Catherine KasperCatherine Kasper

Working Note

I like to read around in the sciences, everything from Edwin Way Teale and Rachel Carson to Richard Feynman, and early alchemical and medical books. My interest in natural history evolved through a series of courses I took years ago at Morton Arboretum outside Chicago, an interest revitalized by my younger sister’s botanical art works. The visual aspects of scientific studies influences me as much as the textual.

Thanks to Aufgabe for first publication of “Thirty Three Articles...” and American Letters & Commentary for “A gradual disappearance...







A gradual disappearance of insects

One by one, those you love are being taken from you . . .
— Rachel Carson, in a letter to Dorothy Freeman

“Grasshoppers, katydids, crickets, mantids, walkingsticks, and cockroaches,” he says
the blue feels like his insides; order: Orthoptera, the tiny eardrums, tympana

he’s enamored with damselflies: “many segmented, long, hair-like”
the “metallic greenish-black body,” she says she can see his intestines through glass

sketches softly in her notebook, dorsal and ventral illustrated in charcoal
pinning insects; like her specimens, she’s grown antennae

her hands, dry tissue palmate.  Under a lens, common skimmers
in a viscous drop, essence of ethyl acetate, “flight interrupted

by periods of hovering,” his thoughts affixed to genus Lestes, “the way they hold
their wings at rest”; she imagines his brain: whirled larvae

heat washes over them, sucks the blue from his intestines, the “spread-winged” —
algae and the green density, a pressed translucence in her eyes


Thirty-Three Articles on Solar Navigation
(& Seven Sentences in Shadow)

  1. In the morning, she walks into the room and opens the blinds.

  2. That nothing happens by chance, but all things occur from
    necessity, even though necessity is difficult to admit.

  3. She poured ice water from the pitcher into the glass and noticed the pleasing
    sound of the glass becoming full.

  4. There are several firelit worlds and our insistence on one tells us more about our selves than the universe.

  5. There was a window in the room, but opening was not allowed.

  6. That the cause of a new act [or thing], or something new produced depends on if
    you are standing barefoot or wearing shoes, and who does the lifting.

  7. That the table on which you set your glass, which sits in the direct line of the sun,
    can be turned.

  8. A potentially hazardous solar flare leapt from the sun Thursday.  Some suggest
    the planet is overdue for another one.

  9. At the time of the solar maximum, if left out all day, the feather will fill with dirt
    and wind.  Across the film it will leave a speckled line.

  10. When you write, speckled line, you curve the letters, and squinting, see sun spots.

  11. We said we felt no consequences from the solar flares, as the tides rose and the
    rivers fell back, and the drought came upon our flesh.  When the itching began,
    we envisioned grasshoppers.  When the wounds broke open, we saw worms.

  12. The bird had fallen and someone recorded it a book about West Nile, another bird
    fell and was counted.  In the grass, we found the bloody feathers.

  13. There was water in the glass, but it couldn’t be drunk.

  14. She stood up and went to the window.  She could feel the cold of the glass
    against her cheek, even though the sky appeared to be bright.

  15. The poles of the sun’s magnetic field have apparently reversed.

  16. Several powerful solar salvos are heading toward earth where they could cause
    another round of dazzling auroras and disrupt radio communications.

  17. We watched her stand there, wondering what she could have been thinking.

  18. Suffocation was a single word intended, but unspoken, left out for someone to
    guess.  Suffocation was the presumption there was one single answer, an answer
    at all.  It was an infinite question that held no water.

  19. A shadow emerged from the glass as shadows spontaneously generate from
    objects immersed in light.

  20. We watched the water rings evaporate on the surface of the table.

  21. At the peak of an eleven-year cycle of activity, the sun has become increasingly stormy.  Prisms are born from fragrant thunderstorms.

  22. Sun’s storms may or may not cause lightning in the southern hemisphere of the
    brain, static behind the eyes, hence, sun stroke.  Storms have intensified
    nighttime aurora light shows.

