Saturday, November 17, 2018

Fritillaries and emperors

Photo by Kevin Faccenda

Where I live, the alder leaves are dropping—
banked sunlight paid up from longer days,
fugitive gold weighting them down until, at
the first north wind, they give up their grip.
But I’ve gone somewhere else, gone to an
open-air memory palace, those mud sloughs
framed with live oak that won’t shed until
spring. Instead of leaves, gulf fritillaries and
hackberry emperors tumble on past, updraft
and down, dusting the same air that’ll carry
me over remembered land—monarch paths
through the chaparral, swallowtails flitting
though mountain passes—until I’m home.

Tuesday, November 06, 2018


I wanted to walk down to the river, had to pick
my way sideways on the slick path, a labyrinth
downslope. The dead white of mushrooms I’d
crushed while sliding down, shredding at the
slightest touch. The mottled, blood red leaves
under a big-leaf maple. And, a glimmer—bright
brass casing for a .32 caliber bullet, near-gold
against my dirty fingers. It was new not muddy.
I kept it near where a shard of sky resolved into
a crenellated sheet of metal, melted, reformed
around crushed, silvered glass. Buried treasure.
The faint smell of smoke from the damp charcoal
I scraped off the ruins. At the edge of the highway,
at the edge of the forest, a car fire must’ve caught
two trees—one left and sawn down, one burnt yet
still standing. As we are, as we do, in our walking
down to the river, which is itself a kind of prayer.

Monday, October 01, 2018


Charles Soule, Jr., "Boy with Dog," 1860-65

I'd imagined she’d been called far worse names
than bitch, the biting curses almost forgotten
now. She was with him, she was for him, his
protection from loneliness, the depredations
of his living rough, broken—spine skewed, skin
inked over, blurry mementos of his other lives.
(The tie that binds is sometimes a frayed rope
loosely tied around a neck, as worn and soft as
his gaze towards her, how softly he’d spoken.)
Her name was Chevelle Marie, and I thought
she might’ve been named for the last finest
joy he’d known—a car, a girl—a boyhood lost
and found in a dark gray blocky pit-bull. (I told
her she was pretty; she wriggled all over with
delight.) Chevelle Marie was a good dog; she’d
listen, then lead him out of Hades if she could.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018


The silt-slipped skin off a mounded barrow
clouding inlets as the rain carries a wet dust
down, tears mixed with mud on my cheeks.
Deckled edges—oak and cottonwood leaves
turning to coal, slime mold tumuli, drowned
grass. A slick of algae greases where I stand,
so I straddle a tine of tarnished water—a rill
forking from creek into river—unsteady on
a fallen branch. (The crows above me all see
how the river bisects me, how it seeps right
through me, all the chambers of my heart.)

Thursday, August 16, 2018

Late afternoon

H. Pellikka, "Kaleidoscope," 2005

Dream-memory fragments, crumbs left
in the bottom of a sack full of childhood
places—as if I had eaten them all, as if
I could. Places I’ve lived, sweet and salty
as popcorn disappearing on my tongue:
dandelions pushing aside a sidewalk, or
naphthene aromatics from a fresh-oiled
asphalt road. Late summer in Rockland
County, shot through with veins of light
from Lake Mary near Flagstaff. The lost
bits of towns and cities. (I wake from my
nap, finger the broken pieces still muzzy
from sleep, lick the salt off my fingertips
from whose tears I don’t, can’t recall.)

Friday, July 20, 2018


The cat sits glowing in the sunlight that pools
on the bed. She’s forgotten to tuck her tongue
in after licking my thumb, and leans into my
hand, and purrs. The sun teases her (she’s so
damp, cowlicked from her ablutions), setting
opalescent diadems that catch in her fur. Out
the window, every green leaf’s now a peridot—
the bees rise then set on tourmaline fireweed.

Monday, July 09, 2018


Faye Wei Wei, "To prepare a face to meet the faces
that you meet
," 2017, courtesy Cob Gallery

I was searching for a word for this epoch,
our American anti-epithalamium, every
stinking breakage a muddy defilement of
our marriage bed—the marriage of polity,
one to another in community, neighbors
whose goodwill is now mocked, kindness
dragged half-naked from her home then
whipped through the streets. I dreamt of
the lexicon Sappho’d put under her pillow
to keep it safe from the outrages of this
present future—I’d like to weep; I won’t.

Instead I’ll find a tow sack and gather up
rattlesnakes, whisper the Gorgon’s name
to them, turn them loose, then watch as
every cheap imported Gadsden flag turns
those who’d break our bonds, to stone.