July 2012

No curtain between rooms, no wall could keep out the unseemly or un-ignorable. Bindings are always coming undone; treads wear down to the shaft. But sweet currents live there, too— those quickenings resembling the flutter of garments with an open weave, paper thin as onion skins we used to write all our missives on, in dark, rich inks. You prime a sheet of Canson with a quick wash of water, then apply a drop of color with just the tip of the brush: then watch it spread like a rumor of lace across its surface. I have come to the conclusion, therefore, that intention is never a single arrow shot into the dark; is not a line to draw, without a waver or a tremble in the wrist, from one end of a long hallway to the other. I suspect it might not even be about starting or stopping, getting waylaid, detoured, shanghaied, hijacked, distracted or seduced— Not that the air might not be laden with the scent of salt or jasmine, coffee or bitter greens, engine oils, blood, or sex; but only that every narrative must find its own particular plot. And those dull yearning aches: sometimes they are the only stand-ins for that cheering squad or Greek chorus. Their prompts are quicker than the clapper on a movie set.


In response to I have wandered like a flood.

Joyously. Because otherwise what’s the point? ~ D. Bonta

She wonders what it’s like to go back, or if the boxes of books and papers bundled with cord are still in the attic; she wonders what happened to the cabinet with glass doors, where her mother stored the hand-sewn dresses and gowns she wound up wearing only once or twice— Such sumptuous fabrics: silks and lace, brocade, velvet; panels of crisp organza. In that time, special was always an occasion, and egg cups could be ceremonial. The point being that here where she now lives, she needs to find rapture again, even in the window blinds.


In response to Via Negativa: How to question authority.

yarrow tops in flower
yarrow tops in flower at the beginning of July
You may remember my four-part series of photo-essays on meadow plants and butterflies back at the beginning of July (start here). That first morning I ventured out with my camera, I was feeling especially creative, and I think my photos reflect that to some extent. Half-way along, I happened on the mountain mint, which I intended to harvest a bit of for tea, and noticed it was growing amidst the flowering yarrow—one of my long-time favorite brewing herbs. Why not try brewing with both of them, I thought.

Up until that moment, I’d been intending to make some kind of very standard beer style—an IPA or a porter—and simply substitute yarrow for the usual hops, largely as a proof of concept. I knew from my own experience as well as from the literature that yarrow was an exceedingly reliable hops substitute, and that its leaves were better for bittering and its flowering tops for imparting aroma, but I’d always mixed one or the other in with lots of other things as part of various gruit mixes. Wouldn’t it be interesting to see what it could do by itself? But now I had a new and more poetic idea: a summer meadow ale. And the more thought about it, the more fun I thought it might be to try and capture the essence of our flowering meadow—to put its genius loci in a bottle.

I didn’t entirely abandon the first strategy, though. I dried some yarrow leaves to use as one would bittering hops, so I could save the tops for the end of the boil as one would with aroma hops. I found a pint of dried lemon balm from July of last year that I didn’t know I had, so that had to go into the mix, and roasted dandelion roots seemed appropriately meadowy as well. My friend Lucy gave me a pint of dried red raspberry leaves from her garden, and since their flavor is kind of subtle, I decided to add them when most of the fermentation was complete to give them as much of a chance against the mint and yarrow as possible. I also added a cup of fresh wild bergamot leaves from my own garden at the same time, for the same reason.

The beer exceeded my expectations and then some. I’ve posted the recipe in the brewing section of my personal website. To repeat just a bit of what I wrote there: Despite my years of herbal brewing this was, believe it or not, the first I’ve ever brewed with mint, but it won’t be the last. Now I can see why the Russians are so fond of mint-flavored beer. I always figured it would taste too much like chewing gum or mouthwash, but nothing could be further than the truth: malt and mint seem made for each other. Nor does the mint overwhelm the other flavors, which I notice more strongly the farther down I get into a bottle. The earthy, nutty flavor of the dandelion root (or is it the Victory malt?) slowly emerges, as does the bergamot and the yarrow. I’m not sure I can detect the other herbs, but I invited Lucy to stop by this afternoon and give her assessment, since she has particularly acute taste buds. She is, like me, a big fan of mountain mint, and agreed that it went well with the malt. But she said there was also a strong layer of what she described as smokiness or muskiness—a complicated mix of flavors with “something foxy to it.” I’ll drink to that.

