Wednesday, March 30, 2016


The intermediate stage between here and there is still
here. In fact, it’s all here—we’re all here, all us travelers
crackling with the stored static electricity of our stories,
like Leyden jars in transit. We’re just passing through, I
tell myself, but that’s small comfort when I’m amped up
as I am, needing to earth the stories, to ground myself.
I’m no theologian, god knows, but passing through this
bardo (the Bardo of Airports) reminds me of every other
waiting room, train station, bus stop, unskillful detour—
having not yet arrived where we’re going, we stick to a
seat, a carpet. With luck, our fingers’ll find ways to shock
us out of dozing, into a semblance of something awake.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016


Modified image by Tika.Market, "Dusty Bottled trees," 2012

Jugband physics, this: what’s open and empty turns a breath
to song, the way wind fills the many mouths of a bottle tree,
or fills empty beer cans rolling down the block with wheezy
harmonics. In that same way I sing loud and off-key in the car
when alone: I’m drained but not crushed, and the motion of
even one cloud above me is enough to lift me, fill me like an
accordion until I exhale some lyric that hollows me out even
more. Oh toss the empties in the back, let’s keep on singing!

Sunday, March 27, 2016


Sold by Peter Szuhay, "Glass Cameo Ring
of Morpheus
," c. 1800

The demiurge wants to pull tight on the leash, jerking
us up and out of our dreams: no time for foolishness,
it growls, you’d best believe this world’s a very serious
place, and what did I give you consciousness for, if not
to fret? Call me ungrateful, but subaltern creators are
no use to me. I prefer a mystery to what’s spelled out,
animals before Adam named them, and I tell that to a
god clad in a loud houndstooth coat, holding his bone
and horn box of dreams. He’ll help us slip the leash if I
promise to pay, and I do. The houndstooth god waits
on me to bring him honey (this poem, perhaps) from a
sleeping hive where bees hum and murmur, dream of
nectar from pale Nicotiana, white Cestrum nocturnum.

Saturday, March 26, 2016


Kai Yan, Joseph Wong, "Jasminum Polyanthum," 2011

There was no sense of self at mile 3—just breath,
and cadence, and wordless conversation between
the hips and spine regarding dance. A few spiders
raveling the lake’s edge, catching nothing save for
cast shadows and drops of sweat. Salvia, punching
red holes in the budding green. A body, this body
spelling “go!” in branched-chain letters, chemical
phonemes, until a fugitive sweetness—jasmine?—
jacks the motor chain, slows it with each in-breath,
until a self can be assembled to memorize a scent.

Friday, March 25, 2016


Rosso Fiorentino, “Portrait of Giovinetto," c. 1528

If Diaghilev had seen him, he might have thrown
Nijinsky over, overnight. Two years out of beauty
school, long copper hair woven in a thick French
braid, shampooing the clients out and wiping off
stray bits of dye with a washcloth, just the way a
cat licks her kittens clean. His name? “Adam.” He
told me how much he liked wearing his hair long.
I see, I said, my gaze skimming from his flattened
aquiline nose to celadon eyes—Asiatic, feline, an
ensorcelled prince from a forgotten Russian fairy-
tale. To explain away my inability to look away, I
should have said I was an artist; he reminded me
of Fiorentino’s “Giovinetto.” But my discomfort at
stopping, trying not to stare, wasn’t his. His slight
smile back took my look at face value, for what it
was: an homage, a clumsy worship of male grace.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016


Armin Vit, from "Dark and Fleshy: The Color
of Top Grossing Movies
," 2004

It’s for all the world as if we took a sharpened hoe
to a milk snake, mistaking it for its venomous near-
twin and, undoing what ordinary miracles made
it whole, left it disassembled, bleeding, in pieces.
For all the world. How have we so broken, forked
a path in no direction other than towards chaos,
tohu wa bohu, pelting pell-mell into the darkest
places we can find? No. Not all darkness. Today I
saw something glittering on the basement floor:
a rhinestone or a diamond, catching what light it
could, unfolding it, tossing it back to dry my tears.
That flickering transparent spectra, no bigger than
a cigarette ash, staining the dim concrete with joy.

