In whispers it came, hush and slow-spread

shaped as the voiceless sphere 

of a dandelion,

cities lit at night under planes.

It did not come wriggling, slithering, 

or crashing.

It came drifting, hanging like air,

caught in pearls of breath 

sparkling over everything we sigh about, settling.

Replicated in dark creases 

inside our heads and chests, 

the fibers of our hearts,

winter cold.

Silent streets, 

jagged line graphs, rising numbers,

hospitals afloat in the harbors,

bright white bundles, rolls and rolls, 

biohazard, poppy red, 

mouthless grimace, 

no toilet paper. 

“Close down the schools,” the order came.

“Now we are learning this.”

Tears of God and all Gods

fold the mountain, exhale fog,

as ghosts of the girdled  

echo their fallings in the forest, 

being morning breezes. 

No more coffin wood, only bleak sunlight,

no tooth-leaved shade. 

Scurry squirrels,

dig and dig and dig.

“Forget the fallen,” old hunger says. 

“Now we are learning this.”

Redbud procession, same as before, 

only difference in details:

new branches, new blooms.

Creeks surge and wither, slightly

frogs begin chorusing 

their one-season world. 

Up through the parking lots

empty elementary school, 

empty pool    –

uncautious shoots of new green rise

through soil made of dust,

bones, bark, rock worn to sand

under asphalt.

Once a giant, stubborn roots hold tight.

Unnoticed on ridgelines,

small striving trees, 

not yet choked out by blight, 

grow, seeking the light

because – really –

what else is there to do?

“Now we are learning this.”

[Note misspelling of last name]

Now we are learning this. 

Hi, thank you all for creating encouragement to make poetry during National Poetry Month. 
I have attached a poem entitled Now We Are LearningThis as a .docx. Please let me know if you have any trouble accessing the file or if a different format is preferable.  
Have a great afternoon!

Thank you for your poem. I am forwarding to the judges. 
Since I am not a judge, I can say in my humble opinion, 
 this is an amazing poem. Although amazing is an overused phrase; this time it fits.
  I have read it twice. It is gorgeous read aloud.
This made my day. 

Thank you so much for forwarding the poem!
It meant a lot to me to write it. My mom picked up the notice of the contest at the library and gave it to me, so she was on my mind a lot as I wrote. 
Thank you so much for reading and enjoying the poem. That made my day.

I am delighted to report that you are one of the two winners in the adult category  of the Library Poetry Contest.   There was a tie. 
  As you know, I loved your poem! Amazing is a word often overused.  It describes your poem perfectly.
  Because we only had 4 entries at the time where we had to commit to the Zoom Event, we could not do it. 
 I have your prize. I can mail it or we can meet somewhere in Fairview. Please let me know what works.
 Are you published anywhere? I would like to read more of your work.
 Thank you for entering.

Oh, that’s great news! How exciting!
This is the first time I’ve ever won anything for writing. I’m not published anywhere – but, hope to be someday! 
I am working on putting together a little website for my artwork and writing. I’ve spent most of my energies over the past couple decades on family and working in nonprofits. I am in the process of learning how to better follow my passion for doing good in the world through arts. 

I hate to ask, but do you know if the poem will be printed in the Fairview Town Crier? 
I’d love for my mom to see a poem I wrote in print. 
As many of her ‘library friends’ know, she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer last year and she knows I have always wanted to be a poet. 
It would make her so happy to see the poem printed! 
I understand if there isn’t space in the layout, but just wanted to ask. 
Thanks so much for liking the poem! 💜

The Un-Naming of Us: 365 Haiku

F.R. Rhyne (2019-2020)

1 – 8, Speech

roll your tongue, pushing

pulling air into your lungs 

spitting out the truth

It sounds like, “Ahem,”

“Hmmm,” “Uhhhhh,” “Ungh,” “Ach,” “I…don’t know…” 

how to speak it clear…

a quiet phrasing 

sun scent of warming grasses

softer expression 

thin reed whistle sound

pitched like the tilt of a bird’s wing

cutting bright air clean

comes as a stumble

breaking wavelet memory

grit of sand, breadfruit

warmly sticky hands

fatigue of dirt road laughing 

symphony at night 

sour sweet brother breath 

heavy sigh as puppies sleep 

adults speaking low 

almost separate

a photograph held lightly 

“Was this us? Really?” 

9 – 12, Before Time

…there are no word-sounds

for the beginning movements, 

before anything 

What was there? Expanse?

Just a void-full vacuum space?

An empty socket?

There can be no wind,

if nothing moves a muscle.

No wind, no muscles. 

so conspicuous,

the absence of everything 

we might call ‘alive’ 

13 – 17, Melding

arrangements were made

atom configurations

created the spark 

Ain’t got a name, no 

or a mind like our new minds 

no sense of itself 

no imagined time 

or knowledge of space beyond 

nothing but knowing 

Knowing not like us, 

but, moving without effort

without intention 

The sweetest pulling 

elemental attraction 

bonds beyond breaking 

18, Initial Questions

Was there a whisper,

a murmuring in the dark?

Did the first cells sigh?

19 – 23, Utterances

beautiful, we were

in all the ways we have been 

alive and dying 

The snow and ice

the fires and beasts, new life 

not knowing what comes 

oh, to remember 

that the world was here before

we discovered names

…all so long ago,

there is no one who can tell, 

can’t speak that story. 

silent origins

are not soundless, listen here:

speech without talking 

25 – 28, Without Knowing

bromeliads grew 

and the lizards sprouted wings 

it took a good while

before winding clocks

or any imagining 

of long nighttime hours 

slow living and death

just as daily as it is now 

without knowing time 

there was no distance

no measurement of the miles

nothing had a name 

29, Truth

the land was nameless 

there was no way to say ‘home’

no one to say ‘home’

30 – 33, Innation

all creatures know, tho’…

creation lessons taught them

where they can survive

all things born knowing 

what they crave and what they fear 

DNA knowledge 

To run, to jump, dig

to eat grubs, seeds, fish, algae

to keep on living 


endocrine and thyroid gland 

signaling us: Grow. 

