Monday, February 29, 2016


Blanka, "Lavender and Bee"

Lavender proves out, branching between limestone in a
vein of silver leaflets and acanthite colored buds, waiting
for bees to refine it. Sunlight on a bent stem where some
traveler brushed by: I muddle a leaf between my thumbs
and breathe in. Herbaceous, alloyed with caliche, the coin
of scent I’ll finger all morning on this overgrown path; not
a coin we’d place on the eyes of the beloved dead to keep
them from seeing, but the one we’d drop in a fountain to
pay for our wishes. That’s the coin I toss, spinning up and
out of my hands, through the air, past this poem, to you.

Sunday, February 28, 2016


Leaflet, "Mass Waste Palo Duro 2002"

Sometimes “out” means “in,” as in
when I say “I’m going out” but I’m
really going deep into these strata.
No, I’m not a fan of caving—those
dark ammoniac places where every
skittering is magnified sideways in
white wild eyes, nervous laughter.
Give me an opening, places whose
layers are sheared off—scree, talus
massed below every new rockfall—
that’s where I’m going, where the
cuts are fresh and where what’s laid
bare’s laid close enough to us to see.

Saturday, February 27, 2016


That serpentine curve of the little blue heron’s
neck, stalking its prey: was that what I saw this
morning? No, I think I saw necessity turned to
beauty as it filtered through me. I am nothing
if not a transformation machine, turning coffee
into distance, changing a small hungry bird into
a chemical dance, into an imperfect memory of
something whole. From my point of view, we’re
reeling from the shock of it—radiant light, gravel
underfoot, the chill air morphing into the steam
of an exhaled breath—the shock of it all so very
overwhelming, we have to turn a blind eye just
to walk through the sunrise and out into the day.

Friday, February 26, 2016


Artist Unknown, "The Gopis Plead with Krishna
to Return Their Clothing
," The Metropolitan
Museum of Art

Long ago, I wrote a poem about your blue-
black skin; in it, your back was crosshatched
with scars, as if you’d been beaten, whipped
until half-dead, dying. That was ages, eons
before I knew your name, before I knew my
name, before pale laughing milkmaids told
stories about that time you hid their clothes
as they swam in the river. Now that we know
each other in most all our disguises, take joy
in each other’s unbroken dance, those scars
have become a calligraphy, something I can
read you by with my fingertips, with my heart—
even in the dark, an illuminated manuscript.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016


“The Blessingway [Hózhójí] holds historical
precedence over all of the other chants, being
given to the Earth Surface People shortly after
the Emergence into this world.”
From Hanksville and Karen Strom

Tonight, we sang like coyotes until the small
dog sang with us. “I have come upon it, I have
come upon a blessing,” say the singers.
night, jokes and stories told about your father,
by your father through you, about a cat and a
medicine show. “People, my relatives, I have
come upon blessing,” say the singers.
We smile
together when the small dog smiles. Before us
is blessing, behind us is blessing, above us, all
around us, as we howl and laugh, the 12 word
song is filled in with pollen, and crushed petals,
and cornmeal, singing blessingway through us.

Sunday, February 21, 2016


Brocken Inaglory, "Reflection in a
soap bubble
," 2007

I voice these words here with the same
breath that fogs the mirror, the breath
that fills soap bubbles. How long might
these bubbles fly? Far longer than I will.
I’ve seen that stream of bubbles blown
by me, when I was a child, soar past my
sight; they must have carried my breath
in their iridescent bellies across oceans,
coming to rest in the frost of the Arctic,
breaking upon touching rime. I breathe
these words through a loop that shapes
them no less than the wand we dipped
in soapy water when we were children—
wand & loop, embouchure disembodied
into thought, into memories. It’s a small
circle through which my breath passes,
here; I read aloud what I write, making
sure it sings. But that loop’s enough to
hold the liquid that wraps these words,
spoken or unvoiced, and send them on.

Saturday, February 20, 2016


MoRDi CuaC, "Amethyst geode in the parent rock," 2003

Emptying comes first, leaving a husk around
a center that’s leached out. Was it buried in
mud, a lava flow? Staying buried for so long,
what was emptied now begins to be infilled,
slowly, with beauty. So too with us. Scuffed,
roughened, nothing left on the inside except
a thin layer of self, after ages forgotten. And
then a gift: an osmosis from what seems like
nothing percolates through what’s left, lays
down amethyst or chalcedony, geometries
all perfect, inward, metaphysical; as geodes
hide gems until broken open, so too do we.

