Thomas Cook : A series of micro-essays : September 2019


Southern Legitimacy Statement: I live in Southern California and have recently spent time traveling through Arizona and New Mexico. These short essays come out of two recent trips.

Five Micro-Essays

Natural Concern

I’ve never loved the red alders of Willapa Bay, but I would give them a chance. I would notate the waterfowl there. I would get pollinated by the wind.

The arms of mothers make history, as do excessing branches and the impetus of a hollow noon. From such a swale, we find the best of the twenty-first century.

I will admit, I am a bourgeois traveler, but I say all the names as I spare no harvest. Sustainability is overrated. With it, there would be nothing new. 

I pan the panners, saplings bend. I haven’t spent too much time with lesser Coleridge, though the pink of the common linnet makes me feel alien. The circle of phones is not an emergency.

Cowboy Artist

for Tyler Flynn Dorbolt

In the high desert of Sonora, the saguaro can grow
to be forty feet high, they can withstand the snow,
and the heat never causes them to blister. Burros
run wild in the hills, and Arizona allows you adopt
any that wander onto your ranch. Accepting landscape,
this is the first task of the cowboy artist. Few beards
are depicted, but they can be winter shields in wintry
hills, and there it is my mind slips between this scene
and New York—Vermont or New Hampshire?—
years now of California, and yet here we are,
busily about our own creations and yet tied by
original energy, spark into flame, humming
there beneath the surface, or invisible, as Sedona’s
vortices breathe religion, and myth, and science
in these red rocks that surround the table
where I write these small words. Is Earth Mother
iron oxide, piled on by millennia of sandstone?
What can the petroglyphs tell us about this early
convergence of human thought? While I walk
the town, under an unusual rain, I stand before
dedicated to the proud history of the cowboy artist,
who I had not known, or so I thought. There are
many ways to reconcile the frontier, to survive
and reflect how up against that void we remain.



I measure the river in song. The world is delicate and gay. I trip over a dimple. I can laugh at light.

This is what makes pain deep, the power men have. We should hurry from this flood.

If only I could withdraw my measure.


Word of the Day

I grow fonder of beasts, especially worn ones, along this windy trip. All the musing is my own. It makes me dumb, but there’s a pleasure in that, like a pulse. Grace is old. I am old, but I can remember how the Earth tingles. Earth’s urge does not heed me and my concerns. It has its own relationship to the wind and to the solitary places of the heart. In the dark, I moan. I am untangled from my bones. 


Vatic Dream

I entered the room with a ripped throat, flowers making my neck a vase, and I could not read. There was a book in my hand. It was raining outside, I could see through window. On the other side, tall, brilliant green grass grew. Most of the people were long shadows, holding ice cubes, and I worried they would bend to cover me. My blood didn’t so much run as shoot. Then my grandmother, reading quietly in her chair, not a shadow, the afghan she had made out of old, heavy curtains thrown over her lap. I’ve lost track of the occasion, but I remember I wanted to have beautiful lips. My head was hanging, but it was there, and nothing was at all upside down.