Pacific Yew

I was once paid
To survey Yew trees
In Old Growth forests
In Oregon near Crater Lake
Mammoth Douglas fir & White fir
Covered the landscape, rolling sides
Of Mountains, the Yew were generally
In wet areas, crevices of creeks
They grew as attendant soldiers to the large conifers
Only the fifty to sixty feet the oldest of them
Lining the feeder streams that stretched downward
To Creeks that all ran to the Rogue River
The surrounding clearcuts were littered with their
Brothers  & sisters as they were sexed male  & female
Into large piles to be burned as unmerchantable
In Canada they made them into beautiful hardwood flooring,
After closing a bar in British Columbia I was drinking beer
At a timber fallers home  & complemented him on his floor
As it was gorgeous red hues  & blond running throughout
The lengths of the boards,  & I asked him what kind of wood
It was, as I had installed wood floors for about as brief a time as
I had logged, “THAT,” he said, as he waved his Molson,
“Is Canadian Yew wood!”  & he said it as if it came from the Queen herself
The females have tiny red berries but were no different in appearance
Than the males, but that they were dioeciously conifers with separate sexes
Was something that seemed an oddity, yews were generally few & far
Between but in the right conditions they would form stands that followed
The creeks downhill & appeared as un-uniformed limby
Gnarly red barked ever green twisted with holes & grown
Over defects that were as old as the tall Douglas fir
Their large European counter parts were used as chapels
By early European Christians who took them from
Pagan worshipers that found their otherworldly appearance
In deep forest to be contingent with forested landscape as a being
Rather than separate commodities, & I who had formerly spent
My short forestry career in clearcuts where all this had been raped,
Well, the three weeks I spent with Yews, kind of sealed this notion
That yes this separate place was an amalgam of earth, with a presence
All its own, we were surveying Yew because its bark had been found
To be a cure for breast & ovarian cancer , the worry at the time was
That we had cut too much of it  & the need for it for medicine would
Be its demise in a few short years—perhaps every incurable disease has
Its counterpart, the European Yew were almost wiped out because of its
Prize as the commodity for long bows, this is really more understandable
Rather than the overuse because it was “just in the way,” of D-8 cats and
The ever present need to tidy up & burn the left over’s so we could entertain
The notion of growing back trees like corn that
Rather  had,  in an elegant fashion been growing to cure
The beloved’s:  the grandmother’s, the mothers, the young women whose
Lives were to come into an age of live out of balance
All of us reductionist drones that corporate the lovely,  & the obscure
Into spreadsheets & bottom lines while the checkerboard square clearcuts
Of Pacific Northwest took away the great bands of yew  & the spotted
Owls—who were never seen as created harbingers of loveliness,
& health  & the sure goodness of answers to all our problems

Mall Santa

The crowd looms
& I’m a mild spectacle
Ho, Ho for dough
I smile, wave, & shout,
“Merry Christmas!” yes I believe & I
Tell some of the nose miners
As I’m led, that Christmas is really
About Baby Jesus, some of them know this, yet
I am forbidden to do this, by the hucksters from
New Jersey that run the photo business here,
The parents are generally having a good time
The Mall is reasonable, making
The concession folks let the parents take pictures
On their phone camera, without buying & all
Can sit on Santa’s knee, buyers or not,
The poor are challenged by the $40 dollar snapshots
Insatiable consumerism? Charlie Brown might think so,
Then, there are the little ones that
Really believe, the college students
Running the set are intelligent & need
The money, I’m old and still,
I think intelligent, & I
Need the money, though I can’t every time
Remember all the names of the damn reindeer
I rattle off the ones I do know at that moment & it always works
No one tests Santa, had I walked by this scene
& some other white bearded fat man was doing this, like in a Brueghel painting,
About Icarus, I’d take no notice, & the line of children daily winds around,
Some of children want toys that total more than
Two months pay for a middle class family & some, like a small smiling boy, from
A humble household by the look of his smiling parents,
Asks only for new slippers, and his thread bare brother asks for a new coat,
& hearing this my heart wells up and the parents smile & I know
They’ll get them & I say,
Why yes!  Santa knows you are good boys!”
& I say the same to most of them & even
To the affluent, knowing if the thousands of
Dollars of tabulated excess does not all work out
Disappointment will actually help them,
& near Christmas after a lunch break I stride in the Mall with
A confident “HO, HO, HO,” & a little guy streaks away from his mother
& runs a hundred feet to me as fast as his 15 inch legs will take him &
I sweep him up in my arms & he holds tightly to my neck
& won’t let go & the next day
This scene is repeated by another tyke exactly the same way &
Now, approaching 70, I may not do this next year as
I sometimes long in this exact same manner, to
Run to the arms of God & hug His neck.

