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Monday, December 04, 2017

Transplanting

Illustration to Tennyson's "Sleeping Beauty" by W. E. F. Britten, 1901

I wasn’t patient enough to dig beneath
each long aorta of taproot, work them
free. (All five roses: mystery grafts on
knobbled, half-rotten rootstock, thorns
set sharp as fairytale briars to bleed the
unwary; primary roots fathoms deep in
mantle, lateral roots like capillary beds
filled with worms.) Yes, I apologized for
severing what I couldn’t uproot, and the
roses were kind, didn’t prick me even as
I cut them, pried them out, lifted them
into the air, moved them to more light.

Monday, November 20, 2017

El Dorado

This is how I save my own life. Like
Avalokitesvara, I listen for the cries
of the world. But in my smallness, I
can only listen for small things, for
what’s feral.

The faint chirr of crickets; a sunfish’s
slap and plop (fish as clumsy skimmed
stone, dodging an egret.) Bullfrogs. A
red-tailed hawk’s descending scream.
And a great blue heron rising, its wings
unfurling, luffing.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Excavation

Image from Tashi Tobgyal's "The Inside Story:
Rathole Coal Mining in the Jaintia Hills," 2012

The creosote smell of old railroad ties at the shaft’s entrance,
the long slow seepage from the adit. There’s not much light—
a rusty slice of moon drowning in an acid pond. My headlamp.
I look and find a heap of fool’s gold has weathered, turned the
water into something that’ll burn the skin off my bones. Here
is nowhere, and here’s where I find myself—in a place where
the scroll’s worn off the auger, dull as a stained pile of tailings.

Thursday, November 09, 2017

Flight

NASA / SwRI / MSSS / Gerald Eichstädt / Seán Doran,
"Junocam PeriJove 9," © CC NC SA

At a touch, I fly out past the borderland of
my skin, through arcs of tropospheric blue.
It takes a moment to orient. I tumble on a
ghost rappel, pinwheel as home—an agate
marble—shrinks behind me. Just like that, I
pass Juno and Jupiter, whose storms roil so
beautifully, all pearls into liquid nacre—then
further, faster, so fast emptiness becomes a
sound, light pouring through me. Time pools
at the edge of things where things leave off
their skins. Makes of us a holy, formless joy.

Thursday, November 02, 2017

Philistine

Caravaggio, detail from "David con la testa di Golia,"
1606-07

Bellowing, enraged by the scrawny
boy standing out of range, unable to
see him (did the sun come out from
behind a cloud?) or to see what was
next: his death. Caravaggio mirrored
himself, slack-mouthed and bleeding,
in the giant; and I, caught in the net
of a dream with Caravaggio’s Goliath
raging, I was frozen, no sling at hand,
waiting for my terror to pass, waiting
for rescue. I woke, gasping. If I could
slip back into those starlit waters and
redream the terrible dream, I’d raise
my right hand slowly, blur the story’s
edges with abhayamudrā, then wait
until the giant—heaving, anguished,
broken—became a fountain of tears.

Monday, October 30, 2017

Grip

SeppVei, "A forest ditch in Utajärvi, Finland," 2009

The open hand, grasping at
nothing but air—a memory
pulled up by the roots, dirt
still clinging to it. I don’t say
too (“cat got your tongue?”)
much, no one wants to know
what’s on my mind, lyrics to
a misremembered song. I’ll
break it down for you. Went
too fast, lost my grip, pitched
forward, I’m falling. There’s a
long old ditch hidden in those
weeds. Where I fell, it looked
like a grave; berm to barrow,
too surprised to cry yet, but
I’m slick with blood and dew.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

Connecticut

NASA, "The Rare Venus Transit," 2008

This week, a memory: of my dad’s gaze
sliding over our faces, unable to focus.

