Saturday, December 31, 2011

I am the Earth

I am the Earth
and the fall of nations,
the rising and the risen
and the fires that never cease

I am the ruined shores
and the plastic island of your making
that threatens the sparkle of a thousand suns
tossed across the sea

I am the Great Auk and the leopard
dying in the snow, the macro and micro,
the killer and the killed
and the harpooner of old Nantucket

I am the bloom of every flower,
the fall of every leaf
and the child in the photograph
nearly dead and the vulture you cannot see

I am the pain you all feel,
the power that you stole in the night
and the fatal hour that you will
for your sons and daughters

I am the melting ice 
and the long strides
of the green incarnations
who feed their brothers first

I am the last breath of the white bear
and the change that rests inside you

I am the Earth

Wednesday, December 21, 2011


makes no sound
under the streetlight

It smothers
for but an instant,
an impression that passes,
a mute barrage
and the world brightens

The maples thickening
along the stark branches,
illumined and pleased
I am sure, by this visitation
from heaven

I wonder if it will ever stop,
the fences grow taller
and the yards gathering
the soft blessings,
the safe and magical place
that children know

I would like to go out in it,
stand beside a cedar,
become one,
and gather in the sparrows

In the morning,
such a pristine awakening,
all is glistening and the blue sky
as infinite as love

If all this is real -
how could they drag
a woman through the hard streets?

Monday, December 19, 2011


it is what we all long for,
triumphs over darkness - in the end

we trust that it will greet the day,
the shadows will be redeemed

the colours are inside us,
prisms shaped like a heart

how could we see light as it is,
when we weep for rainbows?

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Death in a Wilderness

somewhere in the dark forest
hares gather in the dry wells
and lynx smell their fear
that is surrender,
all this with the stars cold
against the blue-black night

i've stood alone and listened
to the heart beats of life,
understood that i could die
at any moment, all would
be lost and the pines still
soughing like sadness

i would be gone and the voles
would tunnel their singular madness
under the new snow
and the great gray owls would
be patient without me, soundless
as they dive into space

and these things
are a comfort to me, to know that
wilderness is a place i can touch,
that grounds me, inspires me
to protect the One Life
that breathes in us all

there is a home where
my bones can mend, a place
that holds me with gentle hands,
warm and loving where the free
can sit a while and be safe
and wonder about this unity

out in the street today
i saw him gaunt against a bitter wind,
he has no home, he is faceless,
unknown to the cars rushing by,
a man who keeps moving
ahead of his own death

Tuesday, December 6, 2011


the moon is dust on the hills,
a bath of pale skin

there is howling along the ridges,
coyotes frozen to their breaths,

melodies drifting north
over the sleeping mute

i'm no fool, i hear them
in my sleep before they can

press their yellow eyes
against my window

they are in the yard tonight,
filling the shadows with wilderness

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Children Watch

I feel the collective ache
where the Earth gave birth to us all

A wound that wants us back
to douse the fires of Alexandria

Why did we unlearn
all the things we once knew?

And now we are remembering,
one by one, so it might take a while

Take heed as time runs out
on the oppressor - it's his most dangerous hour

To kill a million things is no great feat
before the children who are watching

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Something Died

He beat a duck to death
among the alders that grew thick
beside Mackie's Pond
Clubbed it with a length
of stick as it lunged against
the spindly trees, struck the terror
from its emerald head

Killed it there in the bracken
in one of November's sullen moods

He brought it home to Dad splitting
seasoned birch in the back yard
Held it up to show the world, its dripping bill
and crimson gash on running shoe toes

Bringing home dinner like those cherished stories
that he believed were true

But there was no joy, no job well done
Dad seized those orange and scaly shanks
and buried his prize beneath the raspberry canes,
never opened his mouth except to spit
into calloused hands to take up the axe again

And I stood like a pubescent murderer
watching the vanishing of my deed
as the rain fell in blessed sheets
and washed the blood from my veins

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Earth Day

in all that space - how could unkindness
live in the blue dome of existence,

in all that stillness - how could anyone
not want its secrets,

in all that totality - why would a few partition
its power,

in all that oneness - when will they know
to lay down their arms,

in all that is - who will be the first
to surrender to what love can do

in all that we are - when will we learn
that the world was not meant for us alone?

