Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Observer only

With my index finger, I press on the cuticle of my thumb. Nail against skin, it peels back. I don't feel pain. Pain is an explosion. This is just an eyelash, shed and sliding down my cheek.

My other hand steers the car. I crest the hill. A small cross marks the scene of a news story I read nearly a year ago. Even at 60mph, the fresh flowers blaze against the white of the cross.

I continue worrying the skin on my thumb. It doesn't bleed.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

a moment alone

Overhead, the clouds move, low-slung and widely spaced, backed by sky in an unnamed shade of blue. I've always thought of clouds as two-dimensional. Not as in a child's drawing -- fluffy, rounded, symmetrical -- but like the bottoms of a fleet of irregular boats as seen from underneath: flat, pressed, only partly in view. But as I watch, the edge of this cloud curls under and the whole thing rotates around no axis at all, eddying in an unseen current. Forming, not formed. One facet is shot through with a subtle rainbow and I inhale to speak, to point it out, before I remember that I'm alone. I close my mouth. The color fades.

Monday, July 29, 2013

mother tongue

At the back of the boat there are two fishing poles standing upright: hooks threaded, lines taut, rods flexed with tension. Something on the other side of the lake breathes out and out and out, a continuous exhale that lifts the waves, rifles through my hair, and catches on the fishing line, vibrating, humming, an accidental harp. It whispers two notes, singing in a language I haven't learned to translate. But I listen anyway.

Monday, July 1, 2013

just a little spell

On Friday I walked the dog at 6a.m. By 6:05 I was carrying her home in a cradle hold, her spine draped and sagging like a C between my arms. An awkward weight. With her eyes at half mast, her legs flopped gently with the rhythm of my step.

A fainting spell, the vet said, probably related to her heart condition and her advanced age. Her blood pressure checked out normal and though her energy seemed lower this weekend, she was otherwise fine and bounded to the door this morning, declaring herself fit to walk. But our pace was slow and she lagged behind, joyless and plodding. She'll sleep it off and beg to come tomorrow morning. I don't think it's a good idea. But she won't understand.


For weeks -- no, months -- something has been on the tip of my tongue. Words, I thought, an image. A story? But I examined myself in the mirror and I think it's just been a wad of cotton all along. Fog made material and manifested in my mouth. And I thought it would feel good -- freeing, maybe -- to state the obvious, to accept it, put it out there: I'm not writing right now. Haven't for awhile. Don't expect to any time soon. Why? What's the diagnosis?

But I don't feel free. I feel like I'm staring at a brick wall. A dead end.

Oh, I know dry spells are normal, that sometimes we have to dig holes on the shore and wait for the tide to come in and saturate the sand. But there's no way to know, is there, how long you might lie beached and what might evaporate while you wait.

Maybe the moon is phasing slowly this season. Or maybe the climate has changed. Maybe the sea is already dead. I don't know.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013


In the bathroom, a millipede. Too-many legs carry it out of dark pockets, ugly against the white wall. Each appendage moves with a mind of its own, nothing like reeds in a stream.

I could ignore it, pretend I didn't see; it would slink away, disappear, and I could forget. But back in the shadows, it would grow bigger. Its legs would multiply. Who knows where it'd turn up, half a foot long and with a million legs. Maybe in the damp folds of my towel, right where I'd want to wipe my face. Maybe rearing up out of the shower drain, inches from my bare foot.

I cringe and shudder. I don't want to peel it off the wall, I don't want to feel the crunch of its body,  but its image crawls down my spine. I scoop it into a wad of toilet paper and flush, quickly.

But one in the light means how many still hidden? Nesting. I don't want to know.

After my shower, I give my towel an extra good shake. A lot of good that will do. Those legs cling.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

on intentions. on mistakes.

Four white shirts came through the wash. Brand new. I laundered them with like colors, and they made the rest of the load look grey.

I hung them on the line even though the air was heavy and the sky was dark. Why did I take the chance? I did not want them to shrink in the dryer.

I stayed outside. Drops began to fall.  I hesitated. The sky watched me for awhile then began to weep. I unpinned the shirts. I layered them in the basket. I hurried them inside.

After a brief tumble in the dryer, I smoothed each shirt with the palm of my hand. The fabric was warm and coarse and dotted all over with bits of green.  The raindrops must have been laced with pollen from the trees that arch over the laundry line, over the house, thick-trunked and messy in the spring.

I think about washing the shirts again but instead I just fold them into imperfect rectangles and tuck them into the drawer. No one will notice.

Monday, May 13, 2013


It's raining. Not hard, but enough drops collect on my windshield that I want the wipers on. I set the speed to intermittent. In the pause between the movements of the blades, the drops reach a critical mass and for a moment I almost can't see. Then I can.

I adjust the wiper speed. I drive a mile. I forget the rain.

Friday, April 26, 2013


By midnight, I am a cardboard cutout, corrugated and soaked in kerosene, pockmarked with bullet holes where my own words shot right through me, deflected as they were by your steel armor. How can an 8-year-old be so stubborn?

