Proving God w/ Clouds: Reflections in Early August + Cloud Gallery

Is this a common thing to be seeing all the time?

Why am I seeing this stuff? Are other people seeing this stuff?

There are little flashes of the maddening urgency of 2010, the first time she took a deep dive into cloud watching and totally lost her mind, became crazy in the context of a unique set of extraordinary pressures and chaos dynamics that she was utterly unprepared to navigate well.

She hadn’t ever really even thought about God that much, though admitted to herself a quiet, stubborn agnosticism, a belief in something that just wouldn’t go away no matter how hard she tried to believe that there was nothing, no matter how hard she tried to be an atheist. She could say – sitting by the heat exhaust smoking cigarettes outside of Kramer Hall, c. 1997, black tapered pants, nerdy white socks, face accented by silver eyeshadow and uncertainty – that she was an atheist, but she’d always believed there was something, at the very least ghosts.

However, in 2010 she was not thinking about God, and had no desire to think about God, except that her life was falling apart and she didn’t know what to do. Her family was impossible to talk with, and her friendships had atrophied in the years of children, work, and a difficult marriage.

As soon as she dropped her son off at skate camp, both of them determinedly cheerful, she collapsed into sobbing. She didn’t want to go home, didn’t want to go anywhere, didn’t want to be anyway. She felt completely disconnected from the life she’d had just 6 months earlier, a life where she was a mother working at a science museum, going through a divorce, but still on top of her game, feeling confident, good about herself and her ability to move forward in her life as a person who had made difficult choices and come out okay.

How had she become this person who could not stop crying, driving around her block in circles, waiting to know what to do. It was almost like she saw herself stopping the car in the bright sun of a regular summer day where people at the church on the corner were serving food from a folding table, white plastic tablecloth blowing thinly like a flag of surrender laid down.

She saw the way that first one, then two, then slowly a small group of people quieted and stared, plates held between hands, watching as she stumbled up the steps, openly crying as the woman preacher intercepted her and led her inside the empty sanctuary, ceiling vaulted and blessedly dark.

The woman laid hands on her as she cried and called down warrior angels. The thought of warrior angels was initially reassuring, but soon became strange and overwhelming – the clouds and the beliefs, the sensations, worlds inside of her being washed away and new worlds blooming, new bizarre worlds where entities such as warrior angels and dark forces were transacting all around and through her.

Keep it simple, Faith.

Don’t go into the bizarre worlds now. The novelty of your delusions is a good story, but it’s not the story you need to focus on right now, and you only have a 1/2 hour to write before you need to start getting ready for the day, because it is your mom’s birthday, and your parent’s anniversary, and your mom is not dead, even though they said she would be. So, hallelujah.

She is a syncrete, an animist, but even in those identifications, she doesn’t follow or study anything too deeply or for too long. She studies the sky, pays attention to what she notices, what she is pulled to learn and to then let go. She does not want to be consumed into anything that may keep her from believing what she believes, which changes as she develops.

Fixed beliefs and externally devised prescriptive practices of spirituality are not for her. They make her feel as though she is worshipping a false idol or something, ignoring the wind and her own ways of connecting to what she experiences as ‘spirit’ or ‘the holy unity of all things held in brief, glorious pausing resonance in the vastly constant tumbling of time and space and place’ or…she doesn’t know…

Writing assignment (for self):

Free-write how you feel when you feel connected to a sense of God or spirit or the earth itself, or to ancestors, or some combination of all of the above.

What do you notice in your body and mind space? What sensations and thoughts do you observe?

What are you grateful for and hopeful for in those moments?

What do you know in the most simple ways of knowing?

Yesterday, she began two small paintings of a cloud picture – one of the many, many cloud pictures that she has taken over the last two months, which has been a major period of cloud observation.

Twelve years ago, she began the process of drawing everyday for a year. She drew and painted a whelk. A shell.

Yesterday, she saw – and thoroughly documented- what looked to be the outline of a whelk that hung in the sky for a solid – she doesn’t know – 10 minutes a half hour. She can look at her pictures and tell how long a structure lasted, or at least how long she documented it before moving on to some other holy wonder that is sprawled out over her neighborhood and that nobody else seems to notice, which – to her – is so fucking weird.

Is it even real?

She has let herself get consumed and misled by questions before.

