The intermediate stage between here and there is still here. In fact, it’s all here—we’re all here, all us travelers crackling with the stored static electricity of our stories, like Leyden jars in transit. We’re just passing through, I tell myself, but that’s small comfort when I’m amped up as I am, needing to earth the stories, to ground myself. I’m no theologian, god knows, but passing through this bardo (the Bardo of Airports) reminds me of every other waiting room, train station, bus stop, unskillful detour— having not yet arrived where we’re going, we stick to a seat, a carpet. With luck, our fingers’ll find ways to shock us out of dozing, into a semblance of something awake.
Tuesday, March 29, 2016
Modified image by Tika.Market, "Dusty Bottled trees," 2012
Jugband physics, this: what’s open and empty turns a breath to song, the way wind fills the many mouths of a bottle tree, or fills empty beer cans rolling down the block with wheezy harmonics. In that same way I sing loud and off-key in the car when alone: I’m drained but not crushed, and the motion of even one cloud above me is enough to lift me, fill me like an accordion until I exhale some lyric that hollows me out even more. Oh toss the empties in the back, let’s keep on singing!
Sunday, March 27, 2016
Sold by Peter Szuhay, "Glass Cameo Ring of Morpheus," c. 1800
The demiurge wants to pull tight on the leash, jerking us up and out of our dreams: no time for foolishness, it growls, you’d best believe this world’s a very serious place, and what did I give you consciousness for, if not to fret? Call me ungrateful, but subaltern creators are no use to me. I prefer a mystery to what’s spelled out, animals before Adam named them, and I tell that to a god clad in a loud houndstooth coat, holding his bone and horn box of dreams. He’ll help us slip the leash if I promise to pay, and I do. The houndstooth god waits on me to bring him honey (this poem, perhaps) from a sleeping hive where bees hum and murmur, dream of nectar from pale Nicotiana, white Cestrum nocturnum.
Saturday, March 26, 2016
Kai Yan, Joseph Wong, "Jasminum Polyanthum," 2011
There was no sense of self at mile 3—just breath, and cadence, and wordless conversation between the hips and spine regarding dance. A few spiders raveling the lake’s edge, catching nothing save for cast shadows and drops of sweat. Salvia, punching red holes in the budding green. A body, this body spelling “go!” in branched-chain letters, chemical phonemes, until a fugitive sweetness—jasmine?— jacks the motor chain, slows it with each in-breath, until a self can be assembled to memorize a scent.
Friday, March 25, 2016
Rosso Fiorentino, “Portrait of Giovinetto," c. 1528
If Diaghilev had seen him, he might have thrown Nijinsky over, overnight. Two years out of beauty school, long copper hair woven in a thick French braid, shampooing the clients out and wiping off stray bits of dye with a washcloth, just the way a cat licks her kittens clean. His name? “Adam.” He told me how much he liked wearing his hair long. I see, I said, my gaze skimming from his flattened aquiline nose to celadon eyes—Asiatic, feline, an ensorcelled prince from a forgotten Russian fairy- tale. To explain away my inability to look away, I should have said I was an artist; he reminded me of Fiorentino’s “Giovinetto.” But my discomfort at stopping, trying not to stare, wasn’t his. His slight smile back took my look at face value, for what it was: an homage, a clumsy worship of male grace.
Tuesday, March 22, 2016
It’s for all the world as if we took a sharpened hoe to a milk snake, mistaking it for its venomous near- twin and, undoing what ordinary miracles made it whole, left it disassembled, bleeding, in pieces. For all the world. How have we so broken, forked a path in no direction other than towards chaos, tohu wa bohu, pelting pell-mell into the darkest places we can find? No. Not all darkness. Today I saw something glittering on the basement floor: a rhinestone or a diamond, catching what light it could, unfolding it, tossing it back to dry my tears. That flickering transparent spectra, no bigger than a cigarette ash, staining the dim concrete with joy.
