Mountain Rambles on August Days

Often on steep sloping sides I
See shadows by shadows and
Songs of birds in trees
I cannot find. Where

Are we going? The path leads
Up and on. The

Sign-post is broken and
Points off to ruined homes high
Up hills. Nothing but
Old stones still held up

By time and the thought
That us and we can fight
Through storms to summits where
There is nothing left except

Lightning strikes and huge
Pieces of rough-hewn marble with
Dates and names of people long

Since settled back into
The earth. It holds us out
And brings us back once
Again… these views and

Vistas of trails hiked once
And seen now from the distance –

The long view taken from
The trail we never took.

Poem-Hunting in Far-Away Lands

In search of a poem, a line to
Form those more-perfect words that
I can just barely find on
Hillsides in the sun and
A tall, lone tree that stands there
By itself, glimmering…

Like those words I come back to on
Distant days in far
Flung lands where I walk under a
Bridge and smell sweet
Roasting chestnuts in a July
Christmas market. Toys and gifts.

That perfect metaphor, or
A quiet line that spills through to
Bright days in a desert. Such red
Soil, like the blood of
Ancients. Seeping and becoming one
With a pale blue sky that I

Reach and reach off to but
Cannot grasp. It is

Too far away so I
Stay here and think of
That little cryptic word
Wriggling around in

The sinews of a time
In winter gardens and the
Bright blue of deep songs
In dark distant and still
Summer skies.

An Ode to the Blue

Observed Once In Silent Hills

You always see it, such an
Endless expanse of blue that
Goes on and on to quiet
Ridges by grasses that blow

Around old fences from a time
Long ago. Like a sadness

Almost, like such extremeness of
Depth that you must drive and
Drive off and away from it like

Wind rattling a door at night but
Then leaving nothing but
A tipped over pot of plants and

A pile of leaves and bark
In a corner. Yes,

It is always there, you always
See it and know that even on
Dark nights it is
There, waiting somewhere…

For you. This pale,
Opaque, translucent
Blue.

Songs of the Road, Lost Somewhere

I wonder how it sounds after
Darkness falls, and
There is nothing left by
Pale whimpers across
Steep mountain hills. The

Pools puddling
Over beaten rocks. The
Wind whipping over
Narrow ridges. I

Think that we must
Take all of this with
Us somehow. To

The songs on silent
Nights. The sparse words
Spoken at sunset in
Red desert lands. The
Image of shadows. Wind.
Such quiet late at
Night. The rain

That falls and falls outside
Starbucks by harbors with
Great white wings spread
Wide. This must

Become our song, our
Memories of life lived
Out on blue horizons. The

Streams that just go on,
And on…

Exploring Kata Tjuta

Today was an enjoyable day, mainly because it was slower, and I didn’t have to leave at sunrise. That’s the way it is around here. You either leave with the sun, or you leave in the early afternoon to catch the sunset against Uluru later in the day. It’s nice and all, but can be tiring.

Kata Tjuta is the next big sight in this area, and, like Uluru, it is a remarkable rock formation. Instead of just one great rock like at Uluru, though, Kata Tjuta is a collection of rocks (that’s what “Kata Tjuta” means, “many heads”). It is a beautiful, stunning area and I went on a 4 hour hike that takes in the best views, the Valley of the Winds hike.

IMG_1014

Here’s Kata Tjuta. It’s maybe 30 minutes away from Uluru.

When you really get going on the Valley of the Winds hike, you realize how Kata Tjuta is a lot different from Uluru. Uluru feels pretty solid. A giant piece of rock. Kata Tjuta, though, is far more a collection of rocks all smashed together. It’s a conglomerate. Like a bunch of rocks were just randomly formed into one. Because of this, the place feels more fragile somehow. The rocks feel like they’re just barely hanging together.

It is extremely beautiful, though. And extremely quiet and peaceful. With crystal clear running water, and shadows that hang against the rock canyon walls above.

And like at Uluru, you have water trails down the rocks, and great caves way up in the walls.

IMG_1001

The Valley of the Winds trail winds around in the rocks, and at one point opens up to great views out into the distance. Those open views stretch on and on until you pretty much hit the Indian Ocean out in Western Australia.

IMG_1008

IMG_1011

The entire hike isn’t too strenuous, and afterwards we headed to see the sunset over Uluru. Check out how the colors change… this is just over the course of 5 minutes.

IMG_1016

IMG_1017

IMG_1018

IMG_1019

These photos say it all…

Walking Around Uluru

Today I set out bright and early for Uluru. It was cold and windy, but the desert was beautiful, with low-hanging and clumpy clouds. I was dropped off at one end of the great rock, and decided to make my way around all of Uluru. In the end, with a lot of stops, it took around 4 hours. Here is my walk…

These are morning views of the desert before I actually started my walk. I find the desert so beautiful and peaceful here. It honestly feels and looks like a dream-world, another planet. So quiet. This path led to the beginning point of my walk, the Mala segment.

