Tidal Basin

Germination Detail Part III, by Leslie Shellow

contemplations about what stays in the net

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Full Moon in the Suburbs

                                 for Gary Snyder

The full moon announces itself to this night
a specter chiseled by branches and leaves.
And the honeyed air loiters in the dark particles of Day's exhaustion,
remembering the difficult work of re-creation. 

How this suburb longs to be wild with the neighboring woods,
 slatted moonbeams drawn across its foresty face. 

But these shiny lit facades of houses startled by street lamps
give us no place to
obscure ourselves.

Return to masted quarry,
Reach through obstructing leaves,
and feel the lick of this moon's silvery tongue
cool your cheeks
hot from running

Monday, June 6, 2011


I was caught in a firmament of ideas
but I was already in bed
trying to sleep.
The poem was happening
The work was working
and I, 
an aurora borealis of thoughts and sensations
was thinking how to record all this without 
getting up, making light, locating pen, and lassoing words,
hoping the good snugglers would stay with me all night and deep into 

Tuesday, April 12, 2011


What happens when I's blur
        and then dim?
The clarity of the world shifts and
moves towards the heart


a deep longing to be lost
in the absence of lines and sharp details.
      I soften and the world disappears
the darkness now a haven for designs
I've never seen.
                Wake up! you say
                 Can't you see?
I's see alright
    in the dim light --
    a night 
to you
         not me

"Red Hills and Bones"

                                                                "Red Hills and Bones"
                                                                Georgia O'Keefe, 1941
                                                                                The Alfred Stieglitz Collection, 1949

It's soft here on this desert floor--
the first time I've felt soft
in my life.
       Maybe it's the non-doing
because I was undone
      and reduced to my elements
I gave a terminal sigh which was
                   caught in thin, dry air
                            and breezed downwind
                        carrying dust particles as my

             I lay here,
             just bones,
             and I don't have to
            do. Anything.
The chase is over.
     I don't even remember
  Was I taken down
Or did I die throughout the night,
painting the sand auburn
  inch      by       inch,
the pool of my life spreading beyond
             my form?

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Words are Not Lost

As I sit to look at my manuscript for the first time in quite a while, I am hearing words through the lines I have written. A work that seemed so important for me to write at one time is quieted by the immensity of what is happening in Japan and by the powerful experience I am having reading Reiko Rizzuto's book, Hiroshima in the Morning, as these events simultaneously unfold. I surprise myself. I do not give up on my manuscript. Instead, I write a few lines, change a few words, and start to notice: reading and writing is my sun and moon. The celestial weight of the yearning is what I glean from Reiko's book, beyond the beautiful language, the palpable honesty, the courage of this heart-endeavor.

I realize I haven't been writing. Since my friend took her life, I have done what I could to float with what I had: multiple jobs, a new relationship, a sore shoulder, living with my parents in the house in which I grew up. Yet, submerged in Reiko's words, the rest of the world becomes silent: water around my ears, slight pressure, the sound of my own breath. What do I want? This is a question Americans get to ask. And not even every American. This questions absorbs in itself the needs and wants of others. If I want something, then someone must provide it for me. If I provide this thing myself, it no longer becomes a want, but a piece of me. It becomes who I am, who I always was - some sort of recognition of self rather than a want of other.

What do I need? I do not know anymore. The things I thought I needed have slipped away these past years - some violently, some without so much as a struggle, only perhaps a small sigh before leaving, marking the spot they occupied once in my fabric. My fabric is shifting. The strings pull apart to create more holes, more space. Which is better? Holes or space?

The relationship ends on pain of knowing too much.

I am back with what I write. If I were to claim one need, it would be this: to find the words and the beauty that is required to write something of substance that creates, as Reiko's book does, a raft of sorts for people floating in their own experiences. I want to build a raft that is made of the pieces of my corner of consciousness, lashed together with strands that grow out of something deeper and broader than who I am. Without these words, I have yet to see how I become whole.

These past months were an unintentional experiment. To say I dropped what I loved in the service of mourning would be a lie. Let me explain.

A death. A service. A collection of lines of poetry attempting to capture a life lived and ended.

Before these days, I woke with a dream that I would write in that month between classes. A life. A death. A service. And I knew, that if I began writing, I would not stop. I would write across the boundaries of time that defined schedules and classes and where-to-be's and when's. I would not come back if I left for that well-journeyed place. I closed the computer and pulled out the pile of essays to grade. Easier.

Reiko writes her way back to herself. Though the courses we have charted through the high waters of obligation are different, perhaps even opposite, I ride on the same yearning. She, a wife young before maybe even becoming an adult. I, in my forties now, sealed inside a chrysalis of having made it this far without my mate, never having wanted this to be the case. She, a mother without wanting to be one. She, loving her children and still not wanting to be what mother meant to her - the mother she had yet to define, a simple glow in the future she may not have seen flicker back then. Me, always wanting to be a mother, mothering other children, sometimes resenting other people's children because I gave to them that part of myself I thought was finite.

It was not.

But the impasse is the same. How does one write for oneself and for the world and still give (the best) of oneself to those nearby? I return to my manuscript. Some day, this book might buoy a swimmer for a little while. I hope so. For now, I am grateful for the reminder to keep writing. I dip my index finger into the salve of your words, Reiko, and touch the wounded places.

Thank you.

Monday, February 28, 2011


The pelagic sky touches you and me
Simultaneously, a column of shifting
breezes makes a cloud feather
 and disappear
a string of stars pounds rocketfire
into a darkened sky like a heavy metal band
the sound of stars is not a twinkle, rather
an explosion.
But we knew that.