Sunday, November 27, 2016

Sea Lion at Dog Beach

Sea Lion At Dog Beach

The dogs find the body first,
fin over teakettle tumbled by surf
up the tide line onto the beach
of kelp-strewn sand, pale meat
where seafaring creatures
chewed at the drowned hide,
nothing remains of the head, no eyes,
fins limp & folded, backwash
lifts & swirls the shrinking corpse
away from the nuzzling dogs,
their owners’ shouts, bathers gawking
beside, so close, so raw.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

W S Merwin

W S Merwin

The Present

As they were leaving the garden
one of the angels bent down to them and whispered

I am to give you this
as you are leaving the garden

I do not know what it is
or what it is for
what you will do with it

you will not be able to keep it
but you will not be able

to keep anything
yet they both reached at once

for the present
and when their hands met

they laughed

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Charles Tomlinson

Charles Tomlinson

During Rain
by Charles Tomlinson

slats of the garden
bench, and strung
to their undersides
ride clinging
raindrops, white
with transmitted
light as the bench
with paint: ranged
seven staves of them
shine out
against the space
behind: untroubled
by the least breeze they
seem not to move
but one
by one as if
suddenly ripening
tug themselves free
and splash
down to be
replaced by an identical
and instant twin:
the longer you
look at it
the stillness proves
one flow unbroken
of new, false pearls,
dropped seeds of now
becoming then.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Harry Humes

Harry Humes

from The Bottomland:

by Harry Humes

Three we found sheathed in ice
after a late freezing rain.
They were like glittering bottles
stuck on a branch,
their small eyes watching,
eyes that could see
rabbit guts half a mile away.
We lowered them in a sling
and carried them like logs to the shed.
Our daughter traced a finger
over the red turkey heads.
She lay next to them.
They were longer by inches.
Suddenly a horny leg broke through,
a shoulder, some wing feathers,
and then the stench of their true
design drove us away.
We left the shed door open and watched
from the kitchen as they wobbled out,
fussing their feathers, stretching their wings,
bouncing grotesquely, then rising easily,
beautifully, the world’s real
pragmatists using the slightest updraft,
scanning the landscape, scouring it.
Their whole being was set for this
Puritan hatred of living flesh,
this love of neatness.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Adam Fell

Adam Fell

from I Am Not a Pioneer:


Light falling on snow
is naturally cast upward,
but we are not designed
to fully contain the glow.
We wake in the dark of the woods
and must go forward.
When we are killed, we respawn
a few feet back until we solve
the error that wrecks us.
Each time, our bodies make
a sound like yielding,
a comprehension, a crumpling.
A burning barn glitched
behind a restless static of leaves.
Hatchlings on the beach at night
scuttling toward the city,
mistaking it for the horizon.
Devotion extends forward
despite our bodies’ failures.
We leap and leap across
the voltaic rooftop letters
of a falling HOTEL sign.
We kill its current, watch it startle out.
We barely reach the ledge.
But barely is sufficient in a moving world.
Our flashlights make the cattle leak
from pens to pockets of drying grass.
To face ourselves, we respawn endlessly.
There are not fresh hoof marks.
There are fresh hoof marks.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Individual Parts May Be Salvaged

Individual Parts May Be Salvaged

Alone in the house after my death
the robot powers down my phone,
straightens my cuffs,
wipes away fluids oozing after my fall.
While its moving parts tidy,
its cortex sends notifications —
Ben, your mother has fallen & can’t get up.
Matt, it’s already too late,
but get in your car and drive down here now.
Esther, your daughter’s finally on her way to join you.
She’s still the same,
so if you want to maintain your peace & quiet
you might want to descend to a lower circle
or petition Beatrice for a long overdue pardon.
The robot doesn’t know
it’s reached end of life too.
Recycling an intact elder care robot
has been against the law since 2025
though individual parts may be salvaged.
It’s the impossibility of securely erasing data structures
that dooms the robot’s cortex
& sensory appendages
to be rendered.
My neurons, my ligatures
have begun to unweave.
My life of reconstructed memories
shrivel to stories soon to be no longer told.
To my granddaughter, I gave my tidiness,
to my younger son, my zen,
may the annual library sale profit from my books.
Friends, my undying devotion has died.
I remember every friend I ever had
even if I unfriended them.
Now I’m a dead facebook account,
a dead-letter email.
The robot scans for breached perimeters,
an ill-adjusted thermostat,
running water, a kettle boiling dry.
It livestreams my missing pulse.
It will open the door to the paramedics.
This robot has been awfully good to me,
outstanding at finding my glasses
& prompting me to medicate.
I don’t suppose she misses me.
I sometimes called her Rose.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Hakalau Rain

