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May 24, 2016 Poetry

how close

Phillip Spotswood

how close photo


how close (i)


*this is a poem, and this is about running.
  this is a gathering.

[stamp your mark in ink, on body]
     -january 24, 2009: “How can you pray to God with a soul like yours?”
     -january 25, 2009: “Dear Parents, I’m gay […]”
          -this is when you start running
               -july 20, 2009: “Fr. Cecil […] brings up that he does healing services and by
               the way, ‘do you need healing in your life, Phillip?’ […] ‘what would you ask
               of jesus right now?’ […] I skirt away from homosexuality as best as I can. […]
               I escaped with saying I’d come see him sometime this summer.”
                    -run into walls, always
                        -july 30, 2009: “I hate you so much, Phillip.”
                             -[[I strip down, run barefoot across frozen brown grass in Dante’s 9th
                             circle under streetlight glow. 9th circle spirals into names
                             of streets iced over in repetition. breath in, I uncoil
                             a great snake within my chest. breathe out, great snake coils
                             heavier, gloating.]]
                                   -keep trying, run further

[read “You Shall Know Our Velocity”, Eggers]
     -[ask man to ink velocity onto skin, calf, where it matters most]
          -november 11, 2011: “[…] o. came home and went with me to get inked.
          […] Constant movement in a constant direction, progress.”
               -[[I am an arrow of light arcing a trajectory of swamp, my body.
               my arrow rips dimensions in two. my arrow rifts a hole
               in the sky which is a choked
               lung. out of the tear leaks time
               as thick incense uncoiling.]]
                    -may 7, 2013: “[…] Time is moving. I’m moving. Constant velocity.”

[practice breathing, talk to snakes, how to suck venom from a wound]
     -february 3, 2012: “I’m getting better at branching out”
          -[[I go on runs along the river when brown water swells
          pregnant. I run from pine trees that cross
          in the air and rain down incense, choking. I pull
          strings of black tar from my mouth
          which have dislodged from my gut.]]
               -february 5, 2014: “goddamn Catholic guilt, dear Heart. […] speaking from a
               terrible place of self-hatred and I knew it to be true. I broke down, confused and
               disgusted and angry at myself.”
                    -keep trying, run further

[map runs across city so you know where you are going]
     -september 16, 2012: “[…] it’s about syncing the body with the mind and focusing on
     the relationship, allowing total self-awareness […] Some runners seem to be able
     to focus on inner thoughts long enough to make them concrete.”
          -[[Running I turn left, left, left and lean in, press my shoulder into
          a golden tabernacle wall which crumples and fragments into
          itself. inside is a host feeding on my body, shadow miring limbs into       
          crude oil. I lash out but my bones are heavy, bruised
          and lacking oxygen. I lash out but motion
          causes oil to sink
          further, weigh down.]]
               -how to evaporate marrow

[read Murakami, “What I Talk About When I Talk About Running”]
     -[run to ruined tabernacle]
          -[dig hole in ground, support it with golden wall fragments]
               -[dig till you reach water, call it well-diving]
                    -july 5, 2015: “[…] The self that laid on the floor in Cecil’s house has
                    fallen or jumped into a deep well. […] Once I stumbled upon that well
                    but could only guess at the shadow’s shape within […]”
                         -[[At the bottom of my well I sit, tap into waterflow
                         beyond walls. through the cracks in my well
                         gushes heavy water, pools at my feet. inhaling,
                         i draw impurities, filter through lungs. exhaling
                         out and upwards clean
                         air. bright snake made of light.]]
[erase return route of runs, get back by memory or feeling]
     -april 2, 2015: “Slightly spinning world, dear Heart. Today Cecil told me that I
     never came to visit […] that “maybe you dreamed it?””
          -[obfuscate this, refuse this]
               -[[I run through a halo of light projected on the side of a hill, my mind. through
               the halo is the rosy world of a family photo. I inhale
               and wormhole through another hill, another halo. take
               what I need, exhale
               out in long pulses of exit.]]
                    -april 17, 2015: And Cecil got back to me today […] and he is backing                            
                    away without answers […] I will rest assured in my own memory, not
                    because I am positive it was real, but because it was a product of my                               
                    subconscious and there is no denying its importance.”
                         -give me some time on this one



how close (ii)


*this is a poem, and this is about my mother.
this is dead-heading a rose bush.

