Polite in Trieste

If I were truthful,
I would describe his gentle fingers,
slender like rice leaves,
swirling his pen, one hand
in rhythmic motion, the other
slipping beneath the cafe table,
sliding with an easy touch
across her quivering thigh.

But no, those words cannot
be said. So instead,
“They sat across from one
another and talked
about poetry and plays
while wondering why
the latte was taking so
long but not caring
if it took all day.”

Uncategorized

Drought Dreams

Cloudbursts!!!!!
!!!!!Down!!!!Pour!!!!
Flash flood!!!!!!
!!!Storm!!!!!Warning!
So what’s a few !!!!! of rain?!!
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
!!!!!!!!!!!
!!!!!!
!!

Rainbow highways
in the sky.

!!
Oh, you sneaky
drops!

I knew you would
soon come.
IMG_1733

Uncategorized

The Luck of Paul Revere and Billy Collins

I do not like poetry.
It does not like me.
Words march in lines–
the way Redcoats approached
the Old North Bridge.
And I, like the grandfather
of Emerson, sit at my window
as they fall apart,
line by line,
until reinforcements
no longer
appear.
I fall asleep
dreaming of the garden
tended by Thoreau
at the Old Manse
just this side of the
river from the first battle,
but certainly not the last
fought over words.

Uncategorized

Bass Fishing on Lake Samish Just North of the Skagit County Line

I have never been bass fishing
that I know of–fishing, yes.
Trout, yes. Salmon, once or twice.
Cappie–ah, that memory scarred me
for life.

The crappie, probably half a dozen,
on a stringer, flopped in the kitchen
sink–gills gasping for oxygen-laden
water, home miles away in some
Oregon lake or Willamette River

My six-year-old self paralyzed
by the instant loss of life
after such a clear struggle
against nothing comprehensible–
as if fish could comprehend.

But what and if they could?
There I stood, powerful and
powerless. Six years old
and playing God on a weekend
fishing trip,

and they, wondering about the karma
of their lives, lose sight
of their executioner
as their eyes turn to glass
and my reflection judges me guilty

These are Dolly Varden that my daughter caught.  She loves to fish with her grandpa. Only the fish think about karma these days.
These are Dolly Varden that my daughter caught. She loves to fish with her grandpa. Only the fish think about karma these days.
.

Uncategorized

Finding Meaning

Disappeared, it did,
that poem kernel–
an image of a hawk
or muskrat
that reminded me of some
universal truth
that greater poets would
make connection from and through.

Driving south, on the interstate,
chaos-like thoughts
pop in and through
my sunglass-filtered
mind’s eye.
Ah, perhaps it was the osprey
fishing in the Rogue.
Perhaps it meant something.

Uncategorized

Ketchikan

Twelve thousand a day descend
from the lower forty-eight
onto Creek Street–
former brothel row
Now prostituted by cruise industry
jewelers and plastic
totem pole makers
from who knows where
toy hawkers and doll makers

Tourists stroll, content.
They have journeyed here–to Alaska.
They have boarded their dam ship–
the Rotterdam, Fjorddam, or Gotchadam.
They have almost reached the Yukon.

They will miss, however, the Alcan
while Denali chuckles
behind her perpetual clouds.
Salmon escape the net to be counted
in the weir, and the grizzlies
await their shot
to wade out for supper
without reservations.
IMG_3111

Uncategorized

Chilkat Winds

Night comes; I close my eyes
Sleep steals my thought.
Even the dream-maker
has hit the rack–not one
image nor verse to spare.

How can that be–
here surrounded by majesty
Not one fresh thought
etched in the glacier smoothed
valley walls.

Tlinglet spirits rest
among cottonwoods–
houses of their dead, vacant,
decaying back to nature–
despite the mowed lawns.

I sleep through until morning
Unfazed by ghost winds
surrounding me–chanting
their spells, calling
bear and eagle upstream.

IMG_2976

Uncategorized

Melting

Being the first, it was not a real love–
fifth grade training wheels
for what would come in sixth grade.

And had I known then how to turn off
that ache, seventh grade would have seemed
quite comfortable, despite that clear-skinned Latino.

Patterns already developed, 9th grade
found aloha love with the Hawaiian, but by
graduation’s sunset, the world expanded.

Bronze, brown, dark chocolate,
Europeans and Asians, equal delight.
The men no different from the boys.

Stealth Native blood finally warmed mine,
Eagle feathers and turquoise tease.
No shock I love the wolf and warrior.