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Age of Unity

and the dream ended and he stood
at the end of the road and it seemed
wrong as if the journey
had been taken for him

he turned and looked back,
to the cities and institutions
where the air was troubled and he
rubbed the deception from his eyes

it was the wrong road
and he had followed it for a long time
and had believed that it would go
on and on to some promise of fortune

and then others awoke and stood with him,
shoulder to shoulder and the first one said,
this my friends, is the wrong road - turn back
but there was no one listening until

they joined hands and began to warn others
and the air became clear and they said
people this is the wrong road -
we have been put to sleep

and they went back to the cities
with a message to the people who would listen
and more gathered because what is true
cannot be denied

but the Keepers of the road were afraid
for they had been found out and sent
their emissaries armed with uniforms
of power and control

and they beat the people because the road
was everything - stood for the things
of freedom and God - and the people
could see that it was not true

because it was freedom and good that brought
them to the cities and to the fathers
that had been trusted, that had betrayed them
with laws and confusion and fear

that belonged to a greater city where
Presidents and Kings gathered the young men
and women and swore them to a duty
of protecting freedom and democracy

but denied it to them in their own country,
denied the very freedom promised by those
who knew what road to take, Lincoln and Kennedy,
King, Gandhi and Black Elk

and a great awakening began
and the Keepers of the road
around the world spit their poison
in the mouths of the people

but the centre cannot hold when an idea
has come into its truth and the wings
of freedom reaffirm a true democracy
that will not be denied or refused

that exposes the heartless and arrogant,
the Presidents and Kings who know
what is best for the people, who forgot
that democracy is of the people, by the people, for the people

who thought that the people serve them,
serve the needs of government
and the servants of government - the Corporations
and the glut of money oiled and foul

that is killing the world

and the road ahead could not be seen,
there was only dust and a wasteland,
endless destruction and the sky black
over distant fires

still there was no going back
to find the right road, it was lost
in the illusions and decay, spoiled opportunities
that time did not obey

but there was another road waiting
with such patience - it was just ahead
the freedom road, the many names
when all the people decided to link arms

yes, that is what The Age of Unity looked like
in the beginning when the future took
to the streets, when someone heard faintly
Occupy - I am

Monday, November 14, 2011


"I long to reach my home and see the day
of my return. It is my never-failing wish."

-Homer, The Odyssey

i lived on the west coast
and longed for the parched hills of my father,
the smell of sage like a fable
and the aspens gold in rutted groves

now I live where the sun blisters
and long for the heavy rush of the sea,
trillium, and the melodies of winter wrens
haunting the sunless woods

how could there be two worlds
and not one for me - why can't my mind
settle for the place beneath my feet?

it is the dreamer who is never content,
reaching too far into the future
and unwilling to die in the past

and if I stopped dreaming,
would I cease to create my worlds -
and longing some reckless notion of life?

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Ode to a Starling

You arrived in 1890,
back east by some newcomer
who longed for the familiar,
your numbers like the stars on your back
- homesickness will do that

But you never had a choice,
you just arrived with nothing
to do but live your life,
set sail your stubby form
for the endless spaces
that never heard the whir
of your wings or the chuckle in your song

You did nothing but push your neighbours
from their nests, heaved them onto
the lawns for the crows
All this because you could
and nothing to stop you,
and yes, much maligned to be sure
but most would not grieve for you

Once as a boy, a kid next door hung you
by your neck until you fell
headless and spoiled to the dank earth,
this was in 1964 when the world came out
swinging at its own shadows

And now I hear you with your
book of melodies - that red-tailed hawk
and steller's jay, a flicker, and of course
your pops and whistles and clicks
like a circus in your throat

