Monday, September 25, 2017

On Bended Knee

A bended knee. A silent protest, planned
to echo like a shout across the land.
A shout to rend the silences that veil
the chokehold and the shot, the shadowed trail
that leads back through the years, to bloody hands

that wielded bloody whips. A soundless gale
of grief for every death-marked street, each jail-
cell “suicide.” Does murder not demand
a bended knee?

Now rank on rank with linking arms and hands
they kneel and bow their heads. No reprimands,
no threats or insults can reweight the scales.
Praise to the one who began this warrior’s tale
and showed the world how tall a man can stand
on bended knee.

For Colin Kaepernick

Available! High-Voltage Lines, Knocking from Inside

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

September 19th 2017

Wind, fire, earth and water
Every mother prays for her daughters.

Wind, fire, water, earth
Pray for the land that gave you birth.

Earth, water, fire and wind
This is how the end begins.

Earth, water, wind and fire
Curse the climate-change deniers.

Available! High-Voltage Lines, Knocking from Inside

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Monday, September 04, 2017

Nuclear Summer

It seems we’re living in a brand new season,
half summer’s end and half the start of fall
and all dreadful. Bloody-orange sun
in a sky white as curdled milk:
air that burns and makes you cough.
Just the new normal. A season like
a dragon coiled behind Wy’East
belching smoke and spitting cinders.

Broken, the gentle rhythm of the time
that brings slow rain from the ocean to soothe
the hurts of summer’s heat. Broken, the cycle
of water breathing into clouds, clouds caressing earth.
We tremble now in nuclear summer’s grip.
Ash falls gently from the stricken sky.

Available! High-Voltage Lines, Knocking from Inside

Monday, August 21, 2017

Second Dawn

We gathered to witness the day
at mid-morning, turning back toward dusk.
We shivered in a sudden chill. Streetlights kindled.
In the poplars, crows muttered
confusion. Venus stood cold at zenith.
We braced, breathless. Adrenalin spiked
the countdown: one full minute. Thirty seconds.
Ten. Nine—

loops of white fire girdle the black moon
smoke and fire dance on the horizon. Howl.
Howl, naked earth!
Howl until
the phoenix sun slips the moon’s embrace
and the bonds of shadow loose into a second dawn.

Afterward we asked each other
did you see? did you feel?
did you cry, howl, fall on your knees,
were you filled to the tips of your trembling fingers
with awe?

With gratitude to Grandpa Gene Brick and all his descendants
Madras, Oregon, 8/21/2017


Available! High-Voltage Lines, Knocking from Inside

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Eptc Protest Poems #206

Read the whole thing at Epic Protest Poems I'm on at #84 and at #206

Available! High-Voltage Lines, Knocking from Inside

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Sister Cities

So this is war. No barbed-wire marks the front.
Hot metal plows into the dumbstruck crowd
—and then, the screaming. There’s nowhere to run.
Your enemy is here, close as a shroud
close as your shivered breath that mists the blade
before your eyes. A civil war. A neighborhood
affair. My fellow citizens, betrayed
we stand where once our finest dreams had stood.

So this is war. How it begins. And where—
Charlottesville and Portland: sisters, bled
in common cause. Three thousand miles of distance—
opposite coasts, same side of resistance.
Martyrs linked by a weave of scarlet thread,
a banner raised against the torches’ glare.

Available! High-Voltage Lines, Knocking from Inside

Thursday, August 03, 2017

If You Read Only One Poem This Year

this one’s not it, this is a waste of time
go east until you see the Mother of Exiles, fall on your knees
kiss the fourteen lines wrapped around her feet, each line once
fourteen kisses, engrave them on your heart
read them, speak them, burn with imprisoned lightning
until you are the lamp she lifts, you are the golden door
open above the harbor forever.

"The New Colossus" by Emma Lazarus

Available! High-Voltage Lines, Knocking from Inside

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Nothing to Read

I tell my parents I can’t find anything to read at home.
They don’t point impatiently to the full bookshelves
all round the house. Instead,
since it’s vacation, on their way to work,
they drop me at the library.

