Where It Comes From A collection of 95 of my poems is now available in a single volume. A common thread runs through them—a celebration of the natural world and the human spirit as an integral reality. I hope you’ll find some inspiration and hope in this first collection of my poetic work.
On a sun-washed picnic table, facing
the spring green slope, I decide, based
on the advice of the beauty around me,
that my best option for today is to do nothing.
With that choice, I’m certain that my body
shifted into a posture more amenable to birds
because now flickers begin to gather here,
under the walnut trees. More than a dozen
and counting now, suddenly they don’t seem
shy, have even left off fleeing my every move.
They probe the ground for ants and grubs,
call to each other in loud clear voices.
Their white rump feathers flash when they fly.
I like the red brush strokes on their napes,
and their black bibs and cheek paint.
Daubs of black congregate on their bellies and breasts.
Might these be the marks of their clan,
and when they gather in the grove under moonlight,
they paint each other with those great beaks,
and prepare each other for the return of the sun?
They sound like their names,
a high scissoring sound
through the incisors of birches,
whistles in the breeze—
waxwings—their sibilant esses
and soft cees seesawing
in the treetops.
Walking, alive in the back yard, beneath
the birch fronds swaying,
staring up at their silhouettes
against the sun and sky blue,
thinking of their masquerade ball
masks, their olive crests and crimson
eyes, yellow-dipped tail; but
mostly just listening
to their songs sailing.
Recording: “All There Needs to Be”
The trail crooks like a fiddle neck,
loops like a buttercup petal,
undulates like a soap
plant leaf, and the tongues of
miners lettuce release
their white blossomed
song into the February green.
Each step is a breath
coming up from the ground
to mate with the Sun.
Far off, just above the grey-blue
surface, white birds carry light
on their backs as they fly north.
The mother is gently rolling.
The day seems reluctant to begin.
Winter rains have spawned rare
and fragile hues — browns, reds,
yellows, too many greens to count.
Staring, the water plays tricks with
my eyes. To see is to live! The eye,
a long labor that learned to taste
color and movement. How can
I be somber amidst all this praise?
The effort – it’s always inexact, imperfect.
But it’s worth something, a residue,
a mark left for others to find
in the leaves of a book, like a footprint.
Or a beach stone, or a cairn awaiting a storm.
Writing is not what goes onto stone.
It is the stone, piled up, or smoothed
down, striated, en-colored, pocked,
heated and cooled into a pose. Often,
it’s quartz, sometimes shale
that crumbles into sand that slowly
marches out to meet the tide.
That’s why walking barefoot on the
sea beach tells a story to your feet.
With shoes we’ve chosen to forget
the language of stone.
Such a longing. Within me.
For what has always been here.
I yearn through the screen of
my ignorance. I’ve gone
asthmatic with the overlay
of a culture gone violent
with speed and pseudo-data.
It all passes as news, somehow.
But there are many songs within me.
To let them loose is to feel
the thunder of 100 horses.
They are bright arias draped on the treetops,
waiting for the fingers of the wind.
Long hike on a cool summer day to the beach.
We sink, tired, into the warm curved thigh
of a dune. Salt spray on our faces,
cool lips of wind whispering at our ears.
I don’t know why the little ring-billed
gull clings to his crest of sand
near us on the dune,
or why he lifts and circles, then returns
precisely to his spot in the sand. Miles
of beach. But here is where he settles,
swaddled in his gray and white suit.
Nor do I know the mystery behind seventeen
pelicans who just now planed down,
skidding as one body onto one bright patch
in the silver quilt of the lagoon. Nor why
the breath of fog just now parted
to expose the far bluffs for a clear second,
only to close again like a shy curtain.
Nor why, of three Caspian terns who just passed
overhead, one of them chose to open its blood-orange
bill to let forth an ancient strangled cry,
upon which all three banked
away to join twenty more of their tribe.
The gull fluffs his breast, adjusts his wings,
folds them and stands silent on one leg.
He searches the grey-green sea with his gaze.
Perhaps the waves hold some hint
to the why of the gull universe.
Perhaps he is expecting some arrival.
But he’s still and content in his feather-packed body,
at rest from the business of foraging,
the gold eyes dancing, their dark centers
leaping with light and surf.
Abbott’s Lagoon, Pt. Reyes Seashore