Sunday, March 20, 2016


Mwanner, "Pine Meadow Lake
in Harriman State Park
," 2005

A child would wrinkle her nose, so squeamish and
sad for the worm she had fed to the hook, but her
grandma would be matter-of-fact: “Darling, that’s
how to catch a fish.” It was like that with us, long
ago. We clambered into an old blue rowboat, feet
wet from the saggy dock and the boat’s slow leak,
pulled up its rusting coffee-can anchor, commenced
to paddle. The oarlocks were stiff as my grandma’s
fingers in the early morning, but all workable enough
once moving. Edging the lakeshore, we raised oars
and drifted. “Feed the line out so the bobber moves
away—good girl! Keep your eye on it. When it dips,
tug back to set the hook—I’ll help.” I caught an old
soda bottle, then a clump of waterweed, and when I
reeled them in and found no fish and needed to put
a fresh worm on the hook, I’d tear up. My grandma
caught two perch, olivine as lake water, mottled gold,
before I saw the bobber dunk beneath a ripple then
rise. I tugged—a tug back! The line zipped off the
reel until I heard, “Gently, gently…now pull it back.”
Grandma helped. Something small and shining swam
near—a sunfish, iridescent, sunrise-bellied, flashing
its gills in a panic as it was caught. We put beauty in
the bucket with the fading perch; grandma gutted
them later that day, and I burnt my tongue from the
heat of sadness and pride that seasoned my dinner.

Friday, March 18, 2016


Bernardino de Sahagún, "La Historia Universal de las Cosas
de Nueva España," aka "The Florentine Codex," 1577

Nahua people call it “skunk sweat,” epazōtl
at a good taqueria you may find it in chilaquiles,
but you’ll taste it for sure in beans. If Pythagoras
had known about epazote, he’d have understood
that adding it to the beanpot was a way to ensure
any transiting soul who’d stowed away in a legume
would transmigrate before consumption, at the first
creosote-tarragon breath. Poor Pythagoras only knew
Old World beans. New World legumes, tendrils all coiled
and overwinding the maize, hadn’t yet crossed the sea to
bean-shy Pythagoreans who’d never imagined Nahua souls.

Thursday, March 17, 2016


Zhao Pei Chun, "Chinese doctor feeling the pulse
of a patient
," Wellcome Images

The resting heart is what we must listen for, if
we wish to understand the body. We can listen
with our ears, our fingers, to the resting heart’s
tidal ebb and flow through the skin at our wrist
or throat, and mark it. But that’s not enough to
learn what it’s saying. We must hush and listen
close at the same time over time, the tidal rush
being a live thing in itself, needing daily tending.
By touch, with attention, the resting heart will
spell and number the body’s story—if staccato,
pulse busily scouring out the body’s tide-pools;
if a slow even tempo, pulse gently tugging the
worn self back together—found, and recovered.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

On the verge

Jerzy Opioła, "Oenothera macrocarpa," 2005

Oenothera scattered in St. Augustine: little
sunlit pools shining pistil and stamen at the
pollinators. A sweat bee, wearing such bright
green kandy metallic as was never seen in a
paint and body shop, flashes close by anthers,
dusting itself down to a powdery matte finish.
I play balance beam on the curb, pretending
I’m in the circus, trying to not crush stolons as
they reach past concrete towards asphalt; I’m
drunk on early spring, thinking of you, happy
to lose my footing more than once or twice.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016


Things in this mirror may appear closer than they
really are, the way what we’ve left behind often
does. A slough; a canebrake; shell roads. A sump;
failing plane trees; glass encrusted alleys. Looking
back across those deltas—differences más o meno
a lifetime, rounding errors a few moments or an
age—questions arise with no scaffold of words.
Faint music; a wind soughing beneath a bridge; all
the creeks braiding into rivers. Set the chain, and
I’ll pull the come-along tighter. Ratchet by ratchet,
let’s see if we can draw those far mountains close.

Monday, March 14, 2016


"Newly pollarded willows on Canal Side,"
copyright David Lally and licensed for reuse under
this Creative Commons Licence

They’ll do it to crape myrtles, sometimes even
to pear trees and oaks, taking the long shears,
lopping off all new growth down to the knuckle.
It almost always is a mistake. It reminds me of
foot binding, "refining" nature by forcing what’s
natural to some geometer’s shape, a distortion
of beauty so terrible that it makes me helpless
with rage. Today, though, I saw a new sadness: a
gardener, himself pollarded, flooded by whiskey
and his own salt tears and choking on them both.
This is why we crack open; we can’t fit ourselves
within the crude shape of these rough prunings.

