As if Beauty Needed a Reason


This morning I froze upon seeing

a red-shouldered hawk on our fence,

with all the dignity that power can bring.

Then he unfolded his wide wings

and lifted off, revealing the design

of his black and white tail.

How did the beauty of hunter hawks,

of the buteos, the accipiters, the eagles

figure in their design and survival?

The buzzards fly lovely arcs and

swoops and spirals, but up close

resemble their carrion work.

Do the kestrels, however, the merlins,

harriers, kites, or the peregrines

have shapes and patterns to dazzle, say,

a field-mouse looking skyward

from a field of sweet peas, pausing briefly,

still watching, a moment too long?

So Now That It Has Seeped into Us?

He decided

to ease his pain with

the ultimate pain relief:

no side effects,

no worrying about

more prescriptions.

Just hoard the meds and

gulp and gulp and

gulp them down with water.

So the pain stopped for him,

but we have found

that it now flows to us

as we sense the evil

which he spilled

throughout his house

in notes,

in messages

dripping down:

thick black scrawls

on his bedroom wall.

Old Buzzards

Yesterday we hiked across some wetlands,

up a hill into a pine forest,

then down through a steep canyon’s riparian canopy,

and up again on a trail fully exposed to summer sun

across grasslands to the top of a mesa,

where we sat on a bench and ate cheese and apples

we’d pulled out of our daypacks,

while overlooking the farms in the canyon below us,

the golden hills across the way,

the Pacific, half-shrouded with mist, in the distance.

We’d earlier seen buzzards soaring,

but now they got closer, circling,

one even swooping to ten feet above our heads,

peering down on us

with cocked red head, curious eyes.

In defense we joked in our

heartiest graveyard humor

about how bad us old guys must’ve looked

to lure these carrion seekers,

this clean-up crew,

that will get us yet.

The Death-Wind Howls…

I played with repetition of certain words in the poem. I wonder if the repetition works for you.


The Death-Wind Howls…

scouring our ears,

stripping off clothes,

the sweaty bedsheets

then sanding off skin,

the skin, keeping memories of

so many sins

buried in muscle,

the thick tissues, the wind,

the wind winnowing us

down to bone, down to

the selves we carry

deepest within,

within, regardless of how

wonderful and terrible

they have been,

have been.

Across the Mojave


Across the Mojave

abandoned homes

stripped clean, eroded,

honed down to


that prick

the wind-

scoured sky,

so that

one can see,

through crumbling walls,

naked mountains,

one range grayer

than the next,

until earth’s shape

curves them away,

or, one can see

close by,

spiny ocotillo

whose scarlet

blooms on


in spring


with holy fire

or hell’s fire,

as either one

may be,

here on the


Dropping into Death Valley…


Telegraph Peak.JPG




I wrote this poem on a Death Valley camping trip, not long after my mother had died. The names of the geological features are examples of “found poetry.”


Dropping into Death Valley…

I see no spring blooms yet,

the ridges on

the Funeral Mountains

still raw.

Then looking for

some message, a sign,

for days I hike up

broad washes

into canyons,

until rock cliffs


to my body’s


but the the trails always

leading me up

into the shadows

of the Black Mountains.

Back at camp

simply sit for hours,

watch the sun and clouds shift

while silence stuffs my ears,

and I try to understand

the heart-breaking distance

from the Last Chance Range

to Coffin Peak.


Easter Morning on the Reservation

Easter Morning on the Reservation

rising above the great desert

and into the powder-blue sky:

rust-red monuments for giants,

and at their feet, cottonwoods sparkling

still fresh in spring green

from recent rains.

A mounted Navajo, herding a string of pinto ponies

past the red-earth hogans, the pickup trucks and little corrals,

down a canyon flanked by flat-top mesas,

is chased by two German tourists, cameras in hand,

trying to capture, with little grace,

the rebirth of wonder.