Uncategorized

Recovery

The path out the back door
always leads to the same place–
past the small stand of sycamores,
giant in their journey upward.

Today I shuffle down the dusty trail
eyes glazed with old tears
left over from another night
wondering how the end came so quietly

This solitary trek to familiar grounds
Where I go not to think
but to be free of thought.
Tiny heathers trill, steal sorrow.

Uncategorized

What Happened Next

In this world of instant messaging
and this-just-happeneds,
the reaction becomes more than
the act; the crying more than the
proposal, the shock more
than the returning soldier,
the “Hallelujah” more
than the freed, net-entangled
dolphin.

It was not what happened first
that mattered.

It is what happened next.

Uncategorized

Dude

A casual word–
Not one for formal occasions.
One would not use it
in a job interview
or in front of a judge.

“Dude, you surfin’ today?
“Dude, you want to catch
a movie? “Dude, did you
see that babe?”

In this day of open
transgender acceptance,
it still sounds odd
when used to address
those who certainly
are not dudes.

And no one decent would
cut to the quick using
Dude in the place of a name.
“Dude, I’m leaving,”
“Dude, don’t call me,”
“Dude, it’s over.”

Didn’t your mother
teach you anything?
Dude, you listening?

Uncategorized

American Will

You came with pilgrims
Reinvented with each generation
Reinventing us as we grow.

Woven like aqua thread
into Navajo fabrics,
infused like apple
into Appalachian honey,
your words spring up
in our yesterdays
and todays.

As we meet Lear,
we know our neighbors;
as we meet Ophelia,
we know our daughters.
As we meet Antony, we
know our friends,
as we meet Iago,
we know our enemies.

When we meet Hamlet,
we meet ourselves–
indecisive, impractical,
cowardly to a point of courage.
Striking while the iron
glowed red with provenance,
where our stories begin.

And The Tempest in a coffee pot
As we like it here in the States
bellows out about our brave new world,
and we, like Prospero, see our
past as prologue, and you,
Good Will, our guide.

Uncategorized

Traveling Companions

Somewhere in Norway
a small herd of goats gather
to reminisce about the encounter
with us, an American woman and her daughter.
Oh, they are laughing their little
goatees off–

And then there is the inn keeper
at the Wienerschnitzel stop
who still smells schnapps near
the corner table–a table he
no longer decorates with plastic
flowers in little pots–

Of course, Eureka has not produced
anything quite as grand as Avenue Q–
and we, those same two women,
mother and daughter, just happened
to be there to see it.
And those vortexes in Sedona? Wow.

I’m not sure Long Island was ready
for us–oh, Billy may be making
Lanyards for his mother,
but did he ever make a birthday cake,
out of bread for her? No, he is
no baker, for sure.

Rainforests of Hawaii,
Lake Tahoe’s blue depths,
Puebloan’s cliff homes of Mesa Verde,
Totem carvers of Yukon’s Teslin,
You taught me there is a yarn store
near all of these places.

But that is not all. Yes, of course,
there could be a sappy poem in here
somewhere, but it just wouldn’t be right
to pen “I love you” just-might-somehow
seem trite. So, this little witness
will just have to stand–

To travel together through life
With you as my mother, my guide,
tops all mountains we’ve crested,
all islands we’ve hopped,
all good plays–
and bad ones we’ve witnessed.

Beautiful mother, forever know
that if I could weave a potholder
or knit a sweater or paint
a porcelain dog at Petroglyphs
for you–it would not turn out very well.
So, pack your bags, let’s hit the road.

Oh, and let’s bring Siri,
shall we?

Uncategorized

The Bore

It’s not your best work–
not your worst.
Actually, it’s rather blase–
rather like the woman I met
at the office party.
Not much to say. Oh,
a chat about a nice walk
and the last movie
we both saw but didn’t like–
I carried the conversation;
a total surprise given my
shy character and dislike
for conversations with
strangers. I yawned, and she
proved to be slightly better
than a bore, but not too much.
Then, my thoughts turned to you
and the time we flew to San Diego
on a whim.

That’s about it.
Can you write something else,
something more intriguing?
Do tell, please try.

Uncategorized

Actors

“We must be careful about
what we pretend to be.”–Kurt Vonnegut

I came to see you
at the Sunday matinee.
Sold out, you in your
prince’s regalia
all dour with revenge
and unsurety.
Me, wrapped in the
costume of distance
and old age.

