Category Archives: journal


Neruda on the Poet’s Pact

“Poetry is a deep inner calling in man; from it came liturgy, the psalms, and also the content of religions. The poet confronted nature’s phenomena and in the early ages called himself a priest, to safeguard his vocation. . . . Today’s social poet is still a member of the earliest order of priests. In the old days he made his pact with the darkness, and now he must interpret the light.”

–Pablo Neruda

Words Lead to Deeds

“Words lead to deeds…they prepare the soul, make it ready and move it to tenderness.”

–Anton Chekhov

The Eclipses of Poets

“The eclipses of
poets are not foretold in the calendar”

–Marina Tsvetaeva

The Pleiades Below

A human heart pumps enough blood
over the course of a lifetime to fill a super tanker.

Say this heaving ship full of blood
hits a shoal and spills its precious cargo into the sea.

All the proud, anxious, willful hours
infused in an entire liquid lifetime
mix with the dreams of sea urchins
and manta rays become blinded by love incarnadine.

Above the waves a lighthouse casts it’s watery beam
on a little white clapboard Catholic church near the bay.

A priest bends over with an aching back to tie his shoes,
wondering–out of nowhere– if God gave sea creatures
a mining claim on the un-lived fossil bed lives of his believers.

A Note to My Children About Money

Scratch, jack, bones,
skins, buckage, bank.

The nicknames change over time.

Did you know your distant ancestors worked no more
than four hours a day to earn their living?

They did not have a twenty four hour fire hose
of distractions, though.
Living was distraction enough.

If you find yourself addicted to electronic distractions
in the interstitial time between work and sleep, try saving a third of your income.
Your income is the congealed energy you traded your time for.
This practice will help wake you up.

And don’t forget to write.

An Ahab in Blood

“Captain Ahab stood upon his quarter-deck. There seemed no sign of common bodily illness about him, nor of the recovery from any. He looked like a man cut away from the stake, when the fire has over-runningly wasted all the limbs without consuming them…you saw a slender rod-like mark, lividly whitish, like a lightening strike in a tree.”  — Moby Dick

No thing in the flesh
burns more searingly
than this hatred.

It is a hotter fire,
a pain more cutting,
a sorrow more eviscerating–
this diamond pure
rancor and loathing.

And yet –and yet–
it can bring a Fletcher Christian
and his crew out of the maw
o Pitcairn island.

It seems nothing good
in this world
comes without alloy.

The Seance

Once there was a seance that left everyone with a shimmering feeling of being inside on a snowy day.

Even the TV sat up and took notice, stopping its own snowing.

One can be in two places at the same time if you don’t mind being both substance and shadow.

Now the winter won’t let go.
The birds still call each other by their winter names.

They resemble maracas that can’t stop clacking when they are left on the table. Music swallowed by frozen water.

It is still beautiful to see a newborn in the womb, feet askew on the glass skin.

An aquarium fish looks out at you
and asks if we are related.

Relative by Partaw Naderi, translated by Sarah McGuire

I know the language of the mirror –

its perplexities and mine
spring from one race

our roots can be traced
to the ancient tribe of truth

February, 1994

(with thank to the Poetry Translation Centre)

Original poem written in non-roman script

The Divine Willy on Opportunity

“There is a tide in the affairs of men, which taken at the flood leads on… we must take the current where it serves or lose our venture.”

—Shakespeare, Julius Caesar

Planxty Pete Seegar

If there is a world a hundred years from now, it will be in part because of banjo.

–Pete Seeger, 1919-2014


We Are Free People

“We are free people and free people feel no fear.”

–a member of the punk band Pussy Riot detained in Sochi today for criticizing Putin

If You Know the Buddha

“If you know the Buddha the past is practice (it had to happen to bring you to this moment) and the future is freedom. If you don’t know the Buddha the past is mistakes and the future is punishment.”

-from a man in Bhutan

Happy 100th Birthday William Stafford

The poet William Stafford’s 100th birthday would have been yesterday, January 17. His centennial is being celebrated through the year across Oregon and around the world. I attended the kick-off event today. His son Kim spoke for about his father, read some of his work, and generously shared what seemed to motivate his father’s life and his art. For me, it was confirmation of poetry being a discipline, a habit to be cultivated, not inspiration teased out from a mischievous muse. Above all, it was a call to believe in your own work.

Here are my notes about William Stafford’s daily writing practice:

Rise at 4:00 am. This was a practice that began in conscientious objector’s camp during World War Two. The COs did manual labor during the day but decided to have a university before going to work. They all rose at four and those with training taught others about the subjects they knew — philosophy, music, painting, science. After the war he continued the practice with his writing.

