Tuesday, July 1, 1986



Maybe it's the way the San Andreas Fault grinds at the coast
or how ropes of sunlight fall on marine haze, or the wind.
Maybe it's the rancher's wife murdered by her husband
who comes to sit among these tombs sprouting small milk teeth
in crooked rows. I hear women whispering inside those trunks
of cypress growing from Manchester to Point Area.
They came here from Canada, Ireland, and Germany,
with high hopes but their dead built cities on this lonely coast.
The wind followed them across oceans, forests and prairies
to the edge of the continent. It licked beneath doors,
between cracks and floorboards, stirring lamp flames
and passion until the air was ablaze.

Like a rotted tooth, a charred headboard with no name
has lost its place in line. Monuments to young girls
spared the grief of motherhood. "Charity is beloved."
Her mother feeling the loss, climbed down to join her.
Piper's mother slipped into the same womb six years later.
Jennie McMullin's twins Paulie and Ellie born and died the same day.
I think, RH negative. Then all the miscarriages.
She quit naming them after that. What more did Samuel want?
At my age, she followed the sixth babe back into earth.
The graveyard dissolves into the silence of blackberries.
Lichen gains a toehold on carved letters.
Mother, beloved father. Infant, unnamed.
How many names for darkness?
The Bishop family, squeezed in four separate plots
between Clays, Munroes and McFarlins--
still search for kin among stones and roots.

If you lie down, snake-like, and listen with your ribs
you can almost hear the earth shift. I say almost--
the way a rattlesnake, blind in summer moult "hears"
with heat sensors and minute vibrations felt through the skin;
strikes blind at anything that comes too close.
Marsh grass whipped into a frenzy catches fire
as sun and sundog slide down the mandarin throat of ocean.
Brazen beauty mark of Venus. Shy, distant Regulus.
Yesterday, Suzanne, who told me the story of the rancher's wife
drove out to the beach. New moon in the old moon's arms.
They found her wearing her best clothes and jewelry--
Not even a note. None of us knew what troubled her.
Tongues of fog lick traces of blue from the sky.
No graves or names to mark the three babies I gave back.
Fingers of wind tangle my hair, invisible ropes tighten,
pulling me toward those gleaming cypress trunks
until the hands of men who planted them are all over me
and cacophony of wind pulls me down into pale earth;
this harvest I never asked for.

1986? or 1987
rev. 6/87,1988, 6/89, 6/91
Garcia River, Point Arena


Blue Horses in the Rain—after Franz Marc


A child's watercolor set invited me to the breakfast table of a house perched on the crest of Mount Vider. The Napa Valley, shrouded in fog, barely visible caves, like puncture marks on the ridge opposite. I am a houseguest applying color to pale toast and blank paper. I fill the pages with color and think of Franz Marc's Blue Horses in the Rain. He died very close to Lascaux. Calligraphy of bison before the hunt. Ochre pigment. Hemitite. When a child found the painted caves, at first no one believed her stories of bison and horses running across rock ceiling. Not even her father. Especially her father.

As I paint, a woman silhouetted against the morning sun, comes over and asks me if I always awaken like this. We are both writers. A small flickering arrow in my stomach—and I wonder why I no longer wake with a brush in my hand, tracing a pale yellow wash across the white of morning. I cannot write, the blood clots my pen. The sunlight on her hair blinds me. My father, an absence of light, I am torn between the obsidian darkness of two worlds.

Yesterday, my notebook stumbled down a steep ravine and landed face-down on a branch of poison oak suspended above a creek. My writing saved by poison. On the way back up the ravine, the sound of an oncoming car hurried me and I tore my skirt. I though of the swaddled mummies of Nazca, and the cycle of earlier fires—tree carbon transformed to ink markings on the page. The land is the color of cinnibar and discarded shells.

I can’t shake this aftermath of sleep and the deaths I dream of: those I know, and those of strangers. The night is becoming too crowded. A friend blames the ghosts in my mirrors, there are too many of them. That’s why they come. I am shivering from what I have heard. Someone asks, Are you a mother? This paper becomes a rock wall. I hold my brush poised in the air waiting for the blue horses to come pouring down from the sky.

7/86 & 3/94