The Hits Just Keep On Comin'

More new music from Squid Pro Crow: Volvox Minuet. Words by me; wonderful, wonderful music by Grant.

Volvox Minuet

In one old studio my round instructor
is warming up her knees. Always the knees,
she said. You don't know what you've got
til it's gone. And then the music:
plaintive songs from long-
forgotten instruments.
My hair has slipped
from its braid. My teacher
counts, a hypnotist's trope,
and I am five hundred years ago.
The braid there has slipped too,
but there someone has bent
to mend it.

There is a pond on the way home,
a rich green plate of single-celled forms.
And in there two algae awaken.
A shy current pushes their arms
to preparation. The music begins.

Like new stars we all have been,
so blind to the cosmos and any orbit
but our own.

For more of our music, visit our Bandcamp page.


New Music from Squid Pro Crow

Barnard's Star is reborn! Music by Grant; words by me; ambient sounds from the Voyager Golden Record.

Barnard's Star

I send my heartbeat to you,
and the sum-song of my dreams.
Someday you'll unpack the impulses,
muscle-clicks like cooling cars.
Through endless fields of fire and dust
we send whale song, one noisy kiss.
Bach. A baby's cry.

Every other romance will wane
and waste away. Symphonies
are lost without their listeners.
Even the whale reduces
to a cage of bone and air.
But fast to you, Ophiuchus,
one whispered love is dancing.

For more of our music, visit our Bandcamp page.



The baby wears some variation
of the same expression
in every single picture. Sometimes
it's more like panic. Sometimes
the best guess for her round mouth,
wide eyes would be amazement.
Turning the brittle pages,

you imagine the baby at ten years old,
twenty, forty-seven. You see her sitting
regal at seventy-five, arms opened
to accept the incoming child.
She looks down at her grandson
with her own mouth round in wonder,
her eyes grown wide with surprise.

(The beautiful child in the photograph is my pal Birdy Sparling. Her mom Kerri blogs here.)


Interlude: Other People's Poetry

When Death Comes by Mary Oliver

When death comes
like the hungry bear in autumn;
when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse

to buy me, and snaps the purse shut;
when death comes
like the measle-pox

when death comes
like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,

I want to step through the door full of curiosity, wondering:
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?

And therefore I look upon everything
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,
and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
and I consider eternity as another possibility,

and I think of each life as a flower, as common
as a field daisy, and as singular,

and each name a comfortable music in the mouth,
tending, as all music does, toward silence,

and each body a lion of courage, and something
precious to the earth.

When it's over, I want to say all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.

When it's over, I don't want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.

I don't want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.

I don't want to end up simply having visited this world.

photograph © Victoria Smith


Good News, Everyone!

Big news, too: in collaboration with Grant of the Guild of Scientific Troubadours, I've set some of my poetry to music, and may even be dabbling in songwriting. Our first team effort is a spoken-word version of "Watasenia Scintillans Addresses the New Graduates."

Watasenia Scintillans Addresses the New Graduates

She clutches the podium with translucent arms.
She is older than her picture.
She closes her eyes slowly.
We all lean in.
"Life…" she says, tasting each costly letter,

"Life is short. Light your whole self up
every chance you get."

You can download the track over at Bandcamp if you're so inclined. Grant and I (collectively now known as Squid Pro Crow) have all sorts of good stuff in the works, so do stay tuned.


Blessed From Head to Toe (Finally, Some News!)

I'll be reading my poetry in the Tiber Creek Cabaret at the Shakespeare Theatre Company's Sidney Harman Hall on September 3. Tickets go on sale July 1. Click here for more information.

Hope to see you there.

"Light Crown" by Kelly Vivanco


Across the Universe

In a gesture that embodies the spirit of the Voyager project in a very real and wonderful way, Grant from the Guild of Scientific Troubadours has written a song called "Golden Record" in response to my poem "Barnard's Star." I've reprinted the poem below, so you can read it and then go check out the song.

Barnard's Star

after Ann Druyan

I send for you my heartbeat,
the rhythms of my latest dream.
You are just now finding the frozen clicks
of muscles, cooling like just-parked cars.
Through endless fields of fire and dust,
we send whale song, one noisy kiss.

Every other romance
is nothingness now, every whale
a great cage of bone and blue air.
But fast to you, bright Ophiuchus,
one whispered love is dancing.


Minor Arcana

Commuter tips her head to drop
the wide hood of her raincoat.

This morning, after the storm,
each shrub's a sacrament.

Rows of emerald goblets brim
with silver offerings.

The bare-browed queen of cups
pauses by the laurel, trails

a loving fingertip
through bowls of cool, wet light.

photograph by Edward Weston


To the God of Rocks

"Not for man, but for the bee, the moth, and the butterfly, are orchids where they are and what they are."

Neltje Blanchan, from Wild Flowers Worth Knowing, 1917

Then what are we to think
of the hapless geode? Why ever line
the stone’s stomach
with glittering, secret cities? What benign purpose
could these skylines possibly serve?

For a full stone age you sat idly by
as the peacocks bickered
on Olympus. Some glint
of their meddlesome eyes
must have bounced across the clouds.