Friday, February 19, 2016


A simurgh flies over a princess on a throne,
artist unknown, San Diego Museum of Art

The upright feather waits for the dark heart to be
placed in the bright pan, waits for a finger of truth
(pointing, veering) to assess which side outweighs
the other. A dog-faced god sees to the procedure.
The lion-headed goddess fidgets, waiting to see if
she’ll get to devour the soul of the heavy-hearted.

Somehow I found myself in that place, this theater,
not sure whether I’m a witness to or the subject of
today’s weighing-in. No matter. A nod of respect to
the divinities, their roles: then I pull a scarlet velvet
cape out of thin air, snap it like a gym towel, swirl it
around my shoulders. This goes unremarked by all.

I fish a peacock feather out from a secret side pocket,
hoisting it high overhead, yelling “GERONIMO!” and
“COME AND TAKE IT!” Anubis slips a sidelong glance
at me as the pans sway up and down: the seesaw of
immortal life, or the end of a soul. Ammit growls low
at me. I wave the peacock feather like a semaphore,

a marshall on the ground guiding through approach
something very much larger than the ancients here.
That something lifts the spangled bowl of heaven up,
up, high enough so when I jump on the scale pans to
springboard upward, the peacock feather becomes a
simurgh, clasping me lightly in its talons: we're away.

Monday, February 15, 2016


Chris, Untitled, 2014

Was it real? That bird, it passed
right in front of me—deep blue,
too big to be a bunting, I’m sure,
not a jay (no crest no white flash.)
Seeing is not believing, seeing as
how no one else saw it, and I’m
no birder. But: blue as a twilit sky,
sidelong gold-flecked glance then
pulling, pulling long deep shadows
behind, across the creek to home.

Sunday, February 14, 2016


Dag Terje Filip Endresen, "Entrance
to the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, seen
the day after its opening," 2008

Between waking and sleeping, I float in some
indeterminate place, catch glimpses of myself
through dream-crusted eyes; find myself there
in the Bardo of Napping as the ghosts of cold
milk, warm cookies whisper, “Lie down, hush,
go to sleep now.” It seems I’ve caught a cold.
I sneeze in triplicate until I’m elsewhere, visit
unfinished landscapes where scrubby low trees
smell like sarsaparilla and the flowers bleed red.
There, I’m riding a seed that’s hoisted by ants
who pass me from one to another, myrmechorial
dancers sending me and theirs on towards the
cache: a new Bardo, the Bardo of Seed-Banks.
Sleeping again, waking again, unsure if I’m in
loamy tunnels or in my own bed until tossed
out; falling out of that dream, I place one bare
foot, then the other, on the floor. Loose seeds
roll beneath my feet, all just aching to sprout.


USDA NRCS South Dakota, "Final Carrot
Harvest in South Dakota High Tunnel
," 2013

I’ve heard what’s pulled from a winter garden is
sweeter after the frost. Not always true for what
grows above ground—tender things get nipped,
may die. But for those that root underground—
parsnips, celeriac, carrots all come to mind—the
chill hand reaching beneath their compost blanket
brings a gift of transmutation: starches to sugars,
from what’s been stored to what’s been set free.

Saturday, February 13, 2016


John Fowler, "In Little Death Hollow Canyon," 2015

It’s just that this poem, these words, my
alphabets, are forgeries. The provenance
smells right—redolent of crushed gravel,
resin and eye-sting of cedar pollen, dried
mud—but they’re intended to fool us into
feeling what’s not there, lead us to believe
(myself most of all) in this edited world.
Any real thing is unfixable, evanescent, if
it’s real at all; what I share’s a simulacrum.

And yet, and yet, there’s something else
here: an indelible ink, passed from mouth
to mouth, hand to hand, flashflood washing
down through this dry slot canyon, up then
splashing over my poor thin fakery, making
it as real as any world that holds us both.


It was clear and shining, even at half a football field away.
The radiance surrounded those two young women, one
dark, one pale—Rose Red and Snow White with cropped
hair—and it drew my heart to theirs. My friend nudged
me, so we slowed as we approached them, seeing and
understanding without being told what had happened—
we’d witnessed a betrothal. “She said YES!” beamed the
blonde, while her darker lover, with the blank shy smile
of someone dazed by their own life, showed us the ring.
My friend offered to take their photo; fumbling for the
phone, the fair-haired one handed it to us, stepped back,
and, snug alongside her fiancée, she faced her witnesses,
faced the morning, faced their unwritten story to come.

Friday, February 12, 2016


Dan Slee, "Child walking alone on a beach," 2010

I remember walking along Virginia Beach
under a low gray sky, feeling loneliness as
vividly as only a child can feel it—piercing,
long as the shore, empty as the wet sand
where I walked. I’m sure my family must
have been close by, somewhere. I’m sure
it was only a passing moment. Still, here I
am, brave woman stronger than the child
I was could have imagined, and loneliness
still circles me, makes me call my invisible
friends by name: “Oh come visit, and stay.”


