we whiz along, or grind
jaws tight with effort
to be good and right and

until we explode—
all the mess to clear up

screaming and crying and chaos and blood
nearly always
the loom of news vans

we are no more than animals
we fear

while juncos hop along the brick
squirrel descends fence
walnut bigger than its head
tight in its teeth

Texas history

there we sat, in air-conditioned classroom, crammed
into desks into rows; this tennis coach-teacher insistent
if not passionate about a dusty battle for glory fort, right
there still, in our hometown. living easy and far from that
rough bloody battle. except. we knew movie heroics,
lines in the sand. we knew how to wave a flag,
cheer the team, fear the other. still do

I recently ran across a contest prompt on the theme of San Antonio history, which sent me right back to 7th grade and the Alamo.

driving home, in this drizzle

because I saw the opossum
improbably trotting across the road
and thought first of Piglet then parents
children helpless things all those
waiting-watching-waiting for loved ones
to come back and in that slow-flash
you hit your brakes swerved behind me
(is it raining out there? it’s raining here too)
waking not anger sadness superiority but
neither mere impatience
with your impatience


sunset gold, low-slant
fires distant spark
starting seaside, spreading
beacon point to point to point—
behind my eyes

why did I glory in tales
of blood, fighting
remembered sword-grip
and how it shamed loving touch
of earth lifted, sifted
and firmed again

no more. I close the border of that land
with this drawing in, hurrying on
of cloak, hood, fences, gates
tamping down the pulse, the heart-fire
watching the thread of smoke lift
swirl, vanish


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.

what is unlyrical but must be said

Let’s try this. I’ll consider that person over there or next to me in line on the road the one who cut me off in a hurry or voted the other party or plays teeth-gritting music loud or didn’t go to my school or love my team or wear my style or speak my language or moved too quickly too slow to apologize or understand or maybe they tripped on a different mistake—and I’ll wonder what meanness and ugliness and stupidity lurks yet in my heart my own special blind spot cultivated now overgrown. Derision hate ridicule tearing down are all on this coin scraping and scraping a grave deep ocean-wide. Can I imagine that person over there or next to me in line on the road has a mother a brother a grandma a child? That they could be my mother my brother my grandma my child? How they hunger and thirst and ache and love and in that, God knows, they are me, my brother my grandma my child.





Camlann, Again

Sands, setting sun, rising
blood-tide; clash and curse
and moan. Even I feel the surge
of joy at the charge, pent anger
cloud-bursting to hack
and sing. This grim violence
ever present: in our bones
the need to fight—
eager!—for any cause
to call someone Other.
She asked you to save
the innocents. There are none
here. From first man to last
we are broken.

Another view, via the Rose-Witch project, of a theme I wanted to explore in the Babylon, Astronomy poem. My take on Camlann is always colored by Tennyson’s imagery in “The Passing of Arthur.”