N  a  p a  l  m     H  e  a  l  t  h     S  p  a  :     R  e  p  o  r  t     2  0  0  9






Annum Lyrae:  January to March




brother John dead at 58, lung cancer, two days after my birthday—

thirtysome years hard work & laughter, falling asleep together before


TV ballgame after weeklong crash of job & routine—I'd thought after

losing father & mother, Death might pass my door for a time, clocks shouting


in my open ears endless procession of friends & relatives eyes all cast down,

only memory to shake them awake & recall the laughter.  now deep night


snowstorm, I shovel by streetlight:  Anne joins me—"you're too old

for this, Da."  I recall those nights the sound of my shovel kachunking


snow in rhythm on my mother's long drive thru oak woods, the river beyond—

alone with vast yellow full moon late night haze, Venus & scattered stars—


now Marinus too is gone, madman sailor & mentor, wild old "Slim" who

never pulled a punch; I sit in a pew alone in my dream as his daughter & son


sing him out with all the tender ferocity a child may owe a good father,

grieflights in their eyes & the whole crazy familial crowd swayed, a long


moment.  the days roll together—chicken soup & challah, bread of angels,

bags of paperwork, endless procession of students, poets, administrators:


the light of poesy now brighter in my dream, fully awake first time in years,

& I see the end of routine—hard not to look to that less-distant day & lose


myself in these rhythms, my last bright dream song.  I have given up my last

hope, the planet spinning closer to disaster.  thus I look into my children's eyes


as they work toward their years in the machine laden with dreams:  there

is only memory, the lost voice, the bread that gives life when there is none.






white pine sapling half-buried in snow—shovel around the feeders

that finch & sparrow might find the seeds, rabbit tracks pellets piled


around the rose bush, branches gnawed above snow—red sunrise,

dump compost on the heap, thousands of tiny footprints around the pile,


then the thaw, the sapling freed, & on to Chicago AWP madhouse

crowds hoary professors goggle-eyed writers poets naive students jam


the hotel where Norman Mailer sat & watched cops beat protestors,

1968, not far from where Allen & Dick Gregory led children away from


carnage with only mantra & song—behind, "the whole world is watching."

predawn hike by Art Institute where Ken Rexroth got his education,


coffee & scones among workers wolfing quick breakfast catchup chatter,

others' frenzied rush along sidewalk, panting & stumbling to deadlines,


streets already jammed with honking traffic mad taxis begging gangs

hitting up naive travelers, rotund banker types swaggering in arcadelight—


I fled the conference, book promos disguised as lectures, thousands

blabbing all at once, desperate booksellers lined up in rows, "half off,


sonny"—for me, it was the UN CONGO/WOMEN exposé, survivors

& fallen mothers, child soldiers impressed to slaughter millions, awake O


justice denied—& in the park, headless sculptures march beyond steel

& glass behemoths, shouts & horns, almost silent here, almost silent now.






white dawnlight thru my windows, thru fronds of cycad & spathphylum—

fierce light after months of storm & sigh, turning from death to death—


now foreclosures—gruff men once hipsters or marines hair trimmed back

after thirty years, pushing mowers snowblowers shooting hoops with kids


thin women with long hair & hard wise eyes, tough women at the mailbox,

all gone after long decades, houses gone dark, curtainless windows, empty


driveway—fat cats disappear with millions after shanking the economy,

thousands tramping streets, fruitless, families coming apart nowhere to go.


after painting ceiling where roof leak burst thru last summer, I sit alone

silently & listen, tender moments passing, ephemeral yet precious after


so much death & sorrow.  In my dream, we scatter roses on the river in July

where last year we spread our mother's ashes, just upstream from her old


bedroom, near moraine bank where I once risked all to save a drowning dog,

clambering across ice & falling in myself, later feted on evening news—


the procession of the dead, everyday dia de muertos, mother father mentor

brother father of a friend now racing thru my brains, their fragile memory


all that remains—easily scattered, lost, erased to all in deadline & routine:

thus this fierce light thru fronds raising my eye to this day, this touch. 






past blackened ground, ashpiles, twisted red pine boles

            scorched yet still alive, miles of trunks cut & sawed, logs

                        stacked for the trucks to come, brush piles once canopies


                        swaying in light breeze on a day blue as this, I wander

            to moraine's edge, down thru pinetop juniper balsam

beavercut aspens laid flat or standing in groups, mists


            clearing on the river below, down to the good ground.

                        I'll arrive, journey's end, greet brother & old friends,

            stare into campfire ashes where flames lit last night's


madhouse tales:  finally, all deaths end for a time: 

            offload my kayak, clear ground & stake out the tarp,

                        set up tent & arrange pad, sleeping bag, pillow, camp kit,


            moccasins & lantern, writing pad & books, unzip windows

& lie sideways in shade that I might ascend on currents

            racing among high pines oaks & maples, lose myself in


                        flashing wavelights, hairpin turns, sinkholes, chopwaves

            pushing back upriver, thru cedar swamps & past high banks,

to great lake beyond. now, lie still & listen, let all that go.




above shattered


boulders granite piled

like giant cairns, upthrust

cathedral razors of clouds,


lost in memory's excited

voices, bear bells ahead sun

in zenith, we pause for


water in silence, near the great

scar where the avalanche ripped

spruce from mountainside,


shattered trunks & branches

in sliding white death thunder—

field of bright columbines


scarlet gilia penstemon beard-

tongue heartleaf arnica sprung up

where dreamtime song begins.