HUSBAND WHISPERING TO HIS WIFE

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for Carol

Your name is the sound of two rivers joining
in one bed
the full moon unmoving in its current.
River scent taken up as breath
into magnolia trees.

There was a wound in me green as the Gulf
with phosphorus coiling and uncoiling on the surfaces of waves.
For years I heard it whispering my name
as a curse

but you were breathing by the river.
I saw your voice taking shape as rain
and I was healed.

When a woman is in love, her body is a river.
Radha is in love with Krishna.
From a hundred miles away she feels
his right eye open.

.

THE WOMAN ON THE ROAD

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for Michael Johnson, for Aja, and for Rob

April 7, 2014

Yesterday took a walk to the White Salmon River. Felt lit up as usual down there, praising God above the rapids, a fat man swollen with joy. Coming back met a woman maybe five years older than I, maybe younger. Skin of her face worn thin, the look of a logger’s widow, hands nervous as a knitter’s, hair pulled back into a pony tail like a girl’s. Stopped to talk to my dog, to tell us why she was on the road.

Someone close to her, she didn’t say son or grandson but I assumed it, was having troubles, had disappeared on 114 just across the river gorge, the road you can hear winding through a plum orchard, all in bloom now, pink as a whore’s eye shadow. He drove on Thursday in a white pick up but never arrived at work and has not been seen or heard from since. So she is walking the river looking for a truck gone over a cliff, down to water. This road we walk on is closed now to autos, the bridge over the river burned long ago. She used to ride it bareback on an appaloosa horse all the way from BZ Corners, maybe 10 miles away. Now she’s looking for someone she loves, someone she believes dead by his own hands and still she is smiling, though her smile be thin and full of pain.

Minutes later I see a young squirrel, still immature with a tail that has not yet flared at its tip. He is sitting on the limb of a locust tree eating dry seeds that formed before he was born. He is letting the pods go spinning down like propellers to the ground. I hear him give a quiet little bark, throw his head back to howl like a coyote six inches from snout to root of tail. Those who live long enough know this world likes to eat its young, murder and give birth to us again and again. Still there is a joy here we need not, can not live without.

When I got home I realized I was exhausted and took a nap. Feel fine now. These words are a prayer for the woman on the road, for her sons and grandsons, for anyone who could lose his right hand to a chain saw and not be able to work. I can feel another’s pain now but it doesn’t take hold. It is like the memory of a tooth pulled weeks ago, a ghost standing among a congregation of other ghosts waiting for something they have earned but no longer want. This world is a wedding feast and a crucifixion. Always has been and always will remain, as long as human beings are still human.

.

LOOKING AT A PHOTOGRAPH OF SHIVABALAYOGI

Swamiji, Shivabalayogi Maharaj 1935-1994

Swamiji, Shivabalayogi Maharaj
1935-1994

April 6, 2014

We are looking at a photograph of Shivabalayogi
his smile just as I remember it
the nipple of his right breast showing through the shawl
the breast beginning to swell as a mother’s will
between feedings.

Shivabalayogi tells me
every moment this world is a wedding feast and a crucifixion.
Sometimes he is a baby calling for his mother
sometimes a mother whose child is lost.

I OPEN MY HEART TO A FLOWERING PEAR TREE

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April 2, Tom McCall Nature Preserve, Rowena, Oregon

The wild grass widows have gone where widows go
but three kinds of parsley are in bloom
and the tight buds of balsamroot are showing yellow
ready to open.

A wind carries me
to the cliff edge, one hundred twenty feet above the Columbia
where men and teen aged boys have fallen
and deer whose bones remain where coyotes have arranged them.

I look across the Columbia at the little railroad town of Lyle.
A mass of river gull at the mouth of the Klicitat
wait for spring chinook turning north, following the scent
of mother’s blood.

To the west, over Rowena Creek, a pear orchard is in bloom.
If I should fall and not be able
to fly
my last thoughts are flowers.

A TEXAN EXPLAINS THE HOLY NAME

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The holy name will not be spoken.
It disappears from the mouth as you form it.
The space between syllables
spreading
becoming a sky unto itself.

In that sky, names too formal to be used
are forgotten.
Why call someone who is always here?

Does the husband call his wife to the bridal bed
when she is already there waiting?
When the wife’s mouth is on his
does he stop to ask for a glass of water?

No name is needed
when breath or its absence will do.

.

TALKING TO SHIVABALAYOGI ABOUT GOOD AND EVIL, HOW WE ARE CARRIED IN THE ARMS OF THE BRAZOS

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for my friend Jon Madian

one
You who beat my heart
we walk together on the road to the White Salmon.
I see the river gorge is the outline of your body
hear the happy whistling of chickadees as breath through your nostrils.
Tinkling bells of rain water announce you are here
you are alive.

two
You are telling me there is no high wall between evil and good
where the watcher may see his own eyes
shining back at him in the dark.

In the dark we don’t recognize our own face
do not notice the left hand touching the right.
Only the dead glowing with good intention know this truth
and you should never listen to them.
Find out for yourself.

three
Evil and good bleed into one another
are always mouth to mouth
as the Brazos River is to the Gulf of Mexico
the mud tongue of one tasting the salt tongue of the other.

four
In the estuary of the Brazos
black and white men no one values
pull gar from rainbow colored water.
They roll them in cornmeal, flecks of tar still in the flesh
when it is laid down in the lard to fry.

five
You tell me there are men who cannot survive a salt river
who must believe they are all one thing and not another
but in the mouth of the river
the one is food for the other.

six
There is a body
in which we feel a cooling rain touch scars where the flesh is worn thin
where the memory of horror and of loss is alive.
There is another body composed of Brazos water.

seven
In a dream, I am taken through an open window
travel flooded streets grey with diesel.
I am carried by the Brazos and we are rolling
in a torrent of the Mother’s love.

We flow on through alley ways seeking the drunk and the dead
bending down over them as a friend.
A blue wind follows, lifting those who are ready
into the sky.

eight
You tell me all of us are thieves.
When the stone is rolled away from the tomb
we take with us what we have stolen from ourselves.
The cotton we are bound in is unwrapped by a blue wind.
We see the sky round as the mouth of a cave
hear it calling a name that sounds like water.

FIVE MEMORIES OF A BOY FROM EAST TEXAS

Doss Texas landscape and catfish heads

Texas landscape with catfish heads

one
Raw morning
red meat of dawn across my shoulders.
Unsettled grackles in fig trees
breath leaving their beaks as balls of startled smoke.

two
Geese in a blue fog lifting clumsy out of rice fields.
Heffers in the pines, tick birds on their backs
calling, “forlorn, forlorn, forlorn”.
The seed bull in the unplowed field is bellowing
a warning.

three
Blunt odor of rain held in the red clay
heavy in the lungs as the smell of hog’s blood.
Night crawlers washed to the surface of the road
gathered in a dixie cup
for sun perch where the creek deepens
and the roots of white magnolia take hold
try to draw you down into the green.

four
Mildew rising out of cattail.
Everything alive is breathing lungs full of damp
holding it deep in the chest as if a single green breath
can be a refuge
a home.

five
In every heart there is a bullet hole seeping blood through limestone
as a spring.