34 – 35, 4 Ws

We learn as we go

the sourness and sickness, 

the sweetness and warmth

we thrive or falter 

depending on when and where 

who, what we are born

36, Truth (2)

for some of us here

life is a slow-blinking eye

over and done, gone

37 – 40, Instinct

the first words were grunts 

howls, songs sung without singing

the scream of murder

storms were almighty 

new hominids had no gods

death-fear was instinct

the striving of life

required no will at all

it was natural 

To seek out food, hunt

to gather, drink water from leaves 

these were not choices 

41, Truth(3)

oceans did not choose

the rhythm of tidal flow 

rain falls without choice

42 – 46, Anthro

afarensis, comprende?

Australopithecus, yo? 

Old Lucy no se

it became a job

to dig up hundreds of bones 

study the fragments 

unearth the sacred 

Use the most delicate brush

remove dirt from teeth

Lay out the bodies

rib cage, femur, mandible

marvel at the skulls


Tanzania, Olduvai

footprints left in ash

47 – 50, Naming

our ancestors died 

howling in the flaming heat 

without knowing death 

Homo habilis

Long prior to the Maasai 

Place of wild sisal

The Great Rift Valley

one million years ago, man


These are made up names 

for places we claim to know 

as ours to lay claim

51 – 54, History

Thick walls enclosing

the city-town of Jericho…

why did they need walls?

Catal Huyuk held

spaces for worship, women

made of stone and clay

Organized villages

created special labors

jobs and roles, talents

Tasks took on value

products emerged in surplus

trade began, tribes fought

55 – 57, In Modern Rendition

How does this show up

thousands of years later?

Colonial turf wars

even kids know it 

colors become codified

Street sign boundaries

Elder mothers mourn

keep their own pistols loaded

Please God, watch over us.

58 – 61, of Weaponry

The earliest tools

were not made of rock and sharp bone

clawed hands were weapons

Closing into fists

strong, rough like worn-out leather

Dirt under broken nail

Never enough food

Had to learn to kill a deer

Satisfy hunger

The thrill of the hunt

predatory lust writ deep

makes human hearts beat

62 – 66, Where We Came…

go to the river

each day, every morning 

wash away the blood

 tell us the story 

of the animals’ escape 

speak in native tongue

myths of creation

shape the world as we see it

center us or them

have to be careful 

of the tales we tell children

about who they are

Where did we come from?

Not our bodies, our cells, bones –

the naming of us.

67 – 70, From

Judaculla’s rock 

sits speaking in the forest 

speaks silent under trees.

Spelling a story 

lines cut into the hard rock 

for the future ones

Maps are like stories,

stories are like maps, like guides

telling us the way

Children taking turns

wander through woods far from home

name them “good” or “bad

71 – 78, Prior

There were buffalo 

clear to the ocean, huge herds

land belonged to them

This place was their home 

the fields and the valley grass

their bones are still here

The water flowing

here, right on through the mountains 

thousands of years old

mountains were jagged

Earth slamming into itself 

rocks jutting from collisions

Broken pottery 

found in the soil below banks 

worn smooth at the edges

the flow of the streams

in places now dry, barren

written as ridges

From above, the lines 

look just like your fingerprints

swirled sand beaches

Before we could fly

everything was smaller

and yet still so vast

81 – 88, Forging

roots grow persistent 

somehow breaking through hard stone 

making small pathways

In the night, rocks fall

land heavy and stay forever 

or til they erode…

it’s not a secret:

there is no forever here 

it’s easy to see.

Yawn, oh great cloud break

not witnessed in the pre-dawn

opening above

The breath of owl song

a thread through trees, pushing soft

making sound-cut spaces

Tilt of the orbit

positions a planet near

closer to the moon

The woman pauses

never noticed that before

Looking up, surprised

There are slim chances

brief windows, prime conditions

sap rise, season shift

89 – 95, Forests

No words for the sound

capillaries opening

eyes dilating wide

Tremble of vein stretch

cellulose walls forming up

to become an oak

Entire empires thrive

tucked in around the root web

pulsing in dark soil

scientists can hear

by way of lines on paper


voices from the trees

the subaudible gasping

bite of the chainsaw

how to amplify

millions of hearts beating fast

terrified in flight

pass the mic over

colonies of insects scurry

carry out big plans

96 – 100, Archae

Skilled human being 

2.5 million years ago

Homo habilis

it was crucible

the birth place, cradling us 


Land was colored gold

and gods lived everywhere

in everything

winds and fires speak

tell what those who came before 

wish us to know, hear

secrets conjured up

feet hit the ground, dust rising

bones shake, rattle, roll

101 – 107, Habit

be invisible 

walk without touching the ground

do not make a sound

cover the smell up

with crushed leaves, sharp scent, thick mud

leave no tracks, no trace

Hold the arrow lightly

let it be a part of you

send the point flying

Homo sapiens

the thinking human being 

moved outward, naming


stone tools to cut, smash, break 

all with bloody hands

When the ice came 

there was no lamenting cold

no questioning death

We didn’t see it 

had no way to predict rain

unstoppable floods

108 – 110, Innovate

Speech was simple code

utterance and gesturing

pitch to make meaning

sequences set firm

names for flames and lions, sky 

sounds for who we are

in all four corners,

seeds were sown, barley millet 

rice wheat lentils corn

How did it happen?

