~ after Remedios Varo, “Homo Rodans,” 1959; sculpture: chicken, fish, and turkey bones; and wire.

Infinite loop, eternal recursion,
alchemy of what comes back

to turn into what it was before,
as well as what it may be pre-

ordained to be— Now you have
rooms of bookcases from years

of telling yourself you should
read more novels and fewer news-

papers (actually for the crossword
puzzles); should listen to opera

especially for that moment the singer
opens her mouth and suddenly an entire

hushed auditorium becomes an echo
slipped into her lungs. Once,

in a secondhand book bin, you found
a book that had gone missing for years.

No question about it: your name
pencilled in the flyleaf, faded

notes on the margins. Creases, dog-
ears; faded receipt marking a page.

Mathematics of circular motion

~ After “Revelation or the Clockmaker,” 1955; Remedios Varo

Where does the sky most feel
that it is about to crumble,

than above a roomful of people
making uniform rapid movements

eight hours a day in cubicles
all in a row? There are ceilings

so soft, they can only be held up
by the ticking of a room full

of clocks. Their angled tops
remind me of churches in my

hometown: as children, we liked
to tilt our heads and look

straight up at the steeple,
until it seemed we felt the sky

unhinge, and the world
revolve around that point.

Epistle to the future

~ after “Viaje de Lady” (1950), Remedios Varo

Caballero, no matter how terrible
the world looks this morning,
I am certain we still have it in us
to leap as a whale does, clear
over the waves. I wear a mask
but only because of these eyebags—
I couldn’t fall asleep until the winds
died down; branches kept breaking off
to sound drumrolls on the roof. Remember
those stories where a boat has sprung
a leak and slowly begins to sink?
What happens when you stop trying
to keep the water out? You plant
both feet firmly over the gap.
You think about the little fish
that nibble delightfully around
your ankles, exfoliating everywhere
your own hands could never reach.
Even the most taxing trial must
come to an end sometime. Even
the dark grows tired of being
only dark. Look closer; you’ll see
flecks of beet red, blue, sepia;
the careful outlines drawn
around figures pressing through.

Phenomenology of the liver

~ after “Alchemy or the Useless Science” (1958), Remedios Varo

Seven bottled elixirs
for each day of the week.
Work, and the checkerboard

of days I wrap more tightly
around me, as nights fall one
by one. Through the walls,

the gospel of eternal
calibration piped in as
music. I take what’s

delivered, and flush out
what refuses to dissolve.
I’ve lost count of how many

thousand rotations,
the slurry of beats
in the rooms above.

Phenomenology of interiors

~ after “Mimetismo” (Mimesis), 1960; Remedios Varo

Sometimes the furniture absconds
with my nightclothes, lets in
a fleet of curious clouds.

I have taught strings the secrets
of incremental levitation. Blending in
with the chair’s tapestry cover, I become

one tree in an orchard still glowing from
its last encounter with fire. When I am still,
don’t think my heart has vacated its post.

I’ve simply moved it into a less
conspicuous place. It glows from time
to time, reassuring me that it’s still there.


In response to Via Negativa: Backward river.


~ after Remedios Varo, “Papilla Estelar (Star Slurry/Celestial Pablum),” 1958

My lonely office
is to climb the stairs

that stretch
from the domestic world

into a citadel among
the stars.

I have no child, I have
no parakeet and yet

am most maternal here:
one hand turns

the crank handle attached
to a grinding plate;

the other maneuvers
a long-handled spoon

to feed this thin gruel
of stars to the moon’s

pale crescent, shimmering
behind bars. We watch

each other carefully, each
movement lyric and precise:

should each one’s light
falter or dim— moon, woman,

sky— night’s silences
would ring the centuries.