Saturday, April 18, 2020

Plumb line

By Gurdeepdali - Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link

It points towards the center of gravity of the earth,
which is grief, or iron. Not lead, despite the weight
I feel at the center of my chest telling me otherwise.
I don’t think a person can build something true and
square without a plumb-line, though—even when
the pointing towards the gravity of grief, the burrows
where its small cousins live (little creatures without
names, blind and scrabbling for grubs in their dark
dens) leaves me raddled and hollowed out. A weak
field spun up by my fingertips to sing for you, for us,
along the wire—loss trued up, pulled towards the iron
heart of things, spin and stasis, magnetic at the core.

Tuesday, April 07, 2020


The apples that have traveled further
in two weeks than I have in two months
tell me stories: how the pollen-dusted
bees tumbled in their flowers, how the
growers counted out their pennies to
pay for the right to grow them—apples
piled into great wooden boxes where
they slept, strapped to a truck bed, snug
over macadam, dreaming of earthworms
fat and red as bud-break on the currant.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

Decameron 2020:
From a post to a private Facebook Group 3/22/2020

Timothy Knepp, "Redear Sunfish," 2008

It once was true, and true it shall ever be.
The cattails, taller than I was, obstructing my view.
The rusty old rowboat, with its creaky oarlocks.
My grandma, gently pulling the oars as we made our way through the reeds and cattails, fishing.

It was summer (it had to have been summer, I was maybe seven, maybe eight, so I was in school if not for summer), and we’d go up to Rockland Lake, and my parents would visit with cousins and aunts and family friends, and I’d go with my grandma on adventures.

She showed me how to put a worm on the hook.
Oh, how it struggled, the poor slimy red thing, roiling between my fingers.
I couldn’t do it, so she did it for me.

She’d bait her hook too, and we sat in the rowboat near the lily pads and cattails, watching the red-and-white plastic floats bob a little on the riffle.

Until the float popped under!
“Pull back a little - gently!”
I tried to set the hook, and it didn’t seem to set, and when I reeled in there was half a worm left on the hook, and no fish.

She helped me put a new worm on, and cast off again.
We sat, together, on the water, in the green-and-rust smelling boat, in the warm sunlight.
She smelled faintly of perfume and laundry and cotton cloth.
I was her cub, she was my lioness, showing me how to hunt, keeping me safe while I learned.

Her float ducked under!
She set the hook and, like magic, like something from a fairy-tale, she reeled in a small iridescent rainbow, pan-shaped, a sunfish. It was a keeper.
And then my float popped under, and she helped me tug back to gently set the hook, and we reeled it in together, and it was a perch, a yellow perch. It, too, was a keeper.

She caught one more panfish, and I helped her row us back to the dock.
Later, at the bungalow, she skinned and gutted the little fish as I watched in raw fascination and horror, deboned them, minced the meat.

That night, we all ate home-made gefilte fish.
The golden light of the day passed into night, and me and my brothers and little cousins were tucked into our cots, and I fell asleep.

Safe, and fed, and full of the day.
It once was true, and true it shall ever be.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019

Blessed memory

Daucus Carota, photographer unknown, 2006

If it wasn’t for that neural trick
no stories could make their way
from lips to ear, or from then to
now. I couldn’t conjure myself
at six, at ten, my heart open to
the queen anne’s lace and its
amethyst heart at the center of
the umbrel; couldn’t recall the
fear, the bloody wet ruby of my
skinned knee. Limping home,
crying for my dad to help me
after I fell off my bike. He was
there, gathered me up, cleaned
and dressed the wound, wiped
my tears. And now he’s neither
there nor here, he’s dust, and
the child I was tells me a story
I need to hear (of course he fell
short, of course, but it’s also so
simple and good—just a child,
bleeding stopped, tears dried).
Z"L, what’s written as we murmur
their names, our beloved dead.

Wednesday, October 09, 2019


Louis Daguerre, Plaster casts, Société française
de photographie, 1837

Ahead, approaching, some stranger comes
walking, loose-limbed and arms swinging wide—
that silhouette, shadow-play brushing a scuffle,
a soft shoe, a memory. Familiar, unfamiliar, the
stride—they grow taller, elongate, and I catch
myself, my self. It’s me, it’s my shadow blocking
the light, as liquid and dark as ink from the well.
My harbinger twin, spilling stories I can’t yet tell.

Monday, July 22, 2019


Reese Derrenberger, "Fig," 2008

The memory of sweetness, hollowed
out. It stopped me, as I bent to pry up
milk-sapped spurge from a fissure in
the drive (for what? it won’t save the
spalled concrete)—a ruin of what was
once a honey bee, its head excavated,
sightless, resting near a broken thorax,
an empty abdomen. When I went to
look again after weeding, it was gone.
I felt as if I’d misplaced a letter sent by
an old friend, then misplaced not just
the letter, but the empty envelope, the
blue-and-white Chinese porcelain dish
where I’d set it, that I’d even misplaced
the memory of paper sacks full of sweet
honey figs still warm from his garden.

Friday, July 05, 2019


Angelina Earley, "Vertigo," 2009

As I lay these words down I wish each
were a wooden slat bound up by strong
rope—maybe made from twisted vines,
or yucca fiber rolled into cord across our
thighs, across all the days it takes to make
a line long enough to find you. Each word
pierced for the rope, tied up and tossed
through the air, I’d watch them extend as
if they were my own hands arms spine ribs
stretching out to you, towards a place so
wholly unknown. Listening to where they
catch, to where we each tie up, both of us
at the end of every arc of our single stories
now suspended and made new, as we both
place our trust that these words will hold
us safely until we can hold one another.