Sunday, June 30, 2019


I read an article yesterday morning in The Guardian about unmarked graves along the Rio Grande, where the people of Piedras Negras (a Mexican border town) bury those they've found who’d tried to cross the river and drowned (Migrants drowning in Rio Grande). There was a picture of the crossed sticks that served as markers, with the river beyond.

I live in a state that has several ICE-run prison camps for adults and children who cross the border. This is how the US deals with immigration: criminalization. It is the way the US government seems to deal with everything – as a war. Us versus Them. Blame, Rage, Ignorance, Willful Cruelty. It is a culture of revenge. It ends with state murder, plain and simple. Daily.

The next article I read was about how the mussels in Bodega Bay had cooked in their own shells because of extreme temperatures (Mussels cooked by extreme heat). What to do? The heart and mind squirm, spin, burning in their shells. I wrote a poem.

In the poem, I put all of the bodies of the dead in the same cognitive and emotional universe. I am not saying that the bodies found in the river and the bodies of the mussels are the same by any stretch of the imagination - but the death of those people and of those bivalve mollusks (a foundation species – the ecosystem depends on them) are in the same universe of cause and effect, they are connected by catastrophe, they are connected on the same earth that is in the process of collapse. 

People are dying in the desert. People are drowning in rivers. Children are sleeping on concrete prison floors, alone. Mass extinction is ongoing. 

As I was writing I imagined that the beautiful blue shells of the mussels – their blue language – could somehow give a voice to those buried along the river. It is a poetic leap, a desperate leap...trying to making connections where there are (seemingly) none…


Sticks tied together to make a cross,
crosses line brown water, follow a slow
brown current; bodies un-named, un-
nameable, blue, blue in brown; tiny
blue bodies cling to shore-rock, wings
open, striated blue wings name the
shades of blue, a blue language for all
the ones who cannot be named, who
line the river, who must not be named
(if we name them, then they will appear);
blue bodies annealed to rock, mouths
open, cooked under the sun, shining
off the surface of the waters; oh holy
sun, false sun, fake-news sun, cooked
meat in a blue shell sun; oh holy water,
false water, fake-news water, brown
water in the heart; heart burnt off,
sorrow drowned, yearning burnt, love
drowned; in the heart of the water, in
the heart of the sun; in the heart, in
the heart, a feeble beat in foam; foam
retreats into an oncoming wave; print
of a gull-claw in wet sand; wet sand,
a mirror; sticks tied together…

At the same time, I read an article where Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Greta Thunberg (both heroes of mine) were in a conversation together (Hope is contagious) and the take-away was about action. Action helps dissolve despair, helps work through the avoidance behavior that results from deep depression. The behavior of retreat is natural, a survival mechanism, when our nervous systems become overwhelmed. Remember this: Greta Thunberg started out standing alone – and now is the voice for a worldwide movement. Action is the flaming door – sometimes into the burning house, sometimes out of the burning house. Sometimes both at the same time.

The only way out is through.


If you would like to help:


Thursday, June 13, 2019

How the World was Made 6

Three more prose-poem
from the manuscript
How the World was Made.

 Since I'm currently on the road, 

here's three from the ghost 

of roads past.

Grand Canyon: A Vision

I hit a traffic jam a couple miles out from the Desert View Visitor Center. When I finally reached the center’s parking lot, the car was overheating. I found a parking space, thinking I’d hang out for a while, let the car cool down. There was a cafeteria, a gift shop. And people, so many people. I wandered down to an old stone tower that had a view of the southern half of the canyon. The scene had no effect. I felt I was in a theater, watching a movie of the Grand Canyon. The only way I can be saying this is from deep inside a dream - how else?

Dejected – because of the car, because of the crowds – I sat down at the edge of the parking lot, about ten feet from an edge with no railing, beneath a dead tree. The bleached branches stretched out into space. A couple of families – obviously traveling together – stood about two feet from the edge, talking, laughing. The boys kept pretending to push each other over the edge. A girl that looked like she belonged to one of the families – eleven, twelve – stood near the tree, eating an ice cream, eyeing the boys with disgust. She eventually turned her back on them. You can see how all this was taking place inside a dream.

A raven landed on one of the branches above me, eyed the cone in the girl's hand, then lifted off – a huge pterodactyl shadow in the dust below – and floated over her head. The girl looked up at the bird, screamed, and fell backwards, towards the cliff edge. The raven plucked up what was left of the cone and flew off. The girl started to cry, hysterical. A mother ran up, comforted her. The boys smirked, inside the dream. 

It was clear she wasn’t crying about the raven or the lost cone or the pain from the tumble. Even though she was at least ten feet away from the rim, I know that for a second, as she fell to the ground, she thought she was about to fly out into that vast space. Listening to the panic in her cries, I suddenly saw it, felt it – the fantastic terror of the drop. All my organs rose toward my throat, toward my own scream, and I knew that if I got up, ran towards the edge, threw myself over, I would fall for centuries, past the jagged levels of stone, exposed by floods 70 million years gone, to be reborn as a black feather resting in the eye socket of a mule skull. 

(Previously published in Azure

The Three Fates, San Francisco
He watches the valet pull his bags from the taxi, then lights a cigarette and stares at the brilliant chandelier lighting up the hotel lobby. His wife holds herself and says, “I thought it’d be warmer than this.” Red carpet unravels beneath their feet, through revolving glass doors, to the foot of the front desk. Across the street, up three floors, three wrinkled beige nylon panties hang off a fire escape grill, talking amongst themselves.

Night: A Vision
We drove for ten hours straight down 95, from Saugerties, New York, heading to Orlando. Mother believed Orlando was going to be a holy land of work: Disneyworld, Universal Studios, SeaWorld, Wet n’ Wild – and all those restaurants. I am telling you this from inside a dream.

Right before nightfall, in the middle of Georgia, we followed signs to a state campground off the highway, set up camp in the middle of a thick pine forest. No one else was there. Was there something wrong with the place? It made my sister, Linnie, nervous. She’d been obsessed with death ever since my father took off. Mother told her to stop being such a baby. Remember, I am telling you this from inside a dream.

When the sun set it was so dark we couldn’t see our hands in front of our faces. We had no flashlight. Mother and Linnie crawled into the tent. I was mad at Mother for scolding Linnie, so I continued to sit in the dark. Do you know the dark? Darkness out there was a creature that swallowed me whole. Crickets and cicadas boomed inside its stiflingly hot belly, a fierce wall of sound, louder than my rising panic. This is the dream. There was nothing else.

When you can’t see your own body, is it really there? Shapes came and went: men with ant heads and alligator skin; whispering bats with luminescent butterfly wings; the orange ash from my dead grandfather’s cigarette. I reached out with an arm that did not exist. Did I touch something? “Is someone there?” I said. I said it inside the dream.

The next morning, we woke, ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, headed back to the highway. The car broke down in Jacksonville, so Jacksonville is where we ended up. Now, when I can’t sleep, I find myself at that campground, turning back as we pulled away, seeing my own body standing next to the picnic table. Some part of me was taken that night, enfolded into a vast body; fluid, amorphous, a black ocean with no shoreline…

(Previously Published in The Bitter Oleander)

Other prose-poems from the manuscript can be found here: