Saturday, October 25, 2014

Night Recovery

Adam Jackson, "Tall Grass at Night"

I’m too close to the ground to see where this
all landed, but still I’m pushing through sharp
tall grass, sniffing the air for a trace of burnt
metal in the dark. Was it a bottle rocket or a
meteorite? Smoke rises dark against dark, then
an even deeper dark, a hole arms-width into
which my shadow drops. I flatten, belly down
on bent sedge, and pull towards the edge: look
in, look down, where a disc the size of the moon
shines back, black as obsidian, reflecting stars.

Friday, October 17, 2014

In a Crowd

Small Pieris rapae on Cirsium arvense by Olaf Leillinger

So many purpose-filled creatures here clustered
together along the stalled line of their own stories,
shuffling, not quite touching each other. And then
above, alongside, a cabbage white butterfly spirals
up next to me, lifting my eyes and heart skyward.

Friday, October 10, 2014

In my driveway

A red-spotted toad, from The Western Ecological Research Center

A small velvet beanbag lands on my ankle: it’s a toad,
tiny delicate thing, who promptly hops off and into
the grass. Another evening, it’s a house gecko who
falls on my arm as I walk into the house with a load

of groceries. Those touches give such unlikely gifts.
They weave my frayed attention into a single strand
of webbing on which I slackline, wobble, slowly stand
and balance beneath the moon, hold still until it drifts.

Tuesday, October 07, 2014


Chisos Mountains, Woody Hibbard

It’s stuck in my throat, this choking howl, these rales
rasping on what I’ve swallowed: bezoar of boiled wool
from a too-tight jacket I gnawed off, three fingernails
that broke ragged as I scratched under a fence. Fool,
me, trying to pass as “company.” Semi-feral, wilding
under the thinnest crust of a dinnertime smile: load
me up, I’ll spit out this hairball of restraint, upchuck
all ties. Which fork to use now? The one in the road.

Saturday, October 04, 2014


His opening gambit: a floral, or one that’s just cetalox. No, I said, I’d
prefer incense, resins, smoke; a touch on a test strip is still too light.
Delighted, smiling: “Ah!” he said, “You know your scents!” We tried
another two, then he leaned in. “What about oudh?” Yes, I’ll bite.

Three dark bottles. “Women, ah, women are their own perfumes.”
A mist, then a verse from Eugene Onegin shimmered and decayed.
“What about this one?” Wet ink on vellum, a lost ghazal exhumed;
the third a sonnet of benzoin, aloeswood, and labdanum. He repaid

my attention with a suggestion: a fourth fragrance, without aloes,
an off-center chypre. “There are dimensions to it I think you’ll like.”
No stories painted by scent in this; rather, I’m the story, hallowed
much the same way as a butterfly pinned to a thorn by a shrike.

It was sharply beautiful, that chypre, blending my sweat and skin
with oak moss and vetiver, leather, neroli: “I’ll take it.” Or I’m taken
by it, I thought, impaled on the word. “Tell me what you think in
a few days,” he murmured. “When you wear a scent, it awakens.”

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Horizon Lines

Photo by David Morris

My longer trajectory is a trick of the light. I used to
take stock, mapping short-term and long-term plans
as if those disembodied articulations of desire were
apotropaic, would magically ward off chaos in five-
year chunks. Not so; not here. The landscape looks
real, but it’s only made real in a moment of contact:
clay under nails, a small bruise where my shin met
a low limb hard, respiration (mine, yours) fogging
the horizon ahead. Ever prepared I was, two maps
in hand, when a sudden gust turned them to kites
with no strings, floating, soaring up and over a low
ridge before they were lost to sight, like I am now.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Field Songs

Aleatory sky: the low cumulus as plumped
and still as if posing for a matte painting, fat
gray doves of low clouds feathered against
the dry-brushed scrim of pewter altostratus.

These bits of poems rattle around my skull like
loose change; my fingers pick up their copper
penny tang as I scratch for a pen, an unopened
bill or scrap of receipt to jot them down, hold
them still. It’s as random as a coin toss, this way,
mutable as the weather and as surprising as
that grasshopper that hitched a ride with me.

What is my work here, then? Which me does this,
sitting in the interstices of a working day as quietly
as a hunter in a blind? The shutters of sensory
attention tripping open or closed: a signal in,
then out, and the polyphonic voices riffing on
rhythms I can’t hear unless I stop: field songs.