That we suddenly knew how

to grow food to eat?

Burgeoning, winning

the thrust of diving hawk flight

cutting through the fields

111 – 115, Alchemy

our life histories

begin with the history

of all before us

They carried whispers

small stirrings that make breezes

from the prior ages

They made the world new

from mud, stars, from their own blood

they breathed life into…

they still exist, gods

even if we don’t know their stories

Don’t see them in wind

we were directed

our organs pulsed with humors

blood was once magic

116 – 121, Numinosity

schematics and maps

drew a firmament dome, hands

in the human form

world in our image

not in God’s image, in ours

at least some of ours…

Early ones knew well

that man was imperfect, crude

not like the great beasts

The ones with horns

with wings and fins, lionine

crafting the storms

There were spirit forms

and powerful dark beings

exist, still unseen

 Holy books are full

cloudforms speaking, fire and blight

all the miracles

122 – 127, Composite

Look closely, breathe in

count the layers in silence


When I look at you

salt stings my eyes, I tremble

welcomed home again.

how can the clouds hold

water in the shapes of bears

briefly showing themselves?

birth of rare fever

blooming jewel of Africa

blood-colored flowers

Craving to eat stones

let them rest under the tongue

to spit or swallow

shines like dew, slug trails

dash of stars, the Milky Way‘s

constituent parts

128 – 134, -onyms

Timucuans lived 

had numerous settlements 

all along rivers

Names for homeplaces 

never knew them to forget

“ancient history”

Never such a thing

as a “Timucuan” tribe

Spanish mispronounced

Exonyms misheard

Double mistakes in hearing

become the name known

Letters we use say

nothing of the sounds spoken

such crude translations

Two hundred thousand 

more than all that died in wars 

in one hundred years

that was just one tribe 

one people among many 

whose names we don’t know

135 – 139, Panther

in the night, she walks 

slow and careful, listening 

for raccoons, possums

eyes glint gold in dark 

thick insect symphony sounds

rhythms for hunting

wild boars aren’t careful

they get busy, distracted 

rooting, face in dirt

It’s almost easy

to run into the pack, claws out

and grab what you can

scattering screaming 

everything exploding 

in movement and fear

140 – 143, Sensing

In the forest shade

a tiny life moves fast, light

under leaves cool, damp.

Talon on the branch 

sharper than made by machines,

perfect feathering.

The wave of a pulse,

and the night quivers alive

with unseen currents.

I’m far from the owl.

There’s too much to do everyday,

to sense a heartbeat.

144 – 148, 1984

My great grandmother

Hands like crepe baby birds

She was a racist

I remember this

at intervals, dawn

and right before sleep

Who and where and what

we are, the people, places

that gave birth to us

It all rushes in 

adrenaline, cortisol

spitting out the words

refusal to go

Unsegregated swimming 


149 – 158, Combat

Their jawlines were smooth

tho’ hands were rough from working

holding rusted guns

Men, closed offices

drawing lines, cartography

X marks the target

my brother, your kin

became numbers, troops deployed

to die for ideas

Sleep was a joke, son

No rest for the weary there

under hellfire rain

Dream never again

no softness, no golden fields

just red explosions

it’s a trick, you see

to turn men into machines

to command their will

soil holds vibrations

sings rusted earth elegies

lay your head down, son

a monarch catches

air currents undetected

becomes transparent

walls crumble in wind

ultraviolet light dissolves

clay and stone, slowly

reports ring out, CRACK

doesn’t it split your head wide?

cities up in smoke

159 – 165, Multiplicities

In the midst of war

starvation, emergency 

grasses softly blow

In dark, lives away 

Gunshots ring out across town 

the fire burns warm

smart submarines rest

in channels dredged from the deep

bombs in their bellies

show security badge

drive through armed gate, go slowly 

everything is filmed

Trains come, broad daylight

take new spur line to the north 

carrying supplies

Lockheed Martin watches

Trident Training officers

show the simulated launch

take a deep breath now 

all your friends are doing it 

step onto the rails

166 – 172, Entrope

You spend days waiting

looking for the envelope

but don’t want to know

You can’t get away

from news on every screen

garish smiling faces

“This isn’t real! No!”

You want to shake their shoulders

“Wake up! It’s not real!”

It feels like ice, cold

hollow like a dying tree

how real it all is

dailyness of days

the whirlwind blur not seeing

but, moving forward

Sometimes the movements

are small, stuck tight round and round

some motion skitters

There are tangles, traps

vines of kudzu, stay busy

forever growing

173 – 180, Edu

fog creeps at dew point

Early morning siren sounds

distorted, screech owls

why is the moon located

in the wrong part of the sky

easternly crescent

secrets do not lie

in obsidian spaces

between the trees

‘Cept what do we have

a light sweeping ‘round bushes

crackling footsteps

people live in woods

sleep under tarps with wet shoes

right by middle schools

there is chain link fence

and so i feel safe, ashamed,

fearing poverty

That is my secret.

