Take The Skyway

by Misha Lepetic

There wasn't a damn thing I could do or say
Up in the skyway
~The Replacements

Mumbai_skywalkWalking has been much in the news lately, or rather, how little Americans seem to be doing it. It’s obvious that walking is good for individual health, but what should perhaps be even more emphasized is the importance of walking for the overall health of the urban fabric. So, in addition to asking ourselves the question of how we can get people to walk more, we also ought to consider equally beneficial ways for designing the built environment, such that all this walking will bring about a result for society. Walking may be an end in itself, but if it is only considered as such, we forego the opportunity that it is a means as well.

The history of walking in American cities is one of the steady erosion of an activity that was so natural that its importance was almost entirely tacit. It is always amazing to realize how malleable our norms are: during the automobile’s first few decades, pedestrian fatalities were commonly greeted with criminal charges such as ‘technical manslaughter’. Drivers were viewed with mistrust, considered reckless and even represented class division. However, pedestrians became increasingly regarded as impediments to the velocity of modern life, and economic progress became increasingly associated with the automobile and the infrastructure that made its hegemony possible.

How did this change come about? As Sarah Goodyear writes in the Atlantic Cities blog,

One key turning point…came in 1923 in Cincinnati. Citizens’ anger over pedestrian deaths gave rise to a referendum drive. It gathered some 7,000 signatures in support of a rule that would have required all vehicles in the city to be fitted with speed governors limiting them to 25 miles per hour.

Local auto clubs and dealers recognized that cars would be a lot harder to sell if there was a cap on their speed. So they went into overdrive in their campaign against the initiative. They sent letters to every individual with a car in the city, saying that the rule would condemn the U.S. to the fate of China, which they painted as the world’s most backward nation. They even hired pretty women to invite men to head to the polls and vote against the rule. And the measure failed…The industry lobbied [for] the adoption of traffic statutes to supplant common law. The statutes were designed to restrict pedestrian use of the street and give primacy to cars. The idea of “jaywalking” – a concept that had not really existed prior to 1920 – was enshrined in law.

This was the beginning of a long and effective campaign that saw walking legislated and planned almost out of existence. Even now, designers and planners are often hobbled by a perspective which continues to favour the automobile over pedestrian – most ironically, in the name of safety.

Read more »

Monday Poem

Another Piece of Eternity

I’m peeling back a page reading a new day
by the light of a new sun
mom died years ago, or was it yesterday?
I once read something similar by Camus
but was too new to understand that time bleeds
its dyes are not fast but run
between years and sometimes like old cloth
the colors of time become homogenous
but here’s this day blaring like a fanfare
from a new horn crisp as frost on glass
its brink sharp as the edge of a blade
slicing off another piece of eternity
by Jim Culleny

I support Quebec’s student protesters

by Quinn O'Neill

Pro3For months now, the Canadian province of Quebec has been astir with student demonstrations. The students are protesting a 75% increase in tuition to take place over the next 5 years. As opponents of the protests are quick to point out, tuition is actually much lower in Quebec than in any other Canadian province and would still be the lowest after the increase.

Reaction to the protests has been mixed and probably reflects a difference of opinion on the main function of education. For people who see education as a private good, the student protesters may appear to have an outrageous sense of entitlement. After all, if students are the ones who’ll benefit from the education, why shouldn’t they be expected to pay for it?

Others see education as a public good that plays an important role in a healthy, democratic society. If we’re going to let everyone vote and participate in important decision making that affects all of us, maybe it would be helpful if the public were well educated. Perhaps education would help people to better evaluate different sources of information, to understand important issues, and to make better decisions. A better educated society is also healthier and more productive.

Neither perspective is entirely wrong. Education is both a private and a public good, with significant benefits for the individual and for society as a whole. It is wrong, however, to suppose that education is only a private good, and this, unfortunately, seems to be a pervasive misconception.

Read more »


Self-regulating kettle
Peter Evonuk. Self-regulating Tea Kettle. 2004.

Steel, copper, walnut, tin.

