Category Archives: poetry

The Man Who Fished For Children

The girl’s body was stuck under a ledge at the bottom of a plunge pool where the river spun like some mad cyclone bent on boring to the center of the earth. His only tool a long grievous pole, his face set like he was born scowling, it took him a full day to get to her, tie the retrieval ropes and lever her out. The river, gorging on snow melt, fought him like he had no right to the body.

People stood on the rocks and watched, quiet as cormorants. He brought her up, laid her on a sand bar and told everyone to leave. Later, at the parking lot, people tried to offer him money to say thank you. He said no and tied the pole to the side of his truck.

Driving home on the backroads in a Ford 150 that used to be blue, he thought about the frozen knobs of her hands. Tossing in sleep that night,with a bone deep headache, he saw the outhouse at the Methodist church camp he attended when he was a kid. Putting his eye to the chink, a yolk of light coming out, then nothing.

Then his parent’s farm in Estacada. A Berkshire hog with bloodshot eyes standing in a field of stumps. Butchering day. A long skein of intestines. The head with its snout and hairy nostrils set aside for cheese. A steady drip of blood on the dirt. Dogs baying for scraps. Marshlights in the summer darkness.

Eye Motes

1
His eyes were like branches underwater.

2
One moment the money is soft, the next it is cyan.

3
The sea where I stopped and you went on.

4
Australia is like an angry helmeted man on his back.

5
Water drains from her daily bath. The sound of dog nails on the floor.

6
Bring the steeple indoors; make two smaller ones.

7
Covering the porch, a new reach of the Nooksack River.

8
A homeless woman by the post office with her monocle.

9
An iron garden table in the ocean.

10
On the horse’s forehead, a shillelagh.

11
I have been writing with such a small part of my mind. I poisoned the ants good.

12
Antidote for honesty: a necklace made of shoulder bones.

13
The die back in the garden won’t wait for Easter.

14
On my desk: a speaker cord like an orphan pig tail, a stapler, some old mints.

15
A volcano’s worm casting gave us freedom.

16
A kiss of blind tape where the two ends meet.

I Return to Sea

Propofol is the anaesthesia of choice
For the never in line
Always waving from a red Lamborghini
Trying out their pluck and pervy sides
Naked as gum trees. If there are leftovers
You can budget for a green altar dog
And a few volcanic side and back aches
Moving back and forth like gravel trucks

Before plea bargains and steak tartar there was Zorba
He said welcome hardship. And may God save you
From the stern of a mule or the stem of a priest
Now his jersey hangs up high in the stadium rafters
And people think Kazantzakis played two guard for Memphis

Who rewound the great plains
And planted them with underworld mafia ballers?
Once I knew the joy of them in the off season
Sky and grass like endless billiard felt
I sipped it like cognac
From a divinely dripping breast

The world isn’t afraid of itself
Why be so? Better to eat VoKü in a Berlin squat
Or go with the die Geile to Sisyphos
Where the drinks cost a day’s pay
And hum with electric light foam
And the bartender leans over licks your ear
Asks how you like it
Straight up or with the needle
Pegged all the way over

Squeeze me there — that hurts badly
But at least I can feel it
Are you a two headed mastodon?
Use all four horns then!
Once I lived with a giant Chinese bulldog
In a place where peacocks roamed freely
I suspect they were really Russian Faberge moles
Code talkers buried in the prairie outback
Hatching only when you looked straight at them

Let’s play a game
You ask me if I have a twin
And I’ll ask you what kind cologne you like
When wearing only ankle bracelets
And reading poetry by bomb light
We can worry about photography
After the place closes

Is Stephen Hawking coming over tonight?
Is he bringing a pair of dice?
He knows information does come back
Across the event horizon of a black hole
But it comes in in a kind of creole
Part art, part superstition
Part Andalusian fairy tale
A recipe for writing sonnets
In imaginary numbers
Einstein wanted God to put the dice away
We all know where that got him

Tonight the wind blows in rich and famous
Keeping just enough distance
To water us all in misery—great mountains of water
Enough to drown all the big box churches at altar call
I am running my tongue around the rim of my teeth
Trying to feel my own horizon
Anaesthesia has a very long memory

When the hail starts falling like horse clams
And I feel like stuffing them down someone’s throat
As an Able Bodied Seaman and a jack Buddhist
Looking out through the bones of my desires
I know it is time to return to sea

