Saturday, January 30, 2016


Photo by Blackland, 2014

The land-shaper here is always water, whether we’re
in drought or not. Paths are scoured, or washed away
when it steps down from the sky. We’re too far from
an ocean for any maritime god to lay a claim—when
land’s reshaped around us, it’s the sky god flinging his
shovels of rain who does it. Even a seep can become a
crow-bar in winter, jimmying ice-blades between layers
of lime and chert, cleaving them into sharp brittle flakes,
some with the bones of past seas showing, some mute,
too shy to speak, but dense and siliceous, a knapper’s
delight. Further along: flint nodules washed out from an
undercut ledge, steel-gray, fine-grained. They’ve been
tumbled one against the other at each flood until their
conchoidal fractures lost every serrated edge; now they
drift to sleep, dream of rain falling on their gravel bed.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016


"The Line Cook," photo (manipulated) by staxnet, 2009

For flavor, not heat—the line cook calls on
his holy trinity: hands dance their two-step
with knives, kitchen mumblety-peg that’s
left fine scars next to the burn marks and
tattoos. This one’s God the Father, cher,
he says as he winks at me, dicing the onion
until we both cry; this, the Son (bell pepper
almost comically green), that’s Eternal Life.
And the celery, pale and thin, disappearing
into the gumbo like the very Ghost? Spirit
moves us, moves us all in mysterious ways,
he says, belly and hips swaying as he stirs.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016


Aphrodite Anadyomene, Fresco from Pompeii, Casa
di Venus, 1st century AD, photo by Stephen Haynes

An ancient seabed made these hills, where
the only things rich and strange are the whistle
and percolation of bats bubbling up at dusk,
pouring out from a cavern beneath my feet. No
pearls, no coral; just karst, limestone, chalks,
and a seep hidden by maidenhair fern. I know
this place by touch more than sight now—loose
scree rolling underfoot, bare-root handholds,
slickrock, and tannic stains on all my fingers. So
when I tell you I held a fossil oyster shell to my
ear, held it there until I heard primordial oceans
lapping a warm shore, you should believe me.

Saturday, January 23, 2016


Edgar Degas, "Dancers Practicing at the Barre"

Elsewhere, there’s a painting set on a conservator’s stand. It
waits for the touch of a blue nitrile glove, for her gaze under
the light. In another place, two dancers at the barre embody
and contradict that object on the conservator’s stand. Always
like this, it seems—the hand, the object, the body, the work
of love and attention, the brief time we have to practice such
skills as are needed to restore what’s been damaged, to make
things (and ourselves) whole. Sweat and rhythm and grace, the
solvent for our dancers; ethanol and patience, the solvent for
copal and age; our restorations revealing beauty, unvarnished.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Speaking in tongues

Mt. Hood Wilderness Near Ramona Falls

I went downhill then up the cinder cone past
quiescent Doug-fir, out of breath now, heart
beating loud enough to drown out the flame-
lit prayers of some Mexican men possessed by
the spirit on so early a Sunday in these woods.

A loose gathering under a canopy of painted
sawn wood and tarpaper; each man a picket-
post, planted in their God. Is it an immigrant’s
splintered glossolalia or a Pentecostal fire that
shakes them, loosening tongues of flame above
each head? I can’t quite hear. Like the Doug-fir
at the top I’m deaf and cold, my lungs burning,
mist pearling rain on my face. Yet despite the
chill, sap still rises, filling our limbs—the men,
trees, me—with the washed gold of the day.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Affici amoris ergo

Nicholas Hilliard, "Man Clasping a Hand from a Cloud,"
1588, © Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Some scholars think the golden letters call forth the Attic,
a reading that brings a mythic past to the bauble’s present,
but this viewer prefers to misread the “t” as “f” and make
Affici not Attici the first word at hand. After all, why would
Hilliard (or his sitter) break the miniature’s lovers’ Latin with
a Greek conceit? A jewel, this limning, a puzzle-poem that
hints at a celestial love secreted by clouds and cropping—
pledged hands not hidden, but clasped within the frame.

Wednesday, January 06, 2016


Gabriela Camerotti, Cinderella, 2007

Such a simple repair, but it sends a chill shiver
down my spine: tightening loose buttons on a
gold & black lace tunic. Fairytale maids whisper
in my ear as I thread the needle, pricking me,
singing, “What’s buttoned tight can be undone,
sew it right or away it’ll run.” Is that spark and
crackle at my fingertips just static electricity, or
something deeper, something that’ll pierce us
and stitch us to time, to all the oldest stories?