a new psalm from august

When it is easy to be angry,
when you think you are alone,
when you feel old ways coming on
(offering payback through vanity):

Then child, listen closely
put thought before a mouth otherwise mechanic
and I will calm the sea inside you
I will hold you in my right hand.


over the rhine / what i'll remember most

The saddest songs are the happiest
The hardest truths are the easiest
Put us both to the test
And tell me if you still need me
And I will swallow these words
And see if I can still believe

The biggest lies are the little ones
When the look in your eyes is the distant one
Angel or demon
You know that they can share one bed
I've laid awake so long
I've got them both inside my head

This is what I'll remember most about dying
So many moments like ghosts
Slipping through my hands in vain
You were 80% angel, 10% demon
The rest was hard to explain

This American dream may be poisonous
Violence is contagious
Crowded or empty
I walk these city streets alone
Whoever brought me here
Is gonna have to take me home

This is what I'll remember most about dying
Loading these moments like a gun
Hoping to kill the pain
[I] was 80% angel, 10% demon
The rest was hard to explain


giving thanks

For dear friends, a ridiculous family, delicious food, a warm house in the (7 inches and counting!) snow, and four bomb pies, including this apple one that I just can't resist bragging about... I'm sorry, I've just never made a pie so pie-ish looking!

And also, for a man who is endlessly patient with me, who helps me walk a path of Peace.

Yes, gratitude is a discipline I want to practice more.


Toyota: timing belt completely worn down, $404.66.

I feel like I can handle anything this week!


keeping the drama to a minimum, as per usual

It's only Tuesday.

I have spilled water on my Macbook, successfully resurrected said Macbook (with a towel, blow dryer, and rice), cracked a forgotten password, spoken with Apple, lost my Airport configurations (so I have to use ethernet, not wireless), and lost all my shortcut key memory (I don't even know how to create the @ sign anymore) and Shift use. Called Apple again: this time phone advice costs $49 since my Apple Care expired. They recommend I look at the Support pages of the website. Yes, I have done this, but am unfortunately practically illiterate when it comes to understanding these things.

This morning my car broke down on the way to work, and, after putting in oil (which I did exactly 9 days ago--my car burns through oil like it's being paid to) and waiting and then turning the engine over, a nice trucker stopped and helped go through several possible problems: working spark plugs, fuses, oil, fuel in tank, starter fluid but engine not revving. A censor that shut down the fuel as a precaution? He then generously towed me to town (which was one of the most nerve-wracking experiences ever, going down hills in a car I couldn't control mere feet behind a huge truck). Orville. Lives at the other end of my dirt road I guess. I owe that guy some major baked goods.

I was an hour and a half late to work; my car is in the shop; the mechanic hasn't called; and I am walking around town like a bag lady carrying all my belongings for various activities today.

Now I have to work out, go to math (a friend is tutoring me for the GRE), and attend a local City Council meeting tonight for the newspaper, but, not knowing if the Toyota will be working, or for how many bones, most things are on hold.

On top of these things, a certain essential person is currently (and righteously) not exactly elated by my attitude. The least meaningful, but most pressing, consequence of this is not really being on terms on which I could ask said person about said Macbook (given that said person is much more tech-savvy than me). So I am also feeling a tiny bit despondent (and not really about the Macbook, to clarify). In fact I'm pretty sure you could have photographed me at a department store yesterday staring blankly at displays of shoes while my sister tried on flats with a look somewhat close to dispair on my face (and to think, that was before all the mishaps!)

There was never a better time to face my own elitism, I suppose.


The first snow!

Woke up to three or four inches this morning
(now we know Sister Winter is on her way).

And in other news:
Aung San Suu Kyi was released today from house arrest.

Pray for Burma.


East Coker in autumn

The hollyhock is holding on, though we're reaching mid-November
the laughter in the garden, echoed ecstasy
I've been meaning to plant those poppies,
but only seem to be losing any tolerance for cold I might have had.

(All the best, I suppose, with the impending migration south.)

We pick up the pieces of these things, she reminds me
heartbreak, she means, and living through fire
not lost, but requiring, pointing to the agony
of death and birth

(we've been picking them up all our lives)

I said to my soul, be still, and let the dark come upon you
which shall be the darkness of G-d

Now looking you in the hazel eye
and we know that the hills and trees... are all being rolled away
the question is not one of protection,
but humility
the only wisdom we can hope to acquire
an unending exercise in trust.


time-telling by the changing slants of daylight

We wore the thickest gloves we had,
lacing up the warmest boots.
You were reaching for my smaller hand
while the season blew in too soon.
They say you're never ready,
this we've heard a thousand times
Still, I took my hand away.

