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Sunday, July 24, 2016

Sixteen

NASA, ESA/Hubble and the Hubble Heritage Team,
"The Eagle Nebula’s Pillars of Creation," 2015

Messier was spare in naming—16 on his list of
“things not to be confused with comets.” I find
M16 elegant, deadpan, a relief from the over-
heated tales implicit in other, later naming: the
Snow Queen Cluster, the Eagle Nebula. (For all
that, M16 sits within Serpens Cauda, the tail of
the cosmic snake—another story, in two parts.)
But if you could pull its light down and down to
your waiting eye, or float up and up to les seize,
you’d witness the birth of stars, chemistry and
physics clasping and unclasping, the starlit past
made as present as our rapt attention will allow.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Realities

H. Pellikka, "A multi-colored view
of a kaleidoscope," 2005

Yes, there’s more than one, like right when
we’ve been carried downstream in a flood,
or when a pigeon careens into the window
next to my desk at work, leaving a smudge
on the glass. After I stop typing this poem,
before you start reading it, let’s step back,
watch the pointillism of those moments all
resolving into a fictional whole. Let’s shake
and turn the kaleidoscope, love, its changes
so like reality playing beautiful tricks on us—
in a sandpaper rustle of drifting glass beads,
our hands shift mirrors, and fix geometries.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Axial

Ramdas Ware, "Garden"

The sky’s bleached from the heat; its radiance melts
asphalt, making licorice ridges where the curb joins
the edge of the road. The earth’s dipped a shoulder
towards the star that keeps her in its thrall, and it’s
the season when we small children clinging atop her
broad curve will burn. A million million times we’ve
tugged on her, tantruming red-faced: “give me! give
me!” and she’s indulged us, bringing clover to bloom
in spring rain, letting us suck nectar from its florets.
We forget how our tarry gravel roads make her itch,
and the same shoulder tilted towards the sun could
shrug us off, our bones calcined to feed her flowers.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Toss

BlueRidgeKitties, "Corn Sections," 2010

“[Beauty] is the obverse of longing’s coin.”
—Chris Clarke, “Beauty,” 2008

Diné sing “in beauty may we walk,” hózhóogo
naanéidaał doo
, yet I sit still. Longing asks for
stillness; a planchet of self held fixed, steady
so the die can strike. We bear its impression,
a numismatic sidedness—heads gold as corn
pollen, tails dusty as red clay, reeded edges a
boundary, a proof against debasement. I toss
it high, this freshly minted sun, an abstraction
of the worth of a scrubland moonrise, a kiss.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Underexposed

"Half length formal portrait of 'Uncle Moreau'
[Omar ibn Said]
," ca. 1850

“Areas of a photo where information is lost due to
extreme darkness are described as ‘crushed blacks.’”

I focus on things falling apart: oxidation making rusted
lace of the side of a scraped auto, a soft pentimenti of
painted ads on brickwork. My depth of field is shallow;
I know my limitations, know I can’t catch a panorama,
it’s beyond me and these tools. And yet, I will get close
enough, hold still long enough to see what others don’t.
A world waits to be seen, up close. Even in the absence
of light, there’s detail that reveals something about us.
The deepest dark, the place where information’s lost, is
named—as if for the Middle Passage—“crushed blacks,”
but that misses the truth seen in portrait after portrait:
“crushed blacks” are radiant within all those portrayed.

Saturday, July 09, 2016

Umbra

"Portrait of an African Slave Woman,"
attributed to Annibale Carracci, fragment
of a larger painting, ca. 1580s

The darkest part of the shadow cast by a
celestial body, and a root for umber, the
color of earth, of melanin-blessed skin. A
blessing, I call this, despite how we curse
it in each other or ourselves. Without the
cooling shade, we’d burn. Without earth-
dark pigment, we’d have no ground for a
painting; Carracci knew this in his bones.
So I’ll plant myself in darkness—spotted
as a trout bean, pale as a moon—hoping
to grow strong enough to see my shadow
when it occludes what’s otherwise clear:
a shared reflection in an obsidian mirror.

Wednesday, July 06, 2016

Portico

Julie Hughes, "Old Bungalow," 2014

Remnants of a lost language grace the front door, all
Greek to our bungalow, whose stick-figure translation
of an ancient temple entrance frames a way in—not
to Old World gods, but to New World aspirations. Its
proportions are square as a shaped-note sing. Vestigial
columns thin as saplings, Homeric hymns lathed down
to American vernacular, it is a Sacred Harp architecture
as plain-spoken as its pagan ancestors were eloquent.