And when the sun catches
you in a moment's idleness, before
you and your brothers fall like cinders
upon the vineyards, I see the Universe
etched by some fine hand
that thought you worthy of loveliness

Monday, October 31, 2011

The Proving Grounds

(for Frank Ritcey)

Fastened to the ledges
with nothing at all,
the rams come to the grass
windswept and willing
for thunder and bone

There on the proving grounds,
a calculated hierarchy
of seed and fury, the world bends,
tilted and heaved
under the ecstasy of thrusts

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Gap

fair-weather days and nothing
can settle in my dull head
I have vanquished the theives
with a will to steal my peace
and shove me back into the dark
and brooding pools that gather
around my feet

all about  me the spacious blue
dome of the world,
no splintered mind of too much past
and too much future
I have lived this destrcution
long enough, lingered to
to sip the bitter waters
of what cannot be undone

but nothing can last after all,
moments of presence come and go,
that place to slip into when the sailors
call to me, enter the gap, my friend,
that space between your endless thoughts

Thursday, October 20, 2011


to see a dying thing,
to know what has come before,
journeys of Life taking form
in the observed, moments
of intimate reckoning of
a world we don't understand

we come to death
with our own storied existence,
to weep, to suffer, to release
we will all know it, face to face
until a kindness touches our
own pale cheek

and in the end, there will
be something more, journeys
do not cease to be, but soar seamless
into the unseen, infinite space
that surrounds us all

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Salmon Song

They lay there hook-jawed and crimson
side by side in emerald pools
From a far away sea they came
these survivors of the silvery schools

How far they come
to love in clear water

love in clear water

Tired bodies torn and tattered
in their hidden world they do not cry
They are the progeny of a thousand years
and will sow their seeds and die

How far they come
to die in clear water

die in clear water

They lay there hook-jawed and crimson
side by side in emerald pools
From a far away sea they came
these survivors of the silvery schools

How far they come
to give life to clear water

life to clear water

Tuesday, October 11, 2011


breathe in the woods
and leave the world behind

something stings, organic blessings
of life turning inward, the slow rapture

that begs you to thrust your hands
deep into the belly of a thousand years

know that you are nothing in such certainty
but falling leaves and dreams

catch yourself worrying about a future
that can never arrive

bury yourself in the sweet decay,
roll about like a child unwed to time

get up and dance with the rules and drama,
spin them off into space

take a bow with your dirty knees
praise the scabs when you were alive

breathe in the what you lost
and shout at the moon that never left you

Friday, October 7, 2011

The Table

light so soft,
the candles steal a dozen years

music so still,
the voices trace the panes and sills

suffering surrenders
for a moment's touch

and love a sip
from the sweetest lips

Thursday, October 6, 2011

A Ruined Man

He stood up from the curb
and scuffed toward me,
a ruined man cradling
convenience store coffee
in grubby outstretched hands
As if handcuffed and I held the key
Bearded and filthy and musty,
a black hole of gums
mimicking some language
Ginger-eyed like a cat,
something feral at large
in the neighbourhood
Social grace beaten back
to the primal forest
I was afraid of him,
to be infected, stricken or leapt on
But there was something else emerging,
compassion mingling like smoke
I stood there before him
holding parts of myself
like a good father touched
by the spiced eyes of a child
He spoke as a human being,
calm and eager to tell me
that he wished no money
but only to realize his dreams,
grand designs to show the world,
to prove that he had a place
as an artist among us, some measure
for his living, some purpose to appease
a life lived wrongly
But I had nothing to give him, no hope,
not a dribble of reason or counsel
Then like a fool I glanced to my watch,
a lame gesture of urgency
He seized my arm and I caught
the sun in his savage eyes,
glimpsed the farthest reaches of the Earth,
cinnamon dunes and curried seas,
those eyes that had always known
my melting in the raging fires

