Tuesday, November 24, 2020

Stillness (A cadralor)

I mistook it for a leaf, at first. Why else was it
on the ground, pale and still. Of course I came
closer, my eyes trying to sort what my mind
couldn’t quite, that this was not a leaf, it was
a goldfinch, so delicate, no sign of why it died.

When William Blake wrote “Energy is Eternal Delight”
he had the devil speak the statement. (Would he claim
other angels called stillness delight? I’d never studied
Blake the way you did, dear. All I knew was Blake, the
bravura craftsman, danced backwards on copperplate.)

The stillness of the body of the beloved, who
was once my husband. I needed to witness it, to
speak to it, his body an unravelling, no longer in
consonance with our life. We knew it would come,
the tsunami, the waves draining ahead of death.

I don’t cry much. Unless I see another’s tears
mine rarely come. My mourning wraps itself in
stillness. No pla├▒ideras need be hired—let us
sit together, let those leaves fall for a shroud,
for every wild thing that falls dead mid-breath.

Our mother star has broken through clouds, its
radiance caught by my upturned face as if I were
a sunflower. It dazzles me. All joy that was, has
been doubled, tripled, washing over me, leaving
me breathless, motionless, for a moment I’m still
in your arms. This love, as profligate as fireweed.

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Golden (A cadralor)

Julian Paren, "Chanterelle mushrooms
in Rheindown Wood

Drifts of fallen elm leaves swept
up and hidden in a bin, leaching
summer light. I spilled them out,
piled the gold to make a winter’s
bed for shadbush and twinberry.

The Scythians knew the bride-price it’d take
to gain a princess. Among their gifts—a pair
of gryphons in hammered repouss├ę, ready
to seize the light with their golden claws. Did
they prick her skin when she first wore them?

The well is deep. The water’s dark. The
coin I toss to wish upon—the sun, and I
follow it down. The only way to rise and
float is to empty my pockets, but I can’t;
fingers much too numb to grasp for gold.

Love is the thing without tarnish. No, that’s
not true, love is the thing that’s ductile. Ah
no, try again, love is the thing that’s nothing
like gold? Yes, better, but still not true. Love
is what’s left, after the riffling sluice is done.

Oh, beloved, I’d lace up my boots and lace
my fingers in yours, walk beneath the fir and
the hemlock, walk into the shadows to lose
our way, to find it again lit by the light of our
kisses, by the light of golden chanterelles.


To learn more about the new poetic form, the cadralor, see Gleam.

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Inheritance (A cadralor)

David J. Stang, "Piper auratum," 2007

The ends of my fingers smell like clay
and hoja santa. It’s leftovers for supper
after digging in the dirt, the grit between
my teeth extra spice for the mole verde.
My mood? Nixtamal blue, bitter, alkaline.

I’m trapped, I’m free, I’m old and dying, a shock
to myself, someone’s baby left to freeze on a hill.
See those bones bent at the edge of the woods,
a soul dowsing for a womb. The fall wind stutters,
turns itself inside out for me, then scours me pink.

Radio sending me the right beat for a slow
shuffle, a gliding two-step around the living
room and I start to dance but it’s just me, so
I stop. When did I last dance with my fingers
laced through a stranger’s belt loops, formal
yet intimate, wheeling, an orrery in sawdust?

Nostalgias seize me the way demons seized
St. Anthony, lifting me up into the thin cold air.
(Schongauer, through Michelangelo, and both
so removed from my particular conceits. Could
they have even imagined a creature like me?)

My father, driving me to ceramics class when I was
eight, listening to the radio, forgetting for a moment
I was there. He sang along to “The First Time Ever
I Saw Your Face,” transported by some longing that
embarrassed me to hear it; that longing’s mine, now.

Monday, October 19, 2020

Elegy (A cadralor)

Osiris and Maat, Louvre Museum, photograph by Rama

A thready pulse; the silken blue line
beneath the skin of your wrist telling
us your heart is unravelling. How is it
that we can’t thread this needle? The
vein on the back of your hand shuts
its eyes every time we try. The gown,
unholy, scant cover for the ceremony.

Tuning the guitar to open G, getting it just
so. I hear your ghost shimmering through
overtones rising off the soundboard, dust
rising off the neck; I saw how it broke your
heart to no longer have the strength to try.
Did you know I did it for your smile, all my
practice and play? Gone now, the crown of
callus on my fingertips, it’s been that long.

A coffee cup, full of DnD dice. Also in the cup: two
pair of scissors; two hand-blown perfume bottles no
bigger than my thumb, one broken. O undrinkable
memory, to find me so parched my lips can’t mouth
a blessing, afraid as I am to try my luck, to cut the
blossom from its branch, fill what’s fragile with joy.

Your practice, those occult beliefs, kept you scrying
the flame of your life, writing and reading sigils as
if a surety, a bond for meaning. Yet when it all went
south, dear, you had me and my love, enough to trim
your nails, check for open sores on your feet; even
unstrung, you sang to me, instar to eclose to instar.

The direct path isn’t for me. It’s the detour, the bend
in the road I long for, but now I need to bring back a
tale beyond my horizon. I find a ball of red string that’s
infinitely long, tie an end to the First Tree and set off.
How else could I find my way back, past the bend in
an aorta, a thready pulse, the scars upon our hearts?


To learn more about the new poetic form, the cadralor, see Gleam.

