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Affirmation 

I can watch roses bloom 
With no envy toward the sun 
And see the weeds with no bitterness 
In the garden I begun 

I can send gifts to the wedded 
Though the bells ring cold 
And with grace let go 
Of what desire would hold 

I can belong to this world 
Without being a possession 
And know my destination 
Without having a direction 

I can sing with rage 
As placid as the morning 
And find true stillness 
In funnel clouds forming 

I can safely not know 
The answer to the question 
But let the asking 
Beget the suggestion

                                   //

Monday



When the house starts to vibrate 
In anticipation of the night 
And the zucchini, breaded and ready 
On the baking sheet, neatly arranged, 
Waits for its plunge into the Red Sea 

I see Charlton Heston as Moses 
Spilling marinara sauce on his red robe 
Hoping no one will notice 
Amidst all the miracles 

II 

After leaving that house 
Towards my bed of down and sleeping dog, 
I found I was left with a sweet scent 
Somewhere on the right side of my face 
Hiding below or just along my jaw line 

In secret moments I turned my head 
On the unsuspecting scent to catch it, 
And each moment was a gift 
From a friend I held 
Or a leg I rested my head on 
Or a parting embrace to celebrate 
The practice of gathering 

It was a sweet soft spice like a nameless 
Orange flower with its dark eye staring at the sun, 
It was my father's desk drawer 
When I asked him for a glue stick when I was five 

He kept a salve like tiger balm inside 
Which scented the pencils of my childhood, 

With which I drew my first picture 
Of a dog that would later be asleep on my bed, 
With which I practiced my backwards letters 
That would later become this poem 


                                   //

The Library 


While I was in the library 
Finding words that rhyme with ivory 
(I've fallen for piano keys) 

My friends were outside picking blackberries 

While they were weeding the beds of garlic 
I was reading a book about farmers 
Who couldn't find work 

I hope you're hungry my dear, 
For I have words to share, 
Some truth to confess: 

I dress my best 
Seven days a week 
And I study the way 
Roscoe Holcomb speaks 
And the way Texas Gladden 
Ends her notes by adding 
Sudden mountain peaks 

The ballads and storms endured 
And forms that changed - 
I hold the remains as though 
America's past was cremated 
But the ashes in the urn 
Can't alleviate the fact 
That we've been burned 

While I was in the library 
Searching for a word 
The ivory keys became plastic 

The flag was at half-mast 
For the passing of the wilderness 
And my friends were locked up 
For stopping construction equipment 

While I was in the library 

The world spun around me 
And I finally found my word, 
Dressed like me, singing songs 
For the last bird of its kind, 
For the migrant workers hiding, 


For my friends pulling silver fruit 
Off starry vines, 

Saying, 
“Here, take this star, 
Take it to the library 
And we'll read beneath its light 
A hundred years from now”

                                   //

Storms Returning 
or Season of Song 



I can't be in some stained glass mansion 
Getting sideways glances 
From the omniscient cowhand 

I can't be sailing 
Through the dim tunnels of the heart 
Finding pain behind picture frames 

I can't be bathing 
In hardening sorrow carving letters 
Onto the trees of my time 

I can only dissolve 
And hide in the creases around my eyes 
Where you'll find me 

To say that when I smile 
It reminds you. 

Then the creases unfold 
And I hit the ground 
To grow like a seed 

In spring 


II 


No one seems to be stopping, 
So why should I? 

We're all chasing our muses, 
Aren't we? 

I've turned a baseball diamond 
Into a garden, 
Haven't I? 

The dirt under your nails 
Are my stone fingertips 

And the flowers you grow 
Are my melodies scented 
With sweet blue certainty 

The sisters are digging the cistern 
To collect the rain, 

The family of strange birds 
Heard something to make them sing, 

And I've been carving my woods 
Out of soft wood 

Trying with tired eyes 
Admittedly blithe in my 
Harrowed humility 

To find just what it means 
To embrace the seemingly 
Endless ocean, 

While on the shore someone sits 
Sewing nets with bone needles 
Gutting fish and grinding stone wheels. 

