Cheyenne Morning

Leaving Felton in ‘73, falling asleep in the car just
Over the line into Wyoming after the long climb
Out of Salt Lake City.  Waking up in white darkness,
Windows coated with the scud of high plains snow
Hushing the labored pantings of the long haul trucks.

Continuing on east toward a startled dawn at 5 a.m.
Stopping on the southern tip of Cheyenne about a
Quarter mile off the interstate to call back to Felton
Forgetting the time difference.  Too early, or much
Too late, and she won’t let me talk to the boy asleep.

Me in tears and her in rising anger until someone
Severs the connection.  Pulling myself together enough
In the phone booth before I am exposed to those
Piercing eyes of cowboys and Indians loitering in the
Gas station with a phone booth on the bitter tongue of
Cheyenne, as the rest of my life tilts out of my mouth,
Southeast towards the Gulf of Mexico, with taste buds
Knocked out by the wine and the cigarettes and the
Vomit of recriminations I just can’t swallow back down.

Acclaim the Dawn

Only missing is the warm touch of Ra to fully
awaken morning and part the fog of dark
revealing a daily Brahmin nightmare.

Shadow passage of red-tail hawk --
austere, fluid, deft, refined --
resplendent in killing regalia.

Chirping avians scramble to
seek safety and solace deep
within cypress bushes and

bougainvillea.  Feathered
tornadoes of Nature need
no urging to send their

vagrant flock darting in
unison to safety, a far
greater maneuver of

formation than even
practice can create.
Predator? Prey?

Sudden death.
First light.

Winds of Change

Ill sirocco winds have blown
before others were expelled;
above the scoured weathervane
clouds appear like gray sarcophagi.

Holy hour prayers sent skyward
as monastic entreaty provided by
cowled and silent and placid ones
kneeling beneath a crosshatched sky.

Layers of clouds in disarray betoken a conflicted expectation,
contemplatives contest ill winds, harbingers that some will die;
Thanatopian deviltries driven from the east in echoed intimation.
Unless prayers of supplication keep latent fears dispelled.

The Center of the Storm

Momentarily distracted by the double-back, click-clack
tapping of stylized heels bent on a shopping mission,
traversing the faux marble floor of the mausoleum-like vault.
Another South Coast Plaza Saturday.  At the end of the bus line,
the gay, gray couple, older, quieter than the rest of the throng,

embenched outside of Boulongerie, gazing back at the gawkers,
appraising those not so past their prime, of their disdain,
squeezing each other’s hand in reaffirmation of unspoken
vows of love, while surrounded by the lust of glitter and gold,
provide an indication that all is not forsaken in Orange County.

Out of chaos, calm,
out of adolescence, growth,
out of tumultuousness, tranquility,
out of social anxiety, final acceptance . . .
. . . perhaps.

Pilate’s Purgatory

Crystalline waters raised on high,
Upraised palms, dripping constellations,
Cupped to bear the liquid essence aloft,
Seeking from the plate of hammered gold,
Exoneration for the multitudes to see:
Nothing is left, nothing left clinging,
Ritual ablutions;
Absolute absolution.

Future blood washed away in spring,
Hands dried, cracked from evaporation,
Much as the Jordan dies in the desert.
Likely the water came from there,
Ferried in, borne on the back of an ass,
Sanctified, having been used by the Baptist,
Beneficence clarified;
Confusion calmed.

His darkest moments still loom ahead,
Shadows of crows will cross his days,
Their multitudes will beat his eyes and ears,
Cawing their feathered lamentations,
Prophecies of acrimony, conflict, fear,
To be visited upon his brow, gathering,
Then coursing into
Coalesced curses.

Pilate lives forever in that compulsive moment.

Old Age Is A Flight Of Small Egrets Disturbed By The Sun

A flight of snowy egrets burnished from white to faint-orange in the setting sun.
After an ungainly launch, the phalanx of five glides over the lagoon,
Gaining height, sweeping low near the marsh-grass islands
Turned lime-green in the late afternoon.

The wind has turned against the shore,
Breeze steadily drawing or pushing the egrets inland,
Away from the beach, the salt marsh, and the long grasses of the islands,
Hard-bent towards the low sand dunes farther inland moving away from the sea.

No distinctive pattern of flight appears from the five individual egrets
Turning from snowy-white, through pink, orange, and then
With a purple-tinge they collectively recede from
Shore, the sun and me.

Is there a significance to five?
Is one a male and the other four his harem?
Are there four suitors to a single damsel?  My recall is that
Birds are monogamous.  Is it a family group then?  I don’t notice distinctions in size

As they take flight and pass from view.  Three are a bit smaller,
But memory can often play tricks and I am overwhelmed with
Images of their color and function and not of size
Relative one to another, or even to me.