  23. She appeared to disappear into a blinding glare.  Someone spoke about taking a

  24. There was so much sunlight; we were composed of shadow.

  25. When she left the room, we had the impression she remained somehow, both
    leaving the room and remaining, as thought the dust particles illuminated by the
    sun’s rays contained the inner workings of her ears.  They danced around us,
    perhaps recording our words on infinitesimal microchips.

  26. To look back is to romanticize, to comb the mind with honey.  The honeyed sun
    attracts bees to its warm hive.

  27. The paper was exposed and the comb’s white teeth bled against dark blue.  The
    sun will cause an object to change into its opposite, it will cause blue glass to

  28. To look forward is to fantasize, to invent phantoms where those who walk on the
    other side of the sun have not yet been followed.

  29. Exposed, the chlorophyll shivered for a moment from the heat.

  30. “coronal mass ejections, filled with billions of tons of radiation and ionized
    particles” / misquoted: “the alternative sun shown nothing on the new”

  31. To look in front of you is to realize; it also prevents you from falling, as sunny-
    side up, the egg is free to stare at its immanent consumption.

  32. The dry intensity of her stare was said to burn, sear, scar the observer, who too,
    stood watching, blind-sighted.

  33. The hottest heat of a flame is blue; the oceans burn more ferociously than the sun.

  34. On that afternoon, sweat dropped across the shadow, and the glass, surrounded by
    shadow moved imperceptibly.

  35. We left our fingerprints there, on the moistened tabletop, glassy beads dripping
    onto the carpet.

  36. Movement is an attribute of celestial bodies.

  37. The higher altitude, the more difficult it is to breathe.  In the lungs, the heat
    photosynthesizes, the breath comes out in luminary song.

  38. Song feeds shadows; orchestra halls are drowned in darkness.

  39. Reversals take place between intervals lasting from 5,000 to 5 million years.

  40. We replaced her in her room.  We mirrored the minor gestures of her glass.  The
    heat hummed around us like a house.

  41. The energy converted the sun into cells, they mirrored the liquid her glass




Things that fall from the sky

The neurons splinter in a brain. Electrical-chemical short circuit, and everything here
deadens. Shall we attribute our restlessness to fever?

There was a moment in a museum thought precious and out of date; I will admit it had a
distinctly Victorian flavor. A hall of dinosaur bones fixed in running positions. The Spectrum
          of Life:

—bacteria swimming on turquoise video screens, stuffed tiger, bear, chimpanzee, the wired
reptiles and amphibians, dangling arthropods, Birds of the World, and that now infamous
          snake vertebrae—

She places green tea in a cup, and takes it outside, along with branches, a torn piece of a
brown bag, a coin, a photograph of a bat. She is not afraid to like Tennyson.

The neurons begin a slow repair, stretching, then folding into exhaustion.

Her fingers understand what it is to tease song from paper. She makes a crease in the page
with the edge of a ruler.

Somewhere in the western states, an enormous meteor fell to the earth with such enthusiasm
it created an immense crater. Permanent is a word.




Optical Phenomena

All night we taunt the neighbors with our voices
exclaiming marias
                         moon a reflection upon mirrors
                         Copernicus, Kepler, Herodotus
what keeps us revolving when we’re ready to jump off?
six of us
                         shivering, gawking
                         until simple mathematics
argues arpeggios, crystals of dehydrated Borax
inside even ourselves
what we thought
                         Venus is Jupiter
                         four moons stretched into infinity
visible through contortion, reversal
imagine Tycho Brahe
solar plexus against the moon’s surface
                         the indenture in gray matter
                         a philosopher’s stone
lingering after doubt


Bio: Catherine Kasper has been the recent recipient a Writer’s League of Texas Fellowship. Blueprints of the City, a prose poem series was published as a chapbook (Transparent Tiger Press, 2000), and her chapter on poetics is published in the anthology Vectors: New Poetics (Samizdat Editions). Her poetry is forthcoming in the anthology Of Tangible Knowledge: Poetic Investigations in the Sciences and in journals such as Aufgabe, Notre Dame Review, McSweeney’s and on Web del Sol and Drunken Boat websites. She is presently an Assistant Professor of Creative Writing and Literature at the University of Texas at San Antonio.

Southern Perils

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