“…boiled water is a benchmark of human achievement. Vessels utilized for this sanitizing state change have been available since before recorded history, yet with the exception of changing materials and aesthetic preference, very little has been done to improve the kettle. An early innovation, the “lid”, was developed to expedite the process to a certain degree and keep crap out of your water. More recently the steam whistle was invented and today, informs us of active boiling wile releasing pressurized steam. The Self-Regulating Tea Kettle is designed to offer a significant contribution to the evolution of this venerable instrument …”

More here and in Spanish here.


by Liam Heneghan

DESTRUCTION OF HOME: Destruction is woven into the tapestry of the universe. Entropy, omeleteer of structured things, wields its indefatigable spatula. This is Entropy’s world we are living in – a world where things fly apart. This is a world where a toppled vase disintegrates into shards upon a polished floor, and where carnage cannot be made whole. A world where neither the King’s horses nor his men, can reconstitute that incautious ovum, Humpty Dumpty; a world where tender reverential hearts break, where young flesh bruises, where desire detumesces in the embers of fulfillment, where love itself withers on the vine, where old age trellises the skin, where bright hopes atomize, and where the mortuary awaits us all, sepulchral door swinging wide – candles lit, lambent and serene, within.


HOME IN BORN IN MOTION: Leaving home is a violent act, because walking is a violent act. Walking violates a stationary calm and announces, “this place does not satisfy my needs anymore”, or, “having served its purpose once, this place now bores me”. Walking derives, anciently, phylogenetically, from motile carnivory. It is rooted in impatience – the primordial impatience with waiting for morsels to waft on by. Motility is an ancestral condition. Life was born on the move. Flagellated, ciliated – gliding, and lashing – permanently unsatisfied and desirous. Motility is the characteristic act of animality. In their evolutionary procession, animals squirmed, wriggled, pulsated, swam, slithered, and later, lurched, crawled, leapt, hopped, flapped, flew, swarmed, brachiated, knuckle-shuffled and then most recently arose and walked away. Not the chosen option: repose is abandoned. A singular spot is forsaken. Beasts leave home to prowl and stalk, to kill and dine. Pursuing other options, bathed in the sunlight, were animals enduring cousins in the kingdom of plants. Left behind also: sessile brothers, animals hedging their bets by fiercely equipping with lures and tackle and macerating jaws.

Animals depart with teeth set in hungry mouths and they nibble on the world as they encounter it. The engulfing stoma of the ambulator, first and center of its anatomical toolkit, is nestled among the cranial sense organs. The arms and legs that flail behind are mere propellers towards the cosmic dining table. The frenetic peristalsis of the torso squeezes out the ejecta in our wake and makes room for new cargo. Most movement is ecology, and most ecology is trophic ecology. Ingestion is a fundamental act.

Read more »

Earth to Ben Bernanke

29bernanke_span-articleLargePaul Krugman in the NYT Magazine:

Bernanke was and is a fine economist. More than that, before joining the Fed, he wrote extensively, in academic studies of both the Great Depression and modern Japan, about the exact problems he would confront at the end of 2008. He argued forcefully for an aggressive response, castigating the Bank of Japan, the Fed’s counterpart, for its passivity. Presumably, the Fed under his leadership would be different.

Instead, while the Fed went to great lengths to rescue the financial system, it has done far less to rescue workers. The U.S. economy remains deeply depressed, with long-term unemployment in particular still disastrously high, a point Bernanke himself has recently emphasized. Yet the Fed isn’t taking strong action to rectify the situation.

The Bernanke Conundrum — the divergence between what Professor Bernanke advocated and what Chairman Bernanke has actually done — can be reconciled in a few possible ways. Maybe Professor Bernanke was wrong, and there’s nothing more a policy maker in this situation can do. Maybe politics are the impediment, and Chairman Bernanke has been forced to hide his inner professor. Or maybe the onetime academic has been assimilated by the Fed Borg and turned into a conventional central banker. Whichever account you prefer, however, the fact is that the Fed isn’t doing the job many economists expected it to do, and a result is mass suffering for American workers.

A Universe from Nothing?

Universefromnothing-198x300Sean Carroll in Cosmic Variance:

Some of you may have been following a tiny brouhaha (“kerfuffle” is so overused, don’t you think?) that has sprung up around the question of why the universe exists. You can’t say we think small around here.

First Lawrence Krauss came out with a new book, A Universe From Nothing: Why There Is Something Rather Than Nothing (based in part on a popular YouTube lecture), which addresses this question from the point of view of a modern cosmologist. Then David Albert, speaking as a modern philosopher of science, came out with quite a negative review of the book in the New York Times. And discussion has gone back and forth since then: here’s Jerry Coyne (mostly siding with Albert), the Rutgers Philosophy of Cosmology blog(with interesting voices in the comments), a long interview with Krauss in the Atlantic, comments by Massimo Pigliucci, andanother response by Krauss on the Scientific American site.

