The Place Between Us

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I think by now it is time for the second cutting.

      I imagine the field, the one above the last

house we rented, has lain in convalescence

     long enough. The hawk has taken back the air

above new grass, and the doe again can hide

     her young. I can tell you now I crossed

That field, weeks before the first pass of the blade,

     Through grass and briars, fog–the night itself

to my thighs, my skirt pulled up that high.

      I came to what had been our house and stood outside.

(Claudia Emerson, excerpt from Aftermath)

Today, I stood in the south pasture and looked back at the house,

as if it was another life I was seeing from the outside:

the gables, the stone facade, the windows, the aspen.

The palomino came to me there, and seemed of two worlds.

She crossed over the basalt outcroppings,

her hooves crushing the baby grass and buttercups,

like a bold spirit that moved between life and death

and made me wonder, for a moment, which I inhabited,

or what was real, the house, the horse, the wind, my body–

the words I searched for, to say how much I miss you.

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Loping a Horse For the First Time

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To straddle that fundamental duality is to be balanced: to have one foot firmly planted in order and security, and the other in chaos…” Jordan Peterson, 12 Rules For Life

At first,

They may try to buck,

But give them the reins

And sit deep in the saddle.

Like everything in life,

No guarantees,

We’re all on the bottom peg,

Really,

When it comes to living,

Or dying,

Or even breaking a leg.

Loping a green horse

Isn’t much different

Than falling in love,

Or growing old.

We like to feel alive,

Sometimes,

We like to fly

On the back of a horse

Learning to run,

With chaos on her back.

Grass Widow

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The only way

You’re like a lover

Abandoned

By her loved

Is in the wait

For your return.

If we lay down,

Together,

Among

Your scattered

Bunches and buttercups,

I’d tell you how it felt

When the world

grew silent.

Would you believe me?

I’d tell you of the cold

How it froze

Even hope,

How the aspen

Waved its branches,

Like arms,

Yelling out

In loneliness.

Would you believe me?

One morning,

Yesterday,

You returned.

Just like that,

Your elegant long leaves,

Emerged,

Your six, perfect,

purple petals,

Emerged,

Your three yellow-

Tipped stamens

Emerged,

Just like that.

All the world

I can see from here

Is ready,

It’s eager,

It’s desperate

For this,

For you,

For everything

You bring back

From wherever

You were

When you

Went away.

Raven Racing a BNSF Train Through Eastern Washington

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Imagine this: an arid countryside

In early spring, wild grasses

Still brown and dormant

From the autumn before,

Cumulus clouds, dark, heavy,

Make it seem like night,

Though your watch says otherwise.

There’s a lake reflecting the clouds,

Known for its rainbow trout,

Which attracts fishermen and birds,

And a BNSF train breaking westward

Toward Moses Lake and Seattle.

Imagine a raven soaring

Over the train, and with it:

The train, with its many orange cars,

The raven, ripping, racing, winning,

And reducing everything to backdrops

and props, objects bowed

By a single, scrappy black bird.

Unity: Horse and Human Together

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“Try to figure out some way to understand this thing the horse is so full of, and that he has such a strong desire to get from the person in return. It has to be togetherness. Mind, Body and Spirit is what we’re talking about here.” Tom Dorrance, True Unity

Our shared emotion,

Seventeen of twenty-seven:

Happiness, worry, fear.

What is it, rising up

Like spirit, from your eyes,

Like heaven. An open field,

Where all that matters is love

And connection, knowing

We are safe from what chases,

Knowing we are strong,

mistakes forgotten, and free.

A Brew Of Buds

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We acclimate to early spring,

Wind, rain, and fifty degrees,

Chopin’s Nocturne in C sharp minor,

Because the world is opening to us,

Like the gentlest of heavens.

Poplar buds, sticky with resin,

Ready to be picked from their branches,

Mixed, and set aside to ferment in oil.

A balm for brokenness:

Stir together early spring toad-sound,

Coming to us from a darkened pasture

Where it overflowed with melted snow

And rain, a pair of killdeer nesting

Out by the north fence among the dry grasses,

And the aspen, still bare, but breaking in buds.

Riding Through a Grove of Aspens

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The sweeping of our horses’ manes

Showed us the wind, and which way it blew,

But it was the aspens that gave it voice.

Swirling leaves,

Like erratic wings of butterflies,

Shimmered, shook, slapped,

Simultaneously clapping as we passed.

Grace in the grove, the ticking,

whispering clatter of the breeze,

Passing, back and forth, between worlds.

What We Don’t Own

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What a strange thing to own,

A view of Mt Spokane,

Windows, frame this home,

And look out toward its peak,

Covered in snow, and tinged

Orange by the sun rising in the East.

No wind, the sky is blue and brilliant,

With a few stray, stratus clouds

And a meandering sparrow.

It’s the kind of day that smiles,

Like I remember you smile,

And your eyes, always trying

To be kind, and painfully respectful,

Even when you should not be.

Fear

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I’ll describe early spring,

Because it’s easier,

Than describing fear:

Waking at one a.m.

In a terrible dream.

Where are you,

Why don’t you answer?

