Planet Memory






Taylor Bridge to Pines Point



                                                take the canoe thru

                                                                        rocks shoals a

                                                sharp bend,


                                                            watch out for that

                                                dead tree

                                                hanging in your face,

                                                               keep your

                                                            eye on those

                                                     white waves ahead.


                                                now a

                                                            delicate, gaudy

                                                great blue heron

                                                lifts off ahead

                                                            & slowly flaps

                                                            its way aloft

                                                where it finally soars

                                                over the treetops,



                                                after the trip,

                                                sleep all afternoon.

                                                            the fire goes out

                                                & all the boys arrive

                                                                        & run away


                                                to the river,

                                                board their canoes

                                                & disappear around the bend,

                                                laughing & hallooing.


                                                at night, a thousand stars.

                                                across the clearing,

                                                the lantern’s shine,

                                                the branches, still, above.          







                                    azure surf where Hurons sang—

                                    I lay on a rotted dock

                                    & listened to the wind thru tamaracks,

                                    dreamed the afternoon away:

                                    faces of friends, near & far, coming & going,

                                    bustling thru deadlines, trapped at lights—

                                    peering up to see Orion or

                                    stopping to hear their own hearts beating.

                                    I saw the relatives at the funeral,

                                    hot sunny afternoon, & the undertaker’s serious face;

                                    I dreamed—a laughing girl danced on the beach,

                                    throwing bread to the ducks—

                                    Ack!  squawk of bestial seagulls above!

                                    shrieking for crumbs, hardly doves.





The Flood


a canoeist who challenged this current

fell in & was swept away—

ancient Indian Mounds themselves now islands—

a whole woods underwater:

little crests rise against the big trees & part,

the water swirling around & rippling below,

branches & sticks & ice chunks jammed up

against fallen trees or between 2 or 3 trees standing,

& out in the main current

giant ice floes, flotsam of old docks & broken boats,

uprooted bushes & tree trunks

race in the wild water, jostling,

crashing against bridge pylons,

swirling away around the bend.

cars stop along the old park road,

drivers pausing to watch, eyes wide, hands at lips. 





                                    Mottled Wings



                                    to catch

                                    the headwinds, a huge hawk


                                                                              turns, adjusts,

                                    to quick new



                                    downward then

                                    catches another cross current to

                                    keep his place, his eyes ever below

                                    where the canoeists,

                                    lost in a dream of ancient cedars,

                                                roots & lichens,

                                                the timeless river,

                                    look up, pointing thru the morning sun

                                    to see the acrobatic

                                    struggle above,

                                                small prey along the banks

                                                hidden from deadly view.





Gone West


                                    silence above saguaro & cholla

                                    I stood under the arched vault of the

                                                ancient cave

                                    & dreamed

                                    where Salado Indians perched & sang—

                                    bringing their corn up from the valley


                                    singing by fires that blackened this vault


                                    burying their baby among the house walls,


                                    sighing, singing in deep night

                                    as the fires flickered lights across the


                                    singing, standing at the cave mouth

                                                under the million stars—

                                    vast landscape before my eyes now!

                                                starshowers!  sunrises!

                                    cacti & palo verde over runneled mountains!

                                                & in the silence,

                                    a low wind, moaning





                                                The River


                                                despite the boiling

                                                clashing currents—


                                                whole cliffs washed away

                                                grain by grain


                                                & winds baffling

                                                the bow—move quick!


                                                the flow’s steady,

                                                the destination plain.





Audubon in Fog:  The Descent


                                                thick fog on the peak above—

gnarled whiteblack granite. 



endless fields: 







                                                underground streams

                                                            rush thru rock beneath.




                                                only the cairns’re now visible.

                                                in the white




                                                                        my companions

                                                somewhere above

                                                            scramble down

                                                as I sit here


the cairns when the path disappears




            until your heart             






                                    if you





fully thru this fog

you may

stay on the path.




the stones

            may shift under

your feet,


clatter down unseen canyons

            where you too

could fall—



catch your breath.





                                    The River


                                    the heron bends; the silver fish leaps.

                                    in seconds, the water is still again.


                                    the woman in the funeral home does not speak

                                    her grief:  her eyes are wet.  never alone,


                                    we are always so.  our two hands touch;

                                    two rivers flow almost into each other.


