tourist trap / bright eyes

there's people here but you are gone
and i find myself still swimming through time,
afraid some days i've reached the shore
"make yourself free," a man said to me
and now my heart is an open door


[again, my trans-atlantic heart]

For that sweet southern one, telling meaningful stories that always make me cry

For the bright-hearted one from the mountains who is so loyal and brave

For she who studies theology and sexuality, who doesn't see the world in dichotomy, who laughs and writes well

For that most faithful(l) pen-pal

For that married red-head dancer, always up for a hike, bike ride, or poetry reading

For that island child, a running partner with an open mind and heart

For that sister you gave back who reminds me that You matter so much, even when it feels foolish

For the one who sat with me in cold hospital rooms and who held my hand on the streets of San Francisco (how I miss her!)

For the artist who has poured so much wisdom & creativity into me, who continues to believe in me

For the one who sleeps next to me each night, makes coffee in the morning, & is so passionate about theatre

For the one in France who makes me laugh harder than anyone I know

For the one in England who cares, whose heart is large & receptive, who is just so smart

& for the one who is finally back, a new roommate, that beautiful guitar-player singing sweet melodies

For these dear, dear women in my life, I am overwhelmed & grateful.


For every Iraqi,

for every Palestinian, for every refugee in Darfur, woman in the Congo, child in Zimbabwe:

“The people walking in a land of deep darkness have seen a great light. They rejoice before you as people rejoice at the harvest, for you have shattered the yoke that burdens them, the bar across their shoulders, the rod of their oppressor. Every warrior's boot used in battle and every garment rolled in blood will be destined for burning, will be fuel for the fire. For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will rest on his shoulders. And he will be called Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end."

For every American, for every terrorist, for every imperialist, for every dictator,
even from your identity as Oppressor, there is freedom.

The one called Peace is coming.


West Hollywood, 12.06.08

Over the Rhine

"is there only one religion
the kind that whispers
when nobody comes around?
the world can wait
the world can wait
i want to drink the water from your well
i want to tell you things i'll never tell..."
-The World Can Wait


being home

opening 18 birdhouses and examining nests, cleaning them out for spring
wren, violet green or tree swallow, blue bird? you can tell from the material,
or abandoned left-over eggs

tastes of rich, full-bodied coffee,
satsumas, eggnog and pomegranates
staining fingers scarlet
oh! and those two pies i made from scratch:
one with a large squash from the garden, the other with apples from the orchard

you are inhaling hard, bracing breaths, now
you've been out hiking and walking through the cold
and the fiery sky's setting sun stuns you,
the mist shrouding ponderosa pines and douglas firs of your favorite green-gold
you are lucky, though here in a not uncommon sort of way, to spot a great-horned owl

we are witnesses of the first enduring snow-fall
for so long forgotten in the extravagance of summer,
we turn again to receive Sister Winter


Oh sweet, surreal November,
Displaced community, or, as Telford coined,
"Westmont in Exile"
Being with friends, becoming sisters, going home--
it never felt so right


Tea Fire

...All the neighborhood
watched the fire burn from where they stood
as the smoke said,
"We're not half as bad as G-d is good"


twin braids,
red shawls,
nighttime walks to the library
listening to the owl
singing rocky votolato songs
a tanzanian blue and red plaid blanket
wrapped around my shoulders
the softest, sparsest raindrops
barely touching my lips

i think i can handle my three research papers,
the essay, test, and presentation due this week
not to mention the election,
which has made me oh-so-anxious
since the one in 2004

yes, with moments like this, i think i can handle life.

are you kidding me??

Oh, my God. To actually hear the word persection come from Christians regarding Proposition 8--when it seems, in light of the constitution, to clearly be a civil rights issue and not one of religious freedom--deeply saddens and disturbs me.

Sometimes I just cannot believe the rhetoric advancing within the church. If heterosexual Christians aren't protecting the civil rights of others, maybe they deserve to have their own revoked (as very well could happen when you start institutionalizing discrimination).


our hearts go out to you

Pray for the Congo. Four million killed in the past decade--that is ten times Darfur.

After years of unrest, farmers in parts of eastern DR Congo only go to their fields in large groups (notice how the farmers are women, and then look into rape as a systematic weapon of war).

[Photos, thanks to BBC and Getty Images).



something happens when you come around,
like i can smell the north better (here in the tropics?)
autumn woodsmoke; crisp, full-bodied apples; sage & mint & pine
a tie-dyed girl with wild hair,
child of the island,
an unexpected sister.

always thinking & moving--longboarding, surfing, playing soccer
reading Wollstonecraft, the Prophet, Shakespeare
what is it that is so capturing?

i love your volvo & your scandinavian sweaters,
your yellow sports bras & capital-script handwriting,
i admire your commitment to depth, your honesty
each unfolding piece of story you entrust to me
you speak poetry and pour out prophecy
& i am honored by your patient listening and thoughtful questions

strewn with lavender, lilies, and sunflowers
the garden in your heart is lovely and teeming with life
you, dear one, are a woman of overwhelming strength and beauty
and everywhere you dance, you shine.


There's something about mountain biking
that makes me feel more like a woman,
strong and beautiful and life-giving

Something that lets me unashamedly wear a sports bra and no shirt
even though my back is dripping with sweat, & my navel is not perfect

And when my legs pedal faithfully
up hills both daunting and mere--
I hardly care that my calves are covered in bruises from the pedals,
my knees stained by the chain,
my thighs powerful, not slender

Because this is my body,
and it does incredible things
daughter of Havah, I honor the Maker.


