The Distant Future

they are sending a rocket to europa
with spectrometers and cameras.
there is liquid water under twenty kilometers of ice
there may be some life! he watches as the lecturer
waves his hand at the projector screen of charts and graphs.
a boy in the front row wearing a rabbit-eared hat
wipes snot on his sleeve and shouts
that sounds really expensive!

they are sending a rocket to europa
he is sitting in her living room with a plate of cold pasta
as she recites the usual explanations
the one thousandth thousandth assurance that
he’s a good guy, really

they are sending a rocket to europa
they are dancing together
he clings to her body, her warmth
so close and familiar and
already three hundred and ninety point four
million miles away
underneath twenty kilometers of ice
drifting far away in the
infinite vast of space

(day 150)
The Distant Future
for fifty and some days

i believed i was well

(a story of her)
The Distant Future
she is capable. she discovers her own strength. she lives at the watermill, gathering water in a wooden pail. she is not the miller's daughter. she is not of this country. her bare feet touch grass as she walks to the riverbank. there are little yellow butterflies.
she is sick with sadness.
another is a man who comes from a distant time. he has lived a long time but he is not old. his face is as chiseled stone and his eyes are dead white. his memories of a different world haunt him. she will encounter this man during a time of upheaval. there will be uncertainty.
he does not believe in the gods of her people.
in the next part of the story they are together. they have a quest they must fulfill. there are adversaries at every side who try to thwart them. It is dangerous. It seems impossible. Why are they on such a quest? something great is at stake. she believes that it is something greater than themselves. he believes in nothing. only the quest sustains him.
of course there must be a sacrifice. there can be no meaningful triumph without an accompanying great loss. he will die. he will perish so that she might live to fulfill the quest. she will wonder if he ever believed in anything, if he came to believe in some greater purpose in his final hour. he didn't.
of course there must be doubt. she must question her purpose and almost relinquish. enemies will confuse her and discourage her and she will believe their words. she will abandon the quest. she will stop cherishing delusions.
but his sacrifice will inspire her at last. in her final moments of doubt she will think of it. and in so doing conclude that she must continue, though not for her sake and not for his, but for the sake of an idea.
of course she must fail. she will be defeated at last by adversaries that had always been too powerful for her to vanquish.
of course she must, in the end, triumph. the initial defeat only serves to steel her resolve. she is unconquerable. her will is idominatable. she strikes down her foes and faces her final adversary.
of course that adversary must be herself. this is usually done with some kind of metaphor. such as a mirror or a strange doppleganger. but in this story there is no visage. her final adversary is simply the doubt and fear of failure that holds her back. she must learn an important lesson. there must be a moral to the story. the moral must be uplifting, even if the ending is not.
the ending is not uplifting.
she survives but remains a broken and crippled shell of her former self. she returns to the water mill and her bare feet touch the grass. she sees the wooden pail upturned on the porch and picks it up to gather water.
there are little yellow butterflies.

(day 91)
The Distant Future

at the coffee shop

outside, yellow leaves, dull silver skies, rain.
the city bus slides across the glistening asphalt
a woman rushes down the avenue huddled in her raincoat clutching her purple umbrella.
im seated across a thirtysomething with an open macbook and a bowl-sized cup
and in between us an infinity of air
beside her the lady with white hair and red jacket packs up her bag
and no sooner has stood and she is replaced by two college students with their thick framed glasses and ironic sweaters
a couple beside them with dark eyes and black jackets and the next seat over a professor wipes his glasses and scribbles on a notepad
and the matriarch with with the dangling murmurring in spanish to the youth in the plaid shirt
i can hear the coffee grinder
i can hear the thirtysomething playing with her hair
i can feel strangerness and aloneness and foreverness and the cool air rush in
when someone opens the door to come in or out
there are tiny pumpkins and yellow gourds decorating the wooden counters
there is an infinity of air
there is the strangerness
there are all of these stories and people and there is rain and yellow leaves just beyond the glass
a man in a weatherbeaten jacket lifts the tiny cup of cortado to his nose and inhales deeply
where are we truly?
where are we going?
what is this life, passing?
am i watching a film of a life occur or am i really here?
what does it mean to be here and what do we become when we step out of the glass door and into the rain?
what is this aloness and this strangerness and this infinity of air?
will i remember the matriarch murmurring spanish to the youth in plaid, will I remember the way the professor rubs his brow ponderous as he flips through the yellow pages?
will i remember the thirtysomething in her salmon striped sweater? will i remember anything
when my body breaks at last
and i succumb