A doctor asked him, “And where are you
today, Bob?” A small chortle, because it

was an easy question: “I’m in a hospital.”
“But where—what city?” His gaze slowly

drifting to the left, then right. “Hospital.”
It was as if he were receding, swept out

to sea by a spring tide, a tangled current.
“Yes, but the city?” “I’m in…” (a minute

passes) “…Connecticut.” He was, but we
weren’t. We were in Scottsdale with him,

the radiant April sun laughing at our frail
bodies, our mayfly lives. He had been in

Connecticut when he was a boy, visiting
family there, and he could tell he’d given

the wrong answer by our stricken looks.
That’s when he knew how lost he was—

there were no maps for this journey, the
way forward over the edge of the world.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Fugitive II

Detail from Titian's "Bacchus and Ariadne,"
1520-23, National Gallery

Restoring myself to myself with a very
unsteady hand—working in the dark,
by touch. The conservators I’d read
(all chemical savants) understood the
few hours it took for time and light to
dull Veronese’s sky, steal the red from
Titian’s caped Bacchus, rob Vermeer’s
buttery glaze and leave his laurels blue.
But this is the work. If we don’t know
how to unbind an organic dye from its
metallic salt and remake it whole, we
will look under the edges of the frame
for who we were last, when last happy.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Hospital

Dan Cox, "Hospital bed," 2008

You were thin as any aged animal, by then; the
fizz of tiny clots bubbling off from some occult
source had finally stolen the appetite you’d had
for living. We didn’t know what was wrong, we
couldn’t find it or fix it, and you wept to see us
weeping. Enter a doctor, you’d put on a bright
tough smile: “Yes, I want to go to rehab, I beat
this the last time, I want to get out of here, to
go home.” Exit, and you’d turn to us, confused,
grimacing—“Enough.” (We didn’t know we were
watching you die, the losses piling up hid it from
view.) So I’d sit on the edge of your bed, sit you
up, coax you to eat a grape, just one grape, my
arm bracing you, the bones in your spine so close
to the surface I could count their facets against
my skin. How broken we were. You opened your
mouth, let me place a grape on your tongue. Oh,
it was not enough (your scapulae like bird’s wings)
yet it was still too much, a child feeding her father.

Monday, October 09, 2017

Lights

Thomas Hawk, "Ice Skating at the Embarcadero," 2004

When I was a child, asleep as the family
drove through the night, still sleeping

carried by my father into the house, put
in pajamas, tucked into bed and dreams.

(Before I’d fall asleep, car lights through a
window, washing across the bedroom wall.)

When I was a child I watched on a hill for
daddy to come home from work, then run

to him, squeal as he tossed me up high
in the air, a dandelion calyx. (There was

never any question he loved me when
I was a child.) As imperfect as we were,

imperfect as we were, still what it felt
to hold his hand as I wobbled on skates.

I was safe. Even when he’d cast me off
spin me ahead on the ice, delight and

terror in uncertain balance, for every
time I’d catch an edge, he’d catch me.

Tuesday, October 03, 2017

Frontier

Martin Waldseemüller, from "Ptolemy; Geographiae opus novissima
traductione e Grecorum archetypis castigatissime pressum," 1513

A word that carries the edge of an advancing
army in its pocket is less innocent than I knew.
From frowntere to frontiere, from soldiers to
borderlands; and before then, a shining brow,
the frontem. Adventurers so heavy-laden, bent
at the waist, their foreheads precede bellies as
they cross. So when we say “frontier,” the word
carries its war to receding horizons—yet we’ll
shape our lips to kiss, not curse, as we stumble
headfirst from what’s known to terra incognita.

Sunday, October 01, 2017

Pellet

Ondrej Zicha, "Trox beetle stridulation," 2017

The banquet found by a knobbly trox beetle
after an owl’s done: that owl’s undigestable
disjecta compacted, coughed up. An owl is
built to wring its mouse dinner dry, to pack
bones and teeth tight, tuck their calcium in
gray felt, to hack them out. Not me. There
are places within me where words make a
chitinous knot, a lump in my throat. I’m all
choked up, can’t spit it out. It will pass, yes
I know; so do the trox beetles. They mass in
the mud at my feet, expectant, pheromone-
flagging their kin to come near, to wait as I
get myself free of the bones I can’t stomach.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Burst

David Clarke, "Casting directly into old ceramic
candlesticks
," 2017

A hot pour into a hollow space can break
it open. Molten pewter, for example, in an
old ceramic candlestick: decoupage gilding
shattered like a wineglass at the wedding,
a slip-cast heart clogged with solid metal.

The way we map interiors, here, is by filling
them. The way we map sorrow is the same.
We place ourselves in some fire, we’re both
alloy and the crucible, our arteries and veins
making form and mold for something molten
that tastes like iron and salt; the heart filled
by its own emptiness, until broken and burst.