[Love, personified].

grains of sand on your fingertips
(your fingers are getting so long, now)
you turn water into wine
(and we wonder, are you some kind of magician?)
your sandals are covered in dust
(by now, your feet have trod at least a thousand miles)
they say you have no place to lay your head

and i don't know how, but you're getting into me
my veins were clear, but the blood is turning red again (for the first time?)
and that couple on the bus, the #9?
that homeless african-american woman,
her head slumped on the shoulder of the white man next to her,
his chin tilted down until it rested on his chest--

murmurings of peace etched my lips
and i desired to rub their sore shoulders, bent necks, tired skulls
the man awoke for the briefest of moments, called me very beautiful
before his eyes wavered shut again, unable to stave off exhaustion

i don't know how, but you're getting into me.


blow on, santa anas

mix and mingle with the cold north wind
blow on my garden [that its spices may flow out]
melting my transatlantic heart

swoop, swoop low, brother owl
come, come near, Sky Spirit

this is my body: grass & goosebumps & moonlight
these are my eyelids: heavy with stars
this white wheat, soft as a lamb on my fingertips

oh, take my hand, pull me into the fields
oh, take my hand, lay me open under the night


nobody's advocate

to be identified with those with whom you identify
to remain in a commitment that's not flashy
because, like arianna has said, faithfulness isn't really the sexy choice

but, oh, how i long for a heart unerring
to help sing all your daughters and sons
into the simple & difficult way


cape canaveral

"oh, oh, oh brother totem pole
i saw your legends lined up
& i never felt more natural
apart, i just came apart"

-conor oberst


our folklore days

put away the canvas, now--it has all been painted white
huddle close, listen, now, to the stillness of the night

the hens running free, the ducks and the geese merry
the weight of a ripe melon measured in your palm
and black seeds from the yellow and red fruit spat pleasurably to the sand at your feet

the days are spinning now, harder and faster than before
and you are careening toward something you can't see
oh, hold on in your dizziness, hold tight

the blooms of shy sunflowers fading now
once saffron and amber, ivory and gold
the roundness of each august peach in your hand
now turning to an apple, an oblong pear

the days are slipping away, dandelions blown by the wind
the harvest is coming, the harvest is here
put away the canvas, let it rest with your sweet summer dreams
bind up your bare feet, braid the wild farmer hair into the attention of your studies

come closer, now, lock your fingers in mine
we will fall into the leaves of autumn
rejoicing, we will brave the winter together

let the shimmering strips of fabric dance on in the shifting winds


"Meditation is old and honorable, so why should I
not sit, every morning of my life, on the hillside,
looking into the shining world? Because, properly
attended to, delight, as well as havoc, is suggestion.
Can one be passionate about the just, the ideal, the
sublime, and the holy, and yet commit to no labor
in it's cause? I don't think so.

All summations have a beginning, all effect has a
story, all kindness begins with the sown seed.
Thought buds towards radiance. The gospel of
light is the crossroads of indolence, or action.

Be ignited, or be gone."

- Mary Oliver


shout-out to shepard fairey

(whose thought-provoking and socially-conscious works of art, produced for his company Obey, I have increasingly appreciated the past couple of years):

Oh, and if you see any of those beautiful Obama images with Hope or Progress on them, it's Shepard's work.
For more, click here.


& now it all begins

But at least all my classes are going to be interesting. This autumn, I have:

Perspectives on World History (one of my last GEs!)
Ethnicity & Race in American Literature
Victorian Lit
Sex, Gender, & Power
Mountain Biking

17 units total, plus 5 hours of work/week, in the telecom booth.
Also, I just purchased a plane ticket home for Thanksgiving! I haven't been out of California for autumn for the past two years, and I know I just left, but I am so stoked.


the last day of summer

of forests and farmlands, fields and fabric
woven with those clean linen fibers you so long to wrap your body in
to run through meadows, and jump into rivers
the weave of living, of swimming naked, your skin glowing in the moonlight
the stars too bright here, too close to fathom

and now the double wedding orgasm has passed-
now with one of your own (four, in fact) wed
and the day was sweet: the mountains and river and oh, that fabric, blowing in the wind
the banjo, gazebo, chickens and contra dancing
a true northern countryside wedding

and we danced and drank for a long time under those stars and candlelight
like hobbits in the burrow, or Jews celebrating Shabbat

we rose early this morning, hours before dawn broke
we drove to the airport
we parted ways: they for Mozambique, me for school
now i write and listen to patty griffin, i wait in the in-between time
tomorrow, everything is different
so i say sweet & sad goodbyes,
and i lean into this season change with wide arms and open heart


if it hurts, you can tell me
just whisper it in my ear
i am listening to you, i am
more than you mostly believe

i would like to walk these days with you
these island and mountain and northern days
i would like to celebrate these weddings,
& cry these grampa tears
and carry you through this season-change, this coming sea-change
& you can hear me through more than little typed letters,
i promise you can
let me teach you to listen.


r.d.b., my cherokee grampa

larger than life,
a roaring storyteller
over 6 feet tall, over 200 pounds
a long thick beard like saint nicholas
a ponytail like a biker
a mind sharp and sound
a knowledge of every highway west of the mississippi
a sense for business and trade

but you, my grandfather, are an old man now
you even told me yourself
and it hurts to say goodbye.


you spin in circles, through the rhythms & grooves of my mind
and maybe there is a little less anxiety now
because, just like her and him, i'm just trying to figure it out
& we could call that pretty normal, right?

two steps toward and one step back from you
but failure isn't failure until we stop trying, i've been told
so please be patient
with my mostly wayward and deceit-full heart.


[for you, for ever ago]

peace, child! your smattering heartbeat is making me nervous, & i am feeling small and young.

what is your name, little one? what is your little name? can't you remember? can you pronounce it? do you always speak in whispers?

what's that? you like me? well thanks i guess; i like yours too.

& if I could tell you a much secreter secret than that, it would be that i want freedom, & it would be that i don't want to be addicted, anymore.


& it's all i can do
to hold my breath
& hope this, too, will pass

oh, i am a very young child sometimes!
& like arianna told me,
childhood is a strange country.


"The written word is weak. Many people prefer life to it."
Annie Dillard

It is not that the summer is so uninteresting that I have nothing to write; it is only that I am living, that I am breathing, that I am recording with my eyes and ears and nose and not with my pen and scrolls.

