Tuesday, December 10, 1985


These silver fish in my pocket
sing for their supper
sing for flies and oranges
under a full moon.
At Cabo San Lucas,
the wind through the arch
is like the sighing of empty vaults.
The fishing banks are open for commerce.
"Silver sinkers from old dimes
make the best lures,"
an old Indian said.
The mines are empty.
The mines are empty.
Let's lift the moratorium.
We need silver to seed the clouds;
to line the sow's ear.
The gypsy's fortune speaks in tonques
when the fish won't bite.

1985? 6?

1989 Poetry SF Quarterly, Honorable Mention, spring issue, 
1987 Sculpture Gardens Review
         Marin Poetry Review

1986-88 Falling to Sea Level


Aquellos peces de plata en mi bolsillo
cantan para comer
cantan para moscas y naranjas
bajo de la luna llena.
En Cabo San Lucas,
el viento por el arco
susurra como bovedas vacias.
Los bancos de las pescas
se abren para negocios.
"Los plomos de plata
de las viejas monedas
de diez centavos
son los mejores cebos,"
decia el indio viejo.
Las minas estan vacias.
Las minas estan vacias.
Levantemos el moratorio.
Necesitamos la plata para sembrar
las nubes;
para forrar la oreja la cerda.
La suerte del gitano habla en lenguas
cuando no muerden los peces.

tr. John Oliver Simon y Juvenal Acosta

needs correction accents

1986? date


Monday, December 2, 1985



A frazzled white-haired woman
with a scrawny black kitten
flattened against her red coat 
boards the crowded bus.
She speaks only English,
and the driver lets her aboard
for the 500 pesos she offers,
though it isn't enough to cover her fare.
Her red lacquered nails match her jacket
and on her right arm, she wears a cast,
someone once cared about her.
There's nowhere to sit, she's so old.
Then a young Mexican boy stands up,
smiles, and offers her his red stool.
Abuela, please sit, he said.

December 2, 1985
rev. slightly 18 Nov 2015
Baja, Mexico

Sunday, December 1, 1985



Tired, I exclaimed to John,
Look, an echinoderm forest,
pointing to the blooming yucca trees
when I meant euphorbia.

December 2, 1985
Baja, Mexico

On the Outskirts of Cabo San Lucas

On the Outskirts of Cabo San Lucas

On the outskirts of Cabo San Lucas,  
a bare yard fenced with branches and barbwire,
guards a souped-up yellow race car, a mustang.
Someone's prized possession, an anomaly in the desert.
An attempt at beauty, three newly planted fan palms,
raggedly applaud the wind. Chickens patrol the yard.
A cinderblock home, barely large enough 
to hold the car, how many people live inside? 
Not like the nightmare houses on the outskirts
of Tijuana, made of cardboard, plastic and paper  
amid piles of concrete rubble and rebar.

December 1, 1985
rev. 11/17/15
Baja, Mexico

I want to live in a house 
made of woven sticks 
open to the wind and sky.

Saturday, November 30, 1985

Fragments (garbled text)

Missing text but something about Cabo San Lucas
plunges into the sea time 
Cabo San Lucass 
end we cry of the cliff 
rearranged himself slid into the ocean 
it was alive with blue and rose 
up and down the face of the cliffs 
like enormous breathing beast 
one could hear the soft shifting of the sea

November 30, 1985



Here, in La Paz, the wings of birds
puncture the skin of the sea.
The bite of oleander blossoms
along the malecón remind us of
the proverbs of men and women,
because the birds have nowhere else to go
except for places etched into the walls of caves.

To make the sea, first, one must paint it.

November 30, 1985
La Paz, Baja, Mexico

My lines from a pass around poem at La Perla Restaurant, La Paz, with John Oliver Simon and Julie from Cabo. Maybe someday I'll get around to adding their lines. Or not.

3 Poems at the Tropic of Cancer

John sits on the ground
confronts a large boulder
painted limestone white 
with a blue stripe on it
at the Tropic of Cancer 
and he writes a poem
to a manmade concept.

November 30, 1985
Baja, Mexico

Menus at restaurants
in both La Paz 
and Cabo San Lucas 
offered clamps and grabs 
and cramps and calms.
We couldn't stop laughing.

I want to live in a house
made of woven sticks
open to the wind and sky.

December 1, 1985
Baja, Mexico

Wednesday, November 27, 1985



From the guilt of eating turtle steak
we make wild love after dinner
and the snoring from the family next-door
ceases as we rise into reptilian splendor
under the full moon.

