There, and Then Not


(First published in San Diego Poetry Annual 2020. Thanks to all who create that publication.)


Next day, I chased a spider.

It was important.


She was beige with darker brown intermittent stripes,

furry pedipalps

Her round abdomen, pulsed and processed.

Her eyes, obvious, I recognized her terror

At this giant on a mission.


I could stomp her easily; I could ignore her; I could suck her up in the vacuum

But it was important, that she live.


I took a white, chipped, china coffee mug,

Tried to trap her.

She spun around, made it to the

dead cow chair and skittered under

faster than possible.

Not deterred,

after all,

I had gargantuan power.


I moved the hiding place,

careful with the dead tree legs


There she was again, in the open

Her eight appendages stuck,

Tried to skedaddle in eight directions

Confused how a sure thing could be there and then



My cup descended, she now in darkness,

Scrap paper scooted under her delicate, exquisite, body


I liberated her outside under a veiny leaf, in the shade

Under cantaloupe and scarlet maple,

Under the cumulus cloud, the cerulean sky,

Under the radiance that started it all.


Like Ginsberg, I howled.

I, all powerful, I God, I Savior


And it was important

Because I couldn’t save you.


Galactical Surprise


Carrie DanielsonI awoke to a surprise—

my sixty-seventh journey

around a distant star,

nestled in an abstracted galaxy

a universe’s breath from its

sisters and brothers, if a galaxy

has a gender and if gender even matters.


I remember us looking over

third-floor balcony, into the courtyard—

zip-up blue jeans and blue-cotton turtle necks.

We were going to change the world,

(our inner lives already blistered with loss,

with turbulence, with raspy enigmas).

We were going to change the world.

In fact,

the world changed us.

I awoke surprised

that I lived to look back, not forward,

that I can see my fruitless regrets.

As I stare out the window

still in blue jeans, but now,

I sport an elastic waist.


Bluebirds in the Mine

bird houseI opened my bluebird house to clear it,

get it ready for the next year’s brood.

What I saw instead…

Instead of ants, sticks, guano –

Two perfect little feathery bodies lay still, eyes hollowed, dead.


I remember last spring a strange cold snap

Two worried bluebirds peeked into their home’s hole,

precious products too big for them to enter,

with wiggly grasshoppers held to little mouths.


Cold went on many days, rain, fog, frosty mornings

We had fires at night, remarked at the chill.

As the amber glistened in our wine glass

Two creatures struggled helpless in the dark.


Little feathered bodies fell from the grim box

And I left them, food for someone else’s struggle

Against the changing of the light, the air, the sea.

Against the maelstrom let loose on land.



Shuddering, I looked aloft, the ominous empty sky

Yesterday jackrabbit hopped to the trough, a drink.

His mate hit last week, destroyed. He stood at the roadside,

next year’s leverets, a wistful, fruitless dream.


Our California oaks, like giants toppled

Mutilated and haunting on their rocky crags.

Each creature bent, lonely in its paradigm

Toward the solitude of its own Silent Spring.

Infernal Poetry Practice

Book Burning

My poem will go down in flames,

Its metaphors burning embers

Its anaphora, its anaphora annihilated, its anaphora annihilated carbon

My caesura – well – charred

Charred like a simile in Nero’s Rome

Or jammed like an enjambment

A Chicago allusion of cow hooves and

A lamp in a phlogiston of history.

My poem will extend its flaming comparison

And crackle and pop, crackle and pop;

Its onomatopoeia will blaze with alliteration

Sparks sputtering, scarring and scorching,

The assonance, oh only oxidized assonance,

An inferno of incandescence.

And it will smolder, a remnant

Like the devouring conflagration

Of London’s glorious Globe.

It will die in a couplet, a rhyming demise

Its words only ash, no hope for reprise.





Santa Ysabel East


On a summer Saturday, Chris and I decided to walk on the Santa Ysabel East preserve. I hoped to show Chris a trail I knew of that he might enjoy as a running trail when I’m not along. It is also a safe route on a hot day because the path crosses a stream twice and the dogs leap in, splash around, have a drink four times during the seven miles.

