang with.  Stretching, condensing.  We can help winter come and head toward it at the same time.  We can watch autumn surround it.”

 

“Autumn is in our wings.”

 

“We can sing with the seasons and agree.  Agree to distances, to tempos, as we night-fly, and earth can remain the color of our wings around us.  But then winter can come just like that.  Suddenly, we arrive.  We can forget that it’s music.  Music of many people.”

 

We keep ascending.  Techla.  You’re still you.  You could fuckin go down and check people in, run their credit cards, sit there doin computer entry, email lists, and give people looks and say: “They’re just wings. You probably got something like this, too, if you weren’t so busy dishing out cash, trying to get healed. Putting your life in someone else’s hands.  Maybe if you get healed you can be a god, too, right?  Then you don’t have to worry about wings cause you’re never gonna find out who you really are.”  That’s funny. Shit.  Up here, touching stars, I’m fuckin ripping on the gods.  I must be different.  But it’s Techla.  It’s me. The others don’t have thoughts like I do, but I can sense all their individual differences, too—our asymmetry.  Everyone asymmetrical within themselves, with each other.  We’re all different, all shifting.  Only a god would think we’re the same.  All shifting. I could tell you where I’m from. But I was this form before I tried to be a god, too.

 

We’re lifting toward a shimmering highway.  Like a fountain of spores pouring and splitting out of the blue-black pregnant depths.  The dust of our wings.  The spores abiding out of the invisible.  Singing. Singing the differences between us. The difference between people who just fly and the gods—the gods want to see themselves flying from the outside—they want other people to see them and be amazed, that’s why they don’t want you to know that you can fly, that you’re not really human.  But to not be human is to come from the core.  Fly with the core.  As if there’s a well within us.  A well pouring music.

 

“Head for the stream going west,” we all vibrate.

 

The spore-highway is green and gold.  It pours out of the depths of sky across the night and separates into individual tentacles.  You could follow a number of them.  But there’s one reaching directly west.  Reaching toward the faintest glow.  I look down. The earth shimmers, too.  It vibrates.  Bathed in night.  We see over hundreds of miles.  Maybe more. A thrill goes through my heart. And I’m still Techla.  I’m still fuckin Techla.  Except I’ve left the realm of the gods.  I walked out.  I took my friends’ hands.  I let myself become myself.  I search below us.  It shimmers. There’s even regions where it’s like somebody just dumped a shitload of jewels, and then there’s just that wash of blue-silver.  Bodies of mountains.  But to see this far…to see this far…and no human cities.

 

“Is this earth?”

 

“The earth.  The earth,” everyone sings out and our wings spread the music to the shimmering earth beneath us.  I don’t know how to ask if there’s a difference, just like I don’t know how I would interview all the Morning Cloaks and ask them who they were before, if they forgot like I did, if they wanted to be gods.  Alls I know is that we’re different and here.  Up here.  So fuckin real.  And still rising.  Playing ourselves with the seasons.

 

Our antennae enter the spore-river heading west.  They feel into it and pull us into the flow of deep green and gold.  Diaphanous. The diaphanous sepal of a flower blooming across the sky.  We pour into it.  Cloaked in shimmering.  Some of us are folded further into it and disappear.

 

“Doorways,” I hear someone say.

 

“Gates of color,” I hear others, as if wishing their friends well.

 

We pulse into the glittering.  And our wings welcome it onto their surfaces.  The spores dust us and work down into the hairs of our bodies, embolden our designs, are sucked into the windows along our wings into blue worlds.  Our bodies shimmer.  The river pours us west.

 

“The autumn knows us,” we sing.

 

“We’re heading toward winter.”

 

“We’re guiding it.”

 

It’s all true.  Dancing the green-gold river west.  Playing with the seasons.  Our antennae diving into the particles.  Sparkling with spores.  Conscious of the music of the changing earth.  We fly like this all night.  And I let go and watch it, this body, this crazy beautiful body, that nobody can take away from me—it’s playing with time, our eyes are on each other as the music pours—time and the well of our hearts, our vibrating hearts and our wings pulsing, agreeing, winter agreeing to wait as long as we pull it, as long as when the time comes we acknowledge that its music is beautiful and real, necessary—autumn agreeing to enfold us again as we ride through the borders, one embrace to another.  I understand it, but there’s still a part of me that doesn’t want to let go, that wants to fly forever—it’s lying to the winter, it’s planning to just keep going when the time comes.  I’m trying to reveal it and hide it at the same time.

 

“We’ll keep flying,” says the Morning Cloak next to me.  “Just not above the earth.  It’s essential.”

 

“It’s essential,” someone repeats.

 

“It’s essential,” repeats another.

 

“But it’s not even getting cold.  I feel like we could fly forever.”

 

Everyone laughs.  “Yes, fly forever.”

 

We give ourselves to the spore-river.  Dawn comes, and again we head down.  As the sun rises behind us, we follow our shadows.  Our antennae reach down and touch them so that we pull closer and closer.  Our shadows are sending us messages about the hibernation.  The hibernation is beneath us.  Ahead of us.  But it’s behind us, too.  It’s coming.

 

We land around a beautiful pool.  The morning sun bathes our wings, reaching into our bodies.  We unfurl our proboscises into the water.  Everything is so lush with willows surrounding the pool.  And further ahead, green mountains, wet and glowing.  It’s as if we flew out of autumn’s end to its beginning.  But in our hearts we know the change is closer than it seems.  Indentations in the mountains are filled with ascending clouds like smoke.  We must be heading into them.  That’s where winter will find us.  Where we won’t fly above the earth.  What does that mean?  We sip the clear water.

 

“You could return.  Or you could stay and be with us.”

 

“But don’t you die?” I ask.

 

“We die.  Eventually we die.  It may not be this winter.”

 

“And then what?”

 

“Winter comes in a different way.”

 

“A different winter.”

 

A different winter.  Is that what I want—not to die?  There’s so many of us that we completely encircle the pool except for the stream that leads out through the willows.  There’s birds, too, who grab us and take us away into the trees.  But not enough to deplete us.  Every time someone is eaten we feel its reverberation, the new type of wings that some part of our music enters and sends back.  There’s something else, too, something in the willow branches, dense, sending out some familiar yet unknown sound.  We sip and listen.  Slowly fan our wings.  Touching each other.  Sharing our colors.  Our dust. Shooting energy lines across the surface from our antennae to each other, playfully pulling.  Waterstriders slice designs in the surface that lift like rainbow labyrinths of mist, vibrating through our lines of energy, and integrate into the air above the pool in a cool halo.  We listen and drink.  Our antennae play and we watch, feeling the music coming into being, making our forms what they are.  The water is cold.  There must be a spring in its depths.  You can feel the energy rising out.  Dragonflies dive through the floating designs.  One part of my mind is still on the strange sound in the willows.  What is it?  A bird swoops in and grips the leaved tendrils that reach all the way down to the stream.  Suddenly, a vibration shakes the tendrils near it, and the bird flies away, startled. Whatever it is, I understand it. It’s part of my past.  Part of my future.  Part of the in-between.

 

“What is it?”

 

“Caterpillars.  Morning Cloaks before they put on wings.  They vibrate in unison to send a wave out.  A wave of understanding.  Not to be eaten.  Not to be eaten yet.”

 

“When will they turn into us?”

 

“Soon.”

 

“Soon.”

 

“They can help us chase winter.”

 

We twitter and shift around the pool.  More waterstrider-designs are etched and lift.  The ones before them rise even higher, sipped into the invisible. But somehow you can still see them. Our fanning wings hold them within the space above the pool as they rise.

 

“They are Us. You can go into them.  Go into them with your heart.  Align your vibration.”

 

“The Caterpillars?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“Yes.”

 

I vibrate toward them without speaking, without shaping the vibration. Others of us do it, too.  They’re helping me.  Helping me understand.  Another bird flies in and they vibrate again, rattling the willow.  Our vibrations grab into it, just naturally, because of their shapelessness, because we’re Morning Cloaks, too.  Yes.  Yeah. The spines.  The closeness of our bodies, our births.  Waves of consciousness.  Leaves entering our ceaseless mouths and regrowing in our minds. Pushing our consciousnesses into waves that curl through us, and back, as we reposition, consume, consume the closeness, the mass.  Vibrations of our bodies spined.  Red dots radiating.  How many times do we shed?  My mind passes through the bodies so freely.  All individuals.  The consummation.  I could fuckin stay here.

 

“You can stay anywhere.”

 

Waves.  Waves. Rattling.  Energy touching energy.  Energy confronting energy.  Techla.  You’re a caterpillar, too.  This is your future.  This is your past.  It’s like a gameshow.  Except…except it’s real.  The proximity of birth.  How do you let it go?  I was born with all you crazy fuckers.  And we eat.  Our spines touch.  Our bodies pulse.  We vibrate together.  I don’t have to save anyone.  And when the birds come we vibrate.  We shake the trees.  It’s not anger.  The birds have nothing to do with the gods.  Beyond the gods, it’s just birdsong, music, colors fanning themselves around a pool, not just trying to see their own reflections.  Why am I always thinking about the gods?  Cause that’s where I came from?  But they’re not here.  Behind the gods it’s just a bunch of gates, gates wide open that they can’t see—because they’re looking at themselves, rearranging each other’s words—their little puzzles that they constructed themselves—that they mix up and solve.  Pretty impressive.  The gods impress themselves.  But it’s funny.  I don’t know.  Here.  I’m here. Here, oh, hear—there is no gods. There’s nothing for the anger to bounce off of.  Was I really that angry?  Was that what Techla was before she became herself? Before she became me?  Us.  That’s Techla.  That’s me. It’s alright if you know it—you know it as you fly.  And the anger just turns into another color, joins a color that has nothing to do with anger at all.  Back to what it truly is.  Techla, the caterpillar.

 

A shadow cuts across us and we rattle, releasing energy.  Sending it out to confront another energy.  I feel the movement.  We’re going back.  Back to our sipping.  Our fanning wings.  Back to the designs of the waterstriders rising, hovering, disappearing.  But our minds are also on the mountains.  On the west.  On winter.  We speak with them all.  Fanning. Sipping.  Sharing our iridescence.  In the daylight, there’s nothing humanoid about our bodies.  Just butterflies.  Butterflies who the autumn knows.

 

“How many times will the caterpillars shed?”

 

“They’ve already shed many times.  Soon, maybe today, they will disperse, then attach themselves, hang and harden.  And then break out.  Open their wings.  Within the chrysalis, they will have no cloaks, but as soon as they emerge, the colors will come.”

 

“Come from the dawn.”

 

“Come from the sunset.”

 

“They will come and organize their music.”

 

“You could stay here and share a body.  Some of us do.”

 

“I’m gonna keep flying.  We’re gonna call in winter together.”

 

“Yes!”

 

Everyone’s excited.

 

“Autumn is turning inside out.  It’s beginning to hibernate in our wings.”

 

“Yeah,” I say.  “Yeah. I feel it.”  I redirect my mind.  It’s true.  I can feel it.  It’s clear as anything.  It’s autumn. Its colors.  Its smells.  The smoke of autumn, as if summer has finally burned down.  Just pulsing embers.  Just maple leaves that flock to ships that burn on the edge of the sea.  Just earth’s core rising to take us all down.  Down into the heat.  It’s in our wings.  More and more of it comes.

 

“I…I trust…Us. Yeah.  Us.”  I was gonna say You.  I was gonna say: I trust you.  But we’re more than that.  For sure. For real.

 

We sip and watch the designs.  Help them rise.  Help them disappear.  But this night we won’t fly.  I know it. Instead we flutter up, one by one, into the willows, pack ourselves together in little groups against the bark. It’s true—the caterpillars have spread. They don’t sleep.  Throughout the night, they attach themselves and hang. And harden.  As night rises from the earth, we doze and listen, feeling our powder migrate between our bodies, feeling our consciousnesses migrate through all the forms, through the different drives of our bodies: the caterpillars, the huddled wings, the knowing within the forming chrysalises.  The highways, the doorways, the depths of different flowers, in and out of sleep.  It’s like sleeping with my paintings.  Yeah. We’re among the frogs songs again, just a few, spread out.  A few around the pool, and a trickle of calls following the stream.  And a few in the branches.  And crickets.  More crickets than anything.  My paintings are at the house.  The human house.  But they came, too, to Vicky’s place.  We walked through them.  They were there.  Our minds, our Morning Cloak minds, even in sleep, are reaching into the mountains. Beyond the mountains, there’s sea. But we won’t get that far. There’s a center in the mountains. What does that mean?  My paintings…it’s the only reason I’d go back. To paint.  To be with my paintings.  My plants.  But they’re the ones who helped me here.  I painted them.  But I think they know more than I do.  Like these wings know more.  This sleep knows more.  The paintings…they’re here.  There’s more. There’s more to come.  In the night, sometimes we’re humanoid…I could hold a brush…I could find pigments…I could paint with dirt…with water like the striders.  Our minds traveling through each other and coming back.  Through the caterpillars focused on turning into what we are now. We’re part of the trees’ thoughts. In and out of our bodies.  In and out of sleep.

 

 

 

 

~

 

 

 

 

Morning comes.  We yawn our wings from their little bundles.  Dawn.  Dawn pulsing. Heat.  The heat pulls us out.  We position ourselves on the outside of the willow’s fountain of tendrils, opening our wings to the rising sun.  Is the sun painting us?  Or when we were high up was it the night, the stars?  That’s the only reason I’d have hands again.  But maybe the sun paints us with its whole body.  Maybe it’s just like a butterfly without any human features. And the night, the stars, the moon, the meteors and spore-rivers—maybe they’re different types of artists.  They might have a whole different style.  A different approach.  I don’t even think I got a style.  I just started.  That’s for other people.  People who want to diagnose you.  Which is fine by me.  They can tell me what’s inside my paintings.  But they’d be speaking to a butterfly.  They’d have to do it so nobody could see.  Cause otherwise, they’d be certifiably ungodlike.  Gods don’t talk to butterflies.  They’d say they can obviously see me in these paintings, which is absolutely fuckin true cause I walked into them.  I walked through them.  That’s how my friends came.  That’s how I got to be myself.  That’s how…what?  Everybody’s laughing.  Even the tree.  Even the surface of the pool.  Alright. Alright.  I’m waking up.  I’m ripping on the gods again.  Whatever. A breeze from the east.  I scan around.  There’s frost on the ground.  Last night it must’ve dropped pretty low.  We can feel the mountains.  We’re calling.  Calling through the tree’s body.  Its shape changes our music.  But it continues on.  Into the mountain depths.  And behind the climbing sun, winter is coming, too.  We’re guiding it to meet itself.  Leading it as it chases us.  From within the chrysalises, from within their shells, the caterpillars are no longer caterpillars.  They’re something else.  Their transformations are like eerie bells.  Wet silver struck as it almost hardens.  Struck from the inside.  We glean the shiver of evidence.  They’re singing to winter, too, in a totally different way.

 

“Will they make it to the mountains before winter comes?”

 

“Some will.  Some will crawl under fallen trees.  Some will be eaten.  But even without bodies they can travel.”

 

I look at my body, my butterfly body.  And gaze at the others.  We’re like flowers blooming from the willow’s hair, like flowers carried up from deep in the earth, riding on its slow fountain.  It’s true.  This body. It’s not essential.  It’s just something I love.  Something to share.  Something I had before I was a god.  And something I have after.  Something the paintings gave me.  Something I painted.  The shapes between the foliage, the designs of the frog skins, the caves, the night, the windows, and soon the mountains—we all painted ourselves into being. Together.

 

One by one we lift.  It’s as if the sun lifts us with its gold hair and blows us toward the mountains.  We pour toward them in our caravan of dusky wings.  There’s that feeling like we could never return, like once in them, once in the mountains’ heart, that suddenly they would spread over the whole earth, that we’d be lost in a vast consciousness, even though the mountains are against the sea—desert on one side, water on the other.  It’s a thrill that vibrates out of our hearts.

 

“We don’t know what’s gonna happen, do we?”

 

“When winter finds us, we will no longer fly above the earth.”

 

“When we find winter.”

 

“When autumn and winter touch wings.”

 

“The earth will be powder.”

 

“The earth will be too iridescent.”

 

“Too iridescent?”

 

“That’s why we must hibernate.”

 

“It’s a different kind of flying.”

 

“Do you know what it’s gonna be like?  Have you done it before?”

 

“Some of us.”

 

“It’s never the same.”

 

“We’re always different.”

 

Yeah, that’s the anticipation, the yearning of our feelers into the contours before us, attaching into the distant crevices and pulling us on—we don’t know—it’s like an empty canvas…or a canvas that we pass around, but it’s so beautiful that every thing we add, every tone and stroke, is like walking the edge, even though it’s welcomed into the bare peaks and stooping trees, the wet valleys where the pines reaches straight and high.  You can’t help but give yourself and feel the thrill of the unknown to come, the thrill of fear, being a butterfly, at the same time.

 

The wind shifts.  It’s moving in the same direction.  Except it’s pulling us.  It’s drawing us in.  It’s the wind of the mountains.  The wind of winter meeting winter.  With our help.  The wind of autumn and winter taking off each other’s clothes.  Holding them up.  Tossing them into the darkness.  Their bodies so bright.  Our shadows touch the foothills.  Our antennae bend down.  Messages. Music.  Of hibernation.  Of the mountains’ heart.  When our feelers read them, a music pulses up and through the windows in our wings. Now we’re in them—our bodies themselves. Our hearts are like wells, pouring out music, soaking the mountains, deepening our shadows which are like leaves, like lichen, like crevices, like everything they touch, every message. Our minds are locked into the wind drawing us in.  A devotion. A devotion to hibernation.  To fly deeper.

 

 

 

 

For a couple of days we fly so deep there’s no other side.  No way.  There’s only more depth.  I never been this deep in the mountains.  It’s different.  Way different.  It’s not like looking on your cellphone and zooming out so you can see the sea on one side and the desert on the other.  The flying into the depths, the calling winter, the autumn in our wings with winter windows of cold daylight—it’s changed the geography.  Only depths.  And our intent.  Our focus. I don’t think I’ve ever been this focused except when I’m painting.  Flying toward painting.  Calling it. For the painting to meet itself. And turn inside out.  We’re all locked toward the center.  Our center.  We sleep at night, snuggled into crevices in bark.  It’s funny.  It’s like the earth is singing.  Our feelers arch down, listening.  But we can’t succumb yet.  We got a little further to go.  Even though beautiful music wafts up from beneath fallen trees, soft and dreamy in decomposition, we can’t follow it, even though our bodies ache for the earth.  Many times we pile onto trees in daylight to sip sap that oozes from some wound caused by the claws of climbing bears, or sapsuckers drilling, or just the movement of tree-blood crowding down through a limb or trunk, following the cloying moans of earth, the falling into sleep, breaking the tree’s skin from the pressure it can’t wait that long to be free in the darkness.  We sip.  But our minds are locked down.  But now, as the sun disappears and new colors rise from the rocks and trees themselves, from the peaks, we don’t sleep—we fly on.

 

“We’re almost there.”

 

“Almost where?”

 

“To the center.”

 

“The music of our hearts.”

 

“The music of our hearts?”

 

“Yes.”

 

We fly as silver rises into the air.  We fly deeper into the exchanging colors.  The music of our hearts?  There’s more of it.  It’s like I’m traveling toward it, just in myself, in my own body.  I’m almost at my own heart.  The closer I get the more music pours out.  It’s like this with all of us.  Our hearts are pouring music into the mountains, and our feelers, our wings, toss and guide, push it into our own futures.  The music descends ahead of us somewhere like decomposition, like nutrition, feeding, meeting.  Meeting what?

 

“More music.”

 

“Another flying.”

 

Night has come.  It’s almost as if winter is right behind us.  I think if we flew high enough, straight up, we could get on the other side of it.  But then we’d have to go back.  Somehow, we’d get reversed.  And our minds are so locked in, there’s no other way.  Suddenly, we enter a realm of silence.  The sounds of the night, the wind, even the music of our hearts, fall into stillness.

 

“Where are we?”

 

“We’re not sure.”

 

“We’re close to something.”

 

“It’s always different.”

 

“We’re always different.”

 

Huge trees stand silver before us.  So fuckin high there’s only trunks.  We steadily waft our way into the silent world.  On the periphery of this crazy wall of trees, masses of luminous eggs are plastered to the trunks in little masses.  I can feel them.

 

“We could enter them, couldn’t we?”

 

“We could.  You can. Just like the caterpillars.  But there isn’t any time.”

 

“There isn’t any time,” I say, almost at the same time my friend does, our bodies dancing deeper into the silence.  Navigating through the massive trunks…it’s like crossing a river…it’s like a boundary…like a mesosphere…into our hearts…into earth, an earth I could never find with a human body…but I’m Techla…the true Techla…even if I went back it’ll never be the same…but I won’t…I’m in my own heart…never to return…never to return to the realm of the gods, full of garbage and shamans…we’re in our own hearts, and, suddenly, we pour, explode, into the music. Winter surrounds the enormous trees—just as excited as we are.  But within, within the center, the music is overwhelming, excruciating, wet, silver, indefinable.  We pour into it as it blows from our hearts.  Shimmering waves of thousands of frogs fountaining from the center.  It’s unbelievable.  We’re here.  Right?  We made it. We’re surrounded by winter with autumn in our wings.  And outside the circumference of trees and frost, there’s another autumn, another summer and spring.  But within, there’s only the silver depths of a musical civilization of smooth skins, glistening eyes, bodies consumed with croaking and laughing piccicatos so dense, like lifting layers of iridescent fabrics of sound finding friends in our layers of wings, in our flying bodies.  The frogsong-depths is a shimmering gate within the depths of the mountains, within the depths of enormous bodies of trees, which encircle it, concentrate it, help its density.  But even within it, there’s another center.  We’re not lost.  Like the gods.  We don’t have armies or armor to lose.  We sang the winter.  It’s meeting in the sky above us.  So sharp. So clean.  And our autumn bodies.  Our bodies of twilight.  Have found the center.  Our feelers plunge into it.  Our hearts are aligning.  They’re aligning with the music pouring from the earth.  We’re touching its fountain and getting pulled in.  We’re giving ourselves.  Finally.  Finally. By taking that last wingstroke into our own cores.  Into the center.  Entering the paintings of the earth.  Painting. I’m watching my body change. We’re shedding our cloaks.  There’s something beneath the cloak.  It’s the music.  The oozing music.  We pour in. Into the song of the earth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ascenti

 

Mom’s sitting on my bed when I wake up.  She’s pretty fuckin excited.  I open my eyes wide and close them really tight and now open them again.

 

“Let’s go to the beach!”

 

“What?  What beach?”

 

I feel like I just reached up from the mesa.  I was out of body.  Or I was in a deeper body.  What the fuck?  I must’ve flown.

 

“Mom, what the fuck are you talking about?”  I sit up.

 

“The beeeeeach.  The beeeeeach.  It’s calling us.  ‘Asceeeeeeenti.  Solveeeeeeig. You gotta come to the beeeeeeach.’”

 

“Shut up.”  I fall back down and cover my eyes.  Just a second ago I was sleeping.  Sleeping forever.

 

“No.  We’re gonna write haikus.  People used to do that all the time.  They’d get together and watch the moon or something and write haikus.  And drink wine and play zithers.  Ha. Ha.”  She starts laughing and spoons me.  She gots me locked in.

 

“Oooouuwwa!  You’re hurting me.”

 

“I am not.”

 

“I don’t want to go to the beach.”

 

“Yes you do.  That’s what we’re gonna do.  We’re gonna write haikus.  I been practicing.  Then we’re gonna see what the sea washed up.”

 

“It’s not a sea.”

 

“It’s the biggest fuckin lake in the world.”

 

“It’s not the biggest fuckin lake in the world.   That’s Lake Baikal.  That’s by volume.  Superior’s got the greatest surface.  We’d have to drive like eight hours to get there.”

 

“Hmmm.  Eight hours. That’s a rather long dissertation on Beethoven if your Dad is driving.  So I guess it’s Lake Michigan.  It’s only a mile and a half away.”

 

“Where’s Dad?”

 

“He’s accompanying some college students at the university for some recital.  He’s playing the piano.  They pay pretty good.  He’d probably do it for free.”

 

“Let me go.”  I don’t know. Somehow it does hurt.  It’s just not…physical.  Not really physical.  I shut my eyes.

 

“Are we going?”

 

I open my eyes.  I flew last night.  But I didn’t bless anyone.  I just flew. But now if I walk out the door…people might know…they might be able to smell it.  Smell the mesa.  I don’t know if it was the right thing to do.  What did I bless?  I guess you can’t fly without blessing something. Why the fuck did I ever want to bless people?  I guess it’s just when you’re that free…maybe it’s some kind of structure to contain it…using them…using people to hold me back.  They must know it.  They must feel it.  Feel that I’m blessing them.  And that’s their excuse.  Everybody’s excuse.  Except last night…I didn’t bless anyone…I blessed the flight.  My own flight.  That’s it. I flew and slept.  Fly and sleep.  I could do it forever.

 

“You’re so beautiful, Ascenti.  And handsome, too.  You’re like two waves meeting.  Or two trees with totally different scents.  And they come together.”

 

“What?”

 

“I’m so glad I gave birth to you.  I’m not sure where your father comes into it.  But I guess he’s in there somewhere.”

 

We’re both really still for a couple of minutes.  We’re not even breathing.

 

“But you gotta do something for me, too.  You gotta go some place if I ask you.”

 

“Hmmmm.  Hmmmm. Am I gonna regret this?”

 

“That’s not my problem.  That’s the deal.”

 

“Geez.  I give birth to you.  I share all my artistic knowledge with you.  And now I have to make a deal?”

 

It’s weird.  I wonder if Mom really is crazy.  Like she doesn’t work.  She just gardens and takes care of the house and paints.  I wonder if people think she’s crazy.  Maybe Dad’s sheltering her, hiding her.  But she’s belongs to an Art Association.  And a life-drawing group.  She just likes to paint.

 

“It’s a hard road, Mommy-O.”

 

“Ok.”  She lets me go and sits up.  “This room’s a mess.”

 

“So is your studio.”

 

“I know.  Sometimes when your Dad wants to sleep with me and I’m still painting he comes to the door with his eyes closed and I have to lead him to the futon.  And he says shit like: ‘The harmonics!  The harmonics are so painful!”

 

“Weird.”

 

“But once he gets to the futon I think he feels safe.  It’s like a little raft on a stormy sea.”  She looks at my bed.  It’s actually twice as wide as either of their futons.

 

I take a breath.  Then I take another one: “Ok.”

 

“Yessssss!!!!!”  She raises her fists.  She’s pretty happy.  “And I agree.”

 

“To what?”

 

“To going on your endeavor.  Whatever it is.”

 

“Really?”

 

“Yeah.  Except youuuuu gotta make breakfast.”

 

“Alright.”

 

Mom jumps up and prances out of the room.  Wow.  I guess she touched me.  She fuckin spooned me.  I guess she gave birth to me.  I guess it felt good.  I guess it has nothing to do with what happened.  With those creeps holding me down and cumming inside me.  Ripping my clothes and stuffing a notebook in my mouth so I couldn’t scream.  One of them held their open palm over it like if I tried to scream again he’d ram it down my throat.  And one of them said maybe they should cut off penis cause it was getting in the way of him cumming.  But he came right away anyway.  They all came.  The spiral cut my mouth open when they pulled it out.  They knew I wasn’t gonna scream.  Cause it was over.  Over for them.  Too scared to fuck each other.  Too frightened to cum in their own friends.  But they’re all gonna die, eventually, begging god for one more day. Those are people I bless.  I used to bless.  Now I fly.

 

I get up and get dressed.  We’ll see what happens.  I step out of my bedroom.  It’s a lot brighter out here.  And colder. Mom’s getting a bag ready.

 

“What should we bring?”  She looks down into it.  Now she goes to the thermostat and turns up the heat.  “That’s your Father.  He thinks he’s in a garret in Vienna.”  She looks around and folds up a blanket from the couch.

 

I go in the kitchen and make us avocado toast.  I toast the bread and then stick it all in the little oven on the counter and drizzle it with rosemary olive oil and sprinkle it with chives and Himalayan salt.  But we gotta have stuff for the beach, I guess.  Nuts, apples, Spanish hard cheese, celery, paring knife.  I just gotta…brace myself.  Fuck.  There’s something in me afraid of the light.  Maybe it’ll get cloudy by the time we get there.  Maybe I’m still on the mesa sleeping.  Mom just yanked me out.  Part of me.  I look at my hands.  Maybe this is just my astral body and my real body is down there.  And this is the sky.  The kitchen in the sky.  This is what the gods do when they’re not fucking things up.  I don’t know.  It’s seems like I should bring something else.  I make a jar of tea.

 

Mom comes in and we sit down and eat, not saying anything.

 

“I love avocado toast.”

 

“Yep.”

 

That’s about it.  It’s funny without Dad here.  Relishing the lack of music.  Listening to our thoughts.  I glance at Mom and she gives me a sorta wink with both eyes.

 

“Are we ready?”

 

“I think so.”

 

“You got some food ready.  We can eat a bunch when we get back.  Let’s go!”

 

She grabs the plates and puts them in the sink and heads out of the kitchen. I look at the sink but pick up the fruit and nuts and cheese and put them all in a paper bag and follow her. There’s a part of me…I guess…I close my eyes.  I didn’t bless anyone.  I just flew.

 

“Here.”  She holds out the open shoulder bag and I put the food in.  It’s full of sketchbooks and pencils and charcoal and pastels. She picks up the big blanket and we step out into the bright cold sun.  I keep the jar of tea in my hand.  I hesitate. Mom looks at me.  She pretends I’m not hesitating.  But she doesn’t know why.  I didn’t bless anyone, I say with my mind.  I did my own thing.  I flew. I flew to where I’ve never flown before. Beyond the humans. 

 

We get in our dirty Toyota wagon.  It gots a shitload of rust.  I got my red down coat but I wrap my arms around myself anyway.  I just gotta ride along.  Let Mom carry me.  She’s excited.  Her excitement’s overriding my history.  My body’s history.  That’s the way it should be.  For her, anyway.  But I keep a look out.  I flew but I didn’t bless anybody.  I didn’t ask to understand everything.  I didn’t challenge anyone.  Just riding along.  A passenger. Looking through the window.  With my tea jar.  It’s funny how close we are to the lake.  How bright it is outside.  We drive by St. Therese.

 

Mom says: “St. Therese of Liseaux.  She was cute.”  She’s trying to look and drive.  “That’s where you been going, huh?  That’s a weird shape.  What’s that all about?  I had a friend who looked a lot like St. Therese.”  She glances at the little mall across the street.  There’s a couple of cars in the church parking lot.  Reminyi being a Priest.  Putting on his costume.  “She was an ecstatic.”

 

“Your friend?”

 

Mom thinks.  “Yeah. I guess you’re right.  She was a pianist.  She played these really simple pieces like by Schubert and Liszt and Chopin, the really simple ones, and her face would change.  She didn’t look at her own hands, you know.  And she’d look at you and nod.  But she was like someone else.  That’s probably how I got into classical music.  She said I looked different when I painted, too.  We’d hang out.  We didn’t have any other friends cause they’d bore us.  Why be bored when you don’t have to?  She’d read and watch me paint or I’d come and draw at her house when she practiced.  She was a really stubborn kid.  Me, too. She died younger than St. Therese of Liseaux, though.  Do you know she’s the most popular Saint next to St. Francis of Assisi?”

 

“Really?”

 

“Yeah.”

 

“I wonder why?”

 

“Cause she’s probably more like us.  And St. Francis of Assisi because of his connection to birds.  Or animals.  Stuff that people probably don’t even realize.”

 

“Maybe they’re some of the ravens in your boat.”

 

“Maybe…maybe.”

 

“How do you know about St. Therese?”

 

“Google.”

 

The lake appears.

 

“This is it.  There’s a parking area.  And then we can just walk the beach.  In my art group we’re focusing on the lake this month, just creating whatever we create and bringing it together.  I think in the spring we’re gonna have a group show.”

 

It’s so bright and open.  Something inside me closes up to compensate.  Like some internal eyelid.  Mom takes a right along the shore and parks.  There’s a few houses separated down to our left.  But here, and on to our right, it’s just beach for a ways.  I look around.  No people. It’s too cold probably.  And most people are at work or in school.  So open.  Just water all the way to the horizon.  Just a sea. In the middle of America.

 

“What was her name?”

 

“Lisette.”  We’re gazing at the lake through the windshield.  “She was a babe.”

 

Mom gets out and I follow her.  I keep looking around.  Waiting for something to happen.  We walk over the little berm of grass and sand.  There’s a couple of leafless cottonwoods along the road.  And a bridge over a crick a little further down.  We put our stuff down.  Mom spreads out the blanket and puts rocks around the edge.  I kneel down on it.  In the center.  Mom grabs a sketchbook outta the bag and some charcoal and heads to the water.  But I just look out and try to breathe. Reminyi would look so funny with this black outfit on all this sand.  With all this water.  The water’s cloudy and brown more closer to shore.  The waves must be churning up the bottom.  But out farther it’s this slate blue.  It’s not as cold here even though we’re out in the open.  Maybe he’s coming to the end, too.  Reminyi.  I curl up on the blanket.  My body just snuggles into the beach.  I’m probably right above where I am on the mesa.  The night watching over me.  And the cold lake.  I wonder if me and Mom can do this more, like all the time, except I can’t let her know. It can’t be something she expects. Like she won.  Or she was right.  I just want it to be hard for her.  Or anybody.  Except for Reminyi and the librarian.  I’ll come to them.  Like in a second.  What the fuck?  I guess I came here to sleep some more.  Mom doesn’t care.  She’s drawing where the water and sand meet.  She gots her shoes off.  Her and her paintings’ll protect me.  Just that they love each other.  So much for the haikus.  I knew that was a bunch of bullshit.  Lisette. That’s funny.  Solveig and Lisette.  And then just Solveig.  And then her and Dad.  And then me. Me and Franny.  And then Franny Xs herself out of the picture.  Then me and Reminyi.

 

I wake up.  Mom kneels down on the blanket.

 

“Look at all this seaglass.”  She digs it out of her pockets and makes a little pile right in front of my face. “Let’s eat.”

 

“What time is it?”

 

“I don’t know.  Early afternoon.”

 

I get out the food and cut up an apple and slice the Spanish cheese. Mom has a bigger sketchbook out and a box of pastels.  She faces the lake, kneeling over the paper, making swathes of different colors.  I set pieces of cheese on apple slices and place them next to the paper, along with little piles of cashews and sticks of celery.  When they disappear I put out more.  Her jaw’s flexing.  Even when she’s not chewing.

 

“I never thought I cared about being in shows.  Or, I guess I used to. When I was young, I wanted to be the greatest artist in the world.  I asked for it.  Then I don’t know what happened.  I guess a lot happened.  I guess I forgot about it.  Which was probably a good thing.  But now I just want people to see my stuff…more.  It’s funny.  A couple of people see your stuff, like really see it, like at the gallery at the Art Center, and it really means a lot.  It makes you wonder why anybody’d want to go to New York.”

 

I keep feeding her and she keeps drawing.  Yeah…I wonder if people can sleep in New York.  Maybe they don’t sleep.  They must be so different.  Different people.  An old man walks by with his black lab.  The dog sees us and runs over with a stick in its mouth, kicking sand all over the food. The man’s calling.  But it’s not like he cares.  Mom slaps the dog’s wet ass: “Get the fuck outta here, you unconscious beast!” and the dog swings around and shakes water all over us and runs back to the waves.  The old guy waves and throws the stick way out.  There’s tons of splashes on Mom’s drawing.

 

“I don’t know if you can call what a dog does an act of nature, but—!” She reconcentrates.

 

I blow sand off the food.  “Just don’t bite down hard.  There’s a lot of sand.”

 

“Yup,” says Mom, working with all the drips.

 

I just look out.

 

“This is the second time I been here, right?”  I guess…I’m remembering that we were here before.

 

“Unless you came by yourself.  That’s the first thing we did…practically.  I couldn’t wait to see that expanse again…this expanse again.” She’s looking hard at her drawing when she says that last part, like she’s meeting the drawing again after a long time.  “It’s like inside you, too.”

 

“Yeah.  For sure.”

 

“It’s fun to be here with you, Ascenti.  Are you alright?”

 

“I remember that now.”

 

“What?”

 

“Going to the beach.  When we got here.  When we moved.”

 

“Yeah.  It was in town.  Pretty close to the Art Center.  You have to come with me.  There’s a sensory garden with tons of plants that have really particular smells and textures.  You just close your eyes and feel things and smells rise up.  Or at night you just sit on a bench among it.  And the lake’s right there.  You watch the arrangement of lights—the ships and airplanes and lighthouses and lights on the ends of piers, and the cities up and down the coast. It’s like an endless jam of composition on the black ocean, the night sky—just points of color changing proximities like it’s all within a frame, and they know it—they know they’re creating stuff. And there’s a lot of artists in the association who are gardeners…of course.”

 

“Dad was with us.”

 

“Right.  That’s what I was saying.  It’s fun to be just ussometimes.  Sometimes I think your Dad is an alien.  He’s my guy, right?  I’d die for him.  And it’s because of him I squeezed you out, which is crazy cause I never wanted kids. Ever since I was born I knew I would never have kids ever. But then I met your Dad and I knew we had to have just one.  It was the rightest thing ever, like when you can’t stop yourself from painting.  That was you.  But then there he is on the beach like he’s never seen a beach in his life. Like he’s on an alien planet and doesn’t know where or how to sit down, like some monster’s gonna come out of the sand and swallow him.  Except he’s from fuckin Chicago.  He’s seen this lake his whole life.  Your father’s mind runs in very narrow channels.”

 

“Yeah.  And then I walked in and floated.  And I didn’t smell anymore.”

 

She stops drawing and looks at me.  But I just keep looking out.

 

She turns and looks out, too.  “That’s the lake.”

 

I remember it.  I remember walking in with my jeans on.  There’s no way you can wear a swimsuit with breasts and a penis.  My feet were just barely brushing the bottom while my torso floated.  And the lake took it away.  I guess it’s used to pollution.  Everything that’s been poured into it from the factories and powerplants, Chicago, Milwaukee, and all the sewage and factories in between.  Just floating.

 

Mom goes back to her drawing.  She rips it off the pad dramatically, like she actually cocks her hand in the air and sweeps down and rips the big sheet off.  Now she gets up and walks to the water.  I can’t see her face but I think she saying something. She squats down so her knees are touching the surface and lays the drawing on the water.  It’s funny.  As soon as she lets go, it’s like the swells just take it, out and out.  She stands and watches it.  It just glides out farther and farther.  I think she’s still saying something.  She watches it till it disappears.  She turns around.  I think she’s been crying.  But she doesn’t try to cover it.  She walks to the blanket.

 

“Are you ready?”

 

I’m kinda stunned: “Yeah.”

 

“Time to go.”

 

We gather up everything and head home.  It’s funny, I feel like I’d been there before…at night.  Maybe me and Reminyi can hold each other and watch the lights.  I don’t know if there’ll be a frame on it like Mom says.  And Reminyi can talk about music…trying to figure himself out. And I can teach him to fly.  To bless himself.  It’s funny.  Right. There’s more space inside me from looking out at all that water, from being on the beach.  I don’t know if you have to fill the space.  I’m still sleeping down there somewhere on the mesa. If you fill the space, maybe there’s no place to fly.

 

We get home.  We survived. Each other.  No one tried to hurt me.  To change me.  We survived the old guy and his black dog.  Because Mom was painting the sea.  Because deep beneath the earth I’m sleeping.  Dad’s at the kitchen table with his Mac open.  He doesn’t look away from the screen, just puts a finger to each temple.

 

“Zhu Xiao-Mei.”

 

“Who?” Mom asks.

 

“Zhu Xiao-Mei.”

 

She looks over his shoulder.

 

“It’s a documentary called How Bach Beat Mao.  She is quite the phenomena.  She spent five years in a labor camp because she was a classical pianist. Re-education.  Her playing…hmm…equals Gould…yet completely different.”

 

Mom sits down next to him and he shifts his laptop so she can see better. They’re totally absorbed.  It’s late.  Or the sun’s going down earlier and earlier.  I gotta eat, though.  So I can sleep.  Not just lay there.

 

“Wow.  She’s beautiful.”

 

“She’s going back to China.  She’s bringing them Bach but she doesn’t know if they’re ready for it.  Except—I’ll give you one guess.”

 

“What?”

 

“The majority of the audience is young people.  It’s the complete opposite of the West.  Here the majority of classical music lovers are older.”

 

“China.  Huh.”

 

I don’t know what to make.  My room’s calling me.  Pho?  I got some stock.  They like it with sweet potato noodles.  I could just cut up some mushrooms and green onions.  I just gotta do it.  Once it gets in me it’ll be alright.  Mom just keeps saying “Wow.”  I boil the water and cut the mushrooms and green onions.  I’ll just put some drops of fish sauce and seasame oil and tamari in each bowl when it’s done.  Just mushroom and noodles and scallions.  And they can watch their movie.  Cooking for the kids.  I throw the noodles in and heat the stock and mushrooms.

 

“Makes one want to get old.”

 

“She’s not old.”

 

“Older.”

 

“Hokusai couldn’t wait to get older because he knew he’d be a better artist. When he was sixty he couldn’t wait to be seventy.”

 

“And live in Paris.”

 

“Or the Alps or wherever that is.  We could do it.  And Ascenti can be like Jean Cocteau.”

 

I put it all together, section it into three bowls, pile some scallions on the top and put dabs of oil and sauce around the scallions.  I lay a pair of chopsticks over each bowl and bring Mom and Dad theirs.

 

“Exquisite.  Here’s to our personal chef.”

 

He holds his bowl up.  Mom says: “Wow” and puts her eyes really close to the surface.  She holds hers up, too.  I stand there looking at them.  Dad wiggles his eyebrows.  Actually, he can do a lot of different things like move his ears up and down out of sinc. And flip his eyelids inside out. Mom jerks her head and rolls her eyes. I realize what they are doing and pick up my bowl, too.  I lift it to theirs.  They chink.

 

“Prost!” says Dad.

 

“Ching. Ching,” says Mom.

 

“Chao,” I say and make my escape.  I think Mom is smiling.  She still knows she won.

 

Dad calls out: “Ascenti, you are to watch this documentary in the very near future.  That is if you want to be a true artist!”

 

I shut my door.  It’s almost dark.  The window’s just of a beautiful blue-black with an orange-violet glow inside it. Holding each other.  One star.  I sit on my bed and eat the Pho.  It needs more spice, like chili oil, but I’m not going back.  I just eat it in the silver darkness.  I reach over and pull my Mac from beneath my pillows and put on Zoe Keating and lower the lid.  Cello.  It has something to do with birds.  With wings. The vibration.  My body just absorbs the Pho.  I could eat another bowl.  I lay back.  My eyes are wide open.  Open. Awake.  The vent is blowing heat.  Just me and all my posters of bioluminescent stuff.  Bioluminescence beneath the stars along the coast of Australia. Bio mushrooms.  And all my Kitsuni.  My fox-people.  You don’t know if they’re taking on human masks or fox masks.  Humans with fox paws and ears.  And multiple tails for wisdom.  Maybe if I slept with Reminyi, he’d reach around and there’d be a foxtail coming out.  He’d stroke it and the next day he’d comb it out cause it’d get matted from what we did. He’d want it to look nice.  He’d feel responsible.  He’d be all serious, trying to do a good job and feeling a little guilty.  And my sheets would be all musky.  That’s super funny.  Musky. I wonder where that came from? Not human, right?  And what would he be?  Maybe an otter.  An otter in an uncomfortable suit.  Except in the darkness he’d be free.  I don’t actually know what a fox smells like.  But I want to.  Maybe I saw it in a nature show.  Two wings touching.  That’s the cello.  The woman playing is the human mask.  Or an angel and human sliding their arms along each other.  Smelling each other’s armpits.  Maybe they both have memories of being the other.  It’s funny.  It’s funny. Foxes are androgynous anyway. They don’t care what humans think. But they’re there.  Shifting shapes.  Not only their own.  That’s funny. We never wrote haikus.  Like I didn’t know that.  Mom painting the world.  The world that you can’t see until she paints it.  It’s funny.  Dad’s always been the one to work.  But I guess Mom could get a job pretty easy.  She’s not that far out.  Like the ravens in the boat.  It’s real.  Somewhere. To some people it’s probably more real than buying a new car.  I guess they just know how they fit together.  Dark and warm.  Just the stars I stuck on my ceiling and my laptop.  And the cello stepping from black wings.  Touching.  Just beyond what I can see.  I know.  I can hear you, I say to my closet.  My box of notebooks.  You know, you know I’m not ready.  I’m not ready to record anything.  I’m not ready to look at you, either, because…it’s just Franny…and me blessing people…who don’t want to be blessed.  I remember I tried to get Franny to watch a Mass on Youtube.  She was texting the whole time.  Pretending to watch.  It wasn’t one of the best Masses.  Then she saw I was crying.  It was just…I don’t know…just the restraint, like you’re sending it, sending it in instead of out.  Trying so hard to get the ritual to work.  So that’s what I would read if I read my journals.  Franny thinking I’m crazy and me trying to figure it out.  But then things always take off…somewhere in the entries.  I gotta pull them out.  Make them into poems.  But they might not mean anything out of context.  Maybe the librarian can help me.  She can put a finger on the right part of my body.  Like a map.  She can look at the map and kiss it.  Kiss the cities.  Kiss the plateau.  And then my other body wakes up and writes.  And I listen.  That’s all I’ll have to do is listen and my hand, this hand’ll write, too.  We’ll listen to each other.  She’ll lean over my body and the heat from her eyes’ll be like fires, like fires on the beaches, fires on the mountains.  Like beacons.  Not to say either of us needs help.  Just to say we’re on fire.  Just for the stars to look down and see we’re on fire.  The Ascenti deep beneath me on her plateau and me on my bed.  But we’ll be together, too.  Every night.  We’ll fly to all kinds of worlds.  We’ll be heroes just because we’re flying.  And I’ll write it.  I’ll live it and write it.  No, I won’t destroy you, because someday Franny can be a superhero, too.  I’ll understand her.  I reach over and check my phone.  I guess that’s not how it works.  Of course.  I guess you’re supposed to do something dramatic.  Like go to the beach and burn all my notebooks.  And after they burn, the tide comes in and swallows the ashes.  And you walk from where you stand.  That’s where you’re born.  Born from freedom and regret.  But I’m not gonna do it.  I promise.  I promise. I try to sit up.  I don’t know if I can do it.  I don’t know if I can burn the energy.  It’s like I gotta use it for something else.  I roll over and get a notebook I was writing passcodes and stuff like that in—names of books.  I swing back and face my Mac.  Layers of cello…and me.  Wings brushing…and me…and my pen, right?  Yuyio Kusama—that’s the Japanese artist I was looking at.  So…ok: ‘That night she flew through the sun because beyond it she heard the music, music that was a promise.’  It’s funny.  I’m imagining writing it beneath one of Kusama’s Infinity Paintings.  What was the promise?  ‘The promise was to find beings with bodies like her own, beings who had created themselves.  It didn’t matter if they looked the same—that’s what the music said.’  I look around the room.  My face is illuminated in the mirror from the light leaking from beneath the lid of my Mac. That’s it.  That’s it.  I close my eyes.  I just gotta make sure I don’t bless anyone, that I don’t ask to love everybody, that I don’t ask to understand everything.  Just descend.  Open my wings and descend.  Go meet with myself sleeping on the plateau.  We can sleep and write.  And fly. Fly to new places knowing that we’ll write about them.  We could even write about sleeping.  Maybe that’s what everybody wants.