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Ink (A cadralor, for Caitlin G.)

Wellcome Collection, "A crow is standing
on the handle of a large pitcher in front of
a well; illustration of a fable by J. Ogilby"

Bottled shadows, the inverse of
the droplets of liquid mercury I’d
play with when I was a child: wet,
welling up like tears as my crow-
quill pierced the surface tension.

Incomplete instructions for making
a silverpoint drawing. Rabbit-skin
glue needs a little grit, it’s the tooth
that bites off the silver. An invisible
ink, no truth shown until the tarnish.

The well’s broken, we don’t know why. Sent
a camera to snake down the hole, pass its
signal up, ghostly as a sonogram: a hex nut
has stripped off, jammed the pump. We call
a machinist. His nails, black as new moons.

On the floor and flat on my belly, propped up on my
elbows, watching Ko-Ko climb out of the inkwell. The
old TV screen shiny as my five-year-old’s delight in
those adventures I’d have, if I didn’t have to go home;
years later, the sad nostalgia of Ko-Ko on tattoo flash.

Another home: I learned when
northern cardinals flashed red
through live-oak, you’d make a
wish. Here, it’s ink-black crows
who make a wish, on seeing me.

Wednesday, October 07, 2020

Flicker (A cadralor)

Greg Schechter, "Northern Flicker, Red-Shafted," 2010

The call—squeezing plosives through
shafted light—repeats. I tilt my head
to fix the source, perhaps to see the
bird, but there’s no bird, just the call.
Is this a song with no singer? What is
it, that cleaves the air and my heart?

Taking my loneliness out for a walk, I stopped by a
movie theater, a seedy old revival house, where the
matinee was a double feature: “Popeye” and “Shaft.”
The line went around the block. I paid my five dollars,
sat among fierce joy-filled children hollering for their
heroes as the baddies were beat down. The cheering
in the flickering light, when we still believed in justice.

The limb that split off the apple tree the week
after we bought the cottage. Where it cracked
wasn’t a clean wound. Now half-healed, half-
rotten; worse, a water sprout thick as another
trunk’s behind the break, an imbalancing act
near a row of Os augured by downies. Flecked
shadows; perforations tell the wind, “Tear here.”

I walked and walked, far from where I lived.
It was twilight in that city, I was night-blind
at the bottom of those steep sooty canyons.
The deserts I’d known weren’t as arid as my
hope for joy, there. Waiting for rain, for tears.

The first bird I knew, here, was a surprise out
on my brother’s balcony. An awkward landing
seen out of the corner of my eye as we were
talking. Spots! And gray, and a flash of color
when it wheeled over the railing, falling into the
sky. Red-shafted, my brother said; I thought it
a miracle, to be so beautiful and so common.

Saturday, October 03, 2020

Bookmarked (A cadralor)

Chris English, "Auburn, CA: Hummingbird in
Lewis Mock Orange Shrub, May 2009

I ripped them out, root and stem, the mock
oranges that never bloomed. Tapping on
their canes, a hollow sound like a chime
made of bones. Too close to the foundation
of the cottage for the light to reach them, too
close to a time when I didn’t know their name.

Every breath shared, as I open a window to
the day, though there’s woodsmoke on the air.
The snake plant says it will pierce the air for me,
and it does. The clearing fog, lifting; light falling,
playing mumblety-peg with the dagger of a leaf.

Who gave me the gray-green jasper I dug out of
the flower-bed? Whose mouth did I kiss to tongue
the stone, taste the clay? Who was it, pica-kissing
the dirt under my nails, sucking my fingers clean?
I dreamt I’d mislaid myself, woke in a muddy bed.

Some old wives’ tale retold to its roots, when the bone
meal for planting roses began as blood sacrifice—as I
remake garden beds, digging through worms and clay,
I find a coccyx under an old white rose, shank bones
under a sword fern; porous, rusted from the iron seep.

At your touch, memories stir and rise, dust motes from
places in me I’d long forgotten—the sweetness of maple
sugar on my lips, the vanillin lignin smell of pages from
a long-awaited book I opened, as you open me; oh place
your mark, love, hold where we stop for now to start again
later; let’s not forget how our bones will feed the flowers.




To learn more about the new poetic form, the cadralor, see Gleam.

Sunday, September 13, 2020


The stories spin, warp and weft through
holes in a tablet, in my memory, others’
fingers spelling ram’s-horn patterns, the
horn a reminder of the communal breath
we no longer share. Tell me a story about
a weaver, I asked the wind. “Only that a
spider dropped its thread, too heavy with
ash to sieve for flies.” This fire season, I
see hummingbirds rising like sparks, their
nests dusted with soot from those webs.

Friday, September 04, 2020


Lead Mines, Clough, Rivington UK,
Gary Gray, Date Unknown

The excavation’s long since stalled
out. Digging the sough, I mean. “To
mine the lead, we need to draw the
water table down, to draw the water
down we need to dig, but the picks
were left behind, were lost, and so
am I.”
There’s a shallow ditch, or the
shape left behind where you fell. Oh.
Oh. This geology, these mines, clay
under my fingernails that smells like
the last kiss I gave you—atop your
head as you dozed at the computer,
blue-gray light from the screen like
a caul, wrapping us both. But I left
the room to go to bed, and you, my
dear, fell, then crawled, then left,
and still I can’t drain this sough.

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.