February 27, 2010


You replace the sky with fingerings, your shirt, your regardlessness, that’s enough.  Bring delicateness back, a light white shirt, a buttonhole.  If it’s wrong to ascribe feelings then you don’t know what you’re missing you don’t know you keep doing and undoing what you’ve done.  Come now little comet, come little cloud, latch the fence when you leave, lock the door.  Put your thumb where the moon used to be, wave to Mr. Sun on his way back from the grocery store.  Additional life, fold it up in quarters, unfold it when you see me, when we go to bed, and with or with my hands your hands smooth out the sky with me.


A raccoon walking across the roof of my neighbor’s house – I’ve lived here six years.  Curious – two raccoons on the deck above me – the kitchen light makes them that way.  The light draws them and they get curious; someone is turning the knob to the number six, and this is what I’m like, the rosebranches waving across our bedroom window in the wind of course.  We won’t mind.  One of them will not wash her paws, one of them will not dig through the recycling bin, one of them will not look at me, one of them will not say, like this sentence you’ve hidden in the yard of this paragraph, the sound of someone yelling outside at the raccoons.

The Soul

Suddenly I am one of those creatures: a swan, a peasant, a snowflake, a mouse, a thought.  I get to be a moving body.  I am not ecstatic, this should have happened sooner.  Later I’ll have to stand still and give up being those things.  And then again it starts to mouse again, or the land cries out for peasantry or snow, or the lake is hungry once more for swan, I get heaved back for awhile, I land softly, with enough practice I’ve learned how to roll onstage, and when the light leaves me I recognize my cue and slide back and wait.  You forget and I’m here, you remember and this time take a picture I’ll last longer.


There’s a ghost, she runs things.  She says I’m the ghost of you, she’s transparent against the sky.  So you are unafraid.  Remember that we as people are thinking things, which is the play of the world, which gathers together.  Little ceramic ghost on the windowsill.  Used to be a statement of fact that the world also, not just thought, but acted, every particle conscious in its own way, to name and list and tender in the presence of that and which would be appreciated, would be a form of worship, and such belief impelled us to respect the entirety of creation.  Lights, cities, models or stage sets twinkling, which gets built and gets taken apart.  There’s a ghost, the ghost runs things, the ghost says I’m the ghost of you, says I’m your ghosts, your biggest ghost, and the ghost puffs out its cheeks with what can only be ghost air and the ghost though transparent balloons into the sky.  The ghost, which is also a city, loves you in your body, as you wear it now, and as it walks, as it folds against your love, like a sheet, your seventeen senses full of your love, which is also a city, and also a ghost, what you remember, and the shadows between your thoughts.

OK, Be Poor Forever

So moved, moved, then accruing, then be a triangle, a gang of triangles, land point side up.  Shift of space, which is what you can do with it.  Totalized, be.  Be sweet, landed, go for a walk, take a hike.  Boots and laces, laces and laces, back and forth like a waterbug on a pond, oscillating spaces.  So carrier, lugging between, the what no one told you.  Be hot, have amazing irises, float.  Floating space, where we get staged, where we become delivered unto, expanding and contracting space, a church or a sect which allows you to do whatever you want, an audience for all of that, but you’ll have to be poor forever, a fish swimming in the snow.


A ghost is a concert, a memory going around and around like a song as it is played, a series of songs over the course of time.  And the parts that stick are the hits, and they are the best parts of the ghost, the best ghost has hundreds of hits, a concert that goes on for days, where the band never plays the same song twice.  And the ghost goes on tour, and its songs are ideas, and you think of them, and they play back and forth in your life.  You’re a kid again, I can find anything but I can’t keep anything.  They change you, which is what a ghost is for, why they come back.  Then with so many ghosts.  When I was a kid I was a concert, I was dressed as a ghost.


The person who smashes plates in a fight, the pieces everywhere, seething, in the mood to break more things, nothing is broken enough.  The shattered plates become ghost plates, which keep flying through the air like moths.  The ghosts, hungry, if they can clean the suffering from the ghost plates, they get to eat.  They use their shirtsleeves or pants cuffs, use their tongues.  No one pays the dishwashers enough.  The living hear squeaks in their homes, this is what they’re hearing.  When they are ghosts they’ll have to find their own table or they’ll have to eat on the floor.  They’ll eat the food they won’t tip the waiters and they won’t pay the cooks.


Much remains open.  Is there significance without passion?  Or are the reasons so many people who think their names are forcebeats for their lovers to say when they’re fighting, or when you stop being for sale and you are fed up with every implication and there are no real names to learn except you, yours.  And you were not put here to correct the wrongness of things, you’re not here to make it worse, you’re here to be loved and have a good time and be addressed directly by the divinity and the choirs, to witness signs and report truthfully what you experience.  To throw the list of what you want into your mouth and let it burn there.

To My Double

In our youth, when I was a youth, when my future took me by the elbow and made of me its use, not to us or anyone we know but to people who could almost be us so long ago when I could have chosen to speak with another accent than the sloppy one I use now, and yet we want and yet there’s always, always some part to go back.  What if we could, and stop speaking Mandarin, and forget everything I knew, so that the things that piss me off wouldn’t bother me, I could be happy and get up at seven in the morning and be happy going to sleep at ten in the evening, and in my sleep I would be the man I am now, writing this in words of fire.


Someone left a torn out page in the winter, three trees in the middle of the winter, their snowbent branches, in their whitenesses, a torn out page.  In the book you are reading.  It is winter.  And you can see yourself, in the book you are reading, you can hear yourself; you notice you are breathing, you notice your eyes.  The word flat and you dig your foot in and the page you took out you put back in upside down you use the part you read to keep your place if only you could stop sooner than you had to everyone would be safe and you think that’s winter the purpose of it, your breath keeps place like your feet in the snow.

Hugh Behm-Steinberg’s is the author of Shy Green Fields (No Tell Books) and two recent chapbooks, Sorcery (Dusie Chapbook Kollektiv) and The Great Wheel (MaCaHu Press). He teaches in the writing program at California College of the Arts in San Francisco, where he edits the journal Eleven Eleven. More of his writing is on line at ditch, Sweet, Bolts of Silk, Eoagh, Zeek and Free Verse.

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