Friday, February 24, 2017


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


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 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


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


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


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.