Friday, March 10, 2017

Waiting to See if the New Ban is Overturned

leaf shadows quiver
uncertain on the window
expect storm or sun

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Tuesday, March 07, 2017


Sanctuary. Sanctuary. All that lives needs sanctuary.
--William Stafford, Citizen Here on Earth

Breathe it. Where you feel safe.
Georgia outlawed sanctuary cities in 2009.
California, Connecticut, New Mexico, Colorado are sanctuary states.
Portland, Oregon and Portland, Maine are sanctuary cities.
So are Beaverton and Clatsop. So is South Tucson
but not the rest of Tucson, Phoenix, or Scottsdale.

Seattle, Puyallup, Kent,
Boston, Amherst, Cambridge:
safe. Breathe free. Chicago. New York City
where the lady lifts her lamp above the harbor.
North Dakota: State Penitentiary and South West Multiple County Corrections Center
are sanctuaries.

Dallas but not Houston. Montpelier, Winooski.
Sanctuary landscape changes fast. Watch the news.
Small towns make tough calls: federal dollars
can mean loss of elder care, Meals on Wheels,
road and sewer work. Hard choices for public servants.
We can't guarantee protection.
We can't protect ourselves
from the blackmailers and bullies
we've put in charge.

Breathe where you feel safe. It's hard.
Some days anxiety clutches your throat
pounds your heart against the inside of your chest
darkens the bright sky that arches over
your new home, your old home,
my home, this place we share.
Sky that wraps around this entire earth.
Maybe I can't protect you.
I will hold your hand.

List of sanctuary states, counties and cities, circa January 2017

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Friday, March 03, 2017

You Bring Out The...

The exercise: Write a poem titled "You Bring Out The _______ In Me" where the blank should be filled with something no one would ever actually use to describe you. (Or so you hope.)

Previous take was here

You Bring Out The Lynch Mob In Me

You bring out the midnight knock, the knotted noose in me
The sheet with holes, the burning cross, the blown-up black church in me
You bring out things I never knew in me, the jackboots, submachine guns, barbed wire in me
You bring out the knife and the gasoline-filled tire in me
The chokehold, gun to the back of the head, jail-cell "suicide" with mysterious camera malfunction in me

You bring out the fear in me and promise a wall to keep me safe
You bring out the howling hatred in me and promise a war to make me strong
With you I burn mosques, bomb synagogues, desecrate burial grounds
You bring out the spite in me and bloat it on a diet of alternative facts
Be careful, Mr. President: the things you bring out in me cannot be put down so easily
and, unlike dogs, will turn and bite the hands that feed.

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Wednesday, March 01, 2017


She promised you you would see her again.

So you imagine her with a thousand faces
waiting for you beyond the clouds,
beneath the sea, deep under the earth.

You know the straight path can only go awry. You write
in glancing arabesques, hoping
to reveal her shape, as curling waves by Hokusai
reveal space.

You never look-- or is it hidden from you--
what we, helpless adoring, see plain as day.

The horned shadow at your feet.

Your frame
--a fearful symmetry.

For Peter Beagle

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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. IƤ!

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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