Studies in form.

Now it’s a cocoon. Now a moth. Now it’s something else. What is that thing?

Now it’s beautiful. Now it can kill. Now it’s pure passion. Now it’s a study in precision, one-part formal event, another part emotive creature. Fluid and gorgeous, then stoically opaque.

It is delicate, backbreaking work. Now innocent, now disturbing. This heavy love.


Inspired by this interview with Kathy Butterly, which is my introduction to the sculptor’s work.


Humming it close.

There was a river in the hymns that the grandmas kept under their breath. It wound across the landscape and in and out of alleyways and dark rooms, poised to wash a crossing body of its fears. Dip a hand in as often as you like, one told us, it will be a new river every time. They hummed it over dishes, over laundry, in the car, when looking past the window, unable to speak.


And the rest of us.

There is no resolution, is there? So much is lost in the archive, and what isn’t––of memory, and the rest of us––isn’t mild. Our warped genesis, we tried to keep it in the basement and when the floods started coming, we watched our photos. How they bounced in the underground lake, above the sediments of our boxed secrets, those dreams of all we might yet be. 

Here is our foundation: sacrifice, or accident? The awe of it.

Mama. How are you breathing now? Someone said of your lungs, that it doesn’t look––still, I think of your waves. How we would throw ourselves into you to feel the rush of you tossing us back. Sometimes you would hold us in place for the space of the next breath we expected to take, so that we might know something. I’m still trying to know it. It has to do with fragility and strength, play and death, love, and the depths of some wounds. As if you are saying, feel this: all of me shifting with each pulse and the only one holding is you.

The floods keep coming. Still, we collect. A song starts and catches in the back of the throat. Wade in––

And, Then

Light in broken glass.

During the crisis, we rehearsed everything we knew, sending ambiguous signs and vague symbols––an ongoing SOS maybe, to some beyond––and watched the play of light, how it obscured the boundaries between surface and space. Which were we, anyway?

It rained and the bombing continued and so did the ads for flawless skin in seconds and the promise of a good night’s sleep, an end to mildew, air fryers. The campaigns were one-note, not unlike the bombs; some spoke of distraction, but who had the time? The babies were needing. The list was endless. It was never done. There were only so many of us, to hold them. 

Horizons blurred, then sharpened. We looked and gave up looking. The crisis would splash across our faces. We stopped sometimes to wash them, turning away from it, sometimes into each another, and everyone had a story of a sighting, the something they would never forget. Bodies looked for somewhere to rest. Where? we asked each other. When?

Which is to say, I cannot remember where the bits went in the last blast, or what they were. I don’t remember what or if I was holding at the time, only that I felt it fly from me, scattering in every direction. 

It wasn’t a sign or a symbol. I retrace my steps, rehearse everything. But it won’t take. Someone calls, help me. I almost recognize the voice.

Untitled Chorus

Notes from the days of wind.

In a season when the atmospheric pressures seemed to be in more dramatic flux than any of us could remember, herds of winds would gallop across the ceiling, rattling the furniture. It was the babies I listened for. Everyone was going around shaking their heads. These kids, they said.

There was a painter I loved. He knew how to look when he was painting. When he stopped was where the trouble started. Amid the noisy striving and the sales pitches, the ideologues and the masses of our families clamoring to avoid being ditched with the rest of the wreckage of the hour, it seemed like the babies––so quiet, some worried, is anyone there? ––might be waiting for someone to finally get around to mentioning this other thing. The painter dared to depict it. He didn’t call it anything, and some called it dangerously close to Nothing, but anyone looking to see it could tell you that what it evoked was the opposite of nothing.

It was a verge, and he was pulling the center to the edge of where the babies would sit, unsure whether or how they will stand. He wouldn’t live to see them.

In the season of high winds, the babies cocooned themselves in blankets of ambient noise. Those who thought of silences as nothing more than the punctuation between events, and not the main event, did not know what to make of whatever those babies were doing inside those cocoons. 

They never seem to be listening, many remarked. But watch. Relax your eyes. It’s like one of those magic eye paintings where the apparent forms are only a pretext.  See the weight of noise that has been heaped on them since birth. It becomes hard not to suspect that they have found some other way to manage what is pulsing nearby, while appearing not to listen at all, like the artist who pretends to paint nothing.

Wait, someone said eventually, of these paintings. I see it. The painter didn’t make it in the end, but the works became chapels unto themselves. The works were gathered in a chapel. The babies would show up, alone and in pairs, looking. They would seem to care nothing for what they saw.

Many of these wouldn’t make it, either. But some would. And when they waited in the chapel long enough to hear something other than wind, they would notice a sound more sonorous than their most immersive dream. Eventually, they would know it knew them. That it had waited as they had, for this time. They would sing.

Anyway, Love

While we are here.

No, there isn’t a map, but you’ve heard this before. That isn’t what you’re after, is it? When you speak of what you never knew.

