Tanka: Joni Mitchell in Saskatchewan

Joni, a soulful
girl, she watched the trains approach
and depart, or pored

over the Sears Catalogue.
(She called it “the book of dreams.”)



Paris is Raining

Water is raining down Montmartre, rivulets leaking to the Seine. Josep feels like a martyr, the slow torture of wet feet. The stitching of his leather shoes is rotting; that’s the kind of winter it has been. Paloma hugs his left elbow with her two impatient hands and leans her head on his shoulder like Suze Rotolo as they go freewheelin’ to déjeuner. Little birds scatter from a puddle, a flurry of wings, les oiseaux she says under her breath, in kinship. She could live on bread and butter, and strong coffee, bien sûr.


Paloma and Josep sit silently, side by side in a black car, each watching a world blur away through tinted glass. Her hands worry in the nest of her lap like brood mates. His spine is a ramrod. The world is desultory, patches of olive and dun and abandon. Her ring is a dew claw — functionless, prone to catching on things, to getting caught.

Josep Is Away

Paloma is crossing the Pont des Arts. They took down the iron grillwork and the thousands of love locks. The brass Abloy with J+P scratched into the side. Last fall they locked it beneath the third streetlamp and tossed the key in the Seine. It is too hot for September, 30 and humid. Paloma stops, scratches at the bandage wrapped around her left wrist and hand, pokes her fingernail under the flesh-toned wrap and rakes at the skin of the back of her hand. A pigeon flies off with something in its beak. She is staring into the water, how it flows around the footings in ripples that are never urgent. Beyond the shadow, the surface of the water is too bright, full of sky and clouds.

Mackinac Sky


A fall morning on an island in a great lake
beneath heavy clouds, the layer we see
and more, unseen but surely felt, stacked
like pancakes on the horizon-rimmed plate
of the world.  Fresh wind dissolves the clouds
and the midday sky is a heartbreaking blue.
Then sunset, clouds building again, beasts
lumbering across a desolate plain, the colors,
a palette of Wedgewood, egg yolk, lilac and
rose petal.  One gull cries and wheels and banks,
how small we feel, a fleeting melancholy
resolving into a dark field lit by tiny stars.

The Morning After

Another storm last night —
thunder explosions and rain
bulleting the metal roof.

I followed the trail
of red-brown feathers
through the long wet grass

but didn’t find the rest
of the rooster.   Maybe a hawk
took him, more likely a fox

or a lone coyote. This world
is an over-ripe apple cleaved
into predator and prey.

The morning sky is latticed
pink and blue.   When
did I become a man

who sees every blessed sunrise?


Another senseless shooting

All I can think to do is repost a poem I wrote after another mass shooting, that one less deadly by a factor of 10 times.


Saguaros stand on Sonoran hills
like a million men and women.

Anyone will tell you that
as we all recognize the familiar form.

Upright beings with arms
waving friendly how-do’s

arms hanging down
reaching for guns

arms up mean don’t shoot.
Saguaros, too, fall down dead.

Saguaro sounds like sorrow.