Beverly Acuff Momoi


Practice: Non-attachment

My mother’s sewing cabinet is a beautiful piece of furniture, filled with threads and bobbins, scraps of fabric and favorite patterns, along with her well-used Singer. She saved for years for that cabinet. It saw her through her daughters’ growth spurts and changing fashions, the death of a husband, and a cross-country move. But she seldom sews anymore. She recently sold her house, and her new home is much smaller. Her daughters haven’t made anything in years. No place for it now.

late afternoon
in the empty house the light
in the spider’s gossamer
all that’s left of home


Grace Notes

The days are all deep shade, and the Mississippi ruddy brown. It is here I learned about the blues—blowsy ballads, righteous he-done-me-wrong songs, with all the words drawn out in mourning.

Driving along the bluffs, he would tell us stories—about people who lived in boats and rocked with the rhythm of the river when they walked, whose legs looked like a cowboy’s remembering the horse no longer underneath. He would sing the latest spinning on the R-and-B station, switching voices, playing the role of the disc jockey when the story played out.

for the electric
howlin’ wolf

A draftsman by trade, he had been kicked out of every architect’s office in town. That’s when he got the taxi. He sat me next to him and had me tell him stories while we drove all over Memphis, into neighborhoods I had never been, getting lost intentionally so I would know what it felt like—turning and twisting this way, then that, not caring where I wound up, just going.

summer blues
dropping the meter
to hear the story’s end


The Lampyridae Spell

There is magic in the flashing tea-colored streaks against the night sky.

the summer
I came to know the family
I spent evenings on our porch
swinging away the dark

By day, Tsuneaki Hiramatsu is just another customer service representative at Japan’s telephone company. His nights are a different story. After dark, he treks to the forests of Niimi, and there he captures the fireflies’ ethereal mating dances. With his slow-shutter photographs, he holds romance forever in 8-second exposures.

But Hiramatsu was not the first to fill long, empty nights with flights of flirting.

I lived in Memphis
not the forests of Japan
there was no magic
in my yard before the lightning bugs’
brilliant flashing

Entranced by the fireflies’ cold light, they say Caravaggio crushed them to create master works of chiaroscuro. Centuries ago, he mixed their powdered corpses with white lead before projecting images onto canvas in his darkroom. He used their luminescence to fix the images in place.

None of this can be proven, of course. That would mean destroying what so many consider masterpieces.

even then
I wanted wings, afraid
of being stuck
like the wingless females
still orbs of gold off-on-off again