We took our three dogs: Domino our black and white terrier; Percival, Domino’s brother, all black, and Gatsby a tiny Yorkipoo. Domino and Percival have never been apart. They love each other and hate each other, are rivals about everything, particularly my attention. Gatsby, though tiny, gets in on the battle and usually ends up perched in my lap, lording it over his bigger competition. These three are enthusiastic hikers and when we say, “Do you want to go on a walk?” they stick their various snouts in the air and howl. The only way to stop the canine symphony is to get a move on.cropped 6947

That day, the five of us started out early, still cool enough to enjoy the sun. The car locked, the dogs secured on leashes, we headed out, full of energy and enthusiasm. It is the first day of our Staycation and we didn’t want to waste a second on our usual routine. The dusty, cow pie strewn path stretched in front of us. Fields in Southern California summer are amber, the tall grasses bow in waves as gentle gusts ripple through. Cows of every color watched us as we walked by, suspicious of the four-legged creatures they have learned to loathe. The strawberry roan had a brand-new calf, wobbly on its untried legs. This mama could be dangerous, we knew, so we hustled by. She stared, jaw moving as long strands of slobbery grass slowly disappeared. The dogs chased cows, we knew from bad experience, so we always keep them on a leash. As it is, they about tear our arms off when they hear a ground squirrel pip-pipping a warning on top of some of the huge, natural Stonehenge-like rocks that loom here and there on the hillside.       

Percival, so anxious to pursue the squirrels, as usual, turned to his brother and bit his ear in enthusiasm. The usual squabble took place, Domino mad about ear-biting, growled and then Chris yelled and everyone got tangled in one another’s leashes s tied to his spot like the Randsomer of Red Chief. After they sorted themselves out, we began again.IMG_6493

At our first stream crossing, the dogs immediately lay down in the creek, the first of the mud layers on their bodies and legs. Beside the stream, enormous, stickery mounds of blackberries created a thicket, deep and dense. On the dangling branches thousands of blackberries hung, awaiting the many creatures who thrive on their sweetness. I picked several and enjoyed the tang of the not-quite-ripe fruit. I hoped that on our return, after a day in the sun, they would be even sweeter.

Chris took the lead, as he often does, chomping at the bit to go faster, hindered by my pace. It’s been a constant argument over the years, mostly because I hate being last and feel mean holding him back. I tell him to go ahead, but when he does, I get mad and snippy. I resisted the urge and tried to find peace with my pace and my aging legs. “What’s the Goddamned hurry anyway,” I repeated to myself over and over. “It’s better to go and go slow than not to go at all,” another mantra.

After another quarter mile, the trail headed from open field down into an oak forest, some huge ones still remain, but many have succumbed to the golden borer beetle that attacks the oldest and most magnificent first.

“I love these oaks,” Chris said.

“Me, too,” I replied as we craned our necks upward, searching for vigorous trees. We spoke out loud our hope that the rainy past year will strengthen the drought-weakened trees to fight harder against the insects.IMG_7912

We saw the creek again and followed its ravine, thick with scrub oak and fallen limbs of their giant comrades. Hidden in the shade, tails swatted at flies: a brown cow, a black cow, a white cow, almost like patches of sunlight and shadow. They watched us, lowing their secret cow prayers that we wouldn’t scare them into fleeing from their cool, wet hiding places. Calves peered under their mothers’ bellies, maybe we appeared like aliens to them, a shocking new sight in their bovine landscape.