For this one moment they have expanded
Filling my view.  They are size-less and timeless.
The last rites to this evening flight is born in a flurry of wings and
Sprinkled water.  Their lives are poised above the marsh, five egrets gliding

Above and five below reflected on the surface of the water, as much
Hidden as exposed in the ripples of the marsh.  Visual death is
Punctuated with a dramatic diminishment of colored
Distinction as five recede to one and
Then to none.

The sun seethes
Behind me and then expires.
I alone am left alive with regrets in the
Twilight of just me and the five vanished egrets.

Date Seeds

Overhanging date palms, sagging, drooping,
Speckled and dappled, lacy shadow-fingers shade the sand,
Gifts of life, bent and burdened with a fulsome juice,
Pregnant with creation, a golden dynamism.

Who are we to plunder this desert manna
When clearly it’s designed to split and
Spill its burden upon the desert floor?

Interwoven branches, lattices of diagonal fronds,
Cradle and couch the bronzed, bunched and brazen dates,
Tunnels of shadow beckoning at the center,
Bursting with life and liquor, teasing the desert.

Mirrored dates, rounded reflections on the sand,
Twice refreshing, supported by shadows and seeds
An oasis of sacrificial children, offered to the sun.

Welcome to Foothill Baptist

The Foothill Baptist Church wants to welcome me
Next Sunday.  The big green sign says so,
Right down the road from here.  I don’t think
They mean to exclude the others, days of the week
I mean, but it does say Sunday specifically.
I’ve not always been welcomed where I’ve gone,
Not even here, now, and so the sign catches
My eye, although I’m wary and been continually
Told I avoid any commitment. I’ll try.
It’d sure be nice to be welcome someplace,
Unreservedly. It’s been so long, but I wonder
If being accepted only one time out of seven means
Being merely tolerated the other six.  Seems
That’s about what I got going now, here, uphill.
I guess I’ll just drive by and see if she’s home,
Alone, ‘cause it’s Saturday you know.  If not, well,
I have to pass the sign again on my way back down.
I’ll see what time they’ll welcome me tomorrow.

Dust in the Waters of Life
for Anita Opal Baker,
part Cherokee and once again dislocated,
this time from Oklahoma to Nevada

I can't be lookin’ at Eb no more.
Ain't sure I can love 'im no more.
I sold m' life fer his soul, thinkin'
I wanted what all he wanted.

He wanted a fam’ly.
I giv’d ‘im one.
He wanted a young’un.
I giv’d ‘im one.
He wanted a boy.
By God's Grace,
I giv’d ‘im one.

Still that weren't 'nuff fer Eb.
He still weren't filled.
Somepin' was missin'.
Or m’be he wa’r o'erfilled
With the waters a' death,
'Stead a' the waters a' life.

Somepin' dried up;
Dried up the land,
'N dried up us,
'N dried up me too,
I'm guessin'.

He, us, me -
We los’ ever'thin';
Los’ the farm,
Los’ the car,
Now we los’ our way.

Preacher man bin talkin’
'Bout the waters a' life.
What ‘bout 'em I ask?
Even m' milk bin thinnin'.
M' baby ain't hardly gettin'
Nothin' no more;
Thin trickle from m' paps;
Bin dryin' up,
Lost, done soaked up
By the sands a' m' man's soul.

Pro'bly lose the boy,
Lose us,
Lose me.
Pro'bly lose hisself too,
'Tho he bin los’ to us
Two, m'be three mon’s now;
Dried up 'n all, blowed away.
Jus' blowed away.

Ain't nothin' t’ be done.
Ain’t nothin’
Worth nothin'
No more.
It jus' all flowed
Away in the wind.


Doors, portals, passages,
          invites and good-byes,
          entrances and exits;
Metaphors of life and death,
          birth and living,
          are almost too handy.

How many doors have beckoned you
          during your allotment?
How many portals have been closed off,
          denied to you?
How many passages have been darkened,
          foreign and forbidding?

If all these mark what just was
          from what is about to be,
Then the portal itself is ethereal,
          possessed of no value,
Has no relationship to the real,
          beyond that of the transient.

And yet I know this:
          there is real substance
          to these demarcations.
It’s hard to argue
          it’s of no substance,
          when it’s slammed in your face.

Bizarre Trip

I await what Raymond Carver once called
The most bizarre trip of all.  No one really
Plans for it and you can’t precisely pack for it.

Tickets are indiscriminately overbooked.