Friday, September 15, 2017

Taxus brevifolia

Andrew Curtis, "Yew berries in
the snow, Close House
," 2010

An aril—that drop of blood
in the green—is scale made
flesh: enticements for the
varied thrush, a yew seed’s
slated transport. All these
leavings of mine, and fewer
birds to sing our notes out
past the mountain; so many
departures, before a winter
storm buries that last fruit.

Friday, September 08, 2017

Leaving

Robert Hamilton, "The History of British Fishes,
Four Stages of a Fish," Wellcome Library, London

We’d start at the ending, that
muddy old mouth, picking our
way back to before the womb,
laddering up braided streams
where hatchlings clear as glass
(but for yolk sacs still attached)
fed on lacewings, on damselfly
eggs. How it goes is how it went:
parents who’d never wandered
upstream would tell us, their
children, stories full of harbor
silt—so cloudy, opaque, hiding
snags. We’d listen just until the
silver exhalations of meltwater
would find us. Then we’d be off,
climbing, to follow that scent.

Saturday, September 02, 2017

Dehiscence

Emily, "Harvesting Poppy Seeds," 2012

1.
We’re seamed, as are seedpods, our lines
of dehiscence marked with a tailor’s chalk,
our pale raphes the memory of how we’ve
been stitched together. When a pod’s ripe,
a split occurs. Or when wounds don’t heal.

2.
Remembering the blush pink poppies, now
all dry, dehiscent rattles—the wind shakes
their prayer for a rainy season into the clay.

3.
The crocus has mistimed itself, tossing dull
blades up from the dark, greening them in
the heat. But we’ve not missed our season—
almost ripe, now, ready for another kind of
transformation, waiting for a wind to come.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Deposition

Thomas Cole, "View from Mount Holyoke,
Northampton, Massachusetts, after a
Thunderstorm—The Oxbow
," 1836

The slow river meanders, taking its
time in laying down the silt burden,
its curves wide and looping, almost
tied off in spooning crescents: next
flood brings the oxbowed embrace.

Or when our fingers touched on the
planchette, light as birds, and what
had been inert began to move in the
snail’s own spiral, cochleoid, spelling
out our imitation of Merrill letter by
l      e      t     t   e   r   in adagio magic.

And this last languid wandering, time
bending backwards for us, palming us
(as if we were peas in a sleight) off on
some other cosmos, some other age;
decelerate, smiling, laugh as we stop.

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Littoral

NPS photo, "A woman stands alone at
the edge of the wilderness breach," 2014

What had been full is empty,
the animal having gone away
somewhere, no trace except
for a scar where it clung tight
to the nacre. The emptiness
left gathers light: bowled over,
shining side up, half-buried in
sand at neap tide. As if it were
an offertory on an altar of wet
smooth shoreline; as if it was
a clue to where you’ve gone,
this cast-off abalone shell full
of nothing but wind and sky.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Impermanence

John Constable, "Brighton Beach," 1824, V&A

For B.

It may start with a blow, a deep bruise
that overwhelms the body’s ability to
repair itself and clear the damage. Not
rare: the sharply stubbed toe, a barked
shin. If the injury’s deep within muscle,
close to the bone, muscle can literally
ossify. If it’s far from the heart, leaving
tissue starved (crushed capillaries leak,
can no longer bear up), the bruise may
no longer be a bruise, though the dying,
dusky blue’s nearly a match in hue. You,
now your own memento mori as angry
red snakes crawl up a limb, hissing some-
thing worse: poison in the blood. Sepsis.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Demo

Nicholas Poussin, "The Finding of Moses," 1638

It’s one way to show how software works, but it’s
really about making stories, telling tales. Long ago,
a swaddled babe was found among the bulrushes.

Or, once upon a time, a little girl lived with three old
aunties in a cottage on the hill, and they sent her to
the dark forest to gather mushrooms.
There will be
dangers to face, monsters to outwit or transform,
the heroine must puzzle out a coded secret before
the moon rises—to save her own life, to save her
aunties who’ve been turned into birds, to win a gift
of understanding the crows’ language—or to restore
the lost data in three clicks, so neatly done it seems
like magic. Abstraction, concision, symbolic language
encoded, spells cast. What was Aaron's rod but a
demo, a snaking proof of concept for the Pharaoh?

