Thursday, September 20, 2012


Robert Motherwell
Everything it touches...

(maybe you would be happier without a body)     (and 
not so strict with others)                (having less hunger 
for what they fail to impart)(a body is         a winedark 
tedious little house)            (you are fearful of windows
uncovered at night)(you are full                        of holes) 
                            (when the rain gets in you welcome it)

If I had three wishes I would wish for a beautiful singing voice. Instead I write about beasts (beasts who are really people) and talk to myself. I love a boy who says less every day. If there were too many words I could quell them. But how do you treat a lack? Having no tourniquet for what isn't. 

We seem far away from that day on a bridge in the treetops. The wood swayed 
and I swayed and he did not. He had a task to finish and that task was me.

I love a bottle that hurts me. Wine and a vial of my mother's 
perfume, who I have not spoken to since Christmas 2010 and whose whereabouts no one knows. For years I dreamt I disfigured the parts of me that resembled her. Now I dream of lost teeth and a fishing boat that fills with water but does not sink. 

I don't mourn anything but reverence is a crying sport. 

Mark Rothko
In a letter to a farmer-poet I admitted my severity. I am not one of those storied girls who keeps herself soft and lovely. I am ordered and quiet. I weigh the risks and squeeze a lime between thumb and forefinger. Ice in a glass renders me calm. Sometimes I bite the glass to test it. When I am calm I am writing myself.

I fight the urge to be your secretary.
What does that mean? 
He was driving so he could only spare a glance.
Oh, I don't know.
You think I'm a mess?
Then what does it mean?
I wanted to say: I like doing things for you. Precision is a kind of love.
But instead I said I don't know again.

In a letter to a farmer-poet I started to write I am nothing like the earth! 
But I hesitated. How can a woman on earth be nothing like the earth?

Lee Krasner
Lapis is the place I entered to leave the room I was in.
A house without furniture, rooms without doors.
With the words Worse things have happened 
to other girls, you can close the conversation.

When you fail to be precise you make a fear ubiquitous. 
A decade has passed. Exactitude is a method I cannot shake. 
People think I am a poet but really I am at war 

with the very common ruining 

called forgetting.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012


I. Swim at night. Go deep down. Turn your body in the water until you forget which way is up or down and there is no light to guide you.

II. Live in books. There are more demeaning hiding spots. Here you will find elegant words, a reliable narrator which Life sorely lacks.

III. Live in photographs. Sit neatly framed. You were made for love.

IV. Paint your body with pollen. Let the birds of sorrow nest in your hair. Nevermind those Chinese proverbs-- they do not know the loneliness of windowless brick buildings. Any bird is feathered so that air may swell beneath it. So that their hollow bones are kissed. So that they may be lifted.

V. Entertain lustful thoughts of painters long dead.

VI. Sneak onto golf greens at the witching hour. Lie under trees, lie by lakes whose reeds hide dapper geese all night honking. A lightning storm blooms here and there, in gold and pink flowers. Drink from the bottle and know that you are in exactly the wrong place. Across the lake, across the greens, behind the trees a ghost train rushes by. And then slowly returns, moving backwards.

VII. Entertain lustful thoughts of people you do not lust after. Ask why your lust is so discerning when your sadness is not.

VIII. Go to museums and walk up to the most famous works but do not look at them. Instead, watch the faces of other people as they come to look. Maybe they shrug and keep moving, maybe some nuanced light passes over them and you get to witness the thing that never seems to come: change.

IX. Watch a lot of movies until you have an approximate idea of who is screenwriting your life. Phone in your complaints to the producers. The mise-en-scene is depressing. The lines are garish. I should have been a painter now I have given all my words away.

X. Sit and wait for Venus to cross the path of the sun.

Friday, November 11, 2011

moving toward wings

When I was fourteen years old, I imagined a person’s soul left their body as a winged thing. I say imagined because I did not believe this to be the case. I did not believe in God, but I wanted to believe that we still had souls and that they were inclined to elegant forms. It was a game I played, assigning vessels to the soul’s departure. I told friends You are a kite, You are an airship, You are so many bats.

Inherent in this was the idea that flight had been neatly stored inside them.

It calmed me to think of golden balloons leaving a body. Silver birds, fireworks, anything that might ascend. I did not think of angels or even ghosts. Always the soul took a non-human form—sometimes natural, sometimes mechanical. Of course Leonardo da Vinci would leave his body in one of his flying machines. But where was it that he would go?

