Friday, June 24, 2016


Richie downstairs honked at me today
for stomping too loud down the staircase.
But he didn't look angry.

He's a weird looking guy.
Eyeballs popping out--a pot smoking wonder.
It's beyond him ever to look angry.

Pot smoke trailed out the door,
as he leaned to snort at me.
We help each other.

Two minutes later Mary chided,
"Why's your car crowding my spot?
Will you park in straight?"

She and husband Dan became friends after the divorce.
She lives alone now. She was generous
to me with spare furniture.

Then the wife called complaining about money.
"Where's my money? I need to know."
Small things make her uneasy.

She was a good wife for 25 years.
I was far away on vacation with my books.
She always kept occupied.

All that happened within five minutes.
Does the universe run by accident?
That makes you think so.

I think after 70 years
not accidental so as to be deadly,
less you're inclined to volunteer,
but ulcers and shortness of breath, sure.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Before the Angst

Before the angst were untangled forests,
clear-water lakes, whose depths
waver and are magnified. The fish swim
in rivers clear enough to drink.

Glorious dawns rise unsmeared
by the detritus at horizon’s edge,
our human contribution to progress,
smoky fires, a-bombs, engine trash.

The forests and plains are rich with meat.
Our wild ponies run straight.
We hunt bravely with strong legs and back.
Our arrows fly true and quick.

Before the angst we learned to walk through
blinding violence to find peace.
We studied deep darkness and bone cold,
and learned to live with solitude.

We make snowshoes by hand with simple tools.
We prepare the animals we hunt
to provide life-giving meat. Our great friend,
the night time sky, inspires us.

We believe in the spirits who speak to us,
"We are with you even after death."
In them we trust like stone and fire;
they lead us to decide.

Before the angst were untangled forests
whose big trees reach heaven.
Brave dapple stallions raced on a plain
of endless horizon and towering sky.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Today I buried my little dog

Today I buried my little dog.
A neighbor’s pit bull ripped her trachea.
I buried her between the garden and the trees.

I wrapped the small Terrier body
in her yellow blanket and dropped her in a ditch.
I’ll find a headstone to etch her name on.

But soon I won’t be living here.
My wife will die and I will die.
Our little dog passed us in time.

She didn’t have a tail so I won’t remember
her wagging it. She didn’t have much hair,
not enough for the wind to catch in.

She used to sleep with us,
and she’d grouch and snarl
let another cat or dog dare join us.

When we got a new puppy,
she played with him unceasingly
but put him in his place.

She was a good loyal dog.
She won’t greet me boisterously any more
or curl up on my lap to snooze.

Time gave her to us to know.
I buried her past the garden
and marked her grave with stones.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

The Angel of Gilgal

Daniel, shepherd John's big-footed young son,
climbed the hillside out of the mist.
"Samuel," he shouts, "an Angel has come to Gilgal."

I was grazing my goats east of the pass
near town. It was kidding and a misery of work.
I was in no mood for nonsense.
What nonsense could the town folk be up to now?

"The angel said that we must make enemies
of the inhabitants of this land,
and that we must throw down their alters."

"Let the weeds throw them down," I said.
"And, don't tell me what other people saw,
tell me what you saw, Daniel."

"It was a pale light low over the people's heads,
not a strong light, not like the sun.
He spoke clearly, not in a big voice, but a mild soft voice,
and hoarse, as if speaking was unnatural.
But a flimsy looking figure;
as the sun was breaking through the mist,
his garments fluttered, and he made himself
look small to be against sunlight.
But they were all weeping at the sight,
walking all the way to Bochim.
And it's a good ways back, too."

"I'm afraid to ask, what had they been doing?"

"Worshiping in the poles in the trees.
That's why they were weeping.
They had done evil among the poles."

"You were not with them?"

"They speak so interestingly of arcane subjects,
and look, God has rewarded them with a sign!
They say this figure of a sweet light
will come down and stay with them
to watch over and protect them and warm them
when they are cold, and make life lighter."

"Daniel, your father has not given you work enough.
There is much work to do this time of year.
Go back to your father
and set yourself to your work.
You will suffer more than you know
to think as they do, and fall into such bad habits."

"I cannot help it," said Daniel. "I can't stop.
Come down with me to see for yourself."

"As if I won't hear enough of this all
my days. Whether true or a lie. Daniel,
go back to your people, and stray no more
till you are through with this. Go!"

"But it would be such a precious sight to think on.
An angel of the Lord come down!"

Having just kidded, a doe's throat rattle death.
The kids were huddled, big-eyed against the cold.
When is there ever the right time?
I covered them with hay and shreds of blanket,
laid them in a low spot under the harsh wind.
Seemed that the sky was brightening.
And I went down to see for myself.

Such was what I saw.
How could those frail wings stop our enemies' arrows,
such diaphanous nothing lighten our burden?
Then the sky opened, and the mist went away
and the sky was full of light,
and in the lilting evening we sacrificed.

The return was in a haze of sorrow.
All that was sacred abandoned us.
We were thus sick with darkness.
In our despair was profligacy in the poles
and giving way to fabulous rituals.
There was much I told no one.