There are two ways in which we measure distance; the real and the imagined. Real distances are easy to grasp as we track the mathematics between two displaced points or the passage of time. This can include anniversaries, miles counted, pots of coffee made, and so on. Imagined distances include physical space and time, but are felt through empathic means, where real distances become a metaphor for what is not there. Imagined distance is how long it takes during a sleepless night for darkness to transfigure into light. Imagined distance is feeling alone in a crowd. Imagined distance is the vulnerability felt when we are threatened by the sublime, such as literally or figuratively speaking, sitting in a small boat in the middle of a vast sea. Imagined distances are the words not being spoken between two people and the ensuing gulf of pregnant silence between them. Imagined distances are our conversations with the dead. Imagined distance is not a shared experience, although two people in the same situation can be feeling the effects of an imagined distance, each can only experience their distance alone, marooned within their thoughts.

 

Signal Signs

A distance reduced to miles where between the duet of two points lays a gulf. I will look out toward a sky that meets a sea. I will see nothing but a seamless pane upon endless horizons where birds drop one by one. A thin line where red blips in the night will flash, rhythmically etching afterimages of a code. I will not understand because of a fracture in the transmission filtered through a determined hum. Words become vague focal points in a cacophony of signals and garbled misrepresentations. With my good ear, a tinfoil hat, and a lightning rod I climb to higher ground to tune in as a final act against the swell of a tide. Where the sweep displaces two points farther. Where the flare can only be seen by one.

Arkansas

We were seeking the river but found it in the trees 

suspended cocoons of glimmering silk that choked at the branches 

a reminder against remaining hushed  

for too long

or not to deviate from the footpaths 

Gemini without a twin

A gemini without a twin has to exist for two in order to support their phantom half. To feel alone as a child, especially for an only child, is a normal behavior manifesting in the constant seeking of company to balance a childhood of solitude.  And so we embrace imaginary worlds, with imaginary friends.  To carry that quest into adulthood is suspicious of an arrested development leading to a lifetime of groping in the dark for a vaporous someone.  Still alone when we reach out to embrace the empty air and with every loss chipping away until it erodes under their feet.  Each loss a devastation where their air fans at fires and turns waters into tides. 

General Revelation

Away from the crowd and out into the streets we were standing in ones and twos. Arms reaching and blind grasps towards the limits of sequence as lines diverge and converge plotting maps above our heads. Stray light is a midway station between sky and the earth, hurtling just out of view as we searched a slow moving star. We tracked the expanse of the night and in four minutes time the invisible was made visible to our naked eyes. It was so small from this vantage point, and yet, it was I who felt reduced. That was when I came looking for you, as if your presence, just another tangent line, could make me feel larger within a basin of twilight.

 
 

That Dark Light That Falls From the Stars

That dark light

that falls from the stars

Such an inverse 

of static

like ash fallen from aether

upon a tangled sea

 

These German landscapes

they could be Kansas

after all

With such tidy rows

that swallow

and spit us out 

in nanoscale

to prove truth in our trivial

 

That dark light

that falls from the stars

Hums a cicada song

or is it a drone of telegraph wire 

upon the plain

 
 

Walking Against The River

There are dogs howling just before the setting sun 

I see a wilderness from over here as I watch the frozen lilies chafe the edges of the riverbank 

A subtle yet deafening sound and I feel insignificant as I straddle frozen ground and frozen water 

Ice makes its way south and there is no one to wave to on the other side 

 

I find a mangled duck lying stiff on a solid creek bed 

Just this dark iridescent green head and it’s bright orange legs that lay arranged there 

As if Frederick Sommer came by to compose it for a photograph

You know in that moment, perhaps, it wasn’t just a dog 

 

Communities dot this stretch of the river, shanty towns 

Made up of discarded materials and hollowed trailers, their inhabitants absent in winter months 

Snow won’t accumulate much here but the dampness in the air assaults with tiny daggers 

I dream of these seasonal people as I invite myself in to take a look around 

Whole lives are spent closing the gap of distance. Science calculates the trajectory of the earth in relation to its solar system and the resolute member of the Lonely Hearts Club keeps reaching out a hand to a someone or something that is or isn’t there. The opposite of distance is closeness. Closeness leads us to believe in comfort but what happens when closeness is too close for comfort? We feel encroached upon or stifled and even lose our ability for objective reasoning. Like anything to be experienced by the human condition; real or imagined, too much of any one thing can prove to be dubious. There is no argument for or against more closeness or for more distance. Their waves wash over us as they do and the tide rolls out in its own time. It is about what we do when we are submerged in our distances and its product revealed when the gap between distance and closeness shortens.

