My friend Cindy and I were walking along Lago Sirio in the early Northern Italian morning through a thick mist that gave the poplars and bights of the shoreline that Isle-of-Avalon weirdness, that makes everything look farther away but shrinks the sound like it's right there next to you. I had dutifully brought my digital camera along and even my tripod, diligent amateur that I am, and snapped pictures of the elegant stillness. But as we walked along we talked about how the pixels—regardless of their beauty—couldn't capture the whole sense of the morning. The clean black surface of the lake and the purgatory sounds of distant dogs barking at the fog and the cold metallic of Spring in the smells. I suggested that instead we pause our walk and construct a senryu about it together. We did, and promised like teenagers not to share it with anyone. (So don't look for it here.) The poem is still stronger in my head than the photos.

I’ve done this a lot on my own, too, when I am faced with new beautiful experience and have quiet time to reflect upon it, which means almost always while traveling. The poems anchor memories in the scale of language. They’re bite-sized. They’re energy-efficient and portable. They’re hard to lose, even if your whole house burns to the ground along with all of your possessions, e.g. your photo albums. And if you can’t remember the original words verbatim, the time you spent constructing them in the first place provides ample material to rewrite your memories anew.

Write traveling poems.

Emptied gondolas
Bob their bows. Deaf ministers
Nod yes, of course, yes.

Sodium light spheres
Inhale in defense of us
And sigh once we pass.

Our throat is burning.
Like the butt of our laptops.
Like forests and suns.

Dumb ducks tuck their heads
To sit within the sermon
Of the lightning’s grift.

Twelve squares of sunlight
Rip Row A’s shirts like Easter.
Twelve colors bleed, turn.

Hand to lips: is this
Thrum from the cork of his thumb
Or the plane’s tin throat?

Woodpecker banter
On the train stops only for
Laughter like balloons.


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