Published

Published Poetry

Rejection

The same stone which the builders rejected
has become the chief cornerstone.

The great American poet was gravely ill.
Confined to home, he was game enough for an interview.
As I was ushered into his august presence,
I noticed letterhead papers taped to the walls
of the rooms, corner to corner from floor to ceiling.
Each was a version of, “Sorry, not for us.”
Of course, I started to laugh, which was the point.
The old man’s voice was soft but clear:
“The rejection letters keep me humble,” he said.
“I often wonder where the editors and publishers—
these gatekeepers—are today with their insights.
The uncharted path is hard to follow at first.
I get that. Sometimes it takes a while
for the world to come around to the unforeseen reality
that a loathed new idea despised by the authorities
will be the conceptual capstone of the coming age.”

  • MyEdmondsNews, July 2020

Bus Poem: Hard Times

Her long and pallid fingers
grip tight an impish pair
of toddler boys
as she climbs onto the bus.
I lift my eyes to a stretched-long face
as white as chalk—
a face evocative of the Great Depression
when hard times were black and white.

Her photo-flash whiteness indicates
the final stage of terminal fatigue.
Translucent skin,
sanded smooth from toddler work,
is the thinnest possible film
over a blue vein near the collarbone.
Thin lips are drained of color.
Fatigue’s garment is the absence of color.

Her large protective hands
caress the boys.
The three of them form
a triangle of touching and soft murmuring.
The boys are rested,
well-behaved and full of color,
but she is black and white,
a bright dust-bowl face of exhaustion.

  • MyEdmondsNews, July 2020

The Lake

Intuitive images of truth
from out of the liquid eye

are writ in stagnant brown
when scuttling winds are shy

or lush voluptuous blue
erotic as a lover’s sigh

or red on twilight orange
where the blood syllables fly.

The poet dreams his life
as the lake dreams the sky.

  • MyEdmondsNews, March 2020

My Moment in Time

Curving through a basalt cut,
the slim-waisted river brings
waters from the Two Oceans Plateau

at Jackson Lake to the faraway waters
out west, all the way to Astoria.
Cache Peak is due south.

Smooth-sanded alluvial fans
are tan with flecks of sagebrush teal.
To the north, the massive Craters of the Moon

lava fields lie between the river
and the distant mountains of central Idaho.
I stand alone in this isolated spot.

Civilization is nowhere in sight.
Little has changed since the Bonneville Flood
scoured the Portneuf River Valley

at the end of the Ice Age or even
when the first people arrived more
than ten thousand years ago.

This moment by the river—my moment
in time—is a one-of-a-kind snapshot
in the millions of years that some version

of the Snake River flowed to the Pacific.
This tiny stretch of river is not
the complete river any more than lives

exists in isolation apart from all the brothers
and sisters of the past, present, and future.
Like the island in the stream parting the waters,

it isn’t you who travels forward.
The small measure of time meant for you
travels toward you and beyond you.

  • MyEdmondsNews, March 2020

The Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard

I was an L.A. kid. My favorite sport
was baseball. The weather was always kind
enough for a game. My friends and I
knew the batting averages and the earned run
averages of the players in the PCL,
and all the major league stats. I followed the Angels.
It was always a treat to go to Wrigley Field
with my dad and watch the Angels play ball.
I never went without some friends from school.

One Saturday, my dad took me and two
of my friends to an Angels game. We sat near
the back of the lower section overlooking
first base. There was a section in front of us
right by the visitors’ dugout completely empty.
These seats were the most expensive in the park,
but today, those ticket holders did not show up.

Wrigley had a custom to let the local kids
into the stands after a couple of innings,
just to fill up the ballpark. It was a neighborly policy
with the surrounding community in south L.A.
and it helped to boost the noise for the home team.

When a boisterous group of black kids commandeered
the seats in the coveted section down below,
a man sitting near us began to grumble
about them in a loud voice. This same man
was telling his companion at the start of the game
how pleased he was with his seats at the ballpark.
He did have great seats, but it made him angry
when poor kids sat closer to the action.

The man complained and muttered racial slurs
for two innings before my father finally
had enough. Dad was sure the commentary
was ruining the experience for me and my friends.
After one racist rant too many, my father turned
to him and said, “Hey, knock it off.
We’re trying to watch the game.” The man was caught
off guard, “Well, it isn’t fair. I paid good money
for these seats, and those kids don’t deserve
the luxury box.” Dad said, “I heard you bragging
about your seats when you came in. You said
they were perfect. What happened? Relax,”
he said gesturing toward the buoyant fans
in the stands, “enjoy the game with the rest of us.”

