Thursday, November 19, 2015

Between Us

Between Us

if the blood red rose
blooms white some spring
lighting its obscure
part of the night

a small perfumed moon
nestled among its thorns
who would protest this miracle?
I tremble before love’s simplicity

oh bitter sweet surrender
oh ever sweetening trust
even death is turned
inside out

let it pass through me 
love’s terrifying light
should I become ash
it will be enough


Saturday, October 17, 2015

Elegy for a Poet

Elegy for a Poet
John Chance, June 9, 1934 - February 1, 1992

Before the final breath and night
swallowed the glow above the hill
and in the eye
before the bloodsplash of light
pulsing with unborn and terrifying thoughts
was stilled in the gently falling hush
world to world of the quietest breath
and the last petal of a most beautiful flower fell
into the quick black stream of death
fell down and forever from view
know this darkness that settled
this disappearing act forever playing out
within the world, this knife
around which the wound dried
was delivered by angels.

You were a splash of light
between two worlds
grooving, ransacking visions
till kingdom came
singing till you shattered
ravaged by innocence.

You were a dying man
hungry for the company
of rain soaked pines
a downed bird whose fierce eye
grew dim in the cage by the door.

Holy Mary, mother of god
you were a curly-headed boy
stealing to the lake for an evening swim.

Pray for us sinners
stealing back to the lake for an evening swim
stealing back to lost summer.

Pray for us now, at the hour of our death
as I kiss your wax brow
at the door that is always locked.

Ashland, Oregon 1992
Letter from Uncle John

Saturday, July 11, 2015



Now, back into the current flowing past this quiet room, back to the
leaving road. A taxi stops in the middle of the street. I throw in my bag
and go. He drives to a market where I board a bus which moves out to a
road edged by trash, blooming fence posts and occasional makeshift cafes
and crowded with cars, food carts, trucks, bicycles, buses, chickens, people,
starving dogs and overloaded tilting wagons pulled by dying horses… and all
moving down the smelly gray river, a hydra-headed body decorated with scars
and symbols… moving... always in the same direction... Chinandega... hottest
city in Nicaragua... Chinandega... where the hen and rooster lie shackled together
by the feet of three women sitting at table in the middle of the road. Chinandega...
where life is how they keep the meat fresh until it's time to eat.

Nicaragua, 2008

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Ontology of Clouds

Ontology of Clouds

A thrown stone finds its resting place
within the grass
the egg 
more than a tombstone
must shatter first into light

in the brutal night
on the back side of light
what is born must devour itself
in order to survive
this mirage
this promise and threat
like the egg
must be shattered

the dandelion lanterns
along the path 
soon blown out
are not a loss
no seed is a loss

for being born I inherited
a terrible darkness
but in the green light
of my first summers
seeing the wild mass of morning glories
swarming secretly over overlooked places
I knew all that was a lie

when the spirit is wounded
and the wound is deep
be gentle

in this ache
this flare of dying light
again and again
we risk everything
salt stained clouds
foam up the sky
it is on an afternoon like this
we will begin again
with nothing

Ashland, Oregon - 1987

Sunday, June 07, 2015

Water Brother

Water Brother

When I see the brown hills lying
coldly in the sly distance
and the clouds     having lost their ocean
looking for a place to weep
and the crystal drop on the still leaf tip
I remember the angels
   perfumed and ancient as midnight
   new as silver of the waxing moon
who spoke to me of death.

At dawn I went to the hill that sleeps
and called their names
loudly     louder and louder
until even the snakes in their dens
then softly I called them
quietly whispering each name
until there was no sound at all
but the tolling of a distant bell.....

It was then they came
sursum corda
scratching the sky
reaching through the eternal blue dream with their talons
clawing long blazing marks in the wind
and in that moment,
sweet inconsolable lover,  water brother,
one     mad     despised flower
with no petals at all/with translucent petals
growing beneath the bridge/beneath the fig tree
laughing to itself
bird on the morning breeze
empty of everything but light

Ashland, Oregon - 1984

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Spirit Barrier

Spirit Barrier

I remember it all
the human flood
the empty chair
the calf crying
before a growling wind
lost histories leaking
through the spirit barrier
a delta of pain
draining into
a bayou of suffering.

I awake beneath
the magpie's beak
see it reach
for my eye
see the world
turn red and black
and white and fade.
This is not death
these quills
brushing against my breast.
I am smudged and washed
and swaddled
in the stiffening sheen
of my own blood
and readied for flight.

Spring, 2004

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Winter Solstice

Winter Solstice

The image is based on a photo I took of the moon rising over a mountain ravine in the Nevada outback.

Winter Solstice illustrated

Sunday, August 03, 2014



I have been up all night
writing and re-writing
watching the stars
tick across the sky.
Around midnight
the Big Dipper is just
beyond my window.
By 3 am only stars.
No names.
Then in the hush
just before dawn
when time slows
nearly to a stop I see
my grandmother’s dog
the one she made live outside
that entire North Dakota winter
his pleading, cold-crazed eyes
a sad, two-star constellation.
They shot him in the spring.

The sun doesn't rise.
The world falls face first
into its light
finds its mark
resumes the
fiction of the day.

With regret I sense
before I can see
the Holy Dark
dissolve into grainy
morning. Here and there
a bird stirs in its quills.
Before long
they are on the roof
rattling the gutters
pecking at the tiles.
One of these days
they will pull
the house beam out
and the whole thing
will fall down.


Wednesday, July 30, 2014

La Pared

La Pared

They are not gone, they
are gone home past bricks
lost beneath plaster, beneath
paint, posters, handbills
fragile as snakeskin abandoned
to the sun and wind, past the
stenciled telephone and
"Jesús, el teléfono del diablo",
a face, "Mexico, poco real",
and startled black figures
suspended in a running
tumble, past creeping vines
turning what was once a wall
into a crumbling spine
blackened by the repeating,
always humid afternoon.

When the day is done I
open my window to the street
stir my brush into the sleeping
paint and begin again.

Mexico, 2004