(I haven't posted a poem in a while...
This one came to me while backpacking
in the Thousand Lakes basin over a year ago.)
These tall granite peaks
(the ones sitting in a magnificent circle here
with a basin of mirrored lakes at their toes.
which are creating
rock and pine tree Rorschach tests
on their distant shorelines
for the deer to contemplate)…
These immense castle walls
(with the hollow bone-like echoes
of the last of this years snowmelt
channeling through their
crevices and caverns
and then springing to the surface
to be filtered by spongy wildflower gardens)…
These eroding ancient pyramids
(falling apart as boulders, pebbles, and sand
slowly disassembling into the most
complex jigsaw puzzle on the planet)…
Yes, these very mountains
I heard them myself,
inhaling a breeze up this warm moist valley
to their snowy tops, where they are exhaling it,
as puffy white cumulonimbus outbreaths.
So strong, when the mountains breathe,
that I can help but feel the wind
sucked from my own lungs
as it joins the flow to the peaks.
You can’t daydream
and sharpen a pencil on
a rough, damp, streamside boulder
at the same time.
It takes too much concentration
not to shatter the brittle graphite cone
with a careless stroke.
But it is worth the effort!
You get a much different point:
roughly worked wood,
smelling of fresh cut cedar,
topped by a scratch black pyramid of carbon...
This is a point more appropriate for writing about
a natural canyon with spirits whispering through willow trees,
the culinary uses of wild plants and ground squirrels, or
for sketching the observed mating stance of a dragonfly
doing geometry homework.
Conveniently, this rustic point feels quite at home out here
in the woods where pencil sharpeners are seldom found-
and okay, I admit it...
I forgot mine at home.
I can see your damp body print in silhouette on the bath towel,
and the tooth marks you left on the tight cap of the new
A couple of loose hairs lie tangled in the hairbrush.
Damp feet mopped up the light rain of last night’s dust
on the wood floors and apparently navigated
around littered baby toys
before turning left towards the what appears to be
a nesting area...
On hands and knees now, the light just right
I see the subtle depressions of your feet on the carpet,
the fibers slowly standing back
to their usual upright position.
Here, the tracks meet those of a much smaller creature.
I see ghosts of small lips and handprints
on the sliding glass mirror
and in it’s reflection,
a stuffed white rabbit,
over-loved and re-restitched,
wrapped in a blanket by small, uncoordinated fingers.
Drips of drying milk lead back to a feeding area
and the scattered remains of finger-painted oatmeal...
I trail the crumbs of cold pumpkin pie on the counter
to the well-worn “one minute” button on the microwave
which begins your morning ritual
with a digital “beep.”
I smell fresh coffee on a breeze from the west.
Hot on the trail,
I follow my intuition through a slightly swaying side door.
No less conspicuous than a stick snapped in the wilderness
I hear the hum of a clothes dryer stop
with the creaking of its door.
Slowly I stalk,
ears perked up like a deer,
into the garage and-
There I find you...
throwing a warm soft towel,
hot and fluffy from the dryer
over our daughter’s head...
our hysterically laughing coyote pup
with those five-toed muddy tracks that grow too quickly.
Funny that you should think it’s time for us to clean the house.
What do the string around my finger,
the note in permanent ink fading on my hand,
the time-capsule buried in damp mulch
beneath the oak tree eight years ago,
the post it on my steering wheel,
and the alarm clock set to detonate at 5:30 am
have in common?
Why did I hide my car keys again?
There is a freedom in forgetting
and a pirate thrill in digging up lost memories.
But most reminders tend to make me think,
in the everbusy buzzing of my mind.
More than ever, I need DE-minders, for when I’m lost up here
replanning and premembering
in nowhere land.
Do they sell daydream alarm clocks or watches that lie?
Sometimes I can be nothing but grateful
for bee stings,
seagulls with good aim,
and cold shivers:
things that wake me, unaware, from the cavern of routine.
Thank you, headache, for reminding me I have a head.
Tired of waiting for grace or luck
to bring me to the present,
I’ve mapped out my Monday blind spots,
hidden along my well-worn game trails
between the bathroom,
And here I am setting traps for myself,
camouflaged in regularity and custom
to catch me in oblivion.
Won’t I be surprised
to find this bucket of ice water
suspended from the doorway
as I come into work tomorrow morning?
My stomach’s not hungry,
but my tongue wants to eat.
My eyes want to travel,
but not so my feet.
My body is tired,
but my mind’s wide awake.
My two legs are quarreling,
don’t know which side to take.
I want to be alone,
but I could sure use a friend.
My itch wants some scratching,
but my elbows won’t bend.
My heart craves some music.
My ears want it quiet.
Those ears hear a scrub jay,
but my eyes cannot spy it.
I think we could agree
that this sunset’s resplendent,
if only my parts weren’t
so damn independent.
And so I’ll just sit,
‘till my pieces agree.
To cast off their differences,
and for a short while, just be.
If we’re clever, we can feed two birds with one scone.
After all, there’s more than one way to pet a cat.
Let’s provide the straw that seasoned the camels snack.
Let’s leave all our eggs in the nests and save the basket
for those lovely lemons life keeps dealing us.
