Friday, January 02, 2015

Day 2: Clean

Day 2 brought images of turkey vultures airing their wings in the morning sun and this attempt at a sonnet. 


This morning, turkey vultures arced and spread
their great wings to gather warmth back into
their dark bodies. It’s called “sunbathing” or
“spreading” – a means of getting back what you've 
lost under the dizzy stars of night. Stop
gawking. Think about what slant truths rose up
to meet you last night.  Who wouldn’t wish to
burn clean at dawn?  The nights are growing long
the stars gone sharp in the crisp night air like
so many suspect tunnels offering
a powdery out. We go to sleep in
this skin only to awaken in
another skin. Never saw it coming.
Nothing left to do but rise bath in light. 

Thursday, January 01, 2015

Day 1 of 30: Strong

Alright, it's January and time to poem-a-day! Thanks to Nicole Callihan for giving me the push to write this month!  Over the next 30 days, I'll be attempting to write a poem a day.  This one, is based on my word for the year: strong.


It feels good to lift heavy weights. Think Samson. Think legs sprouted from redwoods.  Think holding up the whole fucking sky. Body like a fortified city, everything unnecessary falling from it Then, the drop, the lightening, the satisfying thud.

When we look at strong bodied women, we first see their faces (enough make up? Pretty, or butch?). Then, the bared abs, almost reptilian, the thick muscled legs.
A swimmers body (especially a butterflyer) will not fit into a normally sized prom dress or wedding dress.

When you swim far distances, you have to find a place inside yourself that no longer contains your mind.  Think glass carved out with fists. Think universe of forward motion. Think nothing but shore.

The women competing for the title of “the strongest woman in the world” climb ropes thicker than their arms. Drag laden sleds. Lift barbells greater than twice their weight.  Though beautiful, not one will be pictured on a magazine cover outside of her sport.  A strong woman isn’t marketable.

When you swim across a large lake for many hours the only thing you can see is the vinculum between sky and the dark, murky water below.

There is a line we draw between fit and over-fit. We hold that line with images of women who walk in between. Starve enough. Burn enough to need. Even the swimming catalogs use models who don’t have strong backs or biceps that could pull their bodies out of the water.

At the end of the Crossfit games, the top three winners grin and wave from a podium, at ease in their strong bodies.  

Perhaps, they are asking us to become indestructible. 

Perhaps, with their strength, they can hold up the sky long enough for us to pass through.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Revision: The Nature of the Place

For this week's prompt we were to again go back to a poem we wrote this past year and revise it.  I chose to go back to one of my Laguna poems that was still driving me crazy.  And thanks to the feedback from my writing group I trimmed and trimmed and came up with this.  Hopefully, what I trimmed away was right!  This poem is about the egret specifically and how the Audubon society was actually formed just to save this one bird that was being decimated by the plume trade.  But, the poem is also about how even though (thanks to their hard work in the 1920s) the egrets are back and thriving in the Laguna, we still are stewards to their destruction.  That the damaged we've caused to their habitat will last forever and though the Laguna may now look better there is still damage lurking underneath.  Here is my newest attempt at a draft!

The Nature of the Place
"The nature of the place—whether high or low, moist or dry, whether sloping north or south, or bearing tall trees or low shrubs—generally gives hint as to its inhabitants."  --John James Audubon

Today, on the Laguna, one can still see
the shock of a white, plumed body
punctuate the space between raw, golden field,
and the open question of sky
because somehow, the Great Egret, the Snowy Egret
and the Cattle Egret have survived.

Once the Laguna pulsed, the heart of the plume trade.
Desperate hunters climbed high into scrub oaks and willows
to raid the egrets’ giant stick nests
for aigrettes, white waterfalls of long, thin feathers
used to adorn fashionable hats
because an ounce of feathers was worth
double the price of gold.
Soon, spotting an egret became so rare
sightings were printed in the local paper.

Until the Audubon society was formed
to rescue these ghost birds from extinction.
to slow the pulse of the plume trades
and slowly the egrets numbers began to rise.

But, the nature of the place –
the lack of steelhead and salmon
swimming in the deep, green lagoons,
the felled oaks and cleared willows,
the waters gone thick with sediment –
tell the story of its inhabitants
not just of the birds, but of us.
We are stewards to the destruction we’ve caused forever.

So when you walk the smooth paths of the Laguna today
and sight the white arrow of an egret piercing
the camouflage among what is water, earth, and sky
remember the hunt that still pushes from the ground up,
and how beauty must survive.

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?