Saturday, April 25, 2009

The Kingdom


I wrote this poem ten years ago.  Its tone reminds me of the Song of Songs, from the Old Testament,
King Solomon's ode to erotic love.  I put it into my novel, "The Gods of The Gift" as part of an exchange of
poems that occurs among my characters as they cross a vast desert


Am I ready to love?
How much more of the perfume of my soul
must I exude, before she tastes its waft upon the air
and is drawn to me?
 How can I be patient,
when to feel the heat of her body
close to mine
 is as miraculous as the sunrise?
When will I feel her hair in my hand?
 When will I touch her cheek with my lips?
 It is not the great rush of consummation
 that calls me, but the simplest gestures.
 I will smell her breath, and my blood will triumph.
 I will brush her hair, and feel the softness of her life
 in my hands.
 I will know the curve of her throat,
the music of her voice.
Her hand will be a warm spring
always rising from the depths
heated by love.                      
Her touch will put me on a silken throne.
 I will awake each morning eagerly
with the salt of her in my mouth.
My days will be a song of gratitude
that she has come,
my nights a roving through untold treasures.
Her love will restore to my lover's heart
the magic kingdom of childhood.















Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Book Cover (click to see larger image)


I've been working on this book since 1978, and now consider it complete.  It's a sci/fi fantasy adventure. I've revised it so many times I've lost count.  I'm very proud of it, and pleased to have designed the cover so I can at last post it today, April 19, 2009.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

The Fugitives: A Dog Rescue Story



 

 

 

           

            I felt clouded with doubts when we first drove down the long entranceway to the campground where we intended to live. Can I adjust to living like this, surrounded by RVs, tents and trailers? Won’t it feel like being on display, every time we want to go outside and sit in our chairs? 

            We quickly learned that there isn’t so much a lack of privacy as there is a different culture.  It’s more akin to the custom of the Promenade in Hispanic countries.  People stroll around the big circular road that circumscribes the campground.  They walk their dogs, spouses, friends and kin.  Anybody can talk to anybody.  Just say “hi”. Kids rent racy yellow recumbent tricycles and careen around the curves.  Each bike has  little triangular safety flags flexing on slender poles.  The main oval driveway resembles a forested race track with lanes going through the center.

            We realized that by some unspoken etiquette each RV  is surrounded by an inviolable forece field. You don’t casually knock on someone’s door.  In fact, hearing a knock is so rare that it scares us.  What’s happened?  Is there an emergency? 

            It’s so different from living inside houses.  The feeling of isolation is much diminished. It’s the best of several worlds.  There’s company and support if needed.  There’s solitude when that’s what we want, just to be left alone.

            Full time RV dwellers are people with a variety of experiences.  They’re mature, seasoned, they’ve been through life.  Each of them has a story.They may be eccentric but they are not stupid.  A common thread seems to run through the campground, a social fabric that unites the drop-out baby boomers.

            Chronic pain is one thread of that fabric.  There are bad backs, bum knees, ruptured discs, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia. It makes me think that we, as a generation, have lived pretty hard.  We have experimented on ourselves, and we have BEEN experimented upon by a stress-laden civilization moving at insane speed, kept aloft on caffeine and prescription drugs.  We are the first experimental generation and the results have been pretty mixed. 

            Campgrounds don’t  attract these conditions:  they’re out there a-plenty in the conventional world.  The diffence is that we KNOW about our neighbors’ afflictions.  It’s a necessity.  There are common tasks that require lifting, dragging, leveling and loading. In other words, we need one another’s support.

            It’s convenient that so many nurses live here.  There’s always a de-fibrillator when one is needed.

            I know I’m drawing a picture of wheezing cripples living in trailers.  It isn’t like that.  The trailers, for one thing, are often  million dollar luxury motor coaches, and the cripples are retired engineers, architects, lawyers, dentists, people who had the sense to get rid of their homes before property values crashed through the rotten timbers of the economy. 

            Every campground has its own personality.  Ours is family –oriented, safe.The owners make their bread and butter during the summer months when mom, dad and the kids get into their RVs and go to some place that isn’t very strenuous.

            Adults are too tired these days to do heavy duty camping with their kids.  KountryKampground Northbay provides the perfect “out” for exhausted parents. It’s also a favorite destination of Canadian and European tourists who want to see San Francisco and the vineyards from a single home base. 

            Now and then, however, a few creepy people sneak under the home-grown radar.

            When we arrived in March of 2005 we knew nothing about how to conduct our lives in a campground.  We took a site that was at the center of the northern campground.  We had people coming and going on both sides, as well as fore and aft.  We had a continual round of new neighbors.

            At first this was somewhat unnerving.  Soon enough, however, we discovered that if we wanted to schmooze, we could say hello, and if we didn’t, we could keep to ourselves and be left alone.

