Delicate, three-pointed northward star.
Prints of a piper, all elegant arcing beak,
stick-like legs whisking toward inswinging water.
Cutting quickly across the impression
of soft, blunt, deep-set heels, the arc also
of arches, the five round divots dug.
All orthogonal to the compact pads bounding,
joyously sharp-toed, fur-smelly, smiling.
Three tracks, tossed like chicken bones. Runes.
Like leaves left swirled in the bottoms of cups.
Like patterns of birds in ancient skies.
Augury that's almost read, almost language.
But just this second, slipped from the tip of my tongue.
Then, here comes again the salty slick to lick
away another one. No different than the great
arcing lid of night: the moon and Orion chasing
each other across the dark and Pacific,
almost legible skies. Star spattered.
Scattered portents to fill my lungs
with inspecific resolve, clear my head
with cool dark. And with every dawn,
erased. Replaced, by manuscripts of golden
clouds. Hunched monk of the ascending sun,
breaking across my back like a book of hours
of ancient Saxon, of muscle memory,
of exposed roots. All of it—
tracks, stars, clouds—some language
gut knows, unsharable to mind.
Some language to calculate trajectory,
tell us what matters,
what doesn't, why we elect
to do terrible things to save ourselves.
Some language to describe
how small we are, how endless, how
we should feel, where we should fight. How.
Some language that translates
our suffering into joy, bridges
our most treacherous chasm:
between compassion and justice.
I can nearly hear it, sounding something
like wind in leaves,
something like waves.
What I wouldn't give for a bite of that original apple.
After all, the knowledge that was promised,
would deliver our downfall, was never delivered.
Left us instead with the unsolvable mystery
of hardness, of gaps,
our unshared tongues of righteousness.
Again, the waves are rolling in. Rewriting
the sand. Breathing careful instructions
I just cannot make out. And yet I know its not
enough. To only listen. Watch them recede
to the horizon—which I've only just realized
always rises to the exact level of our eyes.
First published in Verse-Virtual, June 2017
There is a small island rock
thrusting up like an angry brown tooth
from the licking Pacific
shadowing the little highway
through which we wind our daily course.
The rock, ever-folding, angled
striations of limestone and basalt
jagged and whitecapped in magnificent guano
obliquely collapsing, by degree back
to the rock-eating sea.
Not far from there
along that same winding of road
and cloudlocked late-summer sky
overlooking the wavewashed shore
a man hung himself this morning.
I did not see him, who returned to fill
his eyes with seawater, at the last
beside the high, roadside gate.
I saw only the police, lingering to take
a statement from the witnessing sea.
It's not always simple to be a lyric poet
on days like this
to trade in two-by-fours of wonder
the rock-eating sea to be the carbon in your bones
the quality of light, your air
when your mood is blackened
by senseless death
cities of suffering
people careening toward
high gates of despair.
You have to find your own path through
or perhaps you cannot see its ending
your own path, no path. Perhaps that's OK.
Or maybe you just drop to your knees
thank the skies, make an offering
or maybe, at least, there's something for you
in a rock, taken apart by waves
molecule by molecule, ever changing
ever folding into the universe.
Each day we all return, a bit more, to the sea.
First published in The Scarlet Leaf Review, April 2017
From Orion’s winter field
we are received
into the clear and cold
the shortest, the darkest
the furthest tilted
on the holy axis
away from the heart
of the circling sun.
hosanna when the cows
the beer fermented.
Feast now and light
now the holy lights
drive out the fearsome dark
light the longest,
light the coldest
begin now the tilting
forward into the light
let the lights be lighted
and let light and love
and joy come to you,
and to you your wassail too
and begin the holy holy return
of the sun, of the Christchild,
born this holy Saturnalia,
this festival of lights
begun this Brumalia, this Advent
this Amaterasu, this Choimus,
this Inti Raymi, this Koliada.
Holy, holy Thai Pongal,
holy is this Makara Sankranthi,
this Soyal, this Şeva Zistanê.
