Sunday, May 31, 2009


In the morning I take our tiny dog out
to the backyard, with a cup of coffee.
I sit in river rock as he plays;
legs splayed out, I am his touchstone.
His explorations radiate out from me
in ever widening loops of investigation.

Meanwhile I admire the rocks
thinking back to college geology classes.
Mostly sedimentary and metamorphic
I hold in my hand a tiny vignette;
silts deposited in some ancient river, lake or sea.
The next one has tiny fossils, confirming the thought.

Meanwhile Bandit growls and tugs at
a Pampas grass many times his height
then an instant later, focuses on tiny sugar ants
weaving a cryptic path across the patio.
Anything and everything that he can bite or
chew is fair game; sticks tremble before him.

I sit in a multitude of colors like a paint display
at the hardware store, shades of browns, reds,
whites and pale yellows, occasional jet black and,
surprisingly, soft edged sea glass in bottle green,
morning sky blue, and rarer yet, orange and red.

Bandit returns to base camp, looks up at me
eyes as black as rock, then settles between my legs,
safe for a rest and perhaps a nap.
We both look out, content at our surroundings
and wonder where it all came from.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day 2009

My parents were the last generation
of my family to go to war.
As a cop I experienced combat and death
and this is where I learned
what it feels like to lose friends
in the line of duty.
This is nothing compared to war.

Perhaps you have a touchstone for this day or
as it has become for many
Memorial Day is just a three day weekend.

In this morning’s paper, there was a photo
of a young mom with her two small children,
planting flags and flowers in a cemetery.
The caption said she knew no one resting there.

When she was a little girl, her family took this day
as a time to honor those lost to war.
She wanted to teach this custom and hope
it would be remembered and passed on.

Saturday, May 23, 2009


Apotemnophilia sounds terribly serious
and the word is in fact quite twisted.
One might think it means great love for a pharaoh
but the reality is far more pernicious.

It’s a word quite crude, twisted and strange
which is why I hesitate to state it;
it means that for sexual gratification
you wish your limbs amputated.

Now that is the case if it applies to you
there’s another if the subject’s your sweetie
if it’s them you want severed then what you got
is a case of acrotomophilia.

Memorial Day, Price, Utah

Down 191, between the Castle Gate and
Willow Creek Mines, passing
endless ore cars, air thick with
the sweet reek of coal, we are southbound
into the heart of castle country.

Crenellated high ground gives way
to broad valley, alluvial fans in tan and brown
like the delta of some great lost river
offering the gift of soil.

It is Monday and everything is closed.
Our car, alien Washington State plates,
the only one moving, our hopes for breakfast fade.
But Kokopeli’s Diner is open and friendly;
we ask, over omelets and pancakes
where everyone is. The waitress smiles
“It’s Memorial Day;” telling us all we need to know.

We tour the town through quiet streets
heading northeast where the map shows city parks,
and on E 400 Street we find the people.

The cemetery has a freshly painted fence.
Trees, a study in shape and swaying greens
against grays and blues of cloud and sky
frame stone, marker and monument.
Here are hundreds of flags, thousands of flowers
and most of the citizens, living and dead.

It is ghostly quiet; only wind and bird break it.
In the distance a dog barks once and stops
as if embarrassed. There are picnics and blankets
but conversation is too quiet for our distant ears.
We think about taking a walk but this
is an invitation-only party.


If you think about it, it’s pretty great
the ability to transubstantiate,
it’s not just about wafer and wine,
any ol’ transmution is fine!

Take Star Trek, for example, and Scottie’s transporter
scrambling the molecules of Vulcan and Doctor,
you needn’t be the son of God there to go,
as any loyal Trek fan would certainly know.

While Eucharist is by far the most famous
there are plenty of other ways to explain it;
Mix Bosco and milk and really quite suddenly,
you got you a transmutation most lovely.

Be it anger to mirth or batter to cake,
there’s dozens of avenues that one can take.
You don’t need fancy words or religion to discover
that it’s all about changing one thing to another.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

North Fork, Coeur D’Alene River

I visit the campground host in the morning
a nice old boy who sells flies and knows the river.
I bring coffee and donuts. I ask about a pool
upstream where it looks like big trout might live.
He allows that there just might be an 18” plus
cutthroat there and if a guy tied a hair wing Caddis in
cream he might just get a shot at him.

Sun slanting toward late afternoon I walk the road upstream,
rod in hand, vest on back. Air dry, hot, smelling of pine and fir,
gravel crunches under sandals, Steller’s Jays quarrel in the trees,
a flit of bright blue against deep evergreen. Small clouds
hug the mountain tops.

