Time to Write Again

Poetry
photo by author

Time hangs like
exoskeletons
in amber.

Our sweaters layer like
the rings of trees,
revealing how long
we’ve been waiting.

Events need to happen
to write poems about them.

Something more than
making waffles every morning
how the tomatoes lasted
well into November this year
the way we watch a film noir
from 7-9 am each Sunday
waiting for the football
games to begin.

We are relying on
a new trapeze of trust
to hold us
learning how to balance
on a high wire
with no end in sight.

The false floor falls out and
mountains of sand
form dunes beneath us
it is slow going
either up or down
our shoes fill with grains
and feet sink ankle-deep
with every step.

From deep inside the line she said
this is not a poem
and so I stop, but still

pissed off because, you know,
Bukowski never edited
his shit.

Life After Falling While Filming a Teen Drama

Poetry
photo by author

It was a stunt
we hadn’t practiced
that erased
my memory at 30
and left me wondering
why I was wearing
a cheer uniform in the ER

Then there was a doctor
who said short
and long term
amnesia
and what
was there to do
but go home

to a stranger’s apartment
with an unknown
man who said
he was my friend

and showed me
pictures of us
on the beach, and
getting morning coffee

and the one of me
with Sal shading
her eyes against the sun
her eyes the same as mine
so I believed him

what made me remember
was not a fact but a feeling
an intuition of sorrow
a space of absence
that was memory

when I said
I love you
it was met
with silence

our union was
a thing that ended
long ago
signed and certified
a document forgotten

so what is this
tenderness
that is not love?
this compassion from
one to the other?

what are we
without our memories
gathered with intent
held in shadow
boxes on display

the attic of my mind
is empty

we are here now
our love is here.

This poem is based on a snippet of an NPR radio show I heard where a woman falls while filming the pilot of a TV drama and ends up having total amnesia. She had divorced her husband but has no recollection of it, and he ends up caring for her during her recovery.

Some Birds Perish in the Learning

Poetry

Will we look back
upon this year
with perfect vision?

Might cartoon
balloons of thought appear,
transparent minds
blooming like dahlias?

Let’s pack up old language
to lighten the scale.

The clenched fist of time
poured hundreds of years
tipping the whole machine
toward ivory towers.

Now inner workings
are revealed—
we see suffering
behind the grinding gears.

To weep, exclaim in agony,
turn your face in silence
will not stop the steely teeth
of systems that never sleep.

Some birds perish
in the learning,
pushed from the nest on wings
like flimsy scaffolds,
the attaching muscles
new and tight.

Speaking new words
won’t kill me
fresh language may be clumsy
on my tongue.

I will share the branch
in poetry, in life
rest beside me on the bough
and we can harmonize. 

The Owls and Us

Collage, Poetry
collage by author

It’s late fall and there are many things flying about
starlings tweedle and chirp from the telephone pole
where this morning as I am taking out the trash
I look up and see a great horned owl
silhouetted against the lightening sky.

I jump and run to get my husband
and he joins me on the cold brick of our front porch
It’s Tue, he says, and we both agree
this is the spirit of our cat, recently deceased.
How does the call go? he asks, sheepishly,
since all last autumn we walked
the streets and narrow alleys
of our neighborhood, calling for an owl
who would sometimes call back,
sometimes appear overhead on whisper white wings.

Last year we saw a couple nesting in the eucalyptus grove,
two dry-leaf colored lumps on one arching branch
and listened as they called to one another.

Once I was on the back deck crying
over some old wellspring of pain, and looked up
to see the cobalt sky, and the owl flying
across our yard from east to west.

Once we were lost driving back roads at dusk
sniping at each other in annoyance
and an owl swooped down like a blinding angel
across our windshield.

Once we were night walking
and you said it was an owl, but
I think it was a black-crowned heron
that erupted out of tree shadows
like the surprising strength of our grief
and knocked you to your knees.

