How to Read a Poem About Spring

IMG_0414Stand up straight
and compose yourself

clear your throat
and begin making a list of all the things
that signal the coming of spring

things like first robins
longer days
and sprouting buds

you might even find a daffodil
or bee on your list
but don’t try to make them buzz

Certainly don’t make your poppies sing
or your creeks talk

it is not necessary to lift your voice
on the western wind
when you describe the baby otter
having breakfast in the river

When you discuss the river
you can simply say it flows
and not import a fancy word like dance or meander

people know what rivers do
it is not necessary for you to dress it up
or to make your words smell like lavender

Are you suggesting you appreciate spring more than anybody else?
or you have some special way of seeing a river?

It is okay to say the sun rises,
we know that is shorthand for the truth
but if you start having some relationship
with something called the magical persimmon dawn
people won’t take you seriously

A day is a dime a dozen
so don’t swell up and round
like a soaring rain cloud
dropping hints of summer

If doves enter the picture
or a owl visits you
or the frogs return chirping

duly note it
but don’t make a big show of it

It’s not like it all hasn’t happened before.

Catalogue the qualities that you call spring
like a grocery list—
one can of this, one package of that
ingredients of a season:

willow catkins
pink-flowering currants
nettles and horsetails
shorter nights
warmer days and such and such

oh and can you grab a fist full o’ lupine?
I want to try a recipe
I saw on the back of a box

Read it carefully as if you were preparing
a report for the general assembly
at the united nations

Don’t get excited about the black butterflies
with orange and blue spots
or burgundy dragonflies
flitting about

You don’t have to flit about
you are not a butterfly
and if you pretend you are
things will just get confusing

so remember,
you are merely documenting

You are collecting data to be compiled
and a non-binding resolution will be issued
on whether this indeed is spring
and if so, what happened and why

or whether spring is just another word
like papier-mâché or smokestack

Regardless, the fuschia wild flowers are not there
for you to get a hard-on over

the skin of the madrone is not there
for you to cop a feel

use the Latin name Arbutus menziesii
if you need something to curb your enthusiasm
and if the bark used to be made into a tea for medicinal purposes
that is an interesting fact

but don’t put much effort into describing
how your heart leaped in childish joy at trying it

Just say, “it was bitter”
and people won’t be tempted to try it themselves

plum blossoms are generous with their scent
it serves a purpose
but it is embarrassing for you to be effusive
when it excites your nose

that is okay as a ten-year old
but you are not a ten-year old
you are a mature person

so stay calm and objective

people will respect you more
and that is what you are going for


Sense Walking

IMG_8964This was inspired by witnessing participants of our Writing Wild gathering do what we call a sense walk, where one is blindfolded and a partner guides them through experiencing the landscape through all their other senses. It’s a beautiful thing to see, no pun intended.

Blind from their chrysalis
they take the first delicate steps

like new walkers of the dawn
in the bright meadow of life

a late winter curiosity guides them
with a friendly hand at their back

and butterfly voices
flit across their swallowtail innocence

as sand sift through
their blackberry bramble hands

like the grains of childhood time
falling upward into their truth

they kneel for a mugwort blessing
feathered across their faces

flowing with the emergence
of springs wings

How Shall We Find Each Other?

fractal-atomWhen I say, “The mushrooms
are doing pushups, the madrones
are dancing happy,
and the dawn
is smiling smilingly,”

It is a fact.

Because I say so.

And when you say, “Actually,
trees are rooted,
so they can’t dance
and they can’t be happy,
because they don’t have minds,
you are projecting. And besides,
smilingly is not a word, and even if it is,
you’re being redundant,”

It is a fact.

Because you say so.

When I say “a butterfly is a silently
floating pyramid of Original Dust,
ancient wingéd atom,”

and you say,
“Actually, atoms are the basic
building blocks of matter,
consisting of protons, neutrons, and electrons,
and even smaller units called quarks,”

because I don’t see blocks or units,
and you don’t see wings.

So then we say, “Perhaps we can’t be friends anymore,

because I don’t know where you live,
nor you, I.

How shall we find each other?”

But I need you.

And you, I.

Where is the Directory
of our Imaginations
that shall tell us
where to meet?

