Lavender proves out, branching between limestone in a vein of silver leaflets and acanthite colored buds, waiting for bees to refine it. Sunlight on a bent stem where some traveler brushed by: I muddle a leaf between my thumbs and breathe in. Herbaceous, alloyed with caliche, the coin of scent I’ll finger all morning on this overgrown path; not a coin we’d place on the eyes of the beloved dead to keep them from seeing, but the one we’d drop in a fountain to pay for our wishes. That’s the coin I toss, spinning up and out of my hands, through the air, past this poem, to you.
Sunday, February 28, 2016
Sometimes “out” means “in,” as in when I say “I’m going out” but I’m really going deep into these strata. No, I’m not a fan of caving—those dark ammoniac places where every skittering is magnified sideways in white wild eyes, nervous laughter. Give me an opening, places whose layers are sheared off—scree, talus massed below every new rockfall— that’s where I’m going, where the cuts are fresh and where what’s laid bare’s laid close enough to us to see.
Saturday, February 27, 2016
Friday, February 26, 2016
Artist Unknown, "The Gopis Plead with Krishna to Return Their Clothing," The Metropolitan Museum of Art
Long ago, I wrote a poem about your blue- black skin; in it, your back was crosshatched with scars, as if you’d been beaten, whipped until half-dead, dying. That was ages, eons before I knew your name, before I knew my name, before pale laughing milkmaids told stories about that time you hid their clothes as they swam in the river. Now that we know each other in most all our disguises, take joy in each other’s unbroken dance, those scars have become a calligraphy, something I can read you by with my fingertips, with my heart— even in the dark, an illuminated manuscript.
Tuesday, February 23, 2016
“The Blessingway [Hózhójí] holds historical precedence over all of the other chants, being given to the Earth Surface People shortly after the Emergence into this world.” From Hanksville and Karen Strom
Tonight, we sang like coyotes until the small dog sang with us. “I have come upon it, I have come upon a blessing,” say the singers. Last night, jokes and stories told about your father, by your father through you, about a cat and a medicine show. “People, my relatives, I have come upon blessing,” say the singers. We smile together when the small dog smiles. Before us is blessing, behind us is blessing, above us, all around us, as we howl and laugh, the 12 word song is filled in with pollen, and crushed petals, and cornmeal, singing blessingway through us.
Sunday, February 21, 2016
Brocken Inaglory, "Reflection in a soap bubble," 2007
I voice these words here with the same breath that fogs the mirror, the breath that fills soap bubbles. How long might these bubbles fly? Far longer than I will. I’ve seen that stream of bubbles blown by me, when I was a child, soar past my sight; they must have carried my breath in their iridescent bellies across oceans, coming to rest in the frost of the Arctic, breaking upon touching rime. I breathe these words through a loop that shapes them no less than the wand we dipped in soapy water when we were children— wand & loop, embouchure disembodied into thought, into memories. It’s a small circle through which my breath passes, here; I read aloud what I write, making sure it sings. But that loop’s enough to hold the liquid that wraps these words, spoken or unvoiced, and send them on.
Saturday, February 20, 2016
MoRDi CuaC, "Amethyst geode in the parent rock," 2003
Emptying comes first, leaving a husk around a center that’s leached out. Was it buried in mud, a lava flow? Staying buried for so long, what was emptied now begins to be infilled, slowly, with beauty. So too with us. Scuffed, roughened, nothing left on the inside except a thin layer of self, after ages forgotten. And then a gift: an osmosis from what seems like nothing percolates through what’s left, lays down amethyst or chalcedony, geometries all perfect, inward, metaphysical; as geodes hide gems until broken open, so too do we.
Friday, February 19, 2016
A simurgh flies over a princess on a throne, artist unknown, San Diego Museum of Art
The upright feather waits for the dark heart to be placed in the bright pan, waits for a finger of truth (pointing, veering) to assess which side outweighs the other. A dog-faced god sees to the procedure. The lion-headed goddess fidgets, waiting to see if she’ll get to devour the soul of the heavy-hearted.
Somehow I found myself in that place, this theater, not sure whether I’m a witness to or the subject of today’s weighing-in. No matter. A nod of respect to the divinities, their roles: then I pull a scarlet velvet cape out of thin air, snap it like a gym towel, swirl it around my shoulders. This goes unremarked by all.
