Thursday, March 01, 2018

Found on the beach at Gearhart

Cowries are not native to Oregon waters. But apparently they can float a long way.

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Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Maman in the Snow

She must top 30 feet; snow-covered head
inclines as if to peer at human prey
among her feet. In friendliness or dread,
the passers-by look up, then stroll away
believing their umbrellas keep them safe
from Maman’s fangs of bronze, her steel legs,
evoking equal parts menace and grace.
Don’t think her cherished sac of marble eggs
makes her a presence staid and matronly
safe to walk under, maybe even touch
at tapered ankle, bronzed and curving knee.
A friendly landmark… maybe not so much.
Maman’s not used to snow. Fresh-fallen flakes
at dawn reveal a midnight hunter’s tracks.

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Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Rachel the Teacher-Gunner

Rachel was a teacher who knew how to use a gun
With a concealed-carry permit and a lesson plan she’d done
She walked into her building one dark and stormy day
And she heard the gunshots echo from the concrete cold and gray.

Her students huddled silent in their classroom, under desks
They were making vid recordings, they were sending final texts
“Ms. Rachel went to stop him,” one child’s message read
“I hope to God she kills him, I hope that she’s not dead.”

Rachel, the teacher-gunner…

She stalked him through the hallways of the school she knew so well
With her finger on the trigger, listening for the bell
Kill or die were all the choices before her in that place
It was as she squeezed the trigger that she recognized his face.

Time, time, time
For another life to pass
Time stands still for Rachel
When she kills to save her class

They can still see her stand above the body of her son
In the muzzle-flash of Rachel’s carry-gun.

Murderer and victim are the parts that we can play
Hero isn’t on the menu they’re serving up today
In the hallways and the classrooms where the guards are on deploy
And Rachel’s ghost is carrying the gun that killed her boy.

Rachel, the killer teacher-gunner…
Rachel, the killer teacher-gunner…

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Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Officials confirm worldwide shortage of # sign approaching critical levels

The United Nations Etymology, Punctuation, and Transcription office (UNEPT) recently confirmed that stocks of # signs are dangerously depleted worldwide. Factors leading to the decline include the widespread use of hash tags as well as other uses such as defining temporary tables in most dialects of SQL.

“We have tended to treat punctuation as though it were an unlimited resource, even though we’ve known for some time that that’s not true,” said UNEPT director Prin Tersdevil. He pointed to other examples such as the decline in semi-colons. “People think that usage has just gone out of style, but the reality is that semi-colon populations have failed to keep pace with consumption,” he said, spelling out the name of the punctuation mark to avoid using the endangered mark itself.

Internet communities reacted angrily to the announcement. “Who are they kidding? I can hit any key on my keyboard as many times as I want” tweeted user @keystuck. @keystuck did not add a hashtag.

Tersdevil indicated that his agency was carefully watching populations of other punctuation marks, such as @, for signs of decline. “@ is a particularly critical mark for today’s economy,” he said.

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Thursday, December 28, 2017

Fire in a Snow-Globe

Inside a snow-globe an engine hums
like a hamster-wheel. Feed it,

it runs faster, pushes hard rattling air around
the globe, cracking ice like glass. Belts break,

flail loose, free ends spiral into monsters
we name: Katrina, Harvey, Maria.

Spun-off sparks kindle the Western States
while a polar front slashes ice and snow across Dixie
warmer, but more powerful

like that bear, still terrible in its dying
claws stretched to strike and kill.

We should have starved that machine.
We should have saved the bear.

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Monday, December 11, 2017

Untitled: 12/11/2017

We search for grace notes. Someone saved a rabbit.
Twenty-nine horses burned to death in a stable.
How many homeless in Ventura County? Who will count
their bones?

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Starvation Looks

like an old man in a filthy fur coat
shambling through emptiness

lead-heavy legs, skin sagging empty folds

collapse. Rest a while, then
one more effort—a trash can

maybe there’s a bit of food—

too decayed to swallow. Spittle
runs down his jaws

stumbling full of emptiness

black eyes stare


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Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Waiting for a Bus with Yunus Emre

All quotes from Yunus Emre, The Drop That Became the Sea, Kabir Helminski and Refik Algan transl.
Inspired by Billy Collins, "Shoveling Snow with Buddha"

The sun is up behind clouds. Damp leaves are stuck to the sidewalk.
Yunus says: Don’t dwell in images.
Each flower has a thousand ways it flirts with Truth.

The bus is late and my feet are cold, Yunus.
Who has time to be bored?
These sighs are love’s clothing.