                                    full moon rising thru thin clouds

                                    at sundown stops us—in spite of being


                                    a common sight.  white phlox, lilies,

                                    coneflowers are still.  processions


                                    come & go thru church doors—

                                    baptisms, weddings, funerals pass


                                    year by year.  tack when the wind blows

                                    that way; say it & share it—tho


                                    nothing may be said or shared.

                                    in the blue evening, clouds of insects


                                    churn above the still water.  sitting

                                    here, full moon floats below & above. 





A Charm


                                                let worlds wake & petaled dreams

                                                            unfold as they may,

                                                infinite globes wheel regardless—


                                                ant, spider, lion, man & woman

                                                            turn in sleep

                                                & stammering, sigh & wake as


                                                the sun winks out passing eons;

                                                            each passing

                                                moment’s jeweled lights blast


                                                thru dawn’s aspens, reddening

                                                            maples, oaks,

                                                as ravens bend to scattering winds


                                                & mock their yawp over roofs of

                                                            this world, where

                                                bones make data of fleeting dreams.





Sierra Madre & North to Oregon


                                                imagine, she said,

the mountains beyond—


white smog’s too thick

for us to see—


appearing at last, great

wrinkled heat-browned hills


stir us; where now

does the path begin?


—endless silver streams

of flashing cars


pass below, harried

commuter frenzy—


you unborn generations

curled in liquid dream


I hear your diapered squalls

& aging sighs even now


here where my feet

walk & yours will walk—


what cooler sunrise will

greet you, what dewbeaded roses


& windflashing wheatfields,

what delicate blossoms hang


above mossbanks & rocky beds

of fishleaping streams?  what


canopy cresting firs & pines

new grown where now


stumpfields echo hissing winds

& pyres glow?





Catching Nothing


                                    thru the tentflap, with Anne,

                                                half-asleep, distant rumbling

                                                            thunder coming on fast—


                                    last night

                                    I wandered in circles staring up—

                                                stars thru dark branches,

                                    owls calling

                                    valley to valley—


                                    I dreamed of you, waking after

                                                102 years of dreaming

                                                            enclosed in flesh,

                                                gone the dark way now—

                                    visions of puritanical

                                                ancestors passed, Wiltshire

                                                            to Delaware machinists,

                                    the dinosaur bone collector,

                                    efficient & ambitious,

                                                whose skull is now some

                                                professor’s paperweight—

                                    & my grandpa, wandering


                                    thru his fruit trees—


                                    the thunder’s closer now, now

                                    torrents of watch crash thru

                                                dark branches;

                                    the rain’s steady, flood heavy—

                                    rivers spring up in pathways to camp—

thunder hammers

the earth, which

trembles, shakes beneath us!

                                    lightning arcs

                                                thru camp past the tent, again!


                                    we speak in high voices to be heard—

what branches above us might shatter,

crashing thru our skulls to earth?

            we lean to the open flap to know

            the splendor of the torrent.


            in dreams my father

sails out of a starry night

past rocks

& wrecks where

bones are washed & sink in sand—

            along Marquette’s

last route to Illinois, who

            died bringing words

to confuse natives who knew

            well enough the spirits

that speak for earth & water.


my father ages at the wheel—

hands grow gnarled, winds cut

great lines

in his face, yet

                                    his eyes flash as he closes

                                                on the dawn,

                                    his genoa full of wind as he

                                                plunges thru heavy seas—

                                    later, becalmed, he sings

                                                an incantation for the

                                    beckoning dead

that he might move calmly toward their rest.


            the morning after

            is calm, cloudy—

fishermen wade in the swollen river,

            casting & casting &

            catching nothing.


            the silent heron is still.


move out across the open plain toward

the lake, where they lower their heads

            & lap the still water,

ears alert

in this intense silence—



our hearts beat like

hammers now, sending out waves of sound

            over & over—

the breath

is a wind that

stirs up all the world.





