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Friday, March 10, 2017

Las Vegas Valley

Chris M Morris, "Rainbow Gardens from Lava Butte,
South Las Vegas Valley in background," 2012

The temptation’s to imagine a city gone,
surface pristine, unmarred by subsidence
and jitter. To look at red rock sandstone,
the tops of the ridges, transport myself
there and back to a bird’s eye view eons
ago, as if I were a red-tailed hawk riding
thermals from the valley below—sparse
settlements, blending in with the earth.
The temptation's to fictional idylls of this
place, in that past, while the magma stirs
underneath pavement and glitter, deep
under carpet, our bare feet: the shifting
gyre of our ever-mother who secrets the
largest crystals, reserves her liquid gems
for the next racking cough or burning sigh.

Friday, March 03, 2017

Laundry

Benedicto de Jesus, "Laundry Night," 2015

Around the corner, the faint grape Kool-Aid
smell of mountain laurel; leaning close then
backing off: a bee! Woodpeckers on a palo
verde, a pair, chittering at me as a warding-
off. It works; I keep walking. Around another
corner, vent and a body blow: linens baking
in some industrial dryer, hauling me off my
feet backwards to a limbic, layered memory.
Chinese laundromats shimmed between old
apartment buildings. A rust-pocked delivery
van, double-parked, fat as a sturgeon, doors
propped open for its dry pale roe: bundles of
threadbare cloth napkins. Secret halls in one
hotel where small women trundle past, carts
heaped with soiled sheets taken for a future
transubstantiation: from blued and starched
cotton, to a bed where we’ll cast off our own
laundry, consecrate one another with our skin.

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Peepshow

Samuel van Hoogstraten, "A Peepshow with Views
of the Interior of a Dutch House," c. 1655-60

This is where the dry people live, so poor
there’s nothing to finger in pockets save
their cracked fingertips, pleated, rugose.
Here, the palest eyes shutter tight against
noon, all mirrors covered in mourning for
moist breaths lost at each exhalation. The
desert of no-touch, every body wrapped
within a sheet of plastic. Protected, here.
These boundaries. Dry people, so thirsty
they cannot think. Parched not quenched
as they drink it in with eyes, not mouths.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Anna’s

Ken Clifton, "Anna's Hummingbird on nest," 2008

Spiderwebs, gathered in a skein then drawn out
by the needle of beak. One tap, and a push: she
sticks another bit of moss in place, patchworked
with lichen, a hidden nursery where she’ll warm
her warrior children until they hatch into endless
appetite. Her body burns off a scrim of frost. She
nests, shivering, held by her private compulsions,
the small goddess waiting for her twins to arrive.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Heartwood

Glen Scott, "Ice Explosion," 2006

I walked over a ridge, and saw what we’d heard
the day before, thinking it was transformers that
had blown: full-grown fir and spruce, shattered
where sap froze and burst them, splinters staking
outlines around each fallen tree as if some drunk
carny axe-thrower’s fever dream had come true.
The science I read later, about the fluid mechanics
of these deaths, was impenetrable. All I absorbed—
sapwood’s osmotic streams became the point of
failure; heartwood, impervious, then blew apart.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Paracas

"Paracas textile 179," c. 2500 BCE,
via the Gothenburg Collection

The air that held what songs were sung was
descant, desiccant, wicking all singers' breaths
away as each chanted those bundled corpses
down into a dropped, earthen womb. Wind
blew across each singer’s mouth, all becoming
reed flutes piping over those who died; sand
scoured mouths dry, little cups waiting for a
rinse of maize beer after singing. This desert
by the sea parches every body until, husked
in pierce-work cloaks, they become seed corn,
dried and stored for a new season’s planting.

Thursday, February 09, 2017

Faience

Bowl, earthenware, painted in blue
on opaque white glaze, 9th century

It was no accident that slipped tin
and lead onto an earthenware skin—
rather, a someone who knew how
to bring the white clouds down to
sit on the clay. One trader may buy
up the whole lot for its novelty, no
telling, but the maker had a bigger
game in mind. Tin for Jupiter, lead
for Saturn, fired hotter than a kiln,
forge-hot, melting Venus’s copper
cestus if she’d let it; and then slow
to cool. Alchemy turned the pottery
gloss white, the perfect ground for
figures and brushwork—something
tough enough to take the flame and
not crack in two, and yet a thing too
fragile for a trader’s carpet-packing.