It is very important to maintain focus and grounding, because – after 12 years – twelve years which have held some seriously alarming mass atrocities and generated disturbing trends in avarice, exploitation, hate, and delusion, and have – alas – foretold of a future, ahem, most grim as far as the health and habitability of the planet we collectively live on, well – she is pretty sure there is something weird going on with the clouds and that it is important that she find someone to talk with – seriously and sensitively and rationally and helpfully – about this.

There is almost a desperation in her and she tells it to quiet down, knowing that she needs to listen, but that to be effective in actually finding the right people to help her make sense of why she sees this and is it real and – if so – is it significant, and – if so – how and why, what does any of it and all of it mean and what should she do?

What should I do? What would you do?

At this point, I have 0 attachments to specific outcomes – though there is a part of me, a part of me that is likely alive in almost every human on the planet that longs for the reality of a glorious greater force to intervene, to help, please help. Lord, please help end this suffering. The people and the animals and the places and the water.

It doesn’t seem crazy to me to think that – in some way – the animals and forests and the ocean itself is crying for help, praying for help.

Fuck my scientific objectivity and all the wishywash mealy-mouth careful step around what I say and how I say it – show them, show the people, let them make of it what they will.

What is an appropriate social media strategy for a project like this, which hardly anyone knows about and that is somewhat loaded in that it deals in themes that people go to war over, deals in themes of God and gods, both of which and all of which I know basically nothing about and am totally okay with that for now, except that I have so many questions that I don’t even begin to know how to answer, and – to be honest – feel like I’m in waaaaay over my head with this project, these questions.

How silly is it to see something not just beautiful but profoundly beautiful – powerfully beautiful – and to see it again and again and again and then – haha – retreat into a study to learn the details of this doctrine or that doctrine, to join some thing and then devote your life to fitting in and being virtuous, respectable, unto the code of that belief system?

Nope. Not for me.

I am open to learning many things, but will devote my entirety to none of them, because ideas can be powerful mediators of experience.

It’s two minutes til I have to get ready for my mom’s birthday. I am going to have a good day.

Getting Amor Fati tattooed on my hands was a fantastic decision, because it is a constant reminder and directive to love and appreciate whatever is happening, to embrace it and keep moving toward a fullness of being, to not be distracted by all the reasons something might be bad or unpleasant, to just love it and learn from it and move on.

I depart from Nietzsche in many ways, at many points, I’m sure, none of which I will elaborate on because I have hardly read anything he has written and don’t necessarily intend to, unless his work and ideas begin to show up in articles and ideas and occasional books that cross my path and strike me as significant or stimulate my curiosity.

One thing I do know is that acceptance and appreciation of whatever is happening is great and all that, but the reality is that I can never ever rest in any kind of peace if I do not do whatever is in my power to do to end avoidable suffering and the exploitation of creation in the world that I live in and that I love deeply.

I will never retreat to the comforts of my own acceptance and appreciation and forget that all over the world mothers are grieving and places are dying and entire worlds are screaming in ways that we can’t even hear.

“Oh, My God! It’s God!”

When she started to see peculiar-seeming clouds, it was only a matter of days before she began bumbling toward the conclusion of “Oh my God, it’s God!” 

Her thinking about God was a mush-mash of recollected symbols and suggestions gleaned from experiences growing up in the everyday+everywhere Christian culture of south Georgia, the imagery and intonation of miscellaneous church services attended after spending Saturday night with a friend, going to church on Sunday, hot and mostly-boring-but-sometimes-with-singing.

She felt closer to God in sweet the relief of leaving when the services finally ended, stepping out into the heat and sun, the living day.

In the 9th grade, she spent a single semester at boarding school, where a van dropped her off Sunday morning at the Episcopal church in Clayton, Georgia right down the street from where there was a Klan rally one Saturday during the town-outing, which was usually a trip to a shopping center where there was a grocery store, a Papa’s Pizza and an Eckert’s drugstore stocked with Robitussin DM, gum, and cheez puffs.*

She didn’t entirely dislike going alone to the Episcopalian service in the little stone church building, dark and wood-filled, shining with color through the morning-lit windows above where the rhododendron outside had grown up over Jesus’ feet. 

She felt peaceful there. Anonymous and peaceful, sitting alone.

However, she soon discovered that she liked it far more to lay on the nubby utilitarian carpet of her room, eating Kool-Aid and reading the yearbook for the 100th time after pressing her body against the wall under her roommate’s bunk and holding her breath during Sunday morning roomcheck so she didn’t have to go to church at all and there were no sounds except her own sounds and the building’s sounds, heat through vents.

