My wild encounter with elephants in Kenya.

I was listening to OnBeing with Krista Tippett, one of my all-time favorite programs) and she was interviewing Katy Payne, who was part of the research team that produced the original recording Songs of the Humpback Whale. She has studied the conversations and culture of elephants and whales for decades, and she discovered that elephants communicate in low frequencies. I am simply in awe at these stunning and mysterious creatures with whom we share this planet. She said that if there was one creature more emotional than people it would be elephants. At a certain point in the conversation, though, they discussed the tragedy of elephant poaching and the practice of cutting off the tusks of elephants with a chainsaw. And I just lost it. I think I cried for half an hour, and then wrote this short poem. I cannot comprehend this world sometimes. I have seen elephants in the Kenyan wild and the experience of being in the vicinity of such beautiful, sentient people is beyond words. Katy Payne’s book is Silent Thunder: In the Presence of Elephants, and I’m looking forward to reading it as well as listening to recordings of whalesong and elephant communications. Can we begin listening deeper to our fellow relations?

What mind
unmoored from common bond
unrooted from decent pulse
unsheathing dark dementia
directs a bloody hand
to wield his motored sword
upon the girl
separating his prize
from her mutilated head
and then,
as her now cold
question mark eyes
watch him
walks away
with her
ivory treasure?

MS. TIPPETT: And you were listening to elephants, but you’ve also referred to elephants as great listeners.

MS. PAYNE: Yeah. They do something marvelous that I wish we would do more of the time. This is something you do find in Quaker meetings, actually, and in Buddhist meetings as well. The whole herd, and that may be 50 animals, will suddenly be still, completely still. And it’s not just a stillness of voice, it’s a stillness of body. So you’ll be watching the moving herd, they’ll be all over the place, they’ll be facing all directions, doing different things. Suddenly everything freezes as if a movie was turned into a still photograph, and the freeze may last a whole minute, which is a long time. They’re listening. When they freeze, they tighten and lift and spread their ears. This tells us — this, among other things, tells us that they’re concerned with what’s going on over the horizon.


Family commute


How Poems Arrive

Swarm Landing Poultry Ducks Waterfowl Water Funny

They arrive
like a coyote calling at 2am
during the Full Cold Moon

I step outside to gather
the yellow and orange leaves
that the fierce
winter wind has thrown to the ground
with such a flurry
that I miss most of them

but some I catch
and arrange in a pattern
not as pretty as they looked on the tree
but I’d rather them not go to waste

poems can arrive like those
little waves on the lake
after the duck lands
a barely audible whisper
from an ancient grove

or louder, like a chorus of crickets
the rush of a river,
a flow over falls

A poem can burst open like a seed

or often just settle in slowly
like a deep breath
and climb up spirally
a bean vine
around a pole

Heir of Eternal Spring – Part III

icarus rainbow feathersA continuation of what I am calling “The Epic of the Feather Queen” or “Heir of Eternal Spring.” In this installment, the Woman tells of her experience receiving the rainbow feathers. For background on the origin of this very different species of poem, see Part I. Part II, the Wondering in the Mist and the reception of the Black & Silver feathers, is still being dictated.

The final, the Glory,
wherein the bounty lay:

The memory clear, a mirror
in warming light
(I weep at the memory now,
not from grief
but from melting away
for the colors still adorn my face)

A field o’ flowers without end
purple, gold, ribbon blue
well wide enough to hold the TWO

I mentioned battle
in that there is some truth,
but here the rages of war
are not a sound
no swords unsheathed
nor arrows unleashed
nor poison drunk
or clenched fists feast


on the road to this very field
and that is a story yet to tell…

Lavender and sage
and all the lightly-framed scents,
hinted through the cerulean sky
touched and danced bemused
like butterflies
of which scores appeared
about their merry way

it tickles merely
upon my memory.

At this point, you must simply TRUST OR TURN AWAY
(which perhaps is the only thing mortals may do)

For the tale of this feather is far-fetched, I know,
almost too lovely to be true
yet there I was,
these feathers may be the proof,
but of that need I am cured.

