Tuesday, February 2, 2016


(This story has a harp concerto, or is it a harp concerto with a story?)

        While Mommy and Daddy were having a discussion in the kitchen, Claire turned into a fairy and chased her kitty into the back yard. Suddenly a swallowtail appeared in front of her and fluttered out of her reach. It was so bright that Claire tried to grab it right out of the air, but it flitted away. As Claire was chasing the swallowtail, she tripped over the kitty and fell.

        Claire slowly sat up and shook her head. The swallowtail was gone. She got up and pushed the fence as hard as she could. A board suddenly came loose, and Claire squeezed through. She saw the swallowtail in the meadow and dashed after it. Suddenly she noticed three swallowtail fairies in the flowers.

      The fairies danced through the air and Claire chased after them. Suddenly a little old man appeared on a log.
   “You must beware!” he exclaimed. “Fairies are very bad. If you follow them, you will be lost!”

          Claire did not listen to the grumpy old man. She galloped after the fairies through the meadow. A tall fairy with blue wings suddenly appeared in front of her. He took out a wand and waved it over Claire's head, and she lifted off of the ground!

Monday, March 23, 2015


Near a series of smooth holes in the rock,

  we sat quietly
  for hours,

not catching anything.

               In one hole, a butterfly edged 
               on the slick surface 
               toward stagnant water.

In another, two       butterflies hung frozen,

wings open, 
the web 
barely visible
against gray stone.

You died a week later.  Twenty years,
and the butterflies are here again.

The stone
is cool
and smooth


In another 

twenty years,

                             I will wake,
                             the same age as you,
                             the water still flowing
                             into a deep pool while you gaze

at the leaves of the buckeyes,

the butterflies rising
and falling, 
our bodies

               still shadows

                                   in the flowing water

Tuesday, January 13, 2015


Dead Whale, Montana de Oro

He held up a bait fish, the size of smelt,
showing how to hook it behind the skull 
so that it would keep swimming until something
gobbled it down. "They don’t feel nothin’,"

he insisted. I grabbed one from the bait pool, 
struggling to stick the hook in, the fish jerking
this way and that in my hand and releasing 
a faint, shrill scream as the barb entered
                                                                       Go on a different journey.
its brain. As I tossed my line into the sea,
the deckhand announced that he'd figured  
that two on this trip wouldn’t last, laughing
how he was wrong about one, the other curled up 

half-alive in the cabin on a cot under a blanket. 
“You know what? Never been wrong before,”
he smirked as he squinted at me, my Dad 
ignoring him. Suddenly a greenhorn reeled 

in a shark, and the deckhand shot it twice
in the head, but it kept flopping around,
so he heaved it over the side. One who kept 
drinking beer and barfing over the railing 
                                                                          Go on a different journey.
hooked a seagull, and the deckhand snorted 
as it hovered behind the ship like a kite. I
noticed a scar on the deckhand's forehead. 
“See this? I leaned over to pat a little girl
on the head, and she pulled out a gun 
and shot me, but I’m as hard-headed
as a shark. When I woke up, I asked 
what’d happened to her, and my friend 

told me that they killed her. Why did they
do that? She was only four years old!
She was a killer, he said. She’d do the same
to the next soldier. But you know what
                                                                   Take a different path.
was worse? A woman rushed up to me
and spit on me in the airport after
I made it home. They say the war’s 
almost over, but I say it’ll be over the day

fish stop feasting on each other."
He pulled open a burlap bag, where
a lingcod was swallowing a red snapper.
Then he coughed and howled with laughter.

