My travels with Huginn and Muninn

My travels with Huginn and Muninn

Odin on his horse Sleipnier. His ravens, Huginn and Muninn, at his side. Artist: Gerhard Munthe (1849-1929)Today I am officially announcing that the title of my book in progress, formerly titled digital gothic: a spellbook for the new sorcerer, has been claimed by its rightful muses and will now be titled “Huginn & Muninn: a digital gothic.”

I also want to tell you a strange little story about how this book has come into being over the past two years. I will let you decide what to make of it, but I believe, personally, that the exhausting adventure/struggle that is writing a book is not merely a personal act. I think it’s a collusion, and I don’t think you necessarily get to choose who hijacks you and insists you tell their story.

In the case of this book, my hijackers (or guides as I like to call them), are Huginn & Muninn. Never heard of them? Neither had I. In Norse mythology, they are a pair of ravens that accompany the god Odin. They fly out into the world(s) and bring back news of what they have seen.  Their names translate to “thought” (Huginn) and “mind” or “memory” (Muninn). Odin’s relationship with these ravens is described in Scandinavian poetry from before and up to the 13th century including the Prose Edda, Poetic Edda, the Heimskringla saga, and in the work of a group of Icelandic poets called the skalds. I have not read any of these works, nor did I know about Odin being associated with ravens before they came to me in a dream. Though I have to admit I can relate in a very strong way to this image of a skald, composing poetry in chains after being captured by King Óláfr Haraldsson.

Bersi Skáldtorfuson composing poetry while in chains after being captured by King Óláfr Haraldsson.Not to be melodramatic about it, but being chained by the neck is an apt depiction of the internal landscape of most poets. This is why we cannot handle our liquor and why people tend to avoid our taste in books and movies.

So yes, in case it slipped by you where I tried to hide it at the end of paragraph 3 above, I was approached by Huginn & Muninn in a dream. At the time, I knew nothing of who they were. You see, I have had a lifelong obsession with ravens. For my 12th birthday I had a raven tattooed across my left arm, shoulder, and back. (FYI: Every birthday has been my 12th birthday since I turned 12.) So ravens were not an unknown subject to me. I know the connotations Poe has given them, I know that they are scavengers, I know that their intelligence is on par with a dog’s (really a human’s but we don’t like to admit to these things), and that ravens live in family groups and can live for 70 years. In myth I was aware of raven as a trickster god, and in the Northwest native traditions is seen as a prometheus figure, having stolen the sun and brought it down to give warmth and light to human beings.

A Nunivak Cup'ig man with raven maskette. The raven (Cup'ig tulukarug) is Ellam Cua or Creator god in the Cup’ig mythologyThen something happened.  I was out walking at night. I was listening, for the very first time, to Virtual Boy’s Mass.  I began to see things in my head, to connect internally to a time when I slipped in and out of such “seeing” quite easily- my early teens and twenties. A time when the plasticity of reality was still very much accessible to me. We are all magicians when we are young, but we don’t know it because we don’t know that reality actually solidifies as you get older. We don’t even have a way of understanding what the hell that means until it’s already happening. Before you think I am waxing sentimental, let me clarify: youth is not some precious, innocent state. I’m not forgetting the self-centeredness, short-sightedness, vanity, or naivety that are all rampant during that time, but I was remembering the  effortless and absolute belief I had at a younger age that I could apparently influence the course of events by using mysterious or supernatural forces, which happens to be the first definition of magic. I think most teens and people in their early twenties think in that rational-magical way. It’s how new things happen.

The thought that came to me, and the memory that immediately followed, was that I had once known how to travel into other worlds. Not the ill-advised and oft-regretted world of vodka shots. Not the blank room full of cats-in-hats behind the TV or inside the endless hypertrails of the internetz, but that portal that opens when you close your eyes and listen to certain kinds of music.

