Friday, December 30, 2016


Jervis McEntee, "The Hudson River Valley," c. 1874

Not sky-clad, but almost: washed with white gold
from head to foot in the weak winter light. We lay
dovetailed, watching the sun rise and kiss us both,
stars settling under the cloud cover. Were we ever
that young, then—will we ever be so young again?
What they know about focus, those image-makers,
won’t help them see: though we dim with age, my
beloved and I; so radiant within our jeweled bokeh.

Sunday, December 25, 2016


A stoat in winter pelage guarding a mountain hare
carcass from a pair of least weasels

“...and soe is the shell gold, being dry and burnisht
with the small tooth of a weasel fastned into a stick.”
From "Miniatura; or, The art of limning,"
by Edward Norgate, c. 1627

The kit provides itself sharp edges, all erupting
from buds near time of first weaning, pushed
out, as baby teeth will be, when larger knives
replace its nursing set. Imagine a farmer, then,
who’d caught and killed a weasel, learning its
canine tooth, the dagger that bled his rabbits
dry, would burnish some great lord’s portrait.
And the wild creature, its joy in killing as pure
as shell gold, sold in pieces for its fur, for art.

Friday, December 23, 2016


Bildersturm: Damaged relief statues in the Cathedral
of Saint Martin, Utrecht; photo by Arktos, 2003

The conservator, making restoration of all that had
been scraped away, binding soft red poliment with
rabbit skin glue: this pillow of clay upon which the
Mother of God will again rest. The image, gouged
down to bare parchment years after its making, an
act of literal defacing, an iconoclasm. Unhallowed.
The Mother’s face will be restored, but first—light.
Slow gentle work, mounding the bole then sanding
it, smoothing it. Later, a full warm breath from this
living woman revives the surface so it can embrace
a skin of light: the golden circle remade, unbroken.

Friday, December 16, 2016


"I had always heard that native people believe that
photographs steal their souls, and here I learned
that in Kayapo,
'akaron kaba' not only means 'to
take a photo' but that it also means 'to steal a soul.'"

From "Capturing souls," by Ricardo Moraes, 2011

A person walks down a street alongside their story,
hand-in-hand with their protagonist, themself. One
finds one’s character compelling, as do others, soon
there are strobe lights. Your surface—skin, clothing,
the ways you breathe out and in—are caught, teased
apart, made absolute. Wading through a cold stream
of attention, unseen teeth tearing off tiny bits of you.
The aperture closes, swipes your soul, plagiarizing a
last bit of flesh and turning it to pixels. “You” now is
the story you walked alongside, as hollow as a reed,
the text-slash-reader impressing the facsimile “you.”
Nothing warm; nothing left with which to soul kiss.

Monday, December 12, 2016


Still (cropped) from "Rain Room" video,
Random International, 2013

A glimpse, then, at the edge of a puddle. Skin
white as the gibbous moon, radiant and cold;
her glance up at me, appraising. A frog stalked
by a heron would feel the same chill I did. She
knows she’s soulless, no opening for anything
imperfect as our finite warmth, or stories that
have endings. A warm thermal footprint draws
her attention: a young man walking. Marriage?
No, those tales are wrong. It’s a wish to join a
world of change, be pierced, made permeable.
She's silvering the asphalt beneath his feet.
A shift in the clouds, and an impossible sight—
perfect beauty, soaked by the rain—stops him.

Thursday, December 08, 2016


Gordon T. Taylor, "Diatoms: NOAA At The Ends
of the Earth," 1983

My fingertips, light on a jelly jar,
yours near mine, as we raise the
dead—these are the things we’d
do for art. We didn’t think to ask
after our dead beloveds, then. I

wish now we had, not to disturb
our fond dead, but to have taken
comfort in a longer good-bye. We
who stumble through uncertainty

in our shape-shifting skins—watch
as the glass rings each letter, fast
then faster, “L” then “O,” dancing
towards “V” and “E,” then “U.” An

alphabet, spelling wishes as gifts;
arabesques of touch/no-touch, all
our longing, scribed in tempos as
intimate, familiar as a heartbeat.

The other side of the board, the
side the cup doesn’t glide upon,
is lit in the absence of light—pin-
pricked with souls, as improbable
as joy, as beautiful as diatoms.

Tuesday, December 06, 2016


Emily Williams, "Water," 2016

The hand, passing through thin air, trailing a
thread of lampworked, molten glass, bound
to and binding a twist of slender rods all the
colors of the tidepool sky. This work is done
with a gesture and an incantation—the soft
curse for a careless burn. If I brought you my
open flame, would you steady my hand with
yours, help turn this brittle glass to flowers?