Group rates can be periodically applied to all.
Absolutely no excess baggage claims allowed.
Travel insurance cannot be bought at any price.

While the departure date moves steadily closer,
Reservations still refuses to return my calls.


I overheard someone refer to her as an
adolescent sitting on the cusp of maturity.
Blind language, that; for I know her and
from what I know and have seen of her,
she vacillates between woman and child,
balanced precariously, standing, not seated,
on a scimitar’s finely-honed edge, dividing
her slashed realities of what others expected,
wanted of her, cajoled and then demanded, and
her sharply-imagined desires and dreams of self,
attempting to regain her virginal self-confidence.

Tears course down her face, gain mass, and drop
upon her arm – not wrist, not yet, or not ever –
mixing with parallel lines of blood newly yearned for,
until interrupted by the intrusive demands of now:
bells, chatter, rumors, directions, instructions, demands.
Each moment her mind reels from the consequences of
decisions she believes she cannot reveal nor contain.
Surreptitiously, she pulls her sweater sleeve up and,
slicing neat, new, parallel lines drawn towards infinity,
allows the focal point of pain to acknowledge her reality.

Animal Suicide

If they think about suicide,
what do they think?
The animals I mean.

Patricide, matricide,
fratricide, infanticide,
homicide and more.
We share much with them.
The animals I mean

Of course they sacrifice
defending their herd
and their young.
Altruism aside,
I wonder if they entertain
a concept of self-annihilation,
an idea of suicide?
The animals I mean.

In addition to ethereal
concepts of metaphysics,
or the ability to make tools,
or the use of speech or text
in memorializing the past
or envisioning a future,
a defining distinction of man,
from the mass of all animals,
is the ability to conceive
and to plan and to execute
his own demise,
not as a sacrifice for others,
but in the removal of self
from the present.
Man is an animal who
conceives of self-extinction.

Are there others?  Among
the animals I mean.

Friday Morning

Bushels of Watchtowers held tightly against their sagging breasts,
Two dark women stand to one side of the lighted doorway, expectant,
In scarves and long plain dresses, absorbed in holy conversation,
Guarding the entrance to the donut shop with only soft intimidation,
Daring and defying those who enter to look up and make eye contact.

Bidding them “Good morning,” I get smiles and bright greetings
In return.  On the way out I’m asked if I want a copy of His Word.
“Not today. No thanks,” but I wish them both a good weekend,
Preserving not my soul but the guilt of a momentary conscience.

Sleepy others, not so finely attuned to the subtleties of early morning
Proselytizing, hesitantly take a proffered copy only to throw it down
Among the Styrofoam coffee cups and paper napkins next to their
Pickup truck, then drive away, flicking high beams at the guardians.

When her vision returns, the younger woman steps over the oil stains,
Retrieves the pamphlet from the ground, dusts it off against her thigh,
Then returns it to the top of the stack nurtured at her ample bosom.
Watching them, I sip my coffee in the cab before starting the engine.

Then I ease back off the seat and out the door, leaving the rig running.
“Changed my mind.  I’ve a long haul ahead.  I’ll take a copy after all.”
I do and, waving bye over my back, His Word held high, close the door,
Release the brake, ease off the clutch, step on the gas, and pull away,
Turning the lights on only when I bounce over the driveway and out.

Chances are I’ll throw it away later, far down the road, or not.

Construction Sight

I saw them this morning,
Hanging on to the night,
Waiting for time to turn,
Waiting for their time to end.
Waiting for another’s time to start.

Talk was in hushed tones,
Dissipating in the early dawn,
Vapor trailed from their mouths.
There was little laughter and
Even that was strained,
Forced, not casual pleasure.

Some were individuals,
Set apart from the pack,
Not making, not needing
To make, eye contact,
Just soaking up the energy
From a horizontal sun.

Others, bunched,
Bonding in tight pods,
Drew energy from
Brief companionship,
Communal coffee, and
A final cigarette or pipe.

I saw them this morning,
Hanging on to the sides of pickups,
Leaning into private thoughts,
Waiting for the Man’s time,
Waiting for the whistle to
Start another day of labor.

Fire Voyeur

The lights up on the ridge were beautiful last night,
Strands of beaded fireflies shorting out spasmodically,
Erupting occasionally into supernovas of exuberance.
Dawn, however, is merely rusted over now with residue.

Downwind, the sky is scarred and scratched with smoke.
Chlorine bites my nose.  I know they used the public pool,
Dousing the spasm of fire overnight, so unexpected.

The lights up on the ridge were beautiful last night,
Dervish sparks dancing and twirling in vortices of wind.

I should set set just one more to brightly end the season.