Friday, September 30, 2011

The Ritual

black forest dweller
long legs like poles
inflated nose and pendulous ugly head
flap pf neck skin
antlers like stiff hands

breath hot and heaving,
piss stream on October snow

holds to the margins
and calls from the frosted willows,
pounds the mud and urine
with hooves splayed and menacing,
splashes the essence on his underbelly
perfumed and eager
to slide his shivering phallus

consumed by the lineage
maddening in his blood,
heedless of the watcher
crouched in singular intention
mimicking the grunts of rivals

steps from the shadows
to affirm the brotherhood,
hears not the croak of ravens who know
nor the explosion of life's sad end

slumps on the trail that led him
out from the dome of stars
where his spirit endured the cold night

now the space of nothingness aches
for the steaming gut pile
that marks his passing

Sunday, September 25, 2011



The cruelty of boys
has always been retrievable
and regret the vehicle for reconciliation
There when the harried mind reclines
and cradles the most common things,
a traffic light, fingers tapping,
another day burdened and bored
Thoughts fall away for an instant
and in that space of nothingness,
oh, yes, you will remember


He came to practice with his bent back
and the wide gawk of his eyes,
teeth jammed in his crooked mouth,
a Chiclet explosion between dumpling lips
You assailed him with your spit and pranks
and he never said a word, not a provoking glance
He just wanted to play football,
to run and cheer and celebrate
his wild-horse heart


But you culled him
there in the full light of day,
separated him from the rest,
told him to shrink like winter
and die with the wretched spastics
Leave the trappings to the favourable ones,
blond, perfect and freckled,
those boys stopped at the red light
thrumming away the loom of him
in the rear-view mirror

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Green Light

can you see the life
that fills the space of grass
and trees - a poetic entity
your soul perceives?

it is what you imagine it is,
the settling of the sun
in the warm still sanctuary
of your deepest longing

of course, it the green light
of your dreams visiting
memories of faeries and elfin
folk dancing under falling stars

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


Slips through the door everyday after nine,
late for the bell and still a gold star beside her name
Into the backroom where lunches in wax-paper
wait in tin boxes and brown paper bags

The rummage and rustle of mice
fingering peanut butter sandwiches
and my tartan thermos, a buffet of gingersnaps
and McIntosh apples but unworthy of bananas and grapes

Hushed little waif wrapped in her mother's dress,
hurried hems fraying from a night out long ago
She steals to her desk with her hands on her heart
and singular stare to the floor, far away

Then she raises a china-doll finger
to brush the crumbs from her lips
And the impudent mouths of the tough boys
gape in forgiving circles, goodly and godly
and the teacher weeps

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Oh, Freedom

written the days following September 11th, 2001

Darkness flew on freedom's wings
Laid waste to untold dreams
Smothered the world with infernal dust
And basked in the pyre of hell
Withdrew its flicking tongue
To hide in the rubble of perverted truth
Faceless and known, snapping dogs
Sworn to the legions of terror

And the children gathered to see
What fear claimed their mother's eyes
Images of the apocalypse, heroes cradling
Fallen brothers crushed by
The collapse of fortune's zeal

But darkness holds no lasting song
No flags that wave from porch and sill
Void of wisdom and compassion
And blind to the light of a Nation's heart
That appeals for something new

And as that light falls upon the ashes
And fills the shadows of our collective minds
We sense our lives forever changed
Awakened by a piercing sadness
We glimpse the inequities that are somewhere else
And the Great Mystery emerging from the scrutiny of our tears

We hear John Lennon for the first time
A hymn from the souls that left us for love
For peace
Their gift

Oh, Freedom, what have we done to you?
We, the self-absorbed, insatiable consumers
Pray for the keepers of hate
Sewn by our own unacquainted hands
Let us go deep into the meaning of our lives
And respond not with detached self-interest
But from the long view where the pale blue dot
Breathes in the stillness of space

Thursday, September 15, 2011


you tilted that pea eye,
turned your ugly head
and i fell in love with you,
a wonder in the desert
dying in the wheeled ruts

you are nothing
to look at some might say,
a good Merlot over you any day

perhaps you pray for them
as they walk down the perfect rows
with an unwillingness to know
that you have a right to exist

