great basin

To catch the sunrise
you must hold
like a rock jack
then flatten to paper
for the sumi

of strung geese.

To catch the light
you must speak grass
and learn the memes
of denim

and fresh snow.

To catch the cloud
you must murmur
with a trio of aspen
and smirk

at heroics of fungi.

To catch the wind
you must furl
like amber in whiskey,
glitter with hail
between your collar

and your nape.

To catch the night
you must cock ears
like a quintet of does.
You must enter
without breaking

like a vole.

Published in Cirque, Literary Journal for the North Pacific Rim, Summer 2017, Volume 8, No. 2


boys do that

She was kind in the one eye that worked.
Our hands were clumsy with cold.
It was sullen for late March.  
Skinny tires rolling
the dimpled asphalt
had soaked us tailbone to nape.
“What on earth could bring you boys
here on such a foul afternoon?”
Brute effort unfolded our cramped limbs
to find her
just inside the diner door.
Her back was stooped,
Evelyn, Gladys, Maybelle?
There was scratch-made chicken ‘n’ dumpling soup
or beef with barley and several sorts
of fresh-baked pie.  
There were age spots all across her hands.
One slice left no room to hesitate.
Pie, oh the pie I devoured
after guzzling chicken soup was
the last tart slice of green gooseberry
with sugar  
like diamond dust.
Forty years from that diner
I linger on this catalog page devoted
to bare root gooseberry plants.
We were pedaling away from home.


chain o' lakes

A doll burned hairless
except for a cowlick
behind the right ear. 
Skeleton
of the concessionaire’s blackened wall tent.
Above char
the offending electric skillet
gleams like a guillotine.

Hisses of steam, restless
fire hoses.

The summer day loses color
behind a clump of locust trees, 
and kids
who’d come to learn the crawl,
the backstroke or just to cool off
huddle, clutching sticky
ice cream wrappers. 

Parents look to each other
through the sniping dark
wondering who will buy
scissors and dresses
and fresh Crayolas
for the concessionaire’s kids; 
who’ll replace a banana seat bike
now this torpid week of August
has
burned into total loss? 

Labor Day, September
sidling back to school.
How unctuous these weird
feet gathered
in flip flops.


Bracing

I guzzle and guzzle the last
morning of bristling light this autumn—
again and again from my fatalist
stance behind the kitchen sink. 
On the stereo Dexter Gordon tongues
grace notes to the head of Cheese Cake.
In the yard a season is shredding
notes, the Sweetgum’s spire
a cadenza of yellow to mulberry.
Woody stems stripped of basil
crisscross the cutting board. Seven jars of
tomatoes rumble from a canner bath.
The sink water is rosy with pulp.
Out beyond the gate clutches of goldfinches
filch, pester, free kernels from tawny stalks
of teasel; they’ll fly the oil to the river.
The saxophone is an effervescing brut.
Sound ripples my hollow like
the grain in Oregon myrtle, this bowl
milled to mollify one vagrant heart
tipped over on home dirt.


FERMENT

On the darkest autumn morning I must
hope, pressing through an afternoon
of intermittence, come and go mist,
the occasional truck Jake-braking, a dog wearing
his coat down to a sad meander.
Beyond my small river
cholera, hunger, polio
grab at children on both sides
of a faraway skirmish. Paralysis, pox
not peace. A lanyard of dust
two million faces long.
I should become their purse
of cool clean water, a shoulder bag of
fresh baguettes turning scripture and trespass
into the carbonic must it was meant to be.
Hire a road crew of apostrophes
so that anybody can have all they need
and some left over to ferment into new light.


WINTER FLIGHT

We could have been parting
a Red Sea, the Super Duty pickups idling
like behemoths, hazard lights
signaling breaths. The ridge above
a stole of Doug fir, bottomlands fringed in skeletal ash.

What smell
or snap eroded discipline, what fledged the breakaway?
Four cow elk and a young Bugle Boy
bull cross the road early tonight
to bed down

on new pasture, stitch our river. A sanctuary lit up
with accident and blown clouds.
They are not game, they are epiphany and pentecost.
The way home hums with distraught
headlights and soccer moms.