On My 86th Birthday

sea sunsetWhen I sit in the evening light
There are no cakes or candles

But a round pile of blueberries
From the two bushes that survived the winter

Bless the center of the cedar table
We made together at the dawn of our path

The size of marbles!
You would say

Now, looking out the stone-framed window
From my bed that faces the widening sea

My blood runs bright with memories
Of all the journeys

It’s the ones I didn’t take that weigh
Heavy upon me and clot me up

More difficult than the ones
Where I came out the other side

I wish I would have greeted the dawn more
And jumped in the water

Without thought of who would see
My ordinary naked body

I didn’t call my folks
Or tell my friends I loved them enough

To the women – did I thank you enough?
A hundred times I thank you

This word enough—how it changes
Its shape on my lips through the years

With each falling leaf I thank you
That we could help each other grow

The better rings of our trees; I’m sorry—
Our wounds sometimes caused more pain

I hope you had rich, colorful lives
That love hugged you in the final moments

Sometimes I hurt you
Sometimes I hurt myself

Sometimes I didn’t know how to connect
Or find the words

I built this room with my own hands
With stones from the creek

That we used to dip our feet in
Through all the seasons

Meeting months of sunsets
With sweat and peace and the tenderness

But now, I no longer need this room
So I give it to you and you

And hope you enjoy
It as much as I have

If my legs were alive,
I’d jump like my 8-year old self

In a pile of leaves
The colors of an autumn blast

Yes, I still dream of running
But I’m content with the dream I authored

Not unproud
Yet humbled

Still, the questions pour through me:
Did I explore the sparks?

Did I follow my curiosity
and lean into all the fears?

Did I share my gifts
and open more than I closed?

And if my eyes weren’t now masked like midnight
I’d look into the ox daisy of your eyes

I’d study the tiny hairs on your arm
How the light makes of them a forest

Delicate in the slant of the dipping sun
One last time

And not think of the words pomegranate
Or violet or any far-flung hue

But touch is still my finest tool
So place your long-loved hand in mine

Let us embrace
And feel the final fading

Of the warmth
Behind the darkening waves

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Why Should I Write About You, Water Bug?

24B7C278-306D-43F7-A8B7-F156FEC42189When the heavens are rolling out encores
of mulberry processions
and the river is performing not-stop
a cappella hits

Why should I write about you, water bug?

While the elegant bats somersault
in dusky diners
and the thunderstorm breaks its head
on distant peaks

what have you to say to me, six-footed floater?

Then, I see you flash and slide
and if I didn’t see it with my own two eyes
the way you disappear
only to reappear two inches upstream
I’d be inclined to think I was dreaming

and for the life of me
I don’t know what you eat
so I can only assume it is water and air alone

but now I know better
it has been revealed:

you are an advanced species
of micro-teleportation devices and magic
hydrophobic microhairs
dancing the river down
with sophisticated water choreography

not tiny and insignificant
in the scheme of things
but the whole show–
the entire mountain and sun extravaganza–
is for you

the moon-rise
the coyote rips
the distant storm
and towering pines bow
to your practiced patience
and river spells

That is why, water monk,
I write about you
and join them in the bowing

Poor Sun, Poor Ugly Sun

546DFAE6-CC21-4A97-A560-0C109DB4F808This is the moment
the eyes greet beauty
and the skin leans into it.

Yes, it’s still there
in the sunset. Look.

Yes, I think it’s still here.
Squint and focus.

But then, a split:
The sun. The moment.

A big chill. Terrible things come spilling out:
lies and cages,
cries of rage and all
the debauched basement of things.

The sun tears open,
ripped apart like families
at the horizon
of our country,

setting
like the country
on its own low horizon

The pouring out
leaves my skin
cool to the touch
and my eyes undone

insides rotten with power
keep coming out
emptying itself
split and split again

gutted and gaping
black flies and fish eyes
looted and lacerated
like a land despised

Poor innocent sun,
blurred by history
face scarred by human hands
I wish I could see you again
I wish I saw you how you wanted

but my eyes have grown thick with clouds
I mean grief
I mean blood
I mean rage
stained by strange…
white hands haunting the land.

Are now my ears failing?
Did the birds bring themselves tonight?
Are they still here?
I can’t hear them through the cries.

What Would Be A Hello?

5DE1729F-E585-4DFB-9581-C907E95A35C7What would be a hello,
and what would be getting lost in the labyrinth?

To greet and say hello—
unguarded, curious,
but not agenda-ed

bereft of ceremony,
but not without
elegance

Hello with the belly, hi with the eyes

Not moving, but meeting and receiving

Not stepping out of the sun,
nor out of the shadow,

To greet and be greeted
without a word, without award
but not without reward

What would be tasting the fruit
and what would be a trap door?

In vast corrugated silence
a hello from the big sky
within?

The wind enjoys seeing that–
just enough to begin.

Cloud Cuckoo Land

Up in cloud cuckoo land
days beyond neat rows and old news

the world does its slow bop
through the blue and white
ribbon-bowl of perfection

Silence is queen
in her cerulean realm
and for all I know
everybody went back to their home planets
or drowned desperately
trying to catch sight of their mermaids

but not me–
I brought all my stars and mermaids
up with me

keek-aboot peekaboo
stars stuttering hella huge
got me dancing hallelujah
ready or not here I come

taste all these clouds
this lupine quartz-lily sand sage
these sparkling dragonfly flanks
marinated in a breeze
from the spine of the sea mage

grasshoppers are clicking up a symphony
which reminds me
I too can kick up a dust storm
when I want to
but I’m pleased to say
that the ol’ sun and I
are taking it easy

I’ll close my eyes when he does
then I’ll become Guardian Moonman
watching over the Queen’s Silence

up here in cloud cuckoo land
everything is spun grandiferous

The Theology of Laughter at the End of the Day

7ED966B3-14DB-4197-91FB-29EDCB2EC255Pay attention to the kernel
of your ache

the one coiled up inside
all the others
like a rattlesnake
hidden in the tall grass

Don’t mistake that for something
you have to kill
and dump in the ditch somewhere

Even if you left it there
it will find a way back to you

until you see it for the catapult it is
swinging you to the other side
of the water
the pit
the desert and the dark night

When you get there it’ll still be there

But it’ll have a different look in its eyes
gleaming and knowing
eager like dawn
calm like midnight

and so will you

Like your head on the pillow
of a Magellanic Cloud
a wound unwound
a jaw unclenched

dancing with
the tail of the rattlesnake
in one hand
the hand of the center
in the other