Picking my way back from the outhouse
I am startled by darkened eyes sockets
on this cold desert where a wild moon
bleaches bones and eats the night.

A young rooster cries out in a child's voice
for some light in this village.
A passing car toots its horns at shadows.
Beneath a satellite disc moon,
huge, faint shadows of tarpon stir in the river.
Before this road interrupted sleep,
palm trees kept secret dreams.

In sleep, you stir, pulling my hips towards yours.
Each day, from my turquoise necklace,
I give a piece of the sky back.
There is as much future in those stones
around the neck of a woman
as there is in the desert sand.
I cradle the dreams of my grandmother,
fragile as paper, as you gather me in.
Sand in the bed fills our eyes and mouths.

Baja, California

Sunday, November 24, 1985


At Camp Pendelton John stops to take a pis.
US govt. signs warn of eminent arrest 
for stopping or loitering here
& I imagine a military patrol in the bushes
waiting for the weak-bladdered.
We pass Ground Zero.
Truncated towers, multi-armed monsters
march east across 101 from San Onofre.
I try on the round sounds. Onofre. Laguna.
La paloma, pigeon/dove es la verdad.
In Spanish there is no distinction between the two.
Open chord progressions of birds 
sit in arpeggios upon the scored lines
leading from San Onofre to the heartland.
John says, “All across the country 
these reactors are dormant bombs 
waiting for a fuse."
Huge heart-shaped bells 
strung from the power lines
labor silently in the wind.
San Clemente



Hung over & 
headed for Mexico 
in a rented car,
we try and outrun the rain
& the bleary weight of ourselves,
alone, and with each other,
after the wedding.
Today, at the age of 33,
I’m as old as Christ, before he died.
John weaves turquoise stones,
flecks of a jealous sky, around my neck
and says, “In 50 years I’ll be an old man,
will you still want me then?”
I say: “I have trouble
separating myself from childhood,
and the child within asks,
”Where do the wild birds
go when it begins to rain?” 
I hide the blue stigmatas
burning on my palms.

slightly rev. 2/17
San Clemente

Saturday, November 23, 1985


—for Brian & Nancy, 11/23/85

Late afternoon wedding.
The courtyard of Mission San Juan Capistrano
harbors no swallows--only bleak mud nests.

On the bare tree, the one white pigeon stirs the flock
and like grey leaves bursting into flight, they circle and bank
as guests enter the narrow timbered adobe chapel,
whitewashed walls lean heavily toward the sea,
dim green light broken into patterns by the windows of saints.
A white satin carpet is unrolled for Brian & Nancy.
Behind a flurry of veils, the kiss, the rings we can’t see.

The guitar strings whisper, the mariachi band readies itself.
And the final words of the padre, “In 50 years
I will come to bless you again. Look for a small white bird.
All this recorded on video; seafoam and dark shadows.

As the last chord fades, we leave the church
barely able to look at each other
but our white-knuckled fingers and damp palms
reassure us of our existence.
John mimics my left-handed sign-of-the-cross
The nuns said it was the sign of the devil.

Our car horns stir the pigeon flock
into another cloud of frenzied flight.
We run the red lights. Cars at weddings
and funerals have right-of-way.

At the San Clemente Beach Club
the wedding party reconvenes.
In this bastion of America, pinstripe suits
mingle with down jackets and nikes.
I imagine behind each face, a mask,
behind each palm tree, a dark stranger.

Each day John pins to his breast
the lapis heart I gave him.
In ritual there is comfort.
But this makes me uneasy.
Someone sings Danny Boy
& Brian’s mother cries
the same way my aunt does.

The storm front pushes down on the sea
until the horizon is swallowed.
We take armfuls of red carnations out into the night
& slide drunkenly between Brian & Nancy’s sheets
as if this were our honeymoon instead.
Dark petals stain the sheets & the rain comes down.

11/24—Hung over & headed for Mexico in a rented car
we try to outrun the rain
& the sudden weight of ourselves.
Today, at the age of 33,
I’m almost as old as Christ before he died.
John strings turquoise stones,
flecks of the sky around my neck
and says, “In 50 years I’ll be an old man,
will you want me then?”
I tell him “I have trouble
separating myself from childhood,
and the child within me asks,
”where will the small flocks of wild birds
hide themselves when it begins to rain?”

At Camp Pendelton John stops to take a piss
US govt. signs warn of arrest for stopping or loitering
& I imagine cops in the bushes
waiting for the weak-bladdered.
We pass ground zero.
Truncated towers, multi-armed monsters
march east across 101 from San Onofre.
I try on the sound. Onofre. Laguna.
La paloma, pigeon/dove es la verdad.
In Spanish there is no distinction between the two.

