Living the Dream

I entered a fast food restaurant,

My brand, where they will serve

Breakfast 24/7 & where I’ve never

Been sick afterwards, &  this knowledge

Is very valuable much like entering

An area in remote Indonesia & figuring out the

Friendly tribes & how to avoid the cannibals,

I & my wife walk up to the counter, an affable Chicano dude

Takes my order, while giving others in the

Kitchen  orders & I ask him how he is doing?

“Living the dream,” he says,

“Living the dream,” he repeats,

“And you sir?” he asks.

“Wonderful!” I reply, “Wonderful!” I repeat.

I’ve been sitting in my back yard

Remembering this and taking in my

Flowering light lavender purple crepe myrtle, with finches eating

Thistle seed from the hanging socks, my wife has tied there,

in this twenty foot tree the finches are hanging

upside down on the sock like yellow monkeys &

Loud red and orange Canna Lilies in the corner of the yard and now bright

New Red Crepe myrtle, is coming in beside the compost box, at breast height

Flowering for the first time deep purple red, I’m making small talk with my wife &

We are on a back deck under an umbrella at 10 am drinking good coffee

& it will be 104 degrees today, but now it is so pleasant &

I’m remembering this breakfast two weeks ago &

Thinking about “living the dream,” this gentleman

Had lots of tattoos, and deep scars on his face

& forearms—clearly some of his dreams had been

Nightmares, & there was a tone of

Sarcasm in his reply, & so much of this life in

Stepping  into retirement has been this ever-rewarding notion that

I am living the dream, while the poems & stories come out &

Scream out sometimes or sometimes softly but I’m finally living the dream

& the small pension and social security are like the Guggenheim

I never applied for, nor even wanted to apply for, & this

Notion of the artists’ life having to have the day job, & wait,

I did both, I waited, did the bidding of others for a decades & a half

& now I get to fish when I want drive this word processor all day

Or fifteen minutes if I want & I’m taking all this in and paying

Attention dutifully to what my wife is saying, & then she leaves & more

Finches come, a beautiful small red & blue grosbeak comes to the

Bird feeder & peeks around the foliage, leaves, comes back leaves again

& comes back and feeds, I notice robins in the grape vines on the white picket

Fence & realize they are eating our grapes that have just ripened, I yell

At them, my wife has come to find out what is going on &

I tell her about the grapes & we both go to inspect, &

Well they have hammered all fifty or sixty bunches of table grapes

That we were waiting to pick tomorrow, my wife is really mad

& I’m out on the other side of the fence laughing at the birds & the picked

Clean clumps that were just yesterday pumping up their white green

Sugary goodness & are now skeletons beneath the yellowing leaves

I am living the dream; &  I’ve got scars to prove it, like the sweet gone grapes

It is very good this given life & its mortal expanse &

Last year the neighbors picked the grapes while we were on holiday.


Oregon Dirt Farm

Our creek was about a half- mile
from its entrance to the River
an adjacent ranch pumped water
from a dam it made thirty feet
from our fence & the creek backed
up each summer to flood a feeder
ditch to a pump that rerouted the tributary
over 500 acres, lifted the water from a
Massive electric pump & poured water
on dry desert ground to irrigate alfalfa,
Deep growing legumes, & we
Leased this ranch one year while the land
Changed owners, I cut hay, raked hay, bucked
Bales of hay & we sold nearly all of it in massive tight
Stacks, where other small farms would come &
Buy this one year boon that we’d come by, in this process
I had a free run of 500 acres that was liberating at 15,
having been confined to 20 before that time, the
River became my own, with four good riffles & a salmon hole
There were pear trees & a pond that had two foot trout
That produced one every other cast, I worked all summer
& helped build a shop and earned at the end of the summer
Twenty dollars, & was pleased to get it & buy a cheap military surplus
Deer rifle, & it dawned on me decades later, that I was really some sort
Of bond slave, but I never had a thought of that as
Every hot afternoon on a tractor, & working with my
Grandfather, real farming seemed to me to be the greatest adventure
Of my life, it was the last serious farming my grandfather did
& before the depression he had owned a similar spread,
& the money financed good things of which I have no recollection
I do remember sense of the wealth of the earth,
& the smell of new mown hay and the dust of the harrow before we planted oats
I remember taking a friend of mine, a punk just moved up from L.A.
To the river & pointing out quick sand & watching him swagger
Out onto it & tell me I was full of it & when he began to
Jump up & down I saw him sink to his armpits,
& I pulled him out laughing hard, & that
Summer was probably the best summer of my life up to then
Big farm meals, morning, noon & evening hard work but plenty
Of time to do wild things between the haying and the harvest
When the owner came the next year their gentrified ways took over
But they let me and no others, still have the run of the place except
I couldn’t shoot their deer, & I made good use of the riffles & could
Hunt ducks off the far pond, where the trout, took dry flies
& spinners every evening, I saw a world expand & purpose &
Our 20 acres had been sufficient for subsistence but that summer
My Grandfather & my uncle and I sweated for money, I had no notion of
Other than the twenty dollar rifle,
that killed big black tail bucks,& my friend who ignored the quicksand warning,
became a heroin addict in 1972, & current ranch owners who are not gentry
shot a neighbor kid with rock salt–for fishing in their pond.

