As I read through testimonies from the Salem witch trials, I couldn’t get over how one accusation against Brigget Bishop was the fact that she wanted to dye small pieces of lace. (Apparently, this implied she was making poppet dolls.) Another was that she expelled all apples from someone’s orchard, then flew away with the devil.
When I researched a little more about red dye, I learned about carmine and where it comes from: the female cochineal bug, who doesn’t ever get to fly away.
The last few winters I lived in upstate New York were eerie. One February, we opened our windows to beat back heat, and still I couldn’t sleep. There was something about that windy, too-warm weather that felt untouchable, like I couldn’t affect it, out of my hands. Just how things are now. The poem I wrote, “Inversion,” tries to call out that strange, unjustified resignation of agency I felt in the face of what we’ve made.
That same winter, I read about these reindeer in Siberia unable to eat enough to survive because warming, weirding temperatures have left the lichen they rely on trapped beneath far more ice and snow than usual. Over 80,000 have died in the last 10 years. Here’s the photo of frozen reindeer that I couldn’t stop thinking about and wrote about in “Impenetrable”:
I’ve been unsure how to write about climate change. But Kathleen Dean Moore and Scott Slovic’s Call to Writers follows me to every page. Writing about wildlife in a far-away place or the way a crocus blooms too soon might seem too removed, too small respectively. What about the inequitable human costs? What about moving beyond just grief and witness? I’ll keep trying.
This is a season of homecoming for me. I’ve moved back to the region where I grew up in Minnesota after almost ten years away. Summer humidity stokes the air with the smell of new cottonwood leaves along mucky lakes, tugging me back into memories. Each day brings a reunion of past selves and ages. Old layers rise and teem like each evening’s insects.
Fittingly, The Hopper‘s third print issue arrived in my mailbox this week. We asked writers and artists for work related to the term “ecesis,” which formally means the making of new habitat and home. In ecology, “ecesis” refers to species pioneering or invading (which verb?) new places — sometimes places altered by wildfire or storm. As climate change, resource wars, and inequality worsen, the numbers of people and living things seeking homes where they can thrive or even survive will increase. Our intentions to tend one’s place and widen community become more crucial.
The artists and writers who answered our call for submissions are visionaries. I’m honored to have worked with the poems and poets in these pages. I hope that as you dwell in this smart, thriving, diverse collection, the world you inhabit grows. Order and read more here.
When I was only starting to understand that my parents had whole lives before they had my brother and me, my dad had heart surgery. Of course the surgeon couldn’t see his dreams that didn’t come to fruition; that would be impossible. I guess that’s the point of this poem in Cold Mountain Review‘s spring issue — gratitude for de-cisions and in-cisions that mean my dad and I are both alive.
I’m reading my poems tomorrow, Saturday 5/5 @ 3:30, at the History Center in Ithaca as part of Spring Writes Literary Festival. Come hear about Julian of Norwich, tornadoes, quadruple bypasses, and the Salem Witch Trials (probably). I would love to see you!
I am so honored to be in Ecotone‘s Craft Issue, hot off the letterpress. Please buy a copy, subscribe, or have your library subscribe because it’s wonderful. The issue features Martha Park’s illustrated “Portrait of a Vacant Lot,” Aimee Nezhukumatathil’s reflections on color with embroidery by Humayrah Poppins, and my humble lyric essay about cello lessons, among other wonders.
Not last spring, but the spring before last, I took up cello lessons. I promptly fell in love with my teacher and her way of teaching. She gave me charming metaphors to help me visualize myself moving in the right ways. They worked, magically.
I also fell in love with a recording of Jacqueline du Pre playing Elgar’s cello concerto. She moved me, the images my teacher gave me moved me, and I moved with my cello in hopes that we might play something beautiful eventually. But to be honest, I also fell in love with beginning: being an amateur discovering the simplest things, attempting and hoping and imagining myself into something new. Even playing one right note thrilled me.
My essay troubles the ease of the maxim to visualize success. The body and the mind do not always match. But how beautiful I find our legacies of trying. How inspiring we can be to each other even so.
I’ll be editing poetry with the bright Anna Mullen at The Hopper literary magazine this season. Our spring print issue theme is Ecesis. Get out your OED, your ecology textbook, or just follow our prompt below.