Canaries, the kind designed to warn, died
years ago and the audience pretended
not to hear their zero-sum absence.
Did you see the etched spells
carved into downtown bus windows?
A cluster of worldbuilding signs—
anti-collections of gilded relativity.
It is that time of day. Straight-ahead stare.
The inside lights have been turned on.
Fallow fields lie open, subjugated for influence.
Recently, a bluejay has become a surrogate rooster.
Declaring another day or scouting for tenderness?
Forget-me-nots in bloom, and our heads full-on empty.
A physics of being spooned, jammed, grazed.
Summertime eyes, dry mouth holes, dots to be connected.
Hyperfixation as daydream, musical as chairs.
Blue fading pink light transitions the sun’s nightly disappearance as a star.
Earlier the concentrated sunlight, setting late, hit a distant window—
just right. The bright reflection took shape of an ordinary reminder.
A reminder that temporal sequence as closure is felt, a sense.
What if we are actually expanding instead of contracting?
Hours as measured by:
clouds slipping by
street pigeon’s stuttered coos
gossip economy news cycles
a flock of geese in V formation
rivers carving out gorges
Can we claim survival as the measured depth of a body of water?
An ending does not always need to follow a chain of events.
Duality alters thresholds, choices, interpretation.
These ongoing attempts become accumulations, layers,
a structure of ongoing being. There’s worship and fetish.
A complete world.
Perhaps I did not succumb to ideology…because I have never seen myself as a spokesman. I am a witness. In the church in which I was raised you were supposed to bear witness to the truth. Now, later on, you wonder what in the world the truth is, but you do know what a lie is.” —James Baldwin interview with Julius Lester, May 1984
The surge is back.
We are hosts, again.
Feeling nothing but empty.
A physical sensation.
I am left wanting, again.
Never not forgotten urges.
Restraint is an evocative need.
Its own stimulation.
Free will is in the news, again.
When the wave comes, go deep.
In a Christian context, responsibility of discernment
makes meaning a gambler’s holdout. I mean that literally.
It is the same mechanics when a moment can be a monument.
Dramatic affect to overactive nervous systems, tense
a knowing. Which indicators of deception are most valid?
The idea of what you saw isn’t always accurate.
That we are simply machines programmed to make complexity
out of the simplest of ideas, like wanting to be loved
unconditionally and without remorse.
“Reading criticism clogs conduits through which one gets new ideas: cultural cholesterol.” —Susan Sontag, 1964 journal entry
A handful of ranunculus, yellow, swell open.
Morning showers pass through. I make a wish
when the sun breaks free from its shroud.
A temporary proscenium of light forms. I see
motes and ghosts in gestured choreography.
A possessed experience of gods or a trip
of light god-shaped? In rapid succession,
I am mouth-to-mouth lucidity. I breach a crown
of paper tigers. Inside this current occupation,
I surrender in ecstatic objection to a language,
blue, that takes from lust and sells back violence.
In war, mourning the loss of art, be it actual or anticipated, is not separate from mourning for the senseless disruption and destruction of human life. To live is to build, to repair, to illuminate, to leave traces in the fabric of time and space. Until an empire’s fist hits it all and smashes it to smithereens. In the face of its onslaught, human life is as fragile as the glass that bears humanity’s loving traces. —Yuliya Komska, A Stained Glass in Lviv (emphasis mine)
Officially, it is spring. Wars are an endless reality behind opaque glass screens. We are learning to feel non-solid things in the hype. The sound of analog reflected in a digital world hits different. Open your mouth away me. Climb out from underneath those emotional thumbs. There’s overtime to be made fabricating virtual systems. Memory tracers betray our line of sight. Some rooftops grow trees and some of us are proficient in the logistics of nostalgia. Do your fantasies prepare you or scare you? Tongues are cut to remove coherent confessions; supplemental augmentations will cost extra. Always cultivate a feeling of waiting for the next disruption. Faith’s orientation requires an artifice, requite deprivation. It’s really like that. Geography as corral, gathered. A rotunda of light. The curtains hung themselves outside the cracked window. Dramatic neglect obscures strategic purpose. Tides are never mentioned in the Bible. Its promises another proxy of obscene revenge.
Digitally speaking, I’ve trained myself to feel distracted.