Saturday, September 10, 2011

MS means my song

she worries about things
inside her, the shudder
of a world trying to be free,
a mystery of blood in search of itself,
sometimes lost, a deadend
and the return to the brain,
over and over until her heart
stops for but a moment,
such sweet sanctuary
to consider what is eternal,
what can be done,
what can be undone 

it is not worry after all,
she knows her limitations,
the relapsing,
the remitting,
and the secrets of flesh
and what death will bring
it is more than that,
she sees beyond herself,
to her children,
answers for them before her bones
crumble beneath her

and I have done nothing in my life
but witness what is courage,
what is depth, what is compassion
and what it means to know
that the birds still sing for her

Thursday, September 8, 2011


the hills are amber,
soft light now
just before the sun slips
into an imagined sea

apricot grasses,
the colours of September
when the heat lifts
from your sorrows

could it be the quenching
of all thirsts when the first
leaves give up their summer?

i love the absence of crowds,
overnight, and the chill before the
same light returns

soon apples will fall into
your eager hands
and the blue-dusted grapes
spin like worlds in your eyes

Tuesday, September 6, 2011


From my novel Lady With Flowers:

I like September because it is a new beginning. Every year. How about that? To me it seems like the beginning of the year. Everything new and fresh – clothes and shoes – latest trends and fashions filling the hallways in every school – and behaviours changing too as if arriving on the stage of a new play – new characters and a new plot. The plot really doesn’t change, but what changes is the way the characters respond to the plot – the way roles seem to change with the years, refining, redeeming – some no more relevant than outmoded technology. And yet it arrives with the eagerness of spring. It is a time when the mind wants to begin again – when learning waits for the bell – that same bell calling children and young men and women to invest in the world.
It is a sweet time of the year. There is a quality to the light that is clear and sharp. The air hangs with a sense of optimism – something at hand that drives us forward. The demarcations seem undisputable. The direction of our lives seems certain. We are engaged with our lives. We study, we learn. We are on the edge of our futures unfolding before us. Yes, it is a time for the youth of the world to listen to the teachers and the mentors and the sacredness of life. And the truth is, we never stop learning. There will always be September. We all know when it arrives. We all remember. Be students. Everyday and in every way. Be students of life. The school is the Earth. God is your teacher. The curriculum is love.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Jack Layton - 1950 - 2011

a man comes by and you know him,
some place inside you that recognizes
what is good in the world

a man comes by and you listen to him
because truth does not harm, does not
want anything but your battered heart

a man comes by and you follow him,
not aimless idolatry but out of a country's
yearning to be more

a man comes but once in a lifetime
to teach the teachable
and humble the proud

Saturday, August 20, 2011


a mule sun and colour
has bled out of the hills,
all is straw and dry throats
but there is thriving in the wastes,
leaping before your feet
as if to free themselves
from the baking earth,
with their ridiculous legs
made for such bounds

we caught them as boys,
bait for trout in the clear streams
they left tobacco juice on our fingertips
as we impaled them on our hooks,
a grizzly ritual to be sure

i enjoy them now
creeping in their hesitant way,
mechanical, a whimsical
circumspection through the deck glass

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Red Peppers

I see them pause to touch you,
fingertips unbelieving along
the market sidewalks,
something to feel
in an artificial world

I would like to stuff you
into my vacant heart,
replace that parched
and withered thing,
set it ablaze until I burst
with colour

Don't try and stop me, I am no thief
but a budding eccentric,
play along with me
until the bleeding fills my shoes

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Speed of Life

Sparrows under the tomatoes
spearing the chubby nematodes
They stuff the hot pulp
into the gawp of throats,
those fledglings quivering
like plucked strings
A greedy little garden song
then a bath of dust that rises,
motes of spinning worlds
fugitive in the slant of August

They will never know how
the snails travelled all day
to see such things with their
umber polyps, sensual horns
eager and retractable,
making muted love
in the errant grass