*Circa 1991: Three senior girls walking in streetlight circle by the dorm’s side exit, tearfully protesting Operation Desert Storm and a Klan rally with full white robes walking down Main Street, right past the grocery store where she would buy ramen and microwave popcorn, 12 packs of Fresca.

Stranger Angels: 1 [“Woo Hah!! Got You All In Check.]

The old man said hello to me as I started the walk back to my car from the Senior Opportunity Center, where I and a bunch of other people gave food to elders on Wednesday mornings, high-end packaged salads from grocery stores couldn’t afford to shop at, artisan breads packed into black garbage bags, crumb-dusted pastries, and dented cans of soups, expiring cereal.

He fell into step beside me, walking down the hill and talking about traffic on the I-26, and the accident he almost saw on Patton Avenue. “I was just standing there on the sidewalk, watching these two cars, and I was like, ‘This is crazy!”

“It sounds like you were paying attention.”

The man, tall and stooped around the shoulders, still handsome in the set of his cheeks and architecture of nose, the son of slaves and people who lived here long before I did, had the laboratory smell of a few straight days of drinking, the smell of old alcohol poorly metabolized.

He sat down on the small wall outside of the unemployment office and I sat down beside him. “Yes,” he said. “Yes, sister, I was paying attention. I pay attention.”

We sat there in the companionable silence of strangers, feeling the warm sun and paying attention.

He shifted toward me, leaned like he was about to invite me into a secret, and I understood that he would ask me for money, and I was okay with that.

He began his request, and I didn’t need him to go on about what he was looking for, held my hand up for him to stop speaking. There was no need for him to beg, to spin a story, to make an appeal. He did not have to charm me or convince me.

I opened up my bag, “Let me see if I have any paper money.”

I knew that I did. A crumple of two singles, and a secret 10 dollar bill. I pulled out the two dollars and pressed it into his hand.

The man nodded, almost solemn, squeezed my hand. “Thank you, my sister.”

I felt like God was watching us, sitting there on that wall. The woman wearing all black and the old man in the sun.

There was a pause, and I plucked the ten dollar bill out of the small zippered pocket inside of my bag, grasped the man’s hand, transferred the money.

His whooping surprised me, his jumping up and slapping his leg, pulling his hand into a fist that beat against his chest, solidly, once, twice. “My sister! Oh, yes, my sister!”

I stood up, pulling my bag back onto my shoulder.

He grabbed me, pulled me to him, his sweat and alcohol smell around me, his arms strong and knotted like wood across my back. I didn’t feel scared. I have hugged a lot strangers in my life and, besides, I have a social naivete that makes me almost oblivious to the possibility that some stranger will do me harm. The only people who have ever harmed me were people I know. I wasn’t scared of them at first, either.

He kissed my head, up by my hairline, and hugged me like I really was his sister that he hadn’t seen in a long time.

He began to utter the words, quiet, like a prayer, then broke away from me and shouted them, hollering them out to the street like he was calling down gods, exclaiming to the universe. He turned to me, and put his fist on his chest. “My sister…”

He stepped forward to embrace me again. “I love you, I love you…you, you are blessed person.”

He stepped back, took my hands in his, and nodded to me, then turned and started walking back up toward town, still saying those words, louder and then quiet, a chanting rise and fall. I watched him walk, and listened, said the words to myself, trying not to forget them.

He was almost back to where we’d begun walking together when I caught up to him. “Excuse me, sir, those words? What are those words?”

He put his face close to mine and repeated the words, whispering.

I said them back.

He corrected my pronunciation of the last syllable, and said it with me until I said it clearly, with some conviction.

“It means peace, and goodness, salvation.”

Walking back to my car, I said the phrase over and over again. In my car, I wrote down how I thought the sounds might be spelled, but I still don’t know what the words are, or where they came from.

I tried to Google what I thought the words sounded like, spelled out phonetically, with hyphens between the syllables, to remind myself of the intonation, the rhythm of the sounds.

I learned a little about Hebrew suffixes, and checked out an old Busta Rhymes song, Woo Hah!! Got You All In Check.

Proving God With Clouds: Introduction

Some situations that end up being pivotal in our lives begin in ways that don’t initially seem important at all.