(day 76)
The Distant Future

there's nothing for it tonight
neither hot tea of my favorite kind nor encouraging words from internet friends
nor the single beer i drank alone at the old bar with its dim light and stale smells
nor the walk in the brisk october night
nor any amount of self consolation
can lull the hurt tonight, the hurt who will not be silenced
who will not be satisfied and who, in his disquiet,
swells and boils and becomes a hairy and disgruntled beast
of yellow eyes and jagged teeth
gobbles me up whole and spits out the bones
for the dogs to bury in the snow

(day 72)
The Distant Future

no i will not fall here,
sequestered in the wood
among the waterfalls and the ancient pipelines adorned with graffiti
among the brown leaves sinking under my pounding feet
and the barren branches of yesterday trees rushing past
i will not fall here, not without a fight
i will fight and i will lose but i will fight until the end
take in the burning oxygen
feel it white hot inside my chest beating to bursting
let my tears blaze back across my face like smoldering acid
leave a trail of anguish and longing and confusion and loneliness
i don't care!
do you hear me!
i will never stop fighting!
run this body ragged
tear it apart, break it down
until there is no breath left in my lungs and my legs buckle underneath me
even then i will crawl
dig my fingers in the dirt, creep among the soil and stones like a useless worm
until the light goes out!
until there's nothing left!
i will lose i will lose i will lose i will die here i don't care don't care don't care
damn it all!
i will keep fighting! i'll never stop!

(day 58)
The Distant Future
my heart has become a lonely scavenger.
it feeds on whatever little scraps of love
it can find along the way.

(twenty good things about me)
The Distant Future
i tie my shoelaces quick and i can sow a button on
at the fall festivals and pumpkin farms i can shuffle me feet along the leaves
i always pick the best apples from the tree
i can hum the bar to that song that plays in the coffee house
while students in their sweaters stare at laptops and let their paper cup lattes go cold
i always drink my cider piping hot and i look ok in a knit hat
i always kiss like i mean it because i always do
and open the car door to let you in
when the wind is blowing hard enough, i know the words
i plant watermelon seeds into air
and i pull lemons from your hair
i can dull a pencil with my sighs
i can cry for four hours straight and still make it to work on time
i can doowop and shimmyshake i always make a decent second pancake
my fingertips smell like lemon rinds and i have excellent taste in church gargoyles
i can make intelligent conversation on the subject of mincing garlic
i can ward off vampires and make lasagna
i can bawl my eyes out in the afternoon if you stroll down the avenue and whistle a tune
i can tie my shoelaces quick and i can tell you what triskadekaphobia means

The Distant Future

i heard it in the night, i felt it in the air
i knew it in the familiar electricity of your caress
i feel the shifting ground, i dread the lonesome sound
thar silent lullaby that lulls me to unrest:
the indifferent rythmns of distant cars, the wind whispering in the dark
the incantations of nighttime insects at their black art
i wear disquiet on my skin, the walls are closing in
i sweat i cry i want i need i scream

i shift and twist in vain, cradle my body around the pain
upon this bed of fire like Prometheus chained
remember that sweet spring wind, the scent of hyacinths
the light of day upon the waterfall shining
and every beautiful thing
shouts your name

holy holy
the nights only terrify, i wake i don't know why
it's 4 am and i cannot still my raging mind
i'm hot, i'm burning, i'm shivering, i'm shaking and i'm withering
i cannot forgive the sacrosanct hours of useless weeping

