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January 5, 2014

Such Singing in the Wild Branches


It was spring

and finally I heard him

among the first leaves—

then I saw him clutching the limb

in an island of shade

with his red-brown feathers

all trim and neat for the new year.

First, I stood still

and thought of nothing.

Then I began to listen.

Then I was filled with gladness—

and that’s when it happened,

when I seemed to float,

to be, myself, a wing or a tree—

and I began to understand

what the bird was saying,

and the sands in the glass


for a pure white moment

while gravity sprinkled upward

like rain, rising,

and in fact

it became difficult to tell just what it was that was singing—

it was the thrush for sure, but it seemed

not a single thrush, but himself, and all his brothers,

and also the trees around them,

as well as the gliding, long-tailed clouds

in the perfectly blue sky—all, all of them

were singing.

And, of course, yes, so it seemed,

So was I.

Such soft and solemn and perfect music doesn’t last

for more that a few moments.

It’s one of those magical places wise people

Like to talk about.

One of the things they say about it, that is true,

is that, once you’ve been there,

you’re there forever.

Listen, everyone has a chance.

Is it spring, is it morning?

Are there trees near you,

and does your own soul need comforting?

Quick, then—open the door and fly on your heavy feet; the song

May already be drifting away.


                                    Mary Oliver

                                    Owls and Other Fantasies



January 1, 2013

Flying into a New Year

Said you sprained your ankle dancing

to all our favorites from the seventies

performed hopping live at Lenora's Ghost

for a raucous New Year's eve crowd. 

I think it was the moon-guided walk

to the Lukiamute River flood ponds. 

Their roar left us both off-balance. 

Your body, startled heavenward 

by an otherwordly symphony from hundreds 

of rising wings and frantic calls, 

was pulled back from the ankles 

by the earth's mud and gravity 

like a rapturous lover tugged down 

for another kiss--or a spirit kept from 

leaving the body before its time. 

Tomorrow, when you tell the doctor at the clinic 

my theory, I wish I could be there 

to hear her eyebrows rise up in wonder. 

                                        --If You Live, Your Time Will Come 


January 24, 2012

                                        Waiting for You

                                        under a half moon

                                        my mouth moves round

                                        empty as the night

                                        before devouring the light

                                        from your full mouth.

                                        --If You Live, Your Time Will Come


January 14, 2012

                                        Spider Bite

                                        Guess a brown spider

                                        Not recluse enough

                                        At quarter-to-three

                                        Got a bare left foot

                                        When my camper's bladder

                                        Goaded me to pee.

                                        The arch stopped throbbing--

                                        And not located

                                        For a quick look-see

                                        I soon found myself

                                        Seduced by this mantra,

                                        "Just temporary..."

                                        You've come weeks too late

                                        To cut poison out.

                                        It's seeped to the heart

                                        Of your pedestal.

                                        Lose a foot to venom,

                                        Pride to surgeon's art?

                                        The irony sears--

                                        It's been my job to

                                        Replace worn-out parts

                                        For cylindered beasts

                                        Which in just in my life time

                                        Displaced horse-drawn carts.

                                        Looking at my pair,

                                        I can't save your foot,

                                        Science lacks the clout!

                                        The doc said firmly

                                        With muted baritone

                              That plain knocked me out.

                              Now this handicap  

                              A far better man

                              Might easily flout,

                              But at least it means

                              I'm left with one less place

                              To suffer from gout!

                              --If You Live, Your Time Will Come 

January 8, 2012

                                                        Damn Black Funeral

                                                        Damn funeral, black everywhere.

                                                        It was all great heart, what people had to share.

                                                        But so about used to be--really hard to bear.

                                                        Goddamn funeral is what it is; is still hurtin'.

                                                        When people talk about me like that, I know I'm hurdlin'...

                                                         Why can't we do this on every tenth birthday?

                                                        Man, let the living hear all that good say!

                                                        Why save it for the funeral and the wake?

                                                        All that good stuff gone--make our hearts break

                                                        into tears, flowing faster than the wine.

                                                        Coulda made his soul sing, hearing all that poetry and praise.

                                                        Nothing wrong with praising a person who is still alive.

                                                        Every ten years, I say.

                                               -- If You Live, Your Time Will Come


January 2, 2012

                                                Flowering Child

                                                                                                                           --for Larissa

                       Creative warden

                                                of earth garden;

                                                you've gotta tend it,

                                                you'll need to mend it

                                                (even get to send it) --

                                                but in the end it

                                                will get grown

                                                with a life of its own.

                                                -- If You Live, Your Time Will Come

January 30, 2011

                                                Dear Left Knee

                                                Take this surgery as my apology,
                                                my benediction to our ten thousand
                                                running miles of changing pavement
                                                and mountain hillsides, cushioning me over
                                                boulders, frozen trails, and the all-night run
                                                over Death Valley roads.  Forgive me
                                                for judging the world the way a knee bends.
                                                By jolt, by jar, by quick jumps I
                                                abused you.  A min is killed for less.
                                                Still, there was no sadness in shoes hitting
                                                pavement.  I admit I wanted my body
                                                to be a guitar, scream high notes, float up
                                                to rising dusk.  I admit my knees were no
                                                more than a clock's face in my mind, no brighter
                                                than yappy dogs chasing us through downtown
                                                streets on our runs to the mountains.  Forgive me.
                                                But damn we cursed those trails into blessings,
                                                turned ourselves streetwise racing marathons
                                                in American cities.  No one passed us up
                                                Heartbreak Hill.  How you flexed and grinded.
                                                You had more knee grind that winter had snow.
                                                All your bruises spread like broken words no language
                                                could accept.  Until I watched the arthroscopic
                                                screen, I never knew the pain that raced
                                                through you like riptides.  Sorry.  You are numb tonight.
                                                Call it Percoset holiday, knowing nothing
                                                of polar bear-sized pain that pulses
                                                inside your tendon.  You'll like the incisions,
                                                narrow as indigo leaves.  In time we'll probe
                                                the still earth, the reefs and volcanic ash
                                                in our blood, in a pale gold summer,
                                                in a moment, in a cloak of snow, in our running
                                                world without end, Amen, Left Knee.  Love, J.D.

                                                                                                    --John Davis

                                                        (published in UNCHARTED LINES)


January 25, 2011

Poet Dying of Alzheimer's


I do not fear death

by water, by fire, by ice.

I fear such courage.


I fear death by unweaving,

the husks of images,

the stone tongue.


Darkness laps up my light,

my pool of knowing,

the mirror of "I am."


Cocooned in void,

I will lie nameless,

doubt made flesh


I am the word unspoken,

the coiled question

in the orchard of innocence.



We celebrate the end

 of your heart's song.

This is the blessing

we have prayed for you.

This we have learned from you--

a crystal in the dark.


Now! You are going out,

guttering weary on a spent wick,

your death comes as a lover

dancing you around a new sun,

whispering the semantics of silence,

fighting you with shadows.

                  -Judith Boudreaux

published in UNCHARTED LINES


January 12, 2011

                                                        Tribute From John

                                                        you will creep in silent shadows

                                                        of all those past

                                                        daring not to disturb

                                                        the crowd as they chant unknown elegys

                                                        for your sons and daughters 

                                                        Raise your head, unfold your arms

                                                        lift your voice above the crowd

                                                        through your conscience you have come to know

                                                        the sound of tomorrow awakening;

                                                        a lark sang,

                                                        you were awakened from your slumber,

                                                        were not trees dancing in the wind?

                                                        How could you not listen to the roaring sound

                                                        of the eagle soaring effortlessly

                                                        above you eyes?

                                                        Let your tongue taste the rumble

                                                        of these threatening skies.

                                                        thunder and lightening bring tears to my eyes,

                                                        shedding no tears you look away.

                                                        Will you ever know the serenity of peaceful skies?

                                                        Let the clouds part,

                                                        and the morning star will spread its light

                                                        on this desperate world.

                                                        For it takes no more light

                                                        to bring hope,

                                                        than a whole minutes flash.

                                                        let the morning light dance in your eyes,

                                                        for it may be your destiny

                                                        to dance with it

                                                                                                John Van Ert,  jr.  1975     


January 9, 2011

John, I Rememeber You

Asking me to spread my arms

To lift my eyes

To reflect the blue

Where the eagle flies.


Like me, I know you

Did not spend much

Of your time there either,

For you have eagle heart

Not eagle body.


Still, when I look in your eyes

Always scanning yet focused

I imagine a beak sharp

For bringing back home

The day's wriggling prey.


Baby John we used to call you

And still we call you

And still we all are babies

For these fifty-two years

Crying with you.


Now we cry over you

--No, we cry under you--

As your Spirit released

From its broken body vial

Rises to heaven above.


Thank you for showing me

--Yes, showing all your world--

How the human heart

(Though of vulnerable

Muscle and sinew, too)


Can carry us to the dawning day

We'd thought we'd lost


To incessant tripping

Over these feet of clay.


