Saturday, August 31, 2013

River

I am a river,
cutting across man-made right
angle roads and fields,
willful, stubborn, to be worked
around, and not to be changed.

Peaks

Granite mountains rise,
evidence of violent collisions.

Sandstone erodes, the
patient work of wind and water.

Either way, peaks at which
we gape. What else is life
but adding and taking away?

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Wind Thoughts


Mesas of my mind, arid plains
and the jutting forms rising from them,
sunlight and heat rousing the air,
causing my wind-thoughts to sing those
familiar songs of love and loss,
friends and joys, fears and comforts,
over and over again. 

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Time and Landscape


Once, Paiute and Navajo lookouts, surely, perched on
the edges of these mesas, naked sandstone now
colonized by cell towers.

That cross carved on the hillside over there symbolizes
nothing more than four-wheelers’ earnest scramblings,
rubber into soft stone and rusty dirt.

The layered mesas, banded in shades of color like a paint
sample, are working on a different clock, saying to anyone
who will look long enough, that time isn’t what you think it is.

Zion: Only the most recent name for these gorges and walls,
lush green life next to barren stone, enough of a temple for
anyone of faith in anything, sure as sunlight.

More comings and goings. Close to the road, a recent strip mall,
stone over wood frame, holds a drugstore and mortuary—
no euphemisms here. A sign out front, billowing in the wind,
says FINAL DAYS.

True, for some, but not all of this. 

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Mojave Study 2


I am the fine curtain of rain, out of earshot, pulling my grayness over iron red mesas, corrugated, layered shapes, echoing ancient ocean origins.

I am the rain on the fine dry dirt, collecting now, carving and cutting a path as I go; water on dirt—even stone—always wins.

I am the rock in the path, there for you to go around (and leave you wondering) or over (and leave you knowing).

I am coyote, here then gone. You see my gray flank quartering away, a flash of tail.

I am the root reaching blindly down, deep, into the soil, seeking what I need.

I am vague disquiet brought by the mountains’ mass, making humans small, at nature’s mercy.

I am a low swath of green, fed by unseen water, familiar shapes of pines and deciduous trees.

I am the wind no longer swirling dirt, but
swaying the tall grass like a gentle hand.




Sunday, August 25, 2013

Mojave Study 1


The vaguely unsettling desert frame of few colors,
terrifying mountains, all hard rocks and sharp angles,
reaching out through the dry air, playing tricks with
distance and depth—up close, easily scaled one moment;
impossibly remote the next.

Here, things flow from one to the next, features changing
slowly—There weren’t yucca trees like this back a few miles,
were there?

Roots reach blindly into arid soil,
seeking what moisture they can, and

now, a swath of green in a low spot, fed by unseen water,
softens the view: familiar shapes of pines and 
deciduous trees, the wind no longer swirling dirt,
but swaying the tall grass like a gentle hand.

Deepening

Along I-15, eastbound, dust fills the air,
clouds the color of ground, a brown rain.

Dry riverbeds cut through the dull desert,
snaking under the dusty highway.

Pavement thrums under us as the mountains
stand distant and aloof in their reptilian

rocky exteriors. The washes and channels
are dry. Between us, however, things flow:

No chattering runoffs, no murmuring springs,
just silence—just now--this deepening water
of siblings growing ever more at ease.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Other Shapes

The bright cloud and its
dark shadow, moving over
the land, much like me.

Today, I am a
cloud passing over prairie,
stingy with my rain.

I am turbulence,
rising from rocky foothills,
unseen, only felt.

I am an idle
pen, waiting for an earnest
hand to speak through me.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Inside, Outside

Inside, I'm writing checks
and paying bills, doing
mental math--
Outside, the basketball
bounces, keeping time
for a casual game.
Now, I wish I was that
kid, playing in the street,
wearing long pajamas,
whose most pressing
deadline is when the
streetlights come on.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Full moon haiku

Full moon, and a cat
patrols her perimeter
down the quiet street.

A slap of shoes on
sidewalk, and a runner is
home, quickly inside.

Full moon, high and bright--
even the streetlights cannot
outshine that blue light.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Remembering Roads

Following these sinuous roads,
I recall trips that ended in embraces.

My weight shifts in the corners and
my body feels it. No short strolls

or straight shots: serpentine,
windy ascents over

the pass and the state line;
long straights and steady,

even grades, truck lanes
and deep forests, roads winter-

slippery and summer shaded,
witnesses to my earnestness in

driving to, and satisfaction in
driving from, those houses where

someone brightened a doorway,
the distance an equation of

anticipation and reflection: something,
somewhere, the spending of the now

for some then—or, distance as insulation,
sure as I am safe in a car, immune from weather,

so too my heart traveled safely, my life
sectioned off, little borderlines to cross

to get to and from the center. No way of
knowing now, even though I know each

curve, dip and twist, the ones that
bring belly butterflies and a fluttery chest,

slowing and acceleration, routes now
that are still simply roads even as

memory diverges on its own path.