Full Moon Over Whitefish Bay



                                                ragged black clouds scud & break below

haze & farflung net of stars thru which

the Northern Lights encode a dance:

a distant freighter slices waves,

making for the beacon’s turning flash

thru a graveyard where dead sailors sigh.

before the wavecut moonlit lines

aging lovers turn on stairs, hold hands

& dream as these endless waves crash

where naked shamen pled & prayed

as sailors shrieked among blackened waves.

come far for sleeping vision, waking dream—

lights fade & flare in a cloud-hung stream.





                                    push off


                                                                                    into silence,


                                                snow falling, floating about us.


                                                high banks above, white swirl in

                                    firs’ rising ranks, gnarled cedars, aspen thickets,


                                                the high deciduous crown

                                    in its cloud of white.



                                    our paddles hiss & plunge,

                                                hiss & plunge, thru gaps

                                                            in the now-blinding storm—


                                    ahead, wreathed in mist rising over

                                                roiling current, thru drifting snow,

                                                            you turn to a hairpin bend &


                                    disappear in a soft blizzard beyond:

                                                upright, stroking slowly, evenly,

                                                            calm beyond command.



                                    in the dark at last, we lie flat

                                    high on the plateau, now clear night:  crescent

                                                moon, ancient tales spun in stars,


                                    Mars glaring on the horizon,

                                                still pools reflecting clouds & lights back

                                    into the sky as our breath rises


                                    & disappears.  & still later,

                                                waking in deep night’s wild dream,

                                    I look up to northern lights flashing,




                                    ancient signals, flaring thru

                                                vast sky:


                                                you & I

                                    small & tender in our moments together


                                    as in moments others will share,

                                                in time to come, relieved & awakened

                                                            as we were. 





Two Hearted River


                                    eyes like ravens over road kill

                                                fingers flashing in reeling zebcos

                                                            the fishermen can’t grasp


                                    that some come for

                                                the water itself, tannin-red

                                    near shore but so clearly a black mirror

                                    where no face appears—


                                                or for lichen-rotted balsam firs

                                    lying like corpses across the flow stacked

                                                with flotsam & foam, feathers

                                    & bones, the fallen gathered

                                                to spin in currents siphoned


                                    & spat down where the portagers put in

                                                with a quiet rush

                                    as cranes hang almost still in the turning

                                                sky above—yet


                                                                        even the heart 

                                                cannot fathom what stillness

                                    rests in this plunge, why men

                                                sing together like choirboys &


                                    stop the gunnel rush &

                                                lay the paddles down in the

                                    whipping breeze where scarred pines bend

                                                thru storm & sigh & rainbow’s end—


                                                nor is it clear what draws one to

                                    the mouth even as the last ice flows frozen

                                                in winter’s roaring surge break free


                                    in great chunks, leaving

                                                the churned sand of November’s waves

                                    again among agates below—


                                                even the dramas of rescue at sea,

                                    the poignancy of a captain’s last

                                    transmission, retold around


                                                a kitchen stove in Paradise or Mackinac

                                                            by old salts now retired

                                    to muse thru waning years

                                    with stormy Mondays & the names of the dead


                                                cannot pierce thru this water

                                                            to the lost bottom

                                    or read the runes in the lights of the waves.





                                    January Moon


                                                                        how many clear

                                    icy nights like this

                                                            full moon

                                                falling water muffled in snowdrifts

                                    rabbits limping among spruce trees

                                                shadows before us mockeries of ourselves

                                    we stumbled on the path & sang—

                                                            now alone, my hair white

                                                I sing to keep warm

                                    filling my arms with dead branches,

                                                            recalling the old song of delusions:

                                                wandering in the swamp without

                                    knowing a way out.

                                                            across the long valleys, an owl screams,

                                                            the stick breaks—

                                    my gloved hands steam in the rising flame—





                                    the hidden meadow


                                    the long breathless climb

                                                thru meadows asplash in

                                                            yellows blues & flaming reds


                                                around granite boulders

                                    shattered upthrust shanks

                                                thru aspen fir & ponderosa pine


                                                            as shafts of sun flash across

                                                a spring trickling down among

                                    grasses swaying in early breeze—


                                                the city below now awake, faraway

                                                            roar, metallic shine of grinding

                                                traffic bullethead race to deadend


                                    routines in offices banks & restaurant

                                                chatter—but here the lovers

                                                            wake & stretch together


                                                & wander from tent to sun

                                    rubbing eyes scratching butts

                                                as I pass unseen, upward


                                                            to the hidden meadow’s

                                                twisted pine aslant the “saddle”

                                    where in solitude’s miles of


                                                jagged peaks cliffs empty trails

                                                            the sun rises still & silence

                                                rings in these ears at last:


                                    in this furious flowering,

                                                three ravens land & strut

                                                            & eye me now, immaculate


                                                company in calm ache

                                    of mind & heart, the raging planet

                                                wheeling where even love roars


                                                            in the void & every step’s

                                                a ghost dance thru flames

                                    to find the stream & float away.


