Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Thanksgiving: Otters and Steamrollers

[this is from a prompt from Graham: something in 3rd person, with otters and steamrollers and some element of nihilism.]

Morning by morning,
New mercies I see

Otters and steamrollers have long had enmity
over the basic structure of the Universe. Otters
pull trout from swirling streams, gnaw the fins
so as to avoid loss of their catch.
Blood drips down into the shallow ripples over gravel bars.
This is education: placing meaning behind
phenomena. Otters observe with keen eyes
how the current takes the drops.

Steamrollers see no meaning.
Their heads hang, eyes dropped
straight and down. Learning
is knowing there is nothing
aside from the pavement ahead. The crushed insects,
mashed into the asphalt are no longer bugs, they’re pavement.

At Thanksgiving, the steamrollers have difficulty
sitting still, keeping quiet, when the family goes
around the table saying one thing each:
what they are thankful for. Steamrollers
raise their voice with angry assertions
that there is no point, and that gratitude means nothing.
These are followed by long quiets. Otters take time—
cleaning fur, searching for something to say.
Otters have never repeated their thought;
year after year they find something new.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Wolves Came Back

The Park had adjusted:
elk grazed lazily; bison reclined
in dust baths, talked about the weather; coyotes
sat-up straight on rocky outcroppings
looking over the expanse.

Wolves came back
like they owned the place.
The herd’s eyes grew two sizes,
they became flighty and paranoid:
constantly looking over shoulders,
muscles taut ready for sprint.
Big bulls became stoic and stern,
flared their nostrils, lowered their shoulders
and presented arms.

Coyote’s tails curled down
between hind legs
as they slunk back
into the shadows.

Friday, November 18, 2011


We usually fought with wrenches.
Our teeth are fake, our noses crooked.
We were communicators. Strong sensitive types.
Expressive. The counselor suggested
words; or at least pillows, but
he was wearing a burgundy v-neck and penny-loafers.
Strong sensitive types did not mean fairies.

The days spent in hospital gowns puking
after concussions were times to consider
the other’s point carefully. Sometimes
there would be an apology: a fifth of whiskey
or a case of beer; most times
a counterpoint would be offered:
this is how dialogue is advanced.


I decided to make myself a cheese sandwich.
I was not good at slicing. I didn’t possess the ability
to make wise judgments on the amount of cheese needed,
and was unable to cut straight.

The sandwich was a failure. The cheese slice was a wedge—
with one end an inch and half thick, the other paper-thin.
Not wanting the failure to be seen by my sister or parents,
I fed the cheese to my dog Rosie.

I don’t know if it was the cheese,
but later that afternoon we found Rosie
dead under the rhododendron bush
in the back yard. I cried till I shook.

My nose was a fountain of mucous. My sides ached.
Each tear was a bowel movement.
There are few griefs heavier than a ten-year-old’s
after their first dog’s death.

For months the thought-bubble above my bed
contained a stubby, orange corgi sprawled out
motionless. I made my pleas to God.
No weight of feeling made them potent.

I wondered if I’d ever stop crying,
if I’d ever fall asleep
thinking of something else.
If the picture of my dog would ever blur.

I don’t know if it was gradual, or if I just woke up
one day feeling better, but I stopped crying.
The Mariners went to the playoffs, and I fell asleep
thinking about Ken Griffey Jr, and Edgar Martinez.

Thoughts of Rosie became distanced from one another,
details atrophied. Now, when I think of her
all I see is an out-of-focus dog-shaped creamcicle.
But I still think of her.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

The Da Vinci Code

What was her posture;
the angle? Was it quick:
hey? Did it linger?
Her voice, did it drop
or peak? Can you describe
the eye contact?
Was she already walking
when she saw you, or
was she standing still?

There are more secrets
hidden in a greeting and wave
than buried underneath the Vatican.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Jesus Walks

Slick water undulated erratic.
Wind whipped waves waffled
indecisive and unpredictable.

The miracle was more than unexpected
buoyancy; it was balance,
ankles that didn’t roll,
feet that didn’t slip.

Peter’s attempt was ambitious but less
successful for more reasons than doubt.

Monday, November 14, 2011

My Home and Native Land

or at least my home and native land-ish.

A half-moon congers
a frosted donut in the thin clouds of a dawn
still dark blue. Away to my right
the color scheme softens.

The long ling of license plates moves steady:
British Columbia, Washington, BC, BC,
Washington. The wait is long
enough for me to reflect on the weekend

spent sleeping in
with a familiar comforter
in a room once decorated
with little league trophies
and ancient Mariners.

The Vancouver radio station comes in clear,
plays a new song I don’t hate anymore.
The line moves quicker.
The donut starts to fade.

Right now, ten thousand crows have started their morning
commute over East Van on their way to dumpsters
across the city. Everyday
they repeat the same trip: at dusk
and dawn the sky is peppered with silhouettes
going to, or coming from home.

Friday Saturday and Sunday
were beers and breakfasts
with friends who knew me
before I started to shave;

but with each car-length
I move closer to Canada
a relieved excitement builds.