Friday, August 11, 2017

Windfall

Mark Shirley, "The Old Apple Orchard,
Wisbech St. Mary
," 2008

The old apple tree had never been tended
to (or hadn’t been, for decades)—branches
clotted with suckers almost big as its trunk,
tangled water-sprouts crowned with nests,
all of it too tall, stretched and reaching for
more sun. It welcomed us with a thousand
apples, but before we could say hello the
weight of what it bore sheared off a lateral
limb, smashed a neighbor’s fence. Our first
week in the cottage: what a windfall there
was, the ground covered with apples, bees
and wasps drunk on golden pomace rotting
in the August heat. So this year, we made a
careful reduction. Arborists with chainsaws
took down height and bulk; it’ll take another
two years, more young sawyers in the tree,
more chainsaw and pruning work, until the
tree fits itself better. This year, it’s resting—
only four apples made a windfall, each soft,
fermented, sticky. But the fifth I plucked off
a high branch, more green than gold, and it
came away easy to the pole even if not quite
ripe. A blessing given free; a promise to keep.

Friday, August 04, 2017

Remembrance

Terracotta statuette of a girl playing ball, The Met

A reverse liquid, these bees, swirling
down into a moist leaf-duff bottleneck,
carrying nectar and letters for all our
dead. Our dead, having died before this
rainless desert summer, our dead whose
memory brings another recollection—
the smell of oiled leather. Tack-scent
clinging to my fingers as they clenched,
gripped the pommel tight (the saddle
slipping, rolling, cinch loose)—a sour
old horse trying to scrape me off on the
side of a farm truck. Glove-scent (such
happy magic) as I took it down from a
shelf, loosened the cord that bound it
up around a softball all winter, waiting
for the glove to be softened, reshaped,
until it could do nothing except snag
every errant infield bounce, its deep
pocket a perfect nest for every catch.

And now the sun’s set and the bees have
gone, pouring themselves into the earth.
I’m too parched to cry for my dead, so I
place this near where I saw the bees last,
this crumpled slip of paper; and my fingers
become the cord that binds memory up,
lacing it, becoming the seams, the round
sun burning my palms as we play catch.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Crypsis

Bob Peterson, "Gray Hairstreak (Strymon melinus)," 2011

The little hairstreak slowly rubs its wings,
sliding one against the other. Small magic
the way they catch the light, as if its wings
were old silver dimes rolling across a god’s
knuckles, or ripples in the pewter water of
its genus-river Strymón. I watch as it turns
tails to heads, inverting, headstanding on
a mint blossom. I watch as its doubled tails
settle then dovetail, coin-tricking, cryptic;
so this is how it hides itself in plain sight.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Glossae

sankax, "Common Eastern Bumble Bee
Queen (Bombus impatiens)
," 2010

I watch them before sunset, deep-kissing the
nectaries, brushing up on sweetness to make
a hoard against the shortening days. See how
they press themselves urgent into a blossom?
See them, carpenters small and black as lupine
seeds, as they step onto, then taste the mint?
See them, fat Bombus on the fireweed, pinning
those deep pink flowers beneath furred bellies?
A tongue of light silhouettes last bees pulling up
from their gathering, towards sleep and shadow;
the Clarkia and poppies have shut for the night.

Tuesday, July 04, 2017

Fishing

Zāhir al-Dīn Ulūġh Beg Kūrakan, Souwar
al-kawakib al-thabita, Samarkand, 1436

A long arc of cirrus, segmented and fall-streak
spined: fish bones in a pale blue sky picked clean
by a westerly.

Later, as the sun tucks away: a fat fading contrail
flashes rosy as a brook trout’s belly.

Tonight’s waxing moon: a weight for a cast-net
big enough to catch all those star-bound fish.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Tare II

BRIyyz, "Graffiti covered car at Weyburn Pool,
just north of Weyburn Sask," 2006

The container’s empty. A barge, perhaps, or
a truck, or a covered hopper, the middle car
on the train that’s pinned me down behind a
flashing crossing sign. All these empty things,
still with their own weight. The heaviness of
emptiness, lessons for the mourner: the tare
weight, now, more than what was contained.

Friday, June 09, 2017

Chamaenerion angustifolium

Magenta-flowered fireweed, from "Boreal Forests
in Alaska Becoming More Flammable
," photo by
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

The late afternoon
sun plays its kissing game with
their frilled corollae.

