My worst closed until further notice experience was Altamira

from Santander where we waited three days to get in the country

after militant Basques assassinated a general through blistering

heat on empty roads in one end of Madrid and out the other

all the way to Seville to create the felt covered wine red stage

for the acquisition of Sandeman Port all the while Altamira

was on my mind first I got Montezuma’s Revenge then my

partner who laid low in a hotel back in Santander while I

took the 20 foot scenery lorry winding through the countryside

to the site where years before a little girl had stumbled upon

the entrance to the cave Bison Papa! she shouted I so wanted

to see what she saw but a dark green steel door said otherwise

leaving me to seek out the tourist shop and buy books and cards

about the cave and its paintings poor compensation for being

denied entrance hungry for something to make up for the injustice

I took a branch of eucalyptus from the cave’s locale eucalyptus

that came alive with the scent of compassion in the lorry

and stayed with me till its oils finally dried out an ocean

and a continent later the depths of the cave would have to wait

although my imagination stayed on heedless on the ferry home

I looked out at the cold mean waters of the Bay of Biscay

but something in me had woken up and lingered there

in northern Spain I don’t know why I felt so pulled

to that place to the memory of painting images of animals

underground how one bison’s bulk emerged from the surface

of the ceiling! I saw in photographs how formations

suggested shapes of creatures to the artists’ minds

we can say they were seers bringing their light

to the subterranean passageways that gave up

their walls and canopies in ways that long

preceded Plato’s Allegory I can’t say “this

is what we do” I can only say “this is what

a few of us do” and we would do well

to listen and learn for we are too bound up

in the snares of those who hunt and trap

our desires only to sell our own souls

on the marketplace I like to think I was

good with the closed door that I understood

enough is enough that my breath alone

would decay further the work once hidden

for thousands of years not everything should be

plain understood so I went home and now

they’re grown the seeds of my imagination

come to life and my wife who waited

well perhaps she’s there what’s a lifetime

pass when you’ve passed from this life?

Nothing’s closed to her now while my imagination

is still out there hungry to be allowed in


After last night’s rain all the doors still open

air cooler glad I moved those forty pound bags

of salt under cover I see there’s a good breeze

outside high branches of avocado cedar bamboo

palm lift twist wave I reach for the cup

that breaks the fast night cut short but I

waited till dawn anyway in this alchemy

of remorse and intention arose seeking

that dark cattleya in the next room itself dark

why is the house so reluctant to give up

the night I turned on the light and lifted

the orchid higher so I could see the fiesta

deep inside her unfurled petticoats

Rioja red I look to her this morning

in these strange times so many of us

hunkered down if we’re wise denied

our incidental encounters I turn to this

flower the heavy buds I brought indoors

in days fat with secrecy and now she’s

unfolding her petals calmly slowly

whole days get born then die her leaves

battered and bruised I regret the neglect

suffered there in the orchid shack

too much water and the long reach

of the sun and yet she blooms and

I will deliver my gratitude for her to you




[from Jorie Graham “The creeping relevance of the shoreline” in New World]


The relevance of the shoreline brings its own edge

I remember this is where you come to fill up again

ocean sounds in the act of replenishing going coming

lines of retreat and advance all in one underfoot

better yet laid down length of spine and best give in

give up give yourself back to whatʻs been emptied out

spilled into the world since you first emerged it’s

a simple act like a cup overflowing at the lip while

above all this the moon’s tug of war with your own

blood stops up all speech though not everyone agrees

sometimes I stand at the edge of the known world

amidst the wreckage of getting and spending ground

down as if it were sand when we say gathering place

this is what we mean it’s what we get leftover

bento containers among the detritus I want to believe

we’ll snap out of it make things good but I feel

outnumbered by ourselves a sense of the sacred

eroded washed up I say less and less anymore

like an old hermit monk poet keep myself to

myself scratch a few words on the walls

of the cave smile when mountains disappear

behind clouds remember the shoreline


[“Tell me about a complicated man.” The Odyssey. Trans. by Emily Wilson]


Tell me about a complicated man Iʻll tell you

about a woman with no choice but to stay

and stir and plan the man complex the clock

busying its hands dthe minutes in bed sleeping

stories untold who needs them play the rest

throw out the out of date weeks pass

she stays reads writes deepens her lines heʻs

gone out lives in his head lost something gold

sold heʻs got vision but heʻs lost the key

to the front door recognizes his children

when heʻs out and about hasnʻt formed

a strong opinion in the womb or out of it

passed various tests but couldnʻt could

didnʻt either itʻs not all negative or just

passive a fantasy she watches waits

is this who when is this where I began

where childhood ended I knew a man

not so complicated not so lost inside

himself adventure awaits or so we

are led to believe our local shop a world

I wonder a list of grociers tell me and

Iʻll tell you about a complicated man


[“It could have happened” from “Could Have”  in Wislawa Szymborska Poems New and Collected]


It could have happened if I hadn’t said anything.

I had a bad feeling. But thought for once make

a stand. She traveled south for an hour and I

didn’t know. Next thing word gets out. By then

I’d made my decision and things were never

the same. I was never one for control but is that

true? Maybe what I really mean is never

one for being out of control. And what I said

well forget it. What she heard was don’t come

when I don’t feel like it. So he felt like it.