Oh, prayers don't fail me now, vomit out my blubbering mouth
all the temples and the idols come tumbling crumbling down
disquiet on my skin, the walls are closing in

i sweat i cry i want i need i scream
blessed is the emptiness, vast and without forgiveness
blessed is he who endures and never perishes
remember those moonlit walks, somewhere among the ghostly rocks
i stumbled tumbled and dropped my beating heart
its there still
bleeding out your name

holy holy
i wander the world a ghost, another spirit lost
took a wrong turn down the coast and it was for the worst
my body's tight with hurt, feels like there's serpents in my guts
my hungry hands digging like catterpillars in the dirt
the weight of the cosmic vast, the movements of the stars en masse
the insignificance of suffering at long last

disquiet on my skin, repentance sinking in
i sweat i cry i howl i vow
rather than be cast whole into the lake of fire
i must cut out your name

(rites of autumn)
The Distant Future
check my phone for your call
afternoon, the trees prepare for fall and
squirrels sequester their harvests
in the town market
pumpkins have made their encroach
these are the days i
bawl my eyes out for hours and hours
wake from dreams of you in the darkest hours of morning
remain in bed far too long like a rotting vegetable
stare and stare at the little window
squirrels destroy my flowers, invade my little room through ducts
check my phone for your call, for your message on the wall
outside the little window a woman in a knit hat and a scarf parades her latte
the squirrels open my body with their little teeth
sequester their harvests in the cavity of the place where you used to be
bawl my eyes out for hours and hours
wake from dreams in the darkest hours
check my phone for your call
check my phone
i want out
i want out
i want

(and justice for all)
The Distant Future

twice I was pulled over for failure to signal
the first time
the policeman leaned a little to eye level with me at the car window

the blue and white lights of the patrol car behind me strobing in the dark
asked me if Id been drinking and I said no
gave me a ticket and
didn't demand anything of me and
didn't open my door and command I exit the vehicle
didn't reach and drag me out
while shouting STOP RESISTING
didn't draw his sidearm and fire
there was no slamming to the ground no handcuffs no radio calls for backup
no heel from the black boot of the state no GET DOWN ON THE GROUND NOW no America with its back turned. ambivalent
no I WILL LIGHT YOU UP no suffocating history of a thousand thousand beatings under the same baton
no news coverage to say I had marijuana in my system and no deference for the law
i was white and alive and
he just handed me the ticket
smiled and said you drive safe now you hear
and i thought
son of a bitch, a fucking ticket

the second time
I didn't even get a ticket

(over the moon)
The Distant Future
when we would walk in the forest she would recite the names of the plants and roots
and at bars where they hang neon lights on bare brick walls she liked beer and karaoke
and on lazy days we watched television shows about alien conspiracies
the artwork of her children on the hanging by strings around us.
the boy wants to be an engineer, she says, but shares her gift with plants, while the girl is more analytical, she says.
they both hated it when she suggested they use toothbrushes made from sticks.
we were making smores at a fire pit in her back yard and she told me about the totemic symbols of the herbalist schools
of spending a full year's worth of seasons in the woods to learn the languages of herbs
and to observe the cycles of their growth
"but when i searched for my spirit animal" she said looking into the fire and her eyes had a look that was so far away
"i only fell asleep."
and i think it was then i could feel the wind,
throwing leaves about the yard and rousing the fire,
and everything
blowing away

(moonlight at the waterfall)

there is a different world at night
where the leaf-laden path emerges from the dark with each step
and the trees are slender phantoms
their white bodies glowing
and all around the sound of black water rushing
you can hear a pebble skitter on the trail behind you
and imagine that it is one thousand different monsters
above, the clouds are ghosts and the sky is black;
the moonlight on the cliffs makes them ghostly and the shadow is black;
the stone on the gorge is ghosts and the water is black;
it is a world of ghosts and darkness and whispers in the cold wind
and if you look long enough at the shining moon
you imagine you can see the shape of the orb fading into shadow

you'll imagine the thousands and thousands
and thousands of miles of ghosts and darkness from the Earth
the gravitational constant, the speed of rotation, the movements of orbits and celestial bodies
the interstellar light
spinning around in the cosmos
you'll realize the ground is moving, the world is turning so fast that you can't hold on
you'll fly off the planet
rocket off into space like a comet

