you call out
from the dusk,
an eerie song
that catches
my daughter’s ear.


Is that death you sing of there
or a pledge to protect the souls
of the not-yet-dead?

We follow the hesitant notes
into the yard,
a chorus of insects
expanding into the empty space
while we wait.


We know you owl,
we listen to you outside the window
sometimes, when darkness falls
but this is the first time you have shown
your tufted head.

The children creep closer
thinking they can capture the moment
with their hands
or perhaps steal a closer look
that will somehow unveil
mysteries hidden
in the shadows.


Occupying the same fence post
as hawks and larks
a perch shared by the winged,
I wonder: if I could balance there
what would I see?

Not the play from my current spectator’s seat,
but the inherent role
that’s played inside the things
a mouse scurrying through the grass
the silent wings
that swoop down
and the talons that squeeze

our hearts
when you


What does a day of work really cost
How much is a dream forever lost
What do you gain from a stranger’s smile
At what price comes the unseen trial?

How much for that magic eye
Spells that work and tears that dry
What would you pay to spare another pain
How many drops in a sky full of rain?

Where go feelings thrown into the deep
Sleepness nights, no soul to keep
What cost to silence dogs of war
To have the rich count the poor?

How do you reignite love’s lost touch
How much for a kiss from Lady Luck
Would you do anything to right a wrong
Or is it enough to remember in song?

Passing by the Temple of Accumulated Fragrance (Wang Wei)

Which way to the Temple of Accumulated Fragrance?
After several miles, nothing but clouds and peaks.
No trail that passes through old trees,
Just a bell that tolls, somewhere deep.

A spring’s gurgle in a jumble of rocks,
The sun’s light cold through green pines.
Empty by a pond’s twilit curves,
Quieting dragons of the mind.

Continue reading “Passing by the Temple of Accumulated Fragrance (Wang Wei)”

Letter to Céleste

If growing up was like a ladder
that you had to keep on climbing
for ever and ever
then you would be scared to fall
even once
and maybe that fear
would keep you frozen
and you’d never go anywhere
at all.

But life’s not a ladder
it’s more like a dive
into a cold pool
there’s still a fear of falling
but it’s swirled together
with anticipation and delight
like the bitter and the sweet
in a square of chocolate.

And the first time you are falling,
but again and you taste it:
freedom in flight.
You can twist your body
into some exquisite silliness
let loose a shriek–
you are flying toward
the water’s enveloping embrace.
A momentary glimpse of transcendence
that can be relived
just as soon as you pull yourself
dripping wet
up over the edge
skin your knee in the rush
run back through the hot sun
–who said anything
about being scared
to fling yourself
into gravity’s arc–

It’s so much better
when you’re jumping into it
isn’t it?

So much better than tumbling
frozen in fear
from way up high
on a make-believe ladder
that leads
to nowhere.

Letter to Elliot

My son wanted to know
if life has meaning.
I said, “Life has the meaning
that you give it.”

But how could he know
what it felt like
the first time I kissed his mother
over a pint of cherry ice cream
or the clap of thunder
that accompanied his entrance
into the world.
The way he looked at us
with eyes
that were but minutes old
and yet seemed more ancient
than words.

He’s not yet felt
the internal flight
of a friend with a guitar
or the power of a current
that sweeps a canoe
along the churning brown waters
of the Amazon
and the thrill of jumping out to swim
with piranhas and pink dolphins.

I wonder if
in some hidden corner of his mind
he’s contracting his muscles
already preparing for pain
at age 10.
If he feels childhood slipping away,
cynicism rushing in
to fill the hole that was once
Santa and pets that spoke to you
at midnight.

Hang on, I want to say,
there’s more to it than that.
The sun is just coming up
and its promising pastels
softer than your mother’s lips
are now brightening
the entire horizon.

Canyon Song II

You should be listening for
flocks of flamingos
midnight owls
or the song of a canyon wren.
Chasing the flames of a fire
before they become
a mere memory of light.

Can you hold those flames in your pocket?
That is why
you cannot wait.

Canyon Song I

Sleeping on sand
with the echoes of the water
the sigh of the wind
watching clouds drift across
a sliver of deepening blue:
sadness spun from the air
and blown into night.

A tear holds on
to the lip of the waterfall
the plunge –
return to the river
and float from sight.