At six a.m. the Big Dipper has swung overhead; 
in an hour you will look up to rose-tinged 
cirrus clouds. When I shut my eyes, I hear 
waves unfurl, wake to cries of birds before 
sunrise, recall the imprint of our bodies 
in white sand; from the beach, water deepens 
into teal blue in no time. Aqueous gold 
ripples on the surfaces of waves, but when 
you reach for it there, it is here, and 
when you reach for it here, it vanishes. 
The mind craves to make something perdurable 
out of something as tenuous as candlelight, 
something that becomes more and more itself 
through vicissitude. When a selenographer 
plots the moon’s seas, does he inscribe 
a memory that can batter as well as renew? 
We kindle into flame a firelight by which 
we incandesce more and more of ourselves. 
Inscribed in the motion of birth and death, 
we poise, savor the resistance to move too soon. 

In the impoverishment of memory, you listen 
to a cricket crawl in a pipe below the sink 
but cannot see it, finger a cracked vase 
yet treasure its sliver of death. When you 
reach out to touch a woman on her deathbed, 
the heat of her skin is no longer a surprise: 
eyes closed, absorbing oxygen through a tube, 
she will never hate, love, sing, connive, 
speak, stir again. In a barrio apartment, 
you pull on a light: cockroaches flick 
their forelegs and snap flat their forewings. 
You listen to the drone of a refrigerator, 
drips from faucets. In a Ketchikan bar, 
a man trembles and recounts how a bear swiped 
his right eye, how the eye ran like raw egg, 
though you surmise he moves from bar to bar 
to repeat his pain. You step out into drizzle: 
the snow line has dropped to eighty feet 
above the docks. Thoughts inch through 
memory the way maggots inch through a cepe. 

A candle undulates on the mantel; at the end 
of winter, water in the pond is clear with 
twig and leaf debris clumped at the bottom. 
They yearn for a moment that clears the mind; 
in the warm yellow light at their fingertips, 
they sense what dies is cast into the molten 
form of the moment, as prayers are tossed 
into the molten cast of a bell: yellow, 
this, hair, wet, shudder, shriek, torque, be. 
Though a potter can remove with tongs a molten 
bowl out of a kiln, plunge it into water, 
they have nothing but a snake of words to 
prove this moment when a chrysanthemum opens 
in steaming broth in a black bowl; when it heats, 
warms their hands; when they become aware 
a pale green leaf is beginning to flare out; 
apple tree beginning to bud; when a sliver 
of moon begins to widen; when they quiver 
and end this moment of stillness, begin 
to stretch into another glistening stillness. 

Tying a balloon at the gate to the zoo, he catches 
the blink of a cashier before she rings up 
another fee, hungers for the moment a turtle 
slips into water. Inside, he pauses at a tank, 
views nothing, puts his hands on glass; at once 
a phalanx of piranhas veer and repel light. 
He studies their glistening jaws, eyes, incisors, 
turns to a peacock pacing back and forth 
on the floorboards, scarlet ibises with folded wings. 
A single loss can craze the mind with grief 
and—meteor shower—hours days minutes seconds— 
make us reach for white narcissi by the window 
at sunrise. In the park, red and orange 
oak leaves burn into transparency: is a moment 
of death a seed? A friend once ignited fireworks 
over a dry lake to tremble what expires 
and what persists: streaming red gossamers, 
yellow showers, violet chrysanthemums bursting 
into gold into black air. Bending to tie a shoelace, 
he observes pocked craters in the irregular asphalt. 

In a few minutes the sky lightens so that 
branches of the willow flare to the very twig. 
The hiss when a molten bowl is plunged into water 
is also the hiss when you ladle water onto rocks 
in the sauna. It is not in the hoofprints of zebras 
or in the shadows of oryxes, but in the scent of 
a lynx by a goose pen. The warmth and aroma of wax 
in this flickering room is not to be inscribed 
on papyrus wrapped around a corpse, nor is it 
currency to be burned into the next, fearless world. 
It is when we true ourselves to the consequence 
that we find the yellow lightning of our kiss. 
Though we sit inscribed in a circle, we twist 
and smell a wild fennel stalk in our hands. 
Moose calves with dangling wet umbilical cords 
struggle to keep up with their long-legged fast- 
moving mothers. As we go up a series of wooden steps, 
we gaze down, and, as large multicolored koi 
leisurely swim in the pool below, one koi 
flaps and shivers gold flecks onto the surface. 

Clusters of wild irises shrivel in the field. 
He tries to slide the ring off his mother’s 
finger, but rigor mortis has set in; he soaps 
her finger, swivels the ring, yanks it off. 
I catch the motion with which a man tosses 
water from a brush onto a setting cement curb, 
while another trowels the cement to an olive shine. 
We did not notice when rain stopped striking 
the skylight but glance up at a crack that 
runs through the glass. “Yum!” a twenty-year-old 
exclaims, pours milk onto corn flakes, snot 
smeared across his face, while his stepmother 
convulses, breaks into sobs. We place hoops 
around peonies so that growing buds will not bend 
stalks to the ground. I look for swaying lines 
of ants, but nothing is there; I survey irregular 
white trunks of aspens, but nothing is there. 
As that swivels into this, I thread a tiny 
screw to fasten the bracelet around your wrist; 
you pull back a wooden slat to open the gate.