A three stanza poem. The first two couplets look jagged and broken. The third stanza is completely split and scattered across the page, such that reading order is unclear.
Poem text: There are some things so horrible
They cannot be tasted, touched, or smelled.
We do not hear the cry of horror
Nor see the blood wiped across the window.
[as fragments] Try to write them down and the page is blank white black silence darkness rotten hope a concept without flesh

When the Bats Fly

“…Austin is believed to have the world’s largest urban bat population…”
NY Times

In the Marigold Restaurant on Madison Avenue
We sit and talk of bats emerging
From under the Congress Avenue Bridge
We do not talk of your son’s dying.
The regularity of the bats flying comforts us.
When the light fades on the evening,
Blindly and quickly swirling, they snare their prey.
There are so many of them
The sky seems masked with charcoal.

Our table sits next to the window
The sidewalk swirls with shoppers.
There are so many of them,
Coming and going,
Watching us, as we watch them.
We talk through the café noise
The waiter brings hot tea with lemon
And English muffins
As the afternoon ends
We are silent and wonder.

When we leave the restaurant
Even the late sunlight
Makes us squint and forget
How short a time until evening
When the bats fly.


The Exam Room

In the empty exam room
Silent without
Nurse, doctor, patient
Taped next the blank computer screen
Only an out of date schedule
Bears witness to fear.

In the empty exam room
Serene basic beige walls
A tan waxed smooth linoleum floor
Struggle to keep the bugs away
Purity and immortality
Improbable and impossible.

In the empty

A working table

Body, heart, soul
Wait until

The exam is over.

In the empty exam room
No windows to see
The wind blow
The birds fly into the sun
Who can believe
In hope
Confronted by death?

The possibility of hearing
Without privilege
The impossibility of healing
Without love
Or insurance

In the empty exam room.



It is spring in Paris;
the willow weeps light green
into the Seine
running fast brown
after the rain.

Wednesday we sat on a bench
in the Luxembourg garden
with pigeons and growing things;
face to the sun we waited.


Find Me

Find me in the garden
weeding the eggplant

Find me in the arbor
pruning the roses

Find me in the yard
digging dandelions

Find me behind the shed
emptying the trash

Find me soon
before I am lost


And Now

Quand j’étais jeune
the leaves sprang bright and
green from every branch
sparkling in the spring sun
Et maintenant
the leaves fall red, yellow
and museum blue
from each knotty limb

Quand j’étais jeune
dashing like a gazelle
across the trafficked boulevard
catching the bus as it paused
Et maintenant
waving a cane of oak
cursing the huffing diesel
standing behind and alone

Quand j’étais jeune
the femme avec les yeux
smiled like an amused cat
purred and waited
Et maintenant
like an irritated crow
the femme squawks
and flies away

Quand j’étais jeune
my head filled with fantasy
Et maintenant
there is only the menace of silence


Flat and Ugly

Artist’s Statement:

A remark by a lifelong friend who lives in Washington, D.C. and makes his living as an architect and a sculptor precipitated this project which I call “Flat&Ugly”. His remark in the form of a question was, “How can you live so far away from everything in a land that is so flat and ugly?”

Phillip Periman, 2006


At the Lake

summers at the lake we sat and watched
the birds dip over the water and waited

occasionally I allowed myself a thought
what would it be like to walk on water

would I need a special type of footwear
should I take my clothes off without sunblock

nothing ever came of those musings except
the times you put your arm on my shoulder

those were the days when I believed myself
to be loved and all the world hung together

now it is winter and I am alone without you
where you are and on whose shoulder your arm

remains as much a mystery as then when
I wondered how you could love a pup like me

today the lake is bitter cold solid white
I stare straight ahead and imagine a bird

flying across the water in search of food left
next to the ice fisherman’s hut in the center

of the frozen lake where the ice is a foot thick
I realize now how easy it is to walk on water


The Attribute of Eternal : The City Churches of Sir Christopher Wren

Artist’s Statement:

During Christianity’s first centuries, the church grew, developed and survived without official edifices. After Constantine converted and the state married the Church, cathedrals and churches dominated the architecture of the Western world. For the next 1700 years the church building occupied a central place in every community in the Western World.

The seeds for secularizing Western civilization first sprouted in the 17th century. Ironically, the Great Fire of September 1666 which destroyed 82 churches including the Cathedral of Saint Paul gave Christopher Wren the opportunity to produce the single largest collection of parish churches in the history of Western architecture. The 51 churches he built in the City of London allowed him to exhibit his architectural genius for light and space. This genius, widely recognized in his greatest masterpiece, St. Paul’s Cathedral, is equally obvious in the smaller churches built within sight and walking distance of Saint Paul’s. More than 20 parish churches survive. For a 20th century visitor the experience is muted by modern buildings that block the 17th century sight lines. Inside the churches, however, one experiences Wren’s practical genius that wed site and function.

Our Judeo-Christian-Greco-Roman culture became secularized and fragmented during the three centuries after Wren built his parish churches. In 17th century London essentially everyone was a Christian and every parish had a substantial congregation. Today several hundred thousand people work daily in the City of London, but less than 6,000 reside within the area. The twenty or so extant parish churches have small or no congregations. To visit these remaining Wren churches is to gain some appreciation of the historical importance the church had in Western culture.

Today both church and government recognize the architectural and historical merits of Wren’s parish churches. Arguments continue as to how they should be preserved or what their religious functions should be. In a British society where less than ten percent of the population regularly participates in religious activities, the church has become an institution wrapped in obscurity and remoteness.

This book started as a guide to Wren’s City churches. It became a visual and verbal meditation on the origin and current status of these churches. In visiting these churches there is a juxtaposition of 20th century sensibility with 17th century deeply religious sentiment. I hope this book will provoke some consideration of the spiritual in this nonbelieving era. As Pascal wrote, “Man is but a reed, the weakest in all nature, but he is a thinking reed.” Wren believed the structure and order of architecture revealed the nature of God. I believe his City churches remain for receptive visitors sacred and holy places.

Phillip Periman, 1998