Friday, September 17, 2021

Now it's dusk


This morning, high up in the lonely pine, finches pretending to be pine cones. I love how they go right to the top and then shuffle down blending and shifting colors. I also appreciate that they stayed while I went back into the house to get my camera.

I have a begonia plant that I’ve had for two years, I originally bought two hanging baskets and then have been cutting the plant back, repotting and at times propagating. Right now, it’s under a tree near our bedroom where it gets sun and lots of shade and water when it rains. It is also the only place I’ve seen this beauty.

Behind the house I did a quick study of the flower bed, the well picked over sunflowers and the cosmos both blooming and producing seeds – I’ve already saved a big bag full of seeds for next year. While there I was buzzed by the hummingbirds (well known jerks) and then saw the designated Monarch. I notice one a day.

But now it’s dusk, still very warm out, the cicadas are here singing their loud ‘hey baby, hey baby’ song. A small rabbit is munching clover, one of the kids who lives at the first house on the cul-de-sac is spinning around in the street, he’s probably nine, the kind of thing you should be doing on a Friday night in September. Lazy turns, arms out spinning. Over the trees the sound of a band – maybe football tonight at the local high school. My neighbors are out with their son playing, he has a little track for his scooting trike. He’s two and a half now, it’s been really fun watching him grow. The moon is almost above the trees.

I water my tomatoes and geraniums. No rain in the forecast until Monday or Tuesday.

Last night I read poems for First Draft Writer’s Series out of Pendleton. Here’s a poem I read that is full of wonder and light, kind of like what is happening outside right now.


horse face, horse lore in craters,
horses asleep along the shore of the Sea
of Tranquility. Imagine this:

Horses under moonlight
turning into the yard and you wake
to the shiver of the great beasts
teasing and tearing and pulling
the fine grasses of the lawn; their bulk
beneath the window causes the old
house to shudder. They sample
the globe headed peony, snorting
at the cat on the porch who will not
leave her post as long as these shadows
billow. They taste the lilac, the pansy,
the dainty faces of the primrose before
trimming all the willows to horse high lengths

and then they discover the apple tree
its small gems still ripening and then corn,
though fenced in it is still horse neck
accessible. And you have wandered
with them, but room to room until you stand
now at the kitchen window, laughing.
These night mares yours for the taking.

You slip out of the house,
talk softly to them and they turn, snort welcome
and warning but allow you close. Their scent
is sweeter than the first cut hay, their odor
honest and for a moment you are high
on sweat and dust. Like permission you offer
your outstretched palm, salty and damp.
With a bow you place you face near them
blow into their great nostrils and take their
breath into your own lungs. Now a part
of the creature, you pull up onto the shortest
animal, adjust and grab the mane.

As though this was part of a mission, they move
out of the yard, cross the road and enter
your neighbor’s wheat field. We all grab stalks
chewing the green heads as we walk toward
the river. The night sky is full of stars pushing
down, touching the backs of the horses, the top
of your head. At the river we meet deer, elk
and owls who sense you and hold their talk.
You are not horse, you are not wild, your bit
of moondust has forgotten this magic. When
your companions’ step into the water to drink
it is easy to slide off into the coolness, float
away to the far bank. When you turn all heads
are watching you; none cross to bring you back.

Then the moonrises higher, the water shimmers pewter
the horses and deer and elk all turn silver
and the owl with one long cry swoops past
and disappears into the stars. Shivering you
slide back into the water and all the animals
retreat leaving you alone to wander back toward
the outline of the barns, your house, the moon
now following along, but dragging its feet.

Friday, September 10, 2021

Crashing forward

Earlier this week when I was out getting the bird feeders, I could hear some owls chatting. It sounded like they were over behind my neighbor’s house. Their backyard butts up to the wooded area that ends the neighborhood and it’s where the deer often enter the yards (and fox sightings happen). I tried to listen closely to see if there was anything they wanted to tell me but the cicadas were out of control. Ear splitting levels of sound.

Because we are crashing toward the fall equinox the light was perfect and low and, because we are crashing toward the fall equinox, the temperature and humidity were also perfect and low. I stood out a long time. The brown cat came by to see the flat cat and agreed I could talk to her for a few minutes but she really was looking for a groundhog and left me quite soon. She comes around mornings and afternoons and looks in my windows, I know she’s looking for Ursula and Zora, so I broke it to her today that they are gone. She took it well, bit me while we talked and then walked off to her next adventure. That’s how she is.