Sunday, March 13, 2016


It’s midday: spiderweb snares have long been
broken by careless dogs or startled bikers. The
dew’s all gone, having vanished in an inhalation
of clouds. Young bathers pick their way across
gravel and slickrock, tender-footing it, laughing
when one of their own missteps and yelps. It’s
a long time since I’ve been here, in this palace
of memory. The mirror in the creek is cloudy,
hedging its bets, knowing I’ll ask after you. It’s
cagey today, singing only about light and oak
leaves, about small hatchlings no bigger than
my pinky nail. It shares no stories for me about
things we knew when you were alive. And yet:
it knows new stories, it says, tumbling in deep
aquifers, and those stories bear my name too.

Saturday, March 12, 2016


"Bees," De proprietatibus rerum
(BNF Fr. 136, fol. 16), c. 1445-1450

Before man-made hives framed easy access
for the curious eye, there were woven skeps,
braided and buzzing as a medieval bride on
her way, swarm in tow, to be wed. Archaic,
yes, but we love old tools, their pleasures of
weight and balance in our hands, touching us
back as if they were alive, honing our senses;
the sweet shaved-wood scent of a gardener’s
trug, the bittersweet metallic unctuousness
of machinist’s oil, slick on our fingers. Twenty
beekeepers clothed in white, walking down a
country road: have they learned the smoky,
honeyed love that weaving and filling a skep
can teach, or are their hives all panopticons?

Tuesday, March 08, 2016

Bound / Unbound

Hiroko Lancour, "Chance Operations: Enso," 2014

1. Jump
To leap is to commit: hours of drill, of gathering speed,
accelerating, one-two-THREE-and-POP. You don’t fly off
the ground without jettisoning thought, without letting
your body think for you. A penultimate step; sink down,
elastic, all bound up and coiled; then you rise, unbound.

2. Drive
We’ll light out at first light for second chances like these.
I can feel my shoulders loosen and drop with each mile
gone; can you? The road hum: drummer’s brushes on a
snare, our conversation scatting over that rhythm. Even
silence makes an open empty music, where we’re bound.

3. Rest
Asleep and dreaming, I hold the ends of a rope, one in my
right hand, one in my left, making and unmaking a lover’s
knot by way of practice. The rope, now a snake twining its
caduceus, sticks its forked tongue out at me, slowly winks.
Years later I awaken, find my books have come unbound.

Saturday, March 05, 2016

Field event

It’s like this: your sons and daughters, immune to
their own beauty, ask me to bless their weapons
before stepping into the arena. Or, maybe, it’s
something else entirely: an archipelago of stories
strung together along meridians invisible to me,
current flowing electric in the interstices between
each awkward, graceful island. All I know is what
I saw: a young titan, hoisting a rusting world over-
head while other young gods laughed and mocked;
an olive-skinned Radha, emboldened by her gopis
to go and fetch the sun, toss it back into the sky.

Friday, March 04, 2016

Ghost Light

Louis Heon, "Sentinelle de théâtre," 2012

The old music falls away, and the lights don’t
come up—they dim. The rope that holds the
counterweight to tiers of crushed red velvet
curtains frays, worrying as it does against a
roughened spot on the tie-down. There’s no
one on the catwalk to change night into day,
blue gel for gold. The actors—were there ever
any actors? I can’t remember. And without
cue cards or whispered prompts, all that’s
left for me to do is to stand and wait quietly
in the thin wavering moonbeam of a ghost
light, hoping some passer-by will tug the stage
door open and help me find my way outside.

Tuesday, March 01, 2016


Billy Hathorn, "Walnut Springs Park, Seguin, TX," 2013

The weight of the container itself should be
considered. If this were a sonnet rather than
its thin ghost, a tare scale would feel the form
press down as heavily as if I’d put a thumb on
the pan. But the container here is light, its line
breaks untied, ragged; the poem evaporates a
bit while I try to get an accurate read. It makes
shifts in tare inevitable, makes it impossible to
get any reliable measure. But that’s fine—the
mockingbird's a featherweight tare compared
to the weight of its song pressing on my heart;
the sedge around a stock pond is a tare of no
account compared to those carp swirling gold
in its cloudy water, a pirate’s treasure drifting
Brownian above the soft mud. No adjustments
will be made to our tare scale; this light, those
fish, that birdsong, can’t be contained, in fact.