It worked. We never heard another word.
Later, my dad explained it this way:
“It is a gift just to be there at Wrigley Field
where the sun is shining and the Angels are winning.
Be happy. It doesn’t matter where you sit.”

  • MyEdmondsNews, March 2020

clicking Send—
she is the last
of my parents’ generation
gone are the trees
I used to climb

  • Atlas Poetica

the river
always leaves its source
yet it never leaves
the tangled fishhooks
of loves false and true

  • Atlas Poetica

tonight
by the lemon tree
our first kiss
I ride home
on a horse of oxygen

  • Atlas Poetica

the baby is dead . . .
while he stares
into the street
she feels her breasts
filling with milk

  • Atlas Poetica

deep grasses choke
the broad path
we used to walk
our past is lost
in a seamless field of green

  • Atlas Poetica

Now That I Am Dead

On reading “Evening Land” by Pär Lagerkvist

As I stooped through the low portal of death,
I saw my human fate
Emptied out into the lethe.

Life’s luggage of love and hate
Was left behind the wall;
The gardener burned my once-essential freight.

I asked myself if this was all.
Intelligent souls clicked like dolphins in the wind
On either side of the wall,

Discerning everything.  My mind
Came clean; discernment whirled ahead
As soon as I was schooled by the garrulous wind.

Now that I am dead,
I know that God did not create the soul;
The soul created God instead.

Now that I am dead, I know the soul
Imagined heaven straddling earth
Where God was hired to rule

Irascible man and iterative death/rebirth.
I dreamed of an infinite life,
A dream encoded before my birth,

Because one life was not enough.
I know that paradise was once inside my head,
Now that I am dead.

Change

For a Memorial Service

The sacred sea defines
Our summed collective soul.

Our infinite designs
Are in the sea’s control.

We scarcely understand
Our fundamental start.

We cannot comprehend
The sum of every part.

As the aeons come and go,
Its silent flow and blend
Is all we ever know;
But now we feel the wind.

A molecule of water
That skims the sacred sea
And breathes corporeal air
Resembles you and me.

As soon as we are tossed
Above the nurturing foam,
This flesh, from found to lost,
Obscures our natural home
In such a pleasing way
We lose the cosmic sweep
Of comely, sunborne spray
Rounded by the deep.

Celebrating Peace

1.

Today we gather in this faraway space
To celebrate what never took place.

Under this cloudless sky
The Unknown Soldier did not die.

No one was wounded on this spot.
Nary a soldier fired a shot.

No soldier sang a battle hymn
Or killed or died or lost a limb.

On this our distant grassy field,
No corpse was lifted onto a shield.

The world at war is far away;
Let peace begin with us today.

2.

Fog is rising from the thawing ground.
Birds are soaring without a sound.

Cedars shimmer in the morning breeze.
Snowy mountains back the trees.

For a world at war, where do we start?
Peace begins in the human heart.

By changing hearts one by one,
Changed hearts lower the gun.

Today we promise to work for peace,
Changing hearts in the name of peace.

The world at war is far away;
Let peace begin with us today.

nightfall
a cricket aria,
then the chorus

  • ‘t schrijverke (the Netherlands)

pan-fried trout
I learn something new
about my father

  • The Heron’s Nest
    Heron’s Nest Award, December 2011: Editor’s Choice
  • Carving Darkness, Red Moon Anthology, 2011
  • Haiku Foundation Per Diem, February 2014
  • Per Diem Archive on the Haiku Foundation Website

and

  • Haiku App (Apple)

winter
the empty space
inside the cello

  • Modern Haiku

and

  • ‘t schrijverke (the Netherlands)

pinwheeling leaves
thirty-five years end
with the word amicable

  • Frogpond

August moon
children disappear
into their lives

  • Modern Haiku

and

  • San Marino High School class reunion memory book

Sawtooth Mountains
the alpine lake is stocked
with clouds

  • Modern Haiku

as I cut and splice
a few salient vignettes,
the rest of my life
spools out
on the cutting room floor

  • Simply Haiku

walking away
from the laugh track
into the twilit park
into the noise-cone
of a brood of cicadas

  • TSA Ribbons

Taps…
the widow folds her life
and puts it away

  • Simply Haiku

waking up
to the first nudge
of pain
great unweavings begin
with one loose thread

  • American Tanka

summer heat
coming all this distance to find
nothing but distance

  • Paper Wasp

the pounding surf
why does it matter now
after 40 years?
bleached stones against
the bleached sky

