Friday, November 29, 2013


Memorial: Pestle in Mortar

Near a series of smooth holes
in the rock, we sat quietly
for hours, not catching
anything. In one hole, a butterfly edged

on the slick surface toward stagnant water.
In another, two butterflies hung frozen,
wings open, the web
barely visible against gray stone.

You died a week later. Twenty years,
and the butterflies are here again.
The stone is cool and smooth,
almost comfortable enough 

to sleep on. In another twenty years
I will wake, the same 
age as you,
the water still flowing

into the deep pool as you gaze
at the leaves of the buckeyes,
the butterflies rising and falling, our bodies
still shadows in the flowing water.



We rubbed stalks of rosin weed and held
our fingers to each other's nostrils,
inhaling deeply. Late summer, the air
opening a small slope in the brain

that flowered with ever-increasing 
abundance, the neural energy shooting out 
vines, panicles, corymbs, spikes, racemes, umbels--
burgeoning, blossoming, dying back 

and supplanted, our breath taken in 
by these creatures and given back 
so tenderly and diffusely--no one yet ever
recording the impact from the breath 

of this flora on people or vice versa. The year 
my grandfather was mustard-gassed in France, 
Native Americans were setting up their last
encampments in these hills. A hundred

and forty years or so after the Spanish 
first wandered here, my dad was shipped out 
to Okinawa where he remained as Friant Dam 
was constructed, altering forever

the flora and fauna on the valley floor, 
the first firebombings causing great fire storms 
that sucked oxygen from the air, incinerating 
those caught in merciless winds. You proposed

a short study of breath before time finally
catches up to these hills. I proposed that, for
a decade or two, we watch the flora growing 
on this small slope where the barbed wire fence 

suddenly ends, before the subdivisions are dropped. 
For the price of a stealth bomber, we would ensure
that numerous experimental subjects are healthy 
and fed well enough to experience fully

the unspeakably lovely flora growing
in their own thoughts while they breath. 
Then we would determine the exact
connection to us of all wild, breathing creatures. 



Thanks to you
I know when I'm close 
to blue curl by its scent
and go down 

on my knees 
before the tough stalk 
with tiny purple steer skulls 
that shine like ribbons--

chanting blue curl,
blue curl, because 
its breath summons a nearly
forgotten feeling, 

one by which 
I might know 
you again
after all this time. 


Baby Blue Eyes and Fiddleneck

I have wanted to leave memorials 
without wasting breath, perhaps 
without any words at all--so many trying
to be forgotten. Instead 

I leave everything at dusk 
finding a clump with shining eyes 
still by the road, certain
that it remains unseen, 

suddenly flapping, 
looping erratically 
and vanishing 
back into the earth. 


Pounding Stone and House Pit

It rose above an ancient trail, 
up a steep slope carpeted by pretty face 
and tidy tips, nearly swallowed 
by monkey flowers choking a spring, 

strong enough to ruffle the fur 
of a coyote next to Holland Creek. Long ago,
near that stream you had found peace, lost 
in the invisible web spun by swallows 

swooping around your head, so, as you wished,
it returned, swirling over a pounding stone,
into a mortar where you had found lizards 
curled around a pestle, the ancient tribes gone

ages ago, your last breath still flowing 
in countless veins 
of lupine, fiddleneck, goldfields,
and squirrels, rabbits, bobcats....

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