Saturday, April 27, 2013

Day 26: terpsichorean

Terpsichorean Nights

Some nights the only way to understand 
the seep of amber sky is to become 
a chorus of delight. Come together.
Let packs of children run free through orchards
like comets. Gather around a fire.
Pour glasses of wine the color of sky.
Let the scent of the earth rise to your lips
and speak until threads of words and laughter
spark stars back into the darkening sky. 

Friday, April 26, 2013

Day 25: The sounds that fish make when no one is listening

The Sound of Underwater
We share this: a love for what is submerged;
refracted from surface, dense with shadows.
A place were skin always remains cool.  Where
light pours and shimmers like liquid. Where sound
holds its fat tongue. Underwater, all is
bearble. The bodies strange mechanics:
lungs, muscle, heart. All become mad
for air but can be quieted by knife-
like precision of streamline, the movement
of the body forward not by force, by
becoming a part of what surrounds.

If I could give you anything it would
be this: another submerged life. Somewhere
to slip into. Somewhere to emerge
from into the shimmer liquid light.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Day 24: Trees near churches

The Tree of Birds

The eucalyptus outside the arm-wide
window where I sit days watching hills
of trees sway under fog's covering breath.
Where the blue jay perches each dawn staring
into me. The arthritic apple trees
bent with age a few graphed hybrids, author
unknown. And the press of woods from behind
where wind and footsteps untangle, startle.
The few redwoods jut up from the valley
as if startled to be the last left to
stand as hawks circle and scream into air.
Once, there was a tree made entirely
of birds. Small and large birds that nested so
long in its wooden eaves their white and black
wings became leaves their hollow bones echoed
with the sap of all the tree knows until
everything lifted: the tree, the bodies
of birds into the open arms of sky.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Day 23: Short Shrift

When I read through the definition for "short shrift" I was struck by the way the word shrift was used as a term to describe exile.  And, whenever I think of exile, I think of Ovid.  How, at the heart of his career he was exiled to the very edges of Rome, Tomis  on the Black Sea by the emperor Augustus.  There is no record as to why Ovid was exiled, although he stated in his own poetry that it occurred because of carmen et error — "a poem and a mistake".  My classics professor in grad school (who was an expert on Ovid's haunting work Tristia which he wrote while living in Tomis) once visited the city.  He said that in it, is a lake and in the middle of lake is an island called simply, "Ovid's island".  He said no one there knew why it was called Ovid's island, and there is record (aside from references in Ovid's own poems) to record where he lived during his exile.  But, I like to believe he lived on that island.  This draft is a short reflection on Ovid, and the idea of exile.  Hope you enjoy.

Ovid's Shrift

Exile is like that. Bordered. Lines that blur
And stutter. Cold. An island. Not a limb
Touching land, or, the icy waters that
numb and surround. Pulling you away from
That hive of bodies. Rome's pulsing red core
What he writes down loses it's form. Is dredged
From the deep waters that surround his home. 
And there is still an island. We are still
Mapping what's drifted under the surface of

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Day 22: 50 ways to cook a chicken

Anyone want to guess what I was teaching today?

Spring Chickens

Spring hums here.  It doesn’t slowly unfurl
its green leaves. Blossoms confetti the air. 
Then trees leave out quick as if afraid sky
will open into showers.  Today my
class didn’t know what a subway looks like:
it’s dark like a mouth, I said, then opens
into light--people freckle than slur past.
like apparitions.  What are apparitions?
What’s come apart into air.  I say.
I move on to the bough.  What’s a bough?

It’s the part of the tree that reaches for
the mouth of the sky.
Confetti of blossom.
What’s left after a hard rain.
A red wheelbarrow, for instance, beside
those relentless chickens that peck and peck
the wet ground looking for what comes after.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Day 21: I gotta to see a man about a chainsaw

For some reason today the prompt made me think of all the old historic buildings around here that perch on hillsides and sag and then slowly fall down.  What lost stories are falling with them and who will take the time to dig them up. 


