Vermeer in Affton
Behind the sigh is a girl, almost eleven, sitting for a picture as I watch her enjoy it, endure it, unsure of why getting her picture taken feels good and not so good at the same time. In the picture, as in the actual room, sunlight bathes her face and shoulders, her hair gold, her cheeks gold, her brown eyes for the moment amber, the tiny floral print of her dress almost washed out by the light, vaguely Dutch, 17th century. She has been told that the dress, a party dress, a church dress, an Easter dress, is new, though I found it in a pile of clothing at a yard sale in the suburbs, then laundered it, dried it in the crisp April air, and pressed the hem and collar and sashes until they were flat and smooth as new.
Yes, the day is golden as the girl sits in front of the picture window of a ranch house in a subdivision without many trees, the thermal drapes pulled back as far as possible, light flooding the room, exposing the brown sofa and tan wall-to-wall carpeting that needs cleaning and the plastic milk crate full of board games to anyone passing by, to the guy across the street loading his Camaro to go bass fishing in the Ozarks, to high-school boys smoking and kicking rocks along the curb, to Mr. Bowmans who won’t give back any ball kicked onto his lawn. In the garage is a Chevy Caprice station wagon that in less than a year will carry the girl and her family and their furniture and their dog to a place where this picture of her face in the pale April light in a photo album labeled Family, 1983 will be the last image of her safe.
Like Klee in His Hands
Worlds have opened up to us, he barks, and I of course have to find what galls me in his claim – great word, gall, though oddly more Saxon than Gallic, but I digress, apologizing all the while for the Latinate — truth be told he also insists there’s a world between worlds, an in-between place seen only by children and madmen, but how can this be? I ask rhetorically, poised to answer my own question with a question, circular logic holding such appeal — who doesn’t flirt with tautology from time to time? — when instead I’m smote by a friend who breaks our flow of conversation to ask what I’m really saying with the word ‘appropriate’ and to suggest that using a word so clearly intended to trigger an unsavory response was tantamount to tossing a wrench into the exquisite machine of speech itself and bringing it to a screeching halt. It’s clear as day there’s been a Spaniard in the works all along.
To Write the History of the New World,
Return from whence you came, that place where there was only one world, this one. Find comfort there, shed your wanderlust and winters of discontent and shabby profit motive. Bear up, carry those loads to which you were born. And then, should the appetite for voyage and plunder persist, venture out, first learning the forty master words of Quechua, forcing strange sounds from your mouth, your fingers reading knots, discerning one thread from another. Leave your brittle maps and instruments of navigation, leave your well-worn boots and britches on board, then dive into the warm waters, waters more blue, more green than you’ve ever known, float in the those waters, belly up, smiling at the sun that blesses you, the wind that caresses you, then roll in with the tide, toward that shore where men and women, children and crones wait, astonished as you. Stand up, walk toward them, receive their welcome, extend your hand, eat their fruits, thank whatever God you find here that you are alive and wet and naked as a newborn babe.
Watch Your Step
that precarious gait /some call experience — Emily Dickinson
A poem halts, waits, squinting the world down to a bearable sliver, the process of reduction like that for blackstrap, long simmering and a final boil, or that for cider, apples ground first then pressed and pressed, the screw tightening with each twist until the golden juice weeps out of the press and the mottled pulp is tossed to the pigs. It’s hard to list all that’s been lost, the price that was paid, so hard that not even the passive voice can soften it. And should that loss be a catastrophe, from the Greek for a sudden end, well, there is no stitch for the gape of that wound, no glass ball for that socket. Look: there at the edge of the field, a field of modest proportions — like this one — a heap of dirt and gravel, and beside it a hole. Nothing to do but walk up and take a good, long look, the toe of your right shoe pressing toward its crumbling edge.
All Truths Are Double 
It is impossible to love the same person twice.
It is impossible to love Perry Como singing ‘It’s Impossible’,
knowing it was ‘Somos Novios’ before the rewrite for an ‘American’ audience.
It’s impossible not to love Vikki Carr, née Florencia Bisenta de Casillas-Martinez Cardona, reaching Number 3 on the charts with ‘It Must Be Him’, making it
impossible to conceive of loving anything
twice, or to love thinking anything twice,
even if that thought is like your best stunt at the pool
when you were nine and spoke only English in the heartland of America,
when pop music was still sung by men in cardigans and bouffant-headed
women. Blame the Enlightenment, so louche, so sexy, so cerebral:
A thought is as real a thing as a cannonball.