Open chord progressions of birds sit upon scored lines
leading from San Onofre to the heartland.
John says, “All across the country these reactors
are dormant bombs waiting for the fuse.
Huge red bells strung from power lines
labor silently in the wind.

San Clemente

Friday, November 22, 1985



After running into Jim Duran at LAX,
we're surprised to find we both know him.
I know him as Seamus, and John, as Jaime.
We yelled out in unison Seamus/Jaime, to Jim,
and turned to each other and laughed.
We agree  to meet up later for dinner at Palo Verde,
and the reading at The Laguna Poets, followed by open mike.
Some of it was dark, dark and richly green, a la Roethke,
or James Wright. Terry Kennedy, Richard Weekley.
I said: Women can't get away with that kind of language,
it sounds too banal. We want something meatier with hips.
Another poet reads a diatribe about the IRA. I cringe.
John writes in my notebook, verde te quiero verde—Lorca
If she talks about horror, I'll scream, please don't say...
The horror, the horror—wrote Joseph Conrad.
See? Already the Belgian Congo is a cliché, said John.
Neo-colonialism and confessional poetry at its best / worst.
Speaking of darkness... We have no place to sleep.
I can't reach my cousin in Laguna Beach.
I ask John, Do we have a place to duerme?
He says not to worry. if nothing turns up.
we'll go to a motel and make like rabbits.

Voyager Inn, Laguna Beach
added/rev. 2/17

Laguna Poets reading (prose)
Remembering Jim Duran, (Séamas Ó Direáin)

Thursday, November 21, 1985

At Jack Grapes' Place, LA

At Jack Grapes Place, LA

Outside the window
a woman in a car checks her watch,
fixes a button, clasps a book to her bosom,
checks her hair, sets the book down,
gets out of the car, picks up the book…
As I stare out between window and screen,
feeling like I'm in a Truffaut movie,
the camera pans away from the car
to my face, the lower half hidden from view,
as John plays Handel on the recorder.

* * *
At sunset in a strange city
in a strange  house,
Jack and Lori asleep.
I'm shaking twilight from my bones
while John turns on
the garbage disposal unit,
looking for light

* * *
From under his fingertips
notes from Handel slip out
so achingly pure in my ears.

* * *
Distant crackle of newspaper from the kitchen
the sound of a memory being disturbed.


San Francisco to Baja (journal)

San Francisco to Baja, 11/21/1985

This earth's skin stretches along the fault from San Francisco to Cabo San Lucas. We follow the San Andreas Fault across the brown reaches of wrinkled skin, from Point Reyes to LA. Stark silhouettes of hills, highlighted razorbacks, an early sun.

 White Sierra peaks compete with low valley clouds, for sky.

Fault lines below us, as if the land were formed by a giant finger, dipped in melted chocolate, then lifted up, leaving sharp ridges of serrated earth. In contrast to the checkerboard grid on Central Valley farms.

An occasional ridge of clouds like an errant river patterned after the ridges  it crosses, a bridge of clouds.

In the distance, Telescope Peak, the farthest ridge, the White Mountains, Death Valley and the white snow fields near Mount Whitney.

To the south called, where the Sierras ease westward to join the coastal mountains, isolated peaks float in a white sea, denser clouds shore up at the edges of the Tehachepes, A faint dusting of snow against the blueblack ridges.
From this height, most color is lost, drained of essence. Like a standing wave, a bank of clouds rolls back from the steep cliffs and mountains.

Clouds enhance their shapes. The snow gathers like herds of lost sheep on the north sides and at the crest.

We begin our descent. Trees become individual fly specks, no longer the dense mats of vegetation of  of the north.

Wave after wave of hills and dark silhouettes like the tracings of red mind on a gray sea, sediment in  tortured swirls. One can almost feel the tortured land screaming with adolescent growing pains.
A winding arroyo filled with boulders, and  Franciscan mud gullies washed out to the sea by infrequent rains.

Hills give way to the eroded faces, mostly to the south, where the sun soothes it out like smoke.

Smog mingles with errant clouds that cowl San Gregornio, San Joaquin, Mount Baldy.

Way off, a distant white peak somewhere in Nevada. Mt. Charleston?

LA sticks its dirty head through the clouds, herringbone grids of parked cars mesh on the flat desert sink.

The Pacific takes salty bites out of the saline desert. We fly through the vapor strung between clouds like laundry.