** I would like to note here, that the thought came to me, and then the memory followed. Odin’s ravens, remember, are called Huginn (thought) and Munnin (memory). Hindsight is interesting, isn’t it? Huginn and Muninn sit on Odin's shoulders in an illustration from an 18th century Icelandic manuscript

I credit my mother for this revelation about music as a door to other worlds. When I was about nine or ten years old, she once told me to lie on the floor and close my eyes and listen to Wagner’s Ride of the Valkries, and wait for pictures to come into my mind. “What do you see?” she asked me.

At first I saw the blood vessels in my eyelids, and then the phosphenes that swirl and houndstooth in flexing patterns behind your eyes when you are still “looking” but can’t see. And then I saw a bird… a white bird being chased through a storm by a black bird. I saw a battlefield. A war. All of it unfolding, happening as I watched. Not a thought, not a memory… just happening. Closing my eyes and entering that music was like stepping off the edge of the outside world into an equally vast inside world. This inside world, the one accessible through music, was unlike the world of dreams, or the world of deliberate imagining… it took me with it where it was going, not where I directed it. I did not know then that this simple act- to let go of the self and travel in this way- is the heart of the creative process. Disappearing the self is what all creative acts require, and  ironically, it becomes more and more difficult to do this the more your “self” accumulates of the daily world.

We spend so much time arriving in and occupying our bodies. It’s all we think about. No wonder we get trapped. And the trick of the writer, unlike the dreamer, is to walk the slippery, crazy edge between this world and all the others– because the whole point, dear reader, is to bring things back….. for you.Odin enthroned with weapons, wolves and ravens.

So that night, walking through Golden Gate Park and listing to music in the dark, I began to see a vision in my head of a record spinning. And the record– this tight spiral line on a hard piece of stamped vinyl– was a code. If you have the right needle, that line becomes a song. Without it… you might go your whole life not knowing what that round piece of unremarkable plastic held– an entrance to another world. That night I went home and wrote: a magical circle, the first poem of the book. And then that night I had a dream that I was inside a giant Victorian house that suddenly ripped it’s foundations out of the ground, spread its eaves and took off into the sky. I was standing in the window, holding on for dear life and watching all the other houses in the city straining to get loose and take off. We entered a fogbank, and I couldn’t see anything but vague lights, and then I heard a very distinct sound next to me… feathers being blown in the wind. That’s when I saw the two ravens– one was surrounded by a cloud of black fire, and the other had wings entirely composed of hollow flutes that made chords and tones and music as it flew. They were both hanging in the air just outside the window, guiding the house out of the fog. When we emerged, we were over the Golden Gate Bridge, and heading for the open sea, only I wasn’t in the house anymore. I was a third raven. When I looked back, the house was still flying along, dodging in and out of the support cables of the bridge, along with some other houses. Through the windows, I could see people asleep in their beds, with no idea what was going on.

That dream gave me the seeds of the poems a candle, waking the dead, and gate crashing. It also made me want, more than anything, to get back in that dream. To be able to follow the ravens wherever it was they were going.

KutkhIf you think I sound nuts, consider this: do you dream? How often are you able to remember your dreams? How often do you remember the dream just as you were waking up, but then lost it because you had another thought/started worrying about something you had to do/remembered you forgot to buy milk… and “poof” can’t remember the dream. Only that it was something strange, or important, or disturbing, or wonderful. You might grope for a few moments, trying to get it back, but the harder you try, the further it slips away. Sometimes you remember them, but when you speak them aloud or write them down… it is impossible to get across the sensation of significance in them. Sure, some dreams are just the regular old processing of anxiety and worry… or bits reassembled in a new and hilarious way. I had a dream, for example, that I was promoted to a new position in my job, they threw a big party for me, then when I got the piece of paper with my new job title on it, I discovered that I had been “promoted” to the job I already have. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out the underlying feelings that brought on that Dilbert-esque dream. I’m not talking about those sorts of dreams… I’m talking about the ones that come every once in awhile. The ones that are not like dreams at all, but travels.