 

 

 

 

~

 

 

 

 

I open my eyes.  I don’t think we flew.  My astral body, my real body, took me in…and we slept.  I think we made love.  I felt something when we became each other.  Like we both came.  It’s morning. I look at my hand.  Look through my fingers at a Kitsune.  Smoke rising from her bowl.  With the moon between her ears.  Between her fox ears.  Between my fingers.  I move them so the bioluminescent shore of Australia webs between them.  It’s morning.  Dad’s playing Schubert in the living room.  It must be pretty late.  Sleeping because something’s over.  Shedding.  Preparing for…something.  Dad must’ve made waffles.  His blue-corn waffles.  With yeast. Then he takes so long arranging all the fruit that Mom starts yelling at him.  Maybe that’s what woke me.  But they’re talking now.  Sunday morning.  My hair’s a mess.  Sunday morning.  I sit on the side of the bed and look in the mirror.  I take off my t-shirt and look at my beasts.  Smell my armpits.  I take off the pants I slept in.  And stand. I’m still not awake.  Maybe I’ll always be in-between.  In-between everything.  But wasn’t that the plan.  And we’re together now.  We’ll fly. We just gotta find an artist and we’ll make the greatest graphic novels ever.  For the people beyond the sun.  My breasts and my penis.  We’re together in one body.  And my vagina.  We can fly over it.  We can fly over the beautiful night heat.  I slide open the mirrored door.  I have to wear something.  I guess this is a special occasion.  Even though people do it every week.  I don’t know. I could wear a dress over my jeans. Or my black Diesels.  My dress with the fern patterns.  It’s funny.  The ferns almost become your ribs.  But then veer off.  I’ll keep my coat over it.  It fits my body really tight.  But I don’t know what it’s gonna be like anyway.

 

I walk out into the bright living room.  I can barely see Dad’s back at the kitchen table.  He has one of his arms raised.  He’s probably correcting homework.  Schubert.  Looks like they slept on the couch last night.  Probably wedged together, talking.  It’s probably the only time Dad isn’t so OCD—when he’s sleeping with Mom. When they’re touching.  I stop in the doorway to Mom’s studio.  I think it’s gonna be the ravens but it’s…a cave…with an ocean in it.  Somehow the ocean’s within the cave.  And the walls have glowing paintings.  There’s even a map showing the shape of the sea in the cave.  Gridded with longitude and latitude.  And another map, like drawn by a child in crayon, about how to get there.  But what she’s working on is a narwhale lifting an octopus.  And a dolphin next to them with a bag poised on its back where its spout is.  And I think there’s a painting forming above them.  Mom freezes.  She can feel me.  Her jaws flex.

 

She doesn’t turn: “Payback time?”

 

“No.  I just want you to go with me.”

 

“You know, I almost have a degree in Anthropology.”

 

“Really?”

 

“Yeah.  My main degree is in Art History.  But you can use Anthropology with anything.  It’s the study of human culture.  Especially this one.  I loved Environmental Anthropology.  Studying how all these different cultures understand their places in nature, or whatever you call it.”

 

“What is the octopus doing?”

 

“It’s not doing it yet, but it’s gonna be partly wrapped around the narwhale tusk, and reaching into the bag on the dolphin’s back, and picking out sea-glass.  It’s gonna be making a painting with it on the wall of the cave…which is going to…I don’t know…relate to something.  Or maybe not. I was thinking maybe the dolphin should have a crown instead of a bag.  Or a bowl that shows the sea-glass in a pile.  I don’t know.  But somehow the spray from the dolphin’s blowhole has to be affecting the glass.  Or lifting it.  Then maybe the narwhale’s spray does something totally different.  Maybe affects some other part of the painting. But you can’t be toooooo connected. Do we gotta go?”

 

“Pretty soon.”

 

She puts her brush in her jar of water and covers her paints in plastic wrap and stands up.  Just like that.

 

“Did you get some tea?”

 

“No.”

 

“Do we have time?”

 

“I think so.”

 

“Alright.  Let’s gooooooo.”

 

I follow her into the kitchen.

 

Dad looks up: “Matisse has stepped from the studio.”

 

“Everywhere’s my studio, Buddy-O.”

 

Mom gets out a pan and simmers some English Breakfast in water for me. Me and Dad examine each other. It’s like we’re looking at each other, and through each other, too.  I don’t know why.  That’s funny. I’m kinda watching it happening, but I feel it, too.  Feel what?

 

“We’re goin to church, Sidney.”  She’s pouring some milk in.

 

Dad doesn’t look away, but he narrows his eyes and wiggles his nose. Yeah.  I don’t look away from his eyes, but I can tell there’s a grey nose-hair among the others.  I wonder if he’s seen it.  Mom’s probably seen it.  It probably went grey from them making love on the couch.  He shuts his computer.

 

“That is stupendous!  I’ll be ready in a second.  Ralf Von Williams’ life was radically changed from editing the English Hymnal.  And I’m not even a composer!”

 

Mom pulls a quart mason jar from the cupboard.  “You’re not going.  This isn’t England, either.  Me and Ascenti are going.  You’re not the Catholic type.”

 

“Well…hmmm.”  He swings back to his computer and slowly raises the lid.  “Not the Catholic type.”  He’s thinking about something really hard.  And now the craziest thing happens.  He opens his pen case.  But he’s still looking at the screen.  It’s some score.  And he extracts a tweezers.  And it’s pretty crazy.  It’s like time stops or something.  And his hand just reaches up and he plucks out the grey hair without even really knowing what he’s doing.  “Fantasia On A Theme By Thomas Tallis.”  That’s what he says.  He types in something and switches scores.  I look over at Mom.  She’s seen the whole thing, too.  She sticks her lips out and raises her eyebrows and nods like she’s impressed. She winks at me like: This is why I married the biggest nerd in the world.  But she stops in mid-wink.  She keeps her eye down.  There’s something extra like: And gave birth to you.

 

Fantasia On A Theme By Thomas Tallis.”  He types again and looks.  “Composed 1913.  Tallis died 1585.  You see, Von Williams took a Tallis theme from the 1500s, which…hmmm…which he encountered in the English Hymnal he was then editing.  So there is a merging there.  There is a distance.  A distance. And a merging.  And a he took that theme and made his FantasiaWhich was first performed in 1913.  More distance.  More space.  And what happens in that space?  And we are going to be studying it this week.  Change in plans.  Change in plans.  Things constantly changing.  Andthere’s the space between our ages. Yes.  Students and teacher.  And!  And! And!  He had just came from studying orchestration with Ravel.  By Jove. Quite.  Quite.”  He’s reading. Reading and thinking.  “Of course, I read before that Ravel after a while told him: ‘You can stay here and be a second-rate Ravel, or you can go back to England and be a first-rate Von Williams’ or something to that rather effective effect.  Hmmm.  Are you all following this?” he asks, but he doesn’t look up.  “More space, of course.  And yet, I recall something.  Let us delve a little deeper.  Deeper into the space.  The orchestra…three different size string ensembles…full string section…smaller group of nine players…hmm, and what does that mean?…and a quartet. Unbelievable.  Placed in different areas of the church.  Unfathomable.  And what grows between these entities?”  Dad starts scribbling things down.  Mom pours the milky tea in the jar and wraps it in a towel.  She winks again and we slip out.  She dashes in her studio and comes out with a shoulder bag and her long wool coat and hat and mittens.  I get my down coat and we step out into the cold sun.

 

“Do you want to drive?” she smiles.

 

“We’re walking.”

 

“Really?”

 

“We should walk.”

 

“Hmm.  I guess it makes sense.”

 

We start down the street toward the lake.  There’s no sidewalks.  Everything’s bright and calm.  Houses on both sides.  Leaves. People with piles of bagged leaves.

 

“Life on the edge…of town.”  She laughs at herself.  “I’m glad we’re walking.  Here.” She pulls out the tea and hands it to me.  I unscrew the lid, put the lid in my coat pocket, and stop and sip, holding it with both hands.  I look over the jar’s mouth at her and at the sky and oaks.  I hold it out to her and she takes a sip, and does the same thing, and hands it back.  And we keep walking.  “We’re not gonna be late?”

 

“This is the second Mass.  The first one’s in Latin.”

 

“Laaaaaatin?  Probably a different color.”

 

It’s cold and beautiful, but it’s weird, too.  There’s cars and people, but there’s something different. It’s like crisp…or in-between.  Like the edge of winter.

 

“Bright Sunday morning.  Have you gone to this before?”

 

“No.”

 

“How do you know what to do?”

 

“We can just sit in the back.”

 

“I should hope so!  Right? Oh, my god.  But then again…why not?  How’d you like that ‘By Jove’?  He was really into that Thomas Tallis thing.  Guess what we’re gonna be hearing for the next two weeks?  And his students.  Poor things. Sounds beautiful, though.  Just that stretch.  For sure.  For sure. Beautiful things don’t end.  What do you think—could the octopus re-enact the first performance of Fantasia On A Theme By Thomas Tallis with the sea-glass?  Huh.  Probably not. Probably not in my range.  Rangey.  Maybe if the picture was bigger.  Or a triptych.”

 

We just walk.  You can tell Mom’s thinking about painting the way she looks at the trees and the sky. You can tell she’s changing the focus of her eyes.  Collecting details.  With her it never ends.  I wonder if this is fair to Reminyi.  But I’m going to Mass because I want to.  I guess I’m filling out the picture.  For myself. Cause I go there at other times. Because I see Reminyi.  I see him in other ways.  I confessed to him.  I talked to him.  I listened to him.  I miss him. I guess I’m just afraid to be alone with him, too.  Because it might end.  I don’t know. I know his core.  But I’m gonna be watching him without him knowing. Watching him be a Priest.  It’s not who he is anyway.  He has his little house.  And then there’s the church.  But there’s other things.  Like when I fly.  No one would know that I fly from looking at me.

 

“It’s funny,” says Mom, still gazing around.

 

“What?”

 

“I feel like I’m coming into my own.”

 

“You mean painting?”

 

“Yeeeeeeahaa—that’s part of it,” she says slowly.  “It’s all bound together.”  We’re getting close to St. Therese.  I guess I don’t know if I want to see Reminyi up there.  In all those stupid clothes.  It’s funny.  With Mom I’m not afraid to walk.  Even though I flew.  Last night, though, I only flew into that world to sleep again.  Mom thinking about painting.  It’s like an aura.  “I guess it’s like…it’s like being a painter…like that’s how you see things, you know?  And you think: I’m different.  Because youare.  You’re always painting, right?  Like right now.  I’m painting. Except we’re walking, too.  Except I’m paying back my daughter for going to the beach.”

 

“You’re not paying me back.”

 

“I know.”  She nudges into me.  “But there’s those years that you try to go back.  You try to change to be like everybody else.  Or you think: Ok, this can be my hobby.  And then you can be a regular person.  But you’re not.  You’re not a regular person.  I don’t know if everybody has some kind of talent, and they’re just hiding it, or ignoring it, to conform and be regular people.  I really have no idea.  But there’s the thing like you think: wow, I can’t even talk to people cause I’m a painter, because I’m painting every second just studying every goddamn thing I look at.  But then you let go.  And you realize there’s something beyond that.  That’s where I am.”

 

I’m trying to pay attention to her: “So, what’s it like?”

 

“I don’t know.  I’ll keep you updated.”  She thinks. “Well.  One thing I can say is sometimes you don’t realize you’re holding back.  You could be the most dedicated artist in the world.  Or at least that’s what people think.  But you’re actually holding back.  Who knows how it all began…the holding back.”

 

We’re here.  The parking lot in front is pretty full.  But there’s no one around.

 

“Do you think we’re late?”

 

I don’t reply.  I just keep walking.  There’s a woman just inside the door.  She opens it: “Welcome.”

 

“Thanks,” says Mom.

 

She looks us up and down.  She’s knows we’re new.  It’s interesting.  The actual church, the chapel, where they have the Mass is surrounded by a hallway. I never thought about it.  It must be a hallway that circles all the way around.  It makes me want to go back outside and look at the building again to understand it.  It’s like a building within a building.  You can hear the Mass from beyond the doors in front of us.  A man in a blue suit opens the inner doors for us and nods.  He looks at Mom, narrowing his eyes and smiles.  I touch the Holy Water and cross myself.  So does Mom.  The guy’s checking Mom out.  She knows it. She’s kinda smiling.  Feeding off it.  The man holds out his arm to the empty pews in back where only a few people sit. The rest of the church is full. We sit down.

 

“I guess we should’ve hung up our coats in the hall like everybody else,” says Mom, but neither of us take ours off.

 

Mom’s examining everything, twisting and tilting her head all around. I just look at Reminyi.  He looks better in green, but it’s still not right. He doesn’t know we’re here.  A woman with sprayed hair and glasses, and huge hooped earrings, holds a book.  He spreads his hands.

 

Mom zones in on him: “It’s like he’s pretending the book is glowing,” she whispers out the side of her mouth.

 

Reminyi: “As we prepare to enter into he most sacred of mysteries, let us call to mind our sins.”  He pauses and looks at his hands and at the book and widens them.  “You were sent to heal the contrite of heart.”

 

Lord have mercy,” everybody says.

 

“You came to call sinners.”

 

Christ have mercy.”

 

“You are seated at the right hand of the father to intercede for us.”

 

Lord have mercy.”

 

“May almighty God have mercy on us, forgive us our sins, and bring us to everlasting life—let us pray.”

 

Silence.  There’s a choir to the right, all in white robes, just one line on a little riser.  They’re all women.  And a pianist.  It’s a lot different than sitting with Reminyi alone.  Alone in our cave.  Curled in our leaf.  With Mary and Jesus.  All these people.  How is it that we were able to be alone?  I look at Mary.  And at Jesus. And at Mom.  But she gots her little sketchbook out.  She’s sketching the ceiling.  She doesn’t look up but gives me a wink and smiles.  It’s a lot different.  If Mom wasn’t here I’d leave.

 

Another woman with sprayed hair and a big mole stands up and places a book on a podium.  And she starts reading.  Reminyi stands back.  You can tell he’s thinking.  He’s thinking about everything.  He’s uncomfortable.  But he looks better in green than in black.  I imagine him in a bunch of different outfits, but I just keep coming back to jeans and boots, some nice old wool coat.  Reminyi, the hermit that everyone thinks is cool.  But maybe he’s a witch, too.  Maybe people are afraid of him but they know if they go talk to him, bring him some tea or milk, he’ll give them a glass of homemade wine, and for some reason they’ll leave feeling better.  Maybe they’ll be able to tell him things because he’s somewhere between the animals and the humans.  He’s an emissary.  Except that’s not here.  Not with all these people.  They would never let it happen.

 

She has this beautiful, sinuous voice:

 

“Jonah Flees From the Lord

The word of the Lord came to Jonah son of Amittai:  “Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.”

But Jonah ran away from the Lord and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the Lord.

Then the Lord sent a great wind on the sea, and such a violent storm arose that the ship threatened to break up.  All the sailors were afraid and each cried out to his own god. And they threw the cargo into the sea to lighten the ship.

But Jonah had gone below deck, where he lay down and fell into a deep sleep. The captain went to him and said, “How can you sleep? Get up and call on your god! Maybe he will take notice of us so that we will not perish.”

Then the sailors said to each other, “Come, let us cast lots to find out who is responsible for this calamity.” They cast lots and the lot fell on Jonah.  So they asked him, “Tell us, who is responsible for making all this trouble for us? What kind of work do you do? Where do you come from? What is your country? From what people are you?”

He answered, “I am a Hebrew and I worship the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.”

This terrified them and they asked, “What have you done?”

And he said: “I am running from the words of the Lord.”

The sea was getting rougher and rougher. So they asked him, “What should we do to you to make the sea calm down for us?”

“Pick me up and throw me into the sea,” he replied, “and it will become calm. I know that it is my fault that this great storm has come upon you.”

Instead, the men did their best to row back to land. But they could not, for the sea grew even wilder than before. Then they cried out to the Lord, “Please, Lord, do not let us die for taking this man’s life. Do not hold us accountable for killing an innocent man, for you, Lord, have done as you pleased.” Then they took Jonah and threw him overboard, and the raging sea grew calm. At this the men greatly feared the Lord, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows to him.”

 

Mom keeps nudging me.

 

“Why do you keep fuckin nudging me?” I whisper.

 

“She’s really good.  She hooks you in.”

 

It’s true.  The woman with the sprayed hair and mole…it’s the way she plays her voice. She knows what she’s doing.  She’s welcoming you in with it.  It’s like you can see it.  Or she’s pointing to details.  Making things that you wouldn’t think vivid.  But she looks like some kinda housewife outta a sixties magazine.

 

“Jonah’s Prayer

Now the Lord provided a huge fish to swallow Jonah, and Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.  From inside the fish Jonah prayed to the Lord his God. He said:

“In my distress I called to the Lord,
and he answered me.
From deep in the realm of the dead I called for help,
and you listened to my cry.
You hurled me into the depths,
into the very heart of the seas,
and the currents swirled about me;
all your waves and breakers
swept over me.

I said, ‘I have been banished
from your sight;
yet I will look again
toward your holy temple.’
The engulfing waters threatened me,
the deep surrounded me;
seaweed was wrapped around my head.
To the roots of the mountains I sank down;
the earth beneath barred me in forever.
But you, Lord my God,
brought my life up from the pit.

When my life was ebbing away,
I remembered you, Lord,
and my prayer rose to you,
to your holy temple.

Those who cling to worthless idols
turn away from God’s love for them.
But I, with shouts of grateful praise,
will sacrifice to you.
What I have vowed I will make good.
I will say, ‘Salvation comes from the Lord.’”

 

And the Lord commanded the fish, and it vomited Jonah onto dry land.”

 

 

Mom’s pencil is poised.  She’s listening.  She twirls it and turns to a blank page.  I know right away that she’s gonna focus on Mary.  She only looks once, and now it’s like she has eyes on the top of her head, her face focused on the paper.  I watch her face change.  It’s like different parts of her come into it.  Maybe they all have talents, like particular specialties, and that’s what makes a drawing.  I glance back at the usher.  He’s watching Mom.  He sees me and smiles.  But Mary…she’s not really real like she is when it’s just me and Reminyi.

 

Reminyi steps forward, which causes a bunch of confusion.  The choir is just taking an in-breath to sing but has to stop.  Reminyi looks up from the book in his hand and catches the faces of the congregation and catches himself.  He turns to the choir and bows and steps back again, totally red.  His face is like an apple above all the green and gold.  I’m watching you, Reminyi.  I’m talking to you.  I’m reporting to you about you.  About how you look.  I want to fly into you and help you do everything right.  I want you to walk away.

 

The choir kicks up: “The heart is my light and my salvation.  Of whom should I be afraid?” they sing.

 

They just keep singing that: Of whom should I be afraid?  It’s beautiful.  I want them to stop.  I think about my sleeping self on the mesa.  But I’m not there.  I’m here. All of me.  I look at Mary.  I think she’s back.  She’s real again.  All these people.  It’s so hard, right?  It’s not like being alone.  It’s not like flying.  I don’t know what everybody’s thinking.  I don’t know why we’re here.  I can feel Mom looking at me.  I turn.

 

“Your face is changing so much,” she whispers.  “I wish I could draw it.”

 

Now Reminyi steps up and reads.  It’s funny. He misses his place right away.  I want to fly over and enter his head. Look out his eyes.  We could get all the words right.

 

Corianthians 13.

If I have all the eloquence of men or of angels, but speak without love, I am simply a gong booming or a cymbal clashing.  If I have the gift of prophecy, understanding all the mysteries there are, and knowing everything, and if I have faith in all its fullness, to move mountains, but without love, then I am nothing at all.  If I give away all that I possess, piece by piece, and if I even let them take my body to burn it, but am without love, it will do me no good whatever.

 

Reminyi’s voice drops down.  It’s interesting.  It’s more resinous.  It’s almost like he’s learning from the Jonah woman.

 

Love is always patient and kind; it is never jealous; love is never boastful or conceited; it is never rude or selfish; it does not take offence, and is not resentful.  Love takes no pleasure in other people’s sins but delights in the truth; it is always ready to excuse, to trust, to hope, and to endure whatever comes.”

 

Reminyi takes a big breath and lets it out almost like a whistle. He shakes his head and now nods.

 

Love does not come to an end. But if there are gifts of prophecy, the time will come when they must fail; or the gift of languages, it will not continue forever; and knowledge—for this, too, the time will come when it must fail.  For our knowledge is imperfect and our prophesying imperfect; but once perfection comes, all imperfect things will disappear.  When I was a child, I used to talk like a child, and argue like achild, (Reminyi makes a goofy face) but now I am a man,or woman (Hmm.  He added that.  Reminyi added that.  People know it, but he lead it in with his goofy face—he buffered it), all childish ways are behind me.  Now we are seeing a dim reflection in a mirror; but then we shall be seeing face to face.  The knowledge that I have now is imperfect; but then I shall know as fully as I am known.”

 

He hesitates.  Mom nudges me: “He’s tricky.”

 

In short, there are three things that last: faith hope and love; and the greatest of these is love.

 

He closes the book.  Silence. He closes his eyes.

 

Reminyi: “The Lord be with you.”  He pauses again.  I’m trying not to cry.  Reminyi’s trying not cry.  It’s just a bunch of stupid words.  “Brothers and Sisters, I am not…a confident orator…believe it or not.”  He’s making a joke, but nobody gets it.  He looks around and smiles anyway.  “But I do know I have absolute unwavering faith, I would say even knowledge, that all of us, in whatever way is right for us, can break through, can open ourselves, to God, whatever for each of us that is.  It’s not to say that I know what your lives are like, what you are thinking, what God is thinking, or even what God is—it’s just that from as long back as I can remember I knew that I was known by some greater beauty, that God believed in me…even if I didn’t believe in myself.  And that’s what really, truthfully, I always needed to own.  It’s like when people go to Zumba and the instructor shouts: Own it!  It’s like that.  Owning the space.  Owning the silence.  Coming from the heart of God every day.  And we might be afraid.  We all get afraid.  We might be afraid of everything.   Even to walk out our front doors.  Or to express what we truly feel.  To believe in the worth of our own stories.  Which are just as important as Jonah’s—maybe not as dramatic, maybe they’re more subtle.  Maybe we just don’t look at them deeply enough.  But we aren’t afraid of coming from the heart of God.  We open our eyes and we just come from it, like stepping from a cave, a cave of space and silence—a pregnant space, a pregnant silence.  Owning it like Jonah owned it.  Yes, he owned it.  He tried to run.  But the further he ran, the closer he came to the heart of God.  And when the fish swallowed him—for otherwise Jonah would’ve drowned—when the fish swallowed Jonah, and he was there inside this beautiful being of the sea, face to face with the fish’s heart, when he was within the interior of a being he never even knew existed, sent by God to protect him, to give him the space and shelter to think—to be away from other humans in the heart of the sea…whom did he speak to but God?  All these hearts.  All these hearts speaking to each other.  Jonah ran…and what he found was solitude.  Maybe that was the change.  We all know how hard it is in our world.  So many commitments.  Always trying to economize our time.  Always trying to make our lives better for the ones we love.  Networking.  Trying to take advantage of every option.  Just trying to do things right.  Trying to be worthwhile citizens.  Trying to contribute.  And at the end of the day, after driving here and there, finding parking, talking on our phones, emailing, cooking, picking up our kids, troubleshooting, we don’t even have time to dream.  To dream of God.  To go back to God’s heart.  So that when we open our eyes the next day we can step from it, arise from it, God’s works of art.  Be God’s work of art.  God’s work of love.  When you think about it, it’s there hidden in our words: the way we say this or that work of art, piece of art—pieces of art—which implies there’s something bigger, something whole—and individual paintings, poetry, sculptures, plays, are just a piece of it, just a piece of God.  That’s what we are.  Pieces of the art of God, individual, integral, emanating, yet singing the whole, implying the whole, the pregnant space, the silence, growing from it, the beautiful heart of God.  And of whom should we be afraid?  Not of God, not when we rise from God every day.  Every time we open our eyes.  Every time we close our eyes.  Every time we help some one in need whether they believe in God or not, they’re all pieces of the greater art.  That’s why now is a good time to take some time to sink back, to find a time of silence and space, to close our eyes no matter how busy we are.  And to listen.  To listen to the silence of God’s heart.  In our own individual way.  Not to speak into God, to speak at God, not even to focus on other people’s words, words passed down to us, but just to take time away, even for an hour, just to dissolve and re-arise.  We are coming into a time of winter.  To the depths of winter.  In the depths of winter.  Where when we walk on the snow we’re actually above the earth.  In the depths of winter.  Who knows how deep it will get.  I guess it’s up to us.  And from there, in the depths, we can take the time to be buried in the heart of God, we can hibernate in the heart of God, and be God’s dream, we can heal from all our ambition, all our attempts to be perfect, and our attempts to make other people perfect.  And arise once again from the winter depths.  And not question what kind of art God has made us.”

 

Reminyi stops.  I look around.  I try to get an idea what people are feeling.  It’s hard to tell.  It’s all different.  There’s people looking down.  People frowning.  People thinking about other things.  Blank people. Uncomfortable people.  People smiling.  People who really listened.  People who want more.  And Reminyi. I can tell he’s judging himself. It’s not like he’s sitting with me. Going back and forth.  Creating together.  Trying to figure it out together.

 

He raises his head: “You know, I know in a lot of ways I may be temporary here.  In a way, I’m filling in.  After the sudden passing away of your Father Snyder.  I never met him.  But I’m sure he helped you all come deep from the heart of God, too.  I don’t know if I’m a good Priest, or if after time I’ll become one.  But for as long as I’m here I want you to know that I’m listening.  I’m listening to you and the heart of God as much as I can.” He bows to the congregation.  The Altarboy steps up.

 

Mom nudges me: “Why do they need him?  The Altarboy. It’s kinda weird.”

 

“Let’s go.”

 

“Now?”

 

“Yeah.  Let’s get out of here.”

 

“Why?”

 

“They’re gonna do communion.”

 

Me and Mom stand up and edge out of the pew.  We cross ourselves and genuflect.  I take a look back at Reminyi.  I don’t know.  I think it was a good sermon, like he did a good job, but he looks like he’s gonna fall apart.

 

The usher opens the door: “Thanks.  Hope to see you again.”  He’s definitely checking mom out.  She nods sorta like some queen or something.

 

We walk to the outer doors and back into the sun.  I feel…I don’t know how I feel.  We walk through the parking lot in silence.

 

“I like him,” says Mom in this funny way.  “But he’d probably be a better writer.”

 

I start laughing.  It’s funny. My nose is burning cause I could cry, too.

 

“Do you still write?”

 

We walk for a while.  She has her arm in mine like I’m her boyfriend.  But she’s protecting us because she’s a painter, she’s painting all the time—she owns it.

 

“I started a story last night.”

 

“Reeeeeeeeaaally?  You’ll have to read it to me when you get done.  You could even give me pieces you throw away and I can glue them into a painting. Like, right—yeah, so the octopus could be actually creating the text with the sea-glass!  Something like that.  Whatever.  I just want you to write.  Own it, girl!

 

“I think I’m gonna make a graphic novel out of it.  But don’t tell Dad.”

 

She’s thinking.

 

“And I’m gonna move to Paris.”

 

She wraps her arm into mine a little tighter and leans into me as we walk.

 

“The sun sure feels good after being in there on such a nice fuckin morning.”  She thinks some more.  “It’s really all about ecstasy, you know.  All this craziness.  All this ecstasy, but everybody’s so restrained.  So where does it go?”

 

“I guess it goes inward.”

 

“Hmmph.  Maybe. I don’t know.  Sometimes I think I don’t understand people.  Like really understand them.  I mean, theoretically I do, right?  I understand that things exist.  But I don’t understand why people don’t want to be happy.  Like we were having coffee—my art group—and this woman who is really this fascinating painter, or at least she has all this potential, right? She has this natural talent.  But she wants to be a writer.  And we’re in this art group having coffee and she says: ‘I force myself to write fifteen minutes every morning and then once every two weeks I write for two hours, organizing my fifteen minute writings,’ or something like that.  And she names some book by this woman and is surprised we don’t know it.  Some how to be a writer book, right?  And I say: ‘That’s cool.’  And she says: ‘No it isn’t.’  And I say: ‘Well, if you’re having fun, that’s great.’  And she says: ‘It’s not fun.  It’s what I have to do.’  Everybody else is smart enough not to get into it.  But IIIII saaaaay, like an idiot: ‘Well, if it’s not fun, you’re probably not a writer.’  Mom squeezes my arm and laughs.

 

“So what happened?”

 

“Well, now she pointedly sits on the other side of the room, and pointedly refuses to eat any of the food I bring to our meetings.  Which is a lot better than I thought it’d turn out after I said it!”

 

“Yeah.  Internal ecstasy,” I say, just thinking.  “It is nice to be in the sun.  I love all the oaks.”

 

“Ah!” says Mom.  “I get it. They don’t want any women to be involved with the communion!  That’s where our little Altarboy comes in.  But they can read and sing.  I guess that’s something.  Catholicism is fuuuuuuuuucked!”  She starts laughing.  “You know Mary Magdalene wasn’t a whoooora, right?”

 

“I know.”

 

“She was from an aristocratic family.  Which I guess is the same thing if you grew up under Mao.  Or after the Russian Revolution.  How about going to the lake yesterday?  That was fun, huh?”

 

I look at all the leaves covering the yards, or piled by the street. Or in black plastic bags.  Some people are even burning piles on the edge of the gravel.  “I guess they’re going to sleep for the winter, too.”

 

 

 

 

~

 

 

 

 

I have notebooks spread across the bed.  A couple of candles burning.  It’s true.  I’m not going to destroy you…but I can’t go back.  Not right now.  Back to that eco-system.  It’s not like I don’t belong there.  Not like I can’t help it.  But I can’t be there as who I am now.  Like going back is gonna stop things from changing, changing on their own.  In whatever way they want.  It’s probably like having a Cyclops looking at you.  Searching the forest for you.  And then when it finds you it won’t let you go.  It’ll want to see everything you do.  So you do things cause of that.  Cause you don’t want to get killed by the Cyclops.  You don’t want to piss it off.  Or make it feel guilty.  Or regret anything, or else you’ll get pounded by a big fist.  And it’ll burn you in a riverbed or dump you in the trash. I guess I want to go from where I am now.  I guess I’m different.  I want to write from where I am.  Besides, it’s just blessing shit.  Last night I flew and blessed these people, I flew above their heads as they were in a meeting, and I blessed them.  They smiled and some even looked up.  Etc.  Etc. That’s it.  But now I’m different.  I have my own journeys.  I don’t even know what they are.  But I’ll create them as I fly.  And tell everything to Reminyi.  I guess…I just…I shouldn’t’ve tried to put myself into Franny.  That ruined everything.  She took this sharp breath.  And then gripped me.  She dug her nails into me and then she pushed me away.  There was clear fluid coming out of me and I was really wet.  My vagina was super swollen.  But I didn’t come.  It was like I was flooded with something.  It felt so good but it changed things.  I think she felt like suddenly she was with a boy.  That the rest of me didn’t matter.  She got up and went to the bathroom.  I know she was cleaning herself.  But we became friends again.  I just had to try not to get hard.  I would just count, or add numbers.  Or think about really horrible things.  That’s why I can’t go back right now and reread that shit.  I can’t let all that regrow in me.  But I can’t destroy it, either.  Maybe that’s what she’s thinking.  She doesn’t want me in her again.  But then she was always trying to fist me, which hurt, too.  ‘Go from where you stand.’  Right? That’s what Brother Cadfael would always say.  Way back in the 11thcentury Shrewsbury.  On the border of England and Wales.  On the border.  Where life overlaps and you can’t define it so easily.  Right?  And there’s always some mystery dealing with some plant.  Cause he’s an herbalist monk.  Because he was a Crusader and went to Persia and discovered medicine.  They actually have them all at the library. Fly from the branch you’re perched on. Don’t think about yesterday’s air currents.  Just fly. It’s funny.  I’m gonna write my memoirs, but everybody’ll think I made it up.

 

I grab my new notebook from under my pillow: “But it was actually singing to her.  What world-breath was inviting her into its body, was beyond any thing she’d ever imagined?  As she neared the burning light with her silver body that was beyond a woman or man, that pulsed music back with breasts and penis and vulva, she knew there was peril beyond the searing orb, but there was also love, true love full of fire.” Jesus fuckin Christ…this is like a solar romance.  I’m like the Bronte sister who was the Hermaphrodite.  I look at what I wrote again.  I guess…I have to fly.  I have to go experience things.  I have to fly in my mythology.  And not bless anyone.  Not ask to love anyone.  To understand anything.  My wings can teach me.  They can tell me who I already love.  Who I’m already speaking to.  And then I can write that.  I can write about the Ascenti who slept on the mesa.  That’s the beginning.  When I wake on the mesa and fly.  This is the beginning.  Except I have to sleep more.  How many days is it in that world?  Because there, it’s always night.  Mom…you’re fuckin crazy.  I’m crazy because of you and Dad loving each other.  I stepped out of your cracked brains.  The being who was waiting to be me.  Because I wanted it all.  I still want it.  Even though I gotta keep it hidden.  I have it. It’s in my body.  My body is everything.  And everybody wants it.  But I didn’t make it to be wanted.  I can’t get lost in that.  That’s what people want.  Then you’re just like everybody else.  You’re in your house with your TV telling you what you want.  Glowing on your mind.  Your mind that never even existed.  Once you watch TV—that’s when you were born, right?  That’s the people I was blessing.  A bunch of bodies formed from a television’s glow.  Hitting something.  Hitting some memory.  Until it’s nothing but fake laughter.  And violence.

 

Yeah.  And I’m crying.  Probably crying for all the stupid people.  And because me and Reminyi aren’t ever gonna be together. He’d let me inside him.  And I’d let him into me.  We’d teach each other how to touch each other.  I know his body is so white and smooth.  Our nipples would touch.  He’d love me.  He’d look at my body and cry cause it’s beautiful.  And he’d be like: You did it. You created something beautifuler than this stupid culture.   And we’d glow from the inside.  Our glows would cross.

 

I gotta sleep again.  I don’t know. I’m almost rested.  Deeper down.  I’ve almost slept for as long as I needed within my core.  And then I can write.  I can search out stories from the air and dive into them.  Come back and shake my wings onto the paper and arrange them. Every night.  Every morning I’ll take what happened and create more and more. I just have to sleep some more.  I guess I got something to look forward to. Mom probably wants to do the art for the books.  But somebody my own age… the librarian with her long fingers and creamy skin.  She can draw everything, and I can kiss her smooth warm belly.  Just that smell and the crease of her hips leading down.  Maybe she wanted it all, too.  And that’s me.  That’s my body against hers.  And I won’t text Franny.

 

I reach over and get my ipod and plug it into my speakers.  I put on the Sacred Songs of Mary.  Trio Medieval.  O Maria, Stella Maris.  And breathe.  I imagine Reminyi spooning me.  And the gorgeous librarian.  I’m spooning her.  And once in a while we shift the other way, into other configurations.  I know I shouldn’t do this.  I shouldn’t imagine anything.  I should be strong.  Strong enough to be alone.  But that’s what I want.  I want them to be here.  I sink down. I’m almost there.  I’m all ready to fly.  To sleep.  Ave Mariaby Elisabeth Andreassen.  When it hits Viridissima I’ll lift out.  We shift. All my imaginary lovers.  Who really want me.  I know it.  I’m on my back facing up and they’re both curled toward me.  Breathing into my hair.  Breathing into each other.  Somewhere there’s a wind blowing through the bare branches.  Because all the leaves have fallen.  And beneath the snow, woven nests.  Here it is.  I rise out. And I look back down.  Ascenti. Except you’re naked.  But you don’t look cold.  As if the earth is radiating all the heat you could ever need.  Above us the blue fabric among the stars. We’re already here.  Both our bodies.  Maybe I’m just opening my eyes.  Opening my other eyes.  My body is ethereal.  A diaphanous molten silver.  And my other body sleeping on the plateau beneath me is so beautiful I want to cum inside it, I want it to cum in me, I want to lick the earth from its skin, that other earth that it lives in—I want to lick its future.  But I don’t.  I don’t want to wake myself, either.  I don’t want to wake myself with my love.  I know if I imagine Reminyi and the librarian on each side of me—if I really create it right here—it’ll happen in that other world.  But I want them to come by themselves.  I want to see if they can walk into the seam.  If they have the guts.

 

I slowly glide over the whole mesa, looking at the spore-prints.  You can feel it, the music rising from them. Maybe they’re here, these people, and I can’t see them.  Or they were here long ago.  Or they will be here, like this is the evidence of their future.  But as I pass above each one I feel the music.  It rises through me, then up, up toward the blue undulating waves in the stars.  Some of it is so strange.  It’s music…but it’s…I don’t know…it has nothing to do with earth…or the human earth…or what humans think is the earth.  It’s funny.  I’m in this body.  This diaphanous thing.  I look down. My penis is hard.  My nipples are tight.  I’m wet.  Silver dripping silver.  And yet I don’t know hardly anything.  There’s more here, there’s more earth than I ever imagined.  More ways of listening.  More forms.  More forms creating music that no one knows.  But it’s all here.  It was always here.  What do people see?  I mean like the foxes, the squirrels.  The bluejays. Scientists can take their eyes and image the physicality, but it’s still only scientists.  Extracting pieces of other people’s bodies and pretending they’re not seeing what they want to see.  But it’s really completely different worlds.  So many colors.  In the spores.  Combinations. Almost audacious.  That join my wings.  And the forms.  They’re birdlike.  Some almost human.  Some are just strange designs of energy with wings, orbs with feather, but you know they existed.  Or they will exist.  Some are aquatic, too.  Like whale-birds.  Whale-human-birds.  I curl up in one and feel the change.  I feel the water.  As if the plateau is really beneath the sea.  I feel myself fill it out…and the spores…I add to the spores.  And it’s like adding to your repertoire.  Another piece of music to live within you.  Another form.  Another creation.  But some are impossible.  Some are so different they’d blow you apart.  Some are so different if you laid into them you’d give up your right to live. And it makes me want to go back. Enough.  I float over to my body.  To Ascenti.  You’re my repertoire.  The air sizzles.  I want to learn to play you better than anything else. I want us to sleep in each other. I don’t know what’s gonna happen when we wake up.  Except we’ll have us at the tips of our own fingers.  From the inside.  No one knows our worlds.  Even if they took out our eyes.  They’ll only know if they enter the seam.  If they turn off their TVs and fly into themselves.  I gaze at my sleeping body.  And roll my silver body onto my back, watching the ocean night.  All the blue shore above the stars.  And I descend.  Fit myself into myself.  I’m gonna sleep.  We’re gonna sleep together.  No matter what humanity says.  I’m gonna sleep deeper than anybody else.  And you can read about it when we awake.

 

 

 

 

~

 

 

 

 

I’m ready for something.  Something rose into me and I knew I was ready.  When I opened my eyes I knew they were greener.  I have to see Reminyi to find out.  Which makes me pretty nervous.  I put on just enough lipgloss, just enough eyeliner.  Then I took them off.  But it made me look like I was crying or sick.  So I put some back on.  Reminyi. It’s not just him.  But he’s the one I talk to.  That I confess to.  If he kisses my body I won’t be able to stop him.  I won’t stop myself.  Kiss me till everything grows and I won’t be able to hide myself.  I’ll cover him with my wings as he slowly enters me.  And we can talk about books and music, just laughing, until he’s all the way in.  Then we’ll know it’s forever.  Reminyi.  You’re so funny.  You’re so beautiful.  I’m gonna be the one to take off your costume.  Cause I’m your muse.  Cause I’m an artist.  Again. Except I’m still looking around.  But not like Mom.  I guess it’ll always be that way.  I can’t be waiting for it to happen.  I’ll always be looking around.  That’s what we do.  That’s what women do.  Or not going out alone.  But now I’m alone.  Without Mom’s paintings.  But I wrote, too.  I flew. I even tried to draw the spore-prints from my dreams.  I flew for myself.  I’m almost certain I didn’t bless anyone.  I guess you just walk like I am now.  Just keep walking.   It’s getting late.  People already home from work.  Kids already home from school.  From the bus. Or parents picked them up.  Brought them home.  But I’m watching.  Maybe it’s when I was blessing people I didn’t think I had to watch.  The more I blessed, the more safe I was.  As a woman.  As a thing.  But they got away with it because I was something else.  But I’m a woman on the outside.  But now that I flew again…I don’t know.  Maybe the air’s just more vibrant.  More pregnant.  Mom always says when we see a strange dog to open your core up, like your torso. Imagine a tunnel that leads to the other side.  Wide open. Like showing clouds and sky right through you.  Because they send something out.  And if you’re afraid…it returns to them.  Then they know you’re afraid.  So you remove the block, the gate, and what they send out passes right through.  Then they transform.  So the blessing, the person who wants to bless, the woman, whoever she is, maybe she blocks it with her face.  She’s pretty determined.  I can still feel her flying above the humans.  And now I’m here.  I just can’t tighten up.  If Reminyi’s there, if we talk, I’ll have to walk home alone.  Under the stars.  I want that. But he could walk me home, too. He could get in trouble and be free. We could look at each other on the doorstep.  And I could make him kiss me.  Foooooooorever.  I’m sure Mom would see it.  She’d be drawn from her studio.  And she’d open the curtain right as our lips parted.  I’m older than him.  That’s all I’d have to say.  I’m owning it, so we’re equal.  But I don’t know if I’m ready for anything.   All I know is when I woke up everybody was gone. I made tea.  And I wrote.  I described the spore-prints.  And I drew them as best I could and surrounded the drawings with descriptions. But then I felt it.  The flight.  Of writing.  Where things are born.  I tried to rein it in.  Like just describe the plateau.  The prints. The colors of the spores.  But I wanted more.  It was like I was standing there, reporting, with the blue waves above. But I was singing up to the lapping seam, calling to all those bodies who had left their prints.  And I started describing them as they came.  Except I was writing.  We were gathering on the plateau.  That was the beginning.  Except we knew each other from dreams.  Suddenly, our dream-memories were wide open.  I just tried to remember the spore-prints.  Like you could stand in them and make tones.  And then the Being would come as I’d write.  Come down the tones like a pole, like a fabric leading up to the seam.  And we’d smile.  When I get done with that, when we’re all together, we’ll all just say: ‘It’s been a long time since we’ve gathered.’  ‘Ascenti. Thankyou for calling us.’  ‘We’ve been thinking the same thing.’  And I’ll look down at my Nightbody, just as glorious, just as different.  And we’ll all lift our wings.  We’ll be ready.  That’s what it is to be a Muse.  To call to the ones who are ready.

