My wife and I are into season 3 of Victoria, the Masterpiece Theatre series that seems as long as the queen’s monarchial reign. It’s a slow-moving narrative in which a tea cup is picked up, put down. Then, for dramatic tension, the camera pans to a terrier that, on cue, lifts a hind leg to squirt on the carpet—a barbarous display in the palace household.
Winnie’s 350-square foot studio that she called home resembled a submarine, she liked to say to strangers, to offer them a quick image of what it was like to live in small spaces. A submarine was dark and hollow, challenged by gravity. Her apartment was on the top floor of a walk-up tenement building in downtown Manhattan, and got afternoon light. But at night she could squint and conjure the resemblance. Not that she’d ever set foot inside of a submarine.
The image evoked by the title, The Fire Lit & Nearing (Indolent Press, 2018) is both micro (a match flame inching towards your fingers), and macro (a forest fire jumping the fireline). It also summons the spark that lights up when we are about to fall in love. You know you can’t stop it; you know it will damage you; and there’s not a thing you can do about it. Like folks who rebuild on fire-prone land, this is not the first time you have been burnt and won’t be the last. So why? Perhaps it is so we can make art of it.
It is believed that the arrow that caused Ötzi the Iceman to bleed out on a mountain in the Alps had been used to kill two other people, probably by Ötzi himself since there’s murderous evidence on his knife as well, and I’m sure there’s a moral here or a handy metaphor, but what really fascinates me are his 61 tattoos. CT scans have shown he must have suffered physical pain, and the black line tattoos were an early form of acupuncture and meant to treat his ailments, ashes of old fires turned to ink that could draw his pain to the surface of his skin.
If you’ve got it, flaunt it, / said a t-shirt my mother gave me, / but what did I have? / Tiny batteries in my breasts, / which hummed along, expectant. / I did and didn’t want to grow up
My subject, myself, my object, I / too have spent my whole life / hungry. Any human contact / brings news of me to me.
Red lake of salt, crumbling edge of pus, far border of tender flesh / I tread around the bloody eye, daring the old impulse to jump / Saturday morning, the wound spills
The achingly red Roma tomatoes / fill the bleached porcelain sink / like the bulbous detritus of summer. / The remnants of seed and skin / collide and float broken and hollow.
Past the coffee table, its treacherous / corners; around the hushed ottoman; / pause in front of the flickering flat screen / as if I’d stepped right out of it. My family gapes.
A quiet to these fields we called our place, / could almost hear the springs refeeding ponds, / fracked and gone with the deer and fox and grouse / thanks to the drilling’s thunder in the ground.
The river changed course / By three feet. / Thus the willow withers from thirst. / Thus the rock is set alone like an altar. / Thus the grassy hill browns.
The summer of 2013 / Was seen through rose tinted sunglasses / We gathered at Christa’s house, / Solemnly toasting to “the last year”
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