We left the theater,
walked a hundred paces
to our cars. You put on
your mask to head home,
I kept mine by my side.
It wasn’t until time
for bed that I put
my mask on, and yours
came off again.

Uncategorized

Vonnegut

Speak up, will you?
There must be facts that
you must share-
and cut to them quickly,
will you?
I have no time to waste.

What? The time is short
and other-worldly types
will be here to set us
straight? Posh-that
nonsense-making stuff
has simply got to stop.

Yes, yes, you must be
smart, brilliant even,
and so is the sun–
now get to work on that
story, man. Time is wasting.

Uncategorized

One Day More

I’m hanging out in the office at school while Breanna preps for last show of Les Miserable. I’ve been thinking about why I love this show so much. Oh, not just this production, which is one of SHS’s finest, but the show in general. The French Revolution was miserable (hence the title), many of the character’s portray such dark parts of humanity; man can be cruel to his fellow beings. Ultimately, however, that final realization by Jean Valjean–“To love another person is to see the face of God,” rings so absolutely truthful to me. He sings that when reflecting on his adopted daughter. I get that. I also know that I have “adopted” many students into my heart over the years. Some have stayed close; others have moved one. Every rotten, terrible, heinous action committed by a character in this show–and in life–is no match for the magnificence of true love. I’ve never considered myself a romantic–romance is only a fleeting part of one type of love so far as I can tell. True love–the willingness to sacrifice personal happiness and the ultimate realization that happiness is what comes in return for that sacrifice seems to be the kernel of truth that resonates with me. Living is worth it for that. For love. It’s such a simple, sometimes painful, no–often painful, process and state. But feeling it, even for a brief moment is worth all of life.

Theater makes meaning of life.
Theater makes meaning of life.
Uncategorized

We Must Not Envy Him

Little boy with black disc eyes
Circling round on trike
Exuberant in child’s play
Nudging pup to follow,
innocent to life.

Young man, tall with wavy locks
Strong in stature, sure in word
Climbing mountains in single strides
Sure of self,
calm as wind.

Ignorant of others’ woes
Walking free of empathy
He mounts his rise to power
Forgetting you,
feigning nice.

Uncategorized

Inside Eponine

As I realize
you have no intention,
the thought vacuums my heart.

In my head, vise grips pinch,
closing arteries and veins.
Noxious gas slides upward
from my heart like stealth,
underwater air pockets,
their unpredictable patterns
rising toward the ocean’s surface–
toward the place where they
meet the sky and disburse.
Pockets of realization drip
ether, soak my synapses,
mock my dreams,
leave me at once numb
and bruised.

No one, not even those
near, can hear my sadness
ripple away, can add salve
to my aching soul,
can hear the real fall.
IMG_2097

Uncategorized

Sage Advice

Pause. Pause. Do not write
when emotions run deep.
Let the poem have its own
beat.

Breathe. Still. Form,
structure rule on the page.
Readers expect things
like rhyme.

Refrain when passions
rise, when thoughts of lost
loves, broken hearts, troubled
minds create havoc and threaten
to mess up the form and weaken
diction.

Irate diatribes riddled with adverbs
and purple prose, articles and generalities
no concrete images, just epithets and rage
littering the page with unsavory references
to jealousy and pain, clichéd similes like
fire-breathing dragons that burn down
our love shacks with flames of woe.

Do not let the poem escape as your lover did,
fleeing out among the night’s stars like Romeo
off to Mantua, or Jacob and Rachel, or the neighbors,
who split when the woman ran off to find another,
younger, more beautiful beau.

No, reign it in. Control it’s pace, tone,
syllabic squabbles, until there is no
feeling, no hint of personal anguish,
no life.

Uncategorized

Dream Builders

With word and work
their deeds combine
to build the dreams
for all mankind.

They toil with angst
and joy and love
to bring their children
to light above.

A teacher, mentor,
friend or pal–
each guiding footsteps,
brains, and souls.

Using tools like
praise and nods,
smiling faces,
sharp applause

the givers give
to those whose lives’
embody youth while
youthful eyes

take aim and watch–
take aim and create–
take aim and live
a fulfilled life.

Uncategorized

Simple Things

I love this chair.
It is a lovely chair.
In love I am
with my chair.

I love its molded
seat, its finely
turned cabriole legs,
its scrolled backrest.

I love my chair.
It sustains me
in my sorrow,
buoys up my joy.