Above the bright turquoise sea, and below the gray washed business of cities, threaded by the complicated snakes of freeways.

John says the LA smog is nothing. When you fly into Mexico City, it's like you're flying into a bowl of soup.

John memorizes poems for tonight's meeting. I interrupt him again for verification of San Gregornio, brilliant, white, like a crack crack between worlds.

In this muted light, the LA River grid is a flat glistening aqueduct of concrete running due West, wide in places for the seasonal flash floods, otherwise a narrow river channel for the steadier flow, two rivers in one. Grid of main street and the irregular patterns of freeways, more like the path of the river and the river itself.

For one short block, besides each green postage-stamp lawn, liquid amber pushes its blaze of leaves toward the concept of fall.

In this city of deserts, metallic tweed of cars interspliced with grade wisps of rude and introduces the complexities of commerce to a place where creosote bushes once kept a generous living distance between each other each other.

A ragged line of trees, mostly eucalyptus, modestly covers a low-lying ridge near the airport. It reminds me of the banks along the Russian River or perhaps the Sacramento River. On those hot days of pavement, a distant memory of water wavers a mirage of mirrored oases.

Along this stretch, the land still remembers the shape of the inland sea.

added 2/17

Laguna Poets reading

Enroute to Cabo, we have a stopover in LA for a couple of readings.

11/21 Reading at the Cafe Cultural with John Oliver Simon and Rubén Martínez, then dinner with Lori and Jack Grapes, Rubén, and Sergio? We brainstorm CPITS and CAC residencies over meals.

It turned out John and I both knew Jim Duran separately. He called Jim Jaime whereas I called him Seamus. We once ran into each other in LAX enroute to Guatemala. John yelled Jaime while I yelled Jim, and Seamus simultaneously. We turned to each other and laughed.

On the even of JFKs assassination, we met up for dinner in Palo Verde, discussing linguistics and poetry, the origins of language and the uniqueness of  Irish language structure. We must've bought something expensive. Dinner was $34 plus tip.

Then we went to the Laguna Poets Reading Series. Terry Kennedy and Richard Weekly read. Then John and me. I also read some of my kid poems, distributed copies of ARC, and met the editor of Cal State Poetry Quarterly who wanted to publish some of my work. We set up another reading for next summer.

My cousin Eddie Walsh wasn't at home in Laguna Beach, a small hovel in the basement of an apartment complex (he must've been in Hawaii), so we rented a room at the Voyager Inn, and I bought Seamus Heaney's Sweeney Astray, reading about mad Sweeney over breakfast at Benny the Bum's Diner. Mad checkered tile floor and walls, like something from Nighthawks.

This is how I celebrated my birthday, among poets. We headed south to Solana Beach and crossed the border, headed for Cabo.

Added, rev. 9/17

Remembering Jim Duran, (Séamas Ó Direáin)

Thursday, September 19, 1985



On the Avenida de Reforma
in Teotihuacan's quaking bed,
cracked pavement—terremoto.
An abundance of flowers
once again bloom in hanging gardens
in Xioxicalco, where tall hotels swayed 
like tall reeds and snapped off at the base.

the 8.1 quake dates it Sept 19, 1985
I think there was more to this poem....

Tuesday, September 17, 1985



              Yo no lo conocÌa, pero aveces
              me entero de uno que otro detalle.
              Monica Mansour
                               —para John Oliver Simon

Late in the season, small avalanches begin
where our boots break a trail.
I place my feet carefully in each milk-blue hollow
and learn the distance of your stride.
We crawl up the crevice toward the sky.
Rocks tumble into the deep valley
and the space between worlds widens.
We rush to fill it with our hands, lichen & stone.

In the thin blue air above timberline
a cornice of snow gives under our weight.
We imagine it to sweep us up like swimmers
at the crest of a wave.  Wind, uncoded
from fingerprints fluxes the surface
of the lake.  The patterns carried
within us makes us recount the myths.
What passes for human
fallen off from ritual
urges us to jump.

We see beyond each mountain, a cloud;
beyond each cloud, another mountain.
By climbing on all fours, we learn to trust our hands.
Slowly, our hands lead us back to our hearts.
Our hands become small commas to separate sky from world
& the mountain watches them paying out shapes to the wind.
Clouds on the horizon have escaped us this time.

The dark thing that chased us from sleep
today, is a pale witness in snow.
Tracks of a mountain lion take on a new shape
separated from night.
We trace the origin of tracks
to a hollow beneath the last vertical face
of the mountain.
We drink from the same water
and leave rock cairns to mark a trail
no one else will follow.
Perhaps, in the future other climbers
will puzzle over this.

