Friday, January 30, 2015


Ithuriel's Spears, Fiesta Flowers, Purple Chinese Houses

Chinese houses are sprouting on north-facing slopes 
and in shady washes, sharing their niche with fairy lanterns, 
Ithuriel's spears, larkspur, while twenty miles away, the skeletal
steel frame of a children's hospital sprouts on the bluffs,

on land donated by the developer, rising above condemned 
vineyards and pasture, a "behemoth of bad planning" 
inducing the growth of a new city through the expansion 
of one clogged artery of traffic just north of the river. 

In fields near the hospital, weeds still
hide mice and rabbits, obscuring coyotes 
in the dim halls of orchards, releasing air 
into an ocean of smog. I had almost forgotten 

that you can stand in an ocean of breath
and merge your breath with brilliant tribes
struggling into the sun, that you can sit by a creek,
no more than the stillness of the grass, sensing


the timeless spirit at the root of form, forgetting
your face as the battered moon rises again above
the evening hills. Golden eagles sliced through the air 
side by side, just above me, down through the wash,

swooping between the trees and gliding out 
over the valley until I lost them in the clouds, 
and an hour later, as I scrambled up the slope, 
the eagles stepped out of the oaks above me 

and floated--almost large enough to carry
me away--gliding higher until they were specks
and then gone. Sure of our end, I wanted
to sleep forever in the woods, the valley

stretching out for miles in the haze, below me
the landmarks strangely small, the strident whistle 
of the titmouse calling me back, a network
of trails linking the creeks and woodlands--

Baby Blue Eyes and Fiddleneck

still pristine (except 
for the cattle), the trails webbing 
the entire range blocked by pockets 
of development, the land owners all

connected. I teetered on the edge 
of that high ridge, the city so obscured 
by smog I couldn't see it--perhaps 
gone a century--a web slightly billowing

in the breeze, and I chased a meadowlark 
at the edge of a large flock downhill, 
a squirrel scurrying over its own thin trail 
from one rock pile to another, ants slowly

discarding husks from their tunnels. Overhead, 
a flock of acorn woodpeckers set up an alarm, cackling
maniacally as I passed through their territory, 
the trail weaving into a clearing where I found

Lupine and Vetch

a pounding stone, one mortar sprouting grass, 
the other black with stagnant water, the roots 
of a buckeye breaking the rock in two. 
I followed every path by the creek, finding 

more pounding stones wherever I turned, 
clearly in view of each other or parts 
of the village on both sides of the creek. 
I sensed a radiance that somehow remains

in the village sites, the mortars healed over
and sprouting grass, others collecting rain, 
most of the house pits quilted by cow pies
sprouting living jewels, the hillsides nearby

torn and washed away, streaked 
with ochre, yellow, black, one pit-- 
with a fence post in the middle dangling
from a strand of barbed wire--so deep

Purple Chinese Houses

I could not see the bottom, another filled
with lime-green water, the slopes
near the mines scored by mule and horse paths.
That day I lost myself on the trails,

and when I stepped across a creek,
I had a vision of the harmony
of things--a golden, equal-armed cross
behind manifestation blazing

in my inner eye as though it were always
just beneath the outer robe of concealment--
the energy radiant in each leaf and petal--and I
had taken just enough steps to see it.

A massive oak kept reaching higher
within an infinitely vast fabric of energy,
the sun, through its branches,
still weaving tapestries of flowers.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015


Purple Vetch and Fiddleneck

My new life began on an avenue 
that twenty years ago was miles 
from the edge of town, the pastureland, 
vineyards and orchards slowly erased 

by houses and businesses. Near
the freeway, close to the river 
on the south side, secure subdivisions 
crowded together along 

the bluff. For years, I had taken 
the rural avenues north of the river 
to witness the seasons, never guessing 
the city was sprawling so far north 