I’m here to tell you something: they are travels. You can go or not go… you can dismiss them and they will fade. Or you can pay attention, and dig deeper, and maybe go into territory you didn’t know existed. It’s just like the thread of song on the vinyl record. You would never think a piece of plastic could contain a song, just like you’d never think a dream could contain another world.

We are taught, at least in the culture I was raised in, that conscious control of our thoughts, actions, lives… deliberate decision-making with a very specific, intellectual part of the brain, is the highest form of self-control. The problem with this is that “doing” and “thinking” aren’t the same at all. I would even argue that you can’t really successfully do them at the same time. Doing is flow, and when you think “about” flow, you lose it. Creativity is very similar: it is the conscious act of relinquishing your self-consciousness. It is somewhere between dream and awake. The hard part is trusting it, and going with it. You can’t always dream yourself back into the dream… but once the ravens have appeared, you don’t really need to dream them anymore. That’s when you can sit down and enter the music, enter the creative headspace, and wait for them to appear… Corvus_corax_arizona

I’m nothing if not curious, but I also rely heavily in my writing, on looking up things. If an idea appears in my work, I’m off to wikipedia, (Jung’s collective unconscious made manifest) to find out what people say about it. No subject is safe– physics, otters, politics, molecules– it’s all part of the continuum, and it’s all stuff to know and steal language from. So of course, I went looking into the ravens… and I found Huginn & Muninn, (or they found me).  Check out what the page has to say about theories of their origin:

Theories

A modern reconstruction of the Raven Banner

Scholars have linked Odin’s relation to Huginn and Muninn to shamanic practice. John Lindow relates Odin’s ability to send his “thought” (Huginn) and “mind” (Muninn) to the trance-state journey of shamans. Lindow says the Grímnismál stanza where Odin worries about the return of Huginn and Muninn “would be consistent with the danger that the shaman faces on the trance-state journey.”[20]

Rudolf Simek is critical of the approach, stating that “attempts have been made to interpret Odin’s ravens as a personification of the god’s intellectual powers, but this can only be assumed from the names Huginn and Muninn themselves which were unlikely to have been invented much before the 9th or 10th centuries” yet that the two ravens, as Odin’s companions, appear to derive from much earlier times.[11] Instead, Simek connects Huginn and Muninn with wider raven symbolism in the Germanic world, including the Raven Banner (described in English chronicles and Scandinavian sagas), a banner which was woven in a method that allowed it, when fluttering in the wind, to appear as if the raven depicted upon it was beating its wings.[11]

Anthony Winterbourne connects Huginn and Muninn to the Norse concepts of the fylgja—a concept with three characteristics; shape-shifting abilities, good fortune, and the guardian spirit—and the hamingja—the ghostly double of a person that may appear in the form of an animal. Winterbourne states that “The shaman’s journey through the different parts of the cosmos is symbolized by the hamingja concept of the shape-shifting soul, and gains another symbolic dimension for the Norse soul in the account of Oðin’s ravens, Huginn and Muninn.”[21] In response to Simek’s criticism of attempts to interpret the ravens “philosophically”, Winterbourne says that “such speculations […] simply strengthen the conceptual significance made plausible by other features of the mythology” and that the names Huginn and Muninn “demand more explanation than is usually provided.”[21]

So…. I thought… perhaps I am a little nuts. But I am clearly not the first poet to have been hijacked by the ravens of thought and memory… so who am I to break with tradition?

Huginn & Muninn by Guy HobbsThere is also something else: two years ago when I started writing this book, a google search of Huginn & Muninn revealed little more than a wikipedia page, and a few scattered pages on folklore. In the ensuing time, they have invaded the consciousness of artists all over the world. Try an image search of their names. Suddenly, I am not the only one dreaming about these ravens.