I fish a peacock feather out from a secret side pocket, hoisting it high overhead, yelling “GERONIMO!” and “COME AND TAKE IT!” Anubis slips a sidelong glance at me as the pans sway up and down: the seesaw of immortal life, or the end of a soul. Ammit growls low at me. I wave the peacock feather like a semaphore,
a marshall on the ground guiding through approach something very much larger than the ancients here. That something lifts the spangled bowl of heaven up, up, high enough so when I jump on the scale pans to springboard upward, the peacock feather becomes a simurgh, clasping me lightly in its talons: we're away.
Monday, February 15, 2016
Chris, Untitled, 2014
Was it real? That bird, it passed right in front of me—deep blue, too big to be a bunting, I’m sure, not a jay (no crest no white flash.) Seeing is not believing, seeing as how no one else saw it, and I’m no birder. But: blue as a twilit sky, sidelong gold-flecked glance then pulling, pulling long deep shadows behind, across the creek to home.
Sunday, February 14, 2016
Dag Terje Filip Endresen, "Entrance to the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, seen the day after its opening," 2008
Between waking and sleeping, I float in some indeterminate place, catch glimpses of myself through dream-crusted eyes; find myself there in the Bardo of Napping as the ghosts of cold milk, warm cookies whisper, “Lie down, hush, go to sleep now.” It seems I’ve caught a cold. I sneeze in triplicate until I’m elsewhere, visit unfinished landscapes where scrubby low trees smell like sarsaparilla and the flowers bleed red. There, I’m riding a seed that’s hoisted by ants who pass me from one to another, myrmechorial dancers sending me and theirs on towards the cache: a new Bardo, the Bardo of Seed-Banks. Sleeping again, waking again, unsure if I’m in loamy tunnels or in my own bed until tossed out; falling out of that dream, I place one bare foot, then the other, on the floor. Loose seeds roll beneath my feet, all just aching to sprout.
USDA NRCS South Dakota, "Final Carrot Harvest in South Dakota High Tunnel," 2013
I’ve heard what’s pulled from a winter garden is sweeter after the frost. Not always true for what grows above ground—tender things get nipped, may die. But for those that root underground— parsnips, celeriac, carrots all come to mind—the chill hand reaching beneath their compost blanket brings a gift of transmutation: starches to sugars, from what’s been stored to what’s been set free.
Saturday, February 13, 2016
John Fowler, "In Little Death Hollow Canyon," 2015
It’s just that this poem, these words, my alphabets, are forgeries. The provenance smells right—redolent of crushed gravel, resin and eye-sting of cedar pollen, dried mud—but they’re intended to fool us into feeling what’s not there, lead us to believe (myself most of all) in this edited world. Any real thing is unfixable, evanescent, if it’s real at all; what I share’s a simulacrum.
And yet, and yet, there’s something else here: an indelible ink, passed from mouth to mouth, hand to hand, flashflood washing down through this dry slot canyon, up then splashing over my poor thin fakery, making it as real as any world that holds us both.
It was clear and shining, even at half a football field away. The radiance surrounded those two young women, one dark, one pale—Rose Red and Snow White with cropped hair—and it drew my heart to theirs. My friend nudged me, so we slowed as we approached them, seeing and understanding without being told what had happened— we’d witnessed a betrothal. “She said YES!” beamed the blonde, while her darker lover, with the blank shy smile of someone dazed by their own life, showed us the ring. My friend offered to take their photo; fumbling for the phone, the fair-haired one handed it to us, stepped back, and, snug alongside her fiancée, she faced her witnesses, faced the morning, faced their unwritten story to come.
Friday, February 12, 2016
Dan Slee, "Child walking alone on a beach," 2010
I remember walking along Virginia Beach under a low gray sky, feeling loneliness as vividly as only a child can feel it—piercing, long as the shore, empty as the wet sand where I walked. I’m sure my family must have been close by, somewhere. I’m sure it was only a passing moment. Still, here I am, brave woman stronger than the child I was could have imagined, and loneliness still circles me, makes me call my invisible friends by name: “Oh come visit, and stay.”
