Thursday, April 21, 2016

The Mochu

A woman leans

over the mountain bridge

watching her own body curve

                       around the fir trees.


Full & clear. Stone-hipped & capillaried

in moss. She is the river


who has left the river

to contemplate why - her water will weaken

and her journey change


over many days

and many crossings taken

by villagers & livestock, glacial mist & birds.


Something monks have foreseen

praying in their temple. Housewives have felt

in the warmer-than-usual wind

drying turnip leaves on the floor. What their carved gods

know hanging on the  kitchen wall.


Prayer flags bloom on the railing

asking to be healed, helped or forgiven;

and she wonders which sins

are left unspoken. What penitents may come


asking  to be cleansed

as her body thins

to a trickling shadow. A scarf of purity

                     in the mud.


The word, Mochu,  is the Bhutanese  for female river. In the culture and religion of people from Bhutan, a small nation on the eastern slopes of  The Himalayas,  all aspects of nature are spirits from the flowers to the wind. This also includes rivers; and they are also given genders depending on the shape, texture and movement of the terrain. The softer more curvaceous course  is considered feminine/female and the more rugged, muscular one is deemed masculine/male. And that river is an entity ranging in perspective from a sacred spirit to a minor goddess/god.. The rivers are known to be clear, cold and pure, a major source of inspiration, drinking nourishment and irrigation for their fields and gardens. Yet, even in this remote and isolated part of the world, climate change is occurring along with the introduction of modern technology and the influx of tourists. The old ways are changing; and so is the pristine face of the landscape. This poem is the river contemplating the future and its ecological effects. Like all of us, who metaphorically leave our bodies during meditation or dreaming, so does the mind/soul of  the river.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The Rose Is


This is not about a woman

in a Pre-Raphaelite painting

or the lesbian poet

who sang  a rose is a rose is a rose --


it is about a standard

of being, bearing grace.

Skin whorled soft

in coral,

Stem a long

and straight spine,

and leaves flared

like shoulders wrapped

in the wind's shawl.

Its fabric of  holy things:

feather wisps

of hawk or raven,

dust and grass

from a burial ground,

seeds and needles

from an ancient tree

and  whispers of old ones

we don't understand.

 Their voices cindered

 in the early and evening light.

And here, the flower lives

in the shadow of the mesa,

a stranger to this terrain

yet, her breath is solvent

in the breath of the desert --

absorbing what is there

and what came before.



Thursday, April 7, 2016

At Random

A woman yields
to on-coming traffic. Pigeons lift from the road.
A bearded man cycles by
in his straw hat and white shirt. A knapsack with easel
strapped behind.  
                         Manet cloned.
He is going somewhere to paint
a rowboat dozing
among cattails and a morning breeze. Their reflections
                               splintered. A rippling spill
of blues and greens. Brown soft
as the pelt of a muskrat And the sun warm. Pond musk
                              deepened by its heat.
The woman checks her mirror.
A man slowly disappears into his dream.
Birds have flown to  street lamp or tree.
                                The asphalt  shimmers;
and she makes her turn thinking
of another impressionist.  How age
has slightly fractured the lake
of her skin.
                Fine lines ripple
                under the eyes, around the mouth.
Yet when the right wind sails
across her face, she feels them shrink
under lashes (still) sprouting thick
like the water willow;
                     and lips that haven't swelled
with collagen -- but a burst of words.
The brief overflow
of a poem.  Her breath thawed into Spring.



After an  hour

or a quarter less, the air mellow,

you came into my arms

having shed your wings

on the kitchen floor.


And now you want to leave

spreading long-necked and arm-slender

(once again)

over your crinkled plumage of maps.


The first layer a continent,

the second its countries,

the third and fourth - single cities.


Basilicas, bridges, and  balconies,

canals, cobblestones and cottages,

holy trees, hills and harbors,

stairs, tunnels and gates

leading into vineyards or gardens..


you have lived and loved

in some of these places

with each year's migration --

their echo and scent in your bones,

(your delicate infrastructure).


And the rest

still waiting for you to come

in this life or the next.


But for now, I ask you to stay

shifting  from air to earth,

thermals to a thermos of coffee.