circle around Saturn, bounce off a meteor
somewhere around Omega Centauri you stop at a diner and order a grilled cheese
someone asks you where you're from
you can no longer remember


after the cardboard signs were abandoned on the gutter
bleeding their black sharpie outcry in the rain
like mascara running down in tearful streams of shame
and there were no more words of protest left to utter;
after the armored tanks had quit their blitzkrieg on American streets
and the thunderous boots of the State relented their violence
and the television puppets were at long last silenced
and there were no more dead young men for whom to weep;
after the tear gas cleared away and the rubber bullet bruises faded
and the journalists packed cameras and microphones into their vans
and the black and the white and the black and the white no longer hand in hand
and there were no dissenters left who were not incarcerated;

then we rolled the police tape round and round ourselves
that yellow ribbon binding us together like a suture
we forgot our children bleeding on the asphalt of our future
and the histories of our hurts on dusty library shelves
and black words across the plastic said
do not cross
and we said
this is america
and we said
is this america
and we said
there is no such thing anymore


tucked away in the wooded hills of that country
where pebble paths wind through the damp forest and the only company you keep
are indifferent rabbits
and you eat juniper berries and in the sunlight you see visions
the ghosts of those fathers who haunt the land and the rivers
when your bare feet touch the water
the thundering of their horses' hooves reverberates in your bones
like the vibration of a guitar string
slow and sad and sultry like wood chips smoldering
if you stand high enough on the hill you can see the town below
the silver light of morning stretching itself out like a lounging cat
on the swayback roofs of houses still clutching last winter's chill
if you stand high enough on the hill you can see the waterfalls and the rivers and the moon
if you stand high enough on the hill you can touch the sky and travel to the planets
you can see the road like a gypsy's ribbon stretch on and on forever and
you can see the places you left behind and the people who will forget you
you can gather pine nuts and hunt wild quail
you can go to bed every night
with the smell of a campfire clinging to your hair

(the end of life)
The Distant Future

at the end of my life there will be an open fridge door with no light inside and a half-emptied carton of soy milk and i'll smell the mushrooms
to see if they've gone bad because they've been in there for a while.
and at the end of my life, it will be just a little too warm, so that the contact of my skin against the surface of the couch is a little uncomfortable but I will be too lazy to get up and put a fan at the window.
and at the end of  my life i'll tell myself i need to vaccuum but maybe tomorrow.
and at the end of my life i'll pass out on the couch in the living room without brushing my teeth and with all the lights on and i'll wake up r at 3 am and tell myself i only meant to sleep a little while
i'll go for a run and i'll make a packet of oatmeal in the microwave and i'll wash half of the dishes because i'll run out of hot water before i finish
and i'll look out the window onto the slate grey rooftops that sag like swayback horses
the weeds growing in the sidewalk cracks
the cars with rusted out fenders coughing up white exhaust into the stale air of this depressed american town
and i'll say not here
not like this

(no subject)
The Distant Future

he tells himself, i hate this morning because
it is as though he has woken up from a long dream and finally lucid and in the stillness
of the early light there is nothing but to wait for the sound of the tea kettle and it's like
he is frozen in that moment for ever and ever, the blades of the box fan at the window
motionless like a broken clock and the sunlight catches a single spider web
shining like a line of diamond and there he is, waiting for something to happen

but in truth the notion occurs to him at odd moments--opening the jar of generic multivitamins;
putting the wet laundry in the drier;
pulling the brown leaves from the tomato plant at the window-
the notion that she's with someone else
that she's chosen another man and he imagines their life together
and what it must be like to exchange idle i love you's
and to make an omelette or sew in a lost shirt button or walk in the door sweating and heaving from a run
while hearing the sounds of her watching her morning news program and the children
begging to be the first to show their crayon drawing of a Dinosaur

