A Journal of Contemporary Arts 






Usnea longissimi, also known as “Methuselah’s beard,”
is the longest lichen in the world, growing from the canopy of
coniferous trees in boreal forests, most abundantly near saltwater.

Hanging on a seaside headland,
          swaying in the light
wind blowing gently, sea-green hair,
          spruce-dangling in the air,
stills, then moves, in random rhythms
          it can hardly bear

to hold yet knows them to be true.
         Elusive, these long-living
things on slender threads, that wait
         for that one noiseless cut
to set them loose in wind, sea-made,
         across the wind-made waves.

With nothing next—and nothing stays—
         and yielding as the mist,
what cost this head in hands in thinking
         it a fearsome crossing
over range on range and all
        the intervening bays?


If I could put this:
   a portal to blue
   through Shelter Island
   gray, the white of shore
   bird breasts warm on waves,
   cold and bracing, days
   in December, church
   windows of living
   pines outside, and cut
   pines inside with lights,
   incense, candles, chants
   for lost brothers, prayers
   for blood and breathing,
   bones so fragile, dry,
   despite late autumn
   rain, cold, hard mountains
   far away, a fire
   here, silence speaking—
into words, I would.



Hungry, sleepless,
wind is shaking
the very foundation
of my cabin. Out

the frosted window,
owls are up,
poised there,
alert on points—

gables, treetops
hay hoods,
to hunt to live.

Will I survive?
Break this fast
of light, and keep
my self? My will?


It’s one of this world’s great, small thundering sounds:
a dove, tossed, drawn to rest within a whelming
sea green sea of willow limbs at dusk.

He turns his body, taking note of wind
direction, turns and turns, and turns again,
a tacking into wood and twigs and leaves,

a moment of confusion in the harboring
against the shiny bark, where peace lies just
beyond the boom of feather, quill, and bone.

Sitting, silent now, he looks around,
far, near, at me—your face, oh little dove—
so small, content and still, despite capricious

winds in limber boughs, reminding me
expecting less is better than the wanting
more; at times, we simply need to land.


The world’s alive today, in me, in all
these ways: the hawks, the yellow, and the hay,
and everyone out mowing hay, the bales
of passing days, the dusty constellations
of the fields—a symmetry of squares—
with crossing lines left wild, the buzzing fencerows;
and in the way Orion reappeared
this morning, rising pale in purple light.

A true conglomeration, August is,
the watercolor season at its apex,
falling fast, impressed and framed by sunglare,
with blue-glass sky beyond the sea-green leaves;
dry flowerheads in sundry weeds of dun;
sequined streams and edges red with sedges;
mayflies glinting gold along the cusp;
a dusty cloud-pink prairie dusk.

And now the moon is shining on my gate.
It doesn’t quite outshine the Dipper tipping,
pouring round the pole, that steadfast star,
white milk to quench the hot, dry, sultry air.
The Dragon, too, and hawk-like, swirls around,
like me,—I spin inside this jumble, minding
parts, not finding any single thing:
       nothing set
                        here in
all of it.



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Standing on a porch
with rails, I steady myself,
facing new mountains.

A raven is here,
two thrushes, and a spider.
Fruiting blueberries

ripen under trees,
red alders, that remind me
of cottonwoods. Home.

Some wild thing lifts me
into alders providing
a leaf, one leaf, a

cupped and pleated bed
the sun and evening wind turn
back and forth, white-green,

in air, light, tinted
with fine, blue glacial silt, where
I’m—though tilting—safe.


A blinking metal tower of supports
with complex vertices of high, straight beams
lifts a light for keeping planes on course,
to help them navigate the perilous streams

of air and time. To reach where I have flown,
I’ve relied on such, but inward beacons
to travel (finding comfort in the drone
of that good plane), though lately now, I weaken

in resolve and feel the need to land,
to saunter off the gravel tarmac, roam,
then stop and—never will the blinking—stand
in constant weather, grounded, bound to home.


In low tide rain with sounds like verse,
some morning, woodsmoke, ravens spoke

from Sitka spruce, from bay shore rocks,
from lofted tops of totem poles.

Through mist they spoke, and spoke like this:
caw rrr glunk tak tu toktu tik

which with some musing I thought meant
you water them theirs ocean me

More words, the wind—some ghosts—slipped through
the air, and I kept silent. Yes,

until I’d had a chance to think.
Then: “Can we meet, since after all,

tides come and go, like time and words—
with neither wanting—think and speak,

all, back and forth? And I’ll transcribe
through days and nights, both short and long,

that worlds might join in learning how
to change the cleaving them and theirs.”

The scene was one of titled heads
with snow-lined, strong, and furrowed brows.

Soon, the raven delegation
spoke, and I, as promised, wrote:

You, me, old, neap, king, new, we, us. . . .


