Today, in the creative writing class I teach for teen girls, I brought in 10 jars of spices. I tore the labels off the jars and told the girls: I don’t want to know what spice you’ve got, I want to know where the smell takes you: a memory, an image, an idea, a feeling. Watching their faces as they smelled cumin, garlic powder, turmeric, and dulse was such fun, especially the dulse! I loved how they engaged all their senses, they tasted the spices, they shook the jars, they wrote about the textures and the colors, and where the smells took them.

I myself, opened the lid of the jar sitting in front of me and took a good long whiff. It was chili spice, warm and prickly in my nose. Here’s where I went. Here’s what I wrote: Georgia. I chose to use the word ‘verity’ for this piece because I had recently spent some time with an amazing woman I know who goes by this name, and the crazy thing is that when I shared this poem with her, she told me that she had done her master’s in photography with a focus on Ansel Adams. I had not known this before I wrote the piece. Life! She put my poem up on her wall.


Ghost Ranch
sun baked day
cracking the earth and sky,

Oh, to be Georgia O’Keefe
painting vagina-flowers
in the 1930’s
in the desert
with Alfred Stieglitz watching
from behind the lens.

He, capturing a single moment
of her ever-changing spirit.
His own feelings snapping
open and shut.

Their connection,
an aperture
of blossoming light.

Georgia and Ansel Adams
a study of relationship
between form and space
the verity of black and white
the sensuality of the natural world
the infinite palette of gray.

Yosemite at dawn
Yosemite at dusk

under a full moon
dancing with the wind.