High above at this moment

The last two pieces of oak have gone

Into the stove

& it’s too dark & icy to get more,

Inside the stove a chunk to the right

Smolders & pops

To the left about thirty seconds

Ago the other said the same

 

It is getting cold—a jet

High above at this moment

Is taking someone

Toward a sad occasion

We all suffer

 

Iris in a water carafe

Is stupidly trying to bloom

In December

 

On the hot stove I dropped Frankincense

This after noon

& a Holy odor

Pervades this cabin

No priests on this mountain

Wind chimes however

Announce epiphany

Unrecorded

 

Lovers embrace in

Immaculate numbers

All over the planet

Genetic material furthered

To be exactly what they

Are, themselves, guiltless after Christ,

Either by love or some other reason

 

Life brings on abundant life &

His own purpose

& like the tides, surges connection

Recedes, then surges again.

Now, let-me-tell-you-this-story..

I was in Peter’s cabin in southern Oregon, in the summer of 1981,

Peter had finished Seminary in 1965, & having done a stint as a

Chaplain in the Navy, or maybe it was the Army, he declined  to be ordained,

& went to work selling books for New Directions,

In 1967, he’d been hitting up book stores for

James Laughlin, & he stopped in

San Francisco—took LSD, & tried briefly

To become King of the hippies & realizing there

Were too many pretenders to the throne, he

Then retreated to southern Oregon, where

He bought a very small cabin in the woods & went on forays

For Amanita mushrooms every fall and spring on the Oregon coast,

He’d dry hundreds of  them & step into an altered reality most every day, then

Run ten  miles &  in his mid-forties he looked like an athlete in his twenties,

Peter had an estranged wife in  northern California & a young daughter

& was dating a nurse from the Psych ward in  a Medford hospital,

When I met him, & the first time I was in his cabin, on a round oak

Dining table was a copy of Wasson’s, Soma: the Divine  Mushroom of Immortality;

An ethno-mycological study—the cover a stark-white layout

With two   bright red  Amanita Muscaria  mushrooms w/white spots,

You will see this entheogenic mushroom in illustrations

Of Grimm’s fairy tales & even Disney’s Snow White, but Wasson’s contention

Is that this mushroom was instrumental in prehistoric world religion

& that is widely held now, as a naturalistic explanation of religion

& the summer after college I house-set my English professors apartment in Cambridge

& read this book, & Peter, impressed that I knew anything about it

Proceeded to let me sample, his stash of Ammanita Pantherina’s which were not red

but the color of gold leaf  & fruited out in the springtime & stronger than the Muscaria, &

two weeks after I’d had several small doses, I came over one morning for coffee,

&  Pete fed me six dried pancake-size mushrooms

I went up on his roof  & about an hour later he gave me five more with water,

I laid down and looked at the forest, took in the madrone trees and Douglas fir

over Pete’s house & though slightly nauseous I began to get really high,

I moved slowly off the roof from a ladder &

I came down & made my way around his house & out to a postage  stamp size

Lawn of about hundred square feet that was adjacent his house, & then

Down a path, beside his driveway & a small pond he’d made, with a pole

Bridge arcing over the top & transplanted river iris in the bank where a spring fed in

& I continued up the path where there were  a number of  Washington Lilies, whose

trumpet shaped white flowers on stems five to six feet tall, exuded a fragrance

that can waft 50 feet or more & these radiant lilies are named for Martha Washington

& walking by this air filled  florescence in white flowers nodding  facing outward

pale-lavender on the outside & tiny purple spots on inside, tips slightly curved back

I continued toward & into a stand of Ponderosa pine with black oak & Douglas fir mixed in

& now a  dry balsam smell  & now I was about a hundred yards from Peter’s cabin

& suddenly there was a man walking ahead of me I’d not seen before

He slowed, I got closer and I noticed the man was in a grey robe &

He turned around & I saw clearly this man was Jesus, & as

He turned I noticed a demeanor that was not one of annoyance, but

Yet it was as if he had been distracted by me,  from some other more pressing  intention, &

He had looked like this was going to be a necessary explanation for a too

Inquisitive child, & I had said nothing  & yes

there was seemingly white light  when I got close, much like the lilies

“I’m going to show you something,” He said,

“that most people don’t get to see until they die..” &  then

He touched me on my forehead with the flat part of a right forefinger bent slightly inward,

His hand making a half fist, & instantly inside me & every atom, every molecule of every plant,

& every rock,  & every tree & the water, the air & the bright blue summer sky—became

Love, as a base of experiential reality more real than anything I’d

Ever known, or have known since, & love was very apparently— the construct of  everything

& it was all pervasive & all around me,

& in me, & then breathing deeply, Jesus having since departed,

I staggered back to Pete’s house where there were now three people sitting on his lawn

&  I  loudly announced to everyone that,

“All there is, is love!” & they laughed as

I  announced this over & over—& I told no one about the Jesus

Part of this story—for about 35 years,

& I do not think I was supposed to..