Hold in your hand this poem without words;
a white reminder of what we've lost.
Fur trappings slide from bare shoulders.
Glaciers scrub stones smooth again.
At sea level, the cave fire retreats
to its proper place in time.
I say, what civilized us
was the donning of clothes.
You say, No, language separated us.
And your tongue fills my mouth.

The temptation would be to stay in these mountains
and dress language in lichen & stone for vows,
but at sea level, the gods of dailiness
sweep through us and our grasp upon sky,
stones & skin loosens.  One misstep;
a false handhold could throw us back into air.
The next snowfall would bury our tracks.
When spring comes again,
they will sink back into the earth
without a trace.
The years are turning colder, I said.
There are other witnesses, you said,
The mountain lion and us.

Blue Canyon, Sonora Pass
Rosh Hoshana
Fall 9/17/1985

1986-88 Falling to Sea Level
1988 Women's Voices
1987 Creative Discourse
           Marin Poetry Center
           Poet News/ Sacramento Literary Review

      Yo no lo conocía; pero a veces
      me entero de uno que otro detalle.
                        —Monica Mansour

Tarde por la estación, las avalanchas empiezan  
donde nuestras botas hacen un sendero  
en el empinado campo de nieve.  
Pongo los pies con cuidado en cada hueco  
color de leche azulado y aprendo la distancia de tu paso.  
Reptamos por la grieta hacia el cielo.  
Las rocas se derrumban en la valle profunda  
y se ensancha el espacio entre los mundos.  
Precipitamos para llenarlo con 
Las manos, los liquenas v la piedra.

En el aire azul y fino de las montañas  
luna cornisa de nieve se desploma bajo nuestro peso.  
Imaginamos que nos arrasta como nadadores  
en la cresta de una ola. El viento, descifrado  
de las huellas digitales funde el superficie  
del lago. La forma llevada  
adentro nos hace recontar los mitos.  
Lo que pasa para lo humano  
caído rel rito, nos urge saltar.  
Vemos más alla de cada montañ a, una nube;  
más allá de cada nube, otra montaña.  
Subiendo a gatas, aprendemos a confiar en las manos.  
Despacio, nuestras manos nos llevan a los corazones.  
Las manos nos hace pequeñas comas para separar cielo y mundo  
y la montaña las mira arriando formas al viento.  
Las nubes en el horizonte nos escaparon esta vez.

La cosa oscura que nos cazó del sueño  
hoy es un testigo pálido en la nieve.  
Las huellos de una pantera toman una nueva forma  
separadas de la noche.  
Trazamos el origen de huellas  
hacia un hueco abajo de la última cara vertical de la montaña.  
Bebemos de la rnisma agua  
dejamos montones de piedras para marcar un sendero  
que nadie va seguir.  
Quizás en el futuro  
otros alpinistas se preguntarán sobre esto.

Toma en la mano este poema sin palabras;  
un recuerdo blanco de lo que hemos perdido.  
Atavios de pelos nos deslizan de los hombros.  
Los glaciares suavizan las piedras otra vez.  
Al nivel del mar, la hoguera de la caverna retrocede  
         hacia su lugar apropriado en el tiempo.  
Digo, lo que nos civilizó fue la ropa.  
Dices que no, el lenguaje nos separó  
y tu lengua me llena la boca.  
La tentación sería quedarnos en las montanãs  
y vestir el lenguaje en líquenas y piedras para votos,  
pero al nivel del mar, los dioses cotidianos  
nos arrastran y nuestro asimiento en el cielo,  
las piedras, la piel relaja. Un tropezón,  
un asidero falso podria tirarnos  
en el aire. La próxima caida de nieve  
enterraría nuestras huellas.  
Cuando la primavera viene otra vez,  
hundirán en la tierra sin rastro.  
Los años se enfrían, dije.  
Hay otros testigos, dijiste,  
la pantera y nosotros.  


1986, 87, 88 Falling to Sea Level

Saturday, August 31, 1985


Votive offerings
     —from a photo by Jean Mohr
I grew up in the habit of leaving the window open.
By the time he arrived, my hands and cheeks were numb.
I kept back to the shadows, not wanting to be seen.
How could I explain this? That there was something
so private about the way he walked alongside his bicycle,
as if there were a secret they both shared.
I think of horses in the rain
with water drizzling down damp forelocks,
leaving pockmarks in the dry dust inside the stable.
The clatter of boots, the purring of cogs.
The wind rubs the lace curtain like silk velvet.
Mixed with snow, the mud made a chocolate slurry
of the photographic image of winter.
What interested me most was the way the eyes appeared first
on exposed white paper in the developing tray,
under the darkroom red light.
Sometimes, I just went in there to look at them and stare.

