Past the plums and bushes of blueberries Then through the hollow’s fog, thick and heavy, At dawn when the whippoorwill’s song carries, I drive the rutted road in my old red Chevy.
I have not slept the night, for I was out upon the trail Driving cattle on my horse along the dark terrain, The hours marked by distant whistlings of the locomotive on the rail, The deepest night made cold and bitter by unrelenting rain.
The heater’s blowing ghostly hot air on my hands, And the truck is bumping slowly along the road to home. I take a tired look at the good lands That wear my heart raw to work and roam.
Water is my favorite poem of the bunch, along with Mr. McGraff the Happy Giraffe and the limericks.
The poem was written on a winter’s night in early 2018 at about one in the morning in Washington state. The rain had been coming down, it seemed, for weeks. Darkness came early. It was dark when I went to work, and it was dark when I left work.
In the middle of the night, I woke up, and the sound of rain was extraordinarily strong. I reached over to get my cell phone to check the time, and I started writing this poem in the Notes section of my phone. Sometimes I jot down ideas there, but I’d never written a poem before. I wrote the entire thing, saved it, and went back to bed.
The next morning, I got up, read it while I ate breakfast, and I liked it. I still do. I love its music.
The pelting pitter patter of precipitation tick tip tip tap ppit ppit
on the rain washed window
during the dreary day
sends me, wends me,
bores me, as no sun can gather.
Another rain washed day:
grey and heavy storms,
forms of rain in sheets,
windy wreaths of rain
spin like cyclones in the lane.
The dreary drops go drip drip drip;
the gutter filling rain
makes slipping hours pass, peculating time
on stealthy phantom feet.
The steady clock goes tick tick tock, Pock pock pick, pick pick pock.
Seconds sound in time to steady drops of rain clock pock tick tock;
Seconds sound in tune to rain that nurses earth…
A water song, a sing along:
rivulets of rivers run,
languorous lakes will swell.
A water song with wet world words:
moist monsoon, sea storm squall, great ungainly gales;
sails and masts and levies snap in times of wet travails. Tap tap tap, tip tip tip.
Ships snapped; sailors dead,
sunk in whirling eddies deep, in whirlpools, fish schools,
entombed in worlds of water,
in a never dreaming, seaweed feeding, never ending, sound unceasing sleep.
Such a sad unnecessary slaughter of superstitious sailors,
star-crossed seafarers, unfortunate mariners,
in scenes both past and present has never been succeeded nor never yet surpassed.
What a word is water; what a world is water! Drip drip drip, tick tick tock.
Clocks chime ten,
the dusky hour,
and still the rain pours down:
days and nights, nights and days,
months and months of rain.
The endless drip, the dreary dusk,
the weary walks from work
in incessant rain on ho-hum days,
rain interminable as an hour.
This is a poem about the reflections of a people and their city, both the reflections of their lives and the reflections of their place.
In April when the cherry trees bloom,
City folk are reflected in the spring rain’s puddles,
By water that serves as mirrors for impressions.
Wind whips billowy clouds into an approaching eastern gloom,
While upon the shiny street, a poor wayfarer huddles
Beneath imposing windows that reflect metropolitan professions.
The sunbeams leave long, plum-shaded shadows beyond buildings
Whose western walls are washed by beams in apricot and tangerine
While in this gleaming twilight, a black cat’s lime-gold eyes glint,
And hazy rays catch the rich institutions’ burnished gilding.
Night falls abruptly upon folk fat and merry, lonely and lean.
The cat leaps, and houses’ windows glow with a lemony tint.
People’s reflections disappear.
Darkness washes the edifices in shades of coal and emery.
In the night, people’s luminous private lives appear,
And the recollection of the day disintegrates to circadian memory.
“The Bleak and Wild Desolate Shore” describes a beach along the Olympic Peninsula and tells of the indigenous Makah people whom I took an interest in during 2017. The free verse poem relies on imagery. I found the book The Sea Is My Country by Josh Reid and the Makah Cultural and Research Center to be good sources of information about Makah culture.
Along the very tip of the Olympic Peninsula—
harbored by sea stacks,
washed by the ablutions of frequent rain,
and scrutinized by the salmon-keen eyes of fierce eagles
who sit perched with feathers made wet and salty by ocean spray—
lies a beach spliced by piney evergreens and the wintry Pacific Ocean.
It wears as its mantle a cloak of becoming fog:
wide filaments of thick mist wreathe the beach’s shoulders,
narrow wisps tuck into the crevices of teeming pine,
and, like a stole, that pale brume softly embraces
the necks of the majesterial, protruding stones.
The beach’s curvaceous, serene form lies upon its side
with its back to the land, knees tucked up against the tide,
with its stone lips ever kissing the briny, icy waves.
Water is its heart. In the rain, in the sea and spume,
throbs the lifeforce that begets the beach’s growth and decay,
shapes its projecting stone fingers, and creates its austere beauty.
In the night, the wan moon with its grey craters
beams down on sword ferns glowing nearly phosphorescent
and flashes on the bottle-gold eyes of great horned owls.
The moon turns milky the evergreen forest that adorns
the beach’s hips, and the moon tints the bleached driftwood
from day’s ivory to an iridescent alabaster of night.
That moon casts upon the beach’s cliffs a lustre
that speaks of shining rock, and, with its hushing silence,
it seems to make the surf’s voice boom.
With wind, the beach’s trees move sinuously and with susurrant song.
In the moonlight, upon the beach’s damp and footless shore,
lie whips of bull kelp, washed up and drying,
with algae blades like Medusa’s chaotic hair, their origins
in the marine forests of stone mantlepieces and rocky shelves.
The crows cackle madly in their rookery, the wind whishes,
surf roars, eagles scream, seals honk and bark and cry,
clouds morph then rework their hues, tides ebb and rise,
marshy mushrooms rise and rot with the sun’s circling,
the fragrance of evergreen sap freshens the air, salmon run,
gulls bed their island colonies with bones, osprey preen and fish,
glossy baneberries bear fruit like murderous scarlet pearls,
and purple mountain saxifrage color the cliffs.
In antiquity, the Makah resided here
using yarrow for childbirth, red cedar for dugout canoes,
yellow cedar for clothing, spermaceti for candles,
stones buffed by water to high polish and wound
by withy willows for anchor stones, having halibut for dinner,
sea otter teeth and whale fins for art, cherry bark for basketry
which tightens as it dries, and bones for awls and adze handles.
They used tides and stones and fences to catch fish,
laid white clam shells on the tidal floor for better contrast
to see the fish in their traps. On a crisp, windy spring night
six hundred years ago, the tribe gathered on the damp beach
after partaking in a feast of salmon, octupus, and halibut
for a sacred ritual conducted to send its rowers and harpooners offshore
in a twelve-seater canoe to hunt whale. A chief chanted,
sang, worked the crowd into a frenzy before the night fire,
and when the throng felt most animated, the chief
poured whale oil onto the fire, so that it soared, crackling to
a crescendo, rose like the wave of a tsunami, and
in the dark night the bellowing and shrieking
of the Makah were swallowed up by the forest.
Over this desolate beach there is a kind of peacefulness:
gently lapping waves, the soft pattern of rain,
the rustle of a crow’s wings. It appears desolate, Shi Shi,
here in winter.