I worry about the state of the world: what can one person do?
Even a weak falcon is a falcon still.
What blocked Solomon’s way was an ant.

Yunus, what’s the use of poetry anyway?
Let the deaf listen to the mute
a soul is needed to understand them both.

I never know if my poems are any good.
When you have brought the pearl to the surface
a jeweler is needed to know its worth.

I never know if my poems are true.
Some people get their share of revelations
and some people go deeper.

But what makes a really good poem?
We entered the house of realization. We witnessed
the body.

How do you want us to remember you, Yunus?
Let my poems be scattered.
May Yunus hop like a partridge.

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Saturday, November 18, 2017

School Safety

Your children will be safe. We have systems in place.
Every building is equipped with VOIP phones.
In the event of an emergency
building staff are trained to sound the alarm.
Choose from the following menu:

1. Fire. Evacuate immediately.
Assemble in your designated safe area away from the building.
Take attendance.

2. Earthquake. Take cover and hold on.
Once the shaking stops, leave the building.

3. Shelter in place. Toxic emergency outside the building
such as chemical spill, gas leak.
Close all doors and windows. Bring everyone inside.
Wait for all-clear.

4. Lockdown. Active shooter.
Lockdown. Lockdown. Proceed to your designated safe room.
Turn off lights and lock door. Remain silent.
Do not ask why he is in your building.
Do not ask how he got the gun. Now is not the time
for that conversation. Lockdown. Lockdown. Remain silent.
Your children will be safe.

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Saturday, October 28, 2017

Falling Off a Horse in a Pasture Overlooking Kailua Bay

Palomino Sitar canters down the slope,
rises at the sawhorses. Becky on his back
confident, secure, looks like she’s flying. I want to cheer.
Gentle Gunsmoke’s velvet lips
pluck a ripe mango from my palm, leave a smear
of slobber. I wipe it on my gray cords,
smell crushed fruit, horse sweat.

Well, I wish that I had Jesse’s girl…

We’re high on the shoulder of Hualalai. I don’t know
the road’s name, just the ride, the open back
of Lisa’s pickup: Becky, Cherie, Kendra, Joelle,
hair streaming in the warm breeze (mine’s braided tight).

Crimson and clover, over and over…

I grew up with this sky of tropic blue, with jacarandas’ violet haze over hills of rainforest green. But that was half a world away and the people were different. I was different. Here in Hawai’i I look like everyone else. I’m used to being an alien. I’m not used to being treated like a normal person by girls with horses and radios that play

Got a fever of a hundred and three…

McDonald’s in Kona smells like McDonald’s everywhere:
hot grease. Becky plays with the ketchup tube,
swats it with her palm, shoots ketchup
on my blue chambray shirt, already
smudged with dirt and horse dung from the fall.
Sitar tried to jump with me on board—
I wasn’t ready to fly, Sitar,
hit the ground hard enough to feel queasy
until I caught my breath.

Don’t stop believing…

I’m seventeen getting ready for college. In five years I want to be Rachel Carson.
I don’t ever want to be a crook, like President Nixon or Mayor Rizzo.
I’m not used to not being a freak.
Give me a minute. I’ll catch my breath.
I’ll get up and fly.

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One spring afternoon on the Portland Esplanade while the salmon are running

The man with the camera laughs,
tugs at his coppery beard—“That’s awesome,
I just stopped to watch the gulls—”

screaming, wheeling, a white cloud of excitement
diving to snatch scraps from the roiling Willamette
where a head, a doglike carnivore head
tosses a fish up, grabs it and shakes.

Home for him is some rocky islet maybe off Newport
except in summer when they head to the California coast
for sex, like humans might. In spring they follow salmon
up rivers, into towns, into downtown Portland

where I’m standing when he finishes his meal and takes off
upstream, south, leaving behind the gulls
and a few stray scales. I’m running, metal ramps clang
under my feet, from Steel to Burnside, Burnside to Morrison

trying to keep him in sight. He swims faster than I can run.
He dives and leaves me breathless, sweating. I picture him
hunting the cold green waters as far as Oregon City.
The river smells of fish guts.

Available! High-Voltage Lines, Knocking from Inside


is passive-aggressive and appearance-conscious. It drinks kiwi-flavored bubble tea. It wears Chanel because it’s expensive; pink has no sense of smell. Pink listens to Top 50 so it doesn’t have to make decisions about music. It likes early mornings because that makes it OK to be perky. Pink doesn’t like to be mistaken for rose, peach, or coral. It hates all the women in my family because none of us would buy its ribbons. Pink likes to present itself as a social activist but we all suspect that’s just marketing.

