Friday, February 17, 2017

Report and Forecast

Good news after bad. The snow all melted.
The immigration ban is dying in court. The legal case looks strong.
The dam did not collapse.

Good news, but what next?
Dead trees stand in a flooded pasture.
Yesterday was Day Without Immigrants. The hallways of my city’s schools
rang empty. A voiceless protest.
Today the coast was sunny and windless
but storms are forecast. Fishermen tie up their boats
and double-check the knots.
The ridges of the Coast Range look like knuckles against the sky
knuckles on a fist raised
in silent protest.

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Thursday, February 16, 2017

How We Got Here

Some of us walked. Some were born here.
Some came by ship and plane.
Some were escaping famine. Some were following a dream.
Some swam across a river.
Some traveled first-class. Some were the cargo.
Some crawled out of the underworld through a hole in the earth.
Some came to join families already here. Some were alone in the world.
Some were adults. Some were children. Some hadn’t been born yet.
Some are still waiting their turn.

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Sunday, January 29, 2017

Stand By Me

When the night has come
And the times are dark
And hate claims the land of the free
No, I won’t be afraid
Oh, I won’t be afraid
Just as long as you stand, stand by me

If our hopes for the future
Seem withered and frail
And justice becomes a refugee
I won’t cry, I won’t cry
No, I won’t shed a tear
Just as long as you stand, stand by me

So friends and neighbors
Stand by me, won't you stand by me
Oh stand, stand by me
Stand by me

Portland International Airport, January 29th 2017

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Friday, December 30, 2016

Richard Adams, R.I.P.

Richard Adams
1920 - 2016

Richard Adams passed away Christmas Eve. He will be remembered mostly for Watership Down, which was probably read by more people than all his other books put together. (Not to mention those who saw the film.) But I'll remember him more for his other, lesser-known writings.

"You will come to regions more desolate and wretched than you ever dreamed could exist, places of sorrow created entirely by that mean superstition which you yourself have put about for so long. But still you will have to go on." --Shardik

A lost dog seeks a vanished man. --Plague Dogs

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All the giants of my youth have fallen,
left the horizon bare.
I found no shelter from last night’s storm.
This morning, fog threw its tattered banners
against the blue-gold sky, unconquered.
New giants strode forth in shawls of mist.
I could not see their faces.

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Saturday, December 10, 2016

After the Ice Storm

rain drifts across town
melting ice falls from branches
short day fades to dusk

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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.


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Monday, November 14, 2016


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


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.

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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