30 April 2010

Eternity's Villanelle

She used her mother’s vanishing cream,
because other kids said she was queer.
Eternity slipped like silk from a dream

never belonging to any class team.
Trying to make life disappear
she used her mother’s vanishing cream.

The principal called her make-up extreme.
Said she’s young to appear so “austere.”
Eternity slipped like silk from a dream

and cried when she wanted to scream.
The day her best friend forever steered clear
she used her mother’s vanishing cream.

Invisibility is a swift flowing stream
but it fails to eradicate fear.
Eternity slipped like silk from a dream.

Her future inspired a letting go scheme.
Pills popped to stop one more year.
She used her mother’s vanishing cream
Eternity slipped like silk from a dream.

29 April 2010

and suddenly snow!

It’s April,
and snow
is screaming sideways
through the sky.

White mounds on
spring leaves
until branches
bend and break,
blocking byways,
crashing into cars.

Major sections of
highway close,
causing newcomers to
reconsider their
recent migration
to Montana.

26 April 2010

Slumber Party Conjuring

Black candles
float flames
flickering soft on
feminine faces.
A concentrated circle
calls on the spirit of Salome’
seductress of serpentine dance.

The candles whoosh out and
relight while the
girls’ fists slam a rhythm
on the table.
Chanting five times in
rising crescendo
the girls appeal:
Dancing like no other here,
show yourself, in form appear.

Winds swirl from the
walls inward.
Fanned flames
float smoke veils
that undulate
and glow.

Beneath shining eyes,
the girls point their palms
up and together.
Shuffling them before their lips,
they utter
. . . Salome’ . . . Salome’ . . . Salome’ . . .

Monday at school, secreted whispers
between slumber party sisters speak of
Salome’ swirling sass into the dance of seven veils.

25 April 2010

Heaven is Here

Suffering soul knows
his way to the
kingdom of heaven
lies fuel his fear-
hatreds emerge.

Guitars stir startling
of suicide bombers and
salvation, with a
haunting ballad
that hums—
and then the band
pumps up the rock in
this Kingdom of Heaven.

Fearless and beautiful,
Etheridge evokes a
God who lives in me
and loves in you and
lives in you and
loves in me.

Heaven is here.
Heaven is here.

24 April 2010

Annapurna Circuit 1987

Pilgrims journey for days to reach Muktinath
they come from India, they come from Tibet,
they mingle with trekkers traveling through.
Muktinath captures trekkers the day they
cross Thorung La Pass on the Annapurna Circuit
of the Himalayan mountains of Nepal. Thorung La
hovers at 17, 769 feet above sea level.

A fountain near the temple of Vishnu
greets us at Muktinath. Water springs
from the ground and is channeled up
through the mouths of stone cow heads
in a line five feet off the ground
on three rock walls. Setting my pack near
a wall, I follow a Hindu pilgrim.
We outstretch our right hands to catch water, and
palm it over our heads. From cow to cow,
I emulate her. She sways my way to say
“Sacred blessing,” lilting a song.

When she’s gone, I begin again,
this time, my knees catch the flow from
mouths of stone. After climbing the
height of two Sears towers to reach
Thorung La Pass, we came down three.
The air palpably thickened on the knee beating
descent to Muktinath. In exchange
for a healing libation from the beasts,
I vowed to drape garlands over the
neck of a lowing cow, in the next village
that housed one.

I catch up with the others at our guesthouse
where Ravi, a boy of 11 serves tea. He walks
from India during the months of pilgrimage
to work at the guest house and contribute
to his family’s wealth.

That night, exhausted on a cot upstairs,
I think of Ravi. I think of the pilgrims
and the westerners, shouting orders at him
every day, I think of his laugh
when he came to our table
and I said, “Want, want, want,
is that all you people ever do?”

I wished for books to
leave with him. I wished for time
for Ravi to live free
to hike through the mountains
just to see them. I wished
for a life he may never know, and I felt
shame cover my own exhaustion
born of freedom, born of wanting
things within my grasp,
born of not knowing the exhaustion
of walking over one hundred miles
to serve demanding people
from carefree cultures ignorant
of poverty's pilgrimage.


If the entire world agreed
to turn everything off
for 24 hours,
every child in every city
could experience stars
teeming in the cavernous night.

