the patrol

we kept to the dense foliage
six of us engaged to reconnoitre

something had been lost—no one could say what
the moon shone like tipped gasoline 

returning every night no matter the phase
a mood shining wetly on the grass

what was new about it? I asked my captain
he replied only in low and mystical growling

the field spoke in intimate languages
we continued searching—was it ever there?

six of us who couldn’t remember

what I betrayed—moon in Libra—danced around myself 
was always weighing—the future and whatever else—tacking
my horse—sizing up my opponent—no one—riding into 
the target—I was alone in Washington
a woman rode past on a bicycle—I was in the wrong place—I didn’t know 
where I was—let myself forget—let myself look—searched 
through my pockets—it wasn’t there—the cyclist growled 
nevermind—today read about the denial and delusion of John
a hundred backyard parties—swimming—acres of gin—
in the city a man tries to make his fortune—searches—
is always frustrated, comes home late one night and finds 
what he’d forgotten—his wife, gentle, framed—a slip, the light
of their apartment—this is his fortune—as for myself,
found it too late—a note in my pocket—a traveller with petty complaints
and too many demands—
underlined—soon wears out his welcome

this time last year—pacing the bedroom to get cell signal
trying to keep my voice down—sound travels, ricochets
sometimes this house feels like nothing—somehow here 
I am lost—and in the French national archives—standing beneath
posters from May ’68—can’t remember the slogans—something
about imagination something about the future—I have spent
too much time talking—I have talked too much—and something
feels exposed in me, something that’s still here—sitting in on
the Zoom—three of us lined up on the couch—a business meeting
I spend the entire time wondering—what part of me has so much
trouble with this? what part is listening—this month last year
in the Owl’s Club a G-winning poet hooked their leg around mine
and asked me to come home with them—I said I still hadn’t
gotten over my ex, which was true—on Dovercourt felt released and 
sympathetic in the long shadow of some Futurist’s cool blue—
I’m always betraying what I say or think—another photograph
cluster of buildings downtown—I was trying to forget someone 
taking the light in—nuclear white at the top of just one building
always think God is touching down—the second season of Fleabag
plays in the other room—had a crush on a Catholic when it 
came out—but really a crush on some part of myself—something
I thought I was ignoring—light or passion or death—perhaps 
only deathperhaps nothing—reaching—into the light or towards
the brick’s phosphorescence

the year of two houses 

splitting the self—everything in bags—what to leave behind
something to write against—a movie plays in the other room
(a woman moans in pleasure—period clothing—I don’t remember
that from the book). a noise in the woods—when first we 
moved here—two am—something knocking not far away
but there’s nothing with us—a warning, maybe—or a hammer 
or a tree slowly stretching itself—another image—March 3, 2019
winter coats and hats, a frisbee underneath your arm, we’re in
the bright white light of the forest—didn’t notice until just now 
the trail of footprints—quite wide—a lot of people—
but we were alone—early
I remember—squinting in the sun

“selected for you,” December 21

portrait nothing like you are—stiff, propped up on pillow, except for some tension
wouldn’t know whether you were living or dead, orange striped comforter
ivy hanging behind you—not ivy exactly—tangled in the metal headboard

don’t recognize the staircase—leg over the body, two bodies
distant house. two bodies, one leg over the other, their tiny intelligences, their fur
—two bodies, recently buried (as far as my shovel would go)

the city—landscape—clouds, snow, bare trees, fog of an image of myself in the window
what was I releasing in this photograph, where was I taking myself
hanging over the field, worrying between two points

something sent to me—dense corner grown up that next spring—could once name the flowers 
now only colours, the bulbs we dug and stuck, spilling gasoline 
on my poncho, wrecking my boots in the muck—everything packed close
leaf-blower stirring the air

In my dream I make a scene in front of a party of four, and, once I realize what I’ve done, apologize to the man I shouted at, who seems older than he should be—tall and thin, with greying brown hair and glasses. I deliver this to the entire table, but only he—the one I insulted—bothers to listen.

I don’t know how to explain that what came out was more involuntary than anything I’ve ever felt or acted upon. When I say goodbye, the woman at the centre of this drama, who I have barely talked to, is facing away from me, wearing a jean jacket and looking at the water. Pretending like it never happened.

I wake up several times that night—in a bed I will later discover is two foam mattress tops placed on top of each other. This is by the river. On the radio a story about a man who discovers mathematics in prison; he is in ecstasy describing its beauty. How did he arrive there? He was given a sheet of problems to solve while he was stuck in solitary confinement.

In the interview the man telling his story can’t seem to feel the barbarity of what they’ve done to him, too focussed on what is beyond. A teenage mathematician he has been in contact with says, for several minutes, without purpose, “He’s not like a prisoner in the movies. He’s not hard. He’s like you or me.”

This morning a hot air balloon flies low over the house, carrying supplies for the movie set that I know is just around the corner. The operator is flying recklessly—I see just the metal bottom, uncomfortably close, from near my window. I worry it’s going to pass over the roof, scrape itself, collapse something, knock it over—and I brace for impact. 

But nothing follows. My door opens and closes of its own accord. I am half-asleep, awake but hallucinating. I become conscious that Mowat is in the crook of my arm, resting peacefully against my chest. I’m afraid to disturb him, so happy that he’s there. I touch his fur and it is perfect, warm, vivid—my little friend. 

He turns and bites my thumb. I am worried that the dream will turn—but the bite is not hard, or it’s hard but just hard enough. The pain is real. He fades away, and I discover that I haven’t, exactly, been dreaming, though I could not say with certainty whether I have been awake. 

New substrate in the city, faded grey masks, working their way into the asphalt and turf. Thought early November, the stretch of days above twenty degrees, would be the end of the good weather this year. But I forgot how the sun somehow feels clarifying when it is furthest from us—no matter the temperature, all that I seem to need is that bright white light that obliterates the pavement ahead.

I want to go there, where nothing seems to be.

Holding still. Release the questions that I should not ask. Release the expectations that I should not have. Let the difficulty flow through me. I want to do what the Sage counsels. But I worry sometimes that I do not have the strength. Do not know what to do. How can I maximize the future? This is impossible. Losing what never was. Let it go. Release the future as well as the past. 

Hard to know in which direction I should move. The I Ching counsels rest, stillness, in every reading. Now is clearly not the time for action. But it can be difficult to hold the self without moving. To recover without fully understanding the goal. One day I will not need to be so still—perhaps then things will be self-evident, I will return to desire, or desire will find me. That is in fact what the I Ching seems to suggest and to recommend. There will be movement in my future—but when that future comes is unclear. 

Two days of snow in the forest. The only footprints belong to wild animals—and to Joshua and his three black dogs near the entrance to the path (the dogs are large, identical animals with huge paws). I pass fox prints, deer hooves, a procession of turkeys. I clear the trees that fell in the last windstorm, see that there will be many more to come. Something is changing in the forest: ashes stand with stripped bark from their roots to the crown. Tall ones, at least fifty feet high, in some places maybe forty-percent of the trees. They will fall at some point between now and next summer, or most of them will. I don’t know what’s happened, only that change is in the air, vibrating perhaps at the level of the atmosphere.

A blight brought on by the shifting climate. I will work with the axe and the saw until the way is clear once the new trees have fallen—I cleared the last tree blocking the way in September. No one who knew it intimately saw me heave the hard-wooded final block away. Took a picture for no one, emptiness at its centre, nothing but a disturbed forest floor. This winter, I will surely take more.