Open Letter to Rocks, From a Geologist of the Heart

0264C498-EE9D-46E6-B7A4-CF17C3D9B591.jpegLove rocks

Yes, I do
Yes, it does.

All unique
beyond compare
I touch each one
like it’s the first rock
I’ve ever seen
rolling it in my hands
feeling the texture
savoring its shape

If I’m bold, taste it

What is it made of?
What colors live in it?
How big or small is it?

Some are smooth
and simple
like sandstone,
layers added gently
over time
things get through
you can scratch
initials in it
bury your fossils
see where you’ve been
form fascinating patterns
exposed to the elements
it can erode over time

Others are complex
and tough
like granite,
an amalgamation
of colored scars
formed from
enormous heat and pressure
pushing material
from deep below

Its quartz are
micro prisms
elements within
wanting to be reflected
in the light of the sun

Some transform
from one to another
like gneiss
banded with stretch marks
from its constant
not sure
what it wants to be
before it reaches the sea

Other rocks begin scorching hot
burning wildly
but cooling rapidly
leaving a shiny surface
with nothing left to do

A trial by fire
an igneous experiment
below the surface
or sometimes out in the open

Some rocks remain a mystery
with elements beyond
the periodic table

Love rocks–a whole collection
rests on my altar
and I pick one up
from time to time
just to admire

But I’m always finding new types
never seen before

Because I’m a geologist of the heart
and the earth
is made of rock and love
and so am I


Grandma’s Patterns

691E99DB-B274-45C8-A026-A1DF395A4770Nights are getting cold. Glad I have my grandma’s blanket. My grandma has Alzheimer’s now and when I visited this summer I am ‘nice young man from California’. She doesn’t remember me or most people now. I wish I could tell her what she means to me. I wish this poem could do the trick. I don’t understand dementia. Like all my poems, this is a love poem.

Pulling Grandma’s quilt around me
I perch on a rock
this cold October morning

Must have been in my late 20s
when she crafted this
there’s a picture somewhere
of her and I
holding it up

I try to count all the different fabric and designs
and lose track at 44
44! That’s my age now
and still grandmas matter

Stripes and shades of blue
and red stars and greek torches
simple little squares from time to time
not to mention red lotus flowers in cosmic radiance

All held together by stitches
shaped like a river meandering through mountain valleys
like the one along which I live now

(little pine trees, like those in the grove, where we ran wicked
cousins of innocence and freedom)

The thing about grandmas is they’ll love you so much
they’ll give you more than you’re supposed to have
like pickles and popsicles and gum
(background spring flowers)

enough toast and soup for everyone
(navy blue, cups of gold)
and christmas stockings stocked with enough candy and peanuts
to last through Groundhog Day
(holly and diamonds)
though we did our level best to
get through it by midnight
(white skates and gloves)

enough pillows and beds
for all who ransacked her farm house
(red and white checkerboard)
boy, that must have been chaos!
(fireworks, blue on red, red on blue)

enough space to get hurt too
(bright red background)
Oh, how she must have been scared
when I fell through the window
and blood poured from my knee (dark red splotches)
collateral damage from fort-building with cousin Amy
(little bright circles)
or when I ran the little tractor
up cousin Diane’s legs
(Bright purple splotches, like bruises)

We’re ok grandma, really
You rest now

She took to the couch
falling asleep to romance novels
(hearts, pulsating)
resting on her chest
pale yellow lamp light
(snow flakes)

but time enough the next night
to play cards
on the slick brown dining room table
(small spiral gold)

Nowadays, Grandma doesn’t remember as much
about making these patterns
(flowers–blue, gold, red)
nor sometimes for whom she made them
(red lines on white, like fences around the fields,
keeping some things in and some things out)

But I do
and they keep me warm
on cold and dark October nights
and crisp, October mornings
(little red hearts on stems)

Down to the Skin at Last

F6493E87-7B38-4127-83EB-519B4997775BSplash of red, bring me a tortoise head.

Open the blessed spiral once again
and spread unguaged, unmeasured.

Weeds need not outgrow me yet.

The light with sweetness conquer
The dark, with song.

You can’t catch raven,
so join his club.

Not all your preposterous belongings
need a witness
but all need watering–Drink!

Holy, you there, the stone in you
inclined and breathing out the sighs unsized–
mark this moment, it heeds you well, saying:

Begin with wind, end with the sea.

Down to the skin at last.

When That October Whale Arrives

90779C34-24BD-4A78-9CB6-7B58C984EFC4Consider: More things chirp than not—
a fact not lost on me when the grey whale comes.

On the 8th fret I loiter
looking downstream toward the common chords
where all the meandering noodles
end up in time,
that great pincer.

So why don’t I want to resolve
among the 1-4-5-1?
What works works.

Umbilical whoosh and porous I,
out of near storm fuse and fury
harvest all the inborn plenitude
while this stalking moon waxes reciting Heraclitus
as her bloody comrade.

Filled, I want to spill the fullness
into the sky and her heart
despite myself.

What basket could contain it all?

Sometimes a path is covered with leaves,
sometimes snow,
sometimes blues,
sometimes funk
while the fretboard meneuvers itself
into cool dark scales
the shape of fallen logs.

What they call love,
I call the wings of a tree
multiplied by autumn
divided by decay.

But will they forgive it all,
when every syllable is a conspiracy
against (towards?) the crimson leaves
and a fresh breath?

My memoir, should it bloom, is short:
a trickle, a broken twig,
a hoot-chirp or two,
a dark lake, a fabulous solo,
an evocation/evaporation.

I’m sorry, I meant: spark, undertow, wet ash, black coal, purple sun, compost.

The order of things used to be important
and plateaus serve a purpose.

Have you ever tried to run off a ditch
when the whale arrives?

Widening One Wave At A Time

45D49B59-7F0C-40EB-8135-F226C8136E40On the edge of the west
the sea’s many voices
sibilate across the waves
and through the Sitka spruce

It’s wide sound no one can hear
without also widening hearts

The moon poured herself down
on us pouring ourselves together for the first time
among the sands and hands
discovering some us,
that until autumn’s first moon
had been only a you and a me

In celebration, we became a wild coyote singing back to the sea
then returned to our selves
a wave or two wider

Strange Flavor

B92E2251-43AA-447C-BE60-FCD6FD1EBC96Yes, I had asked to try all the flavors and textures

But when she served up Full Moon Cinnamon Palo Santo Blackberry Italian Sorbet with Sage Coconut Chips
I didn’t quite know what to do with it.

It seemed dangerous.

Consulting the experts is futile
in situations like this because
there are no experts.

And so I do the only thing that seems reasonable—
take two heaping scoops worth
with whip cream and a Salah-berry on top
down to the beach
and gobble it up

And because ice cream likes being worshipped
and my tongue likes worshipping

I enjoy the hell out of it
as if it’s my first time
tasting this strange and exquisite flavor—-
because it is.

And also might be my last.

I’ll worry about the calories later.