22 April 2010

Earth Dreams

Worry for the earth
circles my dreams.
A revolving desecration
empties her
of oil,
How much vacant space
does it take for the shell
to collapse on itself
in one last hurrah?

With pure heart,
tend the earth.
Plant trees to bind
and tunnel her soil.
Marvel when her rivers sing
and listen to her voice with heart.

My heart needs this
small blue dot
so it can race me awake
late at night
from dreams of
cavernous collapsings
that suck me
deep into the belly
of my mother,


21 April 2010

According to the Pakistan Institute of Physics

~for Thyra--to mark your extroadinary arrival

In Pakistan, on the day
you were born
the horizon’s cyan glow
diffused the edges of clear sky
with the colors of Karachi life.

A man and his monkey
danced in the street until the
new moon occluded the sun.

With blackness,
light greened,
wind ceased,
birds circled,
stars appeared,
dogs howled,
temperatures cooled,
a rooster doodle dooed,
and your light emerged in Montana.

In Pakistan,
people stood
in the streets
with little boxes they made
to look at the sun
as the moon
briefly eclipsed it.

In Montana,
I pushed you out
into the hands
of an angel, relieved
that you were
and (I looked at your eyes)

19 April 2010

Miss Karen

Karen’s desk surveys the antechamber
to the interrogation room of the AP.
Six chairs face different study carrels
where she answers phone calls about
sick kids, doctor appointments,and
homework requests, all while keeping
a vigilant eye on the sullen row of penance
possibilities that populate the pit.

On a daily visit to check out which of my
lovelies stand accused, Chaz Gladue is there,
laughing with Karen.

“OK, Whadjya do Gladue?” I smile.

He comes back with, “I backhanded Mr. Lancer,”
and I feel my eyes crack out from my head.

“It was an accident.
Enit Miss Karen?” His face
implores her.

“Show her what happened, Chaz,” Karen indicates a carrel.

Chaz sits and places an elbow on the carrel,
“He came up behind me,
to scare me, ya know.”
“Lancer,” Karen rolls her eyes.
Chaz smiles,
“It worked. My arm jerked back
and my fist rammed into his face.
He left all bloody.”

His smile fades, and I ask,
“Is Lancer backing your story?”

“What was it you was saying in class
the other day, Mrs. Warren?
One of them vocab words, ummmm . . . ”
Chaz searches the empty air,
bites his lower lip, then
snaps his fingers,
“Oh yeah,”
he exchanges a look with Karen,
“gullible, enit?”

18 April 2010

To the Rocky Top of Hill 57

Zigzagging a route to
the rocky top where
dragons lie in wait,
Hopper and Boon Dog
pull us up Hill 57.
Behind us, at the bottom of
57’s steep face,
a man and dog follow.

Gulping water from a
cool metal bottle, we
turn our faces toward the sun,
then continue across the top of
57’s broad expanse.

“Look Mom,” TL nods across
the hill, “A man.” The hooded
figure quickly walks the perimeter
of 57’s rocky northwest ridge, then
turns and heads back toward
us. Conjuring serial killers, we create
creepy scenarios of a two man hunt.

The victims? Us.

Loose rocks line the
steep descent of
The Dirtbike Path to Freedom.
Halfway down, Hopper stops,
growls, and lunges toward the
killer. Three deep barks
signal warning and protection.

Love for this ferocious beast
overwhelms me. With a
yank on his lead, we travel
toward TL and Boon Dog,
heading down Hill 57’s western slope home.

To the Office

Do not pass Go,
Do not collect $200.
His “I didn’t do nothin’”
brings riotous laughter from
the class of students who witnessed
the BB zip through the air and
hit the back of Randall Crane’s head.
The boy is proud of write up #67
in his illustrious two-year career.

Social studies befuddles him, English
looks like Greek. Math fails to inspire him
and science is for geeks. He does not need
teachers to care for him. A clown, he pushes
past his lack of academic skill with classroom
antics that win kids’ hearts.
To the office he goes
day in and day out.
Never catching up.

Academics slide through holes in lives.
Children, left behind, throw BBs, and
sell weed in middle school cafeterias.
They live for the moment their teacher,
arm extended, finger pointed,
finally says, “To the office.”

Hitting air fives with his homeys
BB boy heads down the hall.

17 April 2010

The Sideways Science of the Middle School Student

People in Montana keep quick access to
cold weather clothing until mid June.

