Of Roots, Rites, Ribs

  1. The Orange Spotted Sunfish is one of the most vibrant freshwater fishes. It is most closely related to a rockfish, and is not a sunfish at all.
  2. The Sea Rose (Orphium frutescens) will only expel its pollen for carpenter bees. The bees’ wings must sing, in perfect pitch, a middle C. With a tuning folk, the process is quite reproducible.
  3. Perhaps it was a choice, a preference for texture over all else, made in my child’s mind, before memory’s manifold machines were oiled. Others clung to teddy bears, spittle-matted, or ratty, old blankets. I loved my mother’s polo shirt. Between my finger and my thumb, I rolled the shirt’s ribbed collar. The philosophies of pleasure, no doubt, have something to say on the subject.
  4. Genesis 1:26 reads, “Let them have dominion over the animals.” My uncle, a literalist, a former professor of biology, kept his dogs chained to ribbed rebar staves.
  5. Because Lupine grows on fallow slopes, it was believed to ravage the soil of all nutrients, and was thus named rightly as a wolf among the fold.
  6. “Frost Heave” :: By the ice-trundled / cemetery lawns, I cleaved / to granite, trembled— // six below. You loved / the late clover’s frozen globes, / their torpid sleep, lived // death—think astrolabes’ / objects. Then, the backhoe’s claw, / not shoveled labors // like I’d seen. Earth’s maw / lay open; a laser marked / your stone. With the thaw // came the meadowlark, / spit from the land where it lurked.
  7. The Pansy derives its name from ponse, French for think.
  8. Penniless, in Dublin, you walk ten kilometers home from Coppers, a nightclub. As you wend the rain-wet streets, I came upon a man in a doorway, rolling a ball of hash. You smoked this hash with him and afterward felt, with extreme awareness, the corrugations of your hard palate.
  9. Oh Orpheus, you were never alone & the key never mattered.
  10. Buckwheat is predominantly used in rotational farming as cover crop. Its sole purpose is to die unharvested.
  11. Plutarch writes of Theseus’s Paradox: as the planks and ribbing of Theseus’s ship are replaced, piecemeal, over centuries, the question becomes: is it the same ship? Cellular biology imposes the same paradox on the human body.
  12. The Pansy derives its name from ponse, French for think.
  13. In one poem, I write, “Your hand on mine, we eased / the blade into the metallic mesh of her ribcage.” I am speaking of cleaning a pregnant smallmouth bass. I am speaking of his death. After the poem has ended and life not, I will not mention their bones, how they lumped in my throat.
  14. The first time I saw her naked, the violent protrusion of her ribs. I patted her stomach, quoting Braveheart: “this is something we shall have to remedy.” I was young, in love, and unaware that the remedies of antiquated thought were as much origin as antidote. It, I, was so unforgivable.
  15. The ribbed vaulting of the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. is skeletal, neo-Gothic. It is likewise beautiful. Two men died carving it, a verifiable figure. So: architecture; memento mori.
  16. In college, I watched my mathematics professor build a guitar by hand. Mesmerizing, the tender firmness with which he bent the ribs into place, and later, if he wasn’t let go for fucking my ex.
  17. Rhubarb shares an etymology with rheumatism.
  18. R.I.B.—I knew it from movies. Rigid-hulled Inflatable Boat. Only once have I heard it used in conversation. In a fraternity house, a Navy SEAL told us of his work in Special Ops. He didn’t mention the heroin habit he picked up in-country, but we knew. We knew & were rapt.
  19. She couldn’t come without music.
  20. For half my life, I prized my father’s cable sweater as the apotheosis of business casual attire. I see now it was exactly that.
  21. In Aruba, one year before Natalee Holloway’s disappearance, I ate Caribbean Ribs at a jerk-chicken shack. Behind back, a heap of bones. In 2011, Holloway’s father filed a petition with Alabama courts to have his daughter declared legally dead. Her mother fought the petition and lost.
  22. In one poem, working anagrammatically, why, one writes: “arbitrary semiotics. The fixed | eye re-centers: a wreck, a tarry rib.”
  23. After delivery, piglets must be removed from the whelping box, sows being known to eat their brood.

A Wallace Stegner Fellow at Stanford University, J. P. Grasser is a PhD candidate at the University of Utah, where he edits Quarterly West.

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