Like your beloved blue sky

I produce rains as I cry

To see your nest unattended.

Then the storm is moved along

With wing-beat winds strong

From your eagle spirit.


--Tim Van Ert

in memoriam


January 31, 2010

                        The Rollover

                        Some of us primary producers, us farmers and authors,
                        are going round to watch them evict a banker.
                        It'll be sad.  I hate it when the toddlers and wives
                        are out beside the fence, crying, and the bid kids
                        wear that thousand-yard stare common in all refugees.
                        Seeing home desecrated as you lose it can do that to you.

                        There's the ute piled high with clothes and old debentures.
                        There's the faithful VDU, shot dead, still on its lead.
                        This fellow's dad and grandad were bankers before him, they sweated
                        through the old hard inspections, had years of brimming foreclosure,
                        but here it all ends.  He'd lent three quarters and only
                        asked for a short extension.  Six months.  But you have to

                        line the drawer somewhere.  You have to be kind to be cruel.
                        It's Sydney of the cash these times.  Who buys the Legend of the Bank
                        anymore?  The laconic teller, the salt-of-the-earth branch accountant,
                        it's all an Owned Boys story.  Now they reckon he's grabbed a gun
                        and an old coin sieve and holed up in the vault, screaming
                        about his years of work, his identity.  Queer talk from a bank-johnny!

                        We're catching flak, too, from a small mob of his mates,
                        inbred under-manager types, here to back him up.  Troublemakers,
                        land-despoiling white trash.  It'll do them no good.  Their turn
                        is coming.  They'll be rationalised themselves, made adapt
                        to a multinational society.  There's no room in that for privileged
                        traditional ways of life.  No land rights for bankers.

                                                                        --Les Murray (1997)

                        (published in SUBHUMAN REDNECK POEMS)



January 30, 2010

                                                Looking for the Cat Grave


                                                Sunlight stripes a wall.
                                                Silent pumpkin sleeps in a river of sun.
                                                Some moments we have spent
                                                our whole lives walking towards.


                                                Dry grass, earth whiskers,
                                                red sweater snagged in a tree.
                                                Being alive is a common road,
                                                it's what we notice makes us different.
                                                A birdhouse becomes a floodlight.
                                                Girls sit in a circle, learning each other
                                                like words to be spoken in lonely places.


                                                I wish this could last.  I wish we could stay outside,
                                                sun on our cheeks, a distant engine's roar, forever.
                                                I wish I could remember people's faces
                                                as well as I remember my dead cat's eyes.

                                                                             --Naomi Shihab Nye

                                                (published in YELLOW GLOVE)


January 29, 2010

                                                The Synchrony of Bones

                                                Mad Dog has buried the bones
                                                of his generation, not unlike
                                                his father and grandfather, his
                                                mother and grandmother who
                                                also wearied of digging graves
                                                and burying the bones of their
                                                time's follies and good intentions--
                                                not just the fallen best, but
                                                all those felled by war, disease,
                                                drug overdoses and alcohol,
                                                poverty, knife-wounds and suicide--
                                                all the simple and complex problems
                                                of bodily fluids running out, of
                                                seconds, minutes and hours
                                                running out, of life uncontained
                                                in the little cupped hands of being
                                                whose fingers tire and loosen.

                                                Mad Dog once believed there was
                                                a song that could stop it, could
                                                stem the flow but now knows that
                                                all songs are songs of passage,
                                                and one must learn by heart
                                                the peculiar dance steps of each;
                                                one must learn how to form
                                                the circle with linked hands
                                                and how it moves first in
                                                this direction and then in that,
                                                how sometimes arms are raised,
                                                hands flung up in unison with
                                                a burst of laughter that welcomes
                                                someone new to the dance and how
                                                he or she must be taught
                                                the fancy footwork, how the circle
                                                tightens and expands by turns,
                                                how it inhales and exhales, and
                                                how one's lips learn the exact
                                                shape and sound of one's
                                                personal word for God when
                                                someone falls away from this
                                                breathing orbit of song, this
                                                terribly joyous synchrony of bones.

                                                                    --Scott Lubbock

                                                (published in ON THE WAY TO WATER)


January 28, 2010

                                                Blood Pressure

                                                The white-sleeved woman wraps a rubber
                                                sleeve around your arm, steps back, listens,

                                                            How it pounds in you, how it
                                                urges through you, how it asserts
                                                its power like a tide of electrons

                                                flashing through your veins, shocking your fingertips,
                                                exhausting the iron gates of you heart.
                                                Alive, alive, always alive, it hisses,

                                                crackling like the lightning snake that splits
                                                the sky at evening, alive, a black rain
                                                lashing the hollows of your body,

                                                alive, alive

                                                            You sit quietly on the cold table,
                                                the good boy grown up into

                                                the good man.  You say
                                                you want nothing, you'll diet, you
                                                won't complain.  Anyway, you say,

                                                you dream of January weather,
                                                hushed and white, the cries of light
                                                silenced by a shield of ice.

                                                Behind your eyes, something
                                                like a serpent moves, an acid tongue
                                                flicking at your cheekbones, something

                                                voracious, whipping your whole body
                                                hard: you're sad, you flush a
                                                dangerous pink, you tell her

                                                you can't understand the fierce rain
                                                inside you, you've always hated that awful
                                                crackling in your veins.

                                                                                --Sandra Gilbert

                                                (published in SUTURED WORDS: Contemporary
                                                Poetry about Medicine        Jon Mukand, editor)


January 27, 2010

                                                Feeling My Way

                                                When I woke up to this life
                                                like a scream trying to empty itself out
                                                they couldn't put their arms around my anger.

                                                Born too soon, even the details of the leaves
                                                wouldn't let me breathe.  Then I learned
                                                how God chose me to wear a skullcap

                                                like a bad child, and I put my face into my hands--
                                                the only thing I ever invented--which came to pass
                                                for a lifetime of long thought.  It was there

                                                I heard the very hum and wheel of myself turn
                                                which I turned into my religion.  Finally I was in charge.
                                                Then one day I spied a woman, head in hands,

                                                who sat listening to herself.  Kindness lifted her face
                                                and we had many children who said the things that took me
                                                all my life to learn.  Who doesn't want to start over

                                                with one tooth, a little candle, and long hours of sleep?
                                                But then will come the scream.  Then again, like the blindman
                                                feeling his way up an elephant's leg until all he imagines

                                                is a skyful of leaves, maybe only half of this is true.

                                                                                    --Jack Myers

                                                (published in AS LONG AS YOU'RE HAPPY)


January 26, 2010



                                                        After whose stroke the wood rings,

                                                        And the echoes!

                                                        Echoes travelling

                                                        Off from the centre like horses.

                                                        The sap

                                                        Wells like tears, like the

                                                        Water striving

                                                        To re-establish its mirror

                                                        Over the rock

                                                        That drops and turns,

                                                        a white skull,

                                                        Eaten by weedy greens.

                                                        Years later I

                                                        Encounter them on the road--

                                                        Words dry and riderless,

                                                        The indefatigable hoof-taps.


                                                        From the bottom of the pool, fixed stars

                                                        Govern a life.

                                                                            --Sylvia Plath

                                                        (published in CONTEMPORARY AMERICAN POETRY
                                                                            edited by Donald Hall)


January 25, 2010


                                                        If I die,
                                                        leave the balcony open.

                                                        The little boy is eating oranges.
                                                        (From my balcony I can see him.)

                                                        The reaper is harvesting the wheat.
                                                        (From my balcony I can hear him.)

                                                        If I die,
                                                        leave the balcony open!

                                                                --Federico Garcia Lorca
                                                                                        --translated by W.S. Merwin
                                    (published in THE SELECTED POEMS OF FEDERICO GARCIA LORCA)


January 24, 2010

                                                        Eastern News

                                                        In his saffron robe he stepped
                                                        out of the airplane doorway,
                                                        bringing clouds he'd flown through,
                                                        real clouds out of a sky
                                                        above the jig-sawed swirly earth.

                                                        With a frown, then a smile,
                                                        he spoke of new sandstone walls,
                                                        old tree-scribbled winds;

                                                        his petal-fingered hands
                                                        open the door behind the altar
                                                        and he moves to the desk
                                                        on old lion's feet, under the
                                                        bronze-leaved chandelier...

                                                        He says Ramakrishna dreamed
                                                        he saw a doll made of salt
                                                        walk into the waves to measure the depth
                                                        of the Indian Ocean,
                                                        and dissolve...
                                                        He saw a bubble anemone loosen, rise,
                                                        become water,
                                                        unattached algae float everywhere...

                                                        The statues
                                                        in their niches--
                                                        Jesus, Buddha, Ramakrishna--
                                                        blink and watch, watch and wait.