Here and there we began to see sycamore trees, once a favorite of my Grandma Deedle. I remember her singing “On the Banks of the Wabash,” her eyes damp as she recalled her Indiana home

Oh, the moonlight’s fair tonight along the Wabash
From the fields there comes the breath of new mown hay
Through the sycamore the candle lights are gleaming
On the banks of the Wabash, far away (Dresser, 1897)



As we came around a bend in the trail, there, in an open field, five sycamore giants, some say are six hundred years old, own the landscape. We couldn’t resist shooing some grumpy cows so we could stand at their base, the earthy aroma of dust and fresh dung surrounding us, and reach our pitiful arms around their trunks, the paper-like tan, blue, gray, pink bark peeling away as it has done for centuries. From a distance they look so easy to climb, but our foolish attempts were futile, they are so huge, so smooth, so free from toeholds or grips. The forest service had to cut one branch, as it grew too heavy and they feared that either a human or a cow would eventually get crushed.

We repeated how glad we are that the 2003 Cedar Fire, up to that point the biggest fire in California history, didn’t make it this far, that this hidden grove stealthily waited out that fire. We dawdled awhile admiring the plate-sized sycamore leaves and reminded ourselves to come back in the fall when the leaves turn to gold.

On we went, muddy dogs becoming dry dirt dogs, their feet changing color each time the dirt of the trail went from white to tan to black to chocolate brown. Eventually, just as the dogs were truly dry, we crossed the stream again, more mud, more opportunity to drink and splash and snap at flies. The bugs became unbearable so we took off our hats and sprayed them thick with bug spray. We expressed our life-long loathing for whoever had the bright idea to mix insect spray with vomit-inducing sweet scent.

This was where our trail bent upward at a very steep angle. This was where my pace slowed to a virtual crawl. Chris, as always, tried to comfort me about my lack of speed and as always, I bit his head off. What do I expect?  Either I have to go into some kind of training at sixty-six years-old and speed up my abilities, or I have to shut up, and not snip at the one person who always sticks by my side as, like a turtle, I make my way up the incline.

I noticed that the dogs began to seek shade whenever they could, the temperature rose and all our slow sight-seeing brought us closer to midday. We had plenty of water, a dog bowl and trees, what more could we need?  I thought this as I lumbered to the top of the rise and saw the empty, treeless fields stretch out in in the heat, waver in front of me. At least it’s flat now; I tried to walk faster and keep us moving through the landscape. We came to a fork in the trail. This is where the loop began that Chris had never seen. “This way,” I said cheerfully, happy to share this pretty circular adventure with him.

Once on top, with no trees, I began to suffer a little from the heat. I thought I would be faster on this portion; the sun dragged me down, the dust filled my nose and Chris kept scoping out shade for us and the dogs. At each little spot, we drank our fill, brazenly opened our shirts to feel the breeze and let the dogs lap from their bowl. With a little too much desperation, they knocked over the water time and again until we managed a ritual to allow each one to drink separately and still have enough.

“Oh God,” I said, as I stood facing up the next hill. “I forgot about this part.”

The slope loomed above my head, no shade spots dotted the trail, and I remembered the time before and how difficult this section was.

Fighting back the desire to quit, we headed upward; I counted steps and stopped every time I got to twenty-five. Chris and the dogs ahead of me by quite a distance, kept looking back, the dogs with a grumpy, what’s-taking-you-so-long expression, tongues hanging. They sounded like three simultaneous train engines chugging up the hill. After what became a sweat-drenching climb, we reached the top, the breeze blew for relief and beautiful, young, healthy coulter pines shaded us for a long rest. The trees, big enough to provide relief from the sun, were too young to have the enormous cones called “widowmakers” so we safely dozed in their shadows. There is nothing like the breeze in pines, sap, acrid-needle smells and an exhausted nap. The dogs rested too, but it must be difficult to sleep with a tongue hanging a foot out of your mouth.

Rejuvenated, we continued on our loop, downhill now, easy, right?  No. It was pebble gravel with run-off ruts, loose rock and sand. Our nimble-footed dogs had quite a time picking their way down. Since fewer cattle were around, we let the dogs off the leash occasionally so they wouldn’t pull us too fast. So, it was slow going up and slow going down; the sun pounded us from straight above our heads.

Noon. It would only get hotter. Gatsby disappeared and we found him over and over again, ahead on the trail in deep shade waiting for us to trudge and meet him. The other two wanted to do the same but their loyalty kept with us and they suffered our slow going.

