Friday, November 25, 2016

Coming Back from the Vet

The dog looks at us with eyes
full of questions he can’t ask
and we can’t answer.
He noses the empty carrier.
He licks our hands.

Eighteen years is a good run for a cat.
She spent her last days sleeping on a towel
on the heated bathroom floor.
I’ve put it in the hamper to be washed.
He searches the house in the middle of the night.

Broadband
1998-2016


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Monday, November 14, 2016

Extra

It’s cold and quiet in this concrete building,
this big orange block, this old brutalist building.

The river’s full of autumn leaves and their shadows
drift under the bridge right across from my building.

We waited all day in unseasonable warmth
while over the prairies a midnight storm was building.

Now everyone hangs their heads or looks away at the river.
No-one speaks as they walk in and out of my building.

But work goes on just like taxes and death
and we do what we can for the kids in our buildings.

Work goes on just like taxes and life.
We do what we can for the future they’re building.

Their cupped hands, filled with spring rain and dirt
will be the ones that turn to the job of rebuilding.

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Saturday, November 05, 2016

Descent

for Garrett Hongo

Don’t worry, I won’t call you Grandfather,
I’m a little old for that, and anyway
my grandfather passed on years ago.

He took with him the last of my roots
in a land where doorways are built round, sails are square
a land that built a wall a thousand miles along its border (it’s so funny
that Donald Trump thinks he invented that idea), a land
where dragon kites adorned the sky, where women’s feet
were crushed and bound and rotted in their wrappings.
A land whose language he never left behind
and I never learned.

Descent is a very fragile thing, you said
very fragile.

I understand the words for rice and tea
although I can’t pronounce them; won’t eat rare meat, don’t like most kinds of cheese
can tell Mandarin from Cantonese by ear, but don’t recognize a single ideograph.
I’m not the pine tree on a mist-shrouded mountain
whose gnarled trunk has outwatched dynasties. I might
be kudzu. Throw a piece down anywhere, it’ll root,
flourish, spread, bind nitrogen to barren soil
and draw swarms of bees to its purple flowers.

Descent is a very fragile thing.
Roots are easily severed.
Let me offer you instead
a bounty of leaves.


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Tuesday, November 01, 2016

The Name for This Season

Chinook are on the redds this month, their flanks
crimson as elderberry leaves.

Egg-spent corpses float to the shore; storms
strip gold and scarlet foliage from trees
to rot in brown piles. We wait

for spring, for seeds to burst from the wet ground,
for smolt to burgeon in melt-filled streams.

There’s been no frost.

But today in a mild sun, forecasted to warm to sixty—
Indian summer is not the name for this place, this season,
Chinook summer.

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Heck, why not

I blame Todd. We all make up parody song lyrics. I've posted a few before.

But at his behest... a certain theme develops...

To the tune of "I'm in Love with an Octopus," from Fanny:

I’m in love with an occultist, a scheming dreaming occultist
How I moan on his couch of bone with the octagon tiles all round me
An impossible shape in a yellow cape, he strides across the sky
He watches the night-gaunts fly
With his single burning eye
And he’s mine, all mine, every identical pentacle mine. Iä!

I’m in love with an occultist, a ranting chanting occultist
All I ask is his pallid mask and the octagon tiles all round me
Diamond strong, all angled wrong
The octagon tiles all round me!


To the tune of "American Pie," possibly one of the most parodied songs in the history of English:

I met a black man with a horn
I asked him why the sky was torn
But he just smiled and played a tune.
I went down to the ocean’s shore
And there I saw the finny horde
Dancing underneath the shattered moon
And in the streets, alarm bells rang
The sirens screamed, the cultists sang
Cities fell and burned
The Old Ones had returned
Yes, the three gods I admire the most
Cthulhu, Shub and Yog-Sothoth
Were scooping up souls on points of toast
The day the stars were right.

Refrain:
Bye bye, dread R'lyeh goodbye
That is not dead which eternal can lie
And with strange aeons even death has now died
Today, the stars are finally right!


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Friday, October 21, 2016

Bones of Drowned Homes

At Heron Lake Golf Course we walked over the bones of drowned homes

Vanport was a twenty-four hour city, working shift upon shift

Vanport was built overnight complete with schools and libraries

The sloughs that ran through it were full of turtles, bullfrogs, and garter snakes

Joe’s market sold peanuts out of vending machines

So many people come here and don’t know they’re walking on bones

Someone said garter snakes would grow legs in warm water
so they caught enough to fill a washtub
but all the garter snakes drowned

There was a skull in the peanut vending machine

The water was waist-deep and houses floated off their foundations

People struggled hand in hand

Children slept on army cots at Ockley Green Grade School
and moved on to whatever homes they could find
(because black people couldn't buy homes in most of the city)

All the garter snakes drowned

So many people move here and don't know they're walking on bones

Today we walked over the bones of drowned homes
and the sky was stitched across with wings of geese.

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Tuesday, October 18, 2016

What it's like at my job right now

Like standing in a forest with trees falling all around me. Every time I look up there's another gap in the canopy, with rain pouring in. Lightning and thunder stalk closer and closer.

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Friday, October 14, 2016

On First Looking into China Miéville’s “The Scar”

I have travelled much in fictional realms.
Oceans of dream and nightmare I have sailed,
close at hand as Atlantis overwhelmed
or distant as the half-self-swallowed tail
of Ouroboros. Each gives its own pleasure:
a peaceful harbor or a pirate flag
island maroonings, tales of sunken treasure
until I rode the tide into Bas-Lag.