Nature doesn’t keep secrets

people keep secrets

Even to ourselves

we hide the truth, who we are,

what we learn in school

181 – 187, Peri- 

cadence of footfalls

dry brush of cardboard boxes

thudding gravity

rubber wheels cheapen

nuance of selecting meat

unsanitized hands

To walk like a whisper

imagine air as body

and watch where you step

you can be soundless

almost anyway – quiet

quieter than most

unspool the wires

use the hammer to break glass

open up the line, please

She felt it, knew it

Somewhere over the mountain tops

where Chance is slow born

Full crowning takes years

and it’s easy to forget

we are in birth-time

188, (…)

body as air, rise

don’t try to beat gravity

it doesn’t exist

189 – 192, Micro/Macro

Middle of the night

hands find each other

simple human ways

The mother holds child

walks down the dirt road, pointing

there is goldenrod

They don’t stop walking

to look closer at the blooming 

four kinds of bees feed

We see the whole scene

offer up broad brush coding

details become blurred

193 – 198, Coverings

We learned to weave wool

spin silk from mulberry trees

invented clothing

Polyester viscose blend

in polymers mixed to make 

color of rainbows

Cover yourself, girl!

Out here nekkid in the yard –

what you thinkin’, child?

The door can close, lock

sheets smell like sunshine 

or something like that

Sunshine has no smell

the scent you call sunshine fresh 

chemical odor

Sunshine fresh means clean

clean means decent, and decent – 

who knows what that means?

199 – 203, Carryings

Late model sedan

riding up and down the road

looking for ladies

“Need a ride, honey?”

window rolls down slow

man leans over, grins

not riding the bus

they talk at the bus stop

smoking cigarettes

Don’t talk about them,

children with names like Justice,

names like Hope and Faith

They don’t exist here

man smiling midnight, “Get in…”

opens the car door

204, Carryings(2)

they sleep still knowing

the sound of their mothers’ voices

even in dreaming

205 – 211, Relations

Ms. Social Worker 

comes without calling, knocks loud

we know what it means

learned to be ready

keep the floors cleaned with Pine Sol

quick, go change the baby

Mama’s hands shake now

clatter the dishes, nervous

moving like a squirrel

they took my brother

didn’t seem to care nothin’ 

‘bout his crying out

He reached back to us

straining against the holding

arms straight out, grasping

was late afternoon

with the sun gold orange through pines

light, a good feeling

Officer knew us,

played football back in highschool

Mama was pretty.

212 – 214, Enter

we were all there then

my brother playing with me

in the yard, dirty

We were throwing sticks

that landed to make dust rise

dog started barking

Fence gate latch clanking

world coming in, wearing pumps

carrying clipboards

215, Yardwork

You pull the grass rough

grimace and claw, rip, tear, pop

rhizomal network

216 – 222, Sowing

To plant nasturtium

bury the seeds deep to wait

away from all light

Soak them in water

if you want to play like God

mimic the spring rain

Notice, important

the way the hulls look like brains,

gonads, ovaries

You don’t know just yet

what color the blooms will be

only that they will come

at least you hope so

pushing finger, tunneling

making birth canals

A cluster, no rows

the edge of the fence, near gate

a constellation

stretch of sunny days

unfurl like sweet promises

of orange, maybe red

223 – 228, Inside

The heft of the door,

hard seats, a screen of faces.

Print the yellow pass.

Go up, air is warm…

stuffy indoors, fluorescent…

bang, metallic sound.

Looks in people’s eyes…

speech, smile, vocal timbre…words

like a preacher says.

“Then, dude, 45…”

*hand held like a loaded gun*

“Can’t say shit ‘bout it.”

“You leave a person…”

“Alone like that, after that…”

“Man, it is not good.”

Everyone is a child

When they speak of unfairness,

the anger of all.

229 – 237, Context

Automatic doors

 smell of plastic petroleum

 home goods product lines

 box architecture

 all right angles, empty space

 mimics containers

 “Fill ‘er up?” “Yes, sir.”

 this product is known to cause

 cancer, explosions

 discharge static

 before fueling, touch something


 hovers and buzzes

 tingling, lurch, bundle and build

 a haze of lightning

tiny bolts surround

 gather electrons, lose them

 a frenzy dance

they say the earth hums

emits constant noise unheard

makes me want to cry

Stand in the center

 city swirls roaring around

 great din of commerce

rises like vapor

 wave crossing wave, tangling

 webs shudder on lines

229 – 235, Famine Lands

They named the disease

after the first child hunger

never enough milk

The river banks steam

swarming with flies, no water

the bodies of fish

Places where grass will grow

someday for a moment, two

a generation

There is no food here

There is nothing to eat here

We are starving here

Low wail across plains

for the sons and the daughters

the kin taken far

Taken for the tusks

Taken for the strength of backs

the cords of muscle

In the world they made

Every thing has a price

despite sacred life

236 – 245, Processions

Sovereign beings all

Every creature that lives

that has ever lived

Encased in plastic

perspectives of worth

mutable and made cheap

How can we forget

The soil itself is old bones

of trees, men, and birds?

no matter trying

we cannot manufacture

water with machines

So, wring your hands, sir

Under the table, listen

there is no way out

Take the direction

opposite to the road home

walk into the dark

…day before you left

did you kneel on the ground there?

Touch the dirt and weep?

“Don’t go!” I cry out,

“Stay where you are, stay at home!”

“…you will die here, too.”

The desert lands wait

for your footsteps

migration rhythms

Desperate parade

Stooped figures travel at night

Milky Way watching

246 – 250, Deals 

The starched napkins lay

Crumpled doves dinner

Plucked quick by brown hands

On the southeast side

there is no light of day shining

through the small windows

The briefing took place

in a locked room, underground

monitors record

The world will never

be the same again, any day

any second passing

There are small stirrings

noticing the child’s eyes flash

saying: “You are bad.”

