For Rilke

A sideways pursuit

Head bowed, no hands, tail thrashing

Living the questions.

Stargazer pollen from 1 lily, beet juice, lemongrass-scented chai dregs, kajal splinter & 1 questing brush

Summer’s Vintage

Fall tips the bottle

Flowers open fading throats

One last swill of sun.

Stargazer pollen of 1 lily + beet juice + sip of saffron-threaded chai + kajal shard & 1 bittersweet brush


Curvaceous mermaid

On rocky perch, singing sea

To land — ampersand.

Stargazer pollen from 1 lily + beet juice + cardamom-scented chai dregs + kajal chip + 1 footloose brush & pen

Unexpected Me

Turned hotly to strike,

Tripped on electric surprise

My coiling beauty.

Turmeric-tinged water + coffee grounds + streak of kajal & 1 capricious brush

Some Days

On some days heart is

a small, fantastical bird

with ruffled feathers

Stargazer pollen from 1 fresh-bloomed lily + saffron-laced chai dregs + a sliver of kajal + 1 nonchalant brush & pen


This love lifts from me

Like summer pollen riding

Bareback on the breeze.

Stargazer pollen dust from 1 brazenly fragrant lily + the very last sip of afternoon coffee + a splinter of kajal & 1 impetuous paintbrush

Tarweed in Her Hair

In late summer there is little left of lushness here. Spring’s pretty florals and prancing greens have given up the ghost. The tall grasses are the hair of a wandering crone, bone dry, wind-matted. Snarled branches of scrub oak mutter incantations. Silver buckeye skeletons filigree the canyon. Even thirsty, delirious, and going to seed, these burnished hills are beautiful. This is what longing can look like. Wild-eyed, bereft, and bursting with the crackling pods of future fruit.

Walking a narrow dirt path, your gaze snags on a small patch of ground. It is misted with a haze of white flowers, the only ones anywhere in sight. Kneel down to meet them. Such tiny, starry faces. Seen close up, a geometry of sacredness is revealed, invisible to all who stay standing. Rays of miniature white petals fringe pale green centers flecked with black-tipped anthers. Such elfin integrity, precision, and eloquence. Language, all language, suddenly feels coarse, and approximate in comparison.

Tarweed. I suspect whoever named you was a person of considerable laziness and limited imagination.

The flowers are borne on tawny stems that are seemingly delicate, surprisingly strong. Stems that branch with painterly perfection in all directions. Sticky with exudate that some say reeks of turpentine. I say one could possibly bottle this scent, and sell it expensively. Fragrance notes: citrus, cedar, amber, candor and sunshine. Struggling with the world’s indifference? Simply spritz your pulse points, inner wrists, behind each ear– and be rendered instantly alluring to some, repugnant to the rest. Apathy will no longer be an issue. 

Perhaps this is why I love wildflowers so much. They disrupt my disregard in welcome ways. They untether my senses from the familiar, compel my gaze below, beneath, beyond, invite me to breathe in the bewitching, musky, pungent, and sometimes offensive, incense of this world, to touch its stickiness, investigate its purpose, to seek even in revulsion– revelation. I genuflect frequently now. I walk with more curiosity and care. Their feral, anything but sterile presence thrills me, spills into my settled pools of domesticity, untames me by slow degrees, acquaints me with holy minutiae and the longing of the waiting, wild-eyed crone within. The one who will one day go to seed. Hopefully with earthpraise on her lips, and tarweed in her hair.

The Strange Woman Inside

I used to think I wrote because there was something I wanted to say. Then I thought, ‘I will continue to write because I have not yet said what I wanted to say’; but I know now I continue to write because I have not yet heard what I have been listening to.- Mary Ruefle

You reading these words, I writing them– where are we going?  What is the plan? Your find yourself here– but do you really? Do I? Where do we find ourselves– really? Sometimes, even on days when I have nowhere to be, I feel a strange pressure within. What is this feeling? I believe it has something to do with the strange woman inside. 

It has come to my attention recently, that inside me, is a woman who believes she is running late. Who is she? How long has she been there? And late for what? These are reasonable questions. I don’t believe she knows the answers. I know I don’t. This does not stop either of us from feeling a sense of low grade urgency. “Hurry please!” she whispers, always demanding, but never impolite. “Hurry please!” And I, who have always disliked hurrying, feel an odd compulsion to obey.

At such times the delicate, green fronds of my awareness pull back and curl up tightly. Like a touched touch-me-not, I too am capable of closing up shop in an instant. Capable of withdrawing to a safe distance within myself, that is to say, out of reach of the coltish and curious present. Dogs and toddlers are the opposite of touch-me-nots. They gambol about in constant full-bodied contact with the here and now. Because they exist in a state of near-constant surprise, they are not fascinated by the future, and they are unafraid of delays. 

But for those of us freighted with dreams, unmitigated contact with this moment always runs the risk of delaying our arrival at the next (somehow more important,) moment. And according to the nameless, recently discovered woman inside me– the one who believes she is running late– all delays are disadvantageous. So even though we do not know where we are going, she and I, we have been trying to get there quickly. We have been trying not to waste time being here, when we could be arriving there. But recently, it must be reported, I have been falling short. 

