Sunday, June 19, 2016

Surrounded by Making

On the way out to Sylvan, at sunset, I'm on the lower deck of the Marquam bridge, leaving one snarl of freeway and approaching another. I get one quick glance at the new Tilikum Crossing, and then I'm negotiating the approaches to the Sunset Highway. This is all choreographed and memorized, because a wrong lane is a mistake that could cost me twenty minutes: and you don't maintain a massage practice by being twenty minutes late. So I focus. And anyway, the lower deck of the Marquam is more like a tunnel than like a bridge.

But coming back! I'm in the post-massage state of deep relaxation and tenderness. Night has fallen. I'm off the clock. And I'm on the upper deck of the Marquam, swooping up over the river with all the glorious lights of Portland off to my left. By planning or by fate, one lane takes me all the way through the labyrinth, from the Sunset to I-405 to the Banfield. I don't need to think. I need only follow my path, rising up and over, the world rotating beneath me: city lights, dark water, gleams, and glimpses.

Not long ago -- I don't remember the holiday: was it Memorial Day? -- there was a fireworks display on the river, and the starbursts of light were all around me.
Those shoals of dazzling glory, pass’d,
I lay my spirit down at last.
The return of a handclasp, a long exhalation. For a space of time, outside of the world of expectation and reckoning, outside of my own awkwardness and ambition. But the price of getting outside is accepting that I must go in again, without murmuring. And I do: but first, the interval of driving over the river, still breathing in tandem, still with my mind full of touch, of the long and detailed conversation of skin and skin. There's no translating it into words, and I won't try. But the nightfall and the trees outside the windows linger in my mind for days, and the hand-thrown pots that I must carefully step around. I am surrounded by making.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016


Muzzy with lack of sleep: Martha's phone was peeping -- at the high range audible to me, inaudible to her -- all night long, every minute on the minute, three quick peeps. I could have woken her to ask her to go find it, but that would have roused me completely as well: so I hovered in half sleep for several eons, while the world crumbled beneath me and the past built coral reefs up over my head: the sun glimmering through the miles of sleepy water, and my head nodding in the chance currents.

So today: groggy, but possessed of that resolve that often comes with lack of sleep. I will do things differently, from here on out. I will ride this horse up out of the canyon and never be lost again. High ground.

In the murk, my hands find purchase at last, and I heave myself up and out of the quicksand.

Oh, my love, the wind is blowing up here on the ridge, and everything is clear and sharp. Where have I been, what have I been doing? I sit down and hug my knees and look out over valley. 

All my former lives are baled and ready to stack. It's been a long time since I wielded a hay hook, but it's one of those knacks you don't forget. 

Happy solstice, all you dear, strange, wavering creatures. A couple more weeks of light. 

Thursday, June 02, 2016


An unexpected respite: rain instead of a heat wave, and now a gentle cloudy day. Glad for my client this evening, in her little attic room upstairs: with the fan we'll be just fine. 

The voices all around me tumble and purl. I can distinguish nothing, but they form themselves into musical patterns and repetitions, with little crescendos of laughter from time to time. Mostly rising inflections: a questioning patter, as if everyone was uncertain and wondering. I float and tick with it, like an egg in its shell in a bubbling pot.

At a point of unexpected equilibrium. I've forgotten whatever it is I imagine I am supposed to do. I know it's getting warm out there, despite the overcast, but the air-conditioning is cold on my skin. When I got up this morning and saw that it had rained a little, and the ground was wet, I was relieved, and stood on the porch, perceiving the petrichor as a blessing, but missing its message: I saw only how glad the recently-cut grass was, and how the droplets were shining on the white hood of the Honda. 

The world has always been illegible, I guess, but I used to feel more often that there was a message I was missing. Now, not so much. Nothing written, nothing missed. I breathe deep, and there's a little sense of loss, but a larger sense that I am no longer wasting time on priestly nonsense. I have been too susceptible to plausible insinuations. "What if it says this?" Well, yes, what if: a thousand what ifs. But I want to actually know, and hold it in my hand. Or else to just breathe the air and the light for a couple of breaths, and then let this morning go, without instructions or summations or reviews. 

