The flavor is in the blood

swords05Any cook will tell you, when you brown meat and rest it on the plate, blood will accumulate there and you always use that blood, or whatever juice comes out, when you put it in the pot.

I sat in the hot tub thinking, when was it I started tweaking like this? Has it been all my life? Is the brain like a piece of fruit that ripens over time, destined only to draw flies? Seeing old friends was sad when they looked older, and I realized so must I—we are all in a race that no one wants to win, this march of life, this procession.

I halved the dried prunes and soaked them in a cup of brandy longer than I needed, but figured it couldn’t hurt. The French pork stew with prunes and cream, Dijon mustard, served over buttered noodles, the fat pappardelle egg pasta that costs $7 a package but you only get eight ounces, so I had to buy two.

Trying to relax in the hot tub but distracted by all that needed to be picked out of the water. The satisfying look of a newly stacked woodpile. Week-old vegetable oatmeal soup for lunch, cold, the breakdown in proteins that makes it stringy but still good. The ever-battered and beaten up kitchen, how the cupboards get sticky from the oil and catch hair like flypaper, how it adheres like a skin. And dare I look at the fins at the base of the refrigerator where the fan blows, the hair down there like an old man’s mustache.

How things would get put in the fridge with no rhyme or reason if it weren’t for me, the sheriff of condiments, applying logic to the leftovers, grouping them. How regularly I have to cull through the duplicates in sauces and dressings—how sometimes a large container of yogurt gets put there with hardly a spoonful remaining…or a bottle of wine, with just a finger or two.

The sickly condition of the dish washer, the strange grime that amasses there like coffee grounds, or potting soil. And where does it come from? The brown stains that flare up from stagnant water on the dish rack, how hard it is to remove. And the sad insides of our stove…of the microwave…cooking is a dirty business, and so is living together: we are all like pack animals in our lairs, shifting like pigs in the straw, in our stalls.

Having to listen to Lily and her friends watch a slasher film on the laptop while I’m trimming the pork. The screaming and cutting sounds as I handle the meat. Watching my legs underwater in the hot tub and how bloated they look, thinking about getting old. Refilling the tub with the hose but forgetting it was on, dozing in the hammock…waking to the sound of Charlotte crying from the house, “It’s overflowing!”—and me, running through the grass to turn it off. Dodging poop, barefoot.

Having Lily read my Tarot Friday night and starting with the Five of Swords (never good), a distant loss she says, weighing on my consciousness. Ending with the Six of Pentacles, a good card, and me as a sharer of wisdom, just a satchel’s worth…

Advice for would-be poets: if athletes train by going to the gym, your training comes from brooding by the lake, from looking inside…from finding yourself in the spaces between the clouds and the layers beneath the surface…it’s what’s in you, the blood, that gives it the flavor.

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Red wine and rain (repeat 3x, fast)

Down came the rain like a permanent marker. The permanence of fall, of nature, of flame. And the gutters gasped, and the rain slapped until it made sparks when it hit. And down the panes like a waterfall, the cadence of the rain as it thickens and goes slack. The rain shifting sideways, drawing to a hiss. Me in my blanket and the rain out there, all the reasons to be inside. The ground that was brown is green again, and the leaves are brought down to be bagged and blown, stuffed in a can, carted away…beneath the hiss and a long kiss that is this, autumn rain.

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It is the time of moody records and blankets, and nearly the time of candles. Though there’s late afternoon sun it doesn’t have the same warmth and it’s wet, the ground smells, the earth sighs: and we are all holding on, on this amusement park ride about to tilt over and drop…

Indoors the light takes on new angles and charms. Three drunk fruit flies in my beer, almost enough to make a constellation. And the light makes it look like a potion, how it glows as the sun dips low.

It’s the time of year I was born, deep fall, and I feel an odd strength in this slow collapse. There is the turn inward to restore: dead-head me, cut me back, clear away the ground cover. I gathered up the hoses and the yard tools, stuffed them in the shed, found a headless rabbit the cat killed, tossed it in the bushes by the neighbors’, refilled the hot tub: the size of the wolf spider beneath the lid and how fast it disappeared, like a hand.

And around the corner, all the rain and pools to fill the streets: waking to the sound of the heater, leaving the house for work in the dark. On the first bus of the day with the heat on too high, shifting from side to side with our coffees, steadying myself at my stop, reemerging on the street to cross…the smell of fall, the look of it in the sky, the light against the gray, the sense it could rain or just has.

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Rainer Maria Rilke made me write this

957ACD3B-EA42-4D9C-B1B4-DB69E3B3A537The afternoon sky looks pregnant but it’s too early to tell. And the tall trees reach to tickle its belly with stick fingers drawn by a kid. The dishwasher and drier are running, and there’s a pot on the stove on a low boil. There’s a hum in the house, and both pets are napping. Last night it rained, and this morning the first leaves touched down on their backs like they’d just been delivered. A new kind of birth in death: transform then cover me, fall.

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My name is Bill

IMG_6749I tried to step outside of my name, to look at it objectively. It was a plain name, handed down from my dad—and to him, from his father. It was like all the other things that get handed down, the good and the bad. Inheritance. I was one of the plain names with my friends, the Matts and the Marks, a product of our time. We grew into the name, we grew to love the name, to identify with it. We took on the persona of the name and forgot where it came from, it was so much a part of us. So much that to change our names felt unnatural, a break in the order of things. But even that has its own nature, its own necessity, the need to break. Nature knows no names for itself, only for others to identify us from the outside looking in. And how hard it is to step outside what’s been decided before we’re born. To delineate our nature from our names, which have so little to do with one another. I thought myself so much more than a Bill, but no other name would satisfy. And at the end of it all I would be buried or burned the same as any other, no matter the name. They would put it on a stone and I wouldn’t even be there to see it.

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Near to fall

IMG_7063And so at last it was done, the book of poems I spent all summer with it seemed. They weren’t my poems, but became mine more and more each day. I sat on a chair in the grass and put myself into the book, I let it put itself in me. I never saw the poet but grew used to his voice, I tried to make it part of mine. My head hurt from work and the distances between loved ones, the strange intimacies of the day that go by unrecorded. The blended quality of days, the meaninglessness of life. And yet to feel it there on the edge: the imprint of my glasses, which makes pink moons between my eyes—and the mornings so dark, what’s left of the moon still fills the sky…so dark you can see the implied edge that would make it feel full. I tire from the sound of dry leaves in the wind and a lonesome jet. They are both so far away, so near to fall.

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Gone are the 8 o’clock sunsets

IMG_7883How much was left undone by summer’s end, in the corner of our back yard by the maple tree. The work was coming in again, with everyone coming back from vacations and wanting their things fast-tracked, rush jobs. Learning all I could to make myself an expert about things I didn’t know—and how much there was to learn still. How many days of my life had passed where I learned nothing. Nothing about politics or social injustice, about plants or books or the meaning of things. Surely not about myself, the one subject I should know the most about, or be the most interested in. Paradoxically, that subject was too close to study—the filters got in the way, the filters of ego that distort. Instead I went to the back yard to read and unwind, and it was there I stood outside of myself and felt a peace looking down, unable to see the surface that always distracts.

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