Sunday, November 27, 2016


Jonas Jordan, Army Corps of Engineers,
"An oilfield on fire," uploaded 2007

A soft metallic sky, the color of magnesium;
the fire-starter I once carried in my pocket.

A sharp ridge on Wy’east pares a curl from a
low cloud scudding by, then scrapes another.
Will they pile up and catch, I wonder. It’s dry
to the east; they just need one spark to flare.

Deep deep down, below the green skin on which
everything that we love lives, there’s a lake made
of fire. A crack in its surface, and we burn too. On
that day, a nacreous sky will weep soot made from
calcined bones, from alder ash and fir char, from
all our arguments and our leave-takings, our hate.

Something new will swim up from dark ponds, after.
Will it glisten in the sunlight, as you, my love, did?

Saturday, November 26, 2016


John J. Audubon, "Birds of America:
American Crow
," 1827

They look for me, now, gathering one
by one, backing away when I call them
as if my voice were a wave, lapping, as
if they were shorebirds. Each a person
in their own right—feigning disinterest
or avid and impatient, as I fumble the
first toss—each assessing the odds for
a fast grab, before a car skitters down
the street, before the bounty becomes
a trap. Presence, in that moment, is a
construct—presence of mind, moment
to moment. The story of how close we
come to death, how far we’ll go to live.

Thursday, November 24, 2016


John James Audubon, "Yellow-billed Magpie, Steller’s Jay,
Western Scrub-Jay, and Clark’s Nutcracker," 1836–37

It’s as if I’m blindfolded in this life, nothing
but the south wind and its fat raindrops to
tell me “you’re getting warmer…warmer…
colder…warmer,” as I make my way, arms
outstretched. A jay, outside our front door.
A small dog wedged up against my hip. Can
I track what matters the way they do, scent
threading a path on the wet cold wind, full
promise of food or love over a hill, down a
trail I can’t yet see?
I put bread out on the
porch. Me, that jay—both getting warmer.

Monday, November 21, 2016


Kai Schreiber, "red blood cells," from
tiles in the Long Line group pool, 2005

Fast transit through my rust-red and
dusky-blue underground, I’m all wet
salt and metal as cells jostle around
a bend, drop their packages of sugar,
their oxygen tanks right at the front
door of every fibril. No knock; every-
one knows who it is, what soft clock-
work brings in the groceries and sets
the table, as I, heedless, run up a hill.

Saturday, November 12, 2016


William Holbrook Beard, "The Lost Balloon,"
1882, Smithsonian American Art Museum

All the color drains out of the landscape below. Ice in
the atmosphere throws sundogs, here where the air’s
too thin to breathe. Unreal place—gunmetal shadows
and ormolu light on the fissured crust, green foothills
washed out, weak, nothing’s stored up. Our pale dead
call for warmth from their limbo in the sky, and there’s
not any, here where I sit, at 23,000 ft. and descending.

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

November 9th

Henry Lewis, "Prairie on fire," 1854-1858

Arundo donax, that invasive giant, waves
to us this morning with the wind, breathing
our breath. It’s an immigrant to the muddy
sloughs of Texas, must be split then bound
to sing Handel or Bach or Strauss: migrants
cut down, split then bound, for a European
music. Love, I’d rather the music was lost to
memory, the invaders kept intact and green
for frog-song and bird-song, but it’s late for
that wish: all our wetlands burning, all songs
turning to ashes. Only after our heartache’s
planted will cracked mud smile a new reed.

Thursday, November 03, 2016


Nickay3111, "Lincoln City Tidepools, Oregon," 2014

I crouch down at the edge of the brine-bower,
hold still as I can, watch as those small jeweled
things go about their business. I’m ignorant of
their names, how their lives entwine, although
the shape of their scour is familiar. But it’s no
fugitive tinaja, eggs locked up tight til the rains
come. This is where moon and sun swell every
belly, pull tangleweed and sea lettuce into the
hole where crabs no bigger than my thumbnail
gather for salad and sex. At this far edge of the
West, the pulse beneath my skin is also a tide;
here, where Poseidon-by-other-names watches
his billion sea-foam children, and watches me.

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.

