Appearing here are a few poems from collections published, unpublished, and forthcoming. My first chapbook, Paean, is still available for sale from Finishing Line Press. Green Philosophy should be out in 2014 from Folded Word, also linked below. Rough Art, my collection of logging poems, has yet to find a publisher. If you like what you see, please leave a comment.
I rejoice in the simple fact of rain
in the dust that cups each drop
in the translucence of new leaves
and the gold of oaks burning all
the sunshine stored through summer
in the velvet that covers the deer’s antlers
and the hard white horns I find in the desert
in blossoms and berries and fruited things
and stark, bare branches limned in winter ice
in the delicate lace of a snowflake and of a spider’s web
and in the tiny green worm who spoils
the acorns, spinning on his silken thread
in the squirrels digging for pine nuts in the garden
and the jays that peck summer’s ripening tomatoes
in the earthworms who till my soil
and the weeds that flower in it
in the ants that maze their trails across the lawn
and the toad who waits under the yarrow for an unwary fly
in all its spinning life and death
this earth moves me.
* * *
perches on barbed wire corralling
sagebrush and wild sunflowers
tips back his head
pours out song
like water on this dry land
trickling over time-
a stream unchanged
* * *
Las Vegas, October 2003
I wanted it to rain today:
a forgiving rain to rinse
the dust of the ravaged desert
out of the air and into the washes
to fill up the collection basins
and create, if only for an hour,
the illusion of autumn. The wind’s edge
might crisp; a flight of geese
might form overhead. But merciless
clouds only hover above the city:
a smothering weight which even
the high-rise hotels cannot pierce.
Some sinners won’t accept absolution.
Some gods refuse to give it.
* * *
From Green Philosophy (forthcoming from Folded Word):
My neighbor orders a garden
as he does his life—regimented rows
goose-stepping down a ruthless axis
in his bare sterilized hauled-in
topsoil. He tells me of his plan
to eradicate volunteers, an idea
involving a giant blender with sharpened
blades to mince a seed from spoiled
produce before he throws
it on his compost pile, lest, God forbid,
zucchini come up amongst tomatoes
or a tomato sprout in the carrot rows.
I listen with one ear, pulling oat stalks
from my straw mulch, admire
butternut that’s volunteered in my compost pile,
sprawling amid potato vines
sprung from the little ones we missed
when we dug last fall. The potatoes,
tall and green, grow where they were not
intended. Dill and marigolds
bloom among cabbages,
Johnny Jump-ups under peas
and around tomatoes. The garden rambles,
an untidy thing of patches, curves, like a mind
without hard angles, no rows,
nothing segregated, as if
the hand of God had sown it.
* * *
The garden suggests there might be a place where we can meet nature halfway. –Michael Pollan
To be a gardener, one must be ruthless
as the old gods, prepared for sacrifice–
thinning carrots and lettuce,
weeding feverfew, catnip run amok
in the flowerbeds, pruning back
cherries, apples and plums;
one must mount defenses against aphids,
moles, deer, with reasonable, biodegradable poisons,
humane traps, sprays made from rotten eggs,
dustings of blood meal
must contemplate greater acts of violence:
pulling up the young of pine and cedar
that lift their umbellifered arms hopefully
from worm-enriched soil;
uprooting serviceberry, thimbleberry
sown by birds; yanking out the sprouted acorns
gray squirrels buried in the fall, four green inches
of leaves, tap roots a foot deep;
felling hundred-year old trees
to let in more light, watching their stumps
bleed sap for weeks;
then one day you stand with a mole
impaled on your three-pronged rake,
marvel at the velvet of its fur, and how
it repels dirt, the sharp claws on pale,
paddle-shaped feet, the absurdity
of blind eyes, pink nose,
and realize you’ve played god in endless
escalation, rationalizing all the while:
a garden is no place to compromise with wild things.
They will take it back if they can.
* * *
Light on fallen snow
of fox and raccoon,
a slanted light
in small hollows.
