MORNING WITH BIRDSONG
With all this memory left in me
how can I go to sleep under your southern wing?
With all this blood, how can I hide my face?
Only if you say clearly
“You have no face that is not my own.”
can I put myself to rest.
MORNING PRAYER FOR CAROL
“Everything that touches you.” The Association
May she sleep well at night.
Wake without pain in her shoulder.
May her knee and hip not cry out, bringing her too soon
to this world.
May blue jays speak respectfully at her windows.
Let there be peace in her morning contemplation
a perfect cup of coffee in her hand.
May she enjoy everything she sees and hears, everything she touches
May she always delight in the face she sees in her mirror.
Let the first incident of the day that would disturb her peace
Let her go at her own pace and never tire of beauty.
May beauty flow in her as mercy and as a joyful song.
May she enjoy her garden as she does her flying dreams.
May there always be harmony between us and trust and may our eyes be creased
CAMPING OUT IN A PASTURE
Though the house is only a hundred yards through the woods
we lie down on damp ground and try
to draw into ourselves the cold life of stones
on foot below fescue.
There is a quiet coming up
like a mountain blue with distance.
We try to know
the solid ecstasy of rocks, floating ecstasy of leaves
the clamorous ecstasy of creeks.
I say that our lives are eternal and there is nothing
we can do about it.
I hold up empty hands to show you
what I have made of myself
in a city where even wetbacks get rich
and every highschool graduate has a scheme.
I hold up hands and long arms empty
as cement beaches.
In the backyard wild onions come up.
Bluejays like unoiled hinges sing.
My eyes open on an expanse of GI houses
empty empty empty
meaningless repetition like the ticking of a watch
on the wrist of a freshly buried man.
I hold up hands full of nothing
but the breathing winds of Houston.
CONTEMPLATING A CHRYSANTHEMUM
All that I am, all that I know I bring with attention
to these chrysanthemum leaves.
In the side yard a pigeon and a mourning dove
preen themselves in the green crown of a willow
RECALLING WHO I AM
So much has changed
but the ache of knowing I am still here
is the same.
The heart opening wide as a grave digger’s yawn
trying to take in more than it needs to survive.
THE OTHER IS MY SELF
We share a common existence, living in seven worlds at once
and in every world there is a price to be paid for love.
What I cannot imagine or hope for is all I have
to offer you.
SITTING IN THE WOODS OUTSIDE KINGSTON, ARKANSAS
You have to wait
wait until it begins to happen.
The black beetle rolls a ball of dung at your feet
intent upon it as a lover after his pleasure.
In a circling breeze are
two saplings beautiful as adolescent girls before the fear
of happiness comes.
They dance together, one touching
After an hour you are invisible
and the deer that you don’t see, does not see you.
In a hollow walnut tree the owl startled from its sleep
speaks a name in the Ojibwa language
you recognize as your own.
63 YEARS OLD, WALKING ON COOPER ROAD
63 years old, walking on Cooper Road
two loops around the graveyard and home.
Sun in the west through Douglas fir and second growth oak.
My shadow on the blacktop, rounded in the shoulders
as I remember my father.
I DRIVE FIVE MILES WEST ON 114 TO KAYAK IN DRANO LAKE
I drive five miles west on 114
and paddle to the drainage of the Little White Salmon River.
The water clear down to bedrock.
Spread wings of the sky cover the surface of the water
until a stroke of the paddle
breaks the perfect mirror with a wave.
In the pool close to the fish ladder
I watch salmon try to leap the dam, go home to the river.
A thousand more, dead or spawning, bump the plastic hull
of my yellow kayak.
Inside your voice is another voice
calling, “Come in here. Come in…”
Inside that voice a third voice is singing about sunlight dancing
along a certain ear of corn.
Inside every yellow kernel is laughter, is water falling
water falling, clapping on a rock!
IT WILL BE THIS WAY
Texas will secede from the Union. There will be a killing!
The profit of the Lord shall not be made less
than any another man’s.
The Red, the Brazos, and the Trinity will be gutters of blood.
The Big Thicket will be burned and the Salt Plains put to use.
Those who lie with the Babylonian Whore cut their own throats!
Every man, every woman, every child
who bends a knee to the wrong god
will be cut down in open fields
and left to the sky!
Hair and teeth rise up in plowed furrows!
Jawbones are found that go on talking for a thousand years!
God’s voice is a devastation of cornfields!
THE LIGHT OF OUR FACES
When I kneel to this world
a fire burn in the joints of my knees.
Streets once warm and moist as a woman’s thighs
50 gallon barrels in alley ways where the homeless burn
I heard this on the radio in Hood River, Oregon:
A 76 year old man dying of cancer was caught laughing out loud
at his own funny shadow on the hospital wall.
Told his wife he would rather walk once more alone on Mount Hood
than drink death for half a year in bone colored rooms
where people wear masks.