Cherries ended, I thinned the apples, and peaches start tomorrow. I live my life in seasons, in waiting and biding and breathing and releasing. So here I am, 5 weeks in and 5 weeks out. I've been working lot, to be honest. Cutting weeds and pruning and picking fruit and rooting out flower beds, moving the winter's firewood and cleaning windows and walls. My back aches and my body is tired, my arms are tanned and strong. I fall asleep easily at night, going to bed late and rising early because this is summer, and this is the north, and you can't miss all this daylight and sunshine.

We take moonlit walks and we share fresh fruit and longboard in the late nights. I read a lot.

A little girl drowned Friday night. A best friend's niece. So death touches the circle, always and ever at the lapping fringes. And it's true, we don't know what to say. I don't know what to write in summers like this, in beauty and pain and freshness like this. Life is too real for my silly poems. I used to eat storebought fruit and think it was good, but since trying the local and picking it myself, I can never go back (and is this like life?).

And I don't know when I ever chose to give away my heart, but somehow the North, the earth itself, holds my heart, holds all of me in its beauty and its unpredictability. And I tremble.


& you should know, that besides your carpenter hands and the way you call all grocers "the market,"
my favorite thing about you is not that you know the names of so many different woods,
or even that you listen thoughtfully and speak with sensitivity
(all of these being things i like very much, & would like to adopt, myself)
no, my favorite thing about you is your sincerity
so if you want a little honesty from me
(a little secret poem you'll never see)
here it is, sincerely.


Apologies for the lack of thoughtful blogging the past couple of weeks. I just caught up on reading everyone's, so progress is being made.

What to say. The tiger lilies are in bloom--I left on Thursday for Bellingham and they were still all closed up; I came back late Sunday night and pink, yellow, orange blossoms are bursting all over town and in our flowerbeds. They unfolded while I was gone. Tiger lilies have long been my favorite.

Been reading a lot of Mary Oliver, some Salinger and Wendell Berry and Billy Collins. Been listening to the new Sigur Ros and old Wilco. Been longboarding and started picking cherries today at the orchard.

Found a bike yesterday: a red road bike for free, abandoned in a barn. I cleaned it and put air in the tires and can ride it, now. A happy find.

I don't have much to write at the moment, but am doing some private writing on my own, so I will get back in the groove soon. You should maybe know that July is my favorite month, I think. You should enjoy it with me.


summer solstice

I have arrived. Here I am in Lakeside, Montana, along Flathead Lake and within Glacier County, just miles from the National Park of the same name. The drive here was large, if you know what I mean. The sky was wide, the fields stretching, the mountains immense and green.

Everything in Montana seems to have a name like Whitefish, Great Falls, Bear Paw, Big Sky, Yellowstone, Birdseye, Blackfoot.

This is the West, so different from my Northwest (did I ever know?). Ranchers stroll the edges of their land along the highway, and I drive by at 80 miles an hour (Montana just installed speed limits a few years ago, and they are still very high), listening to Jackson Browne and taking it all in.

There are a few backpacking hitchhikers on the way here, and I smile and wave good blessings to them as I drive. Two hawks swoop over carrying large fish in powerful beaks.

And I have lived at the Golden Gate, at the doors of the West in that foggy city we love, and I have lived along Lewis & Clark's trails and pathways, their "almost-there" Western summit. But now here I am in the Shadowlands, in the Western stretch of the journey, at the top of the Rockies.

Last night, we walked down to the lake, sat on the docks, took pictures, laughed. All the snowy mountains around the water were dipped in sunlight, and the evening stretched until the 9:45pm sunset: we celebrated the day for 17.5 hours of its light.

Wendell Berry prays, "At night make me one with the darkness, in the morning make me one with the light."

Oh, the North, the fabled West, its overwhelming summer solstice.

Happy hinge-point, my friends. I hope your spring was well.


Pretentiously enough, I sometimes find myself almost wholly convinced that I own the state of Washington.

I planted these trees. I was here when these dirt roads were laid. And how many days have I spent climbing these ladders, pruning and thinning and picking this fruit?

I walk the earth like the original buyer, the contracter, the builder, the dreamer. This is my state. Welcome Home.


rejoice! we are almost home!

Now that my final final, as it were, is taking place tomorrow morn, it seems appropriate to break the studying in order to publish an abbreviated list of summer intentions. And you? I would like to hear yours, too, please.

+Acquire a pair of ducks (friends, of course).
+Read a great deal, especially of Mary Oliver's poetry & dear Annie Dillard's prose.
+Learn to make fig cake. Mmm, figs are so good! (and so Song of all Songs-esque:) )
+Rent French film Love Me If You Dare
+Make my own chapstick.
+Practice coffee art.
+Create a homemade granola.
+Rockclimb, hike, longboard, bike, and skinny dip my way all across Washington, Canada, and Montana.

In the north, the summers seem almost unreal--hazy and mirage-like, where 50 degree latitudes give light well into steamy nights and the berries are pregnant and tender even in the cool of the morning. Here's to the next three months: to orchards and to the Solstice, to photography, baking, weddings, and friends.


[a small shout-out]

Go check out Scottish act Frightened Rabbit, especially their song "Fast Blood." Seriously, I found them out a couple of weeks ago, ended up buying their album, and have been listening to them often since.

"and now I, I tremble,
because this humble
has become miracle
I feel like I just died twice
was reborn again
for hard dirty cents
and the fast blood, fast blood, fast blood
hurricanes through me"


life is about more than what you love

I'm in a daze these days. I stumble around, lost and searching, but it's like I don't even know what I'm looking for.

Christie came up this weekend--it was like breathing again, being with her, remembering the hospital and processing how we have adjusted since leaving our city (has it really been a month??). It's getting harder to remember patients' names, stories of people I used to think of everyday. Christie and I held hands and talked, and then just looked at each other for a long time.