Hakalau Rain

begins as obake
ghost fog — sails in 
to finish a sunny day.
A whisper of leaves,
rustle of fronds
rises to din
& rain cascades
like trucks
dump gravel,
like madwomen
My cat leaps
to a sill,
sees tools
mislaid, a bucket
rocketing end over end
to meet & tangle 
with hog wire fence.
I’m caught
in this riot,
made small
by tethered fog, 
this sudden chill,
I’m sodden & smiling,
with soft rain.

Sunday, March 13, 2016



I disinter roots & branches of 
trees sawed & stumps ground last autumn
rotting at their slow pace.

Weeding is a constant path.
Between stones grow blanched stems,
under them, blanched roots with no stems.

I pitchfork weeds into toppling cones —
nutrient steam flecked with yellow flowers —
stack & restack pyres to stall growth.

By now I know each type of weed
including one I pardoned — its velvet leaf —
like as not, not what I wish for,

no more than sounds at my door at night,
not rain or wind, not possum or fox.
What pitchfork might rout this dark?

Sunday, March 6, 2016

Bankei via Stephen Berg

First Song
by Stephen Berg

never was    always will be
mind before mind
earth water fire wind
sleep there tonight

you you on fire
burning yourself
to this burning house

all the way back
to the womb
can’t remember a thing

good bad
self self

winter’s wonderful
in summer

summer breezes
even before autumn’s

rich now
you hate the poor
and forget when you
had nothing

you saved every dollar
a fiend
watched by the famished
wraiths of your self

your whole life
making money
could not pay off

clinging wanting
nothing on my mind
that’s why I can say
it’s all mine

you want someone you love
only because
you never knew her

you can’t forget
not to remember
someone you never forgot

looking back
you see it one brief evening
realize    see
everything’s a lie

bitter? does this
incredible world of grief
hurt? why wound yourself
brooding on dreams?

no hands    no eyes
nothing exists
touch see
that’s it

all this
in unreal
instead of clutching your head
go and sing

your mind
torments you
because you need it

hating hell
loving heaven
torture yourself
in this joyous world

the hating mind
itself is not bad
not not hating
what’s bad

good    bad
crumple into a ball
of trash
for the gutter

ideas about
what you should do
never existed
I    I    I

with Buddhism
nothing’s new

enlightenment really?
keep wrestling with yourself

these days enlightenment
means nothing to me
so I wake up
feeling fine

tired of praying
for salvation    look
at those poor beautiful flowers

along the river
in    out

die    live
day and night here
listen    the world’s
your hand

are pitiful
all dressed up    dazzled
by brocade robes

come from your mind
right wrong right wrong
never were

call it this    that
it doesn’t exist
except this page
except these wavering phrases

praised abused
like a block of wood straight through
my head’s the universe
can’t hide my ugliness my clumsiness

so I just go along
with what is
without anger
without happiness

nothing to see    nothing to know
before after now
call and you’ll hear
its heartbreaking silence

[from Stephen Berg's The Steel Cricket: Versions 1958-1997]

Saturday, March 5, 2016

A Quilt of Wings

A Quilt of Wings

A red bicycle rumbles
the gravel parking apron,
rosemary hedge a blue tangle.

The body crouched above a sprocket
pedals beside a dog on leash
block after sea level block.

Succulents skirt a patio.
An orb weaver hangs flies
above a planter where collards grow.

Fur webbed with splints of bone —
owl-cast on asphalt —
how tongue eats tongue.

Duck bills worry clover,
squirrels tightrope jacaranda,
a quilt of wings squareknots the river.

