Tuesday, February 23, 2021

Epistle to Perseverance

Perseverance, lonely ether-walker,
Deimos-dodger, all good wishes go
with you for landing safely. You’re a talker—
that’s your job, as everybody knows:
Phobos-postcards sent by radio,
starsong notes and double-moonbeam chatter.
Touchdown is the only word that matters
(one that I’d expect to hear in bars
with football on TV). Dear Earth-daughter,
sing to me the sound of wind on Mars.

Books Available
The Day of My First Driving Lesson
Country Well-Known as an Old Nightmare's Stable
High-Voltage Lines
Knocking from Inside

Monday, February 22, 2021

Perseverance

Stardust comes from wind
brushing stars on a clear night
making them twinkle and dance.

Oh, I have heard wind
not so high as stars perhaps—
today, on the plains of Mars.

Books Available
The Day of My First Driving Lesson
Country Well-Known as an Old Nightmare's Stable
High-Voltage Lines
Knocking from Inside

Thursday, February 18, 2021

A City Between Water and Stone

A city between a lake and a marble quarry
A city between water and stone
The gates of the city face east
by law or custom, no-one knows.

All the doors of the houses face east
All the doors of the buildings face east
Barges of polished stone ply the lake
and bring wealth to the east-facing city.

On the lake, the bargee’s homes face the water.
The huts of the quarry workers face stone.
The lake reflects both sunrise and sunset
and the quarry’s tunnels are always dark.

Books Available
The Day of My First Driving Lesson
Country Well-Known as an Old Nightmare's Stable
High-Voltage Lines
Knocking from Inside

Friday, February 12, 2021

Penguin Dream

This morning between the fuzzy edge of night
and the sharp line of the alarm

there was space to dream I was a penguin.
It was the sight of snow that did it

yesterday evening, blanking streets
and sidewalks to untrodden white.

Ice-laden wind murmured in my sleep
and sleet pellets scarred my windows with tears.

In the brightening 6 AM shadows
I dreamed webbed footprints on the snow

first a single dotted trail, then criss-cross paths
then a wide circle packed down hard.

As if a whole mob of birds had gathered
creating an arena with the work of their own feet,

bowing and nodding, showing off the elegance
of our curving necks, sleek black backs.

Shimmering aurora and LED clock-face
in the polar half-light of my bedroom

lit our dance, hand in hand in a whirling crowd
on the edge of a night-black ocean.

Now I look at my hands, surprised not to see
black feathers; surprised not to feel
another’s touch.

Books Available
The Day of My First Driving Lesson
Country Well-Known as an Old Nightmare's Stable
High-Voltage Lines
Knocking from Inside

Tuesday, February 09, 2021

The Burn of Black Stone

Start with the burn of black stone
too hot to touch, steaming at a breath of rain.
In each crack, crystals of sulfur have grown
like crusts at your eyelids in times of pain.
Time passes. Stone cools from the burn.
Lichens eat stone to make way for ferns.

Too hot to touch, steaming at a breath of rain
brittle shapes break and fracture as they cool,
iridescent surfaces over hidden strain.
Visible scars are not always the most cruel
and hardening lava can lock damage in deep.
Molten memory erupts from unquiet sleep.

In each crack, crystals of sulfur have grown.
Mineral accretions that mimic floral life
get little recognition for the beauty that’s their own,
resilient landscapes for surviving strife.
We value the unharmed, the pristine, the new,
reject the river for the new-fallen dew.

Crusts at your eyelids in times of pain
betray the tears that have been shed unseen
betray the wounds that left no bloodstains.
Landscapes that display no trace of living green
echo the sound of the soundless cries
mirror the arid encrusted eyes.

Time passes. Stone cools from the burn.
We grow reconciled to the new form of land,
choose to claim honor for the scars we’ve earned.
What craftsman would boast of an uncalloused hand?
Why is a soul unworn and innocent
held of more worth than the broken and mended?

Lichens eat stone to make way for ferns.
Ferns and moss gather airborne dirt.
Trees take root among lessons we’ve learned
and spread welcome shade over new earth.
Lush green flesh spreads over bones
and it all starts with the burn of black stone.