Tonight I came across a little rectangle of paper. "Al Smith" it read. "5D, Room 1, Bed 2." All in very straight, practiced writing, nonetheless with little tiny variations in each line, as if written by a trembling hand. On the next lines are written his phone number (with area code), address, and landlord's number, I believe. Another square of paper holds his email address. Child's writing. Al Smith needed me, bid me farewell with all of his information--even the address to his low-income seniors' hotel.

Next to these papers lay my lanyard badge for working at SF General, my photo ID and nametag. I went through three levels of bureaucracy (and waited 6 weeks!) to get this badge, and I won't be throwing it out anytime soon, I think to myself (as if my subconscious has vague plans of volunteering at General sometime in the distant future).

Who am I, anyway? Who am I anymore? "I'm Cari, the chaplain intern here at General. Do you mind if I come in? How are you feeling today?"


"there's a symphony in my head,
& i created it...
there are pages upon pages in my head--
but i can't recollect any of it"



From our first class together, and all those Los Angeles plays attended in your beautiful navy Volvo,
from our dinners with dreadlocked Jesse and Shannon, laughing and joking,
High-fiving that the Democrats won the Senate and the House in one go.
You must know how dear you have become, you are becoming.

Tonight, I saw you for the first time in many months (having been in San Francisco)
We hugged, greeting, enjoying the poetry event side by side
After, you pulled out your tiny planner--not more than 3 inches long,
wanting to share more of your time with me.
Parting, we shook hands.

You, who hesitate with your sentences, teaching me patience and thoughtfulness
and I am learning pensive speech doesn't have to be awkward
I am seeing just how wide and deep the ribbons of your brain are
You, gentle man in beret
you, upcoming 40th anniversary celebrated with a hiking trip to Sequoia & Yosemite.

You, a boy from Kentucky
a 16 year-old with a high school diploma,
a 22 year-old with a doctorate
an 18 year-old with a wife.

You, a 7 week daughter in tow as you embarked on your first British semester
you, a taste for humor, for irony, for good literature (obviously), for politics
you, an ear for listening

& with all this talk of writing, of following our hearts, of family--
I must confess I sometimes want to cry around you
and I understand you as a professor, an advisor--
but as a father?


[a short list of films greatly appreciated by the author since January]

The Darjeeling Limited (how I love Wes Anderson).
I'm Not There (the Bob Dylan biopic--Cate Blanchett is incredible; plus good screenwriting, camera shots, acting, and soundtrack, of course).
Transamerica (a compassionate, endearing, and hilarious look at life as a transgendered person, in the form of a cross-continental roadtrip; Felicity Huffman won an Oscar for this one).
Becoming Jane (the slightly exaggerated story of Jane Austen, and with a sort of painful and true ending; and yes, I realize I love Anne Hathaway far more than I probably should).
Everything is Illuminated (Elijah Wood plays a young Jewish man in a very funny and poignant search for pre-Holocaust lost roots in Ukraine).
The Painted Veil (an on-location beautifully filmed and rending love story between a young British bacteriologist fighting a cholera outbreak in rural 1920s China and his less than affable, unfaithful bride (Naomi Watts). Edward Norton at his best).
Girl with a Pearl Earring (a treat for the senses).

(And by now, hopefully all readers have seen Juno, Into the Wild, and Once.)


Two unpublished posts as of late have me craving more time with a plain pen. There is no need to bore perspective readers with my journey out of culture shock and struggle through understanding (ha!) the Old Testament. A proposal?
To follow the likes of Nelly and Lisa and spend a few weeks posting in photographs.

A weekend with a most beloved friend and former roommate, after 5 months apart. She came up from San Diego to see me. And isn't she beautiful?


& now I have fresh eyes (at last?!) when reading the Old Testament
so much blood, I am reeling
too much blood
such arbitrary violence!
(even from you, Jehovah??)
are you so close to the gods of Enuma Elish, of Gilgamesh and Enkidu?

in class today we "discussed Hell"
I'm just not sure I can even believe in that, anymore

there is no getting away from all this blood
everywhere I look, red
everywhere around, violence
like paint that won't come off my clothes,
ink staining my hands

there's a paper in the bathroom, with all these stupid random facts:
"did you know the aorta of a blue whale is large enough for a human to crawl through?"
I didn't want to know, thanks!
"did you know there's enough pressure in one human heart to spurt blood 30 feet?"

when did the whole world get so bloody?
why must You be involved in these ways?


it won't be long now, baby

Friday night we went to see our friend Joe play at a Santa Barbara coffee shop. Musically, it was good listening: his sound is a sort of Conor Oberst/Iron & Wine/Sufjan/A Weather conglomerate, but he also works with his own harmonies and enlists those of friends Brett and Phil (see blogroll). The song lineup was thoughtful, too; in between, he told us the true story of a teenage girl who committed suicide a few years ago.

I write about it because, to be honest, it was kind of a difficult show to sit in on. The story woven between each song felt sharp, private. It was as if the suicide had just happened, and the girl's family were the ones on stage, the ones testifying to the pain and despair we find in each other.

I think it's more comfortable when we don't have to look so hard for the hope, when redemption sits placated and prominent on a throne. I think it's a little awkward for Joe to sing songs like these. We're not used to such bareness! We look at our feet and try not to find ourselves familiar with our aloneness; we smile tight little smiles to soothe away despair.

Joe sings, "These roads won't last long...and at least we'll have some stories to tell." I pray we adopt his honesty along the way.


culture shock

coming back to the barb (as it were)
is turning out to be much more surreal than i imagined

what was that yesterday outside the library?
those yelling voices i flinched at, thinking fight! (of course),
then wait, it's Westmont
(but don't i hear & see fights multiple times a week?)