251 – 255, Flee

The cities grow, sprawl

Patterning metastasis

we cannot control

Men, names like punches

that you won’t ever know, speak

holler from corners

The wives and children

huddle in rooms warm, fetid

waiting for the word

Go, go now, time comes

Mother’s blue bowl broke, oh well

one of many things lost

In the mix with bones

of trees, men, and birds, find

small fragments of glass

256 – 262, Transition

Chemicals derived

Taxus brevifolia

Kill cells good and bad

bone marrow suffers

stops making blood, hair falls out

the Pacific Yew.

My father cries now

Talks about morphine, hospice

what will happen next.

My mother’s hands, birds

resting quiet and folded

at peace in her lap

“Please come tomorrow,”

“Come whenever you can,”

“Please visit with me.”

“I’ll miss you too much,”

she says this by the flowers,

blooming brief, brightly.

How can I help her

to know and to deep-believe:

the dead miss nothing?

263 – 272, Transition(2)

The end of day comes

with my mother looking far

down the field, away

Father talked to owls

Calling soft the other night

now I hear them, too

dying has a gaze

all it’s own, mortality

written in the eyes

Oval loops in dark

running fast to feel Alive

before the sunrise

The curve of the track

Catches footstep sounds, echoes

Following faintly

I saw this morning

a bright star beside the moon

never seen before

Remember the night

at the mouth of the canyon?

The galaxy edge?

We could only see

if we didn’t try too hard,

only with soft eyes

My second born child

asked me to watch the sunrise

Of course I said: “yes.”

We saw a raven

flying low, everything

suddenly golden

273 – 279, Evolute

when industry boomed,

 were birds scared of factories?

 smoke and noise, machines

 we watched moths turn dark

 to hide in soot-covered trees

 why are we surprised?

 Evolution day

 every moment we change

 die and born again

Wise apoptosis

 billions dying all the time

 learning from what was

slow down, speed up, flinch

 the smell of cherry blossoms,


Atlanta, Georgia:

 mice were afraid of flowers

 remember the shock

Fear imprints with ease

 more than love, more than comfort

 Cortisol teaches

280 – 289, Old Boys

Put on your holsters

you old boys, with wagging tongues

and secret meetings…

Swallow the bullets 

you’ve been saving up for us 

in the name of Father

The lead sits heavy

in your soft pink gut-belly

feels heavy like fear

Hear the sound they make,

breaking the water’s surface,

setting old ghosts free?

Don’t you burn no cross,

don’t you burn no church ‘round here.

I know who you are.

I came from you, man. 

Your voice sounds like home,

the place that I left.

No white robe can hide

the truth of who you are now –

scared and pink, confused.

Dirty hands, salt earth 

caught under your fingernails

the bone, the marrow

Heft that anchor weight,

the blood-swollen decks creaking

with the roll of waves.

Speak your daddy’s name.

Your great great grand? Say it, too.

Ask them to tell you.

290 – 298, Stupid ?’s

Atlanta, Georgia:

When a white woman passes

Men learned to look down

No need to say why,

 they were bowing their heads, pray

to Emmett Till’s ghost

You want to know why?

 Smart as all you people are?

 Asking is insult.

It doesn’t take brains

 to notice people dying

 in the streets, shot down

Do you not see it?

 This whole motherf*ckin’ place

 built by slave labor

Wall Street worried now,

 ‘bout the collapse of what was

 never theirs to own

 energy it took

 to build this country, this wealth

 rape economy

glib motherf*ckers

 eating their f*cking lunches

 hands bloody as hell

How dare you ask why.

 Incredulous. Idiots.

 You really don’t know.

299 – 306, Multiplicities(2)

Lives no longer live.

Old cotton gathering dust.

The space breathes in, out.

A declaration:

“Anxiety opposite

of humility.”

dancing the slow dance,

the steady turning of Earth.

“Oh, how she lights up!”

A blur of grasses

Gives way to edge, the township

fences along roads

The world seemed insane,

but it didn’t bother me

more than a quiver.

Flash of moving screen,

brief and inspecific weight

shifting in my core.

Before the sun came up

the elder woman walked  slow,

a moving treadmill.

Watching the reel play

silent, muted,  on flat screen,

no certain futures.

307 – 311, Stagger

distance between worlds

one person to another

a moment passing

we adjust quickly

our adaptability

new realities

We forget the names

creatures extinct, this century

whole histories lost

rushing toward the new

we tear down what was sacred

spewing exhaust fumes

left alone too long

it all goes back to the wild

strong instincts of plants

312 – 321, No Frontera

All weariness gone

watch under ponderosa 

hummingbird cloud sky

desert night is long

Factory Butte lit by moon

illuminated like day

equisetum lashes 

legs scratched and burning red raw

prehistoric plants

how human to see

fire in the sky as God’s work,

something like magic

small rocks hold color

like the big hills and mesas 


dead truck container

virtual reality

Arizona road

Ravens flash black wing

a suburbanite is stunned

valley of the gods

Canyons sleep sundown

Pinyon quiet windless night

the beautiful wild

The grass catches light

shining golden afternoon 

rarely seen glowing

Quiet breathes easy

here in the canyon silence

just the sighing wind

322 – 329, Dead Lands

How many days in

the millions of years it took

to make the land here?

This place was on fire

seasons burning on and on 

cold in the morning

western towns cluttered 

with junk we thought we needed 

rusting along roads

New side of town lights 

pizza storage rusting tin

desert winds blow dust

Random road messages

give hope to dreamers, gamblers

Long shot, all is true

I caught signal here

under high point juniper 

to listen, hear truth

She said on the phone, 

“I can’t really be myself, 

in this life, my life.”

Two ravens watch cars

guarding town or the highway 

or nothing at all.

330 – 337, Parking Lots

We tend toward order 

the implicit pull to lines

numbers, doors, closed, *lock*.