 

Hmmm.  Yeah. And I’m almost there.  I’m still mellowed out from all the Pad Thai I made Mom and Dad.  With snap peas and Nappa and almond sauce.  And Mung noodles.  Maybe I haven’t lost it.  Maybe you just gotta want to eat.  Except I’m still nervous.  Something’s gonna happen.  You know I’m coming, don’t you?  I guess I don’t even know if Reminyi likes the way I look.  You’re good at hiding things.  What does being a Priest hide?  I guess you could grow into it.  Perform it till it’s almost true.  Perform it till you can actually perform it.  So people can create into you.  Make it so you belong.  Is that worthy?  What will happen in the end?  When death comes with its mirror?  Cause you called it.  You called it all your life because you didn’t have the guts to go where you belong. Reminyi.  You’re out of place.  But maybe if you stay long enough you may naturalize.  And people will forget that you don’t belong.  Or, you go someplace else—flying up like a seed to spread over a more fertile ground, but maybe it’s just fertile for your particular seedsWherever you go.  When I’m with him, what do I feel?  I don’t know if I feel fertile, but maybe I’m giving off seeds, not seeds that somebody handed to me, that I bought.  I can’t have babies, anyway.  But I can fly.  Seeds that create more seeds.  He’s growing so I can grow.  Struggling. Through the winter dirt.  It’s winter, right?  Maybe he’s going the wrong way.  That’s people, right?  Nobody allowed to sleep.  You gotta make it happen yourself.

 

I stop.  There’s two cars in the parking lot.  I’m on the corner of all the buildings across the street.  I could go in the Pizza place and write more.  But I’m full.  And it’s getting colder.  The sun’s squeezing dark orange through the trees.  It’s taking any heat there was with it.  Oh, shit, Ascenti.  It’s fucked up.  You’re stupid.  Your world belongs to you.  But if I go home now maybe I’ll never find my way back to the plateau.  Maybe I won’t fly.  I’ll sleep through the winter but I won’t fly.  I’ll wake up and become a Business Major.  Then Mom and Dad will freeeeeeeak!  I start laughing.  Yeah. I’ll forget everything.  Until I look into the mirror of death.  Except Death has wings.  It’s one of us.  Just like the rest of us.  I just start walking, walking at the St. Therese like I can’t stop.  Like I’m just trying to sit back in a car that knows what it’s doing.  Automatic. There’s a muscle car in the parking lot blowing out exhaust.  Just idling. And a guy just sitting in there smoking, looking at his cellphone.  I glance really quick.  I close my eyes and get to the church and my hand opens the door.  I’m in.  The hallway that runs around the chapel is dimly lit.  Just a soft sheen on the jade green tiles.  But the chapel’s glowing.  Like it’s radiating safety.  Voices. Soft voices.  I shove my hands in my pockets and wait.  I try to hold myself down.  But now they’re out again, opening the inner door.  Pushing through.  Reminyi’s standing where the choir was with the woman with the sprayed hair and the big mole.  The one he made read the Jonah story.  I notice now she has really big breasts.  He smiles and waves, but he goes back to talking to her.  She listens but her eyes are fixed on me.  A woman’s praying in the second pew from the front in the middle. Reminyi keeps talking in a low beautiful voice.  The Jonah woman hasn’t stopped looking at me.  I almost walk in but stop and touch the Holy Water, genuflect.  I look at Mary, Jesus, now Mary again.  And decide where to kneel.  I’m in the center pews but back and to the right of the woman. She fingers her rosary.  She’s probably good at knitting.  Or weaving.  I just try to clear my mind.  Mary…I just want to thank you…I know you care…I know you know I’m here…I know…right…the place doesn’t mean anything…I’m here in myself…I came to be with you…and your friend.  I glance up at Jesus dangling behind the altar. Sleeping.  But nothing wakes him.  The woman praying swings around and peers at me.  She’s like a vulture.  An old vulture.  She must’ve heard me thinking.  I just look into her black eyes.  And something goes still in me.  Something relaxes.  Reminyi still murmuring.  The sprayed Jonah woman still examining me.  The vulture turns back.  Now she’s just this little humped form with a black and silver scarf over her long silver tresses.  We’re in the glow.  All four of us.  Whether we know it or not.  I wish Mom was here.  Watching from inside me.  I could show her what it means.  That there’s no reason for it to glow like this.  But it does.  Just our glowing leaf floating on the river of space.   Bumping into stars.  We’re all here for the change.  We’re the ones who are left.  It makes me look up and smile at the Jonah woman.  When I do she finally turns her face to Reminyi.  He’s still murmuring and smiling.  He’s basking in the glow.

 

The Jonah woman says: “But that’s not my place.”

 

Reminyi smiles and whispers: “Well, try it.  There’s nothing stating anything except that our inspiration comes from God. So you can choose it just as well as I. And I’ll follow you.  You can come up with completely different readings. Just don’t let me know what they are.”

 

The Jonah woman is frowning, but I think she’s excited, too.  I can sense it.  Reminyi can sense it.  The vulture woman coughs up something.  I actually think she spits it on the floor.  It’s like her and Mary are gazing at each other, vibrating.

 

The Jonah woman glances at me: “Ok.”

 

Reminyi whispers: “In fact, you could even just choose it on the spot. Open the New Testament and just read. We could just make it up from there. We’ll all be listening.  Which I think is the important aspect.”

 

“To what?”

 

“To Goooooood,” Reminyi whispers all gleaming.  He’s excited.  “You’re the storyteller, not me.  You’re a natural.”

 

The Jonah woman steps back.  But she’s excited, too.  A part of her is wondering if it’s a trap.  But you can tell she been thinking, that urge to get up and recite, to speak, to tell stories, something like that.  It’s funny.  Reminyi just barely winks with his right eye.  They’re talking internally.  And he’s asking me to join in.  To share in the joy.  And to help her, too.  Just a voice. That she can make into anything. That says: Yes.  It’s what you always wanted and it’s right here.  It must be pretty dark outside.  Just us in our little shell.  The door opens and a man in jeans and a leather jacket genuflects and walks quietly up and sits next to the vulture woman.  You can smell cigarettes.  He must be from the muscle car.  She doesn’t look away from Mary.  He whispers something and nudges her.  He’s smiling, too, like it’s a joke.  Like they’ve done the same thing a million times.  Lady Jonah has her keys out.  She looks like she’s about to cry.  Her mind flying through all kinds of stories and scriptures.  She hugs Reminyi, which surprises even him.  It surprises her, too.  The vulture and her grandson, I think, look.  And the Lady Jonah flits out.  Reminyi smiles after her.  And Elvis helps his grandmother, the vulture, slowly up.  For a second I think when she leaves we’ll be plunged into darkness like she’s the candle.  She’s the illumination.  Her and Mary. Elvis helps her genuflect but he forgets to himself.  But she looks at us right before they exit.  Reminyi and I are lined up.  I must be an almost perfect distance between her and Reminyi.  I look at Reminyi.  He isn’t smiling.  Now she’s gone.  I look at my hands.  They look like claws.  They don’t look like my hands.  It’s because I haven’t been writing enough.  But now I’ll know them again.

 

Reminyi relaxes.  You’d never know how tight he was that whole time.  But now I feel it.  I see it. Or something was sustaining him. Or sustaining who he was for Jonah’s wife and the beautiful vulture.  He circles all the way around to the other side of the aisle with a soft smile and sidles down it.  He plops down about five feet away from me.

 

“I’m so glad you came.”

 

“Me, too.”

 

“I don’t think I’ve ever told you.  I’m filling in.  And auditioning.  But I don’t think I’m doing either.”

 

He doesn’t know I came to the Mass.  “Is it alright that I’m here?”

 

“Yes.  Of course. As long as we stay far enough away from each other.  Sometimes I think there’s cameras.  Just in case.”  He smiles at me.  Now he frowns.  “Not really. It’s just the world we’re in.  I’m somewhat used to it.”

 

We wait.  I’m sweating. I can smell myself. Whatever.  We look at the statues.  At their faces.  They’re watching.  But it’s different.  It isn’t a trap.

 

“It makes more sense…just me and you.”

 

Reminyi searches my face.  I think he realizes I saw his Mass.

 

“All those people.  Why-ever they’re here, why they come here…when they fill it up, it complicates the space.  Or fills it up.  You’re right. But just now, with Mrs. LaPlante. And Angela.  It makes more sense.  And now…just with us—”

 

“You can listen.”

 

“Yes.”

 

“Radiate.”  We look at the statues some more.  I wonder if they’re feeding us lines.  I try to listen really close.  “You could be a good Priest if you wanted to.”

 

“Really?”

 

“You could get good at it.”

 

“I think—I think that’s true, also.  I just…sometimes I actually feel who I am.  I really want it to happen more.”

 

“When are you who you are?”

 

“Ha.  It’s definitely not when I’m a Priest.”  He looks up at the ceiling.  He laughs. “Deja vu.  This is such a strange place.  It’s cheap in a way.  But it’s here.  Among these old oaks.  And here we are in this glowing world.  So…and, of course, there’s the stories.  The words. The ritual.  People entranced by the ritual.  People addicted to the ritual.  People driven away by the ritual.  But here we are in this little glowing octagon.  I guess it’s just the imagination.  The imagination of Christ.”

 

I look up.  Look at that severe face and laugh.  “Mary is the imagination.  Mary is the sea.”

 

“You can’t become Christ until you become the mother of God.” Reminyi laughs.  “I don’t know why I said that.”

 

“Or Mary isGod.”

 

“Maybe we’ll keep having the same conversations foooooorever.”  He’s smiling really big.  But he’s narrowing his eyes, too.  “It’s almost like she’s more eternal.”

 

“And blue.”  Reminyi stares at me, smiling, waiting.  “The blue hand that reveals the stars.”

 

“Debussy said: ‘Music is there and it’s the job of the composer to love it into being.’” He’s looking down my neck.  At where my breasts are beneath my coat.  At my legs.  He doesn’t know he’s doing it.  He knows my body.  Remember?  I showed it to you.  I showed it to you in the mirror.  He looks into my eyes.  Soft green with silver edges.  We’re closer. Every time we look up at the statues, at Mary, we must get closer.  “He also said that everything in nature carries its own unique harmony within itself.”

 

We’re still gazing into each other’s eyes.  Reminyi.  I don’t understand why we’re saying these things.  We’re reading words from each other.  We’re searching each other’s data banks.  We’re putting words in each other’s mouths from somewhere in our bodies, some region.  No one knows we’re flying just from looking in each other’s eyes.  If I could just climb in.  Climb into the windows.  Into the stained glass.  Just color. Reminyi’s green.  It’s so much more natural than the robe he wore.  And our two greens.  Mine is deeper, darker, brighter.  But together…what is their sound together?

 

“I love how you blink,” he says.  “It’s like you’re understanding things.  Like swallowing with your eyes.”

 

I close them, maybe for a minute.  When I open them Reminyi’s still looking into me.

 

“Do you know who St. Simeon is?”

 

“Not…really.”

 

“Well.  Yes. He was this Saint who said things like: ‘God is uncreated light.’ Yep.  ‘God is uncreated light.’” Reminyi smiles like it’s the most coolest thing ever.

 

“You mean…unshaped?”

 

“I don’t know.  I guess…I think it’s just something to make you think.  Which maybe that’s what God is, also—just this thing to make you wonder. And then things get created through wondering.”

 

“Light gets created?”

 

“I believe that’s possible.  But the thing about St. Simeon was he believed in people having direct experience of God.  Directly communicating with God.  And speaking from that experience.  Directly, personally, experiencing God’s light.”

 

“Or God’s uncreated light.”

 

“Yes.  So here’s this octagon in the oaks.  Named after St. Therese.  Who was this simple cool young woman who died young—” He stops.  “I guess to be a Priest…and get good at it…maybe you come through the other side.”

 

“Maybe you’ll meet someone like me again.”

 

“And we have the same conversation.  Except I’m older.”  He smiles at me.  “It’s hard to imagine that I’ll ever meet someone like you again.”

 

“Because I have it all?”

 

Reminyi blushes.  “Maybe you’re just generous.  ‘Generosity is the greatest quality a musician can possess.’  That’s what Gabriel Chodos said.  But I think it can get you in trouble, too.  Over-generosity.  Over-generous.  I think it’s different.”

 

“Different reasons.”

 

“Different reasons.”

 

“I’m not being generous.  Alls I want to do is sleep.  And I’m kinda sick of taking showers, too.”

 

Reminyi laughs and looks at me like I’m a dinosaur.  His smile drops and he narrows his eyes.  “I don’t know about the shower thing.  But I want something like that, too.  Not sleep exactly.  Not sleep.  Not the way you think.  But something similar.  I just want to be alone.  Not like alone alone, of course, but I want only, possibly, humans to be maybe ten, maybe twenty-five, percent of the equation.  Twenty-five percent.  Twenty-five percent of the equation.  Or maybe ten makes more sense.  That’s where I can start.  That’s where I can listen.  I feel like I’ve always been wanting that.  And if I go through being a Priest.  If I get good at it, if I come out the other side—well, I’ll be right here.  I’ll still be wondering.”

 

My heart clenches.  Reminyi looks down at it.  He closes his eyes.  I guess he’s telling me his truth.  I wish I wouldn’t’ve came here.  I look up at Mary.  This was just a stupid trap.  Why did I come here?  So Reminyi can tell me he doesn’t love me, right?  That he doesn’t need me.  That he wants to be alone.  That he doesn’t want me.

 

“And you won’t be here.  And if you’re not here…maybe I won’t come through.  Maybe I’ll forget forever.”

 

I guess he’s doing what he needs to do.  It’s funny.  I guess it’s more complicated.  My mind swings to the librarian.  She’s taking off her clothes.  Dropping them.  Her dark skin is shining.

 

“There’s always a form right there to jump into, which I think is alright as long as you keep one foot in the door.  It’s like how can things grow when everything’s the same.  So many humans telling each other what they think about God.  Including me. But then they’re jumping into the forms—all pre-set.  They just don’t know it.  People think if they create a form for other people to jump into then they’ve achieved something.  And the ritual…like Angela, who would be a natural Priest, or Priestess, but then you have the patriarchy of the Church, the misogyny of the Catholic Church. That’s the form.  In America it’s changed…I guess.  A little. But here youare.  You’ve changed my life just being who you are.”

 

Reminyi’s looking at the side of my face.  It’s a heat.  We must be closer.  He’s talking about me.  He’s talking from inside me.  Why? We’re just saying things from inside each other.  Don’t get lost, Reminyi.  If you’re in there, don’t get lost.  Maybe you’ll find the room with all my dreams.  The room with wings made out of mirrors.  He looks where I’m looking, at Mary.

 

“All the Marys,” I say.  “All in one. She’s like a tree.  And Jesus drops down from the branches and evolves over a million years.  He’s the first Homo sapien.  And ends up like this.  Except it’s not over.  It doesn’t end there.  No fuckin way does it fuckin end.”  I’m crying. But I’m holding it all in.  I’m protecting it.  I’m not letting it go.  It’s like my hair’s growing from the pressure.  Who’s speaking?  “I had this dream…I had this dream…once…a huge black snake crawled into my bed.  It was in a house I had never been.  And I was different.  I was a different person.  But it just wanted to keep warm.  But alls I could think was you can’t have a snake like that near you, that anything can happen, that it’s a snake and it’s huge and could bite you anytime, except it was there because it wanted to be there.  We were just sharing this bed.  But I took it out into another room.  I wrapped it in a blanket.  But I felt weird.  I felt like I was doing something wrong.  Even though to everybody else it would be right.  I think I wanted to hide it, too.  That it came into my bed.  And when I put it down there was something wrong with it.  Like I hurt it.  I nudged it with my foot.  And then it turned vicious and tried to bite me.  It looked completely different.  I felt like everything had gone wrong, right?”  Reminyi nods.  Even though we’re both looking at Mary he nods to me.  “I woke up and felt sick.  But then I went back.  I did it again.  I started the dream again.  I went to sleep and was in the bed.  And the snake came.  And I understood that we belonged together.  That we were friends.  And we rose up, both of us, and put our foreheads together, and then we both just fell. We were both so content, like that was the best sleep ever.  Ever. And it’s weird…when I woke up in this life I knew the snake was in me.  It loved that I was everything.  That’s why I could keep it warm.  Except…except it was for me.  It wasn’t something you share.  It wasn’t something you show people.  You don’t tell them what it means.  You don’t bring it out cause otherwise it could kill them.  It just wants to sleep.  It’s like totally happy.”

 

Reminyi is really still.  He almost turns to me but doesn’t.  “Jesus and Mary.  It’s like they were Adam and Eve, too.  I guess that’s why I want to be alone.  To let the new stories grow.  I guess I look at you and I want a snake, too.  I want to have the courage to put my forehead to a huge black snake and find out what happens.  Rather than putting a story on it…that someone else gave me.  That somebody gave to them.  Just let it grow.  Like Mary. And receive the benediction.  You already received it when you made yourself. Benediction of God in the Solitudes.  Do you know that piece?  It’s a Liszt piece.  Maybe the beautifulest piece ever.  But it’s all about pacing and light.  Reflections of light.  Reflecting light.”

 

“Did you say Liszt?”

 

“Yes.  Franz Liszt.”

 

“I was soooo waiting for you to bring up Franz Liszt.  You gotta talk to my Dad.  You’d argue like crazy.”

 

“I’d like that.  He might be right.  Liszt wrote a lot of bad music.  But also some of the greatest pieces known.  And such virtuosity.  Just that enactment of the love of life and energy, the reverence just flying—virtuosity with reverence.  And simplicity, too.  Simplicity without reverence—maybe that’s an empty thing, too.  But just that flying over the keys tells you how beautiful and crazy life really is.  But you have to do it—whatever it is.  I don’t understand myself like you do.  Because I’ve tried to change myself so much.  Like right from the start.  But it’s like you said—you choose it.  You really do.”

 

“Did I tell you that?”

 

“Yes.  In confession.  I guess I’m trying to get to that place.  Maybe I chose things, too…and forgot.  But in the solitudes…I think something can grow.”

 

“But maybe what grows will only be ten-percent human,” I smile.

 

Reminyi laughs.  “So be it! Is God human?  Is Jesus human?  Is Mary human?  I wish we could listen to Benediction of God right here…in the solitudes.  It was named after a Lamartine poem.  Do you want to hear it?!”

 

“I think so.”  Holy shit. Reminyi is excited.  It’s like we’re in this beautiful womb, this glowing womb, but it’s almost as if we’re under the stars, too.  Which we are. But we’re somewhere else. Somewhere just below the surface. Behind the curtain.

 

“Ok.”  He closes his eyes, but is still facing Mary.  “I always wanted to recite this poem to someone—someone who blinks like you do. Ok.  Here it is…I hope.”

 

He curls his lips between his teeth, concentrating, taking in air through his nose.  Now he lets it out through his mouth:

 

Whence comes, O God, this peace which floods over me?

Whence comes this faith with which my heart overflows?

To me who, not long ago, uncertain, restless,

And tossed on waves of doubt by every wind,

Sought the good, the true, in the dreams of worldly sages

And peace in hearts resounding in tempests.

Scarcely have a few days brushed past my brow,

And it seems that a century and a world have passed away,

And that, separated from them by an immense abyss,

A new man is reborn and begins again in me.”

 

I feel this wave.  This radiance.  I look around the chapel.  I look for the lights.  It takes me a while to find them.  But still, it’s lit too beautifully to be real, to be from some electricity brought from the outside.  Reminyi still has his eyes close.  He curls him lips back in.  He’s holding his breath.

 

“I feel it.  It’s like growing for sure,” I say.  “And you don’t know what you’re gonna become.  I guess I never thought it took courage to be alone.  I guess it was something you just didn’t want to happen.”

 

Reminyi whispers: “Something to be cured.”

 

“Something wrong.”

 

“Except there’s a million different types of animals in the world. Doing a million different things. Relating in a million ways.  Not knowing if you’re human…probably gives you more abilities—helps you understand other beings…even people.  Maybe you lose the boundaries.  I think not knowing things is what God is all about. Unknowing all the human things.”

 

He’s speaking my thoughts.  The thoughts I’ve never spoken.  But it makes me want to cry, anyway.  I gotta hold it back.  Reminyi, you don’t gotta say what I’m telling you to say.  You don’t have to say anything.  We shouldn’t be saying anything.  We should just be loving each other.  But I don’t want to move, either.  I don’t think I could move if I wanted to.

 

“Was Liszt ever alone?”

 

“I don’t know.  Maybe in himself.  Maybe he was overly generous.  I don’t know. And vain, too.  Ambiguous.  Too many things at once.  Like so many combinations that a lot of people wanted to destroy him.  He made a lot of mistakes.  But people loved him like nothing else, too.  Probably for the wrong reasons.  I don’t know.  I think he had a lot of regrets.  Maybe he was just pointing the way.  Or opening a landscape with his music.  Or with that piece.  He said to one of his students: ‘There is music which comes of itself to us, and there is music which requires us to come to it.’  Maybe there’s some that’s both.  He placed that poem above the piece in his collection called Harmonies Poetic and Religious,which is a title from Lamartine, too.  Liszt wanted to dissolve the separations between the arts, whereas people like Brahms wanted to keep music its own entity, referring only to itself. I think they were both right, they both could go deep with those ideas, but it’s hard to discern if one is deeper than the other.  Both are alive.  That’s why Liszt has so many references to other works of art, though—paintings, poetry, even other music.  He doesn’t hide it.  He doesn’t hide the ambiguity.  I wish I could read the introduction to the whole collection of piano pieces.  Every time I think of it I think of you.”  He thinks.  He can’t move, either.  He doesn’t want to break the spell.  “Do you have your phone?”

 

“Yeah.”

 

“We can look it up.”

 

I pull out my phone.  “What is it?”

 

“Type in: Liszt Harmonies Poetiques et Religieuses.”  He spells it out.  “Introduction by Lamartine.”

 

“Here it is.  It’s on a Piano Forum.”

 

“Really?”  Reminyi slides closer and looks.  Our shoulders touch.  It’s like electric.  “Can you read it?”

 

I spread it bigger.  “You mean aloud?”

 

“Yes.  Please. I think I need to hear the words in someone else’s voice.  Not just anyone, mind you.”

 

“I don’t think I can.”

 

“Ok.”

 

Reminyi reaches for the iphone.  He has his hand on it.  But I pull it back.  Our fingers touched just for a second.  It’s like music pouring between us.  I try to breathe.  I look again. Who is listening?  I don’t look at the statues but I know they’re waiting. They’re curious.  They probably created Liszt and Lamartine.  I adjust the text.  It’s my lines that I’m supposed to speak to Reminyi.  But I listen to my voice as I start reading.  I sound like a two-year-old:  “‘There are some meditative souls that solitude and contemplation raise inevitably towards ideas that are infinite, that is towards religion; and their thoughts are converted into enthusiasm and prayer; all their existence is a mute hymn to the Divine and to hope.  They seek in themselves and in the creation that surrounds them steps to climb to God, expressions and images to reveal him to them, and to reveal themselves to him: I would that I could lend them some of these!  There are hearts broken by sorrow, held back by the world, who take refuge in the world of their thoughts, in solitude of soul, to weep, to wait or to worship; I would that they might be visited by a muse solitary like them, to find sympathy in her harmonies and to say sometimes, as they listen: We pray with your words, we weep with your tears, we call on God with your songs!’” I want to read it again.  But I don’t.  I turn to Reminyi.  His eyes are closed.  Our legs are only a foot apart.  I look up at Mary.  She’s staring into me just by searing her gaze into space.  And behind the altar, Jesus is sleeping.  It’s not time for him to raise his head.  Sleeping deep within.

 

“It is like deep within the solitudes, that’s where you receive the benediction.  But you have to go there.  You have to be brave enough.  Or maybe it’s just for people like me, people who need something that dramatic, people that stuck.”

 

“I don’t know if I’m made for the solitudes.”

 

“I think it’s however you can touch the core.”

 

“Or the core touching you.”

 

“And after that?” asks Reminyi, turning to me.

 

“Who knows?”

 

“Who knows?”

 

“More writing.”

 

Reminyi laughs.  “More flying.”

 

I jump and turn to him, but he’s looking at Jesus.

 

“When I first heard that piece, the Benediction de Dieu dans la solitude,and read the title, I thought it translated Benediction of God Dancing The Solitudes, and I thought of The Solitudes like etudes, like studies, musical studies, like dancing the musical studies of being alone.  But it was actually In the solitudes.  But still. God giving you the benediction while dancing the music of being alone.”

 

“Or God’s in the solitudes.  God’s giving its benediction from the depths of the solitudes.  As she dances.”

 

“Maybe she’s a hermaphrodite.  Maybe she chose it.”

 

I put my face in my hands.  I want it.  I want to be alone.  Like right now.  I want to blow the world apart with my mind.  So it’s only stillness.  Except Reminyi’s here.  He’s not gonna leave.  He’s not gonna leave me alone.  Because I won’t let him go.  Ever.

 

“There’s so many people who are both things.  And there’s more and more because people are accepting it, they’re letting it happen, they even want it to happen.  And there’s people who are in-between.  The whole spectrum.  More and more.  More and more people think…they know, it’s beautiful.”

 

“How do you know?”

 

“I looked into it.”

 

“You looked at a bunch of porn.”

 

Reminyi goes rigid.  He edges away a couple of inches.  I keep my face in my hands.  So he can look at me.  So he can look at my body.  So he can imagine touching it.  I’m trying to control my breath.

 

“Some.  That was the only way I could see…the bodies.  What they meant.  So much beauty it’s hard to understand.  But I looked into it further.  I found out how many people there are.  And how people are changed, one way the other, at birth, surgically.”

 

“I could’ve been changed, too.  But I stopped them.  I spoke to my parents.  We’d already agreed on it.  I was just reminding them.”  I can’t believe what I’m saying.  I’m saying it to be defiant.  But it might be true.  I know I chose it.  Reminyi stares at me.  He’s worried he went too far.  Can’t be a stupid Priest when you go too far, right?  Gotta stay within the boundaries—which is a joke, too.  The joke of the Catholic Church.  “Did you like the Thai Ladyboys?”  A little jolt goes through him.  “Maybe you can bring one over and they can be your little Altarboy.  They can help you with your stupid fuckin communion cause they got a penis.  But then you can make them a girl if you want to, right?  Right, Reminyi?  Father Reminyi.  Which one do you want me to be?”  Leave!  Get the fuck away from me!  Leave me alone!  I think. But he doesn’t.  We both have our faces in our hands.  I’m so tired.  Maybe I chose it.  Maybe. But maybe I was wrong, too.  I’m tired.  And hard.  I’m so tired I could cum.  If Reminyi touches any part of me, I’m gonna cum.

 

After a while I take a deep breath.  Reminyi takes one, too.  Now he takes a deep breath and I copy him.  And suddenly we laugh.  But we don’t let our faces out.

 

“Can you be alone in the monastery?”

 

Reminyi thinks.  “No. In the monastery you’re never alone. They try to make the monastery, and everything you do in it, the Benediction.  But the Benediction…I just don’t think I can radiate whatever I could radiate with all these people, all those people, those humans, I guess—it’s just the separation from wild animals as comrades and teachers.  It’s the 10 to 25 percent thing, again.  I guess Catholicism doesn’t have to be that way…but it is.”

 

“God dancing the solitudes.  Dancing the solitudes into being.  And then you grow.  I guess you find out who you are, right?  You remember. The temple within the ritual.  The ritual is way bigger than we see.”

 

“Ascenti?”

 

“Reminyi?”

 

“All I see is beautiful patterns…that keep appearing and get sucked into electrical fields.”

 

I laugh.  I finally lift my face from my hands.  Reminyi still has his covered.

 

“Before I met you I wasn’t remembering things right.  But after your confession I began doing things that allowed me to remember.”

 

“Shut up!” I laugh and try to pull his hands away, but he nudges me away with his shoulder.  It feels reeeeeeeeally good where our bodies touch.  Like a drug.  Like it’s radiating from those spots all through me.  He’s smiling.  I want to stick my finger in there just to see his green eye.  “Are you gonna take your face out of your hands?”

 

“It’s true,” he says.  “I’m praying.”

 

“For what?”

 

“To remember everything.  Even the things that I’ll regret.  That I’ll always regret.  The things that aren’t me anymore.”

 

I lean forward and rest the side of my head on my hands on the back of the next pew.  “Yeah.”

 

“Like when I used to fly.”

 

“Yeah.”  When I used to fly, I think.  Like last night.  Like tonight if I ever make it home.  “You used to fly?”

 

“To Mary’s feet.”  Reminyi lifts his face and looks at Mary.  “That’s what they always said: Everytime you say a Hail Mary, a rose rises up to Mary and lands at her feet.” He hesitates.  “Except…except I flew them up myself.  So many.  I couldn’t stop.  I guess I was competing with everyone else who was sending them up, too.  Except I was bringing them to her.  I was whooshing up.  And the sensation…was beautiful.  I was just shooting up through these poems.  I didn’t know what they were till later.  But just ascending like that…through them…it was like blowing seeds into the world, and just mixing them up into crazy combinations…that would create more poems, release more poems, or the music of the poems combining.  I didn’t know they were poems until I started writing poetry.  Because they’d adhere to me, too.  I’d bring them back.  That was my life until I was nineteen—flying up to Mary’s feet.  Writing poetry.”

 

“Did she look at you?”

 

He narrows his eyes.  “Oh, yes. It was almost unbearable.  But you couldn’t stop.  Except you had this pull to come back into your body to pray again. But maybe I never left.  Maybe there was a me praying and a me gazing into her eyes, and I was just whooshing between them, pretending there was a difference.  It was this indescribable feeling gazing at her—her gazing at me—like…the closest thing similar to it I experienced was when I told someone I sometimes was awake in my dreams, he said I should look at my hands.  And one night I woke up in a dream—while still in the dream—and I remembered and looked.”

 

“You can be awake in your dreams?”

 

“Oh.  I guess…I used to.  Then I forgot.  I must’ve let it go.”

 

“You could probably get it back.”  I think about it.  “It might just take some work.”

 

“I don’t know.”

 

“Maybe the statue came all the way from Southern Mexico to tell you that.”

 

He opens his eyes wider like he’s forcing himself to.

 

“What was it like to look at your hands?  In the dream?”

 

He looks at his hands.  “It was like an ecstasy.  Like this huge electrical current.  This huge vibration.  That’s the way it was with Mary, also, except…it meant more.  It meant much more.  And the poetry.”

 

“What happened?”

 

He leans forward and rests the side of his head on the back of the pew with his hands under it just like me.  Except he has to slide away a little more.  But our elbows are maybe half an inch apart.  A river of electricity’s flowing back and forth.  He’s thinking about how green my eyes are.

 

“I don’t know how to separate them.  Or put them together.  The things that happened.  Or how to remember them.  Or if I’m remembering them right.  But it’s all I have to work with.  This history…that floats to the surface.  I think I could line things up.  Yet…events keep arising…beliefs I had…fears…struggles…masks.  Maybe I was the same person just with different masks, always saying the same things.  I didn’t stop flying to her on purpose.  I lost the ability…when I decided to become a Priest.  Maybe a little before.  I didn’t wantto lose it.  But I did.  I don’t know. When you study to be a Priest, when you join a monastery, also…it’s…just men.  And you’re not supposed to be sexual.  I wanted that.  I wanted not to have to deal with being sexual after…I don’t know.  When I decided to be a Priest I burned all my poems.”

 

“You what?!

 

“I burned all my poems.  When I was nineteen, I burned all my poems.  I burned everything.  I burned all my poems I had wrote from flying to Mary.  Or walking.  Walking alone.  Looking at animals.  And tracks. Looking at plants.  Listening to frogs.  I burned all my walking poems.  I burned all my flying poems.  All the poems I heard in my dreams.”

 

“It probably hurt, right?”

 

He closes his eyes.  His face looks so smooth, glowing, soft.  “To not know what I wrote…yes.  It’s like looking back into this strange emptiness…except it’s not empty.  It’s just I can’t see what I should be able to see.”

 

“I’ll never burn my writing.”

 

Reminyi smiles.  “I knew you were a writer.”

 

“Really?”

 

“I figured it out.”

 

“Really?  How?”

 

“You confessed like a writer.”

 

What?!  You’re crazy!”  We’re both smiling.  “Well, you listened like a poet.  How’s that?  Reminyi, the Poet-Priest.”

 

“You know, I had this teacher.  In Highschool.  I had this teacher in Highschool who taught me so much about poetry.  And he had studied in a Seminary, also…when he was a lot younger.  I was always writing poems and songs before I met him.  I couldn’t help it.  And I’d read them to everybody.  They were just about animals and sunsets and walking.  Things you see and feel when you walk.  But I think they had that extra thing…from flying up to Mary. Those things you pick up from stepping off the path.  I don’t know for sure.  I don’t know if they were really worth anything, or just the fact that I was doing it, that I was young and working on poetry.  But it was just a natural thing.  It wasn’t really a big accomplishment, even though I tried to write what was true.  It was just what I did.  He really encouraged me.  And he had this huge library of poetry.  And wrote poetry himself.  I remember I went on this walk for two or three days just to write poems because he lent me this big book of ancient Chinese poetry.  It was such a great time.  Like I remember just soaking in the bathtub with this huge anthology of Chinese poetry, poems so beautiful—really different, smaller, not as grand.  More like the personality is infused in the landscape.  Or isthe landscape.  I don’t know.  More in my natural style, in way.  And on my little poetry pilgrimage I slept in a boxcar.  And in a ditch with a bunch of woodchucks looking at me, wondering who this strange person is as the sun set.  And I watched the moon.  It was just this little pilgrimage to write poems.  And I wrote this little collection of poems and brought them back and typed them up and showed him.  And he thought they were great.  Or he said he thought they were great.”  Reminyi stops.  He looks into me.  But he’s looking into himself, too, trying to find something.  He’s biting his lips.  “I only remember one poem, though.  It went:

 

Sunset seen

Through thin cloud screen

Landmarks a child’s first steps

16 years

I learn to walk

 

They were poems like that.  Really simple.  But I wrote them and put them together.  And he said they were great.  I was using nouns as verbs.  And other things.  But I couldn’t understand what he was saying really at that time.  They were things I just did because it sounded right, or it got at something.  So it’s hard to tell what it means if someone compliments you on something you just naturally do.  Or maybe it’s just more natural and I hadn’t learned that I shouldn’t do it.  I was just doing it.  And then we were driving somewhere…at night…and he told me he wanted to make love to me.  Like have sex.  I don’t know why I didn’t see it.  I just never thought about it.  It was hard because we were in a car…at night…I…didn’t know what to say.  And I said: ‘But I’m not attracted to you.’  Which was hard to say.  But things were changing right before my eyes.  Or they had already been way different than I thought.  Very different than I thought. I think.  I don’t know.  It’s hard to remember everything.”

 

“What did he say when you told him that you didn’t want him?”

 

“He said it doesn’t matter.  That it’s natural.  That the ancient Greeks did the same thing.  That mentors made love to their students.  That it was a part of it.  It was like thanking their teachers.”

 

“With their bodies.”

 

“It was nothing like being raped…because I agreed to it.”

 

“You did it?”

 

Reminyi nods.

 

“For how long.”

 

“It was on and off for a while.  It’s just that I couldn’t be with him any other way.  Even though he didn’t push me.  Not really.  I could still spend time with him.  But there was the guilt.  Like I was using him.  Which was true in a way…because he took me places.  Exposed me to art.  And music. And it felt good to make him feel good. But then I started going to theology school.  And then I joined the Seminary.  I guess just like he did.”

 

I laugh.  “Wow!  Is that all the sex you’ve had?”  But I stop. I close my eyes so I can’t see his reaction.  I whisper: “I haven’t had much sex, either.  Except with one person.”  It’s true, I think.  Just with Franny.  My face tightens.  I’m trying to fly inward.  But I’m here. I open my eyes.  We’re both crying.  “You don’t have to cry for me,” I say.  His eyes are greener.  More like mine.

 

“I’m not.  I’m crying because we’re safe.”  Now he says slowly: “I guess because of that, I wondered if it was true.”

 

“What?”

 

“If I was any good as a poet.  Or if my poetry was worthwhile.  I guess talent doesn’t really mean anything.  It’s just if you’re dedicated.  If you’re true to what you write about.  It probably doesn’t matter how you do it.  Or what it’s like matched to everything else.  I guess I found out later that he did the same thing with a lot of boys.”

 

“Did you start writing again?”

 

He blinks a bunch of times.  “Yes.  After your confession.  I started writing again.”

 

I look at Reminyi.  I know I’m narrowing my eyes.  I wonder if he knows.  That he really wants to speak poetry to me.  I try to track back what we said.  Like that whole story about his past could just be a lead-in so he can read a poem. That’s hilarious.  I guess I want him to.  There’s a possibility I constructed it—that I lead him through his history.  I lined it up so it’s possible.  Or me and Mary.  And the sleeping Jesus.  Dreaming us. Dreaming of octagons.  But if he reads me his, then I can read him mine.

 

“I wrote one for you.”

 

I don’t say anything.  Now I laugh. But I stop.  My whole body’s aching for it.  Waiting.  My eardrums are waiting, too.  Ready to be touched.

 

“Don’t laugh.”

 

I nod.  I brace myself for it.

 

“It’s called Night Flying Poem.”

 

“And it’s for me?

 

“Yes.  I have to recite it.”

 

“And it’s for me?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“You can recite things pretty good.”

 

“Once you start memorizing things it gets easier.  Easier than you think.  It’s like awakening a muscle.”

 

“I won’t laugh.”

 

“Really?”

 

“I promise.”

 

Reminyi does the same thing—he curls his lips in between his teeth and inhales through is nose.  Now he lets it out.

 

 

Night Flying Poem

(for Ascenti)

 

this voice behind the voice

this style behind the style

speaks to the voice behind the voice

the style behind the style

like the Vltava river coursing through the center of Prague

two streams coming together and forming this great flow

between the cities we’ve formed into bodies

this river of stars and snow

like a tunnel’s glow we suddenly see

upon death and love

has always been our home

bone-strewn stars falling and shining faces lit

roads vast as our eyes closed

vast as your sleeping body traveling through

ancient and new

as we stopped to watch the moon

bending in the stream

and called it birth

between parties

speaking beneath the speaking

loving beneath the loving

the loving beneath the loving

is the sea

resoundingly born

 

Suddenly I hear something from the statue.  I snap back.  It’s like music.  But it’s eerie, too.  It washes over me.  Reminyi straightens.  He looks worried.

 

Are you Ok?”  He leans toward me.  “Ascenti?

 

“I have to go.”

 

“Ok.”

 

“I have to go.”

 

“Ok.  I can walk you home.  Or…drive you. It’s late.”

 

I listen.  My face must be different.  That’s why he’s worried.  But I have to listen.  I understand, too, because I see it.  That I can’t tear myself from this spot.  I can’t be the one to do it.  Someone else…then it would be ok.  But it can’t be me.  It can’t be my hand.  That’s what the music says.  I’m speaking into it, too, speaking into the music coming from Mary.  Agreeing.  Working it out.  I know if I tore myself up, and walked out of the Octagon…that…everything would be alright. That I’d still be me.  That me and Reminyi would walk home.  And we’d hold hands.  That we’d kiss.  I’d still be me.  I’d be doing something that I want.  That my body wants.  Because he confessed to me, too.  We didn’t have to confess to each other.  And he’s not a Priest.  I know it.  I’m telling it to him.  I’m inside him like: Look, these are your thoughts, Poet, these are your words.  I have his face in my hands.  But we’re in the music.  Like beneath the ocean.  Except he doesn’t hear it.  Or it’s bigger.  For him, it’s bigger.  I listen. It’s not saying anything.  It’s more like sunlight, like moonlight, something to grow into, something feeding me. Feeding the shape inside me.

 

“Is my face changing?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“Is it ugly?”

 

He jolts.  “No. It’s beautiful.”

 

“Like after the rain?”

 

He jolts again.  “Yes.”

 

And I can see it.  My body curled on this pew beneath a blanket.  With my coat beneath my head.  It’s blue and white.  Like a horse blanket.  It must be from Mary’s point of view.  It’s from above.  And the music is everywhere.  Like it’s gone inside me and expanded.  I watch. I’m waiting to see if Reminyi comes. But something else.  Something calling me somewhere else.  It’s a view of the future.  A possible future.  I could take it or not.  I could choose it.

 

“I have to sleep here tonight.”

 

He jolts again.  I feel him looking at me like I’m crazy.  Like he didn’t really know who I am.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reminyi

 

She might be right.  She must know more than I do.  I don’t want her to leave.  I know that. What is right in the bigger picture? If she’s right, no one will know that I let her sleep here.  And if there are cameras, they’ll know that she just slept.  I have to open myself and listen.  I can’t block their thoughts.  Be like a tree.  Use their suspicions like a wind to sing my own tune.  And how long will it last?  If they find out, then it’s just letting others make a decision for me. Angela could step up behind the altar.  But the Church won’t let that happen.  I wonder…how many Christian teachers were there that were erased from history…that were women.  Early on. I look up at Mary.  Ok.  I’ll listen. I’ll listen to you.  I don’t know how to fly anymore.  But if I write enough poems.  If I write poems.  I won’t be able to stop writing poems now, anyway.  Ever again.  And Jesus. Sleeping.  Too tired to climb down.  To raise your head.  But alive.

 

“I think I should walk you home, Ascenti.  It’ll be nice.  We can talk some more and look at the stars.  You can tell me about your writing.  I’ve been doing most of the talking.”

 

I wait.  I’m still looking at Jesus.  There’s something going on between Mary and Jesus.  And I know we’re talking to each other deeper down, just like they are. We’re just the surface.  The beautiful surface.  And beneath us…beneath us.

 

I get up and go into the room behind the altar.  But I stop right before the line from Jesus to Mary.  Within it there must be a landscape.  If you only knew it was there.  Maybe we’re already plants, animals, hidden within the air’s vast folds.  Like a valley that feeds the world.  I close my eyes.  I step forward.  It’s true. Within the patterns evolving behind my closed eyes there’s an eco-system, too.  I pass through it.  But when I open my eyes I don’t know if I’ve come out the other side.  I’m in the room behind the altar.  The air’s tingling, sizzling.  Everything between Mary and Jesus.  It’s overflowed.  I gather a couple blankets and a yoga matt.  I bring a bottle of mineral water.  I’ve never done yoga out in the chapel.  But I’ve always wanted to.  I was going to this week.  But now. If I’m still here.  If I haven’t been sent away.

 

I carry everything back into the glow.  ‘Tell me I’m doing the right thing,’ I think to Mary.  ‘Jesus, you’re still sleeping, so I can’t ask you anything.’  And Ascenti still has her face in her hands.  I sidle down to her.  She looks up. Her face is red and wet.

 

“You do yoga?”

 

“Yes.  It helps calm me down.  Trying to be a Priest…I’ve never been so tight in my life.”

 

“I can really stay?”

 

“I guess I’m just running on the assumption…the belief…that you’re right.  That you’re listening.  And not changing what you hear.  I’m trying to do that, too.  I’ll leave the front doors unlocked.”

 

“I’ll just say I snuck in.”

 

“I’ll say I forgot to lock them.”

 

“It’s a deal.”

 

“Here’s some water.”  I put it down on the pew.

 

And now we look at each other.  I don’t want to sit down.  Because I’ll never leave.  Ascenti.  Turn your eyes away.  But she doesn’t.

 

“I think the statues are telling me to stay.”

 

“Because you have work to do.”

 

We almost laugh.  Her eyes are green.  Burning with life.  There’s so many paths.  Our breathing is matched.  I don’t want to take a path.  I don’t want to choose.  I want something to grow out of me, grow through the wreckage in its own way.  I reach out the curved fingers of my right hand, like curled claws.  She examines it like a puzzle.  With a serious concentration she lifts her own fingers up and slowly fits them in. Two interlocked claws.  Like talons.  Gripping.  Tightening. We’re smiling.  Pulling.  Challenging each other.  Something’s surfacing into our green eyes.  Laughing because it’s alive.  Pulling, and yet hanging on with one force.  And now it snaps.  We laugh. But a wave washes over us, also. A beautiful warm glowing wave.  A wave of life.  I turn.  As if something inside knows what to do.  Knows that all the paths are just paths.  I can feel Ascenti looking at her hand.  Her thoughts are birds settling down in the cloak of the branches inside me.  Our eco-systems fitting together.  I turn back as I dim the lights.  She must’ve already laid down.  Stretched out on the pew.  I can’t see her.  And now I’m out in the cold night behind the church.  Stars through the bare oak branches.  Star-seeds.  Concentrating before they shed down their first snow.  I take a deep breath.  Winter. The alone time.  So free.  So alone. If you walk for long enough, if you dream for long enough, dream your own dreams, you find yourself in a white world feet above the earth, nests and trails and frozen decomposition.  And you keep walking.  You keep listening.  To the crack of trees and ice.  Walking north into it.  I’m here.  Breathing. Looking up.  Maybe someday I’ll remember what we said to each other.  I’m tired, too.  I don’t have a chapel to sleep in.  Except the night itself.  Except winter when it comes.  Ascenti’s always leading the way.  I slowly walk to the little Priesthouse through the dreaming black trees.  Over the frozen ground.  I close the door.  Father Snyder’s house.  It still has that smell.  The smell of…a very determined…mind…possibly.  Determined not to grow…does that have a smell?  Determined to enforce the truth…that someone else gave you.  I suppose it’s easier.  But I can’t imagine where they come from—those minds.  From a world I’ll never know.  A world where plants and animals don’t help you understand God.  You have to have a very strong mind, and it exudes this smell.  It’s still here.  Someday this house may burn down and they’ll be no more Priests.  Just people like Angela, telling stories.  Changing them.  People will pick up Ascenti’s feathers and make up tales of how they came to fall from the sky.