                                                                                    --Ron Linder

                                                        (published in ANIMALS ON THE ROOF)


January 23, 2010

                                                        The Return: Orihuela, 1965

                                                                                for Miguel Hernandez

                                                        You come over a slight rise

                                                        in the narrow, winding road

                                                        and the white village broods

                                                        in the valley below.  A breeze

                                                        silvers the cold leaves

                                                        of the olives, just as you knew

                                                        it would or as you saw

                                                        it in dreams.  How many days

                                                        have you waited for this day?

                                                        Soon you must face a son grown

                                                        to manhood, a wife to old age,

                                                        the tiny sealed house of memory.

                                                        A lone crow drops into the sun,

                                                        the fields whisper their courage.

                                                                        --Philip Levine

                                                        (published in THE SIMPLE TRUTH)


January 22, 2010                                        

The Moose  
by Elizabeth Bishop

For Grace Bulmer Bowers
From narrow provinces
of fish and bread and tea,
home of the long tides
where the bay leaves the sea
twice a day and takes
the herrings long rides,

where if the river
enters or retreats 
in a wall of brown foam
depends on if it meets
the bay coming in,
the bay not at home;

where, silted red,
sometimes the sun sets
facing a red sea,
and others, veins the flats'
lavender, rich mud
in burning rivulets;

on red, gravelly roads,
down rows of sugar maples,
past clapboard farmhouses
and neat, clapboard churches,
bleached, ridged as clamshells,
past twin silver birches,

through late afternoon
a bus journeys west,
the windshield flashing pink,
pink glancing off of metal,
brushing the dented flank
of blue, beat-up enamel;

down hollows, up rises,
and waits, patient, while
a lone traveller gives
kisses and embraces
to seven relatives
and a collie supervises.

Goodbye to the elms,
to the farm, to the dog.
The bus starts.  The light
grows richer; the fog,
shifting, salty, thin,
comes closing in.

Its cold, round crystals
form and slide and settle
in the white hens' feathers,
in gray glazed cabbages,
on the cabbage roses
and lupins like apostles;

the sweet peas cling
to their wet white string
on the whitewashed fences;
bumblebees creep
inside the foxgloves,
and evening commences.

One stop at Bass River.
Then the Economies 
Lower, Middle, Upper;
Five Islands, Five Houses,
where a woman shakes a tablecloth
out after supper.

A pale flickering.  Gone.
The Tantramar marshes 
and the smell of salt hay.
An iron bridge trembles 
and a loose plank rattles
but doesn't give way.

On the left, a red light
swims through the dark:
a ship's port lantern.
Two rubber boots show,
illuminated, solemn.
A dog gives one bark.

A woman climbs in 
with two market bags,
brisk, freckled, elderly.
"A grand night.  Yes, sir,
all the way to Boston."
She regards us amicably.

Moonlight as we enter 
the New Brunswick woods,
hairy, scratchy, splintery;
moonlight and mist
caught in them like lamb's wool
on bushes in a pasture.

The passengers lie back.
Snores.  Some long sighs.
A dreamy divagation
begins in the night,
a gentle, auditory,
slow hallucination. . . .

In the creakings and noises,
an old conversation
--not concerning us,
but recognizable, somewhere,
back in the bus:
Grandparents' voices

talking, in Eternity:
names being mentioned,
things cleared up finally;
what he said, what she said,
who got pensioned;

deaths, deaths and sicknesses;
the year he remarried;
the year (something) happened.
She died in childbirth.
That was the son lost
when the schooner foundered.

He took to drink. Yes.
She went to the bad.
When Amos began to pray
even in the store and
finally the family had
to put him away.

"Yes . . ." that peculiar
affirmative.  "Yes . . ."
A sharp, indrawn breath,
half groan, half acceptance,
that means "Life's like that.
We know it (also death)."

Talking the way they talked 
in the old featherbed,
peacefully, on and on,
dim lamplight in the hall,
down in the kitchen, the dog
tucked in her shawl.

Now, it's all right now
even to fall asleep
just as on all those nights.
--Suddenly the bus driver
stops with a jolt,
turns off his lights.

A moose has come out of 
the impenetrable wood
and stands there, looms, rather,
in the middle of the road.
It approaches; it sniffs at
the bus's hot hood.

Towering, antlerless,
high as a church,
homely as a house
(or, safe as houses).
A man's voice assures us
"Perfectly harmless. . . ."

Some of the passengers
exclaim in whispers,
childishly, softly,
"Sure are big creatures."
"It's awful plain."
"Look! It's a she!"

Taking her time,
she looks the bus over,
grand, otherworldly.
Why, why do we feel
(we all feel) this sweet
sensation of joy?

"Curious creatures,"
says our quiet driver,
rolling his r's.
"Look at that, would you."
Then he shifts gears.
For a moment longer,

by craning backward,
the moose can be seen
on the moonlit macadam;
then there's a dim
smell of moose, an acrid
smell of gasoline.

January 21, 2010

                                                        First Offense

                                                        I'm sorry, officer, I didn't see the sign
                                                        Because, in fact, there wasn't any.  I tell you
                                                        The light was green.  How much is the fine?

                                                        Will the tumor turn out malignant or benign?
                                                        Will the doctor tell us?  He said he knew.
                                                        I'm sorry, officer.  I didn't see the sign.

                                                        Not every madman is an agent of the divine,
                                                        Not all who pass are allowed to come through.
                                                        The light was green.  How much is the fine?

                                                        Which is worse, the rush or the wait?  The line
                                                        Interminable, or fear of coming late?  His anxiety grew.
                                                        I'm sorry, officer.  I didn't see the sign.

                                                        I'm cold sober.  All I had was one glass of wine.
                                                        Was anyone hurt?  Is there anything I can do?
                                                        The light was green.  How much is the fine?

                                                        Will we make our excuses like so many clever lines,
                                                        Awkwardly delivered?  Never to win, always to woo?
                                                        I'm sorry, officer.  I didn't see the sign.
                                                        The light was green.  How much is the fine?

                                                                                --David Lehman

                                                        (published in AN ALTERNATIVE TO SPEECH)


January 20, 2010

                                                        The Face

                                                            Die alte Frau, die alte Marschallin!*

                                                        Not good any more, not beautiful--

                                                        Not even young.

                                                        This isn't mine.

                                                        Where is the old one, the old ones?

                                                        Those were mine.

                                                        It's so: I have pictures,

                                                        Not such old one; people behave

                                                        Differently then...When they meet me they say:

                                                        You haven't changed.

                                                        I want to say: You haven't looked.

                                                        This is what happens to everyone.

                                                        At first you get bigger, you know more,

                                                        Then something goes wrong.

                                                        You are, and you say: I am--

                                                        And you were...I've been too long.

                                                        I know, there's no saying no,

                                                        But just the same you say it.  No.

                                                        I'll point to myself and say: I'm not like this.

                                                        I'm the same as always inside.

                                                        --And even that's not so.

                                                        I thought: If nothing happens...

                                                        And nothing happened.

                                                        Here I am.

                                                                        But it's not right.

                                                        If just living can do this,

                                                        Living is more dangerous than anything:

                                                        It is terrible to be alive.

                                                                    --Randall Jarrell  [1950]

                                                        (published in RANDALL JARRELL SELECTED POEMS
                                                                            Edited by William H. Pritchard)

                                                        *The Marschallin alone among the characters sees the future passing through the present into the past, and wonders what it means. Philosophers may say that time is only the measure of change. Poets may say carpe diem � grasp time while you can. But the Marschallin finds that, in fact, in a human life one cannot measure or grasp or hold. Each irreversible moment is already gone in the instant of becoming.


January 19, 2010

                                                        The Tree House

                                                                for my mother, Marion Spies Hughes, 1940-1978

                                                        The two of us climbed gray boards
                                                        nailed to the white oak.
                                                        We brought supplies: Devil Dogs,
                                                        two cigarettes, a Budweiser.  I carried
                                                        a Playboy I had traded fireworks for at recess,
                                                        nervously walking through the yard,
                                                        school bag zipped tight.

                                                        Inside, October was dark.
                                                        Jays scratched
                                                        at the plywood roof.
                                                        It was cold, but the shiny pictures
                                                        kept us looking,
                                                        looking, wishing.  John twisted
                                                        his cuff over the bottle's sharp cap.

                                                        I remember looking out a knothole in the wall--
                                                        the thick trees, chain-link fence,
                                                        the white-lamp curtains of the kitchen
                                                        where my mother flickered
                                                        over the counter.  She gave me money
                                                        to buy Peterson's Birds.  I spent in on a gross
                                                        of bottle rockets.  I had a lot of homework,
                                                        beer on my lips.
                                                        Ten years later I bought the book,
                                                        and now, in the yard, holding its pages open,
                                                        I imagine my mother hanging
                                                        an onion bag of suet from the clothes line,
                                                        spreading grain in an old baking pan,
                                                        asking the names of birds she thought I'd know.
                                                        They are here now: fox sparrow, pine siskin, purple finch,
                                                        rusty blackbird, winter wren.
                                                        I pronounce them loudly so she can hear from the steps,
                                                        but she didn't wait for me, didn't wait to lift
                                                        these heavy words from my head.