I swallow whole the rising moon
and hear it murmur down my throat.

It tumbles past my choke-rock heart
into the winding canyonlands,

down past my legs of cottonwood
that line the flowing watershed,

out onto plains where it dissolves
to riffles flashing in the last

bright sun that sets, and hawks in trees
are silhouettes on dusky blue,

as willow fingers dipping down
strum gently water passing by.

Then I against the earth’s cool berm
as darkness opens over me—

and tideless for a time—will sip
the fiery stars as they appear.


Three leaves fall:
one to a rutted dirt road,
one to a glittering lake,
one to the tattered remains
of a field.

Some leaves hold,
draping the tree in a thin
russet net woven by time,
hanging on fast to the clutch
of the limbs;

one cold wind
takes them away in a gust,
making a rattling sound
marking the leaving, the end
of the fall.

Not one thing
stays but will move off the curve,
leaving the shores of what’s now.
Scattered are bones of the past
on the ground.

Fall leaves, then,
suddenly. Winter is here.
Suddenly winter is here.
Suddenly everything turns
into stone.





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                   “. . . on the shore
                    Of the wide world I stand alone. . . .”
                                                             —John Keats

My yellow autumn mornings held a stream
With grassy banks where I would gently snap off
Panes of ice in thin transparent polygons.

Then once, some secret current took a mitten
To an eddy underneath a trestle.
Caught, it slowly spun, then sank and drowned.

Later, home from school, my older brother,
Captain, hero, friend, and fisherman,
Stood high in golden light on wooden timbers,

And with a hook and string and willow branch,
He raised the sodden mitten, cold and black,
And placed it in my pale, half-frozen hands.

As Fall fell into blue, I cried for things
At last reclaimed. And for the newly lost.


My mother is in Spain and sleeping. Still.
Through open windows, air comes warm and spiced.
The night rain passing taps on leaves and blossoms.
My father’s on the terrace in the dark.
I hear his slight and quiet movements there.

If I were sitting by her in the lamplight
Shining amber on her pillowed head,
I’d maybe reach to touch her small, white hand,
Or smooth the ivory blanket covering her.
Or I would leaf through books to pass the time,

The small, late hours ticking by. Or maybe
As I always have, I’d slip out back
To walk around, roll all I see up into
Two bright spheres for each of my blue eyes,
To understand a world that now is motherless,

This world I’ve known by moving stone to stone—
The oceans, deserts, map dots, peaks, and highways—
She must have wondered often where I’d gone.
If I could, I’d gather all those scattered
Scenes into a jar, return to her

And break it open on her bedside table,
Rearrange things into lines to make
A book, a poem, a short, kind letter home,
Or make some simple sketches, little birds,
To flutter in the room in morning dusk,

And listen for, in feather rustling, words
Of clarity, simplicity, and tidiness.
Yes, those gray and white descending wings
Might finally sweep away the travel dust,
And speak to me of place and give me peace.

No. If I were there in Spain, I’d let
Those birds I thought might lead me somewhere, back,
Fly out the open window past my father,
And I would sit so still as not to wake
Inside that silent room my sleeping mother.


The girl walks down a road along a fenceline,
Umbrella up though it’s a cloudless day.
Perhaps she wants to shield herself from falling
Cottonwood silver-dried leaves, or from,
At cusp, the glaring, hot summer-fall sun.

Or maybe she’ll not deign to not be stylish
And fetching, even here out in the country.
And smart she is, proud Renoir girl, refined
And charming in her brand-new blue-green dress
With ripe red cherries, fringe, and pale pink shoes.

She keeps her gait assertive, straight and poised,
(Though gravel turns her ankles now and then.)
Tall heads of grass bend down to touch her legs.
A pick-up truck drives by in dust and notes
The face with upheld chin and eyes fixed forward.

Some serrate-chested, black-browed, shoulder-humped
White cows—some standing, others lying down,
Sedate, behind barbed wire, nearly still,
Chewing steadily, a foot beyond
The cherry-dressed, umbrella-ed, blue-green girl—

Move their heads in bovine unison
In watching her as she goes by.
                                                    She falters,
Inscrutable no more, when she with a sidelong
Glance at once both prim and true, harumphs
Their earthy stares and, too, their dull indifference.


Dawn is winter-cold. The beaming star
Of Christmas fades; the swaddling blanket spreads
Into a shroud of fog and ice (though water
Of half-frozen streams still courses underneath.)

Awake once, wild with life and flowered floors
In summer when the earth was new and bright,
This forest now is dormant, filled with scattered
Petals, rosehips, leaves, and bones, and stones.

By nature will the sun exchange the flat
And shadow world to one that’s round and real.
Rocks will move and seeds will burst; the sky
Will take on colors of an opening chrysalis.