  • Simply Haiku

redgold salmon
flap their tails…
Indian summer

  • Paper Wasp

the hard-breathing trout
explaining death
to a child

  • Frogpond

bitter snowstorm…
strangers become friends
for a day

  • The Heron’s Nest

I put down my pen
to watch the birds
swallows criss-cross the street
hour after hour because…
I have no idea

  • TSA Ribbons

dried dogwood flowers
the old couple
eats in silence

  • Simply Haiku

deep coral tulips—
our quiet
conversation

  • The Heron’s Nest

phosphorous flares
illuminate those
about to die
Huey gunships
are pissing bullets

  • Simply Haiku

restless ducks
fly south
fly north

  • The Heron’s Nest

looking ahead to the past
remembering the future
one datastream
the road from home
is a road leading home

  • Simply Haiku

a pinwheeling leaf
strikes the watercourse
and floats around the bend
gone forever
do you ever think of me?

  • Simply Haiku

repair work
on the dam
emptying out
the harmony
of water and mud

  • Simply Haiku

she touched my cheek
and turned away—
summer’s end
how many turns
around the sun?

  • TSA Ribbons

the river flowed backward
for her—friends took leave
one by one
she is all alone
at the source

  • TSA Ribbons

double-clicking
the Events folder
our first kiss
remembering your touch,
the tilt of your face

  • TSA Ribbons

Oregon fog
rumors
of mountains

  • The Heron’s Nest

wind over the lake
desiccate leaves
scrape indolently
at our feet
like the years

  • American Tanka

my glass is filled
with dusk tonight
I swirl the west and think of you
and sip the stars
down to the stem

  • Simply Haiku

lost mojo
on the Red Line
a sweet face
no opportunity
for me

  • TSA Ribbons

The Way

The way eludes the snare
of language. It is hard to catch the wheeling birds
scurrying up helixing stairs,

but harder still to catch the way with words.
The heart that hangs stretched and framed
is not the heart of hearts;

the way that can be named
and then defined is not the way.
The way conceals itself by being nameless.

Abundantly clear from far away,
the mountain up close fades to shades of white;
such vastness mirrors the way.

The patient, widening eye controls the night.
Eventually, patterns emerge,
defining themselves with immanent light,

suggesting a subtle demiurge
behind a shadowy veil
behind another veil on heaven’s edge

behind the tangible veil
of earth; for earth is the pattern for humanity,
then heaven for earth; and through the farthest veil,
the way spins out our destiny.

  • Arnazella

1066

Historians lust for great events,
The violent one percent,
So nothing happens nearly every year.

Stamford Bridge and Hastings stretched a month;
Whatever happened years before
Or since that raven glut?

For each combatant, hundreds more
Were not involved, as Norseman, Norman, Celt
And Saxon plowed the green

Or toiled the cold Atlantic,
Gave birth in perishing huts or softly sang
For children alliterative lullabies.

  • Arnazella

Class of 1960

We meet again, halfway to the sea;
We touch again, halfway from the snow.
Our disentangled lives have floated free
Through range and farm and city far below,
And far away from home. We floated free
Within the groove of the river’s quiet flow.
Our lives are channeled—this we clearly see;
Our cut of land determines where we go;
But how we go is up to you and me.
Entangled as we are again tonight,
Salute the past, then say a last good-bye.
Remember me as I appear tonight
And I’ll remember you with an inward eye
Until the whispering river meets the sea.

  • San Marino High School class reunion memory book
    (written in 1990)

North San Diego County

The grass of Kearny Mesa
Grew up to be
A hundred shopping malls.

The naked hills were clothed
By Mediterranean housing projects.

Some rural routes
Are giant interstates.

I never gave a thought
To golden grass
Or granite hills
Or dusty roads
When they were there,
Before the dozers carved the land.

  • Thirteen

Back Jackknife

His rigid arms are pointing down as he walks
The diver’s practiced pace toward the edge
And deftly spins around to set his feet.
The crowd grows quiet as he is on his toes,
To seek and find the pulse of limber steel.
With that assured, arms come up, palms flat
And facing down; knuckles nudge his gaze.

Silence snaps—he takes the backward leap,
Exploding blind at forty-five degrees
(Too high, you flop; too low and over you go),
And belly muscles pull his daggered toes
Into a row of waiting fingertips
Still reaching out directly from the chest.
He shuts the knife exactly at the apogee;

His body forms a tight, symmetrical V.
And just a blink beyond, he pops the knife.
The head flies back and arms in tandem follow
Violently; so head, arms, and back design
A deadly blade to cut the water clean.
He nails the perfect dive. And slicing through
The bottom of the sky, he suns in blithe applause.

  • Aethlon