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Sunday, June 26, 2016

Infill

Frank Vincentz, "Raddet ir-Roti Cart Ruts, Xemxija
Heritage Trail in St. Paul's Bay, Malta
," 2014

The grid of streets is something like a game board;
the houses, stones. Urban planners, eyes sore and
reddened by the absinthe green wash from those
fluorescent lights overhead, idealists all (who else
would attempt to harmonize overland wagon ruts,
cow paths, and the motion of a new raw century?)
sighing in isolated unison, fingernails tapping out a
neighborhood, its zoning changes—a click on their
keyboard, and a stone’s placed on the goban. O my
boundary setters, leave me a gap in the fence line,
a hollowed out space in your infill, so I can escape.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Acceleration

Ian Paterson, "Downhill Run," 2008

A slight downhill, not enough
to force a change of gait, just
enough to ease the effort, as
if invisible hands were pressed
against the curve of my spine,
pushing me forward. Days are
longer now, pass faster: a cast
shadow from a jet too far away
to be clearly seen. The silvery
shine, a pinpoint flare of light—
it’s so hard to catch my breath.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Scant

Tani Bunchō, "Tao Yuanming
Seated Under a Willow
," 1812

The dreams are coming fast and over-
ripe these days, dropping into the tall
grass and melting away before I wake,
nothing left of them but a postcard or
two, the faint wine-breath exhalations
of fermented dream fruit, and an odd
song playing, ear-worming me awake
(last night’s, “Sympathique,” a version
by Pink Martini; the night before it was
Zappa’s “Peaches En Regalia.”) So some
wheel’s been set in motion, runnelling
through me. It leaves such a scant path
to follow, but it’s the only path I’ve got.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Beautiful

If beauty is symmetry, let’s not stop at a
layman’s surface definition. The goddess
wouldn’t. Mathematicians define it as a
type of invariance, claim it’s a “property
that something does not change under a
set of transformations.” So it is, with us.
Our surface geometries rumple and scuff,
but, down deeper than either we or the
world can see, our essential property is
symmetry: invariant in love, unchanging
in grace. The infinite transformations of
the material world? An open set, whose
match point’s won, invariably, by beauty.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Whistle

Eastman Johnson, "The Girl I Left Behind Me," ca. 1872

My grandma taught me how to size and
pluck a blade of grass, press my thumbs
together then pull it tight in the gap, and
blow. We’d whistle up the wind, whistle
a summer storm, whistle the daddy long-
legs that pulsed in the outhouse corners
to doze and then sleep. A green song, so
fine and tender, from a green part of life.
I haven’t played those pipes much lately—
the grass here’s too tough, coarse enough
to endure drought and flood, not as good
for a tune. But maybe, where I’m heading,
those old new songs will come out to play.
Spring green, pushing up towards a pearly
sky; seed and rhizome, bud and blade, girl
and grandma, making a grass whistle sing.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Relight

Georges de Latour, "Magdalen with the
Smoking Flame
," c 1640-45

The pilot’s gone out. Once, twice, three
times I try to get it to catch, the ticking
piezo not helping. Low sideways glances
confirm it’s time for a kitchen match, if
I can find one in that drawer among the
stabby clutter without cutting myself. A
slow, measured exploration, the tips of
my fingers listening for scattered match-
sticks, my hand hidden—yes, there they
are, two matches fished out and pinned
between my index and middle fingers. I
drag one across a bread stone—no spark,
just a chemical smudge. Another match,
faster strike and drag, and a blossom of
flame unfurls, sparking the pilot too, its
transparent blue streaked with iris. The
light arrives first—the rising heat follows.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

Faceted

FrankensteinsCyborg, "Acetylsalicylic acid," 2015

The world is too large and complicated for me
to attend it whole; all I can grasp are the small,
least significant facets. My arms and shoulders
ache: that’s one instance of what my attention
can encompass. A small dog is smiling, panting
from the heat of the day—that’s another. The
plumbago, blooming, may be more significant
than the other facets, having stolen bits of the
summer sky for bees. Or perhaps not. My bias
towards beauty leads me into errors of the von
Restorff kind, giving those beautiful things I see
primacy, foregrounding in memory—a trick of
the light, at play with the mind. But if a gem's
beauty begins with the path light takes through
its facets, no wonder I find, even in this cut and
ground-down world, beauty everywhere, light
spilling from every facet, every facet a prism to
parse the world into bright signals, breaking it
open through us, moving light to full spectrum.