everything that lives moves . . .

everything that lives moves . . .

Sunday, February 3, 2019

“The news from the border this morning and my ensuing rage reminds me of something I once read, ‘This has become a society of so many raw issues that no one can be though to behave well.’”
        -from The Beige Dolorosa by Jim Harrison


A fundamental lesson is to fish without a hook.  Catch and release is a compromise, as much pain for the fish as a tattoo but usually survivable, their essence inked into some permanent crease of my memory made of water and nerves beneath bone. 

There’s a painful silence in the West louder than a sonic boom.  No one can hear it before the coming storm.  CNN and cereal and sleep are a toxic combination during a government shutdown.  It’s important to know what we’ll wear to the grave as we fear for the children already lost.  Everything tastes bad except good whiskey. 

A bourbon for lunch seemed necessary after reading of the xenophobic panic that earth’s magnetic north is hurtling toward Russia at 34 miles per hour every year, a road race in geologic terms.  The bartender mixed a sweet syrup, infused with spice and green chile.  Taking a sip I proclaimed, “Everyday there are still firsts!  What is this?”  “The world’s best breath mint,” she replied. 

Later she caught me pouring whiskey from a flask into my glass while watching nitwit golfers on the driving range duff and slice and cuss, then look around and blame it on their “new club”.  Even I know that success in golf, like everything else worth doing, is about realizing every swing, especially on the driving range, is an artistic endeavor.  Kind of like fishing without a hook.

My new house is a symbol of wilderness encroachment.  For survival and paybacks it tunnels under everything including the bird feeder and the back patio, driving my dog to madness in this looted excavation.       

Sleeping out one night I saw a copperhead weaving its way through the grass in the backyard.  I have considerable experience with rattlesnakes but was unprepared for the copperhead, especially their ability to climb rocks as well as comfortable lawn furniture.        

These cottonwoods dance, they come and go, their bones.  The footsteps of every ghost to wade this creek since it was a creek, washed away by water the color of new blood.  Here now, all at once, like a crowded street corner in Tokyo.  Most wearing moccasins and a few leather boots.   

I can’t keep the squirrels from the bird feeder.  I washed the kitchen window at midnight to watch the morning geese fly between the outstretched arms of two cottonwoods, my new horizon.  Every day I dream about the Land of Enchantment not realizing it’s already here.  

Oxford, Mississippi

Last weekend at a downtown diner, Wayne, a serious talker, took one look at my Stetson saying, “You’ve got to go see that old hat at Cash’s Western Store.  Evidently some Indian brought it in eighty years ago after he’d been shot in the head.”

Per the French poet Rene Char, “You have to be there when bread comes fresh from the oven.”  So, I drove to Cash’s in Seminole where I was greeted by Joe, an ancient cowboy with three missing fingers, a result of “the goddamn rodeo!”  Joe said he was watching the store for his brother, recuperating after a large heifer rolled over on him.  I asked Joe about the old hat, which he pulled it from the top shelf.  There it was, a big old dusty black beaver Stetson with a round crown and a seven-inch flat brim.  Sure enough, it had a small hole in the back, covered by a piece of felt. 

Joe confirmed the story, that it was brought in by a Seminole during the depression.  And that he’d been shot in the back of the head, but by the time the bullet entered the hat, it petered out, falling on his head. 

This was too good to be true, so I told Joe this was an obvious yarn.  If I had such lucky hat with the added bonus of being bullet proof, I’d wear it into the grave.  To which he replied, “Yur prob’ly right, but don’t tell no one.  It’s the only reason anyone comes to this ol’ store anymore.  Sure sounds like sumpthin’ an old Indian would tell a white feller, doesn’t it?”

Monday, December 31, 2018

Medicine Creek
Medicine Park, Oklahoma

“Thank you for the river and what it says.  It doesn’t matter which one.  Whether it’s a trickle or a rush, they each say the same thing, and I’m beginning to believe that it may be everything – the high of the water’s joy, that stifled cry of the earth’s wet hot desire to go on living.”

            -from “What the River Says” by Nathan Brown

Comanche and Kiowa country
Wichita Mountains, Oklahoma

“I am richer than Santana the Kiowa chief if you subtract those millions of verdant acres which we did.”

            -from “Hello Walls” by Jim Harrison

Rainbow Trout
Medicine Creek

“There’s enough in a river to bleed out anything.”