I can only hope I am up to the home stretch… of pushing through the daily grind to meet them, and to relay back this story that I’m stealing? borrowing? witnessing? in these other worlds. I know it will not let me go until I do… and frankly, I don’t want to let go of it either. It feels good to be able, finally, to fly in this way I always knew I could.

Huginn and Muninn: a digital gothic (part 10- Muninn)

Huginn and Muninn: a digital gothic (part 10- Muninn)

Part 10: Muninn. [Playlist: Rob Dougan, Clubbed to Death (Kurayamino Mix]

in place of a name         kinder parents call her grief
and teach the young to tolerate her perch

upon the garbage bins
best to pay her tithes at a safe distance and move on
lest the details of her face prove catching

but whispered stories say
she is                            a fallen king

when killed in battle               his body left to rot
a raven fed upon his tongue and eyes

or worse                       she is a knight who slew a child
drank her blood            ate her heart
crimes that would displace the soul

others say these acts are not the cause
but the only cure      hence the lost soul remains so

all agree            she comes
to each alone
by firelight and lamplight
by ante meridian stillness

a hiss come riding the night
clutching her gift of invert dreams
the thief of rest

to hear her wings is to know
all the comfort of solidity jossed up
and burned

text released     in breath
from safe caging in the closed page

she lifts from frozen script
to stretch and catch the winds
of violence, blood, desire for harm

the perfume of wordless things
limp in her beak and claws
tapping there at the window

the hoarse croak of human speech
a token plume of echo

one well-known magician demanded of her       meaning
never grasping that her name was more an answer
than a name                  just as

black may be a slammed door   a curtain drawn
a shadow licking strips of sun                from latticed sills

light can bring the terror
of annihilating white
blending every nuance of the known into a false positivity

we say day and night is all it is   insisting two lasting conditions:
though the bulk of life involves   the gradual unmaking
of the certainty of noon

and where exactly lies the cusp
between what is and what just was

is she the death from which she springs
or the breath that bears a common burden
in stories that must perish to repeat

O reader
we have just done the thing together
brought her life upon this page

watched as she followed our lure
stripped            plucked            raven of the slain
deliberately crushed
into the mass of what has been until

a smithereen in a like cloud
rose                  dread-charged
coaxed home by our light

bearing the contradiction we impose:
that a moment is not fixed

until we each consume and make of it
our cells                        as memory

her return along the path
the only way we know ourselves

yet the sacrifice is real
lost memory is lost self

and each time we call her back
she answers a little changed

her shadow precedes her now
a deeper shade of dawn gray
hopping from sidewalk to rooftop

brushing the folded wings
of the hawk      awakening
exhausted         sent so many tales ago to intercept

hits her squarely mid-air
comes away with only one of her shimmering feathers

and she is gone              evaporated with the day

 

 

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Huginn and Muninn: a digital gothic (part 8- the sinking lure)

Huginn and Muninn: a digital gothic (part 8- the sinking lure)

 

Part 8: the sinking lure: [Playlist: Ellie Goulding: Lights Instrumental]

 

the anglerfish sinks

her lure winks off                      on

 a lightning bug
wil o wisp
yellow sea star

shrinks
to a pinhole flash
and nothings-out

quiet floods
into the would-be time

for mercy to wink
and leap for sidelong dreams                 a near-escape

                               but form is skin-tight want
insisting thought
clench down to bread and blood:

so slow and painful to be things

given arms or legs or wings
worse still
re   membered

 as a burnt-out light might
toss a phantom flare
toward the thought of night

 absence is thing-shaped
and the more disfigured
the more distinctly felt

what was  what was  what was  what
was      still describing to the missing limb

 a clenching fist

O Reader! I had you in my mind
to share the life of our common body
not bounded by finite skin      

believed we two as sorcerers
might cast ourselves into other worlds
as winged spells          and thereby make        in borrowed form                             

a home of dark winds
no frightening place to those whose
feathers           each a glistering facet

might catch the many beams like a lighthouse crystal
returning through the veil
one focused light

but the guides are lost
and any acrobatic
sleight of mind            is stripped
when