Monday, August 19, 2013

LP

There's a bit of silence
as I pause to turn
over the record, that
great one with the song
about crazy lovers starting
side two—this record I've
had since I was a kid--
and with the clicks and pops
before the music starts
I'm realizing how short
a long-playing album
has become.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Screen

There's the white trim,
the brick fireplace hearth,
wood tones of floor and furniture,
and this: a rectangle of light,
showing humans doing awful things,
while children sounds filter in
through the room's open windows.
From the garnet red of my sofa,
I see blood in the streets,
a choking tear gas cloud.
A plane over my house blends with
mechanized terror on the square
half a world from here.
I can make it go away, a push
and it's over, this flat, shocking
angry chaos that our media have
marshaled into some sort of order
for me and my couch-bound brethren.
It is, after all, and by definition,
a screen.

Maybe

there was a time
we were lying
side by side
when she asked
what are you thinking
and I said
that maybe everything
is all right
and she said (a thing
for which I'll always
be grateful)
then maybe
it is

Friday, August 16, 2013

Birth Mother

So I said it like this:
You let me down twice,
giving me away, then dying
before I could find you,
and now that door will never close,
letting in a periodic chill that
makes me shiver--
little whispers, voices all around
with their cold tongues, sibilant
sounds that every now and then
resolve into this:
You're not good enough.
It's your fault.
Better try really hard or
it will all happen again.
Anything and anyone you
hold dear--
Well,
it's all conditional.
You were chosen, sure,
that's special, but
nothing's guaranteed.
The letter from the
kind woman at the agency
arrived that November day,
leafless branches creaking in
the sunlight as my trembling hands
opened the envelope, revealing
names, places, and this:
You did all you could,
got the information you were
legally allowed,
withheld your signature until
(in your heart, I imagine) you knew.
I think of our parting, that scene
you remembered, lost to this infant's
goldfish mind, and I know now
(in my head, at least) that the
sum of my years of dull ache
you felt sharply, maybe all at once
when your trembling hand shaped
that signature, or when you touched me
for the last time.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

A New World

A quick flash of another is all it takes--
that other, with such gravity that your fantasy
will quickly accrete like a nascent planet,
a new world where you alone will reside,
in a castle of the mind, subconscious Xanadu,
the torment of an immortal dream you step into
willingly, this liquid amber that will hold you
tighter than any a lover--this place possessed
with star-strength gravity, or black hole better yet--
felt, not seen, making you a prisoner of physics,
your tight orbit with no escape but for the
inevitable collapse, consumption and crush.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Evening Hills

The hills are like a woman 
sleeping soundly on her side,
off in the distance, not
really getting closer,
while beneath me the
bicycle rhythmically sways
in a dance of chain clicks
and my rocking hips,
staccato breath coming
now in triplets as flicks
of rain land on my
tanned forearms
as the mottled black
pavement slides beneath
and my attention is drawn
again to those distant hills--
all blues and grays
below a sinking sun
with those familiar curves
of hip, breast, shoulder--
clear but distant, unreachable
tonight, under my own power--
so I am on this hillside here,
holding close its serpentine road,
this scene nothing like that
soundly sleeping woman--
that trust and ease of sleep,
that simple comfort and shared space--
ride as hard or far as I can, or I will,
but I can't quite get there.
It's the things far off that draw me
the most, hovering as these hills do
at the edge of my vision, but still clear
as the wind whistles over me and the
road, the ride and the wind shake loose
thoughts that become these words.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Bright Silence

Stars shine like highway glass,
shards twinkling in headlights--
reminders of past violence
yielding beauty, catching
the eye, markers of a fierce
birth or death, underscoring
the sweet time between.
Sand to glass, stars from gas,
all of us coming from somewhere
headed somewhere else--
Forget seeing, let me be
illumination, the light
that leaps through space,
that bright silence that speaks.


Monday, August 12, 2013

Haiku on the stoop

Evening on the stoop--
moths drawn to light, humans drawn
to the August sky.

Stars shine silently--
violence is beautiful
with enough distance.

A bottle falls, breaks,
as I squelch a shout, mindful
of neighbors' windows.

A meteor's brief
flash—the deepest wishes cross
our minds so quickly.


Meteors become
wishes—proof that humans' hopes
cling to anything.

A sheltered cat's cry,
doubting the clockwork of food
in her silver bowl.

Sounds reach farther in
the night—my mind, also, as
day quiets and dims.



A Letter to My Students

I don’t say it enough, but I care about you. Each of you. That’s why I’m here. It’s too much work to do it for the money, so there must be ...