True, there are some stories that shift dramatically at evident turning points – a winning lottery ticket found crumpled on the sidewalk, a phone call in the dead of night, worry flashing across a doctor’s face as she looks over your test results, etc. A moment, people say, that they’ll remember forever as the moment their life changed.

This is not one of those stories; the moments that changed my life were not big, obvious moments – at least not at first.


Had I been presented all at once with the idea that slow-formed as the days dragged through June and July 2010, I might have lost my mind a lot sooner, or – alternately – resolutely clung to my ideas about what was what, what was real. I’d have dug in my heels and rolled my eyes at the idea, an idea that would surely have seemed dismissable, absurd – crazy!!! – had it been suddenly plunked down into the middle of a usual day.

I probably would have simply gone about my business, staring straight ahead and keeping my mind on the list of things to do, places to go and people to see, people to be.

If I had immediately known that what I saw would, in only a matter of months, create an enormous rift between me and the rest of the world, pulling the threads that held my reality together and supplanting the experiences of simple, everyday life with outlandish, urgent visions of a world that other people seemed unable to see, I would have had to think long and hard about even briefly entertaining the idea as it emerged.

Nobody could have told me that studying cloudforms would – ultimately – result in me sitting in the back seat of a police cruiser with my hands cuffed behind my back. I probably would have never looked up, had I known.

archive image

If you click here or on the image above you will be transported to a lengthy scrap of what I was thinking about 01/01/2010, and – from there – you can see what else was going on in 2010, a year that included numerous events that reconfigured my life as I knew it, up to and including the sadness, frustration, and shame of losing legal custody of my children due to concerns about my mental health and my ability to make good decisions.

Cloud-watching and fumbling around with different ways of thinking about the world, different ways of seeing the world, created huge (and probably avoidable) upheavals. 

While I regret that my children had to endure a single moment of not being sure what was going on with their mom, not knowing if I was okay and if – by extension – if they were okay, if their little home-world was okay, I am still immeasurably grateful to have had the experience of genuinely believing – with a clarity that was more certain than any clarity I had ever felt, a clarity like truth – that I was witnessing some force like God drawing pictures in the clouds, trying to tell me something about how deeply, anciently alive and beautifully interconnected everything truly is.

In that way, I suppose my life did change in a moment, a moment that an external observer may have seen as a woman alone in her yard, aiming a camera at the sky and crying like she’d never cried before.

However, as much as I believed, I also couldn’t entirely believe. I didn’t know what I would be believing in if I did believe. I cried as much for not believing as I did for believing, for wanting to believe and finding myself again and again as the skeptical jerk who needed a stupid scientific explanation for awe-spurring wonders and mysteries.

Why can’t I just accept that it’s beautiful and that it’s a mystery and go about my life?

Why do I need to know how it works, how its possible, why I see what I see? 

This is not a story of a person’s finding their way to God through spending contemplative time in nature, or anything like that.

This is the story of a naive and ignorant demi-genius with a mental health diagnosis who has a pretty solid track record of fucking up her life and letting people down despite trying very hard to do the ‘right’ thing and to be a decent human being, who – when in the midst of her life falling apart in new and unprecedented ways involving a not-great marriage, upset children, a dead dog and a lost job – happened to be spending a lot of time looking at the sky with her heart breaking all over the place.

She noticed something, and became curious, began to pay attention and wonder about the workings of things.

This is a story about questions, and about the circuitous path toward answers that may not even exist. 

Proving God w/ Clouds: July 14-17, 2021 [notes]

July 14, 5:04 AM

The day before was a tired day, a day that she woke up early, as usual, and then went back to sleep an hour later, her body dully aching with the need for more sleep. She didn’t feel badly about going back to bed, though there was a dim little pulse of awareness that her sleeping would be seen as ‘lazy,’ ever-so-slightly deserving of judgement. That her sleeping, though nobody knew she was going back to sleep, would be perceived as indulgent or spoiled in some way.

This was her socialization muttering to her when she woke up very early and worked for only an hour before falling back into the comfort of much needed sleep.

Yesterday, she felt uncertain about the validity – the worth – of her work again, though the doubt did not run too deep.

She had found, or – rather – had patiently created, a loop hole for herself over the years.

As she entered the 12th year of her note-taking, she could find refuge from any accusation of worthlessness in the sheer mass of it all.

Surely, anything that she had worked on so diligently for so long must be worth something, valid unto itself through sheer persistence if nothing else.

