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.

Poem Then and Now


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You always flew on wings

adrift of sky and dreams,

A journey to find–

What was it you said?


It’s not enough to be alive,

If you don’t feel alive.


Yes, that was it.

So we watched you leave,

As the sun struggled

To get clear of the clouds,

At least, those were the lines

In the poem I wrote then.

But all I remember now

Is your back–

And how you didn’t turn

To wave goodbye.

Island Fever


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It’s a real thing, he says,

Musing of moving from Mauna Lani

To Austria, Poland, Prague, or Germany.

Haven’t been to the ocean

In three months, he says,

As he pecks out letters,

One by one, on the keyboard.

Of course, we later joke

About wanting island fever:

A life absent of snow, of the ice

We slipped upon, of gray days.

But to trade the aspen,

With its bare arms,

And its crystaling rime

And silence, the way it pleads,

The way it trembles

Among its roots, from start

To start to start–

That anticipation, that loneliness,

That incredible wonder—

Even in paradise, the heart

Has its hole. It has its terrible

Brokenness, and its frantic

Longing to be away.


Second Winter of Winter


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The second Winter was the cruelest,

The way it buried our hopes.

Even the ground had opened its mouth,

Like a baby bird, waiting to be fed.

I swear the grass was starting to green,

And I’m sure I heard a frog that night–

We sat outside and said we smelled spring.

We were wrong, as we always are

When we try to divine the future.

The only animal who tries to divine the future—

The only one who knows disappointment

In buried grass, bare branches, and silence.

If Snow Could Form Into Tree


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If snow could form into tree,

It would be the aspen.

Snow, one of a thousand

shades of white,

The perception of light and brightness–

And Spirits, rising up like like colonies,

Covered in it. The snow. This aspen.

Our hopes. Our dreams. The good dreams,

That is. The ones where fairy god mothers

Float down and save us.

Did you know, aspen bark heals?

They say it takes away pain–

Like a friend, a lover, my mother

rubbing my back until it burns.

And, like a child, that’s what I want it to be.

Yet, its naked trunk rises like winter–

So unafraid, so unalone,

So rigid, intractable and distant.

Yes, if snow could form into tree,

It would be the aspen,

And the cold, white stillness of what seems

A winter that won’t go away.

Winter Hurt

The aspen is still again,

Its arms are bare again.

Yet, the small sound of chimes,

betrays a slight breeze–

As a coyote makes its way,

Through the snow, to our barn.

The wolfhounds pick up her smell

And there is barking,

And the crunching sound of paws

Lunging over hard pack.

This is the season

When coyotes mate–

They are hungry,

They are cold,

They are desperate.

And I wonder,

Is the aspen desperate, too–

Roots trembling, like hands

Held together for comfort–

Saying, It hurts to be this still.

It hurts to be this bare.

It hurts to be this hungry.

The Passing of Billy Graham


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The aspen is clothed,

Its limbs reach toward heaven

Alight with rime and worship:

A great one has passed

At ninety nine years–

The lives that are touched

At ninety nine years–

Mine, my grandfather’s,

The time overlaps,

spreads over the landscape

So that all are touched,

All are clothed.

It is zero today,

And I wanted to write

That hell is cold–

Until I saw the aspen

Clothed in hoar frost.

All the world has become

The aspen, outlined in ice.

In the Bleak Mid-Winter

“In the bleak mid-winter

  Frosty wind made moan,

Earth stood hard as iron,

  Water like a stone;

Snow had fallen, snow on snow,

  Snow on snow,

In the bleak mid-winter

  Long ago.”

The return of winter,

During Winter:

As we slept

It snowed eight inches.

Eight inches.

Enough to obliterate

The grass, starting to green.

I dreamt

Of being abandoned–

And woke to find

you’d been up since 4 am.

The House was warm,

As if the furnace

Had suddenly become efficient.

Too efficient, I thought,

As I watched the light

Gradually increase outside.

You see, there was no sun.

Not in this bleak mid-winter.

You’d say it was white,

But I’d say it was gray–

A tinge of darkness–

The unknown, like a fog

Near the barn.

The aspen,

Its white body–

elegant and erotic–

Naked in the snow,

Stripped completely bare

And framed by the fog–

Was so still.

Yes, it was still as death.

A corpse,

And, if it had started to dream,

It dreamt no more–

Unless, it too dreamt of being abandoned.

The Wind Speaks Winter

The aspen’s branches are bare,

The wind speaks through chimes:

Winter, winter, winter, it says,

As if it knows no other word.

Did it forget the crocus,

Its alien spathe piercing the ground,

petals struggling

To escape the cocoon?

Did it forget the wild irises,

Dotting the pasture,

Tall, elegant, blushed in plum?

Or, the branches

Heavy with apple blossoms,

And the apples,

The gelding ate from her hands:

Open hands, the juice of the fruit?

Today, it plays dumb.

The bare tree waves

Its empty arms,

While snow shifts and drifts,

And the outside chandelier

Swings like a crystal pendulum

Trying to divine,

Will the cold ever end?

While the wind speaks,

Saying, Winter,



A Valentines Day Poem for my Lover

You extend your right arm

For me to come in and lay down.

We’ve done it, like this,

At least five thousand,

Four hundred seventy five times,

The exact same, wonderful way.

And always,

You are the first to disappear,

Leaving me to your heart’s beating,

The rise and fall of your chest,

Its hair tickling my nose.

I think, should I die before you,

You will remember this,

And no lover will quite take my place–

Not in this deepest intimacy.

Did I say I love you—

Before you went away in dreams?

Did I say I love you?



A Valentines Song—for a past Lover


Your memory blows cold,

It chills me,

like a cold spring day.

It rattles my mind,

like a chime,

clanking away.

Our love turned from fire,

to a flower,

Than stone,

And like a rock,

the memory is cold —-


You hear me,

you’re near me,

you’re bound in a prison–

The shadows of my heart.

I hear you,

I’m near you,

I’m bound—

There’s no pulling us apart.


They say be careful

what you fear,

and I feared a lot.

The fire of love can burn,

but cold-stone Love

does not.

You took me up,

like a leaf,

but you let me drop—

And now

your memory blows cold,

but the pain does not.



I can zip up my coat,

put on my gloves,

and walk.

But I take you

with me,

like a snow-covered rock;

Into the spring,

into the summer,

into the fall—

Into the winter

The memory still calls.



Is this what it’s like
To be dead? 

A big FAT blank.

Not even being able to think–

Is this what it’s like
To be dead?  










Is this what it’s like 
to be born?

The whole world
In front of you.

Your happy places,
Spread like golden pastures

Just waiting for you to gallop through,
Thinking, singing, screaming–

Is this what it’s like
to be born?

Synchronicity: The Herd


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20170419_211840We must move together,
One mind, one soul,
One body, one purpose,
Says the herd.

We’ll bend our necks
To the ground,
Bite off blades of grass,
Like so: the Mustang,
The palomino mare,
The old sorrel gelding.
See how our heads line up?
Front, right legs forward,
One ear to the herd,
The other to the sky,

And bird sound:
The high pitch
Of the kildeer,
nesting in grass nearby,
The chattering of the geese,
The barn swallows,
returned to their nests,
Above our stalls.

We hear their song,
A composition,
Carried by the wind,
Through pine,
Through aspen,
Through crocus
And snowdrops.

We must move together,
One mind, one soul,
One body, one purpose,
Says the herd.