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Saturday, January 20, 2018

Cormorant

Thorolf Holmboe, "Hekkende skarv (Nesting cormorants)," 1903

I glanced up and saw a smooth spot
in the river's current—almost a lens,
a focus for my eye, and I watched it.
In a moment both fast and slow: the
needle-beak piercing the scrim, then
the rest of the bird, dark as wet slate,
holding the wriggling silver crescent
of a fish, or the moon, swallowing it.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Ballast seed

Perkons, "Purple Loosestrife," 2017

Also see Meyer's "How the Invasive Plants of
New York
Represent the City’s Colonial Past"

All potential, a mote, the glossy testa
keeping its secrets until the ballast box
is scraped empty, until the rains come.
And the rains do come, kissing every
pursed micropyle until (imbibing and
besotted, drunk and stirring) one coat
comes loose, splits open. An everyday
miracle, an invasion—a radicle nosing
down the way a newborn roots, eyes
closed tight, for another sweet drink.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Binding

Rembrandt van Rijn, "Woman Reading," Date Unknown

In a small stone building, dating back to
the Revolutionary War—this was where
we went to find treasures hidden within
a second skin of foil-stamped buckram,
or sheathed in Mylar. My small hand in
my father’s. The reverent hush, the mild
vanillin-tannic perfume of decomposing
lignin, cellulose. This was where time was
unbound, where a child like me could run
her fingers along a spine then listen in at
the grown-ups’ table, sit with ink-stained
dinner guests from ages past and to come.
I’d bring all my arms could hold up front—
my offertory, placed on a librarian’s altar.

Friday, January 05, 2018

Squall

simpleinsomnia, "Crying little girl reaches
for someone off camera
," uploaded 2016

The toddler—red-faced, wild. I can’t
recall how we’d soothe her, soothe
ourselves. Did we never learn how?
Her back stiff and arched, choking as
she sobs “NNNnnnoooooo,” perfect
tiny hands clenching then opening to
flail at the air. Oh, little one. Your cry
fades, decays as you’re carried past,
carrying me past now and backwards
to the edge of perception, to where
the audible spectrum dissolves in the
backwash of cosmic noise, your tears.

Monday, January 01, 2018

Harp

"Drachm of Ephesos with bee, struck under Prytanis,"
387–301 BCE, Museum of Fine Arts Boston

Even Charon needs a place to rest, in the stygian
twilight—a place to put his feet up, close his eyes
for a moment as he waits for the next passengers
to appear. A houseboat made of reeds, a gift from
Ningal—no, we’d never see it, even if we knew it
was there. Sitting low in the water, blackened with
tar, sagging from the weight of a thousand million
coins given to pay for passage—prow and stern like
horns, like the edges of the thinnest crescent of a
waxing moon made of obsidian. Floating shelter for
the ferryman’s break. When the wind catches a cut
edge, the scow moans like a blues harp, the same
tuneless tune Charon hums under his breath once
back at work, loading. While he misses his moment
of leisure, he’ll gladly palm the light off our coins.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Portal

Edward Hopper, "Rooms by the Sea," 1951

I’m right there, right here, where that white paint
chalks a bit on my hand. Tear-stains at the hinges,
from rust, I think—or maybe other pentimenti. (The
wind catches on the doorframe, whistles the same
tuneless way we’d whistle when we walked through
the graveyard past our house.) Its wooden joins, all
held together by layers and layers of paint, all ready
to disarticulate—the way a deer’s skeleton may fall
to pieces after the flesh has gone away. It’s been so
long since the doorframe was protection from much
of anything. All it can do is point out there once was
a difference between outside, and in. And I’m outside,
remembering pencil marks made on the doorframe
inside, as we grew. Remembering who made them.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Respite

Howard Kopp, "Three Sisters and Fog," 2017

There’s none, here where my bare hand brushes
the hot skillet handle. Only for a second. The lag
time almost countable (“one thun-der, two thun-
der”) and a lightning reflex jerks me back—then
the boom of pain. In the background, some joke
half-heard through my angry “FUCK,” then mild
concern raised, a question in the air, which dies
down once it’s clear this is a minor injury. O this
body, love, is fading into the background.
There
is a dense fog in the valley near the Sisters. We’ll
climb, my singed hand marked by soot from the
wildfires, until (like my burn) there’s nothing left
to see but our shadows disappearing, sfumato.