Each inflorescence
swaying in time; the south wind
waltzing blossoms, bees.

First to revisit
after the blast zone, the char;
reseeding this heart.

Tuesday, May 02, 2017

Padmapani

Hand of bodhisattva, holding a lotus bud with
blossom, Gandhara, c. Second - Third C. BCE

Broken at the wrist, the body gone—but
wholeness isn’t a steady state. All bodies
transform like this representation of god:
breaking, broken, vanishing bit by bit until
our mud and dust is compressed to stone
by the weight of time. Art turns that mud
into the compassionate one, still holding
a lotus, its grace moving, transcendent. I’ll
join those who set flowers and fruit at its
feet, offer up thanks that its beauty hears,
won’t be separated from, all our suffering.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Holy Saturday

Rembrandt, "The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp," 1632.

The shadows falling across translucent skin, shrunk
tight on a cheekbone. Shadows pool, lap at an arch
above it, hide in a hollow in the flesh beneath it. An
absence of moonlight, if painted. Absence of oxygen,
if cool to the touch; it’s lilac, not rose, in this garden.

In “The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp,” every
man paid for their portrait, save the corpse. Money
and art made them memorable; money and art will
make us forget our deaths, even as we see its proof.
(Dear ones, at twilight we’re tidepools, not gardens.)

Money, and art. Still, there’s joy even in this sealed
tomb, in the unremitting absence of light. Tenebrae
performed in a room full of holy treasures: not the
gilding, or art, but the faithful who know how dark
the darkness will be, and yet keep singing, even so.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Nest

A few days post-fledging and it’s almost gone:
no longer a soft secret eggcup, just remnants
of lichen and down, emptied. One baby only
this time, not the hero twins Anna’s hummers
so often hatch. I saw it, tucked in its thimble,
needle beak pricking the air to catch mother’s
scent; saw the mother returning, her belly full
of slurried nectar and spiders to pour into gape-
mouthed baby. The mother returned, always
returned, until a day when no one was waiting—
the nest loosened and open as if in bud-break.

Friday, April 07, 2017

Haruspex

"In its large definitive Castle-series Italy issued in 2001 a stamp from Piacenza, and used an ordinary postcard for a FDC-cancellation. The card shows 'Il Fegato Etrusco' [The Etruscan Liver]. ... The Etruscan Liver is a 2nd century BC object originally used mainly for divination and now housed at the Museum of Piacenza."

In this body, I cannot see the full shape
of the sky, or see past the curved bow of
the ocean’s horizon. I’m as blind as you
are, as any of us are, touching each face
in turn to try and find our kinfolk in the
pile of dead. So I turn to what I’ve been
taught: how to take a living creature, kill
it in a way that will please any god who
still listens, and search its steaming guts
for a foretelling. The liver’s where to look,
but the one in my hands is smooth as a
glass mirror. All I can see in it is my face,
reflected, the color of wet earth; all I can
see are my hands, covered with its blood.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Las Vegas Valley

Chris M Morris, "Rainbow Gardens from Lava Butte,
South Las Vegas Valley in background," 2012

The temptation’s to imagine a city gone,
surface pristine, unmarred by subsidence
and jitter. To look at red rock sandstone,
the tops of the ridges, transport myself
there and back to a bird’s eye view eons
ago, as if I were a red-tailed hawk riding
thermals from the valley below—sparse
settlements, blending in with the earth.
The temptation's to fictional idylls of this
place, in that past, while the magma stirs
underneath pavement and glitter, deep
under carpet, our bare feet: the shifting
gyre of our ever-mother who secrets the
largest crystals, reserves her liquid gems
for the next racking cough or burning sigh.

Friday, March 03, 2017

Laundry

Benedicto de Jesus, "Laundry Night," 2015

Around the corner, the faint grape Kool-Aid
smell of mountain laurel; leaning close then
backing off: a bee! Woodpeckers on a palo
verde, a pair, chittering at me as a warding-
off. It works; I keep walking. Around another
corner, vent and a body blow: linens baking
in some industrial dryer, hauling me off my
feet backwards to a limbic, layered memory.
Chinese laundromats shimmed between old
apartment buildings. A rust-pocked delivery
van, double-parked, fat as a sturgeon, doors
propped open for its dry pale roe: bundles of
threadbare cloth napkins. Secret halls in one
hotel where small women trundle past, carts
heaped with soiled sheets taken for a future
transubstantiation: from blued and starched
cotton, to a bed where we’ll cast off our own
laundry, consecrate one another with our skin.