& eating kumquats out of the formal gardens, evening walks with You
might be keeping this chest breathing
(peace, child)

saturday eve my flight arrived: a few of us went to the beach,
listened to the waves, smoked cigars, talked until 2am
sunday morning i held back tears
this aint the city anymore, baby

been drawing figures, contours, shading with my fingers
thank You for the little moments of friendship & beauty
especially when i sort of want to scream


cari leaves the city

If the city has taught you anything, it's that the cutest old man you ever met is sitting next to you on the bus--the one in the checkered newsboy cap, dressed like he lives in the Olde World. (This is, sir, San Francisco, and it is, sir, 2008, didn't you know?) He carries Quaker Oats and a loaf of bread, groceries for the week, and his wavering head is nearly resting on your shoulder; he is so tired.

If the city has given you anything, it's a friendship with the mingling smells of sweet wisteria, trash, and alcohol. And now you spot the fog as it descends like a living thing; now you sleep well at night for all the steps taken on concrete by your tired feet.

If the city has taught you anything, it's that Hippie Hill is not a peaceful place, but you love it all the same: for the beat of drum circles, for the sweet smell of marijuana, for the unwashed camaraderie. And you know now, from all those walks and runs through Golden Gate Park, that watching the Eucalyptus light as the sun sets is one of your most favorite things.

If the city has shown you anything, it's that there are beautiful, powerful, incredible women like Ms. Rusty Springer, and that you can be one, too.

If the city has taught you anything, it's taught you to look each day in the face, to embrace it and love it for all its grief and rejoicing, its sadness and dancing. If the city has taught you anything, it has taught you that life is anything but mundane.

You leave the city firm in these baby beliefs. If you know anything, you know life is heartbreaking, but beautiful; you know the days are to be celebrated as they are.


Atrocities Beyond Words

[from The Economist, 3-9 May 2008 edition]

"A ceasefire signed in the town of Goma [Dem. Republic of Congo] in January between the government and more than a score of militias has so far done little to ease the plight of civilians in the east. All sides--government troops, says the United Nations, as well as the militias--continue to use rape as a weapon of war on the most barbarous scale.

"Most victims, as ever, are women and girls, some no more than toddlers, though men and boys have sometimes been targeted too. Local aid workers and UN reports tell of gang rapes, leaving victims with appalling physical and psychological injuries; rapes committed in front of families or whole communities; male relatives forced at gunpoint to rape their own daughters, mothers or sisters; women used as sexed slaves forced to eat excrement or the flesh of murdered relatives. Some women victims have themselves been murdered by bullets fired from a gun barrel shoved into their vagina. Some men, says a worker for the UN Children's Fund (Unicef), have been forced to simulate having sex in holes dug in the ground, with razor blades stuck inside."


“Because we don’t know when we will die, we get to think of life as an inexhaustible well. Yet everything happens only a certain number of times, and a very small number really. How many times will you remember a certain afternoon that’s so deeply a part of your being that you can’t even conceive of your life without it? Perhaps four or five times, perhaps not even that. How many more times will you watch the full moon rise? Perhaps twenty. And yet it all seems so limitless.”
(from the film The Sheltering Sky)

Today was my last day at General Hospital; this is my last week living in the city. I'm getting older, and goodbyes are getting harder.

Oh San Francisco, beloved city, you've torn me up, spun me around and flung me. & I don't know down from up anymore.


You who never arrived
in my arms, Beloved, who were lost
from the start,
I don't even know what songs
would please you. I have given up trying
to recognize you in the surging wave of the next
moment. All the immense
images in me-- the far-off, deeply-felt landscape,
cities, towers, and bridges, and unsuspected
turns in the path,
and those powerful lands that were once
pulsing with the life of the gods-
all rise within me to mean
you, who forever elude me.

You, Beloved, who are all
the gardens I have ever gazed at,
longing. An open window
in a country house--, and you almost
stepped out, pensive, to meet me.
Streets that I chanced upon,--
you had just walked down them and vanished.
And sometimes, in a shop, the mirrors
were still dizzy with your presence and, startled,
gave back my too-sudden image. Who knows?
perhaps the same bird echoed through both of us
yesterday, seperate, in the evening...


what good are words now

"peace by way of war is like purity by way of fornication
it's like telling someone murder is wrong
& then showing them by way of execution
when justice is bought and sold just like weapons of war--
the ones who always pay are the poorest of the poor"
-Derek Webb


page france / junkyard

I was born to lie here patiently
Be dragged on by the black star
And you were told to glow majestically
And love until your hands bleed

You stole your mother's whitest gown
Swallowed like a sunbeam
And I stole your father's crusted crown
It shook us like a bad dream...

Oh my royalty my hand goes out to you
You look painfully true
But I saw you cry
Like you used to laugh
When you looked around
Were you looking back?


quaker oats, loaf of bread, groceries against tired feet
the cutest old man i ever met
staring at the same articles & advertisements on the smallest of newspapers
& alternately drifting off, tired head wavering gently to rest on my shoulder

checkered beret with long white beard
suspenders and dress clothes (in which to grocery shop?)
as if it's Eastern Europe in the 1940s
(but last I checked we were just riding the #33 through the Mission)

slight of stature, trembly and exhausted
but clear-eyed, deliberate:
each movement infinitely slow, shaking, intentional

oh shining old one!
do you know how held you are??
how cradled, how beloved!


your eyes, they sting
this incense burns
this holy of holies is too much

& you can't draw the curtain,
can't enter the tabernacle

you shut your eyes,
you try not to breathe

you can't think of patients covered in feces
can't smell them soaked in piss
can't see this rotting flesh, these gaping wounds

keep the curtains closed! keeps the curtains closed!

you're covering your eyes, you're crying out
your mouth uttering gasps (of its own accord?!)

& how can you be grateful for something when every second of it hurts you-
when every moment is ripping you, is tearing out your heart?

i loathe walking into hospital rooms,
the feeling of invasion, of entering someone's private place,
someone's tiny sacred-space,
& what remains of dignity

keep the curtains closed!

but a whisper beckons us into the holiest of holies
a whisper leads us back again and again.


of north beach & little italians

This one with the dark eyes who rides a bike all over Los Angeles came to visit me this weekend.

