Poem for Isolation

to: prisoners, refugees, immigrants, aged infirm, quarantined, us.

What I need to write now

is a different sort

of poem, one that

dings like a text or better

rings like a phone

call and when you

answer it is

your best friend, brother,

child, something, someone like

that, and everything is perfectly

fine, they say, the night’s heavy

snow is melting under spring sun,

something like that happens, and

let it be a poem that

doesn’t surprise you

at the end of it

with some scary real

news or moment of existential

panic like we get

every day. No,

I will write a poem

that could be everybody’s friend, could be

a hug, a kiss, could be

the delivery of oranges,

or the neighbor’s plum trees

flowering with certainty

there will be no late frost

no kiss of death

so when I share

this poem, I will edit out

the kiss of death,

will cut it short, and the flowers

will ease into fruit in this poem

over several warm months,

and when the poem of your phone rings

it will actually be your doorbell

(you have a door and a bell in this poem)

and there will be your neighbor,

your best friend, your children,

something like that, someone,

this poem, a hug during

the time of waiting,

not a poem of longing. Why

must I always follow

the poem to there,

a sorry visit to my heart,

a shocking fact in my mind,

some science that insists

on being spoken,

that it may be a very long

time before you have a door,

or a bell or a door bell rings,

if ever, but still,

when you open the door,

let the poem of us

be surprised and wait,

cherishing the light in our faces,

then let us reach out

and touch each other’s hands

then step as close

and hold each other as close

as a clam to its shell

mud to a shoe

a cat on your lap

fish in water, carpet to floor, bird to sky, egg to nest, worm to dirt, tree to root, type to page, planet to gravity.

Then let the poem be with you

like you and it are two peas

in a pod, that is

as close as the you-to-me

you always are

wherever you are.

Let my poem touch

you till you laugh.

p.s. Peas come 6 or 8 to a pod.

The poem will have a party!

Edward Hopper, Sunday Morning, 1930

A death/geometry poem and a helpful editor at Barnstorm Journal

I neglected to keep a good record of some of my publications and need them now in order to apply for a particular grant. I wrote Barnstorm Journal because I had difficulty using its search function and overnight received a kind note, an apology for the difficulty searching, and the url to my poem from 2013. So here it is! What a professional and generous editor, Charlotte Gross, an MFA student at New Hampshire University

Midwinter Night, Solstice December 21 2019

Fairbanks winter solstice, courtesy University of Alaska

What People Mean

Cousin Anne writes that the light that generally accompanies visitations has been seen at the Nighthawk cabin recently.

Midwinter sunset rolls out the red carpet for our mother

and midsummer dawn casts a gold path for our father

and the world they travel turns parallel to ours.

Transparent but visible, it overlays us,

think of 3-d lines in a comic book. 

Lightly, they embody themselves here, now,

their hands like clear latex gloves sheathing my hands.

Now we are dunking a pinwheel cookie, family recipe,

in a chipped mug with reheated coffee

and when I get up to light the candles

my mother’s hands cover mine and she shows me how

how to hold the match and strike away,

how to smooth with our hand a white cloth

where we’ll lay our ritual winter feast.

Poems from Bright Path, Dark River in TMR

6 poems from Bright Path, Dark Rivers are included in this, and a studio made audio file of my reading of the poems as well.

I don’t know how the folks putting out a journal could be more generous and supportive of their writers and with such fine results. Many thanks to The Missouri Review folks. I am grateful and amazed to be among the other writers here and part of a collection connected through surrealism. Hope you’ll visit.

Tree Speak

Finished reading Overstory by Richard Powers. I read it over a few months, because of its density and some doubts I had. Doubts I still have, as far as a narrative goes, while it contains lots to love. It won the Pulitzer. The strong message to change how we generally relate to all things not human is timely indeed.What do you think of it? Or, better yet, tell me something you have heard a tree say, or describe an experience in which a tree played an important role for you personally.

from Chained Dog Dreams, the Newt

As a Newt, I Found Summer to be Disastrous

The condition of my skin determines the condition of my health.

When my colony and I perceived the margin of our pond

drawing an ever-smaller circle on its clay beach

we decided to crawl out to seek bigger waters

and failing that, have a worthy adventure before desiccation.

It is in my nature to hang stilly in warm still shallows of a silty pond,

to meditate on the nature and meaning of immortality,

to brush shoulders with other newts,

to draw in insects and algae with a slight slow

opening and shutting of my mouth,

to sift oxygen from water with the slowest fanning

of my external lungs.

Instead, I stepped out, tiptoed for many days and nights

across wire sharp sand and ticking grass

trying to keep my tender belly clear.  My palms calloused.

I sheltered from sun beneath the shadows of stones,

singing whenever I could a song for rain.

I thus arrived at your door to ask for a dish of water

before tip-toing on across your asphalt drive.

I remember helping to lead an equity retreat in Taos NM some late Augusts ago. After a session, I swept up a number of these small dry bodies from the corners of our meeting room. I learned from Galen that newts often have to travel when their vernal ponds dry up. When I found some living newts in the kitchen, I sketched the small dark creatures and journaled about them and this poem developed. It was a sad time. I did return them to their nearby pond, an intervention I’m not sure was a good one. The moment foresaw global warming and today’s reports on the deaths of salmon. The grammar of animacy (see Kimmerer, Braiding Sweetgrass) in poetry–and in many children’s books–comes naturally when we empathetically don the persona of others unlike us. If in Potawatomi even the wind is alive, it also was in the language of Christina Rossetti who wrote “Who Has Seen the Wind,” in which the trees bow down their heads when she passes. We might dismiss this as personification, but in English, it is how we do adopt languages of animacy.

①Driving West and Dreaming

Long long highway . Driving west from Colorado to California. Thanks to google we pull off on a tiny exit Thompson Springs to see railroad history and a ghost town. Oh, and I hope for a spring. Over the past week I have dreamed multiple times a night about visiting a spirit world: the dead-my father, rabbits, ourselves–portals. Well, never mind Thompson Springs, but do continue up to the Sego canyon petroglyphs and pictographs , the most otherworldly we have ever personally seen. Early Folsom people, probably 600 a.d. Whoooo. Still so moving , moved.

Sego canyon Utah

Geodesic Dome Plants at the MCA

Is it an accident or brilliantly witty that the rooftop at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Denver that is showing an exhibit of Drop City Founder Carl Richert’s geometric mystical paintings taking off from Buckminster Fuller designs has these plants outdoors? Thinking of starting a family based blog about synchronous events and twinning etc. open to all to contribute. Yes?

from complexity, attraction, surprise, juxtaposition, beauty, gut, garden, machine, color, a morning, a night, research, time, revulsion, resilience

This furry sage (salvia argentea) became gigantic over the summer, its dragon-tongued white flowers exploding over the sidewalk, until turned to brown curly seeds and tattered stems, I cut it back to nubbins. And now this. The leaves are as soft as my cats’ and I go out to stare at them in different light, and pet them a little. That it is growing next to an old typewriter is pure serendipity. I am digging (hahaha) for the poem still, and listening to what the leaves and the frozen typewriter keys seem to be reminding me.

I almost forgot the thousand thousand earwigs it was sheltering in its dead leaves. I began then to try to make peace with those scary little aliens who were apparently cleaning up for me.