Thursday, March 27, 2014

Vineyards: SpicyNodes

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I followed a pheasant that flew into a vineyard,
they were pressing the first of the wine in the vineyard.

My hands still remember the blackberry thorns
that pricked to draw blood at the edge of the vineyard.

Autumn thunder and rainbows swept along the freeway
while I wandered lost down the rows of the vineyard.

The wine-pressers gave me cheese and bread to eat
and I joined their harvest and labored in the vineyard.

But they only laughed and shook their heads at me
when I asked for directions to get out of the vineyard.

They only laughed and shook their heads at me
when I tried to find out who owned the vineyard.

Bronze feathers scattered from my careless feet.
A coyote killed a pheasant somewhere in the vineyard.

Oak leaves were falling and saffron had bloomed
and I knew there were mountains far beyond the vineyard.

All of this land is in the hand of my Beloved
from the peak of Mt. Hood to the bottom of the vineyard.

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Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Lockjaw in the Antilles

Walking on a beach in the Lesser Antilles
I stepped on a plank, a rusty nail,
had to get a tetanus shot. Spent a week
in a chintzy hotel, recovering

just like the economy’s supposedly “recovering”—
more like, undead. Zombie economy. Paid for my shot
without insurance. That plank and nail
sealed the coffin on my faith
in government promises. From now on, it’s non-belief
and life as an Antillean beachcomber. All I can say is
it’s better than lockjaw.

--word salad

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Thursday, March 13, 2014

Tri-Met Bus Line #72

I get on at 18th and Alberta. Ride east, surrounded by cheerfully quarrelling Black ladies and boys who bump raucous fists.

Cully fills the bus with silent Latino men. I drowse, eyes open, as we make the turn onto 82nd. Toward Madison High School, where softly chattering Vietnamese teens file aboard. Some hold soccer balls.

I wonder why some people talk on the bus and some don’t. In my mind, the bus is a shuttle, working back and forth across a loom. Mechanized looms were at the heart of the Industrial Revolution that built the cities we know, the city where I live. Where Slavic and Somali families bump elbows on the bus.

In my mind’s eye the shuttle plays, drawing multi-colored threads into solid cloth. In my mind’s eye I follow it the other way, west toward PCC. Where, I swear this is true. One day three boys got on: one black, one brown, one white. They gossiped about their friend Bobby, you know Bobby? Bobby Nguyen, that Bobby.

In my mind’s eye, my parents walk down the street together. But it’s New York in the 1950s and it’s not normal, then and there, for teens to date across racial lines. It’s not Portland in the 20-teens, where any Saturday you can find a Black and Chinese couple at the mall or in a coffee shop or on the bus.

In my mind’s eye the threads tie off into a glorious bow. I wake up thinking: Why, this bus is beautiful. This is the most beautiful bus

in the world.

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Friday, March 07, 2014

I dream about driving through a swarm of tornadoes

The first one formed
far off to the right, fizzled out
miles above ground. The next one, nearer,
reached further down. Soon all around
from yellow sky they fell, like twisting trees,
like legs of stomping elephants.
They strike ground BOOM! and shake the road.
I put my seatbelt on.

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Tuesday, March 04, 2014

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Fruit Flies

He hates them.
Every summer it creeps up on him—
somewhere in the kitchen a tomato slumps with sick-wine rot
under the drainboard, a celery leaf slowly dissolves
and here they come, one or two
then clouds.

He hates them.
He’s heard they drink from the corners of people’s eyes
and spread parasitic worms that burrow into your eyeballs.
He lies awake at night
imagining them
floating up the stairs in a swarm shaped like a giant spermatozoon.
He sleepwalks to the cupboard
where the Raid is kept.

He considers himself eco-conscious, health-friendly because
he has a bag of sour apple or peach fruit rings he’s willing to share
while the smell of insecticide dissipates throughout the house.
He told all his friends why the spray was necessary
and can’t understand why none of them
will eat.

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Velcro ripped apart with a zipper noise
straps flapping undone, spilling her awkward against the side-hatch
of the roller-blade rink. Day-Glo plastic helmet, knee armor, elbow pads
clung close as children but couldn’t protect her
from an ankle break.

Now she stands aloof, watching the teen crowd
like a pick-pocket with an eye out for cops. Over her cast she wears
slip-fitted boots, the kind with an elastic panel in the side.
She’ll never trust Velcro since it betrayed her,
never let it get those million little hooks into her again.
She’ll save herself for buttons, zippers, loops and toggles, laces, hooks and eyes—
anything but Velcro!

--word salad

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Friday, February 14, 2014

Mountain Under Clouds

Yesterday the sun was rising
in blue sky, over piled clouds. I could feel the hidden shape
of the mountain like a sleeper under piled coverlets. Like you, in the bed I left,
mumbling drowsy goodbyes.
The warmth of your body, landmark on my horizon
Mt. Hood looking over my shoulder
all the way to Salem and the day's meetings--
drawing me back at dusk
like birds to the mountain's lap. Where we would settle, preen,
exchange gossip of the day's doings, before sleep.

If I know where you are, I know where I am
as a needle knows north, a bee the hive
or water, downhill. Mountain under clouds
I name you.