Pink’s favorite month is May for the flowers—especially the dogwoods—but it’s wary of green. Pink gets sentimental about Lake Superior because of all the sunken ships and drowned men. Its favorite book is the Betty Crocker cookbook for good little girls, but it never managed to cook anything but cupcakes. Pink likes the Star Wars movies for Princess General Leia Organa. Pink watches Golden Girls reruns and wants to grow up to be a sparkly unicorn. It’s bored with sunsets and sunrises, but when there’s that streak of violet in the sky just before twilight, pink can get nostalgic. Pink falls asleep and dreams of red, yellow, black. Pink is afraid of fire.

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Sunday, October 15, 2017

Aged Minotaur to Grandchild

When I die, take my horns, shave them smooth and thin.
Strip the sinews from my limbs for glue.

Ash is our best wood:

straight-grain piece

from fallen bough.

Cover with my hide

strong as you can draw.

Carve a thumb-ring from my thighbone.
My spirit will fly with each arrow from your string.

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Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Whatever Held Me

I see him only by absence,
a big chunk of sky with no stars, shifting slightly,
just yards away. No fence between us.
No light but the kerosene lantern in my shaking hand.
No sound but tearing grass. How can something so big
move silent as a shadow?

It’s probably the same big bull
who wandered through the camp yesterday. I was reading
on the cabin porch, willfully ignored his approach
courting—what? Risk? Thrill?
Mere naughtiness on my part? My parents’
anxious attention?

Or something else—something vast and grey
that drifted toward me with all the weightless grace
of a full spinnaker. Something truly wild,
not to be petted. Until he put his foot on the step—

where later I would show my parents
a print of crusted dirt—

raised an inquisitive trunk toward me. My nerve broke.
I retreated inside the cabin.

He wasn’t afraid. He’s not afraid now. Why would he be?
It’s not even as if I startled him: he sees the light
from my lantern, probably recognizes me by smell,
certainly can hear the pounding of my heart
where I stand just inside the outhouse. What to do.
How do I get back to the safety of the cabin.

Whatever held me on the porch whispers now
that I could walk out there, past him, in perfect safety.
That the flimsy walls of the outhouse are no protection
in any case. That he could pull the door off its hinges
and me from this meager shelter
for mere curiosity.

I don’t stir.

My father brings the car. The elephant moves off
unhurried. We’re all relieved

except the elephant, unconcerned and wondering about the fuss
except whatever held me on the porch…

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Monday, October 02, 2017

Route 91

With thanks to Bob Dylan

The crowd was there to party and feel all right
Dancing for hours in the hot desert night
The mics were hot on stage, the floor a mile wide
The biggest dance in Vegas, the neon was so bright
You couldn’t see the muzzle flash but you could hear the gun
It was all over but the screaming, there was nowhere to run
We saw it happen down on Route 91.

We saw all the pictures of the bodies and the blood
Red-and-blues screaming through the neighborhood
The preachers call for fire and the scientists for flood
Prayers came too late to do any damn good
You know some daddy’s daughter and some poor mother’s son
Knelt down in the cross-hairs and felt the kiss of a gun
Fifty-nine bodies laid out along Route 91.

No criminal record, no warning signs before
A dozen rifles found behind a locked hotel door
Broken windows that overlook the killing floor
The dancers never guessed that horror was in store
They looked up and thought they saw the rising sun
It was flashing from the muzzle of a murderer’s gun
It’s not the road to Mandalay, it’s just Route 91.

Country music lovers, country music bands
Country shocked to silence by thunder from the hand
Of somebody who yesterday was just a normal man
Flags that fly at half-mast all across the land
How many times d'you want this killing done
Before we learn our lesson and bury all our guns
Out on the highway they call Route 91?

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Sunday, October 01, 2017

The Kraken Wakes

Dedicated to the memory of John Wyndham
with thanks to Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Strange stars have plummeted to ocean deeps,
disturbed the Kraken’s lair, his ancient sleep
with shapes no human dares to dream. We keep

to shallows now; the ocean, last frontier
of human exploration, now appears
a nightmare country ruled by alien fear.

But see how out of ocean deeps they crawl,
ungainly forms and writhing limbs asprawl
with odor cacodaemoniacal!

And now the ice caps boil, the oceans rise
in roaring. No mere human enterprise
can stay his final fate: the Kraken dies.

Available! High-Voltage Lines, Knocking from Inside