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.