            The only problem that wouldn’t go away was the strange couple who lived in a teeny weeny trailer in the row immediately behind us. 

            When I say teeny weeny, I’m talking about an RV model called “The Casita” or “little house”.  It is nothing more than a sleeping bag with walls.  It’s interior is about the size of a Japanese capsule  hotel room.  A person can just about sit upright without banging the head.  It has a little sink, a propane burner and a tiny porta-potty. 

            How can two people and a Dalmatian dog live full time in one of these wheeled packing crates?  Yet they were there, coming and going. Unfortunately, the dog didn’t get to come and go; he mostly stayed.He howled his loneliness and claustrophobic misery in a way that turned our lives into hell.  This was our first month at the campground, and this is what we had for neighbors. 

            Fox and I we went helplessly berserk over this dog. We tried to hatch schemes to liberate him from his plight.

            There was something dreadfully “off” about the couple who owned the dog. If I make the stament, “I couldn’t look at them”, I want you to take me very literally.

            I…could…not….look…at…..them.

            Every time I tried, my eyes seemed to meet a force field that deflected vision. My sight could get to within a foot or so of Ms.X or Mr. Y and then my eyeballs would physically bounce a few feet farther along, repelled by a barrier  occupying the space at which I was attempting to look.  This was one of the strangest things I have ever experienced. 

            I asked one of my neighbors to look at at the couple next time the opportunity arose.  I asked for a brief description of the people who were living within eight yards of our coach.  The dog was no problem.  I could see the dog, when he was let out on a chain. I couldn’t see the people.  I could hear them, I could make out their voices if not their words, I knew when their pickup truck pulled into and out of the parking space.  Fox and I said “hello” a few times and were completely ignored.  That’s weird, to greet a person who responds by behaving as if you don’t exist.

            The next day my other neighbor came over and said, “I’ll be damned if I can figure out what they look like. I can’t really see them.  Maybe they just move so fast I can’t draw a bead.”

            The human eye moves extremely quickly as it fixes upon visual objects.  It wanders, far more than we consciously know. Eye movement is the fastest muscular action in the human body.  These lightning quick movements are called saccades. I read a science fiction novel recently in which alien creatures knew how to scan human eye saccades and move only during those micro-seconds when human beings were looking away.  This created a ‘just-at-the- edge-of- -vision’ effect, and gave the aliens a huge tactical advantage in outmaneuvering their enemies. 

            Whatever the cause, I could not look at, I could not see these people. They must have wanted so badly to be invisible that they had created a psychological force field.  This mysterious couple evaded eye contact, they moved in such a manner as to attract minimum attention, they did not engage in conversation. They had taken the adjective “furtive” to a new level.  Somehow, they had established an invisibility matrix, they had tuned in to the collective saccade.  Fox couldn’t see them.  My neighbors saw them more than we did, but not much.  My neighbors could detect a few details of clothing or hair color but their faces were an enigma. 

            Only the dog provided a common ground of agreement that they were there at all.  Otherwise, they would have been “the people who weren’t there.”

            When they were home, the dog came out on a chain. He looked at us sadly, wagged his tail and sat quietly, licking his paws.  If one of us said, “Hi buddy,” he would stand and come to the limit of his chain, hoping for friendly contact.

            When the Xys left for the day, which was most days, the dog got stuck inside the little house on wheels.  He keened piteously.  We were going insane.

            Other neighbors began to feel the hurt that lived so pitifully in our midst. There was no question that this was animal abuse.  Solving the problem was not simple.  We could call the Humane Society, but that was tantamount to a death sentence for the dog.  We didn’t know what the dog’s owners would do;  if they were criminals, we could find ourselves the targets of retaliation.  It wasn’t our style to call the authorities.  Other and more imaginative solutions had to be found.

            The first thing, the simplest thing, was to leave a note. 

            “Hi neighbors,” the note said, “if you would like help with your dog, we would be glad to take him for a walk.  Just leave a note on our car if this sounds like a good idea. signed, your neighbors in site 45.”

            We didn’t want them knocking at our door.  We didn’t want to be involved with the invisible couple.  We just wanted access to the dog.

            I crossed the lane and taped this note to the door.

            The next day there was a response, in the form of another note, on bright yellow paper, attached to THEIR door.  It seemed reasonable to assume that this paper was intended to be read by us.

            So I went across the lane.

            The note was terse.  “Buster’s fine,” it said.  “He gets exercise.”

            Buster wasn’t fine.  His howls transformed to a continuous scratching sound.  He was tearing up the inside of the tiny RV.  We began hearing a low haunting wail, followed by frantic scraping sounds.

            One day the Xys came home, and I heard the woman shouting at Buster. Thwop Thwop Thwop!, she was beating him with a magazine. 