[avoid eye contact with paintings of christ, suffering]
     -[sneak behind tumble of washing machine; leap over piles of folded laundry]
          -january 25, 2009: “Dear Parents […] My mother, she was shocked. She looked so      
          sad. She kept reminding me it’s not how it’s meant to be. She said she doesn’t
          know what to do about it.”
               -december 25, 2014: “This morning I went to mass […] This morning I had
               a panic attack […] filling my lungs so that I couldn’t breathe.”
                    -february 5, 2014: “The hatred inside me is something terrible to face,
                    and it literally dismantles my mind. I am far from the stable person I
                    think I am, and this is also frightening.”
                         -[face it]
                              -[[On days I cannot speak my mother
                              she paints herself in oil and seeps into
                              the bright yellow of my room. room cannot fit
                              into my mouth and i choke on eggshell ceiling,
                              spit out weak mortar which clumps and stinks
                              of tar.]]

[cast mother as cyclone, Judy Garland, maybe a black hole or rose bush]
     -[research into radar, if molten rocks have a frequency]
          -[[My clothes catch on a wavelength on way out
          the door. the house is singing; outside, the birds drowned out
          by stones buoyed up in f-chord swelling. i run to high
          ground where rocks can avalanche beneath my feet, but rolling
          rocks generate sound and wind which funnel dirt
          and release deep water bursting roots
          and i am alone in a ring of roses.]]
[roll mother into rosary beads]
     -[smell rose petals drifting through the 6th dimension]
          -january 16, 2010: “Yesterday, the s. chapel called my name. I went there
          and had a good cry and a strange experience with the Mary statue.”
               -may 25, 2010: “I laid down on the kitchen floor today. Always calms me
               down. You just have to remember to get up, Phillip.”
                    -[[I flatten my body against level surfaces to sink through. on the way
                    from one space to the next i am caught in rose-tinted film, bedsheets
                    which twist my body into horns. in between spaces my shadow blooms                            
        open, speaks the shape of body but it is a lie, my shadow. a two
                    dimensional space i must tear through, back to surface.]]
                         -keep trying, run further

[demonize help]
     -may 31, 2010: “Disbeliefdisgustangersadness. The faces of my mother […] she’s
     off on a prayer rampage right now […] Sorry, Jesus, I just don’t think I can stomach
     you anymore.”
          -[[I run behind pine trees to a dog-hole-under-fence widening
             with erosion. on the other side, the rosy world of a family
             photo. i pop this world and bring back its slunk
             skin, try to use it as a raft or sing it into
             the air as a swelling balloon.]]                      
               -january 8, 2012: “All I can do is try and convince her that I am a good
               person […] I sobbed today. For the first time in a long while.”
                    -january 10, 2012: “You just can’t be so goddamn scared. It freezes
                    you up and makes you just want to sleep. You have to get up eventually.
                    Crawl out from smothering fear.”
                         -keep trying, run further; not away but in
                              -[[I sleep with my shadow with our clothes off but he
                              is a fox is a rose is a level of hell rising, expanding.
                              when my shadow thinks that i am asleep i stitch him
                              into the seams of my hands to keep him close, tucked in. i
                              do work with these hands, turn compost and feel heat
                              press outwards.]]

[run mother through filter]
     -may 16, 2012: “Went with the singing bowl just now. Into a darkness I’ve never
     realized […] Because I knew it wanted to consume me […] only after meeting with
     this deep entity will I become wholly aware of myself.”
          -[[I break open my chest and plant a rosebush there, pink and white
          but the smell is rose, the smell is shadow seeping. i fertilize
          with song, sing to my rosebush in bird-trill from another
          dimension. when my roses bloom i snip them with hands that are not
          horns and force energy-flow downwards to roots planted deeper,
          somewhere in my gut. close up sternum with candle wax.]]
               -keep trying, so close

[recycle journals]
     -[strew pages on floor, mix up years so mother and memory scatter]
          -[construct paper temples] but don’t call them temples
               -[burn incense at their entrances] but call smoke a rose, the temples your body
                    -[[smoke expands the walls of my chest and imprints roses
                    in soot. smoke structures a black hole and through it my mother
                    emerges the shape of my shadow. mother made of heavy tar
                    and vibrating in a pitch i can never match, only counter. mother
                    taking root but i cannot find her legs, slips back and closes
                    black hole and the walls of my chest quake with impact.]]
                         -how to divert energy
                              -june 12, 2014: “In a state right now of integration, how to bring all
                              multitudes together into a single self.”
                                   -give me some time on this one


how close (iii)


*this is a poem, and this is about cecil.
this is a seeking out.

