Tuesday, May 24, 2016


Wade Tregaskis, "Honeybee in a Trombetta Squash flower," 2015

Buttercup, let’s talk. In your saffron-robed wisdom, you
understand the way we apes pile on the meaning. One
end of the spectrum: Giotto painting old Judas Iscariot
in a yellow cloak (not golden nor sunlit, but piss-colored,
draped in fear-stain shame). At another end: Van Gogh’s
butter-colored rent house, his sunflowers, all purest joy.
And that’s just the West. East, past Jerusalem, even past
Mecca, further than Bodhidharma wandered, near the
Yellow River, sits the Yellow Emperor, resplendent. One
might even enter Yellow Springs, converse with all those
dead sitting there in the jaundiced light of an everlasting
eclipse of the sun, weak illumination a sulfured glaze on
on their desiccated fingers, their game boards and tiles.
Or not. The bees don’t care, long as their dead reckoning
dance leads them to your honeyed bulls-eye, Buttercup.

Monday, May 23, 2016


Uqbar is back, "Fireflies," 2015

On a trail, in the dark woods—no moonlight,
dim lamplight from far-off places. All shadow
on shadow. I’m slow, picking my way. A frog
as small as a quail’s egg, a silhouette dancing
a pas de deux with its own shadow; the black
cat, motionless, that resolves as I draw close
into a traffic cone marking a ditch. Nothing to
see here, literally, except pinprick beacons—
distant fireflies, all their micro-constellations
reshuffling, first Cygnus, then Lyra, and then
Aquila. One by one, those miniature stars of
the first magnitude—luciferin-lit Deneb, Vega,
Altair—rise and flicker past, guide me home.

Sunday, May 22, 2016


Anonymous sweetheart locket, date and photographer
unknown, via Pinterest and eBay

In a thrift shop, I rummage through small bins heaped
with pretend treasure—fake gold, real silver, lacquered
brass, rhinestones, cheap cloisonnĂ©. I wonder who’d
worn those objects, who tossed them away; where did
the lost stories go, tales of an evening out on the town
with this brooch, that matched cocktail ring? And then,
a find. I fumble with the friction catch, trying it, failing
to shim my thumbnail between two halves, worrying it
until it pops open. I fumble with the crystal protecting
two faded photographs, a young man in a uniform and
a young woman. I close the locket, and they kiss; using
the thin nail of my index finger, I can reopen the locket,
separate them. Such casual sundering from a stranger.
In this vermeil pendant not much larger than a cherry,
something for O. Henry or for Chekhov, a keepsake no
more: no one’s left alive who remembers them, who’ll
tell their stories, keep those stories close to the heart.

Saturday, May 21, 2016


Gherardo Cibo, "Extracts from an edition of Dioscorides'
'De re medica'
, Plantago maior," f. 50, c. 1564-1584

Spurge, plantain, sandbur, bastard cabbage holding sticky
mud in place on a neglected, dozer-massed low hill—the
ragged, scumbled parchment where four-wheelers tossed
out the empties, spinning hairpin to make calligraphic tire-
tread ayah, knotted as Quranic script. No one much loves
those plants, but I might. They’re first to take back what
we’ve skinned with graders and bush hogs, to sink roots
where they’re not wanted, reclaiming the sandy loam, the
waste dirt. Trash plants—invasive, or just a nuisance—so
like so-called trash people who were my people, clinging
to a thin soil in their goldene medina, spitting to ward off
the evil eye. There’s no pristine landscape with people in
it; it’s just all tangled, unbeautiful, beautiful as all creation.

Thursday, May 19, 2016


Jacob van Hulsdonck, "A Still Life With Wild Strawberries and
a Carnation in a Ming Dynasty, Wanli Period, Blue And White
Kraak-Type Barbed-Rim Bowl, with Cherries and Redcurrants
on a Wooden Ledge," 1620

Unwinding the contents of memory—here I am, in the deep
place, having crept past the horde-guardian who happens to
be my other self. Once, when I was no longer a child, I had a
friend who understood all of what mattered to me, about me,
except my loneliness. How could he? We were so young, and
I never understood it myself. Reading Beckett to one another
in whispers over the phone after midnight, while our parents
slept and dreamt their fretful dreams; the voice of my friend
in my ear, so soft, reading, “If you think of the forms and light
of other days…” And so I do. Now, I tell myself, think of those
forms—and the light is time-lapsed, flickering over a meadow
where tiny wild strawberries grow, shadows lengthening then
snapping back with each shimmering day. I can almost hear a
bird, some forgotten bird, chirring. But that would be daylight;
and my friend and I, we were closest when hidden in shadow.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

The Shooting Range

Arrivals and departures marked by a two gun salute in
an adjoining berm, loud POPs and a deeper BANG, the
plink of a bullet stopped by metal. In my life, a similar
two gun salute marked my arrival in the not-gone West
as I shot up dead appliances rusting on a friend’s ranch.
Today it’s a .22 or .45, magazines fully loaded, snapped
into place in the grip, safety first and on until I step up
to a line scuffed in mud. There’s a pleasure in handling
these well-made objects, mixed with dread knowledge:
that what I sight along, what’s in my hands, is meant to
rip apart flesh, bring death down upon a bird, a deer, a
person. There is pleasure in the kick, in the shock to the
forearms and hands, the memory of a forge in its warm
barrel—but gunmetal’s iron scent is too close to blood
for me to want it close at hand, as others here may do.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016


Idaho Department of Fish and Game, "Camas Lily"

The root is what we’re after, in desire and in sequence. No root,
no effect; no root, no us. And since effects propagate from that
root cause then scatter—seeds or thoughts germinate, push out
a pale green shoot, or a bloody-minded act—it’s hard to feel for
the true source in the tangle, if there’s any such thing. A field of
blue camas, its first root hidden from itself by its effect: the lake
in the sky. The origin hidden, too, from us, as we stand near the
field’s edge—the root what we seek, but the effect a beauty so
distracting we forget all our names, our homes, what we’re after.