Sunday, October 27, 2013



A year ago, I lay ensconced
in stale clothes, unwashed plates, week-old
newspaper, dinnerless and exhausted.
Another time opened the bedroom door:
An evening with a child digging tunnels
entered, so clearly,
and riddled every level of my senses.
I began to bless
the detritus of each blank moment
even as someone fled and a searchlight
slid across the walls.
My mind would not disbelieve or dim
and even the clothes and the bed
lost the misery that had clung to them.

When I glanced at a window, a face
behind mine suddenly surfaced,
like memory or the soul
or the person you are becoming.
I write now in order to find you--
some fragment of you
that wishes me well. Some kind of time,
a child, like wind, opening a door.

Porchlight edges through the curtains.
The melanges of the year mingle,
and the menages of memory mingle.
One note of your voice overlaps
silence or speech when I least expect it.
Your voice must change as you move
through one time to another,
or perhaps its range
ends here, in the certain 
path that shines across this table.

Saturday, October 26, 2013


Lupine near River

Cocking its black head, the angel calmly gazed
through underbrush, its speckled wings closed
on fire, the white breast feathers slightly
ruffled, aware that I returned its gaze,

both of us still, separated by a few twigs, until 
it resumed rummaging noisily in dead leaves. 
Trespassing in the angelic realms, like the angels
we were taking the breath of trees and flowers,

each species with its own piece of heaven,
a brown towhee leaping at titmice 
that hid in mistletoe, then at goldfinches 
which hovered in a panic, rootless yellow flowers, 

Bush Lupine, Poppies, Fiddleneck

returning to their stems after a few moments,
a flycatcher on a snag, butterfly wings extending 
from its beak, the orioles streaks of flame 
above the earth's tapestry of light-- 

goldfields interwoven with lupine and poppies.
You told me your dream of floating down river,
the boat suddenly swirling through white water
and just as suddenly slowing into a gentle, 

sunlit rain which jewelled the strands of a spiderweb
strung between alder trees, where a kinglet flitted
from twig to twig, missing the web, a newt struggling
up slick rock and sliding down again, and a bullfrog

Fivespot and Baby Blue Eyes

leaping at eyes floating above the water, vanishing,
and resurfacing by the bank, the kingfisher,
loud and persistent, protesting intrusion, perching
a moment behind sycamore leaves, then whirring

back and forth, taunting from a distance,
testifying as though it mattered, the bushtits
like leaves above the water blown 
from one tree to another--the current

carrying you through one community 
after another until the river 
hardly flowed anymore,
a littered wastewater sump 

Blue-tipped Lupine near River

for the filthy valley.  Again
you found your friend and dragged him
to the bathtub, his skin blue, and all
you could do was wait to see if he would live,

but there was no fear, only a strange
radiance in the needle and the skin,
the gleaming drops plopping every few
seconds from the faucet as warblers flitted

in a tree outside.  I remembered gliding
by the church we attended
the night we first rocked each other,
the tawdry street somehow radiant,

Lupine and Poppies

and I realized that I'd worked years later 
as a janitor three blocks away, not far 
from the market where we'd shopped
in some other life, our range finally 

defined and still holding all the angels.
For you, I have made our dreams
one dream where the angels 
never lose their connection 

to the range of light, the cedar waxwings 
above the still river pecking at seeds, 
their faces masked, tails dipped in gold, 
startled, and flying....

Wednesday, October 23, 2013



I hike where even humus breathes slightly, 
huge trees exhaling a breath that cleanses
the darkened shrubs of my lungs
and awakens flowers of energy

all over my body. I feel
the drumming deep in roots and rocks
as snowmelt cascades down the slopes,
the blood of other creatures pounding

in my ears, coursing through countless
veins, the heartbeat of mother earth pulsing
in bushes and trees, in the bobcat staring
at me from across the creek, in the strider 

Bobcat in Late Spring Flowers

sliding away from the bank 
on a skin of light. There I find
my power, releasing black spiders
from my subtle body through a hole

in my back, healing myself through grief
and forgiveness, cleansing 
the astral flowers of my aura
until they open for the powers 

of the Gods. Together, my power
and I strut through a meadow 
to the ruins of a stone house
as coyotes cut loose a howl, 


and we dash over hills on ancient trails
from pounding stone to pounding stone, 
feeling our way through a cave where I see
brilliant archetypes: a pure, white,

four-petalled flower burgeoning
into a flower with countless petals, 
the four elements blossoming into 
the thousand-petalled lotus; a gray


figure eight, floating above my head;
and a golden-equal armed cross, the archangels
at each end slowly growing clearer.
I emerge from the cave to find

rituals that invoke the archangels, 
the four elements flowing into me
so that I feel the power of those forces
embodied as human forms

with mighty wings, all a flowing,
a balancing, as I lounge 
on a pounding stone at the edge 
of the cliff and pray for release

from attachment and desire. I am
a hawk floating high 
above the oaks, my body towering
into the heavens, assuming the form

of Amoun-Ra, my own head the fiery head
of a hawk, my aura flung beyond the edges
of the solar system, the sun beating down,
speaking with heat of manifold creatures

