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POETRY

A poetry sample: The land, put into words

January 17, 2010

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From the chapbook 'Where We Live'

(Parallel Press, 2009)

Where We Live

Nocturnal creatures must teach their young

to be heard and not seen.

Coyotes yip to the east of us

and to the west, frogs beat their drums.

Somewhere to the south, a bird calls --

two thin, falling syllables

in a language we'll never know,

except for rough translations into loneliness.

Where we live, you have to listen hard

through cricket static to hear yourself think.

I like that. For once,

everything human has to shut up and sit still.

You can't even hear the traffic on I5,

only a few miles to the northeast,

where big rigs drift by like ghosts with lanterns

trapped in a long, dark hallway.

Edward Thomas, Homer, Rain

Who knows how long it takes a raindrop

to make it home from the mud to the clouds.

Those charts in the textbooks with arrows

flowing clockwise, uninterrupted,

don't tell the whole story

anymore than dotted lines on a map

show us the travels of Odysseus.

This is the epic of rain:

not reincarnation, not purgatory,

but something like a thousand years

waiting in line at Disneyland

just to leap from a cloud

and free fall, bursting with joy

against stone or leaf.

Who's to say the rain on my window

didn't thin the blood of a poet

somewhere in France at Easter, 1917.

And who's to say one drop

didn't splash on Homer's tongue

when he lifted his face,

tasting what he'd never see.

From 'Back Roads: A Journal'

(Hill-Stead Museum, 2009)

Individual poems, untitled, are part of a

journal-like sequence that begins with

Advent and finishes with Epiphany.

Untitled

They say the dust rises by itself

Sometimes, even if there's no wind at all,

But absolute stillness under the flat sky...

I don't believe it.

They haven't considered, for instance,

How the coyotes in their afternoon slumber

Where no one can find them

Breathe out their dream whimpering;

Or how the birds dozing on their perches,

Holding on so tight,

Puff & deflate like bellows --

Thousands of breaths that begin to add up.

Nor do they take into account the rodents

Down in their burrows

Busily opening passageways

Through which the earth itself can exhale;

Not to mention the Yokut ghosts

With nowhere else to go

Who wander aimlessly across the valley,

Their bare feet kicking up clouds of dust.