IMG_0935

IMG_0937

This Mala portion of the walk was awesome because it finally put me front and center, right by Uluru. So close you could touch it. It also made the contours and pot-holes and scars of Uluru that those distant pictures just don’t capture very obvious. Like these great black streaks like paint down the rock left by thousands of years of water moving slowly down the surface, coloring it black.

I also was starting to understand at this point the importance of Uluru as I kept on walking, and how it is basically the book of the Anangu, the original inhabitants of this area. All of the markings on the rock are like words, are stories about the myths that define them. Like these pictures…

These caves are their history. The picture on top is said to be elders of the Anangu (they do have white beards!) frozen in the face of the rock. And many places on Uluru have caves adorned with paintings that served as lessons for the young, teaching them about the area, its plants, animals, and how to survive. This cave is like an ancient schoolroom!

This is the North side of Uluru. Very cold and very windy here.

IMG_0946

I just think this is a beautiful photo. The sun suddenly broke through, and you can just see it above the cave.

Now I’m rounding the Eastern tip of Uluru. It’s taken about 1 hour and a half to cover the Northern side.

IMG_0953

I thought this side, the Southern side, was by far the prettiest. More contours and details in the rock. Look:

One area had been recently burned, and still the great stream lines coloring the rock.

IMG_0965

Uluru just goes up and up! You almost become dizzy when you look straight up these cliff-faces.

Yes! More hands! This reminds me of the hand-prints I saw painted on the wall in Altamira in Spain… it just goes to show that humans, across space and time, have always felt the need to paint their hands. To say, “I was here!” The other marking is for a waterhole, which makes sense because this was right by:

IMG_0970

Have you ever seen anything more beautiful in your entire life? I mean honestly, just look at that! This is the Mutijulu Waterhole. Spectacular! I just stood and stared and stared…

These are also right by the Waterhole, and the markings again tell a story. Uluru as a giant book.

IMG_0974

And… back to where I started from. 4 hours in. You can see in this one the hand-rail you can hold on to if you’re insane enough to try and climb Uluru. Today it was closed because of high winds at the summit. I would do this if I wanted to die in a cool place… hah-hah!

Off to Uluru

There are a lot of places in the world I never really thought I would ever get to see, whether because of timing, distance, or political unrest. For a long time, in fact for probably the bulk of my life, I never dreamed I would make it to Uluru. It just always seemed too remote, too far, too much of everything. Like it was on another planet. Lost somewhere in the distance.

But, today I saw it.

It still surprises me, considering all of the odd and strange and beautiful places I have been to, how that thrill still gets to me. That greatest of natural highs. An almost uncontainable happiness and personal satisfaction. That feeling that you did it, the world be damned. My other great joy about being in places like this is also perhaps more vain. I love being the first one in my family to have ever been here. The place is mine in a sense. My own in my family, and every foot-print a step forward into uncharted family waters. It’s a great feeling.

This is, though, just the start. I’m here for the next 3 days, and am going to take it slow. Seeing Uluru up close tomorrow, and Kata Tjuta the day after, followed by another, final day in the area. Hey, why not? It seems foolish to come all the way out here just to pick up and leave in a day. I want to settle in, and really get to know the place. Tomorrow I start…

IMG_0906

The view from my deck!!! I’m staying at Sails in the Desert, a swanky place right by the Rock.

It’s truly called the Red Center for a reason, although right now it is very cold outside. The soil is truly deep red in places, and beautiful purple desert flowers are in bloom. Very, very beautiful. A stark beauty.

IMG_0917

A nice view of Uluru from a lookout.

I came back to the lookout to see the sunset. Such marvelous colors.

IMG_0924

IMG_0926

IMG_0923

Tomorrow morning I’ll see the sunrise in the Park, right up against Uluru.

Into the Blue Mountains

Today was an interesting and fun day, mainly because it was very un-planned. I opted for an organized tour, which is something I really never do… since I prefer the greater freedom of doing it yourself. But, I think I’m starting to come around. Or maybe I just had a great tour guide…

I set off for Blue Mountains National Park, which is about an hour or so outside of Sydney. I went with a very small group, and probably one of the funniest tour guides around. This guy just had such a dry sense of humor, and there were little moments during the day where I couldn’t tell if I should be afraid, or just laugh. I say this because it was a very rainy, windy, and downright cold day in the Blue Mountains, and there were times when we’d be driving, and he’d be going into great detail and depth about a story, even moving his arms around in the air, but most of the windows would be fogged over, and I swear he didn’t have his hands on the actual steering wheel. But… I guess if you have to go down, this is as good a place as any! In the end, I just laughed anyway. At least I couldn’t see a car coming right at us, if one was coming. Hah-hah.

So, dealing with this cold and rain, we ventured down into a great Grand Canyon-like Park to see an ancient forest. Some of the trees in this area are millions of years old! And this age combined with the seclusion of the valley and the rain dropping on the canopy of leaves above, made for an unforgettable experience. It smelled so fresh and pure. Deep breaths of rain.