Sunday, March 20, 2016
Mwanner, "Pine Meadow Lake in Harriman State Park," 2005
A child would wrinkle her nose, so squeamish and sad for the worm she had fed to the hook, but her grandma would be matter-of-fact: “Darling, that’s how to catch a fish.” It was like that with us, long ago. We clambered into an old blue rowboat, feet wet from the saggy dock and the boat’s slow leak, pulled up its rusting coffee-can anchor, commenced to paddle. The oarlocks were stiff as my grandma’s fingers in the early morning, but all workable enough once moving. Edging the lakeshore, we raised oars and drifted. “Feed the line out so the bobber moves away—good girl! Keep your eye on it. When it dips, tug back to set the hook—I’ll help.” I caught an old soda bottle, then a clump of waterweed, and when I reeled them in and found no fish and needed to put a fresh worm on the hook, I’d tear up. My grandma caught two perch, olivine as lake water, mottled gold, before I saw the bobber dunk beneath a ripple then rise. I tugged—a tug back! The line zipped off the reel until I heard, “Gently, gently…now pull it back.” Grandma helped. Something small and shining swam near—a sunfish, iridescent, sunrise-bellied, flashing its gills in a panic as it was caught. We put beauty in the bucket with the fading perch; grandma gutted them later that day, and I burnt my tongue from the heat of sadness and pride that seasoned my dinner.
Friday, March 18, 2016
Nahua people call it “skunk sweat,” epazōtl— at a good taqueria you may find it in chilaquiles, but you’ll taste it for sure in beans. If Pythagoras had known about epazote, he’d have understood that adding it to the beanpot was a way to ensure any transiting soul who’d stowed away in a legume would transmigrate before consumption, at the first creosote-tarragon breath. Poor Pythagoras only knew Old World beans. New World legumes, tendrils all coiled and overwinding the maize, hadn’t yet crossed the sea to bean-shy Pythagoreans who’d never imagined Nahua souls.
Thursday, March 17, 2016
The resting heart is what we must listen for, if we wish to understand the body. We can listen with our ears, our fingers, to the resting heart’s tidal ebb and flow through the skin at our wrist or throat, and mark it. But that’s not enough to learn what it’s saying. We must hush and listen close at the same time over time, the tidal rush being a live thing in itself, needing daily tending. By touch, with attention, the resting heart will spell and number the body’s story—if staccato, pulse busily scouring out the body’s tide-pools; if a slow even tempo, pulse gently tugging the worn self back together—found, and recovered.
Wednesday, March 16, 2016
Jerzy Opioła, "Oenothera macrocarpa," 2005
Oenothera scattered in St. Augustine: little sunlit pools shining pistil and stamen at the pollinators. A sweat bee, wearing such bright green kandy metallic as was never seen in a paint and body shop, flashes close by anthers, dusting itself down to a powdery matte finish. I play balance beam on the curb, pretending I’m in the circus, trying to not crush stolons as they reach past concrete towards asphalt; I’m drunk on early spring, thinking of you, happy to lose my footing more than once or twice.
Tuesday, March 15, 2016
Things in this mirror may appear closer than they really are, the way what we’ve left behind often does. A slough; a canebrake; shell roads. A sump; failing plane trees; glass encrusted alleys. Looking back across those deltas—differences más o meno a lifetime, rounding errors a few moments or an age—questions arise with no scaffold of words. Faint music; a wind soughing beneath a bridge; all the creeks braiding into rivers. Set the chain, and I’ll pull the come-along tighter. Ratchet by ratchet, let’s see if we can draw those far mountains close.
Monday, March 14, 2016
They’ll do it to crape myrtles, sometimes even to pear trees and oaks, taking the long shears, lopping off all new growth down to the knuckle. It almost always is a mistake. It reminds me of foot binding, "refining" nature by forcing what’s natural to some geometer’s shape, a distortion of beauty so terrible that it makes me helpless with rage. Today, though, I saw a new sadness: a gardener, himself pollarded, flooded by whiskey and his own salt tears and choking on them both. This is why we crack open; we can’t fit ourselves within the crude shape of these rough prunings.