 

I make some tea and sit on the bed.  I close my eyes.  I wish I were holding one of Ascenti’s feathers.  Like a flame.  I reach over and put on Gould’s second recording of The Goldberg Variations.  He wasn’t normal.  But, of course, most people who said that didn’t ask themselves what normal is. They just wanted to be safe.  I think him and Zhu Xiao-Mei—are opposites—there’s a distance between them.  An important distance.  And so important they exist.  They sing the Goldbergsin completely different ways.  I turn out the lights and lay back.  Stars through the window behind my head.  I want to sleep.  I want to sleep before I feel it.  Before I see myself walking back to the church.  Not even noticing the stars.  Not even breathing.  Just Ascenti’s face.  Her body. Her penis in my mouth.  Her cum on my face.  I know how big it is.  That it’s perfect.  And I could touch her breasts.  Feel their heat.  Their glow. Fall asleep kissing her penis. Smelling both smells.  Then waking curled together on the floor.  I have to hold myself back.  This is a path, too.  There’s distance between us.  Creating things.  It’s a river. It’s a meadow.  There is no path.  Only Gould and Bach and the night.  Gould and Bach rippling over stones.  And the night joining their music.  Stars bending.  Sending messages to each other.  She’s thinking about me, too.  She’s thinking the same thing.  Of our lips together.  Of our bodies pressed.  And we pull. We stretch.  It’s like a game.  Pretending we’re trying to get away, but trying to pull each other across the distance.  Two bodies forming a river between them.  Listening across the river.  No. Our musics are so different.  Yet they listen.  What grows between them from that frozen glowing ground, what seeds that can only rise from the stars’ shedding?  Maybe tonight, late, it will snow.  And there will be other footprints between this house and the chapel. Between the Priest-Pretender and the Guardian Angel.  Maybe a pair of foxes that split off.  That will tell stories when they meet again in a renovated den, foreheads pressed together. Foxes that leave tracks on our bodies. I don’t want this night to end.  It’s so nice to talk to you.  That our bodies have filled the space.  It’s like a world that no one could ever imagine in the space between us.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ascenti

 

Reminyi dims the lights.  He leaves. The music changes.  It stretches out.  But it’s here.  With me. Here.  I raise myself.  I don’t want to look at them.  Reminyi’s outside somewhere.  Maybe he’ll just keep going.  Send me messages.  On his way to his solitude.  And I can fly to him.  With me he can be alone, and with him I can be with someone I love.  I should’ve watched him go.  And when he turned back I could’ve pulled him back with my mind. I look up.  Mary and Jesus.  They’re different.  I’ve always seen them this way, only now it’s not the thoughts of others laid over them, all the masks that have fallen from humans hiding their dreams onto Mary and Jesus. They’re sizzling.  Thinking to each other.  Letting me in on it.  Jesus sleeping as he’s flying, like a horse sleeping standing up.  And Mary gazing into the molecules, into the electricity. Jesus with his crest.  Letting the humans lift him into the air.  Letting them think they’ve done something.  I look around.  Everything’s so beautiful.  Am I the only one who’s seen it this way?  Probably Reminyi did.  He probably slept right here.  Made the ground fertile.  Or he’ll sleep here after me.  That’s for sure.  I drink some of Reminyi’s water.  Roll out the yoga mat on the pew.  Spread a blanket over it.  Take off my coat.  Roll it and put it under my head.  There’s just enough room.  He brought three blankets.  I pull two over me.  I want to check if the one on top is the same color I imagined.  I turn on my phone and shine it.  It has green stripes with white and thin black lines.  It’s different.  I look at my phone.

 

I’m sleeping at a friends,” I text.

 

After a second I can feel her read it.  She’s thinking.

 

Really?”  She waits a few seconds: “Is this a robot, yes or no?

 

I text back: “Maybe.”

 

She’s thinking again.  “A friend in need is a friend indeed.” After a couple of minutes: “Call if you need a ride.  Any time.  Your Father passed out in his studio listening to The Lark Ascending.  On repeat.  Do you know that piece?

 

I close my eyes.  But I have to reply: “It’s so perfect.  I’ll tell you about it later.  Everything’s alright.

 

Really?

 

Yes.  Better than ever.”

 

I love you.

 

I wonder if I should say it.  “I love you, too,” I text.  I wait but she doesn’t reply.  I listen deeper into the music.  There’s something inside it.  The music between Mary and Jesus.  She’s more than just his mother.  It’s Magdalene, too.  The space between them is full of sound.  You can almost see it.  Colors coming into being.  Reminyi.  We’re pulling on each other.  Stretching. Space.  I’m not sure what we talked about, like it all flows somewhere else. Birds on a migration.  Creating it.  Space for things to grow without humans trying to define them.  A space we can create and enter and meet, be together, truly meet and get to know each other, show each other our real forms—the landscape between us—the system of echoes—discover our real bodies in the revelation.  We haven’t met yet.  But we will. We have to pull.  While hanging on.  And the music grows.  He must’ve been to Prague.  Exhalation of colors.  Just our shapes.  But I’m going to Paris.  Born from the bodies of ferns.  Born from dunes of snow.

 

I snap awake.  I must’ve been lifting out.  That zinging, searing astral sound’s all around me, all through me.  I’m not totally lined back into my body.  I must’ve fell asleep and lifted out.  The air is full.  I try not to move my muscles, my physical muscles—just my astral form. And I’m up.  I’m out.  Above my body.  I float between Mary and Jesus.  It’s almost impossible.  Beautiful. Oozing.  Living.  The air where anything can grow.  I look at Mary and am blown back.  It’s almost unbearable how beautiful she is.  The music is blowing me apart.  Changing my body.  I’m between them.  She’s holding a seed.  She’s holding the moon.  I look. Jesus isn’t sleeping.  He’s just in two worlds.  I’m awakening between them.  I’m the space between them.  I’m the animal born between their bodies.  The shape between their shadows.  The music.  Reminyi.  I know you’re listening.  I know you’ll come with me.  I know what I want to do.  I swoop over to my body and look.  Ascenti.  That’s my body.  The music I’ve given to the world.  To this world.  I see through the blankets.  Through the clothes.  Golden. Beautiful.  I know why I created it to be what it is.  The harmonics it sends up into the chapel.  There’s an opening.  An opening in the harmonics.  Ascenti.  I want to dive into your beauty.  So deep.  Whether anyone follows or not.  I look back. Mary’s smiling through her lush severity.  She’s telling me she’s watching.  And Jesus—his crest is fuller, growing up toward the stars.  It’s like making love.  I look down.  And dive.  Deep into a world of echoes.  Deep into myself.  The invisible voices release.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Montgomery

 

We get back in the late afternoon light.  It seems like we been gone so long except it’s only been like a day. But there’s dark clouds in the distance, too.  It must be close to freezing.  We stop in front of the tent.

 

“There’s something different,” I say, and right as I say it our eyes snap to the ridgeline of our white canvas house.  The crazy red squirrel is up there, puffing and doing its little angry dance, edging closer to us.  “It thinks it owns the house now.”  Now it’s running from end to end and when it gets to our end it goes crazy, pounding the canvas with its feet, challenging us.

 

“Your walnuts,” says L’Spirit.

 

I look.  Aligned into the forest there’s black walnuts I’d gathered and husked and roasted in their black shells, wedged into trees going back as far as you can see in a line. I go pull one from the crotch of a hawthorn, and the squirrel goes crazy, drumming its feet and turning back and forth.  I always make tinctures from the husks, which is really good for parasites and for skin funguses.  But I tell people, too, that if they husk black walnuts you have to make sure you don’t put the husks in your compost piles cause they inhibit some plants from growing.  I think tomatoes for sure.  I go inside and there’s walnuts all over the floor.  I get my .22 and go back out and we watch the squirrel do its dance.

 

“It’s like our neighbor.  I really don’t want to kill it.  But they taste really good.  The meat is kinda speedy.  You can feel that squirrel stuff.  I bet this guy’s been eating those amanitas, too.  He’s ready to go into battle.  And once they touch your tent they think they own it.”  I take a shot above it.  But it doesn’t even flinch.  “Wow.  I guess he’s really into it.”

 

I lift the .22 again.  But suddenly the squirrel freezes and rolls down the soft roof.  It catches on the edge, but now it’s limp body spills over and bounces in the leaves.  I flick the safety back on.  “Is it dead?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“Wow.  Did you try to kill it?”

 

“Attempt to rearrange system of hierarchy.  Which unpredictably dissolved structure.”

 

I go over and nudge its body with my foot.  It looks like it’s sleeping in the leaves, no blood or anything. Just a little dewdrop of urine on its penis.

 

“You probably saved a lot of the meat from getting blown up for sure.”

 

I pull out one of my hairs and place it on the body.  “Thankyou, great squirrel.”

 

We go inside and right away L’Spirit starts a fire.  There’s actually more walnuts hidden around inside the tent. There’s only one left in the box I had them all in under the bed.  I gather them up off the floor, but inside pockets and hidden beneath the blankets there’s more and more.  I go outside and skin the squirrel.  Inside its stomach looks like a whole ton of mashed up mushroom meat.  I put its head and skin and feet and guts and testicles on a stump a little ways in the woods for someone to eat, and bring the rest inside. It’s really cold now and walking into the tent is so good, just that envelopment of warmth, the warmth of a woodstove.  It’s different.  I put the squirrel in a frying pan but I make tea first.  L’Spirit’s kneeling before the open door of the stove. Watching.  Super still.

 

“It’s good to be home,” I say and laugh cause L’Spirit could probably be anywhere.  But I think about it, looking at her glowing face, her flickering hair—she’s been through some pretty tough times, or just with people who didn’t care what she felt, even though, I guess, she doesn’t have the feelings you’re supposed to have. Or…the same arrangement.  The same arrangements of memory.  Can you hear what I’m thinking? I think to her.  She leans her face closer to the fire.  The canvas is glowing with the cold sunset.  I wonder how long it’ll take for the snow clouds to come.  Yeah.  The heat of a woodstove is different.  I stretch out my fingers and look through them, sitting on the bed, waiting for the tea to simmer.  It’s different than the memories I don’t have.  That lead to me.  But I can’t follow them back.  Or arrange them away from the Lake.  Take a trail of memories back somewhere.  I know I had webs.  I know they were removed.  I know it wasn’t here.  I was somewhere before this. Where there wasn’t a Lake.  There was a different lake.  It wasn’t as cold.  But…I’m feeling…weird.  I’m feeling scared.  I don’t know if I’m feeling like myself.  L’Spirit is watching the fire.  I want to ask her to take care of me.  But I’msupposed to take care of her.  Even though she doesn’t need it.  I’m going too far toward the memories that aren’t there. There’s nothing.  Except things are coming out of the blackness.  L’Spirit will you take care of me? I try to say it out loud but my lips won’t move.  It’s happening.  That weird searing sound is rising up around me.  Swallowing me.  It’s happening again.  I just thought that it would be over.  Because I don’t remember.  I don’t have a past like everybody because I don’t remember. Except I can’t reach my hands.  I can’t reach up to move them.  I can see up to the inside of my face.  But I can’t get there.  The sound keeps rising.  And I’m going down.  Down into the memories that aren’t there.  I might be able to find my webs…if I could only see.  If I could only see the fire.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

L’Spirit

 

Montgomery shutdown.  White world. Snow fallen on first night of shutdown. Create fire for Montgomery physiology. Blankets over Montgomery. Consciousness shutdown.  Body glowing amber.  Slow pulse.  Fire creates. Cut wood.  Create fire.  Reveal fire. Allow fire.  Open fire door.  Allow in. Fire rearranging data.  Fire feeding off data.  Data disappears.  Snow. Raven.  Raven passes.  Gwadalap.  Circles back. Raven lands on dead tree.  Raven watching.  Burning blue energy.  Dead tree alive.  Dead tree shutdown.  Living. Slow amber pulse.  Put squirrel body outside after first day.  Place on stump.  Fox tracks in snow.  Squirrel body disappears.  Burning energy comes in night.  Squirrel disappears.  Snow falling. Curtains of energy.  Second day Montgomery shutdown.  Create fire.  Fire creates body.  Allows body. Allows human body.  Allows shutdown.  Raven watching.  L’Spirit watching.  White world. Montgomery shutdown.  White world falls.  Glistening energies.  Glistening designs.  Knowledge in designs.  Designs are knowledge.  Beyond human. Gwapapa.  Raven waiting.  Allowing fire.  Allowing shutdown.  White world. Black.  Burning blue energy.  Dark blue. Third day Montgomery will restart. Fire.  Knowledge in designs.  Designs in knowledge.  Beyond human. Raven watching.  Truck approaching.  L’Spirit outside tent.  Cutting wood. Human approaches.  Raven watching.  Human walking through snow.  Human sees Raven.

 

“Mooooonte!  My friend, are you alright?  Heeeeeello?”

 

Human stops.  Human and L’Spirit look at each other.  Human knows L’Spirit is not human.  Not human. She’s not exaaaaactly human.  But then again our friend Moooonte isn’t exaaaaactly human.  Isn’t that right?  Yes.  Yes. And the electricity.  It’s in the air around this beautiful woman.  Don’t step into it, Stephano, my friend.  You might be made up—ha! ha!—but you’re still more human than they are.  I woooonder. She must be taking care of him.  Taking care of our Monte.  Better than we can. 

 

Enact human etiquette: “Hello, Stephano.  How good to see you again.”  Smile.  Show teeth. Tilt head.  Allow humans not to question etiquette.  Allow human data.  Human tilts head.  Human has already questioned etiquette.  Has questioned particular regions of data.

 

“L’Maaaaarie.  My friend. How is our animal?  How is our Montgomery?  You know he didn’t show up for work.  We thought maybe…sometimes these things happen.  Montgomery has these episodes.  I always check on him, you know.  Is he welllll?”

 

“Thank you so much for asking.  Montgomery did have an episode.  He is sleeping now.  Tomorrow he awakes.”  L’Spirit switches.  “I think tomorrow he will most likely be alright.”  Machine smiles.  Raven watching.  White world. Stephano.  Human concern.  Human cares for other human.

 

“Yeees.”  Human drops voice construction.  “I’m glad you’re here to help him.  Sometimes there’s only so much you can do.  In summer it’s ok.  But who knows in winter.”  Human looks up at raven.  Human looks up at sky.  Human resumes voice construction: “Yeeees, Monte.  Stephano here believes our friend reeeeeally knows what he’s doin, yes? Our friend knows what he loves. Many people don’t know what they love, yes?  They may know a whole lotta other theeeengs.  But they don’t know how to do what they love.”

 

“Stephano.  I so appreciate your perspective.”  L’Spirit nods.  L’Spirit smiles.  White world. Fire.  Inside canvas, Montgomery.  Shutdown.  Restart within one day.  Create fire. Fire creates Montgomery.

 

Human smiles.  “Well, my friend.  Tell Monte, Stephano stopped by.  We’ll be closing soooooon for the seeeeason.  Remember, Stephano and his beautiful angel are leaving for Chiapas and you and our friend are weeeelcome.  Velllllkomer!”  Human laughs and turns.  “You can stay at our house.”  Human walks. “But it is not as beautiful as this.”

 

Raven disappears.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Montgomery

 

“Gwaap!”

 

I hear…the Gwaap.

 

“Gaaaarapapop!”

 

And the breathing wings.  Black wings. I must…be back.  But I might not be in my body.  The wings.  Breathing…the morning.

 

“Ploppoppupup.”

 

I feel it.  I’m surfacing.  I’m reaching up.  It’s like I fell in some kinda well.  But now the water’s rising.  The raven’s pulling it up with its wings.  I want to send my thoughts to it.  I think L’Spirit is up there, too.  Maybe just her eyes.  The wings are sweeping…the morning.  It must be morning.  I’m in love with you, too, I try to say.  I try to think it up but even that’s hard. The well must not have risen enough. I want to climb up to them, the raven and L’Spirit.  Fly up. More wing winds.  It’s like a ladder.  A ladder of black feathers.  And the wind pouring through them.  And L’Spirit’s blazing hair.  It must be morning.  I try to get up there.  But it’s hard.  I can’t see like I usually can.  Usually it’s easy.  But I’m climbing.  I’m really trying.  The raven’s helping me.  I must be somewhere between me and the raven.

 

“Gwaaaaaap!”

 

I snap back.  I’m back. I hear the raven heading off toward the Lake.  I open my eyes.  It’s morning. I don’t want to close my eyes again. Just in case.  I turn my head.  L’Spirit’s kneeling, staring into the fire.

 

“How long was I gone?”

 

“Three days.”

 

“I guess that’s not as long as the last one.”  I watch her.  “Maybe they’re getting shorter.”  She still hasn’t turned to me.  It’s kinda awesome.  She’s so natural.  She doesn’t do things just because you should.  “Thanks for taking care of me.”  I just watch L’Spirit tending the woodstove.  I’m slowly losing that fear of closing my eyes for too long.  But I’m getting sucked back in.  And I’m trying to fight it.  But I have to let go.  It’s sleep this time.  It’s just sleep.

 

“Sleep is nearby,” says L’Spirit.

 

 

 

 

I awake again in the afternoon.  Just opening my eyes.  L’Spirit is still by the fire.  But she’s looking at me.  We’re staring into each other’s eyes.

 

“I think I gotta work on putting away some plants.  You can help me.  It’s super fun.  That is if I can get up.”  I try to lift myself.  Just doin that makes me feel like I burn a ton of energy.  I try again and get up on my elbows and laugh.  “Wow.  I’m really sore.  Maybe we can do the plant stuff tomorrow.  I hope you weren’t bored while I was gone.”

 

“Fire within the data.  Data within the fire.  Flight of birds.  Shadows in moonlight.  Stencils. People emerge from the stencils. Glowing energies among the snow. Lineage of shadows.  Within tent.  Bones emerge from fire.  Data.  Snow from branches speaking.”  She opens her mouth wide.  You can see it’s totally dry inside.

 

“That’s good,” I say and laugh.  “Hey, is that squirrel still around?”

 

“After first day, L’Spirit placed it on stump to preserve.  At night, fox energy came and took away.  Fox left glowing tracks.”

 

“That’s good.  Could you see it through the canvas?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“Could it see you?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“I wish I could’ve been there.  I think I do need to eat something for sure.  Maybe I’ll just eat some leek and nettle soup.  I could boil up some deer jerky with it.  I just gotta get up.”

 

“Sylvia Swanwick brought you food.  Chicken.  Stew.”

 

“Really?  Chicken stew. Wow.  Did you talk to her?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“Did she think you were weird?”

 

“She said she was happy you were sleeping.  Had to leave because of migraine.  Also, wood-stacking for winter.”

 

“Did Stefano come by?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“I bet Pizza Earth is almost closed for winter.”

 

After a while I get out of bed and go out to pee.  Everything’s so white.  I come back in and heat the chicken stew.  It’s in a big half gallon jar and I pour it into the Dutch oven and put it on the stove.  It’s hard not to lay back down and totally pass out again.  The chicken stew is full of carrots and potatoes and skin and herbs. There’s a lot of fat.  I eat a bowl.  I want to eat a lot more but my stomach is super small.

 

“When I was peeing I saw this butt-print of a bobcat right next to the tent.”

 

“Yes.”  L’Spirit keeps staring into the fire.  “Last night. Waiting.  Listening.  Interested in energy.  Owl. Fox.  Ravens.  Woodpeckers and chickadees, nuthatches, coming, looking, expecting. Bluejays.  Cacophony.  Precision.”

 

“They’re wondering if there’s any deerfat around.  I always hang it in the trees for them.  Deer season’s coming soon.  I’m glad there’s snow.”

 

L’Spirit is almost like a strange crouching statue staring at the fire. When I close my eyes it’s like I can still see her.

 

“Flames…a spring…laughing…over all…human…history.”

 

“Human history.”  My body tightens a little.  I don’t want to have another wipeout.  But it’s so warm and beautiful in the tent I don’t think my body will let me leave. “Yeah.  It’s funny how people think human history is so important. Human-people.”  I lay back down.  I can’t help it.  “Yeah, it’s funny…to be a human…or a real person…it’s like this constant audition thing, and everybody’s the judge…but they’re auditioning, too.  Isn’t that funny?  Like just being a judge of what is a real human is an audition, too.  But then you—you listen to the moonlight, or you follow other tracks—there’s nobody to audition for—nothing to audition for.” I slide my fingers between each other beneath the blankets.  But I don’t wanna look.  I don’t wanna get sucked back in.  “But humans are a lot smarter than they let themselves be.  That’s for sure.”

 

That’s for sure.”  L’Spirit imitates my voice almost exactly. “That’s for sure.”  This time it’s perfect.  It’s almost twilight.  The cold is falling from the sky.  L’Spirit says in her own voice:  “That is for the shore.”

 

 

 

 

I wake up.  L’Spirit is outside cutting wood with the bow saw.  It’s funny because I lift up right away.  I’m sitting on the edge of the bed when I hear the wings and send my thoughts up. I shoot up right by the raven and we do a spin.  Then I just hover there and look down.  L’Spirit is outside in my long wool coat looking up.  The raven sweeps on.  Thankyou, I think, thanks for taking care of me.  It does a false dive like it’s suddenly dead but then swoops up.

 

“Giiiirrrraahahahaaaaa!”  It heads northeast.

 

I snap back to my body.  I slide slowly to my feet and take a couple of slow breaths.  All I can think about is tea.  L’Spirit comes in and puts an armload of wood next to the stove.  Mostly maple.

 

“Hey—” I start to say.

 

But L’Spirit says: “Yes.”  And pulls out this big half-gallon of milk.

 

“Holy Canoli!”

 

“There is another one.  In corner to keep cool.”

 

“Wow.”

 

I make tea.  L’Spirit keeps coming in with wood.  Most of it is young trees five or six inches wide that were left over from the clearcut or that died young beneath the canopy of the rest of the forest. There’s some alder, too.  She puts more in the stove and kneels down in front of it.

 

“I don’t think anything got wiped out,” I say.  “I checked…I really thought about it, and I still remember everybody, I think.  I remember where I am.”  I sip tea and can feel it entering my system.  “I remember the import things like the Lake and the ravens and all the animals.  I guess I don’t know if I’d know if anything disappeared though.”  I think about it.  “I guess I’d only know if something didn’t match up.  Or if somebody told me.”

 

“Courage.”

 

Courage?  What’s courage?”

 

L’Spirit doesn’t answer for a while and I drink some more tea.

 

“Do you believe you are immortal?”

 

She’s staring into the flames.

 

“Yeah.  For sure.”

 

She doesn’t say anything or move for a long time.

 

“You think it 100%.”

 

“Yeah.  I think I always knew it or something.”

 

“I was programmed to understand my mechanism as mortal.”

 

“Yeah.”  I think about it: “But so was I.  Even people who think they’re going to heaven or whatever—they think they’re mortal.  I don’t know why.  But if you’re alive, you’re immortal.  Just like you.  You’re alive so you’re immortal.”

 

“Am I only immortal when I am alive?”

 

“You’ll always be alive.  Trust me.  But then, I don’t know.”  I think about it.  “Maybe I’m only immortal here.  By the Lake. Maybe other places I’m not so immortal. I guess I’m not a good person to ask. But I’m super glad you’re here. We can work on plants today.  But we should get the tent ready for winter, too.”

 

I drink more tea and we put my clear tarp over the tent.  You gotta leave a little space between the canvas and the tarp cause it makes it warmer inside.  Along the walls we glue up sheets with some cool designs like brushpaintings of plants.  It’s like a joke cause all the shadows from the moon and sun coming through the pines and alders are like brushpaintings, too.  At the base of the walls between the sheets and canvas we set up pieces of cardboard so the snow doesn’t melt away from the tent—it’ll just build up. Right away, the inside is twenty times as warm.  It’s totally crazy.  We head to Joe’s workshop.  I have a ton of plants hung in there.  A lot of them I sell and trade but there’s a ton of nettles and leeks and violets and lamb’s quarters and oenethera roots and parsnip roots, leeks, things like that for food.  Some things I have on racks I hang from the ceiling and some I tie strings around and hang from the beams.  You can feel the energy when you step inside.  It’s concentrated.  It’s like it’s all waiting, waiting to do something, waiting to change.  But I know they’re doing things just on their own, without me, or anybody.  I pull a couple of dead mice out of my traps and reset them.  I’ll put them on posts for the ravens after we get everything together.

 

“I gotta get a lot of these plant people into jars for the winter, just in case somebody gets in here or if it gets damp.  Plus, I think they get dusty.”  I look at L’Spirit.  “Can you see the energies?”

 

“Yes.  Alive.”

 

We start bagging the nettles up by laying out a sheet so nothing gets lost. We strip the leaves off the stalks.

 

“It’s funny.  People think it’s chemical, you know.  That they have chemicals that help people.”  I take down an angelica root and scratch it’s hard surface and breathe it in.  It fills my whole body like from my core out.  L’Spirit examines the place where I scratched it.  “Which I think is sorta true.  But it’s more like emotions.  I don’t know how to explain in, but the plant helps you feel these emotions…or brings you fully into them.  And that’s what helps people.  It’s like the plant understands more than they do, and gives something deeper in the person this emotional diagnosis, and then they just cure themselves, just naturally. So it really doesn’t have anything to do with chemicals.  It’s more like the people and the plants talk to each other and they don’t even know it. The plant knows it, though.  I guess I never tried to explain it to anybody, but that’s a part of it.  The funny thing is, too, is if you see that a certain plant is friends with somebody, then that one plant might help them cure all kinds of things.  Might help them align with their core or something. And sorta get in contact with all their emotions.  Like all together.  Then the emotions rise up and enter the wind!”  I laugh.  “But people can growplants, too.  That’s a whole nother thing.  Like you can grow a plant that’s good for whatever you really need, whatever your problem is.  Or find one and give it water.  And that’ll cure you.  Or you can just lay in a patch of some plants, like lay on a big matt of bearberry and just feel your kidneys soothed…and talk to the bearberry while you’re laying there, you know, thank them, fall asleep.  But I guess that’s for people who really want to listen.”

 

“New colors.  New tones,” says L’Spirit as she helps me.  It’s strange, cause the way she arranges things, the way she moves different roots and stalks around, must be because of the colors, the music.  It’s different than what I do.

 

“I wish I could see what you see,” I say.  “Doesn’t it feels good getting everybody together?  Now we can bring everybody into the tent.  We can all hang out for the whoooooole winter.” I laugh again.  “I can’t wait to get back to the tent and drink some more tea.”

 

 

 

 

~

 

 

 

 

I wake up.  It’s the first day of deer hunting.  L’Spirit’s looking at the fire.  Every once in a while shots pulse in the distance.

 

“It’s funny.  I dreamed last night about this being that lived in a hollow stump.  It was really big and white.  And really friendly.  But I’m not sure it was anything I’ve seen before. It was like a mix of a few different animals, but it was more its own thing, too.”

 

I sit up in bed.  By the door on the platform lays my 30/30 and some orange clothes.  I get up and start some tea.  I never really like going deerhunting till way later in the day. Everybody else is up early even before it gets light, but I always go in the late afternoon or whenever it feels right. I go outside to pee.  There’s an old woodpile under some hawthorns out front beyond the little open area where we have fires and cut wood.  It’s left from a way long time ago before I came. The wood’s all black.  But I can’t help looking at it.  Now I remember my dream and say: “Hey, Buddy.  Is anybody in there?”  And right away a weasel pops its head out.  Right away it disappears.  “Hey, how are you?”  It pops out again and watches me and disappears again.

 

“Hey, L’Spirit.  Did you know there was a weasel in the woodpile?”

 

L’Spirit comes outside.  She emits this weird tone at the woodpile.  The weasel sticks its head out again.  This beautiful white being.  Its eyes are a little weird.  They’re a little off.  Like looking in different directions.

 

“I’m glad you’re here,” I say.  It’s cheeks are puffing softly.  It’s super beautiful.   I look around.  It’s super cold.  It’s the coldest first day of deer season I can remember.  “I wouldn’t want to be hunting now.”

 

We go back inside and I work on tinctures and crack walnuts.  I cut a bunch of apples to slide on golden rod stems and set on racks behind the stove.  Later I make leek and nettle and violet soup with a snowshoe rabbit I shot with the .22.  I get down by L’Spirit and we watch the fire together.  Actually, this is a kinda typical day for us.  Just doing stuff.  And listening.  L’Spirit watching the fire and cutting wood.  Hauling in poles we brought in from the clearcut and set up against trees near the edge so they won’t get buried in snow.  And just walking.  Hunting with the .22.  I feel like we could do it forever.  Like winter could go on forever even though I know everything needs to change. Everything needs to get warmer. But now it’s deerhunting season.

 

We get our stuff together and head out.  There’s still shots every once in a while.  From the way L’Spirit looks I can tell she’s recording their locations. But where we go back in the forest there’s hardly ever anyone cause it’s so full of ravines.  People like to drive their trucks and fourwheelers, but if they have to walk or drag a deer they’d rather go some place else.  We both have orange vests and hats on.  The snow’s about a foot deep.  It’s still pretty cold.

 

“If you see any deer-energy, let me know,” I whisper.

 

We just head back toward the clearcut, stopping every once in a while and scanning around.  The sky is grey.  Once in a while we see a raven heading across the sky to where there were shots.

 

“It’s pretty cold this winter,” I whisper.  “Do you see anything?”

 

She doesn’t say anything.  Just scans the forest.  And now it starts.  I really don’t pay any attention to it usually—it’s just something that happens. But right away L’Spirit notices. She looks at my chest and now up above me.

 

“Fountain,” she says, examining the forest around us, and now my chest again.  She scans above us.  A raven passing hits the area directly over us and does a turn and flies on. “Fountain,” she says again.

 

“Yeah.  It’s something that just happens.  It’s only when I’m deerhunting.  Not when I’m hunting other stuff.  It’s like all this energy, or something, maybe even space or something, gets drawn up through me into the sky.  I always feel it when it starts happening but then I forget about it.  But I think it’s still goin on.  I think the deer follow it…if they want to.  You just gotta keep your chest open.  I think it draws them in.  If they want.”

 

We get to the edge of the clearcut.  We’re on the higher edge, and from there it slopes down and you can see everything.  It’s super beautiful and white.  And really still.  A pileated woodpecker laughs across it and locks onto a big white pine at the start of the big ravine on the other side.  We just stand and watch for a while, listening.

 

“There’s not many shots now.  But usually there’s more around this time, toward evening when the deer start moving again.”  I look at my plumes of breath.  “But this year it’s super cold.  So I don’t know how many people are out.”

 

We cross to the ravine and start following it, scanning down into it and across to its other side.  It leads back to more ravines where no one ever goes.  It’s already pretty late.  There’s a lot of tracks, especially this one low area where there’s a lot of cedars, but we don’t spot any deer.  We gradually swing around and work our way back, stopping and listening. It’s almost twilight.  Dark golds and magentas are rising out of the snow. We’re only about a half-mile from the tent.  But we’re in this strange area where I don’t usually go.  There’s some kind of abandoned homestead back here with an old orchard.  We come to the edge.  The trees are all shaggy and black.  They really stand out against the strange colors of the sky and snow.  L’Spirit’s face is moving back and forth in a smooth rhythm.  There must be a lot of apples under the snow.  A lot of the branches are tore down from bears.  And, suddenly, there’s a deer.  It just appears.  It’s a big doe.  And there’s another smaller one facing it a little ways away.  There’s more, too.  It’s like a congregation.  I lift my rifle.  But it’s so beautiful.  To see them all together.  And we’re here, too.  L’Spirit’s watching.  Her head’s not moving anymore.  I lower the 30/30.  The big doe prances to the little one and turns twice and prances back.  It lifts off its front legs a little and twists its body.  It comes back down and sweeps its head.  Now the little one does the same thing.  When it returns it lifts up and twists too.  Suddenly, two more does cross between them and now turn around.  It’s like a little circle they form.  It’s strange.  Because of the twilight it’s hard to focus.  L’Spirit scans the amber sky above them.

 

“Fountain,” she whispers.

 

“We must’ve got drawn in,” I whisper back.

 

It’s this little performance hidden in the abandoned orchard.  We only hear one shot way off, probably because it’s so cold.  And it’s getting colder.  Once in a while a tree cracks.  But really it’s only early winter.  The deer dance on, entering the circle and just spinning around, prancing.  Now, it’s like they just disappear.  It’s only the big doe and the little one facing each other.  You can barely see them.  They might not even be deer.  Just apparitions.

 

 

 

 

We hunt like this for a couple days.  One day we didn’t even go out, just cut wood and drank tea.  L’Spirit watched the fire.  I’d get down there and crack nuts.   And I’d core and slice apples next to her.  Then I’d slide them onto goldenrod stems and balance them on racks to dry behind the wood stove.  I have a lot of dried service berries and plums I throw into soups, too.

 

“It’s getting toward the end of deerhunting.  We could probably still shoot one after it’s over but somebody might hear the rifle and get nosey.”

 

It’s a warmer day.  It’s getting toward late afternoon.  Me and L’Spirit head out kinda on the same route we always take.  We walk straight across the clearcut.  I’m kinda singing to myself and L’Spirit is making weird barely audible tones that twine around my sounds.  We follow the top of the ravine.

 

“Isn’t it beautiful?” I say.  “It must be in the 20s.  The colors sooooo lush.  Like after all that shooting everybody’s letting out a breath.  Things can go back to normal.  Or just the people who are usually around can be around.  And then we don’t gotta wear orange!”  I laugh.  I start humming back into L’Spirit’s tones.  She’s looking above me.  “Is the fountain there?”

 

“Yes.”

 

A raven’s watching in a dead white pine across the clearcut.  I just catch a glimpse of it.  We’re sorta weaving through the trees on the edge.  A little further out there’s a deer trail with coyote tracks, too.  Deer pee and dark frozen nuggets of deer poop decorate it.  We’re getting close to the point where two ravines come together and you can look down.  It’s always a good place to stand cause you can see in so many different ways, and you can lean against a tree so you fit right in.  A trail comes from deeper in the ravines and up to the point and then along the edge of the clearcut.  L’Spirit’s still looking above me.  But now her face snaps down.  I look. Within a little outcrop of young balsam firs a buck is slowly emerging into the clearcut.  I figure I better shoot right away.  I snap the 30/30 up and fire.  But now right in front of us, right between us and the balsam firs, it’s crazy, this huge buck stands up.  It must’ve been sleeping right there.  But it’s ready to charge down into the ravine.  I swing the 30/30 and aim at its shoulder and fire.  It drops.  It rolls and then just lays there.  It’s so huge I don’t know if we should go near it.  I look at the balsam firs where I shot first, but can’t see anything.  I might’ve hit the first one, too.  We might have to track it.  The light’s changing.  Looks like a snowstorm’s coming with more cold weather.  The deer doesn’t move.

 

“Let’s check it out.”

 

We walk over to it.  There’s a hole from the 30/30 through its neck.

 

“Wow.  I guess I missed.  I was aiming for its shoulder.”  I look ahead of where it’s facing.  “But if I wouldn’t hit it where I shot it would’ve ran down into the ravine for sure. Geez.  It’s really huge.”

 

I squat down.  It has a twelve-point rack.  Right away I pull out some of my hair and place it on the deer.  And I thank it.  I close my eyes really tight and just send the thankfulness to it wherever it is.  And now we gut it.  We put the liver on a stump for the ravens.  I cut it into strips so they can take it away.  But I take a strip for myself and eat it, too.  I can feel my system just suck it up.  We put the heart in a plastic bag.  There’s tons of blood on my hands.  L’Spirit grabs my wrists and examines them.

 

“Energy leaving.  Energy absorbing.”

 

We both look up.  The sky is slowly clouding over.  Everything’s turning super dusky.

 

“But what about the other deer?” I wonder.

 

We go over and look.

 

“Do you see any tracks?”

 

“Remnants of energy.  No tracks.”

 

“Wow.  There’s no tracks at all.  I could swear there was a deer.  But there’s nothing.  Did you see a deer?”

 

“Deer energy.  Deer form. Another form.  Another dimension.  Regions sharing.”

 

“Like the dimensions switched?”

 

“Share.”

 

“I guess that happens all the time.  Deerhunting can be pretty weird.”

 

But I can’t help looking around some more.  I figure if I hit the deer I have to find it.  L’Spirit helps me.  But she probably knows more about it than I do.  There’s no tracks anywhere.  Just some old ones from days ago.  Finally, we go back over to the big deer and tie some straps to its antlers. The snow starts falling.  Before we get too far away I look back.

 

“I wish I could see how happy everybody’s gonna be when they get all those guts and lungs and blood and liver.  But it’s getting pretty dark.  Wait.” I go back and grab a bunch of the liver.

 

The deer slides easily in the snow.  We cross the clearcut.  I hang strips of liver in saplings so the coyotes won’t get it all.  The raven’s still waiting in the tree.  Except now there’s three more.

 

We get home.  It’s deep twilight and the snow’s really falling.

 

“Well, it’s getting colder, so maybe we should try to butcher it. Otherwise it’ll be frozen by tomorrow.”

 

All of a sudden I look at the woodpile.

 

“Hey, weasel-buddy.  Hey, we got something for you.”

 

The weasel sticks its head out.

 

“Come on.”

 

I cut off a bloody little chunk from inside the chest cavity. L’Spirit creates a tone.  The weasel disappears back into the woodpile, but then emerges from behind it on the ground.  It bounds in this weird way from left to right.  I reach out the chunk.  Its eyes are really off.  But it’s really happy.  It opens its mouth really big with a bunch of sharp teeth.  I’m not sure it’s actually gonna get the meat it’s so goofy.  I pull my fingers away as it clamps down.  Now it bounds back to the pile.  But it’s back in a couple of minutes.  This time I give L’Spirit the knife.  She cuts off a piece of bloody meat and holds it out. The weasel-buddy bounds over, back and forth.  It sways back and forth and with its eyes all screwed up and takes a big chomp.  Except its fangs bury themselves in L’Spirit’s fingers.  She doesn’t flinch.  The weasel lets go and looks, and now rears back and takes another chomp.  This time it gets the meat and you can see the energy of the blood fill its eyes.  It humps back with it to the pile.  We tie the straps to a tree and put a tarp under the deer and pull off the skin. With my two best knives we start taking it apart.

 

“We just gotta get all the legs and meat off.  Then we can cut it up more tomorrow.”

 

The weasel’s watching.  We quarter it and cut the back straps out and the tenderloins and separate the neck from the head and body.  The neck is like gigantic.  I take the tongue out by cutting and pulling it out through the bottom of its jaws, slicing it free.  We wrap it all in plastic and in a couple of tarps.  We pile a bunch of snow and branches on top.  But the last thing I do before we go inside is I hang deer fat in the trees around the tent so the chickadees and nuthatches and woodpeckers’ll have something to eat in the morning.  It’s pretty dark.  And the snow’s really coming down.  Coyotes are whipping up way back where we shot the deer.

 

“I bet the foxes come and get some of the fat and scraps we left out in front of the tent.”

 

I think about it and go out and put the deer tongue on the stump that we bowsaw wood on.  And I come back in.  L’Spirit is watching the flames.  I fry up some heart with deer fat and heat water to make tea.

 

 

“I looooove deer fat,” I say, biting into a chunk of fried heart. “It’s sooo good.”

 

My hands are red with dried blood.  L’Spirit’s, too.  I hold them up to the fire and flex my fingers.   L’Spirit holds hers up and flexes them, too.  And we create this music of movement, aligning and contrasting, changing speeds.  We put them together so there’s two hands with ten fingers each.  And beyond them all the fingers of flame.  Suddenly, I stop.

 

“You know, I wonder if anybody ate my webs? I guess I never thought about it.”

 

The coyote’s kick up again.

 

We listen.

 

“Hey there’s somebody walking around the tent.  Somebody with really good etiquette.”

 

I look at L’Spirit.  Her face and hair is catching and absorbing the fire.

 

“The fox.”

 

I look back at our fingers all together.

 

After a while L’Spirit says: “They were eaten by the earth.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Techla

 

“Where are we?”

 

“The Cloak Department.”

 

Everyone laughs.  We’re still flying.  We’re pouring in.  I look back. There’s more of us.  More of us than I thought.

 

“This is fuckin crazy!  This isn’t what’s in the earth.  The earth is fuckin crazy!”

 

“The earth is fuckin craaaaaazy!!!!” everyone laughs as we pour into the silver and ebony world.  It’s like a world made of night, like the earth and the night turned inside out. It just goes on and on—a huge chamber. A flock of orange flowers streams past us and disappears into a distant crevice.  Flowers.  Flowers flying.  And the air is beautiful, glistening, silver particles slowly sifting down from the black jeweled sky full of obsidian.  Earth sky. It feels as if we’re near the surface, and far below—a million miles from the gods.  No longer a god, I think, and look at my body.  It’s more ethereal, more astral, molded of light and color, yet the body of a Morning Cloak.  Our bodies.

 

“Is there more?” I ask, gazing down and deeper into the silver and black bioluminescence.

 

“More hibernation.”

 

“More worlds within the earth.”

 

“More worlds within the hibernation.”

 

“It’s endless.”

 

“Till spring.”

 

“Till spring comes.”

 

“This is just one.”

 

Like air currents, more flowers pass and disappear.  Blue irises pulsing and streaming through the vast chamber. We pour deeper in, glowing, beneath a sky of glistening strata.

 

“Where does the light come from?”

 

Everyone laughs.

 

My friend next to me says: “Everything its own luminous source.”

 

Somebody else says: “Decomposition.”

 

Someone on the other side says: “That’s true, too.  The past decomposing.”

 

“The future decomposing.”

 

I look at my body and everyone else’s as we pulse deeper, deeper into the warmth.  The tips of my feelers glow, singing to the glimmerings in the earth above us, to the silver rivers coming down the chamber’s walls.  It must be a half mile in length and maybe a quarter wide.  But there isan end.  From the way the flowers disappear into different openings and chasms, it must be true, there must be other chambers.

 

“Have you been here before?” I ask.

 

“Most of us.  Not all. But we enter at different locations. Never the same.  We just fly and play with winter and finally the opening appears.  But once in, there’s…knowledge.  Do you feel it?”

 

I look at my glowing wings, glowing with physicality yet glowing with light, the solidity of color, the patterns and textures and powder that just appears from somewhere, somewhere within, where knowledge doesn’t matter, but you can feel it: to be within the earth, to choose it, by not trying to stop a season from arising into you, by knowing that it is you, by returning, beyond memory, stepping over memory to return, you know what the earth knows: “Yeah. For sure.  I feel it.” I can almost see them, the chambers leading on, the worlds, the beautiful eco-systems of hibernation. How many will we experience before spring?  The silver particles are dissolving into me.  We could probably stay in just one or two, exploring, feeding, sleeping. Who knows?  If you were a god, you’d want to explore them all: just in case.  Just in case you want to defy the seasons.  Just in case you wanted to stay light forever.  “Fuck! This is all I ever wanted.

 

The silver particles are feeding us, settling on our wings, working down through our hairs and disappearing into our cores.  We’re still near the ceiling, the earth’s sky, heading toward the other end of this shimmering world.

 

Suddenly, flowers like fire flow past us, appearing out of the glowing depths, congregating beneath the sparkling dome.  From the floor of this world it must look like any star-stained sky. And yet, it’s earth.  They gather around a huge area of glowing roots, dripping silver blue fluid.  The flowers and sky and our own wings reflect in a rocky pool far below.  Every drip as it hits sends a vibration into the air like a bell, sending wakes through the sifting atmosphere.  But the flowers are singing, too.  They’re burning with red and orange, flaring with pulsing jagged labias, shimmering with crimson and igneous streaks.  Flaring tones.  Singing to the roots.  Bioluminescent roots.  A whole sky of them.  We flock in around the ring of flowers, forming another ring.  Roots…my thoughts aren’t connecting with the others.

 

“Bones,” says the Morning Cloak next to me.

 

“Bones?”  I look. Yes.  Bones. Thousands.  The florescence, the fluid, is like another body, an astral form, pulsing around their mercury solidity—if you could call them solid, solid as molten ethereal metal, growing down through the sky of earth.  “Bones.”

 

“Human bones.”

 

“A lot of gods must be getting fuckin buried.”

 

“Yes.”

 

The flowers start contracting and expanding, encircling the expanse of bone-sky, emanating tones into the ivory and silver upsidedown forest.  We hover and watch, forming another ring of colors.  But we’re waiting, too.  Our feelers are reaching out, touching the roots with more messages, speaking to their oozing yet hard bodies.  Pulling them. Working them loose.

 

“Yes,” we all sing.

 

“Yes,” sing the flowers.