Salsola tragus, Forest & Kim Starr
via Wikimedia Commons

Just the one: not a saltimbanque family
like Picasso portrayed; neither an animal
nor mineral, but isolated, vegetable. You
go rounding off down the road, diaspore
with a thousand fingers all splayed open,
then spring back from asphalt over and
over, spilling propagule after each roll.
Gymnast weed, o brittle wanderer from
the steppes, you snuck in cross-border,
pile up along fence-lines; every cowboy
from Tin Pan Alley sings your name, but
none know your empty heart like I do.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016


Penzai on a mural in the Tang Dynasty
tomb of Prince Li Xian, 706 CE

“The first highly prized trees are believed to have been collected in
the wild and were full of twists, knots, and deformities. These were
seen as sacred, of no practical profane value for timber or other
ordinary purpose.” - From the Wikipedia entry on penzai

At first, what was sought looked like what we are: bent concisions
formed naturally, a graceful response to unnatural stresses. Later,
artifice and craft took matters in hand and applied their snip-shears
to the very root of things. That’s why, wearing night to hide myself,
I broke into the nursery where all penzai are formed, stole one or a
hundred, climbed up past clouds to the ash-laden soil on the side of
a mountain. That’s where, wearing a waterfall disguise, I wheedled
the crescent moon down to help me dig holes in the dirt, replanting
each damaged tree in its own cast shadow, to grow as it would. For
a day or an age we’ll hide in that new-old forest, spinning my thefts
into raveling yarns of the sacred, the impractical, the heroic; collect
and recollect one another, confessing to no crime at all.

Tuesday, February 09, 2016


Brocken Inaglory, "Fossils in a beach wall," 2007

Like a beach wall that’s sun-struck, then chilled, then
baked by the sun again, I’m spalling. All my memories –
(sedimentary, additive, a soft entombment of all those
drifting everythings that slowly settled to the bottom
of my evaporating seas) – are flaking off, and I split as
if struck by a hammer, crack along fissures too fine to
be seen by any eye. I forget my name (it’s on the tip
of my tongue), forget how to listen to the collective
that makes a self, the commensality that binds itself
together by chemical whisperings and handfastings.
And yet, even without listeners or listenings left, at
the long blank broken facings of amnesia, something
new pushes up in the interstices: something like love.

Saturday, February 06, 2016


David Clarke, "Blow," 2014, pewter and spoons

As if it were an outstretched arm & cupped
hand, made fine as any by Hilliard: carved
rock crystal, gold shaped to bear an unborn
sea to pale lips. That faint sound, the rustle
and shush of watered silk; and fainter, still,
under Argentan lace, a whispering pulse at
the wrist of the hand that holds the spoon.

So delicate, this coral tree grafted on a stalk
of shell-pearl white as shaved ice! Beading
sweat jewels the skin while women “naked
in different postures, some in conversation
others drinking Coffee or sherbet” wait for
the same slaves who brought them şerbet
spoons to weave ribbons through their hair.

Twelve apostles plus Christ, hammered out
of silver not nail-iron, forged as a set for the
child-to-be-immersed. These are now hidden
in a drawer, set in rows on rag paper, loosely
covered with a white cloth: a winding shroud
to preserve them from the rot of time, from
the degradation of touch on saint or spoon.

We two, who feed ourselves with art, lick it
in all its forms from a single source of joy like
sticky children sucking the sweetness from a
snow cone, staining fingers, lips, tongues—
we, too, carve ourselves into the necessary
shapes to dig a little deeper into that dish;
are cast, molten, into the forms of spoons.

Tuesday, February 02, 2016


"Heart and its blood vessels," by Leonardo da Vinci

“…when the young woman, the sorceress, took in hand
some of the tarn water and spake over it words not to be
understood, the fishes lifted their heads and stood up
on the instant like men…”

From “The Book of the Thousand and One Nights,”
Richard F. Burton

Yes, cupped hands can make a sort of sieve, but
it’s my heart that’s a perfect fit for this oracle: it
takes both the sieve and the shears to spell out
hidden things in this way. I run on through early
dim light, feeling not seeing, atria emptying and
valves snipping shut—cut the stream, reopen for
the fill, syncopation pushing blood through the
mesh of my lungs. There are words I speak over
my jackhammering heart, this sieve and shears,
words not to be understood, not even by myself;
and when I speak them, the oracle tells me all the
names of what had been hidden inside my pulse.