Walking past the streetlamp, the light quietly snuffed dark
and I wondered where your bones were mined from
what mountain cast your heart.

In November, I'll take cloudlight
and craft you a broken song
and the golden, wind-stained leaves
will rest on dirty collar bones.

Earlier sojourning: my remains apart from you
Even tamaracks and maples leave me wanting.


bright eyes / poison oak

Poison oak, some boyhood bravery
When the telephone was a tin can on a string
And I fell asleep with you still talking to me
You said you weren't afraid to die
In polaroids you were dressed in women's clothes
Were you made ashamed, why'd you lock them in a drawer?
Well, I don't think that I ever loved you more

Than when you turned away, when you slammed the door
When you stole the car and drove towards Mexico
And you wrote bad checks just to fill your arm
I was young enough, I still believed in war

Well let the poets cry themselves to sleep
And all their tearful words will turn back into steam

But me, I'm a single cell on the serpent's tongue
There's a muddy field where a garden was
And I'm glad you got away but I'm still stuck out here
My clothes are soaking wet from your brother's tears

And I never thought this life was possible
You're the yellow bird that I've been waiting for

The end of paralysis, I was a statuette
Now I'm drunk as hell on a piano bench
And when I press the keys it all gets reversed
(The sound of loneliness makes me happier)


Happy Equinox!

We've come to Mabon again, the first day of fall, with about 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of darkness. Do something to mourn the passing of summer and celebrate the new season, re-balancing, and harvest. I've been baking morning glory muffins and running in the last warm September rays.

So I took her by the arm, we settled down upon a farm,
and raised our children up as gently as you please


new favorite: the civil wars

You only know what I want you to
I know everything you don't want me to
Oh your mouth is poison, your mouth is wine
Oh you think your dreams are the same as mine

Oh I don't love you but I always will
Oh I don't love you but I always will
Oh I don't love you but I always will
I always will

I wish you'd hold me when I turn my back
The less I give the more I get back
Oh your hands can heal, your hands can bruise
I don't have a choice but I still choose you

Oh I don't love you but I always will
Oh I don't love you but I always will
Oh I don't love you but I always will
I always will.

listen here.


There were fields, I remember, of lupine & crown vetch & enormous dandelions,
and a great, glassy lake.
We were walking, singing songs with throats that needed water,
dressed in burlap and barefoot.
I know not where we were going, only that the journey felt endless
the flowers seemed illusory, the lake a mirage

Step by step we lifted aching feet, displacing grasshoppers by the thousands
And then I saw you, standing at the edge of the field,
you, holding a child's hand.
The child, long-haired and also barefoot,
was dirty not from poverty but only play,
and pointed at us eagerly, beaming up at you.

You were tender, moved not slowly, but with intention,
smiled down at the child and squeezed the little hand,
then raised your open gaze toward us.
Your eyes were guileless and strong, simply waiting,
and all the folk songs were forgotten,
the meanings we had so carefully crafted and memorized lost in a moment,
and there was only you, your expectant eyes, your slightest smile.

And the hundreds of miles, crooked and dirty and drenched and sunburned and sore,
the many moons we had walked became one day, and one golden field
and I ran to you, and had no other loves,
for every world disappeared.


At Dominion Meadows yesterday, in the small woods and long grass I came across a deer bedded down, not 15 feet away. She arose, startled by my presence, turning to look at me with contracting nose to place my scent. She was chewing on something, at least occasionally, and her jaw moved sideways, her narrow mouth making an oblong shape.

Earlier, running on the path, I chased four quail for 25 yards of so, feeling old and barefoot, running with the birds and wind.

We pushed the canoe from shore last night as the sun went down, crossing the Flats to the other side, where clay formations color the water almost glacial. We stayed on the beach listening to rhythmic waves (from wind, not boats!) well into the turning heavens and quarter moon.

When we crossed again, the dark water was choppy, the skies brilliant, the beauty (tinged with fear of capsize) overwhelming. We made it to the beach and stood knee-deep in warm water, closely wrapped under wide sky.

Who will tell these dreams from life?


i thank You G-d for most this amazing
day:for the leaping greenly spirits of trees
and a blue true dream of sky;and for everything
which is natural which is infinite which is yes

(i who have died am alive again today,
and this is the sun's birthday;this is the birth
day of life and love and wings:and of the gay
great happening illimitably earth)

how should tasting touching hearing seeing
breathing any-lifted from the no
of all nothing-human merely being
doubt unimaginably You?