Other highlights of the day included lunch in the picture-perfect town of Leura, taking pictures on a sheer, windswept cliff, an Aboriginal rock carving of a kangaroo, and taking a boat back to Sydney on the Parramatta River right where the Olympics had been held. I think at least it was a good final day in Sydney. See for yourself…

It rained and then it stopped all day. The picture on the right shows the famous Three Sisters rock formation in the Park. We went down into the valley below.

Some more photos, and then the giant cable down and down. At the bottom is the ancient forest.

It was just a great quiet forest full of ferns, turpentine, and different types of gum

trees. A lot of this type of vegetation is what the dinosaurs walked around in! Still, far above us, is was raining…

We then took a stop for lunch in the quaint little town of Leura, where I had an excellent chicken meat pie, before continuing to Wentworth Falls, which we had to hike down to. The view was worth it though:

IMG_0887

And then the Falls.

After this it was getting late in the day, and we quickly stopped at a look-out over the Valley. The guide (I wasn’t sure if he was joking?!) said someone was nearly blown off a day back. Well, at least the view was nice.

IMG_0903

The day then officially ended with some rock art, and the cruise back. It was great to go under the Bridge and see the Opera House lit up in the dark!

See the Kangaroo?

Exploring Taronga Zoo

Today I set off on an early ferry from Circular Quay, and made the short trip across the harbor to Taronga Zoo. It was a beautiful morning, cool and crisp, and a slight haze hung over the bridge. The ferry docked, and a bus took me up to the main entrance.

What I really liked about all of this was that you never knew what was coming. Everything is so well-covered by massive green trees and leaves. So much so in fact that from the ferry terminal Taronga more so looks like just an empty cliff, with nothing really behind it. But once you walk through the gate, I think you are hit with probably one of the coolest zoos out there. Taronga is an awesome place.

I say this because it’s one of those places full of such small, interesting details. Like pathways that twist off into the trees. Houses. And then suddenly animals everywhere. Free birds that wander around in the trees. And how it all sits so delicately on hill sides that slowly bring you back down to the ferry. Take a look:

The first animals I came upon were the koalas. It was still early morning, and it looked like they were still slowly waking up. Just down the way from here you hit one of the zoos most famous sights…

Look at the view the giraffes have! That’s one of the cool things about Taronga. It has one of the best views of Sydney. Although I personally think these guys have the better view…

IMG_0822

Taronga also has some of Australia’s great native animals, like the Tasmanian Devil and Kangaroos.

I had never seen a Devil before, and was surprised by how small they were! The Kangaroos and the Emus were in a bushwalk type of exhibit, where there weren’t any fences. You could truly get up close and personal. And all the Kangaroos were sprawled out like the one above.

I then stumbled upon a gorilla feeding before being struck by a spectacular view back to the city. See the Opera House in the distance?

Continuing my descent back to the ferry, I came upon tons of people, but still some great animals. I caught the cat below as it was jumping! This is a Fishing Cat… yes, it literally fishes. The one on the end is a Red Panda, who I happened to come upon perched on the end of a tree.

From here, I set back off across the harbor, admiring the view, and the late-day sun.

 

Sydney Opera House and Around

I’m starting to appreciate wintertime in Sydney. It rains, and then it drizzles, and then it just barely clears up… and you see the sun coming through. But then the best thing of all is how this leaves behind a smell in the air that I can’t quite place. It’s very sweet and tropical, and honestly reminds me of a perfume on a passing lady. I’ve actually caught myself thinking this is what I’m smelling, perfume coming off a person. And I look, but no one is there. This lingers in the air all day.

Walking in these daily rains, I first set off for the Sydney Opera House, which is just down from my hotel. I got there early, and pretty much had the place to myself. And what struck me about the Opera House is that it definitely fits the mold of those magical places you visit, but then in all honesty you can’t quite say what makes the place so magical in the first place. It more so just has a feel, and even a smell. I was reminded of an old bookstore type of smell, and for some reason the interior felt like a jump back to the 60s, with its orange carpeting, and deep woodwork. I even had a chance to sit in the Joan Sutherland Theatre, where they were changing sets for a Mozart opera that’s opening soon.

But the real magic is on the outside, where you can literally walk around the entire Opera House. It’s here where you can really appreciate the odd and interesting angles of the building, and realize up close that the Opera House isn’t actually completely white. When you get right up close to it you see that the building is covered in white and yellow tiles. Very cool. The appearance of it being white is just an illusion.

After making my way around the Opera House, I set off into the beautiful Royal Botanic Gardens right next door. These head south, and as you walk you come upon views of the Opera House and Bridge, and small details, like flowers in bloom, birds yelling overhead, and the strange and annoying crush of tourists streaming off their identical white buses and taking the same pictures with the same looks by the same views. It’s only once you break free from all of this, and just walk in the rain that you start to discover new things. Like the beautiful red flowers blooming below some rock stairs that once you get up to you discover that it has a perfect view of the Opera House.