At one point we passed an old apple orchard and I encouraged Chris to climb the fence and steal some fruit. His typically honest self would rather die than be dishonest, something I admire about him, and he would not do it. Plus, I didn’t think he wanted to use his precious energy to climb the fence. I know I didn’t.

Our trail, insufferably turned uphill and there I was again, way behind, Gatsby just a tiny dot with a pink tongue on the high-above horizon. After another interminable climb, I made it to the top again and in front of us, the most delightful, hopeful, surprising forest of young coulter pines. They stood, full of pride, with the vigor of perfect health. Did they survive the fire? Did they plant themselves because of the fire?  Did the fire give them the gift of life? Burned bodies of old oaks and pines littered their feet, caverns ruptured the earth where the old one’s roots tore from the soil, now homes for ground squirrels and termites. What joy to know these will be left behind when Chris and I are just bits of dust under their needles.

My beloved husband surprised me with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich on spent grain bread, a feast in my mind, and he climbed a pear tree (on public land) and picked us pears. Once again, a coulter pine shaded us as we gobbled our lunch, the pears, tart and hard but full of flavor. After lunch we lay back, took another snooze as the temperature climbed. The dogs, now exasperated with both of us began to whine,

“Humans!  It’s hot out here!”

“We didn’t get any peanut butter or jelly or bread and we don’t like those pears!”

“Let’s not dawdle!”

“Our feet are burning!  You have your damned boots!”

“Get up and get mooooving!  Oh, there’s a cow!”

“Can we chase?”

Off we went, around the back side of the loop. I tried to run a couple of young black cows away from their trough. I wanted to stick the dogs in, give their feet a rest, but the teen-aged bovine thought it a jolly game called, “Keep away from our water.”  Chris yelled at me from a safe cow distance and told me he wasn’t saving me from anything that weighed more than he does. I gave up and we kept to the trail, the smug cows still standing guard at their trough.IMG_7913

Hotter still, no pines or oaks or sycamores to give relief, we walked on white, white sand across the treeless fields. The dogs stuck to the grassy sides, protecting their poor paws and I thought of cattle dogs, out for days herding and sleeping rough, only scraps thrown their way. During my childhood in Colorado, dogs followed our horses; ran for hours, never losing sight of the horses’ hoofs. Attitudes change about almost everything and I know my dogs think they have it tough. They with their puffy pillows, their canned meats and prepared kibble, what did they know of roughing it like the real dogs of the past?

“Okay,” I choked, “I’m thinking crazy thoughts. I’m too hot.”

Chris looked at me and said, “Let’s head for that shade way over there.”

I got my eye on it and wouldn’t look away until it got closer, bigger on my retina, more real and we arrived. He got his Camelbak hose and sprayed me from head, down around my arms and in my face. Then he stuck the tube in my mouth and said,

“Drink.”  Not usually this compliant, I drank and drank, the water hot but still, well, water.

“Let’s get back to the creek.”  He started off, the dogs, now urgently needing to cool off in the stream, headed down with him. “Come on,” he bossed. I listened. I know when he uses that tone that I better pay attention. Again, the downhill didn’t help my speed, the gravel and now my aching toes, jammed in the front of my boots slowed me down. I kept at it though, knowing that I needed the cool shade of the creek, to sit and rest again, to drink again.

Like a man stuck in the desert, I imagined I would dream the creek was a mirage, promising relief but always out or reach. But there, finally and thank goodness, it was. Luckily because I was on the very edge of my strength and my will power. We soaked our hats in the water and placed them back on our heads while the dogs again lay down in the water cooling their underbellies. Percival actually submerged his head again and again, enjoying the sensation and the plethora of wet. While the dogs enjoyed their mud bath, I discovered a little bridge and lay down on it, Chris lucked upon a picnic table and again we dozed. Creatures of the earth, struggling with the elements, enjoying the test.

