Monday, August 19, 2013

Cowell Beach Anatomy

I’m wetting my shins,
toiling through surge & tow,
recoiling from chill at my thighs.
My torso shudders & sinks
through ocean brown & cluttered
with plastic & feathers.
Kelp threads harness my hands.
Below me I wish for seabeds
of starfish & anemone.
Otters turn ebony heads
to witness the sea lions barking.
Close to the wharf
a breast imprudently slides
from a worn-out bikini.
She’s sleeping, a cloak
of flesh-seeking flies gleaning
her sun-buttered hide.
Walking myself dry
I’ve seagulls for mates,
no sand-crusted lifeguard
in-training feet sprinting 
toward waves, no one hand 
straining for coach's brawn, 
the other backstroking hard
to earn one of ten batons.
One my way home
the sign — bacterial tests,
not to be touched, not to be ingested.
What brain do I swim by?

— 16 August 2013


I sing to moisture on the back deck —
mirroring, convex.
Since May I’ve been doublewide
where density is law.
The fabric of the deck chair
as moisture infiltrates
thread by thread.
How vacant it is, decrepitating
in morning scrim.
To me this trailer park
is daily abstention,
an intervention.

— after Akhmatova

— 18 August 2013

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Out of My Skin

Itching —
my torso where
humongous hives had bloomed
after four doses of Aleve.
First I had thought it was the massage cream
but Googling listed rash & hives
as Aleve side effects.
Last night — awful


frenzy convinced
me poison oak was back
conveyed by yesterday's T-shirt —
a blue one, stained, uncovered while packing.
I scrubbed with Zanfel, Mike scrubbed too —
get it off, get it off
me. All of a 

— 4 August 2013

I Wake from a Dream of Real Estate

Down the river chickens are streaming —
large chickens with knobbly veins.
They have a trick of catching the current,
racing along. The man who owns the chickens
rides with them, the current so strong 
he’s injured — a herniated testicle —
sounds painful, but we don’t like him, so we’re glad.

In my dream, as always, I’m young.
I wake up an old lady, struggle to dress
because the bed’s too high, my balance bad —
I’d sit on the floor but that’s beneath me.

I’m not sure I’m in love any longer —
I don’t feel surges or urges.
Mostly I want things tidy & I want to be left alone,
to go whaling in Patagonia, birding in Ecuador,
to ride my bicycle down Center Street in Santa Cruz.

If I brought Tova to Esalen we’d go to the hot spring baths.
She’s three, old enough to find the nudity surprising —
her people wear clothes
though they haven’t always, her daddy for sure
spent his second summer naked
including a week on a public beach with his naked brother
& mother & her boyfriend.
Two men threatened us at one point, but Steve had a knife too.
A man, his wife & donkey stared —
Whose children are they?
Surely not yours. Your breasts are too small.

— 10 August 2013

Coming Home

I mistake my kitten for a demon
breathing sparks & trailing fire. He grew wilder
while I was gone. When I crouch low
outside the front screen door, he raises his paws
mewing like a child lost, now found.

Back when I was eighteen, stranded
without my car, the aged Pontiac I lived in
that summer between high school & college,
I saved my tips to buy a Ducati —
all I could afford. Freshmen couldn’t have cars
at this women’s school, but no one thought
to proscribe two-wheelers.

The bike shop’s amorous Italian helped me close
the deal, score black-market plates from a DMV creep
called Lester the Molester — yes
he made me nervous but did me no harm. I guessed
I knew how to ride. From Western Ave to Garden Street,
Shepard to Walker, I blew through traffic signals,
cropped every corner, careened
through a Shell station without pausing for gas,
braked at the curb in front of my dorm &
tipped the bike over, slid
my left foot into the rear spokes —
a poor choice to stop the wheel from spinning.

Nothing destroyed but nerve
yet I couldn’t walk. My friends found me a ride-share
home to my mother — estranged
I wouldn’t call. Arrived on her unlit porch
I rang the bell. I knew it was late
but college life became me —
skipping morning classes meant
I stayed up half the night. Last I’d heard
Mom was raising my teenage brother, they’d adopted
a Great Dane. The front door opened
to rabid barking in a blaze of light
my mother aiming a revolver at my heart,
crying out to see my face,
the crutch, lowering the gun
she said, I thought you were a burglar.
Lucky for you I didn’t fire.

— 12 August 2013

After Watching Another Video of the Tsunami

Half a city flooded on top of the other,
houses broken apart, whoever
was inside them gone, whether
or not anyone reported them missing
gone because the houses are downriver.
Like papier-mâché once was paper
once these were homes. Many who lived in these homes
don’t care, they’re dead. After Fukushima
who remembers how many died —
many more, we suspect, will die.
Why not watch, again & again
the wave when it arrived, how it damaged.
Just watching it, we’re still alive.

