California Dreaming

The poor people sleep for hours in the rain.
Why? Because they are homeless, and it is raining.
To the senators in the gold towers, it seems plain
that, since the poor’s sleeping takes less energy than complaining,
they can say that the poor are lazy, to explain
why they, the senators, are right remaining
high, and dry, and feted all the more
while the sleeping people slide towards Death’s cold door.

Sa foi ou son foie

On the edge of the pasture nearest Twisted River
in his trailer on its settling cinder blocks
the man confuses his faith with his liver
when he speaks French. He wrings and hangs his socks
above his cot. He pretends he would forgive her
if she’d come back. The wind of winter rocks
him not to sleep but every other way.
‘But loose,’ he says. He lives another day.

Jack Daw Declines My Invitation

‘It’s too early,’ says the jackdaw. ‘I’m not an owl 🦉’
He speaks on our private channel. ‘It’s the hour,’
he adds, ‘for roosting. Down there stray cats 🐱 yowl.
With my flock I’m safe here in the Great Church tower
and I plan to stay that way. No need to fly afoul
of whatever waits in darkness to devour
us avians who are taught to do what’s right.
Goodnight again. I’ll call you at first light.’


The fish caught seconds earlier, not dead
but less than happy in the summer air,
lies pressed upon the bank’s long grass and reed
until his captor cuts the hook with care
and tells onlookers while a fish may bleed
it can’t feel pain. Like it, onlookers stare
until it leaps. Then, noticing it’s free,
the fish regains the stream, the lake, the sea.

We too played fishers when our world was young,
and hooked whatever bit, and profited
for many noons, and now that shadows long
themselves for cover, we call salmon squid
and quid for quo stands for our marching song.
When you asked me did I love you, then I did,
and we, proud we had legs, took evening walks
investing energy in whispered talks.

What hooked us and we looked upon as love
while reeling, each of us, the other in,
was evolution, golden treasure trove
of progress down from mindless bug to sin
and up from there to faith in an Above
elusive as it’s precious. Don’t begin.
We’ve heard each other out too many times
and know what happens when one of us climbs

beyond our station. Our red-marrow bones
lack the air fillings of the natural flier.
We sink, in spite of aspiration, home
into the river. What was our desire
gels into habit, and inside our room
we throw each other’s papers in the fire
we hope will keep the creeping cold outside
with the dark we sense approaching our blind side.

The salmon who escapes the dam, the bear,
and anglers paying through the nose to kill,
spawns far upstream, at home for its last hour.
Depleted, safe, successful for a spell,
it glories in the sunset of its power
before the scavengers eat its free will
and its predestination, and its flesh.
So little of us passes through the mesh

of the nets that are our destiny, our death.
Descended from the fish who chanced on lungs,
we each, more relative each passing breath,
say absolute good-byes. As sapient beings
we think we know that absolute’s the dearth
of love and living, a sinking pond rock’s rings
that can’t feel pain. I hurt as I break free,
and follow you in stream, and lake, and sea.

The Ark Tangent — a poem not for EARTH TOURIST



jackdaw on ark tangent

Jackdaw Jackdaw, BA (Hons), MComp, DPT, FBCS, Corvus monedula, O.I.D. lighted in front of me and asked, ‘Where’s it got to then, that “ark tangent” thing?’


‘I want to feature it on JACKDAW DOLLOPS.’

‘It’s not finished.’

‘All the better. Both our readers will be grateful.’

Subtle, that bird. I opened the WWII footlocker and we watched the moths fly out. I dusted brittle pages and packets until I found the right one. ‘Here it is,’ I said.

Jackdaw Jackdaw yelled, ‘Look behind you!’

I jumped and spun around, spun back (it took a while) to see Jackdaw Jackdaw flying off with the Ark Tangent’s prologue.

‘Works every time,’ he cawed. ‘I am going to post this.’

And that’s what he did, over at JACKDAW DOLLOPS.<–click here


I sit in the sand to write of winter travels.
Out west above the waves the threat of rain
accumulates and then, again, unravels.
Lithe bodies whose perfection gives me pain
that someday they will go, a useless cavil,
implant their outlines in my grateful brain.
When winter comes, comes cold, and time to write,
and after those, the dark and endless night.

The night brings bombs that vaporise old timbers
and interrupt our squabbles with a mite
of understanding as the blast dismembers
a neighbour whom we knew but just by sight
and recognise no more among these embers.
A soul as fuel gives but little light.
Through what was roof the moon shines in to bring
my thoughts outside to search the dark for spring.

As racers race, as flyers tend to fly,
a couple couples four feet up the beach
with sandy knees and sheepish smiles that cry
for company, but they are out of reach
and I can’t be bothered. (Lord, forgive my lie.)
I write in blood and watch the paper leach
the words into it till the last sun sets
and coming winter cossets my regrets.

I need a moon, or more, to lift my spirit.
This war goes on forever and the fight
invades my night child’s mind and tries to steer it
to madness, as if safety lay in flight
from Eden now our guns arrive to queer it.
We pave the earth in ash to prove we’re right.
How long can we endure, and at what price?
Last summer’s waves go soft beneath the ice.

Some images I won’t report:
the way
the seagull hangs six feet above Lucinda …
the way a blonde, to enter the café,
takes forever, in the door, to wend a
shawl around almost her hips … ¡Olé! …
the way her sister, coming in to spend a
penny is garbed solely in a tee
shirt no one else notices … Such sights
are lost on those who focus on cold nights.

The darkness where night children I imagine
have hidden half the winter goes to grey.
Grey goes to rose, and breezes bring a smudge in:
reality, another one, gains sway
to order my perceptions as they trudge in
in lockstep till they learn they must obey
only what I want them to, then fly.
I imagine summer’s coming by and by.

Why should we celebrate the present summer,
take pleasure in the joys our bodies bring
themselves and others? Life’s a short-lived bummer,
John Calvin taught our elders, and each spring
ephemeral. It’s autumn that’s the comer.
Let’s hunker down, avoid the urge to sing;
await the fall, ignore sweet summer’s sight
till night falls down and proves the pessimist right.

Reality! A great stockpile of missiles.
We had to use them by their sell-by day.
I hunker as another of them whistles
inside to poach my lungs so I can’t say
“diddlysquat” or “kudzu” or “bulls’ pizzles”
and blood replaces breath. I kneel and pray
My monkey mind consumes another bummer
but my wild side senses all of life is summer.

It dies with us. All of it dies with us.
Wait for, want not, and polish your regrets.
I know I do. I raise a muted fuss
as I deny until my mind forgets
most of the gifts life’s given me. The fall winds muss
my memories: As each new gust begets
confusion I applaud how sand blurs sights
I lower daily towards eternal nights.

I watch Lucinda’s waving growing dimmer,
indulge myself (I try to do that more)
in knowing it’s through her I get a glimmer
of what of all I care about is more
important than mere living. Chances slimmer
than ever to get near what I adore;
than what I used to hope for, but all right,
I turn my face to summer, shut out night.