It may seem like we have to wait ‘till the cows go roam,
or until we finally let the pigs fly,
but changing our ways will be
easier than shooting
pictures of fish while surfing in a barrel,
which is to say,
But let’s start seeding around the bush.
People who live in glass houses should really grow seedlings.
Let’s turn under an old leaf
making rich fertile compost.
It’ll be like taking candy from a baby
and replacing it with a healthy homegrown peach.
To err is human. To try again, divine.
A switch in mind takes time.
After all, Rome didn’t topple in a day.
Curiosity took but one of the cat’s lives...
the other eight died of boredom and apathy.
Trees don’t grow on money, you know.
A fool and his free time are easily parted by money.
A penny slaved is a moment burned.
And that guy with the bird in his hand is a swindler,
the two in the bush are priceless.
Life boils down to survival of the fittest. That is,
those that fit the best on this beautiful, interconnected planet
Don’t put all your legs in one casket.
Divide and conquer?
Rather, unite and concur!
It’s a dog greet dog world.
Splints and salves can mend our wounds, but words can truly heal us.
When it comes down to it,
laughter is the best medicine
and he who laughs last
So let’s go out on a limb and watch the sunset.
We’ll talk of how the proverbial glass is completely full…
half clean water, half fresh air.
Come, the hour’s getting late.
Who cares if the shoe fits...
Time is a thin veil here,
where the mountain plays catch with the creek
tossing it into the air seven times and bringing it to rest in
seven cold emerald pools.
It is fun to imagine all of the others
who have climbed this sandstone jungle gym
and slid down these mossy water slides…
Look at these shadows of Chumash kids laughing here
hundreds of years ago
as if it were yesterday.
What do they call the “cannonball”
in a world of stone tools, I wonder,
as they leap from that ledge with a splash
long before Fremont’s soldiers pushed cannons
over muddy San Marcos Pass.
Look at those Franciscan monks
sneaking upstream from the Mission below
through the oaks and sycamores
to strip down and lighten up
long before the city sprouted below
and oil platforms invaded the horizon.
And look now at the evolution of the swimsuit styles
that the swimmers have donned here for the last hundred years,
from striped long-underwear to bikinis
on the families of ranchers, fishermen, oil workers and
now suburbanites and college kids.
They appear and disappear in strobe light flashes
like an old grainy filmstrip before these lovely pools.
Different swimmers on common ground…
We’re all still here in one form or another,
the natives and the pioneers.
We’ve all come to bring out our inner amphibian—
to dive beneath the cold living water
with our much older ancestors
the frogs and salamanders…
Feels so good, doesn’t it?
…to crawl out on our bellies
and warm our blood
on these radiant sandstone benches
freckled here and there with fossils.
I’ve tired of this
sitting while wishing I were walking
walking while wishing for a rest.
Seems whichever I choose, I can’t have my druthers
my feet are doing one
while my head does another.
They’re not birds of a feather
but I’ll bring them together
by flying while still in my nest.
So, here I am walking with my shoes in my pack
so my feet can be felt by the ground.
I’m thanking the thorns and the sharpest of rocks
for reminding my head to slow down.
I’m not in a hurry, cause I’m already here,
the destination’s the journey, you know,
I’m just standing here rolling this earth ‘neath my toes,
like an immense beach ball spinning below.
I’m letting the trail do the hiking for me while
this large grove of aspens glides by,
or now letting these switchbacks switch right back below me
awaiting the approach of the sky.
Oh the people I meet as our trails intertwine
rekindle all faith in mankind,
I enjoy those who ramble impractical distances
knowing each step there’s something to find.
soap plant asks in amazement as it pokes its green tuft
of leaves into the sun after its hibernation,
snuggled underground in summer slumber,
in dry paper wrappers with the other wet season bulbs.
There is no reply from his few remaining charred neighbors.
awakened by the first rainfall since April
stretches out its dangly yellow arms,
but not disappointed with the new view of the ocean.
“Wildfire,” yawns rattlesnake,
slithering into a den to sleep away winter:
the mushrooms and mudslides,
the canadian geese calling on their flight path south.
“The light contains all things and all things contain the light,”
call the geese from overhead
as they chase summer southward,
quoting Dogen, I believe.
And here I am, sketching up an echoless canyon among
thinking of how people are like
floating bubbles on a stream,
three-hundred and sixty degree traveling mirrors,
reflecting the world and each other.
arising and popping unexpectedly:
the creek’s eyes.
And it’s fascinating to think of what plants and animals miss
out on in their cycles of dormancy-
napping away entire seasons
blind in their own cocoons.
carefully peeling wrappers from a hard-boiled egg and some
a satisfied bubble enjoying the stream,
I wonder about my own blind spots,
which I quickly decide don’t exist,
since I can’t see them.
You can’t break the china if it’s already broken.
Can’t say nothing wrong, if you still haven’t spoken.
If you have no watch, you have nothing but time,
There’s still something to share, if you can’t spare a dime.
You can’t be lost if you don’t have a home.
New hairstyles happen when you don’t have a comb.
Can’t be out of touch, when you don’t own a phone.
There’s nothing to lose if there’s nothing you own.
When you don’t have a means, your life has no ends.
When you love those around you, you’ve nothing but friends,
No knickknacks to dust, if you don’t have a shelf.
When you’re part of the world, then where is your self?