shriven

verb:
to have received the confession of; to have imposed penance on; to have granted absolution to

determiner [fragment]

this of slamming prison gates
this of violent winds
this of blood and burden
burning in the abdomen

this is that presented
this is that before
this is distant ice age
knocking on the door

Delay

Lately I’ve been thinking about lines from Anne Carson’s The Beauty of the Husband:

Fair reader I offer merely an analogy.

A delay.

What is being delayed?

Marriage I guess.

That swaying place as my husband called it.

Look how the word

shines.

Carson is not, I think, referring to the delay that soon-to-be lovers employ to heighten anticipation, or the delay that occurs when something goes wrong, though that is closer to it. I think of a delay in this instance as putting something off. Like you put a wedding off.

The wedding’s off.

I’m putting life off.

I’m just not ready.

Delay.

It is not suspension—that is another thing it could be but is not—for suspension requires that the event begin to unfold before it can suspended. In a putting off, the put off is here but has not yet arrived—it is the wedding day but the wedding has not begun, I am living but life has not started. A putting off is a suspension like a corpse is suspended—death has arrived but Death has not yet come to claim the body.

Is that not what we expect? Death to come on a white horse and bear the body away?

We use that image to distance ourselves from death because death is everywhere. Look, we can say, there is Death. He is not within us.

But it goes without saying.

As the living fear death, I too put off something that resided already within me. I do not know whether I externalized it, or if I did into what.

That was something of a lie. I do know that I externalized it, and I know into what.

Delay comes filtered through French from the Latin laxare, to slacken, undo.

A loosening of what?

Of tension, of gravity. As if all things in their tight orbits around us might be fed more length and made to grow distant from the center, take longer to come round to where they began.

Where I began.

parmenides

i.
two things are true:
one thing is true
and this one thing can never not be true.

some call it love.
others say that time
moves onward forever.
like black ice you can’t see it
but it is there.

this is what is called a statement.
love and time.
these two things.

ii.
if the universe were an egg
it would never hatch
because
there is only one.

alone, it cannot
make more.
this
is probably for the best.

one egg in the hand—
and a second hand
to steady the shaking wrist.

iii.
how can there be two things.
the fish is just the fish.
one thing.
the nest is just the nest.
also one thing.

add them together and
there is one thing again.
this makes it easy
to account for failure.

together,
it all makes sense.

swimming pool

when from the swimming pool
you returned i returned
i did not return
and the name lay wet like hair
across the body of the unspoken air

the eyes did not see it
the ears did not hear it
the inner speech spoke it
and knew it to be true
and some other people
went their merry way
and some other people
returned with unsaid names
to the bedroom beyond knowing
to the dark that is now and surrounds
the only space i see
and cuts the shadows as they fall
in hush beyond the boundary

the smell of chlorine drapes the bed
and suggests motion
and recalls the ocean
past either sea on either coast
in warmth where we were born
where i returned and did not return
the inner speech had warned
the eye saw blue hanging
the ear heard more than splashing
over the agitated water
and life when in proximity to life
chooses to approach or withdraw
and life in the presence of death
has no choice
and must descend
into unspoken law

safety

i will turtle shell into a period of waking
unlike the sleep of the present
not as any is different from sleep
but as the spider’s beckons
imitate the ready flower
but are not the same

blue

blue is an anxious captor
who splits and fidgets with its own skin
making the sound of the hissing carcass
of a burning ship as its hull meets the water.
fingertips rain out a dread melody
of scabs on its dozen limbs,
and i treat carefully one wound with salve
while two hands make daggers whisper
bluntly along my neck.

this is the arrangement.
it keeps me fed. and alive. and, i am told,
this prison tower from crumbling.
and blue alive to bring me water
and speak in broken metal lines
across my pale skin.

i would sooner see it continue
than the tower vanish into the sea.
starvation i am less afraid of,
my own mortality. is it strange
to cherish the empty halls of a ruin,
the way it sounds, the unsleep
of the lapping waves,
how my mind polishes like an eggshell
a souvenir to remember a life that never came?

last thought

if an asteroid were hurtling toward earth
i’d probably choose you

chaparral

in the chaparral we have suppressed
the natural cleansing fires
and caused feet of flammable material
to rise in suffocating mats on the plain.

they burn like a diamond
drawn by a toddler:
the parallels should be obvious.

they burn despite our efforts because that
is what chaparral does.
that is what we say to people
who build their homes in the dry hills:
you have consecrated your family in ash
and into ashes it shall be wrent apart.
we feel giddy proclaiming this.
we feel wise.

but a home doesn’t need to be surrounded
by a ring of flames to become a prison.
it becomes one as soon
as it is no longer a home.

we envy them not
that they will burn,
but that they have something to burn.
we would offer our own sons for the burning
if only we were asked, just to prove
that we had sons.
when the fire ascends
from their feet,
we will deny them pity
because they at least had homes
that burned before they became prisons.

setting

this is the future, they said, this
is the verdant sunset.
no doing, i told them, my bags
are too small to fit any kind of sunset,
holy, verdant, or dim. give me an empty gray sky
and somewhere lost as a canvas to paint my home on.
i’ll settle there, without endearing creek
or view of the mountain. i’ll take
what the others don’t want.

the train came slow for a train
down the mountain and pulling alongside
me it screamed in meaningful frictions
at the desert sun.
it’s hot, i know, i said to the machine.
and when it left it took only a part of me
and left the rest standing there
settling with the evening dust into sleep,
a lullaby watching the ruddy sun.

parmenides – one

two things are true:
one thing is true
and this one thing can never not be true.

some call it love.
others say that time
moves onward forever.
like black ice you can’t see it
but it is there.

this is what is called a statement.
love and time.
these two things.