— 13 August 2013

Orare for Argentina

Why irrigate the desert
if no one walks the paths,
looks at flowers.
So many things we bought
there, took there,
what’s missing in our life —
the photo purchased in Carolina —
a sun-blacked heron,

an algae-green pond.

— 14 August 2013


When friends put sail to their catamaran
I’m mildly troubled but not worried.
If anyone knows how 

they do, still, chancing it 
on water, the heave & hum,
liable to storms
though short-hauling
they can know the weather.
Months now, spring
& all summer, they’ve made port
in Portland,
their Argentine house finished but untried.
Already it’s August, the month 
the great wind starts.

— 14 August 2013

After Akhmatova

The moon’s cool cream pocket has brimmed
& bottled the choir of evening crows.
It’s merely urban citizenry,
crepuscular filibuster.
Who made it my lamplighter
& why does it lampoon me?
Or is this a koan conjuring
vexing voodoo for me?

— 14 August 2013

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Ship's Clock Bells

On the mantel a ship’s clock
bells each watch —a single chime
marks half past midnight
six chimes three. By six
the backyard young men
partying all night are gone —
no, they’re still at it though
the baby’s no longer screaming —
is it sick? or worse, alone?
The bullfrog, knowing I watch

from the window above its head
doesn’t answer calls from another
bullfrog deep in the reeds.
Nuthatch is waiting

for feeders I carried inside
the night before — rain be damned
I sandal up to hang them
hummingbird wheels.
The washer spins, the dining

room table shakes, my tea trembles
such fearful asymmetry.

Claw prints on deck boards
chattering & screaming —
how can raccoons afford
to mate in the night?
And w
hat’s a kitten’s secret?

No, I can’t say secret
or heart or frozen ice or melt —
simply care for, welcome inside.

— 20 July 2013

Losing Argentina

when I disappeared
malbec swamped my throat
like Andean snow melt surging the acequia
how I chose passionfruit ice cream
wishing it were opuntia

how I pretended I never wanted a screen porch
& a cat door she’d lever bats through
moth wings in shower drains
cactus spines trepanning my hat brim
triple-thorn scar bursts
tattooing escape routes onto my arms
hue & cry of zorros every night

when i disappeared
an out-of-mind fissure wolfed
my household down to the nutcracker
i fled with Chinese zapatos & a shooting blind

the burrowing owls agreed with me
parrot flocks burned blue
I felt like a wasp hive in
the air conditioner after a swarm
I ate no more grass-fed bife
my wallet was plumbed for identification
I couldn’t bicycle

when I disappeared
the desert morphed into pan casero
went crumbling off to where llamas stampeded

acequia, irrigation ditch
opuntia, prickly pear cactus
zorros, foxes
zapatos, shoes
bife, beef
pan casero, homemade bread

— 31 July 2013


The gray squirrel
hangs from her back paws
from the two-sided feeder

furls her torso inward to raise
front paws & mouth, snares
a chunk, floats full length —
meal in paws — to eat it.

Now from front paws
she lolls, her tail a body length
below. I suppose she’ll eat
one whole slab if no one stops her —

not the blue jay watching
from the cast-iron swoop holding
the hummingbird feeder

not two doves pacing the deck
for loot she drops
not even two blue jays, a red
squirrel, more doves.

— 30 June 2013

Stanley & Adrienne

The street I live and write in
was not a left-wing poet.
I also think of Bernstein,
wild and metaphysic heart —

the risk-taking of one who
makes my poems and lives my life
heavy as the white-lipped boy
from my whole erotic self.

My mother never forgave
your life for the privilege.
My themes and the use I have
dream of a common language.

Images glimpses questions,
art with economic power
are mindful of your garden —
the poet-scholar-martyr.

Bowels of the hippodrome,
great crashing alexandrines,
comets trailing tender spume —
edge of meaning yet can mean.

My mother’s breast was thorny —
think the art of translation,
if anything, makes poetry
your turn. Grass of confusion

is something more powerful —
the cry of writhing nerve-ends,
impaired intellectual.
You are, in a word, avid.

[this poem of 7-syllable line, abab rhyming quatrains is a cento; each line is an unaltered excerpt from two books: Stanley Kunitz's Collected Poems Adrienne Rich's Arts of the Possible: Essays & Conversations]

— 6 July 2013

Mrs. X

The woman pulls her wealth behind her
in a wheeled cart. If she’s my mother
it’s because between our last visit
& the day my family told me she died —
alone in her sleep — she escaped,
queened herself onto a plane
to San Francisco, a bus to Santa Cruz,
her white blouse tucked into frayed slacks,
permanent curls though she’s transient —
she’s taller now, seems thinner
but bustier, if foundered swells signify —
cratered-moon face, moth-wing hands,
bandaged flats.

