The Sisters

In the late days of long wars.

We wanted to mend, so kept company with our mothers’ ghosts. Our yesterdays were wounded and came to us until every bed was full. 

O muse. Your song was bleeding out. 

We brought cloths and went to you. We wrapped you tight and held against the flow. It entered then.

We are still, holding. 

Marsh Ruins

Decay as creative premise.

Nested in cordgrass, a master work sinks. 

The artist smiles over its cracking disappearance.

Rubble is one of my primary interests, she tells us.

She imagines its rearrangement.

I mean, she adds, what might come?

There are good reasons, after all,

––and especially here, to reject nostalgia. 


The title of this post comes from this installation by American artist Beverly Buchanan, which a recent New York Times article by Siddhartha Mitter describes as a vanishing masterpiece.

Conversation With Unknowns

Writers on writing, overheard.

What are you working on?

I am writing a series of stories. I think. Or something.

What are they about?

They are about what this book is. They are still coming.

What is this book?

Complicated, I guess. They keep adding new parts.

So, what do you do?

I listen and try to write as they come. I guess it would be easier if so much of what they do didn’t evade language.

Wait. That doesn’t make sense. How can any part of writing evade language?

I mean the verbal kind. The kind I know.

What do they use?

It’s more like an incandescent unknowing. Like the brilliance of the world after memory loss.

Do you speak that?

I feel like I could once but lost it. I am trying to learn. But I guess I am a slow learner. I keep defaulting to the old expectation that they speak mine, forgetting I’m the visitor.


Inspired when I encountered Ingrid Rojas Contreras’ use of the phrase “incandescent unknowing” in reference to her experience of memory loss, which she relates interestingly to her process of storytelling in this interview she gave to Kaveh Akbar.

The Influence of Moonshine

Reflections on night work.

It’s easy to give short shrift to surface reflections. No one wants to be called shallow, but look at the distances to be traveled here. I know a guy who only paints at night, his subject always other paintings, who limits himself to reading them by moonlight. I asked him why. As he sees it, the fully lit subject offers a false sense of clarity which masks the problem of too much information. The more you look, the more a well-lit form will start to fold, collapsing in on itself. It can be very distracting. This happens to me all the time, so I was very intrigued by his solution. By taking away the pretense of clarity, he gave himself over to what he could imagine. By removing the pretense of originality and limiting himself to the study of another’s work he was paradoxically freed. As he puts it, I take comfort in the discomfort of not being myself.


Inspired when I encountered a description of David Schutter’s Night Work. I take creative liberties with this imagined interpretation of the artist’s process, adapting insights from a recent BOMB interview.

This is Your Poem Talking

Here we go again. . .

Look, I’m not here to lecture you. If I was, you’d know. Then you’d think, not your wheelhouse, is it? And you’d be right. In lieu of a lecture, I have a proposition. What shall we eat, play, flay today? Sashay, maybe––or love, gut, burrow, swim?

I vote dance. Are you coming? Pray? Oh, I see. You are not going to do any of these, are you? Your face says it all: you’re going to stay right there, aren’t you? Until you figure out the poem.

Sigh. Not that you’re listening, but really? Of all the ways to be, you choose that one. And now you want to know what I mean.

The Chase

How to work a running stitch.

What kind of poet would I be if I couldn’t fix a seam? You asked, incredulous, adding, you know, it’s not rocket science. When the language got too tight around our necks you said Look and undid the top buttons, like There and How hard was that? and it was obvious we had a long way to go.

I mean to live, you said, and invited us to join you, running––your kites on laundry lines, your great river piping underground, leaking secrets from the dripping faucets of our fourth-floor walk-up. Your hero at the mop, finishing a shift while the oracle she’s come to visit goes fishing for change in her apron. 

The legs of our love tended to falter. Fatigued, we wondered how you kept yours onward. Once, ascending a hill, you reminded, don’t look upYou can follow the street as well as the sky, and as we looked for your next words you called back, not even at me, striding ahead. Eventually, we learned to follow the backs of your legs and fall into a rocking trance. The grates of sewers punctuating our periphery, we found our breaths in time with the river below us, and as the miles went on, stitched our single body back to some subterranean source.


Inspired by Anne Winters, especially Night Wash.

Flying Directions

From coffee to eternity.

Take the long view, starting from any horizon where it gathers like rain. Then try a movement in time, leaving reason behind. Go from moment to moment to moment, but no bridges between them. Cellar doors will do, no stairs. This allows for the sudden drop from one to the next.

We move these tiny flames on sticks, and then wait. One sign is the flash of sunrise around the window. Another is a breath of letters flooding the veins, flowering tongues, chiming the ear.

These are useful reminders. Let go, syntax, let’s go. There are more ways to arrange a voice beyond the tired grooves of your worn paths. You can cut the ankles again on low thorns, catch webs in the mouth, know your face by the cheek kissing the cat tail, and forget the mirrors.

The Time it Takes

To see.

A glossary of charcoal footprints on paper: here a slash, there a fat wave of liquid line, here the smear of a hot and urgent press. Who made these? People asked, of the aging artist’s early work. I was alive and singularly free, she told them. Having neither fame nor proximity to greatness, she had no reason to attempt real art. Not yet. These were only experiments, rehearsals for a greatness to come later. They may be her best work.


In preparation for visiting a local Georgia O’Keefe exhibit, I came across this article suggesting the technical superiority of the artist’s early work in charcoal and watercolor on paper. The title of a spring exhibit featuring this early work (at MOMA) is To See Takes Time.

Unstill Life

With Tara Geer.

Here are studies in unknown shapes. The first bloom? In service of spontaneity, a perpetual reorientation. How useful in a landscape of discontinuity. How lumpy this world feels. I can only build by stumbling, my clumsy hands fitting one incongruity into another, and these into the rising wind.

In the center of a city, one draws a garden, vast and wild with unnamed fruits, a forbidden abundance. Who does she think she is? Vines twining around her calves, half an open orb cupped in each hand, juice running between fingers, in rivulets down forearms, to her weeping elbows. She lowers her face into the flesh. It clings to her chin, and she dares to look back with a wild grin, breathing.


Notes while reading this interview with Tara Geer, discussing her current installation, Unstill World. I am grateful to find her work, which aims “to translate unknowing into the work and not just more and more kinds of knowing.”