Middle school students, however, are peculiar beasts.
Shorts come out during April snowstorms.
Thermometers hover around the thirty degree
mark, and coats mysteriously disappear.

With flip flopped feet Brittany and her crew bounce
down the hall. “Look Mrs. Warren, we’re gonna see
how red our feet get at lunch today.” Giggles burst
from the group. I counter, “It is difficult to walk with
a bounce in your step without toes for balance. If your
toes begin to turn black, be sure to find an adult and
come back inside.” On their way out one of the girls
looks back at me. She grabs Brittany’s shoulder and
says, “Is she for real?” Brittany says, “Didn’t you know?
Mrs. Warren is a CIA operative from the planet ZH8.”
Her voice gets louder and she looks back at me,
“She thinks aliens can impart knowledge through some
kind of astral transmission.” I raise both arms toward
the girls and wiggle my fingers. They scream and exit
the building, leaving a lone pink flip flop in the middle
of the hall.

16 April 2010

Already Dead

The sun illuminates pristine snow
on the Spanish Peaks the morning
of my wedding. Outside Soldier’s
Chapel my mind whirls.
I will be a confident bride,
I will be a confident bride.

Stuart Weber’s classical guitar begins
the processional, Jesu, Joy of Man’s
Desiring, my cue. With one last look
at the Spanish Peaks, I enter the chapel
and start down the aisle, a bouquet of
daisies pressed against my sternum.
One one thousand take a step.
Two one thousand take a step.
Stand tall. Smile.

All eyes on the bride. The
wedding party waits at the altar.
What am I doing? Stop. Go back. The
mountains are calling my name.

Between the maid of honor and the
groom, my world tilts. Movement, a
fly on the floor, captures me. Little legs
kick at the air flailing circumstance.
It needs to be righted. It needs me. It’s dying.
What am I doing?

The preacher marries us. The groom
kisses me, and the congregation
cheers. We are presented:
Mr. and Mrs. I Promise
I Won’t Hit You Again.

When the receiving line ends, I rush
back to the altar to right the fly.
But I’m too late, it’s already dead.

15 April 2010


Something about anything would not come, so Sierra marched up to Molson’s desk, journal in hand. “What do you mean, something about anything?”

“For instance, Sierra,” Molson holds up his own journal and in a low voice reads, “Every spring an army of ants invades the kitchen of his mother’s house. They climb up walls, and the side of the white plastic garbage can at the top of the stairs. Every time Oscar ascends from the depths of his basement hole, he counts them, and announces the count to anyone who cares, “27 ants.” Molson stops and looks at Sierra.

“You want me to write about bugs?” She wrinkles her nose.

Molson says, “Write about something you know, Sierra. I know about ants climbing the side of a garbage can. I know how difficult ants can be to control. It has to do with cleanliness, of course, but that is beside the point, or maybe that is the point, hmm . . .” He stops and writes the words controlling ants=cleanliness in his journal, then continues, “The point is Sierra, pick something mundane, something ordinary in your life, write a story around it. I started with ants. You can start with anything ordinary in your life. Write it, watch it grow.” He motioned with his hand toward her desk.

Sierra walked back to her desk, everyone else in class was writing. Now it was her turn. She sat down and looked at the clock— 22 minutes. She began.

The pregnancy stick looks so benign.

Sierra knew the word benign because Molson used it as what he called a “sometimes” synonym for the word mundane. She also knew it meant that whatever they cut out of your body would not kill you, as in, the cancer is benign.

That’s probably a good thing, Joy thought. She was sitting on the toilet in her Step-mom’s sister’s bathroom, holding the stick in her pee. The box said that it would be a + if she was pregnant. It said to wait for results. She didn’t have to wait long. Joy looked down at the stick. It didn’t look so benign now. It cut out a piece of her right then and there. This was one of those “defining moments” her English teacher always talks about.

Sierra sat up and looked at the clock again, thinking. What next...she didn’t know. She looked across the room at her best friend Jess, wondering where words were taking her. Jess was her inspiration for Joy. Sierra had no idea what Jess would do with her pregnancy. Her pregnancy, it made Sierra shudder to think about it. 15 minutes remained. Sierra decided to reread what she’d written before continuing. Molson always says to do that, and sometimes the story writes itself. “Let it come, let it go,” Molson says from one of the monthly Caldecott books he shares, A Story, A Story.

