in a dark place

you make the god you want, not of gold
or even paper, but green-warm earth—hail
it as something gifted from the blue.

what is your church? but this slate blue
mountain, bare slopes, trees brushed soft gold,
solitude, song; or fall’s sharp wind, rain, hail,

snow silence. eyes closed, face lifted to hail
pilgrim thought. no room for guilt in sky’s blue:
if the soul lights, burns ember-gold—

I am. (gold-hail prayer in this blue)

Thanks to Christine for the three tritina words.


A thousand years buried black beneath king’s
mound; ribs, timbers rotting, our ship—
oarsmen long fallen, scattered like their gold

Bread, beer, sword—but never enough gold
in blood-spattered piles, enough to make us kings
so bold and glory-lusting we fitted our ship

shields hung out, oars locked in, then how our ship
sang the waves toward the sun’s own gold—
land ripe for plunder and death to their kings!

All now ghosts: gold, kings, and ship…


Imagination fired by a field trip last weekend to see the Viking ship, sailed from Norway to Chicago in 1893 for the World’s Columbian Exposition and now residing in Geneva, Illinois. Viking was modeled on the 9th-century Gokstad ship, excavated in 1880.

Storm Song

I go first into frosted night, flinging charms—seven
words to fend the blizzard whole while moon
sinks into clouds, swallowed in gray velvet

I’ve armed myself in furs; you red-robed in velvet
singing fireside untired, one slight flame against seven
nights of breaking cold, failing moon

No cracks in river ice, unmelted hidden moon
though your steady voice, low velvet
calls the fire. Outside alone I count slowly, seven—

seven nights until moon cuts again through storm-velvet

Thanks to Nathan for the set of tritina words, and to Jenifer, from whose very different and beautiful poem I lifted the blizzard line.

A Correspondence

Dear backyard birch, Even without your leaves
you are still lovely. The blue-jewel lantern-light
sets off your bare branches. (It runs on solar power.)

Dear human, I am not one for jewels; my power
comes from deep hum of the earth, my open leaves
in strong sun. You wreck my winter sleep with blue light.

Dear birch, If it bothers you, I can take down the light.
Though it makes me happy to see its glow, a hint of power
to get me through this long season without leaves.

Dear human, Leaves, light or no, I will be here, rooted in power.

Imagination tickled by this article about emails between people and trees.

Power Source

Begin with water. Make this stream
millennia of dreams wearing down stone,
the riverbed bones of unwanted silence.

Drown in dread thought, your silence
cast whole in cold-gliding stream,
promise-gleam dulled and dropped like stone.

Sink unbreathing, blind; claw out muddy stone
unknown to hand or mouth. Break its silence.
Spark diamond flood in dark forest, a stream

unseen, a stream strong to carry stone and silence.

A tritina for the Yeah Write December poetry slam.