Monday, January 5, 2015


Five of Wands

Immersing myself in the upper San Joaquin,
I flowed with the current, following
my brother to a rock wall 
on the other side. Suddenly I could see
                                                                     Flow with the current
about thirty people around the bend, 
all naked, lounging on a cliff, one
woman slouching down by herself.
I stared, unable to clearly make out 

her physical features. My brother suddenly
plunged back against the current, thrashing
until he reached the other shore. I remained,
gawking at naked men, one of whom

stumbled to the brink and gazed down
accusingly. I edged closer
to the strong, middle current,
suddenly sensing the swift water
                                                              Swim against the current
could pin me to the rock wall--
I would be swept down the river
if I slid out a tiny bit farther. Suddenly
my overwhelming desire to see, 

for the first time, a real naked woman--
vanished. I shouted to my brother--
two years older and stronger--
but he was gone or wouldn’t answer.

He had ditched me in precarious places
often before, and suddenly certain that he
had lured me out there, I sensed a current
of hatred so strong that it might be deadly.
                                                                         Flow with the current
As I inched along the slick rock, away 
from the main current, back to a safer point 
(where I could not climb out), I cursed him
over and over. Exhausted, nearly frozen,

with my last ounce of willpower, I flailed
through the water so wildly it probably
looked like I was trying to beat the river
to death, but I made it back. Emerging

from the water, I no longer thought
that my brother had intended to harm me--
just that currents can be so powerful
that they can drown you.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014


Four of Cups

The first time, I shoved the ball toward the hoop
with all my might, missing by two or three feet.
The second time, the ball hovered on the rim
and dropped in. My brother punched me in the arm

as my father cheered. I dashed into the house
to tell my uncle I had made a basket. On TV,
a cross-legged man in an orange robe was on fire,
motionless as traffic swirled around him. Sobbing,

I flung myself outside. “Why would a man
light himself on fire?” I bleated. My uncle
stepped into the doorway: “The boy just needs
to get used to it.” (My Dad told me later

that in WWII my uncle’s plane was shot down 
and that my uncle was still having nightmares
about it.) My brother kept bouncing the ball.
My Dad put his arm around me for a moment,

then sauntered over to my uncle to ask
what had happened. Soon they went inside.
I paced the driveway for awhile, then grabbed
the ball, shooting again and again until I made it in.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014


Eight of Swords

As the tetherball chains chimed, we hung out
under the monkey bars. I was the disputed
tetherball champion of my class, but he refused
at the beginning of recess to play against me. 

When I asked him why, he told me about his cousin:
As he was riding his bike through the park, near
the rioting, a policeman pulled him down and beat him.
“He’s only twelve years old. He wasn’t hurting anyone:

Why would they do that?” “I don’t know,” I mourned--
“C’mon, let’s play tetherball!” He turned away, “I can’t. 
My family says I can’t be with white people anymore
because you just can’t trust them.” “But I

didn’t do anything!” I shouted over the ringing chains.
Squinting and sweating, he just shook his head
at everything I said as fists were thudding and balls
kept whirling. I didn’t play tetherball ever again.

Saturday, December 27, 2014


Fiddleneck in House Pits near Pounding Stone

Throwing a pine cone at my brother, 
I reeled through brittle needles to hide
behind a short, flat stone in the middle
of the forest:  I was the cowboy 

and he was the Indian. As I jumped up 
to toss a dirt clod, I saw smooth cups
brimming with humus in the stone
Standing transfixed as he charged,  “Stop!”

I yelled, as he pelted me with pebbles.
“You’re dead!” he shouted, “Told you--
I’m the cowboy!” Dizzy, I felt 
I was about to remember something,

Pestles in Pounding Stone

falling into some other life that I once 
had known. “Boys!” Dad shouted, “Time 
to go to the lake!” But I couldn’t move
from the stone in the middle of the woods. 

Finally, Dad ambled over. “What 
is this?” I asked. “Mud people 
lived here,” he sneered. “Let’s go!”
“Where are the mud people? Where

did they go?” I wondered aloud, but he
didn’t answer. For a moment I
was afraid, as he walked farther
and farther ahead of me, that I

could be like one of the mud people
who had vanished, so I paused,
alone between the strange stone
and the tiny boat by the shore.