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Silence is never silent:
summer wind
rattles the doors
with oncoming
sound of afternoon thunder.
My dog
sleeps a deep
slumber
unmoved
by the tink tink
of my laptop,
or the curtains
swirling
song.
These winds
are as predictable
as the march
of time –
I close my eyes
so tired
from the wide open space,
the onslaught
of so much beauty
and color
exhausted
from drinking in
the endless
night sky
glowing
planets
shooting stars
clusters of bursting light.
At this heightIMG_1572
the air is dry
and brittle,
cutting
grooves
in my tired skin.
Yet,
my lungs
fill like the clouds
in the afternoon sky
warm –
I imagine them in my mind’s eye
pink and light
content
drinking in
the purest
thinnest
most exquisite air.

With my eyes closed
tight
I can still see
the great horned owl
winging
by the road
in the night sky
under the car’s light
intent
on small
comical
deer mice:
long snout,
big eyes
huge ears:
clowns of the prairie.

Sometimes,
I have to stop
dead in my tracks
and notice
because
if I don’t
it will be all too soon
too late:
too late
for thoughts
dreams
words
deeds undone,
all too soon
regrets.
I close my eyes
like
prayer
there in the dark
I see the unspoken
the gesture
graceless
fallen
till way too late.

The wind reminds me
days
move
beyond any landscape
past many years,
centuries
even,
to the same
quiet
sigh.IMG_0624

I want to die with no regrets
on a day like this
when the wind
sings so loud
the hair
on my dog’s neck
turns
from brown to grey
in the blink of an eye
in the flight an owl
in the song of the meadowlark
in the dull thump
of elk storming down the valley.
I want to stand
with my eyes closed
on top of this mountain
and whisper
to the furthest stars
“ I have not wasted my life.”

(for Melanie – she loves them too)

 

Up here at 6,000 feet
all creatures
forge their journeysIMG_0624
against the thin air
and ceaseless winds.

In summer,
tiny
calliope
beats
furiously
60 strokes
per second
to savor
sweet nectar
from golden columbine, Red-tailed_Hawk_l07-52-061_l
while in the high drifts
harrier hawks
scan the prairie
for deer mice
foraging in the wild
grasses
where meadowlarks
greet the sun
with their sweet song.

In spring,
creatures,
large and small
awaken
migrate:
the elk,
molting
heads down
hoofing
crevices
in the ravine
spilling rocks
rousing
sleeping
pika,
their mouths
still too dry
to sound
a shrill alarm.

By the river,
geese begin to land
in neat pairs
they pad
moist
muddy soil
and
adorn
greening
rushes
with down.

Winter
 quiets
the land,
silencing
all butIMG_7271
the ravens.
Beneath
white
sleep
many:
ground squirrels
muskrats
marmots.
In caves,
bear
snouts curled
to tail,
hearts
beating
long and slow
like the wind

But it’s in the summer
when
days lengthen
into starry skies
that abundance
fills these mountains.
Coyotes
bark
in pre-dawn light,
antelope roam
the bench
easy to spot
in dry sage
and the “whistle pigs”
stand brash
on mounds of dirt
daring
which brings
the snow.
red tailed hawks
to fly low.

I’ve seen osprey
battle bald eagle
over trout
diving
and
dipping
wings wide
till one drops
its hard won
feast.
Sand hill cranes
walk
wings wide
along
meandering
streams
high
in the valley
cooling
their
tall
awkward bodiesIMG_1293
beaks
sharp
head
splashed
red
leading
their
bobbing
march.

Summer brings
all visitors
wanted or not –
the errant
little brown
bat
flying
through the open
night
door
sonar
confused
squeaking,
but less
than I …..

One year
deer mice
peered
brown heads
from neath
the stove
burners
all
in unison
as if in
a slow motion
cartoon
I vaguely
recalled
from
childhood.
I laughed
so loud
I scared myself….

Down by the river
late tonight
I watched
dragon flies
dip
in edges
of splashing
waves
rainbow
wings
golden
sheen
translucent
against
this forever light.

But it’s
in my heart
I see
them
great
and
small.

When you have daylight till 9
or later
deep in the summer
you have no excuse
not to write –
no reason to peruse
the web
for odd
mostly
sad
desperate
news,
or to make long
convoluted
travel plans
to exotic locations
imagining
a freedom
which
is here
staring you in the face:
sudden summer
storm
brings the scent
of wet sage
and bluebirds
circling
snatching
large hoppers
flushed
by the wind,
even a lone
ground squirrel
up from the den
on hind legs
scenting
accessing
and
diving head first
down
into the soft earth.

