Tuesday, November 24, 1981

UNDER THE FOUL MARBLE OF JUNE SKIES, and LOOKING EAST, automatic writing

UNDER THE FOUL MARBLE OF JUNE SKIES
                        —for Jason, who was a sailor
                            (from a visual translation of Rimbaud's Fleurs)

Beyond the greasy corduroy gaze of skies,
green velour over stormy seas,
and crystal waves of flotsam bronzed by sunsets
an ordinary fleece floats on the surface.

The digital voices of harpies
like flagrant sergeants floating in the shipping lanes
clicking a welcome to oil tankers
and, asleep, you sail past the gates of Hercules.

Beyond the Golden Gate where ocean agates and akajou pillars
support the emerald dome of sky,
night virgins, smelling of roses, joust for rubies
under bouquets of white satin clouds.

Tell me, what can you do with these enormous fleets?
Blue sheep, and various forms of night.
The ceiling of the sea is tired and harassed.
Under the foul marble of June skies
40 roses are blooming on golden sheepskins
while Jason sleeps.

11/1981
added 10/16


LOOKING EAST

Looking east along the quaking river,
mouse whiskers tremble in the breeze.
Tiny tracks are seen in the silt along the shore.

The ivy creeps along the stone faces
and takes root in the fissures of memory.
Herons silently spear fish is in the shallow sandbars.
Along the bank, sunflowers hide their heads, afraid of ivy.

This coiled river bends almost back on itself
like a blind snake ready to strike.
It runs north, south, then west to the ocean
and its cloudy surface, gray like the coats of mice,
trembles in the slightest breeze.

While overhead, an osprey waits patiently
for the surface to clear.

11/1981
added 10/16




Automatic writing

Summer birds singing 
dark sunlight 
navy blue bell tolls 
sweet dust motes drifting 
Jason passing the gates of Hercules 
picture perfect meadows 
baby birds 
butterflies sinking ships 
large bells 
soaring kites 
bluebells 
tree sparrows 
the ocean pounding on the sides of the glass 
hummingbirds hovering on the brink of a waterfall 
ship horns cutting through the fog 
baby sparrows 
thunder crashing on the right 
carnavals in the rain 
the elephants are escaping 
tigers with wet feet 
elephants afraid of mice 
rain dripping over the edge of my collar 
lightning 
I am afraid of thunder 
slow breathing of streams after rain

11/24/1981
added 10/16

At the Lotus Sutra Spa, Entering my 30th Year


 At the Lotus Sutra Spa, Entering my 30th Year
(Or There's no such thing as a quick fuck)

One of the men attached to Josh's stable clambered out of the cold tub. I notice his penis is shriveled, wrinkled and uncircumcised and I sigh. It is a difficult and lonely search for an uncircumcised male. Here in America, Judaic tradition affected the better judgement of most doctors and the mothers of sons.

I think of X, an unusual example of a man. The woman sitting next to me jabbers on,and I discover we have many mutual friends in common including X. She asks me how I knew him. What could I say? Yes, in the carnal sense. After three years of torture, the male denial of love, an infant seed torn from the uterus and thrown out with the other garbage chatteling our lives? Yes?

This thing called love has become a symbol of death; leaving behind proud flesh— the irreversible scar tissue that never heals? And last night, for the first time in six months I sat across from X at the dinner table wondering where it was all going to take us this time. We each try to carry on with our daily living one breath at a time.

Sometimes I forget to breathe. Each breath brings us a little closer to dying. Answering the woman next to me, I say, Yes, I know X. Loaded gun. The biblical sense is never mentioned. I take a deep breath and smile.

X's uncircumcised cock holds an almost mythical fascination for me. The man lived with for seven years—before the seven-year itch set in (ten years, and I've spent it all with two men.) Y chromosome said to me once in the middle of lovemaking that he was angry with his parents for letting the doctors circumcise him. His bereft mother said, I didn't know...it was the thing to do at the time. Like sheep, their lives lead them closer to the slaughter and they quickly go forward, afraid to cause a stir.

Y said his pleasure in sex was limited. He blamed it on his parents, the doctors and on America. I said, How can you know if the whole sum of your pleasure has been lessened because you've been circumcised? You've never experienced sex as anything other than as a circumcised man. Y proceeded to show me the pucker, a crooked stitch-mark from 1949 where some doctor took up a surgical needle in hand, and forever altered the foreskin on Y"s cock.

The first time I saw X again, was after the summer solstice. X worked out a slow seduction game. Y was working nights, and I was sleeping outside on the patio because the smell of frying bacon at 4 AM and an  man angry at the world climbing into my bed at dawn demanding ransom for the world's wrongs, left me cold. It was easy not to come home one night. Y left for the weekend without telling me he was going. Or where. With whom.

X undressed me by candlelight. How many other women has he seen with their skin bathed by the pale dust of candlelight? Did he reach out and take women to his bed like ripened persimmons just before the final turn of rotted-flesh slumped in the bowl—in this world of eat, or be eaten? My parched bones reveal no new secrets or truths. My body hungers for no other  man's touch. Even after all this time. My relationship with X was a lesson on survival, how to endure life.

Another birthday comes, and goes. And X's birthday in two days. They all seem to forget me. I hurt somehow. Birthdays are supposed to be special. I spent the whole day at the Lotus Sutra soaking it off as I ceremoniously entered my 30th year.

Even this place was not devoid of X. I thought I heard his familiar pssst! Turning, there was no one there. Just the empty room and a startled glance over my shoulder as I spread the plush rust—colored towel over the massage table.

That pssst reminded me of the time I thought I heard angels when I was five. I was playing with toothpicks—striking them across the rough rusted green teeter-totter that was buried in the tall oat grass. It was mid summer, probably August. The oats had long since spilled their seeds because my socks had the tiny seed birds hidden in their grooves. Oat seed birds, like herons on slender legs and their beaks pointing skyward.

Out of nowhere and that intense summer heat, a strange woman's voice said Don't do that! Startled, I dropped the toothpicks and looked over my shoulder. There was no one there. I forgot about what I was doing in the tall grass. Perhaps they really were matches. Or angels. Who knows?

Later, at dinner, X said, I saw you at the Lotus Sutra, you looked like you were having a good time so I quickly ducked out. It seems his presence is always walking through the rooms of my life. We tried to sever our connections. I don't want to see him again, ever. I'm furious with him. And Maury. She's here too. She even has the same name as me.

It's like one big drop-in party at the Lotus Sutra. Who needs ghosts when the present is so full of appointments? She stepped out of the jacuzzi and my eyes burned holes through the back of her skull. The welling up of unfamiliar jealousy, and I wanted to follow her, jump on her back and pull her hair. It's true what they say about the jealousy of a woman. Suddenly I understood why crimes of passion are committed.

Like an animal, ready to bite with fangs bared in the traditional cliché, I watched her long loveliness, so like Modigliani's nudes, shedding water in the half light. I could see why X made love to her. Suddenly, I was moved to pity watching her slow ponderous weight and bovine gaze. Her acceptance of my rage, the brutality of life, no joy.

