Contact Language

Contact Language


the inky   
spindly cities
are in ruins
alphabets adrift
reconstruction impossible
the land is without refuge
a diameter without dimension
echo answering echo
emptiness consoling emptiness

I am writing you
from a crumbling church where
in its thick-rooted dark
I found a few others
by their heavy breath,
snorts, sighs and whispered speech
and one by the drifting refrains
of her off-key devotions.

Otherwise only the rain
is true to itself—


it has also taken shelter here
just inside the door—


where an old man
hesitates between worlds
gulping like a fish—


on the brown frocked monk
watching us
rebar poking through
his scotch-taped hand.





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.




For Kristiana

When I was a girl
and hungry for pleasure
with feathers in my hair
and bells on my feet
a wild unpruned thing
a child on the run
feasting on the sweets
and bitters of love
on the full gush of all things
in a swarm of musics
and carelessly carefree
rising and falling  
on each tide swimming
a slave to the moon
with a barefoot heart dancing
to the flute of my own god
I spilled blossom after blossom
to the wind with no regard
being full of my season
and the aphrodisiac perfumes
on which I fed
lips red   
voice thick from singing
eyes heavy from wooing
until I delivered the fruit of the union
until I became
with the pain and the growing
the reaping and sowing
a woman.



Another language

Haiku 51 - Another language  
  Another language
  Another world again
  Hello Moon, old friend.




The floor of my mind is littered with words—scrawled, scribbled out, crumpled words. I hear them whispering to one another—lonely, shifty, resistant as shadows in wind, as bugs in cracks, as sprouts growing in the fetid dark. Some are annoyingsharp rocks under bare feetothers threatening as broken glass. Some are photos fallen from a collage with little value of their own, pennies on the ground. Others are blobs of paint that did not make it to the canvas, beautiful, dry and beyond recall. Others are worlds orbiting their own remote stars. Observed they change. They do not obey the rules. They float, switch polarities, attract and repel at random, sometimes swirling, sometimes playing dead only to suddenly reappear with new meanings altogether.



Red Fish

Red Fish

A red fish
the size of a child
startles up through the trees.
Who sitting around this stone table
will remember it for me?


Crow and I

Crow and I alone
on opposite sides of the
road. She flies away.



Letter to my daughter

Letter to my Daughter

Sometime past midnight,

I am reading your note, the story of your equinox afternoon. I can smell the sugary musk of rain and rot. I see the field and you in slow motion playing with a ball that gets away and rolls into the elongated shadows of the trees. I am a slug munching leaves there and, as you pass, I twitch my antennae into the vibrating air. You kick the ball back out into the open under the red-orange evening sky.

Tomorrow the light will begin its retreat, allowing the world to sink back into its roots. In breath, out breath. Bittersweet. Little Molly is curled beside me, her thin black lips hidden by white hair.

I love you, always.



Stonelight - Prelude




setting out upon a long journey
I take my lantern off the post
the hills in the west are approaching Jupiter

a young moon
in the 7th house
horns to the east
floats low in a purple lea
half in shadow/half in light
I take the path of the terminator.

there are endless stones in this path
each stone a world
and endless steps in this journey
each step a birth/each step a death
birth/death blended into this exquisite twilight
through which I go towards Jupiter
and the edge goes with me
for we are in need of the sea.



Stonelight - Movement 1

Stone light

Movement 1

the little moon
       the little moon that starved so long in the brass box
       the little moon
who only eyes of dream can see

—that one—

who lay so long
sunk in a chilly abyss beyond the reach of conscious fire
she has summoned me to leave the daylight realm

cold stars swirl and drown in the black sea that must be crossed

on a winter's night
first passing the lava bone brain forest of an inner deep
I set out

            she keeps her dark face forever turned to dark
            she stands behind ripped clouds
            hanging from the proscenium arch of night
            peeking in at the living world
            aching with light

on a winter night we set out on that terrible journey
     through the larvae brain bone forest
           over sunk stars sparkling beyond reach

only eyes of dream can gather the crystals—the frozen
shipwrecked treasures from which the moon was born.



This now shattered mirror

This now shattered mirror
reflects and holds ten thousand
fold worlds for me.



To Ram

To Ram

when you came
and the sea was night
oh come
be with me always
o Boat—night and day at sea
your touch
at last I speak

laughing at me
because you are kind
my heart can grow
because you love me
I do not need to know tonight

the foghorns hare aroused me
from the dream
I drift on
away from sleep
away from sleep
in you—in me

o Earth
living constellations
and dark
and the blissful
the murmur of your holy name
awakening in my heart at last
o joy

the fulfillment of my deepest

perhaps I can never return
my way is with you
if I cannot reach you tonight
streets and bushes
let me be
I will sing and die
waves on the shore
the end of the sea

if you touch me
o Ram
make me mad
your love is enough
so empty
so night

be still
Cloud of Dancing
you do love me
that is enough

stairs of stone
of wood
of waves
and laughter  skyward
as though I die
telling me

be at home my child
my darling, my earth and look for me
I am here behind every guise
garlanded by Love’s bitter-sweet tears



Pyramid mountains

Pyramid mountains
speechless in the summer snow.
Someone has to talk.



Communiqué 611

Communiqué 611

I am writing this in the dark
fingers dipped in ink
ushering each reluctant word
to its place upon the page, the
invisible theatre. It is risky business,
spies and traitors everywhere,
slavery and broken minds,
but these are strong old friends—
old as war.



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 wonder?
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





Having found no suitable priestess
I have become my own—
and transforming myself.



Roadside oil rigs

Roadside oil rigs
metal dinosaurs in the
hot Texas morning.