Saturday, August 6, 2011


you don't live in crowds,
not a meadow ablaze with you,
nothing but a singular ambition
to be known

how I steal your song
as it lifts from the parched earth
and shout it out to everyone
who can hear it

not many, perhaps,
but a few at least willing
to know you one more season,
revealed at last by observation

if you are pleased to surrender
your secret through
my consciousness,
I will never know

perhaps it is your divine undertaking
that you willingly grant to the world
so we will never forget
what is beauty

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Five Snakes Passing By

He showed me the grim mouth
and chrome eyes, the unblinking patience
of a viper and how it seemed
broken from a tree, a serpentine branch
sage strewn over the black rocks

It touches the earth with all its length,
its armour of plates and the remarkable
loose segments of its tail passing by
I imagine its purple tongue,
split and stabbing, tasting me

And the other fellows
with their evolutionary glory,
boas and constrictors
and one fast and yellow and electric,
a trajectory of light at your feet

That one I picked up as a boy,
so curious to see him watching me
as he left his smell on my hands,
a reptilian introduction
with its striped dorsal rainbow

He sees with a fine sensitivity
to what is loathed in the world,
what has been lost,
a reverence that we need to come back to,
his gift to us all

Wednesday, July 27, 2011


my knee torn denim,
a cap pulled down
to warm a vagabond

and your soft eyes know
the snug nest of my heart
and the pull of simplicity

that gently melts my sorrows
like a spring sun licking
the hard edges of winter

we go hand in hand,
hobo lovers dancing toward
the music spilling over the hill

Tuesday, July 26, 2011


you are so eager to dance,
never to settle for sod,
too close to the earth you
might say, stomped by some
careless foot before the wind can
give voice to rising form

you writhe in the blond oceans,
pulsing a language of rustling heads,
leaning and shoving,
foolhardy forays - this way and that
hiding snakes from crows

such aliveness in motion and sound,
you sing for the burning sun,
wave to the unknowable stars
but heedless of the beating rain
that can flatten you

even fire can only still you for a season
before the ground delivers
you from your sleep
how I love your heave and sway,
your swagger as you die in amber

Friday, July 22, 2011

The Bear

I see him most days now,
he is not a friend
There is no agreement,
some place in our brains
that makes the other safe
I see his savage pig eyes
and there is no sanctuary for me
I can only go out along the river
with my back against the rush to the sea

To think that I have escaped the world,
found the mountains and forests,
my stillness, only to come to him

He will take me one day
I write this so you will not
look for me

The winter is my respite
When the snow buries him in his den,
I long to find it and kill him
in his long sleep

I loathe the spring
when he will come out
He will hunt me then,
find my frantic breath
on the mirror like spoor
He will make me look
until I bleed

It is not my flesh
that he wants

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

A Child in Africa

i think of Africa
and babies that will
never see past their mother's
outstretched hands
all is parched and human,
it is the looking that is tragic,
eyes that say -
see me, see that i live and want to live
and do not forget that i am you
being me, you were here
with every famine reaching
back to the sea
i will forgive the callous and cruel
spouting the sad language
of too many people on Earth
for they have not yet come
to their famine
send me the same measure
that you grant for freedom and oil,
know that i also want to be free,
these are the words that i speak
through eyes that are closing,
know that my brief life
was for you

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Days of Stone

some days I am a stone
that cannot lift its weight,
a dense conglomerate
of errors and wounds,
something that settles
to the bottom
down to the silt and suckers
where murk and sightless things
companion me unreachable
in the absent light, if only
I can look up to the pearl
inviting me to reach

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Flight of the Dragonfly

Flight of the Dragonfly

commissioned book cover art by artist
William Ho,  
United Nations Goodwill Ambassador of Art and Culture


Friday, June 24, 2011


i count the hours like petals
falling from the songs of doves,
waiting for your laughter
to take away my tears

send me your gentleness,
the soft touch of your fingertips
and some good news from the world,
tell me the earth will forgive us

i count the minutes because
life is wanting my attention
all of us, beating against the panes
until the there is only now

