Channels

This is no Big Sur, Dingle
Peninsula, Wasque—
this is somewhere

in the middle. A river
that has starred
as the main character

in novels, caused cities to be
built, become a final stop
for the tormented

and despairing. It is a river
that should be frozen
by now. That only its fringes

cutting against its banks
are covered in a thin sheet
of ice is another story

that needs to be
told. And I’m no narrator
for the fresh or salt.

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Shape Shift

Vital signs appear in all directions—here
the universal symbol
for no longer choking. The color blue

has turned green
as mature redwood leaves
modest in their fog shroud.

She remembers how
to read them only when she steals
a moment from leaf litter beds

to refocus her mind
on what her eyes have been fixing
all along—this figure eight.

The Sighting

Cold trapped beneath
redwoods outside
the Henry Miller Memorial

Library doesn’t deter me
from standing against evening grain
to see you straight

ahead performing. I know that sound
of aching beauty won’t last. I only wish
those graceful branches could

suspend
the deep wails
from your blues harp the way

these trees, those mountains, the rocks, that ocean hold

steady. You pack up
your guitars and you’re gone
down Highway One. I don’t see you

drive away, but I know
I can feel the air stir
from notes dropping

around substantial roots.

Big Sur

How to memorize a place
like Big Sur
without becoming a thief
is a mystery no cabin

key with a plastic Holiday Inn
shaped tab can slide into, let alone
unlock. It hurts
to witness this dangerous

beauty’s power to break into
the securely fastened chamber
of emotion inside
me. It’s not the dilemma

of choosing to die by a roadside
snake bite or by becoming roadkill
under the wheels
of a musician who never was your lover’s van.

It’s not a choice. The white line will crop the shoulder
how it will at the most substantial curves
in the two lane highway. And I won’t remember
when they come—so busy trying to commit

the impossible reality
of rock and wave and height and crash
to a memory that cannot be
committed. And I could be
in my wobbly attempt.

Ripplewood in the Redwoods

Across Highway One
from where I slept, from where a hummingbird swept
into the brush to alert me to another

day, I wait.

Fog never fully rolls back to reveal
those mountaintops but allows the sun to be exposed
and exposing

as hours progress. Seams between
sky, ocean, cliff
recede. I’m not waiting—I’m opening receptacles

to turn-outs and drop-offs and rock-ons.

Pacific Saudade

This Noguchi sculpture encased
in glass on the departures level inside the San Francisco Airport soothes

my incurable longing
for what those Big Sur rocks would not release. That he could have been

my soul mate doesn’t matter—he’s been gone
since I was a young woman. That this other creator

of darkest beauty could be is
a lie I tell myself

to keep my feet from straying
off the cliff side path. I believe in

an art that mates soul to soul for a moment. And that is enough
to fly home on.

In a Serious Room

“Waiting like a longbodied emaciated Modigliani surrealist woman in a serious room.”
—Jack Kerouac, On the Road

She who passes
the art test will be cursed
with elongated worry—the weight
of aluminum confused

with its atomic
number 13. She never believed
a number could sink her

dream. Has not encountered quick
sand, is not willing to take
the risk. She takes high

bridges over vehicles to knock
the wind from her diaphragm
of fear, pauses abnormally long

before crossing
any street. Then she runs a quick
rodent race across, laughing

all the way
at herself. She knows how
to do that—has been

doing it for years.
Even as she prepares her face
for that stranger she believes

would catch her before
she spilled over a cliff,
she giggles at the distortion
in the mirror.