Wednesday, December 27, 2017


Edward Hopper, "Rooms by the Sea," 1951

I’m right there, right here, where that white paint
chalks a bit on my hand. Tear-stains at the hinges,
from rust, I think—or maybe other pentimenti. (The
wind catches on the doorframe, whistles the same
tuneless way we’d whistle when we walked through
the graveyard past our house.) Its wooden joins, all
held together by layers and layers of paint, all ready
to disarticulate—the way a deer’s skeleton may fall
to pieces after the flesh has gone away. It’s been so
long since the doorframe was protection from much
of anything. All it can do is point out there once was
a difference between outside, and in. And I’m outside,
remembering pencil marks made on the doorframe
inside, as we grew. Remembering who made them.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017


Howard Kopp, "Three Sisters and Fog," 2017

There’s none, here where my bare hand brushes
the hot skillet handle. Only for a second. The lag
time almost countable (“one thun-der, two thun-
der”) and a lightning reflex jerks me back—then
the boom of pain. In the background, some joke
half-heard through my angry “FUCK,” then mild
concern raised, a question in the air, which dies
down once it’s clear this is a minor injury. O this
body, love, is fading into the background.
is a dense fog in the valley near the Sisters. We’ll
climb, my singed hand marked by soot from the
wildfires, until (like my burn) there’s nothing left
to see but our shadows disappearing, sfumato.

Monday, December 25, 2017


Juncos emboss the soft ice-crust beneath the feeder
with their footfall. It’d be wrong to read their marks
as runes, but (since I’ll make meaning from the most
unlikely things—someone else’s cast-off grocery list,
vanadium, my scarred skin, a toy dinosaur) I try, and
fail. The juncos step lightly—much more lightly than
these words piling up at my fingertips; in the time it
takes me to fail, they’ve come, and written, and gone.

Sunday, December 17, 2017


Unknown photographer, "A beach scene," 2017

At the corners of my eyes, tear
stains dry to sand and grit. I walk
along tide-pools as a shorebird,
in my dreams; I wade through a
slow-moving estuary, picking at
clams buried in silt mud. I wake
and knuckle the crumbs of sleep
away until I’m rubbed raw, my
own tears stinging me. When I
was a child, rheumy-eyed old
women would try to hold me—
great-grandmothers and other
kin—and I shied away. Why was
their skin all bristled and bumpy,
why were they so wet-eyed? No,
I did not want them to kiss me.
Clear-eyed, unknowing, I’d run
off down the edge of the shore,
run past the lace edge of the sea,
chasing the sandpipers as I ran.

Friday, December 15, 2017


A little bird tsk-tsk’d me as I stood
up, four small stones in hand, near
dad’s gravesite. So few Jews here
in the memorial park—he would
like knowing we’d observed some
of the rituals, like placing stones on
his marker in remembrance, one
for each of us. Me. My brothers.
Mom. Every marker alike and not,
bronze (such an old, well-travelled
metal, wandering past Anatolia to
this New World desert), wording
raised up the way hope no longer
was. The bird flitted mesquite to
mesquite, chipping little sounds in
the air. And I bent down, touched
the dry spiral of a seed pod, traced
its curves—then took it with me.

Monday, December 04, 2017


Illustration to Tennyson's "Sleeping Beauty" by W. E. F. Britten, 1901

I wasn’t patient enough to dig beneath
each long aorta of taproot, work them
free. (All five roses: mystery grafts on
knobbled, half-rotten rootstock, thorns
set sharp as fairytale briars to bleed the
unwary; primary roots fathoms deep in
mantle, lateral roots like capillary beds
filled with worms.) Yes, I apologized for
severing what I couldn’t uproot, and the
roses were kind, didn’t prick me even as
I cut them, pried them out, lifted them
into the air, moved them to more light.