It tells me when
my body needs to
move; its firmness
keeps me active.

My chair stays present;
it knows not
to hide when news
flares or babies cry.

I love this chair.
A constant in my life.
Its blue hues
soothe me,

inviting my memory
to rise and honor
others with great
chairs in history—

Lincoln, Roosevelt,
Whistler’s mother—
now there is a great chair—
it rocks.

My chair though,
sits still for me,
and I, not famous
nor profound, am grateful.

Uncategorized

Time Flies

I knew exactly the moment
I fell in love with you–
a brunette kindergartener
with crooked bangs.
Your goodness of spirit
belied your age and past.
Fiercely independent, yet
incredibly attachable you
came home within an instant
of our first meeting.

Not the girl who helped
the toddler find its mother
after falling off the merry-go-round,
nor the girl who peeked suspiciously
from under her long, crooked bangs.
No, the girl I loved-and still love,
I met for the first time in a little square
office. In a purple, chiffon
Easter dress, you knelt
beside the toy train table.

You tilted your head ever
so slightly in order
to look at me from the corner
of your eye. Dad said,
“She’s a pretty little thing.”
I said, “She’s magnificent.”
No matter what they said,
the only words we heard were,
“She needs you.”

And that was it.
You came home and stayed.
It was about time– we’d been
missing you terribly your first
five years. That was ten years ago
today. You are still so magnificent,
you are still so loved.
No poem nor song can quite
explain how we can love this much.

Uncategorized

Caché

Yea, I have one-
a stash of gunpowder,
harbored horror stories
from eons ago
packed by ramrod
into my memory.

Every few years, my payload
explodes like it did three
years ago when I unloaded
it on you. I thought the blast
would clear the way,
but it became Krakatoa,
suffocating us.

And now, the dust has
settled, weighting my
spirit that longs to
be lifted from the past,
unburdened by the weight
of the clinging ash,
My tears do not provide
enough to wash me clean.

But, the seasons will change,
and the rivulets of rainwater
will carry away the past
in their run-off, and the
stockpiling will begin again
for the next time you
come around and act
like you care.

I’ll be ready, and
it won’t last long.

Uncategorized

My Daughter

Little does she know,
but I love her the most.
Her purple PJs and innocent
smile warm my heart
even when she forgets
to do the dishes.

I do wish she would
do her homework–
like reading To Kill A Mockingbird
and The Pearl
But I really do love her
even if she doesn’t.

I’d also like it if she were
to go through her old clothes
and bag up the ones
to give to goodwill
But if she doesn’t do that,
I will still think she’s
the best daughter ever.

There are times like now,
I wish she would abandon
the social media jag, you know,
two hours of Minecraft,
Roblox, tumblr, Facebook,
YouTube, FaceTime, ooVoo,
or that weird Floppybird
app that consumes precious time
when she could be reading.
But I still love her, and I do
like to write on my laptop and upload
my photos to Facebook.

Oh, and there is the issue
of playing with the dogs,
oh, and feeding them.
They would surely like both,
But I, I would still love her
even if they starve to death.
They might not be so happy, but
they’d be dead, so what the heck.

Billy Collins is not the only
person who has a favorite
teenage girl.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4ZSIYQeF7FE

Uncategorized

On the Waterfront

“How now, a rat?” -Hamlet

Appropriate that tonight
I write of dock rats.

You know, the brown
gypsies hidden by day
and night among
the rocks and jetties
of every harbor up
and down the west coast.

Their scavenging
reminds me of my
own search for story,
tidbits dropped by
evening rodent couples
on their harbor raids

or collected from among
the random encounters
of mariners and mothers,
left there for me to discover
like the email you sent
or the Viking ships
near Roskilde.

Mostly, though, the waterfront
and rats make me think of Brando,
Cagney, and the San Diego
boy who died last week
of rat bite flu.
Oh, and you.

A tragedy of Shakespearean
proportions.

Uncategorized

My Introversion

I moved toward the rear.
“No judgment,” I roar
at the layers of fear
peeled from my core,
“Ignore me, ignore me,”
my insides implore.

The speaker waxed long
about feeling and failing,
stories and musings
and bitter, sad wailing
about choices made, unmade
prayers not transcending ceilings.

In the back, my thoughts burst,
what aneurysm of passion!
Can this thought find voice?
My hand shoots up against fashion.
A single thought compels me,
Yet I recoil its action.