Tom has his house to mind, and Goldberry is waiting.

Wednesday, June 01, 2016


Old tools are best for a job like this. Cold chisel
and a hammer. I tap my belly one quick rap
and it shatters like a dream of piggy banks:
the coiled viscera wake, lift their heads, and gaze at me.

"Help me here," I say. I open each length
and lay it down, so that it pants in the unfamiliar air,
turning its pearl and ivory innard to the dawn.

There in the inmost reach I find it,
a length of yellowed bone written with a curse.
The ink is plum colored, going darker as it breathes;
the curse no more imaginative than any
these past five thousand years. "Live in pain,
and die groaning!" says the bone.

"You, and after all this time?" I say, gently
and in grief: for she and all her kind are long departed.
I am left alone to remember all the glory and the hatred,
the sweetness of a voice too beautiful to bear, 
the clutch of a missed grip, and a missed foot on the stair.

Each tender worm closed up and settled in, I'll glue
the fragments of my belly back: I'll be
a mended Buddha on the knick-knack shelf, 
with only a net of red lines
to show in trace the breakage of the orb. 

And here be-shelved we stay;
the length of bone still warming in our hands,
and pulsing with the rising of the sun.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Sleeping With The Moon

Gathering the threads of what I am 
and amen't going to do
for the rest of rolling eterne, 
or twenty years, or two:

I shall eat vegetables twice a day,
thread fingers through your hair,
wash the dishes once a week,
and bring myself to despair.

I shall run sometimes and lift up weights
and wander out under the sky,
I shall read the books that prove me wrong,
and ready myself to die.

The sandpipers run in and out with the wave
the monk runs in and out with the breath:

I rise with the sun and examine my hands,
and sleep with the moon a-purr on my chest.

Wednesday, May 11, 2016


Your fetch is beside me now, a glimmer and a guess: the heat from your splendid body, the coil of your spine, your quickness and stubbornness. I can well imagine you setting out to find the Utter West, at the age of five, with a sandwich and an apple in your bandanna. The sustenance disproportionate to the quest, maybe; but that has not changed as the years have rolled over. How could it?

Longing wistfully for dalliance, but I look west myself, across the Willamette Valley to the dim hills. I come to the sea and that's the end -- you can't count air travel, or the sad waning brilliance of the Hawaiian Islands. No, for me the sea is the last wall. It goes on forever and there's nothing beyond it, nothing real. The gray and white writhing serpent who encloses Middle Earth. It's been too long since I've seen it.

So I wait for your arrival, and sun chases shadow and shadow chases sun. You are mistaken in me: I can't measure to your greatness. But I'm grateful for the mistake, and for the rumor of the quest. Silent horns blowing in the margins of memory, and white hounds glimpsed in the thicket. Maybe we will share an apple and a sandwich, up on Saddle Mountain, and guess at a brightness on the western verge that can only be the sea.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016


Finally, some leisure to ask myself: what exactly am I doing here? I have been slipping, becoming less deliberate and more reactive. There's no need for that.

It's old habit from childhood: the first order of business is to get well out of sight of the grownups, and the next is to take whatever opportunities offer for gathering forbidden fruit. I've lived most my life that way, despite the fact that no one much cares what I do, and no one is in a position to forbid me fruit, any more. I am freer than most human beings can ever dream of, and still I'm going to act the slave? This won't do. No. Take a few breaths of air. Let my mind settle.

The crescent moon in the darkening sky. Rhododendrons blossoming everywhere, some in cheap lipstick colors, but some delicately shaded and beautiful; and others boldly spotted, with an unexpectedly leopardish mien, lashing their tails by the sidewalk. And everything green with new growth.

A quiet day. Tuesdays we usually ramble up the Gorge, or some such, but Martha is down with a cold. Hence the pause and the space for walks and for thought, in between times of reading aloud.

The fatigue has not lifted, really, not yet, but it could lift, now.