Just in Case

Early lessons in looking.

Children reviewed scenarios. What to do when you are lost in a wilderness with no aid and no promise of its coming. A book might say if they found the right one, how to leave a trail by walking through what is soft. To stop at intervals to write HELP in the snow in the sand in the mud with an arrow pointing in the direction of the feet. How if the course is reversed. To travel back over the prints. To alert anyone who is looking, if anyone is looking, not to go beyond the tracks. To follow the lines of roads and rivers and listen well. If a party calls, they will use an unusual word. Three syllables. Internet! Coconut! Spaghetti! Leave personal items behind. But who has the book.

You can learn to look this way, scanning the horizon for smoke signals, for mirror flash, to train the ear to hear the distant cry. But how did you learn to meet it, children wondered, of the expectation that anyone grown would know where to go when it was time, and when? When the wind comes. Who ties it all down. They cut the books of questions into strips, folded each line into a basket. They would need more for the carrying. 

We Came With Questions

From somewhere.

Give us, they demanded. Some witness. Prayer wants
some sacrifice. To make it count. Prayer wants some
relief from the next sacrifice. To be counted.

Tie my tongue, love. Make me beg. To be heard.
I know what they are telling you. How no murder
happened here and no man ever flew. But I have
lived here long enough to recognize denial
of monsters when I see it

and I see it I see them creeping unseen

[Creep me] back to the dark of noon daylight
when the chorus stopped to haunt these ears
when I before the sky and moon called back
o waiting stars o endless space beyond you

forever made of what. Bring me back.

Rhythm Study

Entrance light.

What the body records, language reveals. In this painting, the dance looks back. Notice the anguished bliss of these blues, the tension of this tenderness strung taught across the entryway. Come in. In this light where you remember, you were there.


Rhythm Study is the title of a piece by artist Le’Andra LeSeur, whose work inspires this post.

Pond Brain

A studio of open minds.

The artist welcomed extremes in her work, so employed bacterial assistants. They see differently, she said. She said the bacteria were very helpful. They bring a new intelligence, she said.

Is that them? We wondered. But it was the slime mold, which had recently arrived to help with the next project. 

What is that?  

We’re doing an adaptation of The Book of Changes.


Adapted from this BOMB interview with Jenna Suelta, for whom collaboration with non-human intelligences is a central feature of artmaking. Pond Brain is the title of a 2023 sculpture she created with bronze, water, sound, and light.

Spider Dreams

And the rest of us, watching.

The jumping spiders are dreaming. You can tell because the babies have translucent skin. Watch the eyes behind it, back and forth. Notice the twitching legs.

What are they doing? One of us asks. The theory is that they are trying to make sense. Whatever they dream about, it may help them jump better when they wake. It may help with direction, takeoffs, landings. Which, we have to admit, is more than any of us can say about our spider dreams.

The birds are doing it, too, another observes. Watch the feathers, how they twitch on drooping heads. The sleeping cephalopods turn wild colors, sending signals with urgency.

What we are wondering seems uncouth to ask. But chances are that there is one in any given assembly who is relatively immune to propriety, so we wait for the silence to break.

Do you think they see us? Says the one, When they . . .?

No answer is forthcoming. In the next hush, we notice that it isn’t clear which answer we want.  In the long quiet that follows, we sleep.


Inspired by Carolyn Wilke’s recent Knowable article on emerging research into the REM sleep patterns of various creatures.

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.

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.


And the heart of the matter.

They come to see us, hungry for our size.

Look at our faces. We tower. They dance.

One says, walk slower. One says, closer.

There are more of us now, as though prayers.

Into clouds. No command is needed from this height.

They sing us. A dirge, they sing for beloveds

and the birds call back. From their ovens,

the smell of bread. When they taste,

they will look. Up, they will see us,

our suspended faces

against sky. 


Inspired by a recent New York Times article about Peter Schumann’s Bread and Puppet Theater.