Man, geometry 

hard edges everywhere

except reflected

Things we hold onto

Stored for a possible life

we need to let go

pull back your shoulders

throw your fist in living air

you are really free

Find moments of breath

to see the shape of wind waves

carve dances in trees

The gods sleep gape-mouthed

Crawl in like a dream, settle

as a prayer-thought

They will wake with you

in the turning of the winds

the spinning of time

when widening luck

and rich configurations

clear the space ahead

338 – 346, Moves

American road

The river down below us

flows quiet like it does

The brand new of youth

gave way to just skeletons

gasoline for sale

It wouldn’t take long 

for all this to be swallowed 

in green light, small trees

Things lose their shine quick

traffic traffic all day long

forgetting with ease

The names of these places

They are all made up by men

real names are secrets

Wind will tell you soft

the syllables of longing 

to simply move free

There are parts of us

that never die, quiet down

“Listen, don’t forget!”

The people walked here

no choice but to leave it all 

for this? Really? This?!

The grass doesn’t care

what it is called by humans

Fine blades sing real names

347 -349, Singularity

So alive to me. 

Branch and bough, wind-blown and still 

growing steady, slow.

In mute expansion

breathing as leaves in light breeze 

What else is there now?

When sirens go by


the forest exists.

350 – 352, Existing

The end is nameless

as is the mute beginning

space in wind, sunlight

The heat from buildings

shimmers across busy streets

making atmosphere

it doesn’t take faith

To know the stars are still there

even if unseen

353 – 361, Momentum

none of the girls talk

about wanting a new life

they work, no questions

At night, eyes are cast

look down at your hands, count deeds

adding up the costs

clock in, clock out, work

life is a factory now

all you’ll ever know

fingers are calloused

no softness there, at the tip

knuckles swell at night

on television

there is a bright-colored life

people laughing loud

make worthless products

your life spent earning wages 

fingers twisted, sore

Give away talents

so someone else can profit

that’s the way it is

you will never see

such a vivid universe

oceans blue, sky blue

your world is dull grey

under haze of smog and ash

sun a silver disk

362 – 365, Ending

We will forget them.

The ones who came before us,

those who we destroyed.

The names we gave them

never spoke to who they were.

Names don’t tell stories.

All beings lifted…

Lord, let us be un-named now.

All beings seen whole.

The only knowing

life, death, continuation

the forever earth.


“…before all that.” [Remembering Poems]


The woman behind the front desk,

who is quick to call any man handsome,

once told me

‎after she’d seen a picture 

(curling at the corners, becoming indefinite at the edges, in the background)

from your marathon years

or your Navy years

or some other years

before this year

of kittens and pornography

not sleeping through the night

skipped medication


sitting alone in the dark, the early morning

out in the county 

where there is hardly a sound at 3:00am

before you didn’t sleep for days

on the long trip north 

to go see your mother

dance ‘round the living room

to some song she used to like

to bicker with your remaining brother

your last brother

the good son, the one who didn’t kill himself,

who stayed alive, stayed home, became impatient 

and complained to you

about the mess of her eating,

the food falling out of the mouth

that sang you to sleep

‎before you got on the bus

before you were the far away son, the runaway son

the man who left the kittens

in these stupid mountains 

that were never your home

because you wanted to tell your mother goodbye

when you thought 

she would be the one 

to die first.                                                                            You were handsome, before all that. 

To tell you her life story, 

she’d crawl under that low table, 

tuck into a ball, 

duck walk crawl,

lay down flat-bellied 

on the nubbed-out carpet

Smelling dirt and plastic,

the cold of the concrete in the floor seeps up. 

She’d tell about watching

small hands fidget,

rising and falling from tabletop to chair 

elbows pressed close to bodies

and feet hooked ‘round the legs of chairs,

scuffing, rolling toes.

Air too warm,

like sleeping breath.

Thick buzz of sound and light, 

making tired,

voices, thin windows in the corner 

green grass between buildings, 

hard look of brick. 

Nothing at home was made of brick 

except the bottom part 

of her great-grandmother’s house

and old fallen chimneys out in the woods, 

from people that’d been there before, 

after the other people who had been there. 

You felt quiet 

still and cool in the yellow white light 

the cinder block room 

eyelashes curled up silky and black

butterfly mouth, proboscis

a word you’d never heard, did not know 

skin, the river bank 

right hand was resting on the edge of the table 

thumb feeling out the line from top to side, 

the formic seam

some pages flat and silent 

Adult voice

droning layer in the air

heavy over the room of round tables 

Your hand drops to the edge of the chair, 

under the table, into the shade

feels along the hard yellow 

lean the body forward, hold to the silvery leg 

She felt a crawling toward,

nervous animal,

hand under the table 

only a foot away 

surprising how easy it is

for hands to find one another, 

familiar clasp, palm across palm

fingerprints like the river we grew up on 

hot and dry, the dock railing in the summer sun

There’s no way she could tell, 

and no reason she’d need to, 

because you felt it, too

the cold of that grasp,

adult hand like air conditioning

smooth and bloodless

the pulling the warm creatures curled together

up into the bright of the room above the table

lifting the holding hands like some dead thing, 

some sad thing. 

“You will not,”

voice from behind, from above,

before they knew what was happening,

hands still clasped together,

dumb and silent in the air, 

because what can a child’s fingers speak,

“hold hands with,”

wrists encircled,

a swift outward pull, uncoupling the grasp

breaking the hold 

set the hands firmly onto the table, 

issue the declaration

that tells the story of who they are,

“little white girls.” 

