Monday, December 22, 2014

Dear Heart -

For this week's poem we were to revise a poem we wrote off of a prompt this last year that we wanted to go back to.  The one I chose was the toughest for me to write.  Not, sure it is even past a draft here. This isn't a topic I often write about, but it is one we should all be talking about more: what it is like to raise a child who isn't "normal" and how society, and our doctors deal with parents and children who are going through the terribly scary period of pre-diagnosis.

Dear Heart –


Big lug of muscle.  How you drag me down! Don’t you know I come from the sort of town that’s named after a standoff? Where a man stood three, aching leg days waiting outside the general store for another man who hid inside? Where everything is too fogged in to see clearly.  Where the ocean is too cold to swim?

I don’t live in a cul-de-sac, heart.  I live on a barn on a hill where I can see for miles into the cathedral of sky.  Where rain percusses against the tin roof. Where the creek gathers and gathers until there is a storm.  Where the trees ache and murmur in the winds. Where the morning sparrows punctuated the sky’s blue dome with ellipses that come from the sea. What does it mean to carry something to this place that is so un-nameable? 

But these days I have thick fingers and heavy, slippery feet.


Each doctor who has met with my son picks an edge of the tapestry to pullout and name without seeing the whole.

What we are given are small golden threads gathered and rewoven into unrecognizable shapes.
There is a part of me that wants to mitigate the conflict.       
That part of me is you, heart.

There is a part of me that steps up to the man standing knee deep in the mud outside of the general store just to whisper in his ear, you don’t want to be remembered for this.

There is the part of me who is the man waiting for fate to walk in and throw him against the dry goods, to have his face pressed into the dirt floor until he screams.        
Heart, that floor is so close, I can smell it.

And then there is my son.  My beautiful, suffering son.


On the radio program the parents of children with named mental disorders told their stories to the interviewer as if they were in confession.  They were honest.  They were on the other side of a dark journey looking back.

There was the young child’s palpable rage how it breathed and feathered the air.  Or, how the child ran and ran until he could find a tree that contain the enormous perch of his fear.

There were the holes punched into plaster walls.
There were the volley of shouts and screams that seemed to echo out from another deeper well of a body.

There were the locked doors, then, the removal of locks.

There were the people brought in to teach safety and discipline to parents who hadn't slept soundly in years.
There was the locking away of knives and scissors and baseball bats (just in case).
There was the teaching of body holds.
There were the words: police intervention.
There was the moment I looked into their stories and saw my own.


But what do we do heart without a diagnosis? What if we or the doctors or the schools step back only to see the blur of a face, the energy of a being that is different from what we know to name? 

But, I know him through the fog, heart.  I know his heart once beat inside of me and no matter how long I must stand, I will stand outside the door waiting for him to step out.


So I step back heart. I step back and back and try to see the whole portrait for what it is.  I turn off the radio.  I dig up the god-damned history of my town and try to understand more than what we've left to speak for itself and I try to write it all down.

Because a story is never simple, heart, is it?  Not one that is stitched in my own blood.

Monday, December 15, 2014

Home is an Uncanny Valley

For this week's poem, we experimented with writing about nature through digital devices/terminology.  I have a fond place in my heart for writing poetry with a variety of computer code languages mashed up in it.  So, in this draft, I tried that again.  Not sure if it make sense to anyone besides myself!  But, here is my effort:
Home is an Uncanny Valley

if          the rain continues
then     we may lose our escape down the gravel throated drive.
we are hungry for the rain

if          the rain edits the earth of the fields,
if          the rain rewrites the soapstone creek bed
if          the ditches we dug into the earth just yesterday overflow
if          we no longer recognize the sky

then     the path back to ourselves could be blurred by the many rainstorms before

LIST#     1987, 1992, 2005
PRINT#          Each flood, spilling into the next like a series of connected lakes.

the child looking out the rain freckled window could be ourselves
we are hungry for the rain
we are hungry for the truth

The reservoirs are low exposing what we’d forgotten: old logs, rusted cars, a body or two.

If         we flood again
than     we could forget the hunger
than     we could forget what’s underneath, exposed.

If         home is an uncanny valley       AND
we walk toward it, see that it is too much like ourselves to believe

Then the fields, the creek beds, the gravel throated drive
will scream muddy loud

the child looking out the rain freckled window could be ourselves
we are hungry for the rain
we are hungry for the truth

Let home = null/washed new/a place built upon a place

Let memory fade like a fog

Let the child at the window be my child, not myself

Let the water find its path back

Let the rain spell truth on the tin roof above our sleeping heads.