            -from “On the Wabash” by Henry Hughes   

Medicine Creek
Medicine Park, Oklahoma

“There is an eight-foot piece of raw bamboo across my lap soon to become a split cane fly rod.  It will be a totem or temple or another limb anchored to the heart of whoever holds it with a line drawn deep into the clean water it reaches toward.”

            -from “Letters From a Lost Creek” by Jimmy Watts

Echinocereus reichenbachii
Wichita Mountains, Oklahoma

“This capacity to wonder at trifles – no matter the imminent peril – these asides of the spirit, these footnotes in the volume of life are the highest forms of consciousness, and it is in this childishly speculative state of mind, so different from commonsense and its logic, that we know the world to be good.”

            -Vladimir Nobokov

Medicine Park, Oklahoma

“How miserable, how shadowy and transient, how aimless and arbitrary the human intellect looks within nature.  There were eternities during which it did not exist.  And when it is all over . . . nothing will have happened.  For this intellect has no additional mission which would lead it beyond human life.”

            -Friedrick Nietzsche

Wichita Mountains, Oklahoma

“ . . . about the Native American situation, he said everything’s a matter of time, that though it’s small comfort the ghosts have already nearly destroyed us with the ugliness we’ve become, that in a few hidden glades in North America half-human bears still dance in imperfect circles.”

            -from “After Ikkyu” by Jim Harrison

Medicine Creek

“What is living but to grow smaller, undress another skin or scale away rough edges the way rivers cut mountains down to the heart . . . We know the history of sand.  We know water and air trying to break the spirit of stone.  We know our teeth grinding down to their pith.”

            -from “Fishing” by Linda Hogan


“The sixteenth-century Korean poet, Song Chong-Win, says the best way to understand how to live is to ‘fish without catching any.’”

            -from The Art of Angling: Poems About Fishing, edited by Henry Hughes

Saturday, December 8, 2018

Afghan Rose
photo by Jesse O.
“The limitless starlight above me shines from suns that extinguished a billion years ago.  It is impossible to grasp the idea that nothing is ever created or destroyed, that everything always was and still is and only changes in shape or form or frequency, traveling on a wave of light and a story that doesn’t end.”

            -from “Once: Letters From a Lost Creek” by Jimmy Watts

Frosted petals, winter linens.  
Barnwood lining, cream quality.  
An Afghan rose pushes the sky one last time, 
burdened by water. 

Taos memory, 
Muse of the Southwest.  
Pilgrimage cemetery in the park.  
Penitente heart, penitente wind 
crying in a cottonwood grove.   
Bark magnetized,   
toothy taste for the gods.  
Dog’s collar, bleached white bones.  
Disco dance under broken bourbon glass 
      trinkets and tin, 
               slivers of silver December light.  
Icons of yarn and nip, 
      paperback strips 
         stuck in the sweet grass.  
The sky windblown gray.  
Solar radio (101.9) hum, 
a cougar crosses the sidewalk 
looking for water.  
Old man's face a walnut
or cottonwood bark.
Old Man River cold and low 
but the water boils from a skinny dipping spring.  
“A Love Supreme”.       

Her voice, the cat’s meow, the Red River falling above Questa.  Up canyon, pine bough strings strum.  Her wind sings.  His colorless dreams, white on black.  Snow falls on great-grandmother’s raven coat.  He prayed the snow would kiss desert lips in December.  Prayer answered.  High on the mountain - nieves penitentes pointing dead fingers to the noonday sun. 

His Russian pocket watch keeps no time.  
Just to remember this place by.  
The vulgarity of clocks, 
burden of drifting time, 
heavy as water.

Over yonder in Kabul skeletons creep to the radio tower.  Refugees returned with nothing on their backs but sacks of adobe bricks.  Nothing but the poppies grow, this dreadful drought.  Someday the rain’s gonna fall, washing them all back down.  Bricks, bones, riverbed clog.    

They speak our language but we can’t speak theirs.  They sound so different but they all look the same.  Disposable clothes.  American hoodie hegemony.    
Solar radio on the high plain then descent into faint metallic static of cutbank shadows, the white noise of flowing water and fog running low.  A magpie sings to her lover undercover canopy of cottonwood, tail above nest.  Water low before the melt, river grass still except for a single blade twitch.  Cutthroat trout.      
Afghan boys stacking sand bags all day.  
Ugandan guards, Kalashnikovs 
slung like gunmetal guitars.  
The insider threat is real 
as he smokes the Serbians dance 
to his Texas country blues.  
Sun shining, nose red, 
tobacco cowboy's rough 
as the lizard boots he’s wearing.    
Thanksgiving came and went.  It should be his favorite holiday, but like attending mass it comes with a sense of irony.  His favorite days are all those in-between, forgotten by history’s economic calendar, like today.  He feels irony about Christmas although different.  But this year Christmas bourbon, sleeping bag on the patio, sparrows in the snow.  O he’ll never forget to hang the lights again.
Every evening a pinch of Afghan dust to the wind.  Looking down at all the layers between.  Pretty soon all he’ll have to do is look to the west as the sun sets.  
This is the end, he’s leaving.  On a high desert plain framed by blue mountains, a beginning.   

