A few other poems

1. “A Song for Every One”

I wrote this poem yesterday (May 30), my reaction to the murder of George Floyd and the horrors of these last few shameful days, which I’ve seen repeated for my whole life, and used it as the soundtrack for this slideshow:


2. I made this recording for my friend Marian Orten’s birthday in 2017. She gave me the statue of Li Po that appears on the cover of my book, Li Po-ems.

A few others not included in collections:

Appraising the Vase


It came here, she says, from Genoa,

late 18th century, the story goes, saved,

stolen, bought, no one now knows,

still flawless, without visible scars.


“My family has owned it for generations.”

I am asked to know it. I hold it firmly in

my hands, move my thumbs over

its smooth face, caressingly.


I care only for this: What was

its beauty, power, there, then;

what is its beauty, power, now, here;

what did it, does it, hope for, fear.


Only when I know all of this, there,

then, now, here, can I say for sure

if it still breathes, is gone, what

someone else must pay just to hold it.






Two Dreams




The kiss is electric, lips

soft, slightly wet,

barely touching at first,

then moving over each other

carefully, until they know

mountains, valleys, streams,

each leaf, stem, flower.

We gasp, the exact

moment love arrives.




She reaches into the dark

for a hand, finds mine,

waiting. Our warm fingers

entwine for a second.

Then hers slip quickly out,

move toward another,

the one they meant to find.

We gasp, the exact

moment love leaves.




Poems in the Manner of Emily Dickinson




Settled in a second–

how her eyelid moved,

the words I had just heard



Truth by definition

finds respite in the small.

Words when weak–

An eyelid says it all.




Arrayed around a table–

statues, a voice I cannot hear.

A woman with a grimace,

a man with unkempt beard,


and twenty more of each

iterated chair by chair

I walk by sidewise glancing,

glad I’m here not there.



Five Scenes from My Final Dream of You




I am standing behind you on a balcony.

Your white robe billows in the wind.

My fingers reach all the way down

to a child’s memory, tinkering

until you think you are no longer alone.

From that moment on

you do not hear any singing.




When I raise my hands,

thousands of yellow finches

stop, wheel in a whirling mass,

waiting their turns to pass.


Tonight I will teach you

how to reach out for them,

how to keep each one in your hand

an instant only,

fingers parting as they close,

holding and letting go all one motion,

your only measure

the delicate pressure

of feather-edge against skin.


In precisely this way

your time will be saved.

And mine.

Until morning.

Let us begin.




It is womb-warm and humid here.

I could not be more at ease,

with myself, with you.

As we walk, long, lush fronds of fern unfurl

eerily green before us.


In the steamy haze

that rises between us,

hundreds of white horses

are thundering over the tundra,

their eyes wild with desire.


Do you hear them coming?

Do you hear?





I am standing alone

against a stone wall, eyes closed,

hands folded at my waist.

I am growing slowly smaller

and smaller. All around my head

green auroras flicker, flash and fade.

I fear that in the light of day

they will masquerade

as these mere words,

which neither of us will hear.




Even in the deep of sleep,

my heart aches

beyond reckoning

to see nothing more or less

than what I have done.


Forgive me.

It has taken me half a lifetime

to begin the waking.

Before I rise I must savor again

this terrible aching of my heart.


            Pike’s Peak (1982)


I came for nothing

but a pretty good tan


then the mountains

massed, vexing

a sky, wide and unoccupied

turbulent spaces

only a new eye

can size up

break down

over and over spending


proportions of perception



a whole season of sun in a week

tanning into the evening

heat, skin sweating

through the night

pigments gathering


in solitude abiding

keen-eyed, silent

the dry heat of thinking

leaner and leaner

toward nothing

but a reputation for distance

a pretty good tan


the western sky

cowboy blue an hour after sundown

thin air

the sting of stars

refusing to use even the fewest words


I lean back, listen

skin stung  with sunburn turning

one word conserved, another

red rock


fool’s gold


too deep even to feel

massive plates of hot rock drift

casual under pressure

willing simply

to give

in the nature of things

resources in transit

the silent sky intruded upon



I do not know any longer

what it is possible

to learn,  teach

all afternoon

the grass lengthening

perceptibly under me

long silences over dinner


lapses of attention

the privacy of sunburn turning

courage to preserve

orders, order

let go


strangers in a strange place

cannot remain strangers long

presenting oneself

in the proper light

anyone’s skin

turns, the sun unconcerned

with pleasantries

over breakfast

voices seeking

the heat of speech


lint of cottonwood blowing

up the steep slope

to snow  in the air

brutal reversal of seasons

a geography of loss

grasped in the passing

maps of the mind

redrawn, the state

of things abiding

sun, snow, stars

struggle of feeling

the peak


willing simply

to give

in my words forming

too deep to feel

the burning

under my shirt

hot skin turning


words into


but a pretty good tan