Not so, Sad Song

Long skinny
poems with
two word
Lines, long
skinny women
w/legs entwined

Young hippie
mamma’s w/
braided armpit
hair, became old
hippie mama’s
that just
don’t care

There was
a season
for both
& more,

Pill popper &
alcoholic’s duress,
living in bars but
under stress,

Long skinny
poems with
two word
lines, give it
up now

To narrative
tales, dressed w/
long skinny
women, gone
down wrong
roads white lines &
junkies sing
sad &
baleful songs

The River done
booked this
all away,
as flotsam &
downriver, & long gone
to stay



Lupine purple lupine & deep
Mountain blue on right
Lupine blue, blue lupine
& Blue then turns white
Chaparral down in Mule Creek on
Left & the sliding rocks betray
A coyote after, fawns
& their spring time slow
Lupine purple lupine
White ones now grow
Uphill trail gives it up to a saddle back
& Lupine blue & white all the way

300 years

Acorn woodpeckers zoomed between the oaks
Ka k aka akaing to their machine gun ridden hidey holes
On trees, snags in a dead limb & a power pole, & sometimes
Under the eaves of our house,
Colonial birds these in
Oak trees, birds — a 100 or more in all
& three breeding pairs four at most,
On the Oregon side-hill near a 20 acre farm black&white
Black & white red heads Ka k aka ak kaing zooming  up & down between
The farm house, the guest house & the barn,
& a crack of a  twenty-two &  a
Miss & the second shot tumbles the little flying cop car
out of the tree & out of the sky, with iron peep sights, &
The boy’s been given charge— “kill ‘em all,” he said,
“They’re drilling holes in our house!” it was not too
Serious, but a bird or two a week fell, examined then tossed aside
Years later in text book he read of their nature with all
Breeding pairs when killed or predated, became new breeding pairs & all would
Become breeding pairs if need be, for a steady population
& this was the answer to the fact that the birds never went a way,
While the oaks were there spreading out
Over the house the hillside & making those summers cool when it was
Hot, and the wood peckers flew, and bred and laid eggs
In their hidey holes, high in oaks where a little rot could
Be hollowed out in a spring time banging sound &
With the heads sticking out, Ka k aka ak kaing
& this small misunderstanding seemed to make
No less harmony on the hill, with our sheep, & steers
& a ground squirrel killing border collie, but
Now I look on Google Earth & see the oaks are gone —all of them
The cedars were taken out 25 years ago, &
I know now the woodpeckers have finally departed, &
I haven’t been back
Since these new people fell the cedars—I’m no druid
But the oaks were there three hundred years,
& the woodpeckers had a colony for at least that long
& though it’s perhaps the worst thing I could think of to say, but
To have them back, I would stay—300 years

In a Grove by the River

In a grove by the river
Landlord walks, counting
First fruits six months out &

Summons pruners to these rows, &
Directs water from this
River to supplement the rain
Oversees the cutting, helps
Stack limbs & fires off
Bonfires while
Mist moistens up the air &
Smoke drifts past willow’s
At the water’s edge
Blue heron flies
Out from an eddy as the tractor
Loudly makes its turn

Now fruit will grow
In larger when harvest
Finally comes

Landlord walks on
River bank & surveys what
He’s done

St. Somebody’s

That hospitals
Are bad if you
Need one

I must admit
Other plans have
Not prevailed
But writing
This poem

Being better
Than the altrnative,
& if this is the last
One I’d recommend the
One before

Though this
Is no dark
Thing I’ve been
Pulled back before

A woman moans
From across the hall
From pain while their protocol
Can’t help she moans on & on
Nurses don’t want to bother Doctors
some do & care Clara Barton
Ministering Angels not stopping
To inquire who’s on the list
The rest is triage & a corporate dice roll
Save prayers of sisters, prayers of brothers,
Prayers of Fathers, prayers of Mothers.