At the bridge, a solitary fisherman works the tailwater of
a small pool. A tattoo of a flicking line with a bright fly
graces his left shoulder. I ask quietly if he’s working downstream.
He smiles, shakes his head and says, “Nope, it’s all yours.”

I wade in, water cold and crystal clear over river rock,
set like tile mosaic. Weeds tug and wave, straining to go
downstream. The first pools are slender, undercut banks and
brush above make casting tricky. A roll cast flicks a Wooly Bugger
to the top of the lead, rod tip follows it down.

Approaching the pool the brush is heavy. The ground around it
is elevated and grassy; one cannot just walk in and cast, as trout
are not stupid and will see you. So I kneel and stalk in slowly
and quietly on my knees stopping half way to change flies to the Caddis. I rise slowly, head at grass top level and watch the pool for a time.

Several trout are feeding but when the big one joins in you can hear
the ‘glup!’ as he sucks in some unlucky bug. I watch him, ignoring
the rest, log his pattern and his timing. There will be only one shot
at him and if it is not just right he will be gone; he and I both know this.

The time comes and it is magic; a light wind ruffles the grass somewhere above a hawk screams. Time slows; I rise and flick the line, shadow casting twice to get where I need to be and then let it go and it shoots out, falling straight at the spot. Leader hits water and five feet further on, the Caddis lands perfectly, a juicy bug without a clue.

‘Glup!’ goes the water and I set the hook and he and I are now connected. The slow motion time has ended. Without hesitation he streaks for the tailwater which is held back by a rock ledge. Over he goes and is in to the next pool while I stand transfixed, line stripping out fast. I palm the reel and stumble to the rock ledge;
he is already at the tail of that pool and my line is into the backing.

I stumble down the ledge into the next pool but he is already below that and I am running out of line. I find purchase with my feet and begin to reel him in. He is coming back up slowly but surely, fighting the whole way. When I have moved to the tail of the next pool, he is half way down the one below that. He jumps and slow motion returns, a brilliant flash of silver, green and gold, droplets of water suspended like diamonds falling back to the creek and just like that, he is gone.

Just like that.

Freudian Slip

I dreamed of Monica and
I at a five star hotel
eating a sublime desert.

‘When You’re Smiling’
was playing and we sang
along with the other guests.

I was wearing
a red silk slip
with matching gloves.

Suddenly, George C. Scott
was beside me, saying quietly
“That’s quite a look.”

I explained to him that my wife said
I would make an ugly woman and
I was out to prove her wrong.

Now what do you suppose that means?

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Skunk Works

Area 51, Dreamland, Paradise Ranch, Groom Lake, The Box.
It is not on any official map. It is barely officially acknowledged:

It is there.

In ’82, a wildfire brought us to the Nevada Test Site.
Out of Las Vegas on 95, skirting the North edge of Death Valley.
At the end of a long dirt road, a small guard shack
stands in the middle of endless desert. All cameras and binoculars are confiscated. IDs must be shown, information is recorded. “Personnel Checks” are conducted. We wait impatiently for hours in the desert heat.

We are issued radiations badges and an escort is provided, two serious young men in black BDUs; no insignias or name plates, carrying H & Ks. The only answer to any question was, “I’m sorry, that’s classified.”

Long dusty roads across Frenchman and Yucca flats, miles and miles of barbed wire, warning signs guarding baked desert scrub, grass and dirt, landscape a palette of contoured mountain and ridge in brown and tan,
blasted by nature and man alike.

At the northeast corner of the Site, a base camp in the middle of nowhere.
Desert sun pounds everything. Camo netting over tables and tents,
a field kitchen, a silent and surly camp staff. It is all commanded by a man who looks like Lt. Hunter from Hill Street Blues. In the blinding heat, he wears a camo poncho over spotless nomex pants and shirt. He does not have a name. He smokes a pipe dramatically and incessantly. He is cordial in a hale-fellow-well-met Ivy League way, but says nothing of substance. His one cogent offering is an aside that, once we get to the fire, we “Might not want to breath too much of the dust.”

Our helicopter arrives, piloted by a cocky Viet Nam vet;
I luck out and sit beside the pilot with an excellent view.
On route to the fire, we come over a ridge, and suddenly
there are long runways and a large complex of buildings.
At the same moment, in my headphones I hear a voice calling us and identifying themselves as “Dreamland Base.” The pilot grins at me, his expression clearly dubious. He is given an alternative heading and told
to go there without delay. He is amused and hesitates in complying.
He is told a second time, with an added caveat to “Follow your escort”
As he asks, “What escort?” Two black, unmarked Cobra attack helicopters appear on either side of us, close enough for me to see
a front seat gunner gesturing angrily at where we are to go.