All of this led to the Art Gallery of New South Wales, which has some great paintings hanging on its walls. I spent an hour or two here before I got tired, wandered through downtown, until having a nice coffee by my hotel in the Rocks. Just finished the day now with some rock oysters from just down the way at a restaurant near the harbor. And it’s still raining outside.

IMG_0789

Getting to Australia

Where am I? How long have I been gone? Or… a better question, what season is it? What’s the time???

It is such a blur, flying through time zones, across an ocean, into a new hemisphere, and into a new season. It’s just cold here, nippy and rainy. I haven’t shivered like this since December. But… I’m now in Sydney. And it’s winter. Outside right now it’s raining, and I have my heater on in my room upstairs.

I didn’t just magically appear here, though, and these last 18 or so hours have been fun and brutal and crazy and oddly inspiring and beautiful all at once. I was rushed around the tarmac at LAX in a speeding bus, waiting for planes as they coasted by the window, at around mid-night. I thought it was really cool when I crossed the International Date Line in the middle of nowhere in the Pacific, and felt like I was cruising in a hotel up in the plush and awesome Dreamliner. Then the sudden shock of landing in winter in New Zealand, and walking the tarmac to find the bus to take me to the International Terminal. New Zealand, even just through the windows of the terminal, looked so stark and cold. And you could just feel like you were in the middle of nowhere… like you were somehow at the end of the world. Or at least removed from what you’re used to.

IMG_0735

This is the New Zealand landscape from the airport…

IMG_0736

Here’s another view of New Zealand…

And then Sydney itself was such a surprise, meaning that it almost seems small, or even other-worldly, if that makes sense. Or isolated. Distant and faraway. Like it’s somehow in a snow-globe, those sights you make-up in your mind. The Sydney Opera House felt like one. And the Sydney Harbor Bridge. But, maybe my perception is skewed, looking out at them from across the harbor.

IMG_0737

This is the Russell Hotel, where I’m staying. It’s right next to the Harbor.

Tomorrow, when I’m rested, I’ll see them closer up, all of these sights. Starting with the Opera House…

IMG_0738

Here’s a view of Sydney’s downtown, right by the harbor.

IMG_0743

A glimpse of the Opera House behind a massive cruise ship!

IMG_0742

The Sydney Harbor Bridge, from the roof of the Museum of Contemporary Art, which is pretty much next door to my hotel.

The Return of J. Humbert Riddle

Editor’s Note: After a
Long period of absence and
Forgetfulness, I found the
Courage to dig deep into the
Pile of moldy Riddle poems. This
Is what I found…

Excerpt 7

… Long ago on mountain cliffs I
Threw unfinished, broken
Poems to the dry wind. These

Bits of a lost self. These pages
Slowly dissolving in
Cool mountain lakes.

Excerpt 19

So it happened that wild stares
Greet me in towns as
The wild hawk soars as
The beer spills over battered
Muddy boots as
Songs can no longer be heard from
An unplugged juke box as

I push through fog towards
The windy, wild shore.

Excerpt 2

I did find it once, this
Patient, quiet longing for
Higher things. The touch
In the stormy night. The

Smell of clean mornings beside
Crisp alpine streams. The
View like a carpet rolling on and
On. I

On cliff-sides and thinking
About green vases with
Pink buds picked from unknown
Gardens behind thick, waving
Aspen trees. Once…

The hint of madness,
The hint of lov

An Ode for Lost Things

Songs like winds that blow
Down from things lost below
Stairs… sifting and sifting. It

Is never enough. The doors

That slam shut on floors we
Once walked down. The whispers
Behind walls. The tap tap
Of quiet rain on misty window
Panes. I cannot think of these things

Without thoughts of drives along
Wet roads. The broken stair with
The one creaking board. That

Coin I dropped but cannot
Find. Pulling away dusty
Cupboards in pursuit.

Photos I never took. Marbles
That roll along cold floors. These

Like songs on distant hill-sides on
Windy, way-laid days.

Snaps in barren woods.
The creak of hinges beside
Cool mountain streams. These

Like a song, lost,
Somewhere in
The distance.

Quiet Streams that Whisper, Once

I wish I could tell you
About the wild beauty of
Distant slopes seen
Through the thick haze of
Squalid towns. The

Crunch of broken rocks. The
Silent hawks caught in a
Warm, wild breeze that blows
In before a storm with clouds that
Were coughed up from a desert
Lake near waterfalls that twist through
Steep, rugged and red
Canyon walls. All of

This… all is lost
Somehow to wild men in
Bushes who scrounge for coins and
Cotton that brakes off from stems
Shattered by the horses I can still
Just hear passing beyond the barren
Mountain gulches. I wish…

The carts go up the canyon and come
Down again. They move on
And off, while I
Am left sitting here smelling
Sweet lawn water sprinkling up
Across green locks and hear
The clouds break off and cool into
Colors of red and pink and, somewhere
In the distance: the purple that breaks
Into a house no one
Can find.

