A Thousand Faces

The distance between action and call.

I can be mother, too! he offered, thinking of cameos and not the tedium of tending. 

But I can weave! He insisted, stomping the last of the grass. 

What about fire? I can make it! But there was no wood. 

A sacrament, then, anything but penance! 

Purification sounded lofty, so long as the means was anything but silence. 

A song! ––His chest swelled to the imaginary chorus. But she had given those already, to deaf ears. 

I will dance you to the moon! But her feet were bruised from carrying his weight. 

He claimed to want a friend, some unifying vision. At last he arrived, the ever-faithful witness to the glory of his own reflection, and its deep pools went on and on.

The Residents

Between shores.

In here, the past is paper fragments. We gather them up and try to remember. One sings. The song happens in the middle of a room. The occupants of the room are engaged in various tasks. The tune is off, the phrasing disjointed. No one minds. 

In here, only new arrivals worry about death. We all did, says a veteran resident. But you get over it. How? We want to know. The resident explains how something breaks. It’s like a levee and you let it because it won’t be stopped. The flow is too fast and the volume too high.

Besides, the resident adds, you can floatBesides, the resident adds. You’ll land somewhere. Eventually. Now, we let it take us when it comes. We float in this narrow strait, washing between shores according to the tides. Paper is gone now, but songs pass through, sometimes.

The Good Hero

A triumph of confidence.

Over time, people brought their pleas to the hero–––and more than a few grave concerns. 

Is there a problem with appearances? The hero wanted to know. 

Well, no. Not exactly, the people had to admit, unless you considered the way that these so often seemed distracting to the hero. No, they tried to explain­­–––delicately, of course, to protect the hero’s sense of himself–––it was more about nuts. They were tired of eating what was casually tossed from the high stage. Sometimes they longed for something prepared, nourishing. It was about bolts too, how everywhere you looked they needed tightening, and the people were feeling anxious with a sense that the fortress, shiny as it was, did not seem structurally sound. 

The hero, long practiced in the art of turning deaf ears, heard nothing of significance in these concerns, and was immensely pleased. All really was good, after all. As he had been saying all along, except during moments of panic when his cape was noticeably rumpled. He checked the cape. It was smooth and would flow nicely in the wind, especially at entrances and exits. 

All good, he said, and the triumph was one of confidence if not substance. But confidence and an iron were all you needed to wear your cape well, especially when it had been the people’s gift. 

How to Do it All

Everywhere. All at once.

Select a large fish with many bones,
and sturdy shoes. Arch support is key.
Fasten the wings so the clasp is tight
and do not modify with glue. Even if
it seems like a good idea at the time.
Remove the lug nuts, affirm intentions
in the mirror, look both ways. Remember
to fasten the lid and check that the needle
is sharp. Remember the eye of the needle
and hold your hands like this. Be sure
your feet are facing and your head, like
this. Mind the gap. Beat well. Always
preheat. Cover with a damp cloth, pay
careful attention to the edges. Wait
ten seconds before you speak, look
both ways. Never forget.

Studio Visit

The apprentice has questions.

The young artist came to learn. She was mainly concerned with the question of how anyone does it all, especially when there weren’t even enough words. The sculptor knew you could use nail polish to patch a glaze, so there was something. Then the sculptor asked about lunch. The young artist was relieved. Here, too, were meals, and these, at least, she knew. So perhaps there was hope.


Inspired by a tidbit from Michelle Millar Fisher’s BOMB interview with Jennifer Ling Datchuk. 

The Latecomers

To memory’s watch.

Time was not the grace we had expected, but groping and atonal. In its presence, we barely knew ourselves. We’d see the photos later like, yes, but where was I? Memory moved to answer, but spoke only the language of missing parts, and we were not reaching for those, exactly. We held our hands just in front of our hips as we walked, fingers cupped as though holding the faces we missed.


At a cliff.

Say it’s a last day. Say the seagull knows. Say this is the explanation for that seeming pointed look where it stops just now on this eye-level post. There are these urgent clouds at the horizon, the edge of a tongue frayed toward song. Bodies inflected against the tide. To be washed, a quiet instrument waiting. If our dead watch, let someone play me now. That I may praise it, too.

If this is History

A record of intentions.

Then let it be known that the bleeding bodies of our words went first. Once emptied they could be sharpened to capital letters and fired toward certain ends. The first layer of a portrait is wet on wet, a luminosity that won’t come again. Point being, let this not be a likeness, but more.

When everyone had waved goodbye and the cars between us hummed a question of what might be saved, there came a flame at the end of the sharpened tip of a sawed limb, and we could touch but not taste it. We meant to leave the known world, but it chased us, yipping at heels.

We meant to tap the skies until from somewhere behind their altitudes we heard the click of a door about to give.

What Flies in Sleep

From cliffs of fall.

A question for the father, of forgiveness
and fear, content as any eye that knows
it cannot see, invents an answer, always
yes, we will find the gate and it will be
unbolted. Don’t worry, once the bug
is dead you can do no harm, so let
the finale let the lamp come and beam.
It was not night reminding of burials.
It wasn’t the veil or the dress but
the body inside, revealing itself
after removal to be an animated


Inspired by a line from Gerald Manley Hopkins.


Driving home.

Grit over teeth, ash of last trees on concrete and I remember shade, limbs reaching and how the reach itself was still good and the want had yet to creep its vining hold and too far was still an abstract. It’s all moon tonight, all tides, and I’m reminded back to your last question, the one about where I went. The way I am still there but not with an answer. It’s a big yellow face, less definition than some and yet the humor of it shines through, demanding at least a wry twist of the lips even at this edge. Hello, Moon, and Goodnight and Good Luck and when my daughter was born the nurse said, she can smell you better than she sees.