            We couldn’t stand much more of Buster’s agony.

            Help came in the form of Roscoe and Lulu Martin.   They came to the campground in their Winnebago three or four weekends a month, with their dog Barkley. Roscoe was an Aussie merchant seaman with arms full of crude tattoos. He looked the part of the classic rough n’ tumble Australian.  He was tall and fair, windburned.  Lulu was a petite Jewish woman from Long Island, with a great cascade of red-brown hair.  She had endured twenty years of an ugly marriage, then more years of frustrating single-ness.  Then she met and fell in love with Roscoe.

            They spent their weekends around the campfire, drinking beer and laughing at Barkley.  Roscoe played wonderfully delicate songs on his guitar.  Lulu sighed with adoration. They were an eccentric couple, a love story of two people from opposite ends of the earth who might not meet in a million years.  Yet they met, clicked and had been married more than a decade.

            Lulu was always bursting with pride for her big Aussie sailor. She was so crazy about Roscoe that it oozed from every pore. 

            Barkley was a big short-haired mutt who was obsessed with the hammock.  He would jump into the hammock as Roscoe snoozed, a half empty can of Foster’s perched on his belly.  Together they would tumble to the ground in a tangle of arms, legs, tail.  Lulu would emerge from the Winnie to untangle them, and the process would start again.  No one begrudged Barkley his love of the hammock.  He just did not understand the concept of sharing.

            “He needs a playmate”, Lulu said, a number of times. “We’re looking for another dog.”

            We knew about a dog that needed another family.  All that was required was for the Xys to relinquish Buster.

            We described Buster’s plight to the Martins.  “Alrighty,” Roscoe said, “on the morrow we shall pay a visit to these blokes and straighten things out. Eh Barkley?  You want a friend?”  Barkley jumped up into the now-empty hammock, his tongue hanging out, his eyes saying “I love everything about you and everything you do.”

      The Xys seemed to spend most of the afternoon and evening away from the campground.  They left at about eleven, returning at nine or ten o’clock. 

            Roscoe was going to be the point man.  He would knock on the door of the tiny trailer.  He would lay out his offer:  we’ll take your dog off your hands and give him a good home.

            Roscoe had balls of brass and could talk anyone into anything.

            At about ten in the morning, Lulu, Fox and I took up positions at our picnic table.  Roscoe, leading Barkley on a leash, went across the way and knocked firmly at the door of the tiny RV. 

            We knew the Xys were home.  Their pickup  truck was parked in front. When Roscoe knocked, Buster began shrill barking from inside the RV. The door did not open.  Roscoe knocked again.  Barkley sat back on his haunches and uttered a low “Ooooo” in response to the frenzied hacks of Buster.

            The Xys did’t open the door.  I saw the curtain move at the tiny window facing in our direction.  A frightened eye briefly peered out, then vanished. Buster’s shrill alarms must have been deafening from inside the tiny trailer. The Xys couldn’t hold out very long.

            Roscoe circled the little vehicle, stepping over the hitch, going to the other side and around, back to the door.  He knocked hard.  “Come on, mates, you’re in there,” he shouted over the sound of barking dogs.  “I don’t mean ya harm.  I just want to make you an offer.”

            Four or five minutes passed.  It really seemed as if the Xys intended to just wait us out.  We were prepared to wait longer.

            At last the door opened, the little screen flew against the trailer’s flank and the female, Ms. X, came outside.

            Roscoe stepped backward in sudden revulsion.  Even where we sat, the stench was palpable.  “Bloody hell,” he muttered.  Ms. X carefully closed the screen door behind her. I tried to look at her.  I could see lanky brown hair, long and dirty.  That’s all my eyes were permitted to register.

            “What do you want?” she asked, flatly.

            “This heah’s Bahhkley”, Roscoe said in his rounded Aussie vowels.  “He’s lonesome and we heah you have a dog that might want a friend that…..”

            “Fuck off,” Ms X interrupted Roscoe.  “I love Buster.  He’s my dog.”

            She did a one eighty and went back inside the tiny rig, closing the door. The stink filled the air.  How could people live inside that cloud of dog shit smell?

            “Fuck off to you too,” finished Roscoe.  He stood there for a moment.  Barkley rubbed his face against Roscoe’s leg.  Together they walked across the roadway.

            “Unbelievable,” exclaimed Roscoe.  “You would not believe what that place looks like inside.  There’s stuff everywhere, and most of it’s stuck together with dog shit.  Ucccchh!”

            Thwop thwop thwop, we heard Buster yelp as he was hit with Ms. X’s instrument of discipline.  The poor animal stopped barking.

            “I think, “ I said, loudly enough to be heard all up and down the row,
”that we need to talk to the management about these people.”

