Monday, October 31, 2016


"Instruments for the recovery of the apparently dead,"
Charles Kite, 1788, Wellcome Library, London

Pressed between low clouds and a slough, I push then
pull the air in, wheezing, my lungs a squeezebox with
a leaky bellows. A woman in dreads and a patchwork
skirt of a thousand pockets bounces a damp child on
her hip, smiling indistinctly, her breathing as effortless
as mine isn’t. I still can’t breathe. I’ve left the dank Hall
of Mushrooms, I’ve stood in the rain, and all I want is
to run and run until I’m breathless—not to lean over
this soft mud, hands on knees in the sudden vacuum.
A pot-metal garrote, the pulsed constriction of a boa—
just a baby, really, this tightening—closing me down to
a whisper, even as the boggy wetland sighs and blows
bubbles at my feet. O, airway, hours from now, when
we’ve calmed each other, I’ll sing a song for you, with
you, as loud as I can, all unbeautiful but so full of joy.

Friday, October 28, 2016


There’s sunlight enough to fool the
bees into roving for nectar, fool us
into roving far off, up into the hills.
The ridge is covered with pine trees
breathing out balsam, caching our
warm breaths. A ragged moth settles
near a thread of golden sap; when I
bend to see, sweet sharp terpenes
bend me back. Oh, look, the sun is
scattered: coins on the forest floor!
I’ll put them in my pack, make us a
lantern for our moonlit walk home.

Monday, October 24, 2016


A blanket of clay dirt pulled up
over their chins, the seeds are
dozing in a dim, torpid reverie—
under a thin bed, no monsters;
just the rhizosphere’s toys and
cast offs and hand-me-downs.
But that’s enough: one or two
wriggling restless before sun-
up, tossing off muddy covers,
pajamas all askew, awakened
by light, by muffled birdsong.

Saturday, October 22, 2016


Some invisible scents send a thread
downstream to river to ocean then
double back upriver and upstream
to stitch together fat, laden dreams
for spawning salmon as they drop all
their jewels in gravel, then die. The
long, olfactory tug from their nursery-
stream pulled them home then out
of themselves, the way fugitive scents
drew two moths along an aerial line
a quarter-mile apart from each other,
wobbling in the updrafts along a cliff’s
edge, the cliff unraveling as I followed.

Thursday, October 20, 2016


From "Wild Flowers of New York," Plate 37a,
"Platanthera aquilonis
Sheviak," 1918

Over and under, three into one: you, me,
that stream we saw playing hide-and-seek
with us down the hillside. This memory of
you, of one summer when I said I couldn’t
put my hair into plaits, too many curls, but
that didn’t matter now you’d woven me a
circlet of wild orchids: deft hands braiding
my crown from flowers, then me into you.

Monday, October 17, 2016


"Krishna and Radha walking by moonlight,"
Kangra School, c. 1820

The leaves spin down, clothe the
wet asphalt with glad rags, a fine
motley: Earth and Tree swap their
wardrobe, just as Kṛṣṇa and Radha
did. First, their garments, cast off
and piled near; then, an exchange
where Radha becomes Kṛṣṇa, and
Kṛṣṇa softens into Radha. So Tree
steps out of its glory, tries Earth’s
stone sober hues; and Earth spins
dizzy, smiling, all pied and quilted.

Friday, October 14, 2016


Katja Schulz, "Ash Leaves," 2015

An open window: leaves from an ash
tree combed out by the wind’s fingers
and blown onto the wooden sash. So
many changes to come, they say, rust
edged gold, fragile as I am, crumbling
as I brush them back out into the day.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016


Via Janet Shields' Pinterest Board

Not just radishes—but they are my
concern here, for they brought me
back to my grandpa’s pharmacy, to
the mysterious incantations on one
porcelain apothecary jar—in serifed
letters: “Avenum sativa.” I was five
and reading everything, the sides of
cereal boxes, the magazines my dad
bought for his office waiting room,
the words on these heirlooms from
our family pharmacopeia. I knew it
was not English on that jar, but ask?
I didn’t. Words and cities and years
went by, and somehow I picked up
that “Avenum” had a connection to
oatmeal, the kind that’d stop an itch,
but I didn't ask about “sativa,” which
then became shorthand for another
medicinal plant, and there the word
sat—until I thought to sow Raphanus
sativus on the bare patch in our yard,
until dream-radishes whispered to my
five year old self, “What does sativa
mean?" and years later, when I could
whisper back: “It means cultivated.”

Monday, October 10, 2016


Fritz Geller-Grimm, "Shale Fragments from
the Grube Messel Fossil Pit
," 2006

Dark leaves in a dark book whose spine
has cracked. On the open seam, looking
down as I pick my line and place myself—
the pages crumbling underfoot, flaky as
oil shale talus. That’s where I fall and fall
again into the naming of things: I’m inky
with words, overlaying the layers; skin’s
shadow-black as a fossil leaf, my dreams
the beaten gold of aspen leaves’ laminae.