Saturday, November 3, 2018

“How the water goes is how the earth is shaped.”
            -from “The Theory and Practice of Rivers” by Jim Harrison

Last week in Kabul one of Mother Theresa’s nuns from Calcutta drove a beat up Camry station wagon down the crowded street.  It was loaded with trinkets to sell at the bazaar to raise money for an orphanage.  She stopped the car and waved to me, saying, “I hope you brought lots of money!”  Then she drove away in a cloud of dust, her vail wafting from the window like a white and blue flag.    

“Do things for people not because of who they are or what they do in return, but because of who you are.”
            -Mother Theresa


Sing a deep song
Of the death of things before
Copper mountains hiding
Under a blanket of new snow
Of the hundred women waiting all day
Their first would be their last
Deep song
A vote

Sing a deep song
Of the death of things before
Of the burning Afghan sun
Blotted by Kabul smoke

Sing a deep song
Of the birth of new questions
Why are we here
Why there’s no such thing as win

It seems when people die they are lonely although crave isolation.  But there is no alone in this place. 

“I cannot bear this passion and courage [when people care for the dying, when they honor the dead]”.
            -from the poem “The Theory and Practice of Rivers” by Jim Harrison

Change on the mind, transition.  There are painful things that enter dreams.  A life rearranged after this.  Perhaps this place has run its course although tonight is perfect, as delicate leaves fall on our shoulders like golden feathers.  Smoke drifts up the valley from brick kilns resembling towering stupas from a helicopter.  A furry hedgehog peaks from the darkness, then scurries across the gravel.  Cold fingers clutching papery habanos.    

There is something about the wind that I need.  Smoke from a cigar is wind made visible.  I wish I was back in that pink metal chair at the Blue Swallow Inn in Tucumcari to watch the vultures swirl, riding the wind, made visible.  A horribly beautiful black wind cyclone.

I haven’t seen a dog but I just heard a mongrel bark from the village beyond the perimeter wall.  Perhaps this is the only country where all dogs are mongrels.

We converted a chicken coop into a fancy dog house.  It had a window, a swinging door and a light.  But she preferred the 360 degree view from under the camping trailer, lying in cool grass.    

Another pair of boots for the cobbler.  Last week I walked so far, so slowly, I almost fell over.  The speed of life for me.  The speed life should be, while dreaming of roads and rambling, that September motorcycle ride across heaven, singing to the wind:

“The Weight” by The Band:

Aquarelle by Henry Miller

“Why change?  I asked myself.  How wonderful to accept life on its own terms!  How wonderful to accept one’s own self!  Improvement.  I doubt that the word exists in their vocabulary.  And though it does exist in ours, it is difficult to see what of value has been accomplished through endless improvement.  Certainly the civilized man does not yield the image of contentment, either with himself or with his surroundings; nor is he more peaceable, more loving, more kindhearted.”
            -Henry Miller

“The necessity to analyze, to understand, to categorize, answers to some basic need in the onlooker.  He cannot rest suspended in thin air.  He must know, know the reason why, and in doing so he kills what he sees.”
-Henry Miller

“Pure reason leads nowhere, unless it be to the analysts couch.”
            -Henry Miller

Friday, October 5, 2018

“Life is a railroad station.  Soon I will set out – for where?  I will not say.”
            -Marina Tsvetaeva

Many thanks to Dragon Poet Review for publishing three of my recent poems:

Poetry Section
Garcia Street Books
Santa Fe, New Mexico
Also many thanks to Garcia Street Books for selling my book With Them I Move.