[insert fable-like qualities here, something about a church organ and a deep
booming at dawn]
     -[[I ant-crawl down a chimney which is a mountain. at its heart
     is a tabernacle opening into baritone gold. the mountain
     breaks and stones avalanche into the form of a man
     whose hands blueprint my falling, headlong, into cataclysm.]]
          -july 20, 2009: “Fr. Cecil […] brings up that he does healing services and                 
          by the way, ‘do you need healing in your life, Phillip?’ […] I escaped with saying          
          I’d come see him sometime this summer.”
               -how to speak an erasure
                    -march 31, 2015: “[…] told b. the story of […] ended up hunting                                       
                    through my journals for the event, or at least the gap it created […] found it                   
                    in the blank space between July and August 2009…”
                         -how to name a thing
                              -april 1, 2015: “[…] I question whether in the remembering I am
                              creating a story—which memories once existed and which I have
                              crafted over the years to suit my needs.”
                                   -try anyways

[try anyways]
     -[start with a map]
          -[[I pull pieces of tabernacle out of my gut after
          i haven’t eaten for days. re-learn a system of hatred
          by sucking it out of my marrow, use its blueprint
          as a manual and sponge. to soak sludged oil off
          of walls and wring it out before me, splatter as a map.]]
               -october 15, 2010: “A God-shaped Hole in the Universe, dear Heart.”
                    -october 6, 2013: “This morning I woke up and went to church. […]
                    felt an enormous surge rising from my chest […] ran outside […] willing
                    myself to let go but not in front of people.”
                         -[jump into holes punched in the ground]
                              -[[My marrow-map reveals wells dug deep across
                              my surface, pockets of least resistance avalanched. wells dug
                              by a hand like god and not me. i step across my landscape-mind
                              with a hazel twig and wade into
                              water-holes clear of murk but still shifting.]]
                                   -keep trying, look to crystallize

[name the thing exorcism] because there is no use fighting yourself
     -[feed it to the tar clumping in your tabernacle]
          -[[After river running i drip my sweat onto paper pages, try to control
          the image the blots become but my sweat is manufactured
          outside myself. papers shred as bloated bodies and i stir them with my tongue,
          sink them down my throat and will the right words to float
          to surface. free from thought, papers calcify
          in my pit and turn to mountain
          stone with faces turning out, away.]]
               -april 1, 2015: “[…] I inputted a Google search of his name and got a few hits
               Scrolling through pictures, I nearly ran out of the room when I thought I
               found him.”
                    -keep trying, don’t run

[research impact zones, what disappears in sinking and what spreads out]
     -april 2, 2015: “Slightly spinning world […] Today Cecil told me that I
     never came to visit […] that “maybe you dreamed it?” […] it is time for me to take
     an active role in confronting the pains of my past.”
          -april 15, 2015: “Finally have a moment of silence […] Murakami […] “Our
          worlds are all jumbled together—your world, my world […] Sometimes they
          overlap and sometimes they don’t.””
               -[[In the mountain which breaks lives a man whose heart
               is a tabernacle. i rip his heart open
               and expel strings of pitch out of my mouth. where
               his heart-trailing-mountain falls on the ground at my feet
               forms a black hole merging dimensions. through it i throw
               myself after leaving coordinates for return.]]

[branch out] like a crystal reaching light-arms
     -april 8, 2015: “Went to see p. last night […] talked about my past manifestations of
     guilt and how I dealt with them […] about reaching out to Cecil and him not
     remembering, what that could possibly mean […] urged me to reach out to friends
     who I may have told about it.”
         -[try this] but don’t expect anything real
             -april 15, 2015: “Going to see p. tonight but I haven’t heard back from Cecil
             […] How I cannot obsess over him and what happened—how once it is
             defined, I must divert the energy I was pouring into it into new avenues                 
             brimming […]”
                 -[[I use my marrow-map as modeling clay and shape the face
                 of a man, hang the bust in the sky and demand it to speak. it lashes
                 out in sun-flare because i have set it too high. it has merged
                 with the sun and is evaporating the ground beneath me. sun blinks out
                 and falls to my feet, i am left in a sea of oil
                 that does not burn off.]]
                     -april 17, 2015: “And Cecil got back to me today […] and he is backing
                    away without answers […] I will rest assured in my own memory, not
                    because I am positive it was real, but because it was a product of my
                    subconscious and there is no denying its importance.”
                       -give me some time on this one

image: Aaron Burch