Despite this gloom of winter, all remains
Still half-alive among these still remains.


I push aside a curtain made
Of currant, fern, and fir and find
A humid forest room, a cryptic
Diorama of decay.

I’ve been called to shade, enticed
By voices, blue and oboe low,
Behind the glaring, back there blaring,
Summer in a listless haze.

A snail in his own spiraled cell,
Has also entered, having heard
The tiny harp-notes one small vole
Is plucking, eating blades of grass.

A mushroom, here crepuscular,
Has muscled into view—
That is, its veil, gills, cap, and stipe—
Still hidden are Dedalian

Mycelia that anchor her
To help the fallen forest things
Return to earth, fulfill their dreams
Of being still, subsumed at last.

I rest and sink into the loam,
As silica—my body xylem—
Slowly fills my veins to make
An opal of my chambered heart.



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A Midwest train once threw me into rows
Of wheat. As I lay wounded, grass ingrained
Its voice in me. Night wheeled. At dawn, I rose.
Across the miles, that sound has long remained.

And now out West, at noon, I stand beside
A wind-swept railroad siding when the song
Of summer grass again resounds inside
My prairiehead, a whispered tune of long-

Stemmed ryegrass waving wild that I on purpose
Touch to feel its stalks of seeds, bright stars
On blue, as shadows move across the surface
Of the plains like ghosts of passing boxcars.

What outward is this inward field I know
Was planted far from here, and long ago.



Strange progeny of midnight storm and stone,
One cloud clings to the rocky legs of now,
At dawn, the Wingate pillar, Kissing Couple
That—earth-bound, mouths locked, eyes closed—weeps in crimson;
What seems to be two solid spires fused
Is sandstone being cleft by time and rain.

In gleaming morning as things slowly part,
The sweet aubade of birds is heard, which trills
Like water flowing still beneath the scree.

Meanwhile over canyons swept and scored,
The cliff-cloud rises into blue, dissolves,
Then reappears as something new: It sails

Above Mojave, through the Hoh, off Tokyo,
At dusk, a wisp of pink in coral red.



This red-orange dish of ripe and sweet, baked peaches
Reminds me of a kitchen far away
In dusky light, faint AM music playing
Vaughn Monroe. Out back were trees with leaves
That sighed and fanned the damp Chicago heat.
I still can make out voices in that green,
Familiar shade, and faces, too, of those
Since scattered down a gray, fragmented line.

But maybe time is round and always here—
The color of both sunrise and sunset.
And like a peach that grows, at first holds on,
then falls to earth, while others hold on still—
And is contained within a single dish,
All cobbled into one full August day.



Flowers gather. Rivers are deep and flowing.
Grain stalks rise up firmly in sunlight streaming.
Pathways beckon. Footfalls, soft, lead to shadows.
Love lies beside you.

Voices, quiet; whispers create new verses;
heartbeats, bouquets, music, the scent of springtime:
all a living banquet when someone waits there.
Love lies beside you.

City neon glows here at midnight brightly,
blinding eyes that strive in the dark-hearted
streets of deep desire unrequited, thirsty,
looking for shining

water bearing petals away downstream now.
Freshened bodies sleep in the swaying grasses.
Lucid morning, lightly, once more is breathing.
Love lies beside you.



She is dawn, a grayscale figure walking
Windswept on a strand of shining pools,
A purple sea star, seagrass, turban snail.
She’s crashing waves that rush, splash, cold and fresh.

She is rice on warm tin plates, her life
Sustaining lands that ring the Seven Seas.
And me. She’s half-moon mango slices. Dal.
Heart, skin, eyes, she’s made of earth and India.

And she’s the red rock monuments that sail
The rolling swells of sea green desert sage.
A shipwrecked castaway and one who saves
The lost and lonely  ̶  she is both of these.

At dusk, a silhouette on red, she gathers
What she loves in bowls of nacred shell:
Smooth sea glass shards, like crystal drops of waves,
And urchin bones, etched amulets unbroken.

She is earth and sea, and more to me,
Each night and day, the shore and pulse of tides.




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One crane in search of his one crane along this braided river

Joins the myriad of cranes in grain along this braided river.


They eat in paradise beneath both sun and clouds as shadows

Race and, flickering, gild the plain along this braided river.


The cooing throat, a murmuring flute, now herds the scattered flock,

Strewn, earthbound, milling in the rain along this braided river.


They meet and wheel and dance on earth. They leap and slowly fall

With epoch joy, and in refrain along this braided river


Sing among the broken stalks to quell their fiery heads,

As trying seeds of doubt remain along this braided river—


Reconciliation with the soul’s true love is arduous.

But dusk alleviates the strain along this braided river:


Behind night’s veil, each pairing binds together that one truth

That all their wings and hearts contain along this braided river.