and when this happens he is angry with himself because
it is an invented nostalgia and he is a grown man who does not have time
for such silly imaginings, such disappointments in love that
do not make phone calls or pay bills or clean house or go to work or take the car to the shop
or in any way get through the lonely tedium of the day
the long and futile exercise of living
in this bizarre world where it is always Monday and it is always March and
the only thing to return home to is the hum of the refrigerator
which is a sound that one seldom hears at all
but once heard it is the loudest sound in all the world

and so he hates this morning because
of the quiet surrender to the reality that

this moment of opening the fridge and realizing there only remains a little milk
and he will have to soon walk through the too-cold aisles of supermarket
pushing a cart with a rattling wheel through the grimy tile, this moment
is a moment that is forever and he is frozen within in it, frozen in time, and he will
open this same refrigerator door in a different city someday and realize that he is
a very old man
and that those who knew him are dead or gone

so he hates this morning because, well, these things that he can see and touch
and experience and this life that only he lives and this air that only he breathes
it is real and not a dream
but no one will ever know that and so he is the possessor of a terrible secret
and such a secret will make a man most alone in the world, but then he thinks
none of that even makes any sense
oh what am I even talking about, I must be going crazy
I can't think about this right now, I have all of these things I gotta do

and there are more pressing concerns in the world, man,
children are starving and there is rape and murder and war and injustice
no one gives a shit that some girl broke your heart
and seriously that was months ago so let's get the fuck over it, man
and stop dreaming about it and waking up on a pillow soaked warm with tears
and stop thinking about it at odd moments
like when you wish you could tell someone that putting your hands into jacket pockets makes you happy;
that you had the craziest dream last night about us being on a train to Prague and we were a lion tamers;
that did three miles in your run this morning 26 seconds faster than the morning before;
that your comedy show went really well and wait until I tell you all the gossip.

and so he hates this morning because it is a morning in which
he can collect and quantify all of these things and look at them in a manner which
he realizes that they are all tantamount to nothing and
maybe it doesn't mean anything at all to live or die or love
and when the tea kettle finally whistles and cuts the silence it is like a spell being broken

(like the sting on my fingertips after practicing guitar)
The Distant Future

the woman on the online video has short hair and a tattoo sleeve and she
giggles when she stumbles over her words trying explain which fingers go on which string on which fret
to make A major

and I'd like to imagine that this woman and I know each other that she not only teaches me
how to play guitar but that she comes to visit, declines hot tea but accepts an ice water,
calls me "pal" and fistbumps me and tells me of her last heartbreak
and listens when I tell her about how

when someone at a party mentions VHS cassettes from our collective childhood
what i think of is you and me and and the kids and
the TV with the in-built video player that you bought at a thrift store or garage sale
that you couldn't get to work for the longest time because you didn't have the right power chord
that i remember helping you fix
and then in the kids' room all of us piled up on a blue Buzz Lightyear blanket
watching rugrats

and how someone else is in that room now

and i would tell her about how
someone orders a Long Island Iced Tea and what i think of

is lying with you on the purple couch of the living room and
you told me how you wanted to return
to Long Island
where your family was, where your friends were,
that there was nothing here for you
except that you were bound here to your ex-husband
by the children sleeping in the next room
and how the word "nothing" rang out to me and i carried it around
and carry it around still
and how bad i wanted to say that i may not be much, but hey, here i am

and how someone else is there now

and this woman, this imaginary guitar instructor friend, she
would put her hand on my shoulder and ask how many times do i think of you
and i would remember when i was running and i realized that
the entire world had turned into tiny barbs
and that healing is a process of stinging over and over again
stinging like the way that my fingertips do
when I arpeggiate each note in A Major
and they finally ring out clear