Fiddleneck and Popcorn Flowers at Sunset

as I drove past orchards in bloom 
or bearing fruit or bare, in spring mustard 
and vetch choking the roadside and the rows 
of some orchards. No longer grazed, pastures

bloomed with fiddleneck and owl's clover, one, almost wild, 
with harvest brodiaea, the umbels crowning blonde grass 
with purple, the leaves of vineyards brilliant 
in slanted sunlight. On the first afternoon 

of my new life, I drove the avenue homeward 
and saw on Avenue 40 the first bulldozers lined up 
in the only place I had ever sighted a yellow-headed blackbird, 
not far from a wooden post where once a roadrunner perched,

Fiddleneck at Base of Foothills

the only one I have sighted on the valley floor. Ahead of me 
stretched thousands of acres of grasslands and the plateaus,
the base of the foothills. The county had rezoned
the land so that in twenty years a city 

could grow there as far as the eye could see, 
from the river all the way into the foothills and mountains. 
By then, my new life could be over,
my last life with land where song birds

cannot forage, with flowers 
whose seeds cannot grow, a land without roots, 
a river with roots of rain but with water 
that can never find an ocean. 

Tuesday, January 27, 2015


River Canyon

On the way up, I needed 
words to calm myself, 
on this winter day when smog 
smothers the valley again, grays 
the rocks half a mile away                               Take a different path.
where the creek shines like chrome.
All afternoon I explored the paths 
webbing down to the creek
where pounding stones and trails 
are all that remain of the tribe 
that once settled on cleared, 
gentle inclines. I ventured up 

Squaw Leap

the steep slopes toward the top 
to claim it as my own in the late                        Take a different path.
afternoon sun. For all of an afternoon 
I trespassed, perhaps not meant 
to look down anymore 
on the grayness below that never 
clears. At the edge of the cliff I lost myself 
easily in the breath of trees and grasses, 
above chemicals ruining mind
and body, knowing I cannot protect             Take a different path.
these hillsides. Not long ago 
the tribe was ravaged by sickness 
and finished off by murder and 
starvation, the air and water 
and the remaining creatures no longer 
belonging to the earth. I have always 
kept some faith in my feet, and I hiked 
past cattle that fled in absolute terror 
of me or refused to budge 
when I approached, all
without horns. Those animals                            Take a different path.
could have done me great harm, 
but didn't. I have brought you here 
to the edge of this cliff to remember 
the valley as it was before the earth 
was sold. I will remain
as a few magic words that fly 
from this cliff over the valley 
to write the language of flowers 

Baby Blue Eyes and Goldfields

gone forever, to bear witness 
for the air and water passing 
through everything living, to ease 
the desolation of those who believe                  Take a different path.
that all must wisely share the earth, 
and although I may not even be meant 
to be the voice, my words will take you 
part of the way, past the last trees 
to the rocks at the top behind which 
a mother is lying beside her newborn calf, 
a young bull grazing, so powerful 
and unconcerned you might think them 
godlike and pure, untouched                         Take a different path.
for generations, the huge horns 
without garlands, without blood. 

Sunday, January 25, 2015


Poppies and Lupine near Village Site

A phoebe loops to the last
serious fence and chirps
excitedly, distracting us 
from its nest as we creep...

three feet away before it leaps 
and weaves through the wings 
of a cattle guard into the branches 
of a valley oak. Once I flew

down this road while my father
snoozed in the passenger seat
after a long day of fishing
in the heat, thirty-five years ago....

Ithuriel's Spears and Fiesta Flowers by Stream

He died a week later. I return again
to search for signs of the vanished
at the confluences--trails, house pits,
pounding stones--until I sense  

an overarching consciousness, 
the grass and trees tuning
to a frequency that I know 
my father felt so long ago,

my soul tuned to the tranquility 
of the World Soul, a peace
beyond understanding that never
totally vanishes from the earth,

Ithuriel's Spears and Pretty Face

a peace that links us again
as swallows thread through
branches into the holes of one
of the few unaltered embankments 

large enough for a whole flock, 
violet-green swallows suddenly 
weaving between them, both flocks
describing in air and water 

the presence of flies as we gaze 
silently a long time at loops 
of white and brown, white
and iridescent violet-green. 