Mementos from the End of Time

“… scraps of memory found in dull minds…”

At the end of time, when
The trees can no longer stand and
Small birds fall
Down from the pale sky, I

Think I’ll take that barren path that
Stretches out to the
Forgotten, though calm, lake…
And sit –
And pick up little sharp rocks –
Tossing them into
The broken water.

While the lone boat of a
Lone man paddles off into
The distance. So,

This is the place I’ll be and
Where you can find me, if
You want. Look for
The stick up against
The hollow tree. The
Golden time-watch inside. Or,
Find me in the dirt on boot-soles
Left warming beside slowly
Dying fires. The letter left
Unopened in the metal
Mailbox… but waiting…

Always waiting like the man seen
Far ahead on a trail. His
Back to us as he rounds a corner by
A tree… but, somewhere, in
The green thick of the trees he
Waits, a walking stick
In hand.

While an old, worn
Book remains open and
Hidden in a deep, quiet
Cavern, somewhere…

The Wanderer’s Lament

The Wanderer’s Lament, Spoken Aloud
In Distant Lands

You were once so
Wild. So much like the
Dirt picked up on broken
In shoes that stormed off
On cool mountain days. Once

You had descended into
Dark pyramid holes. Sweat
Staining a hat burned by
The stern sun. A wild,
Unshaven, sun-mad man
Unable to come home. Yes,

You could not be found except
In postcards and in the vague
Memories of midnight baristas who
Brought you a café and cream. You
Who were known by the wind that
Blew up bits of tattered paper, or
The ripped out sections of guide books left

On tables by steep mountain cliffs
Where you drank wine and ate olives
Picked from the fertile fields
Below. You,

The traveler the wanderer and
Lone man lost to crowds by dark
Cathedrals lit only by bent
Candles near pale,
Beckoning saints.

You, I think,
Were here once…

To A Poem, Lost Once

Fare well, frail, little poem
Of mine. Be gone and try to
Find your place in this
Beautiful, cruel world. I

Can do nothing else for
You. You must go on and find
Those spaces where time is
Infinite, and the broken page
Can no longer hurt. It

Is gone, just as we are suddenly
Gone and like the dust you pick
Up and blow out of your hand. Gone
Like the wind that blows around a corner
We cannot quite see. So

Go my little poem, leave
Me to new thoughts and new
Ways of finding old things.

Voices of the Wandering

Voices of the Wandering
(After T.S. Eliot)

… “We shall not cease from exploration…”

Off on the timid Thames we
Found frail voices that shall
Not
Call us to cease
Or come away from…
Our endless exploration.

Because they whip and
Worship the lands the
Distant end
Of things of
Ways of knowing all
That we thought our
Crying and exploring
Ultimately will
Lead to a state where we be

Like paintings to
Gods that arrive
And speak about where
They say that we
Got it all started…

Yes, we fell and
Now seem to know
That the
Greatness of a place
Is that it sings out for
Old dirt and the
Time we first
Came out to find… time.

Sad Palmyra, Ruined Again

Such wanton madness such
Bat-blind destruction and
Death of beautiful things. I think of

Rampages at night. Cries
From the ruined walls of
Ancient sites: heads lopped
Off, temples toppled, shot
At and blown
Away. Then,

Quiet men
Taken to broken amphitheaters…
An old-time
Entertainment, renewed. Such

Madness such death
In ancient sands. As
Men grin at tattered
Statues that once held up
Grand archways over grand,
Roman parades. Of cheers

To conquering men. Of
Wine spilled of madness
On burning hill-
Sides where we see tanks
Bursting forth and still…

That silence of centuries of
Men and of women who lived
Here once but blew away like
Sandstorms on dark nights that
Blot out those distant stars we
Just can’t quite see. Lovely,

Palmyra…

J. Humbert Riddle’s Birthday Ode, Part I

J. Humbert Riddle’s Birthday Ode,
Delivered on Vacation
In the Isles, 2010

Editor’s Preface:
A new, extended version of
Perhaps Riddle’s most famous
Poem, written during a time
Of supposed sanity, and ease.

I. Claps of Thunder

I sat in a cell once, long ago,
In Athens it was, crying for that dead
Wasted body of pale Pericles… our hero.

Wine mixed
Not enough. I

Saw broken bits
Of corpses bouncing by –
Such sad women,
Such sad women – all
Pushed downstream to
The still, tepid waters of
Our port,
At Piraeus.

Wine mixed not
Enough. When

Young and bounding
Over rocks on
Star-cold sands by
The clay site at Siwa I
Stared at grimy papyrus
Scrolls, stared
At a king, a king left
Stabbed and silent by
A solemn pool,
A pool in
The dry, mythic mountains
Of perfumed Persia.

Wine mixed…

In Utica in a sparse room,
In a dead
Desert city, I
Found Cato mumbling
And mumbling about

The claps of thunder that come
Before the damp rains chill the
Silent statues the
Crowded squares of
Speckled Rome.