I forgot what happened next.
It was 1946. I remember,
because there were dark uniforms everywhere.
When we walked, the frozen mud beneath our feet
cracked like distant gunshots.

He pushed his bicycle across cobblestones;
the clatter of boots and the purr from the spokes of his cycle
ricocheted from stone slate to plaster walls.
Leaves under the tree gathered cups of snow.
His hobnail boots announced him like a lone horse.
The road winds to a field where a girl with loaves of soggy bread
waits as a rail thin cat weaves its damp fur between her legs.
The forgotten are remembered – pressed between glass,
on silvered paper.

Will she still be waiting? The fields will be wet.
Wire spokes ticking off time like a clock.
Late. Late. Walk the bike through town.
Don't attract attention.
Dark clouds. More snow in the air.
How far can one ride to snow on a bicycle?
Tracks draw less attention than two sets of prints in the snow.

You there! Always behind that curtain.
What are you looking at? Stealing pictures again?
Don't you think I know about you?
Tomorrow, you'll notice when I don't come by
but that is tomorrow, not today.

I see the hood of his long jacket thrown back
as he holds something small in his hand.
I see the warm breath hanging about his face like a cloud.
I see the glistening street through the spokes of his cycle
and the reflection sharply in focus with the muddy spray of water
flips up on the back of the tire.
In the thin snow, faint circular tracks from other riders.

Clutter clatter of boots, purring of cogs.
The wool of her scarf, like wet sheep.
A windblown curtain.
In wet fields, by granite slabs,
the forgotten are remembered.
Photographs, silver – a metallic weight
around the eyes, under glass.
Votive offerings.

date?  8/1985?  Possibly 1987.

on the Canon Typestar 6, so Aug 85 Napa? I think this was from Carolyn Forché's workshop. We were given no information on the photograph, other than a name.
Added 11/16

Tuesday, August 20, 1985



      I want to find the inlet
      where rocks rub thighs
      with the shore.

In the mango forest, small red flowers
the color of chickenblood
splatter against damp limed walls
& pulse against the shadowed green.
White veranda, gardenias, bleached shells
in black volcanic soil.
I check papayas for ripeness,
avoid stepping on the toad in the shower
& watch out for banana spiders.
As I dig the earth, my breath
says roshi roshi roshi.
Geckos chuckle in white-limed rooms
& swallow moths whole.
Last night I dreamed of lizards
eating the bark from trees.
Below the clearing, the sounds of the creek
are swallowed by the jungle.
Density & decay
the progression of desire.

Haiku, Maui 1985?
the experience was from 5/26/83; did I have another draft?

1991 Poet Magazine
1990 Poetry USA
1989 Chaminade Literary Review
1988 Women's Voices
1987 Electrum

Tuesday, August 13, 1985



    —for Ruth Stone

1. With my hands full of the dilemma unborn chicks
ready, but too weak to escape their smooth white prisons,
I have trouble undoing the henhouse gate—
itís like convoluted love mounting in the afternoon hammock
where the intensity of sex was equal the heat of the argument
and blinding orgasms forestalled the inevitable equation
leaving me to count days and eggs with an exhausted passion.

Seeking solace in the henhouse,
Iím confronted with the argument head-on.
Details become significant: minute pinfeathers,
like venial sins, fringe the broody hen's eyelids.
She croons; the chicks gather up courage from under her wings
to answer the four hatchlings I attempt to rescue.

With the precision of a surgeon, I carefully tweeze
a piece of shell from the membrane of a half-born chick,
a bright ruby wells up over wet yellow feathers.
I remember how Binty stood on her colt's umbilical cord
to stop the bleeding. The belabored desire of my breasts and belly
swell and point accusingly at the parched earth, wanting
to masturbate with death in the chickencoop.

I mid-wife the second embryo: a miracle—
a neck, longer than what I think is possible
uncoils snakelike, from the opened shell.
With trembling haunches and sealed eyelids,
the chick blindly slides from the shell into my hand.

A pale necklace of pinfeathers ring the tiny winglets.
I move the chick closer to the brood;
its loud call doesn't rouse the maternal instinct of the hen;
she distractedly pecks at it, and tramples it
in her hasty mothering to protect the others.
Poultry yard facts are not news,
but cruelly catches me by surprise anyway.