                                                O moon above the white peaks

                                                            now!  the clouds flash away,

                                                the land below lies in its


                                    white silence where

                                                lovers turn to each other,

                                                            the meadow now a dream. 









                                                in the frozen storm,



                                                tufts atop

                                                browned stems of

                                                            last year’s

                                                pampas grass

                                                            scrape & whistle

                                                in bright

                                                            sun:  April 1.



                                                                        the rivulet

                                                becomes a flood,

                                                then subsides.

                                                            those not swept

                                                away sink roots

                                                            further into muck

                                                & grow.



                                                what stirs

                                                at the base of these

                                                            singing stalks?

                                                who can

                                                swallow the sun,

                                                speak in flames,

                                                            turn the world

                                                green?  that

                                                voice raises




                                                changes tides

                                                            with a word—



                                                yet almost


                                                a single drop beads

                                                            & balances on

                                                one unfurling

                                                            leaf now


                                                in the hidden meadow.





My Bike


                                                leaned against

                                    the bridge as

                                                the early sun bursts

                                                            thru hills beyond,

burns off mists

            retreating upriver—

how much must one

            shog off

to come at last to the moment

beyond the thinking sigh,

            to mists

retreating upriver?


ashore, the lovers're

            locked together asleep

in their car's backseat,

                        gnarled fishermen

ogling them as they trundle

down to the shore,

            arranging bait boxes & gear,

lunches & coffee before


            casting into the swirling currents—


ancient groves teem

            with dragonflies, butterflies,

bees gone wild

            in the acres of petals—

I could cry out—yet  

turn to my bike

& swiftly coast

            down past ruined trestles,

swampshack foundations near

                        rails where rolling stock

once huffed thru this woods,

            showering sparks & smoke

beyond the mounds

where 1000 years of dreams

                        cradle in skulls, lie

among turning roots—


swiftly I pass

through beds of wild indigo,

            white pastiche of anemones

coneflower &


thru a maze of thoughts back

downstream to the shining river,

                        the silent beach,

a day so clear I'd swear

it'll last forever—


                                                my bike leaning now

                                    against an overgrown

                                                root, white oak whose

                                    branch now leans just above

                                                            the currents:

                                    I sit

                                    & dream I'll never go home again,

                                                never come back—


                                                or geese—

                                    honking in the distance. 


                                    far upstream,

                                                the lovers now wake


            & rub their eyes &

stretch & sigh,

                                    the rodman pulls in his dream's

                                                great fish, struggling

                                    with his own excitement,

                                    & here

                                                a single bee works

                                    the late summer anemones

in the quickening breeze. 





Owashtanong Sunrise


                        light breaks in the racing waves,

                                    hissing  currents roaring around

                                                pylons, across shoals—

hidden rocks

                                    send up plumes & roostertails

                        & swirling flowereyes of spray—


                        (here a thought of you who'll stand where I now

                                                stand, & you who waded along

                                    this stream & sang for fish,

                        pronged stick pointed for striking,

                                                & you, who watched aghast as logjams

                                    upstream cascaded in debacle, crashing

                        thru bridge after

                                                bridge—lumber barons uptown splitting

                                    dividends grown from their grasping hands)—


                                    now one greybeard bends,

                                                mutters & sighs aloud in the stream,

                        limpsy jaw & chicken-flesh neck

                                                working the air with syllables,


                        as he plies the currents,

                                                casting again & again, no luck—

                                    no luck

                        eyes turned up to you in brief greeting—


                        then a strike, & both you & his chatter are forgotten—

                                    his bandy arms now wholly turned

                                                to his task, playing the fish back &

                        forth thru currents—

                                                wild rolling silver streak

                                    flashing in the green spray—

                        the old man's legs braced against a rock cutting the stream,

                                                the fish now cresting the waves,


                        leaping & plunging beneath again,

                                                then gone . . .