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Friday, February 07, 2014

The History of Wind

Not saying the Deschutes sucks,
not saying it blows—
but the wind around this 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-tine dust,
beat water to 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 settled in to play.
He called these new rocks home.

We’ve put up mills on every ridge. Give them a whirl, Mr. Wind,
cut me a slice of power. Spin air into gold.
Sing me a wire song, stone song, flood song, canyon song, traffic song,
always going with me, always home.

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Saturday, January 18, 2014

Fog in the Valley

Sucking down fog on the road to Corvallis
watching for dawn light with no hope in hell
The freeway’s my home, my car is a palace
I’m waiting for sunlight to take off the spell.

Passing through Salem, I listened to sirens
I saw the red-and-whites flash in the rain
Nothing to see here, so just keep on driving
Someone else is in trouble, someone’s in pain.

Oh, streetlights wear halos like some kind of angel,
an angel that preaches electrical faith
They stand at the roadside to warn us of danger
they float in the fog like benevolent wraiths.

Alone in the fog, I listened for thunder
I cried for the children who’ve never been kissed
I cried for the elderly dying of hunger
I cried for the stranger who’s lost in the mist.

There’s snow in the mountains and fog in the valley
and hurricane winds are lashing the coast
I’m miles from home and tired of travelling
I think I’ve turned into a fog-weary ghost.

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Monday, January 06, 2014

A Sunny Day in Early January

I wake from winter sleep,
stunned by sunlight, awed
by hummingbird hovers. Post-solstice,
daylight stretches slow, like lazy cats
beneath a sunlit window, slit-eyed
against unaccustomed brilliance.
The year turned unnoticed while I drowsed,
dreaming the old year into puzzle pieces
disassembled, shaken back into the box. Now the tabletop
is clean and waiting
for a new picture.

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Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Ravenna Creek, Seattle

Oh, Ravenna,
you sleep under steel and concrete, you glimpse the sky
through prison bars, and in your lap
they’ve laid a pile of seeds that will not sprout. Ghosts of salmon
swim uphill, under sidewalks, pass through cast-iron and brick
to lay their phantom eggs at Ravenna’s root. Eggs that will not hatch.

Last service to a river, concrete-caged:
letters stamped in stone, her name
an epitaph above unquiet sleep. Rain drips
through grates like graveyard tears. Still, somewhere downstream,
Ravenna finds the sea.

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Tuesday, December 03, 2013

New chapbooks from CreateSpace

CreateSpace makes publishing easy. Maybe too easy. It's very seductive to throw together a collection of poems, upload it to CreateSpace, play around with the cover-- bam-- you have an ISBN and can order copies. Actual, paper copies that smell and taste just like a real book.

It's instant gratification. You don't have to do the hard work of searching for a publisher, submitting manuscripts hither and yon, enduring rejection after rejection in an endless paper chase that may just be a wild-goose chase.

On the other hand, it means foregoing the props associated with having someone else think your work is valuable enough to publish. In a field where nobody earns any money to speak of, that approval is the only currency worth discussing. This is where I part company with my novelist friends; the economics don't work out for poets, because for the most part, there are no economics involved.

I've put together three chapbooks on CreateSpace. Eleanor was edited by me, and I was one of the contributors; it was a tribute volume to Eleanor Berry, outgoing OPA president, and my mentor in all things OPA.

47 Haiku, I put up on Smashwords a while back.

salad days and knights is new. It's a collection of my word salad poems, written over the last few years. Most have appeared on this blog already.
They're all available through Amazon, thanks to CreateSpace's ISBN and distribution channels. Sales of Eleanor benefit OPA. Sales links will be in the sidebar as soon as I get around to it...
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Saturday, November 23, 2013

Feathers of Earth

Before birds evolved,
most dinosaurs, it seems, had feathers. Some
were striped russet, like pheasant hens,
some had frills like peacock tails and some,
perhaps, neon-hued like parrots.
Meanwhile overhead, soaring pterosaurs and pterodactyls
were featherless, not naked,
covered in fine hair. So consider—

feathers garbed the kings of earth, the powerful predators
while kings of air went robed in fur. A hair
would stand for flight, the wind,
speed, freedom. Feathers were heavy
and dangerous, roaring from ambush
among the giant ferns, striding bloody-jawed
across savannahs. Fear went cloaked in feathers.
Hope was the thing with hair.

Hummingbirds hover at backyard feeders,
size of my thumb, spun-sugar bones
no thicker than threads. My cat watches, tail-tip atwitch.
Hair and feathers, still at war
but somehow, now, it’s upside-down.

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Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Night Flight to the Moon

I woke up in the middle of the night
I woke up in the middle of the sky
I woke up in the middle seat of the row
I didn't know where we were
or where we were going.
I saw the moon out the window.
"Are we almost there?"
"No, hon. Go back to sleep
and when you wake up
we'll be almost there."
I looked at the moon again.
When I wake up,
we'll be almost there.

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Why my Hajj was Not Successful

I never made it to Mecca. I was stopped for inspection
at the border, under suspicion of smuggling Converse All-Stars into the country
I was driving a zamboni
which had seemed a good theory at the time. Just like when I tried
to windsurf Tibet,
hang-glide to Antarctica,
and water-ski to the moon.

I've been thinking too much about the destination,
not enough about the journey, and most of all,
not enough about the reason.

--word salad

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