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Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Recipe

Daniel Beilinson, "Khimki Forest," 2011

We’d starve if we couldn’t stomach the
bitterness. Even after a soak, that cold
stream hadn’t washed out enough from
acorn and oak to unbind the tongue, but
we must eat. (Our hard-times bread not
much more than a mush, but oh how we
lapped up its flint edge.) Flux may kill us?
Then we’ll take our water pink with wine.
(The recipe calls for more than Kore’s six
seeds to ferment a blood red prairie Lethe.
Husks added for a tannic brace, a taste of
exile.) We’d die if we fed ourselves with
all we thought we knew, who we thought
we were, those sweet easy times before—
and we’ll die if we ever, finally, forget them.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Profligate geometries

zeevveez, "Gnat Balls (2)," 2013

Every day, about an hour before sunset,
a cloud of small insects floats, Brownian
and swirling, near the apex of an invisible
pyramid (the base, a complex alignment
of dahlias, catmint, three red flowering
currants; the edges, outlined by shadows
cast from a small ash tree). They’ll dance,
then disperse. Their beautiful anonymity
is my conceit (I’m not meant to listen to
their olfactory small talk), their spiraling
without touching an artifact of my line of
sight (I’m certain they’ll touch, why else
dance?)—profligate geometries, purpose
unknown, life-giving, nourishing delight.

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Etiquette

I whisper my apologies to the dead sotto
voce, here where moss and lichens mottle
more than one child’s name. Is it common
courtesy or superstition, to ask those buried
for forgiveness as I walk on their graves? Is
it something that can be forgiven, that I find
beauty in the way the rain dissolves a death
date carved in stone, in how spores latch on
and bloom, life latticing across the markers,
dissolving all remembrance into forgetting?

Wednesday, November 21, 2018

Pitch

I’m a tarpit into which every moment falls—
sunlight raking across bricks and into broken
windows of a warehouse along the Hudson;
that bramble thorn piercing the cupid’s bow
of my lip, kissing me bloody when I was seven;
the gauze of my great-grandmother’s cotton
dress as I tried to dodge her bristly kisses. (All
week, all I hadn’t known I’d remembered has
bubbled up like methane through bitumen.)
I’m an asphalt seep, a dark iridescence where
an infinite number of memories have massed
and caught fire, thin flames licking my skin.

Saturday, November 17, 2018

Fritillaries and emperors

Photo by Kevin Faccenda

Where I live, the alder leaves are dropping—
banked sunlight paid up from longer days,
fugitive gold weighting them down until, at
the first north wind, they give up their grip.
But I’ve gone somewhere else, gone to an
open-air memory palace, those mud sloughs
framed with live oak that won’t shed until
spring. Instead of leaves, gulf fritillaries and
hackberry emperors tumble on past, updraft
and down, dusting the same air that’ll carry
me over remembered land—monarch paths
through the chaparral, swallowtails flitting
though mountain passes—until I’m home.

Tuesday, November 06, 2018

Zigzag

I wanted to walk down to the river, had to pick
my way sideways on the slick path, a labyrinth
downslope. The dead white of mushrooms I’d
crushed while sliding down, shredding at the
slightest touch. The mottled, blood red leaves
under a big-leaf maple. And, a glimmer—bright
brass casing for a .32 caliber bullet, near-gold
against my dirty fingers. It was new not muddy.
I kept it near where a shard of sky resolved into
a crenellated sheet of metal, melted, reformed
around crushed, silvered glass. Buried treasure.
The faint smell of smoke from the damp charcoal
I scraped off the ruins. At the edge of the highway,
at the edge of the forest, a car fire must’ve caught
two trees—one left and sawn down, one burnt yet
still standing. As we are, as we do, in our walking
down to the river, which is itself a kind of prayer.

Monday, October 01, 2018

Pet

Charles Soule, Jr., "Boy with Dog," 1860-65

I'd imagined she’d been called far worse names
than bitch, the biting curses almost forgotten
now. She was with him, she was for him, his
protection from loneliness, the depredations
of his living rough, broken—spine skewed, skin
inked over, blurry mementos of his other lives.
(The tie that binds is sometimes a frayed rope
loosely tied around a neck, as worn and soft as
his gaze towards her, how softly he’d spoken.)
Her name was Chevelle Marie, and I thought
she might’ve been named for the last finest
joy he’d known—a car, a girl—a boyhood lost
and found in a dark gray blocky pit-bull. (I told
her she was pretty; she wriggled all over with
delight.) Chevelle Marie was a good dog; she’d
listen, then lead him out of Hades if she could.