I’m occupied. As numbed witness, in muted sound and fury,
today’s testimony dissolves into lyrical indirection.
Sharp, warm shadows of morning light strike a blooming spring.
From formalized fragilities of fear, from the perceived aggressor
in endless wars, or from slants of perimenopausal sales pitches
as rumor and pre-emptive threats, it’s all terrifying.
My daily diversions upsold. Propaganda is climax!
The psyops of weak kings is an advanced state of dissolution.
I imagine a moment that lasts so long everyone craves
its optimized chorus—it has been like this forever.
This is the loop, an exquisite incantation, that never deviates.
For most of the morning,
a banner declaring I LOVE YOU
hung visible from the hotel window
until housekeeping removed it—
to keep the room unsentimental.
Blue sky so bright, a harbor
to distract my voyeurism. Later,
a business man made a phone call.
Tie, no suit. Shadows from behind the curtain
portend drama breaking beneath the horizon.
Cherry blossoms explode on scene.
The trees have begun their spring planning.
Extending their grace & hope forward,
it would be wise for us to start doing the same.
We are well over 900,000 dead & barely counting anymore.
It’s the last week of February.
Angled rooftops, a single pane of glass
holds my wandering perspective.
I’m probably not telling you the right story.
Sun-marked rooms were the sentient witness.
They made you pay for bread
For sky earth water sleep
And for the poverty
Of your lives.
—Paul Eluard, from “Victory for Guernica”, Selected Poems (bilingual ed. trans. Gilbert Bowen)
In the museum of modern art,
we wanted to see the details—
up close. Moving inches
past the official stand-here line,
we needed to know
how exactly did the artist
capture the depth of pure fear
in the subject’s hyperrealistic eyes.
We knew that fear, frequent and embodied,
from our own ensnared lives
as daughters born from violent men.
The movement of color showing,
with excruciating precision,
how endlessly hollow
the projective space is for deception
like transparent fingers, pointed and sharp,
foolishly optimistic that escalation
is a proven strategy for peace.
“The Waste Land: III. The Fire Sermon”, T. S. Eliot, 1922
Denying greed’s influence on our myths
means we are buried in tragedy.
Obsession of scale has left us wading
in the sheer depravity of accurate detail.
All the morning newspapers land on the same headline.
Near future is the sound of a volcano exploding
five thousand miles away. Ripe tomatoes hang on the vine.
Children swing in the blue fading black darkness.
A list, after all, is an incantation.
—Lia Purpura, from the essay “Sugar Eggs: A Reverie”
I almost paid attention every day this just past year. There might not be an instant memory to pull from but I remember:
new pages filled: creating a full, whole life
days moving with the sun
nothing urgent getting done anytime soon
a chain of days: learning
23 February, Tuesday, 2021 — we reached that unimaginable 500,000 deaths yesterday
By April, languishing was declared 2021’s dominant emotion. The experts were specific—we were languishing, a residual and continuously active tense.
But we are extraordinary now, more so than the before times. We have an understanding, a swallow of temporary obedience, having squeezed through another dimension. In the same way Cliff Swallows, federally protected migratory songbirds, continue to build their nests under overvalued condo awnings built on their well-known migration paths, we can claim we too are still living.
What’s next will be found in the ordinary, beyond the cleaved repetition.
Traveling at the speed of days per hour.
Is it okay to celebrate survival?
(All this death. It’s inevitable.)
Arranging for false openings—second endings.
What marrow should we salvage?
Oblivion becomes subjugation
when aesthetics have agendas.
Only at the very beginning
did the freeway quiet.
Now, faint signals of endearment muted
as claw marks or socialized hope.
(All this death. It’s inevitable.)
At this point in time, there might be enough
to carry the rest of us curiously forward
full from holding unanswerable questions
in all this cropped light.
If we do not forget, what is there to remember? —Mary Ruefle from “On Secrets”
Suspension is a type of prayer
in the same way hard luck is still luck
or how clicking clocks make meaning.
Ending another year with reconstituted rituals:
unwrap an orange, warm the house with lights,
leave no trace and lament the echoes.
Interiors become accomplices
in a cascading culture of closures.
Reminding me the moon makes no light
of its own, and I don’t know
is the most honest answer I have to give.
This response to an unknown call,
how deeply personal an endeavor.
The preacher leaned into salvation’s promise at the very end.