Saturday, January 24, 2015


Pounding Stone at Confluence of Kings River and Big Creek:
Pine Flat Reservoir in Drought Year

I submerged myself
In the reservoir, plunging
Down the denuded slope into
The canyon emptied by drought,
And settled on a pounding stone 
At the confluence,
Where a newt floated
In a mortar next to a pestle,

Newt and Pestle in a Mortar

An ancient trail leading
West toward another abandoned
Village, and east toward the flats
Through a thick, underwater crop
Of cockleburs that flourish
Wherever the reservoir
Has chewed away the woodlands,
A chimney looming alone
With the name Chuck Morris
Chiseled twice before the house
Drowned and floated away.
Forty years ago, my family
Migrated from L.A., all
Of us in a van winding 
Around the reservoir a month
later. We settled on a spot
Near the flats and while
My father fished, I stumbled
On a web and gazed transfixed
At the intricate tapestry until
I glimpsed a bulbous spider.
I fled as if I’d encountered
The frightful weaver
Of our fate, and I found
Upstream the foundation
Of a ranch house, the concrete
Broken up by the roots
Of oak trees that claimed
The former rooms, the rest
Of the house swept away
By floods over the years.

Foundation of House in Floodplain

And there I heard the voice
Of my daimon: “You will
Be back in thirty-five years.”
Thirty-five years later
I returned after several floods
Had torn through the canyon
Sweeping over our favorite
Hole. One year, I teetered, 
Amazed by the force 
Of the flood and sensing
A hush underneath the roar,
A silence rising as the flood
Slowly subsided. By then
Most of the people in that van
Were gone, my father,
Grandparents, and uncle side
By side in Clovis Cemetery,
My brother in another state,
My father, forty years ago,
Always facing the depths--
I could not tell him
Of the voice from my soul
Or how I could feel him
Tuning his soul to the quiet
Rhythms of water as he
Cast his line and waited....
I no longer grasp water
Or miss the webs
Torn by the wind
Or even attempt to cast
A line as I immerse myself
In the quiet, spiders marching out
Of a crack and wobbling
Toward me, a timeless peace
Drenching the floodplain....

Friday, January 23, 2015



I hike where even humus breathes slightly, 
huge trees exhaling a breath that cleanses
the darkened shrubs of my lungs
and awakens flowers of energy

all over my body. I feel
the drumming deep in roots and rocks
as snowmelt cascades down the slopes,
the blood of other creatures pounding

in my ears, coursing through countless
veins, the heartbeat of mother earth pulsing
in bushes and trees, in the bobcat staring
at me from across the creek, in the strider 

Bobcat in Late Spring Flowers

sliding away from the bank 
on a skin of light. There I find
my power, releasing black spiders
from my subtle body through a hole

in my back, healing myself through grief
and forgiveness, cleansing 
the astral flowers of my aura
until they open for the powers 

of the Gods. Together, my power
and I strut through a meadow 
to the ruins of a stone house
as coyotes cut loose a howl, 


and we dash over hills on ancient trails
from pounding stone to pounding stone, 
feeling our way through a cave where I see
brilliant archetypes: a pure, white,

four-petaled flower burgeoning
into a flower with countless petals, 
the four elements blossoming into 
the thousand-petaled lotus; a gray


figure eight, floating above my head;
and a golden-equal armed cross, the archangels
at each end slowly growing clearer.
I emerge from the cave to find

rituals that invoke the archangels, 
the four elements flowing into me
so that I feel the power of those forces
embodied as human forms

with mighty wings, all a flowing,
a balancing, as I lounge 
on a pounding stone at the edge 
of the cliff and pray for release

from attachment and desire. I am
a hawk floating high 
above the oaks, my body towering
into the heavens, assuming the form

of Amoun-Ra, my own head the fiery head
of a hawk, my aura flung beyond the edges
of the solar system, the sun beating down,
speaking with heat of manifold creatures

