The Color Red

I saw the Color Red one day
Walking in the park,
He told me come this way,
We’ll whisper in the dark.

I followed my crimson captain
Through stench of mangrove malady,
On stilts of salted sleep.
He told me now to sit
And wait for sweeter tides,
While he turns to salmon scales,
And fades again to sand.

The Eve of Murdered Petals

On the eve of petals murdered in the bud,
Gnats knew not to rise above the rest

Had I not lived, you still had loved another,
And had your tigress eyes over-leaped Léman
I would have been the ripple
That followed in its wake,
Algae soft beneath my lake 
For stones to tumble
Unbeknownst to wreaths of clouds and snow –

Instead, your bidding sends me willingly
To blunder in
Where no current bereaves me
And I tingle in the heavy air, 
My heart compressed

That day along the Rhein comes back
And all of colza-flowered Germany –

Still, neither of you will ever have 
The crown, the pinnacle,
The cloud upon the tongue
Of a lung’s expanse,
To be one’s two, my very own

The Looking Glass

Close the porthole for artificial night
They say,
But all the world’s under the big glazed sun,
And all of Siberia is squeezed between us.

The Taiga forests are as peopled with trees
As Tokyo’s graveyards are rooted with souls.

There’s a lull in this white night –

Red hair flaming against a humid Tokyo morning
Against this heavy seething heaving monster. 

Why wouldn’t the wind come?
So we could flap
Flap, flap
Flap until we dried, 
Dried all the way,
Away the sopping nights –

Empty your glass, brother,
So that I may fill it with my tears,

We’ll fly like jet planes,
Our contrails fading faster than our flights

We the People

Examine for a moment an ordinary store,
On an ordinary day –

There was the sister who brought her handicapped brother, 
Whose feet wouldn’t fit in the adult shoes, 
Because they were too small.
In the children’s,
Because they were too wide –
And he cried.
The lady whose husband of 36 years 
Had left her,
That very day,
For a younger woman,
And she needed distraction.
The mother whose son had come back from Afghanistan,
And was now too afraid to be outside.
Confined to exercise in the gym,
The mountains of war still bled in him.
The mother who brought her shimmering son,
To get some hiking boots for his next trip,
And he smiled all the smiles you could ever need.
The man who thought he knew the president
And that Air Force One was waiting for him, 
And we had to ask him to leave.
And the woman who robbed us and reeked of alcohol and 
There was the woman who thought the sweaters weren’t soft enough.
The man who was happy, 
Who was happiness,
His life complete,
 He loved his beautiful wife and kids,
He’d no idea how he’d got so lucky.
The lady whose depression had got so bad,
It spilled into her footprints.
The man who was bothered by the flaps of the jacket,
That wouldn’t fold over the way he wanted.
The Ukrainian cross country skier,
Who looked in the mirror,
And couldn’t decide for the life of him what headband 
He looked best in.
And the family from Switzerland,
Who was sad I didn’t speak Swiss-German.
The lady who also had Raynaud’s Syndrome,
And we read the part in the book together,
The one about cold injuries and prevention.
The girl beyond lonely,
So eager to get a backpack,
And head out on the trails,
She came back several times,
Gathering details and advice,
Gear and enthusiasm.
The lady from Costa Rica,
Who came with her husband,
But she was alone,
And eager for Spanish,
Gave me her email,
And she never replied.

The store receives myriad souls,
Trivial, fantastic, evanescent,
Or stained with the blackness of ink.

Never Grow a Wishbone

For My Daughter

By Sarah McMane

“Never grow a wishbone, daughter, where your backbone ought to be.” – Clementine Paddleford

“Never play the princess when you can
be the queen:
rule the kingdom, swing a scepter,
wear a crown of gold.
Don’t dance in glass slippers,
crystal carving up your toes —
be a barefoot Amazon instead,
for those shoes will surely shatter on your feet.

Never wear only pink
when you can strut in crimson red,
sweat in heather grey, and
shimmer in sky blue,
claim the golden sun upon your hair.
Colors are for everyone,
boys and girls, men and women —
be a verdant garden, the landscape of Versailles,
not a pale primrose blindly pushed aside.

Chase green dragons and one-eyed zombies,
fierce and fiery toothy monsters,
not merely lazy butterflies,
sweet and slow on summer days.
For you can tame the most brutish beasts
with your wily wits and charm,
and lizard scales feel just as smooth
as gossamer insect wings.

Tramp muddy through the house in
a purple tutu and cowboy boots.
Have a tea party in your overalls.
Build a fort of birch branches,
a zoo of Legos, a rocketship of
Queen Anne chairs and coverlets,
first stop on the moon.

Dream of dinosaurs and baby dolls,
bold brontosaurus and bookish Belle,
not Barbie on the runway or
Disney damsels in distress —
you are much too strong to play
the simpering waif.

Don a baseball cap, dance with Daddy,
paint your toenails, climb a cottonwood.
Learn to speak with both your mind and heart.
For the ground beneath will hold you, dear —
know that you are free.
And never grow a wishbone, daughter,
where your backbone ought to be.”


The End of Poetry

“Enough of osseous and chickadee and sunflower
and snowshoes, maple and seeds, samara and shoot,
enough chiaroscuro, enough of thus and prophecy
and the stoic farmer and faith and our father and tis
of thee, enough of bosom and bud, skin and god
not forgetting and star bodies and frozen birds,
enough of the will to go on and not go on or how
a certain light does a certain thing, enough
of the kneeling and the rising and the looking
inward and the looking up, enough of the gun,
the drama, and the acquaintance’s suicide, the long-lost
letter on the dresser, enough of the longing and
the ego and the obliteration of ego, enough
of the mother and the child and the father and the child
and enough of the pointing to the world, weary
and desperate, enough of the brutal and the border,
enough of can you see me, can you hear me, enough
I am human, enough I am alone and I am desperate,
enough of the animal saving me, enough of the high
water, enough sorrow, enough of the air and its ease,
I am asking you to touch me.”

-Ada Limon

Suppose We Say

“Suppose we say that wilderness invokes nostalgia, a justified not merely sentimental nostalgia for the lost America our forefathers knew. The word suggests the past and the unknown, the womb of the earth from which we all emerged. it means something lost and something still present, something remote and at the same time intimate, something buried in our blood and nerves, something beyond us and without limit. Romance — but not to be dismissed on that account. The romantic view, while not the whole of truth, is a necessary part of the whole truth.

But the love of wilderness is more than a hunger for what is always beyond reach; it is also an expression of loyalty to the earth, the earth which bore us and sustains us, the only home we shall ever know, the only paradise we ever need — if only we had the eyes to see. Original sin, the true original sin, is the blind destruction for the sake of greed of this natural paradise which lies all around us– if only we were worthy of it.” -Edward Abbey, Desert Solitaire