To tell you her life story,

she’d have to crawl down on the floor,

hands and knees, 

and tell you that she knows:

This isn’t her life story,

in the way that it is yours.

Old Boy, swallow your bullets 

let the lead

sit in your belly

that weight like an anchor

holding a Bloated wood hull

Blood-swollen decks

right offshore, right offshore

You old boys, with wagging tongues

and shotgun shells

your backroom meetings

dirty hands, the salt of the earth

all its bones, all its marrow

caught under your nails

You old boys, don’t think that I don’t know you.

I came from you.

Old Boy, don’t you burn no churches ’round here

don’t you burn no crosses

because I know who you are.

I came from you. 

All the sheets in the world can’t hide the truth 

of who you are. 

I can see right through them.

You’re pink and soft, trembling and damp.

You’re scared, Old Boy. 

You’ve always been scared. 

So, you just swallow those bullets that you’ve been saving up

in the name of your own daddy 

in the name of your own greatgrands

and the slow death 

of the world they taught you to believe in

You just let that lead sit there in your belly

like the weight of everything you came from.

or, better yet, throw those bullets out into the river, 

and listen to the sound they make 

when they break the surface

setting all those old ghosts free.

In the thick ribbon of sucking tires

The shimmer of the earth ground to twinkling dust gathered at the barrier seams as snow that swirls and hushes at the edge of the roar I travel in insulated and absurd under grinning proclamations of injury and payout, promises of justice and redemption spelled in bright red, bright yellow As I travel to retrieve you by means of this road, which is not the only road, but is the quickest, despite my slowing, despite the impossibility of passage that mounts at the cloverleaf, the junction, the joining of major channels all witnessed blithely by the Waffle House that has turned into a We Buy Gold, announcing in familiar block black letters the eventual way of everything around here.

And you are landing as I stall under the reluctant sunrise that slow sighs a dull orange across the stunned oaks that pull to the forest that surely the fibers of their cambium remember as sweet water and blessed breeze the air pulling at stiff leaf and nimble green branch, up, up, into the air

As you come down, as stunned as the oak into all this mess from the bliss of empty spaces and open sky, only to see me, to come home to me and I know, in the early morning that I have near forgotten, that to have a home to return to makes the departure possible, defines, in fact, the adventure as something other than just a sad wandering away from something that does not love you, that cannot love anything, not even the gold it buys with the payout, even the triumph of the super highway, even the majesty of the unseen oaks sliding by as I get a little closer to welcoming you home.

I drove two thousand miles 

to find you in a parking lot,

to walk over slickrock with you,

to eat eggs

in the places where people used to live,

but don’t live now, 

those canyons filled with echoes

I didn’t know 

that I was supposed to meet another man

in another parking lot

while you fumbled for directions

with weak data. 

Maybe I was?

Maybe I wasn’t. 

In any event, 

there were 9 ravens in the sky, 

and a white bird like a hawk,

maybe a golden eagle, 

like we saw a couple of days later, 

in that Cortez parking lot,

drinking melted ice cream,

that warm day when the dog died,

back home, 

right before my father’s birthday. 

I held the drunk old man’s hand

listened to him talk about:

how long her hair was, how he wakes in the night and cries, his daughter that is off to war in Afghanistan, how he used to jump out of planes in the dark, was just a body falling, before he came home to be a Navajo again, before he ever knew that he would wake up at night thinking about the war, would drink himself to sleep for years…

I think we said a prayer together?

I gave him my phone number, 

and he gave me a rock. 

He never called. 

At least I don’t think he did? 

I don’t know. 

I hardly answer the phone anymore. 

I still have that rock. 

It’s in the box

in the back of the car 

with my cobra pin, 

the one I carry for good luck 

and for protection. 

There was that other man, in Cortez,

begging money for a friend, 

also with a face 

that spoke of ancestry and alcoholism, 

saying, “It’s cold out here tonight, 

he’ll freeze to death.” 

You were in the store buying ice cream. 

I gave him three dollars. 

I should have given him my blanket. 

If you didn’t really want to die

they will hold you down


if you didn’t really want to die

they will not speak to you

only to each other

small talk with the syringe from one hand to another

like a shaker of salt

at a lunch table

that you won’t be sitting at

and in that moment

you die a little

even if

you didn’t really want to die


the door locks behind you

people come and go

you stay

and the light is thin through

thin windows

always the same behind glass

you don’t even have shoelaces

only socks


so you don’t slip

and stumble

your way into line

“Take this,”

if you didn’t already

want to die

They don’t tell you what it does and so you stop asking.

You swallow the pills

because you have to

and you wonder,


why you want to die now, when you didn’t really want to die before

when, really, you were

just trying to explain that it was hard to live

“There is water here.” [Reflection Poems]

The wind that raised me


spartina alterniflora

juncus romanus

then laughed,

in wavelets holding

brackish reflections

of a blue that we called ‘sky,’

at the way we try to name things

The stories carried hints

like the underside of leaves

that had just pushed out

through the flesh of stems

in a gathering of cells

quick as lightning to open

without knowing why

into the sun that warmed

the tiny chambers of sap and cellulose

to cast a glow out into air

and radiate the simple, fervent scent

of brand new life

barely more than a breeze,

a soft exhale through the epiphyte

they called Spanish

even though it knows nothing about Spain

or anything else in the world

where things and places

have names

who I am, who I was,

the place where I am from,

which doesn’t exist anymore,

in the way that it did,

just like everything else

they come in the night

hot breath and mother’s milk,

smoke and beer,

the cold of ice on the tongue,

hollering across a blazing field,

speaking low

with the pine gathered close and quiet seeping

the sharp smell of a home

I will not see again.

glabrous shine dark red

to black, a critical mass

sweetness building slow

Beautiful people

all over the world, living

sad lives, scenic places

a chart, scatterplot

would show no going back now

too much ripe, ready

(what is it to live

the last summer of one’s life?