2. In restaurants, heat lamps to keep the chicken warm
reminded me too much of Mary Bianchi's incubator:
a fortress of blue doors and windows.
Easter: I crawled through fields of yellow chicks
blooming furiously at the speed of light under 30-watt bulbs
to find just the right one. Under the miracle of chickens,
unnamed possibility opened up like infinity.
I was so angry when my grandmother simply said No,
and the dream quietly closed in on itself;
a small child covered in sawdust
fiercely clutching a downy chick to her breast.

From the poultry yard we learned uneasy truths—
suicidal stampedes in pens with lethal corners,
pecking order, what blood-smell was capable of rousing.
We taught the survivors how to drink,
clipped beaks and wings. We learned euphemisms,
practiced what we learned in the school yard.

I took a squeamish clinical interest
in deveining drumsticks during Sunday dinners.
When things got tough, I retreated to the sanctity of illness.
Feeding me chicken soup, Grandma always explained,
You've got to boil it until the bone-jelly comes out.
Was it really the bones of the chicken
that healed us when we were sick?

3. As I struggle to save the final chicks,
you say to me, I believe in letting nature take its course.
The dog loves the ones that don't hatch out.
So, I place the tiny ember back in its nest
The wind to catch this spark will not blow.

Long shadows crawl over yellow madrone leaves
toward the empty hammock supplicated by the evening breeze.
I fishtail down the valley; my rage and headlights flirt and neck
with the center line of the long highway toward home:
how many accidents are born in the aftermath of lover's quarrels?
This time we were lucky (or, unlucky, as it seems).

4. Your postcard arrives: Another chick hatched out;
it made me think of you. We shouldn't make a go of it.
I think of how cold bone-jelly quivered like a wild trout
in my grandmother's capable hands.
You didn't see how the chickís blood rusted
like a stigmata on my palms and thighs
during the hot summer heat.

rev. 8/13/ 87 rev. 2/ 93  still not there...
Humboldt County
& Napa
another version was published in Kamel Klaxon 1985
the first draft may have been written in 1984.

I wrote this in Ruth Stones poetry workshop at Napa.
Write about a miracle. Published in Kamel Klaxon, 1985.



How deep
did the astronaut's feet
sink into moondust?

Someone's father said
Never plant potatoes
when the price is up.

published in the Kamel Klaxon

Tuesday, August 6, 1985



The personality of the dead woman in the storage room escapes
from boxes of silk scarves, photographs, letters
cellulose toys, yellow mother of pearl buttons and cloth scraps.
Inside her white plastic purse;
a checkbook, unclaimed raffle tickets,
a tiny snapshot of a girl who still sends her love;
an envelope dated 1937,
some eight-cent stamps and a life insurance policy.

On this 40th anniversary of Light,
I pull stamps of Einstein and Eisenhower apart.
Glued on top of a glib Eisenhauer grinning seven times
a haunted Einstein broods in purple; the color of mourning.
Beneath them, postage stamps of Apollo on the moon,
black-wreathed earth against the sun;
the birth of Man in space.

When I was three, the linoleum to cover the stairs
was put in the storage room to change it from green to red,
my uncle told me. And so it did.
I admired the miracles that happened in darkness.
In that same darkness, copper pennies
dropped into the piggybank turned into steel.
Dressed in khaki-green, my uncle tossed me into the air
and the known world spun past my forehead.
He held a suitcase of darkness in his hand.

Now, I've gone and brought the dead woman's things into light.
A photograph of her husband holding a silver-plated trophy
by the tall grey horse at Longacre track:
He stares at me with such frankness, that with his passing
I feel the loss of an intimate stranger.
The bent and tarnished trophy rests in thick dust.

When I wear the clothing of the dead,
they see glimpses of light again.
The poet's shirt gives me strange dreams
but I forget the words by morning.

Rotted with age, the boxes of yarn
in this half-light makes tufts like the manes
of cloth horses I ride in my dreams
where the landscape grows wilder with each visit.