(now the ears of my ears awake and
now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

-e.e. cummings


the little things

Sometimes all I need
is for you to look me in the eye
and tell me we will make it
through this too.


on editing obituaries

"Married to her life partner and love at the age of 15,
7 children by the time she was 19
Years of homesteading in Fairbanks, Alaska"

It's interesting, writing for a newspaper (though I hate to be inside those hours, and am thankful for the other, outdoor work that fills the days),
but it's also tiring, in a way,
and I think sometimes by the time my articles are written
there are no words left, for any letters or yellowed pages
or even for you.

The spinach and cilantro in my garden are on,
the squash & carrots, zucchini & tomatoes, strawberries & beets coming soon
and herbs, herbs, herbs:
dill and rosemary, basil and sage.

Well I hardly know your name anymore, if I ever did,
and my own tastes unfamiliar, salt on my lips
but your veined arms are still difficult to look away from,
your carpenter hands continuing to build things I don't understand.


"I want to say to you as I move to my conclusion, as we talk about 'Where do we go from here,' that we honestly face the fact that the movement must address itself to the question of restructuring the whole of American society. There are forty million poor people here. And one day we must ask the question, 'Why are there forty million poor people in America?' And when you begin to ask that question, you are raising questions about the economic system, about a broader distribution of wealth. When you ask that question, you begin to question the capitalistic economy. And I'm simply saying that more and more, we've got to begin to ask questions about the whole society. We are called upon to help the discouraged beggars in life's marketplace. But one day we must come to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring. It means that questions must be raised. You see, my friends, when you deal with this, you begin to ask the question, 'Who owns the oil?' You begin to ask the question, 'Who owns the iron ore?' You begin to ask the question, 'Why is it that people have to pay water bills in a world that is two-thirds water?' These are questions that must be asked."

-Martin Luther King, Jr, in his speech Where Do We Go From Here?


on note-taking, and unanswerable questions

Adam Gopnik: "
All grown-up craft depends on sustaining a frozen moment from childhood: scientists, it is said, are forever four years old, wide-eyed and self-centered; writers are forever eight, over-aware and indignant."

Going through an old notebook from San Francisco days, a season of such questions, questions that continue to haunt me.

What is the difference between Truth and truths? What does it mean to pursue Truth?
How can something be true and untrue at once? (to live life in paradox)

to tell the story of someone erased:
Does the story trump everything? Can concessions to truth be made in the name of story (or concessions to fact, at least?) What is ethical writing?

My words are ribbons, prayer flags strung together in primary colors
you do the best with what you know, until you know better.

Poking holes in my world--realizing that the world in which I live is not the world in which most people live
(universalizing your own experience)

Part of our education is unlearning (deconstructing): awareness as the beginning of wisdom
-of what we don't know
-of what we fail to notice


East of Eden / Steinbeck

Lee poured a tumbler full of dark liquor from the round stone bottle and sipped it and opened his mouth to get the double taste on the back of his tongue. "No story has power, nor will it last, unless we feel in ourselves that it is true and true of us. What a great burden of guilt humans have!...and, of course, people are interested only in themselves. If a story is not about the hearer he will not listen. And here I make a rule--a great and lasting story is about everyone or it will not last. The strange and foreign is not interesting--only the deeply personal and familiar."


if it's the beaches / the avett brothers

Don't say it's over
Cause that's the worst news I could hear
I swear that I will do my best to be here
jus the way you like it
Even though its hard to hide, push my feelings all aside
I will rearrange my plans and change for you.

If it's the beaches, if it's the beaches' sands you want
Then you will have them
If it's the mountains' bending rivers
Then you will have them
If it's the wish to run away, then I will grant it
Take whatever you think of while I go gas up the truck
Pack the old love letters up
We will read them when we forget why we left here.


I am alone, I am not alone. I am water flowing, going, another, another father, another fire, flood, place, tribe. Tribe I remember. I remember your held name, strong, sweet, your forgotten name. I remember name, your woven existence, your fiery, unfamiliar name. I remember your nomad face, your glittering eyes, your carpenter hands. I remember and forget.
[All things turn to fire and flood and you are nomad and I am water and we are alone and not alone.]
Chant, chant your unfamiliar name. Pull vowels forgotten from your stomach. I come from that same dark place. I come from the river stitched by four sisters (or were there five?), broken by soil and sod, sand and red, red brick of dirt under your hardened fingernails. Time’s cellar, a skinless pendulum shortening and lengthening our powwow, our obsession. Your cold river sheets gritty with sand.
I blame that wildfire making hitchhikers out of us, pitching our tents not in romantic, djembed Bedouin ways but in the carving rock of desert slicing into your shoulders, your ribs, your abdomen, into my unfamiliar sister breasts, sandwiched and catalogued between sandy rivered sheets where only the kitchen table survives fire and flood.