The event proves enriching;
I move out through the doors.
Ignoring the challenge to quell
my dislike of long-suffering bores,
who pontificate and prattle,
who blather on in dissonant chords.

I walk past the masses
and look for a cab,
I tell the driver a story
about a remarkable stab
that left me near speechless,
and unbearably sad.

I want to speak up
and sometimes I do,
but mostly I want
my own story renewed.
My condition incurable,
My silence ensues.

Uncategorized

Well Water

I drink bitter water
at the well of mortality.
I find no solace
in being here alone.

Willow branches
droop before weeping
as I bend down
to ladle life

water. I am kneeling
at the alter of my
heritage, looking
this way and that

for you. You, however,
hopped into the well
bucket and rode
deep into the earth.

And I stood there,
alone at the well’s
edge thinking I should
turn around and run.

Uncategorized

Petrified Forest

I have always wanted to see one,
tree trunks turned to stone-
scared silly by time,
maybe helped a little
by that big volcano over there.
Just imagine how frightened
those poor pine trees were.
Ah, those family stories: “I heard
Uncle Harry was scared stiff.”
“Turned hard as a rock, did he?”
“Joe’s sapling got stoned.”

Of course, there is nothing
that says the forest saw it coming.
You know, the whole “Can’t see
through all the trees” adage.
Trees like metaphors.

I just wish they could have
left a clue about what
was really rustling their branches.
Maybe they would have thought it
a better death if they had
ever seen a chain saw.

DSCN0670

Uncategorized

The Trail

Though wide, the entrance, overgrown
briars and sea grass, sparks my interest
as I cross the parking lot and worry
if I have the right shoes on today.

Several bay breasted and northern waterthrush
flit here and there as I approach; a giant
I must seem to the smallest of these
soul-lifting warblers.

I am the only human on the trail now.
The air, fresh with puffs of salt spray,
causes me to breathe deeply,
to wonder about beauty and mortality.

Each bend brings clarity of the surf’s song,
and I find myself singing, as Whitman did–
A song of myself, harmonizing life’s trials
and triumphs in one solitary chorus of endurance.

As the trail opens to the sea,
the vastness of the coastline overtakes me.
I alone am as insignificant as the sand grain,
no more powerful than the driftwood.

But I did not come this way
to realize the temporary nature of life.
I came to see the endangered plover,
to imprint the image on my mind.

Those shortest spells that stay
forever with us are but seconds
in a lifetime of unremembered moments
strung together along the trail of our lives.

For Whitman for Frost for Homer,
the journey becomes more than the destination.
But naturally, nothing profound happens as I walk back
to my car ploverless, unless I count the cardinal,
all red and puffed up with pride, who looks
at me and smiles that knowing songbird smile.

"As way leads on to way" -Robert Frost
“As way leads on to way” -Robert Frost
Uncategorized

Words You Can’t Always Say

I love you or Fire.
Oh, but that Fire rule applies only to public buildings.
Some of the people I love the most will never hear
those words: not Fire, silly, I love you.

They create discomfort as often as they
bring comfort; repel as often as they
heal. No matter how sincere the telling,
the risk remains real, rejection possible.

Love is not on loan. Once given,
love cannot be taken back; it is
like oxygen. Once breathed in,
it will not return pure.

There is something similar about
vocalizing I love you and Fire.
If you say either but don’t mean it,
consequences exist.

For Fire, the consequence may mean
a stampede or worse, a fine or certain inconveniences,
even jail time. For I love you, the unwanted exit
a damnation like Dante envisioned, buffeted around on clouds alone.

No, it remains quite preferable
to remain silent. I will hold
my tongue not because I do not
love you, but because I do.

Uncategorized

Pickwick House

–Philip Seymour Hoffman d. 2014

Inside, the rooms are bare,
emptied when the last party-goer
left just after 2 a.m.

And like the complexes
that dot the city,
some rooms hold life

While others silently
occupy the space
of forever silenced dwellers

There is a vacancy where
you once resided.
It is furnished.

Tomorrow you will be
forgotten like the fresh faces
of the fallen boys of summer.

When your image appears
on screen, the children
will ask if I knew you

I will lie
and say, “No.”

Uncategorized

On Turning 21
after Billy Collins’ “On Turning Ten”

So, I have had all those childhood
diseases by now, you know,
senioritis, freshman fifteen, apathy
and romance and breakup fever,
a kind of midlife crisis for the first
two decades, a dabbling in drama,
a hunger for hangovers.

