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Saturday, April 15, 2017

Holy Saturday

Rembrandt, "The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp," 1632.

The shadows falling across translucent skin, shrunk
tight on a cheekbone. Shadows pool, lap at an arch
above it, hide in a hollow in the flesh beneath it. An
absence of moonlight, if painted. Absence of oxygen,
if cool to the touch; it’s lilac, not rose, in this garden.

In “The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp,” every
man paid for their portrait, save the corpse. Money
and art made them memorable; money and art will
make us forget our deaths, even as we see its proof.
(Dear ones, at twilight we’re tidepools, not gardens.)

Money, and art. Still, there’s joy even in this sealed
tomb, in the unremitting absence of light. Tenebrae
performed in a room full of holy treasures: not the
gilding, or art, but the faithful who know how dark
the darkness will be, and yet keep singing, even so.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Nest

A few days post-fledging and it’s almost gone:
no longer a soft secret eggcup, just remnants
of lichen and down, emptied. One baby only
this time, not the hero twins Anna’s hummers
so often hatch. I saw it, tucked in its thimble,
needle beak pricking the air to catch mother’s
scent; saw the mother returning, her belly full
of slurried nectar and spiders to pour into gape-
mouthed baby. The mother returned, always
returned, until a day when no one was waiting—
the nest loosened and open as if in bud-break.

Friday, April 07, 2017

Haruspex

"In its large definitive Castle-series Italy issued in 2001 a stamp from Piacenza, and used an ordinary postcard for a FDC-cancellation. The card shows 'Il Fegato Etrusco' [The Etruscan Liver]. ... The Etruscan Liver is a 2nd century BC object originally used mainly for divination and now housed at the Museum of Piacenza."

In this body, I cannot see the full shape
of the sky, or see past the curved bow of
the ocean’s horizon. I’m as blind as you
are, as any of us are, touching each face
in turn to try and find our kinfolk in the
pile of dead. So I turn to what I’ve been
taught: how to take a living creature, kill
it in a way that will please any god who
still listens, and search its steaming guts
for a foretelling. The liver’s where to look,
but the one in my hands is smooth as a
glass mirror. All I can see in it is my face,
reflected, the color of wet earth; all I can
see are my hands, covered with its blood.

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.