            Quietly, Roscoe said, “they’re up to here with the dog.  I saw the guy, or at least I saw something like a man, well, I saw a baseball cap, that’s all I saw. Bloody ‘ell, they’re hard to see, those people.  Anyway, he was saying, Let em have the fuckin dog.’  He imitated a redneck American accent perfectly.  It was funny but our hearts were breaking.  “I think something will break loose in the next little bit.  No worries, we’ll get poor Buster.”

            I wish I’d had his confidence.  We could report the Xys, we could get them thrown out of the campground, but that wouldn’t help Buster.

            We went down to Roscoe and Lulu’s campsite.  We wanted to put some distance between ourselves and the Xys.  It was Saturday and the campground was full.  The weekly mediocre blues band was warming up on the slab surrounding the pool.  Soon they would be belting out “Mustang Sally”, and we would go inside, close the windows and read until evening fell.

            Barkley jumped into the hammock.  Lulu spoke firmly.  “Get down, Barkley, down!”  Reluctantly, the dog vacated the swinging net.  Roscoe popped a Foster’s and lay down in the hammock with a sigh.  Barkley pushed off with his rear legs and landed atop Roscoe, and the two of them fell to the ground, foam lager slopping from the can and wetting man and dog.

            “You bugger, Bahkley,” Roscoe laughed.  “Got to put him on his lead or he’ll never quit.”  He took the dog and fastened him to twenty five feet of nylon. It put the dog just out of range of the hammock.  Barkley lay with his head on his paws.  Roscoe picked up the Foster’s, brushed some leaves away from its opening, and lay back down in the hammock.

            “We’ll see mates, maybe something will come up.  Old Buster’s a nice looking dog.  He doesn’t deserve that shit.” Roscoe took a sip, closed his eyes and drifted with the breeze.  Lulu was inside the camper preparing bangers and English muffins.  The day went by the way so many summer Saturdays do in the campground.  As night fell, fires were lit, beer and wine were consumed, kids raced around on skateboards, people laughed.  The Crazed Laugher cackled her resonant campground-filling laugh, which made everyone within hearing laugh all the harder.

            We returned to our coach.  Across the way, silence emanated from the tiny trailer.  It was hard to keep despair from our hearts.

            I’ll be honest.  I experience more pain when I see animals abused than when I see pain inflicted on human beings.  Maybe that makes me weird, I don’t know. It’s just the way it is.  Animals can’t effectively defend themselves when humans are bent on causing them pain.  They’re caged, restrained, otherwise helpless.  They have no words to express their grief.  Just cries, yelps, whines, screams;  and they probably don’t understand why such is being done to them, why a man or woman is beating or tormenting them.  I get very upset when I see an animal treated badly, and Buster’s plight was like an ice pick in my heart. 

            Fox was beyond words.  Her inchoate stifling made me burn with helpless anger.  She could see Buster’s thoughts, read his images. It was terrible.

            We went to bed that night without hope.  It seemed as though we must report the doings of the Xys to Woodson, the campground owner.  He would put up with a lot from people to keep the family business operating.  But Woodson set a standard, and when his customers violated his ethical framework, they were out of the campground with no warning and no second chance. 

            We had trouble getting to sleep that night.  Buster’s pain and the ugliness of the Xys were making our first months of campground life a misery.  What if it was always this way?  What if there was always some horrible person to makelife unliveable in campgrounds?

            About one thirty, we drifted off to sleep.  Both of us had bad dreams. It seemed as though my nocturnal visions were a chaos, a commotion of dogs howling, hands beating, pickup trucks spewing pebbles.

            I always wake before Fox does. I start a pot of coffee, check my email. When the coffee’s ready I take a book and go outside, to sit in one of our folding chairs.

            That's what I did.  There was something odd about the world, but I couldn’t figure out what it was.  Something out of place, something missing. For thirty seconds I looked around.  I was half asleep, not really connecting the dots.  Then I realized that the tiny Casita trailer was gone.  The Xys had hooked the thing to their ratty old F-150 and vanished in the night.  What they had left behind was Buster, chained to the tree.  When I looked at him, he sat up and started wagging his tail.

            I crossed the lane, squatted in front of Buster and said hello, giving him a sniff of my hand.  He was sweet and friendly, delighted to see me.  I unhooked his chain and walked with my hand through his collar over to our coach.  I dragged the chain behind, and hooked Buster up to a D-ring on our awning.  Then I went inside and woke Fox.

           

A Very Short Poem

Dewdrops on spiderwebs.
Sit lightly with life.

Hunted By The Hawk



Make joy from stones.
Make wit from mud,
make humor from blood.
The tiny finch flies crazily,
for the sheer fun of it,
though it knows, each morning,
that it’s hunted by the hawk.
We too, each morning,
are hunted by the hawk.

