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IMG_2724It’s been three years since my father died – and 7 years since we started this blog together.  His birthday is March 15th and I would like to celebrate it – even if he is not on this earth anymore.  He is still with me – more so each passing day.  I promised him I would keep writing – many times during his life and now I am trying to keep the promise.  I admit it has not been easy – without his mentoring and love, I have lost my words for months at a time…..I wonder why we poets even keep writing – no one reads poets, but poets – I think we all know that, but I remember my father’s words – “it’s the process, the doing that matters.  I write because I can’t live without it.”  Well, sometimes I feel as though I write because I can’t live without you, father – I write to keep our dialogue going.  I write to honor you, and despite the absurdity of it –  know you are a witness – if ever silent.  But not so, as I hear you on my long walks in nature.

This winter has been long and hard for all of us – I don’t know a soul who hasn’t felt the darkness of our times.  But as you once told me, father – “poetry saved your soul.”  I feel that all the more these days.  I lift my voice looking for the “light” and in your honor.  Know that you are cherished always.

The city is eerily
quiet –
snow
covers the streets,
ice the roads:img_9963
12 inches in one night:
Portland bows
to the rush
of white –
in it’s usual laissez faire
attitude: let the snow
stand where it may,
we’ll plod our way
about
ski
skate
or just plain slide about.
No one takes things
too seriously,
it’s all “cool”
way too cool
for the squirrels
forging
nose first
in the drifts
piled highimg_9955
on their usual
highway of fences.
The juncos eye
the snow beneath
the suet feeder,
hoping for a morsel,
but the bushtits
are too efficient
in their dining.
Finally at sunset,
just before
the full
moon rises
and lights up
this sea of white,
a ruby crested
vireo
and his plain mate
appear,
their huge eyes
peering in the window
as if thanking
me
for their feast.

But by morning,img_9968
the word is out:
starlings
song sparrows
and even a flicker
feed in plain sight,
seed falling
where the juncos
happily
partake,
and in a corner
two
less loved
creatures
share the wealth –
their bald tails
gleaming
against the snow:
young and bold
hungry
to be out feeding
in daylight.
God’s creatures all.

Yesterday at dusk
walking the dogs
plodding
past mounds of snow,img_0005
a peregrine falcon
buzzed me:
the air
so bitter I heard
his wings
before I saw him.
Just as sudden
a murder
of crows
scolded him
from a top a walnut tree:
their calls so loud
the dogs
stopped cold
tails down.
I wanted to laugh
loud
so loud
the ice
would crack
the snow melt
the people run
everything
stop:
so loud
it would carry
to where you’ve gone
higher than the treetops
or the highestimg_0008
building
higher than
the damn full moon
foolest of all –
because
my heart
recognizes your hand
how it sends me
avian messengers
to let me know
you
are still deep in my heart
like the thinnest
sliver of winter ice –
I wanted to sing
and call your name
but the sound
got stuck in my throat
like in dreams
when
we contort our faces
in horror
and open
our mouths
wide
but utter nothing –
gasping
wordless
soundless…..

Instead
I shed a frozen tear,
from the joy
and
clarity of your message.
It’s the same
light
I see in my grandson’s
eyes,
when he looks
wide eyed
enchanted by all
so new
so pure:
it’s this gleam
covering the city,
and golden
around
tonight’s full moon.
And they say
Friday the 13th
is bad luck –
they know nothing.
Bring me a ladder
and let me walk under it,
for there I’ll find you
having the last laugh.

Cloudsimg_9210
engulf
the Madison range,
its
huge
mass
solid
swallowed
fitfully
in early dawn
jagged
crags
struggle
for breath.

Hoar frost
coats
brittle
sage,
dry grasses
stiffen
sharp
blades
of pain,
witnesses
to the birthing
of a winter day
all too soon
deer
lift
heavy heads
knowing
sounds
of death,
tails
pointing
toward
safety
in the hills
counting
heartbeats
between
rifle shots.

Empty
valleys
not an antelope
elk
jackrabbit,
or sage hen –
only the wary raven,
and loud magpie remain.

Walks are dull
all too calm:
dogs beating
the sage,
rounding pine
and naked aspen
tails high
in pathetic
expectation
and constant desire.

This is the quiet time,
the shift between
light
and dark.
Soon the valley
will shudder
under mounds
of snow
blinding
bright
light
for miles
of white,
creatures
burrowed deep
others
herded in the lowlands,
nose to tail
for warmth.

When the leaves
have all fallen
and the river
slows it mighty flow,
men know:
now is the time
to gather wood,
clean the chimney
and stock the whiskey.
They know,
the long nights
will come
as sure
as the moon
rises
over the ridge
full
of promise
and desire
for the open road ,
mad with
the drone of
the long winter silence.

In the distance stands
what’s left
of a homestead                                   img_9170

broken roof
its walls
sunken
into remnants
of rotting wood
dirt floor
covered with owl pellets
but the doorway
still announces
shelter.

I walk the 2 miles
distance every year
dogs in tow,
to bear witness
hearing
voices
in the summer wind
of those
who lost
their souls
and beat
their fists
against the odds:
this is a harsh land,
demanding
mistress:
she ravages
all but the wildest
most stubborn fools.

IMG_4724 (1)
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.