New Soul

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Some, come into the world as old souls,
like they’ve been here a hundred times,
a bit weary, wise, or jaded, made cautious
by pain and an understanding of human hearts.
But not my son, whose eyes seem to see
the earth as if it were just created.

Yes, from first breath he was a wanderer,
like his father in his lust for the world,
possibilities stretched out before him,
no person a stranger, no place strange,
a modern day viking making his way
across an infinite, angry sea, with no map.

Unless, music be a map. Song after song,
his heart in waves of hard-plucked strings.
He sang loud, and I wondered how
he could pour himself out in front of a crowd.
I see him, even now, upon the ocean,
his wooden ship, the waves, the sails.

Two Decades Later, It Still Hurts

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Maybe God does work in mysterious ways
because, what were the odds I’d see you–
three friends laughing together,
and now I know, plotting a letter
we received the next day.
You see, we didn’t fall in love
to hurt any of you, but you devised
hurt against us, and ours,
again and again and again.
Yes, there is a hierarchy of sin,
and it is judged by intention.
You did it in the name of Jesus–
poor Jesus, who loved all–
a Bible, and four walls
that gave you starring roles.
God’s love,
you said you loved us
like God loves us
but that could only be true
if God hates people who love,
and didn’t plot to hurt you.

Veterans of Dead Bones

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We are veterans of dead bones,
products of love, and its loss,
memorizers of last breaths,
and what letting go feels like.
The front line of memory gives way,
what we held in our hands,
dissolves, like water on clay–
muddy water, returning
to muddy ground, then dust;
it is a fate that awaits all of us:
empty arms, encircled of sacred air,
grasping at remnants
of what we valued there.

Things Poems Can’t Explain

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I searched metaphors to describe you,
the aspen’s branches beating against themselves,
waving for help, like desperate arms,

but that was the work of the wind.

The coyote, who devoured all except the head,
and what appeared to be a shoulder
of our girl cat, and left her among the weeds,

but that was the work of hunger.

Then I thought, maybe the foal,
when they drove off with his mother,
her whinnying, more distant and more distant,
as he crushed his tender body against the rails,

but that was the work of love being torn away.

No, in the end, I came up empty explaining
your helplessness against self-loathing,
our loss of hope, and leaving,

but that, it seems now, was the work of surviving–
surviving the things even poems can’t explain.

The Verdict of Trees

I surrender myself

to the verdict of trees,

better judges;

the quaking aspen,

shaking its many leaves

at me, or standing quiet,

as I plead my case—

waiting, the hardest part.

Trees, tell me

the verdict

of my life,

the verdict

of my heart

poured out in living,

where wind rattles

the bending branches,

sways the very tops

of our souls,

sometimes, snapping them off

during the darkest storms.

You, Me, and the Spokane River

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We rode dirt and mud,

through standing water,

like ponds, to verify

the sun, and life

of returning things:

Canada Geese, wood ravens,

mule deer, grazing at dusk,

and the river, surging

with the spring run off

of our souls, singing.

Dear Poet

Dear Poet,

Make them listen, with words

that rumble their insides,

and turn them outside,

fearing poets, again,

like they fear truth:

a mirror, a reflection,

a solid witness to a crime.

When you say you’re a poet

make the whole world tremble

when they hear it.

Life, Receding

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Another day, I’ve collected
over eighteen thousand
now, but none like this:
the birds have returned,
and the clouds hang low,
like the mist of what is
unknown, and I don’t care
to know, because I gave up
predicting the future
when I realized
I was always wrong.
The only thing, now,
is this poem, and how
it pulls me toward confession.
You see, a life recedes;
place a bottle in the ocean
and watch it slowly
carried away by the waves;
that is me and you,
this moment,
and this poem.

A Horsewoman’s Prayer

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Each season,
I say a prayer,
not for safety,
because want of safety
is always there,
but for Wisdom;
Wisdom to listen,
and hear
my horses speak
the magic language
of their needs;
Patience, to wait
upon the softness
of their hearts opening to me,
which is the exact part
that starts the journey of try,
without which, there’s nothing.
I pray for Courage,
when they, in communion,
ask me to fly with them,
either on the ground
at their side
or, on their backs,
where I can grip tightly
to Trust,
and Heaven,
and what it means
to be fully alive.

Christchurch

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Can you be in awe

of how much some

are expected to suffer

in this lifetime—

we are often given

more than we can—

I saw a moth

with a broken wing,

and though it struggled,

I could not crush it—

but placed him, instead,

among the leaves of jasmine,

and walked away.

The Trillium in Gig Harbor

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O, Jamie, it’s beautiful—

everything is connected,

she said, before dying.

And Jamie thought of trillium

blossoming beneath musty cedar

at the edge of the sound,

the whole world epitomized

in heart of flowers,

and spirit of ancient,

mouldering trees.

For the Tulip Who Refuses to Die

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Like the yellow tulip,

who blooms every year

in the pit behind our house,

who was dumped, long ago,

after her blossoms were spent—

yet, she screams, I’m still alive!

every spring, among garbage

and weeds; like that tulip,

you don’t belong here.

Starving Souls

Yesterday’s beauty is rarely enough for today,

like manna from heaven, it rots, decays,

disappears back, which is to say,

we do not know where, but look up, out,

beyond, and do the same again, everyday—

believe me, you are a starving soul,

lost as hell, hungry, but the universe

is a feast, prepared–

even on its worst days, it offers

up a prayer, beckons you to step

into the mystery: step through snow,

through rain, through wind, with arms

held out, eager to horde–

every bite,

every drip,

every mouth full.

My Brother, the Candle

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for my brother, Danny, on his birthday

Have we improvised too much,
lost sight of our true selves, surviving;
the world is a tough audience.
And now I remember,
when you said you wanted to be a candle,
and we laughed until we cried, and cried,
then we’d ask you again,
and again, laugh and cry,
strange now, how life,
with time, has changed,
and I think it’s worth a try
to be a candle, a candle.

What better man to be a light,
than one who brightens,
and who thought being a candle
was possible, and right?