23 Things on Monday’s List

  1. Wake to the avian overture to your meteorological opera
  2. Whisper the first recitative in your lover’s ear as you rise
  3. Don silk the color of the western horizon at dawn
  4. Ease through the door and into the morning garden
  5. Salute the blue skies
  6. Flit among the English lavender
  7. Burrow beneath the carrots without a sound
  8. Roust the snails and sow bugs that hide between cabbage leaves
  9. Startle earthworms with noble verse
  10. Rest during the midday intermission, but cry out for clouds to appear
  11. Sing a late afternoon love duet with the wren on the beanpole
  12. Waltz among the squash and tango over the tomatoes
  13. Chant to the heroic sunset
  14. Fly with the bats in the twilight, hunting for gnats at the garden’s edge
  15. Howl, but wait until moonrise
  16. Listen for distant yips from the chorus of coyotes
  17. Return their calls note for note (but in a different key)
  18. Fly through the garden again, much slower this time
  19. Carry lettuce in an offering to the stars
  20. Sing your final aria with the voice of dry leaves rustling
  21. Find your place for the curtain call (close to the fennel)
  22. Graciously accept your admiring lover’s gift of a thousand flowers
  23. Revel in thunderous applause from the gathered dragonflies

(appeared in Air Conditioning and Other Pleasures)

A Guide to Leather Glove Care

The hide once fit
some old cow
or steer far better
than it  fits my hands now,

but I’m grateful
for thick, bovine skin
as my father and I
set a line of fence-

posts down the horse pasture’s
edge. From each hole,
I scoop out a winter’s worth
of sodden earth; dank mud soaks

my gloves. When we finish,
the posts feel solid, ready
for fenceboards. In a careless
moment, I toss my dirty

gloves in a plastic bag-without
a cow’s heart, without
its breath–three weeks later–
stiff leather fuzzy with mold,

still damp.

Lichen Tangled in Her Hair

Red-tail calls in the cloudless sky.
I hear him say he saw
the woman with lichen tangled in her hair
dance across the rounded hilltop
under the great, dark oak.
She whirled among thin green stalks
of miner’s lettuce,
over their rounded leaves
and tiny white flowers.
She soared in the shadow
of thick arching branches
that meet ground at their tips.
She danced past tiny caterpillars
dangling from fine threads
that swayed back and forth
in the breeze of her passing.
She somersaulted across leaf litter,
stilling cricket’s rasp
and darkling beetle’s rustle.

I want to ask red-tail
if he saw my true love
dance beneath rough bark
carpeted in deep green moss
and tumble into sunlight
beyond the oak.
But spider has captured my voice
in dusty grey webs
strung between bare branches
Without a voice, I must pantomime,
but red-tail can’t see me
from his distant perch
across the deep canyon
of dark Douglas firs.
Lacy-winged grey flies
with long white legs
hover over her footprints,
understanding nothing,
and turkey vulture glides past,
staring with tiny black eyes,
but won’t say where she’s gone.

Gravenstein Dreams

I.
The August perfume
of Gravenstein apples
pervades my sleep.
A plop of fruit
dropping to soft earth
wakes me; the North Star
glints through the window.
The years since this
was home
vanish.

II.
Between rows of propped
apple trees, a nine-year old
first falls in love
with night’s magic.
On a canvas tarp thrown down
over the burn pile’s charcoal remains,
he tries to count all the stars,
find Orion, the Great Bear,
the Northern Crown.
Distractions-shooting stars,
satellites, barn owl screech,
a toad plumping in the dust,
horse hooves
clipping stones in the pasture –
and finally, sleep
breaks the tally
short of completion.

III.
Even now, Sonoma’s hills and trees
rule my sleep’s geography.
In that country, the boy
clings to hay bales stacked
four high in back of his father’s
’63 Chevy truck as they bump
across an old flower seed farm’s
cracked adobe, away from a stack
the size of three whales
laid end to end;
chaff flies into his hair
and red-winged blackbirds
erupt from grain the balers missed.
At dawn, he creeps

in wet, waist-high sedges
on the Laguna de Santa Rosa’s banks;
a great blue heron glides
between grey valley oak trunks
and drops through mists
pooled over murky waters.
Father and son
slosh buckets of water on seedlings
as tongues of fog race eastward,
maroon and salmon
in the setting sun.

IV.
Some nights I wander
the Santa Cruz Mountains’ foothills
above my adopted home
of Silicon Valley.
Frenzy possesses
the nightscape below-
engines roar and tires squeal
over its asphalt shell-
so unlike the cricket darkness
of this summer orchard
in Sonoma’s western hills.

More barking dogs break the stillness,
more trucks and commuters
now rumble on Gravenstein Highway.
The Northwestern Pacific tracks
are torn up; the cannery’s closed,
clanking machinery silent.
Fermented pommace
and vinegar rankness
no longer fill morning air.

Yet dark streaked apples
still bow the branches,
and fallen fruit
crunches underfoot…

(appeared in the chapbook Forgework)