(what remains)
The Distant Future

in sweet cool of February in your kitchen with the smell of brussel sprouts cooking, and i was putting baby carrots on a disney princess kid's plate thinking that most of this will end up on the floor and when do we abandon these for plates with nothing on them at all and if you touch my arm with your fingertips to get by and pour the sauce over the fried tofu it will feel electric on my skin and i will smile but you won't notice because you're thinking about making sure these kids eat and the little girl with the fairy wings is tiny so tiny for almost five and are they going to live here or with you somewhere else or with their father and the letter is on the table from the lawyers and the courts and outside there are woodchucks eating your garden and when you ask me if i want juice or milk or water baby you're driving me crazy.
because i want to know if i lose another ten pounds will i be good enough for you to tell me you love me when youre not drunk and fucking me, if i give you a perfect back rub and somehow cure that sore spot on your back that even yoga won't fix, or if i learn to play guitar and start a band and act like i don't give a shit about you even though i cry and cry and cry and then will i be good enough for you to call me just because you're thinking about me?
when your son throws the ketchup bottle on the floor you put him in time out on the corner by the bookshelf and he dances blowing raspberries and he's trying to get my attention and i tell you i'm not sure what to do because i know they act out when i'm around and it's because i understand where we hide from the werewolves and the story about the rocket bicycles that we ride to a castle in the clouds and when your daughter is on my shoulders at the park she says lets sing a song about our family, our family, and i don't say anything because i don't have the courage or the heart or the wisdom or anything so how can i ever hope to be good enough
and when i run in the morning now that youre with someone else i tell myself that this is whats left after and i take stock of my resources like a survivor and i still have some courage and a little hope and i can still paint and i can run a little faster every day even if i have to scream when i pass under the tunnel even if I have to cry when ive exhausted my body and my lungs are white fire and where are you for me to tell you that this is my best time today and where were you for me to tell you that i like jacket pockets when i realized that the jacket i borrowed had none and where were you when what remained was just a fragment and a whisper and it turned into smoke and dream and nothing more and there is nothing really left of us, is there, i mean its so sad that something that was so beautiful has to turn so bitter in my heart like the way that snow turns black on the side of the road and i mean, that's so sad, man, that's so fucking sad and i don't know whether i wish i never met you or i wish that i never fell for you or something, i don't know, something, but
i run and i run and i run and i want to punch things and i want to break things and sometimes i think how much more yoga and meditation do i need to be a real human being again and maybe i just barely missed my chance that last time you left my apartment with your shirt that youd left at the bar and i called the place and drove there to pick it up for you as soon as they opened because it was a nirvana shirt from the 90s that exposed your shoulder when you wore it and it was so sexy and it mattered to you and i was a fool for you but
when i said sit down for a while and you said you had to go you had plans you had to be somewhere i think you meant something else, i think you walked out of my life then and i didn't realize it until well after your scent had disappeared from where you slept.

(what to do with the pieces)
The Distant Future

you will probably just keep them in the end but
you can pretend that you will make a quilt out of them
and on the cold mornings when you wake alone and find yourself an old man already
you can wrap it around your shoulders
hold a steaming teacup in your shaking hands and
wonder if a stitch or two will make it last one more winter
or you can just hide them in a drawer somewhere and go out all smiles into the world
you're a winner bling bling, and you hit'em with the "double guns,"
and they won't know that you
cry about it, that you are still crying about it
and that probably you will for a very long time and
don't open that drawer again, don't ever even look in there because you know,
you know.
you can pretend that you will throw them away, that you will run
among park trails in the morning and watch the robins in the bare branches of the trees
when the snow is finally starting to thaw
that you will volunteer at an old folks' home and take dance lessons and call
the landlord to fix that leaky pipe in the shower.
at this time, people might ask you what's wrong or why are you down even though
you will say you are perfectly happy
this is normal and is no cause for alarm
pretending to be a real person takes lots of practice and
most people don't get it right away.
or you can wear them, you can just put them on
admit it to the world
that you weren't good enough for her
or good enough to get a job
or good enough to get published
or good enough for friends
or to be loved
and that you understand this and that you will get drunk and write an email and delete it without sending it
and get drunk and write it all over again and get drunk and send it
and tell them to fuck off that you don't need to be
good enough for anybody and you can just leave this place
and go across the rivers into the hills and dwell ever after in the company of falcons
eating sticks and juniper berries and drinking water from the rain and letting your beard
grow like an uncultivated moss.
You could also destroy the pieces.
but you will probably just keep them


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