When sleep finally takes you, I collapse into unconsciousness. At the baby's routine waking, I am the walking dead. She can still draw life from me, though, so I must still be alive. In what way?

In the morning, I walk the dog alone. Rusted metal plates the inside of my skull. The oxidation is almost complete, I tell myself. But the cool air reanimates my form, and I look down at my legs in motion: whole, inflated, two of them. They surprise me.

A great blue heron alights from the creek, wingspan impossible. I could have done better, I admit to the sky. The breeze makes my eyes water and the words taste familiar in my mouth. I will know the curve of each letter by the end of this: all the sharp edges and ragged corners pressed into my heart.

But that's how we evolve, isn't it? Better upon better, inch my inch. From slime to heron, great and blue. It only takes a couple billion years.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

eyes open

I awake into the near-light of a morning stilled with fog. The air and the hour weigh heavy. Maybe the sun isn't going to come up today.

But it does. Of course it does. Only instead of a distinct orange orb, the sunrise smears across the sky. I inhale the moisture and the image into my lungs and all I can think is this:

I can see. Oh god, I can see.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

on thawing, and thinking

Night squeezed a few flakes out of the damp air and the boardwalk is speckled white and slick. I walk without trust, bridged over this thawed and yawning marshland. Just ahead, a knot in the wood looks up at me and I stop, not wanting to step on it. It weeps with moisture in a form somewhere between frost and dew. I could believe it's sap, softened by the onset of spring, bleeding life into limb and leaf. But these are hewn planks. Dead wood. My footsteps echo across the boardwalk.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

from inside

My alarm sounds at 5:40. I had set it to a gentle, swelling song but the notes still hook me in the gills and leave me flopping on shore. Not enough, I gasp. But I get up anyway and pull jeans over leggings, surveying my starting point: rust in my joints and fog behind my eyes.

I always feel better by 6:01, though, so I keep moving. The daily walk with my neighbor and our dogs has become a critical part of a healthy routine that has held me whole through these months of cabin fever and sleep deprivation.

But by the time I've put in my contacts and sipped a bit of coffee, I realize that it's raining too hard to go out. I'm disappointed, of course, but I'll take these few pre-dawn minutes alone anyway. I sit on the couch, hanging onto my mug, watching fog web the spaces between the still-bare tree branches. The coffee's heat steeps into my palms and the rain taps on the roof (of my soul).

I don't want the sun to come up just yet. I'm not ready for the day to begin.

But her bare feet on the hardwood floor draw me to the surface. I smile at her sleepy face, at her bright eyes, at the life brimming there. She doesn't need any coffee.

Mama, can I turn on the light? she whispers.

Of course, I answer. Light opens the room.

I look back at the window but the lamp creates a glare, and the glass no longer promises a portal to the world outside. Instead, it reflects the wall, the fireplace, the mantle clock, her form. My focus shifts and I swallow the last of my coffee. It's time to make breakfast.

Monday, April 1, 2013

on spring

Snow melts and icicles drip. Birds sing. Closed windows muffle these voices.

My heart has been beating all winter against clamped veins and bottlenecks. Now my fingers are dead branches. I press them against the window frame but it doesn't give. I can't be sure I'm using all that much force.

Through smudged glass the sun brushes my face and I turn toward it, slow like I'm under water. But the light is sincere: it means something now. The hours that pass trace promises across the living room floor.  That the season will change. That beneath the peeling bark and rotting cork, my core is green. That the sap will run again. And that yes, yes, I am alive.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

and this, too, shall pass

The tree held her arm branch steady, patient while the snowflakes piled on, one by one, over hours, over a day. Steadfast, still, while the individuals iced over and fused together into something brittle and heavy. Sometime later, that snowy shirtsleeve slipped and bent at the elbow but froze into place before it could fall. Now it hangs there by a thread of something I can't see. I thought gravity was stronger than that.

Soon the clouds separate and the sun shines strong for this season and I squint through the window. While I watch, that strange U-bend made out of snow lets go completely. It falls as a burst of powder so fine I could inhale it, single crystals that catch the sun just before they disappear into a whole world of white. Gone.

The branch cuts across space, straight and naked. A living shadow. Don't worry, I whisper. It'll snow again tomorrow.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013


Everything exists in shades of blue: brittle and cold, deep and unforgiving. Layers of ice hang from shingles, hang in the air. But a fire kindles below the horizon and the flames are melting a hole in the sky. Something's getting in. I watch from the window to see what might materialize.

Slowly a bonfire separates from the low, licking blaze and the sun erupts orange above the bare treetops. Hope singes the morning.

I lift my nose to sniff the woodsmoke curling from the neighbor's chimney.  The furnace kicks on with a click and a whoosh. The air is dry and full of static. I reach out out to warm my hands in the ascending glow, rubbing my palms together. My fingertips knock against the window glass, a block of ice.