Poem for Earth Day : NaPoWriMo #23

Every day is an Earth Day

time is a construct, and we measure our lives
by these movements of shadows,
the passing hours we tick off
in correspondence with the sun

even if we left the bounds
of this gravity, found our feet
kicking up undiscovered dirt
on some virgin expanse of unspoiled land

in a new solar system
in some new orbit of multi-colored stars
we would measure our days
the only way we know how

by how we lived where we first learned
of our eyes and synchronized the watches
the clocks the chock marks
meant to find the apex of fire in the sky

this whole existence is geosynchronous
from birthdays to every historical page
gathering dust in some vacant library
we’ll always be tethered to this world

even after we’ve destroyed it
and gone searching for the next one

PNW poem : NaPoWriMo #15

Northwestern state of mind

In the Pacific Northwest they say “these ones,”
what about “these ones,”
how do you like “these ones?”

They walk in the rain
just like walking in the sun,
no umbrella, just jackets that shimmer.

There’s a way about the people,
a gentle affectation in the eyes
as they listen to each other speak.

There’s a kindness in their disregard
for the homeless camped
on their sidewalks.

Roof is pronounced as “ruff,”
and you’ll hear many an utterance
of “oh jeez” in casual conversation.

But when you’re out here,
there’s never a doubt
you’re living your best life,

watching the clouds envelope the hills
like cobwebs caught in trees and eaves,
the foggy dreaminess of the drizzle,

sometimes a sundog casts
its iridescent glow amid the billows
of light-formed statues,

and it’s like a lantern lit
from the inside, a reminder
of the star on the other side

of this daydream.
The rain is rarely more than intermittent,
and soon, soon the sky will reveal itself.

NaPoWriMo Poem #11

On hanging a bird feeder

If I am a stranger to myself
maybe I’ve always been,
wondering at the man I’ve become,
buying a better drill to drive
these screws into the deck post
when twelve volts couldn’t do the job,
securing this wrought iron hook
to hang this lantern-like object
with its windows only reflecting light
I can no longer discover inside.

And then the disappointment begins
when nothing seems to happen,
days of waiting like a child
for a Christmas morning with no snow
and a living room floor absent
of the gift Santa promised to bring,
sitting in a cloth-backed chair
sipping beers at sunset,
the wind gently flapping
the sun-filtered shade of an awning
while blue-gray clouds ease their way
eastward beyond the trees that lean
into a sky past the fence line.

This is pointless, I think, listening
to that ambient susurrus
of neighborhood noise like ocean currents,
what winged thing would ever want
to visit me in my apathy?
And, of course, nothing answers,
as it always does the thoughts
of an aging mind.

But, life still holds an element of surprise,
life still happens without announcement
of itself, when without applause
a red-breasted finch alights
along that lantern’s metal-railed base,
cocks its head to and fro
as if in ambivalent acknowledgment,
picks up a seed in its black and white beak
and flutters out of sight,
back into the canopy of camouflage trees,
and there’s this moment
this inexplicable pause in the minutiae
of heartbeats flooding my veins,
where happiness finds its wings.

Snapshots #2 : NaPoWriMo #8

Snapshots #2

When you put the horizon
inside a picture frame
it ceases to be the horizon,
becomes a fragmented view
of an experience immersed
in light and wind and sound,
the soft ground beneath you
accepting your footsteps
like the flesh of some mammoth
to which you remain unknown,
and it’s a moment you can’t relive,
even when wrapped in the ghostly serape
of your memory.

Snow clings to these needled limbs
just before sunrise
like white sheets draped
over sleeping children,
peaceful and undisturbed
the air seems pregnant
with chilled anticipation,
a quiet just before laughter
and the trickling calm
of warmth entering the world.

Nature unfolds its palm
to the unfettered sky,
always a captive audience
for this most audacious
of magic tricks.
A perpetual rabbit out of hat,
this cycle of awakening
unto drowsing, a coin drawn
from behind the ear
and tossed up into fragrant air
where it disappears
as if never there.
This is the illusion
of breath, of being.