We land and offload with our omnipresent and armed escort and the chopper departs. Our escort paraphrases Lt. Hunter’s warning that we “Might not want to dig around too much,” so we sit and watch the desert burn for ten hours.
When our chopper returns, our pilot is cocky no more; he is quiet and angry and scared.

For three days, we watch the desert burn by day and return to camp by night. Our last night, we are given trailers at the Test Site. Huge doors in the side of a mountain, huge tunnels retreat into darkness. Each trailer has
instructions for response in the event of nuclear attack; on the pavement outside, glow-in-the-dark footprints lead to the tunnels. We are allowed into the rec center; no one speaks to us or looks our way and no one recreates.

The next morning, we turn in our radiation badges, retrieve our cameras, and leave confused.

Twenty five years later, I refinance a retired Lockheed Martin engineer. Conversation leads to the Skunk Works. I tell this story and answer some questions about what I saw. The engineer stares at me, fascinated, and says.
“My God, you were there.”

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Rain Dove

Zenaida macroura,
Carolina Turtledove,
Mourning Dove.

Feathers shimmering
cream, fawn, gray and black
earth-toned stained glass.

The Oh woo–woo–woo–woo
a call to sleep,
or to wake.

Eye black as coal,
little black accent stripes
casually applied beneath.

Mammasita sits in a hanging planter
dark flecked tan pottery with a brown rim
a perfect compliment.

A patch of dusty rose on the neck
is the only way I can tell
male from female.

Seventy million killed annually for sport or food.
She sits on her second brood,
they will raise up to six a year.

Ten days ago, she hatched two squab,
perfectly camouflaged, ruffled feathers
the color of dirt and dry grass.
they flew off Friday
and have not returned.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

North Texas Rain

In Western Washington rain falls
like grass grows;
inevitably and often.

On the south rim of Grand Canyon
it rained so hard the road was a river
and a thousand waterfalls tumbled over the rim.

In the Mogollon range
a single storm snuffed
a thousand acre fire.

At three this morning the storm arrived
now rain beats a tattoo on a new roof,
a gift from last year’s hail storm.

The back yard is under water
lettuces and garlic submerged in their beds
river rock returned to its native state.

Our street has become a river
storm drains turned into waterfalls
just like that day at Grand Canyon.

Friday, May 15, 2009

A Nod To B. Kliban

The word of the day is brachiate
which isn’t what it sounds like.
It really means to swing a thing
and change the arm you swing by.

now certainly some of y’all
are gonna tend to reason
that a word that sounds like this one does
has somethin’ to do with breathin.’

When it's a verb, it means to swing
but there’s an adjective as well
yet contrary to common thought
it still won't make your lungs swell.

No, when used in its second form
it’s got serendipitous charm
‘cause when we say the word that way
it means you got two arms.

Edwin v. 2.0

Born in the Show Me state
the son of an insurance man.
As a youth, his interests
were entirely terrestrial;
jock, fly fisherman, boxer.

In college, the first hints of calling;
a frat boy studying math,
astronomy and philosophy.
One of the first Rhodes scholars,
British dress and manners
stuck with him all his life.

Mount Wilson was his laboratory;
the faint glow of his omnipresent pipe
reflecting the nebulae he studied.

In his day, scholars saw only one galaxy,
but he saw many.
From the Milky Way
to dozens of spirals and ellipticals,
he expanded the universe
galaxy by galaxy.

The Hubble Constant showed us
that all those silent stars
rushing away at terrible speed
expanding the universe ever farther.

He left us the Redshift Distance Law;
that caused Einstein
to declare his galactic fudge factor
the biggest blunder of his life.

His life star burned bright and fast
he was gone at sixty three.
There was no funeral.
His wife never revealed
what became of the body.

Thursday, May 14, 2009


Born in the Show Me state
a jock,
a fly fisherman,
a boxer.

Frat boy,
Rhodes scholar
studying jurisprudence
then a Masters in Spanish.

A Major in the
war to end all wars.
And finally,
a doctoral dissertation
on faint nebulae.

Mount Wilson
was his lab and classroom,
his omnipresent pipe
a glowing beacon in the night.

The two hundred inch Hale reflector
allowed him to see farther
than anyone ever had before.