Barely able to tear ourselves away, we still had a mile and a half to go. Deep afternoon shadows, again a multitude of trees, blue elders, ceanothus, among the others, a patch of prickly pear sat like a toupee on a hill. Then the blackberries, a huge thicket, and the day’s sun had done its work. I picked the black clumps over and over, stuffing them in my mouth, their sweet and sour juice stained my hands and face. I tried one on Domino and he spit it out, the other dogs declined with contempt. Chris picked one or two, never a man of gluttony, while I denuded one whole section of the big patch. I could feel the fruit sugar spreading through my veins, bringing with it the last bit of energy I desperately needed for the final mile where the trees thinned and we would be back in the sun.

My legs started back on the trail reluctantly. They really wanted to stay put and eat more berries, but I knew that delay wasn’t going to help. I recommenced my counting.

Twenty-five steps and rest.

Twenty-five steps and rest.

Legs were heavy, heartbeat too fast, sweat stung my eyes, Chris kept showering me with water from his Camelbak. I noticed that the three dogs were vying for our shadows, bumping each other out of the way to be the exclusive one in the privileged spot. Domino and Percival were limping, Gatsby hopped because of his chronic slippery kneecap. None of them had enough liquid to keep up their boy-dog peeing on bushes and rocks.

At long last the fourth stream crossing, more berries, more splashing, more mud. Gatsby sat under the little foot-bridge in the shade and refused to move. I snapped a photo of a scarlet monkey flower in the stream.IMG_7905

“Are you going to make it?” Chris asks.

“Of course,” I snipped but knew I should be so grateful. This man likes these adventures and lives for the outdoors and there is never a moment I don’t feel safe when I’m with him, even in the heat, even when its difficult, even when I’m mean.

We got to the parking area and I couldn’t make it to the car. I saw a bench under a tree and went for it, knowing Chris would bring the car over and pour me in. Of course, he met some bicyclists and it took thirty minutes of Cycle Talk, but I didn’t even get mad. We stopped at our local winery on the way home and the woman behind the counter asked,

“What will you have?”

“Water,” was all I could whisper.

“Have you nitwits been hiking?  It’s 101 degrees!” she said, “Whose brilliant idea was that?”

Chris and I looked at each other, embarrassed.

After thirty minutes, seated at the winery, in the breeze under the big cottonwood trees, the dogs safe beneath our chairs with a bowl of cold H2O, I reflected on the stupidity of some of our most perfect adventures.




Eulogy to an Age and a Man



The deep, broad-knifed grass next to the roadway is the same, the overgrown lilac bushes, crab trees and peaches, but what for me was once a sleepy town with dirt streets, wooden sidewalks, ashpits and summer swollen ditches can only be seen in sideways 94940028glances, an old plank barn, a sculpture created with rusted barbed wire from a field.  When I visit my old hometown of Boulder, the cliché “You can’t go home again,” sticks sharp.

I wander up the area called “The Hill,” close to the red flagstone University buildings and sense the ghosts of hippies gone by, hawking their leather sandals on the street, patchouli oil clouds choking their customers as, in dirty bare feet, they try on the hand-tooled shoes.  Now Starbucks’ tables encroach on the sidewalk with blonde co-eds in their REI shirts Pi Beta Phi logos and shorts, their hiking sandals made in China.

Into the University I flee, passing by Mary Rippon Outdoor Amphitheater, hearing the moans and groans echoed in my head as an actor rehearses King Lear for the summer production.  “How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is to have a thankless child…” The giant slabs of the Flatirons loom on the mountainside above my head; I recall the time we hiked among them on the steep slopes; my father forced to carry my childhood friend Susan piggy back, her ankle swollen, all the way down to town.

If I walk on Baseline, now famous for Jon Benet Ramsey, I skirt up to the old wooden Chautauqua buildings, once the healing hope for tubercular patients and venues for arts and music, I squeeze through unexpected crowds in the now hippest-place-to-be-seen-at-brunch and watch as revelers play frisbee golf on the lawn.

