the way a tendril winds
spiraling into steadfastness

clockwise or counter-clockwise
there’s wisdom in it

every time i circle my home ground
i grasp it a bit better

till i can wind through the house at night
without even having to see

hands and feet discover
how much they already know

not the exact number of steps
but the way they feel

iambic trochaic
anapestic spondaic

my feet and the ground
are old lovers after dark

i make a circuit of the trails
the milky way changes direction

thank-you-ma’ams dug last year
no longer make me stumble

but sometimes i forget where i am
and a moment of pure terror descends

and when sleep sits on my eyelids
other places i’ve known come back to me

or me to them legs twitching
taking their measure once more

though dream steps follow
a slower stranger rhythm

and sometimes in the morning i’ll ache
in unexpected places


Today was a day for visions… though not necessarily a day for understanding. The light had a special quality to it, that early spring haziness.

It was a day bookended by thunderstorms. The temperature climbed into the low 60s.

A fire hydrant at the edge of town stood guard over a feral underground.

Near the crest of the ridge, I saw a tree eating a large rock.

I don’t like that someone did this but I can’t help but admire the tree’s response.

I’ve noticed this tree before, but not after a hard rain. Its eye of lichen really blazed forth, and its green suit of moss was fabulous.

The rain also accentuated the distinction between the two halves of this oak, one dead, the other very much alive. This too seems fabulous, in the specific sense that it reminds me of something out of a fable.

Lichens brighten in the rain. They open all their pores.

A dry strip of bark appears virtually lifeless in contrast to rain-soaked portions, where moss, algae and lichen have been revived.

But no one beats wood frogs for revivals. From suspended animation to full-on orgy. It boggles the mind.


full sun but the sky’s
blue heart stays cold

as i pass the big rockslide
a wind-blown tree calls my name

just once
in my mother’s voice

i follow the ridge another mile
to the ephemeral ponds

frozen wood frog egg masses
glitter like nebulae in the dark water

and just beyond
the trees are raining grackles

with the sound of a vast
and rusty orchestra tuning up

i reach for my gloves
find the left one missing

the blackbirds are on all sides
landing on the ground
jostling in the treetops

lifting as if on a signal
from mob into synchronized flock

a great glossy wheel
here and gone

later at supper
my mother points out a black vulture
with its gray face

looking over my house
from a perch in a walnut tree

just then the spring
equinox arrives

i go off looking for
my lost winter glove

the sun makes its rendezvous
with the compass point

venus emerges
from hiding in plain sight
a barred owl calls

i follow the mountain
until it’s too dark to see

Weather or Not

cloud made of snow
the swirl and twirl of it

at night in a flashlight’s beam
like a swarm of souls

i’ve taken a break from breaking
news of bank runs

to stand on the porch and gaze
up into a well of darkness

cold little dagger-kisses
die on my cheek

the wind has come hissing
down from the ridgetops

and is getting into everything
i can hear it rummaging about

refusing to settle
as the snow does

or the dust indoors that clings
to my canted mirror

slowly burying
my image alive


in the morning mirror
the apparition of my old self

as skinny as i was forty years ago
but with white hair

and weird spots and scars
my backwards mouth grimaces

i return once more
to the base of a mountain

so called because it’s too long
and skinny to be a hill

there’s no summit
just the end of a ridge

rising from the river
shouldering the railroad and a highway

i begin again on a steep path
deep in dry leaves

a carolina wren choruses
from an old cellar hole

tiredness vanishes
part-way up

the mountain gives strength
takes deep breaths of wind

a few tree shadows still shelter
patches of snow

the first butterfly’s black velvet
wings ease open

a mourning cloak
soaking up the sun

the sky goes from clear
to blue au lait

the ground from high gloss
to dull tarnish

the ridgeline beckons for miles

step by careful step
through the rocks

In Gloom

the mountain looks old today
under its thin blanket of snow

valley sounds vanish
in a hush of wind

shadows sharpen
only to wink out

one tall black cherry
split open along a twist

groans and mutters
like a humpbacked whale

between the clouds
the unobtainable abyss

all the while the half-
thawed earth is surfacing

my feet start to slide on slush
and continue into mud

later a gravid moon
brings light without heat

one way to evade the grim
machinery of the stars

Wintry Mix

drab brown woods:
one white mote floats down

then all at once the sky extends
her whole milky tongue

wet snow on my umbrella
whispers of collapse

evergreen woodferns fade
into fern-shaped shrouds

a pileated woodpecker’s laughter
is muffled by fog

all his improvements to a tree
must be getting whited out

everyone gets plastered
even the young pole timber

a few wood frogs still float
between the reflections of trees

as the dark pool fattens
on clumps of cloud

Some Facts About Paradise

paradise never sticks
it’s too purpose-driven

the first wings lacked feathers
the first feathers lacked wings

i used to love the idea of giving
my body to medicine

now i’d rather go back to dirt
and grow mushrooms

paradise in the sticks
may require some assembly

the first godhead went nova
the second is a donut hole

i used to be content
as a content creator

now the cold creeps in
through my hobo coat

paradise on a stick
would taste of oppression

the forest pool in new ice
is a thing with feathers

it goes away in the autumn
a blessing for the frogs

whose eggs would be eaten
if it had year-round residents

wood frogs are wise
and live under rocks

paradise sticks
to the script

Ridgerunner’s Dilemma

far from the monoculture
up in the hills here

and there you can still find
original patterns

new wrinkles in the ridgeline
a rare lichen

a nearly lost recipe
for disaster

the way a chipmunk can race
across a creek

ridge running you rise and fall
on crests and dips
of a sine wave

here an old charcoal hearth
there a borrow pit
returning to woods

you teeter through talus
clamber down cliffs

far from the suburban
absence of fear

where deer without hunters
spell understories without natives

following animal paths
you remember all the ways
to be animal

crawl on your knees
through rhododendron tunnels

to a place where yellow birches
rear up on their roots

and foamflower leaves recline
on sphagnum cushions

maybe you stumble
on a small forgotten stand
of old-growth trees

glowing in the low sun
full of character

like all those who live
long lives out in the weather

and you wonder knowing
how your heart might break
whether to come back

absence can grow anywhere
the ground turns white


summer always ends
on a wednesday in my head

my half-baked braincase
buzzing like a timber rattler

winter comes in its own time
to whomever needs it most

densely furred
full of absence

imagine being perennial as a tree
regrowing sex organs every year

the oaks i walked among today
were characters in a no-movie

each leaning into their role
but who hid the script

we swayed in the wind
which brought distant cries

this might be a horror scene
that’s the trouble with scripts

on a wednesday the first beech bark disease
on the mountain stopped me cold

smooth gray bark broken out
in pointillist rashes

this mountain’s only gold
is fool’s gold

a full moon
through the trees

blinking on and off
as clouds scud past

so much can go wrong
between one tree and the next

this might be the year
for bird flu or world war three

but summer always ends
on a wednesday