Wine…

Posted as Part of Poet’s United Sunday Poetry Pantry

An Egyptian Hunt

Je me souviens

I am more convinced… more
Prone to stop in my walks,
Staring at lone blades
Of grass. I

Will stop.
I will scratch
My mind and toss
Time to canopic jars. Yes,

Canopic jars I
Pick up and rearrange,
Pick up and rearrange, placing
Some behind chairs I
No longer sit in, down
Hallways I am too afraid
To walk down…
Just past that door
I used to push open
Into our rose garden.

Some I put in purses.
Hide in the soft felt lining
Of fur coats for
Safety.
For safety. But,

The jars, no matter
How secretive how
Wild, pass and
Repass through
Vague secrets of lost time.
Moments by ponds –
Past seconds measured out
With spoons on mornings
Too early for rising –
The dawn crisp.
Almost disconcerting.

***

I would like to take
My canopic jars and plunge them
Under a tepid pool
Of pale water.
I would work at them
With rough hands, twisting
And twisting… the clock
Breaking from the water
I push up
From my tub. Then,

The top is popped. I
Squat to the floor
And listen, expecting
A heartbeat.

***

The jars only hold so much.
I think they are full
Of mystery, of some
Sacred second trapped
Forever, like little worlds
Of water and snow
Picked up on long forgotten
Vacations.

I shake and I shake.
I turn the jars over
And pound them harshly
Against the floor.

Jars of sunshine
And snow, of
Days ticking beyond
That precise pounding
Out of time. Days
Of moments. Days
In the rain during an afternoon
Walk in Ayutthaya –
Mists among
The ruins.

***

They are the smell
Of nights before rains.
They are the sounds
Of midnight thunder.
The hush before a storm.

I hold them close, these
Canopic jars… the paths
I take and took.
The routes to towns
I got stuck in…
If only for a little while.

Posted as part of Poets United Poetry Pantry

Travels, Once

Memories that are a
Mess in my
Mind – they –
They flash and burst
Across the inner eye
Of my mind, and
I see them…
I see them?

***

Ishmael pumping gas
With the car still
Running, running like
The morning beauty of Lauterbrunnen
Cascading, girt in mists,
In the background
Of the day. Or

Subjected to the awful beauty
Of a morning walk
In Aix: the light
Falling at such angles
That houses are painfully
Precise – standing out like
A blasted thump in
A symphony of strings. Or

It is the smell of chestnuts
On a Christmas day.
It is a route through an
Ancient town. Road stones
Worn down by centuries of
Tired feet.

It is wine.
It is waste. It

Above all is the bright
Light of a Swiss
Dawn – the warmth of
A blanket in the cool
Mountain air. It

Is a memory?

Mosaic Making – Upon a Time

… These fragments I have shored against my ruins…

V.

I fell in love here once,
So ancient, so wild. Streams
That flowed past, down,
Past rocks that lined
The lone, fragrant shore. While
Time was etched in tree trunks,
And grasses pushed, pushed
Aside on hikes that wound
Back to our quiet village…
Hidden between the mountains,
And a waterfall. Yes,

Rough pavements pounded down
Pebbles, and bits of broken stone we
Skipped across smooth streams that flowed
Down to trees danced under, all
Wet from rains and whistling,
Whistling to match the tap tap
Tap of boughs,
Against boughs.

X.

Then, tables on trails we traveled
Over, twisting and twisting and
Leading us… home again? To
Ripened products of farm
And field, and to
Votives I did not light but
That glowed in darkness that flowed
In, past glass shards
Scattered and scattered, stabbing
At our feet. Blood and time

Slipping by, like plates wettened still
By soap we flung out
From carousels rode so fast
On nights when clouds fell
Down and blotched,
Battered the frail turrets of Time.

I.

Gears shot, bolts busted by rust –
Clogs cling to clogs… but

Grasses grow and grow,
Climbing up the sides of rides
We ride together in
Meadows and valleys in
Wild rains at midnight in
Thunder that breaks and breaks in
Tunnels we dug out of
Such soft and supple Earth, picking
Fragments of bone and pottery as
We go – Pieces I think
Of love of
The mosaic we piece together, joining
And breaking, joining and
Breaking.

Published as part of Dverse Open Link Night

The Complete Jim-Bob, Shepherd-Man

In This Monody the Author Bewails a Learned Friend, Unfortunately Left for Dead in Distant Lands, 2014. And by Occasion Reveals the Ruin of a Defunct Tradition, Long Fallen from Grace.

I.

Yet once more, yet
Down, crawling down on arid plains,
Parched plains where I search, I…
Search for my flock.

I cannot find my flock.
I cannot find my flock. I

In mountains while they drown
With thirst, while they search for
Deep pools I knew of once. Long ago.

Who would not feed my flock? I
Cannot find
My flock. I

Alone on ridges, moored to a mad man who
Scratches ruts in ridges down there, down
There I hear him, yes humming? Yes? Humming such
Sweet songs down
Below.

Should we stop and listen? They
Are such sweet songs. They should not
Float by, unheard
In these dry mountains, in these parched
Desert lands. I

Will listen.
I will write.

II.
Arise then, you sister siblings, you spawn
Of nine nights of lust and leavings. Arise!

But… where have you gone? I have
Forgotten your mother’s name. I think
Though that she would not be pleased
By this, by this mess of broken harps,
With strings frayed, and by those
Unbound books smoldering so close
To propane fires – yes so close – and
Fed by pens and pages
Ripped from dictionaries. Yes,

I see “Myth” withering in the flames, like a fist
Forming over stolen rubies. And cigarettes still,
Still smoking by glasses with lip stains. Doors
Slamming shut down dark corridors
We dare not take. Foot-steps. Moonlight echoes
Falling across fountain-splashed,
Cold courtyards. Even

The woods whisper of our loss. See
How they hunch together in close conclaves
Of rattling leaves. Also

Our sheep seem so bored
By us, casting back dull,
Hollow eyes – laughing even
In dank desert caves.

They never come when I call,
Howling on my horn.

The apples are: apathetic.

I trudge through grasses that,
Yawningly, sway
Away.

III.

So where were ye guides? Teachers? Shepherds
Of us shepherds? I searched. I searched and saw:

Dead pens, bleeding ink. Busts of bards
With hoary heads: missing. Gone. Taken by
Untamed, wild women who float broken
Hands down stagnant streams, where the drowned
Poet still sings to say:
“Lines fall down here. Bobbing in streams
Without source. Yes, I harshly sing. My
Dry, wasted voice. Please… just please
Sift my limbs from the muddy river. We
Must face the thankless muse, intact. We

See things align. And bent books bend
Back. Yes, washing our tired eyes we see:
The cold casket come.”

IV.

They say the unshorn sheep
Drug off the corpse, and mourn
It now in mountain caves. But,
Still they come, these sad shepherd men, groping
Among the weeds groping, scratching
On this brittle, battered box. Look…

Whitman’s dry walking stick snaps. He
Tumbles down, devouring dust, and
Cries:
“My boots! My boots! I’ve lost
My boots along the way. Down
In the dust, barren of boots.”

Melville, there, watch as he walks
Anxiously pacing, pawing
His sweaty palms together.
Knocking off black hats he does. Wailing
For water in our dry, wasted land.

Eliot, too, fishes from a fir stump. His line
Broken, gnawed through by rats creeping
Through the slimy vegetation.
“Twit twit,” he mumbles. “Jug Jug,”
He cries. Echoes these

That touch an aged Odysseus. Bent man. Hunched
Over man twisting and turning round and
Round the casket carriage, tapping
As he goes –
Ta-tap, on each wagon wheel. Ta-tap. Tap.

Then… comes Milton. Look. He stumbles, blinded,
Frayed fabric lashed to his eyes. While
One hand hangs down, dangling, dropping
Ivy seared and brown.
“Blind mouths,” he mutters. “Dull,
Blind mouths.”

V.

Surely, though, these mourners must not
Be blamed. They plod – along – searching
As we all – search – see
How they look up,
But are not fed. No,
The nostalgic nightingale falls

From the tree. Its lament
We cannot hear
Its lament.
Crying, “Jug Jug”
To our waxed over ears.

VI.

“Is that a capsule we pull up
From the earth?”
That’s time’s grave
That is. “Find then a hammer then.”
No.
We’ll smash it with our hands. “Move
Aside. Move Aside. One, two,
Three…”
“Jug, Jug.” On
The ground, trampled. “Jug.” The

Books we take
Down from the
Shelves. The compass
Wanders round
And round
The map that
Describes
Pastures we
Cannot find.

The clocks are covered,
In canvas.

Round we go. Round
The prickly pear at 5 o’clock in…

“Jug.”

(… Madness. Was that madness,
Just then? I heard:
A dread voice. But it has past,
Shrinking back into
Stagnant streams that do not flow.
We should proceed then,
Plodding our way through…)

VII.

The cedar saplings strewn with broken
Bits of straw. While tall, sparkling amaryllis
Rises above the rest of syringa
Trees, mute in fir forests draped in
Aphroditic rosemary – “that’s for remembrance” –
While white periwinkle fastens itself to

The ground. But, these flowers grow beyond
Our reach. We must not crawl content through
Cedar saplings, frail and withered, while green
Spotted rhododendron poisons our water-bound
Lilies of the swamp we slog through,
Burdened by the coffin we carry, plucking as

We go: Hyacinths. We love:
Hyacinths. “They called me
The hyacinth girl.” Rising up red
From the dead,
Parched brown land.

VIII.

So weep on, woeful shepherds, weep on.
We slouch towards the water-side, gazing
Up at the cliff-side, where, efficiently
Done, crisp figures on jagged peaks hurl over
Our rich, time-worn tomes. While we bleat.
Wailing when they smash and crash
Into the waves, sinking

Down, deep, beyond our reach they
Go. They go. Never to rise again. So,
We wait, aimlessly. Waiting on
Our lone shore.

Wiping tears from pale eyes.

IX.