Seven Pestles Near Pounding Stone

in its light. Seven pestles wait,
placed neatly on a rock near the stone.
Once I was certain that the Earth
would soon be free of us,

everything that I and so many others 
fought for in ruins--but now 
I stand on the pounding stone
under the living sun, awakening 

the Tree of Life within myself, 
making a brilliant cross of light,
a wren foraging a few feet away, 
huge astral antlers branching 

from my head, an inverted rainbow 
in my heart, a flock of bushtits 
descending on an oak, so close:
I am no more threatening than the sun.

Monday, October 21, 2013


Pounding Stone on Ridge

A quarter-century after I first snaked
through a secluded foothill valley, down
along a dying creek at the base
of the foothills, I found the village sites

of a people who had vanished over a century ago, 
some pounding stones only a few feet
from the road, one with pestles still on top
less than a hundred feet from the barbed wire fence,

the mortars blanketed by dry leaves and shielded 
by the drooping limb of a huge oak. The paths
that I once thought had been made by cattle led
into clearings where the earth appeared trampled,

House Pits (where huts once stood)
Near Pounding Stone

bare and dark and a little greasy in places,
pounding stones nearby, and I followed them all 
from Kings River to Dry Creek, a web connecting
ancient village sites across the foothills. Once, 

at dusk, a band of coyotes began howling
by the creek, close to my car. I waited, straining
to see a ghost, until the howls began to drift away
into the valley, but nothing manifested. Twenty-five

years ago, a boy drove here with his father,
and they imagined deer, antelope, elk gathering
by the creek, predators never far away, flocks 
of migrating birds and butterflies drifting through. 

Now, woodpeckers make granaries of rotting
fence posts.  Once, following a trail away 
from the creek, I spotted at eye level several rocks
on top of a large stone. I climbed a few feet

and found eleven pestles on a pounding stone,
as though just left the day before, one pestle
inside a mortar with a little grass growing around it.
Standing on a ridge, I gazed a long time

into the valley where in just over
one hundred years almost every trace of wildness
has been wiped out. I thought of an activist
who sued developers to preserve in trust

a few acres of farmland, what he called the last vestige
of nature in the Valley, no longer working as a subsitute
again after a city official complained 
about his organization to the school district; 

Two Pestles

of another activist fined over $100,000 for submitting
a "frivolous lawsuit" to stop urban sprawl on farmland; 
of my own organization brought down by a bogus lawsuit
tantamount to legal extortion, forced to settle

because of court costs, a lawsuit I can't describe
without fear of being sued; of those threatened
or fired because of their activism. 
On that ridge, I was a ghost

of the Gashowu, seeing not herds 
of antelope and deer and elk but a herd
of cattle in the floodplain, the new freeway
extension less than ten miles away,

the city lost in deepening smog, 
a long pestle jutting 
from a deep mortar at my feet, the woods
cold but still, a last howl far off in the distance. 

Sunday, October 20, 2013



Many over-souls, fleeing grids of profit and loss,
have returned to their places in the bosom of nature,
yet where the narrow road starts winding
near ancient trails and abandoned village sites,

we still sense them when they let us, where
birds forage through private woodlands,
where clear veins flow after winter rains,
and coyotes howl as the moon rises-- 

Sometimes we envision them 
as Goddesses or Gods near a spring
or a stream or within a quiet grove--
when they sense our love for rocks

and moss and mushrooms and grass,
for the stars and flowers and each other,
they whisper to us and gently touch 

Saturday, October 19, 2013


Baby Blue Eyes

In the foothills, by a vernal pool, I once picked up a toad 
that had escaped from my childhood and squeezed it 
gently so that it wouldn't squirm or pee in my hand. 
Toads disappeared from town long ago. Once, 

when I was a flagger, I didn't outrun the viscous
rain dropped from a cropduster. I showered, 
drank a glass of milk, but nearly
passed out. Another man ate lunch with the poison 

on his fingertips; he stopped breathing 
for two minutes before they revived him, the boss
not wanting to pay for an ambulance. Once, 
I stood at the entrance to a canyon 

Ithuriel's Spears, Chinese Purple Houses, Fiesta Flowers

among flowers whose names I learned in middle age, 
the self unselfing, the eternal experiencing itself 
for a moment, the delicate purple eyes of fiesta flowers 
open on vines that draped over poison oak, a swallowtail

exploring the filaments of the thistle, unafraid 
while I watched a foot away, the first oriole of spring 
suddenly winging over my head across the river to sway 
on a bare buckeye branch and then return toward me,

Ithuriel's Spears

veering away suddenly to eye me from a nearby oak 
as I swayed on the cliff. On the canyon floor, 
the call of the phainopepla, a heavy drop 
plopping into still water, mingled

with the long musical call 
of the grosbeak. I sprawled in sand,
gazing upward as the clouds 
flowed over, and I could believe 

Bobcat in Late Spring Flowers

that I have lived in wetness with the toad,
that my vines, heavy with flowers, 
have blanketed bushes and limbs, 
that I have clung to one leaf 

for ages waiting for some animal to pass, 
that I have winged, a brilliant flame, from tree 
to tree, eternal and forever changing,
only now aware of a possible end 

without grace, and I vowed 
never to rob life with its splendor 
from mountain or valley 
or from any human being on this earth. 