Ignoring the exigencies of the situation, I have tended to tarry. Have allowed myself to be waylaid. By crow calls and hummingbird wings, by moss drifts on old oaks, by the long lasso of the lily’s scent. By the sunlight that pours into my pockets bearing a silence so wide, it opens closed spaces within. A silence so deep it swallows up the strange woman inside. Her urgency, mine, and our memories of each other– submerged in a sea of gold. 

Now, you who find yourself here (or do you really?)– tell me — where did I lose myself? Where am I to be found?

No, no – wait!

I’ve changed my mind. Don’t give me the answer. Why spoil the mood?

Let’s continue to dance instead. Let’s continue to dance this dance, of losing and finding, finding and losing, losing and finding — until we are both so dizzy, so dazzled — we cannot tell the difference anymore.

To Savor and Be Savored

First a riddle:

One of those beings whom it is difficult to describe pleasantly.  Overpowering, off-putting, unshapely. And yet…And yet in the right context, with the right collaborators, her essence transmutes her edges into something altogether irreplaceable. She softens into subtle appreciation, imbues her community with richness and depth, and vanishes entirely in the process. Closely examined, her powers are mystical, even saintly.

Next a clue:

She’s believed to have traveled across the Hindu Kush with Alexander’s army. Long after the would-be conquerors turned to dust, she remained in India, having vanquished the subcontinent without raising a finger. [Remember: To be mighty is not the same thing as to be long-lived.] Her perpetuity has something to do perhaps, with her gift of elevating all around her. Her talent for punching up the bland existence of others. Her wisdom lies in knowing that life aspires to savor and be savored. Her greatness lies in devoting herself unreservedly to this warm-blooded dream.

Now the answer:

She is asafoetida.

A speculation:

Unbeautiful and deeply desired, her strange charisma is such that you will find her written into ancient scriptures, praised for the medicine of her presence, admired for her virtues, invited into every home– but left out of almost all poetry. Not everything that delights us is deemed lyrical. Some entities travel on bright limbs and lithe syllables. Like hummingbirds, sunflowers, saffron and starlight. Ravens, and raindrops, driftwood, and snail shells. Tumbleweed, tidepools, barnacles and temple bells. They find their way into poems with the ease of an otter slipping into its river. Other beings are more burdened, in that their selves and syllables do not lilt, they lumber. They are not the sort to ripple or reverberate, rather they lie athwart, like a boulder on a narrow mountain pass. Interrupting the flow of traffic and thoughts, of rhythm and rhyme.  This does not empty them of poetic possibility. Not at all! But not everyone recognizes this. Perhaps this is why poems about asafoetida are few and far between.

A lesson in language

We humans are a fickle lot, fueled by a potent mixture of ignorance, enthusiasm, arrogance and grace. We make up our minds– but our minds are so very different. Contradictions are bound to abound. In bygone days asafoetida was called Food of the Gods by the Persians. Today the French, Turks, Germans and others call her some version of — Devil’s Dung. Celestial seasoning to some, an utter abomination to others. This is not a problem, but a paradox. They are not the same thing. Sometimes what is lost in translation is subtle and wafting, like a nuance. Sometimes it is teeming and weighty– like a world. 

The anatomy of a spice

No matter the name it is assigned, this noxious spice is derived from Ferula asafoetida, a perennial herb with lacy green leaves that grows to nearly seven feet. Every part of this plant exudes a fetid scent. The roots of this plant contain a milky sap. Cut the stalk close to the ground before flowering season, and the sap will dry into an odorous, plentiful resin–as much as two pounds of resin in three months. This reeking resin, long out of daily use in its countries of origin, ignored by much of the rest of the world, is a prized spice in India. To the native nose, a single whiff is enough to be unmistakable. This malodorous spice disappears into Indian delicacies and everyday fare alike, where it miraculously tempers itself, and all things alongside it into a difficult-to-describe form of deliciousness. If you think of asafoetida as an Indian spice, you would be both right and wrong. The country that accounts for an estimated 40% of the global consumption of asafoetida, imports it from the mountains of Iran and Afghanistan (more than 12,000 tonnes a year.) To be native to a place is nice, but one does not become a celebrity by staying at home. Every spice knows, to be properly feted, one must venture abroad. And so it is with this strangest and smelliest of spices. There is in this fact, odd comfort to be had.

The takeaway (that is also the giveback):

Maybe asafoetida reminds us that there is place in this world for every eccentricity– including our own. Reminds us that every obnoxious tendency we encounter is also a potent gift, awaiting the hot oil of life’s frying pan. Maybe we too are destined to spill our singular flavor into everything– and vanish without a trace.

In the Dark

tonight thoughts run loose

the mind is a zoo and someone

has unlocked all the cages.


what is it you have done

that some nights you must hide your face?

starlight has crept into every corner,

do you see it?

a silver haunting.

this is what it looks like

when the past comes back

on bright, fierce paws

to play with

the present.