All carry on-items should be stored securely in an overhead bin or in the seat in front of you

Every trip to the airport I pretend to be an anthropologist. I think about nomadic imperative, the mixed-nut subsistence neatly packaged, the hierarchy of hot airline stewardesses. I wonder how comfortable people are in this liminal space, where the clouds consume the craft and time seems unreal.

I look to the crew, to see if they have adjusted differently than those of us who take to the sky only on occasion. Pilots stride so confidently through terminals that the floor beneath them, however anchored, seems of little consequence. Airline stewardesses always strike me as secretly sad. Maybe it is a lie inherent in the job description: they are promised so many escapes and yet they keep returning to the same airports.

I have cried on three occasions in airports, once for a woman and once for a man and once with longing for America. I sometimes wonder if that crying girl was really me. After all, she was in a foreign land where the hours passed differently and so her feelings came to her in a way they do not come to me now. In a place of so many comings and goings, how can I fail to leave my body and become someone else?

The suitcase is neatly packed and stowed. The material aspect has been considered. Now the lights are dimming and the only remaining question is what to do with thoughts and wants. The narrative we make of them, especially on voyages.

All carrion items. Should be storied.

At this time, please be sure that your seat back is returned to its upright position.

How is it that we came to our upright position? Our bones betray what crooked creatures we are. Anthropologists have theorized that brachiation, the swinging by the arms from tree limb to tree limb in primates, led to bipedalism. The straightening of the back required for such a feat, how we learned to leave our legs beneath us while we look ahead.

One sees the classic cartoon: from crawling ape, to lumbering ape, to homo erectus. One wonders what comes next in our evolution. Brash as our standing is.

We never evolved to get our wings. It seems all too apparent how cleanly they would fit, fixed to our shoulder blades. Instead we fashioned them from steel. Drag and lift.

Because it is a technological and not a physical adaptation, our bodies will never fly seamlessly. Since we are precisely evolved for life on the ground, pilots must train to avoid sensory illusions that occur in flight. Empiricism fails in the air. Our eyes and ears produce false climbs and graveyard spins.

Most profound to me is that rush down the runway, when we know we are not walking or running but hurtling and our organs seem to lag as we defy gravity. Just before takeoff, every part of me is pressed against the seat, held by forward motion. Then there is that terrible and wonderful moment where we are lifted and my insides float suspended, and it feels like there is nothing inside me at all.

Stewards of the air had promised: Exit path lighting will illuminate to guide you.

People travel side-by-side across the world and do not even ask each other their name. It has always been a bad habit of mine to fill in people’s silences for them. This is harmless when it comes to strangers on planes and devastating when it comes to bedfellows. It seems every person I meet is looking for exits. Desire made me believe I could be such an exit, that people removed their clothes in the effort to escape exteriors. I was surprised to find there were shallower reasons for sex and that people who long to leave do not look for reasons to stay but simply leave.

And it makes a certain sense. Distance allows a pattern to emerge that is invisible on the ground. Suburban neighborhoods form surprising designs and lakes are artfully placed as inkspots. The lights of cities appear cast like a drop-net of stars. Looking down from above, everything is so tidy. Closeness wrecks it all. See also: intimacy issues; wax wings.

When it came to other people, I thought there would be an illuminated path. The body constellated, easy to discern. I thought that path was made of words. But there are passages that language does not enter and does not affect. Our time together is short. Everything will be abridged.

Always there is the lore of the black box. It sounds like something out of a Greek myth: the tragedy recorded, voices contained after death in an indestructible box. Black boxes are actually bright orange so that they can be easily found in the event of a plane crash. The term “black box” simply refers to any system whose production can be observed but not its inner functions. A human mind is probably the best example of a black box.

It’s been some time since I gave up my young notion of winged souls in the body. We have no wings of our own but we have an unknown engine in us. The mind is opaque and inscrutable and can conceive of its own ending. It unraveled the secret of flight but does not know itself. I find this absurd and then again, very ordinary.

When disaster strikes, the oxygen masks descend. I wonder what that air tastes like.

Once while sitting in a terminal a moth landed at my feet. It fluttered about on the dirty carpet and I thought vaguely of Virginia Woolf. She wrote of moments of being—a term no one could adequately explain to me, but which seemed to indicate a pulling back of the wool. Some bright instant in which, to use Woolf’s own words, “we are the thing itself.”

I watched the moth hop about. I wondered how it got in, how it might get out. What it thought of all those steel birds wheeling on the tarmac.

Animals gifted with wings do not make distinctions between moments of being and non-being. And yet I would not prefer their delicate lives.