The old school house rested on the crest of
hill near the restless blue-breath of cold sea
has finally collapsed into itself.
Time is in the wind that picks up over
rocky cliffs. That slowly eased the redwood
planks apart until, tired skeleton, it
sank. For weeks, no one stopped their car, no one
witnessed. Only the ghosts remembering
what their footsteps spelled when they were in flesh.
Until a big man noticed. Eddied out
of traffic to pick through what was left to
gather what wooden stories the dead have left.
It was there, sifting through the planks that the
box was found. Unbroken belly of black
age-tanned wood. The man shook his head at his
discover. Feeling the ache of what
lay hidden inside. Silenced voices, dark
words that would rush into him once he let
them out. Once he did. Once he found a man
with a chainsaw and opened the musty
box his eyes washed clear as deep as the sea.
His path opened by the truth.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

20. Worth a Fortune Word of the Day: sibylline

Two poems in one day.  I bet you guessed this one would be about Jack London, too?  Here is a poem I wrote off of another photograph from Jack London Photography book.  I could get over how Jack London called photographs "human documents".  Here is a poem I wrote off of a photograph of London working at his outside desk in Glen Ellen in 1903.

Sibylline Photograph - Jack London, 1903

“If we could read one human face aright
the history not only of man, but
of humanity itself is written there.” –J. L.

He is bent over his manuscript.  Eyes
look down. Clear, without a squint. Unfiltered
cigarette dangling out of the right side
of his mouth. His fingers are ink-stained.  Pen
taut.  Papers are neatly stacked.    Sun still out
(must be late morning). Behind him rises
the afternoon shade of the massive Scrub
Oak (due to be cut down this year). Behind
him rises the dappled crown of shadow
that will ebb and fall.  Behind each sun-warmed
leaf, a darkness presses.  Behind him time
pushes and breathes on the back of his neck.
Caption reads, London working on The Sea Wolf.
Photograph so exposed, the page looks blank.

April 19. How to control your dreams

I got a little behind on my April poem-a-day prompts due to some exciting news. (More about this very soon!) But, today I had a moment to myself. I got a new book in the mail:
Jack London: Photographer edited by Jeanne Campbell Reesman and Sara S. Hodson.  It's a gorgeous book I had been saving up for and finally found a deal on.  A hardcover book the showcases and talks about Jack London's little known expertise in photography.  I found a beautiful photograph in it of Jack London on a small boat with a dog going down the Napa River and I could resist writing about it.  Hope you enjoy today's draft!

A Photograph of Jack London and One of His Dogs on the Napa River
How do you control your dreams?
Take them on a boat down a flat river
where what water you part reflects you back.

Cross under steel arcs of girders—bridges
like grinning mouths where suited men machine
their bodies from day to day.  Bring a dog.

Look ahead to the river’s mouth, bay, sea:
until what rises to horizon
is the un-mappable. There’s where journey

begins, rises from the sea.  Follow it.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Day 17: Steal With Permission

Dear Jack Spicer--

What kind of radio stations are peppering the air these days with their static sermons? I find myself thinking about poetry more than I ever dared. Even the hillsides are screaming in greasy orange poppies and erect purple lupine. Or, the tin roofed barns leaning on their weak legs. When are you going to stop staring at the froth of a drunken sea to answer me? Take for instance the sky. All it's blue laughter and secret messages etched in contrails. Is that where your telling it? Or in the sound my bald tires make crossing the bridge into day- guh-gunk, guh-gunk, guh-gunk. Are the words whispering in the eucalyptus leaves stolen with your permission? Or are the trees speaking in prose? You are dead and the dead are very patient, but I am not. Let that single white swan split the lake like a lyric. Let what spills out be truth.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Day 16: What Saved You

after Pablo Neruda’s “I’m Explaining a Few Things”


It was running that saved me.  Strobes of  legs 
over sidewalk then trail,  the sweet burn in lungs 
that carried me up the steep, rocky climb 
of Cobblestone –until the trees thinned 
and opened up to reveal  the cool eye 
of the lake, a flat, cat tailed cataract,
above the loom of a grey sky.  Until,
I caught my breath and swallowed the weight of
my friend’s faraway voice, as she stood on
a silver rooftop in Brooklyn looking
as the buildings fell, then the ashes fell.

It was the same rooftop we’d sat on days
drinking diet coke and getting a tan
nights drinking in whatever stars the sky
revealed to us.  I was running because
I couldn’t get into my car, and drive
across the scar of the plains to heal her.

But that was years ago, when running was
something I’d won back from my broken body.