Sierra let it come.

Never one to cry and let life run her course for her, Joy takes action. She contacts Planned Parenthood and sets up an appointment with a pregnancy counselor. Joy knows that they will tell her about all of the options out there: abortion, adoption, open adoption, and raising a child. Joy knows what she wants. She asks the counselor about places where girls can live for the duration of their pregnancy, and give the baby to a family to raise. That’s what Joy wants to do with her pregnancy. She doesn’t want to tell LJ, because she’s afraid he’ll tell her it isn’t his baby. She’s afraid he’ll scream at her. She’s afraid he’ll call her a whore, or a slut, or a hose-bag. She’s even afraid he might kick her, or swing one of his rock-hard fists into her face and scream, “WHO ELSE HAVE YOU BEEN FUCKING, BITCH!!” with his rank cigarette stained breath.

Sierra’s sharp intake of breath as she sat back in her chair was loud enough that three people looked up: Molson, L. J. Jones, and Jess. Each one of them looked at her. Sierra looked down, and scratched out everything she had written. She ripped the pages from her journal, went to the trashcan, and she shredded them.

Molson looked at Sierra and said, “Good stuff, eh.” with this weird knowing grin on his face.

13 April 2010

My Love

Opening closets
to let out skeletons,
we dance side by side stories
spinning out secrets
lived before Us.

The secrets release
threadlike traces—
spirit between us—
me to you
to me to you
to we.

Your moist whisper
speaks naked sugar,
as we glisten with
fever’s sacred caress,
and dissolve
into all that is.

Because Love Fills Me

It is April.
Angry pixies fling
snow from the sky.

Palms pressed together,
I bow in their presence
to thank them for whitening
my world . I want
to make them smile.

Mouth open, I throw back my head
open my arms, and spin love,
appeasing the pixies.

The snow ceases,
and I laugh out loud.

12 April 2010

Condon, Montana

The Fourth of July barricades Montana 83
for a parade that runs through Condon.
Liquid Louie’s starts serving beer at 11.
A menagerie of beasts and vehicles carry
people in from the surrounding mountains.
White and blue streamers cover us in the
back of a 1960 red Buick convertible. For
10 minutes, we throw candy down a mile
long stretch of highway, then turn off the
parade route, waving at the backlog of RVs
with boats, motorcycles, and cars waiting
to get on with their day.

—elbow, elbow, wrist, wrist, wrist—

After the festivities, Len and I jump in
the Jeep and head south to Fir Lane.
A few miles from Condon, we spy a
bald eagle flying overhead carrying
a big ass trout in its talons. The bird
drops the fish on the grassy shoulder
of Montana 83. We stop to pick up
dinner on the way home.

God Bless America!

11 April 2010

The Last Poem

The last poem I ever write
may be in my head
on my way to dead.
I hope it’s a funny one
without any ants.

The Last Ant

There will never be one.
Not ever.

Last Sane Thought

I imagine my trail toward insanity
littered with ants crawling
in through my nose
tunneling gray matter
feasting trails in my brain.

A single ant exits across my eyeball
I hold completely still and watch it
cover my world.


She draws a pentacle in the middle of my floor,
touches each of its five tips with a toe
and twirls like a skater in its center
spinning power from the day’s prime source.

10 April 2010

Ant Log

It is my belief that the ants are developing a resistance to Terro. Somehow it is entering their little ant bodies sending resistance to future generations. They drink at the trough, but they keep coming back –ants on dogs, ants on me. Yesterday I lost control and killed 15 ants before I finally stopped finding them. Today an ant charged me in the kitchen. Most of its kin run from feet. Other humans verified the charging ant. One thought it was his reincarnated grandpa, and we all stepped aside.


Dreams of a massaging octopus bruise my sleep,
then manipulate my form into a macabre marionnetted tarantella.
Drumming death away, tambourines startle the air in shivers
across my sweat soaked skin. I wake weakened.
A rattling jingle resounds.

Last week I ate the fried talons of a vulture picked
from a barren pumice field where it fell from the rotted sky.
Putrid fumes preceded the foul feast washed down
with gray green water gathered in pails from the rain.

My belly burns for food fruited and festooned
a jug of jam, brown sugar floating on cooked oats . . .
Whispers stir the fringe of my reverie.