[on being back]

People look older. Some have gained weight,
or are losing a little hair,
Others have grown thinner, facial structures more pronounced.

I've been in the desert since Thursday, Anza Borrego, the Salton Sea, strange places,
felt the 6.9 quake with Elly,
my grandmother who kept cordially asking what we do, where we work, who we are.

Now it's back to this beach town, after nearly a year
Staggering in the streets at the smell of climbing wisteria and jasmine
walking at the salty ocean between windy surf and stars

I burst, it shattered through me like a bullet through a bottle
(telling me to believe that all of this is real).


don't count the leaves of the mango tree

I don't want a reason anymore about the one I love, the one I love
I just want to melt away, in all the craze
drift away, into that sacred place
where there's no more you and me, no more they and we, just unity
just unity...


Went out to cut dogwood and tamarack branches. The sun is strong today--my scarf, sweater, vest almost too much. Five days of sun and hardly a cloud in the sky. Glory be, spring is really coming.

Now a small wind moves through pale, bedridden stalks of grass. Stalks that will miraculously revive and stand tall and green to sing their song in a matter of weeks. How do all these seasons move? Just when you feel you cannot bear another grey morning, another colorless afternoon--the first resurrections of spring come exultantly.

I've been thinking of that afternoon, that evening spent at the Flats with the orchard one, passing the soccer ball back and forth, back and forth, until both sweet spots on my bare feet were numb and I was smiling into the sunset, all the endorphins of pain and pleasure, summer and sunlight and friendship filling my stomach.

Now I have traveled East and West, have lived South of here for seasons that were rich, but when it comes to a Northern spring, or murmurings of one, well I have never found its equal, and that's the truth.


Maybe due to a friend's constant endorsement of them,

or perhaps simply because I recently finished Peace Like a River,

but I can't stop thinking about these lately.

Also, how badly I want to travel through New Mexico and Alaska. Some more backpacking this year, please!


ash wednesday

the sun is out (is out, is out, for the first time this february!!)
and Fun is singing
Take your time coming home,
hear the wheels as they roll
let your lungs fill up with smoke
forgive everyone.

so we breathe deep the stale winter air
kayak choppy waters and crave vitamin D
cross our fingers for snow-pack and water,
cross our fingers against drought

then smear ashes on our foreheads
and remember that smoke, dust, drought,

from the dirt we came,
and to dirt we shall return.


Do what we must, yet cannot do alone
and lay your solitude beside my own.
-W.H. Auden


vapor drew the lines

there is steam rising up in circles around her face,
touching her brow, her long hair, pulled back,
her spanish cheekbones, her dark french eyes

i am watching her, listening, looking away
hearing the mountain stories, looking west into the deep fog,
the blurry city lights, blinking vaguely
the mountains i can't see for mist, but trust the same

we, the three of us, are deep in this hazed water
relaxing and fearing at once, still and quiet and whispering,

and the images, images, images!

the woman, murdered by Crow, in her octogonal wooded home,
the couple bravely headed to alaska,
the girl, hung from rafters, in the garage i was no stranger to
the man, snuck through window, to hurtandhurtandhurt the sister
(she's still alive, you know. she's a lawyer, she lives in denver).

i don't really know how to say things.
i will say it again.
i have said it before.

but here we are, this rainy midnight.
this hot jacuzzi tub.
here we are, clouded, surrounded by fog.
looking through a scanner darkly
a mirror shrouded
believing in beyond the veil,
or trying to believe.

oh january burning! with your stories that cut my life!


you may or may not recognize the sound of two owls calling
to each other, like the ones i heard in the pine woods this evening.
it was not far from my house, and i tread the ice carefully,
waiting to hear them sing.

and then there was the deer, running on hard snow
that unmistakable thumping

the yeast bread is rising in my kitchen,
made from freshly ground wheat
(by a motor, not stone and hand).

and i still don't know how to explain things
why some would kill a swan, senselessly, for pleasure
why a dearest friend's father would stand (deservedly?) accused

these are grave times, and hope in ourselves turns bitter
betrayal on the tongue
(so we are practicing not to hope in ourselves, anymore).

50 loves, 50 woes, our buddha has said
(a mantra we will not soon unlearn)
but you, in your backwards, insane way
choose all fifty.

to cry for the forgotten, suppressed things
to be tender in the midst of ice,
to look for the robins in the middle of winter.

these are your ways (to hurt again and again and again, as a child)
to trust and hope and believe.
well, nonsensical though they may be,
to follow them is the way to Peace.


I want to open up these silent cords, move your heart to tears of joy

I will throw myself into the ocean
Dive head first into a pearl factory
Clams will work me till I’m lovely
I’ll become a diamond in the sea

Ruby Parasols show Saturday night