Santa Cruz County Fair

photo by author


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.


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.


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.


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.


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

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

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

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”

Time’s Siren

photo by author: Luther Burbank House, Santa Rosa, CA

Time only moves
in one direction
ringing into the future
like a siren,
like a cowbell.

Trapped in a house of nostalgia,
the past reaches like a vine
climbing and clinging
to doors and windows.

Human-size ferns
gather along the garden wall
with secrets folded away
among the tender green tendrils
grasses whisper, grow wild,
obscure the road to reality.

There is
something on the horizon,

A stone house
maybe a
flock of sheep
maybe a
sleeping dragon.

Seems like choppy waters from here
In a rough little boat.

Disaster may shortly arrive,
but that shouldn’t stop us
from planning things away.

Failed memories haunt my diagrams
and blueprints, I
design a fortress
to keep success at bay.

Someone lent a hand, but
it wasn’t me.
When things unraveled
as they do
a bill came, overdue.
A price I paid,
without asking
who, or why.

Tricks of the Trade

A great deal was invested
billowing out and away toward the clouds
with finesse. A skill
honed over dark afternoons
of timeless practice.

There was a place for everything, yet
It never quite fit, it
remained disjointed
and out of sorts.
Even so,
I knew the way it should go.

I left
I walked away
I walked up the hill
on tiny thin path
toward the horizon.

I looked back, I saw
you standing there
disappointed and alone.

Many things have spilled, been lost,
flowed away down cliffs, rocks
a jagged precipice.
We could have worked together
getting things done
one by one.

Regret is stiff in the mouth
like stale bread
rough sustenance you take
to turn your back on a team
that never wanted you.

Going it alone
is a fresh start, anyway
not without a bitter taste, true,
but new fruit will be sweeter.

The spirit does not look back, it turns
toward the light
of the future.

On The Level

You care for strays.
Those creatures
who have chosen
to live apart from others–
who belong to no-one.

You see the world
embellished equally
we stand eye to eye–
we share our brother’s cup.

You fill every empty hand, your
giving knows no bounds it

Absorbing both the tragedy
of darkness
and the bright celebration
of hope, seen
through stable windows.
You light the glowing lamp
of charity.

As you bend
to cradle
your hidden army of love
I am left standing
alone, inverted–
my heart pours into the air.

O brother, where art thou
who can tend to another
without end?

Where is the mercy
that will save us
that will shake foundations
that will leave us level
with each other
once more?