Go for a walk or a run. Lie down. “My poems are happy because I am comfortable,” he said.

Write the date at the top of the page. “Then I know I’m going.”

Write anything ordinary, daily events,  random thoughts. 
“When in doubt or blocked, lower your standards and keep going.”

Write an aphorism.  Examples:
“From high cliffs it is courtesy to let others go first.”
“You be the dog, I’ll be Pavlov.”

Then write something that is sort if like a poem. He wrote stuff I would never write, said Kim. Very ordinary. Boring.  “If I don’t welcome all my ideas, soon even the bad ones won’t come,” he said.

Weekly he typed up about one of eight of the pages he wrote and submitted them to different publications. Once he had faith in a poem he sent it off and often they would get rejected over and over, sometimes continuously over a span of twenty years!  “Traveling Through the Dark” (my favorite of all his poems) was rejected nine times. I have seen the original — he kept records on the original of the rejections. I told Kim afterwards how impressed I was with this, since the poem strikes me every time I read it. He said, “yeah you really have to believe in what you’re doing.”

William Stafford wrote 22,000 of these daily pages. That is an average of a page a day for sixty years. From these pages he culled and published sixty books, won the National Book Award, became poet laureate and one of the most loved  American writers of the twentieth century. Here is Traveling Through the Dark.

Traveling Through the  Dark.

Traveling through the dark I found a deer
dead on the edge of the Wilson River road.
It is usually best to roll them into the canyon:
that road is narrow; to swerve might make more dead.

By glow of the tail-light I stumbled back of the car
and stood by the heap, a doe, a recent killing;
she had stiffened already, almost cold.
I dragged her off; she was large in the belly.

My fingers touching her side brought me the reason–
her side was warm; her fawn lay there waiting,
alive, still, never to be born.
Beside that mountain road I hesitated.

The car aimed ahead its lowered parking lights;
under the hood purred the steady engine.
I stood in the glare of the warm exhaust turning red;
around our group I could hear the wilderness listen.

I thought hard for us all–my only swerving–,
then pushed her over the edge into the river.

–William Stafford

Portland Food To Try

Any sampler at Multnomah whiskey library
(Two hour lines on weekends!)

Xuixos de cremas at

Hot chicks at’s
No Po food cart

Gonzo’s Shawarma fries at’s
food cart

You can thank me later.

Walking the Walk

“If my devils are to leave me, I am afraid my angels will take flight as well.”

–Rainer Maria Rilke commenting on leaving psychotherapy

Journal Entry November 20, 2013

The Army has finished burning the nerve gas stored at the Umatilla army munitions depot in the eastern Oregon desert and is now dismantling the incinerator.

The earth covered concrete storage bunkers still dot the land like burial mounds from a long disappeared race that happens to be ourselves. The fact that we have emptied our own tombs gives me hope.


Your True Guide

Your true guide drinks from an
undammed stream.


Quarreling With Ourselves

“Out of the quarrel with others we make rhetoric; out of the quarrel with ourselves we make poetry.”

-William Butler Yeats

Eye Rhyme Poem #2

Death at the Mall

If in slaughter there is laughter
Do we comb every womb,

Find what food sears the blood
To find the bomb before the tomb?

When Teachers Were Lions

Sadly, I passed on taking a writing workshop from Raymond Carver when the American Checkov was still alive. I heard he was a bit of a terror but raw and real, like his short stories.

And I arrived too late at the University of a Washington to learn to write and to appreciate poetry from Theodore Roethke in his legendary poetry classes.

But I did learn something about history and public responsibility from one of Roethke’s contemporaries, Giovanni Costigan.

Costigan was a tiny, elderly titan of learning and disciplined thought. People would leave other classes and sit in the aisles and pack the room to the walls if they heard he was lecturing. I watched him bring 300 people to awe and some to tears when he spoke about what fairies and the animist spirit life meant to William Butler Yeats and to the soul of the Irish people.

Costigan also publicly debated Wliiiam F. Buckley for two and a half hours on the ill-advised US foreign policy in Vietnam. The debate was televised and drew more viewers than that nights Sonics game. It was like watching Muhammad Ali stick and move while Joe Frazier just bullied and bashed.

Where have such mighty teachers gone? Where are our lions?

P.S. I do know one. Elizabeth Warren. She went to the Senate to take on the corruption head on. I hope she runs for President.