Space Dragons

Findings in the field.

I’m telling you; it looks like a burned tree it’s so big. Taller than either of us. Tell me, what is something like this doing on a sheep farm? I’m calling all over, but you wouldn’t believe––

I know it. Had one on my land too, a few months back. Turns out it’s just part of a Dragon.

You know, you’ve been out here awhile. I know how things can get sometimes with no one to talk to. You sure you’re feeling alright? Maybe you should think about––

Space dragon. You know. One of those rich boy rockets.

Oh. He named it space dragon?

Just dragon. Space dragon is my distinction.

Well. How many more dragon parts do we suppose are going to be dropping out of the sky?

This makes three I know about, so far. So, it’s anybody’s guess.

So, are they coming to get it?

I don’t doubt they’ll want it. But seeing as it landed in my field, I said they can decide what its worth to them and make me an offer.

What did they say?

Said they’d get back to me. Next I heard, they were giving a press conference about the next launch.

More dragons?

We can only imagine.

***

Inspired by this New York Times article about debris from the Space X program landing on an Australian sheep farm. The debris is believed to be one of several Dragon spacecraft used during a mission to the International Space Station in May of last year.

Reef Bodies

Underwater museums.

See the reef people, bodies given over to coral, algae, seagrasses, sheltering conch, crustaceans: boy with a face in his hands, man with a head of branches; history’s dead and the severed heads of oracles, waiting rebukes to the next sales pitch that begins with a story of progress unlimited. 

See the men with manes of seagrass, the ships for swimming through, the work of a lifetime to be schooled by fish.

After twenty centuries of stony sleep, what rough beast, its hour come at last, slouches to the shore to be reborn?

***

Inspired by the underwater sculptures of Jason deCaires Taylor. The italicized phrase in the final lines comes from “The Second Coming” by William Butler Yeats.

Aging Architecture

Bodies in time.

Like fabric in the hand, another remnant of memory is collected in an aftermath. We must have fed the flames that burned the bones of the old present when we danced its wild beat. 

Now it’s possible to wonder if the point of storing so much water in living flesh is to embody this reverberation after the music stops. Or to cool against the fire, but that doesn’t explain this tendency for conduction, not to mention what happens when lightning strikes. 

Probably the added volume simply makes us more suitable replacement frames, upon which these scraps of former seasons may be more elaborately draped.

Imagined Invitations

From the congregation of stones.

Against the disposable, away from the technofix, certain questions emerge. They are about relearning our being in the world. I heard these from a scientist poet, although she didn’t call herself this. Asked to describe her work, she said listening. She said delight. She called it the work of waiting.

For what, I wondered. She said, consider the reverence of the speechless stone. What would they ask of us, she wondered back, that would allow our admission into their holy communion, and how would we hear them? Perhaps by these skeletons, our marrow singing like well-tuned bowls. 

Nothing is single here, she said, and nothing goes one way. I want to wait with her, to learn the reverence of these silent-seeming stones, until their language hymns my bones.

***

Inspired by, and with borrowed phrases and images from Ursula K. Leguin’s Keynote address, “Deep in Admiration,” from Anthropocene: Arts of Living on a Damaged Planet, from the Humanities Institute at UC Santa Cruz, a gem curated by David Naimon in the beautiful ecosystem he’s created around his Between the Covers podcast.

Recent Findings

I once was lost, but now this.

From time to time, when feeling vaguely haunted by a general sense of loss, it can be useful to turn to the oracles of online message boards for reminders of the abundance that has recently been found. For instance, a small but costly kite has been discovered in an ice plant container, along with some keys at the ledge of the walkway near the dog park. Someone walking along Chollas Creek recently came upon a skateboard, and a foray into the Costco business center led one unsuspecting traveler to discover the proverbial box of money. 

It’s not just the bounty of these findings that’s worth noting, but the fact that person after person is going out of their way––after work, traffic, everyday aches and pains, in between nagging health concerns, personal grievances, and untold losses of their own–– to locate the rightful owner and return the treasure, resisting the age-old maxim of finders keepers.

I won’t comment on the sensitive nature of the personal items the dog keeps finding in the marsh, but there is reason to believe that they will be returned without any questions asked about how exactly they got in there. True, there is still no sign of the teeth that were left in a Skittles bag on a picnic table in Oak Park, but there is no shortage of found kittens ready to soothe the toothless without judgement. We are all on the lookout for the lost parts of ourselves, and what are we here for, anyway, if not to be ever returning them to one another?

***

I have an odd fondness for taking inspiration from Craigslist ads. Although I have never actually used them to locate any goods, services, or people, I take great delight in reading them. 

Moment of Silence

Weighing in.

One option, when it comes to dealing with confusion is: promise, announce, proclaim, blame. Another, offering less up front, commands infinitely more. Observing a full spectrum of unknowns, this one points silently with the gaze, to offer no defense. Defenseless, the humble observer can only sway, moving steadily into an unnamed dance. No one teaches its choreography because there is nothing to teach, and no one ever comes running to learn how to wait. 

The Form is Not

Urgently seeking answers.

Are you there? I need to know what happened.

Sure. It started with a long walk and a begging bowl. Then it was time to sit.

I have some questions.

Who doesn’t? For answers, consider impermanence, inevitable extinction.

