Thursday, May 29, 2014


It's in the moony nights of May
that Fear and Love come out to play;
Fear with his great head and ears,
Love with her glittering net of years.

Paw in hand and hand in paw,
they take turns touching on the raw;
for Love hunts softly, like the owl,
but Fear prefers to bay and howl.

Out beyond the glimmering dark
they twirl each other in the park,
Fear in boots stamps out the beat
before Love's bare and noiseless feet.

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Camas Lily

Camas Lily, Camassia Quamash, Wikipedia

We will not speak yet of calamus,
nor of the death camas, white
and lovely. We might glance
at quamash, which is what
the Nez Perce called the root:
but our business today is the lily.

You may have seen that blue before.
The skin of a split plum, aside
from the red gash where the wasps
jack slowly in ecstasy, will show
just that eyeshadow blue:
the well-used lips of a woman
of a certain age, falling 
contentedly asleep
may show the same. It is a blue
towards which neither lake 
nor sky aspires. Deeper than those:
the color of a bruise.

It flowers in the season
of resurrection, like a true lily.
The camas, however, is never true:
it is oblique, slanting across 
page and meadow,
an italic asterisk of spring: it says
there is more, more than you know.

You don't harvest its roots in spring,
but you visit its fields when it is in flower,
which is when it is easy to spot 
the white death camas in among the blue,
and weed them out. (But we are not going
to speak of the death camas yet.)
And if you are Nez Perce, Cree,
or Salish, you will return in Fall,
to dig and pit-roast, or boil.

But if you are, like the wasps,
a late-comer, and a feeder on
fruits that were not meant for you,
you will wander bewildered
in violet blue fields that shimmer
and are crossed and crissed
with the violent green of swallows;
you will wonder what all this bounty means,
knowing only that it is not meant for you.

Fields of seablush and camas lily,
fields we knew when the world was young.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Light-Spattered Hem

I love my particular sin 
of inappropriate lust
and immoderate liking.
It has saved me from just
such a roundabout rout 
in the service of gods:
I was hardly tempted, 
against such bleak odds,
to throw. My friend 
hands back her vows
after searching inquiry: 
I never take them. It cows
me, but it's right, and 
my own tradition of wild men
in the forest or the tavern
is a light-spattered hem:
as close to a robe 
as an eye that's caught by any dress
should ever try to knot across 
its wanton emptiness.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014


It is so difficult to tell which fictions are necessary ones.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

To Windward

How lovely a woman is, who

not finding something in her purse, pauses
puzzled, and tilts her head while the light

washes sideways. Something begins to tap
or to roll, and the restaurant heels.

Its sails fill on the other tack: she
makes a decision – the medicine

was left on the counter at home, perhaps,
or her daughter made off with the hairbrush

it is this ordinary world that I do not want to leave
and it is not that she knows I saw her

or that the wave of light, breaking over me
will leave anything steady or true.

No. The click of the clasp as she closes
her purse, it ticks in my fingertips,

and I want to say, “Don't go.”

Tuesday, May 13, 2014


That strange old man, he came today
he knelt in a peculiar way
the toes uncurled and sliding out
I wondered if he had the gout.

He has the bloated whiskry throat
the eyes that swim and peer and float
and when he doesn't have to pee
I think that he's in love with me.

It's odd that knobby hands that shake
can be so deft and wide awake:
pare the film from off his mind
and you could swear that he was kind.

Sunday, May 11, 2014

I Was Better At Forgiving

I was better at forgiving 
before I knew how much they'd take:
the words out of my mouth,
the plum out of my cake.

They will take my daughter's
daughter's Christmas snow;
they will take the words grandmother spoke 
for sky and stone and bee;
they will take the bees themselves from home,
till hive and honey, wax and comb 
are scholars' curiosities.

I will never say "I love you" meaning
what I alone would mean:
no, I will make claims
I have no right or strength to make, 
or else I will exclaim,

"I like you very much, 
and I hope that you will thrive,
than dead I'd very much 
prefer that you're alive."

I was better at forgiving
when I thought that I could choose;
I was better at forgiving
before I knew that I could lose.

Thursday, May 08, 2014

Going to the Beach with Jessie

You remember Jessie. Apple Scruffs. The woman with the green coat

I went up to pay my bill at Tom's. Jesse took my check and said, "I dreamed about you last night! About you and Martha."

I made a civil inquiring noise, and she said, "I have this habit of dreaming about work, it's awful, because I'm here all the time, and anyway, I was waiting on you and Martha, and I started to figure out that I was dreaming. So I told you guys: hey, this is actually a dream, so I'm going to the beach instead. And so we all went to the beach together."