Unscheduled Grace

butterfly train2This will not reduce the confusion

as if it’s a map at the station entrance
showing you where to get off

and the names of things
speeding by on time

it assumes we’re going
where we’re all headed

it is loud and crowded
on this train. as the doors close

some people are left behind
and we lurch forward

old shoes shiny shoes
coats of winter, perfume

tired eyes, vacant eyes
eyes that want to know

somehow a butterfly has boarded
lost, I suppose, perhaps afraid

the eyes of two strangers
smile with one another

seeing the unannounced beauty
rest on another stranger’s hat

a morning miracle
on the Millbrae

even though it throws its body
against the dark window

it cannot see the charm
of its own pomegranate red

and lacy black
delicate darting

its wings are not ornamental now
but means of escape

the eyes of more strangers
light up, flitting here and there

without their permission, their faces
do wonderful things not forced

and for a moment
they make a dwelling together

on the common ground
of an unscheduled grace


Solstice Ren·dez·vous With Butterfly

butterfly2“Why does it all go away?”
Butterfly asks,

perching on my shoulder
as I read the shortest day

in my Meadow
I say the butterfly asks this.

An abrupt question for a sunny solstice
and I have no answer for her.

Unreason for the season
What is the grass?

the books are loud
the small voices clamor

but the god is quiet
as he decays the day

breathing the Pacific flourish
in deepest lungs

we’ve had a standing ren·dez·vous
the last three days

getting to know each other
me, Butterfly, and the god

like long separated Rain from Earth:
much to discuss

I don’t know if we are retrospecting
or forecasting

then realize it is neither–
we dwell at the bottom

of the present
from which the What booms

we sit tickling each other’s

delicious undulations
of nuanced joy

and dread, until
a wind through Eucalyptus’s hair

sweeps and moves the god to admit
in a winter-scented accent:

“I torture myself to discover myself.”

oh, what a syrupy loneliness
issues from this sincere divinity

then, from behind the Laurel curtain
a vision of the self-hanged god

from black hole

to sea storm
to solstice

to my eyes
to the wings of Butterfly

a silently floating pyramid of Original Dust
ancient winged Atom

takes a gorgeous belly
full of orchestral oxygen:

“I pour myself into shattered interval,
become Time twisted,

and Time wears a Janus face:
Art, the Unfurling,

to the one side
and Death, seed of wisdom,

to the other–
the twin visages

of suffering sacred mirror,
Holy Companion.”

I say the god says all these things.

Everything at my feet is decay:
all the Petals

have sunk their heads
for the season

a minute ago the fingers of the red Walnut
strung the Tree house with brightest lights

but now a black mush
fickle Fern rotting mess

fall of Sparrow rules
dive of Beetles in debris

carry off cartwheels
to too cruel song sung

by crushed buried erotic nut
in the Squirrel pantry

the Light is fading

Butterfly and I chase
the low winter Sun, the warmth

the Flower, the Fruit
the Sweet, but can’t quite catch it

“Tomorrow’s the Day of Promise,” she says. “Just as Today.”

“There’s no reason for us to believe
the Sun will not abandon the Earth,” I reply.

“Other than that everyday
the Dawn is delivered on time,” she says, crooked smile.

“Look, the Worms come in battalions,
dancing. There may be no Return.

The underbelly is winking electric.
The sun is setting.

Perhaps THIS is the last day,”
I sing a cold Melody.

I say it is I that sings this.

She has a warmer lyric:
“I’m stocked wing to wing

with thick Desire,
though Desire’s end be Death’s friend.

In my last place, the lights went out,
and I don’t remember

what came before. Only Blackness and then
Something dissolved in me–some torture sublime.

Then, the New Dream.”
“What’s the New Dream?” someone said.

Without a word, and with smiling wings
in Orange delight

Butterfly performed a one-Woman play
for me and the god

in the dusky Meadow
and the god knew himself

it was just enough
no more, no less

to redeem the final Day
and the longest Night

whether or not
the Sun returns

Note: the line “I torture myself to know myself” is from a Robinson Jeffers poem called At the Birth of an Age [vision of the self-hanged God). Here’s a longer passage from the poem: ‘Whatever electron or atom or flesh or star or universe cries to me,
Or endures in shut silence: it is my cry, my silence; I am the
nerve, I am the agony,
I am the endurance. I torture myself
To discover myself; trying with a little or extreme experiment
each nerve and fibril, all forms
Of being, of life, of cold substance; all motions and netted com-
plications of event,
All poisons of desire, love, hatred, joy, partial peace, partial vi-
sion. Discovery is deep and endless,
Each moment of being is new.’)


Caterpillar Dreams

IMG_3636Slowly I crawl
blade by blade

on the edge
falling and feeding

can’t stop eating
yet hungry all the time

wondering if these leaves
will fulfill me

haunted or blessed
by hints of a larger life

I dream of flight
spun from silk

A preparation
for a slow death

through a daredevil
dance of dissolution

my larval life liquefies
imaginal buds proliferate

I surrender to sleep
and a surprise transformation