Friday, January 23, 2015


I found this poem by chance yesterday, where it was posted on a wall in a middle school:*


by Valerie Worth

While we know they are enormous suns,
Gold lashing fire oceans, seas of heavy silverflame,
They look as though they could be
Swept down and heaped, cold crystal
Sparks, in one cupped palm.

*After further research, I have discovered that the poem was not written by one of the schoolchildren, but I still liked it, and I appreciated the fact that it was enjoyed by the students.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

dream-elixir, song of stone

Would you find an end to your wanderings, weary traveler?

Follow with your gaze the arcing flutter of the wings of a white crane until you climb the slate steps to a clearing on the slope of the mountain. 

There you find a most unusual sight: rooted firmly in the gray rock, a translucent crystal tree, which stretches its limbs to the sky, where the crane settles into her nest. A tree as smooth and glittering as a cacophony of bright gems, as perfectly whole as a grail of glass. As radiant as ice.

A warm wind moves through the crystal leaves, and they shimmer while they chime, for within the tree a living flame glows, undulating in waves of rose-red and gold.

At the touch of your hand, the pellucid stone trunk of the tree parts in two and you find yourself sheltered in the center of its crystalline heart-wood.

Within, the tree appears much larger than without. You look up and see that the refulgent walls of your shelter are carved with row upon row of curious runes. The outline of a dragon is etched into the crystal walls near the disappearing door.

Nearly invisible phosphorescent blue-green shapes coax you further within, to lie upon an impossibly soft cloud-bed, where they minister to your sore feet and aching limbs. 

You hear the faint chatter of a stream trickling in the distance. Further in, you glimpse a grassy knoll, where the figure of a forest nymph twirls momentarily, then disappears. Somewhere, someone is singing....

You close your eyes, and the curtain lifts on an indigo sky; a brilliant star gleams in its center.

While you sink into dream after dream, your pain subsides bit by bit, until it is as if the flame in the center of the tree has replaced all other sensations in your body, infusing it with its gentle and tender glow.

So this is peace at last, you murmur.

A reassuring flicker answers.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

A westerly wind was whistling in the birch leaves, tugging at them playfully, dancing with them, spinning them round and round until they settled, one by one, onto the path. A lone pedestrian crunched along the walkway, watching the way the leaves clung to his worn loafers. He shifted the large satchel, which hung over his shoulder, to the other side, and took the weight off his right leg for a moment. The light of the sunset seemed to meander lazily towards him, filtered as it was through swaying branches.

The man shouldered the bag once more, and strode through an archway. The sign over it read: Izmailovsky Park. The metro station nearby buzzed with the activity of commuters and hawkers, who were packing up their wares for the evening. Barely glancing at them, he walked up the street, limping slightly, and then stopped at the entrance of an apartment building. He went down the cement stairs towards the basement, and inserted a key into a door.

He hung a large, broad-brimmed hat on a hook, and the hallway light then illumined the face of a man with rounded features, a nose which must have been broken in at least one fight, and gentle, gray eyes. He rubbed the back of his neck, and headed for the kitchen, where he filled a kettle and put it on the stove.

The kitchen was unusual for a Moscow apartment, in that it was not separated by a wall from the other rooms, but opened out into a sitting room. On the white plaster behind the kitchen counters, he had painted a series of dark-red rectangles, in a formation that approximated a brick wall. This introduced a note of color into an otherwise drab room.

He peeled wax from the rind of a cheese, set it on a board, and cut a few slices. Then he fetched the bread, and some carrot salad, which was left over from his supper the night before. The kettle sang, and he poured its contents into a small pot, already warm on the stove, straight onto the fragrant ceylon leaves.

He ate slowly, and then reached for a jar of apricot marmelade. The apricots appeared as orange spheres suspended in amber gel. He held the jar between his eyes and the kitchen lamp, musing at the sight, then he opened it and spooned one perfect apricot into a dish. With a silver spoon, he lifted it to his mouth and tasted its flesh. In the center of each apricot, he had placed, instead of the pit, a perfect walnut half, the nutty flavor of which complemented the sweet syrup. He took a sip of tea, and sighed in approval of his own craftsmanship.

The sitting room contained a large, re-upholstered antique couch, which nineteenth century artisans had constructed to approximate a lounge that might have served the ancient Romans. He lay back on the couch, and picked up a book, opening it to a story by Nikolai Leskov, The Alexandrite.

"Look, here it is, the prophetic Russian stone. O crafty Siberian. It was always green as hope and only toward evening was it suffused with blood..."

He read until the book closed itself onto the folded hands on his breast, and then he slept. The window rattled in its casement, as it began to be bombarded by an Autumn rainstorm. Rows of droplets trickled down the glass; water, with its patience and wisdom, flows until it can no more, and is gathered back up to the heavens.


Mariinsky Theater performs The Nutcracker

In this forest fantasia
Pyotr Ilych is the mage.
He conjures the dancers
who file onto the page.

Herr Drosselmeier floats
beside the angel of no time,
and no words are allowed
within this temple of sound.

Maestra Luna raises her baton
in a little match-girl's heart;
at last, when the curtain rises,
a poem, as ballet, writes itself.

