One New Essay

art: Tony Stella

New this month: I wrote about family, trauma, and hope in Guillermo del Toro's Crimson Peak. 

You can read the essay at Bright Wall/Dark Room or on RogerEbert.com.

Image description: A watercolor illustration of Mia Wasikowska in Crimson Peak. She levels her gaze at the viewer. Her expression is steady but unreadable.


Two Poems at Yes, Poetry

"The Lovers I" by René Magritte

Thanks very much to Yes, Poetry for making me July's Poet of the Month. 

You can read my new poems here

(I'll keep on writing weird poems about art and trees as long as y'all keep making art and planting trees. Deal?)

[Image description: René Magritte's painting "The Lovers I," showing a close-up portrait of two figures, one in a suit and one in a dress, their faces touching but obscured by separate white sheets. Behind them, the sky is blue with a few clouds and the valley is grassy and green.]


Rerun Three: Amaryllis

Photo by Bruce Barrett // CC BY-ND 2.0

a myth in two weeks of text messages

0. Prologue
I had been planning to send a poem each night you were away. Then I walked past that really good lingerie store. So. I'll send your first snapshot before boarding begins.

The saleswoman handed me a velvet hanger draped with something outlandish and red. She nodded knowingly and vanished, leaving me white and incredulous beside the gilt-framed mirror. There was no price on the tag, only a name: Amaryllis.

The flower, like so many, was once a timid nymph. Timid and twitterpated with some beautiful boy. Some shepherd, flung far afield. A desperate Amaryllis sought advice from the oracle, who said

Turn up the heat in heart-stopping, electric, fire-engine red. Gorgeous stretch lace cups offer structured support with hot satin ribbon detailing.

How pleasurable the afternoon half-hour spent sprawled on the comforter, arching alone to get the right angles.

Night after night the nymph appeared outside Alteo's home and opened her robes. Pleaded: Shepherd, see me. Pierced her bared breast with a golden arrow. Rained red droplets on his door.

You should have seen me, centering the lens on the red ribbons dripping down my sternum. The penumbra under well-supported breasts. The lay of scalloped silk between them. The light on golden eyelets. The corner of a smile on rose-madder lips.

The other nymphs noticed that Amaryllis had begun humming around sunset. She dreamt all day of the darkness, of the slow slide of cloth from a shoulder, the coolness of moon on her skin.

Finally one morning Alteo opened his door and found a spectacular little red flower. Petals splaying, hot as blood. Pulsing for want of him.

Pulsing, anyway.

Dear shepherd, I have wanted this, your eyes roving over these slopes.

Amaryllis will grab attention and never let it go.

But other eyes are lingering longer on this lingerie. My eyes. My incandescence. How strange to see.

I'm glad you like them.

I'm glad, anyway.

Originally published in The Murmur House. Italicized portions of poem text taken from the Mimi Holliday catalog.


A Prayer for the New Year

Photo by Matthew Smith on Unsplash

Mysteries, Yes
by Mary Oliver
Truly, we live with mysteries too marvelous
to be understood.
How grass can be nourishing in the
mouths of the lambs.
How rivers and stones are forever
in allegiance with gravity
while we ourselves dream of rising.
How two hands touch and the bonds
will never be broken.
How people come, from delight or the
scars of damage,
to the comfort of a poem.
Let me keep my distance, always, from those
who think they have the answers.
Let me keep company always with those who say
"Look!" and laugh in astonishment,
and bow their heads.


Rerun Two: Right Then

Photo by Jessica Lucia // CC BY-ND 2.0

Right Then

Ransacking the grass
at the edge of the parking lot,
the loveliest jay I’ve ever seen. 

His features, 
so fine. His blues, 
so bright. 

He cocks his crest 
at my idling car 

I sigh behind the wheel. 

He screams. 
Another bird flutters down. 

She is smaller than her mate, 
her neck feathers 
mute and iridescent 
as shade-grown violets. 

Two hops and he is gone 
into the brambles. She follows 

Right then. 
That’s when I miss you.

Originally published in Passionfruit #5

Rerun One: The Death of the Lobster

The Death of the Lobster

To know the future
there must be a death.
Hand me the axe.

Margaret Atwood, from "Circe/Mud Poems"

The death of the lobster will commence quietly.
One night, she will awake
and find her shell slightly too snug.
Her shell has stopped growing.
She has not.
Tomorrow, her shell will be tighter,
the next day, tighter still.

Her shell is everything
that holds her, inside and out. It is
the legs that click her across her cave.
It is the teeth in her stomach
that grind fish into food.

The constriction will continue.
She will lose
her appetite.

She, then, will waste away,
a diminishing prisoner
within a shrinking cell. 

The time will come. Her time. 
She will pump her shell
with sea water, more, more,
until it cracks.

She will wrench 
the lining from her guts
and pull it from her mouth,
a conjurer's string of scarves.

She will withdraw
withered arms from rigid sleeves.
She is too weary
to be doing this. Still, it needs
to be done.

She will thrash her body
through the rupture in her armor.

The world will go black.

It will feel like dying,
and it is.

But it is not the end.

Beneath her split shell
she has grown another,
flimsy and mica-thin.

When she wakes,
she will flood this young covering
with water, filling
until it inflates, solidifying
by the moment.

Before long, she will have claws
that will hold. Legs to stand on.
Teeth to feed her.

She will rise
on new feet. She will raise the broken shell
to her mouth
and start eating.

The old house will never be home again.
Yet from this calcium-rich rubble
she will pick good bricks
and build another.

Originally published in Public Pool


Ten Years Later

photo: Dan Whale via Unsplash

The first-ever Thing Written Down appeared on this blog ten years ago today.

Yeah, I know.

The intervening decade feels more like a lifetime. The world is changed.

I am changed, too. Very little of my life now resembles my life then. But I'm still writing things down, and I'm still glad you're here.

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