Somehow, I knew it was already over between them—less than three months after X wrote me that Dear John letter when I was away on vacation. But still, I wanted to taste the coppery saltiness of her blood. That animal inside of me circled her and I cornered her just for revenge's sake.

Later, at dinner, X said between clenched teeth, How often are you going to resurrect it? I'm so sick and tired of it all. I just wish it would all end. I answered, I won't let it die—not until I'm ready to. I later sent him my Dear John letter. Three pages single spaced guaranteed to enlarge any holes in the
Swiss-cheese conscience of X.

I carried that unsent letter with me for months as a reminder not to go back on my vows. The ultimatums... I thought that through all that incredible craziness that there was something worth fighting for...  Love stronger than most loves; a connection of the mind and body that would last lifetimes. Hah. Was I naive. I told him we certainly couldn't be friends either.

I thought intelligence had something to do with emotions. Intelligence has nothing to do with emotions. His desire to have me as a friend as he pursued other women would lead to a lot of corpses dotting the proverbial landscape. I was patient. Patience is something women are very good at. I was more patient with him than most women are with their own children.

If he had any emotions to share with me, then I probably wouldn't have sent the letter but the post office delivered it anyway. No time for regrets. What's done is  done. I told him that he, in his secret male paranoia, was afraid of being raped (or maybe he secretly wanted to be seduced, but the way he used it against me was a sperm grenade waiting to explode on contact).

My capacity for pain had been more than filled, or, so I thought. What I've discovered is that pain lives in the same wellspring that jealousy does. Slake your thirst. Its only temporary. Soon one's thirst needs slaking, to be quenched again. And again. I shut another door in the room of my heart (life?) Why am I attracted to men who resent their mothers? I too resent my mother. But it's all Oedipal with them.

I'd forgotten about all the childhood dreams I'd had as a kid about the leopards and the lions who lived up the hill by the water tank. At night they'd catch scent of me and come charging down the path in search of fresh meat. I'd run to the house for safety but every time I got past the front door, closing it on the lion's paw, the door would shrink and swing free on the door jam. Like cocks too small for the cunt. Totally useless.

I'm a fugitive in this world of small cocks. My hunger is larger than this room and no man can feed me. No woman either. The rejection is another element dotting the landscape in this world of retreat.The societal substrata of the Lotus Sutra unfolds from the cushions and reveals itself to be a bandy-legged man looking for another aesthetic piece of ass. In this world of hustler, and be hustled, there is no room for me. I laugh at then absurdity of it. I fob him off. He struts off to another conquest. A numbers game.

I once thought I'd have to become a nun because my second cousin was one.  I tried to be bad. Maybe that's where I learned to suffer. Thats the real nunhood. The suffering, not the abstinence.

There's no such thing as a quick fuck. At the Lotus Sutra I am the only woman looking at cocks, their size and shape, and whether or not they've succumbed to the surgical needle. My jaundiced eye scours over their bodies. Too lean. Too fat. too, too... It doesn't matter. I'm not interested anyway. I practice my breathing. Each day brings me a little closer to the source.

See Letter to Lee Perron 10/19/81
Looks like a first draft. Two dates: 12/8/81, and 11/24/81. Probably written 11/81, on my 29th birthday.
added 10/16

Monday, November 23, 1981

BENEATH THE WEIGHT OF COWS, and DEPART

BENEATH THE WEIGHT OF COWS

Beneath the weight of cows
The water, churning down
from the Swiss Alps flows by me.
The sound of the nightingale
is lost under the white roar of waterfalls.

Centuries of snowmelt
loosing from sky blue glaciers
slipped by me. I have never heard
a nightingale singing.

In the lizard heat of the sun,
I sit on a rock and listen
to the drowsy hum of bees
as alpine clover is crushed
beneath the weight of cows,
their heavy dank breath
exuding chlorophyll and trembling sunlight.

They cease their chewing a moment.
Their ears pivot towards the scaled notes
of the nightingale wavering
by this icy, ancient stream at dusk.

11/23/1981


DEPART
    —from a visual translation of Rimbaud's poem Depart

So say you,
visions recanted in trees.
Toes of the air,
so say I. Rumors spread like valleys.
O parting night and morning sun,
today, they say
arrest life.
O rumors of visions
departing on the dance of affection
in the bright night,
trees swaying,
toes of the air.

11/23/1981
added 10/16

Saturday, October 24, 1981

Half Moon Bay

        October 24, 1981

At another fair with Leo and Terry selling jewelry at Half Moon Bay. It may as well be Anacortes. Same gray sky, same great buildings. All the crafts I have no desire to buy are displayed enticingly.

I am bored with buying. I want it if it's a bargain. But there are no bargains at craft fairs. People work too hard to get there. They can't afford to sell for less. Why is it the only satisfaction I get is when I find something in need of love and repair, that I feel I'm shopping? Is it work ethic guilt? I doubt it. I enjoy the process of restoration.

Perhaps this is also the method I use in picking my men. Leo says I'm a storehouse of information. I'm a wonderful seller. Why don't most of the men I see catch my eye? Is it that I'm too hard to please? I am I too discriminatory? If I want children, and I do, I need to decide upon a man soon.

Lee is hopeless. Besides, I sent him a final goodbye letter. Ha, is there ever really a final goodbye? What to do with the man who loves you, but doesn't want you for a lover? Besides feel awful.

I have qualities and talents that most women don't possess. Some women possess a few of them, fewer have the talent to back it up. How do I market myself? When selling jewelry, I'm learning to size up who will buy and who won't. I thought I knew how to do that with men but now, I'm not so sure.

I found a wonderful man, a poet, sympathetic with my own writing, but only a few small problems. He lives on the east coast, teaches at NYU, has a wife and may even have kids nearer my age than he is to me. He is the best lover I've ever had, better than Lee and I thought Lee was very good.

Galway said to me if I didn't make love to other men, it would be a great loss to mankind. It was the way our bodies moved, the way our lips fit together that made it so special. He said my body was well muscled and strong, that I would be a good hiker. It's too bad we didn't have the time, he said.

Is it true what Lee said that "hard times for love, today?" Is there no hope? It is a month before my 29th birthday, and again I am alone.

Monday, October 19, 1981

Letter to Lee Perron 10/19/81


Lee,

I feel the need to clear up a few things...some final parting words to you. Remember when I said to you over a year ago, that if you got it together with another woman, our friendship would cease to be? I've said it to you several times, and basically I plan to stick to my statement, that was the only 'rule' i ever made in our relationship.

All the rest of the trauma that I put up with (in terms of how you treated me and our on/off affair for the past 2 and a 1/2 years)...patience, persistent patience.  Water under the bridge. I felt, that all thru that incredible craziness, that maybe there was something worth fighting for, something worth acknowledging... a love stronger than most loves, a connection of mind and body between two people that could last lifetimes.

I think you panicked and tried to flee. I panicked and pursued you. As long as that deep taproot was there, I was willing to endure and struggle thru, because I believed in love, and in you, and, I felt that you weren't allowing yourself to explore your emotions. I thought there was a great emotional blockage on your part, that you were never cold (as so many others perceived you to be).

