Saturday, July 13, 2013

A summer poem about my father


I have a photograph from my childhood
of my father, standing in his zinnia garden,
puffed-up and beaming, posing for the camera,
watering hose in hand, surrounded by bursts of color
like blossoms of fireworks he himself lit weeks earlier
in time-lapse, kneeling on the dirt, striking a match
by placing each seed ­underground,  slow fuses
brought to life as white-hot shoots – pushing skyward,
growing green in a thick tapestry of tall arcs, swelling,
opening finally in brilliant explosions of red, yellow, orange – even purple,
to detonate around him like a fourth-of-July celebration
of his skill in gardening them forth into the world:
for a brief moment forever he stands proud,
a pyrotechnic God among flowers.

Thursday, July 4, 2013


Listening to music tonight to drown out the fireworks, I was thinking about the fishing season just under way in Alaska, and found this on the page a few minutes later:

The Clothes They Wore

In my dream tonight
I stood on the deck of a boat
surrounded by ghosts of fishermen
who never returned from the sea.

They walked on water.

All of them rose out of the ocean
dripping, but not wet
and stood there facing me
as if to tell me what I missed.

I didn’t question the logic
of the dream. It was a dream, after all.
Not a nightmare.
But I had to wonder:

all these unnamed drowned,
no monument with a name attached
or standing near the shore
Phoenixes, wings spread cold before me.

No smiles or frowns, nor masks of anguish
on tortured faces. Passive expressions all.
 Not one spoke. They stood in a circle 
around me, my engine at idle.

Waves lapped the side of the boat.
I looked around – all points.
As far as I could see, they were there,
some in oilskins and nor’westers

some in sweatpants and bare feet.
The clothes they wore. I wondered
what would happen if I did not awaken –
if I would join them. It was then,

my t-shirt soaked with salt water, I did.

Monday, July 1, 2013

I am not a religious man, but...

I'm not religious, but a song i was listening to today got me thinking about a woman I often pass on the way to town, and the way so many Christian legislators are attacking women's rights lately. Even though this travels elsewhere, that's where it began. This is what I unpacked:


What if Mary was indeed the mother of God?
And what if she was standing on the corner
like the woman I passed today, holding the cardboard,
“Kids and I Need Food,” or the one she had last week
“Need $60 for Rent”? Why $60? Was that all it took
to rent a manger? A stable? A twenty-first century stall
lined with straw? How much more did she need for the food?

No, she wasn’t pregnant. But what if that meant
She was already born, an infant in swaddling clothes,
hungry and alone in the bushes behind mother Mary, 
who tucked her out-of-sight for fear of DSHS or worse?
What would happen if the state took away the Child of God
from her loving mother, and put her in the foster system?
What kind of God would that child grow up to be?

And where would that leave us? I wish I could say
I rolled down my window and handed her a dollar.
Or sixty. But I didn’t. I was in a rush to get to the store
before it got too crowded. Too embarrassed to look
another Mother of God in the eye, I pretended to be more
of a conscientious driver than I am, and checked the traffic
hard behind her before pushing the pedal down,
speeding away, echoes of a crying child ebbing behind me.