First Lessons

In patience.

The terms were clear, however coded. With a blanket of leaves wet beneath us, our mother sang our waiting still––with the marten nearby, and the woodrat.

And in the blanket of leaves wet beneath us when they moved the call was clear––hers and the owl’s. With the martens nearby, the woodrat knew, as we did, to resist the ways some others moved. 

The call was clear and liquid in the moonlight, and the others moving would blame the daughters for waiting in the leaves, as we did––to resist speaking, until it was time.

An Assembly

An opening behind closed doors.

Some of the patients were irritated. Some were tired of being told––what was a mind problem, a body problem––when experience suggested nothing less than a revolution of mindbodyflesh. Some began to reject various boundaries, and when invited in, walked out; when expelled, remained. 

And what is the subject here? one asked. 

Obviously, the object, said another. 

A third objected.

It is somewhat of an exercise, one of these continued, this habit of trying to observe myself with my own eyes while my own eyes are unwell, and yet. If disease is a theory to explain illness, and illness is unchecked growth, the attempt certainly raised interesting questions, didn’t it? About the assumed hierarchy of growth over––say, loss.

Of course it did! Many agreed, and it was confirmed by official decree that the bulk of the assembled were unwell. This was old news. The patients gave a collective shrug.

Looking out the window one night, one had some additional questions. To no one in particular, they inquired: Can you read this hand? How about those skies, or that owl over there, for anything but weather? Without making any one of us a specimen? 

It was not immediately clear if anyone heard. The night continued. Later, the owl made a sound. It was like cooing and not unlike song.

To the Next Attempt

Experiments in style.

Reconstruct. The world is shaped by art. Also, by protest. Challenge the world, the art, the protest. One artist, revealing her best kept secret, confessed I have none. When it comes to the crisis of creating anything, style attempts to negotiate some resolution. Even so, the thing is perpetually unsolved. One devises systems based in numbers, another according to stars, another traces bodily systems, weather patterns. Others make their own instruments, new forms; move the frame, alter the angle, change the lens. Apply the medium upside-down. Apply the medium while suspended from the ceiling. Apply the feet to handheld instruments, lend the ear to color, taste the next note.

Yes, but to what end?

To not ending.


Budding notes.

Who is the creature in this jungle of words, coiling from crown to neck, vining spirals across the chest, tight against breath, against pivot of hips and swing of the leg into step? Bound like this, there is nothing to do but wait, bouncing toes until they rest, splayed flat in damp earth until whatever holds me here starts pulling. If this were a poem, it would end the way other things end, with flowers. 

The Science of Keeping

What holds, what resists.

Anyone can be an expert, when keeping is the point. All it takes is rejection of a sense of the disaster of being full up, and a guiding hand to fear how the space of its reach might indicate some lack––of anything but the capacity to Figure it Out. 

By the science of keeping, one can make lists and keep intentions. Retention’s methods always have some Master eager to Proclaim the next Solution to loss. To capture a place, there are itineraries, photos, souvenirs, but none so lasting as a scar.

The body, in the end, can only hold a record of its wounds. It returns the bones and teeth to the earth or the next collector. In the end, it can only offer what flies from it, which is a concept the experts have yet to explain.


Inspired by Elizabeth Bishop’s One Art. Playing with the negative image.

What Resists

Instruments for fluid forms.

When the source of the moment is the vessel and not the stream, and the tool at hand is a knife and not a cup, it’s so difficult to harvest anything. All I wanted was a coherent paragraph, some excerpt to offer a guest. But I’m all vessel today, and have perhaps absorbed too much, and attempts to slice water are studies in futility. 

I will say this, though. It is frustrating insofar as I continue trying to cut anything. Abandoning this, the continued movement of the knife becomes a way to trace the resistance of fluid. My cutting impulse begins to still, and what replaces it is something else. Whatever it is, it won’t be named. 

I think of the wonder on an infant’s face when she first discovers the resistance of the surface of water. The slapping and splashing that follows, cooing between laughs. Over and again, she brings it down to feel what pushes back, as the echo of her laugh reverberates into any nearby vessel, shaking all that is barely held, now spilling again.  

Animal Vegetable

Faces seen and unseen.

Was it Kafka who said that we are most human when admittedly animals? I can’t remember. The elephant would.  We give each other pet names and share our own names, homes, and fashion motifs with pets.  We are much less willing to engage with our vegetable sides. 

The snap pea is probably great company, and no doubt leeks have dimension. When it comes to tubers, I can only imagine. Perhaps we have a hard time opening conversations with the ones whose faces are not––well, faces; whose beings are arranged in ways we can less readily recognize from mirrors and photo albums.

Maybe it intimidates us to interact on a conversational level with living forms that will not run, fly, or swim from us, who can’t make us heroes for luring them to our realms. Maybe we don’t know how to open conversations that don’t begin with a chase. These vegetables, they just show up––or don’t, allowing or resisting growth, harvest, cultivation. We can’t always find the narrative line of their movements, and it perplexes us. 

Or maybe we don’t like to entertain the possibility of admitting when we are only seeds or going out of season; ripe for harvest or willing to be met by moles. The cat offers an easy meme and endless punchlines, and most of her jokes are on me. If this is any model, it’s likely the vegetables are doing something similar. From a plastic bag on the counter, the armed potatoes wave. 

Repair Work

Best done in darkness.

Considering the challenge of writing among the dead; the fabrics connecting blood and screens to war machines, it can be helpful to keep attention in the unlit regions. This is why I prefer the dark corners, the spaces where all I can do with language is acknowledge its opacity, and all I can do with looking is notice the limits of sight. So much of what passes for light is blinding. I am suspicious of acts of solving and fixing, when applied to the living. I can’t fix anything, have no solutions, and prefer not to be distracted from the living by any more offers from those that claim they do. Leave me to the tender work of mending instead.