Pounding Stone on a High Ridge

The buckeye seeds have slipped out 
of their jackets and rest, smooth,
rock-hard, on wet oak and sycamore leaves.
One sprout in each seed prepares to pierce

through taut skin and claw its way
into humus. Newts plod
over moss and leaves, recoiling 
as we step near them. They blend

with wet leaves so well 
that we have to watch each step.
We stop at a mossy outcrop of rock 
and slide our fingers over slick


red-bud branches, the fan-like leaves
plastering rock and soil. We swear 
the rocks--tolerant of roots, harboring
other creatures, sprouting star moss--

are as significant and mysterious
as ourselves.  In the distance, 
a black phoebe chirps, the steward 
of the confluence of the creeks. 

The people who once ground 
acorns on the flat rocks
by these creeks have vanished,
their descendants building 

Pestles on a Pounding Stone

casinos on nearby reservations.
We honor friends who, fighting
for wildness, have been threatened, 
blackballed, and ruined, and we slowly

build a fortress with these rocks, 
for a moment no longer trespassers, 
our chants protecting the solitude
of the heron, the granaries

of the woodpecker, the ranges
of the newt and bobcat and all the tribes
of trees and flowers, our magic 
gathered from wetness, moss, fallen leaves.

Friday, October 18, 2013


White tipped Lupine, Kings River

Settling into seventy five, he glanced at almond orchards,  
the rows between evenly spaced trees slanting south, 
south-east, or east as his eyes shifted focus. The trunks 
of the nearest trees floated, the orchard dropping to earth   

exactly as his car passed, like a net falling short of him.

Another dry river. A night heron, crooked thumb, jutted 
from a dead limb in the river bed. He thought of loose hands, 
worn out, single gloves plucked from melon boxes 

and clothes-pinned to the conveyor. The case sealer  

crushed slow hands that struggled to pull jammed  
boxes clear. Anorexia's calm fingers inserted coins  
into the slot, pressed a button, and scooped up   

a soda, just before she turned, slid boxes  

to one side, and rested a .45 against her husband's head,  
a hand splattered with mud as it slapped  
the gun away.  Her husband had abandoned her  

near town, and she'd trudged twenty miles through the fields  

to the compound. They used to bet about who would kill  
whom at the "Okie Flat" packing shed. Frank once smoked  
after the conveyor broke down again while others loaded  

Goldfields and Baby Blue Eyes
By Native American Trail

by hand--wasn't in his job description. Frank was found  
dead in a car by the road, dents in his skull the size  
of a police baton, the case "inconclusive." Steve murdered
Anorexia, cutting her up like a grape stalk and burying her 

in his big red toolbox. Everyone silently suspected something  

was wrong when he hadn't shown for work on Sunday--  
time and a half. Nor would Fifi do the shuffle for the ladies 
while waiting his turn to shower in that outhouse

with a shower nozzle. Fifi had been released  

from the "vocational institute" before he was beaten  
and raped repeatedly. Driving by the last gas station  
for miles, he imagined the land without people, the canals

Native American Village Site:
Confluence of Kings River and Big Creek

almost empty, the floodplain of five rivers in wet years  
extending from the mountains to north of Tulare,  
subsiding into networks of marshes and shallow lakes,
webbed by teeming sloughs and channels, a refuge

from dunes and alkali sinks for birds along the flyway.  

Once, while he pissed, so drunk he could hardly stand,  
he teetered above the body of a great egret,  
its neck a question mark, the wings extended

in the dirt. He was done as an activist after losing

his job at the big box store for chewing gum 
and not coming in on his days off--he knew it  
as he neared houses of cardboard thrown together,

just as he recalled again the ash tree 

in the compound, a tree dreamed 
in childhood that revealed a fate no one
wanted to believe, the trunks

of loaded fruit trees blending

into one as the sun raced  
on the horizon, the last light logged
on the walls of the shed.

Monday, October 14, 2013


Buckeye Tree at Native American Village Site

For Sylvia

In a place that dreams, 
buckeye branches rise  
from a low throne, 
spirits whispering

that we have stepped
into a house pit between 
pounding stones. We sense 
the soul of the buckeye, the tribe  

pulled into quiet currents 
as we wake to a vast ocean
of breath, the fleshy sprouts 
of seeds plunging into black earth.