Now, I think you're thick-headed and not in touch with your feelings, but that is no longer my business. If you wish to seek further feedback, please talk about it with your other friends. Not me. They have some important things to say to you, but won't do so unless you seek put their advice. (Try Jere or Greer out on this matter sometime).

You have decided that romance is an impossibility with me, and that "we were so unhappy together in the past," as you so aptly put it the other day. Aside from the fact that we never really had a chance to have a "relationship" per se, it makes me wonder about the validity of all this "unhappiness" garbage. You decided that you didn't want a relationship— therefore we never had one. Yet you pursued me. What was I, a conquest? You broke up my seven-year "marriage" with Bob. 

The mutual unhappiness we experienced had nothing to do with our being a couple, and having a relationship. The unhappiness was a byproduct of the other trauma we experienced, the abortion, a byproduct of your unwillingness to be open to having a relationship; and the unhappiness was not from having, or not having a relationship. Is that clear?

So, you've made yourself perfectly clear—we will not have a relationship, understood, computed. Got it. When you took up with another woman, you had the foreknowledge that I would reject you, that I would not accept your friendship, that I could not accept your friendship. That single act granted you your freedom, the freedom you so desperately sought. You are now free to do what you want with whomever you want—the only stipulation is that you can't have me again, ever, as a friend, as a lover, or whatever third alternative you were trying to come up with.
You've made your choice, Lee, now stick to it; I have been doing so, ever since July when I received your " Dear John" letter up in Port Townsend. Need I remind you about that 'other woman' stipulation? When you sent me that letter, you regained your precious freedom to do what you want. So go do it and leave me alone. I have my life to live and I will do it without you. I don't need a confused man hanging on to me, dragging me down again. 

You see, I too felt like I was drowning in this relationship because you tried so hard to hang on to me as a friend, as a lover. I asked you to let me go. But you couldn't do that. You didn't want to lose me. You clung to the idea of our friendship, and you strung me along, knowing my weakness. My anger towards you is deep-rooted, and many of those scars will never fully heal.

I can't believe you were actually that dumb. It's my fault, I thought intelligence had something to do with emotions. Intelligence has nothing to do with emotions. Nor has it anything to do with your desire to have me there as a friend always, as you pursued other women with my passing a blessing upon you. No guilt.

You are no longer a part of my life. You've ceased to exist for me.
 You're a non-entity and that's the way it has to be. I'm not going to
be the moping martyr hovering in the background, nor will I cease to be interesting to others, nor will I lose my creativity; some unfounded egocentric fear you seemed to have voiced at one time of another. I do just fine without you. I've been doing fine without you for more than a year now.

I don't know how much I can stand to be around  you—you honestly get on my nerves and irritate me. I'm not saying this to dig at you. I get inhibited when I'm around you, you cramp my style, that's why I don't want to see you. I feel watched and I feel stifled around you, it's unhealthy for us both, so leave me alone and let me breathe.

Before all this nonsense started, I was willing to be patient with you. I put up with  a lot of things that I would never tolerate from another human being. Patience is something women are very good at. I've been more patient with you than most mothers are with their own children, and, what I've discovered  is, that you had no idea of what I was doing. You've used up your lifetime supply of patience; and  love from this woman who once was a true friend. There's no more left for me to give.

So, now you'll have to  accept the 'other me'. In a sense, I am now another woman. You may not like my hostility and  abruptness, but that's the way it is. This  other side of my nature has always been there, but I foolishly coddled and sheltered you from it. Now it's your turn to see the other side of me. You may not like it. So be it. In one sense, you've got it coming to you. I can see it makes you extremely uncomfortable, and that you do not like it one bit.

If you were really there for me to share my emotions, if you had any emotions to share with me, then I wouldn't be writing you this final letter. As it is now,I've been a sounding board for you and it feels very one-sided. 

I can hear you saying: "Maureen is going thru rough times right now. It's too bad. I may feel a bit guilty about the whole thing, she's withdrawn, moping, perhaps suicidal. I owe it to her to be there and help her out, and then we can be friends again, and things will get better between us." This is a fantasy dialogue I sometimes hear you playing to yourself. There's no way you're going to be absolved, and then we'll be best buddies again. This is really it. It's over, finished between us.

I read somewhere once that it's the woman who has the ultimate power of decision when a relationship has ended, and this one ended in July. I get the sense that you think l'm waiting in the wings to attack, you, or to make sexual advances towards you, or something of that ilk. And all I can say to you is, how absurd! Maybe I didn't make myself clear in the past. Well, rest assured your body is safe from me. Not interested.

Your bringing in the 'other woman' was the key in unlocking and dissolving this  relationship. You, in your egotistical male paranoia, are afraid of being raped — not that it's even possible for a woman to rape a man—ravaged, seduced, more like, or maybe you secretly just wanted to be pursued. Yet you're always the pursuer. 

No longer will you pull off my top in jest, and pretend it was just a joke (albeit sick). I am not available for that form of crude torture you seemed to relish so much. I no longer am interested in you— you blew it this time. There's no reprisal, no turning back. My capacity for pain had more than been filled.

Galway once told me after Leonard put his eye out, that love is hard, that while many good things are easy, true love is not, because love is a power, its own power which continually makes its way forward, from night into day, always forward into difficult day. Our paths no longer seek the light of difficult day. Goodbye Lee, God bless.

Maureen 
10/19/81

I carried this letter around with me for months as a reminder before I sent it in December. See At the Lotus Sutra Spa, Entering my 30th Year
added 10/16 Minor revision, punctuation & spelling cleaned up.

A QUESTION OF BALANCE


A QUESTION OF BALANCE

Governments are going native
We worry about Iranian Oil, socialism,
and the fundamentalist essence of capitalism.
Free speech liberties are bought and sold
Then, there's the cockroach problem.
There was no repression from Stalin's point of view.
We need a day to get started on this earth
And what is the Polish Question?
We talk about compost and ask
what's the best kind of shit to put on raspberries?
In this world today, it's a question of balance.

10/19/1981
minor line break changes & punctuation
added 7/17


Thursday, October 15, 1981

REESE RIVER VALLEY


REESE RIVER VALLEY

I remember the adults talking politics,
the blue cigar smoke of family reunions,
The kitchen table jumped
with empty whiskey glasses and jam jars—
as their fists punctuated each statement.
This, my inheritance.

Sometimes my grandmother sits
and talks about her days on Home Ranch
about the coyote fur coat she and her Aunt May made.
Everywhere they went, the dogs followed
with raised hackles, growling and barking.
Even in San Francisco, the dogs sensed the danger.

Far from the green hills of Bantry Bay,
my family settled in this place.
The grain in this valley was worth more
than the silver grubstake claims in Austin.
She said: Men had to eat.

My half-brother is part Cherokee.
Our fathers never met.
His Indian grandmother sat on a porch
watching someone else's cattle forage
under the fierce Nevada sun.
But it was my grandmother who raised us.