Cranes in blue-dark water marshal for the journey strength

And brace for parting and more pain along this braided river.


At dawn, they rise, and with tremendous booming will, they go.

The husk of sound and need remain along this braided river.


Go, pilgrim, with the cranes, and with their light and feathers fly.

Leave behind your body-brain along this braided river.







Rain that fell so hard at dusk is lighter

In the darkness now yet falls still, steadily,

With will, as if to make this night eternal,

Turning me to letters to unlock

Some higher meaning, finding I’m unable

To escape the thoughts of earthly things.


            His field. The smell of hay, all wet, so pungent. . . .


Such digressions. I should strive for words

About a saint, a convert, the betrayer,

How they suffered on their plains of doubt

And taught me faith beyond myself. Instead,


            I watched the farmer watch the sky and then

            Begin to bale his hay that lay in windrows,

            Trying to outwork the coming storm. . . .


Or maybe I should write of running through

The pouring rain out to a chasm’s edge,

Of falling, linen then enshrouding me,

My body being lain in soft, green grass

Beside the sandaled feet of rose-crowned marble

Mary white against a pure blue sky.


            He failed at last as rain began to fall.

            He left his field, his chore undone—I felt

            His human anguish at that dusky moment. . . .


I sit distracted by the rain, and by

The questions: Could I farm this late in life?

Plant and gather with the hope of finding

Answers in the sureness of the seasons?


            Tonight, his failure courses through me still.


Who am I in this mysterious world?

I suppose that I am who I am, working

Rows of ink to simple, measured lines, like


            Soon the sun will rise and dry the earth.


And let them lift above the earth enough

That they might whisper intimations

As the hay half-harvested conveys:


That all of us will someday fall again

Beneath the scythe of love and leave behind

The rain, the toil, and this infernal night.







It’s dawn again and you with earthly senses

Make your way across this lonesome prairie,

Dodging eyes and slipping under fences,

Loping on with backward glances, wary.


Or are you looking for your ardent past

When you, encircled by the face of Moon,

Felt bound and loved? By day, you merely cast

A pale companion through the afternoon.


Some solace comes when in relief the walls

Of mesas stand a darker black than night,

And Moon in all her phases rises, falls,

With you in thrall to her ephemeral light.


And in those moments, once more briefly whole,

You howl the O of your soon sundered soul.






Sedna, Inuit fertility goddess of the sea, is twice betrayed by male figures: first, by a seabird-spirit disguised as a suitor who lures her to his craggy island where he mistreats her; and then by her father who, while rescuing her, is attacked by the indignant seabird’s clan. To save himself, he throws Sedna out of his kayak, cutting off her fingers when she tries to climb back in. Defeated, Sedna retreats to the bottom of the sea. Though with reason to be misanthropic, she instead chooses to be benevolent to humankind.

Her wounds are earth’s fatal wounds;

No more cat’s cradle to fix the sun.

Yet something true lives in the half-lit

World in fading autumn blue

Among twisted trees and willow twigs

Thin and black, and in the seas

That teem always at the cold top

Of the world turning gray and old.

Fertile crimson-green sweeps the air,

The untangling of braided hair.

Her wails have ended.


Her thumbs, the great bow whales, appear

In the leads and wait for us there.

Her fingers swim and fill our nets

To the brim in oblique sunlight.

Walrus, breath steaming, come

Streaming to land, with tusks that hold

The draping linen sky, and so

Conceals that fearful gaping void.

We hunt, they bleed red on the ice

And feed us in the semi-dark.

She calms.


With face in mangled palms, once hands

Now gnarled knobs of flesh, she stands

Crying as the wild shaman-combing

Of her hair sends sparks flying.

They form the circumpolar Bear

Who with his siblings of the air

Fills the vast, long-lingering night,

Bright children she will never bear;

She swallowed raw, false words of one

Perfidious pelagic bird.

Still, she remembers


Us. Her embers float in the sky

And warm this turning, twilit world

While she, self-exiled, sits alone

At the dark bottom of the sea.

Though pack ice, turgid, bends and moans

And rivers, frozen, crack like bones,

In sun or mist, and when it snows,

In open water, on the floes,

Everything lives; for, as she chooses,

Despite her useless hands, she gives

And gives.







They float in yards, in fields, and in wild places, too,

The pipe-notes, all day long, and just within our earshot;

Lyrics are the air, wood, water, rocks, and rain.


In scores, set free, they mingle in the shade of peach,

Beneath the osier, rose, and beech; and some rise sunward

Over foxes trotting through fresh-fallen snow,


And when we’re close to sleep, they come to light on us.

We touch our fingertips so sure that vague impressions

From those ancient instruments still linger there.


We are bound—not mired in ash piles at our feet—

To follow life to shady green remembered sounds;

Lyrics are the air, wood, water, rocks, and rain.





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