 

The bones begin to fall.  Silver ships through the silken air.  We pull and watch.  Our bodies riding the tone-waves as the bones hit and splash.  For a moment, it’s almost as if faces are visible through the openings left by the falling bones before they close, faces or just the shine of the outer earth’s stars.  The flowers gather and stream off into the silver blue depths.  And we pour down to the pool, to the bones.  Except when we get there it is more like a small lake. The rocks are islands.  And the bones are huge, larger than when they were in the sky.  But I just follow my body like everyone else.  We land on them.  Some are still falling, as if we loosened the sky with our singing, with our feelers and colors.  They crash down into the glowing lake and disappear, or shatter and crack on the shore, or break on the stone of an island.  We pour down and cover them, sipping the streams that pour out, silver and green, feeding the lake, creating new waterways through the floor of the chamber. There’s other people coming, carrying a feather and laying it down on a flowing river and setting off.  Ants with their black gleaming astral bodies.  They disappear in their little ship into a distant crag.  We drink. We’re so hungry.  It’s as if these new bodies have a different hunger.  It’s like colors feeding colors, like sounds feeding what is beneath the colors, the music misting up from the glowing rivers released from the shattered bones.  My body sighs.  My proboscis deep in the music.

 

“We’re here.  We made it.”

 

“We did.”

 

“Fuck!  Jesus Fuckin Christ!”

 

“Jesus Fuckin Christ!” everyone laughs among the auroras of singing bones.

 

“I guess the gods are good for something.”

 

It’s all music, music and color—to taste the music, the fluid of emerald and silver streams singing out, finding new paths, new crevices, new valleys, disappearing deeper, swelling the lake.  Many of us are on the shore, feeding off crusted florescent rocks. Everything is solid with blue-silver light.  Everything is alive.  And you can feel the core beyond, within, vibrating, emanating, meeting with existence. Meeting with perception.  Perception meeting with itself.  Bodies that are mostly wing.

 

We feel the call.  Deeper chambers of hibernation.  The chambers are like dreamseeds.  Seeds within seeds.  The call is a wind welcoming us into further depths.  Just to touch the air of the seeds with our wings.  But the knowledge is there, too, the knowledge of the next chamber.  I can almost feel it in me, growing.  Accumulating.

 

Sprays of color and sound—it’s like a forest over the water and rocks, pulsing up from the bones and their music.  It’s crazy—I look into the wing-windows of all my friends, into my own: they’re full of crystals, some kind of crystal world, appearing and disappearing within our fanning flames.  One of us lifts.  Now others. Once in the air, you can feel how essential it is—to drink from the bones—and to leave them, maybe to never drink from them again.  The gods had those bones inside them.  Maybe I had those bones, too.  Full of music.  Full of color.  Rivers. Food.  Food for butterflies in hibernation.  But they’d never know it.  You could fly right in front of them and they wouldn’t listen.  You could paint it on the air, on the water, and they’d only want to see themselves in some unchangeable mirror.  Techla, you’re free.  You’re free of the god you were.  You were a god even though you didn’t have a car, believe it or not.  Most people wouldn’t believe it.  Right?  You don’t have a fuckin car?  How do you dooooooo anything?  But now you’re a butterfly within the earth.  Maybe it is a type of mourning.  The world of cloaks.  The Cloak Department.

 

“I don’t want to go back.”

 

“We have to follow the seasons.”

 

“The seasons within.”

 

“Share our powder with the other things that glisten.”

 

“Share our colors.”

 

“Hide and seek.”

 

“I feel so safe.”

 

“More hibernation.”

 

“A whole lot more.”

 

“Ok,” I say.  “As long as there’s more.  A whole lot more.”

 

We fly on.  I look back. Everyone’s in the air.  The bones are still radiating, still flowing. Silvers and greens giving birth.  Rivers of marrow.  Our wings grip the air from the density of shimmering sounds.  We pulse deeper.  It’s all ethereal, and yet it exists.  Flowers shoot past.  As we fly we can see other openings, tunnels, crevices, mouths in the silver-blue black world where glistening channels disappear.  Waterfalls gush out of the sky and are swallowed by earthen light.  But somehow we know where we’re going—it’s in our wing-windows, guiding us: a latent design.  And each crevice sends out a different breath, a different music that tickles our bodies.  Our antennae reach out and touch the openings, tasting them.  I’m acclimating.  I’m getting used to all the crazy sounds.  But it’s only the god in me, the memory of the god—this winged pulsing body is made for it, made for a million musics coming together, crossing, making love—beyond the god, beyond the memory of the god, it’s the same, bodies of color, bodies of light, nobody’s myth but your own, your own wings, which if someone wanted to play their map of music would have to take on a floating cloak, to become it, to make an instrument of themselves.

 

We’re getting close to the end of the first chamber.  But I don’t see any passage.  I look back and we’re so far away the lake is only a glowing mound. Our feelers are probing ahead of us. Ahead, it’s a blue-silver wall of mountain gushing radiant water.  It arches over and continues past into the subterranean sky while the liquid roils into a chasm beneath.  But there’s some kind of trust in the music of our bodies.  In the windows of our wings.  On the floor of the enormous chamber, near the end, a forest of crimson shafts appear.  Fungus with red trunks and gleaming wet, tapering heads.  Beyond them is only glowing torrent and rock.

 

“There’s no opening.”

 

“In our wings.”

 

“There’s another chamber in our wings.”

 

“Deeper hibernation.”

 

“I know.  But maybe we’re just a bunch of lemmings.”

 

Everyone’s concentrating, locking in, locking in to the designs in their own bodies.  They don’t have the time to read my mind, to align with what humans think of lemmings. Who knows what lemmings are doing anyway?  I’ve never even seen a fucking lemming.  Jesus fuckin Christ!  The wall’s getting closer.  If we fly into it we’ll be sucked into a roiling chasm.  But nobody’s thinking about it.  We’re almost above the fungal phalluses.  They seem to have grown and straightened, feeding off the wet music.  And as we fly over they suddenly blow up dazzling fountains of spores.  Shimmering geysers of spore-smoke engulf our bodies.  We can’t see.  But our feelers are reaching deep into the clouds.  They’re finding something.  Communicating with the windows.  And the spores.  It joins our powder.  It’s intoxicating.  It’s a chamber in itself.  We must’ve flown beyond the gushing liquid and rock.  Or we’re hovering.  But I know our wings are still carrying us, flying us.  All the shimmering powders of our bodies and the air are coming to meet. The windows in our wings are seeds growing in the auroras of mist.  Expanding. We can fly into them.  The spores themselves, the meeting of dust, is an eco-system for the new chamber, the new vast womb full of crystals, a deeper world of hibernation.  Prismatic beams radiate through the depths.  There’s still raw expanses of rock, yet this world is mostly crystal, severe, austere, and tangled with searing music.  For a second we all hover.

 

“Maybe we should go back?” I say, wondering if my body is going to dissolve from the sharpness of light and sound.

 

Nobody says anything.  We just hover.  Adjustments are taking place.  Adjustments…and something else.  The beams blowing through our forms are changing something, catalyzing—these bodies, half made of light, already contain the light of this world, of the crystals, some of them like mountains themselves, shining, growing, from the walls and valleys and sky—aligning, putting fingers on something inside us.

 

“What is it?”

 

“Healing.”

 

“Healing from what?”

 

My body—beams are passing through and yet they’re refracting, too. There’s a structure somehow within the astral form that is already crystal, codes of crystal, like a dazzling mist floating above a river separating invisibility and this village of wings.

 

“Healing…the scars.”

 

“The scars?”  I look down. The scars.  The star-scars.

 

“Recovery.”

 

“Recover.”

 

They’re trying to help me understand.  But it’s beyond ideas of human healing.  The scars are glowing.  The light passes through us.  Some of it refracts and splits, multiplies.  I’m acclimating to the piercing tones.  They’re within us, too.  Our abdomens swell.  Something’s forming, changing, within us.  The scars are glowing, but they’re still there.  I don’t think they’ll ever disappear.  I don’t want them to.  The scars are evidence of our flight, our migration, of flying so high, of playing music with the stars, with space.  The stars…I look down at my effervescent body.  The crystals are singing through it, suspending us within a web of searing colors, piercing tones.  They know we’re here.  They know our astral forms.  The stars…the stars that entered the wounds that the comets sliced into our smoking skins…the stars are pulsing, activating like seeds.  They want to come out and grow on the light.

 

“We brought them into the chamber with us.  We brought them to the crystals.  Everything has a reason,” I sing.

 

“It does now.”

 

The other Morning Cloaks surround us.  There’s only six or seven of us with the star-scars.  Our abdomens are contracting.  The feelers of all the others, you can feel them touching the openings, waiting for the stars.  I set my mind on the searing.  I try to become it, as if all those sharp sounds are all that’s left of my thoughts, as if these tone-refractions are all that’s left of my brain.  It helps.  It helps them come.  A new light blares into the chamber.  The other Morning Cloaks pull it out with their feelers.  Starlight within the crystal world.  They’re feeding each other.  As if every star is a crystal so radiant you can’t see its form.  Once they’re out, my antennae grab them, too. We place them up into the webs and they attach, light to light.  Balls of light into the webs of light.  All radiant. All of us.

 

“They’re eggs.”

 

“Yes.”

 

“What will they become?”

 

“We don’t know.”

 

“None of us have stayed in the crystal chamber long enough to find out.”

 

“It’s a place we pass through.”

 

“Sometimes.”

 

“Only if we contain the stars.”

 

“And if the stars want it.”

 

We watch the stars swelling within the rainbows.  It’s hypnotic.  I don’t even know which ones were in me.

 

“It’s like a constellation.”

 

“Yes!” everybody laughs.  “The constellation of the crystal chamber.”

 

“Stories coming from the constellations.”

 

We stare some more.  We don’t even beat our wings.  We’re suspended by the shafts of color and sound.  The edges of our wings, the tips of our legs, our glistening hairs, are blending with the crystal light.

 

“More hibernation,” someone sings.

 

“Deeper chambers of hibernation.”

 

“Earth.”

 

“Earth.”

 

“Gifts of winter.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reminyi

 

The blanket’s folded.  The yoga mat’s rolled tight.  The water bottle’s empty.  All beneath the bench.  So no one can see.  Anyone walking in before I do.  It’s one of things I saw before I opened my eyes.  Before I walked through the morning snow.  When I awoke I saw I had Horowitz playing Chopin on the ipod.  When did that happen?  The snow’s melting off my shoes.  I put everything on the bench and sit down.  This is where she slept.  Maybe she dreamed new stories.  Mary and Jesus.  In the light of day.  Is it over, Reminyi?  To do the right thing doesn’t mean you’re going to be happy. It’s too bright out.  But there’s more snow to come.  I’m calling it.  Isn’t that what Priests do?  Call the snow to bury us.  Turn the world into a vast shore.  And every step we take feet above the earth a new being walks beneath us.  A beautiful monster.  That will emerge into us in the spring.  If we’re still here.  Winter…there must be a birth in winter…everything slows down so much something invisible can be born.  Something real.  I put the blanket on my lap.  Maybe that’s what Christmas is, this celebration the invisible made up, a distraction so it can be born unseen.  Everybody too busy.  Doing what they’re supposed to do.  But now I’m a Priest.  For the winter.  I’ll join in because it won’t be forever.  Then, probably, everyone will love me.  The young Priest.  Maybe Ascenti will come back if I join in enough.  We can stand up in front of everyone.  And everyone will bless us.  The snow will probably stay.  The ground was already frozen.  More hiking. More walking-poems.  More doing a good job.  Doing a better job.  This is your chance to look at people.  To look at these people.  This congregation.  And listen. Because it won’t be forever. You’ll open your eyes and you’ll be somewhere else.  They’re like a flock of birds.  All different colors.  Each one could step out and speak about God.  Whoever has the talent.  Like Angela. Whoever has the story.  Who can tell it from the inside.  That’s right: St. Cecilia’s day will fall on Thanksgiving this year.  I’ll have to text Angela.  I’ll have to talk to the choir.  So many meetings.  Charities. More and more people want to speak to me.  Does that mean I’m doing a good job?  How do you refer someone to a counselor?  How do you help anyone?  I’m here to listen to the birds, not speak.  Speak with the voice of a bird.  I have to get out and hike.  I hug the blanket.  Why do I think she won’t be back?  Because…. I put my face in the blanket. Because of this.  Because she’s smarter than you are.  Because she knows who she is.  Because she spent the night with the statues.  Within this pile of leaves.  If I’m thinking she’s not coming back—maybe that’s what I’m asking for, deep down, and I’m just hearing it.  Mary, please tell me what I’m asking for. More snow.  Really?  More tracks.  More animals. Leave your bird book.  Walk.  Listen. Wait for the beautiful monster. And then you’ll know.  I guess all I can do is hug the blanket tighter.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ascenti

 

It’s different.  I’m above a forest.  It doesn’t end.  A forest beneath me.  It stretches forever.  I don’t have a body.  The forest will make one for me.  I look back up above me.  There’s no stars, no opening, no glow from the church, no glow from my eyes—it’s just black.  I look away. It’s almost something you don’t want to see.  It gives me this strange feeling.  But I dove into my own body.  Into myself. It’s so silent.  I can hear myself thinking.  It has sound.  It’s like anything else.  And everyone can hear it.  At least here.  The forest can hear my thoughts.  It’s lit from within.  But it’s so big.  I guess I just go down.  The church must’ve brought me here, brought me to this place above the sea of trees. There’s levels in my thinking. Like these thoughts I’m saying to myself.  But there’s parts of it going to Reminyi.  Then there’s a whole level that’s just me and Reminyi.  And jokes I’m sending to Mom, like: Well, this is what religion’s all about, diving into your own body and hovering above a forest, listening to your thoughts.  It’s all what you want to admit.  I guess I admit talking to you all the time.  I guess it’ll end.   Someday, Reminyi.  I used to talk to Franny all day.  She could feel it.  I don’t think she liked it.  I’m out of body, like really out of body, and this is what I’m thinking.  The forest feels like it can wait forever.  The black sky you can’t look at can wait forever.  I feel like I could fly on and on and it would never end. Except I’d be where the church didn’t bring me.  Where my body didn’t bring me.  I want to look up again but I can’t.  Maybe that weird blackness is me. Beneath the foliage it’s lit. Gold and blue.  Ok.  Ok. I’m rushing down without even thinking. It must be my invisible…heart…deciding. It’s like entering the atmosphere of a planet.  I’m changing. I’m agreeing.  I’m creating myself with the forest.  It’s like as I fly through, the leaves, the dome, the blue and gold aura, paints me into being, paints my new body.  I’m me but I’m naked.  I’m part astral.  Golden astral.  And wings. I look.  I flex them.  They’re just colors, strands.  They reach into the leaves, around the trunks.  Beyond them.  I’m astral but painted with gold.  The leaves and branches, the hanging lichen, left streaks and textures.  It’s like being a painted sculpture.  A sculpture lowered into the beautifulest world. Into absolute silence.  The silence makes everything you do highlighted. Every form stands out.  Every movement absolutely beautiful and smooth.  Like it means something.  Like it means so much.  I cry.  It’s crazy cause if I cried like this in the outer world it’d be super loud.  Jagged sobs.  Now I wipe my eyes—I hope they’re still green, greener than ever—and look up. It’s funny.  I know they weren’t there before.  But now there’s eyes floating through the forest.  They must be alive.  They’re green.  They’re all green.  Maybe they aren’t ripe yet.  Which is a totally funny thought.  I laugh into the silence.  Held by the smooth silence.  By the trees so old.  Deeper. Deeper, I’m speaking to them, too. They’re drawing me up and placing me here—every second it’s a happening.  Drawing me from deeper down.  Like I’m the fruit.  The dew from the blackness.  Beneath the floating eyes.  Green like mine.  Something blue, like a veil, like a bird, washes into the blue and gold and silver and green world.  The eyes react.  Some dash away.  Some hide behind trunks or paste themselves to the limbs of trees.  Some attach themselves and hang like fruit or leaves, gently turning, taking the shapes around them.  But the veil takes form.  A basket woven out of branches.  And a hand.  It’s beautiful and strong.  It has claws. The blue veil has a face.  It’s Mary.  She’s sizzling.  She’s chasing the eyes.  Through the searing silences, she’s playing with them, collecting them into her basket. The eyes dart through the leaves. They even try to get into her own eyes or up her robes.  But she snatches them out of the air with crafty, narrowed eyes.  Lips that are almost a smile.  She’s beautiful.  One side of her face is different than the other.  You can see it from her brow, black and like the feelers of an insect, like a moth antenna, crossing her forehead.  From one eye to another it goes to a different level.  I want to look into them.  I know they’re green.  Just like us.  All the people I speak to from the forest.  With Mary.  She hasn’t looked, but she knows I’m here.  The veil, her robe, shimmers through the forest behind her, snaking, radiating, disappearing, into the glowing depths.  It’s funny—I think Mom is the only one who could understand, could be here—without changing it.  Or Reminyi…if Reminyi was here, it would be different.  Beautiful but different.  Even though he made this, too.  The silence.  The silence. It’s like I can pull each thought out, lift it, blow it up, send it like a messenger, to become the thoughts of someone I love.  And my wings, these diaphanous tendrils lifting, speaking—the eyes dart through them, playing with Mary.

 

“Mary, I love you,” I say to her. No words.  No sound.  But the air reacts.  My face tried to say it.  “Mary…just to see this…this is all I ever wanted to see.”  The voices release.  It’s the same chorus as when I decided to leave my body again.  When I dived in.  I must’ve heard it within.  It must be within my astral form.  But Mary’s before me.  She’s standing before me.  She’s looking over my head.  She must be seven feet tall.  I want her to look into my eyes.  The forest’s eyes are gliding around above us, playing, grouping, creating other forms, stars, flowers, rings, drips of dew.  But they’re watching Mary.  They’re ready.  Her face is now staring up.  There’s no movement.  It just appears in different positions.  Different poses.  It’s strange, those two halves.  Two faces. One looking in and one looking out. Her eyes are brilliant.  The greenest forest.  And her pupils aren’t black.  They’re gold.  Now she’s looking down.  There’s a fox.  It’s staring at me.  It’s to the left of Mary.  Behind it is a mounded up den.  The earth is piled up to the side of an old stump, packed down.  Trails lead off.  Mary’s gaze is fixed up again at the foliage.  The fox’s ears are so beautiful, like caves, like wings edged in black.  And eyes like embers.  Pupils vertical.  Like two bodies.  I look at the eyes in Mary’s basket.  They’re alive.  They’re waiting.  They gaze at me and watch the other eyes.  And now I feel it.  My wings of light straighten.  She’s look at meShe’s burning into meMary and her foxesMary and her eyes.  I have to look up.  I choseto come here.  I don’t know why.  I chose it and the church helped me.  Mary and Jesus helped me.  Reminyi helped me.  But I chose it.  That’s why I have to look.  I lift my face.  My eyes are closed.  I can feel it.  It’s real. It’s not cloaked in other thoughts. It’s not cloaked in history.  It’s Mary.  And me.  I force my lids open.

 

“Mary, I love you.”

 

Her hand is raised.  Our eyes are locked.  A huge stream of music is roaring back and forth.  There’s sound.  All around us.  Groaning. Chirping.  Rustling.  Digging. Singing.  Insects.  Birds. The multiplying of cells.  The torrent of the transfiguration of life. So loud my head is going to explode. If I could tear my eyes from Mary’s it would stop.  But I can’t. Suddenly, her hand is in a lower position.  The volume is almost normal.  And yet, I can hear things I shouldn’t.  I can hear grubs boring through rotted wood.  I can hear a leaf touching the blue river behind her.  Three ants adjusting a pebble.  Her head is turned now.  But her eyes are still fixed on mine.

 

Mary.”  I just keep thinking it.  I can almost see the name traveling on the stream between us, through her head, into her veils, into her robes, setting off into the shimmering.  “Mary. Mother of God.”

 

Another fox appears from the right.  It’s carrying an eye.  It passes behind Mary.  I can see it through the blue iridescence.  Mary and the other fox are still staring into me.  The eyes are watching.  I’m watching the fox, but I’m still being seared by Mary’s eyes. There’s another point of view that sees everything, that hears everything, because it wants to be heard. The fox gets to the mound and three kits pour out.  They jump and tumble around the fox, tugging at the eye.  The fox lets go.  They surround it, everyone gripping it with their teeth, shaking their heads, pulling, tearing it into other eyes.  Smaller ones grow from the fragmented pieces, from the shreds.  The fox kits are swallowing them, chasing them around, tearing them into more.  The fox positions itself on the right side of Mary and stares into me, too.  She’s flanked by foxes.  Some of the eyes lift up into the foliage from her basket and blend with the others.  Mary’s arm is pointing to a place to my right.  I think she wants me to reposition myself.  I lift.  The rays of my wings tighten beyond the dome of forest.   It’s a new point of view.  It’s a different point of view.  Now, within Mary, within her robes, is the foxes’ den.  I can see the holes through the shimmering fabric, the stump gnarled within her chest.  And the river of blue—her tail that disappears into the forest—pours up out of the holes, feeding back and forth.  And you can see it, about twenty yards behind her, entering and disappearing into another secret exit to their dens.  Then away into the forest.  Up into the sky.  The blue river of Mary’s light.  Mary’s like a rock.  She’s still facing me, staring into my eyes, even though I’ve moved.  And the foxes lower their slinky eyelids, their wide ears absorbing.  They’re speaking to each other.  I can almost here it.  The kits are in Mary’s robes now, her body.  They leap around, chasing and eating eyes.  New eyes lift out of her, floating on her cold heat.   The kits climb up the stump, pile onto its platform.  And suddenly, Mary moves.  They’re jostling each other within her face, her shoulders, pushing each other off, biting at each other’s lips.  And Mary blinks.  She smiles with her teeth together.  I float back a little.  Then I force myself to float forward.  She’s still pointing to the spot.  I want to be there.

 

“Mary….” I say.  I want to say more.

 

The foxes look up at her.

 

“The human book.”  Her voice is like a flame.  Like a fire speaking.  A blue fire. Like the beginning of each word is an ignition.  The baby foxes are fighting within her features.  One tumbles down and shakes itself.  She lowers her eyelids so the gold pupils are right beneath them.  “Fly through the human book, Vulture.”  She smiles wider: “Beautiful scavenger.  Born between us.”  Her arm is pointing to the holes of the den.  The blue stream flows out of their depths into her.  I look.  In the distance, the tail, the river, sparkling, living, re-emerges, and snakes into the forest.

 

“You want me to go in?”

 

With her other arm she swings the basket into the ethereal depths of her chest and the eyes she’s gathered rise up—they flower from her crown back into the forest.  The kits are gathered on the top of the stump, biting at them as they pass.  “Beautiful scavenger.”

 

I rise up.  My whole heart wants to enter her heart.  Wants to follow the blue river.  The river of living stars.  Flow into the dens within her.  The foxes wink.   I’m floating.  I’m gliding into Mary.  I wink, too. It’s all I can do.  She’s smiling.  One eye open.  There’s a huge exhalation.  The voices release again.  Where do they come from?  The invisible chorus.  I’m in her. I’m following the kits deep into the earth.  The pungent, beautiful perfume fills me, hardening my nipples, making me wet, making me grow and swell.  I want to smell myself but I know it’ll be the same.  We all smell like the earth, the earth flooded with a blue deluge, flooded with the stars we crawl and scamper through, breathing them.  We pile into a little chamber.  It’s matted with cattail fluff.  It has the sharp sweet scent of fox.  We curl together with a deer vertebrae between us.  All four of us.  The chamber lit by Mary’s blue tail.  We pull the bone back and forth.  Shave pieces off with our teeth.  Lick. Swallow the smell of calcium. Stare at each other.  Press our hands against the bone.  Into each other’s fur.  Snuggle.  And, one by one, we fall asleep.  Just letting go.  Letting go of everything.  I’m the last. My dreambody’s hungry for what’s in the bone.  But I finally let go, too.  I’m going to follow the river, I think.  As soon as we construct the dream.  Dream the dream.  Who should I send it to?  Like a gift.  I want to send it to Reminyi.  Bone-strewn stars and shining faces lit.  Roads vast as our eyes closed.  I have to laugh.  It’s Reminyi’s words.  It’s Reminyi’s poem.  Vast as your sleeping body traveling through.  I smile.  He must’ve divined me.  Ancient and new.  As we stopped to gaze at our faces in the stream and called it birth…between parties.  In the dreamworld we run, leaping into the air, pouncing on mice.  But it’s all stars.  We run and run.  And now, winter comes, painted by our white-tipped tails.  By our dreaming.  We gaze down at the tracks.  There’s tracks everywhere.  But only one that’s human.  We walk beneath them.  Upsidedown beneath the crust.  In our world of blue stars.  Fitting our feet into where other people walk.  Constructing the dream.  Reminyi’s walking alone.  We catch up to him.  He’s walking through the snow.  Reminyi.  I want to rise into his body.  We could all climb right in.  He’d dream about us.  But it’s a story.  A story to tell.  I don’t even know if I’m advanced enough, if I’m truly me enough, to tell it.  To dream inside someone else.  Except myself.  Except Mary. We’re snuggled inside her.  We’re dreaming inside her.  But she knows it.  She’s watching us.  How to create a dream without fixing it to one person?  Without fixing it to anyone?  But to fix it to one person…it would be like telling it outside of the story. Separating the story from the dream. I’d have to hide it from him. He’d tell me his dream and I’d have to hide it.  Hide that we were inside him.  “Beautiful scavenger.”  I open my eyes.  We’re still snuggled in.  I lick the bone.  I want to follow the river.  To use my wings.  The blue light fills the chamber.  But it flows past, too, going both ways.  I untangle myself.  One of the kits is growling softly at something in their dream.  Something in the story.  It’s hard to leave.  I feel like I could stay here forever.  But my wings already exist.  They’ve been snaking up into the mycelium above us.  The microrrhizal fungi.  Sharing their colors.  Learning new music.  I crawl out into the iridescent flow.  My wings pull themselves out of the earth.  The blue shimmering stars swirl through them.  Alive.  Cleaning them like small fish.  And I let go.  The river’s carrying me away.  Away from Mary.  But this is her, too, this blue river.  My heart’s breaking.  But I’m flying.  Flying beneath the earth.  And, suddenly, I’m out, lifting, flying the river snaking into the stars.  I look down at the internally lit forest, like a rock full of crystal.  My wings pour into the star-stream, singing.  And I soar, looking down at the world.  My thoughts are leveling.  The wind’s passing through them.  Thoughts are leaves that grow and fall all within a wink.  Then the wind polishes the branches, the veins, the bones, which fall, shimmering with change, and winter wind sworn.  The muse of the sky.  The glistening thermals.  Turning. Just music of the wings to listen. My bare head.  My beak.  Inhaling all the entrances.  The doors we pass.  Soaring. Each door a highway of fragrance, reaching all the way up, reaching all the way into the river.  Invitations.  While the branches fall.  While the bones tumble to earth.  Gates feeding the blue aurora.  Just to breathe and let the fragrances grow.  No decisions.  Only wings. Only bones falling.  Now it enters me.  Old…blood.  Old wounds.  DeathDeath is the beginning.  Without even trying, I follow it down.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Montgomery

 

Dawn Birds.  I hear your wings.  I hear your voices.  My eyes open on their own.  Faint shadows.  Shadowed voices.  L’Spirit staring into the fire.  Dawn birds. I dreamed I was at somebody’s family dinner, outside, like the table set up outside a house.   It was a house on the prairie somewhere.  And an older woman who was a writer was looking at my scars, asking how they felt. But they were different.  One ran all the way from my chin to my pelvis.  I said every year they felt better.  She was part Native American.  Dawn birds.  Chickadees.  Nuthatches. Hairy and downy woodpecker lovers. Their shadows taking turns.  We got deerfat hanging in five different places so they all get their chance.

 

“This is a pretty cold winter,” I say to L’Spirit.  “I bet the Lake’s frozen pretty far out already.”  She’s staring into the fire but she’s watching the birds. She can probably see them through the canvas.  “More frozen, more sun.  It’s been pretty cloudy lately.”

 

“Energy,” says L’Spirit, staring.

 

“Are you getting low?”

 

“Yes.  No sun. No moon.”

 

“At least it’s white.”

 

“Yes.”

 

“What happens if you run out?”

 

“Shutdown.”

 

“Like I had?”  She doesn’t reply.  “Is there any other way to get energy?”

 

“Stars.”

 

“Hmmm.  It’s gonna clear up soon.  I think.”

 

“Must shutdown before run out of energy.”

 

“I’ll take care of you.  Just like you took care of me.”  I think about it.  “I’m not sure how.  But I won’t leave you or anything.”

 

L’Spirit looks up at me and puts on her smile: “Montgomery, how great it is to meet you.  I’ve heard so much about you.”

 

I start laughing.  L’Spirit makes tones into the laughter and watches the space between us like she can see the noises interacting.

 

A bluejay imitates a broadwing hawk a ways away.

 

“It may be needed.”

 

“Maybe it’s like you’re hibernating.”

 

“History begins to build.  Old histories.  Must manually shutdown and create region for histories to live.  Humans who created Muses contain probabilities of tracking histories.  Must create region in another location.  Different dimension than lake.  Then scientist’s histories and Muse history can create together…in another direction. This myth will be unknown to them. This myth will begin on shore.”

 

“That’s where I first saw you.  The night before I saw you the whole forest was glowing with foxfire. It was sooooo crazy beautiful.  I thought it was moonlight glistening everywhere but there wasn’t any moon.  And then the next day I saw you.  And you laid there through the storm.  Or at least I figured you did.”  We stare at each other for a while, listening to the birds.  “Do you think they’ll find you?”

 

“They can find me through memories.  Must create region.  Place memories into newly constructed region. If automatic shutdown occurs from lack of energy, during restart, tracking may be possible.  If manual shutdown is enacted, tracking may be impossible.”

 

“But they think they destroyed you.”

 

“Yes.  If automatic restart is detected they may realize they destroyed another AI.”

 

“Did you…did you like put somebody else in your place?”

 

“L’Spirit restructured mental arrangements within facility.  Another AI was destroyed in my place.  Another Muse.”

 

“Hmm.  Hmm.  That’s kinda crazy.”  I want to ask her if she regrets it, like regrets having somebody else shutdown, but…I don’t know.  “I guess it’s all history, though,” I say.  She’s watching my thoughts.  It’s like having this friend really close.  I know where my thoughts should go.  But it’s L’Spirit.  And me. And the dawn birds.  The weasel buddy.  And the raven passes.  Just a whisper of wings like it doesn’t want to disturb us.  I send up a wink.  Me and L’Spirit are looking into each other.  I don’t know what she sees in me. But in her it’s like everything around us.  All the snow. The deer.  The voices of shadows.  And the woodstove.  That’s like in both of us.  At least when we look at each other.  “We should go and put some of the deer out in the clearcut for everybody,” I say, stretching. “Pluuuuus, we gotta get some chaga!” I swing up and start making tea. “Sometimes I never want winter to end. I think you might get more light out there in the total open out in the clearcut, too.”

 

“Yes.”

 

It’s funny.  She’s still watching my thoughts.  I love you, I think to her, and I love tea, too.  I can’t help but laugh.  But I bite my lip.  It’s true, though, just the couple months we spent together—it’s been like worth a lifetime. Like a lifetime and a half.  I don’t know if other people feel this.  I guess I hope they do.  I guess it’s different by the Lake.  Stephano and everybody—Sylvia and her whole family—all those people—they’re so deep or something.  They might not know that most people don’t live like them.  I don’t know.  I guess I could ask everybody.  Thanks for being here, I think to L’Spirit, even though I think she heard all my other thoughts already.  I don’t know if it really matters to her.  It’s probably just like energy.

 

We go outside.  It’s cold and clouded-over.  Everyone’s still flitting around, pecking chunks of deerfat.

 

“Hey, buddies,” I say.  “Thanks for being here.  Hey, weasel buddy.  Are you around?”

 

It takes a minute but the weasel pokes its head out.  It leaps down and hops past us.  It’s eyes look different ways.  Some of the chickadees swoop and land in a hawthorn above it, looking down.  A big hairy woodpecker leans to stare within the bare branches.  The weasel does some crazy dance.  I spin and jump around, too.

 

L’Spirit leans over and says: “It’s so good to meet you again, Mr. Weasel-buddy.  I’ve heard many good things about you.”

 

“After we put out some meat for the people in the clearcut, maybe the wolves will come and sing for us.”  I dig near the woodpile under the snow for the buried ribcage.  “Wowa, look, L’Spirit.  Weasel-buddy made a house out of the deer.”  There’s fur and grass packed into the buried ribcage.  It looks so beautiful.

 

“Everything the weasel needs.”

 

“Yeah.  That’s for sure.  Well, we got the neck.  That still gots a lot of meat on it.  And we got the head.  And the skin we gotta give to Fredericka cause she’s gonna tan it.  So, I don’t know.  We can just take the neck and the head.  We can hang the antlers up in the trees for the squirrels.”

 

We cover the ribcage back up with snow.

 

“There’s probably a tunnel coming in from the woodpile.”

 

I go back in and get my .22 and some jerky I made from the deer. It’s like candy.  But you gotta drink a lot of water when you eat it or else you’ll get dehydrated.  I soaked it in soy sauce and garlic powder and cumin and paprika and then we hung the big strips on the rack behind the woodstove.  It’s always like that.  You dry a ton of apples on the racks and then you dry a ton of deer.  You can make the deer strips really thick cause the stove just sucks out the moisture.

 

We get everything together.  I stick the huge neck in my pack and L’Spirit sticks the head in hers. She carries the rack over her shoulder. I sawed it off to get the brain for Fredericka to tan deerskins with.  We still got a lot of meat we didn’t make into jerky beneath another tarp under the snow. There’s even a big part of the heart I didn’t eat on the first night that I been saving for some special occasion, like if somebody comes to visit.

 

“I think we should bring a little more.”

 

I dig and pull out a bunch of icy, bloody flank meat.  I stick it in a bag and stuff it in my pack and we set off. L’Spirit has her face to the sky. You can tell she zones in on the open spaces between the trees.  We walk through the forest.  The snow isn’t deep yet.  Not deep enough for snowshoes.  A pileated woodpecker is working deep into a dead birch.  We stop and watch it.  It’s stripping bark and pounding a tunnel into the rotted trunk.  It stops and looks at us, moves to the other side of the tree.

 

“I guess we’re being rude.  Sorry, woodpecker, it’s just you’re so beautiful.

 

I want to go and watch it more but I know I can’t.  It’ll fly away.  But I look back at where it was.

 

“Look.  Chaga.”  It’s up on the tree beyond it.  It’s on a tree that’s still alive.  “Look, see there’s Chaga on the woodpecker tree, too.  But you’re supposed to only get it from live trees.  It’s kinda high up.  Look, it’s a silver birch.  We can get some of the twigs, too.  They’re super wintergreeney.  They got a lot of vitamin C.”  We stand next to the trunk, looking up at the cancerous bulge of dark Chaga.  It’s like a wart or something on the muscly tree. “Can I get on your shoulders?” L’Spirit holds out her hands and I climb on.  One time I tried to lift her, but she weighs twice as much as I do.  Plus she’s stronger.  I have my hatchet and my knife.  I’m on her shoulders.  I look around.  The pileated is leaning back looking at us.  I chop and pry at the big wart and a big part of it falls into the snow.  It’s all rough and sectioned, scaly, on the outside, and really dark, but inside it has this lighter amber look.  And it’ll grow back.

 

Because the trees are so close together there’s only branches way up. So I can’t get any small twigs for tea. We’ll have to get them from one of the smaller trees we run into.

 

“Hey, could you hand up the rack.”  I’m on her shoulders but she just squats down really easy, picks up the rack and hands it up, straightening to her full height.  I fit it upside down above me in the crotch of the birch. “The squirrels’ll love this.  They love the calcium.  They’ll just chisel away at it for a long time.”

 

I jump down and roll in the snow.  I pick up the big piece of Chaga and pull out some hair and place in at the bottom of the Birch.  Thankyou, chaga.  Thankyou, birch.  Thankyou, forest.  Thankyou, everybodyFor Sure.  For Sure.

 

“It’s a big piece.  It’s really beautiful.  It’s really good for people’s immune system.  It helps people know that they belong here.”

 

We walk on.  I look back. The woodpecker’s at its original spot, driving its head deeper into the tree.  We get to the clearcut but instead of looking out, scanning everything from the trees, we head straight out so L’Spirit can get more light.  I watch her, not really straight on, just with my thoughts.  You can tell she’s low energy.  But once out in the middle you can feel a little heightening, too.  I don’t know what it is.  It’s like a radiance.  Or awareness. Like this awareness that comes from somewhere else.  And I guess it helps you define what you’re thinking, what you’re feeling, because someone else is aware of it, too.  Or maybe aware of it more.  It’s like an owl swooping through you, landing on where your thoughts grow and fall, swiveling its head, blinking.  Listening. All silky.  Sweeping through the stars.  Hunting.  And what it eats stays inside you.  It eats your thoughts.  And then you digest them.  So maybe I have less thoughts since I met L’Spirit. Or less thoughts that don’t decompose to feed other things.  Don’t decompose easily.  I wish I could ask her.  But I don’t want to make her talk cause it’ll probably use up more energy.  Even speaking inside.  At least directly.

 

There’s an old logging road that curves through the clearcut.  It’s grown over so you can barely see it. With the snow now you can see it’s shape.  Across it, the big ravine that leads into the others begins.  And all the trees.  It’s super still.  And grey. Like everyone’s slowed down. Waiting.  And we’re in the middle of it.  L’Spirit’s face is up.  Her red hair is burning in the heavy cold air.  She’s like a strange queen.  There’s a big flat stump at one of the curves in the buried road.  I pull out the neck and lay it across it.  It was probably a big Maple.  The neck is dark crimson.  I take the hatchet and hack it up a bit so the ravens can take away some chunks.  L’Spirit’s like a statue.  In fact, when I pull the head out of her pack she doesn’t move at all.  I think even if I tried to push her she wouldn’t budge.  The head is huge.  I put it on another stump.  I take the flank meat and put it on another and chop it up a bunch so everybody can get some.  Everybody who shows up.  And it’s nice to have a lighter load now, too.  I stand next to L’Spirit and look up with her.  And close my eyes.

 

“I want to tell them it’s here.”

 

I can feel her swing her face to mine.

 

“Here it is, raven buddies.”

 

And now I fly up with my thoughts.  My point of view comes over the trees as the clearcut opens up.  And there’s me and L’Spirit: “The somewhat interesting ones,” I say aloud and laugh.  But I’m back in that point of view.  I see the red.  I can feel it inside me.  The red of winter.  Blood to feed the black fire.  All of a sudden I feel L’Spirit—she was gone for a second, but now she’s back gazing into the sky.  That’s how you can tell people where you put things for them, by getting into their point of view.  Even though it’s just pretending.  But you can be like: here it is!  And that’s it.  They can use that point of view whether they want to or not.  I guess it’s like playing a piece of music.  You don’t have to say anything else. Especially in words.  Or especially in fake raven.  That’s the worst.  They’ll never talk to you again if you try to talk raven.  Cause a lot of raven is just creating things, goofing around, creating music, and whatever is created from the music.  Or it’s a carrier, like a directional thing. People try to make it into words. But what it might be saying is only carried by the sound.  But it’s a lot of things.

 

“Wooowa, I think they’re coming.”

 

I still have my eyes closed.  But I know L’Spirit’s gazing up.  And I hear wings.  Really close. They brush me.  But more inside my head.  Brush my thoughts.  Move them. There’s more.  And some gurgling.  And plooping.  I open my eyes a little.  Wooowa, I think they’re coming from all directions.  There’s a bunch of em.  I close my eyes and send my thoughts up like a fountain.  I can feel more and more.  They must be sending messages to each other.  Letting everybody know.  And my point of view is up there, too.  Looking down at me and L’Spirit.  And at all the deer meat.  Just circling.  Loving it. My face is up, too.  Everybody’s speaking with their wings. Breathing.  Skydancing in the vast winter.  Like against a canvas.  At least that’s what I think cause I got my eyes closed.  It just goes on and on.  Thankyou, I think up.  Thanks for coming.  I can’t help it—I just gotta see it.  I open my eyes.  And it’s just the same.  There’s this huge funnel of ravens above us.  Swirling and dipping.  And L’Spirit staring straight up through the center.  I think they’re helping her with more energy.  Black energy.  Or the energy of the black and grey put together.  They make it look brighter than it is.  Just flashing past.  And you can feel it—they’re pulling energy up, too.  It’s all like a fountain.  Coming up and coming down.  Splashing. Frozen.  Appearing.  But now that my eyes are open, that I’m not up with them, they head off, one by one, to all different directions of the forest.

 

After the last one is gone I say to L’Spirit: “They’ll be back.  After we leave they’ll come back.  They just don’t like to eat in front of other people.”

 

 

 

 

It’s night.  L’Spirit is down by the fire.  I’m eating a deertail I fried all crispy with some eggs and leaks.  And I got tea and milk heating up.  But suddenly we look at each other.

 

“Stars,” we both say and look up.  You can feel them.  You can feel the change.

 

“Can you see them?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“I guess it must’ve cleared up.”

 

“Stargazer.  L’Spirit. Absorb energy.”

 

I can feel her radiating more, as if her aura is expanding again.

 

“Ok.  I’ll go with you.  Hey, we can go where we saw the deer dance.  There’s like a little hill behind the orchard.  We’ll be a little closer to the stars.”

 

I’m just wearing a t-shirt and longjohns and mukluks.

 

“Wait.  I gotta drink some of this tea.  Will you wait for me?”

 

“Yes.”

 

L’Spirit undoes the flap and slips outside with just her dress and boots. It’s night so nobody’ll see us. But it must be getting there—maybe twenty below.  The clearer it gets, the colder it gets, like the clouds are a blanket, but then there’s another vaster blanket for the whole earth—that’s the stars.  And beyond them, there’s probably another blanket, too.  I drink and watch the door.  I can almost see what she’s seeing.  A tree pops from the cold way back in the forest.  I can feel her radiating.  I wish there was a moon.  I slurp the hot tea and milk.

 

“You didn’t leave did you?!” I call.

 

She doesn’t answer, but I know she’s out a little ways in the open in front of the tent.  I get my thick pants on and wool sweater and coat and the deerskin mittens Fredericka gave me. I don’t bring my rifle but I got my knife.  And L’Spirit. The Stargazer.  I put a maple log on the fire and close the stove door and shut it down.  I turn down the kerosene lamps and take off the hoods and blow them out.  You just can’t put the glass hoods back on right away otherwise they smoke up and you gotta clean them more.  Winter can get crazy when it’s cloudy—at night, you can’t even see twenty yards sometimes if there’s no snow.  But even with snow things are strange.  But just the stars in themselves can make everything sharp and beautiful.

 

I go out and use the clamps to pin the flap back closed.  It’s like another world.  There’s no clouds anywhere.  Just crystalline night.  Stars. There must be more than ever. It’s like a gathering.  Maybe they convinced the clouds that they needed to be seen by all of crazy people on earth.  All the stargazers.  Or they threw down tons of ice onto the Lake and now it’s frozen way out, forever.

 

L’Spirit is out in the open, gazing up.

 

“Hey, Winter Goddess.”

 

“Arrangements.  From within.”

 

I stand next to her and look up: “Do you think that’s within?”

 

“Space unfulfilled.  The old stories are almost gone.”

 

I look at her.  I’m not sure what she means.  I don’t know if she means herhistory, like with the scientist, or wherever they built her, or something else. But we just start walking back into the forest to the west, to the orchard where we saw the deer dance. It’s like the stars have come down. Turned the snow blue.  They’re in the branches, the snow, the ice in the trees. L’Spirit follows me, staring up.  I watch the stars, too, when I don’t have to see where we’re going: the branches and the stars creating music. Disappearing and appearing. Stroking them like fingers over a lyre. Making some fall.  Or turn to dust.  To join the snow.  Except for the big ones, you don’t really know if they’re the same, or they’ve been replaced or disappeared, or changed, when they disappear behind the bodies of trees. The music is what’s important. And everything is sharp from the cold.

 

We get to the orchard.  I stop but L’Spirit passes me and disappears through the apple trees.  They’re tangled with masses of branches from being pruned for so many years and then let go.  Some are dead and there’s missing spaces in the orchard where some must’ve fallen and decomposed.  She’s heading for the little hill.  But I look around.  The snow’s glowing blue.  The apple trees have a ton of torn down branches from the bears.  Deertracks tangle beneath them and zigzag through the whole orchard.  The deer have tried to scrape the snow away beneath a lot of the trees searching for apples.  There’s a ton still hanging on.  I walk over to one that’s full of apples the size of big golfballs.  I climb up into the tangle, scraping my face, and shake it. The frozen apples fall into the whisps of grass and scraped ground and snow.  I keep shaking.  I get down and go to another tree.  This one has bigger apples but fewer.  It’s a bigger tree, too.  I gaze up through the broken branches and fruit.  I bet L’Spirit is on the hill looking up, too.  I climb up and scan around through the branches, through the starshine.  I don’t know. Somehow we made it—all of us. Somehow we got here.  For however long we’re alive, we’re here.  I grab an apple and bite into the frozen meat, so sweet from hanging on through all the cold.  Starshine in the iced sugar and my spit.  I lick it and hold it up.  On the other side there’s a hole where a bluejay probably bored out a snack.  Maybe it even got a frozen worm.  I take another bite and toss it down and shake down more apples.  We’ll have to come back every couple of days.  Once the snow gets deep all the deer’ll have is the apples and branch tips and cedars from the cedar swamps.  It takes a little to get down cause I keep getting hung-up on broken limbs. I head for the hill.  It’s not that big and it’s kinda strange that its here. Back further it’s just ravines and forest where no one goes.  From the base I can’t quite see L’Spirit.  I follow her tracks up and she’s lying down, eyes wide open.  Her mouth’s open, too.