I love these
sudden
harbingers
of clear water
reminding me
of the many years
water was a tight
golden
commodity.
Here in the high prairie
without a well
water is your bane:
begging
stealing
bartering
porting
in large
cisterns
to be doled out
like the high
commodity
it is:
one shower every
two or three days,
maybe longer…
dishes washed
in a very concise
format,
with the danger
of soapy residue,
and every glass
of cold water
you consume
in this dry
arid
summer
is a gift
you cherish
and never
take for granted.

In those days,
the river was
our highest
god:
transluscent
fast
slick
its rifts
nectar to our
desire:
a constant reminder
of its wet blessing.
I remember long
hikes along
its edge
my sons feverish
with desire
for a well
fought fight,
fly rods in hand
impervious to thirst
or hunger
so in the moment
perfect
meditators,
only a rising fish
breaking
their trance.
In heavy waders
cold water
pressing against
their legs
they held perfect
balance
yogis dressed
in olive green.
They would laugh
if they
ever thought
they had
learned so young
what I still struggle
to find –
peace
in the moment
in the now
here
awake
awake.

After the rain
I hear
the faint call
of geese
down by the river,
miles down the mountain:
the air is so light
and clear
it’s opened
my eyes
dissolved
the cobwebs
of excuses,
and so
I write.

 

Poet to Poet

(for Melanie)

We sat across from each other
blank slates
but for our new words:
two
so different
so alike:
Your hair fell about your shoulders
like the soft cadence
of your voice,
amber
honey
like the ginger
in your tea.
We spoke of
things
joyful
painful
the stuff of life:
and laughed
like girls
we truly
are –
wide eyed
easily
amazed
by the blue
of hyacinths
or the shimmer
of summer rain.
But it’s in
the silence
we spoke the best:
past years
of life
to this simple
present moment
of tea
shared and savored.
When we hugged
goodbye95421b4bbefb66235334c00444acaa07
I heard your heart:
it spoke
of mountains
fjords
cold waters
and wide open spaces.
It sang
like Norse women
kulning
rich in tone
calling home
lost herds
of Appenzell goats
foraging
in the crags
of Alpine heights.
An ancient
song
high pitched
magical
eerily enchanting
to my Inca soul.

We are blessed
you and I
know that –
we see
what others
do not,
we can hear
in the silence
and that is our gift.

Sou’westers

Here on the mountain
sou’westers
roll in
like thunderous
waves,
steady
loud
through
the gap
of our door
thumping
the siding
sheering
tops of pines
keeping squirrels
tight in their deep burrows,
bluebirds clinging
to the deck
their tail feathers
splitting
teeter tottering
to the endless
whine.

The dog
has retreated
to his least favorite
spot
the sunless back deck,
but protected there
he can scent
the cool air
for moving
deer
or antelope.
The hair
on his back
stands
erect
like
the daring
squirrel
who
must
have been
forced out
from
the warm
earth
to check
and report.
The dog sees him,
on its
mound
and
moves not,
saving his
effort
for something
more worthy
of chase,
puts his head down
and waits.

I’ve grown used
to the afternoon
winds –
sometimes more
tedious
than others,
but today
the shrill
whine
has unnerved me.
It brings me visions
of homesteaders
rugged
and determined
dragging
small children
wrapped
in furs
and leathers
in snow
drifts 10 feet high
fighting
to gain ground
their noses
peeking
neath layers,
their little hands
brittle
red
brave little soldiers
side by side
with straggly
cow dogs
walking
into the wind
to the little
wooden church
by the river,
to sing
hymns
of gratitude
They sing
of love
harmony
and joy:
thankful for another day,

Suddenly the dog
barks
growls
and braves
the wind –
he rushes
through the sage,
his ears
flopping
less than gracious,
but I see nothing.

He is determined
loudly
defending
his homestead
from invading
marauding
invisible
foes.IMG_4705

Perhaps
he hears
the cries of mothers
disillusioned
and alone
fighting
the winter winds
while men
hunt.
Mothers tending
fires,
cooking
babes in arms
singing psalms
to mask
the ceaseless
winter wind.
Or perhaps
it’s the drawn
out calls
of men he hears:
anxious
to be home,
fighting the onslaught
of winter snow
lips parted
brittle
chanting
tedious melodies
lest they fail
and leave
their loved ones
to the mercy
of hungry wolves.

