Published in Silver Quill 1996
Every Japanese garden in America
must have its flowering cherry trees,
pink and white against dark cypresses
and at their feet a punctuation
of clipped azaleas. In this one,
made sixty years ago, an old shard
of apple tree hovers in a corner
its trunk half eaten away, living
for the sake of one branch,
The necessary moss-banked pond
rustles with koi, speckled leaves
of gold, white, black. Turtles
climb up on rocks, horsetails rise
from the water’s edge, joint by joint.
Higher up a summer house juts over
a steep retreat of hill, elevates
us higher than the oaks rooted below.
A desire to plunge into their new
green leaves floods me. I hold on
to the rail, fearful of being lost
to earth, an astronaut untethered
from her ship. Nearby the song
of a mockingbird begins. I am,
it sings, I am here in this cherry tree
this apple tree, this oak tree
Published in Eclipse, 2001
The Finding of Louise Teagarden, 1989
Louise Teagarden has been found
after thirty years away from home
inside a cave in the mountains
above Palm Springs, her skeleton
dressed in full hiking gear.
She was forty-one, some disagreement
with her husband,
the children out on their own,
no reasons given.
Louise Teagarden pulled on a sweater
wool socks, leather boots,
took along water, other things unknown.
Disappeared into the San Jacinto range,
entered a dark, snaky chamber
coiling its roots downward, a cave
nested into folds of ancient rock
by drifting continental plates.
In the dry, cold, perfect climate
she swallowed the water,
determined to plan her own life cycle
the only way she could figure it,
those days in the late 1950’s,
an aging matron, hopeless marriage,
living in one of the small, isolated
desert towns around Palm Springs
at the base of the wild mountains.
Published in Cyclamens and Swords, Dec 2012
Mom hangs laundry while I etch pictures with a stick
in hard driveway dirt what does she know prince holds
princess hostage, witch in a tower mumbles incantations.
Magic action on a Saturday morning. Mom pins wet sheets
to the line, makes a tent for me to hide in. Let’s Pretend.
L.A. is always warm, hot in summer, lightning storms
shadow people, palms, orange roses, ants busy on the patio.
Years pass, I’m in trouble, French, Art, Geometry.
Can one follow individual not collective
reality? Not an elective. Biology lab. Sun pierces
distended water drops leaking one by one
from an iron faucet into a black sink.
Prism spreads across the wall timing the clock.
There is no going back
Yellow is my color, flames, bare earth
ancient shelves of rock
vibrations of air, lifetimes caught
in washed down arroyos
elephant mountains circling
thumbprints of salt lakes. No camels.
The rain comes once yearly
Cacti grow roots and water storage cells.
Ground squirrels, snakes, tortoises
what do they drink? Thirst
a function of the throat.
Black basalt, spent volcanics
valleys of gravel, glitz and sand
the dead, their stark and shattered bones
our bodies, our unforgiving homes.
Published in Drash: Northwest Mosaic 2012
At the Minute Café
8 a.m. Me at the Minute Café with the single men
portioned down the counter like eggs in a carton
crouched over coffee cups, doughnuts, a muffin.
The waitresses talk--some guy they know whose hair
blazed up at a party, how everyone laughed, even him.
Chuck the real estate agent pulls up in his faded blue car.
I wave hello, tell him of loggers on the land next to mine.
He sneers. Chain-sawed, cut-off-at-the-knee, piles of severed limbs--
not his style. He wants trees pulled out by their roots, like teeth,
leaving a smooth, level tract. Land ready to put a house on.
Back at my small trailer a mile away in the forest
Helen the logging rep stops by. My neighbor’s trashed land
low and wet, “Just right for a cranberry bog,” she says.
“Cranberries sell. He’d be set for life.”
The life span of a cranberry grower? That’s the question.
My bet’s on the trees, fighters down but not out.
Those men from town, loners, the spares
they watch for seeds to sprout in wedges of new light,
plants driven to grow spreading green beneath the slash.
It’s what they hope for. It’s all they know.
Published in Writing Our Way Out of the Dark, ed. E. Claman, 1995
Except at Night / We Dream
We are absent, leaving
We hover above
on the watch
We don’t remember that we’ve lived
those unspeakable acts
done to us when we were eight
or five or two by friends
of the family, uncles, fathers,
We think we are nothing
We wish we were nothing
Memory draws a blank
except at night / we dream
and when a man touches us
We don’t know why
Published in Manzanita, Fall, 2006
Sierra Field Notes, August 22, 7:30 A.M.
Chipmunks, busy as farmers
dart among river rocks.
River gone. Drought year again.
Wide-belted old redbark juniper
watches alone on the ridge. Below,
a boulder left by glacier or flood
balances on one rhomboidal end.
Deer tracks lead to a shallow spring,
a muddy pool. Two young trout
trapped here, competing for gnats
with water striders. Flat of singed
mule-ears. Fiddleneck fern, brown-edged.
Dry heat of an early summer
yet seeds form, ready for rain.
A shelter of sticks covered with bark
leans between two lodgepole pines.
Inside, no table or cupboard
but a nest of grass. Some vagrant
slept despite last night's full moon
here in this creche, hidden
from the moon's white glare, mirror
to our primal star, that hot exploding
ball in the dry, dark cold of heaven.
Published in Skin to Skin, Aug. 2013
Planning a Night of Love
Among the roses and rickety fences
sunflowers, hot pink hollyhocks
a plump old woman sits
sipping tea on her sagging porch.
Tonight she’ll visit her newest lover.
She packs short and long whips
four silk scarves, ointments
hairbrush, batteries, a vibrator.
Her skin folds around her
like unopened petals, covers
a body bolstered and girdled
with fat. Her lover carries only fat
that is necessary, a thin oil
to keep moving parts greased.
From inside of each the thick and thin
fats will savor the bones of the other.
Published in Common Ground Review, 2009
Published in Earning Colors, 2015
Between ten-thirty and eleven,
when the air warms
like your fingers as they grasp
a life-saving cup of hot tea
after she’s stomped out of the house
one more time
it’s about then the monarchs
begin to fly
up and out the canyon
where a sulphurous creek
flows past rounded boulders
over a precipice into the waves.
A few don’t fly.
You find them on the trail
under the sighing cypresses
their wings bright orange
veined black and flattened
as discarded gum wrappers.
These are the imperfect ones
that wait to be picked over, stepped on,
it hardly matters with a lifespan
counted in weeks
not as for us awaiting years
of endurance, like sea stacks,
remnants of plunging cliffs
and headlands so easily eroded
with just these hard, battered
rocks of truth left to remind us,
as the hours approach and pass by,
warm, warmer, then cooling to night,
that there is always something--
a withered leaf, a tattered piece
of monarch wing--