Friday, September 30, 2016


Juan Sánchez Cotán, "Still Life with Game Fowl,
Vegetables and Fruits
," 1602

I’ll sit and wait for a while, dark sliver of a moon
overhead, a shadow on shadow, a fermata. I’m
at an impasse, the land tilting up ever so slightly,
just enough to wear me down, and I cannot hold
on to myself. Can’t hold, so I’m falling. Full stop.

There is a castle in Granada, Bibataubín: it hasn’t
a hold, or keep. Near it, a rondilla from Cervantes,
where shady folk would cut a purse, where honest
folk would lose their compass. I’m on hold. Finally,
I put the phone back in its cradle, ending the music.

In the center of the fullness of things, an emptiness.
In the emptiness, that’s where the mystics say Love
is: a dark mirror, a new moon. Only I’m not able to
attend, to pass through the gateless gate: too full of
words, of this sadness, altogether too heavy to hold.

Thursday, September 29, 2016


"In 1985, a man pulled out a knife in the State Hermitage
Museum in St Petersburg and thrust it in Danaë's lower belly.
He then threw a litre of sulphuric acid over the painting"
"Art attack: defaced artworks from Rothko to Leonardo -
in pictures
," The Guardian, 2012, photo by A. Demianchuk

Rembrandt van Rijn, "Danaë," c. 1636,
The State Hermitage Museum

Not cold coin, wicking up the heat of her body,
but light, golden and quickening, falling on her
belly, her breasts, her hips and thighs. And oh,
that aperture through which Zeus’s light does
pass: a shape echoed by her soft lips, a gaze so
open towards divine desire outside the frame.
Even after that madman’s knife and acid bath,
Zeus’s light pours like honey over Danaë; even
after her dozen years of healing, she’s changed
but not diminished, and welcomes the god as if
it was the very first day his light surprised her.

Saturday, September 24, 2016


USDA, "Rim Fire," 2013

We’re parsing the structure of argument;
there are men wearing ties, yelling on TV,
or men wearing open-collar shirts, yelling
across the Internet, who have no need of
our thoughtfulness. Our scruples. Anger is
what they need; we refuse them, opt out
of screed, of tantrum, we must be better
than that. Those were the days when the
fires spread, forced the bears down out of
the hills, dark fur singed and spangled by
bits of glowing ash. Those were the days
when our coolly beautiful arguments, our
firebreaks, were all overrun; precious as a
child’s sketch, now forgotten, left behind
to burn in this charred, abandoned house.

Sunday, September 18, 2016


A downhill slope, and the leaf mold’s edged
in grit. But oh, the long light! Wicking up-trail,
soaking into the sand, its gold rising as I step
down to packed silt. I watch a wake roll past,
tracing its lattice of arcs on dark mud at the
river edge; it’s not far now to willow, to black
cottonwood and snowberry, the edging for a
beaten-gold path, one that might lead home.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Workout sketch 1

There’s no easy uplift; gravity pulls hard on me.
I try to rise, can’t get free of the ground; these
ridges tug at my knees, my ankles. The air, which
should be thinner, thickens, as if my breath came
through a straw, from deep within a cave. It is all
work, this. My body is the stone of Sisyphus, as
I push myself up, and up. The one thing I’ll do is
what I know how to do, to NOT STOP. At the top,
finally, muscles knotting along my ribs, sternum;
now I follow the trail widdershins, as if unwinding
myself, unwinding these years and the mountain,
until I pass a point I’ve marked for my return leg,
elevation receding like a tide, its whirlpool trail
carrying the stone of my body down, and down.

Friday, September 09, 2016


Hamon jp, "Zanskarie woman wearing a perak
(traditional headdress) composed of turquoises
," 1991

In Old French it was called Turkish stone,
a conflation of those who’d traded the
gems with the gem itself: the sky, dug by
hand in Persia. The Diné also know this
stone, how its gender’s male if bluer, or
female when more green. And there are
others still—like a checkout clerk I saw
consoling a woman who’d forgotten her
name, her money, what she was buying,
where she lived—a checkout clerk who,
in brilliant turquoise eyeshadow, told me
she wore the stone, its color to brighten
the gray sadness she saw all around her.
Who could blame her, on her feet all day
at the checkout, this infinite mother of
patience in her raiment of summer sky?