                                                                                    --Henry Hughes

                                                        (published in MEN HOLDING EGGS)


January 18, 2010

                                                        Chief Leschi of the Nisquallies

                                                        He awoke this morning from a strange dream--

                                                        Thunderbird wept for him in the blizzard.

                                                        Holding him in their circle, Nisqually women

                                                        turn to the river, dance to its song.

                                                        He burned in the forest like a red cedar,

                                                        his arms fanning blue flames toward

                                                        the white men claiming the camas valley

                                                        for their pigs and fowl.

                                                        Musing over wolf's tracks vanishing in snow,

                                                        the memory of his wives and children

                                                        keeps him mute.  Flickering in the dawn fires,

                                                        his faith grows roots, tricks the soldiers

                                                        like a fawn, sleeping black as the brush.

                                                        They laugh at his fate, frozen as a bat

                                                        against his throat.  Still, death will take

                                                        him only to his father's longhouse,

                                                        past the flaming rainbow door.  These bars

                                                        hold but his tired body; he will eat little

                                                        and speak less before he hangs.

                                                                                --Duane Niatum

                                                        (published in COME TO POWER)

January 17, 2010

                                                                            Blowin' in the Wind

                                                                How many roads must a man walk down
                                                                Before you call him a man?
                                                                Yes, 'n' how many seas must a white dove sail
                                                                Before she sleeps in the sand?
                                                                Yes, 'n' how many times must the cannon balls fly
                                                                Before they're forever banned?
                                                                The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind,
                                                                The answer is blowin' in the wind.

                                                                How many times must a man look up
                                                                Before he can see the sky?
                                                                Yes, 'n' how many ears must one man have
                                                                Before he can hear people cry?
                                                                Yes, 'n' how many deaths will it take till he knows
                                                                That too many people have died?
                                                                The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind,
                                                                The answer is blowin' in the wind.

                                                                How many years can a mountain exist
                                                                Before it's washed to the sea?
                                                                Yes, 'n' how many years can some people exist
                                                                Before they're allowed to be free?
                                                                Yes, 'n' how many times can a man turn his head,
                                                                Pretending he just doesn't see?
                                                                The answer, my friend, is blowin' in the wind,
                                                                The answer is blowin' in the wind.

                                                                                                    --Bob Dylan


January 16, 2010

                                                    Spirit Level

                                                    Held tight to a door jamb

                                                    or flat across the sill

                                                    a spirit level shows how far

                                                    from plumb a house has tilted.

                                                    It is the spirit of the house that leans

                                                    away from straight, away from level,

                                                    slouching like Saturday against a porch rail,

                                                    settling comfortably into joist, into beam,

                                                    into post and block and graded dirt beneath it.

                                                    If the house were a woman she might shift

                                                    her weight over one hip, maybe rest

                                                    her hand there as she watches hummingbirds

                                                    feeding outside the kitchen window.

                                                    If the house were a man he might turn

                                                    his radio on and halfway listen,

                                                    sagging on the back step as the sky revolves

                                                    over his garden, over his uniform lawn.

                                                    At the end of seven, the announcer might say,

                                                    no runs, no hits, no errors, or out of nowhere,

                                                    Angels wear red shoes, and hearing this

                                                    the man might think of buying his wife

                                                    new shoes as red as her hummingbird feeder,

                                                    but in the spirit of the house he would not get up;

                                                    instead he would settle into the thought,

                                                    tilt for a while with its weight,

                                                    with the gravity of it.

                                                                        --Joseph Green

                                                    (published in DELUXE MOTEL)


January 15, 2010

                                                    Up The Mountain To Basic Training


                                                    The road that winds upward

                                                    Has been etched


                                                    Into the side

                                                    Of the mountain.


                                                    When the buzzing cars in the city

                                                    Look like shiny beetles


                                                    The heart flutters

                                                    And the stomach knots up.


                                                    The cold steel highway rail

                                                    Hardly exists.


                                                    On the edge of the

                                                    Icy road

                                                            --Wayne-Alan Lamb

                                                    (published in NORTHWEST PASSAGE)



January 14, 2010

                                                    The Rain's Marriage

                                                    In an African folk tale, the rain

                                                    falls in love with a blacksmith.

                                                    At the wedding, the downpour dies out

                                                    to a single stream, a column of water.

                                                    At first the drop touches soil,

                                                    feet appear, then legs, a torso, arms...

                                                    The woman, waves of transparent hair

                                                    falling over her shoulders, is called

                                                    the Water Bride and doesn't fully lose

                                                    her identity as rain.  Once,

                                                    I was certain of the boundaries between my body

                                                    and whatever it touched, as if

                                                    touch itself were a way of defining exactly where I stopped

                                                    and the rest of the world began.

                                                    Then I lost the sense that I was hemmed in

                                                    by skin.  My body felt like something loaned to me--

                                                    it might break, or dissolve to ashes,

                                                    leaving me stranded,

                                                    a pure thought without a skull to inhabit--

                                                    like rain falling into any shape that accepts it,

                                                    every hollow place made equal by its touch.

                                                    The mind of rain

                                                    contemplates even the smallest crack in the parched dirt

                                                    where nothing will grow.

                                                    Why can't I fall effortlessly in love?

                                                    If I knew the exact place where my body stops

                                                    and everything else begins, I'd marry.

                                                    Like the Water Bride, I'd be unafraid,

                                                    though surely trouble would exist, as between rain

                                                    and a blacksmith's fire.

                                                                        --Marcia Southwick

                                                    (published in WHY THE RIVER DISAPPEARS)


January 13, 2010

                                                        Saying One Thing

                                                        Today the angels are all writing postcards,

                                                        Or talking on the telephone.

                                                        Meanwhile, in Nowheresville,

                                                        A rabbit is running into a bush.  This, I tell my friend,

                                                        Means good luck.  The next day,

                                                        The sun is out, the fix is in,

                                                        And we're ready to throw in the towel.

                                                        Anytime now, our number might come up,

                                                        And the telephone will finally stop ringing:

                                                        Don't call before three,

                                                        Knock four times,

                                                        Show me the way to go home.

                                                        Back and forth and back again,

                                                        Like some idiot boomerang.

                                                        "Kerpow" and "schlock" are our favorite words,

                                                        Lately, and are about what things are amounting to.

                                                        Still, the stories of airplane disasters

                                                        And overnight flings in far-off cities have a kind of allure,

                                                        Like metallic paint, or something expensive

                                                        You want but can't have.

                                                        O toothpaste commercials, common house fly,

                                                        Fall is in the air again.  On this spaceship

                                                        The code word is "blond," or "good dog."

                                                        Night begins to fall, the atmosphere is electric.

                                                                                --Robert Long

                                                        (published in WHAT HAPPENS)


January 12, 2010

                                                        An Imaginary Happening, London

                                                        In the lower left-hand corner

                                                        of an album landscape

                                                        I am walking thru a dark park

                                                        with a noted nymphomaniac

                                                        trying to discover

                                                        for what she is noted

                                                        We are talking as we walk

                                                        of various villainies

                                                        of church & state

                                                        and of the tyrannies

                                                        of love & hate

                                                        the moon makes hairless nudes

                                                        An alabaster girl upon her back  

                                                        becomes a body made of soap

                                                        beneath a wet gypsy

                                                        Suddenly we rush

                                                        thru a bent gate

                                                        into the hot grass

                                                        One more tree

                                                        falls in the forest

                                                                --Lawrence Ferlinghetti

                                                        (published in ENDLESS LIFE: Selected Poems)


January 11, 2010

I Saw a Child


I saw a child with silver hair.

Stick with me and I'll take you there.

Clutch my hand.

Don't let go.

The fields are mined and the wind blows cold.

The wind blows through his silver hair.


The Blue Vein River is broad and deep.

The branches creak and the shadows leap.

Clutch my hand.

Stick to the path.

The fields are mined and the moon is bright.

I saw a child who will never sleep.


Far from the wisdom of the brain

I saw a child grow old in pain.

Clutch my hand.

Stay with me.

The fields are mined by the enemy.

Tell me we may be friends again.


Far from the wisdom of the blood

I saw a child reach from the mud.

Clutch my hand.

Clutch my heart.

The fields are mined and the moon is dark.

The Blue Vein River is in full flood.


Far from the wisdom of the heart

I saw a child being torn apart.

Is this you?

Is this me?

The fields are mined and the night is long.

Stick with me when the shooting starts.


--James Fenton

(published in OUT OF DANGER)



January 10, 2010

                                                    Journey of the Magi

                                                    'A cold coming we had of it,

                                                    Just the worst time of the year

                                                    For a journey and such a long journey:

                                                    The ways deep and the weather sharp,

                                                    The very dead of winter.'