No more Louisville spaghetti, the Blue Parrot closed, Blue Parrotnow probably a place with fusion cooking and grilled brussels sprouts in balsamic vinegar. The hay and alfalfa fields are a multitude of breweries, wine tasting rooms, and sports bars.  The cold spirits of pinto horses, evaporate through the stone and cement buildings, through the table where the realtors are sealing a new development deal, spectral horse muzzles eternally searching for a good bite of green.

There is our old house, now called a “Mid-Century Modern,” sadly jammed on a sub-divided lot.  The Russian olives bloom yellow and sweet, the ones my father planted, reach higher than they should in their last years of a prickly life.  I wonder if someone covered up or backfilled the well when they hooked up to city water and if anyone ever looked down the stone-sided hole to see Dad’s wire cage that held the cakes of fluoride, the first in the county to heed the dentists’ call.

A house now on the site of our two-story playhouse, no more the hiding place filled with dusty hay.  Many a child pulled his or her pants down and “showed” up there in that playhouse, naïve and trusting that no harm would ever come and no harm did, at least to me.  The corral and cherry trees now a xeriscape garden to the 1990’s modern home.  Do they ever wonder who tread the earth before they installed their stamped cement sidewalks and planted their heirloom tomatoes?  Is their earth yet fertilized by my dead horse’s road apples?  Does our septic still keep their garden green?

I walked today around Coot Lake, now an exercise path with stations to build the triceps, biceps and internal obliques.  I wonder if the frogs still sing, do the lizards and the muskrats, scamper along the sandy beach, do mosquito clouds drive out the incessant humans seeking to stick a toe into their ancestral swamp.

I am home today, kayaking at the reservoir.  Does the ghost of my preteen-self, sit and shiver at the phosphorous of her 66-year-old reality, paddling with her grieving comrade?  Do the waves heal the teenage loss and an old age one too?  I see her, myself, standing on the sand in a yellow and white two-piece, eyes shaded by a hand over the brow, watching what no one else can see, her future self, paddling on the horizon, a grief boat, trying to outrun the past.

She turns to the west. Can the Arapahoe Glacier hold off another year until it’s boulderseen us through this demise, through the empty chairs, through the medical gloves, the diapers, through the open gaping mouth of the almost-dead? That young yellow-and-white-bathing-suit-girl shouldn’t know this future.  She should only see us paddle by and wave, we love her, envy her, and wish we could protect her for the next years to come.

But we are tired and only wish some solace for our now-selves. Our mother-selves, our wife-selves, our grandmother-selves.  Can Janine and I sail around and around the reservoir, with our paddles, the wind at our face, side, back, the frogs croaking, the great blue herons landing, the pinto horses wading, the speed boats waking, until we no longer have sleepless nights over the fate of our children, grandchildren, mortgages and cars.  Can we sleep without hearing every voice and wondering if this moment is our last—my murdered friend Angela’s apparition warning us, shaking her finger at our epic battles against mental illness, not wanting us to be a statistic in her book?

I remember that girl, me, gliding these streets on horseback, now three lanes of traffic.  I remember that girl, lonely, now six people deep at the checkout.  I remember that girl heading west, up the Front Range on her horse, now fenced, now divided, now parking lots for Teslas.

Tell me progress isn’t the loss of me, tell me it isn’t inevitable, tell me I can still climb, lickety-split up to the first ridge with Rollo the dog leading the way, ducking the barbed wire, annoying the cattle. Tell me I can buy a guinea pig at the feed store on Broadway, I can hear the clank of spurs on the wooden sidewalks on Pearl.

My grandpa’s three-story high school academy, a Greek Revival stone structure from the 1890’s is now a one-story bank and parking lot.  How can I shout and tell the people who bow to beep their cars locked, that there is history here, something happened here, a desire passed by?   To beg them to stop a moment and listen to the lives that manifest through the ether, the young man struggling to be free from a life of manual labor, to be free from the narrow-gauge engines and to open a door that his family kept locked.