While unloading an enraged bull
her uncle Paddy was killed by his horse.
His wife, Mary, stood on the porch
her mouth framing a silent white O
as the foreman lifted his rifle
to the forehead of that cowpony
who lay dying and the wind lifted
a dust funnel that whirled through
the open door like ghosts.

We sat by Paddy's tombstone,
granite & marble softened by the elements.
She said, I wanted you to see this place.
To write the stories. I'm the last one left now.

I took a photograph of my grandmother
looking away from the camera—
the moment, engraved in memory like stone.

I never told my grandmother I love her.

10/15/81

see In the San Geronimo Valley


We Dreamed We Were Giants



We stopped to rest on the top of the knoll before turning back. Late afternoon. I fell asleep sitting indian style with my chin in my hand. Lee and I had the most amazing dream. We had turned into upright stone outcroppings at the end of a long winding ridge. We were really sleeping giants, dozing off for a few moments (in giant time} and like Gulliver, we were visited by little people who made pilgrimages to this place. For them it was a powerful spot. Our dreams became the stuff of their myths. They held picnics by our knees and along our thighs where we touched the ground. The lives of the people were so short, in flash, three generations had come and gone, and with their passing, the memory of our dreams disappeared from their stories. The visits became fewer and fewer, until one day they no longer came at all. We awoke with a start. Only a few minutes had elapsed. We stretched, yawned, and like bears we ambled back down the mountain in the dusk light.

10/15/81
minor changes, added 7/17


IN THE SAN GERONIMO VALLEY (see Reese River Valley)

IN THE SAN GERONIMO VALLEY
      —to Dan Propper

In the San Geronimo Valley 

where my grandmother lives,
a, tree is growing out of a cleft in the rock.   
When I was a kid, I  remember 

the adults talking politics and smoking cigars.
The kitchen table jumped with empty whiskey glasses
as their fists punctuated each sentence.
There are no more Indians in San Geronimo Valley. 

My brother is part Cherokee. 
His great-grandmother sat wrinkled on a porch 
under the fierce Nevada sun.My grandmother spent summers
riding across mesquite covered valleys.
She never met the Cherokee woman
whose native blood sculpted my brother's face
into the  sane proud shape of arroyos.
His high cheekbones frame flashing black eyes
darker than my owm Black-Irish look.
Our fathers never met, 

yet they loved the same woman
who bore us willingly,
but it was my grandmother who raised us.
Sometimes she talks about Nevada,
and Home  Ranch where her uncle Paddy
was thrown and killed by a horse.
His wife stood on the porch,
her mouth a silent, white 0
as the foreman lifted his rifle 

to the forehead of the cowpony
and the Nevada wind howled through the open door.
In the Valley, where Geronimo once rode,
the tree thrusts its roots deeper into the rock.
The fracture widens imperceptibly
as roots swell from the Autumn rains.
I have never told my grandmother I love her.
 

date? added 10.16
on paper dated 0ct. 12, 81.
See REESE RIVER VALLEY
HOME RANCH  4/85

Sunday, October 11, 1981

4 short poems from photos

THE WAY OF THE MOUNTAIN

Bent double from the weight,
my chin brushing the red velvet blouse,
I am staring at my cracked toes.
Splay footed sure mountain feet
to carry wood back to the yurt.
The band around my forehead
carries the weight away from my shoulders.
I think of my small dowry.
Perhaps the ferns won't mind my poverty.
Everyone in this village is poor
It is the way of the mountain.

10/1981


Thumb,
forgive the hammer
that came down so suddenly.
It was meant for another kind of nail.

10/11/1981


Iguanas

Marine iguanas everywhere
black scaly skin
dragon's manes
yellow slit eyes
tail flagellates in the sea
when they swim
iguana bodies all over
standing upon each other's heads
a lone crab scuttle across their surface.

10/11/1981


The rugged black edges
gaping holes
torn rents
shredded
my heart consumes itself
in its infant hatred
from loving you too much.

10/11/1981
added 10/16

Saturday, October 10, 1981

BLUE CUP


Humming in a blue cup.
Don't worry.
Something flows up quickly like milk in a blue…
Don't worry. Yellow skin, yellow sky,
The sailors have all gone home.
These are not islands
dotted carefully along the jet stream.
There are mangoes in the air.
Suspended flash.
Soft pressure points:
Blue cups.

Blue cast of milk teeth
Puppy's tongue curled when the axe came down,
green mangoes. Tulip pedals crushed at my feet,
Purple dust of stamens covering my hands.
Poor circulation got him dead.

The axe was kinder.
Don't worry, mango skin.
Something flowing up
in a blue cup.

Talk
Neck shadows
Align along the spine like stars
Suckle on milk white pressure points
Quick, grasp the marble,
The end of a laugh.

Spinal curves
Uneven steps like layers of chocolate cake
Parched earth
Lizard heat
And the slow alignment of softer pressure points.

Love
Spaces in between
Toes in trench
Yes, I…

10/10/1981
added 10/16

MOON SNAIL


MOON SNAIL

Aboard this crowded raft,
I make strange love to
a river of foetal cave fish.

Once, I was the night mist 
and in the moonlight,
a shiny trail of snail spittle
led to the corners of my mouth
as I swallowed you.

Thinking I was a wolf,
you fled into burrows
but I was a mountain
and the ground where you hid
was my body.

I make love to friends.
Their thin hands passing over the raft
find you hidden among the blankets.
You ask me for forgiveness.
All I can offer you is rotted flesh
rocking gently on its dark mooring.

10/10/81

Thursday, October 1, 1981

FOR THE FISH IN MY LIFE

FOR THE FISH IN MY LIFE


A minnow sleeps in my bed
and noses at the watery quilt.
As I climb into bed,
concentric ripples form
where, toe first, I slip in and under.
I'm careful not to disturb him.
All night long, the fish thrashes
and turns as I sleep
in a bed of soft stone.
If I turn over too fast,
will he be thrown from the bed,
or drown from lack of water?

10/81

Tuesday, September 29, 1981

Dream journal

Dream journal

I was visiting Port Townsend with my old friend Carolyn. We were sitting outside the ferry dock which had moved and was now near the late-night market, the Breadbasket.

A big battleship pulls up to port. It looks like the MV Coho out of Port Angeles. Iron clunkers with layers and layers of paint added on until the sides were visibly thicker than the original walls.

I'm waiting to find you, you're going to drive into town at some point during the day and if I sit here long enough, I know I'll find you. It's a matter of waiting. Because you have no phone, the only thing I can do is to wait. That is why we're sitting in the sun on a park bench.All roads pass through here.

Carolyn has an ex-lover living in Vancouver she wants to visit. We're just passing through. We're sitting in the morning sun and I tell her about you, my ex-lover I met when I was visiting last summer.

My ex-lover, DJ is a juggler. A street performer. He always uses his hands. Just as I'm telling her about him, I see DJ get off the boat and start walking towards town with a group of his friends. He's describing something to them with his hands. And they are all lost in conversation.