Sunday, March 13, 2016
It’s midday: spiderweb snares have long been broken by careless dogs or startled bikers. The dew’s all gone, having vanished in an inhalation of clouds. Young bathers pick their way across gravel and slickrock, tender-footing it, laughing when one of their own missteps and yelps. It’s a long time since I’ve been here, in this palace of memory. The mirror in the creek is cloudy, hedging its bets, knowing I’ll ask after you. It’s cagey today, singing only about light and oak leaves, about small hatchlings no bigger than my pinky nail. It shares no stories for me about things we knew when you were alive. And yet: it knows new stories, it says, tumbling in deep aquifers, and those stories bear my name too.
Saturday, March 12, 2016
Before man-made hives framed easy access for the curious eye, there were woven skeps, braided and buzzing as a medieval bride on her way, swarm in tow, to be wed. Archaic, yes, but we love old tools, their pleasures of weight and balance in our hands, touching us back as if they were alive, honing our senses; the sweet shaved-wood scent of a gardener’s trug, the bittersweet metallic unctuousness of machinist’s oil, slick on our fingers. Twenty beekeepers clothed in white, walking down a country road: have they learned the smoky, honeyed love that weaving and filling a skep can teach, or are their hives all panopticons?
Tuesday, March 08, 2016
Hiroko Lancour, "Chance Operations: Enso," 2014
1. Jump To leap is to commit: hours of drill, of gathering speed, accelerating, one-two-THREE-and-POP. You don’t fly off the ground without jettisoning thought, without letting your body think for you. A penultimate step; sink down, elastic, all bound up and coiled; then you rise, unbound.
2. Drive We’ll light out at first light for second chances like these. I can feel my shoulders loosen and drop with each mile gone; can you? The road hum: drummer’s brushes on a snare, our conversation scatting over that rhythm. Even silence makes an open empty music, where we’re bound.
3. Rest Asleep and dreaming, I hold the ends of a rope, one in my right hand, one in my left, making and unmaking a lover’s knot by way of practice. The rope, now a snake twining its caduceus, sticks its forked tongue out at me, slowly winks. Years later I awaken, find my books have come unbound.
Saturday, March 05, 2016
It’s like this: your sons and daughters, immune to their own beauty, ask me to bless their weapons before stepping into the arena. Or, maybe, it’s something else entirely: an archipelago of stories strung together along meridians invisible to me, current flowing electric in the interstices between each awkward, graceful island. All I know is what I saw: a young titan, hoisting a rusting world over- head while other young gods laughed and mocked; an olive-skinned Radha, emboldened by her gopis to go and fetch the sun, toss it back into the sky.
Friday, March 04, 2016
Louis Heon, "Sentinelle de théâtre," 2012
The old music falls away, and the lights don’t come up—they dim. The rope that holds the counterweight to tiers of crushed red velvet curtains frays, worrying as it does against a roughened spot on the tie-down. There’s no one on the catwalk to change night into day, blue gel for gold. The actors—were there ever any actors? I can’t remember. And without cue cards or whispered prompts, all that’s left for me to do is to stand and wait quietly in the thin wavering moonbeam of a ghost light, hoping some passer-by will tug the stage door open and help me find my way outside.
Tuesday, March 01, 2016
Billy Hathorn, "Walnut Springs Park, Seguin, TX," 2013
The weight of the container itself should be considered. If this were a sonnet rather than its thin ghost, a tare scale would feel the form press down as heavily as if I’d put a thumb on the pan. But the container here is light, its line breaks untied, ragged; the poem evaporates a bit while I try to get an accurate read. It makes shifts in tare inevitable, makes it impossible to get any reliable measure. But that’s fine—the mockingbird's a featherweight tare compared to the weight of its song pressing on my heart; the sedge around a stock pond is a tare of no account compared to those carp swirling gold in its cloudy water, a pirate’s treasure drifting Brownian above the soft mud. No adjustments will be made to our tare scale; this light, those fish, that birdsong, can’t be contained, in fact.