I’ve been meaning to chime in, for personal as well as scientific reasons. I do work on the origin of the universe, after all, and both Lawrence and David are friends of the blog (and of me): Lawrence was our first guest-blogger, and David and I did Bloggingheads dialogues here and here.

Executive summary

This is going to be kind of long, so here’s the upshot. Very roughly, there are two different kinds of questions lurking around the issue of “Why is there something rather than nothing?” One question is, within some framework of physical laws that is flexible enough to allow for the possible existence of either “stuff” or “no stuff” (where “stuff” might include space and time itself), why does the actual manifestation of reality seem to feature all this stuff? The other is, why do we have this particular framework of physical law, or even something called “physical law” at all? Lawrence (again, roughly) addresses the first question, and David cares about the second, and both sides expend a lot of energy insisting that their question is the “right” one rather than just admitting they are different questions. Nothing about modern physics explains why we have these laws rather than some totally different laws, although physicists sometimes talk that way — a mistake they might be able to avoid if they took philosophers more seriously. Then the discussion quickly degrades into name-calling and point-missing, which is unfortunate because these are smart people who agree about 95% of the interesting issues, and the chance for productive engagement diminishes considerably with each installment.

Culture, Not Biology, Shapes Language

Dscn0591-piraha-everett_wideBarbara King in NPR's 13.7 Cosmos and Culture:

There's no language gene.

There's no innate language organ or module in the human brain dedicated to the production of grammatical language.

There are no meaningful human universals when it comes to how people construct sentences to communicate with each other. Across the languages of the world (estimated to number 6,000-8,000), nouns, verbs, and objects are arranged in sentences in different ways as people express their thoughts. The powerful force behind this variability is culture.

So goes the argument in Language: The Cultural Tool, the new book I'm reading by Daniel Everett. Next week, I'll have more to say about the book itself; this week, I want to explore how Everett's years of living among the Pirahã Indians of Amazonian Brazil helped shape his conclusions — and why those conclusions matter.

The Pirahã are hunter-gatherers who live along the Maici River in Brazil's Amazon region. They fish, gather manioc and hunt in the forest. As is true with any human society, Pirahã communities are socially complex.

Everett first showed up among the Pirahãs as a missionary associated with the Summer Institute for Linguistics (SIL), with the goal of converting the natives to Christianity by translating the Bible into the local language. He left many years later as an atheist, knowing that the Pirahãs “were not in the market for a new worldview.”

In between, Everett found that the Pirahãs have no words for “please,” “thank you,” “you're welcome” or “I'm sorry.” They have no color words, but instead deploy phrases such as “it is temporarily being immature” for green. They have a limited kinship term system, one that does not distinguish between parent and grandparent or brother and sister. And their sentences lack recursion. This means there are no embedded clauses, as in the English sentence “Bring me the fish that Mary caught.”

The Harm of Hate Speech


Jeremy Waldron in Eurozine:

The message conveyed by a hateful pamphlet or poster, attacking someone on grounds of race, religion, sexuality, or ethnicity, is something like this:

“Don't be fooled into thinking you are welcome here. The society around you may seem hospitable and non-discriminatory, but the truth is that you are not wanted, and you and your families will be shunned, excluded, beaten, and driven out, whenever we can get away with it. We may have to keep a low profile right now. But don't get too comfortable. Remember what has happened to you and your kind in the past. Be afraid.”

That message is conveyed viciously and publicly. To the extent that they can, the purveyors of this hate will try to make it a visible and permanent feature of our social fabric. And members of the vulnerable groups targeted are expected to live their lives, conduct their business, raise their children, and allay their nightmares in a social atmosphere poisoned by this sort of speech.

And, for the opposing view, Ivan Hare:

[I]t is clear from Timothy Garton Ash's commentary andJeremy Waldron's response to it that we are taking about much more than a guide to behaviour. Some would advocate giving effect to this norm not just through legislation but also through criminal prohibition in the form of laws against hate speech. To do so would be an error, as the hate speech laws in existence in large parts of Europe and Canada are contrary to the free speech principle at a fundamental level.