And your poor geode would have slept--
cozy in his earthen nest—had you
not betrayed him. With a shameless brush
you tarred heartless stars
into his good gray skin.

And now the peacocks’ playthings
pluck your sparkling plum from the dust.
They gather with growing fists. Suspect his shine.
They chant for an answer. Smash him
to shards.

photograph by flickr user EDF Andromeda


Watasenia Scintillans Addresses the New Graduates

She clutches the podium with translucent arms.
She is older than her picture.
She closes her eyes slowly.
We all lean in.
"Life…" she says, tasting each costly letter,

"Life is short. Light your whole self up
every chance you get."

luminescent painting by Katie Schuler.
more about the Sparkling Enope squid here


Watching and Waiting

Good things are in the works. Stay tuned.

photograph by Jorge Rimblas



He is loose-fingered, cautious,
unbreathing yet. To him she is
a butterfly, only just
touched down.

But he is neither the collector
nor the net: to her he is
the full flower her tired feet
have found.

illustration by Martin Johnson Heade


On the Equinox

Now Old Man Winter shakes his purse
And frowns at his barren accounts;
His manor crumbles with each curse:
How did he squander such amounts?

He thunders through the empty hall,
Opens the vault of hail and gust--
His savings--but he's spent them all;
Where once was sleet, now all is dust.

Now Spring steps cautious down the street
And shines each penny like it's gold;
She smiles at the sun's new heat
Because she remembers the cold.

Then Love creeps in, a child of Spring:
All pink, and pale, and tiptoeing.

photograph by Mikey Baratta


Interlude: Other People's Poetry

from "Aurora Leigh"

And truly, I reiterate, . . nothing's small!
No lily-muffled hum of a summer-bee,
But finds some coupling with the spinning stars;
No pebble at your foot, but proves a sphere;
No chaffinch, but implies the cherubim:
And,–glancing on my own thin, veined wrist,–
In such a little tremour of the blood
The whole strong clamour of a vehement soul
Doth utter itself distinct. Earth's crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God:
But only he who sees, takes off his shoes,
The rest sit round it, and pluck blackberries,
And daub their natural faces unaware
More and more, from the first similitude.

poem by Elizabeth Barrett Browning
photograph by Sarah Ryhanen



Walking past the preschool
before Tuesday begins,
movement in the window.
The class rabbit (fat, white,
smug as a magician) has
escaped his cage. He sits,
preening on the play table,
watching the city sun rise.

photograph by Milena Agnieszka


The New Shampooer

combs the women's shining hair
with giant fingers; he is tender, mesmerized
as any first-time lover.

He moves his bear-bulk
between the tiny sinks, all the while
humming, hoping to please.

He does not realize
how he blesses the wet-haired women,
whose temples have lain untouched
for so very long.

photograph by Kirsten Kapur


The Alchemist

rehearses picking the runes--
E; B; F sharp--in
sorcerous order. He coughs
in the room.
He dials the number.
The world rolls like a wave.

In a valley of lead skyscrapers
her telephone rings.
With winter-heavy hands
she lifts it to a cold ear.
He takes a breath--

Her skin goes pink.
Her sky goes gold.

photograph by the incredible Alison Scarpulla


Eve After Eden

I am not woman;
I am a pile of ashes. Like soft little shingles:
snug where the overlap is. But shingles of ashes,
and even the best cinder brace
dimples, chinks, and collapses
in the cold wind of your face.

photograph by Gideon Ansell


Following the Woodsman

We walk for hours but he won't talk;
Boots in the snow become the only sound. At last,
A patch of pale pansies.
Miles through wildflower woods and this
Is all we find. Well done, winter.

I kneel with my basket. Silence. My breath comes
In cold clouds. Behind me, the little creak
Of his dagger leaving its sheath.
"It's all right," I say, and snap a stem.
"They're young. I don't need a knife."

Again, silence. One footstep.
Another. Metal flung to the ground.
And then he is running,
And then he is gone.

photograph by Bree


Interlude: Other People's Poetry

Straight Talk from Fox by Mary Oliver

Listen says fox it is music to run
over the hills to lick
dew from the leaves to nose along
the edges of the ponds to smell the fat
ducks in their bright feathers but
far out, safe in their rafts of
sleep. It is like
music to visit the orchard, to find
the vole sucking the sweet of the apple, or the
rabbit with his fast-beating heart. Death itself
is a music. Nobody has ever come close to
writing it down, awake or in a dream. It cannot
be told. It is flesh and bones
changing shape and with good cause, mercy
is a little child beside such an invention. It is
music to wander the black back roads
outside of town no one awake or wondering
if anything miraculous is ever going to
happen, totally dumb to the fact of ever
moment’s miracle. Don’t think I haven’t
peeked into windows. I see you in all your seasons
making love, arguing, talking about God
as if he were an idea instead of the grass,
instead of the stars, the rabbit caught
in one good teeth-whacking hit and brought
home to the den. What I am, and I know it, is
responsible, joyful, thankful. I would not
give my life for a thousand of yours.

photograph by Nathaniel Atakora Martin

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