Monthly Archives: August 2017

Mudslide and a brief reflection


It rained hard all night.
I was at my aunt’s.
I was getting some rice.
It was for the children.
The hill came down during the night.
There was a big bang.
It sounded like a million sticks of dynamite.
I tried to get out but the door wouldn’t open.
It was blocked by mud and rushing water.
There was a hole in the roof.
I made it bigger.
I climbed out.
Everything was crooked, buried, gone.
It was like the end of the world.
I prayed right then.
I don’t know what I said.
I was crazy-scared.
My house was moving.
It was like it was alive.
I just sat tight.
I called out in fear.
My voice sounded like a bird.
I was an eagle.
I swooped over what was left of the hill.
I saw some people looking up.
They saw me.
They waved.
It was very sad.
I watched them waving.
I think it was my uncle.
What could I do for him?
I flew away.

Reflection: This is a new poetic form I am experimenting with. Each line is a sentence. It seems to trigger a simpler, more naive and open voice. The mudslide in Sierra Leone was much more than that. For the people who lost loved ones, friends and neighbors, it was an indescribable catastrophe. I read a first-person account by a survivor who was care-taking a house at the base of the hill. Like other survivors, his story resembled a nightmarish dream of chaos, upheaval, collapse and numbing disbelief. His account inspired this poem which I see as a metaphor of world collapse, which many of us might be able to identify with as we experience the structures of our own world shifting, collapsing and dissolving around us. The bird is a symbol of the human spirit that is neither victim nor perpetrator in this chapter of American dysfunction. Perhaps things have to fail before they can get better.


How is it possible? followed by reflection on the eclipse

How is this possible?
How pale the light,
how still things have grown.
Dusk at 2:30.
People are lined up
at the telescopes
happily sharing glasses
that blind them to everything
but the sun
that is being devoured by a dragon.
There is a group over there,
talking to a man in a black pirate hat
who is showing off
pieces of the meteor
that broke all the windows in Chelyabinsk.
One little boy is eating a wild apple,
spitting out the rosy skin.
A woman with a British accent
is secretly laughing at my jokes.
I never tell jokes!
All this happiness is strange
like something from out there.
Like the smell of a flower
that blooms only during an eclipse.
I love being this happy.
Soon the world will return to its old ways.
People will forget
that the sun was eaten.
They will go back to their lives,
whatever they do
between eclipses.
How is this possible?
How pale the light.

Reflection: So, I wrote to my friend in Wales: The eclipse was a very huge deal here. People experienced it as a quasi-mythical event. My son and his girlfriend drove to the path of totality south of Portland, OR. They avoided the high desert to the east where there were three huge solstice festivals. One had to be evacuated because of a wildfire, so they were smart. Even in the small town where they camped out, there were plenty of random groups of people. I think the whole beleaguered country took a holiday!

Rainy Day Poems (poems followed by brief reflection on their writing)

Rainy day poems

A squirrel leaps from a low-lying raincloud.
It lands on the tip of a big maple.
It begins running down a long branch.
The branch is a path to the ground.
It is a magic squirrel.
Now maybe things will begin to change for the better.
Everything always gets better with magic.

In my dream

In my dream I was a doctor.
I wrote you a prescription.
You got better.
You bought a boat.
We went sailing.
We landed on an island.
There was a little hut on the island.
A man came out to welcome us.
We couldn’t understand him.
We had sea-water in our ears.
He said something and his face beamed.
He began laughing so hard he fell down.
It must have been a good joke.

The Pope

I dreamed that the Pope wrote something.
He buried it in a dump.
I dug it up.
There was a picture too.
The picture was all squiggly inside a circle.
It turned into a journal.
I gave the journal to some young people on top of a building.
There was a lizard under the carpet.
It bit me on the neck.

I am upstairs writing

I am typing on my computer.
What will I type?
I smell breakfast.
Shirley is cooking a frittata.
So that is what I am writing about.
It is a good smell
It gets better and better until it is done.

Ayla, my cat

My cat, Ayla, sits under the car and watches the woodpile.
She is watching for a chipmunk to appear.
If it appears she will try and catch it.
If she catches it she will carry it around in her mouth.
It will appear to be dead.
If I see her carrying the chipmunk I will try to rescue it.
I will run outside and try to startle her.
If I succeed she will drop it.
Sometimes it really is dead.
Sometimes it revives.
That makes me happy.
It makes Ayla mad.
She doesn’t catch that many after all.

Ayla, my cat
Ayla has a boxtop with her name on it.
When she sits in it no one can touch her.
She goes there when she doesn’t want to be bothered.
The force field around the box is very powerful.
It has never failed her.

My phone calls me
Gary, I have an urgent message.
What is it now?
Somebody needs your money.
They only need ten dollars.
What do you mean No?
My phone gets angry.
It tells me to stop hoarding.
I say, What I do with my money is none of your business!
My phone hangs up on me.

What love looks like
I send out a photo of a baby elephant and it’s mother.
The baby is pressing its trunk against its mother’s trunk.
The look it their eyes is heartwarming.
I send this photo to a short list of my favorite people.
I include the caption: This is what loves looks like.
My sister writes back: That’s what Ed and I look like.
I don’t ask her which is Ed.

I am a Shambhala warrior

Today I am taking a break from being a warrior.
I am writing silly poems.
I am feeling sorry for myself.
The day is dark and wet.
We have a guest staying with us.
He is a through-hiker of the Appalachian Trail.
He is a wonderful young man.
I am a powerful shambhala warrior.
Today I am taking a break.

Ten people
Ten people want to be my friend on Facebook.
They all have the same face.
I am suspicious.
Why would ten identical people want to be my friend?

My god was a butterfly

I sat in my house made of string and bark.
I made a religion of light and dark.
My god was a butterfly.
He was more colorful than a tie-dye.
He had limited power.
He made me a lover.
She lived on a flower.
A strong wind caught her.
It blew her to sea
I set sail in the pod of a pea.
I sailed until I came back around.
Somewhere near Peapod I ran aground.
Everyone there was just like me.
They all had wives named Mary-lee.
I searched both far and wide.
I missed my tiny bride.
If you see her, send her my way.
I’ll give you a donkey that doesn’t bray.

Reflection: I was looking out my second floor window on a rainy morning and saw a squirrel starting down a long diagonal limb that looked like a path to the ground. It seemed as if he had just appeared from somewhere higher up even though the maple he was descending was the tallest tree and there was nothing close to it, so I imagined that this squirrel came from a cloud. After I wrote this first poem, it was as if a door opened to a lighter magical space and the rest of the poems came rapid fire. As far as how they are set up, the only rule I gave myself was that each line be a simple and complete sentence. (The last poem was actually written on a sunny day.)