Ring of Fire

“I dreamed we were doing
Ring of Fire
with Mexican Trumpets!” Johnny Cash

& coming up
For air
Then down
& I went down once more
To swim along the red coral reef
Then emerged to snorkel on top
& see what I could see,
I was in the Red Sea,
Five miles north of Masawa, Eritrea
January 1970, yellow & striped
Blue butterfly fish,
Dotty backs, mine own this day
Aquarium, bathtub warm aqua-blue water
Morning, we had a beach
w/ iced down beer
In twenty gallon shining galvanized trash cans
In a U.S. Army deuce & a half & our shift at operations had four days off
& I got to the strange place somehow strangely by volunteering
For Vietnam, in 1968 and found myself instead in Africa
& this reef was the most amazing
Thing an Oregon farm boy had ever seen,
Apart from baboons that threw rocks & mostly missed & this
Alive swimming Technicolor, waving
Fans of red coral white & light yellow corral & turquoise blue
The patch reef was on the other side
Of a sand plain & as I swam the reef gave way &
Dropped off to a dark blue to become a fringe reef & fish were
Bigger, & the reef humped over more & I continued going
Down the reef where water was a little deeper
& off it then dropped down into darkness
I’m on the comfort of the reef, on the edge &
When I saw it to my right, & I saw it full on tip-to-tail,
My body had me over the top of the reef, swim fins moving
Like instinct moves things fast, my mind had no time to say “Shark!”
Much less cognate “Tiger shark, approaching 20 feet,” but it was the biggest
Damn thing I’d ever seen come out of darkness &
Over the top of the reef the sand plain turned to
Chest deep water in thirty feet & I had fins off
& was running back to beach, & I remembered my friend
100 feet away from me & could see his snorkel & started yelling
& when his head came up and he heard “Shark!” as I yelled,
& we saw a replay of myself, & after the breathlessness
We got back, & the Sargent First Class had drunkenly
Driven the deuce & a half into a sea grass meadow
& got it stuck on an African low tide
When we got there the SFC was drunkenly
Digging out the deuce & a half
We grabbed beers & went up
The beach to see an Italian film company
Making a movie about a boy in a raft, & they had cameras rolling
& were shouting in Italian from a bullhorn
In a larger boat & fake shark fins on floats were in the water &
We looked closely at Italian actresses in bikinis &
Drank our beer & shook our heads
Ourselves swimming w/ man-eaters
While these cameras rolled that morning &
Others in our outfit were in
Phu Bai, taking North Vietnamese rockets,
Getting addicted to heroin, & we drunkenly kept
East Africa, that year & none of us knew 120 miles
To the south of the beach we were on— Bab-el-Mandeb
Was the land bridge for humanity’s walk out of Africa
When ice age waters receded & oceans & man were purposed
To begin the long walk from an Eden to the ends of the earth
& twelve years later I heard Mexican trumpets
Still belting it out during Semana Santa in
Lo de Marco, after I’d returned from the jungle
Where parakeets & Jaguars were home
& before I took my evening
Ramble down the beach I thought of this African beach,
& the meal I might have been & now since then,
Sometimes softer but no less dangerous things
Have come out of darkness — but that day in Mexico
Pelicans in formations flew above the beach palapa
That sold beer & you could see the three
Islands of Tres Marias in the setting sun,
& this world aflame did deposit
Close peril at my doorstep of
The magnanimity of a shark attack
More than once, & still
Blessings & beauty continue
To arrive & the wind moves these
Oaks outside my door & the Sacramento River
Flows grace constant, & my sons have become men
& my sweet wife brings me cantaloupe
In bite size morsels to eat when I finish this poem,
I’ve even been heralded by Mexican trumpets,
& even before Bab-el-Mandeb this long walk has been good &
I listen for the voice every evening.


sandpipers take formation
from the beach/tiny
wingflutter up
a sight of motion wall
of movement
together separate integral
& connected aeronautical mobius
then away
to alight a distance
short of an incoming tide
visual concert
of communal fidelity
beach walking
sandflea eaters

Hard Believing

This old man
he lay down on a couch
overnight invite to
sunrise, & service &
it had been three months
since he’d read it,
& he lay down & he’d not
prayed since a small boy,
& in his mind’s voice he got out,
& an unearthly scream came out
his head & he
slept a sound sleep,
& woke refreshed
twenty days later having
listened to Father Louis &
how Dr. Williams actually preached
in Paterson,  he
remembered, this night
& John’s Gospel & then
reading, Psalm 22
he said yes, while the
’62 Chevy II
rolled across the bridge
on Antelope Creek, & he
canceled the Buddhist retreat & its
hard believing
39 years
& 24 rejecting
Church & state this old man
is gone