The Good Typist:

Note: When you write your article about online roleplaying games, do not say: We are not possessed by demons, we are possessed by our own life force, our incredible power is bent back on us in a world unequipped to accept the magnificence of our offerings. Poetry no longer decodes our desires and if any does, we don’t know where to find it, so we pour all of our nobility and our repressed physical courage and our keen intelligence and our telepathic connection to nature into little pixelated beings that resemble us, that remind us of why we once came to this planet to be alive. Because you’re pretty sure someone probably already said that.

Not so much unremembered, as splintered into humid fragments: as in last night’s dream of being taken by the hand and led into a crowded house somewhere in the countryside. Was it some kind of storage shed, or stable? Sacks of grain stacked end to end formed beds, as in a dormitory. Old women spread cotton sheets across them and gestured at what would be my space. The windows had no panes. They looked out over dust-speckled fields, skies the color of soot. You were nowhere to be found. Light bulbs swung from wires in the bathroom stalls. The drains were slow. A child showed me a door that led into a yard. Someone had fixed the rainspout to double as a shower. We tilted our chins up, but only moths swirled out of the shadows, the touch of their wings slighter than drops of rain we were sure would come.


In response to small stone (112).

Clive Hicks-Jenkins:

A man and a woman were standing in front of my painting Green George, and he was speaking with lively enthusiasm about the work, explaining to her what the artist had been attempting in it, and the technical tricks he’d used to pull off the effects. She gazed up at him adoringly, basking in the light of his knowledge. What he had to say sounded most interesting and plausible. Even I was impressed.

This entry is part 23 of 47 in the series Morning Porch Poems: Summer 2012


Here it is, then: another message to you, sent from this wrought iron table under the dogwood where I sit writing. The birds are masters of solitude or concentration, or ninjas in disguise. They hurtle past, one after the other, intent on one thing at a time. What else would you like to know? I’ve told you about the secret name I was given in childhood to confuse the gods, so liberal with their gifts of illness and malaise; I’ve told you about the black sow my grandfather brought from his farm, a gift on my fifth birthday. I had just been discharged from nearly a month in the hospital— for what, I don’t really know, and cannot remember. They penned it up for the night in the unfinished bathroom, next to the also unfinished kitchen (I think it was being expanded). It kicked at the plywood slats all night and squealed, or bleated. Is that what you call the sound of an animal that knows it is going to be sacrificed in the morning? I didn’t see, but I could hear the men sharpening knives and starting a fire by the guava trees. I shut my ears and burrowed into the bedclothes. They were so happy I had been returned, that time had wrought its little miracles. What did I know, and who was I to say that such a feast was not in fact the payment required? I no longer burned with fevers. The purple eruptions on my lips were gone. The animal’s shirt of hair would be singed, its insides bled, its sacs of bile and pulsing liver hung up in the trees— dark garnets glinting among the leaves.


In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

This entry is part 34 of 39 in the series Manual


Loudly, so the police sirens will be abashed.

Softly, so your blood-sucking interrogator will lean in close where he can be asphyxiated by your garlic breath.

From within, so the authorities will begin to doubt themselves.

From beyond the grave, which affords some form of protection against reprisal.

Through the slogan NO, which, as nitric oxide, reduces blood pressure by expanding the veins during its brief half-life in the bloodstream.

Through songs, which spread by invisible spores and can grow six inches in a day.

In the voice of unreason, since all the reasonable men defer to whomever commands the most barking guns.

Casually, as if walking on hot coals.

Automatically, through negative phototropism.

Surreptitiously, linking to your co-conspirators only through quantum entanglement.

With an absense of authority, which calls the very logic of authority structures into question.

Joyously. Because otherwise what’s the point?