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
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
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
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.