Thursday, October 20, 2016


From "Wild Flowers of New York," Plate 37a,
"Platanthera aquilonis
Sheviak," 1918

Over and under, three into one: you, me,
that stream we saw playing hide-and-seek
with us down the hillside. This memory of
you, of one summer when I said I couldn’t
put my hair into plaits, too many curls, but
that didn’t matter now you’d woven me a
circlet of wild orchids: deft hands braiding
my crown from flowers, then me into you.

Monday, October 17, 2016


"Krishna and Radha walking by moonlight,"
Kangra School, c. 1820

The leaves spin down, clothe the
wet asphalt with glad rags, a fine
motley: Earth and Tree swap their
wardrobe, just as Kṛṣṇa and Radha
did. First, their garments, cast off
and piled near; then, an exchange
where Radha becomes Kṛṣṇa, and
Kṛṣṇa softens into Radha. So Tree
steps out of its glory, tries Earth’s
stone sober hues; and Earth spins
dizzy, smiling, all pied and quilted.

Friday, October 14, 2016


Katja Schulz, "Ash Leaves," 2015

An open window: leaves from an ash
tree combed out by the wind’s fingers
and blown onto the wooden sash. So
many changes to come, they say, rust
edged gold, fragile as I am, crumbling
as I brush them back out into the day.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016


Via Janet Shields' Pinterest Board

Not just radishes—but they are my
concern here, for they brought me
back to my grandpa’s pharmacy, to
the mysterious incantations on one
porcelain apothecary jar—in serifed
letters: “Avenum sativa.” I was five
and reading everything, the sides of
cereal boxes, the magazines my dad
bought for his office waiting room,
the words on these heirlooms from
our family pharmacopeia. I knew it
was not English on that jar, but ask?
I didn’t. Words and cities and years
went by, and somehow I picked up
that “Avenum” had a connection to
oatmeal, the kind that’d stop an itch,
but I didn't ask about “sativa,” which
then became shorthand for another
medicinal plant, and there the word
sat—until I thought to sow Raphanus
sativus on the bare patch in our yard,
until dream-radishes whispered to my
five year old self, “What does sativa
mean?" and years later, when I could
whisper back: “It means cultivated.”


Fritz Geller-Grimm, "Shale Fragments from
the Grube Messel Fossil Pit
," 2006

Dark leaves in a dark book whose spine
has cracked. On the open seam, looking
down as I pick my line and place myself—
the pages crumbling underfoot, flaky as
oil shale talus. That’s where I fall and fall
again into the naming of things: I’m inky
with words, overlaying the layers; skin’s
shadow-black as a fossil leaf, my dreams
the beaten gold of aspen leaves’ laminae.

Friday, September 30, 2016


Juan Sánchez Cotán, "Still Life with Game Fowl,
Vegetables and Fruits
," 1602

I’ll sit and wait for a while, dark sliver of a moon
overhead, a shadow on shadow, a fermata. I’m
at an impasse, the land tilting up ever so slightly,
just enough to wear me down, and I cannot hold
on to myself. Can’t hold, so I’m falling. Full stop.

There is a castle in Granada, Bibataubín: it hasn’t
a hold, or keep. Near it, a rondilla from Cervantes,
where shady folk would cut a purse, where honest
folk would lose their compass. I’m on hold. Finally,
I put the phone back in its cradle, ending the music.

In the center of the fullness of things, an emptiness.
In the emptiness, that’s where the mystics say Love
is: a dark mirror, a new moon. Only I’m not able to
attend, to pass through the gateless gate: too full of
words, of this sadness, altogether too heavy to hold.

Thursday, September 29, 2016


"In 1985, a man pulled out a knife in the State Hermitage
Museum in St Petersburg and thrust it in Danaë's lower belly.
He then threw a litre of sulphuric acid over the painting"
"Art attack: defaced artworks from Rothko to Leonardo -
in pictures
," The Guardian, 2012, photo by A. Demianchuk

Rembrandt van Rijn, "Danaë," c. 1636,
The State Hermitage Museum

Not cold coin, wicking up the heat of her body,
but light, golden and quickening, falling on her
belly, her breasts, her hips and thighs. And oh,
that aperture through which Zeus’s light does
pass: a shape echoed by her soft lips, a gaze so
open towards divine desire outside the frame.
Even after that madman’s knife and acid bath,
Zeus’s light pours like honey over Danaë; even
after her dozen years of healing, she’s changed
but not diminished, and welcomes the god as if
it was the very first day his light surprised her.

Saturday, September 24, 2016


USDA, "Rim Fire," 2013

We’re parsing the structure of argument;
there are men wearing ties, yelling on TV,
or men wearing open-collar shirts, yelling
across the Internet, who have no need of
our thoughtfulness. Our scruples. Anger is
what they need; we refuse them, opt out
of screed, of tantrum, we must be better
than that. Those were the days when the
fires spread, forced the bears down out of
the hills, dark fur singed and spangled by
bits of glowing ash. Those were the days
when our coolly beautiful arguments, our
firebreaks, were all overrun; precious as a
child’s sketch, now forgotten, left behind
to burn in this charred, abandoned house.