Now my body is broken again.  Now 
my heart is broken again and there is 
nowhere to run. The campus is sedate.  
My students do not speak about
the bombings in Boston.  There were many

races – my children held in my husband’s
arms waiting for me at the finish line. 
Crossing was to enter into their arms,
into the joy of so many open arms.

Now, there is blood on the streets Boston.
There is the blood of runners and children
on the streets of Boston and I cannot
run away from it.  There is blood on the
streets of Boston and it could be the blood
of my children, my husband, my sweet friends.


When you remember your life you look back
at a sequence of events like clockwork.
It is so easy to forget what was
hard. What carnage will we remember?
What story will be told of these years if
we do not drive across the thick scar of
the plains, look into the sore of the Grand
Canyon and speak loud enough until our
voices carry across that great expanse.  
There is blood on the streets of Boston.
There is blood on the streets of Boston. 
There is blood on the streets of Boston.   

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Day 14: Waiting for Inertia

153 Fish
Imagine, waiting for inertia on
a long, dark night in a small wooden boat.
A hollow emptiness licking the waves
A low fog breathing over the gray water.
If dawn broke, red and raw, it would seem like
years since the men had set out and what had

sent them was withered. So at first light when
the tall thin man stood on the beach waving

his hand like a flag or forgiveness or
hope, his words lifted up like small sea birds

soared across the choppy swells. Bonfire
blazing like a warm heart on the wet, stick

of sand.  So that of course when they cast their
wide rope net it filled and filled and filled.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Day 13: Write an elegy for yourself

Elegy for An Iris

There are the purple flowers that yawn like
velvet mouthed lions on the great hill near
the mouth of the sea called
Tamal pais in
Coast Miwok or the sleeping maiden.

Some of the flowers will be crushed under
careless hiker’s boots. Others, will wither
into purple mummies by early June
from lack of water.    A few flowers will
breathe in the thick fog that rolls off the bay.
Or, will nestle in the dappled shade of
a redwood tree and live until late fall. 

But one lucky flower will be picked by
a young girl in a yellow sundress who,
after dragging her feet in the dust, will
discover it alone, still glistening
with dew.  And for a second, she’ll forget
all the selves she’s carried up the mountain
and look at the flower as she feels it
is looking at her.  She’ll pick it, but it
will remain alive in the girl’s mind for
several decades until one morning she
is sipping coffee, writing a poem
before her children awaken and she
remembers the small, perfect flower and
it blooms again on the page.

Day 12: (a day late!) We dance round in a ring and suppose,

The Secret Sits

The redwoods, even now, always grow in
rings, like a tall thin cage.  Looking up from
the center, you can see blue, cloudless sky
crowned in a wealth of green fronds. Underneath
your feet is a soft carpet of loss, and
under that the dark, deep scent the earth.
What’s important is to remember this:
even as hope reaches skyward, your feet
rest on what’s come before, however dark
however deep.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Day 11: If I had Carrots ...

If I Had Carrots
The dream often progresses as such: if
I had a fresh tilled garden than this maw
of yard would tame.  A few raised beds
like sentences spoken against a silent
field.  And if I had a good enough fence
I could grow thick-knuckled orange carrots.
Pull them out by their green hair still raining
earth before the quiet deer, and gophers
had gnawed any green hope away. But that’s
what it’s like sleeping on the porous edge
of a dark wood.  You claim a small square, tend
it then succumb, watch what was there recede
understand you can’t tame what was never yours.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Day 10: His Book of Dreams

House Built of Dreams

To look in from above you'd have to part
fog's deep breath, the veil of night, moon's eye;
Remove the tin roof that echoes hard rain
or trembles in high winds, to find our four
sleeping bodies. Each arranged like estranged
letters who haven't yet found each other
to form a word. On the top floor are thick
footed adult dreams: labyrinths leading
to piles of unpaid bills, ungraded
essays, and sometimes a naked lover.
But below the windows are open and
yellow-stripped hot air balloons rise up like
hope. A jungle of trees sweat and offer
vines that swing out toward places unknown
where love lies down next to you in bed
solid and warm and never let's you go.