Monday, September 05, 2016


Anselm Kiefer, "Breaking of the Vessels," 1990
lead, iron, glass, copper wire, charcoal, and Aquatec;
149 in x 135 1/16 x 57 in; St. Louis Art Museum

We came to live in this small house
with our keepsakes all wrapped up
in bubbles, but I still woke to a place
strewn with glass shards—likely our
cats bumping the new reading lamp,
sending it tumbling against the floor.
The neighbors had their breakages,
too, rocks tossed through two pretty
picture windows (they said “teens,”
or pointed commentary by strangers
angry with change, at us, the world.)
The way a wedding’s sealed by the
glass broken underfoot, or a hand-
blown bottle’s cracked off the pipe
and finished on a pontil rod, it’s the
transferences that are so marked—
deliberate shatterings of the fragile
holds we have on things, each other.

Sunday, September 04, 2016


I’m as full of changes as a forest at the end
of summer, in its last sweet storing of light
for darker days to come. Me, looking up at
bright clouds through a susurration of that
living canopy, absorbing reflected sunlight
as it moves from eye to third eye, resetting
my internal clocks. And looking back down
at me, frightening but not unkind, I see the
Green Man, in his glowing-skull form, like a
medieval memento mori, Buddhist Citipati,
his gaze steady though the wind blows. We
both know a bit about change and fruition;
both move with, and cross-grained to, time.

Thursday, September 01, 2016


John James Audubon, "American Crow,"
1861, Brooklyn Museum

So I’ve come to the place where I’ll die. If
I’m lucky, this death’s as far off as the time
it will take to walk these mountains up and
down and then up again, feeling soft rains
revive me; long after I’m part of this land,
its hills, the way mycelium feathering the
underside of leaf-duff’s a part of this place,
the way the black basalt is, and those root-
hairs on all the trees whose names do still
escape me. I know this place: it’s where my
endings and beginnings live, where the story
of stories, Scheherazade’s tale, is carried off
by the black crows for whom I lay bread out
every morning, glad as we are to be so alive.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016


Dcrjsr, "A large Great Basin Bristlecone
Pinus longaeva, showing both live
and dead sections," 2010

Fast to catch aflame, and fast to burn, these hills—
and brushfire’s what will come when lightning strikes.
Ashes float on updrafts, turn to dust; still, we’ll hike.
We’ll follow creeks alongside soot-stained rills,

Lay our packs on charred briars’ brittle spikes.
There, we’ll catch a magic fish behind the gills,
feed it bread to tell our fortunes, good or ill,
in the shade of trees that split when lightning strikes.

This land’s as real as our bodies are, which means
it’s all somewhat a dream—an accident of physics,
or a poem, a summer’s fire cracking hardened seeds.
And in the ashes that we walk through, there are greens
that’d make an emerald weep—it’s our life’s matrix,
love, an unquenched fire, an evergreen joy we heed.

Saturday, August 20, 2016


Patrice Lewis, "Tarping Hay," 2010

Everything is open to the sky—the scrap-wood sheep
pen, the pitted bed of the skewbald pick-up, even the
attic (a missing patch of shingles on the roof make an
accidental skylight)—everything except for a ziggurat
of fresh bales of hay. Once scythed, each alfalfa blade
no longer changes sun and rain and earth into energy,
as free as the rhizome-born can be—now, coverture’s
applied to the hay stacks curing under tarps, the green
fuse subsumed by an agricultural marketplace's needs.

Thursday, August 18, 2016


Mary Cokenour, "Cave Rocks / Sierra La Sal / Dry Valley," 2014

The mountain reclines, propped up on an elbow of
old volcanisms, a dense slope-shouldered anticline
pressing towards the highway. But this is only one
manifestation of the Heavenly-Man-Neither-Man-
Nor-Woman, this mountain—every part’s a whole
in this place that sings itself into being through its
mineral self, its organic self. As if Adam Ha-Rishon,
my ancestor’s gigantic, all-souled embodiment of
Creation, was Walt Whitman, as if my minute self
could understand such a gift (it can’t). Still, I’ll sing
to it, within it, my thin voice scratchy as a cricket’s,
joyful for the rain in the distance, for greener land.

Sunday, August 14, 2016


Tknife, "Hike and Yucca Use," 2011

The spiny lizard lays his azure-dusted belly
on a warm sunlit spot on the yucca, scales
sharp, basking. I see his whip tail, think of
the whipstitch we'd practice, repair made
by cutting then slowly peeling that dagger-
sharp leaf tip of a yucca down, down, until
the fiber comes affixed to its needle. We’d
become cobblers, fixing a broken huarache
strap; we’d become saddlers, mending an
old cinch, making it strong enough to hold
the water we’d cache, that yucca needle-
and-thread work strengthening, fixing us.

