All posts by matt

thanks for Martin Prechtel, for a story from The Wild Rose about the migrations of Sandhill Cranes

When a young crane wearies flying North
and his untried wingbeat slows
and he cries for the strength that’s left his body
and he falls towards land unknown
the god in the azure passes the message
to his mother and father and kin
as one they dive to the blue depths below them
and swift a great gyre spins.

They dance out an echo of elders and sing
as they stir up a column of warmth from below,
and the young crane body falters to know
it’s the will in the sky that moves his wings.

Fall, weary flyer, and know me at last.
I am the thunder cloud in your down,
I am the hollowness of your feathers,
I am the turning core of the earth,
I will cast you low to the thrum
that will raise you up to the sun.
only in falling can a love find you
that can lighten this long journey on.

Again, I am light with treasures.
Unencumbered by all you place
in the leylines of my palm.

Again, you work me from lump to bowl.
You polish me to mineral glint
until I sit without strain
singing a single melody
of gravity and of wings.

Again, to come close you retreat,
and sudden now this newborn space
for breath, for branch, for root to stretch.

And as my rootlets search for you
and again, I reach to grasp the dark
you summon me to my marrow’s keep
where again, you teach me to cease, and feel
the coil and bend of my fingers arcing,
the twang and buck of my knuckles gripping,
the chapel and pinch pot of my palm cupping,
and how the darkness that here pools and collects
we dissolve the weariness of doing.

‘Now,’ you say, follow the sound of my voice,
descend into the labyrinths of your fingerprints,
amble the rut that your ancestors worked for you,
seek out the lightening treasure they left you.
It is time to stone plummet
into the shuddering smallness
the scientists crow about in love.

And when you need proof, grow smaller.
Whatever visions it takes you to learn to rest
those eyes so heavy with some strange askance
I am here to inlay again and again,
with the unbroken starlight of a cave born thread
the unclaimable midnight of the sky within.

Piedmont Frog Song on an Early Spring Night

The invitation still wet with fresh ink wept in your empty upturned palms. Oh Spring, dissolve us. Pull us into your groundwater for a turn at frog level. Glorify our puddles. Make sense of our excavations. Swell translucent sacs in unreluctant muck to birth us in a mess of siblings wriggling. Twitch our larval lengths. Unmeasure our wings. Cough it out, snot it out, pollen line these darkened passages with activating windgold. Wing old heaviness onto wind chime clanging. Replace us cell by cell into center touching center. Drag up the road dead rust fox pelt through the grey in our words out our throat into bark and yip, kick our feet into a frog dance, put us in the place where we chant the puddle song, we chant the muck mantra, where the groundwater bursts from our eyes to sanctify these excavations into the croaking navel of You.

Time Writes Walnut Ink

The astringent grip and grasp of black walnut hulls in alcohol

like oak, boneset, and cat’s claw, hands that bind and draw tissues and time taut and tight together

everything becomes holdfast to anything that’s true, as the soft palms push us into black earth

breath keeps a need-fire in the calcareous cave of wet worry

until mountain spring plies open the stone to raptor and to sky

infinitesimal below the cloud herd, shelter the breath from hawk shade

and turn your own belly to the talon surgery of what asks you to transform

tear and taste, plied open and winged

onto the turning plume

of ever rising warmth.

incubation

prune the tips, the roots release; disturb the roots, the branches dry and fall. all in song. death, the dark interval. breath, the vital evidence of our ultimate boundlessness.

yes, vines sometimes pull down trees. that’s part of why they were dreamed out of the dark. the great ones cannot be great if they cannot also sometimes be called all the way back home.

look: to anyone who longs for truth and struggles sleepless and in pain through the accretions of digitally mediated deception, look: two lies don’t make a truth, but the collective weight of all this contradiction will bring itself down back to the one who can turn it all to life. mother soil. humic mercy. the ceaseless prayer of the millions of invisible decomposers wait to sing the melody of this aching senescent civilization backwards into trace minerals, trace nutrients, trace feelings, trace meanings.

in-breath, shudder. the re-expansion of constricted rib cages, the shudder of a skyscraper foundation; out-breath, sing. the song that streaks into the sky like a firebird, the cry that clears all debts, the diamond mirror light behind the eyes.

i am a reluctant ecstatic and every coy dodging of the question of how i am doing transports ions to feed the quavering action potential ready for a synaptic bolt to tear up and fertilize fenced downtown parking lots.

in this torturous life where i watch everything i was born into turn into resentful upside-down autophagy formatted for maximum click-through-rate, one of the things i struggle with most is the bottom-of-the-belly urge to holler and burn with gratitude flashing through my eyes proclaiming this cleansing renewing all-forgiving love that somehow i and everything seems to be made of.

i bow low, so low, so low.

shed to live

Three years and seven months after shedding so much….