I saw the store where another friend got arrested for stealing a nickel candy.  The police took her home and turned her over to her father, who beat her.  I watched and dawdled on my Schwinn as she, escorted to the back seat of the black and white, tossed me her stash and astonished, I pedaled it home, in reverence.  I ate up every bite, like communion, an homage to her battle to defy the whippings, the authority over her beautiful female body and self.

In the cracks and in the alleys, I see the past holding on. There is a Boulder nursery that still welcomes the children of the poor and troubled, the pathways in the garden deepened from the little feet wandering this way and that on a journey to find a haven for body and spirit after one parent shot the other or before he woke up one day and no one was there at all.

There are the schools, still cranking out the Boulder elite, the white children whose parents compliment themselves on how liberal they are, how progressive, how complete.  But the Mexican kids still sit on their cut-off bikes, still a silent audience for the golden people who ride away in SUV’s and Lexus, who fly to Hawaii on winter break.

As I pack my bag—is it an escape? —and struggle with the details of dirty laundry and charging wires-now-gone-awry, I force myself to remember, that I am here to say goodbye.Jim

Goodbye to Jim who stood like a strong redwood for those of us who needed the example of a gentle man.  He showed us there are some, well one, at least.  Like the redwood, there is no replacing his spot, his presence, his laugh, his correction, his brilliance, his resolution, his generosity, his biting tongue, his appeal, his self-deprecation, his singularity, his backward glance at ambition, his blessed-blending with the soil, the plants and the creatures of the earth.

I envy Jim.  He did it, this dying thing, and he did it right.  He made it, he crossed the line, not like everyone else wanted him to, but he left the way he thought his own going should be.

Goodbye Jim, we will watch over what you left for us to do.  Goodbye Boulder, you took my hearth and built a brewery, you took my riding paths and made a cross-fit course, you took my lilacs and planted Russian sage, my catalpas and made a mall.  You took my dandelions, my crags, my cactus, my ditches, my Charles Trees, my pastureland, my graveyards, my father and our Jim. It seems fitting that my last act here is to spit on the earth and watch the liquid sink deep

.Me camping


Wind Days

Happy Birthday, Tina!

Wind Days

we were released from first grade,

sent home in 100 mph


to walk home alone before it increased.

We knew how silly adults could be.


Tina and I collapsed on the silent side of a sandhill.

experience taught us exactly where to sit,

that spot in Chinook air shadow,

our little faces scoured fuchsia by fury of wind and sand,

now protected, a tiny stolen peace.


Finally, with renewed bravery,

we grasped one another’s hand, left our shelter.

Parka hoods became our punishment,

they whipped and lashed us with

torturous hood strings, our Inquisitors.


We knew when a quick hand squeeze meant

the other was blinded by

dirt or a zipper sting that blasted an eye.

On Wind Days your clothing

became your enemy.


We learned to walk blind for blocks,

slowly felt our way

so our weeping peepers were safe.


Sometimes we collapsed flat

in a dry ditch to save at least our backsides

from locomotive air.

Ending in Kansas from the Colorado front range

was not a stretch for our imaginations.

We knew Dorothy was our wind sister,

if only we two, could get to Oz.


In the ditch we giggled, thrilled and skittish,

we laughed until our sides ached,

until we had to pee.

Have you ever tried to pull your pants down

and tinkle on a Wind Day?

The stream, violent and unpredictable,

splattered sideways and rebounded, no way to aim,

which caused more hilarity and well, more pee.


Other times, we had to hide on the downwind side

of a giant cottonwood to gasp air,

the pressure stole our breaths

whipped words out of our mouths

sent them eastward, past Longmont, past Brush, past the sugar beet farms.


When we felt courageous, we grasped the

bottoms of our coats and hauled them behind us,

over our heads, makeshift sails.

We waited for a gust of air like surfers

readying for a wave.

You could hear it coming,

as it blasted down the first mountain ridge,

mirror clouds rolled lickety-split through the sky.

The gust grabbed our little bodies and our sail,

hurled us down the empty field until our legs

couldn’t keep up and we fell splat in the tall wheat.