Saturday, August 13, 2016


Alicia Martìn, "Libri Come," Auditorium Parco
Della Musica, Rome, 2012

Anansi’s fourth cousins twice removed stopped
by today when I said I had gold-inlaid tumblers
full of whiskey, and magic lanterns that cast all
the silhouettes that ever were, and a Medusa’s
coif-worth of snaking cables sliding themselves
into knots, all for them. I hired them to haul off
fragments of memory; both bent by the heat as
much as by sacks full of broken treasure, they'd
hoist themselves up to the lip of a Hell-mouth,
toss in books with broken spines, loose leaves,
dog-ears. I gave them all my whiskey, and the
right fat coin for each ferryman, and got a gift:
I could almost see and nearly hear my husband’s
mother and daddy, so missed, gone far past that
horizon they'd lately sailed, both telling me it’d
be all right, even if I had no magic coins to bring
them back to this place full of apples, our home.

Saturday, August 06, 2016


Jstuby, "Vernal pool at the top of
Enchanted Rock, Texas
," 1998

We’re nothing but, and nothing if not,
bounded. Skin touch air, bee on petal,
a water strider riding surface tension—
we delineate self through a land of this
not that, edges so important some get
their own names: the vermilion border,
an ecotone, a scarp. It’s summer on the
Llano Uplift, and sweat stings my eyes,
blurs every bit of borderland. The hard
shapes the hawk sees soften, become
permeable, interpenetrate—lost in an
edgeless place, I forget all my names.

Tuesday, August 02, 2016


Grief surprised me today, leaking from some old
failing seam deep underground.
I saw low clouds
scudding by this morning, their 30° angle lift same
as in every August past, the same as when I came
here, the very same as when Peter left for good. I
sometimes feel like my heart’ll break from nothing
but the sight of white clouds in a white sky, tilted
so uniformly as to be a sign, one as unreadable as
the words piled up inside me. If good’s what I was
left for, then I’ll have none of it.
For good, all these
leavings and stayings, permanent as any recurring
dream. For good, these loves, this grief—and me,
all choked up, unable to weep. I look at the sky, at
the signal clouds of August, as they wave goodbye.

Saturday, July 30, 2016


Marcel Karssies, "Mayfly (Ephemera danica, V)," 2004

Mass hatchings, then later a cloud of sparking
consciousness of a sort—drives in overdrive,
mating in flight, Ophelia-like death scenes for
females floating downstream, wings picked off
by fish; the males, crawling off to die. Nymph,
subimago, imago, then start the dance again.
We image-making apes see ourselves in their
translations enough to make them metaphor,
but if we’ll just take a moment (short or long
as one single mayfly’s imago life) to listen, we
can hear the very sound our universe makes as
it yawns and stretches, expanding into its day,
humming its red-shift tune, conjuring mayflies.

Sunday, July 24, 2016


NASA, ESA/Hubble and the Hubble Heritage Team,
"The Eagle Nebula’s Pillars of Creation," 2015

Messier was spare in naming—16 on his list of
“things not to be confused with comets.” I find
M16 elegant, deadpan, a relief from the over-
heated tales implicit in other, later naming: the
Snow Queen Cluster, the Eagle Nebula. (For all
that, M16 sits within Serpens Cauda, the tail of
the cosmic snake—another story, in two parts.)
But if you could pull its light down and down to
your waiting eye, or float up and up to les seize,
you’d witness the birth of stars, chemistry and
physics clasping and unclasping, the starlit past
made as present as our rapt attention will allow.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016


H. Pellikka, "A multi-colored view
of a kaleidoscope," 2005

Yes, there’s more than one, like right when
we’ve been carried downstream in a flood,
or when a pigeon careens into the window
next to my desk at work, leaving a smudge
on the glass. After I stop typing this poem,
before you start reading it, let’s step back,
watch the pointillism of those moments all
resolving into a fictional whole. Let’s shake
and turn the kaleidoscope, love, its changes
so like reality playing beautiful tricks on us—
in a sandpaper rustle of drifting glass beads,
our hands shift mirrors, and fix geometries.

Sunday, July 17, 2016


Ramdas Ware, "Garden"

The sky’s bleached from the heat; its radiance melts
asphalt, making licorice ridges where the curb joins
the edge of the road. The earth’s dipped a shoulder
towards the star that keeps her in its thrall, and it’s
the season when we small children clinging atop her
broad curve will burn. A million million times we’ve
tugged on her, tantruming red-faced: “give me! give
me!” and she’s indulged us, bringing clover to bloom
in spring rain, letting us suck nectar from its florets.
We forget how our tarry gravel roads make her itch,
and the same shoulder tilted towards the sun could
shrug us off, our bones calcined to feed her flowers.

