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February 1, 2023
Recently, your wife has left you. She’s reading Frankenstein, and there’s nothing in the world she’d rather do. You’d think talking about the book would be an option, but no. Books lose their power when she tries to speak about them. So do movies, songs, news articles, and most of what she does with Nathaniel. Only in passing did you hear her call him Nightingale, and then you learned he was reading an alphabet book of birds.
     You adopted the nickname.
     You find him on the pink couch, whispering to an Ernie figurine.
     Where’s Bert? you ask.
     Birch in the vent.
     Time for dinner, Nightingale.
     Time for dinner, he sings.
January 25, 2023
The birth of color begins in the entanglement
of water. Color is the birth of light.

Low clouds morning visitation, the words are
forming separable from their origins. Stars

crease the heavens. I have been moving
into their stream, heavenly bodies, the architecture

loose and ungainly. I’m not one but two, the occupancy
of a system, here in the apparel of another’s

light, to come down these stairs, dawn
weighted with silver, a perimeter that hooks

sky, bleeds our nights into day. There is this
sanctuary, intricate respite, cut-out, here on the floor
January 18, 2023
A second-growth forest is not the same as a first, and a third is not the same as a second. Those old dying oak and chestnut trees saved a century ago from axe and saw to shade the grazing livestock are surrounded now by all the wrong progeny—birches and popple in one case, pine trees in the other. Absent a mature overstory’s broad canopy, the understory receives too much unfiltered light, and low thickets and dense copses of trees and shrubs all the same age spring up.
     In ancient times a carpet of fallen leaves and ferny ground cover was lit by long beams of sunlight descending from openings in the treetops as if from the clerestory windows of a great cathedral. Humans and other animals walked easily among the tall, straight trunks and had unobstructed views from glen to vernal pond and stream to the glacial moraine beyond. That was a forest, not a woods. But the forest was not replaced by itself. It was displaced and replaced by these woods, which is a different and lesser thing.
     My dog darted through the brush ahead of me, tracing the lingering spoor of a deer or bear or coyote, led by his nose instead of our man-made trail. And as I walked I remembered again a story from the village, part of which I saw, part of which I heard from witnesses, and part of which I imagined.
January 11, 2023
A brick-shaped piece of architectural rubbish. A brick of someone’s missing place. My brick, but only because I’ve taken it as my own, to collect, among my menageries, set alongside small shoes made of mottled glass and rusted railway spikes and silver-clad icons sold to me by aging nuns in old-world churches I’ve visited. I have shelves full of this stuff, little artifacts of the beautiful/not beautiful city. I collect glass and tarnished things. I collect memories too, all kinds, some that might fall into the category of demolition garbage, what might be too sharp and embarrassing to keep out in the light.
     I learned in AA to call these kinds of inmost collections my inventory. I haven’t been to AA recently, but when I used to go every week I loved the inventory step meetings. Step Four is to make “a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.” Step Ten is to continue “to take personal inventory” and when we are wrong to promptly admit. My inventory/my me-ventory/our we-ventory, one might say—an everyday assessment of the invisible collections residing beneath and within.
     I don’t believe in the Christian version of God but I do believe in the spiritual wonder located in material presence. Like my brick. Any cubic space in the world is a brick of multiple histories. I interrogate all of what feels like mine.
January 4, 2023
The Way

If only the waters were still this blue,
the boats this innocent. The sea,
the clouds, the cliff faces: blue, blue, blue.

And me in a red dress with a blue mantle
draped over my lap to keep my legs warm.
It’s true, I’m sitting on a coffin

with the lid down. The lid
is called a crown. The coffin is filled
with what happens when evil takes over

the world and says yes to giving
the lost unlimited hate
and all the weapons they want. You’ll say,

“That wasn’t my fault, I’m like you, Mary,
I was only ever being fabric
and two hands, harmless arms and a mind

filled with maxims—only ever on my way
to tomorrow, my right foot at rest
on the head of a cherub.” Do you hear