4 Poems


Act I: “Don’t be afraid, we will wait for the rain to fall.”

On the phone with my mom, she’s on
about my brother in her marked mezzo –
“after nine years he’s moving back home.”
She’s careful not to overstate his solo, then comes
the cadenza, the virtuosic display:

                             “it’s been raining here today.”
followed by
                       a pause;

a shuffling of static.

She must be moving to the window for
the denouement (“We Only Want Rain When There’s Drought”)
because she patters on:

“oh no, it’s stopped, thank god,”

Act II: “We are made of earth and rain.”

I don’t clap or cheer.
I let the static itch
with vibrato to accompany my aria:

“What nourishes her? What cleanses her?
What carries her voice?” I remember
why we live 2,748 miles apart, I remember
“we are made of earth and rain,” and I walk
to my own window, blink out at the composer –

the rock, the sand, the sky all around me.
                    Briefly, I’m between acts.

Entr'acte: On the corner of SE 29th and Belmont outside a trendy Italian joint, 9 pm, it’s sprinkling and a guy with a backpack glides by and asks, “is this the baby’s first Spring rain?” and I don’t say anything, I’m thinking about his question, so he apologizes, says he didn’t mean


to alarm me, “good night,” and he keeps walking but I call after him, just in time too, “no, no, I’m just thinking, we live in the desert, I think this is his first Spring rain,” and he turns back and says, “that’s awesome, have a good night,” and he has a smile on his face as genuine as the weather, and I say, “thank you,” he departs again and we stand there on the corner watching the lights from cars break apart on the wet road.

Act III: “In what language does rain fall over tormented cities?”

      The sun’s unfiltered strain fills my eyes,
sticks to my brain with its searing overture,
it harmonizes with the static and I’m back,
starved now for those Portland days,
where everything is so goddamned hip and where,
for weeks on end with no chance for applause,
it rains.

*Italicized excerpts by Pablo Neruda


                 (camping out with Mike and Jim east of town)


sits on a box of Happy Vale,
charcoal sun draped over
heavy canvas against the Hudson,
she looks out over Nipoma Mesa,
pea-pickin’ country, home of the brave:
she feeds them,
her children cling to
      her, like a pit
      in a peach


sipping on a bottle of hoppy ale,
dusty moon slips over
ultra-light nylon next to the Honda,
I look out over Horse Ridge,
juniper country, land of the free:
it feeds me,
my fingers grip
       the glass, like coyote
       on sagegrouse

Mother and I,

sitting among the same forces that power the same sun,
       light the same moon, float the same stars,

a pea-picker and a poet,

separated by twenty-nine thousand rotations
for what is feast without famine?




“There's something lacking in my mental make-up, and its lack prevents me from being a rational murderer.”

The elk and pronghorn and black-tailed jackrabbit
lunch on bluebunch wheatgrass and idaho fescue,
the coyote and bat too sneer through here
with six species of lizard and one of mule deer.
The sagebrush grouse sleep in rubber rabbitbrush
and all the color growing up out of the tuff:
the oregon sunshine and sulfur buckwheat,
dwarf monkeyflower and indian paintbrush.
The golden eagle overhead watches
the cottontail in the cat’s ear chewing
the day away on his haunches,

“So it's a deficiency, not a superiority. But as things are, I'm willing to be as I am; I've learned modesty.”

and then there’s me, listening
for the ghost of Lake Millican
300 feet below this incision of
tuffed volcanic basalt scree
and igneous lava flow ground to cinder debris.
There’s pictographs from 1993 and a dog shitting
carelessly in a tinaja pool carved glacially
back in 10,043 BCE, and the plight
of two big pondos stealing vitamin D from
juniper trees says you can’t study the darkness
by flooding it with light.

“All I maintain is that on this earth there are pestilences and there are victims, and it's up to us, so far as possible, not to join forces with the pestilences.”

*Italicized excerpts from “The Plague” by Albert Camus
“You can’t study the darkness by flooding it with light.” –Ed Abbey



Living among Paiute
ghosts, learn to question
things like what is
man and dust?