I yell out, hey, DJ! And he comes over surprised to see me. I could almost hear his mind clicking. What you doing here? Sure, I like her, was last summer. We talk, greet each other and are glad to see one another again.


Later, I'm on this hulk of a ship. The bottom has a trap door that opens out. It was an ex torpedo launch boat, now empty of cargo. Special pumps unload water after the floors are cleaned – we close the doors and pump the water out. The ship raises up out of the water because there's no ballast and the additional air in the hull makes it lighter like a balloon.

The ship is in danger of tipping over because it's top heavy, and too much out of the water. We're all standing out on the deck steadying the ship with our hands on the dock, doing okay until the glassine sea changes and becomes littered with debris.

The debris is made of the floating mussel shells and clams, and pumice rock floating on the waves. The waves rise higher in the sea churns. A carpet of stones,


Now we're off the boat, and to the right of us is an estero protected from the waves of the sea beyond the islands. The water is bath temperature and brilliant.

I have two books in my hands. One may be a Russian novel, or maybe a Bible, and the other is a text on critical thinking since Plato. They're big fat books. The kind that make your wrists hurt if you carry them with hand and thumb wrapped around the spine of the book.

I'm entering the water and both of my hands are filled with these books. For some reason clear only to my subconscious, I know I mustn't let go of these books, to lose them would be unpardonable. I am a keeper of these books.

The water sweeps me away and I am pulled toward the open sea.
I am able to keep my head out of the water but I can't use my hands to swim to safety because of the books.

The whirlpool inundates me and I still won't let go of the books. I start to swim in the books in my hands I use as paddles. They are only effective when I hold the spines and covers tightly closed as I raise my hands to make a stroke. The cramps in my wrist are unbearable. Fire shoots up the inside of my forearms as the ligaments knot into balls of oxygen-starved sinew.

I kick harder with my legs. They have the strength to get me through this turbulent water and I head toward shore. That opening maw of the ocean sucks at the gate of land wanting to devour anything in its path.

Some of the swimmers willingly forward. Others resist. I make it to the land and fall face forward on the shore. The beach is made of stones. The waterlogged books fall open with clumps of pages stuck together. It's as if the Bible were drowned. Pages stuck together and all those words locked within—and my friends are nowhere in sight.

9/29/1981
added 10/16

Monday, September 21, 1981

CALF EYES

             —for Leonard

The old mirror in the hayloft,
instead of allowing light in,
has been blocking it out
for the past 25 years.
It throws light back to the sky.
 An image of itself
it throws back to the sky
an image of itself framed
with the liquid green
of maple leaves.
Behind the mirror
the annual pile of cobwebs
gathers in barn dust.

I've always noticed
how the eyes of calves
are like twin pools of murky night
surrounded by a shore
of retina and rain.

It was last night my stomach
forced a tidal wave back down
and this memory where I
had to reason my nausea into being,
that I read those poems of yours,
I could feel the finger behind the eyes,
gouging behind the eye,
to the eyesocket,
finding not more water,
but a boneless desert,
an arid fold of brain.

Sweet, the cycles of rain
following the footpath of the seasons
count them, the cycles of madness.
I hear the rain singing
on the mirror of the beast

What separates this tangle
of human flesh from that of beasts?
Those calves with their liquid eyes
imprisoned in cages so that their flesh
will stay succulent and tender for veal.
They suck my finger, the urge to nurse
is strong in one so young.
Their pink petal tongues
caress my index finger
and they know, somehow
they know it is wrong.

In their eyes I see the fish lens
reflection of myself and the summer sky
The smell of grass fire hangs heavily in the air.
Skirting the shores of the lake
every action demands an equal reaction.

We bring moldy hay inside the barn
with the mirror reflected sky
Are the mummified carcasses
of those born to young,
of those whose mothers
could labor no more,
the breach birth breed
breath, hangs heavily in the air.
Their choice was made for them.
We're always trying
to come to terms with our own death.

I am not a sailor.
These eyelids hold no water.
The eye is a cistern, a repository
in the arid eyeless place . .

Tuesday, September 1, 1981

OLD ROAD, NICASIO


The old road under the reservoir, 
after 10 years of repeated flooding 
and summer exposure to the elements, 
emerges, the cracked mud is still visible 
on the shoulders of the old roadbed 
slowly losing its edges, it's
the same age as the lakebed, 
the same age as the lakeshore, 
the old cement bridge where once 
the creek flowed, all underwater
these past 10 years.

September? 1981
1/15/2015

Monday, August 31, 1981

POEM TO THE MAN NEXT DOOR

POEM TO THE MAN NEXT DOOR

Newly divorced, you sit inside
listening to country and western.
The cabin, smaller than life.
Your possessions spill out the door,
And your wife comes to visit with the kids.
You thought about having the two,
maybe three kids with you,
but something came up.
Maybe it was the trailer
and the old truck you like to take fishing,
or the motorcycle,
or maybe it was the job that stopped you.
Newly impoverished,
you wear your genitals on your heart,
hoping someone will notice.
And the dog peed on the tires
of one of your lovers
the next morning.
When the toaster oven dings
you consider answering the phone.
But the game on TV
is winding down to a conclusion.

8/1981
10/15/2015

I thought that I typed this poem up before, here's the original hand-written copy from Port Townsend, so that definitively dates it; this is an original draft, the final poem probably had different line breaks, and revisions, so this is a placeholder until I find my old work.

Mo, Self portrait (drawing)

This is a  halftone screen of a drawing. It doesn't capture the detail of the original. I don't know where the original is, or if it survived the floods.




Saturday, August 22, 1981

MORNING AFTER



MORNING AFTER

The last Czechoslovakian stemmed glass
a guilty reminder on the drainboard,
its mate shattered as I washed it.
How many times have I left them on the table
from the evening before

and if you came over for morning coffee,
you'd notice they were a matched pair.
Now, I can't have anyone over for dinner
because they might bring wine.

For days I've been thinking
it would be so easy;
a slip of the hand
too close to the faucet head
would shatter those matched orbs
staring accusingly at me.

The thin fluted stem
and curved shards of glass
like wings of fragile birds
nestle, flightless in my hand.

8/22/1981
rev 82, 85

Sunday, August 16, 1981

THE EYE, INNOCENT OF THOUGHT

THE EYE, INNOCENT OF THOUGHT
      Where are your eyes?
      Vision slit through skin
      Plump as a ripe berry
      Slow as  quartz.
       —Susan Suntree

After 10 years, the road under the reservoir
is still visible in summer.
The edges of the road are slowly diffusing,
Its edges the same age as the lake bed and the shore.
The old cement bridge where the creek ran is underwater.
The road only offers a departure point into the lake.
Ten years measures a cycle of madness.

Boarded up windows
are like the white eyes of the blind.
The peeling mirror in the hayloft door is blocking the light.
It throws back to the sky an image of itself
framed by the liquid green of out leaves.
Behind the mirror, the cobwebs gather dust in solitude.
Through a light shaft, dust motes drift on air currents.

I've noticed how the eyes of calves
are like twin pools of murky light
surrounded by a shore of retina and vein.

