Monthly Archives: July 2018

Wildfire Near Redding, California

The fire front walks
its red jersey
over the hills
marking its territory
like Frida Kahlo.
A veil of place hardens
where water becomes
accountable down
around the eyes–
like a concerto
it takes a while
to feel the lyric weight
and wrench of it.
Then it starts to roar
like a blown Nascar engine
piercing the skin
and spitting liquid glass
from the corner of its eyes
like a Texas Horned Lizard.

Oregon Desert

sun like lava
ponderosa pines
smell like cinnamon

in the lodge
an exhibit
of flint arrowheads
a photo of a Paiute fire pit
a bone fish hook
like a pearly

someone said
the water slide
should go here

Tilman Riemenschneider, 1460-1531

a fifteenth century
German woodcarver
used massive clear grained
limewood blocks that carved
like chilled butter held an
eyebrow arc a pointed finger a
waterfall of tresses an erotic
gaze for centuries through fiery
pitch covered boulders hurled by
catapults smashing church walls
and stained glass windows

people put the carvings
in caves and cellars
wrapped in wet burlap
carried them under
sheets of fire these figures
of townspeople posed as saints
apostles and martyrs

once I caught a glimpse
in a moment a decade
a second a season
an unruly honor
among so many
I missed

The Mirror of the Late War

My brother Don Brandis is a fine poet. Here is one of his that was recently published on Clementine Unbound. I find it to be a meditation on the consequences of being unconscious in our own actions, individually and as nations. It resolves into a wonderfully spooky images of nature as a mirror of our intoxication with our own unawareness and its outcomes.

The Mirror of the Late War

We were so, so, so . . .
ordinary, our every enterprise
would soon miscarry
not that failure was intended
but our intent was only clear
when it was flagrantly upended,
even to us. No, especially
we’d sort the wreckage
and believe it necessary.
When the moon was full
the fields were silver with its sheen
as if they were not ground but sea
inhabited by churning shoals of fish
drawn out like moths in moon-madness
mocking us for sane and sober sloths
who were by seeming accident both.

Don Brandis is a retired healthcare worker living a happily married hermit’s life in a small town not far enough from Seattle, reading and writing poems, tending fruit trees, and meditating. He writes because good poems are invitations to engage intrinsic values in a culture that only values tools. He has published some poems with Melancholy Hyperbole, Wild Goose Poetry Review, Poetry Quarterly, The Hamilton Stone Review, and elsewhere.

That Ain’t It

My uncle Tom was a family doctor in Rockingham, North Carolina.
Bald, with wire framed glasses and a wry smile, he had a joke
for every occasion and the driest sense of humor I have ever known.
Once my mother went to visit her brother Tom soon after
he returned from the war. She waved and waved and called to him
from the bus window as they pulled in. “Hi Tom!” she cried.
“I never forget a face,” he replied.

Uncle Tom used to tell a story about being invited to go
on a racoon hunt with some of his patients. He worked long hours,
but raccoon hunting is mostly done at night. It doesn’t interfere
with your day job. On my uncle’s first hunt the hounds had treed
a raccoon and were baying to beat all, but nobody went after them.
Everybody just stood around the campfire laughing and telling stories
and listening to the dogs—the males calling out in a low, throaty bugle
and the females a note higher, the sound rolling through the pine trees
and out across the river. My uncle was confused and a little impatient
with it all—he was a get it done kind of guy and it was well after midnight.
“Shouldn’t we go after them?” he said. His friends just laughed.
“That ain’t coon hunting,” they said.