Wednesday, January 13, 2016


when I was young
came in only one shape--
classic diamond, Charlie Brown's kite
perpetually devoured by that evil tree! Now,

any week at Cannon Beach, the sky is filled with
dragons, box kites, bats, mantas, castle towers, mini-parasails--
strange, ungainly forms you wouldn't believe
could fly. All colors of the rainbow
ride the wind. Combat kites slice each other's strings
among banners, birds, and monster silhouettes.

In my heart
four white stars on a ground of black
swing low in the southern sky. The Southern Cross
unlike its swan-winged northern counterpart
has no center point, looks just like
Charlie Brown's kite flown from God's hand
above a world full of star-eating trees.

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Tuesday, January 12, 2016

can you hear me, Major Tom?

RIP, David Bowie

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Thursday, December 10, 2015

Skeleton Fingers

Summer foliage makes soft shadow-dances
on the wall all night, like the figures
your father taught you: duck, alligator, butterfly. Winter
shows the skeleton fingers inside the green glove.

Last night on my street
trees thrashed naked under the lights:
arboreal ecdysiasts shining wet against darkness
accompanied by rain drumming
louder than thunder. In my sleep they marched and menaced,
gaunt shadows sliding over parked cars, distant sounds

of glass smashing. They heaved pavement, choked drains,
lifted grates from storm sewers, scooped out clots of half-rotted leaves
and scattered them on sidewalks in vegetal calligraphy
I could not read. They dragged down power lines, crushed houses
and the sleepers in them.

They turned to me no features of gnarled bark,
nothing so friendly as a jack o’lantern skull. They wore storm
like wings of darkness. They had no faces, but plucked at me
with twiggy hands, bony fingers

and inhuman, wooden curiosity.

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Tuesday, December 08, 2015

One of Our Camellias is Blooming

Not the whole tree. A couple of blossoms on a lower branch.

Every January, I check the camellia buds. If they're still clenched tight and green, there's more freezing weather ahead. If they're cracking open, showing red or pink, then there's still plenty of rain and dreary weather to come, but the killing cold is past. I've never known them wrong.

This year I saw leaves turn early, because of the heat-scorch and the drought; I saw leaves turn late, because October and November, and even December so far, were warmer than usual. Then the windstorms started, and leaves both green and red were stripped from trees, reduced to sodden rags, and heaped into the mouths of storm drains.

I heard people say the fall bulbs had come on early. I heard people blame global warming. I heard people blame El NiƱo.

The maples thrash bare branches against a liquid sky. The camellias blaze pink in the pre-solstice gloom, engimatic and offering no clues about what's coming. I watch and wait.

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2015 in Review

Storm runoff fountains from manholes—
wind throws fists of water against my window.
I remember a smoke-filled sky.

A torrent rushes past in the gutter where
crisp dry leaves blew on a hot breeze.
My lawn gleams, a sheet of standing water.

The rosebush is still blooming.

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Wednesday, December 02, 2015


marshy ground
standing dead trees
one hawk

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Monday, November 30, 2015

Three Tropical Flowers

I.                    Bougainvillea
like little paper lanterns
pink, purple, scarlet, orange, white.
Not thorny—acacia’s thorny—
bougainvillea is spiny, aggressive,
bush or vine, can take over a yard
while your back is turned. Bougainvillea will bite your hand
if pruned carelessly.
Bougainvillea taught me respect.

II.                 Frangipani
The pink smell over-sweet, heavy
compared to white. Both have centers the soft gold
of a half-cooked egg yolk. Milky sap: they can’t be cut
and put in water, so the petals bruise
and fade in minutes. Your airport lei
by the time you reach your hotel, will be
fragrant trash. The pink ones taught me transience.
The white ones taught me memory.

III.              Madagascar flamboyant
in our backyard, a tall tree, massive spreading branches
drenching our house in shade. Woody seed pods
crunched underfoot.

They bloomed at Christmas, whole groves turning hillsides
from dun to scarlet, savannahs blazing without flame.
Flamboyants taught me brilliance.

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Thursday, November 05, 2015

They Cut Down the Lilacs

that used to hang

over the board fence we shared. “Help yourself,”
she said, smiling, brown and wizened,
“there’s more than one person can use anyway.”

I filled my house with fragrance that spring,
heavy bunches of purple, white, pink.
In fall, I helped her prune them.
She couldn’t reach the top branches
being barely shoulder-height on me.

We sat on her steps and drank coffee.
She was married fifty years, worked cleaning hotels
to send their kids to college. Grandchildren;
she showed me photos from other states.

She died that winter. They sold the house.
They cut down all the lilacs.

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Tuesday, November 03, 2015

Flatworm Fashion

“the hermaphrodite flatworm... scientists have discovered, can reproduce by injecting sperm into its own head.” The Guardian, July 1st 2015

Have you ever wondered how the fashion industry decides
that animal prints on synthetic fabrics ripped into artful rags
are this year’s “look?”

Fashion experts confer with other fashion experts.
They congregate, exchange germs of ideas
(or sperms of ideas: an orgy of self-fertilization
the fashion monster stabbing itself in the head
with its needle-like penis)
which spread throughout the industry, emerge
wrapped around skinny figures swaying on a catwalk.