So a friend drove him up to Cloudcap where he walked in falling
and was found six months later become the color of water.
By the light of our own faces
we may look straight at the terrors of this world and be found clear
FOR JEFF IN 1988
In the beginning there are rainbows inside of eggs.
The moon is small as a lentil.
Earth is the right eye of a sunfish.
I wake in darkness with my own arms around me like a fetus.
Heartbeat is a voice whispering secret names of other selves.
Morning singing to me like a Mother.
DAWN IN LATE OCTOBER
It is dawn now in late October.
I have been awake three hours drinking tea
and studying the slope of the roof next roof.
I will have oranges for breakfast.
Eat the morning slice by slice.
Your face is radiant as shucked corn
Troubles blow away from you like chaff.
What has happened?
I FEEL SORRY FOR HER
I feel sorry for her.
She has fierce periods of blood
arthritis in her knees.
Her skin breaks out
and she cries for no reason.
Her face is always cloudy as water about to boil.
I make sounds in my sleep
wake up shouting about Jesus.
I am helpless. There is nothing I
can do to save her.
SHE NEVER MADE A MAN HAPPY
She never made a man happy except afterwards
when he remembers escaping barefoot
down her back stairs
gray paint blistered and cracked in the soles of his feet
like walking on nails
except he is laughing out loud as he runs.
DRIVING THROUGH IOWA
We are driving over a rise of ground in Iowa.
Furrows on both sides of the road half full of snow.
Looks like a thousand bodies wrapped in sheets
laid side by side.
Above the flying car, sky turning blue as a crow
wings reaching out toward two infinities.
At dawn we cross the borderline.
WALKING IN THE STREET AT NIGHT
Evening breezes blow though my window
lift the curtain, letting darkness in and out.
I walk the streets
knowing what I sense in the dark is my own elaborate self
that is dying.
Elm trees in the green night look like negatives of photographs
of hands on fire.
The pavement is leading me past houses where desires are kept
locked in drawers with loaded guns.
I don’t know where I’m going, where
I will end.
I walk in the dark suffering the blows of headlights.
BEN HARRIS IN 1957
Ben Harris bends over his coffee in the dark
of early morning.
Dandruff falling from his head into a cup
full of stars.
His shadow thrown by kerosene light without care for its value
down wooden steps into the chicken yard.
LITTLE POEMS WITH LIGHT IN THEM
Light the color of a heron’s wings, light com-
ing from a clearing in a cloud bank.
Blue portuguese men of war light.
Let me tell you how the polished body
of a jellyfish gives off light from deep-
er down deeper down
like the eye of a buck deer embedded in glass.
Let me tell you how my hands are drawn to your body
like teenaged boys to an empty grave.
Go barefoot into your own yard, into your street
where chinaberry trees flame in the green morning.
Go early before you have to
when cold strikes the soles of the feet
runs up the legs following the spine.
Cold shooting into the brain, green joy flaming
in the temples.
MUNG BEANS SPROTING IN A JAR
Inside the shell the life is waking up.
A white coil lifts, tiny wings begin to open.
When the coil darkens in the light, the wings turn green
spread out as two hands of a priest.
We are all, we are all that light.
FOUND POEMS ABOUT ADMIRAL ISOROKU YAMAMOTO OF THE IMPERIAL JAPANESE NAVY
A Son Remembers His Father
He often took a bath with us.
He was very kind
and washed our backs and faces.
In the afternoons he would play catch ball
Though missing several fingers
he played catch ball very well.
The Admiral Thinks Of Retiring
In autumn I will return
to the house where I was born.
I will read the books my father and grandfather left.
I will grow vegetables and take care
of the chestnut tree.
He Regrets Making His Men Practice Dive Bombing
With every dive their lungs bleed, their lives
It hurts me
but I do it for my Emperor and my country.
On The Eve Of Pearl Harbor
All my men together are one person.
What the world will think, I do not care.
I am the sword of my Emperor
Days Before Being Shot Down And Killed
I have killed quite a few
of the enemy
and many of my own men have also been killed
so I believe it is time for me to die.
But I am the sword of my Emperor
and I will not be sheathed
until I die.
A hundred drowning men gave themselves
to The Old and Lost
gave their bodies to be nets for garfish
gave their heads for snails
the coils of their tongues to speak for
a strangeness in the river.
Carried into tributaries, into ferns
and tabernacles of roots
a hundred drowned men float on swollen backs
giving up their voices to be ghosts of water.
Overhead, the white crane circles.
BEFORE ME I SEE A LAKE OF FIRE
Before me I see a lake of fire,
one fish leaping up with scales silver as coins.
I see the coins dissolve into a mist of atoms
and the atoms condensed into light.
Inside this light are rainbows,
are moons and people walking
and when the light enters the water
it is a fish again!