Tonight, the owls are quiet, the cicadas calm, we’re suppose to get another few hot days and then we may slide into fall. I’m ready.

Owls as love birds

I imagine in their cages that they see me a prey,
that at the moment the door is left they will swoosh out,
hold me down with their talons. Do they hear a death knell
when I speak; pretend that I am some rodent
to digest and pass? As I walk past, indifferent eyes
never look at, but through me.

I believe that even though they hunt as solo entities,
they would tag team me like an evil wrestling duo,
each hold another horrible and unfair pain. Would I blame
them, plotting like this, if they plot?
Deep, deep in the dark they call in their hollow
throated way, and my heart tells me to beware.

Friday, September 3, 2021



I’ve lost a good deal of time the past few days watching various birds around the house. The weather has turned cooler and the humidity has dropped below sauna and the activity level outside is up. Today a tufted titmouse pair were swinging through the magnolia searching for bugs and they didn’t notice me as I came by the window. This was behind the house where I look out from my office. Once I spotted them, I froze, and they hopped and gobbled, gobbled and hopped up and down the bush. Then a hummingbird arrived, they don’t care if I’m at the window but the titmouse (titmice?) got a number of close fly-bys and hovers. Little busy body busy-body. And then a Carolina Wren ran down the forsythia and into the little garden of sunflowers and cosmos. Lost time. I’ve gone down a number of time traps as I’ve been organizing closets and relooking what is in boxes (after so many moves and gathering of things from Oregon a couple of years ago, it was needed). I finally, finally, finally went through the pages and pages and pages of printed out poems and I know I have electronic versions so I emptied the folders and sent these things to the recycle bin. But in all this I came across things I thought I had lost, a dear poem from a dear friend written for me when I turned twenty; an essay I wrote once about poetry with single syllable words and no repeated words. Precious things my children wrote or drew, a collection of ticket stubs from various travels and museums and concerts (a headband from Bob Dylan and Carlos Santana’s 1984 World Tour – I typically wore bandana headbands then; it was thrilling to find. I saw them in Rome). Later this weekend I’ll continue through the boxes of photos. That’s the hard work. Jerry already said he wouldn’t be helping with those. These just need organized (why is a baby picture of Justine in with a picture from Krakow?) but I know I’d lose him: emotionally it is hard. And when I need a break, I’ll look out my window for some wonder and light.

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

Gray skies are gonna clear up

A century or two ago when Jerry would put to sea, I would pine for him and walk the widow’s walk searching the horizon for his ship. Okay, typically, if his ship was leaving, I would see it pass Point Loma as it departed and I would start the clock moving toward his return. I worked on the Sub Base in San Diego (at Point Loma) and his ship was homeported across the bay at the 32nd Street Naval Base. Coming and going he had to pass by. I remember the first time I dropped him off and then headed to my work. They were off for a six-month WestPac and had been scheduled to pull out by 0900. I finally went to get coffee in our mess about 1030 and there was the ship passing by…goddammit! I did a sad little Charley Brown shuffle back to my office where my co-worker, Darla, and I commiserated. She too was married to sailor. The long time apart, wasn’t new. We’d spent nine months separated after we’d gotten married: he went to his ship in San Diego and I was in Norfolk. So, when I finally got to my command in SD it was a little disheartening to find out the ship was leaving and with it, Jerry. Setting into a routine wasn’t hard: I worked long hours, I hit the gym daily, I ran miles and miles and miles, I wrote a lot of letters, I went to the beach and played volleyball with my co-workers and I missed Jerry. And I allowed myself time to be sad, to be down, to, well, pine. And when that got tiring, I stopped. I actually put a notice on my calendar when I’d indulge and I had a rule I could feel sorry for myself and cry and wail for one day a month, after that knock it off, find something to do. And the moment I stopped being sad or ripping my hair out I had to stop until the next scheduled time. For me this worked, I got tired of myself really fast. For me the indulging in, allowing myself to feel this way worked. And it is something I have done since, indulge it and get it out, let it ride. This past week I’ve been riding it. I can feel it stumble, it’s wearing down.

How will I ride

The darkest of nights is already lightening.
Coyote song begins again
and the moon fades back to yellow.