At the beach the dog’s set free to run.
Chase stick. Chase ball. Chew wave.
Genuflect to pelicans.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016



4:30 am, I’m not getting up because it’s too early. I turn the pillow four times hoping for who knows what comfort. The smell of the sheets surprises me — slightly sour, salty like soup. I could say I’m being called to wash them, remnants of my childhood where no sheets went more than a week unwashed, & with all the graham crackers I ate in bed, my sheets needed washing or vacuuming at least. Household tasks, particularly laundry, always soothe me. I have a washer & no dryer, so when fog settles, I bundle wet sheets into my car & drive to the laundromat. I bring William Carlos Williams to read while the sheets tumble, his memoir of his European/West-Indian mother who lived with him until she died, “sat in her room year in and year out” because she walked to the Club, “without rubbers,” slipped & fell on ice, broke her hip. Elena was nervous, vain & timid, tough & good, & Williams loved her. Sons are like that, not seeing us as slightly sour, overly salty, instead as interesting, kissable, worth cooking dinner for. In one poem he described dancing naked in his attic while the family slept, happy genius of his household. I quit the laundromat with slightly damp sheets, air them dry in late day sun.

Monday, February 8, 2016

Ada Limón

Ada Limón [Monterey Peninsula College]

from Ada Limón's Bright Dead Things:

Long Ago & the Cow Comes Back

In this, the current recasting of the great plummet,
it is I, and not the other grand-eyed cows off Leveroni Road,
who watches the two cloudy youths climb into the backseat
of the long boat-like car during the plunging dark hour
of no turning back. I am not folded into its tongue-red
interior watching the headlights of the passing traffic
trance the windows like far-off lighthouse lights pulsing
at us, lost in our swollen inky sea. In this version, I am
the still bovine beauty staring into Carringer Creek, hungry
for nothing but what comes every day: grass and sky,
and the silvery creek water reflecting the grass and sky.
By the bend in the clean zipper of stream, by the gate
of my life, a metal animal’s insides steam up and I understand —
so many dolorous selves in each of us dissolving into fog.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

We Refugees

We Refugees

Cheaper than lock & key, a chowkidar
defends our door. He’s ragged, poor, menial
kin to fruit peels we toss in the street,
yet he guards our home, we, the non-
pariahs, so luminous, bindis scarlet
between our eyes, brilliant silks binding us,
shades & smells of turmeric, chilis,
asafoetida. He waits, his heart
an apple wizened to a frame for pips,
pledged to our stone stoop & waves the well-
regarded across to our baubled inside.
Monsoons don’t muddy these parquet floors
or swamp the beds, we women marooned,
we refugees, our bruises, our spells.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Jane Cooper

The Potato Eaters by Vincent Van Gogh [Wikipedia]

In the Last Few Moments Came The Old German Cleaning Woman
by Jane Cooper

Our last morning in that long room,
Our little world, I could not cry
But went about the senseless chores
— Coffee and eggs and newspapers —
As if your plane would never fly,
As if we were trapped there for all time.

Wanting to fix by ritual
The marriage we could never share
I creaked to stove and back again.
Leaves in the stiffening New York sun
Clattered like plates; the sky was bare —
I tripped and let your full cup fall.

Coffee scalded your wrist and that
Was the first natural grief we knew.
Others followed after years:
Dry fodder swallowed, then the tears
When mop in hand the old world through
The door pressed, dutiful, idiot.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Seabright Beach

Seabright Beach

Not a dog or a person, pink gash
in a low sky, the lighthouse beams green,
the tide’s past high, waves cream
across smoothed sand. The sanderlings
scurry left & right, rise like smoke,
fade like a mirror’s steam. Great blues
jut from a condo roof, one wraps
tight, one pivots — a weathervane.
Perched in live oaks, night herons
white plumed & black crowned wait
at the fish-cleaning dock. Crow gangs
argue, mockers rock, juncos hop.
They don’t feel cold or the little rain
or they do, & have no words to complain.

Thursday, January 7, 2016



A man airlifts a drone
inches from my face,
whir of blades
the boom of surf swallows.
Strobes streamed
from flyer to phone
mimic the mandala
he’s made in sand,
a maze I can’t tour
without erasing.
This is my living,
he says. His rake
feathers & scrapes
splines & spandrels.
His gait’s uneven,
one flank of him concave.
A harbor seal sprawls
on stone & sand awash
as anchored flesh reveals,
limen of fresh & salt,
air & water, shallow
& deep. Pale spots
dither wet skin.
The sea swells.