Friday, April 24, 2015


Sometimes, returning to a zipper, I find
I have forced its teeth to mesh above a fault
and what looks like a life is a long improvisation,
ready to split and open at a sideways thrust.

Even unzipping to the fault is a risk:
there's no way to know how bad the wound --
teeth irreparably bent, twisted, even broken? --
and how to get the runner past at all?

Still, I advertise myself as clever with my fingers,
strong when called for and deft, quick or slow
depending on the tempo of the need:
if not me, then who? So I set to work,

working the little interlocking teeth,
peering, kneading, forcing when I must,
fitting bones to sockets (that I can't really see),
guessing my way, against a rise of panic

that everything is broken, nothing fits again,
that zippers all are false, and nothing holds its form.
Then there is a shift, a smoothening, an ease, and suddenly
the runner slides, like a fish into lake.

The flaw vanishes, leaving behind
a faint kink, a hint of weakness
easily ignored; forgotten, maybe,
until the next strong, unconsidered pull.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015


Morning: I left you sleeping with the daylight on your face. In the window, not-quite blue contends with not-quite white for a mastery neither seems to care much about: the day feels flaccid, unstrung. We are tired of trying, I think. We need to get out into the hills and the free air.

It is the sort of day that makes you question every decision you ever made: when the fact that you have attained the age of fifty seven without having learned to play the castanets or read Arabic is clear evidence of a wasted life. When the sun does push through the clouds, it arrives with a metallic, ominous glare that's more like summer than spring. My uneasiness increases.

My life is crumbling underneath. It was never built on stable ground -- not something to blame myself for: we all of us start building where we find ourselves -- but I do wonder what happens when it gives way entirely. Not necessarily anything bad. Something new, perhaps. I'm ready for something new.

In the meantime, the dogwood flowers magnificently, and the Spanish bluebells continue their reconquista of the lawn. The solitary crow that visits us now sits in the maple and practices her new call: a clear, ringing "tok!" like a percussionist's wood blocks. Maybe she's been listening to the flickers.

My hands are stronger than ever. I am full of love and tenderness for my clients, my friends, my family. I am deeply ignorant and impossibly young, and it's April.

Monday, April 20, 2015


Blackthorn in flower: endrino, prunellier;
Schlehdorn say the Germans (the Schleh being sloe),
meaning, to the Proto-Indoeuropean,
bluish, blue-black; skin-colored
for some Africans. Sloe gin being actually,
if you care about such things, a liqueur;
add enough sugar and anything is sweet.

And never mind whether black means
the mat black of the bark --
for canes of authority and beating boys
into whipmasters on their own account --
or the dark, bloom-whispered midnight
of secret fruit among a brawl of thorn, blossom, 
sucker and snow. Who can choose or know?

We must go further back, falling backward,
jolted by the concrete stair of time,
to the first slender wand, the first white star,
whiskered as a kitten and dotted as the script
of Arabian princes, in the first spring, 
before any fruit
had stained the yard.

Sunday, April 19, 2015


Your shawl hangs blue and gold
and green in the rising sun,

so still that the world
rocks around it,

and the light seems more 
of evening, and the end of time

than of any morning
we will know again.

There are these times
when the light comes level,

through an overmounted press
of time and distance,

but lockedand still
when I am afraid to look up,

afraid to see what the sky may be doing:
it is too far, too high, too cold.

Muted teal, the gold 
of pollen scattered on wet sidewalks,

the green of ancient copper fittings:
to hang so still now

as if your shoulders
had never shrugged against its weave.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Canyon Road
We call them the West Hills, and pay them little mind, except possibly if we're in a newfangled car that will tell us how just much gas it takes (a sobering amount) to roar up the steep slope, at freeway speed, from the tunnel to the Sylvan crest. But on maps they're the Tualatin Mountains, a rugged spur of the Coast Range blocking the way from the Tualatin basin to the valley of the Columbia and its deepwater ports. 

Time was you had to follow the Tualatin River to the Willamette, round about Oregon City, and then head north, past the Falls. It was a long trip, and Oregon City was in the pricey hands of the Hudson Bay Company. So in the 1850s the territorial government, with private backing by Portland powers-that-be, built a plank road, where the Sunset Highway is now. Then you could go straight from the Tualatin farmlands to the Portland docks. One in the eye for Oregon City and Hudson Bay. And probably the reason why I (and most of the rest of us) live here, rather than ten miles upriver at the geographically more sensible Oregon City. Meanwhile, Hudson Bay is quaint history, and Oregon City drifts into the past, a vision of Old Oregon, with a strange sunset patina to it: a vision of the pleasant small-town Oregon I knew as a boy.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Quixote at Sunrise

But I chose this. I chose to be undermined: why?
Because I too was afraid. Because secretly I too
thought the stories were too good to be true,
that there was a dark vein running through the marble.
I wanted a scoffer at my side, someone to explode
my extravagance of cheer, Panza to my Quixote.
And so we have traveled, decades in company: 
I supply the hope, he the despair. It works
in its fashion. But there are times, 
on the windswept crest of the hill, overlooking
the camp of our enemies, when I wonder,
have I chosen wisely? Would it have been better
to have a squire who believed my foolishness,
and handed me my lance with shining eyes?

Thursday, April 09, 2015

The Palaces of our Ancestors

A pale morning: white sky, slightly triste; the firs so still that a crow launching itself makes a startling sway in the branches. An equal and opposite reaction, just so, but you don't often see it so clear.

Last night I cradled your head in my elbow and worked your neck with my other hand, and suddenly I longed to be done with service. Always the tenderness: but as time goes I understand better and better how little I can do, and how quickly it fades; or worse, sometimes, how it turns on itself and runs backward. We are strange creatures, with our little monkey desires and our fits of orgulous grandeur, our loneliness and our long parchment checklists for determining under what exact conditions we will accept comfort: checklists so long they get underfoot and trip us, as we peer at their fine print. We go stumbling along the halls of the palaces built by our ancestors, hankering and dreading; terrified of cockroaches but comforted by loaded machine pistols, seduced by glimmers of anything like admiration in a new eye, and indifferent to years of loyalty. 

I am tired of playing the fool, but it's the only role I know. And everyone agrees I'm perfect for the part. (And that's true too, nuncle!)