"I'm so glad we went to the beach with you!" I said. I took my change, and laid my hand down on the counter as I turned to go. To my surprise, she touched it.

It made a little twist in my heart.

Wednesday, May 07, 2014

The Remedial Class

I think my task now is to go back home, and fully inhabit it. Not to go flitting off on pilgrimages, crossing strange streams and collecting curiosities. Not to set out to found a Utopia in some far away, unspoiled (until I got there) place. 

No, to inhabit this place, right here, among these people, where we find ourselves now: not because we are perfect, but because we are here. To paint our own houses and plant our own gardens and help our own neighbors. To deal with our own maddening people; to sort through our own garbage. I do not want to live cloistered, in any way. I want to open my heart here, in these dingy, despairing suburbs, under these skies roped with power lines, among these scattered, straggling douglas firs -- these stunned survivors of destroyed forests. Just here.

I of all people to say this! -- I who have been so good at running and hiding. But it is the remedial class that needs to study hardest. When Martha said, "what good is Buddhism if Buddhists behave like this?" -- she says it was terribly useful to her that I said, remember, you come to a church or a temple, not because you're spiritually healthy, but because you're spiritually wounded, because you have a sense of just how bad it is. This isn't the advanced spiritual class, it's the make-up class. These people came together out of their sense of lack, out of their sense of missing something.

Likewise. Not because I know how to stay at home, but precisely because I don't.

Monday, May 05, 2014

Not Satin

My erotic imagination doesn't run to satin. Not enough drag for the fingertips: not enough depth of field. Give me a flannel nightgown, or a worn-to-transparent tee, any time. Give me a faint down, body hair I can see distinctly only in the corona, when an elbow eclipses the sun, but which tickles, tickles faintly, a spiderweb whisper before the cold-to-warmth of real touch. (Real! Get out.)

I don't want slick or smooth. Not, at least, until it is well-earned: warmed and sweated from within. I don't want an Eros who is glib, who knows what to say. I want one who stutters and loses his place. I want an awkwardness of desire that drives beyond capacity. A strangled baying, not a little-girl lisp. I want to be struck and scratched. By accident. I am not looking for tableaux, however pretty. Not my thing. No: no satin, not for me.

Fields of seablush and camas lily;
fields we knew when the world was young

Saturday, May 03, 2014


The outer edge of each curve is a clear if faint shifting line: the inner edge fades imperceptibly. And it all vanishes before it has risen higher than a woman's hand. 

It goes on rising, unseen: the scent comes to my nostrils. Coffee. But this terrible weariness weighs and weighs. No sleep touches it. Can this be age? There is no refreshment here: only a staving off. I rise to the surface more slowly, each time. I am more waterlogged, more densely built, less hopeful, every time; my horizon is more bounded, my spirit more petulant. How could any god even get purchase on this slippery, sodden mess, let alone lift it up?

I am huge and old, huge and old: a kraken who imagines it has some appointment with the sky. Delusional. I mistake my own monstrous coils for ghost riders: the shudder of my gills makes the skin of the water twitch for miles roundabout. The higher I rise, the lower the pressure, the giddier I get. All these years I told myself stories about the sun. Now a smear of caustic white, burning the enormous glassy darkness of my eye, informs me that I had left out the most important fact: it burns.

Fields of seablush and camas lily;
fields we knew when the world was young

Friday, May 02, 2014

Restless Leg Syndrome

The evening winged like an ant,
frantic and ill with the burden of flight
and a desire – unfamiliar –
for things beyond its light.

An ill and an expensive sleep,
all twitch and haul and fling,
shadowing, shouldering on
the discontent that mornings bring:

the second skin rolls off in flakes,
the wings drop off the chain,
the large head is aching then;
the six thighs crawling with pain.

Fields of seablush and camas lily;
fields we knew when the world was young

Thursday, May 01, 2014

Ancient Wisdom of India

I was being interviewed for my second high tech job. I liked the interviewer a lot, and he seemed to like me. He asked when I would be able to start, if I took the job. Always a question you like to hear! I said I'd need to give my present employer two weeks' notice. I added that I felt a little bad about leaving them: they had put good resources into training me.

My interviewer looked a little worried, in a paternal sort of way. He was one of the first wave of hotshot Indian tech immigrants, the people who drove so much of the first generation of high tech development and innovation. “Listen, Dale,” he said, “that company, any company? If ever it is in their interests” –

He held up his hand as if he was dangling something from his fingers, and then suddenly opened it wide. – “They will drop you like that.”