I, too, like you,
have seen and loved a rainbow
upon a time,
with joy and awe, full and ripe

Yet here in the field I lay
’tis was not mere glimpse, nor beheld
with eyes alone,
but rather one such came
into me

A rainbow pierced each cell
body, mind
and lifted me to heights
I blush to say

Of what shall one say
of rainbow play?

To convey in haste,
I’d say of honey it tastes.
But even that’d be so far removed
from the truth o’ it

this, a nectar
touched within
with the pure tongue of simple heart
or in the spine
refined joy
of which honey is but crude remains
I sipped, not gulped
as one would wine
for the sensation so sweet
so sublime

From here, the Proving
proved unneeded
The Chasing, chased away
the Blame, no target found
here or there
Struggle, a most constant fiend
through the years
now was but a friend

….and thus my final feathers
took their place upon my crest
a rainbow, ‘longside black and red
my plumaged gleaming guests

The Wind Is Its Own Authority

IMG_7094Poor Grand Willow, beloved ol’ friend.

Have you ever tried to push the wind?

Wind is it’s own authority
bearing its gifts
with ferocity and tenderness
in equal measure

it may steal your house
no matter how many nails you own
it will pollinate your field
no matter how many fences you build
it will wrestle the strongest tree
to the earth
a regeneration
through destruction

it will lightly kiss your cheek
until you blush
regardless of how
you try to
turn away
bringing you
the vital living breath
of this wild gorgeous earth

learn this from the wind:

unchain your own voice
sing the song of the earth
be your own authority
take a breath
at your own pace
and give it back
to the Big Circulation

I, Too, Like Beautiful Things

IMG_6871You’d like to drink me up
lick all the corners

But if I tell you
I’m not the emptiness you seek
You’d recoil in horror
At my kind words

And if I filled it up-this Emptiness-
With words
You’d cut your ears off

So full of emptiness
So far from it
We are

But I fear I wouldn’t tell you
Because I like how you drink me

And I, too, like beautiful things

Heir of Eternal Spring – Part I

The other night I was up in the night, awoken by words that would not let me sleep. It was a figure, that I’ve taken to calling The Queen, that has appeared in other forms and contexts. I am taking it to be Muse/Anima. Whatever the case may be, these entire verses arrived to me as blocks, I have not altered them but merely tried to take them down. This has never happened to me before beyond a word or two. And is a very different
style and form that what I write, as readers of my poetry will notice immediately.

The feminine figure is telling me how she arrived to have three different colored feathers or plumages (Red/Bronze, Black/White/Silver, and Rainbow), and hints that she will tell me how she arrived on the throne, the story from heir to Queen-in-exile. I don’t have any idea what she is talking about. I met her first in a dream a couple months ago, as a disguised commoner. That’s all I can say for now.  This is the first part of about 4 so far that I have received, and it’s clear that I have only so far been told a little bit of her story.
I, Courtly Heir to Eternal Spring,
thrust a’sudden upon the throne
with backward glance
yet onward travel in startled gown,
festooned with light,
And tattered from the wind,

Now try to carry forth the word
of a battled plumage
Thrice conceived:

First, in fury
fiery wrought

Second, mist born
in fog imbued
Silver, black,
And all between

The final, the Glory,
Wherein the bounty lay
A field serene
In flowers infinite
Meant for rest
The memory clear, a mirror
in warming light
(I weep at the memory now,
not from grief
but melting away
for the colors still adorn my face)

But I’ll tell the tale of First Born First
Through which the red plume came to be:

Once in fury, locked within
Animated by a grievance, petty born
It now appeared as a ship
A mighty ship sailing strong
Carried past all Ports of Reason

On an ocean cast wild, unending
no anchor in the maelstrom
could find purchase
nor rope ever found
thick enough to have me bound
hence a raging storm
pure and bright
conquered sea and left me
a captured sailor
bound by no oath or earthly good

I took to raving-mad it seems in retrospect-

But then the Truth out:
clean and sharp
a mighty fang
a splendid song
a ruthless pouring
of heart enthralled

(better this, I thought,
than stand a worm)

Several days like this, three or four,
’tis not clear
for fog of memory takes its toll.

What had been sealed behind fair lips
could not now keep
its bubbled roar
from joining froth
foaming on boiling sea:

Break thy False Mask, Beautiful Villain!

(Her furious outpouring To be continued in the next installment)