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Thursday, October 19, 2017

Connecticut

NASA, "The Rare Venus Transit," 2008

This week, a memory: of my dad’s gaze
sliding over our faces, unable to focus.

A doctor asked him, “And where are you
today, Bob?” A small chortle, because it

was an easy question: “I’m in a hospital.”
“But where—what city?” His gaze slowly

drifting to the left, then right. “Hospital.”
It was as if he were receding, swept out

to sea by a spring tide, a tangled current.
“Yes, but the city?” “I’m in…” (a minute

passes) “…Connecticut.” He was, but we
weren’t. We were in Scottsdale with him,

the radiant April sun laughing at our frail
bodies, our mayfly lives. He had been in

Connecticut when he was a boy, visiting
family there, and he could tell he’d given

the wrong answer by our stricken looks.
That’s when he knew how lost he was—

there were no maps for this journey, the
way forward over the edge of the world.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Fugitive II

Detail from Titian's "Bacchus and Ariadne,"
1520-23, National Gallery

Restoring myself to myself with a very
unsteady hand—working in the dark,
by touch. The conservators I’d read
(all chemical savants) understood the
few hours it took for time and light to
dull Veronese’s sky, steal the red from
Titian’s caped Bacchus, rob Vermeer’s
buttery glaze and leave his laurels blue.
But this is the work. If we don’t know
how to unbind an organic dye from its
metallic salt and remake it whole, we
will look under the edges of the frame
for who we were last, when last happy.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Hospital

Dan Cox, "Hospital bed," 2008

You were thin as any aged animal, by then; the
fizz of tiny clots bubbling off from some occult
source had finally stolen the appetite you’d had
for living. We didn’t know what was wrong, we
couldn’t find it or fix it, and you wept to see us
weeping. Enter a doctor, you’d put on a bright
tough smile: “Yes, I want to go to rehab, I beat
this the last time, I want to get out of here, to
go home.” Exit, and you’d turn to us, confused,
grimacing—“Enough.” (We didn’t know we were
watching you die, the losses piling up hid it from
view.) So I’d sit on the edge of your bed, sit you
up, coax you to eat a grape, just one grape, my
arm bracing you, the bones in your spine so close
to the surface I could count their facets against
my skin. How broken we were. You opened your
mouth, let me place a grape on your tongue. Oh,
it was not enough (your scapulae like bird’s wings)
yet it was still too much, a child feeding her father.

Monday, October 09, 2017

Lights

Thomas Hawk, "Ice Skating at the Embarcadero," 2004

When I was a child, asleep as the family
drove through the night, still sleeping

carried by my father into the house, put
in pajamas, tucked into bed and dreams.

(Before I’d fall asleep, car lights through a
window, washing across the bedroom wall.)

When I was a child I watched on a hill for
daddy to come home from work, then run

to him, squeal as he tossed me up high
in the air, a dandelion calyx. (There was

never any question he loved me when
I was a child.) As imperfect as we were,

imperfect as we were, still what it felt
to hold his hand as I wobbled on skates.

I was safe. Even when he’d cast me off
spin me ahead on the ice, delight and

terror in uncertain balance, for every
time I’d catch an edge, he’d catch me.

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

Frontier

Martin Waldseemüller, from "Ptolemy; Geographiae opus novissima
traductione e Grecorum archetypis castigatissime pressum," 1513

A word that carries the edge of an advancing
army in its pocket is less innocent than I knew.
From frowntere to frontiere, from soldiers to
borderlands; and before then, a shining brow,
the frontem. Adventurers so heavy-laden, bent
at the waist, their foreheads precede bellies as
they cross. So when we say “frontier,” the word
carries its war to receding horizons—yet we’ll
shape our lips to kiss, not curse, as we stumble
headfirst from what’s known to terra incognita.

Sunday, October 01, 2017

Pellet

Ondrej Zicha, "Trox beetle stridulation," 2017

The banquet found by a knobbly trox beetle
after an owl’s done: that owl’s undigestable
disjecta compacted, coughed up. An owl is
built to wring its mouse dinner dry, to pack
bones and teeth tight, tuck their calcium in
gray felt, to hack them out. Not me. There
are places within me where words make a
chitinous knot, a lump in my throat. I’m all
choked up, can’t spit it out. It will pass, yes
I know; so do the trox beetles. They mass in
the mud at my feet, expectant, pheromone-
flagging their kin to come near, to wait as I
get myself free of the bones I can’t stomach.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Burst

David Clarke, "Casting directly into old ceramic
candlesticks
," 2017

A hot pour into a hollow space can break
it open. Molten pewter, for example, in an
old ceramic candlestick: decoupage gilding
shattered like a wineglass at the wedding,
a slip-cast heart clogged with solid metal.

The way we map interiors, here, is by filling
them. The way we map sorrow is the same.
We place ourselves in some fire, we’re both
alloy and the crucible, our arteries and veins
making form and mold for something molten
that tastes like iron and salt; the heart filled
by its own emptiness, until broken and burst.