Last night my stomach forced a tidal wave back down.
This morning I had to reason my nausea into being.
I read your poems, could feel the finger behind the ey,.
The finger in the eye socket finding
Not water but a boneless desert,
An arrid fold of brain.
There is nothing to punish there.
The eye was innocent of thought.

Sweet, the cycles of rain follow the footpaths of seasons.
Count them, the cycles of madness.
I hear the rain singing in the manner of the beasts,
Yet I am wholly human and, I can hear the singing of rain.
The sound reserved for the ears of beasts.

What separates this wretched tangle
of human flesh and bone from that of beasts?
Those liquid-eyed calves imprisoned in cages
So their flesh will stay succulent and tender
suckle my finger, the urge to nurse strong in ones so young,
Their petal tongues caress the index finger
And they know, somehow they know it is wrong.

In their eyes I can see the fish-lens reflections
Of myself and the summer sky.
Every action demands an equal.
Lying in the moldy hay inside the barn
are the mummified carcasses
Of these born too young,
Of those whose mothers could labor no more.
The breech-birth breath hangs heavily in the air.
Their choice was made for them.

It is difficult to learn how to forgive
what we have done
And pity is also self-inflicted.

I am not a sailor.
These islands hold no water.
The eye is a cistern in the arrid toneless plain.
A repository for madness,
the eye, innocent of thought.

8/16/1981



Monday, August 10, 1981

On the Road to Tofino

On the Road to Tofino

She's the girlfriend
of an old boyfriend of mine
Men kissing women
Women like glass jars
half full of wild grains
Tongues of men
entering the mouths of women
Small tongues like cocks
too small for vaginas
Enter loosely into the center of women
Enter and the bitter grain
covers their tongues
Grain they cannot eat or digest
Women lie buried in the earth
and are covered with greenhouses
Greenhouses to grow babies
One, sometimes two greenhouses
When men enter their women
You can see the rich earth moving
covered with fine rich crumbs
When a man comes, the earth is
shoved up through the navel
into the greenhouses of women.


(not sure what this is about...as I'm typing it up in 2015,  I've forgotten the gist of it, other than the title has haunted me for nearly thirty years. But I do know I got a Dear John letter from Lee while I was up north on Vancouver Island. He was seeing Mimi Wheatwind. I felt so betrayed.
Of course I dated none of these poems, but it was a surprise to find them.

Wednesday, August 5, 1981

Port Townsend


This town, once the biggest port outside of New York in the 1890s, is where the Chinese had carved tunnels under the streets, some tunnels are still standing. Dock Street is gone now, Water Street is the main drag.

They had to call it uptown because the uppity ladies wouldn't shop here. Water Street, where the red light is now, is for the ferry traffic.

Across from the Town Tavern, is a building the old guy inherited on the condition that he improve it, but he was caught tunneling under Water Street. Some say he was headed for the bank. No one really knows for sure. The city fathers were upset when one day Water Street caved in right in front of his building.

The year before last, he had boarded up all the windows, and before that, all the metal Victorian cornices were taken off. This year, he's unboarding a few of the windows and is painting the sashes blue. Like the sky.

This town, once a whore's town, is now a literary town. All the poets are well read. It's still a whore's town. There are red lights shining on the streets at night and, after dark, the literary whores flood the streets like migrant workers in a tent city.

Tourists and Winnebagos with California license plates cautiously drive through town to the ferry dock. They come into the Town Tavern looking for something harder than the soft liquor license allows. And we stare at their improbable attire, women wearings nylons with shorts, and men in perma-press suits. All the old hippies here are working as bartenders, and caretakers. it's all a juggling act.

I keep coming back to this town like a bad penny. A friend of mine, Sharon Doubiago, moved here to escape a broken heart. Little do I know, that this year, my heart will be in the same repair shop. Hearts are not made of porcelain, but of grist and sinew and blood.

There's that poignant moment of initiation. We all recognize the place where broken hearts either mend, or evolve into some other plane.

Whore hearts, we're all whores with hearts of gold, the wrong color for blood. Gold, the correct color for lizard blood. As we sniff out the color-coded hearts of those around us, our lizard eyes narrow, we taste the air with our forked tongues, and we retreat into reptilian silence.

Tourists pour into the Town Tavern. You can tell what time of day it is by the number of disembarked people at the bar. Like the ebb and flow of waves, the oak and glass double-doors swing to and fro, as the tourist surging in from the ferry, feel the need to slake their great thirst.

The man I am having an affair with is having trouble finding the bedroom where he last left his heart. He thinks his capacity for love is greatly influenced by his capacity for pain. I'm a transient blow-in. There's the bond that ties us all together, here in this town of whores. Down at the bar, we paint it red.

August, 1981

Monday, August 3, 1981

WHIDBY ISLAND


The bloodless limit of the red tide reaches me, in the mountains.
I'm waiting for sickness to come after eating oysters and clams. 
The seaweed bobs like the heads of otters  in the inlet. 
Dizzy, the next day my fingers grown numb. 
Such a clear day. Hurricane Ridge in perfect sunlight. 
Not such a good day to die after all.

Mountain goat fur caught on some brush 
and hillside so steep you could step out one foot and 
land a hundred feet below. 
The Mountain goats and the two kids lying down 
are white on white snowfields
The kids, white against a white sky 
white T-shirts of young boys 
the bleached bones of logs in sand. 

The mast of the sailboat pierces the gray sky. 
Whidby Island cliffs, like the sides of beached whales. 

Whidby Island. The odor of salt tang in the air 
the almost overbearing odor.
A seagull cruises overhead
Red light/white light revolves 
on a red roof and white lighthouse.
Red of firebird rocks
Another seagull tackles the kelp

while I wait for symptoms of red tide.
The Cascades and the Coast Mountains 
meet head-on and collided into islands.
Kitsat Peninsula and the Gitsat Indians.

Once I went to K'san.
Old Terrace, Middle Terrace, Terrace and Kasan are all the same place. Gitsat Indians are becoming carvers of tolem polls once again. Argellite frogs with discrete price tags bark out place names: Puyallup, Dosewallops, Sequim Squim.
A diver walked down to the water throwing back the days catch. Segulls surround him like old men.

A tired poet friend of mine says to me three times 
I am just a fisherman's wife living in Port Townsend
I am a fisherman's wife.
I am the wife of a fisherman, 
waiting at home. 
I am tired of writing.

A slight breeze stirs the water in the cove, rippling water like watered silk. My neck hurts from an old whiplash.

For your body, I need Mr. Badger, the skeleton maker, to help me.
Thank you Leslie Silko, thank you Mr. Badger
I'm a writer's ghost writing nothing because I'm not writing poetry.

The wings push mostly downward when the blackbird flies across the sky.

I met a man whose real name was Don John or John Don. Either way he writes a patch of blue opening up like an eye.

The sky imitates the blue of glaciers and blue hidden eyes of the north snow people

The sea is quiet. No tongues lapping at the shore. These are the Straights of Juan de Fuca. If I sleep on the beach, will the water know the coast is but a thin line?

