Tuesday, August 27, 2013



Some days I think I am becoming a mountain.  Not a sharp, snow-capped jab at the sky, but one of those golden-pelted hills that lingers in the fog of early morning.  Firstly, my feet have become sealed to the soil.  Secondly, what rises in me is porous and mineral as limestone.  Thirdly, there is something out in the distance, some vantage point or imaginary horizon that I am always looking towards.

I first discovered my metamorphosis when I was at my son’s soccer game in San Rafael at the base of Mount Tamalpais.  Looking out at the comets of their blue shirts, the whir of their machine legs.  I could feel something molten.  Plates shifting.  The sweat and chill of earthquake weather.

But days swallow each other like predators.  And time shimmies by like a scrimshaw of clouds. First one shape forming, and then the next. 

What I arrived at was this mountain stance.  The view.  The single arthritic oak crowning my peak reaching for something it doesn’t understand.  And the idea that somewhere, in the stratum, under tons of soil, in the tumult of stones and bugs and burrowed animals there is a secret space. Call it a lake or a cavern filled with that cold elixir of now. 

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Dear Sebastopol

This week our assignment was to write a letter to a town or place.  It turned out to be more difficult than I thought.  I chose to write to Sebastopol, my home town where I now live.  I write about my town a lot, but this didn't make it any easier to write a letter to it!  But, I gave it a shot.  Here is my draft.
Dear Sebastopol –

It’s hard to not get dizzy, here, under
tides of scents—how they grade and terrace the air:
the salt thick tang of wet earth and limestone
against sweet rot of wind fall apples and pears.

Take, for instance, the story of your history:
Little pine sap town on stolen ground. 
Dirt wagon rutted streets.
Lulls of hills lush with redwood and oak cleared to the root.
Then, patchworked into orchards of plums
then orchards of apples then vineyards.
The wide berth of scrub oaks left smoldering
in what was left of the Laguna after charcoal farming.
The train that carried its screaming weight right through the center of town.

Once your silence swallowed me under its glass bell sky.  Now,
I’ve wake slowly, like a good daughter.  Learn to waver in the air
above what I’ve learned until I spot the truth at ground level
and can sense what’s pushing up underneath.  Take, for instance

the WPA mural on the wall of your post office.  For so many years
it framed the idea of you to me: dusty gutted rows of apple trees
flanked by white chicken coops.  This was my sweet, apple town
I carried with me. But, even the Gravenstein is bitter sweet. 

Monday, August 12, 2013

Ode to the Front and Back Steps of a Day

It's the end of summer here in Northern California. That means slow, foggy mornings.  Now that we are used to the swollen days with little that we must do, the school year is pressing down upon us.  For this week we were assigned to write a poem that was an ode to what you aren't allowed to do.  For me, as I wrote this, the poem became no only what we aren't allowed to do, but more about what we leave unsaid about what we aren't allowed to do.  And the emotional residue that lingers from everything that is left unsaid about this. Here is my draft:
Ode to the Front and Back Steps of A Day

Ode to the gaps between firs unmended.
Ode to the hawks whose bodies stitch the seams between.

Ode to the hang of bored air. The locked door.
The wish to never look up from the screen.

Ode to the mother who locks her door while
her children both hands bang screaming MOMMY.

Ode to the mist that threads down valley.
Ode to the cars that whine and moan unseen up hill.

Ode to the hidden limestone creek  that lures
children to sink into her dark stone gut.

Ode to the old woman who yells at the kids who play there:
That’s private property! Ode to crawdads
that must still exist under all of this—

Ode to the new mom whose lost time’s orbit.

Ode to the anger that pulses under
the skin like a lost, unmapable river –

Ode to gravity and the foot to earth,
the push and pull of body forward toward
gap or fall, the whole day that can be revealed

when the fog lifts—Ode to believing it will.

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Sea of Trees

This week, our prompt was to mistake something for something else.  The last week has been a blur -- another wonderful year of The Napa Valley Writers' Conference came to a close; and our family got away for a last vacation in the Sierra Nevadas where we hiked in Squaw Valley, swam in Lake Tahoe and then river rafted on the American River.  What a blur of fun.  This draft is a mediation on all of those activities folded together. 

Sea of Trees

On the granite lip of the wide valley
I mistook the wind breathing through tall pines
for the sea.  Waves of thin green needles.  Drum
of heart's chord. The loosening shale
underfoot. At valley floor there is a
river where rocks pillow beneath waves. Dive
in. Find relief in the ache of cold but 
map the threat of sieves -- those shadowy ghosts
that pull you under granite's tongue.  When the
boys ran through the forest they had transformed.
Sway of kelp. Bars of light that penetrate
the deep. Their bodies shimmering like aspen.
With each step we have less water, fear, weight.
Sit down. Wait. Let the sea of trees cover you in their fir.