I did assume this was a drug induced phenomenon, a vision none-the-less,

This phenomenon in the charismatic world is called an open vision,

Then after having  again, my own subjective yet, extra earthly always unexpected

Sober encounters with this same Jesus, though not as Christophany, as I’ve described, so

Eventually, I discounted naturalism as a notion & a base construction of reality

& just accepted that yes, of course it was Jesus,

& yes, I needed that, & I needed to know this was so, once & for all & always

You see, one week before this encounter  I was in Rock Creek Canyon & I—a stoned hippie,

Had scratched in large letters, on a rock, “God is Love,” & I knew this was true, only as philosophy &

Left it there for someone to find, & that this Jesus found me, & straightened this out &

He has been finding me in my own wondering ever since,

Now a reality & then a notion, but that notion now brings barrier, while this other is

As faith, eternal sustenance, sure goodness, & loving  kindness, &

Because it really is true that despite everything else, really,

Love is all there is.

 

 

It’s Been Fifty Years since You Died

I named a son after you, &
Though you died  in Kansas during cruel April
& I was in Oregon, but I was there with you a
Long time..I have no idea what kind
Of funeral you had—or even if you had one
The brother of my mother, your wife
My Uncle, told me that spring, during a
Drive in the station wagon where he could
Deliver bad news without looking at me,
I’d had these trips before, had some after, but I was
In my 20s when I figured out they’d
Kidnapped me from you—it may be that he hated you, however
His Father my Grandfather always had something good to
Say about you & you know he visited you when he went back
To Kansas, my Uncle with pride and perhaps a little senility showed me
A letter in 1974, but written in 1963,
Threatening a law suit if you came out to get me, the Uncle thought
that would demonstrate how much they loved me—but it was always
I waited for you to drive up in that ’56 Buick & thought of how I would pile in
& we would drive all the way back to the flat land with all the windows down!
The uncle told me many times when wanting to correct my behavior
That he’d send me, ‘back to your father,’ oh please know I always wanted to go!
That day in the ’53 Ford Station wagon, about a quarter mile from
Where the dirt road to our farm met the pavement & then south on
Highway 62 toward Eagle Point, he began to tell me that you had died,
The story had been that you were coming to get me
In about six months—& that had been six years, & you called twice,
Wrote three times, sent me a pocket knife & a rattle snake rattle,
From a snake you’d killed in Nebraska, who knows what happened to the snake rattle,
I lost the knife in basic training in Fort Ord, California in 1967 when drill instructors
Yelling that any of us with knives would be court marshaled and sent to Ft. Leavenworth
You had told me at about 8 years old not to go in the Army
&  to never work in the oil fields,
I took your advice about the Oil Fields, the Army had me
Four years I didn’t have to win any of the Medals you did
I did get a Good Conduct Medal and an honorable discharge
They did not send me to Vietnam while it raged and others went,
I often thought, that was a direct result of what you had to go through
& with noted exceptions, I’ve led a somewhat honorable life, when we got back from
The station wagon ride my grandfather told me that Winfield was
A little Kansas town where people could get away with murder,
& he did not believe the newspaper clipping my Uncle had shown me in 1964,
That having found your body in the river with a railroad iron tied on
The back of your belt—what an awkward thing to do! He, your father-in-law
Did not believe you committed suicide as the police said, in 1970 when I was back there
For the funeral of your other son Dennis my brother, & Lyle your good friend told me the same thing
& that none of your friends thought you’d gone by your own hand, largely because
You’d have shot yourself —they reasoned, “being and outdoor man—& seen the worst of WWII.”
Still you’d been down, my Grandfather
Commented on that the last time he saw you—you’d not been able to work in a while
Because of your back, you must know I had the same problem 3 back surgeries on the job
Lifting injuries & one bad car wreck, I made it through 25 years of pain & six years of
Addicting prescription drugs, that when I tried to cold turkey out of it made me
Humble and knowing I’d not have any thing over a common junkie, a year after
The last operation they stair stepped me off & that was 12 years ago, still I thought of you
& made it through, I’ve visited your grave twice, once when Dennis died &
Again when I had to deliver a 1963 Impala convertible to Wichita in 1983
I met your friend Bill Husky on an out of the blue phone call he made to me in 1996, &
A year later I went to meet him in Florida; he told me WWII & I’d always wondered
What you had done, then I knew there was some kind of miracle going on that
You made it back to make me, after D-Day plus 13 to Cologne, Husky& his other buddy that
Knew you said I looked like you, I had little Joe with me & they were happy to see
Me and said, unabashedly you were a hero, & they were damn lucky to serve with you,
& told some stories how there were 300 landing on that Norman beach & only 50 left at Cologne
So now I have to tell you the part about how it was, that I realized about that time
What was going on in my own life, as it relates to you death—I blamed myself for your death
I somehow thought from the time I was 13, that if I’d been there
I could have stopped it—or it would not have happened, I took that
Into my soul & packed it around with me like a ruck sack filled with cast iron skillets— for 32 years,
Took this darkness to the Army & to college & through two marriages & a bunch of what we now
Call relationships—all the time trying to drink like you, & smoke like you, hunt & fish like you,
with every awful injustice I knew of, I wanted to kill Nazi’s like you,
& then, I took it to God & He showed me it was not my fault
But instead— a lie whispered to me all those years ago, & the next day
Husky called telling me about you, & I knew this connected & was true &
Since then, most all of the drinking stopped
& well I’ve had my life back & good humored it is, I laugh a lot
Pretty sure I’ve raised two pretty good boys into men
& now have a wife that does all the ideal Betty Crocker things that somehow
Escaped us back in the 50s, except for my grandmother, who cooked
Cottontail rabbits you killed & made me bacon sandwiches & chocolate cake with white frosting,
You drank Jim Beam with  Coca Cola chaser, & always brought a Coke for me
&  me even tagging along
To your beer joints & the dusty Kansas humidity that I did not know was oppressive
& it all left me an orphan & now knowing how dysfunction
& PTSD are oppressive, but I have to tell
You that I, like Husky and his friend, never thought ever of you as anything but a hero,
I retired in Alaska then went south for the mild winters in California,
& six months before I left, you came to me in a dream
With your Humphrey Bogart fedora hat & leather jacket
& picked me up in amongst a pile of old boats & we both went on a journey
south without the Buick, across the sound, & a road,  & the sunset
& I walked just a little behind you.