Books Available
The Day of My First Driving Lesson
Country Well-Known as an Old Nightmare's Stable
High-Voltage Lines
Knocking from Inside

Friday, February 05, 2021

Laughter Can Save Lives

The elevator opens and I say
“thank you so much for bringing it up for me”
and she walks away laughing
as I ride down to the bottom floor.
But that was before, when we had
a building over our heads.

What if I gave all my laughs away to others?

I post Far Side cartoons about vaccination
in the department’s chat channel,

parody lyrics to songs everyone knows. 90% of my friends will not repost—
a picture of a fence.
There is no snow day, only Zoom
Laughter is the best gift I have for my friends.
Laughter can save lives.

What if I gave all my laughs away to others?

What if I had none left for myself?
Laughter doesn’t come back as an echo
and the only reflection is in someone else’s face
(emojis don’t count).
                                They say to be a black magician
the first thing you give up is laughter.
Laughter can save your soul.

What if I gave all my laughs away to others?

Books Available
The Day of My First Driving Lesson
Country Well-Known as an Old Nightmare's Stable
High-Voltage Lines
Knocking from Inside

A Day in the Life

Woke up, fell out of bed
Dragged a comb across my head
Found my way downstairs and drank a cup
And looking up I noticed I was late
Found my mug, grabbed my mouse
Didn't have to leave the house
Found my way into the local cyberspace
Somebody’s face was staring from my screen
Ah…

I read the news today, oh boy
Four thousand people got the new vaccine
And though the shots were rather small
They had to count them all
Now they know how many shots it takes to fill the Schnitzer Hall
I’d love to
turn
off
Zoom
.
.
.


Seriously. This is what a day in my life is like now.

Books Available
The Day of My First Driving Lesson
Country Well-Known as an Old Nightmare's Stable
High-Voltage Lines
Knocking from Inside

Thursday, February 04, 2021

Wednesday, February 03, 2021

The Wreck of the Five Oh One

On December 18th, 2017, Amtrak 501 derailed outside Du Pont. Three people were killed.

Less than two years later, I rode that same stretch of track coming home from Vancouver BC. The cause of the accident was well understood, precautions had been taken, hundreds of trains had passed that point safely carrying thousands of passengers.

I was still afraid.

********************

The Wreck of the Five Oh One

Pulling out of Olympia in a dream,
southbound alongside the Sound
tidal flats and rain beside the train.
Cruising downhill toward Du Pont
on that new high-speed rail
faster than I remember, bats out of hell
banshee whistle says we’re coming in
tracks spit sparks under screaming wheels
I feel the skid. I feel the shake.

Commuters tumbled out of cars to help,
pulled screaming people from the wreckage.
A ton of metal creaked and swayed, the sword of Damocles
the wrath of God hanging from the Nisqually overpass.
She staggered away from the train
blinded by blood and dirt,
couldn’t find her phone.

For the rest of her life
she would search for words to say how it was:
like a Coke can being recycled with people inside
like blood-spattered laundry on a line over the interstate
like the jack in the box
like the jack in the knife


I shiver awake in my seat and find
I’m holding the hand of a stranger.
“I know,” he says,
“I know.”

Books Available
The Day of My First Driving Lesson
Country Well-Known as an Old Nightmare's Stable
High-Voltage Lines
Knocking from Inside

Tuesday, February 02, 2021

The Cry of Coral

Have you ever heard the cry of coral?
It is the tiniest of sounds
Hardly audible amid the ocean’s boil
And waves hissing on the sand
Shifting stones into a shining pile.

A blink of light from mother-of-pearl
Or from an opal on your lover’s hand
Is louder than the staghorn’s wail
Drowns out the weeping of the sea-fan
As one whisper in an Atlantic gale.

On the palm-fringed shore of some isle
Castaways walk their endless rounds
Wondering why the reefs look so pale.
Sailors may yet become unstranded
Coral cannot escape when oceans boil.