Thus sang the uncouth swain to his purblind
Flock, to those who hear his wail, but
Bend not to his words. Just

Gorging. Gorging
Gaily they go, picking at weeds, roving
Aimlessly over hills. Of

Pasture lands pale.
Wasted. Sinking
Into the western bay. Away

Then, I’ll go up to fresh woods with
Deeply rooted trees. Where the song
Sings. Where the fresh pasture acres
Wave with fresh grasses that sing
In soft breezes… and that I, lone man
Wandering away,
Long to hear.

4 Stanzas for Dominique

1.
Madness,
Dominique it is
Madness – pure, unadulterated
Looking, yes you looking
Out at us viewers, unknown?

2.
Hair, your hair bouncing
In curls, your hair. A touch
Soft of cigarettes between
Lips, pink and pursed together.

3.
Dominique… more… I
Words failing words
Like plates crumbling on floors
That collapse as you walk, float
Across so graceful –
Always so graceful, Dominique.

4.
I, then, hoard away, lock
On rainy days under arms
Looks stored beneath floor boards –
Or, on snowy days, on mountains
Where cars park, waiting, waiting while
Your image, Dominique, is all
Askew, pounding on quiet window
Panes. I look, I do, Dominique,
But…

Boxes and Batteries

On a bus in a deep Asian jungle,
Full of rain and wet,
I thought of a time when I
Held my memories in my hand,
Squeezing them and squeezing them…
So alive.

I thought of a box with a lid
Cracked open, a gap where we see
Time walked in parks, hands held in
The fading light of a distant day. Hollow
Trees on campus greens, places where
Gold was hidden. Moments so
Fragile, like plates thrown into
The air, suspended.

People I wave at, smiling.
I knew them once.

Yes – a kiss hurled by the hand,
Like a football toss in a game. Looks
Before lights dim, glimpses and
Memories trapped, sealed in a box I
Hold under my arms on days when views
From cars mingle with my mind, and
I’m taken from jungles to dry moments when
People waved, and I waved back.

In Search of it, Still

Out there in the far-
Away fields there is:
A pond by a lake that
Has a trail that climbs
Up to the highest peak.

I have seen it. I
Have been there, once.

Near to a half-
Tall tree that rests by:
A boulder with mossy
Growth that covers
Nearly all of it it
Sits and waits. This
Small, sleek, and frail,
Little thing.

You have seen it. You
Who were once so close
To finding it, once.

By a place by a field that
Has so much strength and
Great little things that sit
And call out to the night-
Time skies so full of cold,
And stars. We

Search out for it and know that
It once was here and yet we
Call out to it, again.

Sights from Speeding Trains

On distant days in quiet towns
While I sat with a café while
It rained outside. The sound of
A radio playing somewhere
In the distance. Writing and

Seeing songs of the street and
Deep puddles where rain
Pools. I on trains and walking with
Violent bursts of lightning
Overhead. The smell of it –
Rain in windows and feelings of

Cool and calmness in an attic
Room in Prague. Wood creaking and
Hearing the tick of time on cobble-stone
Streets that trip me up to the
Stairs in museums so hard to
Climb and the limp of feet sinking

In memories of backstreets and rivers
And such cold that I should have worn
Shoes not sandals but still the hurry
Off to new places and the throwing of
Rocks out of windows of speeding
Trains and seeing them land on

Sides of hills I know I have been
Up once but now it is gone
Away and the ripples of
Lost rocks in deep ponds and speeding on,
And on…

Autumn Drives Once, Out East

Frail leaves of memory I see
As hikes up mountains in
The crisp of
A New England day. Left

To a song on a road. The
Smell of decay and
Beauty that quakes on passes that
We take as light falls on
Wild dreams.

In Praise of Simple Things

Observed on Summer Nights

I.

So often I think
Of vast expanses of
Blue that
Comes up on us

Like storms lost somewhere
In the distance.

II.

The soft, steady
Pellets of rain that
Fall like

Evening shadows across
A red canyon wall.

III.

Birds calling. A
Sweetness of smell as
Wind picks up dry dirt and
Tosses it

Off in bug-filled air.

IV.

Longings and whispers.
Silence and the break
Of branches off
In calm, cool,
Wild woods.

A Dream of Predators and Prey

For some reason I think
Of water in desert lands. The
Slow suck and pull of it
Down and
Down to some sweet hidden lake
Below. While

Out there by the break of
Trees you can just see a
Shadow pacing and pawing
Perhaps at some ripped up
Side of a tree. But

Still that image. The water.
The heat. The barren, dull,
Quiet, absolute quiet, of
Hot lands in cold
Months when all we can see

Is something out there.
Something out there.

A Haibun For a Day, Once

Long ago, beneath frail summer trees, high up by the penetrating sun, we sat. Talking about anything, really. The lake. The joggers. The walkers. The people just strolling, almost aimlessly, along.

And then those long stretches of silence. Sleeping in the grass. In the deep shadows that roll out to long, stately and old, mansions. All with deep vines that twist and creep along, hiding I think something inside of them.

As the road forks off,
And the tall branches break off –
Falling as we sleep.