Three tall narrow windows frame
bookshelves built into the walls and painted
seamlessly off-white—
frame me as I learn how to ask for wishes from a sand-fairy,
flee across war-torn Europe with a Jewish family,
raise a white deer with a mute Aztec boy,
roam the Australian outback with two Abo teens.

Outside, pied crows call from the football pitch.
I savor the smell of new paper and old paper,
ink and bookbinding glue. At the end of day,
my parents come, ask if I want to check out the book I’m reading.
I’ve already finished two. But I didn’t swallow them whole
like seeds. I ground them to flour
to make bread. Without libraries,
children would starve.

Available! High-Voltage Lines, Knocking from Inside

An Old Dog

He was never my master.
I grew up with Telemachus
clutching my ruff to steady his baby steps.
I slept at Penelope’s door
every night under lamps while she unwove
the day’s work.
I growled when the suitors got out of hand.

I alone knew his step upon the threshold.
I knew one task was left to me:
to make space for a new dog,
one who’d learn the master’s tricks,
his new tricks.

Available! High-Voltage Lines, Knocking from Inside

Saturday, July 29, 2017

After I Left Your House


for Katie

They say you haven’t touched the soul of a place
until you touch the water. So I sat on the shore of the Deschutes
where it flows between concrete banks, tame as a kitten
(believe that if you dare), dangled my feet
watched the ducks dabbling, drifting geese and float-boats
while an osprey glided overhead.

Just outside the city there’s a hill—
just beyond the clever brick-parquet sidewalks,
the hanging flower-baskets and outdoor-seating restaurants
beyond the sloping ponderosa shadows and the highway underpasses—
there’s a brown hill, covered with dead grass and sagebrush.
A desert hill, like the forehead of a lion
peering down at the city
with slitted, sun-bright eyes.

Available! High-Voltage Lines, Knocking from Inside

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Featured poet

I'm currently the featured poet at Soul-Lit.

Available! High-Voltage Lines, Knocking from Inside

Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Waterfront Blues 2017: Summer of Resistance

Five days of blues like thunder on the river
Thousands of happy people dancing in the sun
A chance to imagine that our troubles were all over
A beautiful dream that our struggles all were won

That’s not how it was, oh no no no
The old bluesmen said, don’t you let it go
Times are hard and we struggle for existence
So take a chance to dance in this summer of resistance.

One million dollars raised to feed the poor
Made the food bank’s target and we made a little more
Before they light the fireworks from off that dirty barge
Tell me will you stand your ground against the fascist charge?

Don’t you turn your back, oh no no no
The old bluesmen said, don’t you let it go
Times are cruel and it calls for persistence
Take a chance to dance in this summer of resistance.

Saw them waving Dixie flags down there by the fountain
Acting like they’re so hard, acting like they’re cruel
I swear by the sunlight and the shadow of this mountain
My city’s people won’t submit to terror’s iron rule.

Don’t you turn your back when the sirens scream
The old bluesmen said, I still have a dream
The rocket’s red glare is not so very distant
Last chance to dance in this summer of resistance.

Available! High-Voltage Lines, Knocking from Inside

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Tower of Fire, Tower of Smoke

Will he dream all his life of falling through siren-howling dark
or flying through fire and shattering glass?
Miraculous safe landing in the arms of a stranger
cushioned by an angel’s wings? Will he remember the figure
gesturing from the window? Did Moses remember
the hand that launched the boat?

This tower of smoke squats against the London sky
unmoving, guiding to a Land of Promise not kept
not kept. This tower of fire marks no sanctified sacrifice.
No Exodus. No exit. No escape for you. Throw your child down.
Did you see the miracle? Was it the last thing
printed on your eyeballs burnt lidless?

When the names of the dead are told we’ll know
little more than we know now. A falling baby
with no return address. A figure in a window
with flames behind.

Wordless we stand under
a tower of smoke.

Available! High-Voltage Lines, Knocking from Inside