Point Lobos

The night was warm and windy like this one

when her headlights caught a quivering.

She pulled over, drawn through prairie grass,


and we put down our drinks, lean our elbows on the bar.

Shells in salty hair, mermaid on her forearm,

she tells us with a voice like the tide


that the fingernail moon was enough,

that she was called to the fence by Orion,

low in the Eastern sky,


and to the sweet thrashing owl barbed

like a prize, like a king, like a ship on a shoal.

She bent to him, to earth-brown wings,


and he went limp to her touch.

His eyes were big enough to see the stars in,

and she swears she did, got lost.


It was a simple matter to pull wire

away from heart, and she did,

and he paused, lighted on the line, thanked her


before giving in return:

spreading his great scarred wings

and up, up, silent— became her lucky star.


She laughs quietly like lapping waves,

pours more whiskey in our glasses,

says this is why she doesn’t sleep.

Setting Song

They say each day brings a new sun,

that each sun begins its life at dawn

and between stretching in the East

and settling in the West

each sun lives for one day only.


They say you have to welcome it.

You have to make a good world for it to live its one-day life.


There is where we are from

and there is where we are. 

The waves lap soft at blue East,

and here the peaks cast stretching-shadows.


All we have to do is make a good day for the sun to live its one-day life.

Onward, always, in circles:

we are returning and we will return.


Sun sang beneath the horizon

with the same hum-song Sun sings

every evening

for the scorpions and tsunamis

and me.

When her watercolors dry, she rests.

Then, the blooming song:

the Sun a rose.


We have to make a good world,

anew each dawn,

each one-day life. 

Floyd Tunson's Dreamboats

Texas, up near Wichita Falls,

sun high when wild-berry boy

came upon driftwood-limp old skipper

and fallen old yawl. Ivy on the hull,

aster crawling the keel, a nest

between mast and boom. 

Lizards on the transom.



The skipper said he sailed from Atlantic City

some thirty limping years back,

aiming for the Gulf and a woman who waited.


Her hair might be graying, now,

but he knew she hadn’t given up

on making the children say their prayers each evening,

their hands small and busy like whitecaps,

small like the hands of this boy in the wood

asking if they’d had any sons.


It was a southerly storm that stranded him,

sent the yawl tumbling through thick cumulus seas.

Lightning took the port halyard

and the great bow crashed through the elms.

Even kingbirds left their nests, flocked up and up.


Oh it must have been tremendous, said the boy.

It was something, said the skipper.


The boy bent for a clevis pin underfoot

then reached for the rusty rigging screw. 

The old skipper broke his southerly gaze to watch,

thinking: at last.


The mighty hull began to rise from the nettles,

and a zephyr from the north straightened the telltale. 

Arbon Valley, Idaho

He remembered home like the calendars his mother kept

boxed in the cellar: ninety-eight, oh-nine, ninety-four:

He never understood how they’d gotten mixed up so.


From the porch, the grasses billowed like the ocean he’d never seen,

like her straw hair, only less red, for the sun turned her

strawberry blonde by July. She left in August.


He wished she had waited until November,

when the early-maturing ears didn’t demand to be sown,

when he didn’t need to plant three extra rows to the East.


He could have written books, if the corn wasn’t so needy;

he could have written for months of the way she helped him

shake the pollen from the corn tassels early on still mornings,


the way her neck arched to the task, how it was fun to her

the way watching was to him.

He could have written of the weekend he took her to the city.


She didn’t understand the ways of the concrete and bustle

but she could fit in anywhere, long as she could say Grace and stretch her legs.

She had laughed easily that Sunday under the harsh lights.


He stuck out the harvest once she was gone, stayed through October

and by then it was too late to start writing. He left her blue-jeans and stray earring

in one of the calendar boxes, buried between oh-one and eighty-nine.


It was an old song, like everything he knew, like corn,

the way she left, then he. The first snow on the new roof in Craigmont felt heavy.

His mother wrote in neat script, pleading him home for the planting.  

Going back for what you'd forgotten

Late, real late, Tuesday and the air is

so thick we can swim through it,

we’re driving, hemorrhaging brake fluid

and you say goddammit,

I shouldn’t be taking you around like this anymore.


Sprawl. Temple against the window.

Stars are city lights but

they’re holier down here with us-

7-Up and Love’s

and stadium lights for empty lots.


They say home is the generator of longing,

where the person we always wanted to be

never appeared, became someone else,


some passenger to Pueblo late late Tuesday,

pretending to be asleep but keeping open

for the city. Then for the sage. City again.

Sprawl, sprawl and fog.

Where do these motels find their people?

The cloud factory sleeps.

To a Nun Buoy

On the clear storm season nights

crimson pulses through dusty glass panes

and a part of me breathes to your beat.

On the mild season nights, the firework nights,

when the maple has filled the gaps,

I can only find you from the point

where the granite is still sun-warmed.

Looking back,

you cast the leaves in warm glow.


Red Right Returning

red right

red light

I am returning. 

Maybe we are only meant to make it to twenty-two

Or twenty, or today

watching this cascading,

these smooth stones


and singing: do you remember

the tree by the river

when we were seventeen.


To keep this stirring,

to hold this flowing and these

limbs stretching up and up

in glass jars on the sill

catching morning and basking

until we submerge again.


I swam with a lobsterman

once, and the next morning

we watched a Luna moth die

slowly against the granite.

He said: Well, what isn’t ephemeral

and I said: You spend

too much time at sea

to ask me that.


Then, him:

Don’t try to tell me that even the ocean,

yawning and heavy as night,

doesn’t recall pushing past aspen roots

as a puttering stream

and wishing to stay.