Prophet

Oh lord, oh lord,
what has befallen me?
That which I hoped to make straight
only becomes more twisted.
That which should be understood
only becomes more strange.
How did I come to this unexpected shore?
And what am I to make of the walking wreck of myself?
It is a mixed gift, this life, it is hard
to feel so completely lost
in complexity not of my making.
I wanted to be a radiance
but I am more like a garbage can
tipped by a racoon in predawn hours.
I pick myself up,
I sweep my contents
into a tidy pile,
but each time I think to rest,
I am again overturned.
I speak to you, o lord,
like the wounded Jew,
like the baffled bloodied prophet,
like the broken fated sage.
I take help from any quarter,
even those with dangerous denizens.
I take comfort with the scorpion,
I sleep with diseases,
I mark my worth with the vague knowledge
that I am somehow loved.
Still I marvel and lament
at my scattered state,
at my continued surprise that I am alive,
that I move my limbs with some dim purpose,
that I have any faculty left to cry out to you.
Oh lord, what has befallen me?
You see, I have nothing but questions.
It could be much worse, I freely admit.
It could be much better,
I ruefully entreat.
Pieces of me have gone numb.
Whole continents of my psyche have been submerged,
drowned, forgotten.
I am the world I have made.
I am a man, dreadfully incomplete,
unwilling to meet the terror,
reluctant to behold the fire,
shrinking always from the worst case,
taking the hand of any wiser being,
like a lost child who needs to be led,
anywhere, as long as it seems to be
a worthy destination.
I shall try now, lord, to snatch a bit of sleep
from the bottom of the night’s cup.
I’m glad we had this little talk.
I thank you, uncomfortably,
like one who has opened the wrong gift
at the wrong party.
Oh, is this for ME?
I’m not quite sure it fits,
I’m not sure how to use it.
I’ve broken it a little
but it still works.  See?
I’ve tried, I’ve hopped on one foot,
I’ve danced insanely.
I’m still here,
waiting for your soft voice
to bring me peace.














Saturday, April 11, 2009

Birds

There is always one bird

in the earliest hour of the day

who raises a song,

with heartrending joy.

Who can hear this song and

not feel the bird's emotion?

It knows the sun is coming,

the day is alight.

It breaks forth from its flock,

alone, and its song sounds

as if liberated from the deepest recessses

of its soul. Hello day, hello sun,

here I am, again.

Soon, another bird hears and joins.

Hello day, hello sun, here I am again.

Eeeyah, oh oh, eeyah. Hiyoo.

All across the valley the chorus rises.

One voice, that one lonely happy voice,

has awakened the world.

Here I am again.  Hello day, hello sun.

This bird met my dreams while I slept.

When I awoke, it was still singing.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Excerpt From "Green Highway: Living A Good Life In A Changing America"

 “How could you be so stupid?”

            I was talking aloud to myself, as I looked out over the mesa.  A hot wind was blowing bits of sand and dust into my eyes.  I squinted and raised my hands to protect my face.

            Suddenly the words thrust me back into memory, some thirty plus years,

to a time when my dad had said those same words to me.  In all my childhood, my father had seldom spoken harshly, so there was reason for the memory to be prominent. 

            I had been granted use of dad’s Chrysler on a Friday night, for three hours.  When I arrived home, fifty six hours later, I probably gave the impression that my eyes were spinning in different directions. The car was fine, but I was pretty bent.

            My dad, normally a calm man, was disappointed, frightened and furious.  He asked me what I had been doing for the last two and a half days.  Rather than be honest, I shrugged and used a sulky whine reserved for adolescent males.

            “Uhhh, I don’t know,” I said, fidgeting and not meeting his eyes. “Guess I just lost track of time.”

            Ordinarily, when in trouble, I could improvise convincing deceptions. I knew this was pretty weak, but I had no idea how to confess to my dad that psychotropic drugs were involved, and that my friend and I had just finished burying a bust of Beethoven in his mother’s rose garden.  We had spent a prolonged LSD weekend in his parents’ big empty house.  All through the night, whenever we gazed at the the composer’s frowning lips and fiery eyes we felt scolded, accused.  The bust of Beethoven looked completely and convincingly alive.  He was making it impossible for us to enjoy ourselves.

            “What’s wrong with you, Ludwig?” I implored, several times.  “Will you cut it out? You look really pissed off.”  He replied in German, which was just as well.  Finally, we dug a hole, took the bust off the mantelpiece and put Beethoven under two feet of fertilizer.  After that, we felt much better.

            “Don’t tell me you don’t know,” dad riposted.  “You KNOW… you just can’t tell me without making yourself look like a fool.” He was pretty right about that. It was the mid sixties and my dad was up to date on things. Without having to be told in explicit detail, just by inspecting me closely, he surmised what I had been doing and said, simply, “How could you be so stupid?”