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Day 9: Tramontane \truh-MON-teyn\ ,



At dawn, a rosy light covers new buds
on dark fingers of Gravenstein apple
trees.  Across the valley, a flat scallop
of hills rises into light as if to
claim perimeter. Paradise is this—
what truth we wall in.  But with the dawncome
the sea birds: gulls, cormorants, cranes and all
they carry back and forth between—


Before baseball practice, my 4th grade son
asks me:  Do you know about Ishi Mom?
Of course.
  I say.  But I can’t see the perimeter
he’s been told—what’s been walled in to protect--

How many massacres Ishisurvived:
Three Knolls, Kingsley Cave.
How the stones of Deer creek were covered in
blood.  What Ishi must have carriedwalking
out of the dark woods into the arms of
those who had slaughtered all he had loved.
That Ishi was not his given name.  That
it is the Yahi word for man. That his
body was cremated without his brain
and lost for nearly 100 years. And
that these facts are only small pieces
larger truths still not passed into the light.

Because the paradise we tend is permeable.
Because the young may not need to know all
but certainly need to want to know all
Because beyond the mountains is where
paradise has any hope to begin.

Monday, April 08, 2013

Day 8: "The minute you begin to do what you really want to do, it's really a different kind of life." Buckminster Fuller


My “little eye” whispers from the backseat
what he wants to see closer—his skin cells
dancing around, forming a barrier
between what is inside his seven-year-
old body and all that pushes from outside.

Under a microscope, blood cells look like
little inner tubes,
I say and he smiles.
But even without the device I know
he already knows microscopy:
the art of looking closely with eyes
and the vast territories of the mind
and heart.  It is our sweet inheritance—

this walking a path strobbed with light
ith a need to look into the clear water
until we can see what others cannot:
the treasure of jeweled diatoms that has
populated it all along.

Sunday, April 07, 2013

Day 7: The secret to staying asleep all night.

Before our bodies were filled with new life.
Before sleep became a thin, gauzy veil
to pass in and out of.  Before fear tethered
us to tiny cherubic limbs. Before
we worried about the cartography
of the ever expanding  galaxies
of their minds. Before their hearts self-
generating organs. Like the apostle
we could not believe in the wound we’d carry.
Mother-heart.  Jagged mouth, and fresh blood
the “O” of pain.  Let the connective
tissue grow and cover us with a love
that is greater than doubt.

Saturday, April 06, 2013

Day 6: I never want to be too comfortable.

Today, the prompt took me back to the lyric story I started last year set in the late 1800s on our property near Freestone.  It's the story of a young woman who looses her husband in a collapesed tunnel and how she raises her son alone and keeps their apple farm running.  Here is another draft.  Hope you enjoy!

What We Wish the Stars Not to Tell

I never want to be too comfortable
with what we’ve done. Even when Gravenstein
apples hang heavy on the thin trunked trees.
When the rows are plowed to dirt.  Even when
the wind dies down and lets the dust settle. 
I never want to see what’s lifted
us out of our past.  Joe is not a child
anymore.  He’s tall and strong, arms thickened
and browned.  Some days, when I let myself stop,
and see your ghost in him: your wide forehead
your blue eyes, your cathedral smile.
To him you are less than a memory—
some Odysseus I conjure up at night. 
I can still remember holding Joe’s plump
toddler hand as we lay on the porch to
see the stars at night:  that one there is
where we began out East; that powdery
path is our journey West where we found you
the brightest star at our center
.  These days
our loneliness has grown sturdier like
the trees.  It stretches out in long, neat rows--
and if we ache enough, bend, break enough
your ghost flickers past.  And when night falls
we wish for the cold erasure of fog.

Day 5: No One Ever Told Me

Day 5: No One Ever Told Me

No one ever told me about the sound
of baby starlings nestled in the eaves
of our barn—nor, how, through our walls
we would still hear the bright voiced tapestry:
A deep stitch of mother, then a blur of
tiny effervescent voices.  Or, how,
when my son would up, still sleepy-eyed and
slow, he’d follow me, press his ear to wall,
and smile a kind of joy that seemed in
tune with all we heard.  This is what dawn is—
A heart that’s always listening to joy.

Thursday, April 04, 2013

Day 4: "There is a knack to flying. You must throw yourself at the ground and miss." -- e.e. Cummings

After you left, I let the Woods Speak for You

We landed here swollen in belly and
mind; threw our backs into it—
cleared the land until it was tamed into
rows.  But the perimeters, those dark woods,
push in, gathering back what we’ve claimed.
Some nights, when the moon pools through bubbled glass,
thin walls seem to fall away to let in
a chorus of coyotes.  Their song feels close and permanent.
As if all that we’ve hatched down and sorted into rows
will be dug up and reclaimed by morning.
As if my loneliness has finally
found a voice—a duet to sing against
the moon’s haunting silver pool. You should have
never taken the work.  There was enough.
On that last day, driving the oxen up
the steep climb toward Freestone where the tunnel
would collapse and take your life, you turned back
and waved.  Your hand white, like a flag
an offering toward what would pursue us
for so many stitched together days.