After a project has existed for long enough, it is no longer only a matter of its specific content being worthwhile, the fact of its being something that she had worked at – regardless of content – for over a decade became a worth in and of itself.

The validity of her commitment – whether misguided or not – held a worth of its own.

It mattered to her, if nothing else. Gave her something to be curious about, to be amazed by, a conundrum of experience and reality that has been wholly her own for a long, long time.

This work has very little to do with how I feel about it – the work. What it means to me, my relationship with it – these things don’t matter.

At this particular juncture in time, none of that – my neurotic navel-gazing and self-scrutiny about worth and validity – means anything in light of the fact that she feels directed to simply share it, compelled to share the work, as much for her own delight in potentially figuring out why the clouds look weird, and – more importantly – in that sharing this work might inspire people to see, connect with, and appreciation aspects of being briefly alive in the context of an ancient living and dying world that is unfolding in an infinite number of dynamic ways every fraction of every second, and over the millenia.

She doesn’t have to understand it. She doesn’t have to explain it. She doesn’t need to provide any further justification for her questions. She just has to show people why she has questions. Then maybe they will help her to answer those questions.

There is no possible way that this is going to be so simple as that.

She knows this.


She needs to make a note about the experience of going back through old posts in the effort to find the post about the clouds never looking the same, as that would be a satisfying media-stitch connecting this time to that time through archival artifacts that are pertinent to the story I am trying to tell in the present, the questions I am now asking about the questions I was asking then.

Speaking of questions: What can the shapes and forms in other configurations of natural phenomena in structures of aggregation and disaggregation, dissolution or fracturing, wearing, settling, and layering say about how there are triangle shapes, etc. in the sky?

Rays of light from the entryway at the country club, where I had to do a presentation for a Rotary Club breakfast that was so fancy that my voice shook and I felt like a slob even though I had 1/2 way tried to look ‘nice’. I didn’t care that much – at least most of me didn’t. The feeling of not fitting in is a familiar one. I don’t fit in anywhere, but this somehow allows me to have a niche I am comfortable with, the outsider, outlier, tattooed hands and posture like her great-grandmother might be watching.

What processes and perspectives can help me to neutrally and humbly explore the range of my apophenic and pareidolic capacities, which – by my casual estimation – are pretty astounding…and overwhelming, especially when linked with/informed by a belief (or emotional/cognitive investment and satisfaction in experiences reinforcing of an idea) that recognizable shapes and figures in the sky may represent an ancient universal force engaging in an act of communications delivered by exceedingly patient angels, or – also, interesting – that phenomena in atmospheric metaphysics manifest in cloudforms that mirror characteristics and attributes of other living things, the appearance of which may create an experience of recognition and relevance in human observers, a vestigial genetically-derived association of certain forms with meanings of general importance, an innately human seeing of the world as powerful, wise, and alive, a trait inherited from our ancient shared ancestry, humans who spent a lot of time looking at the sky and creating stories and culture around – in part – what they saw above them, their perception informed by the lives they lived on the ground in the cultures they were born into?

Is there a configuration of specific conditions for clouds to assume the metapatterns and micropatterns of many living things and human creations of what seem to be symbols, symbols that may reflect these patterns in a sort of reflexive echoing of form and meaning across time?

Are there ancient omnipresent metaphysical forces that have been known as God or gods for thousands of years of human history?

The debate in her head volleys reason and perceived evidence.

She considers the picture of the cloudform she saw the other night as the sun was going down. The one that looked very much like a book.

“Well, then,” she asks her skepticism, “what do you have to say about this?”

The volume is bursting with white-gold light, a hazy form like a candelabra rising from between the covers, textures like coral pressed into and rising from the bright trapezoidal form.

The part of her that wants to believe, that secretly does believe, entirely and with the whole of her heart, that she is witnessing some kind of display of holy wonders is can be extremely charismatic in perceiving possible miracles.

“This, as you can see, is not a naturally occurring form. It is a book, which is a device of humans. What about that then?”

She tucks her belief away and braces herself for the internal dismissal of the notion that she’d seen ‘a book’ as her skeptical mind, which is as much for protection as it is for any inherent value of rationality, begins to list all the cracks and lattices that can be easily observed in all manner of material. Stone and clay, lead paint – the natural process of material pulling away from itself, tightening and shrinking, making lines like the shape she saw as a book.

“The Book” – Cloud form, NE sky, late day. Absolutely luminous.

