Glance at the sun.
See the moon and stars.
Gaze at the beauty of the earth's greenings.

Hildegard von Bingen

Let the beauty you love be what you do. There are a thousand ways to kneel and kiss the earth.

attributed to Rumi

photograph by Marie Hochhaus


An Open Letter to the Blue Whale on the Ceiling

You were, if such a thing
is possible, even bigger than I

The rest of the room had shrunk
as I grew; infinite clatter and light
grew sapphire and silent,
and the ceiling--horrible ceiling--
had dropped.

The baby ran from taxidermied sea lions
to brass-dipped giant clams,
excitedly pointing out
the empty scallop shell beside the roaring beasts,
the way the letters of the clam's name glowed
in the underwater dark.

I walked the full length of this blue ballroom
before finding your eye,
flat and empty in its painted depth.
You did not blink, but neither
did I, floating stunned in the currents
of your terrifying, shy smile.

Children ran beneath you dizzily
singing sea shanties,
while onscreen the jellyfish
unfolded her glittering heart.


Beautiful Woman

after Vashti of Persia

It had been
A long time coming. The drink
Spilled fast, and men’s beards grew heavy
On their chests. The musicians
Had gone home, all broken strings
And red fingers, their pockets
Tinkling like cymbals. And still
You roared on, clapped your advisors
Hearty on their sleep-sloped velvet shoulders.
I heard my name. The idea took whole minutes
To push from your wine-loose lips.
I was summoned. “Beautiful,” you bubbled.
“Beautiful, beautiful

In the room of my mind I packed
My slippers, my gold-embroidered robe,
“I want to show—everyone—“
a heavy traveling cloak,
“Just how beautiful—“
the silver knife from my mother,
“you are.”
I counted silently on one hand the servants
Who would leave with me,
Took one long breath
And lifted my eyes.

photograph by DeviantArt user EnglishTeaLeaf



So much collides
In these small days. Today
Spring begins, and Purim at sundown:
The earth rolls sleepily into a patch
Of sunlight. We don masks
And crowns.
Tomorrow Jesus will die,
And the moon will fill herself
Full. Sunday he will rise:
Small feet will shift
In ankle socks. We speak
Murder to one another;
Fertility, salvation. Birdsong.
We are wrapped
In the sky-blue skirts
Of holy women and heroines, and red forgiveness
Runs down the aisles. We will hide our faces
And plant eggs
Like they were seeds. We will all
Be reborn.

photograph by DeviantArt user planetkat


Tanka for My Mistress

after Sei Shonagon

Her tears slide like rain
On rice-paper walls; I find
A comb for her hair.
My mistress’ dog has died,
And the rain is no comfort.

The small pink blossoms
Beneath her eyes have faded,
And a voice like a cat has
Taken them. It matters not
To me either way.

Heian-era paper doll kimono by Liana of Paperdoll Blog


Noli Me Tangere II

How would you feel, I wonder, to discover
I drew my resurrected Jesus
Out of your ghost,
Your cold armor of vertebrae,
Your warning like a gunshot:
Don’t touch me.


Noli Me Tangere

after Mary Magdalene

Later you will write
That he didn’t mean it, you must
Have read it wrong,
Have mistranslated.

You will light him gold from within,
Reopen his wounds, soften his cracked lips.
You did not hear the hoarse whisper,
See the hard line of his back,
His oil-softened hair.

You will not know how brief that moment
When his eyes stepped into mine,
How my heart rent seconds later
When he turned to the tear-tracked dust.

He had changed, those three days
In the dark, had grown taller,
His jaw firm.

You did not watch him sway
As I did then, his legs locked
To fight the pain, eyes closed tight
Against the sun.

detail of The Appearance of Christ to Mary Magdalene by Alexander Ivanov


Roanoke Island, 1590

after John White

Virginia dear, I would be,
I am, lost
without you.
In the dark heart of the forest I listen
for laughter, footsteps, hoofbeats, all
like pattering rain but no leaf stirs.

I turned with the full breath of God
in my sails, and becalmed in the glitter
of gunpowder and silk perfume.
Your tiny hands, scrubbed with dirt and dried
with twigs, vanished from me
with my promises.

Only the tree bark will answer me now,
in a papery tongue with no words.
The shadows expand to swallow me.
Every last man has gone, but it is you alone
who has left me.


Leap Year

I awake to whinnies and snorts.
Out past the back fence my neighbor’s horses
Are restless, have been
For four weeks.
“This time of year,” he tells me, leaning against
the peeling stable wall in dirty blue jeans,
“Mist gets into their brains,
they forget they belong here.”
I watch the mares watching me
Through the paddock gate, wondering
If I brought apples. They flick their ears
As the chestnut prince paces past, his laps
Shortening, his gait urgent.

The phone rings. “It’s the stallions,”
Says my cousin in Montana.
Upstairs I hear my husband swearing
At a stuck dresser drawer.
“Magnet even nipped at Janie
after school last week.”
I hang up, stirring sugar into my coffee,
The sound of hoofbeats in my ears.
My husband is slamming doors,
Stomping. I hear a long sigh
And open the door to let in a draft
Of damp air.

Polaroid by ChaosBang

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