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

Day 3: That’s not really happening is it?

Today, I was thinking a lot about what it means to write now, versus what it meant to me when I was an undergrad or even a graduate student.  How motherhood especially broke me and changed me in a way that made me write differently.

The Light in Trees
When it wasn’t really happening, I’d
exit the parkway, unknowingly drive
past my favorite college bar where I’d
ordered beers for their sound: Black Mambo or
Lambic . Sang full lung to Cab Calloway.
It was there (half-drunk) I’d found the perfect
light caught in a winter bare tree. That golden
blur that slurred on the page toward a poem. 
When he was born, sleep became like light
though passing trees. Burried juiceboxes,
goldfish crackers, the sound track of High School
Musical blaring through my minivan
until silence was exotic, something
to be saved up for, and usually lost. 
Had I passed myself – the young drunk gazing
at the bare tree, the young mother reaching
to pass a juicebox to the screaming child –
I’d not seen anything.  The light, the tree
or even the god
-damned poem.

Tuesday, April 02, 2013

Day 2: I Still Plan to Write you a Letter on Growing up far from the Desert

For some reason the prompt today made me think immediately about the poet Alice Notley.  She has always been a poet I love and struggle to understand.  She grew up in the desert in CA.  Then, I thought about a trip I took a long time ago over the Tuolumne pass to Bishop, CA.  I was in a van full of poets headed to the California Poets in the School Annual Conference.  Bishop is a desert town found in the cradle of two mountain ranges.  It was such a foreign place - the scent of sage, the dry heat.  But also such a shock and joy to be completely surrounded by poets again (I had been working in the corporate world).  Here is what I drafted up for today.  

I Still Plan to Write you a Letter on Growing up far from the Desert
for Alice Notley

The air smelled like sage and heat near Bishop. 
Shale raining our descent from the steep pass.
Sap Pines leaning; blue-eyed lakes shivering
sky. So that when we hit the floor it was
nothing we were prepared to understand.
 It sanded us clean, sunk the scent of sage
into what we would find later of ourselves.
You can forget a lot underwater
when you’re that dry.  And the cold mountain lake
separates the papers you’ve gathered of yourself
until they blossom on the cool surface.
These days I stitch days out of fog and breath,
far from the desert. I know the exact
bend in gravel drive where the generations
of quail return to hatch and thrive.  Some days
though, the wind picks up, carrying unknown
that feeling of descent, that raining down
until all that is left to do is dive.

Monday, April 01, 2013

Let the Poem-a-day Rumpus Begin!

Today kicks off National Poetry month and one of the activities I've done for the past few years has been to write a poem-a-day during the month of April.  So, today is April first and so the poem-a-daying begins!  This year, a few of my friends are going to be joining me.  If you read this and think, man, I want to do that too! Then hop right in!  Here is the prompt for the first day (courtesy of the lovely poet and promptess Lisa Cihlar):

1. Not another happy ending, I'm sick and tired of happy endings.

So, what to do to write a poem in a day?  Here's what I do.  I look at the prompts first thing in the morning.  With the prompt in mind, it's easier to think like a poet all day.  Then, sometime during the day carve out a small window of time and write whatever has come to mind down. When you poem-a-day, you are only creating drafts, so there is no pressure! 

So dive in and check in later today to see my attempt at a draft! Once you write your own draft post it as a comment to this blog, or to my facebook post (or keep it to yourself if you want to and just let us know you completed your poem for the day). 

Here is my poem for the day:


Flower sprung of sandy soil and fresh blood
how you bloom a room alive. With bright head
lulled over with abundance. There are days
when I believe in happy endings--
fog lifts leaving green hillside glistening.
A few deer come into view their heads bowed down
to the possibility of understanding
earth's buried secrets. But doubt is like that.
Here I am carried away by the scent
while underneath the sandy soil your
dark roots tangle, and grasp--trying to hold
on to belief, or the false promise of spring.