Now back into the current flowing past this
quiet room, A taxi stops for me in the middle
of the street. I get in. He takes me a market

where I board a bus which moves out onto a
road edged by trash, blooming fence posts, fruit
stands, tables, chairs, makeshift open air cafes,

and crowded with cars, food carts, bicycles,
buses, chickens, trucks, people, homeless dog,
and overloaded tilting wagons pulled by starving

horsesall moving down the smelly gray river,
a hydra-headed serpent decorated with scars and
symbols moving always in the same direction . . .

hottest city in Nicaragua.

where the hen and rooster
lie shackled together
at the feet of three women
sitting at table
in the middle of the road.

where life
is how they keep
the meat fresh
until it's time to eat.



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
what is born must devour itself
in order to survive its darkness,
its promise and threat.

Dandelion lanterns along the path,
soon blown out, are not a loss, no
seed is a loss. In the green light

of my first summers, seeing the wild
mass of morning glories swarming
secretly over overlooked places,

I knew I had inherited 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.



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
                 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



Haiku 9 - Roadside oil rigs

Haiku 9 - Roadside oil rigs

Roadside oil rigs
metal dinosaurs in the
hot Texas morning.



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.



Horary for the Third Millennium CE

Horary for the Third Millennium CE

Near the South Galactic Pole
      beyond the universe of naked eye
                  between Cetus and Sculptor
                                           Galaxy NGC 253

To its west
          near the
          galactic equator and ecliptic intersection              
                           the diffuse nebulae
                                M20 and M8
stellar sphinx
             guarding the winter solstice point of our sun

On my earth     wild roses perfume this afternoon’s rain.

On my earth
                   in the third millennium of the Common Era
            after countless way-showers
       and seed-sowers                       
the only revolution left is love.



Winter Solstice

Winter Solstice illustrated

Winter Solstice

It has always been spoken of
as the grave and womb of light
this most brief day
this deepest midnight
stiffened with ice and silence.

It is crucial now that there be
harbors and pools and islands
of light, and it is necessary
that there be song
for the dead are everywhere

stricken with grief, wandering
among the birds of winter but
with song they may be comforted
and Love, on this longest of nights,
requires the giving of a gift.

— asha


La Pared

La Pared

They are not gone, they are on bricks
    beneath plaster, beneath paint,
       beneath posters and handbills fragile
as snakeskin
abandoned to the sun and wind,
beneath the stenciled telephone, a face
   "Jesús, el teléfono del diablo"
                                        "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.





Touched by your eyes, I quake. Whatever is good has ceased to flow. I throw the poison mirror away. The walls close towards center. Barely room to breathe.

Morning comes and again I resolve to survive the day, overcome this. We had planned to do that. Times have been better. My flesh hurts. I plunge back into sleep.

But the urge returns, jarring open my eyes. You aren't here. What am I creating here? Or am I just re-living-living the worst old outcomes? There was a truth here. Sinking, my thoughts become seeds seeking the comfort of dark. Memories are of no value. Where I am now I am safe, between everything, away and alone under a high cloud sky.

In this inner world of the closed flower there is a moment’s rest. The wind and tide erase all. I do not speak the language here. It is a comfort. I communicate through half tones, faint smiles. Outside the petals, rain and finally a clear sky and distant mountains asleep under their snow. Having held back too long, I do not cry. We bend or break. Now I lay me down to sleep. The rain drenched petals creak. I lower myself into the stormsmall boat, small wingsto try the sea.

Seattle, on my mother's death



To Steve Mason, soldier poet

to the disembodied
painted faces of the inner air
the stone voice speaks
the whorls upon waking weep
the swamp of singing reeds
the growing world
turns to listen
delirious with eternity
sleeps on
there is no answer

in the winter sun
birds are thinking
they do not reply
I have returned
from a long journey
I have changed

the end and the beginning
stir and separate my thoughts
it is noon at my place on earth



Life at the top of the stairs

Life at the top of the stairs
for L.

Having to be somewhere—
I found myself living on the landing  
at the top of the stairs.

A thousand times a thousand times
I finished in my mind the unfinished
painting leaning against the wall.

The eight-legged one,
tiny Protectorate of the Shadows
guarding her eggs,
she alone knows the rest of the story

the window
e comatose trees
the fog drenched night
and all the sad creatures and
voices caught in the scaffolding there.



Yellow Shoes

Yellow Shoes
  for Lawson Inada

When I had feet me shoes were yellow
ah yellow as pollen they were
bright as lemons
bright as me lad's smile
bold as his laugh
an oh how I danced in me shoes
all night
a swarm a bees
drunk from the flowers
sportin their yellow pants an boots
knew not as many turns as me lad an me
not haf as many

an when
in the slow river
a bare foot we went a wadin
me lad an me
an bare we were from toe to head
a hand an hand
me yellow shoes was glad to wait
all hodgepodge with his
for shoes has no need a feet
though feet has a need a them
but now
old as I be
I has no need a shoes
not yellow 
not brown
but glad I am
glad as I was when I was a lass
for I got me me lad
an I rather him than me feet.



Augury for the Child

Augury for the Child 
for K. M. and J.

Even as a child
I knew I could possess nothing
so I renounced everything
but childhood itself.
And as a child
I knew knowledge
could not be enough,
that only a homing instinct
would be much use after all.

So abundant
are the moments of truth
diamond drops
cupped in the uncountable
small green hands of morning—
even now I do not wish
to turn back from love.

Knowing I will forget
again and again
how to laugh
and how to cry
and what you mean to me,
and knowing
that each moment of love
finally presses its body
in wet fallen fragrant petals
against the stone to dry
I must welcome strangers
and imperfections.

I have seen hope
like spring return
again and again
and the sleek and shiny
lights of rain
dancing everywhere.

Even now
it is wise to trust.