Tramp Harbor

We’d fished most of the evening
when I’d hooked the bottom
of the sound
straining on the line
cranked the big spinning reel
at each giving of pull
strained on the line
forearms bringing up
giving way a weight
lifted off the bottom with each
successive pull
the line gave its monofilament
as I pulled
straining upwards, the letting go &
pole dipping down
to reel in again,
then pull pole arcing upward a
weight of no live thing
coming to the top of the sound
rod bending hard and over
down and closer now
coming closer now,
the line with 2 blood knots now
tying three strands to
one, all bringing in
the end from the bottom,
comes closer now the weighted form
from the bottom,
as from the dock we saw stretching
through water hand like, from
forward lighting only
from Des Moines across this Puget Sound
three miles of light flicker shown, to light
a form piercing air now
hand like with body following
in dim reflected light
we’d joked about a body,
& now we were silent as up through a slack tide
came a small water drowned entire alder tree
with all its branches.
perhaps, that had fallen from
a cliff off Portage
& had rolled with the tide til then
the “bite’ was off
we packed our gear away,
stacked lifeless fish into a bucket
& left the darkness,
later my friend wrote a poem
about what it might have been,
it all stayed inside me a week
when it was, I knew why, as
it had been how my father was  found.

The house was on the corner

The house was on the corner
At the edge of town,
Chinese elms in
Front yard & until I was seven
A large sycamore tree spread
Over the corner & diminished
The buzz of the grain elevators
Across the street but one day
The city came & cut  it down
When my father was
Out of town, & all
Even though it was my
Grandmother’s tree,
She played under as a child,
As was I, that morning
& I remember her weeping
& wringing her apron
As it fell to the ground

The two story home was built around 1900
West porch was slat board  &
Screened in & had a little furniture, the front door
Was screened & then you came on the porch & to a wooden door
With thumb button latch, & opaque glass
Gave way at waist height, walking through the
Door was a round oak dining room table of some size
A deer head mounted on the wall was from an era
Of  lesser taxidermy skill & was even a little ragged, as a child
But it was  the only deer I’d ever seen
& my grandmother every Christmas
Put a red nose on it

There was a china cabinet about chest height w/ a narrow mirror
It was made of a dark stained wood & in the bottom my grandmother
Kept my father’s war medals, a Silver Star & Purple Heart
The ends of the cabinet that recessed the mirror had posts &  one had a false front
That held papers unbeknownst to the casual eye
& a railroad watch, gold & jeweled and inscribed to my great grandfather

Beyond this room was the kitchen & bathroom w/claw foot tub
Beyond that another screened in back porch that also enclosed a trap door
To a cellar, for can goods, & tornado warnings every spring & summer

& a dark cloud rumbled & that certain prickly kind of feeling hung in the air
At night in May, 1955, & it all came up sudden & the storm sirens went off &
& wind hit our house hard like a ship hits a rock & I remember
Our dog being chained in the back yard by the minnow tank & from street lights I could see him
Being stretched out on his chain by the wind, & I’m grabbing for the door
To get him, as my father shoved me down
Cellar stairs, & the neighbors in the little red house didn’t come over like
They usually did & the wind stretched the house frame in an eerie creaking way
Then it all calmed down, & we found out the tornado struck ground
In Udall sixteen miles north & east of us, minutes later
& killed 87 people, &
the south half of that town was leveled,
& 200 were injured,
& my dog was alright & my grandmother stopped weeping for the sycamore tree


Why can’t we be open
Why can’t we be free
How many lies
Have been told about the tree?

It’s your turn to dodge
& my turn to see
Why can’t we be open?
Why can’t we be free?

What does philosophical,
Naturalism mean to a bee?
That’s why we can’t be open
Why we can’t be free?

Science done told us but
We’ve been unwilling to see,
We don’t need to be open
Nor necessarily free

Not much  hope nor cheer
Down that paved road
Where the cars are not
Lincolns & no one gets beer,

Conclusions cost money
& we’ve not believed what we’re told,
spent our money on pretension
& have given up the gold,
Why can’t we be funny
Never mind the free? or  is it locked up &
Inside us, as a sum of three?

They said, “Keep it in heaven if we
Can’t get it here,” but
Love only can bind us to a life giving tree

Longer I think
Clearer I see,
What we’ve taken for truth was not
Actually Thee?

Come on down once again & show us for free,
Ain’t got no help from these stumps in the ground
We’ve been cutting  importance
For so long, it can’t be found,

Why can’t we be open?
Why can’ we be free?
Please help us right now
& be as pleased as  can be.