He died quite young,
but left us much,
not the least
the Redshift Distance Law;
it caused Einstein
to rescind his “galactic fudge factor”
and declare it
“the biggest blunder of his life.”

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

North Texas Wind

Flowing palette of green,
a flash of red Oleander,
swirl and tuck
like a flamenco dancer
fanning her skirt.

Early sky
worn denim
drying on river rock.

Scudding cloud,
hurried, distracted,
needing to be
somewhere else.

Everyone joins.
Grasses baroque, formal
Trees uninhibited,
a joyful paso doble.

Small birds make
lightning corrections,
countering each gust
to stay on course.

Rushing through
leaf and branch
sound like the speed
of a downhill run.

Chimes like
Russian bells
calling the faithful
to prayer.


I’ve always called it
or a ruse
if used in the legal sense;
is more accurate.

Perhaps disguising
our real agenda
is just
human camouflage.
Perhaps we’re childish,
standing beside
the broken vase
“I didn’t do it”

I am still dismayed
that this
sneaky little word
has become
the modus operandi
for church
and state.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Marjorie Jean

Elegance and earthiness.
Sense of humor
from William Buckley
to Monty Python.
Seeing life as opportunity
to appreciate and express.
Many gardens,
each a vignette of color and texture
an experience to see and smell and feel
and always a patch of catnip for your pals.
Simple food with a sense
of artistry to the ingredients and plating.
Heard Yes for the first time and
noted the classical influence.
Curiosity and fearless willingness
to try almost anything.
Appreciation for quiet, bird song
moving water, clouds and the
hush of wind through tall grass.
Her art fills my home
her lessons fill my life.

Sunday, May 10, 2009


I always assumed that flabbergast
was German or Dutch, like verklempt;
but it came from Sussex,
from the eighteen thirties,
a made up word,
the combination of flabby and aghast.

This truth does not overwhelm, shock, or surprise,
it does make one ponder how such a word
not only came about, but thrived.

That said, forgive me if I wish
that some of our modern variations,
like dude and cube farm
do not survive the next two hundred years.

Friday, May 08, 2009


I’ve been incorrigible
but the things I do,
like demonstrating that
I love my wife madly,
firing up the power chord
from Won’t Get Fooled Again
at daybreak, at volume 11,
playing the rhythm riff from La Grange
when warming up a church band,
I don’t feel at all bad about them.

I am verging on old dogdom
but I’m still trainable,
capable of being corrected.
I would hate to be so smug
that I believed I had it all down.

So don’t hesitate to try.
Offer a tasty treat
or rub my belly when I roll over;
I’m sure I can learn to shake.


I Pray for a day when
even in the Bible belt,
people won’t ask
“What faith are you?”

I pray for a day when
any and all derivations
from Anabaptist to Zoroastrian
no longer justify terrible wrongs
by claiming they are called by God.

I pray for a day when the term
corporate worship is replaced
by people together doing what is right.

I pray for a day when what it is really about
is no longer money and power.

I pray for a day when,
as we should with our government,
the people take back what is theirs
and remake it into what it should be.

Saturday, May 02, 2009


1969 and the Easy Rider poster
hung in a place of honor
in my bedroom,
right beside the dayglo peace sign.

But imagery was not enough
we needed the thrill of the open road.
So we chopped the front forks of our banana bikes
and then, we could pedal like Hopper and Fonda,
with faded paisley bandannas around our heads.

Naturally, we had to try Nashawtuc hill.
My turn and the thrill of wind and speed
was overtaken about half way down
by an ever increasing wobble in that chopped fork.
Catastrophic failure spilled me
ass over teacups onto the pavement.

I remember lying stunned
then being swept up by the
Nelson’s blonde, tanned au pair
who ran with me to the house
murmuring something in Norwegian
that I am sure was comforting.

I was nine years old
had broken my nose and two teeth
but the memory that stands out
is that this was the first really pretty girl
to hold me to her breast.

Friday, May 01, 2009


The age old question;
does evil exist?
Oh yes, indeed it does…

I am often torn
whether to tell a story
by illustration or word.
When it comes to this,
I cannot repeat the things
I have experienced.

Cops and soldiers see things you don’t.
We are paid to go where you will not go,
to deal with things you are not equipped to deal with.

The scars are neatly categorized as PTSD,
or some other catchy psych term.
The reality is nightmares that do not easily fade.

I cannot say why people do the things they do.
I do not understand hatred, or callousness,
or even madness that leads to true evil
I know only that it does and that I fear it deeply.