And she felt like it. Hey there’s a pattern.

And today on social media I saw his face

how many years later? 53 years? What

am I on about? Oh yes. It could have.

But it didn’t. That’s the other side of every

crossroads, right? We go on our way

with no regrets. This is dangerously close

to what if. What if I’d gotten off the train

at Hiroshima. What if I hadn’t gotten drunk

that night in the orchard. What if I had slept

by myself that night at Butte Creek. That

night. How often under the cover of dark.

How often sex whiskey or a door left banging

in the wind. At the time the mythology

was creating itself while normal people

looked on. At the time the neighbors were

in bed and the streets were empty but

the vision of her in her nightgown out

in the streets under the amber lights or

the time she reached across from the passenger

side and clawed at my face don’t tell me

what we see is ourselves tell me it could

have happened otherwise if I had or


[“Why pretend to remember…” William Carlos Williams Kora in Hell: Improvisations XI]

Why pretend to remember if I learned how

to forgive myself I tried again and opened my

eyes is that cheating I know it slows down

the process if I’m really careful I’ll put it off

forever however when I looked up I saw them

again circling rising arching muscular

glistening from the sun behind me a steady circling

and guess what these are chronicles of now

here and I can’t say never written down but

it doesn’t matter this too shall pass itself

off as yet another relic useless except

to the painfully inquisitive the hungry insatiable

vestigial fingers I understand and hair somewhere

under a fin all else sacrificed to streamlining

no pockets which always struck me as remarkable

for where would I be without them I’ve always

carried something besides my own expanse of skin

what I do remember are the times I’ve forgotten

and the ensuing adventure called being locked out

or unable to pay my way or without means

to write anything down I do this for me you know

not that I don’t care about you it’s just that

all these years have worn off the edges

of responsibility nice and smooth lovely

to touch although that wasn’t the goal just

a soft outcome easy to handle and harmlessly

circling and circling in the waters hungry

to get my teeth into the flesh of remorse


[“…what if dark matter is like space between people…” Tracy K Smith Life on Mars]

What if dark matter is like the space between people

intentions looking for a surface of pores to land

a desire melting fast like an ice cube liberated

spinning on the floor beneath you me or another

so soft unwritten disappearing in and out

of focus at least electricity strikes a light

there’s a reaction burning up like love or pain

these circles of life overlap each other I can’t feel

alone anymore my loss is less than shrinking thought

those things I once thought go on without me it’s not

so dark after all our perfect planets collide

or otherwise disrupt each other’s atmospheres

meanwhile another week passes unnoticed

it’s disconcerting is it exodus or migration

these runaway thoughts as if this were nothing

out of the ordinary as if we actually existed

but we died a minute ago everything rolled

tumbled in the gyres we’ll never know

the half of it I’m falling asleep fingertips

heavy on the keyboard I swear

yesterday you came alive for a moment



[prompt from Lehua Kawaikapuokalani FB post 8-21-20 (says 2d: the 19th?)]


What’s being done that we’re not aware of

what’s new in this what’s slow to fill

the glass that is your life okay I passed it

around waited for the morning breeze

was it that waiting that fell on my eyes was that

the heaviness that kept my feet on the ground

all the way to your place how many times

I look up and get a shock wow how did I

get here who was driving that’s a question

I reach inside find it’s not there I don’t know

who took it these days I think it might

have been me I listen for the sound of the motor

but nothing pulls up outside my door no one

comes these days there’s a distance that grows

inside everything near to me I bought the entire

inventory and didn’t open half of it what

can I do I’ve got tomorrow ahead of me

or so I like to think how can I keep opening

what I didn’t notice about the day before

yesterday the whole house vibrates

but it’s still not for me I can sit tight

clean out one drawer at a time the calendar

is empty and I’ve got nowhere to go so

much I don’t know about you about me I

keep waking up promising to pay attention

this time this minute look at the headlines


[11 minute prompt response from the first line of Juliane Okot Bitek (2016) poem “Day 62” from Matthew Ogle’s Pome: poetry delivered daily via email]



Unless you believe in the eye of the needle

you wonʻt fit through the door to the next

thought whoever told you the mind is the sky

lied it’s not restricted to atmosphere or outer

layers first we learn to walk then we break

open the nest and later discover the night

learning it’s always there waiting outside

today’s weather patterns rain or shine wind

or the stillness that shrinks everything you’re

too small in the hour of rainfall one breath

you’re over the rooftop I’m talking to you

AKA myself who else? only this morning

remembering the perfect spheres of steel my father

brought home from Portishead the phosphate factory

the train to Bristol the teeth numbing vibrations

of ball bearings in his pocket my first marbles

rising above the dull horizon of linoleum

perfect orbs in his great hands set free

our reflections tumbling and rolling across

a floor busy with 50s faux and matchbox toys

detritus of childhood after the war when everyone

walked through everything that needed building

up again the sky hadn’t drawn open its curtain yet

I had to learn to walk before I saw constellations