Blackbird perched on a concrete block
doesn’t even know I exist,
doesn’t know the stresses
of bills past due, or love like a ship
taking on water. He just flies
from one parking lot to the next,
from one danger to another
found right in his nest,
and still, the hatchlings must learn
how to flap their wings
before they hit the ground.

Full moon shining
in through the skylight,
pinning four golden squares
to the opposite wall,
the rest of the room outlined
with a glinted edge of blue glow.
The clock ticks, counting down
the orchestra of dreams,
the metronome of my wife’s breath
lulling me there like ocean waves
smoothing the troubled beaches
of another stress filled day,
washing those angry footsteps

A toddler with a trach tube
still shrieks in glee
at the prospect of new shoes.

I am the king of crickets,
their songs are sung
in praise of me,
a dusk serenade
for my body
incapable of anything
but noise.

Snapshots : NaPoWriMo 7


Something so sad about a rainbow
formed in a parking lot,
and yet, something so vibrantly true,
no wonder the seagulls get lost here
and bicker over the French fries
thrown out of car windows.

In Portland they’ll put a pentagram on your pizza pie,
fill your head with black metal noise,
Pepperoni like the Ace of Spades,
get lost in a book store among the aisles of the new and used
girls with purple hair and nose rings.

Some mountains don’t need to be climbed,
they just stand defiantly in the distance
and ask for your silence.

The red light of sunrise
shines through the gap in the shade
opening a crack of fire in the world,
like an escape route choked with dust motes
in the rubble of a collapsed cave
that only a hand can fit through.

Every tap of these typewriter keys
a transmission, across sonic highways,
tethering my heart to this
ambivalent, terror-filled world.
And yes, sometimes I text myself,
just to see if I answer.

I am not a robot, I say to the robot,
before entering I check the box,
I see the yellow taxi cabs,
the bridges, the bodies of water
that prove my humanity
like they say a pulse
proves you’re alive.

Life is a transmission on radio waves
and a mind is like an antique stereo
that sizzles with static until the right frequency
is found, dialed in, and reality pours in
through the speakers of our senses,
washing us in the sound of experience.

Between work and sleep
and two hours commuting
there’s just the waiting to feel alive again,
all this time not my own
these days circling tile in an empty warehouse
like a shark that eats air or boredom,
sustenance a drained whiskey bottle.

The wilderness calls me brother,
the wild calls me son,
a river like my aorta filled with wonder
and my lust like a bear
with a salmon caught in its teeth.
I’m home here among the trees
and ambience of soft light
as if it is my own body
which glows.

Always time for hating yourself

Lunar phase

so the moon is a sliver
against the turquoise and mango-tinged dusk
mountain ranges gone purple and gold
where the light hits the snow,
the black orb of the illusion,
what’s hidden in shadow can still be seen
just before the sky goes black.

in twilight, I find the darkness
before the darkness can find me,
and pry its skeletal fingers
into my skin like knives
digging around for buckshot
or bullets shaped like my mother’s face.

I want to sing the stars a love song
about the rapture of yoga pants
and summer clothes
but in this age I’d be called sexist
or worse, for daring to admire
women without their consent,
for objectifying shapely buttocks
held in spandex or stretched cotton,
for peeling the thin veil of apple flesh
from the core of my wicked thoughts.

I am an animal surrounded by animals
tying themselves to fenceposts
and then struggling against the ropes
to gnash and spit
inches from each others faces.

just say what you have to say
before time robs your words of their power
and leaves you fingering another dead flower
left in its vase for too long,
the water in the bell end
turned a fetid brown, rancid with decay,
there’s always someone picking fresh bouquets
just as there’s always time
for feeling sorry for yourself.

Among nature again

The truth of a waiting world

Is that another snow-capped peak
rising in the distance
or just cumulus clouds stacked beyond reason,
impossible to discern the difference
looking through a hillside of evergreens.

Even here the hum of highway
persists among the solace of tree and stone,
plots of grass sit occupied by random strangers
and their dogs, intermittent laughter,
the chatter of conversation fragments,
the haggard breaths of joggers
travel like the echoes of bird song,
the cries of the red tail hawk,
the chirps of a chubby squirrel
foraging amid the leaves,
it’s peace, it’s warm sun
on the back of my neck,
interlocking puzzle pieces
of this moment in time,
each passerby a story
independent of my own.