Have you ever heard the cry of coral?
Extinction’s whisper at the edge of land?
Have you seen what the beachmongers have for sale?
Washed-up fragments, dead-white, sterile
Fit jewels for a skeleton crown.

Books Available
The Day of My First Driving Lesson
Country Well-Known as an Old Nightmare's Stable
High-Voltage Lines
Knocking from Inside

Friday, January 29, 2021

Nail Clippers

you’re called, as if that’s all
you’re good for. As if no-one ever used you
to trim loose threads from a fraying hem
or as an improvised fishing weight.

When my hands grew big enough to use you—
to work you like a pump handle, snap
I learned leverage in the flight of fragments
of snipped keratin. I never bit my nails.

I thought you looked like a locomotive,
sleek steel in futuristic lines. I deckled paper,
clipping edges into scalloped shapes
of different depths.

The little file jacknifes out, handy for shaping
just so, the soft points of crayons
or sharpening colored pencils.

You’re a big one, sized for toenails.
I found you in a bathroom drawer
in my parent’s house, vacated by death.

You stared up from a clump of smaller clippers
like a mother ‘gator among her young—

just like that, how you clapped your jaws.

Books Available
The Day of My First Driving Lesson
Country Well-Known as an Old Nightmare's Stable
High-Voltage Lines
Knocking from Inside

Thursday, January 28, 2021

Apricity and Other Archaic Words

"Writing is verbal painting."
—Elizabeth Bowen

But what could we paint with snowbroth (newly melted snow)?
The white between a tabby’s orange stripes, as he lounges
in the windowsill’s apricity (warmth of sun in winter)?

A city in winter is often malagrugrous (dismal). This is the season
of appetency (longing, desire). For the freedom of outdoors.
For hugs from loves not frore (frozen) in Zoom-squares.

Confinement is colored widdendream (a state of mental disturbance),
brabble (to quarrel about trifles), jargogle (to confuse, jumble).
Is it any wonder we’re yemeles (negligent)?

I corrade (scrape together from various sources) all the reasons I can find
to kench (laugh loudly). I fill my home office with fandangles
(useless ornaments). The days jirble (pour carelessly) away.

Grimalkin (cat), leave for my hand
the window’s warmth trapped in a tuft
of apricot fur. I need apricity.

Books Available
The Day of My First Driving Lesson
Country Well-Known as an Old Nightmare's Stable
High-Voltage Lines
Knocking from Inside

Monday, January 18, 2021

Count Now the Cost

We come at year’s dawn        to the Desolation of Dying
horror fleeing        with hope held fast.
Ten long months we’ve        labored alone
illness avoided        in isolation.

Count now the cost        of careful survival
forgoing touch        that tender transaction.
Count now the cost        of life with no contact
pinned in place        paranoia’s prey.

We struggle along        our stricken streets
hurry to find        a helping hand.
Ghosts stare grimly.        Gathered at corners,
wet leaves, rotted wood        and windblown papers.

Count now the cost        community losses
places and people        we counted precious.
Count now the cost        COVID casualties
gathered on corners        the grim ghosts.

Books Available
The Day of My First Driving Lesson
Country Well-Known as an Old Nightmare's Stable
High-Voltage Lines
Knocking from Inside

They were come to the Desolation of the Dragon, and they were come at the waning of the year

We are come to the Desolation of the Dying, and we are come at the rising of the year.

Books Available
The Day of My First Driving Lesson
Country Well-Known as an Old Nightmare's Stable
High-Voltage Lines
Knocking from Inside

Sunday, January 17, 2021

solastalgia

i’ve seen no ice this winter
no frost-breath in the storm
no glass-puddles in the gutter
for it’s been far too warm

we choked in smoke all summer
now dead leaves fill the yard
it’s fifty-degree December
and it’s hard, oh lord it’s hard

when drought lies on the highlands
and hurricanes lash the coast
this planet, fragile island
turned on and left to roast

it’s not what you imagine
it’s not some feeble moan
they call it solastalgia
they call it the loss of home

Solastalgia

Books Available
The Day of My First Driving Lesson
Country Well-Known as an Old Nightmare's Stable
High-Voltage Lines
Knocking from Inside