She was balm for my cracked heart.

You should probably get to know her.


Monday: work 9-3:30. Break up fight outside hospital.

Tuesday: class. Finish double essays.

Wednesday: work 10-5, in psych ward. Zen hospice training.

Thursday: work 7:30-3:30, attending multi-faith domestic violence seminar.

Friday: work 9-5. Nelly comes to visit from LA! Wind up in cafe in the Mission watching husband/wife band The Cobalt Season.

Saturday: start research essay--Misogyny in the Church. Due Tuesday.

Sunday: say goodbye to Nelly. Run. Meditate. Do some push-ups in preparation to dive into patriarchy, gender constructs, Catholicism, and Tertullian. Breathe.


lavender cobwebs

let me tell you a story, son,
about last friday, at the mosque
we covered our hair and torsos, bright flaming scarves
we knelt with the other women, we greeted the men
we shared rice and lentils and sodas with the leader afterward
taken aback by the unassuming hospitality
so many of our perceptions shattered, we were welcomed.

let me tell you a story, daughter,
about wednesday in the psychiatry ward
the lady talking to us with towels covering her face
the whispered curses by the walking ill
the one obsessed with death

and her, called Dreamer, confirmed catholic & white witch conglomerate,
interested in buddhism & physics,
smart & young & manic

and him, facing the window, legs crossed
radio-headphones-set covering both ears
and i can hear kelly clarkston blaring from across the room

and i breathe. i breathe so i don't die.


outside General today, a fight broke out
whack! hit on the head, one to the other
"you mother-fucker you, listen up!"
and unthinkingly, i get between them
20 year old girl--you know society's rules [it's foolish to intervene]
"hey man, calm down, peace out"

he rounds on me, and now calls me the mother-fucker
i step back, whisper prayers in tongues
"why don't you just call the cops then?" he screams
logic doesn't bode well with the violently drunk
[so should some avoid liquor altogether?]

a cop car drives by and he runs into the busy street, flagging it angrily
"i feel out of my body," christie says beside me

at the end, the cop approaches me
"Would you like me to lock him up, ma'am? Did you feel threatened? Should I take him to jail for the night?"
"No, no, I didn't feel threatened; he just cursed at me."

The cop didn't even ask what happened, completely ignored the hit man's side of the story
[being homeless and drunk and Spanish-speaking doesn't get you far, even when you're mildly assaulted]

"Reinas, reinas," the man says to us: Queens
we smile awkwardly, i wish he wouldn't call us that

and my privilege is power [the power to decide outcomes?!]
and, in my feminity, my privilege [white and a student and employed by the hospital]--
my privilege is protection.


jasmine season

on unknown park trails, a welcome walk
& that scent--I know that scent!

steamy & rain-drenched pink blossoms
i walk, staggering, breathing them in
such tropical flowers this far north??
the most intoxicating smell i know!

& i hear those words that whisper,
"you will come like the rain"

i will drink deeply of this love.


"she put on happiness like a loose dress, over pain i'll never know"

knock on the wall of the room
ritually recognizing ownership of your half-space
your genitals are showing, exposed,
i gesture, awkwardly, but you miss it.

if i just look you in the eye, sir, if i ignore the accidental exposure
does that somehow offer you more dignity,
you and your 53 veteran years, rotting in this hospital room?

you are in too much pain to talk today,
i understand, laugh lightly
feeling too young to communicate that i do endeavor--
oh i endeavor!
to be with you in your ancient pain


J & A

there's something about coffee on the roof in the morning
about laughter and back rubs well into the night
about conversations while sunbathing in urban parks
& drinking wine straight out of the bottle

there's something about best friend-sisters,
& oh, i'm so grateful(l) for their visit to my city.


and so we broke bread, pouring the crimson over it
wine falling in drops off the cliff on which we stood
the sea below, we faced the western gate
golden & famous, as it was

& we remembered You
you who came to dwell among us
to suffer and to dance and to drink with us
you who became one of us

oh, my most dear brothers, my most dear sisters
may we recognize the holy One!


late at night i hear the trees singing with the dead

march rainy flakes & steam on the mountains
patchy sunlight, sodden greyish-brown ground, leftover snow

& oh the stars
in the city i had forgotten their proximity!

coyotes, nearly 1 a.m., howling through the windowpanes
everything is bigger here, louder in a different way

and though it comes with harsh words,
though it brings secret & quiet tears
the north is full; it cradles me.


after work i found hippie hill,
stumbled across it really

a cute boy invited me to play frisbee
but i shyly shook my head, smiled

so many men--the remnant anarchists, camping and smoking--
not Thoreau and Emma Goldman but dirty self-styled gypsies
drum circles and backpacks and alcohol

a fight nearly broke out
shouting & curses exchanged
culminating in a surrendered wallet
by a man in a tie-dyed shirt
and i sang in tongues i do not know
i sang to the beat of the drum
to the wheels of the bike
to the clean red-haired boy of 10 (why are you here, son? is that your dad?)
to the guy asking me for a cigarette with sleazy gestures and calls

oh ancient days--oh lengthening evenings!
i sit cross-legged in the light; i observe
eucalyptus light.


to talk of things deemed secret & unmentionable

blue & engorged veins
stomach bloated, bagged, and tubed
and i am queasy,
i can't look, can't smell these smells, can't be here
force myself to look only at the eyes

and you sir, when you speak to me of your 15-day sobriety
of your 80-year-old heart, when you are only 43
of your pcp and heroin habits
your vivid dreams of shooting up
your waking anger of finding empty hands, clear veins
your dad who died in your arms

you talk with self-protective detachment
i'm taken aback
please don't list the hugest things in your life for me
please don't be so casual
it's difficult to stomach.


