Sunday, October 31, 1982


          —for Bill Snow

Some members of the Donner Party didn't wait for spring.
Their bones grew new coats of skin.
The survivors slept, dreaming of hot ash bonfires
remembered the earth was a vast burial ground
but did nothing.

Deep inside, the earth shuddered.
Liquid bones of molten lava tried to escape
& snow soothed the terrible thirst
from their hearts.

They say beauty is only skin-deep.
Skin stretched over the cheekbones of women
means nothing without inner structure.
Leaves are homeless without
wind-polished femurs of trees
to hold them to sunlight.

Look to the architecture of bones for strength.
Without them, holding snow would be impossible.
Mountains would bleed back into the sea.

In spring, no skin would slough off
to reveal the bare-boned mountains.
Who keeps moving the bones?
Soon they will rise up
& reassemble themselves
but the pattern is forgotten
& the earth's strength is altered.

Bare bones. Hidden bones.
For a year, Albion Ridge
swallowed the bones of young girls.
The murder was not avenged.
No one lit hot ash bonfires for them.

Their skin sank into the earth in a slow trickle
& the trees were the only ones left to listen
to the soft music
of skin falling from bones.


1985 Napa Poetry Review
1984 Deepest Valley Review
1983 Poets of the Vineyard, 2nd Prize
1983 ARC/Rural Arts Services
1983 Poets of the Vineyards, 2nd prize

Wednesday, October 13, 1982



As you rise up in sleep,
dreams and memory merge
like dove-tailed hands.

In sleep's imperfect flight,
the sum of our lives
enters a new waking.

Seeking night vision
a memory slowly approaches
in the shape of wings.
The mantle of stars drops
over your death—

lifts away from it,
& of this, you remember
how like doves,
her hands.

10/13/1982  (81?)
rev. 1988

1989 Women's Voices

Mnemosyme, a Titan goddess of memory, mother of the muses by Zeus
2. roughly translated, it means speak-memory

ASCII file was half gone. hard copy rools.
Such a radical shift from the first draft, almost a completely different poem, so I've posted both.  see MNEMOSYNE AUBADE


MNEMOSYNE AUBADE – for Richard Salzman

In sleep, dreams come
flying halfway down to greet you.
And as you rise up to meet them,
the dreams become a part of you,
and you, a part of the dreams.
To those dreams we bring with us
the whole sum of our lives.
Dreams and memories merge and sleep
like a pair of dovetailed hands.
I am seeking your stars in my dreams.
Like night vision, from the corners of your eyes,
you are remembering you can see
how the mantle of death approaches slowly
in the shape of doved fingertips.


Mnemosyne, roughly translated, means speak-memory.
She is the goddess of memory, a Titaness, and the mother of the Muses, by Zeus.
The revision is so different, it's almost another poem.


Friday, October 1, 1982


—for Alan Mclssac

The round sound of Tocaloma rolls off the tongue
like night drowning in the gibbous moon.
The herefords stop grazing and low to each other
as I help my neighbor gather topsoil for her lawns. Tocaloma.

We stop afterwards at the Western Saloon.
I sip sasparilla as she rolls down another beer
beneath the cobwebbed mooseheads.
At the other end of the bar, a gaggle of men
bang down a cup of Liar's Dice for another round.

Ranchers in overalls and gumboots
argue over what's the best feed for cattle. It's a lean year.
Two-wire bales of alfalfa sell at the price of three-wire bales.
We overhear them talk of planes dropping emergency feed
to livestock stranded on the open ranges.
Toby's Feed is shipping in the last of the Nevada hay.
I'm having trouble feeding my horse.

The corners of Agnes's mouth turn downward when she sips bourbon—
as if it were an uncertain pleasure.
She salutes the empty morning air, saying, Sköl pifiskin,
and I look for the toofta from Norway who always steals her drinks.

When her husband is at sea, and alcohol loosens inhibitions,
she tells strangers met in bars we have no socks.
Their eyes fill with easy tears, and during whiskey runs,
they take us to the General Store, buying me more white socks
than I know what to do with.

Tocaloma. To touch the earth.
The McIssacs went from milk cows to beef.
Alan says they couldn't make it any other way.
In the barn, we step over a dead weaner calf. He says, Don't look.
Their ranch stretches from the sky to the old Tocaloma train station.
Alan has a “Stop” sign in his bedroom, but the cattle erode the hills
and fine silt settles in Papermill Creek. No good for salmon.

On Sundays, her husband sends tightly written letters
on thin blue airmail tissue from Bombay, Hong Kong, the Mekong Delta.
When his ship, the “Baton Rouge” loaded with secret ammunition
was torpedoed, we watched the news again and again, but got no word.
The weeks uncoiled a glittering chain of days before she heard if he was alive.
I played with leopard cowries from the Indian Ocean,
and Caucasian silk dolls with Japanese eyes.
My music box chimed a tinny Sayonara, filled with foreign coins
as she showed me on the big map where the stamps and letters came from.
On Sunday evenings, we'd listen to “Hawaii Calls” on the radio.

When the liquor warmed her blood,
she'd spend hours rolling white bread into little doughballs.
After they got good and gray, she fed them to Smoky, the springer spaniel.
She made me feel unclean for becoming a woman—
as if it were something I could control— like those doughballs.
It was O.K. when we were still kids playing in the thistles.

My neighbor died in summer, when the waves turned golden,
and the lawn stretched to the hills like a green wave.
We pulled weeds, stood under sprinkler rainbows,
tumbled on the grass, until sky and land blurred, became one.
The rich black soil from Tocaloma sprouted healthy thistles
nourished by the cow paddies we stuffed into empty feed sacks.

Her husband drinks and thinks about the sea: Korea. Vietnam.
He planted the disease in deep so she never had children
(other than us). Couldn't, says Gram'ma, tisk-tisking.
Her insides blackened. The surgeon trimmed what he could,
but it wasn't enough. I felt nothing when I heard the news—
as if she were never there. And only now, twenty years later,

I am remembering all those lawns, and Tocaloma—
this place where we touched the earth
because the rolling hills and grazing cattle
weren't enough to feed the eye.


1988 Creative Discourse
1987 California Quarterly
1986 Marin Poetry Review