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Thursday, December 08, 2016

Obverse

Gordon T. Taylor, "Diatoms: NOAA At The Ends
of the Earth," 1983

My fingertips, light on a jelly jar,
yours near mine, as we raise the
dead—these are the things we’d
do for art. We didn’t think to ask
after our dead beloveds, then. I

wish now we had, not to disturb
our fond dead, but to have taken
comfort in a longer good-bye. We
who stumble through uncertainty

in our shape-shifting skins—watch
as the glass rings each letter, fast
then faster, “L” then “O,” dancing
towards “V” and “E,” then “U.” An

alphabet, spelling wishes as gifts;
arabesques of touch/no-touch, all
our longing, scribed in tempos as
intimate, familiar as a heartbeat.

The other side of the board, the
side the cup doesn’t glide upon,
is lit in the absence of light—pin-
pricked with souls, as improbable
as joy, as beautiful as diatoms.

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Millefiori

Emily Williams, "Water," 2016

The hand, passing through thin air, trailing a
thread of lampworked, molten glass, bound
to and binding a twist of slender rods all the
colors of the tidepool sky. This work is done
with a gesture and an incantation—the soft
curse for a careless burn. If I brought you my
open flame, would you steady my hand with
yours, help turn this brittle glass to flowers?

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Fire-starter

Jonas Jordan, Army Corps of Engineers,
"An oilfield on fire," uploaded 2007

A soft metallic sky, the color of magnesium;
the fire-starter I once carried in my pocket.

A sharp ridge on Wy’east pares a curl from a
low cloud scudding by, then scrapes another.
Will they pile up and catch, I wonder. It’s dry
to the east; they just need one spark to flare.

Deep deep down, below the green skin on which
everything that we love lives, there’s a lake made
of fire. A crack in its surface, and we burn too. On
that day, a nacreous sky will weep soot made from
calcined bones, from alder ash and fir char, from
all our arguments and our leave-takings, our hate.

Something new will swim up from dark ponds, after.
Will it glisten in the sunlight, as you, my love, did?

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Presence

John J. Audubon, "Birds of America:
American Crow
," 1827

They look for me, now, gathering one
by one, backing away when I call them
as if my voice were a wave, lapping, as
if they were shorebirds. Each a person
in their own right—feigning disinterest
or avid and impatient, as I fumble the
first toss—each assessing the odds for
a fast grab, before a car skitters down
the street, before the bounty becomes
a trap. Presence, in that moment, is a
construct—presence of mind, moment
to moment. The story of how close we
come to death, how far we’ll go to live.

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Warmer

John James Audubon, "Yellow-billed Magpie, Steller’s Jay,
Western Scrub-Jay, and Clark’s Nutcracker," 1836–37

It’s as if I’m blindfolded in this life, nothing
but the south wind and its fat raindrops to
tell me “you’re getting warmer…warmer…
colder…warmer,” as I make my way, arms
outstretched. A jay, outside our front door.
A small dog wedged up against my hip. Can
I track what matters the way they do, scent
threading a path on the wet cold wind, full
promise of food or love over a hill, down a
trail I can’t yet see?
I put bread out on the
porch. Me, that jay—both getting warmer.

Monday, November 21, 2016

Heedless

Kai Schreiber, "red blood cells," from
tiles in the Long Line group pool, 2005

Fast transit through my rust-red and
dusky-blue underground, I’m all wet
salt and metal as cells jostle around
a bend, drop their packages of sugar,
their oxygen tanks right at the front
door of every fibril. No knock; every-
one knows who it is, what soft clock-
work brings in the groceries and sets
the table, as I, heedless, run up a hill.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

Descending

William Holbrook Beard, "The Lost Balloon,"
1882, Smithsonian American Art Museum

All the color drains out of the landscape below. Ice in
the atmosphere throws sundogs, here where the air’s
too thin to breathe. Unreal place—gunmetal shadows
and ormolu light on the fissured crust, green foothills
washed out, weak, nothing’s stored up. Our pale dead
call for warmth from their limbo in the sky, and there’s
not any, here where I sit, at 23,000 ft. and descending.