It was a funeral, no better time to coerce eternal life.
Another soul claimed and sweetly celebrated as taken.
The rest of us will just have to wait our turn.
How death gathers us together—memories of memories.
Grief a double-edged fascination, overactive,
a disorder of obsession. Not here, anymore.
But on this side of heaven we must find a way.
Not wanting to arrive too late for the inevitable call
to forgive what has been left behind, and its remainder—
the sky laid open in exonerated glory and surrendered
its filtered light to be just as definitive as belief in faith.
You can go home again…so long as you understand that home is a place where you have never been. —Ursula K. Le Guin, The Dispossessed
Winter constellations hang low in the blue-black night sky,
Gemini returns. Add homemade cherry strudel to the list
of memories unforgotten, folds and folds of circumstances
harmonizing with the grace of effort. Repeat the sounding joy.
Decades pass into desire for acclamation but are instead
filled with humble enthusiasm. Hard luck made this base.
Conceptually, all archived reality shapes heartfelt elegies.
Not even God knows all our translations whispered
into twisted defenses. Hope is the last to die.
repeat the sounding joy is a verse from “Joy to the World”
hope is the last to die is a fragment from A Breath of Life by Clarice Lispector, tr. Johnny Lorenz
Radiator hisses fill the space left between
a bright sun in an empty blue sky.
Expressive clouds reclaim their territory.
Rain and miso ramen for lunch.
Downtown buses trail each other like snails
as layers of buildings are held together by math.
The remaining oak leaves hang like ornaments.
This week, scientists proved birds sing in their sleep
but most of us already know how the body tries to protect.
Are you the audience? Have you been disciplined?
If not, pay attention to how the slow accommodation
of western light adds to the rapidly sharpening darkness.
Now I become myself. It’s taken time, many years and places.
—May Sarton, “Now I Become Myself”
I’ve traveled far enough to remain the narrator.
The beautiful distortion of reflection,
time arrested. Star gravity.
Symbiotic or parasite? It’s both
and there’s only one answer. Details,
I need to add details. Salt air stains.
I am not doing anything wrong,
which is where we disagree. What does it mean
when the middle ground is now the high ground?
Sometimes the only place to start is right here.
It’s the same kind of living that believes
challenges are opportunities. Experts predict
the rapture will happen in the early morning
during the hours of softening darkness.
Show a smile; brave a tooth.
Imagine this as it is—a holy exposure.
Stimulate me, please.
They walk like cowboys, recently dismounted. He eats slowly out of a Trader Joe’s bag, the one that has the laughing donkey on it. We wander to find new ways of understanding old ideas. Innocent babies continue to be born into privilege. Ordinary trauma is a slow build—swinging from want to need, and back to want to be taken. The multitudes of being consumed becomes a careful process of discernment like knowing the addictive taste of dispossession. Although sometimes, with frequency, the loop closes on you. Don’t worry. There is space here, stored as evergreen desires, located between patterns of waves formed from swallowing knowledge by association. It’s been recommended we might feel at the edges for faint annotations of alchemic personality. In the same way, men have learned to cross their legs at their ankles and global fantasies of catastrophe make us proficient in technology. Ritual is perfected suspense. It has already taken place. Events such as these are mere dreams; a tiger, white and mangy, tries to eat my hands from taking up too much space. A way to show how time is wasteless.
The past beats inside me like a second heart. —John Banville, The Sea
From football to cult rallies on glacial plains,
America excels at strategies of deterrence.
There is generational learning behind knowing
the difference between submission and giving.
Release is forbidden.
Americans’ reflective accolades penetrate the best
as fervent belief converts to trembling devotion.
The point being none of this is supposed to make sense.
As true as death, reality always fades.
This feels influenced…
in the same way as
believing in tomorrow
is a predictive narrative.
Futures become quid pro quo
throbbing, mid-life lust.
Fog pushes inland, offshore swells.
Well-earned suspicions form furious
visceral optimized expectations,
soaked in publicly circulating emotions
from day-trading warlocks and wardens.
Waste is fantasy. Plastic generations
replace curiosity with optimism, a commodity.
Hoarding ironically creates emptiness.
Ask any aspiring millionaire.
Habitual behavior now discounted reward.
“These are my Confessions and if I say nothing in them it’s because I have nothing to say.” —Fernando Pessoa, The Book of Disquiet
is to know where the bones are buried.