"i wrote a little song for you
with a melody i'd borrowed put to words that didn't rhyme
to repeat what you already knew
as the stones thrown at your window tapped a syncopated time
you kept a distance out of fear you'd break
but what good's a single windchime, hanging quiet all alone?
the music our collisions would make
is a sound that turns the road-that-leads-us-back-home
into Home"


SF General Hospital

It's just another Monday, just another day of my internship. Until I talk with a man named Ernest, a Black man of about 35, who matter-of-factly tells me of terrible things, who just needs an ear for a few minutes, who just needs a prayer.

And this room is intense, too much--all the anger boiling over from the drama at the next bed, and Ernest, tender & gentle Ernest, praying for strength and for his family and for resources, like a continued room to go home to, like money to get his two young kids out of The System, and for the pain in his legs. He is dealing with partial paralysis, you see, because someone punched him in the neck on the streets.

After, in the hallway, I cry hard, too-loud tears. All the fucking injustice. More sincerity from a man who's had harder things than most probably ever will, a man who just accepts these hard things and tries to keep walking. I want to shake him--Don't you know it's not like this? The extent of your suffering is not reality! Don't you know?!

But his suffering is reality. And it is for the world over, despite my insanely-privileged, though not quite painless, infinitely-easier position. What's universal in the human experience? Suffering, it seems. And maybe a weird joy, or gratitude.

And I become psalmist, pleading, are You blind & are You deaf, to miss these heartfelt prayers?
or are You dreadful, to allow such things? How long until justice is like a river?

you say, "the hopelessness of living & the childishness of suicide!"
but there's a call to love my brother that can never be destroyed


Tanner Pehl beloved by his family

and now murder is real

From 185 to 120, but you were the first one to go since graduation almost 3 Junes ago. And oh, how my heart aches for our class, for 20 year-old you! Peace be you, Tanner. Rest in peace.


long lost brother [over the rhine]

I thought that we'd be
Further along by now
I can't remember how
We stumbled to this place

I wanna do better
I wanna try harder
I wanna believe
Down to the letter

Jesus and Mary
Can you carry us
Across this ocean
Into the arms of forgiveness

Trouble is I'm so exhausted
The plot, you see, I think I've lost it
I need the grace to find what can't be found...


my new Sierra heart

so much snow--6, 7 foot tall banks of white
on mirroring couches, friends draw close
yes, i'll have another glass, this gladdened heart.
in the mountains, you joyfully forget the old pace
you walk free and easy
each breath of thick winter air filling those forgotten spaces
in, out. you are alive.
welcome to the silence. to the shared journey.
welcome to the beauty & disaster
to that intimacy you've been begging for.


[the unspeaking center of her monologues]

There is too much to trust, these days. God can be so damn demanding. I just remembered I don't know anything ("Oh, right!"), and probably it is high time to move to Northern India and run from the scene that's so intense, that's weirding me out too much.

Does anyone know when 20 year-olds stop feeling like 12 year-olds? Or even 6 year-olds? Or do the feelings of being totally unprepared for and surprised by and overwhelmed with life never go away?


on the roof we read a script of sacred words;
we sing disjointed, ardent songs
under waxing moon and cloud-shrouded stars.

thanks be to G-d for the difficulty and softness of our days--
thanks be to Goddess for carrying us forever in her arms.

enlarge our hearts! we cry
but oh, how i love protection!!


rosemarie springer

All of 77 years old and climbing 4 flights of stairs to your apartment,
Gnarled arthritic hand, gold rings, holding mug of tea
you gladly offer us our own.
Professional counselor, informal listener and friend
Still single, beautiful, and dating
Strong and powerful and not quite 5 feet tall
Wise and active, you have determined to "celebrate the days as they are,"
Oh Rusty, I hope I'm like you.



Take a picture with your words
these mounting tides, these shining barnacles, this ancient pool
this stone and salt and wind
& all the all the all the light.

Tumbling waves, rocky coast
stains of piss and alcohol
memorize these patterns, son. Memorize, memorize.

The labyrinth of stones on this sacred ledge
new & sweet languages ringing in my ears
and that bass rebound!

On rock altars, & you can hear
the snare drum of surf, echoing, erupting
reaching such great heights--rebound off the rock, time and erosion, repeat.

Oh child, feel how the air is thicker now
how it thickens all around you.

And there are places, oh there are places,
where everything is on a different scale, a different dimension, even
And I'm telling you, the largeness of it all is dizzying

Growing up in that island town, did you heard the foghorns?


paper hanger / mewithoutYou

If you're still looking for a blanket
Sweetie, I'm sorry, I'm no sort of fabric
But if you need a tailor
Then take your torn shirt, and stumble up my stairs
And mumble your pitiful prayers
And in your tangled night's sleep, our midnight needles go to work
Until all comfort and fear flows in one river
Down on the shelf by the mirror where you see yourself whole
And it makes you shiver


From dust you have come and to dust you will return.

Have mercy on us.


blazing lungs and blushing heart
quietly in the sunlight i wait
oh, unanswerable questions!
oh, sweet and bitter recollections!

and i burn with the drama of these things
and i burn with the neglect
& i burn.

tell me sir, can we be honest here?


eddie vedder [into the wild]

On bended knee is no way to be free
Lifting up an empty cup, I ask silently
All my destinations will accept the one that's me
So I can breathe...

Circles they grow and they swallow people whole
Half their lives they say goodnight to wives they'll never know
A mind full of questions and a teacher in my soul
And so it goes...

Don't come closer or I'll have to go
Holding me like gravity are places that pull
If ever there was someone to keep me at home
It would be you...

Everyone I come across, in cages they bought
They think of me and my wandering, but I'm never what they thought
I've got my indignation, but I'm pure in all my thoughts
I'm alive...

Wind in my hair, I feel part of everywhere
Underneath my being is a road that disappeared
Late at night I hear the trees, they're singing with the dead

Leave it to me as I find a way to be
Consider me a satellite, forever orbiting
I knew all the rules, but the rules did not know me


An ancient man feeding frenzied ducks and geese at the pond. Bullying seagulls wrestling hens and drakes. Bobbing pigeon heads and choreographed flight patterns. And I stand still, a pair of eyes.