How will I ride? Like my cowboy
grandfathers, my bronc busting uncles.
I’ll find the meanest horse and we’ll
out mean the day. I’ll ride with poetry
and song in my saddlebags up
to the mountains and high lakes
where time is tasted in every breath
and stars cover the skies so thick
you are drunk in the dazzle.
Where trout are covered
in stardust and bear and elk
leave faint trails in the night.

How will I ride? Like someone who’s
been told they can’t ride. How will
I ride, like someone with a mission.

Monday, August 16, 2021

Kindness and sharing

A few days ago, I bought some peaches and nectarines. They weren’t quite ready to eat so they’ve been in a paper bag on the counter in eager anticipation. This morning I opened the bag and sweet summer promise wafted out of the bag. After our walk I took a couple of nectarines and tried to slice one, mush, eck. I placed it on a plate and tried another one, mush. And not even good tasting mush. Disappointing. I looked outside at the day just beginning to heat up and then took the plate and carried it out to the deck and placed where I could watch who/what would like it the most. It wasn’t long before Olive raised her head near the railing and came over to munch down on the mush. Or slurp, or however a groundhog eats mushy nectarines. Both nectarines were gone by the time we had lunch. A small kindness, I guess. It seemed a day when whatever kindness or care or sharing could be released into the world one should have at it. 

Cleaned of flesh

Is memory just carrion
that time picks clean?

I can’t name my third grade
teacher but I see the odd boy,
Ivan, I sat next to all year.

His dirty plaid shirt and paste
covered fingers and the singular
scent that washed him. I moved
my test papers for his wandering
eye, hoping he’d copy one right.

It was really not deceit but a sort of kindness.
The teacher did not care either way
she punished us both the same.

This bit of history
cleaned of sinew and hide
exists as fossil
separate from every sad
moment I witnessed and forgot
that horrible year.



Saturday, August 14, 2021

Come to my window

I like how the sunflower opens its face
to the world, hurls its globe toward the sun
and looks back as though challenging light.
When the bumble of bees explore the surfaces,
covering themselves in the flower’s riches
I like how they become the flower
and forget for a moment how they flew.

When the goldfinch tears off the petals
in their loves-me-loves-me-not fury
I like how the sunflower feeds them
regardless of their litter and carelessness.

And when the Carolina Wren, uses the whole leg
of the tallest flower to show off its agile
and bright life, I love how it waits for the breeze
to part the leaves, only then lifting its voice
into the world, stopping as the wind stops.
The show is over. Please wait three
                                                          seconds for the next to begin.

Wednesday, August 11, 2021

A lot of rhyme on a dime to make the world turn twice

I try very hard to be kind while I’m out and about. For the most part it is easy (aside from driving Tourette’s) I don’t have a lot of interactions and, when I do, it’s generally a quick question or to pay for whatever item I have. My thoughts may not be pure but I won’t make anyone feel bad. It’s all please and thank you, how are you, be safe and no worries. Masking here has been along the lines of if you are vaccinated you can forget it. I suspect that there are a lot of liars when I shop, just based on the local, state and national numbers. With that in mind I mask, I distance and I sanitize during and after my trips. Knowing all this I think a woman tried to provoke me yesterday when I was in a local shop. She came up way too close, she’s unmasked and when I moved away, she made a point of coming close to look at the displays and bins near me. Finally, she asked an inane question about the item I was holding, that’s when I turned to her and made eye contact – when I noticed she had the sad crazed eyes of Marjorie Taylor Greene – I suddenly felt so bad for her; this is what she did with her day. I answered her question and then turned back around. Then I focused on the two clerks, both helping people without masks (even though they were masked and behind the plexiglass), they seemed defeated. I tried to radiate calm toward them, and peace and maybe just a little of the silly joy I had that morning as I was dancing around the kitchen to Grandmaster Flash (or flailing depending on what your definition of movement is). So, I started humming Freedom, thinking if I needed to start dancing (or flailing) it would be so alarming that anyone would keep their distance. I always tell Jerry that if I am in danger I will react like a turtle and start peeing on people. Though if someone was just trying to help me out of the road, I would not use that defense…the turtle I’m speaking of knows exactly who they are.

Be safe, be kind. Dance or flail, whichever feels best. Keep your distance, wear a mask. Vaccinate. Watch out for turtles.

Now it's dusk

  This morning, high up in the lonely pine, finches pretending to be pine cones. I love how they go right to the top and then shuffle down b...