            The words hurt.  I wanted my father’s respect.  I knew he was right.

            I was sixteen then, fifty two years old now, and I was as disappointed with myself as my father had been with me all those years ago.

            And, again, I answered weakly.

            “I just didn’t know,” I replied to this dad-voice of memory, “I didn’t think it through, I thought it would be easy. I thought we could do this, one- two- three.”

            The “thing” that I thought we could do, one- two- three, was go camping in Utah in the middle of July.  The temperature was well over a hundred, there wasn’t a spot of shade, we were isolated and in trouble.

            Okay, I was stupid.  I had led myself, and my wife, down a certain famous creek without a method of propulsion. 

            We were absolutely the worst campers in the world. We were camping at the wrong time, in the wrong place, with the wrong equipment.  We were dog sick. Our heads were aching, our joints felt like someone had poured hot glue into every ligament. 

            Aside from the suffocating heat, we were at nine thousand feet

and were suffering a dose of altitude sickness that we were too dumb to

recognize as such.

            We had arrived late the previous afternoon.  We had set up our tent in the middle of the slick-rock desert near Moab, Utah.  We had eaten, and watched the sun set over the buttes, the rocks and the vast sandy wastes.  Then we reveled in the beautiful star-lit night.  We had done it, we had arrived!

            By ten the next morning we were completely miserable.

            We had driven from the west coast, pushing hard across Nevada, traversing Utah’s Great Basin. We traveled on a mix of coffee and adrenaline, eating hideous truck stop food.  Our car’s air conditioner insulated us from the desert reality outside.  We had no clue what awaited us.

            Then it hit us like a hammer. Heat  exhaustion, altitude, bad food, long hours of driving.  It was a deadly combination. 

            At that moment we felt helpless.  Outside the tent, there was choking dust, a torrid wind, and smoke from Colorado forest fires.  Add to these miseries the existence of  ten billion tiny white gnats, enough to get into every crack and orifice. We had arrived during some kind of hatching phenomenon. The bugs were frenzied with pheromones, they gathered in great opaque clouds, which drifted towards our tent until we were lost in a storm of little white insects.

            The next day they would abruptly disappear.

            It was probably a hundred twenty inside the tent. Occasionally, I would stick my head outside, and find it even worse;  the sun made me so dizzy I couldn’t stand up. I prayed for a cool breeze, something, anything to change this sense of stifling malady. I didn’t have the strength to be outside, nor did I have the strength to endure being inside. Fox and I dragged our sleeping mats to the tent’s door and lay there, half in, half out, turning ourselves every now and then to alternate head and feet. 

            “I think I’m going to die”, Fox said.

            She was the color of an old bedsheet.  She was serious.

            “Do you want me to do something?  An emergency room?”

            Fox thinks she’s going to die seven or eight times a year.  I knew she would refuse.  She has a major phobia of doctors. She would rather die than be in the presence of doctors.

            “Look at you,” she said, “You couldn’t drive, you can’t even stand up.”

            “If I have to,” I offered, “I’ll drive.  I don’t know if there’s an E.R. within a hundred fifty miles, but…..”

            “No no no, don’t go to the trouble.  Maybe I won’t die.”

            She got to her knees suddenly, lurched out of the tent in time to

empty her stomach.

            I pressed my palms to my forehead, hopelessly trying to rub out the headache that sat like an anvil atop my skull.

            At the time, I blamed part of our dillemma on age, as if camping were limited to young people. I was FEELING old, I was in shock from the transition that was taking place in my body. The end of my youth had come hard.  I seemed to have gone from young to ancient without stopping off at middle age.

             I was fifty two, Fox was forty eight and it was July in the desert. We were dumb rookies, not hardened adventurers.  I hadn’t been in a tent since Boy Scout camp.  If an eleven year old boy had come along, he would have rolled his eyes and sneered at me with contempt.

            Why were we killing ourselves with this poorly planned trip?

            Fox had compelling reasons for wanting to see the area of The Four Corners.   A few months previously, she had discovered, completely out of the blue,  that she was half Apache. 

            Give this a moment to sink in.

            She had believed her entire life that she was the child of Swedish parents.  Then, on a trip back to the old Iowa homestead, in a conversation with eighty year old Aunt Inge, she learned that she was the illegitimate child of her father and an Apache farm worker named Morning Star.

            Fox had memories of Morning Star.  Fox had, as a child, adored Morning Star, but it wasn’t until forty odd years later that the puzzle came together with the force of an earthquake: Morning Star was her mother!