                                    the phone rings and
a voice breaks

a falling father body crashes through

the knowing mind          a grown child asking y y y y
all times and all selves come slamming home

when the split sides of the air collapse
in thunder

holy stranger                    ghostly Z who rises
from the juncture

featherless        mindless
bodiless            X

in this no place

no light to see light crushed

            by fire into dust and bits of bone
packed into a named and numbered box

            paid for at the appropriate office

            and carried to the passenger seat of the car
buckled in for the

 tremble of final air
squeezed out in a thread of breath

so fine a mist
ruptures

into a

            fiery particle

a light visible only to you
the stranger       the reader
who gently insists

the pages of years
still left to smoulder
a music in our flame of living

emptiness and cold ignite
between doorway and threshold

into a black, bird-shaped light
burning above a dark new country

read part 9

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Shadowed: Unheard Voices is now available for purchase!

Shadowed: Unheard Voices is now available for purchase!

Shadowed: Unheard Voices now available for purchase!

Shadowed: Unheard Voices from Now & Then & Again on Vimeo.

Shadowed is an extraordinary book of 148 prose poems written in response to photographs spanning the first half of the twentieth century—each photo accompanied by the imaginative speculations of a gathering of contemporary women poets.

To order Shadowed, and for more info, click on ABOUT and POETS & PROCESS. Hear the voices, see the images, experience a taste of the poetry.

Huginn and Muninn: a digital gothic (part 9- remembering)

Huginn and Muninn: a digital gothic (part 9- remembering)

Part 9: remembering.  [Playlist: Tool, Lateralus]

 

as in all transitions from light to dark
at first there seems nothing but dark
this is the moment when most turn back

and so the dark remains
a threshold
beyond which
every fear fattens on shadows
                                                                                                                                                           

                                                            mind your step

he says, opening a hatch in the deck
taking my hand as we descend
down and left
down and down again and always left
until I am dizzy with twist
and my head folds into a dive
toward my left shoulder

nothing in any direction
but heavy air and each
solid step rising to meet
the foot reaching

faster               his voice distant            dim
down and left                rough fingers
drag an arm that must be mine

though it seems distinctly

down and
left

                                                            of me
this floating head
or headless knowing

sense not pulled down to an object but
everywhere at once             trying to condense

amid a rising scent of sun heating
blacktop after  heavy rain

down and
left

of strings of days plucked
before              and too soon left yet                 never reaching

chords             when stings of yellow    pink and pinker
deeping down               grow long and lax

and redshift left
of light through eyelids to
a dive                           down and left toward

a blinding line of bright
the strip of light beneath a door

whoa. steady. 

he steps into a sideways room
pressing my head gently to his chest

the walls continue to distort and twist
though easing with each of his heart’s pulses
the cyclic heeling
wallows slowly back to true

though my body
seems not yet to have returned to feeling

and the sunlight makes no sense
we should be deep below decks

look there
he says

his finger points into                                                      
the gently swaying surface
of a mirror

where a plucked and battered raven gazes
from the folds of a coat             and his hand reaches down
and left to extract me

 

read part 10

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Huginn and Muninn: a digital gothic (part 6- wrecked)

Huginn and Muninn: a digital gothic (part 6- wrecked)