The most convincing justification for free speech is that it is essential to our ability to engage in democratic self-governance. That is, our right to participate in the debates on issues of public importance that affect us all. Debates about race (such as immigration, accommodation, assimilation and so on) are central to public discourse in most modern democracies. To prohibit the expression of strongly worded and provocative views on the subject of race through hate speech laws deprives those speakers and their audience of their right to participate fully in that public discourse.

It is no answer to say that the speaker can re-phrase their contribution in more “civil” terms and avoid liability. The topics covered typically by hate speech laws (race, religion, homosexuality) engender strong emotions and speakers should be entitled (as in other areas of public debate) to express themselves forcefully. In any event, how can those misguided enough to assert the superiority of one race over another or the wickedness of homosexuality do so without inciting hatred against the criticised group?

Urban revolution is coming

Occupy may mark the beginning of a new era of city-based uprisings. An expert explains why — and how.

Max Rivlin-Nadler in Salon:

Occupy_la_rectangle-460x307From Paris in 1871 to Prague in 1968 to Cairo in 2011 and eventually the streets of New York City, cities have long been a hotbed of radical movements. Over the decades, urban protests have been spurred by everything from unemployment and food shortages to privatization and corruption. But were they also caused by the geography of the cities themselves? The question has particular resonance this week, as Occupy prepares for a series of large May 1 protests in cities around the country.

Geographer and social theorist David Harvey, the distinguished professor of anthropology at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, and one of the 20 most cited humanities scholars of all time, has spent his career exploring how cities organize themselves, and when they do, what their achievements are. His new book, “Rebel Cities: From the Right to the City to the Urban Revolution,” dissects the effects of free-market financial policy on urban life, the crippling debt of middle- and low-income Americans and how runaway development has destroyed a common space for all city dwellers.

Beginning with the question, How do we organize a whole city? Harvey looks at how the current credit crisis had its root in urban development, and how this development has made any political organizing in American cities virtually impossible in the past 20 years. Harvey is at the forefront of the movement for “the right to the city,” the idea that citizens should have a say in how their cities are developed and organized. Drawing inspiration from the Paris Commune of 1871, where the entire city of Paris overthrew the aristocracy to seize power, Harvey outlines where cities have organized, or could or should organize, themselves in more sane, inclusive ways.

More here.

Marty and Nick Jr. Go to America

Martin Amis in The New York Times:

AmisIn 1967 my father took another teaching job in America — “at Vanderbilt University at Nashville, Tennessee,” according to his “Memoirs,” “an institution known, unironically I suppose to some, as the Athens of the South.” Princeton started admitting black students in the mid-1940s. Two decades later my father asked if there were any “colored” students at Vanderbilt. “Certainly,” came the unsmiling reply. “He’s called Mr. Moore.” Nor did the staff common room, in the department of the humanities, provide any kind of counterweight to the “values” of the surrounding society — i.e., the raw prejudices of the hog wallow and the gutter. The culprit in the following anecdote was a novelist and a teacher of literature called Prof. Walter Sullivan.

Whenever I tell this story, as I frequently do, I give him a Dixie chawbacon accent to make him sound even more horrible, but in fact he talked ordinary American-English with a rather attractive Southern lilt. Anyway, his words were (verbatim), “I can’t find it in my heart to give a Negro [pron. nigra] or a Jew an A.” The strong likelihood of hearing such unopposed — indeed, widely applauded — sentiments at each and every social gathering moved my father to write that he considered his period in Nashville to be “second only to my army service as the one in my life I would least soon relive.” All this happened a long time ago, and I can prove it. During that year in Princeton the Amis family — all six of us — went on a day trip to New York City. It was an episode of joy and wonder, and of such startling expense, that we talked about it, incredulously, for weeks, for months, for years. What with the train tickets, the taxi fares and ferry rides, the lavish lunch, the lavish dinner, and the innumerable snacks and treats, the Amises succeeded in spending no less than $100. When he got back to the U.K. in 1967 my father wrote a longish poem about Nashville, which ends:

But in the South, nothing now or ever.

For black and white, no future.

None. Not here.

