Camouflage Optics

Seen and unseen.

In response to the question of what any of this is, you offered an alternative. Forget all that, you said, and come inside. We moved among your impossible bodies. Stair spindles became towers of refuge, ventilation gates morphed into window frames. You took the leather skins of sacred texts and stitched one house at a time. You stitched a neighborhood of these, suspended from the ceiling. Welcome! You called. What you gave us was neither nature nor a matter of belief, but their shapeshifting beyonds. Here is an intricate network of colored glass, the view unbound by familiars.  That you may better see inside you, you offered, and out again.


Inspired by the work of mixed-media artist Chiffon Thomas.


Dust over time.

There’s an idea that water was inherited from a cloud that long preceded the sun, that the cloud evolved from the heat around each newborn star, that the heat so melted the gases and dusts around it that they became something else, and that this something else floated out there in the vast dark for entire forevers, without even a name; that before it was known to us as oceans, and rivers, as life itself, it was just drifting between the other bodies, neither planet or star, comet or asteroid, silently evolving rains and ablutions, storms and sailors, mermaids and the notes we’d pass in bottles overseas, wondering and telling no one; swelling with the fluid of waiting cells and someday wombs, gilled figures and baptisms, rebirths and ritual baths and wild slaps of newborn hands against its sudden surfaces, but what does it take to wait eons, drifting and holding these potentials under a veil of vast nothing, until the moment comes for surrounding a single body in a single time, that will remain for many more eons unnamed, that will remain for many more eons no time at all, in the vast void before the beginning, and be so moved by the body and the moment that you let it all go, everything you are, the body dissolving the last of itself to make the first rain?

Intimate Geometries

The lens turned inside out.

Some days it is clear upon waking that what follows will involve certain reminders. About how, for example, I am at any given time rarely more than half-open or half-closed. Even when I thought I was more than aware of being somewhat too dense for my imagination’s preference, I am now the weary stranger offering directions to the inquiring heart, wondering whether its own spiraling rhythm is moving toward the center, or out. Or else, a shadow cut from its source, floating around like a kite. And it’s unclear, from this wavering axis, whether the metaphor is the blunt object sending an atom of awareness out into a larger field, or a mat to cushion the impact.

The Possibility of Shelter

In the days of wind.

Who among us could assume security? The answer sat before us like a lump of cold flesh to be paid when the collectors came. Naturally, we learned to speak around it. We shared our alarm about the weather instead. By its whims we could admit something. It had to do with extremity. ––Of certain conditions and of a common need. But what for? Maybe some chance at grace.

Over time, something loosened the ties we had to some familiar arrangements of words while cementing others. Come here, we said to one another. In the makeshift camp where we had surrendered what little we could carry to some common fate, still to be determined. Tarp walls blew in the winds and we listened. 

Sometimes we heard one another step outside to address something else. We all did this. One at a time, without ceremony, and alone. We were not ready to discuss these things. Not yet. But when the winds left, I could hear the others say to something just beyond the camp, Come here.


A recollection.

And then came the memory of someone who so loved the world that they could not stop highlighting her face, who at every turn of the gaze would find her silhouette made flesh and lean into its pliant give. Whose ear, tuned to eavesdrop on dream music, would lift a lucid pen and point it toward transcription of the tattered ends of her beloved robes. 

Who kept flying home, crying home, and singing her back, the jazz ache of her grief’s webbed movements and polyphonic breaths keeping time with the ancients at the drums, past the trembling where words won’t go, these nested rolls yoked to something just beyond the reach of the given ear, where the pattern of beats becomes so dense that–––

 it collapses, 

absorbing our cries 


to some original 



Late winter notebooks.

I could go for a break from these elegies, but these fractures in the sky will not quit, whole constellations of them and dust on all the noise, and every breath is short, and these wings against the window. A theory of flowers after rain, but no bloom. The contours of a coming day, but no traction toward beginning. Tissue without bone, and I wanted to remember what the poet said when I had no pen, about the quanta dissolving but how did it go? Into light, I think.


Studies in form.

Now it’s a cocoon. Now a moth. Now it’s something else. What is that thing?

Now it’s beautiful. Now it can kill. Now it’s pure passion. Now it’s a study in precision, one-part formal event, another part emotive creature. Fluid and gorgeous, then stoically opaque.