                       When I look into her eyes
she looks away, she doesn’t keep a pet
or croon for bills in a hat, she hasn’t asked
but if I gave her my wallet, what would it buy?

— 9 September 2013

Wednesday, July 3, 2013


poetry cooks my goose
chops me up, spits me out
stomps on my fingers
kicks me in the head

poetry saves me from the news
from women who lunch
from duplicate bridge, hairdos
celebrities, fashion

poetry authorizes me to ignore
polite conversation
to poke at roadkill, to talk
to children instead of adults

poetry explains my moods
my madcop technicolor dreams
my lack of tact, my failure
to tell the truth or make sense

poetry acknowledges
my hatred for patriarchy
my disdain for your opinion
your politics, your religion

poetry makes me a poor
risk for the guest list
of your dinner party
but a good pal for your cat

— 30 April 2013

It Hit Me on Vacation in Chile

Tipoffs —
llama lips rearing, teeth leering —
trailered the email crafted in Spanglish legalese
ginned by the Argentine caudillo punk
ready & able to kill me.

Reader, I bailed —
house, garden, gear, cat, husband Mike if need be —
flew like a budding leukocyte
to Esther’s aid, her latest breast cancer bleeped
but her future vague.

Grandmother now
I housekeep a toddler, sleep in a doublewide.
Andean weather frescoes a turned page.

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Civil Space

I feel our borrowed car
contact the car
behind us

the slightest bump
a nearly zero-
impact collision

surprise, yes, shock

Mike believes
the other driver hit us
as Mike was shifting
into reverse

doesn’t believe
he backed into him

we all disembark
look at the cars

no damage
to either car
to any person

I’m sorry, Mike says

the other driver
raises his arms, raises
his voice at Mike

This is not good
We have a problem

the other driver
repeats himself
pushes himself
in Mike’s face

demands that Mike
repeat a string of words
the other invents

I’m sorry, it was
all my fault

Mike says it
the other slaps
Mike’s shoulder

we walk away

Anticipating Fennel

next to a second planting of St. John’s Wort
I sow arrowy chamomile & feathery yarrow,
strew borage to interpolate blue, Greek
oregano so prolific its prunings should crest
my gray plastic wheelbarrow, & sacrifice
bunkered persuasions of underground mint
for sage & thyme the afternoon desert winds
will sandblast springtime thru summer, isolate
prickly pear from artichoke, rhubarb heart
to rosemary's proven veins, lie lavender.

— 30 June 2013

Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Mynah

Forty feet in the air,
the stob of a flowering ohiʽa
bows under a mynah.

Mynahs, their wings black-&-white
black-&-white, strobe the soccer fields
scanning for the epileptics’ team bus.

A flock of seven ducks shares one mind. 
Seven mynahs pretend fourteen.

Every region has its rowdy –
mockingbird, magpie, or mynah
playboy, bully, or lout – 
ornamental gardens with broken statuary
may be granted more than one.

Downtown, I watch them rise with alarm
settle with hops & swaggers. At home 
nothing larger than ladybugs fly
aside from cardinals & pigs.

Unseen, the jungle whistles 
with honeycreeper, scrubland 
fosters nene. Then settlers come 
with talking mynahs, chili fed 
to etch their naturally slit tongues 
for finer articulation.

O ill-paid inspector
How does my apple evade you?
Will you be relieving a widow of her potpourri
while mynahs swoop through the air space
to nab the core from my hand?

I’m selling my air gun, bought years ago
but never used, the barrel now rusty.
Rod will pay $40 to shoot the hundreds of 
bandoliered mynahs looting his money crops – 
mangosteen, rambutan, lychee.

When mynahs stand in a downpour
it doesn’t mean they can’t fly or don’t care
it means they don’t feel it.

The gutter along the ocean side of our house
amplifies the morning fusillade
stepped off by mynahs.

She hears outside the window
a sporadic tapping.
Tapping back in Morse code
she begs the mynah’s forgiveness
promises lacquered boxes, nacreous collar studs
yards & yards of gold braid.

Ringed by contenders, one mynah spatchcocks
another, dip & peck, dip & peck. Which
yellow eye blisters red?

Mynahs are not like ocultos
in Argentina. They do not startle up at night
from ground nests or shriek from the branches of trees.
Mynahs dissolve two hours after sunset 
& reassemble eleven minutes before dawn.

— 12 February 2013

Walking Out

Walking down this
steep trail, I drone to myself:
Kent, I need to rest.
Juan, necesito descansar.
Twenty times, one
hundred, breath harsh
against my ears. My trekking
poles swing too far, not far
enough. I stumble
over tumbled rocks
square-cornered boulders
slick & tilted slabs.
A man-made trail
maintained by falling water.
My foot bones ache.

10 January 2013