You, wishing all the while 
For the sweetest deal in which you sail 
Over mountains, through deserts, 

Taking your time 


III 



While the summer's numbered days 
Shade out the flowers of my uncertainty, 

The heat stands still, 
The dogs pant in the dry dirt, 
And the rattling questions of the cicadas 
Are posed in swelling choruses 

I respond one by one 
As though each wing were 
Teaching its last lesson, 

Masters of their sound 
Found deep in the season 
Of their song

                                   //

Tradition 



Your crystalline consciousness won't save us 

Even the copper in the penny arcade 
Of your spirituality was mined 
In corners of the Earth utterly forgotten 

Repay the priestess of a thousand years ago 
By drinking the stolen water of her children 

You breathe into that sadness 
For a few moments within a week 
In a class that fits somewhere 
In the fissure between fitness and fabrication 

Chanting like crows in rows of colorful clothes 
Sewed by factory hands forced off their land 
To submit to the law of supply and demand 

Your Dharma of detachment is a notion 
That floats like plastic in the middle of the ocean 

Your mindfulness practice is a helpful distraction 
From the sounds of fracking in your neighbor's backyard 

Watch with forgiveness as businesses 
Burn holes into the lungs of the child 
That resides within a fifty mile radius of the coal mine 

Go ahead and empathize with the poor lost soul of 
The CEO so he might know how to love 
Because you gave him a sprinkle of magic dust 
From your pouch of boundless compassion 

You're up against a tank 
Waiting for your magic carpet to take flight 
While the sun is setting 
On the age we thought would never end 

And when the bees have stopped buzzing 
And the peepers are deafening in their silence 
We'll all hear you say, 

“Namaste” 

II 

To me, the old song is fruit 
On the end of a limb 
Of an old tree. 

It is picked, and the fruit grows back. 

I feel the weight 
Of the swelling seed 
As the branch bends gently 
And I wonder with excitement 
In the thought of its taste. 

You seem the tree is same 
But the rain changes 
From year to year, 
Century to century, 
Such that the sweetness now 
Was bitterness then, 
But the taste stays familiar 
And akin to the one some ancestor 
Once tasted on their tongue 
As a gift from the 
Hard labor season. 

To wait until the fruit is ripe, 
To feel each footstep towards the bough 
And extend my hand to receive the gift, 
The fruit of purpose and practice. 

But perhaps I hold this notion too dear. 
Some just that I'm the old man 
Yelling at the kids to get off his lawn, 

But the kids are breaking branches 

Just the other day a young man 
With a steel string guitar 
Slung over his back 
Pulled a pale green fruit 
Until the branch snapped. 

He showed off the stick 
For a month or two 
But the fruit never grew 
And the taste like sweet rain 
And the reward of patience 
He never knew. 

Here is what I will say: 

One needn't be an arborist 
To study the beauty of a tree, 
But if they're to hold dear 
The health of the old growth 
As they reach, 
Perhaps a student 
Is what they should be.

                                   //


 

November 


A billionaire was elected president 
Leonard Cohen died this morning 
And Tom Waits is playing on the radio 

Four sheep were slaughtered yesterday 
The dog smelled the blood on my clothes 
And lately every time I hold a friend 
It feels like we're at a funeral 

Maybe we are 

It could be for Leonard Cohen 
Or for the country 
Of for the sheep 
Kicking their way to the stars 
As they opened like 
Erupting volcanoes 


                                   //



Travel Plans To The Bottom 
Of Kakariko Well 


I have travel plans 
To the bottom of Kakariko well 
Sometime this winter, 
And I plan on staying there a while, 
Listening to those spooky drums 


                                   //

Tea House 



I always know 
When Jess is running the Tea House 

I can tell from the temple bells ringing 
The throat singing 
Inviting us into the room 