                                                    And the camels galled, sore-footed, refractory,

                                                    Lying down in the melting snow.

                                                    There were times we regretted

                                                    The summer palaces on slopes, the terraces, 

                                                    And the silken girls bringing sherbet.

                                                    Then the camel men cursing and grumbling

                                                    And running away, and wanting their liquor and women,

                                                    And the night-firs going out, and the lack of shelters,

                                                    And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly

                                                    And the villages dirty and charging high prices:

                                                    A hard time we had of it.

                                                    At the end we preferred to travel all night,

                                                    Sleeping in snatches,

                                                    With the voices singing in our ears, saying

                                                    That this was all folly.

                                                    Then at dawn we came to a temperate valley,

                                                    Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation;

                                                    With a running stream and a water-mill beating the darkness,

                                                    And three trees on the low sky,

                                                    And an old white horse galloped away in the meadow.

                                                    Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,

                                                    Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver,

                                                    And feet kicking the empty wine-skins.

                                                    But there was no information, and so we continued

                                                    And arrived at evening, not a moment too soon

                                                    Finding the place; it was (you may say) satisfactory.

                                                    All this was a long time ago, I remember,

                                                    And I would do it again, but set down

                                                    This set down

                                                    This: were we led all that way for

                                                    Birth or Death?  There was a Birth, certainly,

                                                    We had evidence and no doubt.  I had seen birth and death,

                                                    But had thought they were different; this Birth was

                                                    Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death.

                                                    We returned to our places, these Kingdoms,

                                                    But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,

                                                    With an alien people clutching their gods.

                                                    I should be glad of another death.

                                                                                    --T.S. Eliot

                                                    (published in THE WASTE LAND AND OTHER POEMS)



January 9, 2010

                                                    The Toes

                                                    This foot's giving me nothing
                                                    but trouble.  The ball,
                                                    the arch, the ankle--I'm saying
                                                    it hurts to walk.  But
                                                    mainly it's these toes
                                                    I worry about.  Those
                                                    "terminal digits" as they're
                                                    otherwise called.  How true!
                                                    For them no more delight
                                                    in going headfirst
                                                    into a hot bath, or
                                                    a cashmere sock Cashmere socks,
                                                    no socks, slippers, shoes, Ace
                                                    bandage--it's all one and the same
                                                    to these dumb toes.
                                                    They even looked zonked out
                                                    and depressed, as if
                                                    somebody'd pumped them full
                                                    of Thorazine.  They hunch there
                                                    stunned and mute--drab, lifeless
                                                    things.  What in hell is going on?
                                                    What kind of toes are these
                                                    that nothing matters any longer?
                                                    Are these really my  
toes?  Have they forgotten
                                                    the old days, what it was like
                                                    being alive then?  Always first
                                                    on line, first onto the dance floor
                                                    when the music started.
                                                    First to kick up their heels.
                                                    Look at them.  No, don't.
                                                    You don't want to see them,
                                                    those slugs.  It's only with pain
                                                    and difficulty they can recall
                                                    the other times, the good times.
                                                    Maybe what they really want
                                                    is to sever all connection
                                                    with the old life, start over,
                                                    go underground, live alone
                                                    in a retirement manor
                                                    somewhere in the Yakima Valley.
                                                    But there was a time
                                                    they used to strain
                                                    with anticipation
                                                    curl with pleasure
                                                    at the least provocation,
                                                    the smallest thing.
                                                    The feel of a silk dress
                                                    against the fingers, say.
                                                    A becoming voice, a touch
                                                    behind the neck, even
                                                    a passing glance.  Any of it!
                                                    The sound of hooks being
                                                    unfastened, stays coming
                                                    undone, garments letting go
                                                    onto a cool, hardwood floor.

                                                                    --Raymond Carver

                                                    (published in A NEW PATH TO THE WATERFALL)


January 8, 2010

                                                    My Left Leg

                                                    Last Spring,

                                                    I accidently buried my leg.

                                                    It was the left one lost

                                                    Above the ankle and a little below the knee.

                                                    It's deep in the garden

                                                    Between the lobelias and the pink peonies.

                                                    My wife asserts that I should have been more careful

                                                    With the rusty spade,

                                                    But I really don't mind,

                                                    For it was an often stubborn leg.

                                                    In the mornings it refused to get out of bed,

                                                    Feigning lameness,

                                                    And in various idle sitting positions

                                                    It disappeared altogether

                                                    Without even a "by your leave."

                                                    My wife asks if I miss the leg, and I quietly reply "no."

                                                    But sometimes I do.

                                                    Yes, it was a bit of a bother,

                                                    A bit shorter than the right,

                                                    And had a tendency to dance to its own tune,

                                                    But often in the long evenings outside

                                                    I sit and muse about digging it up,

                                                    And moving it somewhere nicer,

                                                    Over by the wild sweet peas

                                                    Where it can feel

                                                    The cool evening breeze.

                                                            --Kenneth W. Anderson, Jr.

                                                    (published in NORTHWEST PASSAGE)


January 7, 2010

                                                                The Cat in the Kitchen
                                                                              (For Donald Hall)

                                                                 Have you heard about the boy who walked by
                                                    The black water? I won't say much more.
                                                    Let's wait a few years. It wanted to be entered.
                                                    Sometimes a man walks by a pond, and a hand
                                                    Reaches out and pulls him in.

                                                    There was no
                                                    Intention, exactly. The pond was lonely, or needed
                                                    Calcium, bones would do. What happened then?

                                                    It was a little like the night wind, which is soft,
                                                    And moves slowly, sighing like an old woman
                                                    In her kitchen late at night, moving pans
                                                    About, lighting a fire, making some food for the cat.  

                                                                                                          --Robert Bly


January 6, 2010

Children's Rhymes




By what sends
the white kids
I ain't sent:
I know I can't
be President.
What don't bug
them white kids
sure bugs me:
We know everybody
ain't free.

Lies written down
for white folks
ain't for us a-tall:
Liberty And Justice--
Huh!--For All?

Langston Hughes



January 5, 2010

                                                        What Doesn't Go Away

                                                        His heart was like a butterfly
                                                        dropped through a vacuum tube,
                                                        no air to lift it up again;
                                                        each time the fluttering began,
                                                        he opened his eyes, first seeing
                                                        his family staggered around the bed,
                                                        then seeing that he didn't see.
                                                        While he died, the nurses wouldn't budge,
                                                        blood pressure gone too low, they said.

                                                        I, who used to play bad jokes on him,
                                                        my laughter in his shaking head,
                                                        bent and held his hand and talked Lamaze,
                                                        "your breathing, concentrate on your breathing."
                                                        And he did, like a well coached athlete,
                                                        believing I could get him through
                                                        his heart's slow, syncopated pains.
                                                        I do not know how long we worked that way,
                                                        but after he died, I couldn't straighten up.

                                                        "Your breathing, concentrate on your breathing,"
                                                        instead of, "I love you.  Thank you."
                                                        A respirator tube put down his throat
                                                        made what I'd said to him ridiculous.
                                                        One last practical joke, an off-speed pitch
                                                        I'll never retrieve.

                                                                                        --Philip Dacey

                                                        (published in VITAL SIGNS, AN ANTHOLOGY
                                                                            edited by Ronald Wallace)


January 4, 2010

                                                            The Moment

                                                            We passed the ice of pain,

                                                            And came to a dark ravine,

                                                            And there we sang with the sea:

                                                            The wide, the bleak abyss

                                                            Shifted with our slow kiss.

                                                            Space struggled with time;

                                                            The gong of midnight struck

                                                            The naked absolute.

                                                            Sound, silence sang as one.

                                                            All flowed: without, within;

                                                            Body met body, we

                                                            Created what's to be.

                                                            What else to say?

                                                            We end in joy.

                                                                     --Theodore Roethke

                                                   (published in THE COLLECTED POEMS OF THEODORE ROETHKE)


January 3, 2010


                                                            I walk through motes

                                                            like a swimming creature

                                                            in a sooty sea.  The thick air

                                                            haloes the halogen bulbs.

                                                            By shift's end, a coarse grit

                                                            sticks between my teeth.

                                                            Black rings circle my nostrils,

                                                            a double zero in the middle of my face.

                                                            The dust settles on the floors,

                                                            weeds, slabs, railings, roofs,

                                                            our hard hats, the thin frames

                                                            of our safety glasses, the time cards.

                                                            It smudges our names

                                                            on the card rack, combines

                                                            with grease to hard globs

                                                            blacker than cold tar on our boots.

                                                            I sweep it with a push broom

                                                            in long lines across the shipping floor.

                                                            AI wonder Irish is joking

                                                            when he says, It's either God

                                                            or death.  Because it never stops

                                                            falling, like a slow, hazy brown snow,

                                                            sometimes I forget that it's there,

                                                            gathering in the creases of my face

                                                            and tracing the sweat-streams

                                                            on the back of my neck.

