That snake with legs we saw in a medieval bestiary. It came to me last night in my
First it was a vague coiled shape. A shadow lying on the pavement of a parking lot.
Then it was under a low-growing tree, and playing with a bird. Beak to snout.
They seemed to be grooming each other. Or kissing.
Snakes don’t kiss little birds, I thought. They eat them. But this one didn’t. It
turned its head and looked into my eyes. I saw that venomous mouth straight
on. It smiled.
Then it stood up on four short sturdy legs (just like the ones I remembered from
the book) and stretched.
So, I thought, I’ve discovered something here. The artist was right. This four-
legged creature is real. It’s just that it’s elusive. Nobody else has seen it again
Responsible, I notice what I can. Those rounded paws on the ground. The joints of
its toes. The flexing knees. They bear its weight – efficient – as it calmly walks
away. And disappears.
Observation. Details. Facts.
Every single book in a study should occupy its proper place. Alphabetical order,
subject matter, genres. The shelves are a skeleton – strong and straight. Like a
well-formed mind. Everything eventually finds where it belongs.
This is my refuge. Surrounded by an unobtrusive company. Friends, brought forth
from the minds of friends. Nobody shouts. Everyone is patient. Waiting
politely for the moment to speak.
Ian stares down from his image of himself on the wall. Molded face. It pulls itself
together from a welter of angles and colors. Slabs of paint that seem up close
to be a chaos organize into the shape of life.
One eye a point of light. The other a point in shadow. Visible, sculpted. Almost
invisible. The maker’s intention. If you look long enough into these eyes,
I’ll feel whatever you’re feeling.
Every surface covers a depth. Every word – what lies beyond all words.
A proper study. The comforting structure of shelves. One more point in a universe
of infinite centers. Light and order. Here and now. Everything in its place.
In the hidden loom of the mind, wherever it falls, sunlight is busy. It weaves all
things it touches into the fabric of the day. Sometimes satin. Sometimes
muslin. Sometimes corduroy. Garments we put on and off until we die.
The indolent diligence of time.
Colors get heavier at night. Textures thicken.
Those Prussian-blue tiles on the dome of the church that shine like water in the
silver air go solid and dull. Forms withdraw into themselves to sleep beneath
the floating mirror of the moon. The nave – its angled buttresses, quiet
rectangles – stand where they have always stood and wait for another morning.
A graceful, serrated curve against the sky.
Learn to love what you see like sunlight falling on helpless stones.
This mind is the mind of the world. Be careful what you take into the dark.
Whatever you think about what you feel will formulate a part of what we
were. A part of this home we bequeath to the children who follow our
Buildings go to sleep when their people do. They settle down under a blanket of
silence as one by one their lights go out.
All of those sounds the day suppresses rise up to the surface and murmur. Night
If you happen to be awake, you can hear the tick of the clock. The cessant hum of
the fridge. The breathing of the person you love beside you. The whirr of
your own blood in your ears, like cicadas whirring from their secret places in
Open your eyes. Close them. Two equal darknesses. In both of which amorphous
shadows – grey on black or black on grey – slowly roil and tumble.
This borderline that separates thought and dream. Lonely listener. Reach out now
and touch the edges of all unwritten poems.
Do every sleeper’s dreams rise up somehow (through the stair-well? The air shafts?)
and mingle in the attic to produce the building’s dreams? Intangible entangled
anthology? Unrecovered poems that a building also forgets like we do with
the noise and business of the coming day?