I Bent My Ear

slugThey were calling for attention
as I walked past—

the ladybugs and horsetails
the mugwort and the trillium
bellowing the rainbow through the redwoods

and baby ferns
curled like seahorses of the forest
confided in me

I suppose I could have kept up my pace
stepping past them,
never learning what song they were singing

or what the slug was saying
in its bright hum of the earth
from his banana mouth
and sure-footed saunter

But as they were calling
so charmingly and gently
I slowed down
and bent my ear
I had to give them what they asked for

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When North Proposed

lupineWhen North first proposed,
West was taken aback

Questions filled her up like
a new creek after the big rain

Was this a storm in the night
a mysterious blessing
or just my imagination?

Both thrill and worry were ants
climbing up and down
her love-drift spine.

Will I lose myself?

On the one hand,
they had a lot in common—
they both were committed
and deeply rooted
and had a lot of mutual friends

On the other, they were very different seasons—
North was a Winter Man,
used to getting people through a tough time
and could be no-nonsense sorta guy
and she, well, she was an Autumn girl
collector of colors and nuts
and crimson leaves and twigs in her hair
was her idea of a fun afternoon

and all he ever wanted to do
was drop them to the ground

And yes, North is handsome and wise,
and the needle always points his way
but…

…all the what ifs
kept buzzing through her night-time bones

Would we be like two blue dragonflies
flirting together above the water
or co-dependent like mistletoes
strangling each other’s tree?

I speak freely now,
but without North’s deep connections,
who will hear me?

I can do what I want now,
but how can I find the summer of true love
by nightly descending into the bedchambers
of the Western sun?

And what house could be large enough to hold us both?
I need a big sky and a basement to match.
My habits are sacred!
I need the moon and shadows!

And then suddenly, with a gentle eastern breeze
Spring arrived all lit and innocent
offering her beautiful mansion.

Come live in me, she said,
and when my brother summer arrives from the South,
we can travel to the mountains together
and frolic in a meadow full of silver lupine.

And then a stirring in the body of the West
and a leaping in her hot blood

before she knew it, her left foot was jumping
and then her right—

Yes, North! Yes, I accept!

And when persimmon dawn blinked her eye open,
West took North’s hand in hers
and as Spring wrapped her arms around them both
the red finches perched on their shoulders
whistling their bright and purple nuptial songs

Believe the Sky

IMG_8709Believe the sky
that speaks to you
long lost field of vision

Believe the whispering
red petals in the mud

The hand which holds the lover’s—
believe that
but not the grip
that pulls you under

The others will be calling
the voices that take you
from your belonging—
don’t believe them

they have nothing to do with your task

They are bloated fleas
lost and wasting away
on the poor old dog of your smaller self
and won’t survive another moon

Believe the skin of the sky
for the drum you’ll beat
in rhythmic desire

Trust the guts within
and their splendid heat
that pull you towards the greater fire

Believe the sky that speaks to you

The way you hear it
is like no other

 

 

Soar Your Southern Bird at Dawn

soaring birds at dawn“Descend the western gorge at night
and soar your southern bird at dawn
pitch your poem in northern sky
before the blessed day is gone.” – Umbrano

According to scholars, this enigmatic epitaph was thought to have been written by the forest monk variously called Umbrano or Umbra Minor, in the hills surrounding Rome in the 3rd century B.C.E.  Dated to the spring of either 286 or 287 B.C.E., during what is considered his annus mirabilis (wondrous year), it is one of 999 poems he purportedly composed in Aduana, one of several pre-Latin languages.

Local uncivilized people considered him to be a rainbow wizard or mud magi of sorts, and bestowed the name Magi Arcus Iris upon him (Ijana Oma in Aduana). This epitaph was engraved on his tombstone.

(NOTE: None of this is factually true. All of it is mythically true)

Exploring the First Nearby Faraway

Greenville FarmI’m writing a book called The Nearby Faraway: My Year Living in the Threshold and recently the seed of this poem came to me while I was facilitating a Wild Nature Heart activity about childhood memories in nature. One of the memories that lives in my body is exploring the groves that were at both my grandparents’ farms in Iowa. There’s something about how we relate freely and physically and innocently with the world when we are young–and how that lives inside us still. What are some of your first nature memories? The google map image is of one of the farms as it exists today.
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Grandfather said, “Look out
for rattlesnakes and rusted nails”

but we went in anyway
embarking on a bold adventure

without provisions of any kind
or shoes even

for what do they have to do
with an explorer’s heart?

not in defiance, mind you
but only because we couldn’t bare

not to let our bare feet
have an original conversation

with the soft duff of the pine grove
watching us…waiting for us…

we went in anyway, and later,
when we’d mapped all the new territories

when we’d squeezed a lifetime
from the rind of dawn to dusk

when the slant of the sun warns
of the docking of the day

when the reds and the browns
and the greens of the world

had covered us from shin
to shiny face

and the exhaustion of our vast
explorer bodies starts to buzz

we anointed ourselves in the cold creek
flowing through the inexhaustible wilderness

watching us…waiting for us…

where we were the First Builders
Masters of tree forts, architects of forest villages

The Original Hunters
chasing raccoons and ravens

Primordial shamans burying owl feathers and dog bones
to ward off those cursed rattlesnakes

that were just around the next tree
watching us….waiting for us…

We were the First Explorers
lost for days within a single day

adrift on an evergreen raft
fueled by wild nature hearts

because we went in anyway
charting endless bright lands

on a small Iowa farm—
the first nearby faraway

watching us…waiting for us…

In Paths Untrodden

IMG_8977This is a slight re-write of Walt Whitman’s poem In Paths Untrodden, in the Calamus section of Leaves of Grass. My take was inspired by a recent week I spent along the American River and a couple of those days I spent loafing nude reading Whitman on an island in the river. I have had an interesting relationship with Whitman. At times I wanted to kick him in the shins. Now that I know him better, I deeply appreciate his work and what he was trying to do.

I could say a lot about him, but here I’ll merely emphasize three takeaways: 1)Whitman was what I call the the Great Affirmer, 2)He is much more of a nature poet than his reputation might have you think, and 3)More than any poet perhaps, he gives permission to be creatively audacious, to spawn your own genre, to live your own myth.

The Calamus section is taken frequently as Whitman’s clearest expressed poetic sentiment of homosexual love; for me it becomes a template for eco-sexual love, or unbounded reciprocal love between nature and myself.
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In paths untrodden
in the growth by margins
of a river song

Escaped from a life that belonged
to someone resembling me
but was not me

From all the published paths
and pleasure and profit that pass for life
all erudition and conformities

Which for too long I offered
to feed my soul—

Clear to me now the paths not yet published
appear under my feet
as I walk profligate
where the willow grows

Clear to me that my soul,
and the soul of the man I speak for,
feeds and rejoices most
in all my relatives

Here, by myself, away from the clank of the world
tallying and talked to here by tongues athletic
and meadows aromatic

No longer abashed—
for in this secluded spot I can respond
as I would not dare elsewhere

Strong in me the raw life
that does not strike a pose
yet contains all the rest

Resolved to sing no songs today
but those of masculine affection
projecting them along that substantial life
across the pitch blue flow
bequeathing all amulet love

Afternoon, this delicious ninth-month
in my forty-third year
I proceed for all who are, or have been, young men
in their extravagant heart

To tell the secret of my night and days
from an island in a river
to celebrate the beauty
and need of all my relations