I heard you say, “You’re finally an adult,”
but you did not back it up
with what that means exactly,
After all, eleven was not that exciting,
and sixteen, that first foray into
freedom was not all that
fantastic—that first kiss,
the drivers license, the permission
to stay out past ten, rather blasé.
,
But now, I stand facing
the mirror and see a stranger,
someone I have seen
out of the corner of my eye
but have never questioned.
I am still Superman, or better yet,
Batman with Morgan Freeman
guiding me like God, my batmobile
parked firmly in my mind.

This, not ten, is the beginning of sadness.
Friends have actually died—
you know, that thing death, that we
read about in books but did not truly
believe existed. It must mean
we will die soon, too.
Fifty is so close now.

I am no longer afraid of bleeding,
but broken hearts scare the
daylight out of me.

Uncategorized

Ends

I wonder as I stare at the screen
if there really comes an end to things.

When the snow melts, does winter
cease to be? Or how about sunlight?

Will tomorrow come after dark
and moonlight bounce life around?

Does not the sparrow, darting
to build its nest, soon abandon it?

And the sandcastle’s dynasty
lasts only until the tide rises

Movies, too, wind up and
then, like clocks, down

And my love of cream corn
ended the day it made me sick

Much like the Boardwalk’s Big Dipper
whose ride thankfully ends

As do the carefree days of childhood
And the hopes of new friendships
before reality sets in.

True, summer is endless in Santa Cruz.
True, summer is endless in Santa Cruz.
Uncategorized

Why You Don’t Read Poetry

Because you think you won’t understand it?
Because it’s always so depressing?
Because it’s egotistical, self-aggrandizing,
and highly impersonal as an art form–
Where is the color? Do you shun it
because you are tired of words
and the apparent dearth of the articles:
a, an, the?
Because it reminds you
of a bad experience in school
or marriage or life?

Maybe you don’t read poetry
because you think it pretentious,
or that it requires too much thought.
Do you think poets depressing?
Does their purple prose make you sick or sleepy?
Perhaps you shy away for the same reason
you turn away from French dining
or libraries or symphonies
or Shakespeare’s other genre.

Did you read the one about Billy’s
dog whose death bed confession
was that dogs can write in heaven?
Or the Frost poem about
fences and neighbors?
Or Bishop’s fish?
Or Basho’s haiku?
As beautiful as golden sunsets
on the aqua shores
of Bali or stunning as
white-capped peaks in the Aleutian
ring of fire.

If you do not read poetry,
you will miss some
of life’s purest moments.
They will miss you.

A poem, like a photograph, can capture the loneliness of the dying tree and longed-for comfort of the summer bloom just below its  sight line.
A poem, like a photograph, can capture the loneliness of the dying tree and longed-for comfort of the summer bloom just below its sight line.
Uncategorized

Alaska

I was not ready for the vastness
of your dwarfed spruce fields
nor the quiet of your winter-worn
plains, nor the majesty
of your glacier laden peaks.

I still have a hard time
believing in the danger
of grey wolves or grizzlies,
dots against the canvas
of Denali or the Kenai.

Midnight suns surprised me
with their brightness, just as
the dark blues of the gulf
waters lured my soul precariously
near the Aleutian rim of fire.

I must return for one more moment
and stand amazed at the beauty
of Whittier, not the city
where I was born, but the
town where I felt alive.

Whittier, Alaska One of many places I dream about...
Whittier, Alaska
One of many places I dream about…

Uncategorized

Wanderer

I could not help but wonder
where the yellow lab with the red collar
came from as it crossed
the highway just north of Bakersfield.

Where were his people? Why alone
in the dry, desolate valley
with February rolling in
its cold, darkening skies?

As I drove on, I pondered his owner
who must surely be missing him,
frantic even, with worst case fears
and thoughts of reward posters.

It is possible that the dog
broke free from the master
and bolted for a better life
among the sagebrush and cattle.

Yes, dreams of being a cattle dog,
free to herd the heifers or hunt
the tardy waterfowl still heading south.
Yes, seeking adventure in his dog’s life.

Or maybe, the animal had lost his boy,
who had gone off to college.
Out of sight, out of mind.
The dog would search endlessly for him.

And sadness grows inside me as I think
about the beast who now wanders alone
looking for kind hands, for water, food.
And I want to save him, but he runs.
IMG_0148

Uncategorized

PSH

On the passing of
Phillip Seymour Hoffman
February 2, 2014

No doubt you stood out
Complex artist with underbelly
exposed to pain’s harpoon

You, who waged war on mediocrity
defying popular appetites in film-
on stage, a master craftsman, honed.

