We bemoaned becoming dumb
how nobody has actual maps any more—
let alone how to use them.
But not following a map sometimes
is a good way to fall into things
Like a swamp, for instance
which is exactly how she likes it
She had committed
to baring her soles
to the rough earth
but was open to hitching a ride
should the path become difficult
Whether as a test
or as practice for the horse
she’s going to get
and ride to San Diego
I don’t know,
but regardless—she had a grip on me.
We were a couple of two-leggeds foraging the swamps
in the form of scratches,
innuendos, and a playful pause.
But also for long blades of cattails
which she will dream into a basket—feminine, colorful, strong—
woven with healer’s hands
into which she will place
her love and wildness—and maybe some of mine
until the collateral beauty of her body
following its own path
drags her once again
through the swamp
to harvest the wild things.
For 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.
The sunflowers are conducting their slow waltz
around the world
turning their faces towards life
with no thought to protecting themselves
or the sun
and I think of the things we turn towards
and what we try to defend, and why.
And what it says about us.
One person defends:
a flag a grizzly a river
a border a house a god
a culture a child an idea
a church made of stone, a church in the stone
bad habits silence
the hues of freedom
of body and of spirit–
truly we are all soldiers.
I admit, I’m merely a weed,
and won’t last long in the vast games of war
What weapons have I?
What if in the long run
the best defense is joy
and not a well-aimed weapon?
My ears know well the hum of the wind
playing the trees
but I still don’t know
how they will defend themselves
against that insane mammal
roaming the world
If they try to take this forest…
If they try to silence the doves…
If they come for the sunsets…
there’s no telling what I…
What does that say about me?
The flickers have already sounded the alarm.
I love the water
and the birds know me
but will I kill for them?
Will I love for them?
What do you do to defend your home?
Water is the perfect creature
bears are not pets
trees are smarter than us all
and you will never domesticate the wind
These will remain forever wild
like my unquenchable yearn
and unconquerable distance
between the one I love
and the heart/heat/home
in the tip of my fingers/tongue
Called desire by the scholars
even when the moon sits in my lap
If you want to know,
look up at midnight
on any unblemished September eve
and fling your fancy net
at the fires of heaven
that sea of stars
which you also will never tame
I’ll tell you how the long day ends
in the final hour of June, she said
with her kaleidoscopic coyote laugh
and crook-eyed cricket gaze
she sipped her nightcap hot and holy
in her ripped and airy lilac gown
aiming cat-tails towards venus west
after sun had bolted down
full moon me, she said, with glee
whipping watermelons wild
inside rhubard ribbons racing
lacing up the vest of night
then offering peaches bruised just right
brewed up nicely for bruised hearts
led early plums with early stars
to come out playing without a fight
spiraling moon and madly mars
around the skinny of her scar
I’m not the dream you thought you had
she sang with all her lovely fangs
roam free, roam wide
throw the damned doors aside
unscrew yourself from doorjamb nights
was the last thing to me she said
before the month of June had fled
dusk, freedom, full moon, june, moon, nature, night, poetry, roam, summer, wild
Sand flies are silent but persistent
wanting something on the inside
of my skull
Fortunately, I have legs
that give me a slight height advantage
and a spine that pivots my head
towards Venus in the heart of Gemini
already gazing searchingly at me
inches above Sunday’s goodbye.
The sand is no less a bed
for not having cost a month’s salary
at that store people love to talk about
and the willows no less a backyard
for not owning it
big hard rocks are great
for building houses
but tiny, soft rocks are better
for sleeping on
and has the built in feature
of containing ancient crystals
the color of nautical dusk
and blue glass
and I swear a little bit o’ Mars.
Venus is even hotter
than fire season in the central valley
but that doesn’t prevent crickets
and plovers from swapping bedtime stories
and crying onomatopoeically
for their version of what happened
and while the river spills
into and out of the arms of Venus
a satellite and a jackrabbit slide by—
last glimpse of May.