Yes, got it! To everything there is a season. A time to––

But don’t hold onto the idea, or any other. No more T-shirts or bumper stickers, okay?

Right. I’ll try to focus on action. How do I give?

Without counting.

What about appearances?

What about them?

Never mind. Let’s get to the real teaching. I’m ready.

What you learn isn’t supposed to be a trophy, but a raft.

Okay. Let’s talk fortune.

Give it away. What did I just tell you?

Right, right. Okay, what about this stream? How do I enter?

What stream?

Um, like the path––you know, the levels?

Forget about those.

You say that a lot. What should I remember?

Only teach.

But I don’t know anything!

There you go.

But seriously. I can’t even control my mind yet.

Hah! Which one? The past, the present, or the future? None of them are made for holding.

[sigh] 

Can you just give me some answer?

Fine. But I’m about to lose service here. The reception in these mountains is terrible.  Ready?

Yes!

It’s–––

Hello? Hello?

***

This morning, I learned that on this day in the year 868, a copy of the Diamond Sutra was printed in China, making it the oldest known printed book. Prior to this, the teachings had long been conveyed orally. Naturally, I got to imagining an attempt to convey urgent teachings orally via cellphone. I have spotty service at home and pretty good service in most other places, so many of my conversations have at least a few moments where one or the other party is saying, “Are you there?” or “Wait a minute, I’m walking outside. I might lose you.” I consulted Burton Watson’s translation here.

The Span of a Body

Developments in architecture.

There is a floating bridge. It is made of cardboard, carried by balloons. After a few days, it will fall back from the sky, landing somewhere other than the place from which it left. It will be taken apart, piece by piece.

In an alternative scene, here is a floating bridge made of cardboard and balanced with each of its anchor points in a canoe. It will float downstream to be collected somewhere else for the ritual of its deconstruction.

There are scaffolds floating over the crowds, over the city streets, reflections of themselves over still waters before they move again; serious arches flying like children’s kites, and what could be the point of any of this, except to raise certain questions about some commonly accepted points among us? In their brilliant uselessness, they gently remind us of our own architecture, leaning ever toward the next beginning.

***

Inspired by an article I found this morning about the work of French artist Olivier Grossetête, who gathers fifteen to thirty workshop participants at a time into the communal effort of constructing a floating bridge out of cardboard.

Nostalgia

Dreamscape in a fog.

Women in sweaters and long skirts walk through an uncultivated pasture in the fog, above a lake.  They retreat from the lens, toward something else. No one speaks.

Now comes a car on a nearby road. It takes a moment to stop. A woman gets out. The light reminds her of autumn. The man from the driver’s seat corrects her speech. I cried the first time I saw it, she says. He will not come.

I will wait for you, she says. She roams away like this often, in stubborn wonder. He follows, eventually. By the time he catches up, she will no longer be the woman from the car. By the time he catches her, she will be a woman who has been walking alone on a dirt path for some time.

***

Inspired by the work of Andrei Arsenyevich Tarkovsky, and specifically his film, Nostalgia.

Advice from the Ground Beetles

Confidence of cave-dwelling carabid.

You can hurry, but it won’t get you anywhere. You were way too late for this prologue’s conclusion, and still want to rush. We are the stagehands you missed, ushering the deaths you wouldn’t stand.

It’s not the worst, really, to let others make a punchline of your life, like Where have you been, under a rock all this time? As a matter of fact, you can tell them––or not, cleaning your sensors with smooth precision.

I don’t want to frighten you, but let’s face it; it doesn’t take much. We live in the settings of your nightmares. No one knows you better than the one who recognizes what you refuse––I won’t say, to look at. You really ought to consider your bias toward sight, along with a few other favorite metaphors. Look at the river of life, you say, let’s jump in! From the places you call nowhere and not yet, we laugh and call back, you first! ––which is always your preference anyway.

Any beetle can tell you about all the cries in the dark, but that doesn’t mean you will listen. So much grief in these places, but we’ve been here all along. We get a lot of tourists on quests, looking for a dragon to slay. Sure, we tell them, go farther, and then get back to our invisible work, laughing.

Do you have a friend who studies eyesight, who can talk at length about degrees of vision? The word vision suggests blindness all by itself. A person’s aspirations will tell you a lot about their fears. 

Please don’t expect a welcome every time you come back. As a matter of fact, you should try to go missing. Let them call you extinct, finished. We’ve been doing this for twenty million years, but the newcomers can’t help themselves. There’s a new announcement every few decades about how they’ve discovered us––again.

Every seed spends many nights in the earth, and what does this tell you about the dangers you presume of obscurity? Kid, you’re kind of a drag the way you go around trying to illuminate everything. That’s enough now, out with your light.

From this darkness, there will be no forgiveness for someone who refuses to meet it on its own terms. 

***

Over this morning’s coffee, I learned that today is the birthday of the Croation entymologist Josef Müller (1880-1964) who is best known for his extensive study of blind cave-dwelling ground beetles. I can only imagine that one would be compelled to shift perspective away from certain popular biases after spending so much time with any often-disregarded species, especially those that are regularly rediscovered after presumed extinction. The idea inspired me to play again with certain phrases and turns from Robert Bly’s “Advice from the Geese,” an exercise from The Daily Poet that I enjoyed very much when I first used it to make “Advice from the Silver Mollies” for Bly’s birthday.