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Last one standing….

These days I sleep
deep
as if practicing
for the long one.IMG_3851

I wake up early,
and often the moon
is still
looming large
to the north,
no sun in sight.
The mountains
still clinging
to the dark shadows,
the dog and I
venture out
to the porch
and sniff out
the night visitors.

He stands
alert
tail high
and nose
in the air
snarling
in a low
rumble
in case
coyotes
dare
to linger
in the sage
just past
the eye’s range.

In the chill
under
a low
last
star
I listen
for
night sounds:
owl screeches,
hooves in the soft grass
or snorting
alarms,
but hear
only the river
far down the valley
constant
as the years.IMG_4697 (1)

Too early for the meadowlark
or even blue-birds,
I listen intently
in the night air.
It sings
the names
of many
whom I love
and now roam
free
on the edges
of this cage
we call life,
lithe
they
flicker
like fireflies
laughing
joyful
merged
with the cosmos.

I lost my soul mateIMG_0040
many years ago
sudden
and
sharp –
my heart
torn from me
in the blink of an eye.
I roamed
the rooms
of our home
wondering
where
he had gone.
I cried myself
an answer
over and over,
bitter
and angry:
I was so wrong.

The breeze turns stiff
and billows
my night-gown
like a sail
on this prairie
house.
The dog barks
one last time
and we
turn quietly away
from the night sky
to the warmth
of the house.

These days
I laugh
and simply pray,
let me not be the last one standing….

 

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Late in the afternoon
the winds shift
exposing
billowing
clouds
dancing
round
a crimson sun.IMG_3360
The smoke
is gone
for now,
fires
still raging
north of us.

Wade Lake
lies
flat
still
long
blue
green
so calm
and clear,
it could be
the Caribbean.
The summer
crowds
have left
leaving
only a dim
echo
in the rocky
crags
and
pines of
the Horn Mts.
A lone gull
flies
overhead
looking
out of place
not so
the osprey
surveying
the shallows
for small trout
or
crawfish.

For 20 odd
years
I’ve touched
this rocky shore,
one hesitant
step after the other.
Knowing all too well
this is not the Caribbean:
these waters
culled
from snow melt.
Every time
I start anew,
slowly
approaching
its edge
as though
I’ve forgotten
the heart stopping
chill –
like with childbirth,
a convenient
slip of memory.

On this lake
puppies
many
have been
baptized
and
versed
in the art of fetch:
their names
a long litanyIMG_3350
of bittersweet memories:
I still see them
in the shadow
of sunset,
as my present boy
plunges
head first
after a
coveted stick
like he should…..

And then
I recognize
the sudden urge
of denying
the all too
obvious fact:
this damn water
is freezing
no matter what
the season.
It’s a badge of
courage
to swim
here
past August
or before July.
One I wear
with pride.

The dog stiffensIMG_3351
and drops
the stick past my reach,
shakes
three times for good measure
and pretends
a sudden interest
in bushes along the shore.
I know,
yes,
it’s my turn.

And every time,
it’s the same
monologue:
I can do this,
once I’m in
it’s not so cold,
I have Andean blood
meant for
mountains
and
freezing waters,
don’t stop now
your half way in
oh yes
close your eyesIMG_0291
and dive
feel
the icy
sudden stab  of life   against your heart –

there
now
you’re
in….
I hear a cry
thunder
across the lake
and know
I’m alive.

In the morning light
I hear his cry –
low wail,
as though
an after thought
then swiftly
determined
intent
loud-
I need attention
care
love
food
everything
now!
I rush down
the stairs
and lift
his warm body
from the bed,
curls tussled
wild
this child.

He smells
of night dreams
and mother’s
milk:
sweet breath
almond
eyes
fawn-like.
I hold him
close
and feel
his warm
tears,
up the stairs
we trudge
and out
onto the porch
to see the world –
montana
arbol
solIMG_9030
perro
cielo
pajaro.

 

I sing
each one
to him
in a language
he knows
deep in his marrow.
He laughs
as fast
as the antelope
on the ridge:
one note after the other-
the bluebirds
stop mid-flight
ground squirrels
stand
on their fresh mound
dogs
lift their tails
at the joyous sound.

There is nothing
like innocent
pure
need:
but oh
the gift
I cannot
give –
the promise
of a world
free of pain,
far from danger
or catastrophe.
So little time
to sing you
a lullaby
so soon
the night
the dark
the unknown….

You reach up
to stroke
my face
and
in yours
I see all the little ones:
far and near,
I kiss your forehead
and pull the blanket
tight around both of us:
in this moment
we hold
them all
here
in our circle
of light,
in our blessing
and silent prayer.

IMG_2340There’s noise
from the house,
frying pans
dishes,
and the smell of coffee.
The spell is broken
but not my promise:
“here, let me cover you…”

 

Tonight
the valley
wails
morbid songs,
mantras
of death:
flames
skipping
crimson
through
once green glades.
The deer are long gone:
white tails flicking
smoke
in their trail.
So too the rabbit
hopping
through embers
paws
light
ever so lithe.
Only the coyote
lingers
summer coat
scraggly
tail low
ears high
tuned
to the sounds
of fear:
scampering
confused
rush
of deer mice,
soon his delight.