Wednesday, June 22, 2011


dreaming comes close
to the eye that sees inside me,
a warrior wanting to right the world,
making the freedom fighters light
with wings and songs
to break your heart

no man can know
what burns in my belly,
pay no attention to the evidence
that detracts you
from your own dream,
go on, go on and dream it

what sad days will follow
if you never try, forget the critics
and aim high - set the bar
meant for you, stretch your
worldly bones, go where
you fear and sit awhile

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Mortal Fathers

In the gorge of Twenty Mile Creek
firs slouched of midnight snow,
entombed like the ancient dead
where my brother and I heaved
our skinny legs into the blue trough
of his striding

Stranger in a red mackinaw,
his rifle shoulder slung
and plumb to the world,
the mystery of whiskered men
spitting a shine into the grip
of walnut checkering,
something seductive glinting there

A father remote and reticent,
sworn to the reproach of surly mouths
turned to us when the shrill and chatter
gave up our place in the woods,
stopped to strike a match
against his jutting chin and said,
fucking squirrels, then lit his cigar
and watched us giggle and squirm
sucking up his sweet smoke

I wondered how a word
could diminish our fear of him
and replace it with adoration,
ominipotence undone,
a mere human after all,
just a man, not so perfect,
not so stiff and absolute,
a man brought to distraction
by small beasts

Monday, June 13, 2011

Pilgrim's Boy

I am a rover
ranging the arid hills
of my father, a seeker
of what I cannot see

I hold his stories
deep in my bones
and they ache
for remembrance

But it is my eye that reaches
for the unreachable moments
that cannot be found
in the haste of a poem

For all that belongs to him
belongs to him

And if I die
with my own stories rotting
in the belly of experience,
who will see my footsteps?

It is not the earth that decides
what is up and what is down,
but the ascension of the heart
beating to be free

For the journey that belongs to me
belongs to me

And he will smile at the prickly pear
pinned to my foot, a boy
and a man walking the path
one summer day

Friday, June 10, 2011


Come to the margins
of rock and ruin,
stubbled and beaten
like dried parchment
coiled to a fine scrap,
a willful life swelling
from May rain
Out in the desert
something happens
that will steal your
breath, put you down on
your scabby knees old friend,
the petals unfurling at noon
just for you, along the hillsides
and benches above
the deep lakes
Now the tributes
are coming in
from the anointed ones
who know what to look for,
bitterroot showing the world
what can be done from nothing,
how life redeems itself
from yesterday’s loss

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Old Wood

I remember how the logs fit
by some hand from long ago,
skilled beyond what my tender
paws could mete out
Sturdy for the winters, a home,
some place in the woods
where martens grin down
on you from the lofty pines
I would not say they were built to last,
not an architect among them really,
but brawny men mucking out their existence
before codes and bureaucrats,
a time when you could work the sun down
to build a life of your own and die
for no other reason than you tried

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Scarlet Gilia

An excerpt from my novel Lady With Flowers

And after a moment Henry smiled when Jesse turned up to him with a question. “Only looking,” he said. “Look without thinking, without labels, without judgement, without the interference of your mind. Be alert. See the long tubes like trumpets. See how they flare into five petals. And the colour that has been said barbaric in its intensity. Rest in that colour that is red and know that it is only a word. If someone from another planet came and asked about colours and wanted to know what is red, we would say, Ah, Scarlet Gilia, of course. Gilia Aggregata. See the tiny white marks like a sprinkling of icing sugar. Listen to me without thinking. Look into the long tubes and see the filaments and anthers, the grains of pollen. Bring the lens in as close as you can. Now imagine that world of colour.”