Believing

Our love
Our love is all of God’s money
Everyone is a burning sun

-Jeff Tweedy

Belief is the locked up tangible thing,
of law that the dust can be blown off of,
taken from a bookshelf, objectified, crucified
pointed at, solid repository of ideological contusions,
Gnostic misdemeanors, white lies & black ones of unreality
no different from the adulterous
first degree murder of guilty abrasions on your soul & woeful
finger-pointing wrong in legalistic right…

“Liberals and fundamentalists are both humanists,” said the old preacher grinning as he cleaned the carburetor of his Buick with Joy from a yellow plastic bottle & a tooth brush

“One believes there is a better day a coming, all with a strong right arm of correct politics, & culture change.

“The other believes there is a better day a coming, if you do everything the Bible say; both have made Man’s action the operative & left out God as the agent of change. ” Then after putting the air cleaner back together, he laughed and said, “Isn’t it interesting that moralism gets us only so far!”

Rolling up through time & space containerized in

This bone-bag existence of drunken pleasure & pain
& psychedelic sin
& death…

Thankfully,
Believing is..
alive
the BE Living,
the BE loving
Believing is..
Holy Spirit..
Who is…
fluid active running down the river & the red fish
in the river & the same thing and is this River of Life flowing from us..
living water of life on this planet flowing from us somehow..
that gets us to the other side
& brings us back
A-gain,
A resurrection
A dilation of time, in this space–from another one.
so the bone bag has some kin
w/ the reddening sky,
mist on the mountain
bird song, moon rising
star twinkle ’round Orion’s belt
& sun setting over placid ocean
& laughter of a four year old son,
keeper of His kingdom
the Life is..
the forgiving cry of the first born Son
Who is…
the Truth, blessed Yeshua
the Way, to get though this life w/joy,
perseverance, love &
everlasting knowledge..
“Our Father in heaven..”
Who is…
& because His name is..
so Hallowed
this is…
within us &
all so, “On earth as it is in Heaven.”

The Green Flash

She started a conversation
& then said, “There isn’t any
More wine,” then that finally
Ran down too,
With an economic ocean evening
& I looked, but it wasn’t there
I’d seen it before, & looked
Again, & some haven’t seen it
Some don’t believe & others
Have never looked—but I’ve seen it
& it is there & sharing the similarity
Of being as sure as Jesus
& like Him it may appear when you
Aren’t looking, & it’s said to be the
Phenomena of the tropics
& a bright by horizontal
Green flash that takes from a beach or boat
A good portion of the ocean horizon
Outward from the sun momentarily,
Then leaves as we twist round the corner
Into night & our own devices
& I’ve seen it in the Pacific &
In inhuman humidity where
Papayas ripen daily instead of in seasons
& there for some, just like Jesus again,
The knowledge of a cool northwest
Misty moss covered forest or apples ripening
In the crisp fall, once-a-year— is unknown,
Except for the telling..