                                                                                  --Peter Blair

                                                            (published in LAST HEAT)




January 2, 2010

                                                            Woman Work

                                                            I've got the children to tend
                                                            The clothes to mend
                                                            The floor to mop
                                                            The food to shop
                                                            Then the chicken to fry
                                                            The baby to dry
                                                            I got company to feed
                                                            The garden to weed
                                                            I've got the shirts to press
                                                            The tots to dress
                                                            The cane to be cut
                                                            I gotta clean up this hut
                                                            Then see about the sick
                                                            And the cotton to pick.

                                                            Shine on me, sunshine
                                                            Rain on me, rain
                                                            Fall softly, dewdrops
                                                            And cool my brow again.

                                                            Storm, blow me from here
                                                            With your fiercest wind
                                                            Let me float across the sky
                                                            'Til I can rest again.

                                                            Fall gently, snowflakes
                                                            Cover me with white
                                                            Cold icy kisses and
                                                            Let me rest tonight.

                                                            Sun, rain, curving sky
                                                            Mountain, oceans, leaf and stone
                                                            Star shine, moon glow
                                                            You're all that I can call my own.

                                                                                    --Maya Angelou

                                                            (published in AND STILL I RISE)


January 1, 2010

                                                            Friends for Life

                                                            When I felt 

                                                            the back you gave me

                                                            it helped.

                                                            It didn't carry

                                                            all my loads

                                                            but it helped.

                                                            When I feel

                                                            the back you give me

                                                            it helps.

                                                            When I smelled

                                                            roses placed beside me

                                                            it helped.

                                                            It didn't change

                                                            that last day

                                                            but it helped.

                                                            When I smell

                                                            roses placed beside me

                                                            it helps.

                                                                    --Tim Van Ert

                                        (from IF YOU LIVE YOUR TIME WILL COME)




January 31, 2009                                                  the DANCING

                                                                           As our bodies, as our beings
                                                                           You and I are dancers
                                                                           Run and flow together, moving
                                                                           Pulses and rhythms
                                                                           Perhaps only Mother Ocean can understand.

                                                                           Individual mysteries we glide
                                                                           Through One all-flowingness.
                                                                           Sometimes we pass and smile
                                                                           From bodies warmed with love
                                                                           And we taste recognition of Other
                                                                           Sent like Manna from above.

                                                                                                     --Tim Van Ert

                                                                            (from Collected Words)     


January 30, 2009                                                                                WE'VE

                                                                                                          Suffering and love,

                                                                                                          strengthening and ease,

                                                                                                          with actions we color

                                                                                                          the loom as we please.

                                                                                                          But suffering and love,

                                                                                                          life's woven with these.

                                                                                                                        --Tim Van Ert

                                                                                                 (from Create That Love That Love Creates)   


January 29, 2009                                                                              COMPANIONS


                                                                                                        That's not the Parker farmhouse ghost.

                                                                                                        Twister's softly thumping four-time

                                                                                                        up bare wooden stairs to the attic

                                                                                                        where her first mouse was surprised.

                                                                                                        In Liz's attic it was the other way,

                                                                                                        first roses surprised her.

                                                                                                        Yellow-orange petals dipped in red

                                                                                                        released their own alluring scent.

                                                                                                        Now neither will kiss like before--

                                                                                                        after Twister's sister was packed home

                                                                                                        from the vet for the last time.

                                                                                                                                        --Tim Van Ert



January 28,2009                                                                               1964 MODEL, WITH DAMAGE


                                                                                                        Some things in life are priceless,
                                                                                                        Who has not been so informed?
                                                                                                        And cures, like game, elusive --
                                                                                                        For health is not just purchased,
                                                                                                        Nor some diseased bastions stormed.

                                                                                                        Hollow words as he refuses
                                                                                                        To cover his boneless spine
                                                                                                        With those red-ribbed galoshes
                                                                                                        Before sending warm splashes
                                                                                                        In back of that car of mine.

                                                                                                        Must have lost it on that turn,
                                                                                                        It hurts to finger the dents.
                                                                                                        Not totalled but deeply churned,
                                                                                                        For the diagnosis burns
                                                                                                        As I sting from herpes' rents.

                                                                                                        Are there bad acoustics here,
                                                                                                        And why my peeks at the clock?
                                                                                                        Not a single word's been clear --
                                                                                                        A smokey weight in the air --
                                                                                                        Since you mentioned 'simplex', Doc!


                                                                                                                                --Tim Van Ert



January 27, 2009                                                                              UNDER A FOOL, MOON 


                                                                                                        Under the full moon  

                                                                                                        (a moon eclipsed by shadow 

                                                                                                        turned smokey, yellow, red)         

                                                                                                        the daffodils speak to us. 

                                                                                                        Throughout the neighborhood 

                                                                                                        in different patterns: 

                                                                                                        Grandma’s, early, shout yellows, 

                                                                                                        Richard’s tall lemons bellow, 

                                                                                                        ours cream and pastel orange; 

                                                                                                        their different patterns 

                                                                                                        speak the same language— 

                                                                                                        heart songs.  Frog and cricket     

                                                                                                        ecstasies; open up,     

                                                                                                        listen to them sing 

                                                                                                        to the glories of Spring: 

                                                                                                        open up, open up!

                                                                                                                        --Tim Van Ert

                                                                                                        (from If You Live, Your Time Will Come)


January 26, 2009                                                                                JESUS LIZARD

                                                                                                            The basilisk sometimes runs as a biped. Basilisks have the unique ability to "walk" on water and, because of this, they have been dubbed as "The Jesus Lizard" or "The Jesus Christ Lizard" in reference to the biblical passage of Matthew 14:22-34. On water, the basilisk can run at a velocity of 1.5 meters (4.8 feet) per second for approximately 4.5 meters (14.75 feet) before sinking on all fours and swimming. Flaps between their toes help support the basilisk, creating a larger surface and a pocket of air.        Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


                                                                                                           You've caught me on my knees.
                                                                                                           I cock my head, aiming eyes at you
                                                                                                           like the Jesus lizard from a rocky bank
                                                                                                           ready for a walk on water.

                                                                                                           Just gotta get my timing right.
                                                                                                           Pump some reptilian push-ups.
                                                                                                           Send the blood humors racing.
                                                                                                           Open up five-fingered fins.

                                                                                                           I can flatten out stream roils
                                                                                                           quicker than walking over coals.
                                                                                                           Like that, gone to the other side--
                                                                                                           off to life's next minor miracle.

                                                                                                           You hunger to see me perform again.
                                                                                                           Not caring about what never happens,
                                                                                                           I tire of my prancing amusement.
                                                                                                           Time to sprawl out for more sun.

                                                                                                           Good.  Nothing notable happens in the sand.
                                                                                                           There.  No one asks for more than a man.
                                                                                                           Here I think myself more than animal--
                                                                                                           could you tread lightly on rushing water?

                                                                                                                                            --Tim Van Ert

                                                                                                            (from Seeds On a Wind Ride)                   


January 25, 2009                                                                                all poet re

                                                                                                           reminding me

                                                                                                           re mystery


                                                                                                           of how we be    

                                                                                                                    --Tim Van Ert

                                                                                                           (from A First Book of Hai-Choo: Little Sneezes of Dittycism)                               


January 24, 2009                                                                               

                                                                                                          SIMPLE NEEDS, SIMPLE DEEDS

                                                                                                           There are times of simple needs;
                                                                                                           their tempos paced solely
                                                                                                           by rhythms of simple deeds.

                                                                                                           Paris held this zone for me
                                                                                                           although I really do not know,
                                                                                                           could it be found as easily
                                                                                                           between the pages of Thoreau?

                                                                                                           It's a time when nothing happens
                                                                                                           (there's time enough for plans);
                                                                                                           the fruit of reflection ripens
                                                                                                           and the feast is in our hands.

                                                                                                           Unheralded pass such times,
                                                                                                           yet we are those truly blessed
                                                                                                           who won't let them slip our minds.

                                                                                                                                --Tim Van Ert

                                                                                                           (from Create That Love That Love Creates)  


January 23, 2009                                                                               


                                     If you cannot laugh,
                               lower your eyes
                               as this day dies--
                               crawl with the sun's light
                               out a window towards night. 

                               The day delivers too much sun
                               to see this particular piece of earth,
                               produces so many sounds
                               the mind jumps onto dream stage.

                               My eyes open
                               to a dark window and begin
                               to question the morning.

                               Clock tells me it's that time
                               to begin a day of trying to do

                               what has never been done so well before.