We shrieked with terror and delight

licked the blood as it dripped from our knees.


We arrived at my house, first

relieved and exhausted from the trip,

dusk turned all color to gray,

my houselights gold

but we didn’t want to part,

both anxious about what waited in the light.

So, I would walk Tina home,

reveling in our Woman vs. Nature fight with

a Colorado Chinook.


On our way to Tina’s place, we dawdled,

hair slapped all around our heads,

we sat in tall weeds to hide from any siblings

that might lurk about.

Then Tina walked me half way back to mine…

And so it went until darkness won.

We shouted, “One, Two Three, Run,”

turned our backs and hightailed it to our respective troubles.


That night, wind howled.


The house creaked and moaned,

metal siding became loud whistles

that pierced through the din.


Roof shingles loosened and thumped east,

outdoor chairs and trash can lids clattered

into the distance.

I lay awake in the tempestuous thunder,

yearned for Tina’s morning knock,

another adventure on our way to school.








exhaustion at Fox glacier

That spring in the knees, quick ascent from crouch

to standing, I crave it, I ache to elevate

without a hand on the wall or the

need to roll on all fours first – mortified

by Time.


I used to leap from boulder to boulder,

a mountain goat, able to avoid

the packed snow beneath. Now I slog up

and down, feet sodden, violating

the family aging rule – no vieja noises!

demoralized by one granite rock,

then the next.


My middle-aged son glances, wonders

if he should offer his hand, knows I

would bite it off before I use it.

He sighs, resigned to the pace I swore

never to set.


“Go on ahead,” I say, knees aching.

“No, I mean it.” (when I really don’t)

He bounds on ahead.  Left alone, I

hear my body, erratic rhythm,

besieged. In solitude I ponder,

what is worse – humiliation or

loneliness? Or could it be remorse?

Anguish that I am reduced to this,

a clumsy, lumbering shadow of

that young girl who didn’t seize the time

to bound and soar when she was able.


Desert earth

       sandy, dry down as deep as you can dig.

       An arid sea of thorns and spines;

        creatures that bite and sting

         . . . abiding.


Everlasting thirst.

         Even after a cloud burst,

         the yearning begins again.

         Only a watery appetizer,

          never the main course.


I know that craving,

          desire, yen, languishment,

          always inconsolable for what

          will never be.

Gummy Bears *Pantoum

Milo and the Chocolate fight

Milo looks up, hopeful, his chocolate eyes sparkle.

He yearns for a treat inside the colorful bag of sweets

“I want a gummy bear.” A pause. “Pease.”

I can’t resist the smile, the little hands, covered with dirt.


He yearns for a treat inside the colorful bag of sweets,

I, too, am tempted by the amber, emerald and ruby creatures.

I can’t resist the smile, the tiny hands, covered with dirt.

But I don’t want to weaken in front of those bright eyes.


I, too, am tempted by the amber, emerald and ruby creatures.

They glisten in the kitchen sunlight beneath the cellophane,

But I don’t want to weaken in front of those bright eyes.

Should I? Should I break my resolve? Should we gobble up those bears?


They glisten in the kitchen sunlight beneath the cellophane,

“I want two gummy bears.” He checks my face. “Pease.”

Should I? Should I break my resolve? Should we gobble up those bears?

His bitsy fingers make the number with a little “v.”


“I want two gummy bears.” He checks my face. “Pease.”

Intent, he gazes at the bag and my mouth waters.

His bitsy fingers make the number with a little “v.”

What harm is a little bit of gelatin and sugar?  What harm?


What heartbreaking joy – the anticipation, the promise in his eyes.

Milo looks up, hopeful, his chocolate eyes sparkle.

We sit on the kitchen floor and eat four gummy bears each.

“I want another gummy bear.” A pause. “Pease.”


(First published in a Year In Ink)



*Pantoum is a Malaysian form of poetry in which the second and fourth line of the stanza becomes the first and third line of the following stanza.