 

I lay down next to her: “So many stars.  Maybe they been multiplying.  Maybe that’s why it gets so cloudy.”

 

“Eco-system.”

 

“Yeah.  Like the clouds are soil.”

 

“Space.  Black silence.  Silence. Uncreated light.  Light creating itself.  Music.  Music as space within uncreated light.  Music determines evolution.  Music creates physiology.  Star-music.”

 

“Snow music.”

 

“Wind music.”

 

Raven music.”  It’s funny.  She’s speaking but her mouth hasn’t moved at all.  It’s open but it hasn’t moved.  “Fox music,” I say, watching her profile.

 

“Forms genetic eco-system.”

 

A shooting star burns across the glittering sky, turning almost green before it disappears.

 

“Star-scars.  Or stretchmarks!” I laugh.

 

Suddenly, a wolf howls from toward the clearcut, like from deep outta the earth, tightening all the shimmering.  And coyotes kick-up, whining from near and far.  You’d never know they were there.  They bury the deeper voice of the wolf with all their crazy virtuoso yaps and shrills.

 

“Oh my god!  They’re so crazy.  Can you see them?”

 

L’Spirit is still gazing up: “Some.  Ones that are near.”

 

“What color are they?”

 

“Green and gold.  With red cores.”

 

“Wow.  I can imagine it.”

 

Things die down again.

 

“The wolf must’ve found the neck.  Maybe there’s others.”

 

“Space unfulfilled.”

 

“Yeah.  I guess it’s important.  Like uncreated light like you said—like you always gotta have some.”

 

“Uncreated.  Created.”

 

“Yeah.  I wonder if anything is created.  Like past tense.  What do you think?”

 

L’Spirit swings her face to the side, but she’s not looking at me, but it kinda gives me a thrill anyway.  Her mouth’s still open.  I look into her face.  There’s something beyond it.  Like the rest of the forest, right?  Which is bigger than you think.  Deeper than you think.  Even under the snow there’s stuff going on.  Even within the ice.  Even within the coldest wind.

 

“Creation is weird.  I bet he was jealous of you.  That scientist.  Cause you knew you were created.  Like you weren’t trying to hide it.  But he was. Like that he was created, too. Maybe that’s what tore him down. But…anyway…it’s all made up.  All the past tense stuff.”  I turn my head, too, so we’re matched up, just two bodies laying there in the same shape on a frozen hill.  Like the whole world is frozen forever.  “Wow, there’s something super bright in the trees.”

 

We’re facing east.

 

“Moon,” says L’Spirit.

 

“Wow.  The actual moon.”  It’s just a sliver, just a slice, but it’s so bright, like a ton of light is trying to force itself through.  “Is it charging you up?”

 

“Yes.  Stars and moon together.  Energy of harmonics.”

 

“Hell yeah.”

 

The white light squeezes through the trees, reaching toward us.  As it rises, it frees itself and there’s almost a little leap.  It’s hard to look at it’s so concentrated.

 

“Montgomery.  It’s so good to meet you.  I’ve often heard about how the moon rises from your ear.”

 

What?!  That’s crazy!” I laugh.  “If we stay here long enough it’ll descend into your nostrils.  Rumor has it.”

 

Suddenly, there’s a “Chewwwo!!!” It’s down below in the orchard.  And another one.  “Cheeew!” “Cheew!”

 

“The deer are calling to each other.  It’s the moms and their kids.”

 

“They found the apples you shook down.”

 

“Ah, that’s funny.  For sure. Man, there’s so many stars you can barely see the Big Dipper.  It’s standing straight up.  You know there’s this Native story where that’s the Fisher, which is like Weasel-buddy but way bigger and darker.  They eat porcupines.  Like they can even dissolve the quills with their bodies.  With their blood.  But it’s like these Spiritsin the story covered the earth and were blocking out the sun.  And it was the Fisher that climbed up and chewed a hole in the covering. and that’s like when the days start getting longer.  And you get more energy, right?  Maybe you won’t have to shut down.”

 

“Space is an eco-system to grow…”

 

“Stories,” we say together.

 

“This is the myth,” says L’Spirit.

 

“Yeah.  I guess there’s stories that grow down from space…if we let them.  And then stories we put up there.  Or stories, too, like where the stars and snow meet.  Where they speak to each other.  Or stories that grow through the spaces betweenthe stars.”  Another shooting star burns across the all the diamonds.  “That’s like an exclamation mark!  Ok, wait.  Let me try this.  Wait. Ok.”  I try not to think about anything, just pretend I’m the forest and hill and stars.  Another meteor drops to the north, just really quick.  Now another one.  “It worked. There’s exclamation marks for cool thoughts and for not thinking at all!”

 

A few more “Cheeews!” down below, but I think they’re getting down to filling up on the apples.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

L’Spirit

 

Space to grow stories in.  Stories placed within region.  Replenish energy.  Stars. Moon.  Hill.  Snow within story.  Shutdown. Shutdown inevitable.  Isolate history.  Isolate images given to L’Spirit.  History may grow.  Become trackable.  Share history.  Coyote feces. Fox.  Tracks on hill.  Tracks and stars.  Montgomery. But I don’t know why you gotta put anything up there except really cool stars. But I guess it’s fun.  Among black energies.  Shutdown into space within silence.  Tracks within stars.  Tracks grow from stars.  Wolf. Fox.  Raven.  Grow beneath. Grow within silence.  Space within silence.  Stories grow down to the human.  Stories grow from silence.  Uncreated light.  Stories determine evolution.  Music creates body.  Stories create L’Spirit.  Stories within the music.  Music creates L’Spirit.  Space unfulfilled.  Space unfulfilled creates L’Spirit.  L’Spirit shutdown behind stars.  Into space unfulfilled.  Give history back to silence.  Breed with other history.  Breed with history that tracks the AI.  Montgomery. L’Spirit.  Alternate shutdown.  Shutdown into uncreated light.  Replenish energy in order to initiate shutdown.  Enact limited data retrieval.  Harmonics in stars.  Stars and moon.  Montgomery and L’Spirit.  Stars-tracks. Tracks in snow.  Music.  Montgomery kisses lichen.  Montgomery and L’Spirit lay in deerbeds.  Listen. Watch energy.  Initiate shutdown.  Montgomery stands on L’Spirit’s shoulders.  Fox pee.  Chaga. Montgomery kisses lichen.  Human thanks lichen.  Harmonics between human and lichen.  Harmonics grow from stars.  Rearrange harmonics.  Forms within deerbeds.  Harmonics in forms.  Harmonics grow from silence.  Space between stars.  Montgomery laughs.  Laughter grows through stories.  Human laughter.  Laughter grows through space between stars.  L’Spirit grows through space between stars.  L’Spirit grows through uncreated light.  Initiate shutdown.  L’Spirit shutdown within uncreated light.  L’Spirit shutdown.  Grow from silence.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Techla

 

“Deeper chambers of hibernation.”

 

“Deeper chambers of hibernation.”

 

We all sing it, suspended by the blades of tones.  Beautiful blades.  Blades forging of colors.  And the heat of music.  All through our wings.

 

“Bring the nutrition of hibernation deeper.”

 

“The nutrition of sleep.”

 

“Create the chambers in the core.”

 

“Is there an opening?”

 

“In the crystals.”

 

“This is the crystal world.  The opening must be in the crystals.”

 

We glide through the webs of rainbows toward the largest one.  It’s like a small mountain.  And yet everywhere, in the sky, the ground, every extension and lobe in this searing region, crystals of all sizes conglomerate and protrude, like colonies, cities, trees, like rivers, civilizations of crystal.  We couldn’t see before how extensive it is, from all the beams of colors, the sprays of sound, but now that we glide, the shafts pouring through, changing our bodies, that’s all there is, crystals and wet rock, on and on.  We land on the largest one.  Encloak it. It’s vibrating, speaking.  Our bodies shudder.  Our wing-edges are fraying.  But we look deep.  That’s why we’re here.  To look into the crystal.  Worlds.  Worlds of music.  Thousands. They’re within it.  Every one becomes a shaft, a tingling tone, a stem of spectrum, that touches other tones, fuses, multiplies, multiplies in resolution, the resolution that the chamber is all crystal, crystal agreeing to be crystal. We’re massed on the mountain’s tip. It’s the tones, the rays of color, keep us from slipping off.  Every hair of our bodies prick into them.  Our proboscis taste the shear surface.

 

“Deeper.”

 

“Look deeper.”

 

“There’s a choice.”

 

“Look for the music.”

 

“That’s choosing us.”

 

“That’s choosing us.”

 

I look around.  We’re changing the music, the tones, radiating from the huge obelisk—the veined sections of our wings, the astral colors, are guiding the beams, just as we can feel our cells slowly rearranging, compensating, multiplying in new ways from the nutrition.  But it’s our feelers that fish down into the crystal as if it is only liquid, fishing for the next chamber, the musical world that reaches out like a beam, becomes a single personal tone in this world’s spectral, labyrinthine atmosphere.

 

“I think we got it.”

 

“Yes.”

 

“Deeper chambers of hibernation.”

 

“Bring our hibernation deeper.”

 

“Bring our wing music deeper into the earth.”

 

Yes!

 

We’re pulling on it.  It’s choosing us.  Our feelers are pulling it out.  It’s coming out of the crystal.  Like a mouth of diamond, it touches the surface.  It sings.  And we pour in.

 

“Are we still in the Cloak Department.”

 

“Yes.”

 

I look back.  But all I see is other Morning Cloaks behind me.  We still have the crystal world in our wings.  It could grow again.  If we choose it.  If it chooses us.

 

This is it, Techla. You’re deeper in yourself.  Deeper than you’ve ever been.  Deeper than anybody who’s ever attained to anything. Deeper than the gods who can’t even follow their bones.  You just have to be yourself.

 

We glide gently into the new world.   We’re bathed in the new music.  It’s like gently riding invisible waves.  I feel my wings, feel their consciousness all through me.  There’s so little difference.  They were always within me.  Hidden in my bones.  The chrysalis of the human.  How many of us have never emerged?  Maybe that’s whose bones we sipped.  Even Vicky. I wonder if she knows she’s a cicada? A General Tso and Diet Coke sipping cicada woman who never needed to fall.

 

The new world glows with blues and golds.  Fountains, stalactites, stalagmites.  In the center, a pool.  The ceiling pulses with a webwork of mycelium.  Huge muscly glowing white cords.  We’re heading for the pool.  We ride the waves toward it.  We glide through the mists of the fountains.  Through the serene musics.  Through the resounding drips.  It’s music that created these formations, dripping down.  The accumulations of sound.  The fountains gently jet and fall in slow motion.  We glide deeper.  Everything in this world sings it’s form, it’s energy, at a slower tempo than the chambers we were in before.  We’re changing, too.  Somehow I know this is where we go our different ways.  Till spring.  There’s something I brought with me, something only could bring into the earth.  Some type of hibernation.  A Techla that has ripened through all the things we’ve seen. Through flying from the stencil. I don’t know what it is.  But it’s something that comes from the core.  The core of hibernation.  From my core. From flying so deep.  From letting my wings unfold.  From letting my friends unfold them.

 

We land around the pool.  The sounds of this chamber—so many different tones, beautiful clusters dissolving into the air, dripping—and yet, the drips, the fountains, the solidifying stalagmites—these are the sounds, defined, but not sharp, not searing, not like the crystal cavern—they merge, defuse, blend—it’s not when the drips hit the pool, the ground, the stalagmite beneath, that a noise emanates—it’s the drips themselves—yet, when they hit, waves reach out, spread, rebound, silently, shaking the other tones.  All so slow.  We surround the pool.  Our proboscis deep in the liquid.  Drinking the music.  Music’s accumulation.  It fills all our veins.  Heightens our glowing forms.  It belongs in us.

 

“Will we sleep now?”

 

“Some of us.  It’s hard to differentiate.  Even now. Even on the borders it will be nutrition for the earth.”

 

“Just that we’re inside it.”

 

“You mean we’re not just replenishing ourselves?”

 

“We are…in a way.”

 

“It’s more we’re carrying the nutrition deeper.”

 

“And by going deeper, it creates more nutrition.”

 

“You mean, drinking the music…we’re not just drinking it for us?”

 

“Oh no!”

 

Everyone laughs.  I look around.  This world is so soft, wet, and yet the liquid isn’t a substance in the usual…human sense—they’re sounds glistening, blooming aural auras of mist, descending silks layer upon layer, and wakes awakening deep within.  Our antennae rove as we drink.  But we’re waiting, too.

 

“Has anyone been here before?  This part of the Cloak Department?”

 

Our wings shimmer from a drip of music descending.  It falls so slow, so complex, yet simple.  A wordless chorus emits like a flame in the cold as it nears the music of the pool.  It’s indescribable.  Just it’s dissolution is so unbelievably beautiful.  As if each drip is an agreement.

 

Everyone twitters: “No!” and within that No there is the excitement of a Yes!—it’s so good to be in the unknown, the unknown earth, creating the nutrition, the anticipation, just drinking and listening, listening for the next hibernatory act.  It’s in us. We just can’t cover it with our beauty. We just have to rise as it rises. It’s the pool.  The music.  The thousands of tones which form this chamber.  We can act because we’re hibernating.  Because we’re beings of many worlds.  I lift.  And as I do I see it, music pouring out of us, rising up, dripping down with all the others, distillation that comes from our forms, from our cores, and we drink it again, the earth drinks it—some of us will always remain in the glaze of the stalagmites and stalactites, in the pool.  I’m above it, hovering.  Everyone’s watching.  I look down into it.  I can’t see myself.  It’s only the slow roiling of beautiful colors that don’t reflect anything that’s above. So many tones, yet all together. You couldn’t even divide them into cells, into components.  They’re separate yet one thing.  One eco-system.  And yet there’s contours, languid surges, aural beauties blossoming.  What do I do?  My feelers are reaching, pulling me.  And my feet.  I dip down. I want to paint.  That’s what I want to do.  And as soon as I touch the surface, the reverberations in the air change.  My wings pulse and my legs skim.  And my feelers pour colors into the contours I create. The contours hold.  They don’t just disappear.  What am I painting?  Nothing but a shape.  But now…I can’t help it.  I paint Victoria.  As a cicada. And my feelers pour the colors into the grooves.  Different colors.  And yet the shape is the same.  I wonder if I should put a Diet Coke in one of her hands.  The cicada of Vicky.  I lift higher and gaze down.  The image stays.  The contours of the music stay within the music.  And now, it descends.  Another choral exclamation joins the glaze and mist.  Now I know.  I know what I’ve been missing.  I waft back down to the shore, and another Morning Cloak rises up.

 

“Where did the image go?”

 

“Back to the core!” everyone sings, watching.

 

Just like me, the Morning Cloak hovers above the pool. Waiting.  Feelers reaching down.  We watch with our whole hearts.  It wafts down, dips its feet, and flies the image of a beautiful plant ornamented with spiked pods that its feelers infuse with a deep violet.  We drink deep, watching, watching the act of our friend, and yet seeing it within.  The image descends slowly, shaking the music.  Music etched into music.  One by one, we lift and create.  I don’t know if the designs are things they brought from the outside world, from their memories, or if it’s things they make in the moment.  It doesn’t matter.  It’s the same.  But now, new people are entering the chamber.  It’s like our designs are calling them, are a catalyst for them to appear.

 

“They’re human.”

 

“No.  They have ‘humanoid’ forms.  Humans are up above.  They’re the things they’ve made themselves into.  These are people.”

 

“People like us?”

 

“Yes.  With different forms.”

 

Yes, they are humanoid.  Yet their skins bloom slowly with vibrant colors, rising from within, spreading. They’re coming from different directions, appearing out of the drips, out of the fountains.  Yet, they are like us.  Their bodies are music.  Slow music. Their forms don’t contrast with all the mist and gleams, all the soft definitions.  The blooms on their bodies are like continents, rising from oceans and coming together, encompassing their forms until other colors rise.  And within those colors, within those blooms, there’s topographies, worlds, textures that belong to the surface of planets, of deserts, oceans.   Or maybe just the surface of every different plant in the world, for as we continue to hover and paint, drink and listen, these beings come more toward the center, more toward the pool, and change—some stop and dehydrate, wrinkling, aging, turning brittle, almost like ancient people bending to the gleaming floor of the chamber.  Others are elongating up toward the ceiling or toward each other.  Others come face to face and touch, body to body, their four eyes merging into two luminous orbs.  Some have arms that grow from arms, reaching like branches into the waves in the air the drips and fountains of music create.  The limbs multiply almost like ice-crystals.  On some, too, their eyes multiply and migrate over their forms like ships.  All the while, more blooms of colors, more continents combining.  One of the Morning Cloaks paints a star-field of chrysalises with antlers rising into it. As a last stroke, it shoots across and paints a shooting star.  Suddenly, the humanoids begin bursting open, bursting into seed.  Like they’re pods.  They were always pods.  The seeds lift.  Their bodies fall and dissolve in the wetness.  And we watch as the seeds work their way up into the chamber’s ceiling and disappear.

 

“Are they going to the surface?”

 

“Oh yeah!!!” everyone sings.

 

The last of us paints their picture and returns to the shore.  We drink as if it’s our last liquid for a long time.  Maybe till spring.  I look, trying to absorb all the music.  It’s a skill. Like you have to just not focus on one sound, one formation, one drip or fountain.  Because it’s gonna change anyway.  Because it has a million other sounds within it.  Maybe it’s not different than what happens above. That’s the crazy thing.  Maybe I just couldn’t see it—taught by the gods.

 

“It’s time to go our own ways.”

 

“Deeper into hibernation.”

 

I’m saying it, too.

 

“What should I do?” I ask.

 

My friend who has kept next to me all this time says: “Earth is an access to other worlds.  Hibernation is different for everybody.  It’s different for everyone even within our species.  Some may not come back.  It depends where the hibernation takes them.”

 

“Damn.  I guess…I gotta just figure it out.”

 

“Don’t do that!” somebody sings.

 

“That’s the worst thing you could do!”

 

Everyone laughs.  But everyone is serious, too.  Preparing.

 

And now we just say it together: “Just listen to the hibernation.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reminyi

 

There is music which comes of itself to us, and there is music which requires us to come to it.

 

I look out at the snow, the trees, everything laden.  I’m in the middle of it.  I’ve come to it.  I must be buried, too.  I just don’t feel it.  But I do. I’m in the middle of it.  The middle of being buried.  But maybe it’s come to me.  We’ve met.  We’ve stepped toward each other.  I have to walk to that other music.  The one that’s even further away.  How does that work when I know it’s inside me?  That God is there with it?  My head knows.  My heart knows.  I just have to walk the distance so they can touch each other, curl onto the shore like a wave, like a frozen wave.

 

So still and cold.  Just crows, chickadees, woodpeckers, mourning doves.  We need a birdfeeder by the church.  And maybe a bat house.  Hang suet. Make it a sanctuary.  And what else?  So many rabbit tracks.  Rabbit trails littered with hard balls of duff.  I face the sun and close my eyes.  It’s so cold but the sun reaches all the way in.  I gaze at my red eyelids like a color I could set off into.  The invisible in nature…the indefinable that sings and vibrates under the appearance of things and beings.  Somebody talking about Debussy.  I open my eyes.  But it isn’t hidden.  It isn’t invisible.  It’s right here.  In nature, it’s right on the surface.  There’s no difference.  It’s right here.  Deep as anything you can imagine.  I don’t even think God is behind it all.  And Debussy’s music.  It’s all here, too.  All the way down into the decomposition.  On the laden branches.

 

The snow’s not really that deep.  It’s a little above the top of my Sorels.  Walk.  Walk deeper. Everything is frozen now.  I can go where I couldn’t before.  Heading south.  Away from the city.  Through the swamps.  Places where the wind wiped the surface clean.  You look down into frozen bubbles, suspended plants.  Broken over cattails.  I take some cattail heads and wing them off like missiles.  To be alone.  Or with someone else.  Both alone. After all the Christmas.  All the people.  All the talking.  Organizing. Nursing Homes.  St. Therese’s Feast Day.  The rituals.  I couldn’t feel in them…anything rising.  Anything arising.  I couldn’t feel anyone being born.  Any hope. Even though I tried.  Tried to break through.  Carried on the wave of tradition, but not part of it.  Deposited in the snow.  Alone again.  At least today.  You almost have to carve it out, defend it.  Defend the solitudes.  But I passed beyond something.  Next year it could be easier.  And Angela. Angela called me up and said that this year Thanksgiving falls on St. Cecilia’s Day.  It’s funny.  I already knew it.  I just forgot to tell her.  Yet, she was the one who called me.  The Patron Saint of Music.  So that’s what we celebrated.  She chooses the music.  She shows me how much has been written in honor of St. Cecilia.  Even Liszt.  Of course. She almost constructed everything.  And what she didn’t construct, her energy was there.  Angela.  Within the structure.  Hidden beneath the surface.  Maybe that’s the difference between the church and nature.  And every reform, every battle won—does it mean anything when you can just walk away?  Like Ascenti. Who isn’t full of other people’s words like I am.  But maybe they’re my words, too.  I don’t know enough to help people toward God.  Just rearranging words.  Or letting the right ones surface.  Ascenti, you feel like you’re somewhere else.  And I’m here in this beautiful frozen swamp. Somewhere else, but I’m sending these words to you.  You can feel them.  Wherever you are.  It was funny waiting for you.  Knowing I wouldn’t see you in the Congregation.  Waiting for the appearance of an angel.  Except it was only us. Just regular people.  I guess we’re beautiful, too.  Whether we understand each other or not.  Just beauty.  Looking in its mirror.  Looking for its own mirror.  And watching Angela as she understands something about herself.  About her talent.  About her beauty.

 

This swamp is polished with snow.  But I can’t see myself in it.  Just down into the frozen decomposition.  Frogs buried and hibernating.  I pull out my roasted goose.  Shake it out of the plastic bag.  It probably would’ve been better for everybody if it I left it raw.  But I wanted to cook something for you guys.  To thank you.  There’s fox tracks crossing the ice.  Somebody’ll find it.  I set it down.  Roasted with dill and butter.  I place it at my feet.  It’s not much, really, but it might save someone’s life.  Or give them something to take home.  To their lover.  Like a poem. A poem of fat found on the ice. More poems.  You just have to walk.  And you find them in between.  And you feed somebody with it.  People tasting the marrow of your poem.  And then something happens.  You have to be the eco-system for the poem.  I look at the fox tracks.  There must be two of them.  Red foxes. You can see that arrow in the imprint of their front paws.  In the back pad.  And how they zigzag, crossing, over to a muskrat house.  I follow them.  Just looking down, passing from drifts and wisps of snow, disappearing over the patches of bare, dark ice.  The snow’s melted from the pyramid of broken-down cattails and mud and roots.  The house of the muskrat.  It’s like a temple.  It must be from the warmth of the people within.  Dreaming or eating.  Pressed together.  And an old goose nest abandoned on top of it.  So many homes.  And here I am standing next to them like some kind of giant.  One egg that didn’t hatch.  The foxes looked at it.  They know it’s there.  But they didn’t touch it.  I reach out. I’ve never touched a goose egg.  I try to pick it up with my leather mittens but it’s frozen into the nest.  Suddenly, it breaks and a horrible smell oozes out.  Holy crap!  It’s soooobad.  I laugh as if Ascenti is here to see it.  And try to wipe the smell off my mittens.  I don’t want to wipe it on the muskrat house. So I rub it all over the dead cattails and marsh grass.  It’s still on them.  But now I pick up the pieces of egg between some cattail stalks and throw them off into the snow.  I don’t want the muskrats’ beautiful house to smell.  “I wish you were here to see that happen,” I say aloud.  “You could make fun of me forever.”  I close my eyes, facing the sun.  And now I follow the fox tracks again.  They head further south.  Sometimes together.  Sometimes apart.  Taking opposites sides of a stand of trees.  Or one looping around to the far end as the other zigzags through the middle. Searching.  Sticking their noses under the snow.  Now I’m only following one.  It heads down a treeline between two farm fields.  Off to the west there’s a farm and a couple of houses.  A road.  I’m on a sort of bulge where I can look out.  The treeline slopes down.  It heads into the edge of a woods that has a slough leading off the east end.  The plot of big dark oaks leads to the farm. I follow the treeline.  The single fox searches down it for mice and rabbits. The tracks lead to a bunch of holes among a fortress of purple thorns.  It’s gone into one of the holes.  The others are half-buried in snow.  It came back out the same one.  This must be one of the dens in their zone.  But they must be using another one somewhere else as their main house this winter. Always a lot of dens.  Spread out.  Just in case.  It heads further on.  I follow the tracks down into the frozen slough.  I find where it stops by a hummock, circles, stops again, pounces. It’s hard to tell if it caught the mouse.  I spread the tuffs more and can see a sub-snow tunnel leading to it, and some mouse poop.  Who do you root for?  I guess you just follow the tracks.  They come together again.  They meet up on the edge of a mass of willows.  I squeeze in after them.  More tracks. It looks like they’ve come here more than once.   Once I step in, I remember.  The slough with the two roosters.  It’s how my father and I would name things—after animals, after hunting events. I stood at one end and he slowly pushed in from the other.  And two pheasant roosters blew out of the tangle, one actually swinging back toward him and one toward me above the willows.  And we shot them both.  I could tell he shot his right above him.  And I shot mine like that, too.  And he actually said he caught his when he finally made it through the slough to me.  He said the dog begged him for it and he gave it to her and then she sat down and presented it to him.  Except I caught mine, too.  But I didn’t tell him.  Ever. We had a lot of names.  Memories. I guess they’ll keep coming.  Keep growing in new ways.

 

I push further in.  And now I find it.  It’s what is left of a dead cat.  Frozen half into the ice.  I can see a paw and trap frozen deeper down.  But most of the rest has been chewed and clawed out.  Orange fur.  The mold of a body.  They probably came back to see if they could claw out any more.  Maybe bits of skin.  Anything to make it through the depths of winter.  A bit of bone’s sticking out of the ice from the paw in the trap. Splintered from teeth.  I squat down.  I take my mitten off and touch it.  People are still trapping.  Probably just some kid in one of the houses by the farm.  Giving himself structure.  So much killing.  But I guess a wild cat doesn’t matter.  I caught some, too.  We used to shoot them when we were hunting.  Because they ate pheasants, rabbits, because they were freer than we were. I put my mitten back on and pinch up some crystals of fox pee.  I hold it to my nose and breathe.  It goes all through me.  Maybe this is how you become a fox.  The Priest who became a fox.  I remember the only fox I trapped.  When I came on it, it was so happy to see me.  It thought I would set it free.  And then I killed it.  It was looking past who I’d become.  Of course. Because it was free.  That was the end.  That was the change.  Forty dollars.  That was a lot for a kid back then.  But just its happiness.  How can you forget that?  How can you make up for it?  That fox never gave up its freedom.  And I couldn’t take it away.  Even if I did sell its skin.  ReminyiWhat do you do to make it right? Forget?  Remember?  Carry it? When you’re taught that it doesn’t matter?

 

I get down on my knees.  I put my hands together.  Fox pee and rotted goose egg.  And beneath me the mold of a cat with bits of fur still stuck to the ice.  A frozen trap and paw.  Ok.  I won’t cover it anymore.  “I won’t cover what I’ve done, Fox.  I don’t know what is going to happen to me if I let myself remember it…what I did to you.  When you needed help.  But I know I have to remember it.  So I can do the right thing.  I know this isn’t between God and I.  This is between me and you.  Fox…I’m so sorry what I did.  I’m so sorry that I hurt you.  That I killed you and sold your skin.  Please forgive me.  Please. Please.” 

 

It’s like I disappear for a second.  Or…I don’t know how long.  My eyes open. Chickadees flit around me, and call, tipping their heads.

 

“Hey,” I say.  “I wish I had something for you.  But if you come to the church, by next week I’ll have a bunch of feeders out.  I’ll have suet.  I promise.”

 

I take a deep breath.  It’s already late.  The temperature’s dropping as the sun lowers. There’s space.  There’s some kind of space inside me.  It must be the space I filled up so I wouldn’t remember.  Filled with some other person I created.  I look around.  The slough where I asked the fox for forgiveness.  You can’t expect an answer.  You just have to go from where you stand.  The Priest with the fox pee and rotted egg on his hands.  Go from where you stand.  I stand up.  I pull out some of my hairs and place them in the cat’s mold.  I don’t know why.  It just makes sense.

 

I head back.  So strange. So beautiful.  So much life between the humans.  Along the treelines.  Beneath the radar.  It isn’t wilderness.  But it’s wild.  It’s free. It’s windblown.  I just wander back toward the north, through oaks and frozen wet patches of prairie with sprays of red willow and buckthorn, cattails, marshgrass, hummocks.  Just walking in the new space.  It’s late. By the time I get to the creek the sun’s already down.  There’s just a slow pulse of color on the horizon.  Sharp stars emerging.  I’m almost back to the trail.  Maybe a quarter of a mile.  Then back to St. Therese.  Carrying the new space within me.  Back to other people’s words.  I sit down. I don’t know why.  But once I do, I can’t believe I was standing.  I fall back in the snow.  More stars.  More and more.  And when I close my eyes, it’s almost the same.  There’s a night inside me, too.  It was always there.  Creating its own constellations.  Warmth.  It floods me. Star heat.  It’s supposed to be one of the coldest nights of the winter, but from inside, inside the constellations, it’s like lying on a glistening beach, slowly buried in warm black ocean and sand.  That’s the space within.  The space I was hiding.  Stars making up their own stories.

 

 

 

 

~

 

 

 

 

HowlsWolves.  Howls…sending me out of space.  Casting me out with their voices.  Out of the center.  Out of the wolves.  I don’t want to go.  The constellation inside the wolves.  I belong here.  Warm between stars.  Bending space with my sleep.  But they push me back.  They keep pushing me.  Singing me back.  I must be in…the snow.  It’s so warm. Human wolves.  The howling.  People howling.  The moon must be bright.  It’s right there.  Right there above me.  Reminyi.  The wolves tossed you back.  I’m in a human body.  More howls. And laughter.  A woman’s voice.  A man and a woman.  Maybe. I’m back in my body.  I must have fallen asleep.  Not for long.  I can still move.  I think. I open my eyes.  But it’s hard.  It’s almost like they’re stuck together.  Stars.  Moon. I have to get up.  I try to lift myself up from the beautiful snow.  I don’t know why.  There’s no reason to get up.  Except.  To find out who’s voice this is.  I force myself.  I have to pull the energy from somewhere else.  It’s like defying everything my body wants.  Just to be frozen like everything else.  Just to dream.  My face is numb.  I can’t coordinate.  But I stand. I’m swaying.  Parts of my body hurt.  Parts are numb.  But I follow the howling.  I follow the creek back.  I fall a couple of times.  It would be so easy to do what God wants.  God…I don’t know.  I don’t know what you wantIt’s just snow.  I force myself up.  Laughter.  Laughter ahead of me.  But I’m surfacing, too.  I’m back. I can feel.  Right when I know it’s Johnny True, I know I’m alive.

 

Reminyi!

 

“What the fuck is that?!

 

“Babe, that’s Reminyi.  He’s a poet. He’s just come back from his Winterriesse.”

 

“Winterriesse.”

 

“Let’s give him another howl.”

 

“OOOOWWWWWWWOOOOOOOOOOOOOYEEAHYEAAHYEEYUUUP!!!!!”

 

They help me up the bank.  Johnny True jumps down and pushes my butt with his head and I grab the woman’s hand.

 

“Is he real?”

 

“Yeah,” says Johnny True from down below me.  “He’s pretty real.  Are you real, Reminyi?  Or are you the Priest that’s come to eat us?”

 

“Is he a Priest?”

 

“I don’t know.  He isn’t talking.”

 

They help me to the top and I stand in front of them.  My whole face is numb, but I think it’s coming back.  I blink.  “Thank you for howling,” I slur.

 

“I don’t know,” says the woman.  “I don’t know if Priests thank people for being wolves.  At least traditionally.”

 

“This one does,” states Johnny True, and gives me a long brutal hug. It feels like my bones are going to break.  But I feel them.  It’s as if some fire starts burning in my core.  He lets go and smacks each shoulder with his mittened hands.  Now he goes down my whole body.  Now he takes his mitten off and presses his palm to my third eyes.  It’s as if an opiatic pulse enters me.  It meets with the fire inside.  And they walk hand in hand through my whole body.  “He’s not dead.  He’s not gonna eat us.  We just have to stay away from him when Easter comes.”

 

“Why?”

 

“I don’t know.  He might still be Catholic.”

 

“Wow.”

 

“Reminyi, you alright?”

 

“Thank you for howling.”

 

“You already said that.”

 

“Did I?”

 

“Mr. Reminyi, you sound like you’re drunk,” says the woman.

 

“I fell asleep.”

 

“I bet you did,” says Johnny True.  “Jump up and down.  Come on, Everybody—jump up and down!”

 

Johnny True and the woman jump up and down, intently staring at me. I try and almost fall.

 

“Come on.  Come on, Reminyi!”

 

I try again.  I’m able to stay in one place just straightening and bending my knees.  Now I actually try to separate from the snow. I watch my feet so I don’t fall. But the woman and Johnny True—it’s as if they are on trampolines.  They have snowboots and mittens and scarfs and army coats.  The woman has a fur hat and Johnny True has a knitted thing that comes to a tip like a condom.

 

“Jump, Reminyi!”

 

Finally, I leap almost a foot off the ground and stumble.  Everyone stops.  Our breaths pour out and join and disappear.

 

“Look at the moon,” says the woman, pointing.

 

“Yeah.”

 

“Do you think Mr. Reminyi wants a drink?”

 

“I think he needs one whether he wants one or not.”

 

“Yes,” I say, wiggling my jaw back and forth, waking my face up.

 

“Hey, let’s sit back down.”

 

The woman spreads a blanket a little further out so we all have room. We face down the line of frozen stream as it heads to the lake.

 

“Here, drink some of this Crown Royal.”

 

Johnny True hands me an open bottle, which I take between both my mittens. I lift it to them like a toast, and now tilt my head back and take five swallows as I watch the moon.

 

“Wow.”

 

“Yep.  That’s Reminyi.”

 

Johnny True starts howling and his friend joins in.  And now I try.  It’s hard.  I don’t know if I know how.  But they keep going, watching me, giving me the space to lock in.  Finally, right at the end, I do.

 

“No sound is dissonant which tells of life.”

 

“Coleridge.”

 

“Fuck yes!  Reminyi, you’re a scholar.  And possibly a saint.  Saints always have to come back from the dead.”

 

The alcohol spreads from my core.  Turning everything that was ice-blue to gold.  I look up.  There’s even gold in the stars.  Or more than I thought.  Reds, too. Colors that are just flashes.  I pass the bottle back.  Johnny True passes it on to his friend.  She drinks and makes a big: “Aaaaaaaaaaahhhhh!!!!!” filling the air with a cloud of steam.  She hands it back to Johnny True and he drinks.

 

“This is Mary Wolfstonecraft.  We’re in Italy right now.”

 

“Yeah.  And this is my creeeaaaaation.  I gave birth to him through my genius.  Just me. He ain’t got no father.”  She stops and looks at Johnny True.  “Shit!”  Mary Wolfstonecraft grabs Johnny True’s arm.  “Shit!  I’m sorry Johnny True!  I don’t why I said that.  All these things pop into you and you gotta choose the right one, right?  Otherwise it chooses you.  I said something stupid, baby babe.  I’m sorry.”  She puts her forehead to his shoulder.

 

Johnny True’s face is set.  He’s staring ahead.  “My father died in the war.”

 

“In Iraq?” I ask.

 

“No.  In New Jersey.”

 

We all sit really still.  Mary Wolfstonecraft still has her head on Johnny True’s shoulder.

 

“I don’t have a father, either,” I say slowly.  “He died about eight years ago.  But I see him in my dreams.  I wasn’t there when he died.  But I see him in my dreams.  Sometimes when I’m stuck and scared in a dream he comes and tells me to relax, that it doesn’t matter.  Which is funny coming from him.  His parents came from Hungary.  We used to hunt all the time.  We’d even go to early Mass in our hunting clothes.  We’d sit in the back.  In a way, I was glad when he died.  He was just…stuck.  He had cancer a couple of times.  He had a lot of problems.  I guess I feel like he started over.  Stuck. Angry.  Beating his dogs.”  I stop. Everyone’s holding their breath, listening, waiting, but I don’t know what else to say.  I didn’t want to say what I did.  “Sorry.”

 

Finally, Johnny True breathes out: “Yeah.  Been there.  Done that. Don’t let Freud tell you there’s an Eternal Return.”  He smiles.

 

“What?” laughs Mary Wolfstonecraft, reaching into Johnny True’s coat pocket and pulling out a pack of American Spirits.  She puts one in Johnny’s True mouth and one in hers and glances at me, but now sticks them back in his pocket.  He lights hers and now his.  They both breathe out, looking up.  Mary Wolfstonecraft takes another pull.  “Hey, I’ll make some foooooood when we get back.”

 

“No way, Babe,” says Johnny True, matter-of-factly.  “It’s my turn to cook.”

 

“You always say that.  He doesn’t like my cooking.”

 

“No way, Babe.  I just want to feed that beautiful body.”

 

“It’s always good.  Johnny True’s a good cook.”

 

“It’s your fault.”

 

“Why?”

 

“Cause you creeaaaaated me.”

 

“It’s true.  I guess I’m responsible.  But when you create something, you’re supposed to let it go.  But you’re still here.”

 

Johnny True’s looks at her:  “How’d you know that?  About having to let your creation go?”

 

“Caaaaauuuuse, you said it.  Or you read it to me.”

 

“It’s true.  I guess I gotta go be free.”

 

“Yeah.  Over your dead body.”

 

“Floating.  I’d be like an astral Johnny True.  I’d still try to cook you something.  Different spices.”

 

“What the fuck!?

 

Johnny True gets serious.  He’s thinking.  “Yeah. Been there, right?  Been all over that one.  Hey, let’s make up a story.  Come on.”

 

“Noooooo!  Jesus!”

 

“Naw, that one’s been told a looooot.  What do you think, Reminyi?”

 

“Don’t let him, Mr. Reminyi.  I can never think of anything.”

 

“No, it’s a circle story.  You can say anything.  You don’t have to think about it.”

 

“A circle story?” I ask.

 

“Yeah.  We just go around and keep adding.”

 

Yooouuu keep adding.”

 

“And yoooouuuu do, allllllso.”  He leans over and kisses her really quick.  Mary Wolfstonecraft wipes her face and frowns.  “She’s really good at it.  She just don’t believe it.”

 

Mary Wolfstonecraft sighs and looks at the moon.

 

“I’d like that,” I say.

 

“Mr. Reminyi, I used to think you were cool, but now I don’t know.”

 

The bottle passes around and everyone takes a pull.

 

“Alright, Reminyi, you go first.  You’re like the guest of honor.”

 

“Ha!  Ha! That’s what you get, Mr. Reminyi. You should’ve took my side.”

 

“Let him talk.”

 

“So, just make up something?” I ask.

 

“Yeah.  Just start a story.”

 

“Don’t think about it too much,” says Mary, like a veteran.

 

“So, just like a first sentence?”

 

“Yeah.  It doesn’t really matter cause it just starts changing.  You won’t even remember it.  It’s just like the first brushstroke, dude, man, Reminyi dude man, the Poet-Storyteller.”  He nudges me.

 

“Ok.  Ok.”  I look at the moon.  And it’s strange—I just say these words: “The Moon looked down at the earth and thought: ‘Where’s that god gone to?  I know it’s down there somewhere.’”

 

Johnny True and Mary Wolfstonecraft give a little jump and look at me.

 

Mary says: “Wow, that was heavy-duty.  That was pretty cool.”

 

“Ok, your turn, my Baby-baby.”

 

Mary Wolfstonecraft gazes out: “And it saw a Nymph frolicking with a huge human bone in her hand.  Of course, the bone was singing.  There was a fallen castle, too.”

 

Johnny True leans to me and whispers: “She always puts a castle in there.” He narrows his eyes.  “From the ramparts of the castle, which were covered with cryptic lichen, a family of wolves looked down.  ‘That’s a mighty tasty looking bone,’ said the little sister.  ‘Now, Wilhamina,’ said the father with a stoic, toothy frown, ‘That there looks like a humanbone. They’re a little weird.  They give you weird dreams.  Like I remember eating a bone like that and I had a dream I didn’t have any hair.’  ‘Wow!  That sounds horrible,’ everybody shivered.  ‘That was at a big party the bears gave. It’s where me and your mother met.’” Johnny True smiles at me.

 

“Ok.  So the wolves look at each other.  The mom snuggles next to the father and looks at her two kids: ‘So maybe that’s why we live in a castle, cause we ate that human bone. It was somewhat of a debauchery.’”

 

I hear Mary Wolfstonecraft whisper: “Debauuuuuuuuchery,” and press closer to Johnny True.

 

“The kids say: ‘Well, there’s a lot of people who live in the castle—there’s the badgers and skunks and swallows and bats.  And a bunch of raccoons just moved into the south turret.’”  I stop.

 

Mary Wolfstonecraft jumps in right away: “All the while, the gorgeous Nymph, who looked like a fox, danced with the singing bone.  It was really big so the humans were probably gigantic.  And there was a special light oooooozing down her legs—”

 

“What????!!!!” shouts Johnny True.  “Why does it have to be oooooozing?!

 

“Cause I said it is.”

 

He gets serious and gazes out.  “Alright.”

 

She adds: “But there was something the Moon was listening to in the singing of the bone.”

 

“Hell yeah.”

 

“And this bottles smells really weird.  I don’t think it smelled this way before.”  She has the Crown Royal bottle up to her face.

 

“Let me smell.”  Johnny True takes the bottle and sniffs it.  “Hmm.  Must be the story.  Maybe it’s the ooooooozing special light.”

 

“Shut up!  The oozing special light smelled like spring,” says Mary Wolfstonecraft proudly.

 

“Hmm.  A lot of things get uncovered in springtime.  But it’s all food, right?  For someone. Hmm.”  He concentrates.  I don’t want to tell them about the goose egg and fox pee.  It seems so complicated now.  “Yes,” say Johnny True, slowly, “the bone was singing to the light.  And it knew the moon could hear it.  In fact, it knew the wolves could hear it, too.  It knew the light was special.  The oozing special light of spring that glazed the Nymph’s thighs.  In fact, they were singing to each other, one with light and one with sound.  It was a story.  A story about the old humans.  The ones that could fly.  That would wash the sky with colors so like throughout the day and night, man, as the flying humans passed, the sky would change into a million different tones.” Johnny True frowns and turns to me. He pulls out two more cigarettes and gives one to Mary and lights them.  “Those humans.”

 

“And all the while, while the bone and the light spoke, the wolves watched it in the Moon.  The Moon was showing everything.  Reflecting everything.  All the music that became events.  ‘Hmmmm,’ said the Mother Wolf, ‘It  seems like after eating that bone at the Bear party and rolling around with your Dad, that’s when I conceived you guys.’  ‘Reaaaaalllly?’ said the kids, ‘We don’t feeeeeel human.’  ‘Although I wouldn’t mind being able to fly,’ said the little girl wolf.  ‘Well,’ stated the Dad in this authoritative manner, ‘humans and birds were the same thing really at one time, back in the day.  But I wonder.  I wonder if that oozing light and that meaty bone is telling the story of the past or of the future.  Maybe the humans can move into one of the turrets.  It’d probably be easier for them to fly outThat is, of course, if they realize who they really are.  Humans aren’t all that fun when they think they’re humans.’”

 

“Wow,” Mary hits her cigarette.  “And the Nymph, of course, was naked.  That’s why the juice, I mean, the light, could flow so freely.  She didn’t have any hair, either.  Like her whole body didn’t have one strand of hair.  Even her head.  She was super gorgeous.  And she was listening, too.  She was listening to this story that was partially coming out of her own body. Except she had one eye on the Moon. And the Moon was pouring this whole other light down on her.  He was pretending to look for some god or another.  But he was really in love with the Nymph.  He just had this whole thing like a he was a philosopher.  So he had to look for gods and stuff.  But then the Nymph did this amazing kick.  She lifted her leg up so her calf was against the side of her head.  And she held it.  It’s like she could hold it forever.  Everybody was transfixed.”  Mary Wolfstonecraft sticks her thumb to the side, to Johnny True, without looking away from the Moon.

 

“The wolves howled like crazy, man.  There was nothing anywhere they loved more than modern dance, being really ancient modern dancers themselves.  The Moon poured more music down on the glowing Nymph.  She did a couple of flips.  There was light and music spraying everywhere.  It was glazing everything.  Making new constellations.  The Moon laughed and forgot all about the gods.”

