That Extraordinary Mote of Dust

                        That’s us—a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam—Carl Sagan

as I return to the mesa       from a pilgrimage to Prague where       the Astronomical Clock is
swaddled in scrim I am       in love with Kafka as much as       I was at nineteen an irresistible

voice that deepens my life       the thrilling discovery of his sketches       my body a conduit
butterfly wings quickening me       down the cobblestone lanes       inside the pale of the castle


we left migrating hummers       outside the bedroom we left       flannel sheets on the bed
and finches in the backyard       and returned to nesting towhees       and quail strutting on

the fire anthills like they own      the horizon alight with       wildfires around the entire

bowl’s rim yet the birds are       trilling reborn by overflowing       well-water in their basins


I am awed by how life       can arise on a planet       as long as water is present
the miracle of something so       complex something so unlikely       to happen and the possibility

that given the required      exact right circumstances       anything could happen I hold
faith in Hezekiah’s       multifaceted orb       as it bobbles down the hill       my choice of one facet

leading to certain possibilities             and then the next plane opens to a certain more but
given the incline no choice      can ever lead back to those       that were bypassed


this mesa is where I will       spend my days as I wrap myself       in the tick of the copper clock
time measured instead by       the sequencing of the sun       a metronomic movement

described by       winter’s grasping at warmth       followed by       the summer shunning of heat
and always       the pitfall of endeavoring      to hold the spheres still


Demise of a Star


I knew a girl once I knew a girl once      who glided into a black hole     and as posited by Albert Einstein
slid beyond the event horizon     the place of no return      space-time collapsing

and that young girl from Latvia      evanesced      the matter that she was      too much matter
for the small space      that she occupied      just a young girl from Latvia      her family’s tree of life

budding over America      flowering immigrant dreams      in a sometimes-inhospitable land
a land in which even      being blond and blue-eyed and smart      could not save you from

derision if you lived      on the wrong side of the river      and our parents      not wanting to talk about it
lectured us about the wrong thing      lectured us about staying away      from the frozen edges


the Merrimack River      rushing through the center      of our once-industrial town
powering the mills      in which all new immigrants     had been pressed into piecework

the city’s more established haves      settling on one riverside      new have-nots      on the other
this Latvian family with means      mistakenly choosing      the wrong side      as if any parents’

words or choices      could keep any of us safe      as if black holes      were a thing outside of us
instead of the beast within      our fourteen-year-old selves      tortured monstrously

by otherness      she had a deaf twin      this young Latvian girl      a sister we did not know
because in the mid-century      there was no place      in neighborhood schools      for those who were


different and so Daryl would      footslog along the river     wind rattling the birches      each day leaving
half of herself behind      to sit in the row of wooden desks      with a group of bullying strangers

the most slippery moment arriving     with the Iowa Test      she scored highest in the grade
which spotlighted her      gave her the gift of more     ridicule and rejection     and so

is it any wonder that she      chose the black hole      the ice snapping      under her feet
the wind scraping      her face      but I did wonder      for decades      she being the first

I knew to choose      that black oblivion      tumbling      from my own pedestal      I considered
my part in her choice      had I been kind enough     or kind at all      could it have ended differently

how had we all missed      those storm clouds gathering      the cumulative force of gravity
overwhelming      a place of eternal entanglement      from which not even light could escape