Friday, June 3, 2011

A Tree

my favourite tree, the aspen
even the sound of it comes
clean off the tongue
and the fluttering,
trembling like a tadpole
in your hand
a fresh splash in the woods
those little hearts and flattened stems
how the breezes make love to them,
a blushing green in the gullies
and along rivers and streams
clones they say, the largest
organism in the world
but a fine tree for me
when all I want is to touch
a living thing

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Hedley Cemetery

All seems forgotten down
the weedy rows of sunken graves
and tilted tombstones,
lichen creeping up the old granite
like age spots and decay and stillnes
but hallmarks of dereliction,
not a rake or tender care
in a 100 years

But there is a quiet beauty
in indifference after all,
a distilled neglect of crusty perches,
temples for the meadowlarks
fluting their warbled hymns
for my grandfather
resting there since 1940

Friday, May 20, 2011

Wild Horses

They seem wild to me,
wary as deer, ribbed and shaggy
bunches working the gullies and sidehills
All shapes and coats, squat ones
thick and able, and the summer sleek
cut from some western herd long ago,
their roving eyes alert for mares
and upstart stallions

I see them far across the ranges,
blotches of horses on hills,
hard on snakes in the spring
but no match for the cougar
that took an old-timer down
last winter - the snow was trampled
well and blood pooled darkly
where he died to feed a mountain king

Thursday, May 19, 2011

The Conscious Life

The yellow moon rises,
one eye shut like the wolf
watching me through a screen of willow,
unflinching, unwavering,
wondering about my honesty
And all night long
it passes over my bed,
scrutinizes my dreams
and in the new day
I am cleansed to begin again,
released from the watcher
and glad to see a robin in a wood
But between the branches,
against the blue purity
there it is, the pale witness
like a scrape of chalk in the sky
What demands he places on me,
this hound of decency and truth
He will not relent, this I know
until I am dead or willing to listen
to the ancient mantras
that swim in his liquid gaze
He torments my inequities,
sizzles me like a good winter fire,
peels away the amicable skin
that I show to the world
He has jaws that drip
for the fat of my shortcomings
But I will appease him - one day
I will welcome him to my table
and partake in a little dessert
when I lay down with him
to sleep in the eternal thicket

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Life on a Pond

I saw her come to the water's edge
and slip away, down where
the backswimmers scull

until she rose once again
and there a ripple and her
upturned nose and flagging tail

side to side and the slick
of her fine shape well suited
for rushes and tule,

flaunting it all for such tributes
until the wet slide of her mahogany back
when I asked about muskrat love

Sunday, May 15, 2011


see them against the blue sky,
how they appear, sudden
and full of an unspeakable glory

they hold up a world now,
their quiet beauty and sudden death,
like the lovely sons and daughters

falling like petals, pink clouds
gathering on the lawns
nothing lasts with such intensity

Wednesday, May 11, 2011


a path moves
like a contradiction

my feet forget
that it is up to them,

one step at a time,
the mantra of presence

there is nothing
the mind can predict

though it will try
to bend around the

corner to outrun uncertainty
so where there is walking

let your hand find me,
slow me down so I can see

the sun bleed full in the tulips
stop often and let

the world race by
see how the shadow

withholds the light
and the light beholds no shadow

all textures
in your searching fingers

that speaks
a language of patience

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Who Killed Terry Jones?

I awoke to him, that boy forty years gone,
saw him standing slackly with his thin arms
and slow-eyed gloom
A haunting there to serve some karmic justice

What does he want, that boy we all knew?

Feeble-boned and layered with threadbare charity
A mouth breather disposed to snot-slickened cuffs
and the palsied whisper of his rueful tongue
Unwitting to life that snatched his blithesome days
and delivered to him a world of snapping dogs
fanged for ridicule and the soft pink flesh of his neck

That boy whose brother fought us on the schoolground,
bled for him to arrest his dying slowly
But impotent hero before the teachers
who leaned toward him with such enmity,
dreadful witches casting derisive fingers at his lassitude
Terence! they spurned as rank piss pooled below him
and there he sat until the school bell sounded at three
and the last children gone, rose stiffly and cried

What does he want, that boy we ruined?

He came to me, moved me to look at old team pictures,
black and white, where I held up the silver bowl
Triumphant among my mates
And there he stood, Terry Jones, beside me in every pose
as if he already knew that I would tell the world
how the good boys placed their fingers on the trigger
and squeezed a little more each day
Killed him and thought how sad his death