Thursday, July 14, 2016


BlueRidgeKitties, "Corn Sections," 2010

“[Beauty] is the obverse of longing’s coin.”
—Chris Clarke, “Beauty,” 2008

Diné sing “in beauty may we walk,” hózhóogo
naanéidaał doo
, yet I sit still. Longing asks for
stillness; a planchet of self held fixed, steady
so the die can strike. We bear its impression,
a numismatic sidedness—heads gold as corn
pollen, tails dusty as red clay, reeded edges a
boundary, a proof against debasement. I toss
it high, this freshly minted sun, an abstraction
of the worth of a scrubland moonrise, a kiss.

Sunday, July 10, 2016


"Half length formal portrait of 'Uncle Moreau'
[Omar ibn Said]
," ca. 1850

“Areas of a photo where information is lost due to
extreme darkness are described as ‘crushed blacks.’”

I focus on things falling apart: oxidation making rusted
lace of the side of a scraped auto, a soft pentimenti of
painted ads on brickwork. My depth of field is shallow;
I know my limitations, know I can’t catch a panorama,
it’s beyond me and these tools. And yet, I will get close
enough, hold still long enough to see what others don’t.
A world waits to be seen, up close. Even in the absence
of light, there’s detail that reveals something about us.
The deepest dark, the place where information’s lost, is
named—as if for the Middle Passage—“crushed blacks,”
but that misses the truth seen in portrait after portrait:
“crushed blacks” are radiant within all those portrayed.

Saturday, July 09, 2016


"Portrait of an African Slave Woman,"
attributed to Annibale Carracci, fragment
of a larger painting, ca. 1580s

The darkest part of the shadow cast by a
celestial body, and a root for umber, the
color of earth, of melanin-blessed skin. A
blessing, I call this, despite how we curse
it in each other or ourselves. Without the
cooling shade, we’d burn. Without earth-
dark pigment, we’d have no ground for a
painting; Carracci knew this in his bones.
So I’ll plant myself in darkness—spotted
as a trout bean, pale as a moon—hoping
to grow strong enough to see my shadow
when it occludes what’s otherwise clear:
a shared reflection in an obsidian mirror.

Wednesday, July 06, 2016


Julie Hughes, "Old Bungalow," 2014

Remnants of a lost language grace the front door, all
Greek to our bungalow, whose stick-figure translation
of an ancient temple entrance frames a way in—not
to Old World gods, but to New World aspirations. Its
proportions are square as a shaped-note sing. Vestigial
columns thin as saplings, Homeric hymns lathed down
to American vernacular, it is a Sacred Harp architecture
as plain-spoken as its pagan ancestors were eloquent.

Tuesday, July 05, 2016


"The Sears Roebuck House in Urbanna, Virginia," 2010

Every house I saw had them. An upright plane dividing
the world from an interior; threshold where entry, exit
are the only options left. One house hid windfall apples
behind its back; another led me to full-on pareidolia as
it made faces at parents trundling babies by, at an older
woman in an outfit color-coordinated to match her dog.
There are places behind places here. Drapes get jerked
back, leaving a window wide-eyed in surprise. I stand in
one screened doorway, straddle a worn metal sill—this
is the permeable membrane through which we open or
close, turn past into present. This is the reason I smile.

Sunday, July 03, 2016


Chocolatemedia, "Looking Back on History," 2012

The surface may be smooth-laid, or toad-skinned from a
mineral bloom, but that's not what most interests me—
I need to see the space held within the embrace of walls
and floor and ceiling. It's the interior where we live, the
interior where we feel protected. Despite my craving to
be outside what's enclosed, even I hunt for a warren, an
invisible place where, unnoticed, I can hide in plain sight.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016


Dbachman, "Nebra sky disk," 2006

I give. Not up, not in, just out. It is transitory,
this out-giving, like the life of the body, spent
until I’m broke on complex exchanges of what
matters—hope, love, the Krebs cycle, fuel for
my mitochondria, desire, oxidation. My coach
calls this “working to failure;” a holy weakness
that presages strength, a wildfire scorching to
sow. I call it a day, pull the emptied sun down
with me to a hollow where we both will sleep.