In the runway spots the fashion monster writhes
brandishing platform heels and stiletto genitalia.
It’s not that other mates aren’t available:
this monster doesn’t care to look outward
preferring the suck of its own sperm
the solace of its own sweet prick.

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Monday, November 02, 2015

After the Drums are Silent

Consider the myth of an empty land,
a land that was free for the taking.
Consider a century of conquest planned
over the myth of an empty land.
Consider gold in a blood-stained hand
and treaties made just for the breaking.
Consider the myth of an empty land,
a land that was free for the taking.

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Saturday, October 31, 2015

Clock Mistaken for Bomb

I am the most harmless and commonplace of objects
I have neither an alarm, nor any intent to cause alarm.
I count up instead of down.
Why was I snatched from my maker’s hands
thrown into an explosion containment device
dismembered by the police investigation team?
Was it because of the way I look?
Would it not have happened
if my LEDs were green instead of red?
Should I have had a round face
with hands that travel?
Should I have tried to chime or cuckoo
fill my mouth with an alien tongue
to reassure the fearful?
What did I do wrong?

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Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Installing updates... 1 out of, well, several

For one reason and another I've neglected the blog lately. But October's been a productive month for me-- starting with the OPA conference in the first weekend, I've written quite a bit, been to a couple of readings, visited a writing group, and joined a weekly critique group.

It's good to be back in the saddle.

Rather than dump all the poems I've written in the last month onto the blog at once, I'm going to post one at a time, for a while, and not necessarily in the order they were written.

The Progression from Late Iron to Nuclear Age

Anvil, bang! cues dormant engines. Forges glow hot,
incandesce, jump-starting kiln’s labor.
Molecules, nuclei, orbiting particles quicken—
Red. Scarlet. Tungsten ultra-violet wild X-ray!

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Saturday, August 22, 2015


I'm afraid. Portland is a good hundred miles from the nearest fire, but the smell of woodsmoke is making my backbrain churn with alarm. Forests burning. Run.

half moon eclipse red
Fenris rises open-jawed
in a smoke-stained sky

In June, July, and early August, I wrote three poems in a row about burning. Too much sun at the Waterfront Blues festival? Maybe. But I knew, we all knew, this was coming. You only had to look around: by the end of June, lawns and shrubbery in my neighborhood were August-dry, and the Cascade forests were just waiting for a spark. I can't picture what it's like further east.


is the highway sign I wish I'd seen. Haiku may be too much to expect from ODOT.

praying on my knees
All-Merciful God, send us rain
smoke tears fill my eyes

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Ultraviolet Light

Whenever I come home now there's sand in my pockets.
Sand lines my purse and sticks to my pens.
I live a hundred miles from the beach.
I get in the tub and find sand under my toenails.

Green forest and vineyards, grain and fruit orchards
sleeping peacefully under a snow-capped mountain.
Where is the ocean whose breath speckles me with salt?
Every footstep I take falls on a beach somewhere.

What we thought was daylight was only the moon reflected:
silver apples brighter than all of earth's gold.
My teeth rattle empty as water-worn pebbles.
Tide comes with the dawn and wipes me away.

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Driving Lesson

Clock-face the wheel, my mother said
hands at ten and two, point high.

Which made my destination always high noon
and the choices before me love, duty, fear.

Six at the wheel's bottom, six is behind me
no-one gave me a six-gun or a six-point star.

I've learned it's no use to watch clocks.
When the noon train rolls in it'll find me ready.

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Friday, August 07, 2015

Warning Plumage

I’ve come to expect the crow
feathers shed in July, black and tattered emblems
of a year of urban life. This summer
I did not find any. Instead

a Canada goose flight primary on the Esplanade, unpatterned brown
glossy underneath with tegmen. What a perfect
quill-pen this would have made, what poems
would have flowed from its sharpened tip to parchment, ringing
with night-flight cries of spring and fall.

on our front porch, a blue-jay feather flecked with white paint—
from someone’s hatband? Someone who treasured blue,
until summer drought, cloudless glaring sky
wore out that color’s welcome. Thrown down in disgust, this feather
is a plea for shade, for rain, for autumn.

Maybe I’ll find macaw plumage, murmuring multi-hued
of encroaching tropics, jungles and hurricanes. Maybe roadrunner feathers
BEEP-BEEPing warnings to passing urban coyotes
(and us: the desert comes, it comes)

or like a Russian prince, rescue a firebird from a trap
and be granted visions—forests burning,
cities aflame with riots: save us, magic birds, O save us
from the things we’ve done.

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Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Burning Blues

Tell me, has judgement come to pass?
The sky devours the burning grass.

Oh setting sun, have mercy on me
I'm a sinner hanging on a burning tree.

I'm a dead man walking on the razor's edge
See my footprints on the burning bridge.

I pray to God that I might be saved
I can find no rest in a burning grave.

The drawbridge rose and it rose so high
It rose on up to the burning sky.

Old Man River, hear my wail
My boat went down with a burning sail.

Old Man Sun, hear my moan
My dog ran off with a burning bone.

Pray for every woman and man
Born to suffer on a burning planet.

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