Tuesday, December 09, 2014


This is my fortress unfettered:
the sighs of a thousand dreamers.
Allow a measure of cadence,
and the world becomes unbroken.

When a leaf falls, I see snow.
And with each one of its branches,
ice crystal forms a water tree
sprouting diamond-faceted leaves.

A bright river in a dark month:
aurora in its velvet dance.
Shall I light this candle for you,
or close my eyes and meet you there?


Monday, December 01, 2014


Perchik, your beetle-dark eyes,
sauteed garlic and red-peppers
spiced by the ghost of Notella;
a turquoise collar at my throat;
the wind people on my skirts,
that cloud-bank we invented

until--your purple bicycle--
its greasy glance of disdain
jangled the curves of the bridges
between the canals of the Nevà:

Kolokolà, kolokolà, kolokolà.

Le Cirque (Marc Chagall)

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

freeze frame

Inside the ice cave, we are blind, and home-bound.

We scrape furiously at the thick glaze on the windshield.

With difficulty, we make our way out into the world. 

We watch. A dark-haired man enters a cafe, surrounded by several children. He sits. His youngest daughter clings to his hand. They eat. They speak a language which makes use of round vowels and playful syllables. His smile takes its slow time to emerge over the horizon. His mustache curls approvingly. She has come at last, Mamacita, her raven-locks piled high. A few stray curls escape strategically from her coiffure. Her arched, plucked brows. The light in his glance. A murmur. She turns to us and smiles, imparting to us a wordless secret of utmost importance.


Fancy, filigreed thoughts arrive at random, and depart on dragon-fly wings:

Pierrot is drunk on moon-wine
after the tedious masked ball.
He stumbles on a feathered fan,
as perfumed with lavender
as his lost love, Columbina,
and crushes it to his heart.

The beloved darkness murmurs.
Beneath his ribs, the pulse
Is a throbbing behind bars,
seeking an unseen filament.
Slumber and dawn approach.
In his grip--a Firebird glimmers.


Dear Inner Child,

Yes, you are correct. I've strangled her again. Stifled, once more, her moans of agony, her groans, her endless sighs, her countless tears, her wasted years, in some seemingly senseless, repeated noir script, in favor of the status quo. 

And yet, what is it that she most wishes to convey in this moment?

Sketch it out briefly,  as if in silken sand:

The trees --

a frame --

a pair of eyes --

a soul -- a flame --

May all who know what it is to be cruelly crushed lead the way to Love --

let nothing keep our feet from this path -- we surely know where we do not want to go --

Natalia Goncharova, 1912

Sunday, November 23, 2014

O Ignis Spiritus

During this time of year, the midday sun is a pale phoenix circling just above the mountain-ridges.

How grateful I am, now, for the gift of flame and warmth; for all fires, inner and outer.

Illumination, Scivias (Hildegard of Bingen)

O ignis spiritus paracliti,
vita vite omnis creature,
sanctus es vivificando formas.

Sanctus es unguendo 
periculose fractos,
sanctus es tergendo 
fetida vulnera.

O spiraculum sanctitatis,
o ignis caritatis,
o dulcis gustus in pectoribus 
et infusio cordium
in bono odore virtutum.

O fons purissime,
in quo consideratur
quod Deus alienos colligit
et perditos requirit.

O lorica vite 
et spes compaginis membrorum omnium 
et o cingulum honestatis:
salva beatos.

Custodi eos qui carcerati sunt 
ab inimico,
et solve ligatos
quos divina vis salvare vult.

O iter fortissimum 
quo penetravit omnia
in altissimis et in terrenis
et in omnibus abyssis
tu omnes componis et colligis.

De te nubes fluunt, ether volat,
lapides humorem habent,
aque rivulos educunt,
et terra viriditatem sudat.

Tu etiam semper educis doctos 
per inspirationem sapiente 

Unde laus tibi sit,
qui es sonus laudis
et gaudium vite, 
spes et honor fortissimus 
dans premia lucis.


O fire of the Spirit, the Comforter,
Life of the life of all creation,
Holy are you, giving life to the Forms.

Holy are you, anointing
The dangerously broken;
Holy are you, cleansing
The fetid wounds.

O breath of sanctity,
O fire of charity,
O sweet savor in the breast
And balm flooding hearts
With the fragrance of virtues.

O limpid fountain,
In which it is seen
How God gathers the strays
And seeks out the lost:

O breastplate of life
And hope of the bodily frame,
O sword-belt of honor:
Save the blessed!

Guard those imprisoned
By the foe,
Free those in fetters
Whom divine force wishes to save.

O mighty course
That penetrated all,
In the heights, upon the earth,
And in all abysses:
You bind and gather all people together.

From you clouds overflow, winds take wing,
Stones store up moisture,
Waters well forth in streams --
And earth swells with living green.

You are ever teaching the learned,
Made joyful by the breath
Of Wisdom.

Praise then be yours!
You are the song of praise,
The delight of life,
A hope and a potent of honor,
Granting rewards of light.

--Hildegard of Bingen

(Adapted from Barbara Newman's translation by this source.)