not just electricity, hot showers, unlimited water, and fast internet, but comforts I didn’t really know I was surrendering: walls, extra space, dry space, climate control, privacy, the ability to close the front door and drown out the din and scrape of the world

and then I had to shed my marriage and shed the big save-the-world dream that was both its lovechild and its devourer

and 16 of the 17 acres of land we bought together; and all the structures we built together – the pulsing lapine spaceship yome, the avant garde theater stage + weird exposed atonement dishwashing purgatory of the outdoor kitchen and deck, the built-naked-in-a-record-breaking-heatwave with tree felling near misses and horrendous arguments barn, the scraggly spiral prayer of a forest garden, even the ducks whose fat moon eggs were for me almost compensation for the insomnia, and even the pine trees who I spent dozens of nights sure would crush me as I slept

and after shedding all that, to shed the consolations I had been promising myself as comfort if I lost my marriage as each was canceled due to plague

and to shed all the solutions I was sure even to the last minute could still make it all better. we’d build a big wall and it would be the best wall, or we would find some experimental new couples therapy, or I would scour from myself the last trickles of trauma and become super-husband, whose god-like vulnerability would exude marriage healing rays that could bend hard reality like a willow so we could just be easy together

and then finally, after shedding all that, I had to shed my certainty that I knew what anything was about or what anything was ever for, when I suddenly found myself joyfully annihilated in transformative love with a beloved friend, who celebrated with me in the tatters and held the heap of me through the long dark of my collapse until no boundary between my tears of grief and of gratitude could be seen

and to shed my own loneliness, as a few of my closest friends came even closer into my life, and the poor inner child in me who had been howling in the woods was the laughing crying center of a hearth of the most brave and beautiful people I could hope to know in this lifetime

and to shed my own renunciation of all capital ‘D’ Dreams, as a dream quite similar to the one we’d started out in the woods was dropped into my increasingly laden basket of utter bewilderment and I was invited to help create another permaculture community and given another chance to plant holy trees in a way that maybe just maybe helps feed life.

***

A funny detail of my life is that for utterly nerdy reasons, my first strong solid friend group gave me the nickname ‘Snake.’ Even my first devoted lover called me that. For about four years, I was known to more people as Snake than by my birth name. And maybe now I can own this a little – shedding skin after skin after skin.

In the old Lindwurm story that’s been making the rounds in the weird circles I call home, the snake sheds skin after skin after skin until finally, his naked pink interior is scrubbed with steel wool and he cries out in tremendous anguish – only to have his raw skin bathed by a peasant goddess with the warm milk of unconditional welcome. When the bath is done, he turns into a human.

I’d like to send this communication now from the strange vantage of being a human.

What’s it like?

It is deeply humbling. A human depends on countless other beings to exist and on a matrix of just-so conditions that can’t waver too much or – whoosh – no more human.

A human isn’t promised anything or entitled to anything. And yet the non-human beings they co-habitate with are extremely generous. There are so many gifts from the non-human beings they count on that no one who ever lived could keep track of them all. It would be impossible to do an inventory of all the ways a single tree could help a human – and most humans have access to many more trees than one.

If a human slows down enough and resides in the senses, they can touch into a kind of underground river that connects them with all other beings. Even if they can’t do anything to change it, they can feel the whole thing. Sometimes when they feel it they create poetry or songs or just laugh or cry. In that place, a human can also ask god to promise something. a human can be promised something.

A human can experience so much pleasure and inside the heights of true human pleasure which is really made entirely of non-human things is this wonderful secret that can lead right to the heart of stillness. The place of experiencing true pleasure is a place of utter stillness. The birds still sing it to us every day.

A human is asked to play an extremely subtle role in the organism of the earth and the pulsations of the stars. They can’t really know what it is. The stories they can tell about what it is are just the surface concealing the depths. They have to tell these stories anyway, to give cover for the work to happen inside the earth. Human stories are leaves on the forest floor.

A human can change shapes. They can do the work of other animals and plants, as well as of other humans. They can’t do it as well as those animals or plants or those other humans, but they can do it. If they don’t want to do the work, they can help make sure the other animals and plants are there to do it. They can protect them from being taken. If they do not protect the other beings, humans have no choice but to shapeshift into other plants and animals to survive. A human can look very funny trying to be so many plants and animals.

The modern world doesn’t make us human any more than laboratory cages make a chimpanzee a chimpanzee. We can and sometimes do become human inside all kinds of cages – public school cages, prison cages, career cages, dogma cages, political cages, hospital cages – but this is the hard road. Becoming human is easier when foxfire shows us the path in the dark. It is harder when headlamps show us the way back to the highway. We are heading for a time where many, many humans are about to be born.

all there is

As stillness is the mother of motion, silence is the mother of words, and the center is the mother of the liminal. And now, in some way for everyone, the liminal is all there is.

When I feel too much in the center of things, the liminal sings to me from the edges. It is shade to the August sun, forest edge to the tired field. Growing up, the industrial homogenizing culture felt so ubiquitous, immovable, inescapable. It was the terror of the stable built atop the fault line. Outside of it was vapors and madness, the beyond the pale. Yet that was clearly where I wanted to go. Now the center with its illusion of a foundation is gone. The tipping points are passed. Gravity’s indiscriminate hand is pulling the hollow tree of industrial civilization back to the soil. And everyone is coming to live where I used to feel like I lived, alone – in precarity, in impermanence, in uncertainty, and when grace comes through, in mystery. And with the center now abandoned, I, maybe in some way in my blood a certain kind of explorer, wants to go there.