August 6, 1985
rev. 1986

1987 San Francisco Bay Guardian, 2nd Place
         Thread Winding the Loom, CPITS anthology
         The Paper

 1995 Atomic Ghost: Poets Respond to the Nuclear Age, ( version 2, below)
 see my post,  Atomic Ghost


In a writing workshop, poet Carolyn Forché once asked, "How do we render the subject of war intimate?" While cleaning a storage room in the ramshackled backhouse where John and I slept in Berkeley, I came upon boxes of rotting debris—the remnants of a woman long since dead. From those boxes, the personality of the dead woman emerged. That dank roomówith an ivy-covered window open to the elements and a corner of the roof caving in—was like the subconscious: dark, fertile and cluttered. One night I dreamed the wall opened up and light flooded that room; it was August sixth, the anniversary of Hiroshima. This American-as-Apple-Pie woman—I wondered how she would have felt in retrospect? This poem is a list of what survived her, of the ordinary daily things we take for granted. As I wrote the poem, I found myself crying; images of my own family emerged. My uncle in khaki, the Korean war, steel pennies, a relative who worked on the Manhattan Projectóall images/metaphors from the perspective of a pre-literate three-year-old. The grown-ups, the guardians of information could shed no light onto these mysteries.

Maureen Hurley
Forestville, CA
9 March, 1987
6 August 1986


The personality of a dead woman is trapped

in the boxes of silk scarves, photographs, letters

cellulose toys, yellow mother of pearl buttons and quilt scraps.

Inside her white plastic purse:
a checkbook, unclaimed raffle tickets,
a tiny snapshot of a girl who still sends her love,
an envelope dated 1937,
a life insurance policy and some eight-cent stamps.

On the 40th anniversary of Light,
I pulled stamps of Einstein and Eisenhower apart.
Glued on top of a glib Eisenhower grinning seven times,
a haunted Einstein brooded in purple: the color of mourning.
Beneath them, postage stamps of Apollo on the moon,
black-wreathed earth against the sun.

When I was three, my uncle told me
the linoleum to cover the stairs
was put in the storage room
to change it from green to red. And so it did.

I admired miracles that happened in darkness.
In that same darkness, copper pennies
dropped into piggybanks turned into steel.
Dressed in khaki-green, my uncle tossed me into the air
and the known world spun past me.
He held a suitcase of darkness in his hand.

But I brought the dead woman's things into light.
A photograph of her husband holding a silver-plated trophy
by a tall gray horse at Longacre track:
He stared at me with such frankness, that with his passing,
I felt the loss of an intimate stranger.
The tarnished trophy rests in thick dust.

When I wear the clothing of the dead,
they see glimpses of light again.
The poet's shirt gives me strange dreams
but I’ve forgotten the words by morning.

The boxes of yarn are rotted with age.
In this half-light they make tufts like manes
of cloth horses I ride in dreams
where the landscape grows wilder with each visit.

 1995 Atomic Ghost: Poets Respond to the Nuclear Age, version 2

SEIS DE AGOSTO                                                             

La personalidad de la difunta en la covacha escapa

de cajas de chales de seda, fotos, cartas
juguetes de celulosa, botones amarillos de madreperla y pedazos de tela.
Adentro de su bolsita blanca de plastico:
una chequera, boletos de rifa nunca reclamados,
una foto instantánea de una muchacha que todavía manda su amor,
un sello con fecha de 1937,
sellos de ocho centavos y una póliza de seguros.

En este cuadragésimo aniversario de Luz
separo estampillas de Einstein de las de Eisenhower.
Pegado sobre un Eisenhower fácil siete veces sonriente
un Einstein atormentado medita en morado, el color del luto.
Abajo, sellos postales de Apolo en la luna,
de corona negra contra el sol;
el nacimiento del hombre en el espacio.

Cuando yo tenía seis años, el linóleo para cubrir las escaleras
fue puesto en la covacha para cambiarlo de verde a rojo,
según me dijo mi tío. Y asi fue.
Admiré los milagros que ocurrieron en la oscuridad.
En esa misma oscuridad, los centavos de cobre
metidos en el cochinito se volvieron de acero.
Vestido en verde olivo, mi tío me lanzó en el aire
y el mundo conocido me daba vueltas alrededor del frente.
Tenía una maleta de oscuridad en la mano.

Ahora me he traido las cosas de la difunta hacia la luz.
Una foto de su marido con un trofeo plateado
junto al caballo alto y gris en la pista de Longacre.
Me mira con tanta franqueza, que con su fallecimiento
siento la pérdida de un íntimo desconocido.
El trofeo doblado y deslustrado reposa en el polvo.

Cuando me pongo la ropa de los muertos
otra vez, vislumbran la luz.
La camisa del poeta me da suenos extraños
pero olvido las palabras por la mañana.

Podridas con la edad, las cajas de hilaza
en esta media luz hacen copos como las crines
de los caballos de trapo que monto en mis sueños
donde la tierra se vuelve más salvaje con cada visita.

6/8/86                              —traduccion John Oliver Simon y Juvenal Acosta

(From the Dead Woman)