All Articles by Jack Christensen

A Natural History of the Mind

I create islands in my mind


according to random whims.


I conjure biomes and terrains,

raw landscapes

of saw tooth mountains cross-cut

with indiscriminate rivers

ejecting boulders and dragonfish

over basalt cliffs to a primordial ocean

by the second,


lands where strife unfolds

in its unremarkable forms

of predation on winter-stricken highlands

and hunger

on drought-dead plains


swept with dust,

low and abiding,

unfurling headlong

before the rain.



I imagine lava rock teardrops

tossed across the sea like


where a goatherd tends a flock

on club moss

among tortoise shells and pine cones


as salt dissolves

cairn stones, atom by atom,

cobbled haphazardly

atop a battered headland

beside a sun-bleached femur


above the gorge where, once,

eyes opened one dawn to dust

and light

shot through with the swell and crash

of time’s shore.

Acadia, Nocturnal

The fog is shrouding tamarack

and a flawless black sky

as frogs trill from turbid pond water,

but she doesn’t know.


She emerges from our room only to eat

and ask whether Andromeda chose to show

over Cadillac Mountain

or if Venus sailed down the Penobscot

out into the Atlantic. I avert my eyes

from her withered outline and pretend

I can’t hear her.


Mornings, I wake to shade

cast broadside by conifers that gather twilight

in the long afternoons

as she sleeps, hours before the sun has gone,

while I go walking on Morgan Bay Road.

Yet dusk always comes.


So I lower my gaze,

linger under lampposts in denial

of the million suns

spinning out like streams of spores


from toadstools on the forest bottom,

then return to her labored wheezing.


I’m told we have the darkest skies

this side of the continent

and that one can see galaxies

twenty million light years far.


But now the fog is shrouding my eyes

as a breeze slips from the bay,

and she is sleeping


in a halo of silver locks.

A frog splashes into water.

New World

First comes the weight,

then the ringing,

then the scatterplot of electric light

strung out along the riverbank through the window.

Your hand stays immobile on the bed

because, who knows? It could have been

some bandage pressed tight against the skull

by a mindful nurse doing her job, as in

stanch post-surgical bleeding

with a secure compress for twenty-four hours

until patient is upright and fully conscious.

Not quite ready to give up

on magical thinking, that’s what you thought,

(or made yourself think)

because, you know, “Stay positive.”


But, because you’re human

and it can’t forever stay four AM in the ICU

on the morning after, you raise your hand

to discover

that any distinction between weight and ringing

is irrelevant, since

tinnitus is the brain’s response

to loss of auditory stimulation

resulting from the trauma of schwannoma resection,


“We’re hopeful, but nothing’s positive.”

(You never pondered before

how the rubbing of palm against ear

is supposed to be audible).


For a moment, the summer disaster flick

is your sole wish, since it would only be fitting

for a tidal wave to come surging up from the Atlantic,

smashing your body

into oblivion. But it’s morning,

and the scatterplot is fading as the city reassembles

out of the grey while a barge drifts downriver to the harbor.

So you settle beneath the weighted, ringing silence

and wait for an orderly to bring breakfast.

Because, really, what other choice do you have?