So much is obscured by the fog of empire. Maybe if it blew into the thin air of the last mountaintop at the exact moment of your arrival, still living, at its narrow peak––then you’d be able to see your way down. But maybe not.

Fair enough. How much blood in the veins of the earth, gathered from these wrecks and battles across time? The waste of it we call history and imagine this a map to what we used to be, that the discovery of this might involve some ancient key, glowing like the last fifteen minutes of a quest film, to lead us forward from our stadium seats, into the light.

But I don’t know, except for being here in the dirt, with clouds all week, and now mud from the rains, and here comes the wind again and those questions about what it might blow away or into us. I am here with these others; we’re tethered for now, and so there’s nowhere to go, is there, if they are here, too? Nowhere better but the staying while they are here, too, even as most of them are strangers by official standards. For which I have little use.

This morning, I was reading the words of five poets I’ve only ever known by the flesh of their words, and I knew I loved them for the way each sang of someday, when I learn to love––


Inspired when I chanced upon this Dean Rader poem, which echoes poems by Nâzim HikmetRoger ReevesOcean Vuong, and Frank O’Hara. What a stunning chorus across time.


Happily after us.

 . . . And then one day we were empty, depleted of selves, and when this happened, at first it was quiet all around, all of us stunned by the sudden vanishing of familiar noise. 

Then came laughter. The babies started it. They seemed thrilled to find us suddenly without filters. Like them, we couldn’t help ourselves. It was hilarious. We went on for a long time.

We made a mess of our faces, a mess of our forums. The rooms exploded with an extravagance of sudden joy, and all decorum shattered at our feet. Leaking from our eyes, it washed us.

We looked around and we saw one another. The babies knew us.


From the floating world.

Paper or stone; water or fire? When in doubt, we played tic-tac-toe and hoped for the best. We were in love with broken things: hiccupping wheels, chipped teacups, the wings of fallen sparrows and the lines of our own teeth. Here it comes, we would announce, pulling the next one loose. You wanted a cast so people could lean in and leave their names.

Empty rooms were magnificent halls to be witnessed from a corner on the bare floor. It was the light that did it, granting some significance to everything it touched. We watched it come and go. It moved like it knew its way around, like it knew us.


Inspired when I chanced upon this image from Barbara Bloom’s Pictures from the Floating World.

What are the Chances

Of seeing any.

Chance is a lot more patient than most people think. Take this one, for example. She waits by his bed where he complains he is often awake, worrying she’ll never come again. But every time she shows up, there he is, snoring. He wakes on occasion, to cry about his misfortune. She waits, listening. She’s not one to speak right away, and by the time she does, he’s unconscious again. He sleeps and she turns out the light before leaving. In the morning he’ll decide it’s too bad that he missed those chances from another time, crying about how they never visit anymore.

In the Mesh

A visitor to the abstractionists.

There was a visitor. The visitor had some questions but didn’t give a name. 

The visitor inquired. Let me ask you this: why did you bother with a trip to the moon if all you found were pleasant pictures to remind you back to the optimism of the intellect that got you here?

Writing in light is a matter of stage management, the visitor told us. And it’s worth asking how you got from the beginning word to this endless buffet of utopian manifestos made manifest by your co-opting of the lens. 

We didn’t know what to say. There’s a start, the visitor nodded. Try abandoning confidence.

One of us moved to speak.

Shh, the visitor said. Look around. Consider, for example, this net of records. You keep trying to close it, to capture its contents. But it will not be closed, and you are in it. Debt, in the end, will have no satisfaction.

The visitor was silent, then. One among us asked, what are you thinking?


Nothing? we pressed.

Here’s a cipher: zero. Without it, no algorithm: 00101001 . . ., and so on. You were so excited when you made that a starting point, for calculating the value of a loaf of bread against the cost of making it, the weight of fish against the trouble of going out; the power of, say, the atom bomb. But as the net only grows more intricate, cutting blood off at the wrists, are you any closer to seeing, as you say, The Big Picture

Abstraction always does this, and only the abstractionists have the stolen luxury of negating particulars. This junco, this scarred back, these soiled diapers, this afternoon, that baby’s pink sock in the middle of the road. Even subtle omissions in the particulars of birdsong make it impossible for one to be recognized as a member of its own kind.

So, we asked the visitor. Um, how are you, anyway?

Great. Fine. Take your pick among the abstractions you prefer. Each is a substitute for the here before you, a zero to add to or take from. 

An old saying: the devil in the details. As if to negate the trope of the killer in disguise.

But where does the time go? As it runs through your splayed fingers and you still forget to drink, too distracted by your reflecting pool of questions of who you are and the meaning of it all and the big nothings of what now and when, forgetting the bodies right here––one, and one, and one––preferring the salvation of nowhere.

We wanted the visitor to elaborate, but the visitor turned, saying someone needs to check the buds, the eggs, the dishes and the tiny nests, and the waters, while you orbit around your zeroes and keep on deciding there are not enough fish.