And where are you now?
The son of a grieving woman,
Have you undone yourself?

Who will star as you? Who
will tell Capote the truth
about your passing?

Perhaps each piece chipped away,
or the script faded to black.
Did the role call for this?

Critics pause, speechless.
Their clackity-clack silenced,
remembering the awe of you.

Your children will see your movies
when they grow. Will you be
in the audience, too?

Or will you be rehearsing
with the other lost icons,
a moving apology or sober goodbye?

Uncategorized

Reasonable Suspicion

Today, much like everyday
a young person who has made a poor choice
Tried to cover it up with a lie

“Who snitched on me?” instead of
“Wow, I’m sorry for that choice.
I’ll work on it.”

Oh, the humdrum of high school,
the blissful buffoonery of youth.
How happy they make their parents

How difficult they make their own lives,
lives rich with potential and rife
with self-delusion

And yet, each one is still better
then the sum of their mistakes
growing into greatness

despite the folly of today.
If I did not know better,
I would call them magnificent.

Uncategorized

Rest Here

Last night I dreamt
you slept right on me.
You were in a hard sleep,
your breathing compressing
my heart, resuscitating
memories of your infancy,
memories that belong
not to me, but to some
other woman.

When I woke, I smiled
for the memory
that was not mine,
until the memory veil
became heavy, too heavy,
in fact, so I lay my head
down again.

I wish still for the dream
to return, that I could
sleep forever knowing
you were safe resting
near me, on me.

Uncategorized

Color Sounds Serene

No one knows how dark
my days are, the blizzards
that blow through my brain
beckoning for emancipation
from trivialities of my time.

I know no cause for these sideways
swirls that push me south.
I am the sunburnt crab who
flees the monstrous waves
of Lilliput and Blefuscu.

I lean in toward the beacon.
I look for the green winds.
When the white sails
of some Athenian helper appear,
I inhale to draw them near.

I would like to leave the shore.
Maybe hike a mile inland
to the fresh water of aqua.
Perhaps there, the ruminations
will cease and sleep, coo me.

Or at least, a small Tinkerbell-sized
pixie could sprinkle sundust
with such perfect aim that I am
deloused of the darkness
and infused with brilliant color.

I see days of turquoise ahead.

DSCN1009

Uncategorized

Holy Moses

That’s right, he climbed mountains
to see the face of God.
I can barely climb out of bed
to wash my own face
at the sink with warm, running water.

Dealt with Seti and Ramses,
turned water into blood
while I find it such a burden
to make grape juice
from concentrate.

The hardest things to fathom
are those stone tablets with
the thou shalts and shalt nots;
of course, it took me twice
as long to write this poem.

Who am I kidding, anyway?
He could call in a dozen plagues,
lead the Hebrews to freedom in
an epic biblical exodus,
navigate a wasteland for forty years,
yet I, I who has everything,
can not seem to walk around the block.

Uncategorized

Knaves I Have Known

First, there was the second-grader,
Michael, who insisted on pulling
my hair and then cutting in line
at the drinking fountain every day
during recess. I had to sock him
in the stomach.

Of course, I got in trouble.
I have never felt bad that I did that.

Then, there was the fourth grade wiseacre,
who bragged so often about winning
the spelling contest but could never
remember my name. I forgot to bring
his Valentine to the class party,
and he whined to Miss Brockhart.

Of course, my teacher scolded me.
I still don’t spell well.

When the seventh grade terrorist
snapped my bra strap for the third time,
unhooking it and leaving me embarrassed
until the lunch bell rang, I told
a girlfriend, and we wrote a poem
about jerks with small brains.

My friend’s mother read it and called
my mom. I still write poems about jerks.

In high school, I asked the smartest
boy in math to the Sadies dance,
but he turned me down flat saying
something about me not being
pretty enough. When I hung up,
I cried my first cry caused by a boy.

I did not tell anyone.
I feel bad about that still.

During my last year of college,
a pretty good crop of young men
crossed my path and all seemed
vibrant and striving for more,
except one. I dated him,
but not for long.

All my girlfriends hated him.
I feel bad about that still.

The riffraff of knavery
in the beginning could not outweigh
the love for so many good men
until I met the man from Shanghai who
cornered me in the room on Jakobistrasse.
I fought back.