Salsola tragus, Forest & Kim Starr via Wikimedia Commons
Just the one: not a saltimbanque family like Picasso portrayed; neither an animal nor mineral, but isolated, vegetable. You go rounding off down the road, diaspore with a thousand fingers all splayed open, then spring back from asphalt over and over, spilling propagule after each roll. Gymnast weed, o brittle wanderer from the steppes, you snuck in cross-border, pile up along fence-lines; every cowboy from Tin Pan Alley sings your name, but none know your empty heart like I do.
Wednesday, February 10, 2016
Penzai on a mural in the Tang Dynasty tomb of Prince Li Xian, 706 CE
“The first highly prized trees are believed to have been collected in the wild and were full of twists, knots, and deformities. These were seen as sacred, of no practical profane value for timber or other ordinary purpose.” - From the Wikipedia entry on penzai
At first, what was sought looked like what we are: bent concisions formed naturally, a graceful response to unnatural stresses. Later, artifice and craft took matters in hand and applied their snip-shears to the very root of things. That’s why, wearing night to hide myself, I broke into the nursery where all penzai are formed, stole one or a hundred, climbed up past clouds to the ash-laden soil on the side of a mountain. That’s where, wearing a waterfall disguise, I wheedled the crescent moon down to help me dig holes in the dirt, replanting each damaged tree in its own cast shadow, to grow as it would. For a day or an age we’ll hide in that new-old forest, spinning my thefts into raveling yarns of the sacred, the impractical, the heroic; collect and recollect one another, confessing to no crime at all.
Tuesday, February 09, 2016
Brocken Inaglory, "Fossils in a beach wall," 2007
Like a beach wall that’s sun-struck, then chilled, then baked by the sun again, I’m spalling. All my memories – (sedimentary, additive, a soft entombment of all those drifting everythings that slowly settled to the bottom of my evaporating seas) – are flaking off, and I split as if struck by a hammer, crack along fissures too fine to be seen by any eye. I forget my name (it’s on the tip of my tongue), forget how to listen to the collective that makes a self, the commensality that binds itself together by chemical whisperings and handfastings. And yet, even without listeners or listenings left, at the long blank broken facings of amnesia, something new pushes up in the interstices: something like love.
Saturday, February 06, 2016
David Clarke, "Blow," 2014, pewter and spoons
1. As if it were an outstretched arm & cupped hand, made fine as any by Hilliard: carved rock crystal, gold shaped to bear an unborn sea to pale lips. That faint sound, the rustle and shush of watered silk; and fainter, still, under Argentan lace, a whispering pulse at the wrist of the hand that holds the spoon.
2. So delicate, this coral tree grafted on a stalk of shell-pearl white as shaved ice! Beading sweat jewels the skin while women “naked in different postures, some in conversation … others drinking Coffee or sherbet” wait for the same slaves who brought them şerbet spoons to weave ribbons through their hair.
3. Twelve apostles plus Christ, hammered out of silver not nail-iron, forged as a set for the child-to-be-immersed. These are now hidden in a drawer, set in rows on rag paper, loosely covered with a white cloth: a winding shroud to preserve them from the rot of time, from the degradation of touch on saint or spoon.
4. We two, who feed ourselves with art, lick it in all its forms from a single source of joy like sticky children sucking the sweetness from a snow cone, staining fingers, lips, tongues— we, too, carve ourselves into the necessary shapes to dig a little deeper into that dish; are cast, molten, into the forms of spoons.
Tuesday, February 02, 2016
"Heart and its blood vessels," by Leonardo da Vinci
“…when the young woman, the sorceress, took in hand
some of the tarn water and spake over it words not to be
understood, the fishes lifted their heads and stood up
on the instant like men…”
From “The Book of the Thousand and One Nights,” Richard F. Burton
Yes, cupped hands can make a sort of sieve, but it’s my heart that’s a perfect fit for this oracle: it takes both the sieve and the shears to spell out hidden things in this way. I run on through early dim light, feeling not seeing, atria emptying and valves snipping shut—cut the stream, reopen for the fill, syncopation pushing blood through the mesh of my lungs. There are words I speak over my jackhammering heart, this sieve and shears, words not to be understood, not even by myself; and when I speak them, the oracle tells me all the names of what had been hidden inside my pulse.