Outside, mallards swim on the lake.

The sun at soprano pitch

shattering cool water

into golden sparks. The light  and green of it,

a spring evening we haven't seen.


Our presence in a moment

that has not been tracked or planned.

Monday, March 28, 2016


I will pour out my spirit upon every sort of flesh

                                          Acts 2:17

As the sky lightens

an hour before the sun bleeds

on a wide beam of horizon,

there's a singular bird.


Small and metrical,

far from her choir.


The gift of My Father

trebled in the wild throat

of a scrub wren.


She sings among leaves

of the Forsythia. And like the bush

veiled in  faint cobwebs

or  pages of an Old Book --


some of her feathers

are dusty yellow, worn

and thumbed by a soft wind.

Friday, March 25, 2016

From Brussels

A child bends
to light a candle. Her prayer
flutters inside a glass jar.
A sparrow
shuttles between air and ground
trying to find
a safe spot to feed. 
And a woman wraps
a scarf round her neck
to battle the chill,  to bandage
the moment with  hand-woven wool
spun and rinsed in Ireland,
overcast in gray. The  color
of storm clouds broken, bread-soft  
and drifting out to sea.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

The Grassroots Of It

First, you hear the fetch

of his song. Long and slowly

swallowed by the dawn.


A spiked bird

in the  honey locust

pining for his partner.


A poignant psalm

until you learn his name

and the mind

wants to mock the thought:


an echo

for  the German clock


a symbol

for the lunatic,


a refrain

for the monk's song

that sounds like blithe nonsense.


Sing cuccu nu , Sing cuccu.


The desert cuckoo

calls in spring, commiserates

with the field thirsting for rain.


The wind shakes out the earth.

A rug spill of seeds, dust, feathers 

and wisps of thistle,


spider veins of  the soul,

the release of something

grown from ache and tenacity,


from a word we strain to use

in verse, call as mate  

or match with the image

of a bird.


So clichéd, the breath

of the sentimental;

but here it is - fibers  torn, 

uprooted to reveal -

we are spun from this


and it lasts forever. A  countless thing

but when the ground cock sings,

they say the number of times

(you hear him ) foretells


the amount of years

you will live, and perhaps

in the bittersweet throb

of his throat --

how often

you will forfeit your soul,

This poem's inspiration came from several sources. But the most significant was an essay I read on the purpose of our "soul" by poet Mary Oliver. I adore her work and she is so finely connected to nature and its reflection of the human condition. Basically, the soul is our vital sense of being, our compass, our composition. It connects us to nature and everything life-giving. It strives to keep us rooted in who we are and enable us to face the truth about ourselves. It has no specific definition but its functions are easy to grasp and witness. That is a paraphrasing of her thoughts on the subject. But in modern poetry/lit, we have diminished the presence of the soul, even mocked it. It has become a word we strain to voice, a word that is labeled as cliché. But it is intimate and complex. Its one syllable that has the entire echo of the universe reverberating in its sound, in its essence. To each individual, it means something different ;and each individual soul is as unique and definitive as a fingerprint or snowflake. So it cannot be, in my humble opinion, neglected or discarded or disregarded. It has presence, mortal, natural and divine.
 The second source was the ancient but ever present bird The cuckoo. He is even here in the high desert and has been of poetic, mythic an spiritual significance for centuries. The famous song in Middle English, written by an anonymous monk, tells of the bird calling for the arrival of Summer and celebrates the event with a joyous refrain , as emphasized in my poem. But the bird was also fabled to be a harbinger of life's expectancy. So depending on how many times you heard him call -- it conveyed to the listener, and each listener is different, how many years that person might live. Taking that concept one step further, I also imagined that he could foretell how often a person might abandon his or her soul in a life time. And as such  literary elitists relegate the soul to maudlin sentiment, they also associate the "cuckoo" with something silly, archaic and purposeless. But when we get back to the grass roots level of both the soul and the bird's essence, origin, purpose, habits, etc; we find there is something vital, spiritual and  inherent in our make-up as well as the landscape's. When I hear him here in the high desert, it is a beautiful call, a lamenting one, a poignant almost melodic plea. So fused together, these two concepts created this poem.