Garcia Street Books:

From the patio of Garcia St. Books/Downtown Subscription Coffee 
Santa Fe
Father and Daughter, 2010

Friday, September 28, 2018

Route 66
Tucumcari, New Mexico


When dreams turn dark the vultures dance
They feed on the eyes of a newborn calf
And pick the highway clean
Making love to rotting flesh

Ink black stains on pale sky
Their shadows sweep the desert dust
Hard to tell a vulture 
From a loitering drone

Poor vulture
The only bird without romance
But watch them swoon
In the canopy of blue they own
Making winds visible 
Riding the vapes

Strip it away 
The stringy moist things
Droop and flem 
The stench of road kill
There’s an ugliness in fear
Vultures don’t kill

Black winged wedge of sky
Keeping the road crews company 
And me

Route 66
Texas Panhandle

“I won’t listen to the weather report.  I’ll let the question of snow hang.  Answers only dull the senses.  Even answers that are right often make what they explain uninteresting.  In nature the answers are always changing.  Rain to snow.  Nature can let the mysterious things alone.  The way we don’t fall off the earth at night when we look up at the North Star.  The way we know this may not always be so.”
-from the poem “Report From the West” by Tom Hennen

“I’m a lousy escapist.  Troubles of the world roll off my back.  The only talent I have is to be able to smell each new season before it comes in the hair of women.”
-from the poem “A Note to My State-Appointed Job Counselor” by Tom Hennen

Galisteo, New Mexico
“Like people or dogs, each day is unique and has its own personality quirks, which can easily be seen if you look closely.  But there are so few days as compared to people, not to mention dogs, that it would be surprising if a day were not a hundred times more interesting than people.  For some reason we want to see days pass, even though most of us claim we don’t care to reach our last one for a long time.  We examine each day before us with barely a glance and say, no, this isn’t one I’ve been looking for, and wait in a bored sort of way for the next, when, we are convinced, our lives will start for real.”
            -from the poem “The Life of a Day” by Tom Hennen

Cerrillos, New Mexico
“Getting off the bus just as the duck drops out of a V in late autumn with some unfinished business up north.”
-from the poem “Getting Off the Bus” by Tom Hennen

Galisteo, New Mexico
“Rain begins first deep inside where I can smell the dust I’m made of.”
-from the poem “A Note to My State-Appointed Job Counselor” by Tom Hennen

Route 66
Tucumcari, New Mexico

“I've been from Tucson to Tucumcari
Tehachapi to Tonapah
Driven every kind of rig that's ever been made
Driven the back roads
So I wouldn't get weighed”

“Willin” by Little Feat:

Thursday, August 30, 2018

“The Cold War did not end.  It shattered into a thousand dangerous pieces.”
            -from the movie Red Sparrow


I dream in Spanish even though I remember little from a borderline childhood.   

I fell in love with the mariachi song “Volver, Volver” that Harry Dean Stanton sings in the movie Lucky.  I translated it into English but it wasn’t the same poetry.  So I’m on a journey to relearn the language of my youth, of Lorca and Neruda, of cantina dreams.

“Volver, Volver”:

I’m learning to dream consciously if that’s even possible.  Forget about obsessing over the lottery, you’ve already won, at least for a few hours each night.      

Everything is pale in the summer of this place, not like a pink wash of pale morning
light, but rather the tint of hospital walls, without monsoon clouds to paint the shadows golden.   

Everything is pale except for a few good books I devour like Henry Miller, underlining so many passages I’ll never return to them all, an irritating conundrum but not for six billion fellow humans.  Surrounded by soft Serbian chatter, not distracting because I don’t know the words.  The mystic sound of a gypsy camp, their language a forest music.

There are still firsts every day.  Today I ate nothing but vanilla ice cream for lunch on a picnic table next to a weary soldier.  Her . . . 

Apple cheek on apricot wrist
Pistol at her hip
Machine gun slung

O My
Time speeds by
Pen out of ink
I can’t think

Ooo eeee
Strange body whiff
The Taliban blew up the PX
Thank god for Amazon.com

Picnic table, morning tree
Cigarettes, black coffee
Indian laborers sweeping the dust
Happy lonely heart broke

Still tending the roses
Friday mornings
Bird shit on my head
I don’t care

Lonely prickly pear
With only one pad
Coffee grounds in the garden
Trying to grow more

Bark of the locust
Old man skin
Tears form then fall
Strange times of the day

Bought a pack of smokes
To remember the glimmer
Of her face that night
Red-hot ember

Birds are dying
In this dying place
But there are plenty more
To send her way

Walk in the morning
Walk at night
Duct tape covers
A hole in my boot

The days are so long
But nights are without time
Pajaro Hermosa
I’m doing just fine