The candles lit beneath 
Carved wooden sculptures 

Good people made immortal 
Forever holding up their hands 
In some holy gesture of understanding 

When Jess brews tea 
Her hand rests on the vessel 

As through the leaves 
Whisper into her palm, 
“We're ready now”

                                   //

Untitled 


When your heart's ropes are taut 
And the words are caught in your throat 
As though the thought is stuck 
Stubbornly like a rock in dry dirt 

And to lift your hand 
To stop the falling of an auction hammer 
Is a gesture like wind 
Blowing a bolt of lightning 

When the well-tended roads of emotion 
Like Roman waterways crumble 
Into the rivers of your arms 
And the careful current carried 
Through the deltas of your legs 
Up to the monument of your mind 
Comes pouring over the sides 
Of the marble slides 
Down into the quiet village 
Of your heart, 

You might start to feel that 
The ropes are taut from falling walls 
Being raised up by the enduring community 
Of your endless breath 


                                   //


Too Young To Remember 



Oh, I'm too young to remember 

I hear it said often 
As though the right to the past 
Requires a 401K or a slick new coffin 

I don't know that John Denver song 
But I know some scarred lines 
Of mining songs once sung 
On the sides of those 
West Virginia country roads 
(They spoke in code 
so they wouldn't get shot 
by coal company thugs) 

You'd think they swept your generation 
Under the rug by the way you talk 
As though the cultural mausoleum 
Containing your peace-sign pins 
For all these years has been 
Bolted and locked 

Am I too young to remember? 

No, I'm just not old enough to forget, 
The way you did when you let 
Change slip through your fingers 
After you smoked your last marijuana cigarette 
Only to place stock market bets 
In paisley wearing a necktie 
Staring at your secretary's body 
Like she doesn't notice 

And you hold this 
Asking if I know this or that song 
By someone who stole it 
From an artist who wrote it 
But wasn't allowed to vote 

Oh, but I'm too young to remember, 
It was before my time 


                                   //


Wanting Poetry 


I miss making love with words; 
I want to make these pages scream 
And ask for more, 
I want to be turned on 
By my handwriting 
And daydream in poems 
That pant in my ear 
With words that moan 
As they read themselves 
Half asleep in the middle of the night; 
I want to write so long 
That exhaustion means nothing 
Until I cover the page with ink 
And awake with my pen in hand 


                                   //


Wedding 

Honeymoons in hurricanes 
White balloons in lightning storms 
The marquee made of metallic bones 
Praying in silent static chants 

Clouds spinning in tumbling grace 
Offering a whipping gray finger 
To touch the earth 
In the oldest marriage

                                   //

Searching For The Miller's Sonnet 


The other day I heard someone say, 
“Did you hear that the baker 
Has written a play? 
Did you know the bartender 
Can recite your favorite sonnet?” 

But I wondered, 

When will the bricklayers 
Tell us the story of how 
These walls came to be? 

Not with eloquence 
Or framed in filigree 
But with tools and plans 
And callous hands 
Prying open paint cans 

Like prisoners putting on a play 
To make sense of the audience 

When will the drivers 
Whistle to the world the tune 
That rides shotgun in their minds 
When they cross state lines? 

Where is the dance called, 
“We don't want your bread” 
Choreographed by the convict's wife 
And dedicated to the state? 

Where is the new rendition 
Of an old song sweeping 
The nation of electricians? 

I don't know 
Where to look these days 

Who gets praise 
And who gets raised 
To say their peace 
In ways without words? 

If luck puts the pen 
In the hand of the poet 
And the shovel 
On the shoulder of the miner, 

Call it then the human spirit 
That puts a song on all our lips 
As tongue in cheek 
We dance and fight 
On the lawn of that 
Terribly 
White 
House

AFFIRMATIONS AND STORMS RETURNING (2018)