Synonym: institutional allegiance.
Why is risk so often in your mouth?
Your answer, “That’s where the desire swells.”
It’s true the end of a river is also a mouth.
Waves form unnoticed. We tell each other stories—
unanswered questions worth more conceptually.
Wanting words that hold their form
both as concrete nouns and confluent verbs.
No subject is stable you often tell me.
Following the principle of least astonishment
is probably how we got here.
The living room pictures hang crooked
from the last noticeable earthquake.
“What use having a great depth of field, if there is not an adequate depth of feeling?”
—W. Eugene Smith
The park’s grass is ankle deep,
again. Promises of everlasting life
continue to hold their sway.
It’s 2021, and I just learned
gold seeks gold.
Bounty hunters still scheming.
When will the rich suffer equally?
Is that even the right question?
Forests burn to their crowns
while babies drown in basement apartments.
What frequency will you hear
the trees screaming? Repeat yourself.
The neighborhood birds continue to sing
their morning songs. We must still be ok,
for now? Surrender—then acceptance—or
is it the other away around?
Certainty needs urgency
to keep it potent.
Embody your devotion.
Watch the ocean replicate.
All those Sunday sermons
soaked deep within.
Knowing, that convinced feeling.
Accuracy a worthy reliquary.
Be an animal, again.
In claiming this emotional space every week, anchors of memory and experience structure a highly unstable body of work. I arrive inhabiting this swath of living, or as Lauren Berlant said in her essay Cruel Optimism, “deflating the symbolic into the somatic”.
After all, islands are the tops of mountains. Perception as slant, signaling both perspective and insight. That sweet trigger of embodied habit. Writing from an ascetic life.
What earned reward lays in wait? Is it focus as illumination? Maybe the reward is endurance inside an anxious limbic system. Simply, a need gets satisfied. A temperance of honesty that there is no final outcome to this effort. That this predictive text, and its energy, may be read as art. That this is worthless.
Everything is just enough to be the same—
delusional observation—everything except
for the unwelcome return of an orangered sun.
The sky is no longer a place to look up to.
Wednesday news: 34 wildfires
have started in the last 24 hours. Have started is an example
of present perfect tense.
As in, trees of all types and ages
have started screaming.
So many remain illiterate
about events they claim
have never happened—to them.
Blind to the sound of yellow. Deaf
to exploding blues and facile ghosts.
Forgive me, you wanted this memory to be precise.
with the animals dying around us
taking our feelings we are saying thank you
with the forests falling faster than the minutes
of our lives we are saying thank you
with the words going out like cells of a brain
with the cities growing over us
we are saying thank you faster and faster
with nobody listening we are saying thank you
thank you we are saying and waving
dark though it is
Afghanistan is falling. Call me. Pulling out resonates
inside the soft mouths of liars.
Strategic slants concealed
into compressed scrolls [timelines].
Repeat. The future of artificial
intelligence will be a series—trying and failing.
Like the original version of intelligence,
it presumes. It bleeds into itself.
Audacity is roiling. Shhh—
your contemporary affect is showing.
In rooms with no windows, meetings crosstalk.
Taunting, we call out to god and beg
his celebrity angels to rescue us.
Suckling angst between pauses of incidental music,
our atmospheric knowledge tells us to take comfort
knowing even the rich are mutually suffocating.
Our shared psychosis now bonded as emotional reality.
You assume you’ve seen this before,
this familiar demarcation of transition.
What promises or expectations did you bring to this?
You know you can never step in the same river twice.
Are you listening to remember?
“No matter what disintegrating influences I was experiencing, the writing was the act of wholeness.” —Anaïs Nin, In Favor of the Sensitive Man and Other Essays
A local politician sells
subtext. Mixing patterns
of outbreaks, denial, aggressive
neglect, profit, waste. Time
monetized into relativity of spectacle.
Subterranean realities. July descends into August.
Clouds sail by dry as bones. Crowns above spread
shade. Our vernacular noisy wagons, isolated
oak savannas, quarantined in translation.
Wanting to do what we see; evidence.
Let’s take these metastasized days
and ride them into darkness. Be silhouettes,
featureless. Are you aware of all the consequences
when accepting the advertised risks?
