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Friday, September 15, 2017

Taxus brevifolia

Andrew Curtis, "Yew berries in
the snow, Close House
," 2010

An aril—that drop of blood
in the green—is scale made
flesh: enticements for the
varied thrush, a yew seed’s
slated transport. All these
leavings of mine, and fewer
birds to sing our notes out
past the mountain; so many
departures, before a winter
storm buries that last fruit.

Friday, September 08, 2017

Leaving

Robert Hamilton, "The History of British Fishes,
Four Stages of a Fish," Wellcome Library, London

We’d start at the ending, that
muddy old mouth, picking our
way back to before the womb,
laddering up braided streams
where hatchlings clear as glass
(but for yolk sacs still attached)
fed on lacewings, on damselfly
eggs. How it goes is how it went:
parents who’d never wandered
upstream would tell us, their
children, stories full of harbor
silt—so cloudy, opaque, hiding
snags. We’d listen just until the
silver exhalations of meltwater
would find us. Then we’d be off,
climbing, to follow that scent.

Saturday, September 02, 2017

Dehiscence

Emily, "Harvesting Poppy Seeds," 2012

1.
We’re seamed, as are seedpods, our lines
of dehiscence marked with a tailor’s chalk,
our pale raphes the memory of how we’ve
been stitched together. When a pod’s ripe,
a split occurs. Or when wounds don’t heal.

2.
Remembering the blush pink poppies, now
all dry, dehiscent rattles—the wind shakes
their prayer for a rainy season into the clay.

3.
The crocus has mistimed itself, tossing dull
blades up from the dark, greening them in
the heat. But we’ve not missed our season—
almost ripe, now, ready for another kind of
transformation, waiting for a wind to come.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Deposition

Thomas Cole, "View from Mount Holyoke,
Northampton, Massachusetts, after a
Thunderstorm—The Oxbow
," 1836

The slow river meanders, taking its
time in laying down the silt burden,
its curves wide and looping, almost
tied off in spooning crescents: next
flood brings the oxbowed embrace.

Or when our fingers touched on the
planchette, light as birds, and what
had been inert began to move in the
snail’s own spiral, cochleoid, spelling
out our imitation of Merrill letter by
l      e      t     t   e   r   in adagio magic.

And this last languid wandering, time
bending backwards for us, palming us
(as if we were peas in a sleight) off on
some other cosmos, some other age;
decelerate, smiling, laugh as we stop.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Littoral

NPS photo, "A woman stands alone at
the edge of the wilderness breach," 2014

What had been full is empty,
the animal having gone away
somewhere, no trace except
for a scar where it clung tight
to the nacre. The emptiness
left gathers light: bowled over,
shining side up, half-buried in
sand at neap tide. As if it were
an offertory on an altar of wet
smooth shoreline; as if it was
a clue to where you’ve gone,
this cast-off abalone shell full
of nothing but wind and sky.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Impermanence

John Constable, "Brighton Beach," 1824, V&A

For B.

It may start with a blow, a deep bruise
that overwhelms the body’s ability to
repair itself and clear the damage. Not
rare: the sharply stubbed toe, a barked
shin. If the injury’s deep within muscle,
close to the bone, muscle can literally
ossify. If it’s far from the heart, leaving
tissue starved (crushed capillaries leak,
can no longer bear up), the bruise may
no longer be a bruise, though the dying,
dusky blue’s nearly a match in hue. You,
now your own memento mori as angry
red snakes crawl up a limb, hissing some-
thing worse: poison in the blood. Sepsis.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Demo

Nicholas Poussin, "The Finding of Moses," 1638

It’s one way to show how software works, but it’s
really about making stories, telling tales. Long ago,
a swaddled babe was found among the bulrushes.

Or, once upon a time, a little girl lived with three old
aunties in a cottage on the hill, and they sent her to
the dark forest to gather mushrooms.
There will be
dangers to face, monsters to outwit or transform,
the heroine must puzzle out a coded secret before
the moon rises—to save her own life, to save her
aunties who’ve been turned into birds, to win a gift
of understanding the crows’ language—or to restore
the lost data in three clicks, so neatly done it seems
like magic. Abstraction, concision, symbolic language
encoded, spells cast. What was Aaron's rod but a
demo, a snaking proof of concept for the Pharaoh?