                                    he pulls the slack line in,

                                                opens his bait bag

                        fishing around for a big one, turning the hook to take

                                    a wildly wriggling worm—

                        & casts again & again,

                                    flowers of spray & lights like eyes

                                                still flashing about him. 





Lear by lanternlight


                                                white moon now

                                    thru the tent where

                        Poor Tom brings

                                    his old father up to th' extreme verge—


                        my companions asleep

                                    far across the clearing, their

                                                logsawing complement to roaring

                                                            winds above the highest firs—


                        this a.m., their kayaks were

                                    taken in raging cross-currents, yet one

                        dipped & feathered merely

                                                with a paddle tip, & found the center—


                        to float where the heart

                                    slows, the ear tuned to

                                                the humming of that silence

                                                            none hears in the smug city


                                    where blindness comes not from

                        cruelty, but the stealth of routine—

                                    even such an eye-

                                                less man may need to see


                                                            his life's a miracle, O moon

                                    thru my tentflap now—





Reading the Signs


            far from the main track

we push on

thru old loggers' trails

crossing & turning upon themselves,

                                    across the stream

                                                below the roar of the distant falls,

                                    into the dark,

                                    leaping from boulder to

boulder, over

                                                            the shoals onto

                                                the morraine's high bank, clutching

                                    roots & gasping, crawling upward,

                                                            no sign of the watchers

                                                tho their eyes were on us—

                                    thru the abandoned

                                                            ruins, crumbling brickwork

                                                still standing—

                                    deep in the valley, harvest moon

                                                over the last hill behind us,


                                                crickets trapped in the last desperate

                                    song of their lives, & still no sign

                                                of the promised path—crashing

                                    thru twilight, heavy brush, to look up

                                                at last & see

                                                            the stars beyond the moonlit hill,

                                    & now the faint trace

                                                of a trail, where we see, at last,

                                                             into each other's eyes.





Out thru the eye beyond the stars               


                        upriver in full moonlight, past the forested bank

where the old hunters' lodge once rotted away, even

the bars on the windows fallen in, beyond

the flatland where I once camped, a boy, & dreamed

of Anishnabes & voyageurs in the deep night—

dreaming back to that night when, drunk, we plowed

upriver on a pontoon in deep fog, Charlie falling

overboard again & again & having to be fished out,

Todd & I like lookouts for stumps in the swirling

current.  now we approach the darkened banks & turn,

& I think of you, far away in the firelands, grieving

with your mother as her lifemate begins his journey

beyond this void:  I'd cup my hands & catch this moon

& send it to you the way sages once drank this light in

& sang their lovelong death songs as journeys out

thru the eye beyond the stars, opening in tears.





Gone (as you are)


                                    when the currents push you

                                                straight into that hairpin turn where

                                                            slammed sideways around

                                                the bend two fallen mammoth tree trunks, stripped

                                                            & bleached, lie along each bank,

branches forcing rushing water into

                                                            a narrow channel—brake

                                                & cut thru surging waves, avoid the crash

                                                            that'd toss you into the roar the

                                    frigid waters, your craft swamped or adrift in

                                                wild plunging currents—

                                    somehow you're through,

                                                            the river widens out,

calm, & you can

                                    sit back as morning sun fills forest & swamp. 

ahead, deer wake to your imagin'd silence,

                                    leap for their lives

                                                through cedar budding kinnickinnic giant firs,

                                    breezes raising whitecaps racing

                                                toward you, & you await the moment when

                                    the wave line hits & you lift your eyes

                                                to the new sky where

                                    all the sleepers are finally pushing seaward skyward

in a mad rush

                                    where the cranes lift themselves & are gone,

as you are.