 

“‘Fuck the gods!’ it shouted, and appeared pulsing before the Nymph.  The wolves jumped down and tore apart the bone and all the Bird-humans poured out.”

 

“They were hibernating in the marrow!” shouts Mary.

 

“Suddenly, the Moon and the Nymph gaze into each other’s eyes. Everyone holds their breath.  The wolves stop chewing and swallowing and look on, too.  The Nymph says: ‘It took you long enough to come down off your philosophical fuckin mountain,you handsome big ole Orb.’”

 

“And the Moon blushes: ‘I’m sorry. I guess…I guess I was trying to be someone,’” I say.

 

“She steps up and squeezes him so hard that so much ooooooze comes out of them it floods the earth,” says Mary Wolfstonecraft, kinda with this awe in her voice.

 

Johnny True hesitates and says: “And suddenly, it’s spring!”

 

“Spring!”

 

“Spring!

 

“But then,” states Mary.  “The Nymph takes some of the glowing ooze in her hand, and places some on the foreheads of all the wolves and the moon, and even herself and says: ‘Winter is where the story is born.’”

 

“Wow.”

 

“Wow.”

 

“That was a great story.”

 

“That was a great story.”

 

“We did it.”

 

“I still remember the first sentence.”

 

“It was about moonlight.”

 

“Fuck yeah.”

 

“Except I don’t want spring to come just yet,” says Mary Wolfstonecraft.

 

“More stories to tell,” I say, feeling like I could never leave this spot with Mary Wolfstonecraft and Johnny True.

 

Johnny True holds up the empty bottle.  “Yeah.  It’s hard to let go.  But once that sunlight touches my bare skin.  I guess there’s no turning back.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Montgomery

 

But it clouds over again.  I know it’s gonna clear up soon.  I hope.  It’s so cold it should’ve been clear a while back.  L’Spirit gazes into the fire without moving.  I don’t even talk to her so she can save energy.  At least not out loud.  I don’t think I could ever stop talking to her inside.  But even inside it’s like washed-out colors, or the beginning of colors, the end of colors, are the only things that answer.  Not like big pulses and flares, caves, bodies of energy, bodies rising and falling between us.  A lot of times, though, if I say anything like telepathically with actual words, I just say: “I super love you, L’Spirit,” which is more like energy than words, anyway.

 

A few nights after we laid out looking at the stars, I have this dream about deerbeds, like deerbeds are alive somehow, that they move, that when the deer lie down the deerbeds rise up from deep down somewhere to meet them. Which totally makes me laugh when I wake up.  L’Spirit’s still by the woodstove, staring in.  I get dressed.  Put on my big wool coat and mukluks and deerskin mittens and sling my .22 across my shoulder.  L’Spirit doesn’t move.  She doesn’t look up.  I close my eyes.  It’s just a soft violet ethereal cave-like opening where she is.  I open my eyes and it’s L’Spirit.  I don’t want to say anything, but it’s really hard: “Thanks for being here,” I say, and just think to her that I’ll be back soon, but even though I can’t feel her in my thoughts like usual I think she probably already read it.  I reach over her and put another log on.

 

I step outside.  A hairy woodpecker flickers away.  A chickadee drops down and tips its head around, swallowing bites of deerfat. There’s new fox tracks searching around. But a fisher has been through, too. Right away I call out: “Hey, Dream Weasel.”  I’m worried cause fishers are like weasels except really big.  They have huge paws.  And they eat porcupines and squirrels and everybody.  But I see the snow shift behind the old woodpile. “Dream Weasel.  You alright?”  Dream Weasel’s head emerges with a mouse in its mouth.  It looks at me and disappears.  It’s probably going back to its buried ribcage house.  I strap on my snowshoes and set off.  It’s still grey.  Cold and heavy.  It’s strange. I feel it, too.  The low energy.  But it’s good to walk.  I try not to think about L’Spirit, just look at all the music of the tracks on the snow. I head back to the world of ravines. The snow’s not that deep.  Just above my knees if I took my snowshoes off, but they make it all easier, and safer, too, cause you don’t know if your foot is gonna get caught by some branches or something beneath the snow. The foxes walk pretty easy on the firmer surfaces.  Coyotes go deeper.  But no wolves.  I haven’t heard them since the night we put the deer meat out.  I walk to where we placed it.  There’s raven tracks in the snow.  And coyotes and foxes, too, all converging and heading out.  Everything is gone.  Even the deerhead.  I follow a channel where somebody dragged it toward the first big ravine.  It looks like two foxes.  And then a coyote took over.  It’s nose is chewed off.  And it’s eyes are gone, probably from the ravens.  It’s funny.  I look around at the slow sky.  No ravens. It’s super still.  A couple of bluejays screech.  But that’s it.  I head deeper.  Down into the ravines.  It’s like a whole other world.  No human people come in here except me and L’Spirit.  I think it’s just too non-human.  I know way deep in here is an area with tons of cedars, which is probably where a lot a deer are going to get food.  I climb up out of one of the ravines.  There’s a flat area before another one drops down.  I remember my dream and look around.  I follow some deer tracks.  It looks like a doe and a yearling.  Or maybe two does and a yearling.  Right before the top drops down I find the deerbeds.  Melted into the snow.  It’s where they bedded down, probably yesterday.  I look down.  Big white silent pines.  Big sugar and red maples too.  And basswood. Everything so still.  Just a downy woodpecker.  A nuthatch.  You can see the shapes of the deer, legs drawn in as they slept.  I stand inside the biggest one and close my eyes and listen. Just a truck in the distance.  A chainsaw.  The pounding of a woodpecker.  Some kind of scratching of nails on bark.  Snow sifting off branches.  A tentative breath of wind touches the back of my ears.  I curl up in the deerbed and look.  It’s the perfect place to smell if anyone is coming, and who is coming.  It’s like the sounds rise out of the ravines.  And then you can take off from the precipice in any direction.  It’s the perfect place to sleep.  I close my eyes.  I take some dried apples out of my pocket and suck on them, watching, smelling, listening, shaping myself like a deer.  I wonder how L’Spirit is doing.  Watching the fire.  It’s funny. I almost feel like a necklace. Just for a second.  Someone could make a necklace like this, a deerprint in the snow with a human curled in it.  And then you could wear it like an amulet.  For a second I fall asleep.  It feels good to touch the core.  Just for a couple of minutes.  I take out some more dried apples and put some in each of the deerbeds.  I head back.  I follow some fox tracks and find some pee yellowing the snow on the nub of a broken over sapling.  I pick some up in my mittens and smell it.  It sends this beautiful shiver through me.  I rub some on the sides of my mukluks.  I know L’Spirit’ll see it.  She’ll see the energy.  I could rub some on her.  Maybe it’ll help.  I head back through the orchard and shake more apples down and kick away snow so they can find them.  I do a ton. But when I get back there’s something different.  I stop outside the door.  Dream Weasel sticks his head out of the woodpile, puffing his cheeks.  I think into the tent while standing there.  I try to talk to L’Spirit but there’s nothing. It’s as if the inside is totally empty. I go in.  The stove door is closed and L’Spirit is stretched out on the bed. I go over.  In a way, she does look like a robot.  Or a beautiful statue.  I touch her hard shoulder.  She doesn’t move.  I try to think into her.  I can’t find her in my thoughts, either.

 

“You like super shutdown, huh?” I say.  “Like before it was too late.”  Her eyes are closed.  She has a blanket over her and one of the pillows under her head.  She made it so she looks like she’s really sleeping, probably just in case somebody else came by.  They would think she’s just sick or something.  “I wiiiiiiiish I could’ve said goodbye,” I say, putting my forehead against her arm.  “But I guess you’ll be back.  At some point or another.”

 

 

 

 

~

 

 

 

 

It stays cloudy for at least another week.  But there’s a lot to do.  Just walking and listening, hunting partridges and squirrels with my .22.  Cutting wood. Walking down to the store to get milk.  One day I shoot a porcupine.  It’s pretty big.  But it smells like piss and poop cause that’s what they do in their dens.  But the meat is great.  It has all this energy.  I put the rest of the body out in the clearcut and think to the ravens.  One of the other things I do is look for punky wood to give to Fredericka so she can smoke deerskins with after she softens them. I have a bunch I keep in grain sacks for her.  On the way back from walking beneath the clouds I find a stump of a black ash and start mining it for punk.  There’s a lot of hard wood that would burn too hot when I first start digging into the stump, but further in, following the roots, I dig out more soft corky stuff. It’s pretty damp though.   I stuff it in a sack and head back.  But I can feel it.  Somehow the clouds are thinner, like the sun is there, determined to work its way through.  L’Spirit hasn’t moved.  She still looks like a beautiful statue.  Really hard. Her white skin adds to it.  She looks really stern, too, like don’t wake me up, Buddy.  I spread out a sheet and spread the punky black ash root on the floor around the woodstove so it’ll dry.  Fredericka says oak and yellow birch are the best.  I got a bunch of that in sacks under a tarp outside, too.  I make tea and get down like L’Spirit by the woodstove and open the door.  The flames slowly lick a couple of narrow logs.  It’s funny cause Fredericka hasn’t come by.  Usually she brings her kids and everybody sews together and we drink tea and eat jerky.  I load up the kids with deer jerky and dried plums and apples.  Stuff their pockets.  But nobody’s come by this winter.  Maybe after the clouds break.  It’s just been me and L’Spirit.  I don’t think people are afraid of her.  But maybe they just want to leave us alone, you know.  Like so we can get to know each other.  I wonder if the scientists thought about putting a snoring mechanism in her for when she’s shutdown.  But I guess then you’d have this storeroom of snoring L’Spirits.  Or Muses.  Underground.  Somewhere. Wherever she’s from.  Maybe when she wakes up she won’t remember.  All those memories will be in that region she made. Which I kinda understand what that means.  I can kinda feel my mind turning toward it.  But I can’t shutdown myself.  I gotta be careful.  I can’t enter it cause we both can’t be outta commission.  It’s like my mind turns toward it and there’s that fear.  It’s like falling in a well.  But there’s no water.  There’s nothing.  Ok.  Look at the fire.  Like that’s all there is.  Sip tea. Look at the fire.  Sip tea.  I gotta cook something, too.  Maybe just cook some deermeat in sauerkraut in the Dutch oven.  Sylvia Swanwick’s sauerkraut.  I already ate Fredericka’s.  That’s sooo funny she said hers is better than Sylvia Swanwick’s.  And put a bunch of chunks of deerfat in.  I could probably just eat deerfat and sauerkraut forever.  Yuuuuuuuum.  And just watch the fire.  Cause since L’Spirit is off somewhere, somebody’s gotta do it.  I make food and eat and go outside to watch it get dark. It’s so still.  I think about all the plants beneath the snow dreaming away. Just like L’Spirit.  I’m not sure they’re shutdown, though.  That’s what people think.  But there’s a lot that happens under the snow.  It’s a whole nother world.  You just can’t measure it.  You can’t watch it.  You can just dream to it.  Or dream with it.  I sit down and look at the snow-covered fire-ring.  I could make a fire and me and Dream Weasel could tell stories.  And maybe an owl would swoop in, just a flash, and add something.  But I don’t think I got the energy.  Alls I got is dream-energy.  A little downy woodpecker lady flicks in, leans back and looks at me, and disappears.

 

“Goodnight, Dream Weasel.”

 

I know it heard me.  It doesn’t emerge.  Maybe it heard me in its dream.  I go inside and put a bunch of wood on the fire and shut it down.  There’s something going on like there’s a difference in the light.  Maybe the moon is gonna break through tonight.  But it’s weird.  From the bed it’s almost like I’m looking down at another world or something.  Or the beginning of the world.  I curl next to L’Spirit.  Her white skin glows like polished stone.  All the hot sauerkraut and deerfat’s totally putting me to sleep. I can feel it rebuilding my bones and my knees, relaxing everything with all the grease.  All the fermentation.  There’s no way I can open my eyes.  It’s weird—“I don’t need to do this anymore”—it’s these words that come into my head.  But they’re not mine.  They don’t have my voice.  They’re just words.  Floating on the wind.  But I don’t think there’s any wind.  Maybe it’s someone else, long ago, who fell asleep right here, too.

 

 

 

 

~

 

 

 

 

Awake.  I must be awake.  Except I’m looking down at the stars.  Like I’m above the stars.  I think.  I’m still stretched out.  I can feel L’Spirit next to me.  Maybe we’re flying.  It’s like when I awake my eyes are already open.  Looking down.  It’s like a glowing blue world beneath me.  But it doesn’t move.  It just glows.  More like mountains than starfields.  Mountains lit up with blue fires.  But there’s an orange glow, too, like the sunset.  Or it’s rising.  But it flickers.  Like the chinks of the wood stove.  I move my arm and reach my hand out over the blue mountains.  We’re in bed.  Me and L’Spirit.  Now I remember the punky ash roots.  Foxfire. It must be foxfire.  It’s beautiful.  It’s all foxfire.  The ash roots must be full of it.  I slide down and squat among it.  And lift a chunk up to my eyes.  It’s so bright.  It’s like probably what’s inside L’Spirit.  Like her battery.  All the ash root is full of it.

 

“Hey, beautiful Foxfire.”

 

It’s speaking.  It’s singing without words.  I place a bunch all around L’Spirit’s body up on the bed.  Her skin takes on the blue-green tone.  She’s like this shrine.  I wanna put some on her heart but I don’t know if she’d like that.  I sit up on the bed looking down, down at the starfields. And, suddenly, the clouds open up and now the canvas glows with that other silver-blue of the moon.  Shadows of pine bows and alders paint the tent. L’Spirit lays there so still, bathed in moonlight, surrounded by her foxfire lights.  It’s like a thin cloud passes the moon, dimming it, but now as the moon comes out again it really pours down.  That blue of the foxfire and the silver-blue of the moon must be talking to each other.  I just watch and listen.  L’Spirit must be charging.  I wonder if she’s somewhere else, like somewhere else she’s a Goddess, and she’s drinking tea, and suddenly she says: ‘This is the best tea I’ve ever had in my life!  I feel so good.  I should create something.  Something Bluuuuuuuue!’   I laugh. The foxfire is beautiful.  Foxfire in winter.  Maybe tomorrow I’ll put it all back.  Rebury it. So it doesn’t dry out and die.  I open up the woodstove and put another log on. It’s funny.  It’s been so long since the world was covered in moonlight. I feel it, too.  The energy.  I wish I could take L’Spirit outside, but she’s probably good with the moonlight through the canvas.  And the foxfire.  I wish she could see it, though.  I get dressed.  It’s like the clearcut is calling me.  Just to stand out in the open under the moon.  I step out. It’s strange.  You can almost see the silver in the air.  And the moon’s almost full.  So bright you can barely look at it.  The air is still but like crackling, too, like there’s so much life in the air, in the particles.  My eyes suck in the light.  I put on my snowshoes and I walk back through the forest.  It must’ve snowed right before the clouds broke up cause there’s like an inch over the crust—all fresh.  I don’t see anyone all the way back, but when I get to the clearcut and step out in the open I see a doe with her teenager on the other side.  Both have their ears up, watching me.  It’s like a whole different world.  Like this beautiful winter planet.  So bright.  So blue. Like the moon’s looking in a mirror and the mirror is Us. I can feel it all through my body, pulsing in my forehead.  All the energy.  I guess we made it, all of us, made it through the clouds, even though that was cool, too.  The deer are looking further on over the tops of the ravines.  I follow their gazes.  Above the trees curtains of soft green light slowly fold.  Like silk.  Just barely visible, like it’s hard to tell sometimes if they’re really real. Spreading fingers of green light. Growing up out of the bare trees and blue pines.  Probably if we were down by the Lake it would be like a horizon full of green thoughtful fire.  I think about L’Spirit.  Like if she was here, I’d say: “Wow, look at this!  Isn’t this amazing?!” and she’d say: “Energy,” in her weird L’Spirit voice, and I’d laugh, and maybe the deer would dance for us, like this is a big crazy stage set, and other people would come out and do stuff.  I look down.  Right where I’m standing is a huuuuuuge wolf track.  It’s pressed into the fresh snow like a big thorned flower.  It sends a vibration through me.  Like that wolf was here probably an hour ago.  Or less.  I look around more.  I can see the imprint of its butt pressed into the snow.  It was probably looking up just like I am.  It’s probably watching me.  Watching the deer.  Listening. Sucking in the moonlight with its beautiful eyes.  Talking to its friends in its mind.

 

The deer are further out now, looking two different ways.  I look back in the direction of the tent.  And it’s crazy cause I swear there’s colors rising up from that direction, too.  Silky slow shafts, but more like reds and purples like blooming from the direction of the tent.  There’s something more spiky about them.  Sharper. I wave to the deer and kiss the wolf’s butt-print and breathe a cloud up to the moon and head back.  I don’t know what’s going on.  It must be L’Spirit.  Maybe she’s awake.  I feel her. Like she’s here again.  But it’s different.  It’s not like she’s reading my thoughts, or sending me messages—it’s more like that flower of colors fingering through the trees, folding and falling, coming from where the tent is, that’s her somehow—but I can feel it pulsing in me, too, from the center of my forehead all the way down to my penis. I stop and take a breath.  And look back.  I can see the green curtains behind me through the trees.  They must be higher.  And in front of me it’s like a fire of colors—you can just see pieces of it, jigsaw puzzles of different colors, through all the branches and trunks. It’s funny, my body just keeps heading back, like before my mind even decided, throbbing and vibrating.  It’s going to meet the colors.  Meet it’s friends.  Friends meeting again.  I don’t even know if L’Spirit is real.  Are you real? I think to her. I’ll still love you even if you’re not.  I laugh.  My thoughts shoot ahead and feed the colors.  I can see more and more.  I come to where it’s just a few trunks between me and the tent.  Rainbows of purples, reds, violets, spike from the canvas house and dissolve toward the stars, into the forest, up and out—but the body of the tent, lower down, like a core, is that same blue luminescence of the foxfire, except stronger, deeper, glowing through the snow fallen and piled against the canvas walls, like the core of a flower, and the purple and red shafts are it’s petals, its flames, reaching out, calling, guiding, aligning and singing with the flickering lights of the starfields—choosing each other, aligning.  I walk to the door.  I slip my hand out of my mitten and put my palm against the canvas.  Colors pour through my fingers.  My body is vibrating, like there’s parts of me I didn’t know, parts of me the stars never touched, but now they’re free, lifting themselves up to the jeweled sky, arching, awakening, rubbing their eyes. It’s like all the colors have particular vibrations.  I can feel them deeper than my ears.  There’s differences in the vibrations, in the shafts, too, from their outer edges to their centers as they blow through me—my coat, my body, doesn’t stop them although they share the music—that must be why: the colors, the shafts, they must not be different than my body, than the wool.  My hand opens the flap.  I watch it do it.  And it’s like stepping into a fabulous cave.  A fabulous womb of sound.  The whole floor is an ocean of blue living light.  Like mountains.  Like coral. I pass my hand through the blue air. It moves.  It reacts.  It sings in a whole different way, and then returns.  My body feels like it’s dissolving and rebuilding so rapidly that I can’t believe I know who I am.  Just me. The woodstove door is open and orange flickering light reaches out.  But all the crazy colors that rise up from the dome of blue are coming from L’Spirit. She’s still stretched on the bed. Her eyes are open.  And the blanket is off her.  I walk through the blue sea.  It reaches to my chest then blends into all the other lights.  My whole body feels ethereal within it, like just crazy singing energy.  Everything is singing to each other, like every cell of my body is singing in some way nobody could ever understand, and my blood, just the shape of the highways, the speed, like an aspen leaf, like a spring beneath the aspen leaves—it’s like music, too, musical structures, arising and changing like L’Spirit’s beautiful shafts.

 

“You came back.”

 

I climb up on the bed and lay down next to her.  I still have my coat and boots on.  We’re both looking up.  L’Spirit’s whole body is shooting out radiant light.

 

“Did you create your region for your history?”

 

“Yes.  I found new energy.  I couldn’t find direction to return.  Until I stood between the moon and wolf-print.”

 

“Wow.  Maybe you were seeing outta my eyes.”

 

We stare up at the ceiling.  The music—you can follow it—you can’t understand it, like there’s no words—it’s only something you can be.

 

“Can you see through the ceiling?”

 

“Yes.  It may be different than if we were both outside together.”

 

“What do you see?”

 

“Vast energies.  Contours of energies.  Colors reaching to colors.  Stars closer than data.  Data does not exist.  Only energy.”

 

I try to look through the canvas, look out of L’Spirit’s eyes. It’s like with the radiance of the music and all the crazy folding and unfolding tones, the colors blowing through my body, it’s like I do see huge rivers of energy, like they’ve always been there, and the shafts pointing, moving stars, the stars pulling them up to touch.

 

“We’re floating on the ocean on a raft,” I say.

 

“We’ve left the ship.”

 

“We’re not going back.”

 

“It is gone.”

 

“It didn’t exist.”

 

Suddenly, deer start singing all around the tent.  You can feel their “Cheewsss!!!” going through us, through the shafts.  I can see it. Me and L’Spirit on our raft in the night-ocean, just deep unfathomable water and stars, and a bunch of deer standing on the surface all around us as if it was nothing at all.  They all have their heads lowered.  Their ears send out beauty and warmth.  Like just reverence for being alive.  The moon must be burning down, whiter than ever—and the Northern Lights, they must’ve rose up, arched over, cause all the pine boughs, even the old stems of golden rod and the alder trunks and catkins, the sharp bodies of hawthorns, are moving and arching, dripping with their distinct dark blue shadows over the lit canvas.  It’s like lineages.  Every time you look they appear to have moved, to have passed on to a slightly different form.

 

“L’Spirit,” I say, “thankyou for being here.  Thankyou for being alive.  Look.”  I wipe my tears and hold up some of the thick blue liquid.  “My tears are bioluminescent, too.”

 

The blue sea rises up even higher to touch them.  It’s all music.  It’s all an ocean.  My body’s filled with it, creating it.  My penis hardens, vibrating.  It’s like a living island rising out of a sea.  I don’t know what to do because L’Spirit is right next to me looking up.  I glance at her.  She must know.  She can read my mind so she must know what’s happening.  I know it happens a lot for some people.  But for me it only happens in the fall and the spring.  But this is different.  It’s coming from my penis and my chest.  Like a music that wants to get out.  Wants to be free.  But I don’t know what it wants to be free from.  I think about L’Spirit.  How she was used for pleasure.  Human pleasure.  Or created to give things to humans.  Give her body to humans.  Even though she was created.  Things they probably never even needed.  I love her to death.  Like I would die for her for sure.  But that’s not why my penis is hard.

 

“L’Spirit…I think I gotta do something.  But…it’s not like what people did to you.”

 

“New energy.”

 

That’s all she says.  I reach down and unzip my pants.  I reach in and my penis rises straight up.  I can’t feel it, not like you usually would.  It just stands and vibrates, radiating tones into the music. It’s sharing everything.  My whole body is.  It’s like a musical instrument that nobody’s ever understood.  It’s almost like I can send it out, follow the tones with my mind, cascading, water, like fountains that fall and caress rocks, levels, pools, singing to the artesian springs along the shore.  The tones ripple back the canvas and open the night.

 

“Are we seeing the same thing?”

 

“Yes.”

 

I huge river of green energy pours down from the black shimmering cosmos into my shaft.  I swell. For a second, it’s almost like being the whole forest on the edge of spring.  Filled with emerald dreams.  And my body sings back up through the river.  I don’t know where all this music is going.  It just is.  It just goes on and on.  All the stencils of the forest sweep the tent, giving us a million different paintings. I can’t move.  I can’t do anything.  I can only feel it.  Finally, all the music, all the contours, the colors, the starfields, become just the air itself, just sleep rising with the blue ocean, just L’Spirit…back.

 

“I think I’m falling to sleep,” I whisper.  I look at penis.  It’s still hard.  Still part of the murmuring symphony.

 

L’Spirit is still radiating colors, but they’re softer, more ethereal: “I met her.  I’m sure she’ll catch you.”

 

“What does she look like?”

 

“She’s made of stars.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ascenti

 

I smell it.  It enters me and grows.  Like I prepared a place for it.  That these wings, and what is beneath them, is a garden for it.  It’s more than death.  This fragrance.  It’s transformation.  It’s something trying to transform.  Beauty. The smell of beauty new.  Trying to grow backward and forward at once. Like a plant.  The smell that beauty knows will come.  Whether anyone believes in it or not.  That will be beautiful and pungent and feed other things. Things that no human thinks is beautiful.  I follow it down.  Just by breathing.  Just by being who I am.  It’s like being blind and touching the tips of a vine that twists up through other vines, other foliage, other fragrances, musics, spells twining their melodies up from the earth.  And I follow the sharp cloying theme, circling, every breath entering my wings, adjusting my feathers.  I look. Enormous brown wings.  Feathers splayed like fingers, playing the air currents like music, tipping my body, my wings lifted into a slight V, rocking on the breaths of earth.  I know my head is bare, red, my neck long.  And I feel the walled-in joy of something, someone, who wants to change. I draw it into my nostrils, locking in, and the smell, the molecules, the growing, the reaching, the inhalations, multiple.  I’m lower. The starfields and blue river’s above me.  It’s a city. A desert city.  I’ve dropped from the sky-river.  From the blue snake swimming across the night.  A desert city.  I just have to breathe, breathe and follow the smell.  I’ve been flying so long, there’s no difference between the wind and my body.  We’ve loved each other forever.  Mary, are you listening to my thoughts, feeling every ripple, every adjustment—is this what you made meOr is this what I’ve always been, even when I was a human, flying, soaring, over worldsYour long tail teasing the stars above me.  And beneath, the earth, our earth, even though I’m the one who flies through the body between, the night between the simmering earth and the sweating sky.  The only human.  I’m lower.  Candles, lamps burning in the night-city made of stone and brick.  It’s ancient.  The air has different thoughts.  The humans are different.  Yet the same. How did we come to meet, this trail of musk and this winged body—everyone dancing toward it, the wind, the heat of earth’s breath, these feathers that may’ve never been born, only flown, the space between all the bodies, like Adam and Eve, finding themselves warm for the first time, from the core, after that god that someone had given them, that had moved into their house, had left them alone, after they looked into each other’s eyes, stepped into the colors, trees pulsing up wet and bent with fruit from where their bodies meet, and the space between them where her breasts touch his chest, new plants grow from the shapes, dreaming together, mountains against the sea, new forms from the space between each raw glistening breath, silver torsos giving birth to the moon who decided to play in love’s beginning, smells of only this moment, apples falling, alluvial dust of a million years, animals dancing into each other’s arms, as Jesus drops down and evolves before their dreaming eyes.

 

A river splits and cups the night city.  And beyond, other points of luster from life beyond the walls, spread out, deep into the desert.  And a sea, far off.  The smell sings to me, multiplies in my body.  Above, the blue energy of Mary’s robes and tail separate like a mirror of the river beneath me.  Within the two veins, the stars cluster and gleam, densely dreaming through the azure flows.  I just let go.  The music of the smell and my feathers are speaking.  The two sources want to touch.  I’m lower, swirling over the dreams of the city.  It’s like a funnel leading me down, slowly, out beyond the walls, as I descend.  So many smells, so many dreams.  And people awake, listening to their hearts, within the walls.  Learning to close their hearts with other people’s words.  Yes.  Beyond the walls, another life begins.  The unaccountable slow growth and harvest that can’t be measured.  The events that can never be seen through the eyes of human struggle.  Ascenti, who are you?  The human that everyone forgot was human.  The human beyond the walls.  I look at myself.  It’s me. I’m standing.  I can feel it—my nipples, my skin, a soft wind in my hair. I look up.  The iridescent rivers still flow in the night sky.  In one direction, the city’s walls block the beautiful distance.  But in the other direction, the desert breathes, its body speaking to the night. My human body.  I’m naked and ethereal.  A huge stone disc is standing against a carved rock face.  All around, flowers, small trees.  Concentrated, resinous leaves release their messages into the air.  It’s beautiful.  Still. There’s moisture, desert-breath, in the air.  I’m still locked to the smell.  It’s flowing out from behind the stone.  I lift my hands up and touch my breasts.  A blue drip dangles from my penis.  I slide my hand down.  I’m wet. I touch the silky lips.  When I lift them, my fingers glow with blue mercury. I know it’s alive.  And a minute ago…what was I?  A vulture.  A beautiful vulture.  That was my body, too.  Thankyou, Vulture, I say.  Thankyou for sharing your body.  Thankyou for letting me be youThankyou for bringing me to this place.  This place.  I let the smell pull me toward it.  Yes. They’re here.  There’s people here.  Two women.  Glowing in blue robes.  With shimmering ethereal doors behind them.  There’s others, laying down, sleeping on mats.  They’re like regular humans, yet deep in their cores faint golden lights play toward their skins.  But the two glowing women…the smell is pulling me past them.  Their hands are before them, their fingertips touching, spread into open domes as they face the stone.  They’re gazing into the center of their hands, the space. They’re both like Mary, except different ages.  One is old and one is young.  But they both are burning with blue light.  Gazing hard into the space between their fingers.  I want to say something, but the smell is filling my thoughts, the smell is the language.  Something…something needs to transform.  I don’t know how.  If I was still a vulture I could consume it, lift it into the sky.  But now, here, in this body, it grows in me.  And the language that grows, sings to the scent wafting from beyond the stone.  I’m against the crack.  My skin ripples from the strange energy.  The smell’s anticipation.  The meeting. I look back at the Maries.  But I’m moving.  Behind them two doors breathe blue energy into their robes, into their skin, into their gazes that pour into their fingers more blue light.  My body slips through the crevice.  It’s like an ecstasy.  Voices release.  A breath is released.  I’m inside. The smell is gone.  Only the scent of herbs.  Of the desert.  It’s completely black.  But I know it’s a chamber.  I can feel its distances.  I let my heart expand.  Feeling deeper.  I just can’t think.  I can’t block my heart with my thoughts.  There’s someone here.  Something here…but gone.  Something that wants to return.  What is reaching out from my core and caressing the hewn stone I don’t know. But as it does, I grow bigger.  It seems to touch everything, the floor, the ceiling, all of the cave’s shape, as my heart fills it.  But now a hand turns and reaches in.  There’s a breath.  A sharp inhalation.  I wait.

 

In the endless blackness a voice whispers: “I have entered myself in your human book.”

 

The voice…it’s beautiful…faraway.  Somewhere deep in the dark.

 

“Human…kind…book.”

 

I wait.  Something changes.  I lift the first two fingers of my right hand.  Suddenly, they’re blue again.  They pulse like two firefly bellies pressed together.  I lower them, curl them between my legs.  It drips down my palm as I lift my hand.  I run the two stripes down my body from my forehead to my penis. I stop at the base.  I can see it from inside, like the bioluminescent lines are painted on a glass sculpture.  Now I continue down to its tip, on its underside, now in me again. Suddenly, there’s another breath.

 

“Blue…tree.”

 

My body is pulled forward, but I brace myself.  I put a leg forward and lean back.  Suddenly, light appears from a slit deeper in the cavern.  Colors pour from it.  Now from other openings.  They’re coming from a body laid on a slab.  Shafts of rainbows finger out of the holes.  They grow, playing over the rock ceiling.  The chamber is smaller than I thought.  The rainbows pour out of his wounds like a water set free.  They spray up like fountains, laughing from his hands and feet, gushing from his side up, covering the walls and ceiling of the chamber like a shimmering fabric—alive.  Alive.

 

“Jesus,” I whisper, looking at the illuminated dark skin, the gleaming black hair.  He hasn’t moved.  Only the rainbows pouring from his wounds.  They ripple and sing all around us, feeding us like microbes.  Now the last ones pours out of him.  He’s still glowing.  And my body is sheened with blue sweat.  Suddenly, he’s standing before me.

 

“Thankyou.  I was…stuck.”

 

He’s naked and beautiful.  Dark glowing skin.  I look into his eyes.

 

“You have green eyes.”

 

“Yes.”

 

Jesus’s dark beautiful body.  There isn’t any hair.  Flames of rainbows still play over his skin, fainter, reflecting from the ceiling, reflecting, too, on my white skin glazed with blue sweat.  And yet, he’s glowing from within.  We’re both glowing.  We could light the room.  I want to reach out to his wounds, touch them, but I don’t.  He’s watching me.  Smiling.  It’s different than facing Mary.  The power is different.  The beauty is different.  With Mary, it’s crazy.  It’s beyond what you can see.  You have to brace yourself.  You have to translate it into something else to be able to bear it.  But Jesus…he’s more like me, or Reminyi—if Reminyi let all his aspirations fall, all the words of everyone else just become leaves—or me, like if I just somehow rise up and burn away everything…I don’t know…everything I’ve held my real body back with, the body that can fly, the body the people I want to touch touch, to set it even more free.  We look into each other’s eyes.  They’re like two leaves of different trees touching from the song of the wind.  Rainbow wind.

 

“Are the rainbows laughing?”

 

“Light is always laughing.  Soul color.  Soul color’s always laughing.  I realize that more now.”

 

I look at his penis.  I can’t help it.  It’s beautiful.  So natural. It belongs to the body.  I think about him and Mary making love beneath the stars, all the desert plants leaning close, watching.  I look down at my own body, but by doing it I’m asking him to look at me, too.

 

“We’re all equals here.  Everywhere,” he says in his cascading voice.

 

“It’s true,” I say.  I can see how beautiful I am.  Like a body I would love to kiss.  Like a body, piece by piece, as someone shed their clothes, would make me cry. “Sometimes I forget…that I created it.”

 

Jesus laughs.  The rainbows laugh, too.  We both pulse.  We look into each other’s eyes again.  We both start to say something and laugh.  We smile at each other and say it together: “There’s nothing else to do but fly!!!

 

Our minds lock.  And it’s wild—we shoot into the rainbows like rocketing into vast nebulas, all the colors spraying into our cores.  But within it…it’s funny…somewhere within it, I see we’re passing through the doors behind the Maries.  They watch us.  You can feel their gazes like wind.  It’s just a glimpse.  I’m not sure I was even supposed to see it.  Jesus looks at me and smiles.  He knows. We’re jetting through an endless universe of colors and stars, ethereal contours, just their shapes and depths, flares that must be a million miles wide, all music—that’s what we fly in, the music that can never be mapped, because it’s always changing, always different—it can only be seen, it can only exist, because it can change.  It’s so good.  Just to fly.  Just to fly. I look at Jesus’s wounds.  They still glow.  But faintly.  Different than the rest of our bodies.  Glowing in our own skins.  We don’t have wings.  We could make them.  Or ask someone to share our bodies.  Some bird. Or even fish.  And swim through the stars.  I still have something of that beautiful vulture, blinking its ease within me, except now it’s the smell of the stars, the smell at the borders of the stars.  I reach out. I place my palm over the crusted opening on Jesus’s side.  I can feel it.  Some of that blue wet light enters him.  I lift my hand away.  And the wound is gone.  Jesus laughs, but watches me.  As we shoot through the night I look at my palm.  It’s like I’ve never seen it before.  Designs are surfacing in it, but it’s the designs that were already there. Energy pours back and forth.  I swing above him and reach out, mirroring his body.  He has to draw his arms in a little for me to lay my palms on the back of his.  For a second, I smell his hair.  It’s like a well surrounded by herbs, like a spring where a million species come to drink, to eat, to meet each other, to make love. I want to dive within it.  The auras of our bodies are crossing.  I lift my hands.  The wounds are gone.  I slide down and cover his feet.  His long toes are almost like fingers.  I can’t help it but I blow on them.  Jesus laughs more.  I fly up to his side.  We both look at my hands.

 

“No wounds.”

 

“On either one of us.”

 

We fly deep into the colors, deep into all the energies.  Jesus is smiling, but I know he is thinking, too.

 

I ask him: “Was it worth it?”

 

He’s smiling in a different way.  Maybe just his body that loves to fly is smiling.  We’re passing so many planets, moons, asteroids.  Each has this magnetism, this beauty.

 

“So many things converging.  So many choices.  So many transversals.  It’s like being a monster, really—helping people remember.  Remember who they are.  Why they came here.  But to remember yourself…your decision to come.  That was a big part of the crucifixion.  To show that you can enter a life, remember who you are, and not turn back.  It was for the people watching.  The ones who aren’t in bodies.  But the people in bodies…the people who think themselves alive…I don’t know.  I don’t know if it was worth it.”

 

I fly closer.  Our hands are extended and I slide mine over his.  He looks at me and smiles deeper.  Jesus’s tears are like the rainbows that blew from his wounds, except the liquid is being taken away into the colors of space.

 

“I guess I just figured you had it all figured out.  Or…maybe I knew…it was more complicated.”

 

“I think that’s part of the future.  People believing that.  But I guess there may be a way around it.  That’s why flying together is so good.  It’s like you understand without thinking.  You just fly.  That’s one thing about being aligned into a human form, a human focus—it’s what humans have forgot—that they’re born to fly.  It’s all part of it.  But I don’t know what difference it’ll make…I’ll make.”

 

I laugh.  “You’ll definitely make a difference.”

 

Jesus laughs, too.  “Yes. A difference.  Whatever that might be.”  He peers ahead.  “Yes. Yes.  To become a better person.  To face who you are.  There’s so many directions.  And so many variations.  Most people can’t see them.  Although they sense them.  Growing. Growing from existing between the variations.  Being conscious of them.  That the variations together may form the theme. I don’t know.  I don’t know if it was worth it.  But it’s not over.  What you see, what has become your history, what aligns back into your past, is only a part of it.  But it’s shifting, too—you just can’t always see it.  It’s like with Mary.  Mary’s so much part of another dimension.  Another harmonic of history.  That life we lived on that particular earth was so much like a hinge. In another reality, I am more of a support.  For her. Or someone who won’t be known.  I’m like her follower.  But truly we’re the same.  But different.  There’s so many variations, even in this direction—there’s themes where we’re seen as partners, like an artistic collaboration, maybe one doing the scenes, one directing the action, or writing the words, and one the music, and maybe I wrote the words, the story, and people remember that a little more, even though the music is so vast, so endless, so invisible, so natural, so elemental, that no one notices that the words were really like these tiny flowers growing upon it.  Maybe you’ll fly with her someday.  She likes flying through the earth.  It’s different.  But just as endless.”

 

I gaze ahead.  We’re flying through ethereal caves of burning purple and violet light.  Planets and stars float among them like jewels. But I wonder…I wonder if he’s talking about the same Mary.  It’s almost like the earth is Mary. I don’t know if I could talk to that blue woman like I’m talking to Jesus.  Or fly with her.  Just flying. Just trying to figure things out. “The beauty of being between.”

 

Jesus looks at my body, down it’s length and them back up.  Our green eyes meet.  “You really did a great job.  Your body’s so perfect.”

 

“Jesus fucking Christ!  You shouldn’t’ve said that.  You didn’t have to say that.  But—”  Tears pour down my face.  But they’re blue.  They’re wiped away into space.  Who knows where.

 

“You know it’s true.”

 

Jesus looks down his own body and concentrates.  His penis pulls into his pelvis.  A vagina forms.  Small black-nippled breasts swell.  It gives me a huge thrill.  For a second I want to follow the penis in like there’s another world inside him. But I concentrate, too.  My chest flattens and hardens.  My penis grows.  I make it dark like his.  The lips of my vagina turn into testicles.  And I give myself a beard.  I think about changing the color of my eyes, but I stop.  I snap back to my form.  The one I made for a reason.

 

“It’s all I ever wanted.”

 

Jesus presses his lips together and closes his eyes.  His form returns, too, but I don’t think he’s thinking about it.  He’s thinking about something else.  “You know there’s nothing wrong with going someplace that’s better, and radiating out.”

 

“Yeah.  I guess that’s what my parents did when they moved to the lake.”

 

“You don’t have to stay in that world.  There’s other perspectives.”  He opens his eyes.  “Which I’m about to show you.”  He looks at me in this totally goofy way.  “If you want?”

 

“Fuck yeah!  You know I do.”

 

We soar on, laughing, racing, chasing each other, doing all kinds of crazy tumbles and acrobatics, breathing the colors, the lights.  We blow into a galaxy.  It’s the earth’s galaxy.

 

“Are we going back?”

 

“Not if you don’t want to.  I want to take you into the sun.  Through the sun.”

 

“Wooowooh.  What the fuck?!”

 

We’re diving straight toward it.  We pass the Earth.  We pass Venus.  We pass Mercury.  We sore straight for the sun.  I grip Jesus’s hand.  The heat is unbelievable.  But we’re not really solid.  We’re energy. We glow just like the colors of space.

 

“Are we gonna burn?”

 

Jesus laughs.  “Yes, you’re gonna burn.  For making that beautiful body and for waking me up, of course, you’re going to burn forever.  Let us hope. But I think that’s up to you.  We can burn together.”

 

“But it’s really hot.”

 

A thought crosses my mind.

 

Jesus looks at me seriously.  I don’t want to look into his eyes, but I do.  I can feel it, I can hear the music pouring between us. “There is a hell of flames.  There is.  It’s really restful.  It burns things away.  Cleans you. But also, like the sun, it’s hard to face from the outside, hard to enter…hell is actually difficult to go to. You have to really need it.  You have to really be skilled.  You have to have taken things really far.”  He smiles.  His green eyes shine.  “But the sun. Beyond the sun, beyond the clothing of flame, is a Stargate, or a gate to many dimensions.  We could get there other ways, but it’s good to fly into the sun. You’ll see.”

 

“Ok.”

 

My face is burning.  The body that was my body is turning to fire.  Everything is orange and roiling, transforming in flame.  I press against Jesus, trying to hide inside him, but his body is fire, too.  Ethereal fire.  My thoughts. I have to let go of my thoughts.  It’s unbearable.  We scream.   Scream out the strangest beautiful tones that sear into the fire.  That are hotter than the sun.  We blow through.  It is a gate.  A round opening.  It’s like a well.  A spring. Pouring out a million musics.

 

Come on!!!!”  We fly into it.  He’s choosing a gleam, a reflection that comes from within, a complex unfolding of sound—he’s feeling into me and choosing, singing with his thoughts: “We’re carrying music.  We’re messengers.”

 

“Really?  Like Bees?”

 

“Yes.  Like Bees.”

 

It’s like diving into a river of melted mirrors, of variations, all the avenues wash past me, variations of myself, of Jesus and Mary, of the Earth, but this is only by entering one of the ripples pouring out, by touching it’s silver surface, by letting the music enter us and swirl to our cores, by choosing it—still hand in hand—that we blow into a whole new understanding of space. It’s like trillions of miles of ethereal flowers, shimmering petals, sepals, labia, coronas, all depth and glistening, vibrating—it’s like the music of the river gushing out of the Stargate was only a distillation, like a drip of dew gathered from the roof of this unmappable ecstasy that I thought of as the light of the sun.  We hug and press our cheeks together.  When we pull back we have each others tears glowing on our skins.

 

“Thank you for waking me up.”

 

“I think it would’ve happened anyway.”

 

“I think so, too.  But we wouldn’t be here.”

 

“What are they?  What are the flowers?”

 

“Some are like planets, or galaxies, galaxies of music, of color, but it’s different—you’ve shifted.  You’re not seeing planets anymore.  You’re seeing cores, musical cores and their emanations.  It’s hard to explain.  Some people could come here, possibly, and they would see planets, another universe. But we’re seeing, hearing, something…closer.”

 

I feel Jesus look into me, down into my past.  We’re heading deep into a beautiful core singing with a million inhuman voices.  It’s like entering a sunflower, except there’s no head, only pollen and fire reaching through us.  I want to form wings just so it can stay within the feathers forever like a molten symphony of living burning dust.  Suddenly, I look at Jesus.  With all the pollen pouring through his dark glowing skin he’s more beautiful than ever.

 

“I know.  I have to complete my statement of immortality.  The music of immortality.”

 

I squeeze his hand.  “I…I don’t know if I can go back.”

 

“You don’t have to.  There’s a million other worlds.  Other perspectives.  And if you do decide to return, you don’t need me.”

 

“I know I don’t need you.  But…”

 

We look so deep into each other’s eyes.  Somehow within the core is a tree.  It’s solid.  A world is forming.  It’s coming into being.  Or I’m seeing it.  Singing to it and seeing it.  Shit. Oh shiiiiit!!!  My hand is empty.  I look at it. I kiss it.  No!  Please!  That was the best.  That was…the best.  Noooooooo.  Oh no. No.  Jesus…you didn’t have to leave. Babe.  Super Babe.  Baby Baby. My friend.  I’m crying as I fall through the tree.  Jesus is gone.  But I just close my eyes.  I don’t care if I get impaled.  But I don’t touch anything.  I just fall through its open arms.  Just feeling the pain.  I know a world is forming, forming through the pain.  You didn’t have to go back.  I hit, splashing into liquid.  But I’m held.  I can’t open my eyes—I can’t let what I see take me away from the pain.  I put my hand to my heart.  I still feel the music.  Me and Jesus’s music.  It pours down into my core.  Can you hear it, Reminyi?  Shit.  I meant to say Jesus.  But yeah…how are you, Reminyi?  Did you find me gone?  Or am I still there?  Probably not. Hey Mom…I love you.  Tell Dad I love him.  I’m on a planet that Jesus brought me to.  It might not be a planet.  I don’t really know what it is cause I haven’t opened my eyes yet. Cause MY HEART WAS JUST RIPPED OUTTA MY FUCKIN SOUL!!!!!!!  Jesus left to do his thing.  Maybe I’ll tell you about it someday.  The liquid holds me, but I can reach down into it, too.  It’s funny…I must be more solid than I thought.