Wednesday, March 01, 2017

Peepshow

Samuel van Hoogstraten, "A Peepshow with Views
of the Interior of a Dutch House," c. 1655-60

This is where the dry people live, so poor
there’s nothing to finger in pockets save
their cracked fingertips, pleated, rugose.
Here, the palest eyes shutter tight against
noon, all mirrors covered in mourning for
moist breaths lost at each exhalation. The
desert of no-touch, every body wrapped
within a sheet of plastic. Protected, here.
These boundaries. Dry people, so thirsty
they cannot think. Parched not quenched
as they drink it in with eyes, not mouths.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Anna’s

Ken Clifton, "Anna's Hummingbird on nest," 2008

Spiderwebs, gathered in a skein then drawn out
by the needle of beak. One tap, and a push: she
sticks another bit of moss in place, patchworked
with lichen, a hidden nursery where she’ll warm
her warrior children until they hatch into endless
appetite. Her body burns off a scrim of frost. She
nests, shivering, held by her private compulsions,
the small goddess waiting for her twins to arrive.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Heartwood

Glen Scott, "Ice Explosion," 2006

I walked over a ridge, and saw what we’d heard
the day before, thinking it was transformers that
had blown: full-grown fir and spruce, shattered
where sap froze and burst them, splinters staking
outlines around each fallen tree as if some drunk
carny axe-thrower’s fever dream had come true.
The science I read later, about the fluid mechanics
of these deaths, was impenetrable. All I absorbed—
sapwood’s osmotic streams became the point of
failure; heartwood, impervious, then blew apart.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Paracas

"Paracas textile 179," c. 2500 BCE,
via the Gothenburg Collection

The air that held what songs were sung was
descant, desiccant, wicking all singers' breaths
away as each chanted those bundled corpses
down into a dropped, earthen womb. Wind
blew across each singer’s mouth, all becoming
reed flutes piping over those who died; sand
scoured mouths dry, little cups waiting for a
rinse of maize beer after singing. This desert
by the sea parches every body until, husked
in pierce-work cloaks, they become seed corn,
dried and stored for a new season’s planting.

Thursday, February 09, 2017

Faience

Bowl, earthenware, painted in blue
on opaque white glaze, 9th century

It was no accident that slipped tin
and lead onto an earthenware skin—
rather, a someone who knew how
to bring the white clouds down to
sit on the clay. One trader may buy
up the whole lot for its novelty, no
telling, but the maker had a bigger
game in mind. Tin for Jupiter, lead
for Saturn, fired hotter than a kiln,
forge-hot, melting Venus’s copper
cestus if she’d let it; and then slow
to cool. Alchemy turned the pottery
gloss white, the perfect ground for
figures and brushwork—something
tough enough to take the flame and
not crack in two, and yet a thing too
fragile for a trader’s carpet-packing.

Wednesday, February 08, 2017

7:03 PM

T. Luong Son, "Một Buổi Tối Ở Quê Nhà /
One Evening at Home
," 2010

That pot-holed asphalt, a patchwork basin
caching the neighbor’s porch-light. Outside
my bedroom window, it’s raining; cars pass,
shushing themselves as they go, and I recall
when I was six, how I’d watch a single slant
beam travel, play chase along my bedroom
wall. My world now is a platinum print, all
silver light and pitch-dark shadow. The child
I was sits with me; we count the cars going
by, as they play their magic lantern shows.

Tuesday, February 07, 2017

Commedia

Peeter van Bredael, "Commedia dell'arte Scene
in an Italian Landscape," date unknown

There they are, the Columbines and Harlequins
playing behind every Doctor’s back, and here we
are, indentured, pressed into service, legion. If
we’re a hundred, or a hundred times a hundred,
it makes no difference. You and I, wearing dull
black, sweating as we pull the drapery back, un-
furling backdrops. It’s us who’ll loose the knots
on the ballast of ponderous argument, sandbags
to tie the rococo confection down. Even tasked
with curtain calls countless as the stars, we’ll do
our job, dash through hidden crossovers to haul
away that gold-braided bloody velvet, reveal the
troupe—roses tossed, as they take infinite bows.
And while that job’s doing, we’ll whisper its end.