Monday, December 08, 2014

Sonnet After Lines Written by Jack London

The Oak tree underneath which Jack London wrote.

Sonnet Written After Lines from Jack London

Appearances are ghosts. Life is a ghost
land -- Take, for instance the towering oak
that splays its blackened arteries toward sky,
unaware that already a pair of
buzzards perch and clot the spiral of
tributaries that wind and unwind toward
whatever blue has arrived.  How like our
own aging bodies it stands passenger
of air and time but blind as a prophet,
blind as Tiresias, we step into
this wooden shell and we rise. Shake off
that tingling rot the fog brought in
because life lies in order to live and
we'll never know how many dark birds brood
and shadow this ghost land, this life.

Monday, December 01, 2014

An Elegy of Sky for Paula

For this week's poem we were to write a poem of release.  Since today is my recently lost friend Paula's birthday, I couldn't help but write a poem for her today especially when I saw how incredible the sky was tonight.  Here is a poem that remembers her through the landscape she loved.

An Elegy of Sky
for Paula

These winter days we are told to repair
ourselves; to stuff whatever it takes
into the cracks that open up from us:
sand, feathers, hot, melted gold. Or, to live
with that space even as it is still opening
and let whatever force--light or dark--shine in.

Yours was such a simple ceremony:
thin line dug into rocky sand, handful
of red flowers scattered like joy or sorrow,
then the ashes: what clouds, what rises,
what will meet the decision (that cold shock) of sea.

The sky opened up today and revealed
through furrows of cathedral clouds
a thick, bright shaft of light pouring from
the unknown above down to the valley floor.
As I drove down into it, what opened up in me were questions.

Can we fill the cracks that open in us?
Or, do we let them breath the air and sea?

Monday, November 24, 2014

After Visiting Jack London’s Grave on the Day of his Death, November 22, 2014

For this week's prompt, we were to write off of Mary Oliver's poem "August".  I had the incredible experience this past weekend of getting to read one of my poems at Jack London's grave at a ceremony remembering his death.  It was an incredibly moving experience.  This poem is written in response to that experience and Mary Oliver's poem.  It's only a draft, but it is a step toward my new project: writing a book of poetry about Jack London. 

After Visiting Jack London’s Grave on the Day of his Death, November 22, 2014
There are gates, once redwood strong, we have left to rot as evidence of our departure and return.

There is the way the wind roars in the trees like a ravenous sea when we speak, shipwrecked from the dead.
There is the weight of the urn Charmian carried the day of his funeral.  How it became heavier with silence every step she took closer to the wagon. 
There is the first stone barn lost to our eyes that is folding back into itself.
There is what remains inside.  What remains unclaimed in darkness: a lost wagon, perhaps?  The rotting hull of the Snark?
There are the voices of strangers we sew together in order to find the story we can’t feel with our hands in this dark.
There is the seam where what we know welds smoothly into what we feel.  A new, steel gate that will not rot.
There are the phone numbers to the dead written on a cedar plank wall in a closet now empty of a phone. 
There is the desire that opens up like a mountain view that was lost to nearly a century of brush.
There is what opens up when we finally see into it:

A valley of murmurous air.


Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Draft of There's a Ghost of This Machine of Air is complete!

Last weekend, for some reason a pocket of time opened up and I finished my draft of my next book, There's a Ghost in this Machine of Air.  The manuscript is most likely not as done as I think it is, but the fact that it is written and organized in a manner I think is working right now is a huge reason to celebrate (in my opinion).  This does mean that I won't be writing more poems about the Laguna de Santa Rosa (for the time being!)  Moving on from a project of that magnitude is always difficult for me.  Since I am a poet who is project driven, being project-less, or not focused on completing a project makes it hard for me to write.  Here is my attempt to move on this week.  We were asked to write a poem where we talk about why we are dissatisfied with what we've got.  Here's my attempt at a draft:


Thankful for the gates we pass under:

braided galaxies of swallows

netted against grey combed skies.

This time of year earth’s desire—

lace of steam that rises to meet

dawn’s chorus is nothing to be netted.

What shadows have escaped our watch in the night?

The last remaining green grasses bent by dew.

Light warming, slowly; letting that weight go.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Polaroid Cape May, 1996

For this week's poem, we wrote a poem in remembrance of a great poet.  Here is my small tribute to Galway Kinnell.

Polaroid Cape May, 1996

Soft continuous clicks
spill from a manual
typewriter against walls
thin and delicate as shells;

early morning sea air
still thick with fog
covers and uncovers
the pilings with
the iron breath of sea

like the memory of a poem
carefully carved out
so that every experience after
washes against it

and comes back changed.