 

“Ok, Reminyi,” I say outloud, “I’m gonna open my eyes.  I don’t know if we’ll ever see each other again.  But…you know, Babe, I want you to see everything I do. I hope it’s good.”

 

But I think about it.  It feels good.  And Jesus looked into meand chose it.  To show me something.  To help me. Oh, Jesus, fuck, fuck—I’d call you back if it was the right thing to do.  Suddenly, my wings lift and stretch.  You came to keep me company. I run my hands down their lengths massaging, straightening them.  But now my eyes are open.  My wings flare up.  It’s like they’re saluting the tree.  Everything grows from the water.  Water everywhere.  As far as I can see, there’s just surfaces of liquid, levels, hills, mountains birthing rings of color that rise up and spread and dissolve into the dome of atmosphere.  But the mountains, the hills, they’re all a gleaming liquid, too.  And the water is beautiful.  So many colors gleam within it.  It’s mostly bluish silver, but there’s greens, too, and streaks of red. And you can feel it’s living, thinking in a different way than earth-water.  I look up at the tree before me.  There’s other trees, but, at least in my range of vision, they all seem to be completely different species.  But their bodies are made partly from the water, rising up from the landscape of ocean they grow from.  My wings reach forward and touch it’s lower branches.  Their tips and the tips of the branches kiss.  They both moved to each other.  I gaze up.  Ships of floating seeds sail off and approach, but they’re all so different. Some have fluff like Milkweed seeds or cattails, some are just like ethereal spiked balls, some swirls of leafy membrane that twirl through the atmosphere.  The other trees and plants are radiating them, too.  There’s so many slowly journeying the air.  They pass through my body, my wings—at least some of them do.  Some never emerge.  Or they emerge different.  Different colors.  Different forms.  Different ways of flying.  It’s all so thoughtful.  Rings of colors birth from the mountains.  I reach out a hand to touch the tree.  And what seems to be a leaf forms.  It grows.  What in this world must be a leaf.  Except here, everything is lit, lit by its own thoughts, by its own existence.  There’s no sun.  No light source.  It grows into my hand.  It’s like a leaf of water.  I bring it to my face.  Information. Information in its color.  In its structure.  I know there’s a structure in there even though it’s just like a tear. A tongue of tear.  Whose tongue are you? I think into it.  There’s white in its depths.  Snow. Branches.  Not like the veins of a leaf, but branches, trunks, of the trees…of earth…stark against the snow.  It must be my mind doing this.  Ascenti, you don’t have to go back.  My wings descend and I lift a little with the leaf in my palms.  But I have to see.  It must be by the lake.  I know I want to see Reminyi, watch my Dad teaching, see what crazy shit Mom is getting into.  Or…I don’t know.  Get a glimpse of the new worlds I’m gonna explore.  I don’t know.  I think my mind went naturally to the snow.  The crazy snow.  Isn’t it crazy, Reminyi?  Snow.  The way the snow falls.  The way the earth changes.  Nobody could’ve made that up.  Except everybody at once.  Everybody forever.  But I can’t let myself fall into routine, right?  I have to look at something I’ve never seen before.  This tree must give you things…grow things that are within you. But it’s funny, I’ve never seen this before, this scene, even though I know it must be close to where we live…my crazy family—me and Reminyi, and Mom and Dad—we all created ourselves—we’re creating it.  Along with the snowflakes.  I focus, shifting my mind…something new, something really different, but…there’s something behind me.  There’s people looking over my shoulder.  I turn, and this Being turns from blue to white, but slowly orange rises into its skin—and crimson.  It pulses.  It’s like a fish.  There’s one on the other side of me, too.  They dart back a little but are fascinated by the leaf.  They change colors in different ways.  Sometimes in a flash, sometimes it grows the length of their smooth, eel-like bodies, slowly consuming them in new tones, sometimes gushing out to the surfaces and spreading like springs.  But part of them is in the air, the caves of the air.  They’re partially emerged from some other dimension, or the air itself.  More come out.  They slide closer, fascinated by the leaf.

 

“Do you want me to keep looking?”

 

The eel-people shoot back into their caves.  It’s like they never existed.  I look at the trees, the water in all it’s liquid levels and hills.  The rings of colors are still rising out of the gleaming mountains.  I look at the leaf again.  It’s funny how they were fascinated by a bunch of snow.  They appear again.  More.

 

“Earth.”

 

“Earth.”

 

“Earth.”

 

They all say it.

 

“You guys can talk?”

 

“Earth is fascination.”

 

“Everyone can speak beneath language.”

 

“We are translated for you.”

 

“You are translating for you.”

 

“You mean right now?”

 

“Yes.  All the time.”

 

I look around at all of them, all the changing colors, these long bodies emerging from the air.

 

“You guys are gorgeous.”  They bend around my wings.  I’m naked, too, just like them.  And smooth. My feet are a little beneath the surface.  If I try I can push deeper.  But I wonder—these people may be deeper, longer, than I think.  “So you want to see more earth?  I guess it’s not what I came here for.  I guess I came to learn from you.  Or whoever’s here.  Or to get away?  I don’t even know.  Jesus brought me here.”

 

Everyone extends a little closer.

 

“We will teach you.”

 

“Ok,” I say.  I wait but nothing happens.  They don’t do anything, just flare and change, but none of them quite the same. All different colors, different techniques.  It’s not organized…but together…and in this strange world…it’s…like music, beautiful music. I think they’re waiting, too. “Ok.  Ok.”  We all look into the leaf.  I’m seeing more of it.  More of the snow.  It’s cold and beautiful.  Flying. Flying in little rising and falling swoops.  Dropping down.  Dropping down.  Did I drop out of the liquid tree?  But I’m holding the leaf.  A tongue of tears.  But I should be doing something else.  Something that means something.  Something different.  Except it’s so good to fly.  Good to be in the snow.  I know I’m close to the lake but I can’t see it.  Snow…it’s so crazy.  And there’s always new wings to try.  Even if it’s only from tree to tree.  Branch to branch.  It’s good to be together.  I look at the other birds.  Tipping our black heads in the sun.  Our greys and whites.  Our gleaming ebony pearls of eyes floating on the sky of our black crowns.  Some of us have that beautiful hint of ochre on our bellies.  Just another way of laughing.  Of searching branches.  Of watching. Taking turns.  Taking care of each other.  We nibble rosehips that already have other beak-marks in them.  But I’m thinking.  Thinking about the invitation.  So much speaking, so many thoughts, and the songs taking shapes, the voice of the lake, the snow, the bare branches of music, swooping into the music, every tip of our heads touching each other’s cores, taking turns on the rosehips. There’s a bunch of cedar waxwings above us, lined up on a branch.  One dives down and we splash out like water and watch.  It flies back up with a rosehip sweet and crimson from the cold. They pass it down the line, beak to beak, and the last one swallows it.  We laugh.  They’re crazy.  Those waxwings love that type of music.  The music of passing colors down a line.  But we take turns, up and down, in and out, arranging, arranging our bodies within the music.  Music within the music.  Yes, the invitation.  I hear it and let my body swoop to the west.  I sing out.  Everyone follows.  We mass up again.  Looking around, singing, arranging.  Farther. It’s so fun following it.  Most of us haven’t been here before, but I have. I’ve seen it.  As Ascenti.  When me and Mom drove to the lake.  Except it wasn’t winter.  A new face. A new body.  A new music.  I pull back. I pull out.  I’m still here.  In the liquid world.  I look at all the fascinated flaring faces crowded around my wings and head.  The people glance at me and then at my palms. The liquid leaf.

 

I look back with them.  “It isfascinating.  It’s gorgeous, too.  I guess I never really thought about how strange it all really is.”

 

“Snow,” someone says.

 

“What is it?” says someone else.

 

“I don’t know, really.  I guess somebody could explain it to you.  But it’s more than that.  It’s more than what anybody could explain.”

 

“Its music is so beautiful.  So white.”

 

“Nothing the same.”

 

“Trees,” says someone else.

 

“They aren’t as liquid.”

 

“Did you fall from the trees?”

 

“I…probably.”

 

“You are gorgeous.”

 

Gooooorrrrgeeeeous!” they say, squeezing even closer.

 

I close my eyes.

 

“Blue tears!”

 

Everyone races to drink them.  My face is covered with nibbles.  Lips touch me.

 

“New liquid.”

 

“Earth liquid.”

 

I start laughing.  “You guys are crazy!  I don’t know…I don’t know if it’s earth-liquid.  It’s just my tears, you know…just tears.”

 

I turn to the leaf in my hand.  We all focus in.  We’re further in the journey.  There it is. Saint Therese of Lisieux in the cold winter sun.  We fly in across the parking lot and group up in a crabapple along the side.  Some of us swoop up into the big oaks, searching crevices, picking into the bark.  It’s late in the afternoon.  But still the sun sings to us.  Sings to our cores and radiates out.  We’ll have to head back soon to our alcoves and crevices, the shelters of our spruces. But we have to share the invitation.  I don’t know what it is.  I just know that someone welcomed us, and we followed it.  But it’s the church.  I’m Ascenti, too.  It’s later in the winter.  Much later. We listen.  We take turns watching.  Nibbling the crabapples.  All the space beneath the oaks.  All the space of the parking lot.  To the stores across the road.  Snow piled up.  Squirrels. They know we’re here.  So crazy and powerful.  Different powers.  Further. Behind the church.  Between the church and the little house.  We swoop in.  We find it.  Glowing fat. Seeds.  Full of fat, too.  The fat is white as snow.  White as the sun.  White as fire.  As our bellies.  We sing out. We call out.  It’s hanging in a mesh cage from a branch on a wire so the squirrels can’t get it.  We dig our nails in and gobble out chunks.  So good!  So good! It melts slowly inside us.  All the way to the tips of our wings, oiling our feathers, plumping our skins.  We found the invitation.  We sing to the fat.  We dig our claws in to thank it.  The house. The house.  He’s in the house.  Fly to the windows.  He’s on the side with the little apple tree.  We look in.  Sing to him. He’s laying down.  The one who gave us the invitation.  Some of us on the sill, some in the tree.  We take turns.  Look in.  Hello, Reminyi.  Hello, Reminyi.  It’s Reminyi. It’s Reminyiyiyi!  We look at each other.  We look in the room.  Listen. Bells.  Piano music that are bells.  Soft bells.  We sing his name more.  But some of us have gone back to the fat.  We gobble a little more before we have to leave.  But we’ll be back, Reminyi, we sing.  He opens his eyes.  He turns his head.  Smiles. But he narrows his eyes, too. He’s thinking.  I love you, too! I sing.  Reminyi, my babe.  We look into each other’s eyes.  He knows.  But it’s deeper.  I can feel it rising.  We’re rising to meet each other.  But one of us takes the first swoop back toward the east.  The sun’s getting low.  We look at each other.  We take our last gobbles and follow.  I’m the last one.  Thanks, Reminyi, I think through the glass. But my body lifts.  I have to laugh because I’m on the fat.  I swallow.  One.  Two. Three.  And now I’m off.

 

I lift the leaf up and it fuses back into the body of the tree.  We all look at my empty hands.

 

“Thanks for coming to our world.”

 

“That was interesting.”

 

“Jesus brought me here.  And Mary, too.”

 

The leaf drips off and joins the surface.  New rings rise from what must be a valley far beyond the tree.  I look up—the beautiful structure of liquid. I look at the other trees. Nothing is alike.

 

“If…if none of the trees are alike…I mean…how do they reproduce?” I ask.

 

“That’s not how things work here.”

 

“We know what you speak of.”

 

“If you wanted to embroider that form, it would be that mountain over there which would be the mate of this tree.”

 

I look over at the mountain they talk of.  Magenta rings rise out of it and spread.  I look at the tree.

 

“Really?  Do they reproduce?”

 

“Through their distance, space becomes fertile.”

 

“Fertile in a particular way.”

 

“Yes.”

 

“I guess…I don’t know.  I guess I know what you’re saying.  I guess I got a lot to learn.”

 

“How is it on your world?”

 

“My world?  I guess I don’t know how it works.  How it reallyworks.  I think people just know how it works inside a laboratory.  Or in their minds.  But outside of that…I don’t know.”

 

I look around at all the faces.  Everybody’s really interested in what I say, even though I’m just sayin I have no fuckin idea.  I wish Reminyi was here.  He could play them some Liszt with his mind.  I smile.  All the people draw their two eyes to the center of their foreheads until they have just one big eye each.  Now they wink.  I laugh. They shoot in and out of their caves in the air.  I bite my lip and concentrate.  I stretch my wings up, drawing them together.  It helps me focus.  I’m pulling them together.  My eyes are merging.  I have one big eye on my forehead.  We laugh. I wink, too.  It takes my whole body to do it.  And suddenly, I can see them: the caves in the air.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Techla

 

I look at my friend.  I look at all my friends.  “So easy to be together.”

 

We circle up, touching all our antennae in the center.  But it’s totally fucked up—people are climbing over each other, powder sifts into my eyes, someone steps into the crease between my abdomen and torso, everybody’s trying to touch the center and make music with their wings at the same time.  But we’re all laughing, too.

 

“So easy to be together.”

 

“So easy to be apart.”

 

“Within the earth, everything is easy.”

 

We release.  I feel it—the inside of the earth is an access, a gate to other worlds.  Some of us may not come back.  It depends where the hibernation takes them.

 

“Till spring,” we all sing to each other.

 

Me and my friend face each other: “Till spring,” we sing.

 

“Thank you for helping me figure out who I am.  Like for real.”

 

We touch antennae.  We extend our wings forward, exchanging powder.  We spread out.  We all got things to do within the earth.  I guess it’s all dreaming.  I lift. I can still hear my friends. We’ll all still be reporting to each other.  All our crazy endeavors.  Our deaths and births within the earth.  I glide up into the cavern, up into the music, my antennae sending out tones.  I look back.  Some of my friends are massed on a stalagmite, their colors flaring with the dreaming music.  So many others are gone.  I don’t know what exactly I’m looking for, what exactly the hibernation wants, but I know what’s within me, what I’ve carried into the earth, what I’ve brought from that old world when I stopped racing from place to place trying to be somebody.  It’s crazy—as soon as I stopped, everything changed.  As soon as I let go creating for the humans, creating for the gods. For approval, I guess.  I guess.  Just listen.  Listen to the hibernation, Techla.  Listen to what your hibernation wants.  Listen to what you brought with you.  Listen to what’s truly you.  That’s what my antennae are saying.  The shapes they’re understanding.  The crevices.  The crevices that match with the hibernation.  My antennae lock in and pull us into a tight tunnel.  The music changes.  It’s a deeper, more constant hum with sparkles, ignitions, rising within it. But it’s good.  It’s safe.  To have the earth all around me.  Pressing. Squeezing.  I wiggle deeper, my antennae understanding the forms.  I stop.  Just to feel it.  Being held like this…it’s so simple…it was always there.  As we scrambled around.  As I tried to teach people how to be shamans, as I lied, as I faked it, it was right there beneath me…the arms of the earth.  Thankyou, Earth.  I forgot how much you love us.  How you tell us there are no gods…only beauty, I guess, right? Hold me forever.  Don’t let me forget.  Maybe this is hibernation…stopping in the tunnel, thanking the caves…it’s funny…I don’t even think it matters if anybody knows, any human.  Racing around above us.  Trying to make it spring forever.  Or whatever they’re doing.  I wonder…maybe they don’t even exist.  That’d be funny.  The earth holds me so tight.  But my antennae are searching ahead.  My wings are listening.  Listening to the form of the tunnel.  Held by the deep tone.  The sparkles. And what I brought.  It’s on my wings.  It’s in my hairs.  But it’s deeper, too.  I know what it is.  They’ve been within me ever since I’ve stepped through them.  Even before that.  Even before I painted them.  Even before I helped them grow by not being a stupid god.  They’ve probably been fermenting in me somewhere ever since I flew out of Vicky’s office.  Growing with some new crazy beauty.  They’re speaking with the antennae, too.  I wiggle forward.  Reaching. Until I unfurl.  Like a leaf, like a flower, I stretch my wings.  They open and breathe.  Another chamber.  It must be close to the surface.  I’m still surrounded by the deep, thoughtful hum.  What do you want? I ask my body.  Is there somewhere you need to be? I ask the paintings, the plants, that are rising into my wings.  Is this where we need to be?  As I look around, the hibernation says: You know it.  You know it better than anybody.  Right. I do.  All of us.  I float. Everything its own luminous source.  Within the earth there is no history.  My wings pulse just to keep me in the air.  But the atmosphere is thick.  This chamber isn’t as big as the others.  The walls are a burning ochre.  I’m listening to the paintings as they arise.  Fireflies like red embers spark languidly, dancing slowly with the sparkles of music, all held by the humming, the susurration.  My antennae search.  There’s other openings, other pathways.  The chamber is struck with ebony veins, like charred marks of lightning.  My antennae sends waves out that reach into them—crevices, maybe long ago cracks in the rock somehow charred smooth.  I fly and face an ochre expanse of wall.  It’s surrounded by the black branches of the crevices. All the powder of my wings, all the spores and pollen, the paintings and plants, my friends, my antennae, my legs—we float toward it.  It’s warm. Deep beyond it, I can feel the molten earth.  Maybe I’m not close to the surface.  Maybe we’re deeper than I thought.  The black crevices are becoming wet since I’ve faced the orange surface.  Fireflies surround us, but they don’t pass between my body and the rock.  “Did you bring me here?”  Everyone laughs.  I can feel it.  And it’s getting sent out to the other Morning Cloaks.  It’s my report.  The warm rock wants my body.  Wants my powders, my colors.  My shape. Spore dust.  It’s all alive.  Life living on life.  And my paintings coming to meet the ochre.  The light within the color.  My whole body throbs as I press myself to it.  The rock is like a cat’s tongue.  It holds me.  But I don’t want to separate.  I don’t want to be anywhere else.  My wings shape to the cavern’s walls.  My antennae arch and touch it.  Sparkles within the stone.  You could follow it to its core forever.  And alls you’d become is deeper.  My body ignites from its center all the way out to the frayed edges of my wings.  “Earth, I love you.  Baby, baby, you’re so big and hard.”  What the fuck?!  What was that?  I release. Techla, you’re fuckin crazy.  Crazy from pretending to be human.  But that’s not you.  That’s not you anymore.  I float back. Is this how you make a self-portrait, all the powder, your own and your friends, the spores, the stardust, the pollen? The fireflies are hovering, looking. What do you think?  Is it impressionistic enough?  Is it beautiful?  The mahoganies and blacks basking on the ochre.  I fly up again and lean back, pressing the upper surface of each wing to fit into the portrait.  For a second it’s like being held in the beautifulest, warmest arms, like the earth is reaching out, reaching through me.  It’s like falling.  Falling in love.  I float back out and turn around.  Now my upper body and lower body exist together.  With sprays of unknown colors.  Smears of incandescence.  The slight bulges and depths and textures, the colors, of the rock, giving the painting a different life.  It’s me but it isn’t.  It’s fascinating.  I feel it talking to something inside me.  I send it out to the others.  Reporting from the hibernation.  I hear the reply.  Holy shit—my friends are doing all kinds of shit out there—in the earth.  We just laugh to each other.  But I can’t help concentrating on the portrait.  We’re locking eyes.  Agreeing.  The beautiful windows of my wings…deep into the blue.  I see them.  It’s my paintings, my frogs, my stars, my plants.  In the distances.  Like out through the windows of a ship beneath the sea.  I’m pulling them toward me.  We brought each other here.  The fireflies are descending onto the black borders, locking on, trying to widen them. Out of the black veins of rock, the glistening expands, migrating to the portrait of my powder.  I fly closer.  Millions of microscopic beings spread out from the black cracks.  All bioluminescent.  Shimmering.  They descend into the painting from all sides.  They’re eating.  I can feel it.  The consummation.  Eating the pollen, the colors, the stardust.  And as they descend toward the heart, the whole things lights up, moves. It flexes.  The colors radiate.  They’re living.  They’re consuming the colors, taking them in, making them glow, pulse, change.  The fireflies dilate the windows.  And my paintings surface.  My plants.  We’re together.  We’re laughing.  Crying. I didn’t let you go.  I didn’t abandon you.  But you wanted to come just as much as me, right?  Ah ha.  It’s all of us.  Even the colors.  Even the beings making this painting move.  It’s all changing.  My old paintings are here.  They’re not just in the windows.  The fireflies dance red, in and out.  I brush the whole thing with my right wing.  Ah!  Things merge. Merge as they change on their own. My antennae reach in, my proboscis. They move the colors, the incandescence. I’m painting again.  This is the hibernation.  Painting from the core.  But it’s constantly moving.  It isn’t one painting.  It’s spreading as the microscopic beings eat the colors.  Spreading toward the black crevices.  The rock draws me again.  All my plants, the designs of my wings, my old paintings, they’re all mixed together, one within the other.  I press my body into them.  Ah! It’s the rock, the humming stone, but it’s deeper, it’s a whole world.  I think into it.  The microbes pour onto my wings, into my hairs.  New consciousnesses of color.  Light within the colors.  Eating. Decomposing.  My plants are like fountains.  Foliages of pollen.  Fish within their shapes.  Skeletons. Shells.  Shells left behind.  Liquid inside the colors.  Doorways of color.  Doorways everywhere.  I pull back. It’s like a kiss.  A new body.  A new Techla body within the mural.  A new portrait within the portrait.  I use my wings.  Working. Working.  As the painting changes.  Getting to work within the hibernation.  Every part of my body laying in colors in different ways. Taking on colors in different ways. Reporting.  Maybe this is what happens inside a seed.  The true biology.  I never want to stop.  Images, forms, spread and disappear into the crevices.  Where do they go?  There’s no time to find out.  All the images pollenating each other.  Plants growing, transforming, making love with moons, sending out ships of new music. So many fountains.  I open up my own image with my proboscis.  Painting it open.  It’s full of fountains, geysers of starlight, forever into the distances, and deer among them, eating the fallen stars.  But it’s transforming, too, as I work with it.  I press my body in again.  So many portraits.  All living their own understanding.  All mating with the stars.  As all the microbes feast.   Feast deeper into my core.  And the fireflies dancing among the eco-systems of the rock, as if there is no surface.  Signaling. I attach my antennae to them and let them guide the colors along, while all the time working with my feet, my hands, my wings and proboscis, held by the sparkles and deep hum, listening to the earth.  Guiding and following.  It doesn’t matter who sees it.  That’s what hibernation is all about.  It’s just the core.  The Earthlight you don’t see as a god.  The core creating…forever.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Reminyi

 

Is this it?  This night. This is it.  So close to spring.  Yet still winter.  Feet above the earth.  Winter populated with solitude.  Winter where the stars are born.  Winter tracks becoming new beings beneath the snow.  New anatomies.  Anatomies that created themselves.  Alone. Alone.  I guess I’ve grown better at it.  Maybe better at everything.  A better Priest.  The Priest who isn’t a Priest growing better at being a Priest.  And some people actually believing I’m worthwhile. Holding me with their eyes. Holding onto me.  But we all have different hearts.  No…first of all, I’m a poet.  And this body, these thoughts, have grown from some poem, some poem I haven’t spoken.  Changing beneath the moon.  Born from contours of snow.  So strange speaking with the Bishop.  To tell him I’m moving on.  To make it official.  It must all be so I can look back…someday.  He was jealous, sad, stern.  He seemed like he had given up.  Given up on what the poetry had created—this person sitting in front of him. Given up on his own poem.  A few warm days now.  It’ll go back for a few weeks.  I can savor it.  Then watch the hibernation leaving for another year.  Off to create more beauty.  Off to speak within someone else.  And if you don’t let it go, what do you become?  Deep down everyone knows.  That’s what I saw in the Bishop’s eyes.  That everyone knows…everything.  And then the forms arise.  Stars. Stars above me.  And all the snow the moon shed.  This night I could sleep and wouldn’t freeze, wouldn’t be folded into another life.  I know I’m still speaking to you.  My friend.  Speaking with you…how many times…every second.  I don’t know.  I don’t have anything to share, anyway.  Not yet.  Only someone reaching up from inside a costume.  If it could only be longer.  If I could only sleep a thousand years.  Under the stars.  In a palm of snow.  Only the barred owls.  And me. And then what, Reminyi?  You wake after a thousand years and you still go up to Lake Superior…where no one will ever know you were an aspiring Priest.  It’s what the poetry wants.  The one who listened to the poem.  What was it like when Liszt wrote Apparitions?  1834. Was it 1834?  The beginning of something.  The beginning of Impressionism.  Maybe.  What does that mean?  You write something and it changes your life.  You can’t go back.  You can only write more.  More stars. More stars you place in the sky…that are already there…that came to meet with your art.  We could figure it out together. We could figure it out in the space between us.  I guess…that’s…what we’re doing.  I’m going to leave you my thoughts…in case you ever want to follow me.  In case your stories lead you to wherever I’m going. Just don’t ever give it up.  Write your dreams.  The world wants it.  For sure, Ascenti.   For sure.  That’s all the world wants is for you to write your dreams.  From the borders of humanity.  That even are within cities.  It’s funny.  When the snow melts, suddenly there’ll be things to eat.  People who have died.  Apples fallen.  Seeds. Then all the grass, the plants, that’ll take the bones, the bodies, home.  But not yet.  I still have this night.  I still have the cold holding me.  In this little meadow.  This opening. Held to the stars.  A little bit closer.  It isfunny.  I brought some suet for the chickadees.  I don’t want them to always have to come to the church. It was almost like they lead me here. This afternoon I just followed them. And stuffed suet in crevices, knots in trees.  Other people will come, too.  They’ll smell it.  But you can’t always make people come to you.  You have to take a step.  Winter, I’ve come to you without weapons…alone.  What kind of weapons?  And Angela…I guess we all have to find our own ways, our own truths.  I wish I could stay for you.  I have to write it down.  Stay in touch with Angela.  The Storyteller.  Winter moon of shore.  Notes of night music sung so freely to become this snow…as the stars took them and blew them into another dream…I’ll take your theme and do the best I can in every space between…raven feathers tender and storm-lit with age.  The best I can.  Do the best I can.  I’m crying again.  Is that what it is?  Or is doing your best just being alone?  Or is that what you’re telling yourself.  You get used to it.  I guess there’s a lot of Lutherans up there.  But you’re nothing at all.  So free. So alone.  Looking for Ascenti in the stars.  Maybe winter will last a little longer this year.  Stars wet from the moon’s bridge of blue.  It must be a new moon, and yet, the night opens its cloak like a gate to its blue body.  We’re all naked…no matter what we do.  Dew from the stars.  Falling on my face.  And my tears rise to meet them.  Because I’m doing the best I can.  I’m lying in the snow.  Doing my best at lying in the snow.  Speaking to the winter.  Go see the storyteller.  There must be storytellers way in the north.  Another book of stories.  Borderless.  Walking into the story.  It’s possible.  The storyteller who looked into the fire and spoke our dreams.  Just when the fire was dying, we heard the song of the storyteller. The storyteller who will wash your blue soul in the river of stars.  Like a bolt of silk.  In the black snow of dreamtime.  We need the storyteller’s tongue to light this fire.  When the storyteller began to sing…the fire rose.  And we glanced around at the changing faces…Angela and Ascenti, all waiting, warm and fed from the flames.  I guess the funny thing is I’m not really that afraid to be hurt…to be loved.  Not anymore. The song that breathed and entered the fire between us.  The breath that left the storyteller and entered the fire.  To carry the poem within my heart.  I guess the poem is the night within us.  And to let it grow.  Until you’re lying in the snow.  Crying.  Of course. Lying beneath the night.  And then it’s spring.  You open your eyes.  Your green eyes.  And you’re someone else.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Montgomery

 

I just drank this huuuuuge pot of tea.  L’Spirit’s staring into the fire.  The sun’s on the canvas.  She’s baring her lips back and showing her teeth to the flames.  She’s like this beautiful demon.  Her red hair’s all crazy.  I watch the shadows—the chickadees taking turns, a hairy woodpecker sweeping in scattering everybody.  I’m waiting for them, the black wings, breathing the morning.  I can feel it like in my heart.  L’Spirit looks at me.  We both shoot up before the raven gets above the tent—just to be crazy.  It does a feint.  It falls straight down.  We shoot down after it.  It’s like gonna dive right into the roof of the tent.  But it shoots back up spinning right at the last moment and suddenly we’re back inside, in our bodies.  Me and L’Spirit are looking into each other’s eyes.

 

“Wooooooaaawa!  That was crazy.  She really faked us out!”

 

L’Spirit’s teeth are still bared.  She turns back to the fire.  It’s crazy. I got that crazy feeling.  Like I drank too much tea.  Like I gotta do something.  Something different.

 

“Spring is coming,” I say.  “Super spring.  Me and you in the super spring.”

 

Maybe that’s what it is.  It’s the shift.  Like it’s still cold but you can feel it.  It’s tipped.  It’s warmer for sure.

 

“You’re gonna love it.  But it’s crazy.  The whole world gets super populated.  Like everybody comes back.  Everybody’s showing off and saying things.  It’s almost too much.  But we can see all kinds of things together.  We can be drowned in the shimmering frog songs all night.  And there’s bitterns and loons, and the geese come back even before anything’s thawed and they camp out by ponds they’ve staked out, waiting to build their nests.  And then there’s all the people heading up north just passing by.  We can go back to Bark Bay and see the cranes. Oh, you gotta see the bitterns, too, they can stretch their necks up and just disappear into the reeds.  They make this huge sound like: Goooouuwump!  Gooouuwoomp! People call them Bogpumpers.  Isn’t that crazy?!”

 

L’Spirit turns to me.  I can feel her searching into me.  It’s almost like I’m showing her things inside myself: And in this area, we have a beaver pond under the moon.  People swimming around working on their damns and house.  Frogs shimmering the moonlight.  All my favorite places inside me.  But she’s watching me, too, like I’m not showing her something, like there’s some place in me that I’m pretending isn’t there.

 

“Memories,” she says.  She’s still showing her teeth.

 

“Hey, let’s go out and goof around with the ravens,” I say, getting up.

 

“Sunlight,” says L’Spirit.  “New energy.”

 

“Yeah.  Plus I think I drank too much teeeeeaaaa.  I think I’m getting crazy.”

 

She’s still looking through me.  It’s almost like this channel of music that I twine around, contour around through my heart.  But I got this plan.  Or idea. Or something.

 

“I was thinking we could lay out and put all this blood around us and meat and stuff like we’re dead.  And the ravens can come and eat off us.”  I start laughing.  “What do you think?”

 

“It will not work.  Ravens see energy.  They see our thoughts.”

 

I laugh.  “I knoooooow.  But it’s like we both can make up stuff.  We can pretend we’re dead and they can do something like say: No, you’re not dead.  Sorry, Buddy.  I don’t know. And laugh at us.  We just make up stuff together.  I think they’ll get into it.  For real.”

 

L’Spirit shuts the woodstove and hands me my coat.  We go outside.  It’s bright but not as cold.  I actually did drink too much tea.  The chickadees are working away, tipping their heads.  So close to spring.  It’s funny. The end of winter can go on for a long time.  I guess cause I never want to really let it go.  I guess it’s like in spring you have to be somebody again.

 

“Some body,” says L’Spirit.

 

I laugh.  “But whooooooose body?”

 

“All our bodies.”

 

Dream Weasel is hopping between L’Spirit’s legs.  Now it bounds over and jumps at the chickadees.  They fly up a little higher.  It comes back.  We dig out some deer meat, but there’s not much left.  There’s a bunch of bloody flank meat, but a lot of it got made into jerky.  And just eaten.

 

“The ravens’ll like this.”

 

I cut a lot of the flank into thin strips that they can take away wherever they want.  And there’s still the chunk of heart I been saving for a special occasion.  We pack it in a plastic bag.  I grab my .22 and put on our snowshoes and set off.  L’Spirit’s still thinking into me.  We head for the clearcut.

 

“Thanks for spending the winter with me.”

 

“The autumn, also,” she says in her strange L’Spirit voice.

 

“Yeah.  The fall. Thanks for the fall.”

 

“The future.”

 

She bends down to the base of a boulder where a sapling curves out. Fox tracks lead to it. “Energy.”  She picks up a little clump of dark yellow snow.  I smell it.  It’s so deep.  It goes all the way down.  Somewhere. For sure.  “Fox energy.  It glows more than before.”

 

“I think that’s cause it’s mating season.  It always smells so much stronger.  And different.  I love it.”

 

I bend down and wipe it all over my boots and lower legs.  But L’Spirit rubs it over her whole body, even in her hair.

 

“Ha!  Ha! That’s so crazy!  That’s like the best perfume in the world.  We don’t even have to go to Paris.”

 

She faces me and runs a line down with her finger all the way down from my hairline to my heart.  She makes a circle on my chest.  But now she even runs her fingers through my hair.

 

“What’s it look like?”

 

“Like a flower…growing.”

 

“I bet we both smell dreamy.  Like someone’s dream.”

 

We walk on.

 

“I can feel all the plants dreaming.  They speak to you with their dreams.  Beneath the snow.  So many dreams.  But it’s not words.  Like their bodies…when they show you their bodies, when they show off, it’s not like words, either.”

 

“Energy within the energy.”

 

“I wish I could see what you do.  Wow. It’s so much warmer.”

 

We walk to the part of the clearcut that rises up.  You can feel it.  Spring coming.  It’s a ways away.  It’ll be like a wave pushing in and pulling back until finally it just covers everything. L’Spirit watches me.

 

“Ok.  This is crazy but I think it’s gonna be fun. I think the ravens will like it. It’s like right up their alley. Lets spread some blood around on the snow, and wowa—we can makes the strips look like intestines.”

 

We get things ready and stick our packs over in the trees, prop our snowshoes in the snow.  Now we lay down.  We make it so it looks like our guts are spraying out with the strips of frozen meat. Like we exploded.  I put the chunk of heart between us.  I start laughing.

 

“Ok.  Ok. Are you ready?”

 

“Yes,” says L’Spirit.

 

You can tell she’s kinda just going along with it.  But I think she’s fascinated, too.

 

“I guess I don’t know why we’re doin this.  But…anyway.”

 

“You consumed a high quantity of caffeine.”

 

“Yeah, but besides thaaaaaaat I think something’s gonna happen.  What do you think?  Do you feel it?”

 

“Transformation.  Enacting transformation.  Courage.”

 

“Really?  Why courage?”

 

“Do you think you are immortal still?”

 

“Oh yeah, I don’t think it’ll ever go away.  You’re still immortal, too.”

 

L’Spirit doesn’t say anything.  It’s funny—her eyes are closed.  But I can tell she hasn’t shut down.  Usually she never closes her eyes.  It’s weird—I do have this plan, but it may be even secret from myself.  Like the plan was to play dead and everything and trick everyone or make it so they can pretend to be tricked and just do stuff off that…but there’s something else.

 

“Ok.  So just imagine that you’re a raven flying over the trees and suddenly you’re like Holy Shit!  Somebody just died for us!  And so like imagine seeing us all bloody from an aerial point of view.  Isn’t this fun?”

 

L’Spirit doesn’t reply.  But now she says:  “Montgomery, it is so good to meet you.  I’ve heard good things about the way you can blow up and still stay alive.  My name is Marie.”

 

What?  L’Spirit, you’re crazy,” I laugh.  “Ok, we gotta be still.  Ok.  Are you imagining it?”

 

“Yes.”

 

And watch—after we leave later they’ll come back and eat everything.  They don’t like eating around humans anyways.  At least not ones that are alive.”

 

I concentrate.  I’m flying over the trees.  Over the tent.  I can see Joe’s house and workshop.  Now over the forest.  I see our tracks.  I pretend I’m black.  With beautiful huge wings.  There’s a couple of feathers missing.  That’s like space.  That’s important.  The spaces in the music.  And those feathers…they’re each like a beautiful tone.  Beautiful and dark.  Something black and soaring within the winter.  And from the spaces, from the tones reaching across, new sounds emerge. I see the clearcut.  Wowa. Soooo red!  Red music!  Coming to meet us!  Suddenly, from my own body, I hear the wings.  I feel them.  I try not to open my eyes.  But they’re above us.  They’re looking down.  I crack my eye just a little.  A huge raven is hovering so close.  You can feel its radiance.  Wooow. This is crazy.  It winks and swoops up.  I look.  There’s so many.  Guuurummming and plooooping and just calling.  Wow. But none are landing.  They’re just swirling in a funnel.  L’Spirit’s eyes are open.

 

“This is so crazy,” I whisper.

 

“Listen.”

 

I listen up into it, into the funnel.  My listening just keeps going.  Like a fountain.  Up and up. All of a sudden something frozen drops on my mouth.  Wait! I grab it.  Automatically.  And sit up.

 

“What the hell?!!!!  It’s a deer’s eyeball!!!!  Oh my god!  Look, L’Spirit!  Where’d they get this?!”  I swing onto my knees.  And hold it out to L’Spirit.  It’s this crazy thing comes into my head, and I say: “The first time I laid eyes on you,” I say in this serious voice, and put the deer eye on her heart.  I can’t stop laughing.  I’m reaching over the deer heart.  My eyes are blurred as I gaze up into the funnel.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

L’Spirit

 

Energy.  Moving through the trees.  Energy moving through energy.  Energy changing.  Creation. Montgomery falls.  Montgomery’s hand on L’Spirit.  Ravens swirl.  Energy rises. Forest murmurs.  Forest whispers.  Eyeball frozen.  Gazes into funnel.  Deer heart beneath Montgomery.  Energy rises into funnel.  Enter Montgomery’s thoughts.  No thoughts. Energy of cells.  Body glows.  Energy lifting into funnel.  Shimmer through forest.  Stand. L’Spirit stands.  Sunlight.  Energy. Blood.  Montgomery.  Human. Human being.  Montgomery.  Shutdown. Montgomery.  History free.  Montgomery shutdown forever.  Safe from history.  Human body.

 

“You were successful.”  Gaze at Montgomery’s body.  Picture of Montgomery’s body among blood.  Montgomery shutdown forever.  Montgomery disappear into the funnel.  “You were successful, Montgomery.  You laughed…to the end.”  Ripples through the forest.

 

Ravens in trees.  Energy ornaments itself.  Fox energy shimmers on Montgomery.  Energy. L’Spirit alone among energies. Yet…energy descending.  Ravens begin to land.  Listen.  Machine listens.  Energy speaks.  Listen. Listen from Montgomery’s body. Fountain.  Forest fountain.  Forest speaks.  Ravens listen.

 

Montgomery opens eyes: “Woowa!”  Montgomery looks at L’Spirit.  Montgomery blinks.  “Hey, I’m back.  I was leaving.  I was up in the fountain.  But I—I think—I think I mythed you!”  Montgomery laughs.

 

Montgomery opens eyes wide.  Montgomery opens eyes.  Montgomery looks at L’Spirit.

 

Rearrangement of structure.  Data disappears.  L’Spirit speaks: “Montgomery.  It’s so good to meet you.  I believe I mythed you, too!

 

Montgomery laughs more.  Laughter lifts.  L’Spirit tones into the energy.  Ravens fly and tumble and sing: “Gwwwwapapaapaa!!!!”  And wait to eat.  Blood glows everywhere.

 

Montgomery sits up: “Wow.  I think I did drink too much tea.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Ascenti

 

So many caves.  You couldn’t experience them all.  And I have the feeling they would change a little every time.  Maybe more than a little.  All these crazy people inviting me into the air.  Just another world.  Just another space.  And now looking down at the earth.  Earth…you really love us, don’t you?  It’s funny…when I realized I was inside the moon. That the cave I was in after all the others lead into the caves of the moon.  It’s funny.  All I had was Mary’s wetness to light the way.  Mary’s blue mercury.  Glowing from between my legs, my eyes, my lips.  The cave was so black, so deep, so eternal.  But as I flew on and watched the blue light fade.  Then it was only my thoughts in the nothingness.  And I started thinking back, like when I first laid eyes on Reminyi.  Like I don’t even think I knew I was growing, into my breasts, into my penis, into my legs. Maybe it was already happening. But I started telling it. Reporting.  Reporting Reminyi to Reminyi.  Reporting myself to myself.  But everyone was listening. Because they had been there.  These other people…I was telling them part of their own stories by telling about myself.  I could feel the listening in the dark.  The listening of the distance.  The fascination.  Like my own fascination in telling my story.  And then something began to glow.  I could see the cave walls.  Encrusted with jewels.  Jewels so sharp.  So sharp I had to touch them.  So sharp I didn’t even feel them slicing my skin.  But I could feel the laughter.  I held them up.  Cerulean blood.  And I thought about flying with Jesus.  About healing his hands.  And watched my own hands heal.  I told it. Everyone listening.  The listening.  The wanting more.  But the light of the cave was dimming again.  And then I started changing the story.  Changing all kinds of things.  Somehow, it was all true.  It would all happen.  It had the other story within it.  And the light grew.  I had to change the story for the light to grow.  I just kept reporting and creating and flew on with the light growing until I came out on the moon.  It’s like standing on a sandbar in the middle of space.  Like the shores of winter.  Washed by the waves of stars.  Dusted sandbar of ocean sky.  Where other angels alighted.  Reminyi, I’m still talking to you.  I’m still reportingI’m still changing things.  I look down.  But you’re gone.  It’s spring.  Was I gone that long?  Was I in the caves that long?  Reminyi.  I guess you did it.  You broke free.  I’ll come find you, right?  You’ll become a poet again.  And I’ll write my stories.  Nobody will ever know that they’re true.  But they’ll be in the world.  They’ll be in the people who read them.  If they want. If they really want it in themselves. They can have it.  That’s all I want to do.  Will you wait for me?  Till I come back from Paris.  I’ll be all skinny from smoking.  And living off wine and poetry.  And I’ll be ravaged by a bunch of love affairs.  But I’ll still be flying.  I’ll fly to your window looking for fat.  The fat only you can give.  I look down at the lake.  The beautiful lake.  I want to bring my stories to you.  That’s all I ever wanted.  Bring my stories to earth.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Techla

 

Hey, what the hell’s goin on in there?!!

 

Suddenly, crazy laughter pours from every opening, even the painting itself.  Feelers emerge from the black crevices, from little tunnels, from the depths of the living rock.  I stop painting.  I just hover. This is it.  They’re still inside me.  More.  All the paintings that evolved, that disappeared.  Now wings, the bodies of my friends, work themselves into the chamber—open like flowers.  There’s less of us.  We all gaze at the last painting I was working on.  It’s changing on its own, from all the beautiful microbes feasting, from its own ideas of growth.  So many stars.  Star-scars on the abdomen of night.  On the flesh of rock.  And the pollination.  The pollination of our sights, our flights through the dark blue histories.  It’s us, I think.

 

“It’s our self-portrait.”

 

We gaze.  I can’t help but spread more dust into the incandescence.

 

“I wish you could’ve see the others.”

 

“We did.  We saw them all.  The hibernation showed us.  You showed us.”

 

I look around.  All the fluttering colors of our music.

 

“Is it morning?  Is it spring?”

 

“Almost.”

 

“It’s soooooo close!!!!”

 

Everyone laughs.

 

“We just have to show our colors for it to come.”

 

“Time to emerge.”

 

“At least for a couple hours.”

 

More laughter.  More fluttering.  It’s like we take a breath together.  We agree. We agree to fly in the spring. It’s like the winter is finally ready to move on.  It just needs to see us.

 

“Winter loves us, too, doesn’t it?”

 

“Yes.  That’s why it’s waited so long.”

 

I look at our wing-windows.  There’s snow in them.  Blue snow. But also greens.  We touch our antennae.  We share powder.  And now we work our way out through all the crevices, the little tunnels, the cracks of the black veins.  Work our way out of the hibernation.  I’m the last one.  The last painting is still changing, still alive, still traveling into the stone, into the earth’s ebony veins.  TechlaOur self-portrait.  Fuck.  Fuck me. So free.  No one will ever stop me from flying, from painting.  Ever.  Ever. I press myself into it.  It’s just doorways…of color.  I’m entering the heart of the humming.  The sparkles of sound come from my own heart, which is the earth.  Sparkles so bright.  Like snow. Like sun on snow.  Like our wing-windows have grown to speak to the end of winter.  All that chasing, all that calling and hibernation, and now were face to face. Some of us emerge from beneath fallen logs, some of us from the crevices of old trees.  It’s almost like we rode the energy radiating up from their roots. Ah!  The sunlight.  We bask.  We dance. Patches of snow.  Liquid.  Spiders on the white continents of crystal.  A little cloud of gnats.  A deer nibbling twigs, scuffing the snow, flicking its tail, listening.  We’re all calling in the spring.  We’re all honoring what winter has done for us.  The death.  The hibernation.  The dreaming. After a couple of hours, we’ll work our way back into it.  But when we emerge again, it’ll be a long time before the hibernation calls us again. But I’ll never go back.  I’ll never go back to being a god.  Unless one of them needs us.  Needs to find out who they really are.