“You, your joys and your sorrows, your memories and your ambitions, your sense of personal  identity and free will, are in fact no more than the behavior of a vast assembly of nerve cells and their associated molecules.”      [ Frances Crick, The Astonishing Hypothesis ]

For days we noticed the fullness of the moon. We had reached, I thought,

a peaceful place,

and both of us were contented. Sentences

finished themselves without interruption,

most of the time. On the way to the station one morning

C. told me how once, as a child,

he sang "Paper Moon" to a roomful of grownups (including a monsignor),

but did not understand the words. "Hanging over a cardboard sea"

was especially confusing to him,

until years later.

I was reading a book about ensoulment, not strictly.

A psychic in the book identified

a woman's brother's "hourglasses," which

he collected. For this reason the woman was convinced

of the psychic's credibility.

There was a great deal of talk about the discarnate,

and how we might—and they might—

commune with each other.

I was glad I had taken Latin

for four years.

Nobody. No


I came across gegenschein, defined as a "faint oval patch of light

directly opposite the sun in the night sky, caused by reflection of sunlight

by dust particles—also known as

counterglow." I found this hard

to picture. It's different from zodiacal light, which is vaguely triangular,

but has colors identical to those

of that solar spectrum. (Suddenly I rememberd

how long we sat on the airport floor while waiting

for that flight. Suddenly I remembered

walking in that forest in Maine,

carrying umbrellas.) The sometimes oval gegenschein is

a much fainter spot of light.

Radiational backscattering! The apparent cause of gegenschein. The wavelengths

are reflected backwards

so much better than in all other directions. Several Italians,

in the remarkable year 2000

carried heavy astronomical equipment

to the top of Stromboli (in a continuous state of eruption

for 2000 years), and positioned themselves near the cemetery

to observe the gegenschein. It was a perfect night

with almost no wind at all, and they confirmed

that Stromboli has one of the darkest skies in Europe. I was pleased

to wake up to find

that C. had brought a stunned woodcock

up to our hotel room

on the 20th floor.

He'd found it in the street, preposterously.

The bird rested calmly

in the purple lining of C's jacket

for some time. Then it began to fly; I had to confine it

in a towel. C. freed it

in the park, although alas,

we believed it too invisibly wounded

to survive. All day I scanned

the painted window screens of Baltimore

for images of falling birds. (I remembered the silver Icarus

in the museum,

surrounded by windows. I remembered the still-life painter from Delft

and his trademark red spittoon.)

From a seismic point of view, we were in a state

of persistent volcanic tremor. I had not thought of it

myself. I did consider

something like it when reminded

of 17th century tulipomania, which is just what it sounds like:

Europe's obsession with tulips,

undoubtedly an unhealthy preoccupation.

I have no idea

what that did to the birds.

Or whether the tulips had been ensouled

to the point that they thought about haunting

in later centuries.

I felt as if I were standing in the inkwell.

(I remembered a painting called "Duel after Masquerade,"

in which a clown stood sadly gazing at a pistol

while another man in costume was carried away. I remembered

the counter man in the Roly Poly Sandwich Shoppe

telling us he was 37 and had been married 15 years

and had a daugher not from this marriage

but "from a young lady I met in college," and he

[later I hear him while I'm waiting for our rollups with artichoke hearts]

is worried that another young lady [a customer, I gather]

who is married as he is married has not only been talking to him

"too much" but has somehow appeared—twice—at the same bus stop he uses

on his way home.

He's worried about this, he tells his friend,

"so I go home a different way.")

I searched for my ectoplasm

in order to wear it home.

And finally I found it.

The trains were confusing for us, we had been through so much.

And yet in a certain way there was no strain at all.

I Don't Pray

I Don't Pray

let me in, let me out

Reading -- March 1