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.