Autumn Otters

E069896C-85F8-4E8B-9D19-19D051235319For William Stafford–the poet, not the pirate. A fellow Midwesterner and embedded West Coaster, a quiet of the land, who also inhabited the edges, evoked the nearby faraway, whose ‘job it was to find out what the world is trying to be.’ He was at home on earth and was up in trees ‘til the day he died. He met the world well.

Otter people are on the hunt
fishing for the best playground

Whatever the day has swept downstream
the otter people accept
with open paws and a keen eye

Even-tailed in the evening
they regard it all with a river’s grace
knowing they belong to all that.

“Here,” one says to the other.

“There,” the other says,
“over those rocks
around the next bend.”

There’s always that someone who wants to peek
around the corner.

But the first scrambles upon the far bank,
whiskering, “But how could it be better than here, now
with all the alder leaves
and autumn giving her debut dusk?”

All is negotiation in this life
no different among the otter people.

A compromise is reached–
first a dancing on shore
then a slinking back into the silver water
around the next bend
floating like river clouds
whisker-faced and free

It is a world well-met.


Instructions for Making a Perfect Ka-Blump

B5875C8A-FF32-4AB0-96CF-5F94889CFC85The first thing you’re gonna wanna do
is find yourself the prefect river-fed pool.

If you’re looking for a rainbow,
the colored stones on the bottom
will do just fine

Spiced with white and black stones
on the edge
where you will sit and stick your feet in.

You’ll notice the volcanic gneiss
the river falls over
looks a like a miniature mountain range.

You’ll also be forgiven for mistaking them as waves.

I assure they are not waves
–at least not of water–
as tested against my shin and skin.

But perhaps they are just very slow moving waves
harder than water, softer than diamond.

The liquid portion of the river sneaks
around and over and through these.

The technique I will show you
will have you making perfect ka-blmps
within three hours. Four tops.

Be sure to have eaten beforehand.

Find a medium-sized rock, preferably round.

Too large and it’ll sink quickly
giving you a little blump, without the ka-
which is really the whiole point.

Too small and you’ll get a quick
high-pitched blump.

Find one the size of a child’s heart.
If it’s beating, even better.

Now, you’ll want to find the perfect depth.
Too shallow or too deep
and you’ll find yourself in the wrong register.

You’re going for medium to low range,
with a healthy splash.

If a blue dragonfly comes by and asks what you’re doing,
just smile and say, “Experimenting.”

They’ll know.

After all, they are the ones who invented
tandem aerial fornication–
so yeah, they get experimentation.

The water bugs seem used to this sort of thing.
They’ll scatter for a few seconds, then re-congregate,
riding the ripples.

By this time, you’ll notice the changing light,
and subsequent patterns on the water,
creating stretch marks up the taller trees
and flip-flops of green and black on the smaller ones.

While trunks of firs become giant worms
grey and gyrating.

Don’t be alarmed. They rarely bite.

Once you get a dozen or so ka-blumps in a row,
you’ll notice a peculiar, but healthy side effect:

Concentric circles emanating
from where your child’s heart ka-blumped
ring upon ring
gently lapping at your ankles
ring upon ring
leaping up your torso
ring upon ring inside you.

Can you feel them?

A Question Asked Backwards


is the bright grey utterance on the wind
an explanation point in your gut
when you find out how
the world speaks

whether throwing pebbles across the room
and taking our marbles home
or shining light through your pores

the world is uttering it too


is the unspoken syllable
when the room shudders
white thunder

or the shape of your lips
when it’s too good
to be true


makes you grab her collar
to shake the answers out

but nothing said
could quench the aching crack
running down the middle


echoes from your canyon
when all the symbols
are too aligned

but it is, it is.

What then of why?

Is it really the why that brings you out to play?

and why do you play?
is a question asked backwards

it is
and there is no play in why
It is, it is.

There may be only one answer
and it’s not a word

but a direction your heart
faces when the day finally begins

Playing On the Edge

indexHave you played on the edge of the cliff looking over
along, but not falling, as you dance with a lover?

How long have you lasted, skirting the ledge?
How long have you hung on that hungry thread?

The scent of the sea sings itself salty
out of the waves that roll in so softly
it’s not always clear where the shoreline ends
and where the unknowable ocean begins
the puffy-headed herons and their smooth-feathered friends
run at the edge of the tide and dip in
while dolphins at bay, in their frolicking play
silhouette the chords at the close of day

Slide in the place where new dimensions reach
throwing out sparks of magenta and peach

You want to be inside of it
you’d like to lose yourself a bit
you want to drink, not merely sip
from the cup and moistening lips

But there’s a pledge, you don’t dare cross ’round
the line that’s laid down to keep the things bound
out of love or from fear isn’t entirely clear
so the titillating ledge you feel so near

have you ever used words in place of a touch
of fingers across face, the throat, and such?

Then there’s a chance that you know how to dance
with quickening pulse and thickening vein
as you channel the mojo that comes and it flows
and the seeds upon seeds upon seeds that are sown
towards rings upon rings upon rings that are grown

how long can you hang onto the hungry thread?
how long can you last, on the edge of the ledge?

The Curious Case of Mr. Squirrel: The Withdrawal of Indictment

squirrel tracksThe Curious Case of Mr. Squirrel is a 5-part tragicomical play I am writing, an allegory written in part in Shakespearean verse. The action of the drama begins with the indictment of Mr. Squirrel for various perfidious and debauched acts–the plaintiff Mr. Treeman charging the defendant with theft, assault, incitement to riot, and sexual intercourse with a dog skull, among other crimes. It follows this rough trajectory:

Act I:
The Indictment
Act II: The Rebuttal
Act III: Surrebuttal/Nolle Prosequi
Act IV: The Chase Scene
Act V: Denouement

This is a scene from the end of Act III, where the Mr. Treeman is speaking to the judge, revoking one of his original indictments:

I submit, Your Honor,
that I have been scurrilous
and concede that the purpose of Mr. Squirrel
or any of his so-called scandalous Sciuridae

upon or with the dog skull
perchance not being to have intercourse
but rather to whisper
perfumed and profound
meditations in mortal embrace
as sacred pectoriloquy upon its face

and that should it have been
any mere engorgement of eyesocket
with mammal member
no prosecution would uphold
on the grounds that cranium copulation
being not the horror
at once fancied within
the narrow can of my own
acorn skull

but rather, in imperial height
of enlightened and splendiferous
ecstatic communion
and delirious dance of death
contoured himself a fine and furious pleasure

and by so doing
took hold life’s diaphanous reigns
to live brightly
as a sovereign in his royal land.

Wherefore from this inchéd moment
no further word of inflicted venom
nor indecent indictment
will from these lips spring forth
towards the defendant
a salutation I do abhor

and revoke a slander that once did
sit true within my breast
aye, it was nearer a fire
in the chambers of my spleeny heart

but now, like fruit too long
in summer sun
rots graveyard bound
the very taste of it
makes of my tongue a corpse

Oh fuchi
bitter herb!

forewith merely to submit, Your Honor,
this humble bow
to the injured one,
and if I may, issue worship
to replace despiséd hatred:

“Holy Mad squirrel,
I wash your feet
with my solemn and happy tears.
I’ll pray a thousand years for your life.”

nolle prosequi
Now I see

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.’)