Canyon Rim to Hopi Point by Moonlight


                        the fabled domes & vermilion spires, towers, ledges, pinnacles

                        shine faintly in the distance, pale blue, ghostly by moonlight,


                        frigid wind slashing up the canyon—one picks one's way

                        thru scrub pine twisted into spiraled grey struggling out of


                        the unyielding mesa thru centuries of weather, passing bands

of hunters, warriors, tourists—here where Cardenas stood agape,


where Anasazi & Havasupai measured their days in tales spun

in fire, I grope thru the dark to sit alone, silent under the fading


blue horizon, you lost to me as a bright dream once floating

in a still sky—yet it is good to lie flat to fierce gusts,


on a stone ledge jutting into this deep emptiness, awaiting

the first sun shafts white light flashing up thru the canyon,


& then to turn like a bright angel & make my way down

onto pack trails, switchbacks where as the sun mounts higher


ravens circle above, their flapping wings like sails slapping

in the breeze:  thus one may greet a new day, beyond despair.





The Broken Note 


                        I tender my heart to you, my love, even in this broken note.


                        in the shallows the first spring lilypads break the surface,

                        arrowheads rise thru muck where coonprints trace the shore.


                        downstream, we float among submerged rocks broken

                        trees in swift current, where dead faces gaze up thru gloom,


                        thru the flashing mirror—& we too wind thru time's illusion:


                        networks' wired hum primes us for the coming war, great

                        minds bend to the cunning task of fire & blood, slogans & flags—


                        floating thus, may one sing a broken note to greet this dawn

                        where herons turn from the jetliners' blast path & the roar


                        of the shaking train stuffed with its cargo of dead dreams?


                        (ever a broken note, yet my heart is full of love, my love

is full of heart, full is my love, my heart is full, tho broken)


thus the kayak glides ashore where even phantoms laud

their loves, as I my love tender this message for you. 





After the flood


            upstream, whole neighborhoods're still awash—

                                    river people sort thru the minutiae of lives,

                                                            tossing out furniture, photos, pillows,

                                    the bed found piled

                      against a neighbor's oak.


            others paddle silently to a buick newly emerged

                                    from the waters—effluvia gushing from

                                                            the opened doors, stinking seats

                                    tossed aside where

                      carcasses rot among debris.


            families smile grimly for newsmen's cameras,

                                    compare it to past floods, resolve to go on,

                                                            & turn their backs to hoe out

                                    an entryway, wiping tears

                      they cannot share with strangers.


            downstream, where dams slowed the raging water

                                    to a torrent, trees ripped from banks lie

                                                            half-submerged in still-strong

                                    currents.  docks torn from their moorings

                      have shattered among tree trunks—


            an aluminum rowboat's twisted around broken timber

                                    piled where the current careens & curves, hangs

                                                            up among foam & swirling water.

                                    beyond the high hills early flights roar

                      & kill all silence,  jet thru sky-streaked dawn.





Ghazal of the Shadow


thru the swamp mottled green & yellow shadeshine cool September morning you turn

as does leap high thru brush into scrub woods low hills beyond muck pools & eddies


the river racing fast after rains all sign of drought gone in the flashing water.  the crisp air

belies stalled traffic in Texas Rita boiling the Gulf into a rage of wind & rain lake waters


already flooding thru patched levees newly freed streets & homes suddenly aflood again. 

she had journeyed south only weeks before to bury her mom, dead awaiting heart surgery


in a small town hospital as Katrina roared ashore.  streets she’d walked in charged memories

of childhood now were tunnels of wreckage downed lines piled garbage dead animals


yet strangely they found the lost deacon who could OK the burial, the greens for the casket,

the pot of red beans & rice for the wake & even gas to get there & back through test after


test of patience.  the journey thru such sorrow melds to songs in moonlight where your

shadow follows you as in day, where you become the shade walking beside yourself looking


back thru you & the shadow world becomes a world of light where memory’s lovers turn

& pass thru your very bones & eyes in the white silence of the moon & the warm hands


clasped together in a wilderness of thoughts.  here too the stars turn in their heavenly courses

unseen by the attentive eye, though the earth is solid & the breathing calm.  when the ashes


that once were man swirl in the turning current & the lovers stand on the shore sighing

at the life they’ve left, his grey eyes wild heart strong back & dancing song, finally then,


the dawn comes & you find your way back thru that turning morning to the leaping does

& the solitary heron arrowing upriver like a blue streak over endless shining waves.