            When the shock wore off, it explained so much to Fox.   It made sense of the way she looked.  She had black hair whose strands were thick as cables.  Her cheekbones gave her a proud, angular look.  She was slow to anger, but when her ire was roused she became like a turbine of formidable rage.  She held grudges for years.  She could be ruthlessly unforgiving towards those who perpetrated injustice.  Yet, being deeply Christian, she longed to forgive.  She felt ashamed at her lack of charity, she felt as though her anger were sinful. She was always battling with these internal forces.  She had been raised in a Christian home, but she felt something wild and vengeful in her heart.  In particular, a blind rage could possess her when she saw someone mistreat an animal.  She could charge into a situation with fury, chastising a farmer for whipping a horse or prodding a cow. Needless to say, she was considered odd.

            She had a spooky ability to speak with animals. She was called an “ear”, what is now called a “whisperer” or, in some circles,  a “Pet Psychic.”  She had a penchant for bones, stones, leather, feathers. She wandered the plains alone, hunting for arrowheads, sage, abandoned birds’ nests.  She gathered her findings into little packages, over which she made “magic”.

            The discovery of her true lineage explained her feeling of not belonging to the family.  It explained her sense of being plunked down in the wrong birth zone, as if the baskets had gotten mixed up by the stork.  She understood, at last, why she had spent her life wondering why she was not like her sister, mother, cousins, all these fair and freckled people who said “Yah, shooor.”

            Fox’s father was a serious and respected man, not a philanderer. He had fallen in love. The child of this love was taken to the family, no more was said until after mom and pop and most of the family were gone.  Aunt Inge held the story forty eight years, waiting for the right time.  Fox was Apache from the Chiricahua Band, a descendent of those famous warriors who led the U.S. Army on endless wild chases through the canyons of the Southwest.

Seeing Is Believing


            A blinded soul
is a stubborn thing.
It must be ground and battered,
shocked, in the hope that one day
it will remember how to see.
A soul can be so stubborn, it keeps its eyelids
tightly shut, until it must be thrown
into the furnace of stars, and exhaled
into the loneliness of space.
A soul can be so blind that it must be exiled
time and again, into bodies that are afflicted
with warts, boils and tumors.
Wake up, wake up!
Its eyes stubbornly clamped,
a soul will inherit careless mothers and cruel fathers,
like cold water in the face,
that it may through pure reflex
open its eyes, and see on the horizon
a glimpse of the home
from which all souls come,
to which they will, some day, return.
A stubborn thing is a blinded soul.
It has no memory of its memory.
It does not know
of the domain of seeing souls
who grieve for their lost brethren.
Won't you see, won't you remember?
they cry.  To the blind
it is a faint and distant sound
drowned by the thunder
of clenched and blaming hearts.
Here it is, here it is!
Just open your eyes, just remember.
The glue that holds shut
the eyelids of your sightless soul
can be dissolved
by the tears of your long, sad sleep.
           




Wednesday, April 8, 2009

My Girl Suffers


My girl suffers, and sometimes goes far away
where I can’t see her pain.
I can only see the sign of her pain
like the tracks of a large animal that has passed by.
I am not a great tracker, but she is my girl.
I do everything to relieve her suffering
but it isn’t enough.  It’s my best.
She always gives her best when I suffer,
and I never know when my pain will leave signs
like a large animal that has passed by.
She is the better tracker, her senses are finer.
That’s what we do for each other,
because we love one another,
even when the love hurts, because the loved one hurts.
My girl suffers too much, but she is so strong;
she bears her pain with dignity and sorrow.
The world suffers and the world’s suffering
makes more pain for my girl to bear,
because that’s who she is: every animal, every tiny bird or mouse,
all the life and death that comes and goes,
my girl knows, feels, deals, for her it is all real.
The world’s suffering is folded into her suffering,
her suffering is  folded into the world’s suffering,
they have ways of being the same pain.
Some people are more expert at pain than others.
My girl is an expert.  She is much stronger than I am.
When I was young I learned to duck, to watch out.
My girl trusts too much, and she doesn’t duck.
I help because I can, because I  duck so fast.
My girl suffers, and sometimes goes far away, far away,
because she must.  I leave the gates, the doors, the bridges open,
so she can find her way back.
I am not strong enough to go where she goes,
but I keep the lights on and the fire burning,
for when she returns, smiling,
playful and childlike, once again.


Breathing

Breathing.
My cat goes up and down
on my chest.
It is not me that she loves,
but my breath.
Up and down, up and down,
she rides the gentle pendulum,
infinitely soothed.
If I have to move,
have to remove her
from my breath,
she departs with a grief,
and longs to return
as soon as I will permit.
Breathing.
My cat knows what counts;
not love, not my smell,
not my scratching of her ears:
just my breath.
Where she lives,
where I live.
Breathing.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

The Perfect Gift! The OJ Simpson Crime 15th Anniversary Commemorative Coffe Mug

This exquisite limited edition mug, fired and glazed at the Franklin Ceramics Works in a run of only ten thousand, is guaranteed to become a collector’s classic.  Valued today at $200, it has every chance of increasing its value each year.  Like the "Crash of Flight 103 Dinner Plate", the "OJ Simpson Crime Coffee Mug" is an excellent investment, as well as being an esthetic delight!