Sunday, February 05, 2017

Willamette

Daniel E. Coe, "Willamette River Historical
Stream Channels, Oregon," Oregon Department
of Geology and Mineral Industries

Small things that I’ve carried from my last
home—a finger-worn post oak acorn, the
seahorse husk of a gulf fritillary’s chrysalis—
don’t figure in my dreams, here. The turbid
water won’t hold my reflection, but holds
instead its pale centenarians, white-bellied,
mud-veiled, as they nose its soft silted bed
for those secrets a river would keep to itself.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Aeolus in Las Vegas

Theodor van Thulden, "The Works of Ulysses:
'The Greek sailors open the bag, given by Aeolus,
containing adverse winds.'"

If we whisper “Ozymandias,”
apotropaic magic to bring all
haboobs to bear on our new
monument makers, we do it
knowing the wind’ll hear us.
An inclined slant of a wall of
mud and sand, an exhalation
of a collapsing thunderstorm:
the blowing grit scours paint
right off a car, etches mirrors,
mutes every gilded entryway;
will strip the mall palms bare.

Monday, January 16, 2017

Ulna

Derzno, "Hohler Fels," 2011

An exhalation, detoured at fresh hollows
where quill knobs had marked the spot to
place the awl, pierce the bone, open “o”s
for fingertips. Breath takes wing in a rising
half-note, descending overtones, like bird
song. Who disassembled the eater of the
dead, pulled its feathers out until barren
bone gleamed, then thought to call down
the sky and sing through it? Who put this
bone flute in a midden, broken, buried, as
we’ll all be, when all our songs are gone?

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Sedōka January 15 2017

A gull, washed in gold
as it lifts into sunlight—
in a moment, gone from view.

This morning finds me
in sleep’s shadow, as I watch
for those birds you’ll never see.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Huītzilin

Alan Vernon, "Female Costa's
Hummingbird
," 2011

Eye to eye, she tells me wring
more sweetness from the sun,
bring it now. She cannot wait.
Outrunning her shadow costs
her; at night, she won’t sleep,
she’ll step into a future death
just a little, her torpor a ruse
to outwit the killing cold. As I
make fresh nectar, I tell her a
story—the ancestral brothers,
kin to the god of war, skinned
for the glory of kings. She has
no truck with that, imagines a
new home to nest in—a royal
beating heart, exsanguinated,
extirpated by the same beak
whose feather-tongue kisses
the red dahlia, the sunflower.

Saturday, January 07, 2017

Appropriate

Inka-Chincha jar with human face and corn feet,
1450–1532 CE. Photo by Ernest Amoroso, NMAI.

There’s nothing I can say in my own
tongue, with my own tongue, within
my imagined memory. I have a sugar
cube clenched between my teeth for
the glass of tea my great-grandfather’s
ghost needs. The bitter taste of what
I can’t say: it’s not appropriate; don’t.

So I’ll use my oldest silver to borrow a
cup from other poets, beg a mouth to
speak. How I’d spit sugar, appropriate
their heat to warm my dead beloveds.

Friday, January 06, 2017

Maya

Antoine Vollon, "Mound of Butter," 1875–85

These are special, these effects. As
I pass through the magicked mirror
and out another side, become light,
my doppelgänger sees what I don’t:
how CGI ants swollen on honeydew
feed their imagined queen; pools of
code where cellular automata swim,
breed. Presence, here, is an artifact
shaped by attention paid elsewhere.
I gaze, touching metal not wood, as
the shining simulacrum places silver
coins on my eyes, the better to see
something that’s not quite me with.

Monday, January 02, 2017

Unmoored

Cai Guo-Qiang, "Saraab, Endless," 2011;
photo by Hiro Ihara, courtesy Cai Studio

In this fog, it’s unclear where the
anchor lays. Pulling on the frayed
rope, and everything yielding, so:
nothing at the end of it. The wash
of gray-green harbor water licking
the bow, or the blood-rush in my
ears, I can’t tell which; they sound
the same. Unmoored, I drift past
the harbor’s mouth, so far past I
can no longer hear my own voice.