Welcome to the container ship Blue Ball Horizon
Where we carry two of everything that fits
In a TEU or under starlight
The wages are shit but there is enough to eat
A dry bunk and time to think
We used to take a great circle route across the Atlantic
Now we take a rhumb line or farther south
To avoid the psycho storms
New York to the Med, the Gib
Between Sicily and Malta the traffic is heavy
And the VHF radio is unregulated
Starts talking trash, everybody’s a monkey or a Mario
Or it’s porn soundtracks overdubbed with Celine Dion
Then the Gulf of Aden where the pirates have RPGs and cell phones
Then down to Singapore where they love their malls
May God bless the good women at Four Floors
And keep them from the rising waters!
Then to Sri Lanka for tea and crew and zen
And back to New York to do it all over again
Poetry is my drug of choice when it’s too rough to paint
Or we are out of the good stuff
If Mae West were here you could relieve her of duty
You should come over some time

Notes: VoKü means the people’s food, die Geile are people who are very horny, and a TEU is a twenty foot equivalent unit

Rivers of Oregon

Between the ribs of Oregon’s green and gristle
   rivers do the breakable
   and pulmonary work of short stories
The Rogue river once smashed my wooden
   drift boat into fist sized chunks
The North Umpqua river swirls around hip waders
   caressingly so
Where the sun breaks into pockets
   they land on the tree-lined Tillamook river
The Pudding river seems to have nowhere to go
   until flood season when it doesn’t have to choose
The Little Nestucca joins the Nestucca river
   on its short strut to the sea
Near Sarafin point the Clatskanie river
   picks up the rain from the forest
   and threads into to the Columbia
Near Sisters the Metolius river is where surgeons from Chicago
   come to fly fish in their two hundred dollar river glasses
In the Wallowa mountains the Minam and the Wenaha
   rivers are pristine as old scarecrows
Once I saw the upper Columbia river freeze
   I listened to its blocky grind
   on my way to a funeral in Idaho
Steelhead sometimes come out of the Clackamas
   river like from a foundry
The Klamath river had dams for a while
   but now goes without
Sky barges full of water drop them
   in the Nehalem river
On Eagle creek I saw a river otter
   do a two step shuffle dance
Near its mouth the wilful Deschutes river crosses under highway 84
   obligingly but not without a hint of sadness
At nineteen I nearly drowned in the Rogue river
   on that sleepy hot afternoon
I watched the chunks of my drift boat
   wash down for days or decades
Here comes the last piece now
   I would like you to have it

American Rebel Yellow

some see the virtue of drowning
faithfully like Jonah
thighs pressed together
in the fin and rib of things
cramped where tongues bloom
muscles tense like November trees
curving downward into moist blades
with just enough left for their desires
to be strapped to the back
still singing loudly
and overhanging like cattle

they do not obey language
like an SOS from
poorly healed stitches
buried in the viscera
only a bonfire of redwood
in the oilfields
can make them look down
can make them feel
the engine entering them
with eyes like elevators
inlaid bent and perverse

all along their bottle capped horizon
wearing their shirts untucked
singing falala songs
to buzz their hard won
southbound lives
they hurry along
hoping to curate
some kind of armature
or refrigeration system
made of steam
and the better kinds
of softwood

Propeller

I don’t need
their winter curse
from a time gone by
even silence
turns on its rails
staying clear
of the painters easel
so it goes the windows
of the school
the oldest of all griefs
harder than boxwood

a nectarine
and voices
clear as water
with a torn piece
leaf by leaf
woven into bluish lenses
and the gritty white ruins
of an Oklahoma prison
that held Clyde Barrow
that nobody visits

from these animal bones
children live in private gardens
laughing and naked
running with red hands

I’m guessing the solitude
shuffles where the boy
defecates in the dirt
under the porch
his bronze body
never again less
incurable than now

some are snags
bare as chalk
some conspire
to make noises among others
full of hooks and ministers
a flash of criminals

where a girl is walking
a fragrance of hips
smoothes out time
lines and ruts
cut into her school desk
far from profound
say things will remain
all the numbers and letters
stretch out beyond the heat plant
towards the winery
like copper trees at dawn

no balm in gilead
just a rollaboard suitcase
in the carousel
at the airport terminal
our secret decay
fills the gaps
in the paraphrase of faces
before words can

maybe Charles Lindbergh’s
only mistake was
he wasn’t a mistake
or Michelangelo
only a boy
carelessly bronzed
over time

New Grandchild

Baby Ellie looks like her dad.
Roughed up a bit by birth,
but insistently here
and looking out at the world
with fearless, punch drunk eyes.

Now that I am here with you people,
I’ve yet to make up my mind about, she says,
where is the food? And can a girl
get a little shut eye?