Special Instructions

Instead of leaving 
post-it notes on
the mailbox, now
you can fill in
an online form saying
you'd like parcels
delivered to your back
door or left on the patio
instead of out in front
where porch pirates
can get to them before
you do. A neighbor
has nailed a sign
to the crepe myrtle:
Please scoop your dog
poop. Another sends
an email to the whole
Nextdoor list: Please
don't feed the raccoons.
When wind topples
the deck umbrellas
and flips the tops
of trash bins open,
even the crickets go
quiet; the stray cats,
crows and vultures
stay away.

Life Index

In an old story, the hero plunges
his body into a river after many
years of arduous travel; for his
purification, all the fish expire.
His mother weeps at the casual way
in which so much of the world
is sacrificed in the name of
what they call greatness.
At dawn, even the grasses seem
to flicker in the flame of a rising
sun. The vine she planted
beside the house post on the day
of his birth describes the two
ways chance cuts the cloth
of circumstance: the green,
waxy blade of a leaf is
the future's bold invention;
its speckled underside
is every wound he will have
to dress with his hands.

mid-autumn

i wanted mooncakes: that is to say,
round suppleness of skins slipped

around a compact handful dense
with secret origins, thickened

with sugar and the elaborate labor
of bringing what you desire

to fruition. and it is labor, this
pulling, this stretching to curve

a garment around a golden center
without splitting its lip, its crust.

we think it's possible to assign
one word, one character to stamp

like a talisman on the face we wear
before we're fed into the fire.


Maxwell’s Demon Could Use a Cold Drink Right Now

~ Maxwell's demon is a thought experiment 
created by the physicist James Clerk Maxwell 
in 1867 in which he suggested how the second
law of thermodynamics might hypothetically
be violated. (Wikipedia)


Imagine a demon guarding a trapdoor
between two cells, which it opens
as soon a fast-moving molecule

approaches. After some time, this being
succeeds in capturing all the fast ones
in cell B and the slow ones in cell A;

their grouping is meant to demonstrate
the nature of a pure state, which doesn't
actually exist in this model, since

the demon will have expended energy in quickly
opening and closing that door: fifty times?
sixty? a hundred? Though the temperature

in one cell might have cooled and the other's
become hot as a sauna, he'll also have
worked up a sweat by then; rolled up

his sleeves, unzipped his vest. Maybe
he's ticked off at not getting that job
promotion, at causing his wife to leave

because of his obsessive tracking of her
every move. In other words, the nature
of time's arrow points from order

to disorder; and the present
has moved from the past to a future
that's famously difficult to control.

The First Surviving Photograph of the Moon

(John Adams Whipple, 1852)

Pale mammogram, curved
horizon emerging out of an indigo
mist, you don't bother with time
as a calculation mediated by glass
plates, metal pistons, telescope
lenses. Tonight, even stars long
expired are swallowed again
in silvered corridors of water.
I swim in the oldest river there is.
There is no lack of sorrow here,
there is no lack of that particular
desire to never be forgotten.
But whenever I open my mouth,
only the grainy contours
register; what I mean to say is,
love floats like a blue speck,
transient and eternal,
through the drifting universe.




What is a Line but a Movement Between Two Points

I don't remember the beach 
from which we set out

in an outrigger canoe, the light
a strobe constantly deflecting

off the surface of water. But
I remember the fishermen we hired

to take us to the island, how quiet
their wordless conversation, how

the waves rough-slapped their salt
against the vessel's side as we passed

and yet they steered with firm hand,
no fanfare. I have always been afraid

of water, but here we were, entrusting
ourselves to this passage without life

vests, without so much as a single
inner tube or salbabida. What is an act

if not delineated by urgency? I can't
speak for others, but I too am intent

on leaving behind to reach some balance
or understanding; and mostly, arriving.


On the Merits of Hair or Hairlessness

According to the Tipitaka 
and other accounts, the Buddha
was handsome, of fine appearance,
pleasant to see, with a good
complexion and a beautiful form...

But there's so much divergence
in the matter of whether he was bald
or wore his hair in a man bun, whether
he was clean-shaven or had a beard
or mustache, hair being such a touchy

subject wherever you go. Having
too much hair or hair in the wrong
places, or conversely no hair at all;
waxing your legs or eyebrows, never
plucking what nature meant to grow

in the hollows of the human
body— And where is the follicle
connecting flesh to the soul, that
luxuriant strand our grandmothers
sought as they parted our hair with

the patience of fine-toothed, bone-
handled combs? One psalm says my iniquities
have overtaken me, they are more numerous
than the hairs of my head; another says
I shouldn't worry, for every hair

on my head is already accounted for. Before
the Buddha's enlightenment, it's said he
pulled out each of the hairs from his beard
and head. If it's true we're going to come
back again and again until we finally

get it, it could be as a phoenix eternally
rising from the flames; as the carnival's
bearded lady with the most marvelous strength,
or the only unshaven suspect in the police lineup
the witness is absolutely sure wasn't the one.






Self-Portrait, with Seasonal Crustacean

They climb over each other in the bin—
Chesapeake blue that turn violent
orange as the water boils. But now

as the storekeeper wields a pair of tongs,
all is skittery movement, no beautiful
swimming but a clawing at the air

during the moment of capture.
How smooth each back looks, otherwise.
And underneath, ridged grid like an old-

fashioned washboard; hinge that pries
open to cell after cell of white flesh
and rooms of brittle parchment.

Aren't they just like us, then—
eager to escape what's meant to be
our fate, trying to keep intact

inside the shell of our own
invisible sweetness that curdles
as soon as the enemy approaches.




If a Butterfly Flaps its Wings

Somewhere in the world, a body goes
through the same motions I make:

but the water I cup in my hands
when I turn on the tap

never washes over her hands, never
touches the skin of his face. The crust

of toast I put in my mouth never grazes
the bridge of her teeth, never tumbles

down the dry well of his throat. I slide
my feet into their two leather coffins,

my arms into bright cotton casings;
but somewhere in the world, the cold

wraps around her throat, the rain
lashes his limbs. How can the earth

have so many rooms and so little
space? Outside our windows,

gulls lift their dusty wings; their
shadows skim across our walls.


Indecipherable

When wind blows across 
the roof shingles, sometimes
it makes the sound of a hundred
typewriter keys. The carriage
moves from one end to the other.
Whatever letter it was writing
is snatched up before the ink
has dried. No one will ever know
what it was trying to say
to you or your shadow.