How good it felt: to want something and
pretend you don’t, and to get it anyway.
—last two lines of Cristin O’Keefe Aptowicz’s “July”
Trust your gut. I don’t want you to get lost in the details. This is a map, a blueprint, a ledger of interactions, process or form or whatever you’ve been taught to see.
Guests of former selves clamor. There are fires and no water. Heat domes and variants. Return-to-work and shelter-in-place. Critical race theory and Big Lies™. Long division and 4th of July car sales. Blueberries are rotting on the bush and border theatre sells out. The routine of keeping it together. Line by line, word by word, click by click. 21st century prefabrications.
How can I hurl myself deeper
into this life
—Ellen Bass, “The Long Recovery”
I’m a maximalist by virtue. I want more than an average understanding. I’m the oldest daughter of an amateur bull rider. Surface-level commonality is temporary as an ocean wave. I want to be like the tides, consistently influential to the point of unforgettable. Inverting the fates, nothing unimportant.
Hope was my greatest sin. —Clarice Lispector, from “The Disasters of Sofia”
Your and my immunity are fated these dragged, hot days.
In a burning world, my dreams saturate. Mostly trees,
thick, green, with moss thick as absence. Caution—
only longing and sunny winters ahead. Toward is a feeling.
Away a noun. What luck has found us both still breathing?
Our futures have become increasingly jealous of the past.
Portents of death a spammed life—forgettable.
Self as a frequency. Do you know how to want less?
The pattern is there is no pattern. Only thrills split from the inside of nightly dreams. Fireworks imploded. In the background of Jaws, the captured sound of the ocean insistent. Tumbleweeds untitled. Lives carefully leashed. Forgiveness now sold at cost. It’s cheaper than a full-bodied excavation or postponing uninsured vacations. Those flag waving contests, sacred competitions, enunciate the ascendant feelings. Clear and bright. Rising suspicions, surges of delusion, all of it natural as dredged wetlands or pipelines exploding to spectacular affect. The variants are just following the rules of long division. A simple prayer; please. Insert more coins to keep living. The transactions of ordinary time. Freedom to fill an empty page. Phantom whisper networks now interstellar contextual markers. Parabolic welcome wagons. There is no pattern, only recognition.
“How innocently life ate the days.” —John Updike, Couples
All day long, she sits behind windows
watching swollen ancient clouds
echo along abraded front lines.
She traces their carved patterns
and records distorted stillness.
Parting seductive, the bruised grey sky
swarms off to her west and opens wide.
Some might say she’s damned
but that’s a different parable
for a different time. Today,
she’s thinking about sanctity of attention.
Relationally vast in its deviant transience,
she listens to sovereign urgent voices
like well-fingered coins tossed into wishing wells.
This form of anticipation reclusive and incessant,
unyielding as the agency of water.
An observant song now broadcast as western light.
“What happens when you reposition agency away from power?” —Ocean Vuong, episode 227 of Talk Easy with Sam Fragoso
I’m writing this down
as proof of memory.
The sky is almost always
a solid backlit blue
unless it isn’t.
A specificity shared
by anyone who lives beneath it.
Not unlike knowing poppies don’t unfold
until midmorning and being aware, now,
how summer here blooms—
if you’re paying attention.
Gradients of time punctuate
while light cascades unnoticed.
In other words, there’s devotion
and there’s feral experience.
Time is visual—
the sun an arc,
we are the curve.
On the cusp of a new year
time has been absorbed;
last year not yet finished.
Unless otherwise stated,
no one is coming to save me.
Time now swarmed with qualifiers,
its own forgotten circumstance.
Lead me gently back to place.
My tense present perfect—
Clouds stretch fluff
over million-dollar hills.
That clock stopped years ago.
The plants grow taller.
Evacuations have started,
master prompts. This land of fault lines
under a sky so blue, suspended in hope.
Responsive is the desire, a memory.
as the jet stream moves
torrid seasons west to east.
The Arctic Circle holds tropical.
We start to make summer plans—
then actually book them.
“Space to breathe” or “create
new memories” congregate
fragmented within threaded comments
like when Roland Barthes says
in A Lover’s Discourse,
“this is the paradisiac realm
of subtle and clandestine signs:
a kind of festival not of senses
but of meaning”. Maybe this summer
will feel more like a communion—
public intimacy sanctioned.