I see a lot because I look a lot. A lot.

I would not exactly say that I am ‘looking for,’ though I have ‘looked for’ before. I spent a fair amount of time in the Summer and Fall of 2010 staring at the sky in urgent prayer. “Please, show them, show them, show them. Show them what I see, make them see. Show them. Please show them.” I thought I had begged before – for permission from authorities, for kindness, for desired objects as a child – but, I had never begged something like God, even when I was deeply suffering and I longed for something to end my pain. I had never begged like a prayer for the world.

I look at the sky as soon as I go outside and if something seems to be interesting I pay attention. There is usually something interesting happening and the longer I pay attention, the more interesting it gets. What may have initially seemed like hints of an eye or a bird’s beak become – quite quickly – vast and slow-swirling assemblages that hold angles and patterns and near-perfect portraits, near-perfect lines.

I am compelled to continue to watch, against distraction and will, both of which fizzle to nothing in the state of total reverie I experience when I watch the clouds, which is as much about science as it is about God, as much about beauty as it is about anything and, perhaps, the miracle of everything.

Sometimes, she doesn’t want to look up, because she knows she will have to keep watching and although she loves the experience of close attention, sustained focus, awe and surprise, she has begun to notice an anxiety. The knowing she needs to tell someone, talk to someone about all this is persistent, nagging.

Take the dog on a walk to look at the clouds. It isn’t about taking the dog for a walk, it’s about looking to see what the clouds might be doing and momentarily inhabiting the reality in which the clouds could and would be doing anything at all other than simply being a cloud.

She doesn’t like the pressure of it. The pressure that is in her head, saying do this, don’t do that, but that also lives somewhere deeper in her, pushing out in a tingling, persistent thrum that feels like calling.

Prove God with clouds, but don’t sound too crazy. Keep it a secret, but keep doing it. Don’t keep it a secret. Tell people. Figure out how to tell people. But, first watch this freaky cloud. Yo. Hang on, almost done. You’re hungry? What if the sky displayed something impossible or really important and you miss it because you are being a slovenly human eating pasta in your bed and trying not to think about the sky, but staring at the same picture, taken 6 times, trying to find the instance when the details of the bird’s beak in the sky were especially precise?

“There is water here.” [Reflection Poems]

The wind that raised me


spartina alterniflora

juncus romanus

then laughed,

in wavelets holding

brackish reflections

of a blue that we called ‘sky,’

at the way we try to name things

The stories carried hints

like the underside of leaves

that had just pushed out

through the flesh of stems

in a gathering of cells

quick as lightning to open

without knowing why

into the sun that warmed

the tiny chambers of sap and cellulose

to cast a glow out into air

and radiate the simple, fervent scent

of brand new life

barely more than a breeze,

a soft exhale through the epiphyte

they called Spanish

even though it knows nothing about Spain

or anything else in the world

where things and places

have names

who I am, who I was,

the place where I am from,

which doesn’t exist anymore,

in the way that it did,

just like everything else

they come in the night

hot breath and mother’s milk,

smoke and beer,

the cold of ice on the tongue,

hollering across a blazing field,

speaking low

with the pine gathered close and quiet seeping

the sharp smell of a home

I will not see again.

glabrous shine dark red

to black, a critical mass

sweetness building slow

Beautiful people

all over the world, living

sad lives, scenic places

a chart, scatterplot

would show no going back now

too much ripe, ready

(what is it to live

the last summer of one’s life?

…asking for a friend.)

Next year’s cane reach bold

soft green, fleshy thorn, straight tall

not knowing, they’ll wait

Last week, a surprise

to find the dark half globe hid

among the blood red

Now, everywhere

more than ever,

then gone.

The look of the room 

was full of New South 

Palmettos in pines, sweet blessed shade

beyond the plastic lines of blinds 

and brutal swathe of buffalo lawn 

stucco on the outside 

carpet and rush of cold,

compressed air 

on the inside 

all pale blue and grey 

pastel accents 

under khaki, sitting prim 

and civilized, fur sprayed and face made 

to be modern, educated, 

informed behind the convex spectacles

that hide the earnest child

the one who wants to help, 

the one who thinks they know the answers.

The answers were all wrong, 

but she gave them anyway

because she thought they were right,

the answers. 

A common mistake,

very human thing to do. To have the wrong answers, and to think they are the right answers.

“Your daughter,” she said,

“has a condition.”