Holy is Shab-e Yaldā,
Dongzhi and Korochun,
holy Shalako and holy Goru. This,
this holy Chanukah, this Yule,
carried in by fickle Julenisse,
by merry ghosts, by Ded Moroz,
flown in by La Bafana,
walked in by the Samichlaus,
St. Lucy, St. Nicholas, St Basil
Kleesschen, Tió de Nadal.
born is the King of Israel
come let us adore him.
Adore Matisyahu, Judah Maccabee,
adore ancient Odin, give thanks to Dažbog,
Thank you to wise Father Christmas,
to gentle Santa Claus.
O holy night
when all is calm, bright
mount then the holly, the ivy
mount the greens of mistletoe
bring in the ancient pagan tree.
Light, light, light the ancient
and the scented log
light, light, bring forth the evergreens
and light the 9 holy candles
for 8 holy nights
and remember the reason
for the season of the ending,
the bonedeep and the most ancient,
the beginning, the slaughtering,
the fermenting, the feasting
and the light
the light that weakens
the ending darkness
that light that lights
the starting sun.
First published in The Scarlet Leaf Review, December 2016
Spring came in terrible.
Endless, the sheets of rain,
the bony cast-off limbs
blown to our sodden feet.
Winters go out this way—
writhing. Just as Summers
go out withered. And then,
all those smothered Autumns.
But then, why should seasons
go out quietly? All
these comings and goings,
so rough ‘round the edges:
the seasons of daughters,
writhing against rising
and muddy, inbound tide;
dark seasons of the sea,
the air, movement and bone,
seasons of tears pushed, pulled,
into the wiggling world.
Spring comes in terrible,
and other dark endings
are surely still to come,
but somehow only Spring
goes out easy, melting,
into Summer. For once,
a slow exhale before
that sweet and sucking heat.
Again, March breaks us. Then
April slowly rebuilds,
gentle, not too gentle,
within May's soft belly.
First published in Eternal Remedy, August 2016
Nearly finished with our customary
Walk, but instead of a left towards home
I confuse the dog, urge him onward
My head still busy with the day
And I know of some blackberry vines
Running riot by the sidewalk.
And since the sun is hot
And the days are long
And the dog plunges forward, always
Into an everlasting moment
Then perhaps the blackberries are ready
Bursting blobs on creeping vines
Shining black eyes, bright
As nails, like a lover I tug
And off it slides like a loose glove
Staining fingers indigo as I pop
One into mouth, the summer’s full ripeness
Thimblesweet, heat, spidersilk and dust
I taste another, and another, reach deep
Never mind the thorns.
is such a lovely phrase.
Not the vain, braggadocio
of Summer Solstice,
who is fat with light and heat
and the profligacy of our days.
Not the lean merriment
of Winter Solstice who feasts and
burns candles in the clear blue starlight
to bear us through
the long winter nights.
It is the fulcrum of our cycle,
richer than its sweet, Vernal cousin
because its austere beauty,
the bounty of the golden harvests,
the fiery reds of bitter splendor,
are mounted in loss, in the passing
of things that must pass
for beings such as us, who live by
the seasons of the air,
the quarter of the light.
It is the balancing point,
the reminder that
the greater beauty is always
at the border of light and dark,
sunset, sunrise, the long shadows,
the low ocean sun shattering
into a thousand glittering shards.
Into darkness we are now tipping, yes
but we are also tipping forward—
tipping forward into the stars.
First Published in Wilderness House Literary Review, February 2016
May you rarely awaken beset
by another darkening
thunderhead of news.
May, on those pummeling days,
screens grow dim,
May you have equally at hand,
souls who will steady you,
and the shelter to be found in stillness.
May you have the grace
to forgive us,
the generations who fell short.
May the path
invisible to us,
be stone-lined for you.
May you, a root sent down into the Earth,
in soils we are too old to imagine.
May even the paths
you will not walk, the voices
you can not credit, give you hope.
And may you find the way to become,
in this world of pulled and fraying seams,
a needle, a thread, a stitch.
First Published in Your Daily Poem, November 2018