 

One Year Minus One Month

A brisk morning, just as it is crisp this night 

and much like the fits and starts of any mechanics 

we operated in a similar way 

equal to the vanishing point of any unknown road 

a parallel tangent as parted ways 

but always to meet at other junctures, at other times 

where white noise is shared in the velocity 

and between us, a coded language in order to trick our ghosts  

(or embrace them so we’re never alone) 

I remember a moment in the transfigured night 

before the air dropped cold and you broke through 

patted my hand in the glow of urban light 

I felt like a startled deer standing in the oncoming traffic 

and now, I don’t know how to return to that moment 

but somehow we have circled back 

looking into the view of another year 

The Spanish Peaks

You had said that the range 

was the small of a woman’s back.

And the indians, they had said 

these were the breasts of the earth.

But I chose never to see it, not that way.

Instead, transfixed on the vastness of that valley.

A paleness, something like sandstone.

Such a small thing that made us feel at home.

 

No matter the time of day, 

there is a warmth to that light.

A light spread open and wide and welcoming.

But the dryness and the constant moan,

It threatens our existence, especially at night.

The tarps they rage and even the trees, in a slow burn, seek a moment of placidity.

The trees know, it won’t come.

At least not until morning, when the first light reaches the Spanish Peaks.

Nature Morte

The first time I saw you in a dream you were standing on a desert road bookend by sagebrush and ochre. I watched as you ran back and forth and back and forth; full of an energy I couldn’t understand. I had an urge to catch you with a butterfly net as you flitted about that landscape. I wanted to come up from behind, to wrap my arms around you, rocking us together, to keep you still, to keep you as near as I could.

In the dream and because it was a dream, the scene had changed without notice, and we were now standing inside a crumbling homestead where the brick was transfiguring and becoming apart of the changing valley. Pinned to the walls were photographs containing images of a distant and yet familiar past. I had felt those images before — contained in them was a search for a longing that only I had known. Longing manifested through shadow and light — the dualities of the spirits.

Nature Morte (continued)

We stepped back onto the road where there was now a dog who came to greet me, and I, being who I am, focused all my attention away from you and towards this mongrel animal. When I looked up you were nowhere to be seen. This was when I awoke next to you. You were as still as could be as I struggled to open my eyes, and as I struggled to see you I thought I had vanished into sleep, but I noticed that you hadn’t moved as I squirmed to be closer beside you.

You, still as a stone as I reached out looking for warmth, a retreat from the cool morning air, but I was met with an icy stiffening and a calm smile left upon your face. I alone couldn’t move your body from the bed and I had become accustomed to sleeping with the smell of you. At night I slept on the rug beside the bed with a few pillows and a wool army blanket given to me by my great-grandfather. Even with your body nearby, I knew you weren’t there. 

 

Manifest Destiny

Above a view 

seas billow 

light fades 

blankets a world 

I will never know 

 

Clans familiar

with secret smiles 

and silent solitude 

the lone wolves 

in a space between 

 

We all inhale

the same air 

receding away 

from another 

we tiny lights 

 

Revealing 

traffic patterns 

as channels exhale 

encroaching closer 

into the fringes 

 

Filling in 

the voids 

until there isn’t 

any room 

for empty 

  The Empty Hand   And it hums molecules,    that are swelling weightless upon the air      And it writes a tracing,    of motions paced from an exhausted night       And it knows a closeness,    that becomes immeasurable distances      And it grasps for internal storms,    making calm within an empty hand      And it saves the spirit,    in an aviary adrift on the arbor      And it waits to know,    if our certainties are more than lambent virtues       And it holds the warmth,    as two sticks abrade spark into a fire       And it becomes a branded heart,    into the flesh of an empty hand  

The Empty Hand

And it hums molecules,  

that are swelling weightless upon the air 

 

And it writes a tracing,  

of motions paced from an exhausted night  

 

And it knows a closeness,  

that becomes immeasurable distances 

 

And it grasps for internal storms,  

making calm within an empty hand 

 

And it saves the spirit,  

in an aviary adrift on the arbor 

 

And it waits to know,  

if our certainties are more than lambent virtues  

 

And it holds the warmth,  

as two sticks abrade spark into a fire  

 

And it becomes a branded heart,  

into the flesh of an empty hand  

Closing Distance

Miles before homecoming I fold your small note that is waiting to be placed in the small box with the other small notes becoming scraps of sentiment and ephemeral months. The highway exhales ahead of me and so do the miles logged towards a plan to find the place where the sky meets the earth, a three-day embrace, and personal ritual. Some nights are spent alone where I notice the darkness of my bed and it’s few feet of surface unfurls into an expanse, that’s when I will recall your eyes hovering over me. Remember when you said you regretted we would not grow old together? You, to never see me as old as you are now, such a sad yet beautiful summer realization. I don’t know when to celebrate the advent of us, was it my birthday or was it yours? Maximizing time, I chose yours, as if two weeks difference adds a greater sense of accomplishment. Nine months, and grasping for the remaining three. Time, the great killer of an otherwise impatient momentum as you prepare a nest for us and for my small box where within are your small notes and forever good mornings. 

“How does distance look?” is a simple question. It extends from a spaceless within to the edge of what can be loved.” -Anne Carson, Autobiography of Red