                                                                                                                --Tim Van Ert

                                                                                    (from If You Live, Your Time Will Come)          



January 22, 2009                                                                                ANGST



                                                                                                                        I go through the motions,

                                                                                                                        she goes through emotions--


                                                                                                                                        --Tim Van Ert

                                                                                                            (from Collected Words)


January 21, 2009                                                                                 ARBORETUM WALK

                                                                                                            Its hard to hear silver fir when walking.
                                                                                                            Stand more still than air--firs will disperse
                                                                                                            Fragrant notice before discourse begins.

                                                                                                            Tamarack suggests walk slowly, prepared,
                                                                                                            With prayer baskets of upraised needles
                                                                                                            Held sky-open from their common huddle.

                                                                                                            Valley oak, coarse and solid as concrete slab,
                                                                                                            Waits for wind to voice in its crackling lisps
                                                                                                            Subtle warning to check a sweaty grip.

                                                                                                            Yellowed willow droop evokes loveless shame,
                                                                                                            Feathered branches rustling their rude snickers
                                                                                                            As stripped maple offers flicker's display.

                                                                                                            Redwood's dirt-red trunk speaks like some fathers,
                                                                                                            "Walk strong, youth--age leans on old laments."
                                                                                                            Simple phrases boom as small shakes frighten.

                                                                                                            Ghost grey except where inferno charred black,
                                                                                                            Boulder-stout redwood snag recalls forests
                                                                                                            Less confused by crowding-starved branches.

                                                                                                            Western oak stripped by frost's sharp pinches shouts,
                                                                                                            "Stay alive!"  Relax your warrior posture,
                                                                                                            Climb his lap.  Cease shivering fears of life.

                                                                                                                                                --Tim Van Ert

                                                                                                            (published in Architrave)


January 20, 2009                                                                         A DESERT PAST BLOOM

                                                                                                            Seeing the Zygocactus
                                                                                                            alone on a bare table
                                                                                                            warms the stomach
                                                                                                            with its own sad drug
                                                                                                            before morning's first cup.

                                                                                                            Withered blooms sag
                                                                                                            like mist-sodden bathroom tissue
                                                                                                            on naked sycamore branches
                                                                                                            after a fraternity yard-papering.

                                                                                                            Frail red flags lie unattended
                                                                                                            on their linoleum mausoleum--
                                                                                                            impolite tears that won't disappear.

                                                                                                            What does it take to sweep up,
                                                                                                            pluck the plant clean?

                                                                                                                                            --Tim Van Ert

January 19, 2009

                                                                                    PALPATE THE GOLD

                                                                                                        They hoped to be lucky
                                                                                                        and that hope was their only joy.
                                                                                                                    Amy Tan, The Joy Luck Club

                                                                                                        Finger every coin:
                                                                                                        hard, cool and cruel.
                                                                                                        (How we hate to know
                                                                                                        we lose all we've gained.)

                                                                                                        Squeeze them for the wager
                                                                                                        you love to desire,
                                                                                                        to make a gruel so thin
                                                                                                        it slips through your fingers.

                                                                                                        Shake them fiercely until
                                                                                                        like golden butter they melt,
                                                                                                        so you may drink again
                                                                                                        adrenaline's elixir.

                                                                                                        Stack them as a stage
                                                                                                        for feelings in your mouth--
                                                                                                        a foodstuff nourishing only
                                                                                                        for certain life forms.

                                                                                                        Raise these offerings
                                                                                                        as a churning mind's alms
                                                                                                        to the suffering selves
                                                                                                        matter-bound by fears.

                                                                                                        Riddle:  what is it that
                                                                                                        when finally felt
                                                                                                        will never be gone,
                                                                                                        but when you reach deeply
                                                                                                        and can't find it within
                                                                                                        you are left with despair?

                                                                                                                        --Tim Van Ert

                                                                                                        (from Nothing Else Matters)



       January 18, 2009                                                                    PAPER BOY


                                                                                                            Released to morning air still as dew,
                                                                                                            coffee's aroma shoves past sluggish
                                                                                                            molecules of mowed-lawn smell,
                                                                                                            alerting a canine underworld
                                                                                                            to humanity's renewed assault
                                                                                                            on their once-dark empire.

                                                                                                            One of man's red-haired young,
                                                                                                            with asthmatic puffs and TIMES bag
                                                                                                            billowing ghost white,
                                                                                                            whirs by on his three-speed.

                                                                                                            Unmindful of amber light leaking
                                                                                                            like honey from bedroom shades,
                                                                                                            he disjoints conjugal caresses
                                                                                                            with wads tossed through a silence broken,
                                                                                                            like explosive pops of snap beans,
                                                                                                            by the whip of a wrist and the slap of impact --
                                                                                                            good morning
delivered in dense thuds.

                                                                                                                                                --Tim Van Ert

                                                                                                            (from Nothing Else Matters)



January 17, 2009                                                           MATURITY

                                                                                    When we learn to live

                                                                                    For what we've got

                                                                                    Rather than to strive

                                                                                    For what we've not.

                                                                                                --Tim Van Ert

                                                                                     (from A First Book of Hai-Choo: Little Sneezes of Dittycism)



   January 16, 2009                                                         AS IF A MIND COULD FEEL

                                                 Packs of wild ideas run
                                                 headlong past hours and days,
                                                 trip over weeks, splash into months
                                                 like our young spaniel,
                                                 who now drops tussle-feathered robin
                                                 to cool slowly at my feet
                                                 then drools--dumbly longing
                                                 a pleased master's praise.

                                                 Plump, proud creature of flight
                                                 led the soaring life I daydream,
                                                 soft in familiar chair.  But tumbled so near,
                                                 Here, take death and deal with it!
                                                 strange emotions blaze my body
                                                 with the flash of this summer's brush fire. 

                                                 What can a man of the mind do
                                                 with flurries of feelings plopped at nap?
                                                 They are a deer carcass
                                                 discovered during the morning's walk;
                                                 the unexpected toe-stub disgusts,
                                                 cold corpse awakens worry,
                                                 while the story of its death raises intrigue.

                                                                                                                          --Tim Van Ert



January 15, 2008                                                               DAY LABORER

                                                                                        Fingers carry moist, warm crockery
                                                                                        from dishwasher to cupboard
                                                                                        smoothly, quickly, quietly   
                                                                                        as Brahms' radio concerto plays.

                                                                                        Grab both cuff ends, cross.
                                                                                        Shoulder to shoulder, fold.
                                                                                        Measure steps in hummed cadence
                                                                                        to pile the laundry neat and snug.

                                                                                        He has only a moment
                                                                                        to note the detergent air
                                                                                        before fingers rough both collars,
                                                                                        then flick his tie onto the pile.

                                                                                        One lasting labor--
                                                                                        undressing to Debussy.

                                                                                                                --Tim Van Ert

                                                                                        (from Seeds On a Wind Ride)

January 14, 2009

                                                                                        ONLY ATTENDANTS

                                                                                        Earth yields offspring

                                                                                        more movingly

                                                                                        with our midwifery--

                                                                                        unceasingly without it.  

                                                                                                            --Tim Van Ert

                                                                                          (from A First Book of Hai-Choo: Little Sneezes of Dittycism)


 January 13, 2009                                                              FORGET SOME THINGS

                                                                                        I forget some warnings
                                                                                                    in the presence of beauty.

                                                                                        Clematis' nursery instructions
                                                                                                    remind of winter's freeze.

                                                                                        Cat's mole-prey dumped in root hole
                                                                                                    need not be an omen.

                                                                                        But this December brought
                                                                                                    such warm amnesia.

                                                                                        Hope directs knowledge vacuums
                                                                                                    to draw in lush beliefs,

                                                                                        Such as how unpotted clematis roots,
                                                                                                    finding perfect placement,

                                                                                        Respond like young Olympians: sprinting
                                                                                                    fragrant, flowered vines.

                                                                                        If only bathroom's metal pipework
                                                                                                    alone had frozen,

                                                                                        Sweet clematis would not have withered black,
                                                                                                    dropping curled leaves.

                                                                                        But fingering green buds on twining limbs in spring
                                                                                                    redeems challenged faith:

                                                                                        Clematis will bloom again
                                                                                                    through summer and fall.

                                                                                                                                --Tim Van Ert

                                                                                        (from If You Live, Your Time Will Come)


 January 12, 2009                                                                                BLIND MEN

                                                                                                            Sitting upright as if to sniff
                                                                                                            for color in his bleached hospital bed
                                                                                                            the blind man says he feels red
                                                                                                            and the presence of a woman
                                                                                                            (whom I see only on the video monitor.)
                                                                                                            How I envy his awareness.

                                                                                                            His finger antennae wave from cut-off gloves
                                                                                                            like hydra in a favorable environment,
                                                                                                            but not so quick to retract.
                                                                                                            "When you're into feeling that deeply
                                                                                                            there's no place to withdraw."
                                                                                                            Now I fear this awareness.

                                                                                                            I stand upright, stiff,
                                                                                                            as I put on my gloves
                                                                                                            aching to be spared the stings
                                                                                                            of barbs unforeseen.
                                                                                                            If only he could see
                                                                                                            how I grope
                                                                                                            I might hope to feel his smiles
                                                                                                            yellow, blue or red.