On one side is an OJ Football Star picture, painted by distinguished artist Mellarina Flinger. On the other side, utilizing new holographic technology, is the Dorian Grey-style picture of OJ’s soul as it deteriorates into a disgusting caricature of the heroic and lovable OJ!

 Order Now!  When these mugs are gone, they are gone!  Don’t miss the oppportunity to add this wonderful piece to your collection.  "The Jon-Benet Ramsey Teacup and Saucer Set " is now valued at well over $1000, and the "Princess Di Crash Car Platter" is considered priceless! 

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Look: A Love Poem


Look around you:
look at the people, so driven, driven
by a force
relentless as gravity
inescapable as day and night, life and death.
The power that winds us and grinds us,
makes us crazy is the hunger for love,
the search for love,  the absence of love,
the loss of love.
Its effects are everywhere,
visible and invisible,
pervasive;
in this landscape of loss
and loneliness
the search grips everyone
obsessive as a drug hunger
so intrusive and demanding
that we are not even aware
as it seeps into the air we breathe,
the molecules of our daily existence
have sponged it up
so that it becomes like the music
from the next apartment
or from a passing car,
a beat felt,
vibrating up through the floor, humming
in the walls, everywhere.
I will wear clothes that get me love…
I will scent myself
to find love…
I will paint my face
to attract love…
I will sculpt my body
to perfect love….
I will groom my hair
to waft love…
I will signal my hunger
without knowing my desperation…
I will scream my loneliness
in silent longing glances
across parties,
in stores,
twist my neck,
twist my soul
for its wanting……
want my soul
without knowing
that it is love
without a search
without a need
without a struggle.
It took me but half a life
to meet the person
in whom love made a home for me;
I twisted and howled so loud
I did not see her when she first knocked at my door.
Her face was not familiar
her smell was strange
her voice was odd
I kept looking
like so many fools before me
love did not make the noise
of the neighbor’s apartment
the thump of the passing car
love was unexpected
because I was drawing children’s pictures
in a book wi th a silly title:
True Love For Soul Mates in Eternity.
That was the wrong book.
My love gently took the book from my hand;
here, she whispered, look around you
this is what love really is:
only when you’ve exhausted your immaturity
are you ready
to care for someone
as deeply as I now care
for you.
Look around you
at the heartsick lonely ones
who sniff greedily but disdainfully
for a few moments
at the possibility of love
and then move on,
hoping somehow love will find them
when they have missed its delicate sign
a thousand times, so busy with the pursuit
that they have failed the simple lessons
of caring.
Now I have, at last, exhausted enough immaturity
that your voice is familiar,
your face is beautiful
your music is here,
in the room with me,
not some distant fateful sound,
here, with me,
I hear you, I see you,
I smell you,
I love you more
all the time.


Monday, April 6, 2009

Impressions: A Love Poem


Impressions of you
are engraved upon me.
I don’t know when it happened:
that a certain way you laugh
became like oxygen, when I was gasping
for breath.
Your laugh became my life.
Or when you cry and become small
and crawl into me for comfort;
I can no longer live without that.
Every day some other tiny part of you
takes residence in my soul;
little by little you have moved in.
I invited you to come here
but I did not know what I was doing.
The highest parts of me, the parts
I seldom have the sense to visit,
they met and agreed
you should be here.
“We’ll tell him later,”
they said amongst themselves,
pointing at the hapless man who slipped and stumbled
amid the twisted debris of his life.
“We’ll let him know when he most needs to know.
For now it’s enough that she’s there,
that she won’t go away no matter what a fool he is.”
Now I know.  They told me.  Or I heard them.
Or something changed and I knew.
There are things you do with your voice
that are like keys that unlock boxes
that contain gifts I have always wanted.
There are ways you smell
that remind me of the best days of my childhood.
There are things you make with your hands
that I watch like a happy captive.
There are ways you mis-pronounce words
that make little dances erupt in my stomach.
Oh, lovely one, how can you doubt yourself,
when it is the very things you doubt the most
that I most cherish?  It is your mistakes
that make me laugh with joy,
it is your funny odors that have seeped into me
until I can no longer tell
whose sweat I am smelling.
It is your hair that refuses to harm me,
though it could, at any time,
become terribly dangerous.
Impressions of you are engraved upon me
so much, that when you are not here,
I must write a poem
to bring you home.



Thursday, April 2, 2009

Weight Loss: Fact Or Fiction?

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