What do I find there?

No industry. No politics. No media. No popular culture. No electricity. No religion. No nations. No ideologies. Nothing to defend or decry. This center is primordial and newborn. It is the still center the frantic center was obscuring. The patient chaos. The simple unbroken melody. It is where to start a garden again.

I walk to it, light and bewildered. Grief is the footfalls. Longing is the breath. I stand in it, undone and unassuming.

Once there was a short pleasure in naming. Now names are swarming hordes in fiber optic tentacles dense and enervated beneath the tides. I give up naming, then. Once, the mind could dazzle and spark with ideas, caffeinated into the feeling of a kind of stellar nursery churning new light and a lot of dark matter. Now ideas are nothing but another concrescence of the great transparent labyrinth of a long past senescent culture. I give up ideas, then. Once religion was the ornate retreading of a mystic’s footsteps to the shape of god, and now it’s a muddy eroded rut collecting runoff and barely shielding anyone from the existential howl that begs to be howled when the human soul is faced with so many simultaneous choices of shampoo. I give up religion.

Oh center, tremendous dare. If I am still, everything will land on my skin at once. Everything will feast on me.

for those sleeping in tents by the busy road

Weep with me, porous heart.
Weep with me, you, the permeable.
You spirit-scoured,
You crystal in the bedrock
bared by the rushing
Of moon suckling seas.

Call down indigo night and
Star-eaten grandmother blanket
To drape over us thatch huts
Trembling beneath the comet.

Cry with my hand in yours,
Widowed wolf alone in winter,
Hot breath clutched beneath roots
With no other heartbeat, just one
No other heartbeat, just one to
Ache howl pip ruby light
into the egg of time.

***

A hill witch poet told me
It was thought for a while
The beavers were going extinct.

They disappeared like the druids.
Stream-bending millions become fugitive rumors,
Gnaw sign, and maybe nuisance
To someone’s cultivars, somewhere.

Yet they had only died to the day. Shedding
millions of years of biorhythms
In a generation. They became

Nocturnal, furtive holy architects,
Concealed clan of slick pelt
Diamond tooth river kin
Stream seam bend mending
For the slowness, for the slowness,

Moon on water
From twilight to dawn.

Somehow beaver stepped
into the underworld
For at least a hundred years,
Until our steel traps all rusted
And then beaver stepped out again.

Sometimes a homeless mouse
Still takes up a dry wattle elbow
In the time-pocket hearth
Of a beaver den in winter.

Original hospitality,
Lichen on antler,
Lets the mouse
Dream in ease,
Wind and snow.

***

When a virus diminished
For a single geologic breath
The mandated patriotic incessence
Of highway, factory, and jet,
Seismologists registered
A never known in my lifetime
Muting of the imperial hum.
It was perceivable
for miles underground
And the dead felt its peace.

What happens to me
If I let myself admit
How much I want
This hum to stop?

What happens is:
The world turns to stone
And one day it melts again.

And the meltwater is
tears and smile
Quaking the body awake
And in the tearstream is a den.

In that den,
The rarest qualities
Will bed down
Beside you
With ease.

Your candle of old fat
Will be the comfort
Of ridealong newborn
Deities.

When the music changes
They begin to pip
and draw world into the egg
And they spill into the world.

***

If you wake one day
With the terrible memory
That you left Silence alone
On the trail somewhere
And the night has fallen
And the trail is for thieves
And you can’t remember where
And even then, you can’t, you can’t –

be. In your ache, become.
Be Silence.

Deny the quake
of blaring musts
Be still. Be refuge.

The stone in the stream
digs a hollow.

Deep enough down
there is a door in the hollow
To all those waiting guests.

After reason abandons his post
It yowls wide opens
And god and her mouse
Move in.

***

Silence,
I am ark for you
Stillness,
I am den for you
Tenderness,
Every single beat
Of my blood
Is sheepskin rug
For your curled body.

loss:
an overtone
is forever added
to the skin
of the drum.

we seal hours
trying to dampen
the orphan harmonics
that trouble
the maker’s sound.

the hair we tear out
alone on a feast day
we tape to the drum head
muffling some, never all
of the raw ringing out.

I’ve been kin
to tundra swan shadows,
sorrow folded shoulders
that undress the heart,
neptune come to rest
in the marked palm
of grief’s chosen family

and i say
in ardent love
i will not mute
the drums I play
beneath your
corn-ripening sobs.

for you and our loss,
this scratched skin sings,
zero-bound infinity,
sings through the hole,
the hole in my voice.

Disappoint me tenderly,
catcher of sighs.
I have learned not to worry
about what I pray for.
Yes, it will all come true.
No, never how I think.
I cry, shower me in joy!
Let me wake up hummingbird,
my needlebeak already deep
in pooling essence.
Or, all the same,
toss me into your briars!
Let my restlessness bloom iron
to spill on newborn weeds
chosen to dance for the milky way.
Suffering and ease, a single weave,
a featherbeat, a pulsing loom,
Wineberries swell beneath the moon,
Recall, recall, recall, recall.