Deep snow hummocks
every familiar shape strange:
mushrooms the fenceposts,
their shadows a deeper blue.
In the hush
Dusk is the cusp
of day and this
the taste of snow
on your tongue,
the taste of no taste,
clean, cold, gone.
* * *
From Rough Art (unpublished collection)
She was the exception who proved the rule:
women did not work in the woods.
No man could argue that she wasn’t a woman
she stood about five-seven in her caulk boots
her long, dark hair pulled back in a braid
her dirty tee shirt strained across opinionated
breasts. She didn’t need to be pretty
she was tough as venison jerky
when she set chokers behind the yellow CAT,
dragging cables around logs the size of train tunnels,
clearing brush while the CAT
took the turn to the landing.
She kept pace with her partner
he didn’t have to pull her weight
he defended her reluctantly in Pete’s bar
though there was no need for that as she sat
across the room throwing back shots
with the best of them.
Nobody remembers the partner’s name,
but Brenda B. is still legend.
After her stint behind the CAT
she learned to climb,
driving her spikes into stringy redwood
bark, leaning back on her belt,
hoisting chokers high on massive trunks
so the pull machine could steer the trees
uphill as they fell, away from the creek.
Nobody had to tell her she’d picked
the most dangerous job in the woods,
she’d grown up in a family of loggers,
no mother, all brothers. That explained it
some said. She never married,
slept where she chose, slept around
when she wanted, shacked up with this guy
for a while, then the next. No kids.
In the muddy winters she waitressed
at the Timberline, serving up ham and eggs
to the men she worked with in season.
She was kind to the dishwasher,
a redheaded boy who idolized her.
As far as he knows, she’s still climbing trees
though the mill shut down ten years ago
and the company no longer logs in that town.
Or maybe she’s taken up falling,
he thinks, she’s hiking down hills now
the big saw on her shoulder leaking grease.
* * *
Maybe his knees are gone, worn
out from walking through rough country,
packing his saw on his shoulder,
crouching with it in his hands to make the cut;
maybe his back’s give out from the bending
and hauling of saw gas and extra chain,
or maybe it’s his neck or his hands—
nothing they can do but cut on him, and he won’t
have that, no sir. Maybe he’s sixty, or only fifty,
too young to retire, waiting on the Social Security,
and he doesn’t know how to do anything else
but get up before dawn, work a ten-hour day
except during hoot-owl hours in July,
when the woods are tinder awaiting a spark—
never on his watch, thank Jesus.
He’s washed up, but the boss
knows he’s a worker,
so he drives the water truck,
day after day, ranging
the same length of dirt road,
spraying to keep down the dust—
no skill involved, it’s mindless work,
no challenge to it, not like plumbing a tree
to see how it will fall, gauging
distance and obstacles,
the amount of breakage and waste,
where to put face cut,
how to angle back cut,
how long he’ll have to clear
the zone when the tree
begins to groan and lean.
He’s spraying the road
as fallers, done for the day,
pass him in their dusty trucks;
toss him the casual chin-up nod.
His hands tighten on the steering wheel.
He’s thinking of those days
when he was the man with the big saw,
the stories he told in the bar
about the one that barber-chaired on him,
the widowmaker that nearly got him,
or the big one he laid down
gentle as a mother does
her newborn child.
* * *
The following poems were published in these fine journals. My thanks to the editors who gave them space on their magazines’ pages.
“Paean”: California Quarterly. Spring 2005. Ed. Margaret Saine.
“Snow: Dusk.” Red Rock Review. Fall 2012. Ed. Todd Moffett.
“The Climber.” Clark Street Review. Spring 2005. Ed. Ray Foreman.
“Washed Up.” Southern Poetry Review. Spring 2007. Ed. James Smith. The original version of this poem will be reprinted in late 2013 in a special issue of Southern Poetry Review dedicated to Poets of the West and the West Coast. I am honored that my poem will be a part of this special issue.