His despair, it transpired, was premature. One of the most marked demographic trends in contemporary America is the exodus of black families from the Northern states to the Southern. Nevertheless, those of us who believe in civil equality are suddenly in need of reassurance. I refer of course to the case of Trayvon Martin. Leave aside, for now, that masterpiece of legislation, Stand Your Ground (which pits the word of a killer against that of his eternally wordless victim), and answer this question. Is it possible, in 2012, to confess to the pursuit and murder of an unarmed white 17-year-old without automatically getting arrested? Ease my troubled mind, and tell me yes.

More here.

The Most Charming Pagan

Grafton_1-120811_jpg_230x954_q85 (1)

Anthony Grafton reviews Stephen Greenblatt's The Swerve: How the World Became Modern, via Andrew Sullivan:

In the fifteenth century, the new culture of Renaissance humanism, with its sense of new possibilities inspired by the past, filled rulers throughout Italy with enthusiasm. Clever manipulators like Cosimo de’ Medici and ruthless soldiers of fortune like Federigo da Montefeltro appointed fluent Latinists to write propaganda for them, studied the ancients themselves, and collected as many classical texts as they could. Contemporary popes, scions of aristocratic Italian families and Renaissance princes in their own right, followed suit. Pope Nicholas V created, and Pope Sixtus IV expanded and institutionalized, the Vatican Library: a humanistic collection, stuffed with newly discovered Latin texts and newly translated Greek ones, which they made available to all the members of their large entourages who took an interest in antiquity. “The whole court of Rome” supposedly browsed there. Certainly Leon Battista Alberti did so when he collected from dozens of texts the vast amount of information about ancient buildings and cities that he compressed into his pioneering treatise The Art of Building.

It seems only natural that Sixtus’s handsome manuscript of Lucretius should have found its way into the Vatican Library. The work of a brilliant poet and ambitious philosopher, the text had earned the praise of the greatest of Roman poets, Virgil himself. Except for its title and opening line, the manuscript was written in the handsome, rounded script that the humanists of fifteenth-century Italy thought of as appropriate for ancient Latin texts—though they had derived it not from ancient books, which were written very differently, but from manuscripts of the classics written in Carolingian Europe, seven hundred years before their time.

Yet there is something troubling about the manuscript. Lucretius, as it proclaimed, was an “Epicurean” poet—a follower of the Greek philosopher Epicurus. Like his master, he believed that the universe consisted of invisible particles, or atoms, that fell through the endless void until one of them “swerved” and struck another one. The stars, the planets, and the animals and people that inhabited the earth had all come into being by chance, as particles collided, and would eventually fall apart again into nothingness. The gods formed a separate order of being, and took no interest in the fates of humans. Hence it was pointless to fear them or invoke their help.

Why Afghan Women Risk Death to Write Poetry

Eliza Griswold in the New York Times Magazine:

ScreenHunter_03 Apr. 29 15.32In a private house in a quiet university neighborhood of Kabul, Ogai Amail waited for the phone to ring. Through a plate-glass window, she watched the sinking sun turn the courtyard the color of eggplant. The electricity wasn’t working and the room was unheated, a few floor cushions the only furnishings. Amail tucked her bare feet underneath her and pulled up the collar of her puffy black coat. Her dark hair was tied in a ponytail, and her eyelids were coated in metallic blue powder. In the green glare of the mobile phone’s screen, her face looked wan and worried. When the phone finally bleeped, Amail shrieked with joy and put on the speakerphone. A teenage girl’s voice tumbled into the room. “I’m freezing,” the girl said. Her voice was husky with cold. To make this call, she’d sneaked out of her father’s mud house without her coat.

Like many of the rural members of Mirman Baheer, a women’s literary society based in Kabul, the girl calls whenever she can, typically in secret. She reads her poems aloud to Amail, who transcribes them line by line. To conceal her poetry writing from her family, the girl relies on a pen name, Meena Muska. (Meena means “love” in the Pashto language; muska means “smile.”)

Meena lost her fiancé last year, when a land mine exploded. According to Pashtun tradition, she must marry one of his brothers, which she doesn’t want to do.

More here.