Selection in Relation to Sex

Poetry
photo by author

If female birds had been incapable of appreciating the beautiful colours, the ornaments, and voices of their male partners, all the labour and anxiety exhibited by them in displaying their charms before the females would have been thrown away; and this it is impossible to admit. -Charles Darwin

Charles Darwin, The Descent of Man

In a BBC special featuring
the mysterious mating dance
of birds of paradise,
tropical jewel-colored
birds that thrive
in the steaming jungles
of New Guinea and Australia,
David Attenborough narrates
the elaborate process
of sexual selection.

Here’s the black sicklebill
a sleek ebony bird, his yellow eye
piercing the camera
as he swings his wings
up over his head
in one smooth practiced motion.
He’s warming up, David explains,
before the camera draws back
and we can see the full spectacle
of this bird, his long jet tail
swooping away from his perch
on a broken tree branch
rising up from the trunk like a fountain.

Then, with a final flourish, where there was a bird
there is now a kite, a cobra’s floating hood.
He has pressed his wings together
above his head to form a tide, a fan,
a fish writhing and twisting in a stream
where there was a bird there is now
a fluttering ribbon of love.

He lowers his wings and is a bird again.

He repeats this ritual
on his chosen post
several times a day until
he attracts a mate. Not only that,
but he has practiced each element
of this intricate dance
day after day for years,
since before he even had
the right equipment.

Now he assembles and displays
all of his worldly knowledge
he demonstrates his glorious virility
he hopes to secure his legacy
he wants his dance to be danced
by each black sicklebill for generations.

Evolution dictates
that form precedes function
Darwin believed that
beauty itself
is appreciated,
the energy expended to rise with a flourish
to transform ourselves in the name of desire
to capture the eyes of our lover.
We must have beauty to survive.

Unlike those birds, you
do not have to wear a crown
of brightly colored feathers
or transform yourself into a fan or flower
for me to look your way.

Santa Cruz County Fair

Poetry
photo by author

I

The sweet smell of short ribs
smacked sizzling on the grill
floats on the smoky air.
Screams and laughter
from the tilt a whirl
pulse against my skin.

A man with a guitar
stands by his gleaming pony.
His voice twangs
with a sound bright like
his white suit and hat
shining in the midday heat
the whole getup makes you say
look at that dude.

Look at that dude!
He glows with the energy of work
competing with crowds and corndogs
sweat drips from his temple
his pony is patient, standing
so still, with a back leg bent for relief.

At his feet are two boys
one wears a black cowboy hat
his mouth is little round O!
The singing guitar smiles at him
he is inside the music
behind the bristling white mustache
rising out and away
over plastic flags
that shiver and snap
in the sunshine air.

II

Dahlias debut like debutantes
a radio flyer overflows with daisies
and flat on a folding table
a double belt opens to reveal
pliers, scissors, shears, tools
taken up by a man with sure hands
who leans and looks at a bonsai.

This little tree is time made visible,
sacrificing bits and pieces of itself
to skilled and graceful hands
for centuries, in the name of beauty.

Two boys with camo hats
and socks and crocs
stand spellbound,
their little bodies
lean and tilt in unison
as the master craftsman
snips and ties the shrub
into submission.

III

A small girl points,
her saucer eyes brought on by a
huge chalky white chicken.
It is the most impressive hen
we’ve ever seen, all of us agree
strangers and families alike.

She sits at the head of a row of birds
who cluck with submission
at her ribbons, her sleek feathered breast.

In her eyes I see the sad glory shared
by only the finest specimens, those
who embody perfection.
She knows that she, and all this fluttering beauty,
may still die by the farmer’s hand someday.

IV

In the sunshine air
a contraption with hose-arms
and a steel reserve
starts with the kind of bang
reserved for firecrackers and car exhaust.
While most folks jump
and move a discreet distance away
from the rattling, sputtering
certainly unreliable monster
an ancient fellow
bent nearly double on his cane
in a plaid shirt and overalls
forever creased with dirt and grease
makes a beeline
as natural as molasses
to the clamoring machine.

His eyes are a child’s memory
of a barn that didn’t burn
or crops that were salvaged
by a steam-powered pump.

