Tuesday, December 29, 2015


New fruiting bodies pop up from my compost
heap of language, like this one—asymptote
and I’m torn between putting it in my basket,
or leaving it to shake its fungal head and toss
spores windward. Oh, okay then, I’ll reach for
the word. But slow. Slower. Hand ever closer
but not. Quite. Grasping it, at all—a geometer
I’m not. Yet there are other paths. Desire, like
an asymptote, is “always approaching, never
arriving;” but even a spore will find its way to
germinate, once it’s blown clear of the graph.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Tagetes lucida

It’s a Western plant, all right. The only thing Old World
about this little scruffy shrub has been grafted onto its
name: Tages, the prophet who appeared at plow-time
and taught the Etruscans divination, who’d brought light
alongside him within the anise-scented leaves. But his
influence in the New World is limited. The Guatemalan
and Mexican grandmothers have ideas of their own as
to what to do with this gift, and there’s not much use
for an old prophet from another place and time when
their santos live now, know them each by name. Folks
to heal, children to nurse, meat roasting: old Tages must
sit outside the jacal until the grannies call him to help.

Saturday, December 26, 2015


Horia Varlan, "Crude chalk drawing of a boat," 2008.

All children draw, if they have a way to do so.
Chalk on a sidewalk; a rock small enough to fit
a little hand, hard enough to scratch away the
desert varnish from a cliff; a stick in wet sand.
Now we are older, you and I, and carry caveats
in our pockets instead of the treasures we’d
find in the woods. But still, still, I sometimes
palm a piece of flint and leave a mark for you
on the soft limestone: a little sun or a heart,
ready to fill with a trickle from the seep that
softens the caliche; play, to guide you home.

Monday, December 21, 2015


The tensioned rebar remembers the furnace, and the
furnace remembers its refractory bricks. This garage,
its nested voids skinned in cast concrete, remembers
the weeds that once patched the alkaline soil: a caliche
blanket snatched away before the garage could dream.

The interlocked slabs that make the garage an empty
vessel are kin to those cast alongside the highway. At
dusk, those flat planes lay open like palms to a fortune-
teller, the seams like lifelines waiting to be traced by a
patterned, rusted finger. This evening, a visitor: a lone
woman dancing slow, measured flamenco arabesques;
her boot-heels stamp out a rock-dust duende, consoling
the weeping concrete for what it can no longer dream.

Saturday, December 19, 2015


Photo by Alex Galt/USFWS, 2015.

A slow walk along piled riprap that’s holding back
the waters. Is it an embankment for an earthen dam,
or the lip of an ancient monster’s water-jug, half-
buried in an avalanche of oyster shells cast off after
feasting, still sharp underfoot? Both could be true.
I listen as the wind stuffs my ears with a dizzy racket:
rattle of blown cattail spikes, gimlet-eyed grackles’
whistlings. Then a gift at my feet, perfect, unmoving—
a sulphur butterfly, legs folded, not long dead. I’m
its only mourner, in the absence of a meadowlark.

Friday, December 11, 2015

V. Meurent

Source image: "Ferns at the Royal Melbourne
Botanical Gardens" by Fir0002/Flagstaffotos

Unwinding myself. Much like the string that
makes nautiloid arcs in the geometers’s texts,
I’m pulled just tight enough to sing if stroked.
“Let’s practice drawing involutes freehand!”
I’d say, and you’d reply with a smile, pointing
towards a fern uncurling at our bare feet. It’s
not an involute curve, true, but this soft green
volute unwinds us out; its center so far from
the geometer, so very close to where we lay.

Wednesday, December 02, 2015


Édouard Manet, "Le Déjeuner sur l'herbe," 1862-63.

Not a simulacrum, sitting here wearing
nothing except your gaze on my skin,
but the X-factor in the work: it can’t be
done without me. The room smells like
turps, linseed oil, wooden stretcher bars,
and sweat. Those single-pane windows
sieve the light, let in the cold, but I don’t
feel the chill. A galaxy of hot lamps circle
me like little suns, put me at the center
of this universe where I’m neither subject
nor object, but co-author: the one not
holding the brush, the one who embodies
the question of what’s being, and what’s
represented, in that fresh, gliding stroke.