Poems of the seasons
To Sleep on the Ground in Winter
Who will say it is not a good thing
to sleep on the ground in winter?
The cold rises from the frozen earth
and infiltrates your layers—fiber, fur
and feather—and your flesh stiffens
like raw meat. But unlike raw meat,
you twitch and shift and grunt and
at last charge the will that drives
you to crawl on hands and knees
from your burrow, lurch erect , raise
your eyes toward the wedge of sky
above the cliffs and watch the stars
pulse and flicker, lunge and dart.
Ice-crystals sift down and lodge
in your lashes, dampen your cheeks.
You flex your fingers, stamp your feet.
To stand under those stars in winter,
fully alert for the first flush of light
on the highest cliff, irrefutable proof
that even the longest night subsides:
Who will say it is not a good thing?
(to mark the occasion of my first Colorado
River float, Nov. 18 - Dec. 18, 2015)
The Delicate Art of Dying
Dry winds made them moan. Early snows
piled on weight a hundred times their own.
Boughs bent crazily, many broke,
decades of slow growth negated by the muffled cracks
resounding through the empty streets like gunshots.
Dogs staked in front yards raised the dirge.
But in the branches that survived, the leaves held firm.
When the storm was spent, they shook themselves,
resumed their skyward pose, less alive but capable
in their waning of rearranging light.
Today in the calm hour after dawn,
the sun touching the hoary face of each leaf
precipitates a chemistry, ice crystals to beads,
and at last a golden rain, one by one by one,
loud as the weeping in the aftermath of summer storms,
quiet as a prayer in the still air of a cathedral.
Our mother woke to such a day as this.
Having survived violence, having colored our world
with her beauty, she stirred in the last warmth,
felt a delicate movement in her veins.
Her last act was a choosing, a smile that
to the gathering of her children said,
“Today I am ready. Today I will let go.”
From Keeping the Quiet (Bellowing Ark Press, 2009)
Each Day Something New
Each day something new,
else I have failed you,
my muse, my daemon.
Look at this lizard
poised on the tree trunk,
his mottled back
into the bark. How
long has he lived here?
A black-chinned humming-
bird lurks on a branch
above the feeder,
broadsides the ruby-
throated one, stabs her.
Somewhere near at hand
is someone whom I
have not spoken to.
Who among us would not
welcome my disturbance?
And the sky! You do
not need to die to
enter its blue depth.
It will take away
your breath anytime.
I will be like the
in the afterlight,
nuzzling and probing
in the rocks along
the edge of camp.
Open your mouth,
see what comes out.
All we want is a path
All we want is a path
in the new growth
of the forest floor.
We do not require
a thread of cairns
to mark the route.
Leave it to us
to find our way across
the swollen stream
to get our feet wet
if we must, to
blow past the bend
in the switchback
misread the map
too late that we
are lost, to move
this way and that
kneel in the dirt
to sit at last cross-
legged in the dusk
while the stars emerge
one by one each one
a blessing, to sleep
beneath those stars
and in the first light
find our way back or
forward it won’t
matter because we
will have found it
and can call it ours.