Category Archives: poetry

Red Hot Candy Mountain

Portland is desert
hot this week,
making the rubber radials
weaken and dance
like woozy cannibals.
My bedroom window
throws prison tattoo
shadows. Men wear
shirts of blue clay
and women carry
hand bags of creosote.
The street candy
from the Rose parade
is smeared on the asphalt
like bad lipstick
on the face of a dead mayor.
In No Po they are bringing
the chickens indoors.
In Idahna, they
are hosing down
the horses and hoping
the forest fire will only
burn to the river.

Wallowa

A wallowa is a Native American fish trap
the Nez Perce built from sticks,
like wicker fences set crosswise in the river.
They used them to herd bull and rainbow trout
into the shallows where they clubbed and gaffed them.

I spent this morning on the Minam river
at one of their old fishing spots.
I teased the river for hours with my fly line.
All I got was bone cold feet
from the mountain runoff.

On the way back to camp
I startled a bull elk in the trees
exploding the stillness
in a thud of hooves
and cracking branches.
The sun walked down the mountain
faster than I could get back across
the valley for eggs and bacon,
home made bread, jam and coffee.

Later I sat in the hot sun
warming my feet and trying to write
but in the end I just sat there
staring at the morning
with its buzzing quiet ways.
Maybe I could build
a wallowa for herding ideas,
fragments, chum and by-catch
into the shallows where my
gaff is sharp and my club is ready.
But I know the majority of the poetry fish
will swim through as they should
as though there were
no sticks in the river at all.

Running Deer

I wrote this poem for my wife, who is part Native American.

Running Deer

a moon-dark sun
ringed in Indian light
peace pipe direct

wild huckleberries
chiaroscuro necklaces
made from the seeds of days
you thread together

to remind us
of where we and love
come from

The Fundament of Karma

Today’s guest poet is brother Don Brandis. He sends in this fine and funny meditation on karma.

The Fundament of Karma

We at Unibody Inc are emailing
because your karma account is nearly empty
without significant new debt
you risk a zero balance
in which case, well, you can’t go there
we respectfully suggest that you go slap someone
preferably a total stranger, in a public place,
as in full of witnesses

public karma is stronger and more lasting
than private envy or vengefulness or malice
our accounting department assures us of the unlikelihood
of a zero balance

unless you’ve been a saint through 40 lifetimes
have you been neglecting your body?
everything it wants needs you to exist
or it (you) become like Schrodinger’s cat
since you haven’t been listening to your body
try to imagine you’ve become both existent and non-existent
as well as neither

as you will unless you owe someone.
You are what you owe yourself
and what you owe yourself you owe us;
the fundament of karma

Once

I.

once under a long-stemmed moon
we became human for a minute

like a woman wearing a black abaya
with a gold filigree rose inside

singing softly behind a high wall
in the market in old Aleppo

II.

i cannot think of why
you created me

remnant of
my father’s mind

there are splinters of knowing
(you and me)

open to the sky between
the tiny pieces of terror

Long Western Sun

morel mushrooms are underground
grief folded in long bolts
the women the shawled lanterns carry digging sticks
their caresses walk behind them
leaving albumin circles

behind in winter camp with mitered eyes
the children die like uncles and slaves
their cries hold bruised roses
in paper thin wonder
they are whelks, tiny mussel feet
reaching below the waterline
dragging the clouds over their arms

tire tracks cross the North Dakota badlands
dragging a harp we can no longer carry
I watch from the midlands
somewhere next door to behind and away
a chinook wind melts the snow
in the box canyons
wanting nothing becoming near

christening a hand a tendon
in the small wooden church on the ridge
after the rinsing the wheezing
the organ sounds like tin fish
swimming under the river bank
the leaves of the longest branches
the photons their crossed swords
the thousand watt radio station in Billings
making a mist of falling wheat prices

it is seen in the dry bunches
marooned along the highway
the bystanders torpid as warm tar
from a night of drinking in tight heat boxes
giving each other pieces of warm weather
draining the trees
it is more visible
now that the county road workers are gone
the way they tilt away from your eyes
it comes in bursts
more bitter more sweet more gone now
the might and the wasn’t
the strings are drawn taut
in the long annealing sun
in the slanted light leaving

Silver Mine

they have reopened
the old silver mine
at Indian Falls
and set a long-horned Sybil
to stand guard

the lone cafe where
everyone wheezes
over braille cakes
the three white
monarch bars

the nitrogen mallard eyes
peering out from
the squat box houses
along the cliff

the hotel with the miners drill
mounted on the lawn–
a quilted silence like a
a poison sofa