“The way of the comets is the poet’s way.  And the blown-apart links of causality are his links.  Look up after him without hope.  The eclipses of poets are not foretold in the calendar.  [He is] the one whose traces have always vanished, the train every one always arrives too late to catch.  For the path of comets is the path of poets: they burn without warming.”
            -from the poem “The Poet” by Marina Tsvetaeva”

Kabul, Afghanistan

“Give me the Corvidae: ravens, crows, magpies, jays, opportunistic scavengers, whom I feel akin to as a mongrel.”
        -from The Road Home by Jim Harrison

Friday, July 27, 2018

“When we have learned to listen to trees, then the brevity and the quickness and the childlike hastiness of our thoughts achieve an incomparable joy.”

            -Herman Hesse

I felt my heart flutter from the shock of rotary blades whirling on the tarmac, splitting the air open then out, beyond the speed of sound.  Nothing should travel that fast except the cosmos. 

Before boarding the helicopter my daughter sent a picture of my dog Georgia, which made me think the very best dogs are mongrels.  Perhaps the same can be said about humans.   

The Afghans were playing soccer in an old arena devoid of grass in the heart of Kabul City.  They scattered when they saw us coming in low just above the tall pine tree tops.  Our Chinook helicopter landed long enough for us to grab our bags and run.  Then it was airborne,  up and over the tall concrete walls, disappearing into the city. 

After grabbing a room for the night I made my way to the U.S. Embassy pool, the most heavily guarded swimming pool in the world.  On a whim I performed a lopsided cannonball off the diving board, soaking an overweight state department employee wearing a full-blown candy striped speedo.   

That evening I was late to a business dinner at a Turkish restaurant with a group from the intelligence community.  Finally showing up I said, “Boys I’m embarrassed to admit I was held up at the massage parlor”, which of course elicited several wisecracks about happy endings.    

Later that night a transvestite named Aya sat across from me at a picnic table.  When I complained of the long days she responded, “I’ve been here six years working twelve hour days, seven days a week, only going home twice at my own expense.  I’ve lived in the same metal box for six years with the same roommate.  He’s never spoken to me.  My life comes down to work and television because I’m afraid of the night.  I’d like to travel more but I’m afraid to go alone and have no money.”  She must have been terrified because it was the middle of the night.  I wonder what she was doing there.  I think I know. 

Rabies is a big problem in Afghanistan, so we are not allowed to keep or feed animals.  But there were pussy cats everywhere, the result of a charity program to provide for their care and feeding.  These cats were the happiest I’d ever seen, with their own “authorized feeding stations”, kitty condominiums, and free reign of the place.  I heard their primary responsibility was to control mice, the byproduct of which is human happiness in large scoops. 

Then I went to a rooftop café painted blue with a view of the moon rising over the high perimeter wall.  From my perch I could hear Afghan boys playing volleyball which they love.  There were people up there like me hunched over their notebooks, bathed in cigarette smoke.  It’s obvious the rest of the world still smokes, in cafes and bars, the alternate being addiction to the inside world of television and soul zapping leisure.  I once read that the hysteria over smoking coincided with the decline of communism, no doubt true. 

How I enjoyed the tiny blue café perched above the bleeding city, with its eternal heroin wounds.  America is high.  Afghanistan bleeds.  Wishing I was a black cat, so I could explore the dark city without risk of human violence.      

Before leaving, I had a bird’s eye view of a suicide bomber blowing himself outside the nearby airport.  His target was the former warlord Dostum, returning from exile.  But he only managed to kill twenty of Dostum's men and a photo journalist. 

Then we left from the soccer field on a different kind of bird, up and over the pines, disappearing over the city.  I’m back here now not wanting to be. 

Kabul, Afghanistan

Kabul Cats
"Authorized Feeding Station"

“If you want someone’s wealth, or the area in which they live, or their bodies themselves, your motives are basically economic but you attack them on religious grounds, portraying them as godless savages, the antichrist, or worse yet, having no discernable religion at all because it had become gradually lost when they were uprooted from their homeland.  And after the utter and complete defeat of the enemy you want nothing more from them, they have nothing more to give, except that the remnant behave themselves.”
            -from The Road Home by Jim Harrison

“He once rode into me as if through lands of miracles and fire, with all the power of poetry.  I was: dry, sandy, without day.  He used poetry to invade my depths, like those of any other country!  We entered one anothers’ eyes as if they were oases.”
            -from the poem “Sahara” by Marina Tsvetaeva