The border guard asks disinterested
questions that I answer reflexively:
where are you coming from?
What are you bringing back? What weapons
do you have? Where are you going?

Without pause I say:

Saturday, November 12, 2011

So Precious

A gang of raccoons gathered
on the back porch. You gazed down
from the second floor bathroom,
decorated with carefully hung pink towels

with embroidered big-eyed purple kittens . You let out a groan,
because it was just so precious—the cleanliness
of the marauding bandits washing their hands
in the cat’s water dish. A holler alerted your housemates to
the adorable scene, they rushed over with dry cat food.
Giggle’s erupted as you “made it rain.” You fools!!

The raccoons were washing their hands
of Mr. Wiggle’s blood—their bellies were already full,
but they would try and make room for the deceased cat’s food.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Border Blues

Technically he had arrived, but
the cold woman with a red leaf on
her shoulder was quick to remind him
he was not going to stay. He was unwelcome.

2000 miles of pilgrimage turned around.
Camera full—hundreds of road-trip smiles:
one in front of the “Welcome to Canada” sign.

But the cold woman reminded him,
the sign was not written for him.

Saturday, November 5, 2011


When we got there
my 1986 Toyota Camry shook,
smiled, breathed the altitude in
condensation pumping
from proud mechanical lungs.

We reflected on sleep deprived
conversations under full moon
non-sense belly laughs
down winding roads
through promised lands.

Eight thousand feet,
dark morning still cold
in late summer we waited
watched for the dawn.
The sky changed its mind
and we scurried down to the lip.

The horizon was a palette
orange and pink bleeding
into a pale off white
leaning towards light
blue. Beams of sun
crept down the rust-colored cliffs.

We looked up and down
the Grand Canyon was not
a photograph. Pebbles nuzzeled
between our toes, potential death
falls stirred dormant fears
in our guts. We tried to open
our eyes bigger than they could,
wished they were garage doors.

We considered the morning
carefully, parsed
the serenity, tried hard
to locate a word or sentence.

We agreed
it was big, but
somehow it wasn’t
what we expected.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Five Years From Tomorrow

will look like forgetting
and small children with eyes
that look like yours
and the miracle in this
will be what is forgotten

in mess and diapers and spouse’s
wandering eyes and tendencies
towards distance despite five year’s
intimacy that should have
revealed the occasions
when the space between needs
to be closed, but some times

the privileged knowledge will be
remembered and hands will be held,
dishes done, children sent in
with breakfast-in-bed and
miracles will be remembered.

Indoor Cats

The cat did not kill much.
Mostly, she stared
at her paw covered
in flowing white fur—
opening and closing.

The cat was clean,
but liked being around
dust-stained clutter.
She liked the way
pristine claws looked
against mess.

The cat was not an outdoor cat.
She didn’t even like the thought
of the garage, or windows.
Her world was carpeted:
soft and safe.

Occasionally she’d swat
a potato bug, juggle it
until she lost interest,
which didn’t take long.
Then she’d place it
in a special corner
set aside for such things.

When the days were warm
the grass was mostly moss:
a vast warm-green carpet
sprawling out in a sun-beam

The cat spent time in the window,
between curtains and glass,
watching herself
asleep on the lawn.

She let herself out,
explored every carpet
she could find. The cat
didn’t come back.
Neighbors were called,
flyers made, stapled to
poles and fences.

The cat came back
gray and red and smelly.
The back of a squirrel neck
nestled between canines
the mangled body
was missing parts.

The cat carried her trophy
everywhere, lacerated the hands
that tried to take it from her.

The cat spent her time staring
her paw opening and closing
dirty claws chipped and broken.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011


He set his ear under my shoulder
tucked his knees under his chin
handed me a thin book,
colors faded—reds turned to rust,
whites yellowed and smudged.

Read this one, now!

I didn’t take the chance
to remind him
about the magic word,
passed on the opportunity
to enforce proper procedure
for petitioning adults
for stories.

I draped my right arm round him
gave him a small squeeze
while his little sister summitted my left knee,
opened the book, thumbed worn pages,
summoned my best farm-animal voices.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011


One Lord, One Church, One Beer

This beer—
light amber-brown
with hops wafting up
from a cloud of off-white head
as light emanates out;

this beer is not an escape,
a way of forgetting, a numbing
comfort, or coping mechanism.
When drank with a friend
I believe this beer is a creed
proclaiming that there is one
Holy and Apostolic Church,

I believe this beer
is grace: a visible sign
of invisible reality, the glory
beaming from the bottom of the pint
declares that ultimately things will be
better than alright.

I believe this beer is an acknowledgement
Christ is risen and ascended, and seated
at the right hand of the Father,
each mouthful looks forward to the time
when he will come again to judge
the quick and the dead—and
despite the frustration and anxiety,
the restless depressions, this beer points to
the resurrection of the body, and the life everlasting.

I believe this beer is worship:
one word savored
and sipped slowly,