…asking for a friend.)

Next year’s cane reach bold

soft green, fleshy thorn, straight tall

not knowing, they’ll wait

Last week, a surprise

to find the dark half globe hid

among the blood red

Now, everywhere

more than ever,

then gone.

The look of the room 

was full of New South 

Palmettos in pines, sweet blessed shade

beyond the plastic lines of blinds 

and brutal swathe of buffalo lawn 

stucco on the outside 

carpet and rush of cold,

compressed air 

on the inside 

all pale blue and grey 

pastel accents 

under khaki, sitting prim 

and civilized, fur sprayed and face made 

to be modern, educated, 

informed behind the convex spectacles

that hide the earnest child

the one who wants to help, 

the one who thinks they know the answers.

The answers were all wrong, 

but she gave them anyway

because she thought they were right,

the answers. 

A common mistake,

very human thing to do. To have the wrong answers, and to think they are the right answers.

“Your daughter,” she said,

“has a condition.”

On the night before the full moon

I bickered with my oldest child in the wind

About why he could not run off

to Shining Rock at sundown,

we watched the day explode

Glad for the gales that make silence

No need to talk in wind like that

light gold and purple

All across the mountains

Walking in the dark

Across the field of dry grass

Spotlight on our backs

Shadows on the road

Land rising black against the sky

Right under Venus

No lights up there on that rise

feet getting wet down here

shifting stones in the ink of the ground

I was with my children

Taller than I am

Daughter in the stream, wetting her head

her feet, like some baptism

just silliness

Silly like the geese in the river on Sunday

Reminding us

not to leave one another behind


a day full of voices

Warbled and piping

Bowed heads

and the happy, kicking feet of children

Old brows stern with the serious business

Of giving thanks

and the rituals of passing plates,

setting knives aside

with a gracious hand


Away from talk

of games and scores,

sickness and health,

plans, a grievance,

maybe two,

wishes and a regret,

the solemn nod to the seat

now empty

owls call into the dark

roots rest in cold soil

dry leaves spin silent to the waiting ground

their arrival announced

in a whispering, settling sound

that nobody hears

While water falls across rocks

Stirring up wind

That blows branch and limb

against the windows

of warm houses,

and shudders the flames

of fires burning

all night long.

She considers the ringing in her ears

sweet lull between cars passing

Down on the street beyond

The tangle of old apple trees and privet

That hides this house

The birds settle down

when there are no cars

And the sky is beginning to have

That soft look about it

Like the inside of a blanket

Not even grey, just the white glare of down

a thunderstorm just being born

In the slight wind from the southeast

Where all those boneyard beaches are

She’d spent the morning daydreaming

Awake and smiling

In the ease of line

And in the imagining

of a quick drive from here

To there

A whole ‘nother world

Down there by the water

Now she considers the ringing in her ears

And how bothered she is by the sound

Of cars, the guttural push of a bus on the hill

She doesn’t think she wants

to go for a bike ride

To be out on the road

With the bright and the glare

The cars driving past

Loud all around her

I painted a tiny picture once

Of a woman on a table

Cut open at the chest

Blue roses spilling forth

From the cavity of herself

And what I meant to say with this

Sitting at my desk in a white painted room

With a window northwest facing

The view of the roof next door

lives underneath the tar

woman at a counter on the bottom floor

A store clerk and a seamstress

Making noodles

behind a wall of glass

While the brush painted blue

Onto blue

The curve of petal and closed lid

The movements of the city

Rushing as a breeze in the bare limbs

Of the tree that grew up between the buildings

And what I meant to say

Years ago, with that tiny figure

Blue roses spilling forth

Was that I wanted to show you

What’s inside of me

“Here, look,” she said,

leaned into the dark

disappearing into the slur of night

new moon, no moon

thick of shadow suggesting

just a little light

up there, Venus rising

sun gone, still

over past the mountain

casting dim on clouds

shimmer the leaves and slick up the water

but, fail

to show us the bark,

to show us the details

(Lenticel and the pursed mouths of blooms

not quite open

“Kalmia latifolia,” she’d told you at the car,

when she’d said,

“I am learning to learn again.”

and listed all the names she knew.)

(She didn’t tell you that the sounds of them, these names, felt uncertain in her mouth, that she felt like a child saying them. She said nothing about the strangeness of remembering that she used to be a person who knew the names of things, could say them like quicksilver, say them like music, syllables like dancing in the everyday talk of flowers. She doesn’t tell you any of this, standing beside the car with the day bright blue and Rhododendron catawbiensis mutely blooming behind you.)

At night, she leans forward

into the mass that is earth

toward the rustle of spring

and for a second she is gone,

swallowed, but you heard her push aside the branches,

hollow knock of rocks disturbed, 

feet grinding stones,

licking into moss,

the damp fur of mountain

speckled with light that might be the moon,

or plain old mica.

Reaching forward, one finger, two,

bracing toward the glow

curious to see what would happen

if she touches it. 

Held her breath to find

the light stayed the same,

fixed to the ground,

beaming up in pinprick smears

a scatterplot spelling out,

“There is water here.”

that place is still


underneath the pavement

and the tires

and the signs

with their sun-bleached messages

that said:

You Don’t Belong Here

they lied


this has always been your place

underneath the bones

and the branches

the moss like ghosts

and the tides like a heartbeat

as slow and steady

as your very own history