Part 6: wrecked: [Playlist: Atha, Voices in the Stratosphere]

adrift

in deathsleep

      in skycavern

          a ship

unfolds from deepest black:

femur masts bear
ulna spars lashed crosswise by glistening coils
festooned in ragged dregs of cloth that
sleek and luff in silent draughts

she sails
illumined by a pale blue flame
that dyes the shrouds:

aurora borealis
a solar wind aglow in death collisions
of magnetic dust

or                     noctiluca scintillans
a host of tiny animals
whose lantern organs light a liquid night:

scouts, drawn to your
foundering  pings

in the crow’s nest the vampire squid
flash their photophores
ghost crabs go barber-poling deckwards
and all that was camouflaged as wreck                  inhales
a swim sac full of brine                                               a fleshy embrace

of cuttlefish and eels
disguised as slack tatters                                          fatten

into a living interlocked rigging
propelling this vessel on dissolved wind

         billows of squidink

boil to port and starboard                       swarms of ice-blue pinpoint animals
churn in a wake of unhinged stars:

a sorcerer stands behind the fiddlehead
on his shoulder
an anglerfish casts

her glowing yellow lure
into the blackness

hung to

reel you back from        wandering the
nowhere in your nothing

the sorcerer

         reaches with both hands to fold your wings against your chest
and gathers you into his coat
into a soft nest built amongst his empty ribs

 

            heed the yarn             he says
but mind the toothy maw
behind the watchlight                        

in answer

the mizzen topsail                      uncloaks:
a giant manta    kites in slow spirals downward through the forestays

to offer             a wide white ventral surface
onto which the anglerfish aims her lure:

5          4          3          2          1
projects                        and then

fade in through murk:
the sea floor      empty               featureless

a stirring in the foreground
clouds of sediment        rise into a bed of swollen pulp
mounding, shivering into                        deadfall backwarding

                    into half-digested hulk
right-angles drawn in pale, lifeless crusts

of brainworm and gooseneck                seafan skeletons
a graveyard of hard reminders adhering                         into ship shape

a scaffold on which now burgeons an undeathing:
decks unsplinter            cracked halves of hull
swing to like a closing clamshell             cohering into seamless ellipse

two horizontal lines appear in the debris
bulked degree by degree by aggregating matter

until masts abloom in algal furs
lever upward into perpendicular bonds

and spars condense from drifts of silt
javelining true                            to crosstrees and yards
decked out in a bunting of wilted jelly

that rallies into orange anemones, violet nudibranchs,
soft life hungered forth from bones

a palace of innocence
recomposed of her route reversing

filter-feeders vomiting gusts of gorge
great fish coughing chunks of fins and scales

which implode to live silvery streaks
and spasm off into the choke

of eel grasses full lush then battening down and reefing in
and       on        and on  and                                less and less

until a trapped whisper
a mayday cry

                  appears from above
a bubble descending toward the wreck
shrinking as it speeds

              to the empty throat of that
lost wax lodge of bones
the sorcerer emerging from his drowning

                               his barren hand casting
from the pocket of his seaworm-eaten coat
a sodden mess congealing into tightly creased papers
from which unknots a twine garland

that reeves itself through the cathead
and steeves the groaning timbers of the bowsprit

             and the wreck begins to lift
answering the pull of rumor

on an anchor line reeling upward

one trembling string
one spider silk
one sounding line
one thread of tale

the yarn that always dangles:

               (we are deep-shifted now
spun into the spiral of music

               gone gate crashing with ravens

                                          shuffled our coil
on a deathtrip
stripped to
a stray signal
picked up by ghost ship
rescued
by death itself

             who builds a nest
of an empty chest
and makes of us
a heart

 

together we mind the toothy maw
projected by the light of a lure
on a manta belly
the flick in which all present company
myself included
star
)

says death, our sorcerer

just as the last frame sticks and rips
and the projection on the manta’s belly  flips     flips      flips

with a sound like something being wound up:

a pocket watch                        a music box
a windlass                                 weighing-in the bower
a bird’s heart                            racing in a ribbed locker

with each click and beat a glossy black feather is plucked
from your body and sucked straight up his windpipe

erupting from his mouth             and promptly swallowed
by the waiting anglerfish                        who smiles smiles

it’s all above board                  death says
watching the thing                  yet trapped in the watch
until
you arrived                      my windfall

he unfolds one of those crisp papers clutched in his fist
holds it tight to his chest so you can read:

When lost or unsure of your position, ships shall release a caged crow.
The crow will fly straight towards the nearest land, thus giving the
vessel some sort of a navigational fix.
         

