Dear moisture, dear nearly soundless
rain that falls all night to turn the fields
into sheets of soggy Canson paper, the reeds
are soaking their feet in sepia. Some nights
I’ve roused from sleep to hear your sharp
artillery deflecting from roofs and windowpanes;
other times, almost unlikely, you’ve warmed
the glass to make trees loom and fade through fog
while in the distance, streams carol like frogs.
In monsoon months you’ve painted maps with mold,
new worlds of islands in swirly skirts, darkening
at the hems with salt water; you wrote to me
a daily script on the ceiling that I tried to read,
lying in bed at night. I’ve put away those letters,
pretending I didn’t know your other names
and how they all spell willfulness, swift change,
precipitous and unpredictable nature.
Tantalus wants just a bite of fruit from the bough,
washed down by a chaser; and the Danaids
only want to be done with that never-ending
business of filling and emptying those joke-store
jars pre-riddled with holes. When I was seventeen,
confused and green, my ex- took me hiking, then
at the summit leered “Don’t tell me you don’t know
what I want.” But the clouds shifted— I’m not
making this up— We were drenched, a thunderstorm
had saved me. You know the feeling, when every pore
is saturated with dampness and maybe a sliver
of wistfulness or longing; and there’s not
a towel in sight, not a hair-dryer, not a clean
dry sheet smelling simply of air and light.
Some trees are agoraphobic — it’s true. With every branch and twig they strain to block out the sky, and they never leave the forest. Winter is painful for them, but they escape as best they can by drawing down their sap and hiding underground. On warm days in late winter and early spring, when their sap starts to flow again, they are groggy as sleepwalkers that have just fallen down the stairs.
Waking up isn’t always a pleasant thing, especially if you are approaching middle age and your joints creak, your skin is suddenly no longer elastic, and any weird lump or lesion could be the beginning of something dire.
Better to stay asleep and dream of sprouting a thousand parasols or hiding like a bird beneath its feathers. Better just to stand by the stream and listen to the water, which has mastered the art of running from the sky.
The Awl: “Being Female”
I know I’m a little late with this, but the issue of discrimination against women in publishing and reviewing isn’t going anywhere, and Eileen Myles’ response to the troubling data released by VIDA last month really cuts to the chase.
So I wrote five pages of pussy wallpaper and gave it to the editors at VICE who did publish it but confided in me that the money people really had to be convinced that it was not entirely disgusting. With all the dirty and violent and racist things that VICE has done, this was um a little troubling. Do we really want to send that kind of message to our readers. What kind of message is that. I guess a wet hairy soft female one. I mean a big giant female hole you might fall into never to be heard from again.
A small, narrow or enclosed, usually wooded valley.
How can I have lived in a dingle for 40 years and not known it? “Plummer’s Dingle.” Hmm.
Plummer’s Hollow blog: “Fisher caught on video in Plummer’s Hollow”
More great trail cam footage from our neighbors, Paula and Troy Scott, this time of a fisher, which is a once-extirpated and still rare species of large mustelid, bigger than a pine marten but smaller than an otter.
O.K., I know some of you don’t want to click through and read my deathless prose, so here’s the video:
Maybe we’ll end up with roughly ten percent of the online population (Pew’s consistent finding) keeping a blog. As the online population becomes closer to universal, that is an extraordinary thing: One in ten people writing in public. Our civilization has never seen anything like it.
So you can keep your “waning” headlines, and I’ll keep my amazement and enthusiasm.
Yale Environment 360: “Alien Species Reconsidered: Finding a Value in Non-Natives”
Science writer Carl Zimmer examines some new studies suggesting that total eradition of invasive species might not always be the best idea: for example, “Introduced cats were eradicated from Maquarie Island off the coast of Australia, after having driven two of the island’s bird species extinct. But with the cats gone, an introduced population of rabbits exploded, devouring the native plants.” Read the comments too, though. (via Chris Clarke on Twitter)
Watch on Vimeo.
Hannah Stephenson did a screen-capture video of the composition process for one of the poems she blogged last week, then speeded it up by about ten times. Be sure to expand it to full screen by clicking the four-arrows icon on the lower right, so you can read the poem as it grows and mutates. This is more or less how I work, too, except that I can’t listen to music while I’m writing. In her blog post about it, Hannah says, “It feels a bit like I’m inviting you into my brain…welcome! Come on in.”
A gray feather floats down & lands on the snow as if from the angel of February. There’s a yellow spot in the otherwise gray sky that might be the sun. A sharp-shinned hawk appears from behind the house & alights in the lowest limb of the big maple. The small birds ignore it. It takes off through the trees, wings scissoring the air. A chickadee sings its spring song. Hawk, I say, thanks for being a hawk & not an angel. But we are not out of the woods yet. Invisible dead rest in neglected graves, reads the headline at CNN.com. Some of the graves were only marked by spoons, & the gray angels were busy tending, let’s say, the factories of grief. February is a hard month. If only the juncos were invisible, they too could rest.
Gray sky, gash of a gray breast feather
laid across the snow. It must have been
a dream— I walked up a flight of stairs
to a room where, with every step, a cloud of insects
rose from inside each plank of wood. Like wraiths,
they circled. They wound tissue ribbons and dogged
my heels. I cried out and a voice replied
with some kind of apology. Waking, I found
three plastic discs with electrodes still stuck
to my shoulder blades, to the small of
my back. A thin humming, slight as wings,
disappeared over the roof of my brain.
In the maple, shadow of a sharp-shinned
hawk; and somewhere, some small creature
flattening itself against the ground.
We are not vessels of fired clay
but ice. One glance reveals
the odd fragments of earth—
a brown leaf, a silkworm’s thumb-
sized mummy—waiting for spring’s
indiscriminate knife. We are
not hawks, we desert people,
but kites—the kind that can’t fly
without a string. Our words
are singular & fragile as uranium
in the only universe we know.
Soon we will have spoken, typed
or penned the last one. It will be
our birthday, as it always is.
The rabble will rubble the palace,
waving charred copies of
our once-green book.
The tent in the garden will flap
like a mutilated wing.
Above the road bank where
the hepatica has just come
into bloom, carrion beetles
clamber through the quills
of a dead porcupine.
Spring azure butterflies ring
what’s left of its mouth—
a void spanned by a pair
of yellow rails—
& ignore the blossoms
swaying on their downy stems
in all the colors of the sky,
white & pink & blue.
The snow hasn’t been gone a week,
but already life & death
seem far apart. The rusty leaves
that lasted the winter out
are relaxing into the earth,
& soon will be indecipherable
even to the most ardent follower
of the doctrine of signatures
in search of liverleaf,
or those who seek respite
from dreams of snakes.
An earlier version of this poem appeared in a post from April 17, 2006.