Then I felt like some walker on the shore
silent and calm beneath a cloudless sky
skipping stones, playing at commodore
when the tsunami lifts the water high—
green thunder from the deep, a monster more
dreadful than the Kraken’s rage-sparked eye.

The Scar

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Sun Breaks

Such an Oregon cliché—
“you may live in the Pacific Northwest if,” etc.

I walked away from the funeral in grey drizzle—
“of course we’re sad, but she had a good life”
“it’s wonderful that her family had time to be with her”
“very few people can die with so few regrets”
—at the corner a sudden dazzle turned the streets to sheets of glass
and left me blinded by tears.

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Monday, September 12, 2016

The History of Wind

Let me tell you the cross-gusts around the Deschutes river mouth will shake your car on its springs, slap-rock a top-heavy U-Haul, whiplash fish-tail a triple-trailer across two lanes—that’s Mr. Wind. He’ll thrash a thousand miles of tumbleweed to flour-fine dust, whip the Columbia into salt-free surf.

But when that big flood came down, wall of water shoulder-high on the Cascades, thick with ice, stone, toothpicked trees, Mr. Wind was in front of it and you should have seen him run. Tail between his legs, he shot out of that narrow place like a cork from champagne.

After it was all over he came creeping back through the canyons, tiptoe over stripped-out stone. Water was beading on bare clay like blood on new-flayed flesh. Mr. Wind called the new rocks home, and he settled in to play. He made all the trees point upstream like signs to Pendleton.

Twenty thousand years went by and Mr. Wind was still busy playing. Then he felt a slice. It was just a little slice, but he turned around to see what happened. There was a whole forest of windmills growing up around the cliffs and every one of them was slicing at him. Little cuts like papercuts. Mr. Wind didn’t know what to think. He thought they looked like trees, but they didn’t bend like trees, not one of them would lean and point the way he pushed.

Mr. Wind, he ripped at the windmills and he broke one or two, but mostly they just spun away when he hit, and then spun back and swung at him like a fast-footed boxer. Mr. Wind danced in fury and he whipped up a storm, he swallowed smoke and spat out lightning and waited for the clouds to clear, and when he could see again there were more windmills than ever. Mr. Wind ran along the ridges and threw dust into the sky, and still the windmills kept slicing away and he could not stop them turning. Mr. Wind was bleeding air from every slice, writhing across half a continent like a coachwhip got run over by a car.

“Help me,” said Mr. Wind to the moon, “Help me,” he said to the sun and the stars, but they went sailing along and didn’t listen to him. “Help me,” he said to the river, and she laughed her cold, cold laugh.

“I’ve been a slave behind concrete walls, pushing turbines around these fifty, sixty years while you ran and played like nothing was wrong. I watched my children die trying to climb dams and my fast white waters turned into stupid lakes. What do you want from me, Mr. Wind?”

“Well, if water can’t help and wind can’t stop, I guess it’s time for earth and stone to say their piece.”

Mr. Wind pushed and shook at the roots of Wy’east and Louwala-Clough. He knocked on the doors at Pahto.

Stone listens slow. Stone listens long. Stone’s still listening, maybe. But you watch out, because when stone answers, it speaks in fire.

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Tuesday, September 06, 2016

First Fall Rain

although

it rained the week before
I call this first, the rain that fell last night
drowning any remaining barbecue embers

we expect summer to begin Fourth of July
(although
this year it rained well past)
and end Labor Day weekend

although

there’s still a chance of Indian summer
which as we know will always end on Columbus Day
but can begin again on any day, any year

when the true names of mountains are remembered

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Thursday, July 28, 2016

World Enough and More

“Had we but world enough and time”—Andrew Marvell

I’ve had always world enough and more
but time—ah, time—I too have felt the lack,
have watched the tide retreating from the shore

and wondered if I’d see it coming back.
I gathered seashells on the drying strand
but time—ah, time, I too have felt the lack

though agates gleamed upon the emptied sand.
Why discontent? Was I not happy when
I gathered seashells on the drying strand

and polished stones against my shirtsleeves’ hems,
a treasure better than a dragon’s hoard.
Why discontent? Was I not happy when

I spent those hours gathering rewards
there in the space between the sand and salt,
a treasure better than a dragon’s hoard.

If this seems poor, my sight may be at fault.
I’ve watched the tide retreating from the shore
and in the space between the sand and salt
I’ve had always world enough and more.

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Thursday, July 14, 2016

Windmill Country

I live to the west of windmill country,
I’m a knight on a quest through windmill country.

Flights of white pelicans dazzle in sun
and course the river’s breast in windmill country.

The highway climbs the bluffs to the south
and winds to the crests of windmill country.

Hawks ride invisible roads of air,
can they pass the tests of windmill country?

Power lines write a brand new history
across the palimpsest of windmill country.

Will salmon ever run unchained to the ocean
freed by the harvest of windmill country?

The world is my home, my house is my clothing.
I’m overdressed for windmill country.

Let me dervish-spin, growl and hum:
that’s my request of windmill country.

Let me see and see for a hundred miles
what God has blessed in windmill country.


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Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Seascape

3 Word Wednesday: Queasy, unruly, violent

That was easy...

blue ocean waters
unruly violent wave-crests
queasy landlubbers

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Monday, June 27, 2016

Drain

There once was a young man from Drain
Who said “I’m so sick of this rain
I’m moving to Libya
or maybe Namibia
to live in deep desert terrain!”

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Drought Ku

dry river bottoms
sparrows bathe in pools of dust
find nothing to drink

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Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Punquery

metal-pierced face
taut Lycra, tattered denim
old taboos flouted

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