The barking stops
I hear him
at the door:20160616_101458
he looks
forlorn.
He rushes past
the opened door
and soon sleeps
soundly
curled
tightly
by my side
like
the little ones
who surely he
can hear laugh
as spring
clears the snow
softening the land,
and their lives.
Now they march
hand in hand
to the river
to see the swift
waters
snow fed
and lush
cascading
down their favorite
boulder
into a deep pool
which holds
their favorite trout:
the old
giant rainbow
they call Gus.
They sit in the
still cold
and wet bank
and watch
osprey hunt
their tails
dipping
lightly
over frigid water,
they hear
geese overhead.
Sometimes
on the best of days
otter
slide close to the bank
snorting
barking
playing
reminding
them
to laugh

and celebrate
that once again
winter has come and gone.

I hear the dog sigh.

 

Some days time seems
to stand
stubbornly still:
and thoughts
keep drumming
through my head
like patterns
on the wall,
a flash
then another
of events
pieces
here
and
there
scattered
tumbling down
my memory
your voice
anchored
to the past
calling me
sweetly
in a song
we danced to
in the dark
naked
in the heart
of a city that never quiets,
“and so it was …
turned a whiter shade of pale..”

I only catch
a word here and there,
but your scent
sweet
from whiskey
and tobacco
fills my nostrils
makes me dizzy
“ and the room was humming harder
as the ceiling flew away..”
your hands
delicate
strangely delicate
firm
round my waist
a vine
timeless
never to wither,
“i was feeling kind of seasick”
I look up
all these years later
astounded
my face
“just ghostly
turned a whiter shade of pale.”

There are no coincidences
only the illusion of coincidence:
25 years to the day we met
I sit in a cafe
far from anywhere
alone
and I hear the same song
playing somewhere
in the back
where a tired
haggard
short order cook
slings morning eggs.
“And we called out
for another drink
and the waiter
brought a tray..”
It’s a drink
I want now
not coffee
not this day
not this year
but a cigarette
and you
pulling my hair
far from my face
with that
same killer grip:
raging with desire
“turned cartwheels cross the floor..”

The last time I saw you,
all color taken from you:
pale
crimson blood
dry in your veins
I touched my heart
one hand,
and reached
for your lips
the other –
C Major
suspended
in time…..

“There is no reason
and the truth is plain to see….”
fragments
scents
sounds
dreams
visions
nothing
erases
these,
even
in the most confused
morning
somewhere
alone
in the middle of nowhere.

quotes are from Whiter Shade of Pale by Procol Harum ( 1967)

 

It’s four or close to it,
the southerlies have begun:
down the slope
waves of early
spring grasses
keep our prairie schooner
afloat,
her cedar siding
whistling in tune
with
ground squirrels
whose alarm
sounds
every time
the dog raises his head
in the direction
of their mound:
one stands
sentinel
at all times
unfazed
by the wind.

I set the kettle
in my ritual
of mountain
tea time:
the nutty aroma
of brown rice tea,
turns this sea of grass
to wet
fields of rice
and the wind
becomes
pure
deep
tones
of sacred Himalayan bells.

Green is the color
of the heart:
it sanctifies
and clears
the dark,
pulls
illusions
from my eyes,
to find
my true self,
at peace
alone
riding the waves
of these many years,
rid of so many ghosts
listening not
for dirges
but
for laughter:
in the meadowlark’s
morning call,
but always
always
in the coyotes’
concerto,
at dawn
the chorus:
amorous
yipping
snarling
barking
snapping
yelping
that sets
the dog on fire
responding
in kind
running
just
to the edge
of the sage
standing
guard
like the little sentinel
who watched him
earlier in the day:
but he
alas
unlike the proud
ground squirrel
can only stand
on four feet,
his tail thrust
high
in an adamant
gesture
of dare to go further.

There is joy
and laughter
in this,
and I am glad
to be here
to tell of it.
I am reminded
of what I told
you
once so long ago –
verde que te quiero verde.
They weren’t my words
and we both knew it,
you kissed my eyelids
and whispered
“Garcia Lorca.”

Tonight
under this endless
Montana sky
I’ll look up
and see a faint
glimmer of green
in the veil of stars
and laugh
for both of us.

 

“verde que te quiero verde” is from a poem by Garcia Lorca – it translates as “green that I love you green”