Argillite frogs with discrete price tags 
bark out place names: Puyallop,
Dosewallops, Squim, Sequim.

Bill Stafford's hat is soft like the slack corners of his mouth. From the brim a feather trembles, loosened from a bird years ago. The eyes reflect the talons still. Like me, Bill worked with kids in schools. PITS. Says there's more material for kids to write with in poetry than structured prose he said.

Waves of horses butcher your dreams. Marina Albert says. 

Language there's a secret language hidden within the language, the effect of syllables upon us.

The tribal influence would be the door
Among those who know. Not a chance to change is evident.

july? Aug 1981
10/15/2015
I can't make out most of the craft notes, and they're scattered in amid the prose. It reads like nonsense. Can't even read most of it. Maybe I'll revise it, whip it into shape. Or not.

Short haiku of sorts


I awaken in a glass house, 
the Straits blend into fog, 
the horizon, indistinct as this morning.

Two payphones in the basement. 
People wait to make long-distance calls. 
Slot machines collect change at the end of the line.

Evening sky the color of salmonberries
A dull grain sheen on the water 
an unseasonable hue.

Volkswagen engine valves clatter. 
House finches nesting in the eaves
rearrange themselves and chatter.

The face of the glacier gave way 
and 11 people died on Mt. Rainier.
Yet it floats, sublime, at dawn.

July? 1981

Port Alberni


Port Alberni, Vancouver Island – I overdrove my mark, a hitchhiker said she knew where I wanted to go, and we missed our turnoff, so I'm staying with her in a strange house.

The moon is a rusted silver crescent hanging below Venus. Mountains fringe this place like shards of glass. Montgomery School Principal, Ken Lytle used to live here years ago, when he was a boy. The hills around Cazadero's Montgomery School are much like this place.

It is 50 miles away to Uclulet by water, it means safeharbor. Or, just water. A Nootka word. You ride the mail boat to get there – it's an eight hour trip. Uclulet looks like Point Reyes. I watch the same ocean here, as I would at home.

Ken Lytle spent some time in Port Alberni as a kid and hated it. Port Alberni, Dante's Inferno of the Northwest surrounded by snowcapped mountains. It has a fjord that goes 50 miles to the Pacific, it's a mile wide and an mile deep, the brown oily water from the pulp mill, like flotsam. Paper pulp loosing from ships floats out to sea. The fish leaping to the surface for air, ground from the pulpmill when it rains, it is an acid rain. Hell.


I'm staying with friends in a log cabin in Parksville. Pete Lang's wife Sarah teaches me to belly dance. Downstep, thrust, downstep, thrust. Work down into the floor, not up into the sky. The outhouse has a blue plastic sky. Sharon stepped on a slug barefoot.

A friend of mine, Ken once threw a slug at his wife. And when I washed my jeans a slug was in the machine. There isn't any way to get slug glue off. Damned,  those jeans are Calvin Klein's. I traded a pair of cowboy boots for them. The slug crawled through her hair. She washed her hair seven times. It never came out. They are now divorced.

Sharon said write a story about your clothes. She still has the same clothes. From year-to-year, the stories about clothes stack up and accumulate like clothes in the closet.

Once when we went out dancing in Elk on the coast of Mendocino, the leotard I had scrounge from a trashcan ripped down the back. I borrowed her special heart pin and lost it. It was found later on the dance floor, broken. We glued it back together – our friendship mended. Sort of.

She will run away to Port Townsend to escape a broken heart. Did I cause it when I lost her heart pin?

Sunday, August 2, 1981

Flora & Fauna Notes

Woolly mammoth tusks like ribs of a beached boat.
The tide becomes delayed
among the many islands and fjords. 
Gravitational pull of the sea and especially the moon, 
causes a bulging of the oceans
traveling along the world in a great wave. 
The crest of this wave is high tide
the trough is low tide.

Title range is greatest at Prince Rupert
and the Powell River where flood tides
from the north and south meet and drift. Tidal bore.

Acorn barnacles stand on their heads
and kick food into their mouths with feathery feet
Purple crabs are like porcelain, clams have 32 blue eyes.
Seaweed absorbs nutrients directly from the water.
Roots hold fast, piddock clams, great sculpins

List the islands fjords and shelters inlets along this coast 
home for thousands of waterbirds. Common snipe 

The Fraser River drains one quarter of BC 
I have been to Salt Spring Island, and Mount Vesuvius.
I'm going to Ganges.
All roads lead to Ganges on Salt Spring Island. 

Offshore islands have fewer species of plants and animals
different from the mainland.
The Queen Charlotte Islands,
continental slope, continental shelf,
continental drift on the edge
of the continental shelf of North America 
Backbone of mountains rises up
from the western shore the Queen Charlottes 

I am remembering the trumpeter swans at Mount Lassen,
and carpenter ants, spotted slugs,  
the Georgia Straits, the way the ship rocked.

Sitka spruce, willow,
Douglas firs are not the final stage of a coastal rain forest,
deepening leaf litter, climax rainforest
the wet climate of mountains facing the sea 
the stableness of the vegetation
can only be attained after a thousand fire-free years 
tideland spruce can withstand constant wind
and saltspray of the exposed coastline.
Sitka spruce, a protective buffer

Lions of the Sea
Glaciers never reached triangle Island
burrowing seabirds.

Nothing in nature is static
the land, the sea, the climate,
the plants and animals of today
are nothing but a passage
 apassing expression of a relentless process of change.

Earth air and water borne by the glacier
heated by the sun. Alpine tundra
dark dwarf willows
Northern Lakota and Plateau
the boreal forest, the montane forest
the grasslands, the dry interior, the bitteroots
the dense rain forest
and the Coast Forest in rain shadow
the Olympics the more specific wins
Salmonberry Salal Willow, blueberry Western Hemlock

What is this dice game played by the Micmac
500 years old
counting sticks, six round bone dice
made of walrus bone

wet piñata loose hair
embroidery this willow cradle
has been decorated with silk ribbons
what about my silk shirt hanging on display 150 years from now

the value of trade silver
beaver was the standard of trade

called it the fire breaks to symbolize the meeting of chieftains

the cave of petroglyphs
long ago when the world was young
animals held their winter dances in caves.
animals changing into human form
and this so embarrassed them
that they gave man their dance i
n order that he not reveal their secrets.

Nootka Indian masks capture the initiate
Tshimshan and Kitsat want to call three eagles
to explain the universe.
Cosmology is the relationships between peoples
the supernatural is preserved symbolically
masks make the natural and supernatural world visible
they explain our relationship
and take hold

human life depends upon a healthy structured natural world t
o ensure balance Indians conducted ritual seasonal changes
crisis economic activity
the shaman kept the balance
between the three worlds
the soul capture
scattering of eagle down for peace
the potlatch
the seasons
the ceremonies
art makes the supernatural world visible


This is a lot of gibberish to clean up! I must've been planning to use it in some writing. 

Saturday, August 1, 1981

Puck Goat, Mt. Olympus, Lunasa


Mt.Olympus from Hurricane Ridge. From an old slide—early 1970s, or  1981?