It’s forty degrees,

And the wind is rattling

The darkness and the chimes.

Everything is touched:

The willow, aspen, and roses,

Just beginning to break

Into the tiniest buds,

Yet, still bare, still silent,

Still waving their branches

Like I see you waving your arms.

Canadian Geese

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Suddenly out of the north came the sound I had been waiting for, a soft, melodious gabbling that swelled and died and increased in volume until all other sounds were engulfed by its clamor. Far in the blue I saw them, a long skein of dots undulating like a floating ribbon pulled toward the south by an invisible cord tied to the point of its V. Sigurd Olson

First, let me say, I couldn’t give a damn

The correct way to name them. Words

Spoken a thousand times, woven together

With emotion, standing with lifted arms

Underneath a flock of forty mighty wings.

Have you ever been so close, you could hear

The swish-swush of the air and feel its tremor?

The words they speak between them,

Their flight calls, their gabbling back and forth,

I swear, it’s all about second chances:

Those with cancer, might live,

Those with sins, might be forgiven,

Those who lost lovers, might be loved

Again, in the way of not letting go,

In the way of never letting

Even one,

Fall away.

The Aspen’s Happiness: First Day of Spring

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I think the aspen is happy today,

The way the robin perched

On its bare branches.

The skin of her feet,

The skin of that branch,

One warm body pulsing blood,

The other pulsing with spring sap.

To be touched after so long,

As your buds begin to break

The surface of what separates:

Your ability to drink of the sun,

And that long and naked loneliness.

3. Moss

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Nineteen and unbreakable,

Because there was always something

To catch onto when he fell,

Until yesterday.

I guess it’s true: Desperation reaches

For whatever it can, whatever

Presents itself a savior.

Could be a rock, a branch,

Anything, at the right time.

It’s not surprising,

He reached for the moss

As his foot began to slip

From the waterfall’s slick face.

The moss,

Only an arm’s reach away,

Easy to touch,

But unable to stop his fall.

2. Moss

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I found one word,

As we hiked Palisades Park

To the waterfall.

This word coated everything:

Fallen logs, arched branches,

Boulders, and the paths

We slipped upon.

I was shocked. Really, floored,

When, at the end of our hike,

We came away with the same word.

I asked you, and you named it,

Then, I proved to you

I had already written a poem–

Now thrown out for this:

How lucky am I to see life

Like you do? The one I love,

Not wowed by the waterfall,

Or the burbling brook,

Not the caves,

Nor the down-trees,

But the moss that covered that world,

Like your love for me,

Softening it all.

 

Older Sister

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Write a poem about me,

I want to see how you see

Me, she said. As if it were

an easy thing to produce–

Like a photograph,

Or your child’s crayon drawing,

Mother, father, sister, brother–

Stick figures, holding hands

Under the sun, and a tree

Full of red circles.

Okay, I remember the line.

It was an imaginary one you drew

To divide our shared bedroom.

You and your crap, there

Me and mine, here–

Of course, I’m paraphrasing,

Taking liberties in my poem

At your expense. And already

I can hear you arguing:

She was a slob,

She was annoying,

I wanted to be an only child.

What does it matter now?

Here we are forty years later,

Drinking wine and chatting

About poetry. You, eventually,

Got your own bedroom,

And life happened to you

Apart from me.

So much life.

We rush away, don’t we?

Or, at least you did–

And then, you were back,

But more broken.

Sister, Tell me

What other word could envelop

So much fighting and jealousy,

Yet, describe this need I have

To confide in you, too?

Hawaii Painter

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There you were again,

On the beach of Mauna Kea,

With your towels and brushes,

And your intense fascination

With red boats.

I took your photo,

Because it’s easier than painting,

And I’m writing this poem,

Because it’s also easier than painting

The way you searched the canvas

For perspective: stepping away,

Then closer, strokes from below,

Then from above. Okay, I’ll say it,

It was like you were dancing,

And taking liberties with the distance–

From the water’s curvaceous edge,

To the tip of that blood-red canoe.

Hawaii Cat

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You called out

beneath plumeria.

So like mainland tabbies,

But missing

The tip of your ear.

You laid out

On the concrete bench,

As I stroked your back,

With my full palm,

And said, Sweet Hawaii Cat,

You’re sweet, Hawaii Cat.

I called for you today,

But got no answer–

And I started to miss,

Not the waves, sand, sun,

pineapple and plumeria trees,

No, it’s you I miss, Hawaii Cat.

It’s you I miss.

Pele’s Curse

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Even the T-shirts are tired of themselves,

But don’t take the lava rocks.

Pele’s curse is a real thing:

Cancer, heart-attacks, financial ruin.

Just ask Karen, who took coral and sand,

Then lost her dogs, her house, and her husband.

He gave me a heart-shaped rock,

And I got kidney stones; it’s true,

Pele has a bad temper.

Thousands of pounds of rock

sent home to the island each year:

Place this back from where it came,

They scribble out to some unknown.

Absolution, it’s that easy:

Your hollowed-out heart,

An envelope, a stranger,

And a cruel goddess

Who is supposed to forgive.