On the night before the full moon

I bickered with my oldest child in the wind

About why he could not run off

to Shining Rock at sundown,

we watched the day explode

Glad for the gales that make silence

No need to talk in wind like that

light gold and purple

All across the mountains

Walking in the dark

Across the field of dry grass

Spotlight on our backs

Shadows on the road

Land rising black against the sky

Right under Venus

No lights up there on that rise

feet getting wet down here

shifting stones in the ink of the ground

I was with my children

Taller than I am

Daughter in the stream, wetting her head

her feet, like some baptism

just silliness

Silly like the geese in the river on Sunday

Reminding us

not to leave one another behind


a day full of voices

Warbled and piping

Bowed heads

and the happy, kicking feet of children

Old brows stern with the serious business

Of giving thanks

and the rituals of passing plates,

setting knives aside

with a gracious hand


Away from talk

of games and scores,

sickness and health,

plans, a grievance,

maybe two,

wishes and a regret,

the solemn nod to the seat

now empty

owls call into the dark

roots rest in cold soil

dry leaves spin silent to the waiting ground

their arrival announced

in a whispering, settling sound

that nobody hears

While water falls across rocks

Stirring up wind

That blows branch and limb

against the windows

of warm houses,

and shudders the flames

of fires burning

all night long.

She considers the ringing in her ears

sweet lull between cars passing

Down on the street beyond

The tangle of old apple trees and privet

That hides this house

The birds settle down

when there are no cars

And the sky is beginning to have

That soft look about it

Like the inside of a blanket

Not even grey, just the white glare of down

a thunderstorm just being born

In the slight wind from the southeast

Where all those boneyard beaches are

She’d spent the morning daydreaming

Awake and smiling

In the ease of line

And in the imagining

of a quick drive from here

To there

A whole ‘nother world

Down there by the water

Now she considers the ringing in her ears

And how bothered she is by the sound

Of cars, the guttural push of a bus on the hill

She doesn’t think she wants

to go for a bike ride

To be out on the road

With the bright and the glare

The cars driving past

Loud all around her

I painted a tiny picture once

Of a woman on a table

Cut open at the chest

Blue roses spilling forth

From the cavity of herself

And what I meant to say with this

Sitting at my desk in a white painted room

With a window northwest facing

The view of the roof next door

lives underneath the tar

woman at a counter on the bottom floor

A store clerk and a seamstress

Making noodles

behind a wall of glass

While the brush painted blue

Onto blue

The curve of petal and closed lid

The movements of the city

Rushing as a breeze in the bare limbs

Of the tree that grew up between the buildings

And what I meant to say

Years ago, with that tiny figure

Blue roses spilling forth

Was that I wanted to show you

What’s inside of me

“Here, look,” she said,

leaned into the dark

disappearing into the slur of night

new moon, no moon

thick of shadow suggesting

just a little light

up there, Venus rising

sun gone, still

over past the mountain

casting dim on clouds

shimmer the leaves and slick up the water

but, fail

to show us the bark,

to show us the details

(Lenticel and the pursed mouths of blooms

not quite open

“Kalmia latifolia,” she’d told you at the car,

when she’d said,

“I am learning to learn again.”

and listed all the names she knew.)

(She didn’t tell you that the sounds of them, these names, felt uncertain in her mouth, that she felt like a child saying them. She said nothing about the strangeness of remembering that she used to be a person who knew the names of things, could say them like quicksilver, say them like music, syllables like dancing in the everyday talk of flowers. She doesn’t tell you any of this, standing beside the car with the day bright blue and Rhododendron catawbiensis mutely blooming behind you.)

At night, she leans forward

into the mass that is earth

toward the rustle of spring

and for a second she is gone,

swallowed, but you heard her push aside the branches,

hollow knock of rocks disturbed, 

feet grinding stones,

licking into moss,

the damp fur of mountain

speckled with light that might be the moon,

or plain old mica.

Reaching forward, one finger, two,

bracing toward the glow

curious to see what would happen

if she touches it. 

Held her breath to find

the light stayed the same,

fixed to the ground,

beaming up in pinprick smears

a scatterplot spelling out,

“There is water here.”

that place is still


underneath the pavement

and the tires

and the signs

with their sun-bleached messages

that said:

You Don’t Belong Here

they lied


this has always been your place

underneath the bones

and the branches

the moss like ghosts

and the tides like a heartbeat

as slow and steady

as your very own history