Seven Pestles Near Pounding Stone

in its light. Seven pestles wait, placed
neatly on a rock near the pounding stone.
Once I was certain the Earth
would soon be free of us,

everything that I and so many others 
fighting for in ruins--but now 
I stand on the pounding stone
under the living sun, awakening 

the Tree of Life within myself, 
making a brilliant cross of light,
a wren foraging a few feet away, 
huge astral antlers branching 

from my head, an inverted rainbow 
in my heart, a flock of bushtits 
descending on an oak, so close:
I am no more threatening than the sun.

Thursday, January 22, 2015


Over Soul

Leaping from rock to slippery,
Unstable rock in Big Creek,
I cross in search of artifacts,
Scrambling up a steep slope
To find shotgun shells sprinkled
On a house pit, mortars claimed
By humus and moss. Trampled and
Uneven, a trail snakes along a cliff
To a confluence where I choose
A faint path unmolested by cattle,
The trail soon vanishing under dry
Sycamore leaves webbed by tribes
Of spiders. Poison oak blocks
One side and a buckeye looms
On the other side of the ravine,
So I grab a long, dry branch and hoist
Myself onto a boulder that topples
To the stream bed after I leap
To another rock. Nobody knows
Where I am. I scramble higher,
Grasping grass and roots, in my first
Initiation by this stream, finding
Primeval woodlands above the lip
Of the waterfall, and I plod forward,
Without much faith in my feet,
Sure that I'm being watched by
Something, animal or spirit,
Not human. When I discover


A pounding stone with two pestles,
I am afraid. A skirt of dried earth
And moss clings to each tapered
Stone after I pull them from the cups.
Like some shaman, I feel an Over-Soul
Is aware of me, and there has not yet
been a parley. A rattlesnake, 
Camouflaged by roots that stick out
From the embankment, shatters
The stillness and slithers
Into its hole, the Over-Soul
Aware of me like I
Am aware of the snake. 
I open my senses
To feel what it's like
To be a newt or frog or snake
Or waterfall or redbud reflected
In still water, and I let
An image of her rise from a deep pool.

Pounding Stone

I fashion a living image for her spirit
To ensoul, her hair winding down 
To her feet like rivulets, 
A crown of moons in different 
Phases, a bobcat at her feet, 
Doves fluttering nearby, green robes
Gleaming with embroidery
Of gem-like flowers, behind her
A towering oak, the branches
Like streams, its trunk
A river plunged into earth.
I invoke awkwardly
At first, then more powerfully
As I stand on the pounding stone
With her form in my imagination--
For the Over-Soul to pour her essence
Into my soul, a small channel
Into the soul of the race. At first
I am black, primordial ooze,
Fetid decay, suddenly warm
And compact, webbed by veins,
Then rivulets trickling down
The ravines into still pools
And down to a river that once
Flowed to an ocean under an ocean
Of breath, and then I am all
The plants and animals, one love
Of everything ever connected
To this stream, the solar fire
Scorching my soul to a clinker,
The Over-Soul suddenly
Pouring into me
A timeless peace.


Mushrooms by Stream

Where a rivulet spills down a cliff,
a pounding stone with one shallow mortar
not far from three village sites: Banished
or by choice, someone survived here alone,

no telling how long ago. A coyote
eyes me from deer brush across the stream
in a place so tranquil I’m tempted again 
to alienate my tribe: I sense

an Over Soul and see in my mind’s eye 
a golden, equal-armed cross resonating
with cosmic harmony. Pressing my face
against the earth to gaze 

at tiny mushrooms in the moss, 
I feel what it’s like to be mushrooms, 
moss, water, stone: Within
the World Soul we are linked together. 

I feel something staring at me
and see a wildcat in my mind’s eye.
Moments later I watch a mountain lion 
pounce upon a squirrel.