I did not speak of it.
I stopped caring after that.

Twenty years went by. I encountered
a new scurvy knave all wrapped
in friendship. I let him in.
He pecked away at my leathered
heart which bled freely again.
When he uncloaked, I wrote this poem.

I should call him out. Yes,
I feel pretty good about that sentiment.

Uncategorized

Kidnapped

There is not a poem
in me tonight–
no sight, nor sound
stealing my brain

A wind came through
wrapped up my muse
whipped him away
before I knew it

I lay my head down
upon the wanting
pillow; I cannot rest
here all alone

Perhaps tomorrow
the captured fellow
will find his way
into a poem

Tonight I tarry
no telling time
someone captured
my sense of rhyme.

Ah, there you are,
you charming dreamer
escaped from Boreas,
that midnight schemer.

Most see a windmill...to Boreas, this is a thief among thieves.
Most see a windmill…to Boreas, this is a thief among thieves.

Uncategorized

Blowing Sideways

Stepping onto the trail
that leads to the ocean,
I first notice the breeze
as it dents my pantlegs.
I pull my jacket around
and button it up, guarding
against the sure cooling-
the sign that I am vulnerable
even on this known pathway.

Soon enough, the wind
spits sand grains against
my calves. Sea grass whips
wildly toward me and before long
I wonder about turning back,
forgoing the venture
for a warm cup of tea
and a book of poetry.
What would Mary Oliver think?
Or Billy? Robert Frost must
certainly have something to say
today.

But I move ahead; the ocean
lures me. The salted air
infuses my lungs, addicting me.
When I reach the shore, the wind
slaps my hair against
my friction-frosted cheeks.
Its direction defies
romance, and howls. I snap to–
Where will I go now?
DSCN0867

Uncategorized

Today’s Voyage

The day after the day after
you know, the day before yesterday

like a fog steaming up the landscape–
the gooey air of the briny coast,

cloaking the soul of my promises.
I wish for a life ring from the Nautilus.

Viscous distractions are making murky memories
of my intentions, paving new paths of failure

in the synapses of my mind. But then a foghorn
blasts sonic waves of encouragement,

And ultraviolet sun-rays begin the process
of redemption. Clattering ores silence,

slip overboard to slice, to displace
heavy water and seaweed tangled thoughts.

With my reserve armies, I begin the homeward
paddling, and tomorrow, oh blessed tomorrow,

becomes the day before the day after,
and the dulled horizon now brightens ahead.

I will not be shipwrecked by procrastination. I will sail through the blustery seas of Distraction. The horizon remains fixed and promising.
I will not be shipwrecked by procrastination. I will sail through the blustery seas of distractions. The horizon remains fixed and promising.
Uncategorized

Anniversaries

Enough time to grow weary,
but more time to grow strong–
three years go by quietly
but the day is yet long

It’s enough for the babe
to take her first steps,
to mouth then speak
words, full sentences yet

And moving from childhood
through middle school angst
brings braces and romance
and Mockingbird tastes

From sophomore year high school
To college dorm frats
The young grow to manhood
with off-key jazz skats

It’s a long time to whistle,
a long time to pray,
I’ve been whittling the hours
and daylight away

Here on this keyboard
mostly at night
A new poem I conjure
to summon the light.

Three years go by quickly;
there’s little to share.
The turtle keeps racing,
out-foxing the hare.

Which way did he go? Which way did he go?
Which way did he go? Which way did he go?
Uncategorized

A Blessing (after James Wright)

As evening’s chill creeps ever closer,
the light slouches behind the ridge,
and the dogs bay for their supper on the porch.
The older hound, the brother, nudges
his litter-mate sister in order to be the first
whose nose will catch the scent of the meal.
He dotes on the female, plays rough
to show who is boss, but gentle enough.
He lay beside her the time she broke her back;
the recovery was long. He is her best friend.
There is no solace like that of a dog and his sister.
They both sport traditional white collars, short hair
saddle brown markings, and droopy ears
that make their breed so recognizable.
I would like to play with them all day
and have them jump on my bed at night
and steal my pillow or have my feet warmed
by their heat. And the male has arthritis,
his joints ache as he shuffles to the sliding door
to tell me with his smiling, pleading eyes,
that he loves me more than I love him,
unconditionally. Suddenly, I realize
that if I were to see a poor man
this very minute, I would give him
everything I owned.

DSCN1556

Uncategorized