                                                                                                            Still, my fingers would peek out of pockets
                                                                                                            like immature marsupials--
                                                                                                            for they, too, know red
                                                                                                            and the feeling of a woman's presence.

                                                                                                                                        --Tim Van Ert

                                                                                                            (published in Mediphors)


January 11, 2009                                                                                 WINTER WALK

                                                                                                            Can you feel Nature's beauty


                                                                                                            Beneath blankets of snow,

                                                                                                            Or my strong pulse


                                                                                                            As into these woods we go?

                                                                                                            Spring's buried beckoning

                                                                                                            Pulls us through

                                                                                                            Winter's cold reckoning

                                                                                                            As if we knew.

                                                                                                                                --Tim Van Ert

                                                                                                            (from Collected Words)


January 10, 2009                                                                                 TULE RIVER

                                                                                                            Sierra's melting snow pack
                                                                                                            gives birth to the Tule in drops
                                                                                                            gravity guides back to the sea.

                                                                                                            River's journey sounds its alert
                                                                                                            like a dog whistle; while friends walk on,
                                                                                                            unaffected, I run alongside

                                                                                                            to see a water body trap air.
                                                                                                            Silver balloons keep escaping
                                                                                                            from those growing below.

                                                                                                            Rocks throw liquid splashes
                                                                                                            (like Pollack his paints)
                                                                                                            to form clear, kinetic sculpture.

                                                                                                            Cool steam and liquid snow
                                                                                                            juggle over smooth stones--
                                                                                                            a diversion along this year's trek.

                                                                                                                                    --Tim Van Ert

                                                                                                            (from Seeds On a Wind Ride)


January 9, 2009

                                                                                                            NEAL ARMSTRONG

                                                                                                                    "I guess we all like to be recognized not for one piece of fireworks,
                                                                                                                                                                              but for the ledger of our daily work."
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    -- Neal Armstrong

                                                                                                            I kneel beside my bed
                                                                                                            head bowed, back bent
                                                                                                            not to send prayer to Him on high
                                                                                                            but to see if this is where it went.

                                                                                                            Dropping to my knees
                                                                                                            I lose two inches more
                                                                                                            as I sink into porous loam
                                                                                                            to plant what I can buy at the store.

                                                                                                            Fever brings me here--
                                                                                                            sweaty nightshirt tripping me
                                                                                                            as I kneel-walk in my delirium
                                                                                                            to the tub's cool water of mercy.

                                                                                                            Lifting up from all fours
                                                                                                            I ache from toes curled tight
                                                                                                            waiting for just the right moment
                                                                                                            to pounce on you with all my might.

                                                                                                            You bid, "Come down to me."
                                                                                                            And I say, "On my knees?"
                                                                                                            Knowing pumps through both hearts
                                                                                                            I do what it takes to please.

                                                                                                            I tell you then and there
                                                                                                            my heroes are those blessed to see
                                                                                                            beyond the lofty, honking geese
                                                                                                            without rising higher than their knees.

                                                                                                                                        --Tim Van Ert

                                                                                                              (from If You Live, Your Time Will Come)



January 8, 2009                                                                                    SLEEP'S SIREN CALLS


                                                                                        Three hours of sleep is not enough to forget the world:

                                                                                        a 4 AM darkness pants damply against the window,

                                                                                        with deep, dull clangs and high frequency hisses the radiator launches

                                                                                        while beeper's unbloodied blade repeatedly pierces splayed-out senses.

                                                                                        I'd been dreaming too sweetly for this offensive--

                                                                                        the mind's first stirring is to question everything.


                                                                                        The inky apparitions piled in my clothes surrounded by name tag,

                                                                                        3 x5 cards and clipboard menace my mind into chanting:

                                                                                        "Swarming vat of mental vapors let rise

                                                                                        barely contained visions of marked surprise

                                                                                        to put the steam again in sleepy eyes."

                                                                                        Nearly awake, I still question everything.


                                                                                        Like the wayward chutist wrapped in a web of branches

                                                                                        I wonder if I can make my arms and legs move.

                                                                                        As a creepy panic scrambles over exposed nerves

                                                                                        I count how many more call nights I have to endure

                                                                                        and wonder how other doctors shake this stupor;

                                                                                        do they also question everything?


                                                                                        Talks with patients, serious and humorous,

                                                                                        and conversations with 5 AM-punchy colleagues

                                                                                        drag back with me to my suite

                                                                                        "to get my one last hour of sleep"

                                                                                        crowded with dreams who visit, nurture and leave me

                                                                                        marveling that I questioned anything.

                                                                                                                                      --Tim Van Ert

                                                                                        (published in Western Journal of Medicine)


January 7, 2009

                                                                                                           LIFE SMILES


                                                                                      Live non-evil:

                                                                                      unveil the vile

                                                                                      in life--smile.


                                                                                                                        --Tim Van Ert

                                                                                                (from A First Book of Hai-Choo: Little Sneezes of Dittycism)



January 6, 2009  

                                                                                        THE YEAR IS NOT OVER


                                                                                        Some thing was wrong this year. 

                                                                                        The figs did not ripen
                                                                                                    before the first frost.
                                                                                        Every mole escaped.
                                                                                        All the pumpkins came out

                                                                                        Dad did not drop by with walnuts.
                                                                                        Donald succumbed to the
                                                                                                    Security Guards.
                                                                                        Dana never showed up for work.

                                                                                        Each eggplant grew--infertile.
                                                                                        All flowers bloomed--purple.
                                                                                        Rats snuck out for corn husks
                                                                                                    despite two white cats.

                                                                                        A war continued on
                                                                                                    while another was begun.

                                                                                                                    --Tim Van Ert

                                                                                        (from If You Live, Your Time Will Come)


January 5, 2009

                                                                                        GENERATION GAP


                                                                                        I was ten.  My parents sat

                                                                                        solemnly together to tell me

                                                                                        I was conceived one pouring night

                                                                                        after their movie-watching was interrupted


                                                                                        by weak, shrill complaints.

                                                                                        A pure black kitten trembled at their door.

                                                                                        I guess they said that to make me feel special.

                                                                                        But they never told me, exactly, what conceive was.


                                                                                                                        --Tim Van Ert

January 3, 2009

                                                                                       REESE CREEK SINGERS


                                                                                        What has silenced the Reese Creek frogs--

                                                                                        something here I should know?

                                                                                        Could it be my taking their pulse

                                                                                        in the near-full moon's glow?


                                                                                        God do not grant these crooners this

                                                                                        wretched self-consciousness;

                                                                                        as if we did not already

                                                                                        share too much commonness.  


                                                                                        While I would not sing with them,

                                                                                        do not let them take their show.

                                                                                        I stand here not to be critical--

                                                                                        just lightened from below.


                                                                                                                    --Tim Van Ert


                                                                                    (from Create that Love that Love Creates)              


January 2, 2009



                                                                                        A cycle--a circle which turns, which returns

                                                                                        our anniversity.

                                                                                        Is it this mill-wheel machinery which makes us think

                                                                                        each year of overhaul?

                                                                                        Even as I secret seeds within, I sometimes hope

                                                                                        the massive crush will expel me,

                                                                                        clarify the concealed germ by husking the principles

                                                                                        from protective practices.

                                                                                        Then I ask you, once again, to climb into this combine

                                                                                        that we may harvest our sacrifices.


                                                                                                                   --Tim Van Ert

                                                                                        (published in Fireweed)      


January 1, 2009

                                                                                        CHRISTMAS EVE, 1996

                                                                                        Seeing her stout, squat form
                                                                                        forged to walk up and down
                                                                                        coastal mountain slopes
                                                                                        I smile to myself,
                                                                                        (though, of course, she sees)
                                                                                        "Ah, pregnancy--
                                                                                        inescapable shift of weight,
                                                                                        heavier and lower;
                                                                                        bearable only because
                                                                                        the brooding presence of birth
                                                                                        ransoms irrefutably."

                                                                                        Barefoot paces
                                                                                        softer, warmer, heavier
                                                                                        than tonight's snowfall
                                                                                        carry born and unborn back
                                                                                        to their electronic manager
                                                                                        without a Joseph,
                                                                                        a mother,
                                                                                        or any familiar face.

                                                                                        Her dark-headed star--Constantina,
                                                                                        newborn messenger of amazement--
                                                                                        catches the eye
                                                                                        of a wandering charge nurse
                                                                                        just fifteen minutes into second stage,
                                                                                        "Hey folks, I think I see a crown!"

                                                                                        The first hour of Christmas
                                                                                        she suckles in
                                                                                        her seventeen year old
                                                                                        mother's warm colostrum--
                                                                                        not a wise man in sight.


                                                                                                                            --Tim Van Ert

                                                                                       (published in Mediphors)