It is delicate, backbreaking work. Now innocent, now disturbing. This heavy love.


Inspired by this interview with Kathy Butterly, which is my introduction to the sculptor’s work.


And the rest of us.

There is no resolution, is there? So much is lost in the archive, and what isn’t––of memory, and the rest of us––isn’t mild. Our warped genesis, we tried to keep it in the basement and when the floods started coming, we watched our photos. How they bounced in the underground lake, above the sediments of our boxed secrets, those dreams of all we might yet be. 

Here is our foundation: sacrifice, or accident? The awe of it.

Mama. How are you breathing now? Someone said of your lungs, that it doesn’t look––still, I think of your waves. How we would throw ourselves into you to feel the rush of you tossing us back. Sometimes you would hold us in place for the space of the next breath we expected to take, so that we might know something. I’m still trying to know it. It has to do with fragility and strength, play and death, love, and the depths of some wounds. As if you are saying, feel this: all of me shifting with each pulse and the only one holding is you.

The floods keep coming. Still, we collect. A song starts and catches in the back of the throat. Wade in––

Untitled Chorus

Notes from the days of wind.

In a season when the atmospheric pressures seemed to be in more dramatic flux than any of us could remember, herds of winds would gallop across the ceiling, rattling the furniture. It was the babies I listened for. Everyone was going around shaking their heads. These kids, they said.

There was a painter I loved. He knew how to look when he was painting. When he stopped was where the trouble started. Amid the noisy striving and the sales pitches, the ideologues and the masses of our families clamoring to avoid being ditched with the rest of the wreckage of the hour, it seemed like the babies––so quiet, some worried, is anyone there? ––might be waiting for someone to finally get around to mentioning this other thing. The painter dared to depict it. He didn’t call it anything, and some called it dangerously close to Nothing, but anyone looking to see it could tell you that what it evoked was the opposite of nothing.

It was a verge, and he was pulling the center to the edge of where the babies would sit, unsure whether or how they will stand. He wouldn’t live to see them.

In the season of high winds, the babies cocooned themselves in blankets of ambient noise. Those who thought of silences as nothing more than the punctuation between events, and not the main event, did not know what to make of whatever those babies were doing inside those cocoons. 

They never seem to be listening, many remarked. But watch. Relax your eyes. It’s like one of those magic eye paintings where the apparent forms are only a pretext.  See the weight of noise that has been heaped on them since birth. It becomes hard not to suspect that they have found some other way to manage what is pulsing nearby, while appearing not to listen at all, like the artist who pretends to paint nothing.

Wait, someone said eventually, of these paintings. I see it. The painter didn’t make it in the end, but the works became chapels unto themselves. The works were gathered in a chapel. The babies would show up, alone and in pairs, looking. They would seem to care nothing for what they saw.

Many of these wouldn’t make it, either. But some would. And when they waited in the chapel long enough to hear something other than wind, they would notice a sound more sonorous than their most immersive dream. Eventually, they would know it knew them. That it had waited as they had, for this time. They would sing.

Anyway, Love

While we are here.

No, there isn’t a map, but you’ve heard this before. That isn’t what you’re after, is it? When you speak of what you never knew.

So much is obscured by the fog of empire. Maybe if it blew into the thin air of the last mountaintop at the exact moment of your arrival, still living, at its narrow peak––then you’d be able to see your way down. But maybe not.

Fair enough. How much blood in the veins of the earth, gathered from these wrecks and battles across time? The waste of it we call history and imagine this a map to what we used to be, that the discovery of this might involve some ancient key, glowing like the last fifteen minutes of a quest film, to lead us forward from our stadium seats, into the light.

But I don’t know, except for being here in the dirt, with clouds all week, and now mud from the rains, and here comes the wind again and those questions about what it might blow away or into us. I am here with these others; we’re tethered for now, and so there’s nowhere to go, is there, if they are here, too? Nowhere better but the staying while they are here, too, even as most of them are strangers by official standards. For which I have little use.

This morning, I was reading the words of five poets I’ve only ever known by the flesh of their words, and I knew I loved them for the way each sang of someday, when I learn to love––


Inspired when I chanced upon this Dean Rader poem, which echoes poems by Nâzim HikmetRoger ReevesOcean Vuong, and Frank O’Hara. What a stunning chorus across time.