 

come, lend me your wings death says
and lets go his charts
casting himself                  overboard

the waveson treasures of his hold
spill up toward the light:

pearls worn down to grains of sand
gemstones roughing back to rocks

glass bottles burst to living dust
a great shudder wracks the strake                     treenails squeal free of the ship’s planks
and the hull distintegrates in spinning trunnels

among the dreck           his cap             his coat
his skull          and two femurs              form, briefly
a waving jolly roger

lost from view as the ribcage sinks                     with you inside
every last feather tornadoed loose

that damned anglerfish following behind
and gulping down everything

until with a harsh shake and a push
she grasps the cage itself
and cracks you loose
bites off each of your plucked wings
and glutted, sinks slowly:
a shrinking yellow glow in the undernight

            what’s left of the ship                             pitchpoles                           and breaks apart

leaving a wake

of fractured ribs

a wrecked raven

and a choice:

the dangling yarn


the sinking lure

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Huginn and Muninn: a digital gothic (part 5- a candle)

Huginn and Muninn: a digital gothic (part 5- a candle)

Part 5: a candle. [Playlist: Virtual Boy: Mass]

 

you’ve seen where dreams end up:

in the foyer on a polished credenza               in a jar marked kosher
for everyone to admire at parties             the contents naked, shriveled,
obscenely meaty

late at night after the card games
you hear the adults sneak into the hall

the scrape of the lid unscrewing

the muffled sounds of hunched gorging

you barricade yourself behind your bedroom door
light several devotional candles from the dollar store
and conjure the real thing:

he steps out of the wall poster
and makes himself at home        taking the form of a rock angel or
that boy you met at the busstop or the school friend who can’t put two words together

tonight he’s nick cave
you discuss a way to address the problem:

he says             the cleaners are coming, one by one
you don’t even want to let them start

and you say      I believe in some kind of path
that we can walk down, me and you

so with tiny slits on the meat of the thumb
fleshed out with lyrics and candle flames
sugar water collected under the tongue

deals written in nail polish  folded in tight triangles
on college ruled paper
the same song on repeat                        11,       12,       2am

you call the live dreams down from the scrim

ghost riding it in                                                             you’re not sure it’s going to work
then

the walls shift,   the stairwell creaks
the roof shakes shingles free of its eaves

you grab for nick’s hand                        but you palm right through his wave
he shrugs back into the paneling                        just as the jambs vault the lintels

above your head in the crawlspace
you hear the mice panic

from the window you watch                 beams snap free of rafters       the house stretches                                first one long wing

and then the other

nails squeal                   mortar crumbles
pipes pop loose like tuning forks
the attic belches bats and owls

the floors groans          the house crouches
and launches

you’re airborne

your window screen blows out
followed by the window

you rise, rise                        clinging to the sill through the first awkward flaps
there’ll be bruises on your elbows from the g force

streetlights shrink
cold air flattens and whips your hair

your block                    your street        your town
shrink to toys    to blurs                             the house glides            soars

dipping to one side              and then the other
floorboards casting a hatched shadow through the moonpath

there are other houses                   here and there other conjurers
transfixed at their bedroom windows
faces transformed

your house flocks with the other houses
together they swing west

far below, the oil refinery         a black dragon with long nostrils capped by venting flames
is chewing its rear leg free of a retaining wall:

several freeway overpasses and a section of tunnel
kite past               the wind howling over their lips and mouths

out over the water now
you see the lighthouses dive and submerge
playing in the surf around the feet of the bridge

and that’s when you hear the music
feel it first, really, vibrating your lungs:

it is the houses sailing the length of the bridge
dragging their wingtips along the suspension cables

you catch the gaze of a girl in a basement window
dear friend
                  her eyes say                                          welcome

 

read part 6

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