Monday, August 26, 2013

No One Thing (a poem)

No One Thing 

I am searching for no one thing

Not the next best thing
Not the last great place.

Oh, I peruse around for 
the best chocolate cupcake recipe
a full-bodied bottle of wine
cheap plane tickets to Florence
a handmade winter cap for my baby love.

Can I say these things?

can I say I'm a hedonist who 
adores the earth's beauty and
little things, like 
the gathered buzzing of bees 
drunk on nectar

bare feet on a cold stone floor,
drifting powerless clouds, and slow foods?

Can I say, with proper respect 
I'm not pushing up against anything?

Defining my space, at war for a cause
drawing a circle in the sand?

can I say the earth is dying everyday?

Will others become suspicious
if I do not join?
will they call me stupid and ignorant
of their god/theory/science?

Will I be thought of less, here, if I say these things?

That the world, our mother
is much bigger than
All our fears
that she will turn in time and 
her natural excavation 
will plow us under

Can I say this without being despised?

Can I say there is no It?
Can I say Shiva is not It?
Nor Jesus or Buddha?

Nor running marathons, publishing books, 
winning the lottery, feeding the poor, 
conquering a mountain, surviving illness.

With proper respect, 
can I say there is no one thing that will save us

nothing to search for, little to do?
What does it take to fill oneself up?

There are mountains beyond mountains
there are oceans beneath oceans
sky beyond claimed and unclaimed sky.

And do I think because 
I push around a 
single grain of sand,
I am special?
that I will never die? that I will live forever?

Can I do my work and still be happy?
Can I hold all the beauties and 
horrors of the world in my heart,

and still be spacious and loving?

Can I burn for life as well as strife
with reverence for all,

searching for nothing?

With proper respect, can I say there is nothing to save?

*Winner 2012 Alaska Statewide Poetry Contest

Monday, August 19, 2013

A Month Alone

           I am going into sequestration to learn              
how to create words 
both gentle & coarse

where I will settle into the dark womb 
of night & the blazing 
sun of day, where there is

no idle chatter to diffuse energy, where
even grinding coffee beans 
is a "disturbance in the field" & yet

when a great thunderhead gathers over the mountains

I will leap to the window with
astonishing joy & when it quiets

you will come remembering again
the silent treatment, the cold shoulder
the kindness boldly claimed
in words, though not freely 
given, or forgiven

each day in sitting, walking, writing

only a visit now & then
on the back of an old friend, horse

to soothe, & walk with me over 
dry creek beds & red rocks, to
share the hum of insects & dust & secret calm

they say when you stay in silence for long periods of time, 
you become intimate with all things

speak nothing unless it is an improvement over the silence, they say in Zen

own your breath, and your peace cannot be stolen away, they say

but who is to say?

this is how I imagine it but
I don’t know how it,  
or how I, will be

no voices, no cars
nothing to do but sweep the steps &  fill the water pitcher

peel an orange &
take a walk at dawn

butter toast &
wash my hair
breathe in & out &
smell the air

light a candle
pat the pillows & 

close the noisy & broken

screen door behind me

Monday, August 12, 2013


As of this Friday, I have been married to the same man for 33 years...and here's what cinched the deal over a quarter of a century ago:

In the summer of 1979, I decided to make a career change that would take me from a slow-paced Fairbanks country life to the big city of Anchorage (well, everything is relative). I was hauling my belongings in a makeshift trailer built by the boyfriend, speeding along the 350 mile stretch of road in his brand new pickup truck.

Glancing in the rearview mirror, I noticed a potential problem. The plywood that formed a corner of the trailer was tearing apart. Little by little, all of my household treasures would litter the landscape if we didn't stop and address the problem--immediately.

Digging behind the driver's seat, my boyfriend pulled out a box of tools. Nailing the plywood back together wouldn't work; the continuous vibration would simply pry it apart again. The solution would require a little more serious and innovative thinking.

I went back to the cab of the truck and settled in with a magazine. I had very little confidence in my technical abilities; my brain just seemed to shut down when faced with dilemmas involving "the way things work."

Soon I heard a banging and stepped out of the truck to investigate. My boyfriend was hammering metal brackets onto the ends of the plywood and nailing them in place, forming a sturdy corner.

"How in the world did you do that?" I asked.
"Simple. Just pounded the metal down and formed it around the corners," he replied.

"Where did you get the metal (albeit rusty)?" I wondered.
"Tin cans. Found 'em on the side of the road."

I was amazed. This is the kind of stuff you don't acquire with a college degree. I found myself very attracted to his resourcefulness (not to mention his tall, dark and handsome-ness). Maybe my mother's advice to "marry a man who is good with his hands" was wearing off on me after all.

The tin can incident was the first. After 33 years of marriage, there have been scores more. Like how to flip an 800 lb. boat trailer onto its wheels (after being welded) while on an icy, sloped surface. After many adjustments, a dozen trials and my contribution of nail biting, we did it.

Resourcefulness in and of itself, however, cannot stand alone. Although he values and honors the process, it takes the other half (me) to value and honor the product. Without this balance, absolutely nothing would get done in our household. While he may start a project, I am the one to entice him through to completion. Just as the word "can't" is not in his vocabulary, the word "procrastination" is not in mine.

I cross things off lists; he doesn't make lists. I'm goal oriented and will reliably follow through to the bitter end. He goes with the flow, so much so that a freeze frame of his work area looks like the scene of a kidnapping. Everything is in its place, exactly how he left it. Sawdust covers the floor, jars are left uncapped, tools lie in public burial. Because another project has caught his attention, it may be days, even months before the original one gets closure.

It's easy to spot when there is a problem to be solved though. He sits on the couch, a steaming cup of coffee in one hand, the other hand propped under his chin, his eyes darting back and forth. The gears are turning, the machinery at work. He thinks, sometimes he sketches, and always talks out loud about the factors involved in solving a particular problem. In due time, he gets answers.

I, however, don't bother with such trivialities. I ask Important Questions, like, "What is the meaning of life?" "Why are we here?" and burn with desire for answers to the Great Mystery. Of course, I get none. But that doesn't stop me from asking over and over and over again.

So resourcefulness cinched the deal for me. I guess I have acquired some technical curiosity as I look in awe at his ability to make things work; but mostly I couldn't care less, as long as the item in question keeps functioning like it was designed to do.

I spend my time contemplating matters of the heart, and let him fiddle with broken toasters.



Monday, August 5, 2013

Find What You Love

Yesterday the leaves on the trees were clapping for you

the wind all reckless and wild-fresh 

gusting with imaginings of us, of memories

sloughed off with time yet 

lingering in papery veins.

I made a picture, dark crayons distress 

crackle paint, oil pastels?

I couldn't find a medium that fit 

or was made to last, or had the tonal values

to tell me you'd be gone  

long before the painting dried.

And so this resignation: did you catch 

the right emotions, did I offer the perfect landscape?

The voices of trees speak for themselves.

I hope one day you find what you love

and I hope one day, you love

what you find.