The flowering trees are in full bloom,
bright plumes of pink, white, cornflower blue
popping like fireworks
over the tops of the houses
along the road’s edge,
explosions of color frozen in full spark,
jutting against the sky
like alien manifestations of joy.

I’ve climbed the hills of this dormant volcano
still budding with life, I’ve stared
across the reflections of its reservoirs
and looked out over the descending valleys
where human achievement diminishes
itself from a cityscape to an ant farm,
and I have felt anxiety slip away,
the only threat here the promise
that the universe will keep its secrets hidden,
that every beautiful and dangerous thing
will reach the same unknowable end
and then be unable to reveal its truth
back to the waiting world.

Poem on the day of Stephen Hawking’s death

An ordinary day

Slept until noon because the sun has never been enough
to get me out of my own head, to get me out of bed,
to get me past feeling the opposite of weightless,
and after two cups of coffee, I’m skipping the shower.

It’s overcast and raining just enough to make noise
like an old television left on past midnight
and then it’s opting not to starve to death
and walking the dog once the static fizzles out.

The streets still wet, potholes filled with gray water
or brown water along the unpaved edges,
we could see our breath but breathing felt ordinary
and so, not worth acknowledging more

than birds chattering somewhere overhead, unseen.
I lose myself in tasks I put off longer than I should,
I load the dishwasher, drill holes and hang shelves
twice because I measured wrong, like most things

I am careless when I’m confident. The dog barks
at the vacuum, at the neighbor’s goat, at me
until I feed him and there’s a cat on my chest.
Two beers, a glass of whiskey and I’m buzzy

playing my guitar until my fingers are sore
because I rarely play guitar any more,
so on goes the television for some company
and off go the shoes, into slipshod piles by the door,

Stephen Hawking died today
and I heard about it via text,
a momentary pause among these flourishes
of ordinary perception, refracting around grief

or its absence.

Natural progression

Building a life

Do memories make a life?
Memories do make a life,
on a deathbed, looking back,
the mind becomes a scrapbook
with pages missing.

I always wanted to live
among the mountains
where the shadows of clouds
crawl like sneaking cats
across the cliff faces and the valleys.
I always wanted a life
of veritable joy upon waking
beside the warm body of a lover
and a puppy’s blinking awareness
from the foot of the bed.

You can call me selfish,
call me monstrous
for daring to carve a hollow
space for this wanting,
but every man is guilty
of some deforestation
to make space for a home.

The night sky plays no favorites
with where it drops its dew
or whose view of the moon
gets obscured by creeping cauls,
we must make due
with surviving the magnanimous tide
that gives and takes our breath,
and this gravity that allows our steps
without crushing our fragile frames.
These steps were always balanced
on a high wire between here
and not here.

Keeping Pain Fresh

From new to nowhere

I pass three waterfalls on my daily commute,
their foamy-fingered descent, contrasted against dark brown stone,
is a newborn countdown calendar of days, until beauty fades
into the ordinary, simple, and plain background noise
of just another forty minutes alone between destinations.

Nothing new stays new past the moment it’s first perceived,
the senses overwhelmed begin to adjust
like eyes squinting against morning’s fractal light
and shaking free of the dust of dreams to find
one’s self at home in the same room as yesterday and many days before.

Even mountains, even rivers, even jagged coastline cliffs
juxtaposed with seascape clouds of purple and white and gold,
become just more paintings to be ignored on walls
in waiting rooms of mere mundane diagnoses
to be slept away like common colds or boredom.

O, to feel each crested hilltop as fresh as a blister burned
on a child’s careless palm, to rediscover awe
in its truest form, the first pain, the first joy,
the first taste of sweet sugar, candy apple green
pressed against the virgin tongue.

To never be numb, to never view death as inevitable,
these bodies just trapdoors for sighs,
piles of kindling waiting for sparks,
to never see names of children in a breaking newsfeed
and place them like shells along the spiral path to nowhere.