On the northern slopes of Mount Olympus: the ancestral sweep of the mountain, shadows are suspended across entire valleys. Talus and wildflowers in blue are the only signs of life in this severe landscape.

I am taller than the subalpine spruce forest at my feet. Like Gulliver in a Liliputian landscape. I must be way above treeline. I can almost touch the sky.  Small juniper trees hug the ground, they spread out mat like, a living carpet at my feet. The trees may be diminutive, but their berries are full-size.

A melting cornice of of snow slides off the razorback ridge and makes a second ledge of snow, well on its way to becoming a glacier. Below me, a string of glacial melt pools in aquamarine and teal, decorated with chunks of snow, icebergs in the making. 

I had to take off my telephoto lens because the animals here have no fear. Marmots shuffle up to investigate my feet and they size me up. I guess they don't get too many hikers on this steep slope. Or I look like a big marmot to them.

The only way to escape these droves of flies, is to keep on walking, or stand against the wind. I keep on walking.

I've lost count of the miles. I've come farther on one day that most round trip hikes. I keep reminding myself I have to walk the same distance back again, that each step forward is the half-way mark back to the trailhead.

But a part of me never wants to return to that place I came from. So I keep on walking. I have run out of trail. Literally. I am half-way to Marathon. My race against my pain is still not won. So I push ever on. The talus rings like fine crystal in someone else's bed as I stumble over compacted shale.



I take in alpine roses, lupine, larkspur, rock cress, a veritable Turkish carpet. Wallflowers, cinquefoil, buckwheat, Indian paintbrush, sky pilot, phlox, stonecrop—it's a carpet bazaar. A concuspiance of flowers stands taller than the tallest juniper.

In this dainty landscape, butterflies soar like hawks, and birds are the size of bears. A complex mosaic of lichen and moss grows on the ground, black lettuce-like leaves with frothy petticoats of pale green, dresses the rocks.

I want to get down on my hands and knees to worship the tiny Japanese gardeners who live here. My hand orchestrates a symphony of striated scree alternated with grand sweeping swaths of flower gardens. Beauty before me as I walk.


A hummingbird hovers, checks me out, then dives off the edge of the cliff. He takes my breath away. I lay down and peer down into a pocket valley, blue pimpernel and sky pilot and sky are one thing.

Sometimes the junipers achieve enough height for a mouse to hide beneath them. They eye me curiously, and rotate seeds in their paws as they nibble at the edges of pine nuts. Dark mauve phalacea is like bruised skin, amid the pearly everlasting.



A talus crest is black with lichen and weathered varnish. Mount Olympus? I am lost traversing range after range, I am deep in the heart of these mountains, trying to escape my own depths.

A fresh rockslide area glows coppery pink against all that dark scree. A golden mantled marmot stand up to salute his allegiance to the wilderness. With his back to me, he whistles, then screams to the valley below. I am not the enemy. Friend of your friend.

Deer graze on the subalpine spruces, they devour this fragile landscape. I drowse in the warm sunlight. Pink and white pine heather bells shudder and nod in the breeze coming in from the west. Harbinger of sunset. 

I awaken with a start. Another deer appears, a buck, two-pronged with velvet, he eyes me, sniffs the air. Drops his head to pluck tender pine shoots. I was sleeping where the deer come to feed.

These steep talus slopes are held in place by the roots of flowers, no grass or moss or soil.

On Hurricane Ridge, and here, deep in the mountains, the Rocky Mountain goats eat the precious patches of soil. They're looking for salt, someone said. They paw at soil pockets, they eat the soil, they lick the stones, they lick the hiking path—searching for traces of lost salt. They are not a native species. My traitorous tears are made of salt. Perhaps displaced mountain goat will eat them.

The bleached bones of juniper, a skeleton hugs the rock outcropping. Patches of stonecrop form light cream-colored oases on the hillside. Life and death are one thing.

The intense purple of lupine, and the yellow of wallflower takes my breath away. The papery leaves of the pasqueflower tremble on the slightest breeze. I watch the antics of a furry jumping spider dressed in black and rust.


The sizzling heat rising up from the talus creates a shimmering horizonline. The edge of the ridge drops off from sight and all the flowers keep nodding their heads in the breeze, as if in agreement. There are so many flowers that I leave bruised footprints behind me. I keep walking up the path that follows the top of the ridge, hoping it will go on forever. It does not disappoint.

The path cuts along the side of a slope, so steep, it's like walking on the edge of a box. It drops a long way down, it's little more than a goat trail and it veers off to the left to the lake camp, set in shadows. To the right, are the valleys and ridges that lead up to Mount Olympus and to the Elwah River Valley.


The track is no longer a human path. I begin free-climbing towards the summit, inching closer to that elusive spine of ridge. I tell myself to be careful, don't trust the rotten rock.

Another hand grasp and toehold: I'm almost to the summit. Hair-raising. I've gone way past my limits. But still I push forward. I'm thinking this stuff is for the goats. What am I doing here, alone, so far from civilization? No one know where I am. But, having come this far, I want to look at the face of Mt. Olympus.

Silently, white. Above me a jagged shape looms. I take it in at eye level, powerful forelegs, and I look up to a white fur chest. Black horns and yellow eyes appear. Am I hallucinating?


His beard, and breath tells me he's real. Uh-oh. This Rocky Mountain goat coming down from Mt. Olympus has right-of-way. Cars going uphill may have right away, but then I'm not a car, and he has sharp black horns and the surefootedness of hooves.

The rules of right-of-way on a precipice is not to stop in a dangerous place. He has no hesitation as he advances toward me. There's literally no place to go. I back down the crevice, the small of my back tucked into the base of cliff that arcs down 2000 feet of scree. The angle of declination will not stop my descent into space. The angel of declination.

The goat hesitates, he looks at me. We make eye contact and we each make a silent pact. He has to pass right by my feet. There is nowhere else to go. I drop my gaze, and look down at my boots. I present no challenge, i make no eye contact. I empty my mind and I become wind, rock and sky. I come and go in peace, at will. We are one thing.


He does not challenge me to a duel. He carefully passes me, his fur is silken snow. He is a young ram, ousted from the herd. So I know there will not be others following him.

So I follow him down the spine, back to where I came from. I am shaking, adrenalin, fear, a rite of passage. I'm taking photographs of his back. They're not as good as the one I got as he appeared over the horizon. I took photos first then realized the potential danger I was in. The camera is an extension of arm, an automatic reflex.

The goat is eating his dinner, he is pawing up the plants to get at the minuscule pockets of soil hoarded there. He eats the earth, craving salt. I smell of salt and tears. He is not afraid of me as long as I move slowly.


We stay like this, entranced for an hour or more, in the evening light, the goat and I, before I descend back down the mountain at twilight. Northern lights dancing in the distance.

Something truly memorable has happened. A wordless quest, answered. A heart mended. I return back down the mountain a different person than that grieving woman who left behind her sorrow in the fog shrouded dawn.


August 1, 1981
October 11, 2015
(Found in a journal, most of it is verbatim, I added the context when I retyped it.)