Name of the Secret Service’s Infamously Cheap Agent Revealed

Andre Tartar in New York Magazine:

ScreenHunter_02 Apr. 29 15.15The federal agent who single-handedly sparked “the biggest scandal in Secret Service history” by being stingy with a Colombian escort was outed yesterday by CNN as 41-year-old Arthur Huntington, a father of two from Severna Park, Maryland, a suburb about an hour from Washington, D.C. His refusal to pay 24-year-old Dania Suarez's $800 or so fee — reportedly, he was only willing to cough up $30 — is what led to a confrontation with police and several other prostitutes in the Cartagena hotel and, eventually, to our nation's current obsession with the after-hours activities of the Secret Service. So far, at least nine agents have been culled as a result, including Huntington, although it remains unclear if he was sacked or resigned.

What else do we know about Arthur Huntington? Well, obviously, his wife runs a neighborhood Bible study and their two kids are home-schooled. A woman who knows the family told CNN: “I know him and his character. I would question the allegations.” Their Maryland home has since been put up for sale.

More here. [Dania Suarez in photo.]

Mr. Amis’s Planet

From The LA Review of Books:

AmisMARTIN AMIS HAS ALWAYS BEEN a casualty of his own biography. Every new book comes swathed in literary gossip or literary scandal to do with his father, his teeth, his divorce, his politics, his agent or his friends. The recent publication in England of Martin Amis: The Biography by Richard Bradford (a jangling heap of bad writing and factual inaccuracy) doesn't actually tell us anything new: we know it all already. Born in 1949, the son of novelist Kingsley Amis, handsome Martin with his furrowed brow and energized prose seized on the wheezing literary world of 1970s England and shocked it back to life. While writing some of the most entertaining literary criticism you'll ever come across for publications like the Times Literary Supplement and The New Statesman, young Amis penned in quick succession a handful of early novels that heralded the arrival of a bright, brash new voice in English letters — a voice perfectly suited to mingle with the yobs and snobs alike, scathing in its hyperbolic charge, addicted to the dregs of British society. In one of those early novels — Success, published in 1978 — one of the characters pleadingly tells the reader, “Take me to America,” and that's exactly what Martin Amis did. His sprawling, early-to-mid-career comedies — Money, London Fields, The Information — all pitched their voices “somewhere in the mid-Atlantic,” as another character has it, revitalizing English prose with the freewheeling energies of its American cousin.

The ensuing four decades of novels, essays, stories and journalism make up one of the most electric and original bodies of work in modern literature. Whatever one says of Amis, however one feels about what Kingsley complained of as a “terrible compulsive vividness in his style,” it takes serious effort to deny the overwhelming originality of Amis's voice, and seems to me quite a bit harder to resist the temptation to imitate it. Alas, Amis says somewhere that the great stylists are the ones you shouldn't be influenced by (easier said than done, mate); like Proust, he believes that style is a quality of vision, the revelation of an author's private universe. In his memoir Experience he claims that “style is morality: morality detailed, configured, intensified.” Reading Amis, we learn to inhabit his voice, his vision, and the morality that is his private universe. We learn to see the world the way Amis sees it: the way, in the novel Money, an overheated tunnel's “throat swelled like emphysema with fags and fumes and foul mouths”; or the distant airplanes in Yellow Dog that “were like incandescent spermatozoa, sent out to fertilize the universe.” We see, in The Rachel Papers, the narrator's mother's skin that “had shrunken over her skull, to accentuate her jaw and to provide commodious cellarage for the gloomy pools that were her eyes; her breasts had long forsaken their native home and now flanked her navel; and her buttocks, when she wore stretch-slacks, would dance behind her knees like punch-balls.”

More here.

Sunday Poem

Letting Go
Tell the truth of experience
they say they also
say you must let
go learn to let go
let your children
and they go
and you stay
letting them go
because you are obedient and
respect everyone’s freedom
to go and you stay
and you want to tell the truth
because you are yours truly
its obedient servant
but you can’t because
you’re feeling what you’re not
supposed to feel you have
let them go and go and
you can’t say what you feel
because they might read
this poem and feel guilty
and some post-modern hack
will back them up
and make you feel guilty
and stop feeling which is
post-modern and what
you’re meant to feel
so you don’t write a poem
you line up words in prose
inside a journal trapped
like a scorpion in a locked
drawer to be opened by
your children let go
after lived life and all the time
a great wave bursting
howls and rears and
you have to let go
or you’re gone you’re
gone gasping you
let go
till the next wave
towers crumbles
shreds you to lace—
When you wake
your spine is twisted
like a sea-bird
inspecting the sky,
stripped by lightning.

by Fay Zwicky
from Ask Me
University of Queensland Press, 1990