Even the rough legged hawk
has flown
up the ridge
leaving only
scat on the porch
little bones
turning into ash
as I poke.
You’d think
the slow moving
skunk
might saunter
past the sage,
just to leave
a bit of her
bitter perfume
to tease the dogs,
but not even…..

I look toward
the north
where billows
of smoke
unfurl
into the darkened
sky
and see
the dimmest
sliver of the fall moon.
Strange fruit
we’ve come to bear –
bitter
harvest
we
now must sow.

I close my eyes
and think
of the children:
pure
sweet
innocent
like the first snow
that
will bless these hills
none too soon.
Covering
scorched earth:
this cooling balm.

And in years to come,
we will whisper
tales of this
fearful summer,
and all too soon
forget.

 

For days now the sky has blackened
winds shifting
bringing plumes of smoke
from the mountains.
The animals are so still
or so far
from this parched place
it’s eerily quiet:
except for coyotes
crying
in the valley,
their notes
oddly flat.
They who feed on the dead
and weary,
now
sound resigned
to a worse than wretched fate.

The moon rose late
a strange
hue
blood red
tainted by the many fires
devouring these
prairie lands.
Yet,
we, the people,
sit
in cold depression
unable to budge
from fear:
the rivers
raging,
wind’s destructive
fires consuming
end to end,
a hurricane
looming
on a deadly course.
We
sit
frozen
eyes
stinging
throats
parched
hands
useless
pressing
keys
to the many
devices
that sing
that constant song
of doom…..
We have become
worse than Orwell’s vision:
welcoming and blessing
our very slavery –
“Big brother “
happily
within us.
We welcome our
chains.
When did it blossom –
this poison
in our minds
that keeps us staring
frozen and
useless?

Walk in the forest
that once was,
look for your soul-
it’s still there,
somewhere beneath
blackened
charred earth
in the green
of new life
in the tiniest
of sprouts
kissed by the beam of morning sun.

Pull it by the root
and take in its
scent of new life,
bring it close
so near
you will hear
its secret
whisper:
heed its
word
or your soul
will wither
in this time of death.
We are in the heart
of the matter
the time is here
wake up
from your mind fog
walk away
from the nay sayers.
You are the change –
make it so.

 

Montana Prayer

I come to you
so oftenIMG_4523
broken
mute
dark
and at my worst:
day
by
day,
the wind
clears
my fears,
the river
cleanses
my rigid
knotted
body:
ice cutting IMG_1565
flesh,
the moon
lulls my soul
the stars
fall
and I sing
my best
lullaby
a long
tune
that echoes
past
the highest ridge
past
the many years
past
the lost dreamsIMG_3851
past
this
same
moment
over and over.

You’ve heard it all,
silent witness:
and yet
you embrace me:
ponderosa

Red-tailed_Hawk_l07-52-061_limg_9173
sage
aspen
wildflowers
wrens
hawks
antelope
elk
deer
coyotes,
and so much more,
you gift me.

You lull me
in your embrace
wind
blowing
doubt
into
the darkest cave
lost
in the deepest gulch
swirling
in years
of dust.
You are
my soul place
where
I find
my voice once again,
year after year.

 

Morning fog
lifting
riverIMG_1255
sheen
gold
sunlit
caddis
frenzy
rippling
lapping
hurling
waves
stop
at my feet:
water,
purest
mother
bless me
I come
as friend
naked
of intent
no rod
no boots
no net
2 dogs
and
worn feet,
brittle
calloused
bruised
free
at last
from
a
long
dark
darkest
winter.

Let me
feel
swirling
cold
numb
these
silly
polyps:
strange
seemingly
useless
appendages
suddenly
delicate
sparkling
dancing
gleaming
over
rounded
river
stones.

Dogs
dip
snouts
lapping
clear
purest
snow melt
shake
coats
reflecting
morning
summer
light,
eyes
darting
scanning
then
stop
waist high
lifting
earsTrumpeter Swan, Colony Farm Regional Park, Port Coquitlam, British Columbia
frozen.

Six
I count
luminous
glorious
royal
regal
white
long
necked
trumpeter swans
alight
mid river
graceful
note
fallen
from
the sky:
a Russian melody
come south
to stir
these
winter
sullen
dogs –
yet
they hold to:
their tails
pushed
by
the currentTrumpeter Swans
frozen
at
the sight.

All
three
we stare
as
they
lift their necks
black beaks
shimmering
gliding
wings
wide
breaking
the river’s
loud song
with a trumpet call.

This breaks
the trance:
the dogs
are off
the spell
broken,
my feet
numb.
Behind me
I hear
rustling:
red winged
blackbirds
loud
in reeds
and rushes,
just past
them
I see the full moon
finally
setting
behind
the bench.