I think about the giant thresher
and how it must have consumed
more than just grain, how men
lost hands and fingers and worse
sweating over an implement
the size of a small apartment
until it creaked and groaned
its final grinding breath
and submitted to the shelter of this barn
with the memory of bright wheat
and the smell of iron and earth.

V

The giant pumpkins swell
like misplaced ottomans among the
sweetie pies and jack-be-littles.
I marvel that these misshapen gourds
are tended with such fervent love.

A tall man leans in
to conspire with my husband,
this is the best part, he says
this and the smell of apples
like being a kid again.
A quiet blanket of nostalgia
envelops us, we sense
the promises renewed
as each new crop is sown.

The sweetness
of these apples
is the heart of labor.
It is the urge
to till the fertile soil of our soul
until we bear some fruit
worthy of submission.

Dark Eyes

Poetry
photo by author

You were dark eyes
dark hair and sweaters;
I don’t think we ever touched
even a casual embrace.
You were the first to see me
as I emerged, timid
in the light of teenage bonfires,
a coming of age that you saw
but I did not have the language to speak;
the earthly grounding to know this body.

Something was wrong, even then
this body of language an offering between us
if age had not been a consideration, well
things would be different now.

Or would they? You’re still dead.
Those demons weren’t just teenage angst
it was a darker grip
a wrenching from reality
into the place
from which no souls return.

We could not kiss
like mountains touching
firm together at the base
foundations, plates of earth

they shift and move
and like a glacier, melted
you were gone, as though
calm seas were all
there’d ever been.

We Turn Our Somber Faces Toward The Sun

Poetry
Photo by author

In late September golden rays of sun
are warm against my skin; I turn to face
the source. Although my thoughts are somber
I am humbled by the lively beauty of the verdant
lime and emerald leaves. Foliage in the garden
is yet brightened by the glow of nature

in her glory. We are most ourselves in nature,
when we spend afternoons at leisure in the sun.
There is a sense of wonder in the garden–
a deep essential force floats beneath the face
of things, beneath the dark and verdant
soil where the earth is still. I am somber

at the thought of deep earth, as somber
as the thought of death, which is a part of nature.
As absolutely as the grass and trees are verdant
signs of life, so are the dying rays of sun
that any one of us may feel as we face
the twilight hours winding through a garden

that once held golden light. And if life is a garden,
the silent leaves and flowers, somber
in their quiet contemplation of the face
of things, see the many changes nature
in her cycle brings. They recognize the passing
patterns of the sun and come to love the verdant

moments that arrive! The bee is verdant
in its passion for the flower, as is the garden,
and in between the dappled leaves and sun
drenched petals, curled vines climb the somber
trunks of trees, and thrushes sigh. The nature
of all things is to die, and yet to face

this truth is strange, for every flower’s face–
now full of color, shining bright and verdant
in all the blazing fullness of its nature,
growing in the wild reaches of the garden–
will someday fade and wither to a shade so somber
one may wonder if it ever saw the sun.

We see ourselves in nature, and our vision is the face
of every flower shining in the sun. Our life is the verdant
renewing garden. Beneath us, the earth is still and somber.

Holographic Squirrels are Eternal

Poetry
Salvador Dali's "Ten Recipes for Immortality"

Casting her as the star in his
voluntary program of desire
Gala swimming, smiling.
Gala, darling.

He wanted to consume her
to absorb her organism
each atom dissolved
and reassembled
on another plane
a fourth atmosphere
where infinite consciousness
takes the form of
an eternal holographic squirrel.

He has a paranoid passion
to reveal invisible truth
becoming everything and nothing at once.
To devour the known,
take in particles of perception,
and birth a nightmarish cousin.

Did he deliberately misunderstand
what we all know to be true?
The squirrel, flesh and bone,
scurrying, instinctual,
hoarding food to last the winter
acorns piling up
against starvation

steps through a portal
into another realm
rising through the ether
forming a staircase
to eternity.

In the nuclear age
we are all immortal.

-after Dali’s “Ten Recipes for Immortality”