So many words, so many attempts at stories, at naming what's real. So many words have been pulled from this mouth, drawn out by magic characters and scenes. So many words.

And I want to eat the scroll. I want these words to become meaning and truth.


two decades old am i, 1.23

I live my life in widening circles
that reach out across the world
I may not complete this last one
but I give myself to it.

I circle around G-d, around the primordial tower.
I've been circling around for thousands of years
and I still don't know: am I a falcon,
a storm, or a great song?


may the dream live on

"No; no, we are not satisfied, and we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream."

"I must have justice, or I will destroy myself. And not justice in some remote and infinite time and space, but here on Earth... I want to see with my own eyes the lamb lie down with the lion and the victim rise up and embrace his murderer. I want to be there when everyone suddenly understands what it has all been about. All the religions of the world are built on this longing, and I am a believer."
-Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamozov

"The wolf shall live with the lamb, the leopard shall lie down with the kid, the calf and the lion and the yearling together. And the little child shall lead them."
-Isaiah 11:6


Today a few of us went to church in the Tenderloin, at Glide. Definitely the most ethnically and socio-economically diverse worship service I've ever attended. It was absolutely beautiful.

Mostly we celebrated Dr. King's birthday, with the Gospel/Jazz/Rock band and choir playing, a few people getting up to talk. A powerpoint of Civil-Rights related photographs and quotes and news clips played during all of the worship... It was so interesting to celebrate Reverend King's birthday in a church, to find myself wondering why none of the other churches I've ever attended even mention it, to find myself amazed at the vigor of these people still walking the freedom march (in a movement most of us grow up learning is shelved in between the start of the Cold War and disco. Oi).

I think I grew up very much in an environment that silently explained oppression and privilege have little to do with me. Except in learning to give money to the poor and vote for the marginalized in ballot measures (kind of 'limousine liberal' style, as Shane Claiborne might call it), issues of racism, classism, ableism, and heterosexism really never came up. Sexism is something I've gotten much more interested in with the past couple years, and I see how my upbringing kind of weakly tried to deal with that--you know, "date as many people as you can, Cari, and don't get married for a long time!" or "You have such opportunities in going to school, so just keep going, and then you can get a job that pays the bills and puts food on the table!" pieces of advice. But really, and probably unintentionally, these issues of privilege and oppression have been so largely ignored. And in the past few years, I've decided to learn more about them, but it's all been so scholarly, so theoretical and distant...

So now here I am in San Francisco, and suddenly theory meets action or I'm just a faker, and that's all there is to it. And suddenly I see how racial and class stereotypes have ground and bred themselves into me, in ways I never would have realized living in my northern wilderness or in rich Santa Barbara.

And I want to acknowledge the enormity of these problems, so that I can help contribute to solving them.

And I want to know why we crucify people while they're around and canonize them when they're gone, when they're safe. Jesus, Ghandi, MLK, hell, even Shane Claiborne. I mean, even take CS Lewis. Evangelicals eat him up, and he was damn controversial! And MLK kept saying, we're all extremists, so will it be for Love or for Hate? And he was killed at only 39. But I want to take that over mediocrity, over complacent participation in an endless cycle of oppression and violence and hate.

And I'm struck by the polarity of the places I have lived, only 4 places, in only 2 states... and yet they're each so incredibly different, and each has contributed so much to these things we must care about, I must care about.

In true San Francisco form, I find myself once again overwhelmed. But overwhelmed beats fine, any day.


San Francisco Farmers' Market. Huge, colorful, communal, and not to be outdone by its beloved City's way--which is to say, as overwhelming and stimulating as its mother.

I want to have church in Farmer's Markets, I've decided. The fruit, the seagulls, the smell of cooking and salt water, the vegetables, breads, and cheese, the rhythms of djembes, dancing percussionists, sitar and guitar players of every stripe and shade. There are 50 mushroom varieties, little kids sucking honey sticks, old men sitting on benches, protesters and activists, beautiful sunlit people. All this sunlight makes my normally invisible freckles shout out greetings and well-wishes to the world.

I talked with a painter named Elden, a man from Peru, in Spanish for a while. He was very patient with my struggling skills, but we chatted for about 20 minutes, and I bought a couple of his small paintings. And I want to communicate. I want to communicate. I want to communicate.

All this community, and G-d, if she's around, dwells here, must.

Community, communicate. Saw Juno tonight. Can we all tell each other stories like that, please? Stories that are funny and awkward and painful and true?


"When it's over, I want to say: All my life
I was a bride, married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms."
-Mary Oliver


taken from Rilke's "The Man Watching"

I can tell by the way the trees beat, after
so many dull days, on my worried windowpanes
that a storm is coming,
and I hear the far-off fields say things
I can't bear without a friend,
I can't love without a sister...

What we choose to fight is so tiny!
What fights us is so great!
If only we would let ourselves be dominated
as things do by some immense storm,
we would become strong too, and not need names...

Whoever was beaten by this Angel
(who often simply declined the fight)
went away proud and strengthened
and great from that harsh hand,
that kneaded her as if to change her shape.
Winning does not tempt that woman.
This is how she grows: by being defeated, decisively,
by constantly greater beings.


remember the mountain bed

Hello: San Francisco.
Goodbye: winter solstice, snowshoeing, skiing, snowflake walks, icy roads, & hot beverages shared with friends.

Hello again, World Wide Web. Your So-Cal surfer, Canadian hippie, and newly anointed urban gypsy is back, crossing her fingers and clenching her fists in preparation to "suffocate, boil, and bloom" in a most beloved city.

"I crossed many states just to stand here now, my face all hot with tears,
I crossed city, and valley, desert, and stream, to bring my body here:
My history and future blaze bright in me and all my joy and pain
Go through my head on our mountain bed where I smell your hair again."

Woody Guthrie (Billy Bragg & Wilco)