We need to eat.
She won’t last another day, let’s do it now.
Gather the killing stones.
We feed each other. Get it?
Shut up, show some respect.
Strum your guitar, play the song she likes.
Gather the killing stones.

Cat Stevens’ wind blows over my bones, and
a rattling jingle resounds.

09 April 2010

Spirit Strings

Twisting my thumb and forefinger above my gaping mouth, I pull
strings of spirit releasing the secrets of who I am.

Reluctant to leave, spirit catches in my throat retracting
inch by inch, reeled in by my solar plexus, where it sits.

I breathe in, and remember the voices of kids on the playground,
calling me a spaz, and Mrs. Roper scolding me for being “bold.”

Mostly I remember condemnation in their eyes. I cannot see
your faces, dear reader, nor understand your understanding

of anything that I divulge to show you who I am with words
designed to open glimpses of the place where I reside.

I breathe out.

08 April 2010

The Spigot (Perfect Timing, Alice)

She lies on the ground beneath the spout
and waits for the liquid to enter her mouth.

CHUG 2, 3, 4,
5, 6, 7, 8,
9, 10, again and again

Light hits her girlfriends’ smiling faces
backlit with sparkling bonfire tracers.

Alice enters, and spigot runs dry.
Keg party teens trip through the sky.

The Coat Hanger

The coat hanger
is benign until the desperate
conceal themselves in bedrooms
and use it
to dig life
from their wombs.

07 April 2010

"Until you clean your room, you are not going anywhere."

What I imagine Mom wants me to say:
“Guess what Mom? I took your advice
and started right after school.
You can come look in ten.”
On my way to my room, I stop
at the table and straighten a flower
in her cobalt crystal vase,
wiggle my fingers at her
and giggle.

(revisit title)

What I want to say:
“Well until you sweep your own
demon dust bunnies out from
under your bed, I ain’t cleaning it.”
I see myself snap a triangle in the air,
go outside, smoke.

(revisit title)

What I do say:
Sauntering toward my room,
I pull a flower from a vase
slide it behind my ear, and await
the diatribe.

What Mom says:
“Whatever means the same thing as F-you.”
(She can’t even say the word.)
“Rolling your eyes does, too.
Don’t push me tonight, you will not win.
I am tired, and I will only say it one more time.”

(revisit title)


Her words
run through me
like burning steel
eclipsing the world
until I remember
to breathe.

06 April 2010

The Tricaptra

~~for Goya's Witches

Palms shuffle below whispers,
-he’s as light as a feather-
-he’s as light as a feather-
-he’s as light as a feather-
then slip underneath.

Potential derived in hearts enters hands,
threads through heads, then
magically zooms up witches’ hats—
a tricaptra that conjures lift.

A sacrificial rising
offers up a serial sinner.
The donkey hangs its head, and
men tremble under closed tight eyes
failing to believe what they see.

As the tricaptra gathers force,
it sucks more & more serial sinners
high into the moon’s blue nimbus,
to feed its constant glow.

Leibovitz Does Pocahontas

An image of the Mayflower hangs in the bay,
as Pocahontas strides toward her future
excited for an upcoming role on Disney.

*note* The prompt for this piece was a picture by Annie Leibovitz.
Find it here--

05 April 2010

Serpents to Chick Flicks

I listen to him talk to me.
He nibbles my neck and whispers
“you know I’d do anything for you baby”
as his hands rub circles on my lower back
pulling me closer to his manhood.
I know it’s there and I feel it. My pulse quickens.

I push back.

“My mom,” I say, “I’m late.” He sighs
and warms up his car. Mom’s word
trumps all—a gift unwrapped today.

That boy takes you away
and you lose track
of everything about pushing hard—
that’s what Mom says.

My older friend Raven warns,
“It takes little to stir the serpent
and get it to relinquish its charms.
Think twice! Stirred up serpents strike.
Do not invite what you cannot take.”

"You know I’ll do anything for you baby,"
sets off snake charming signals that
form bitter pools of spit in my mouth.

That boy’s car announces itself blocks before he
pulls up to my place, and I know it’s over
before we hit the curb. With no glance back,
I run to the door and enter the security of Mom
who never asks, but offers mocha milkshakes
and a night of heart-rending chick flicks,
so the tears won’t feel like my own.

04 April 2010

Dream History

The waters of Lake Vermillion run like childhood
through my blood.

In a recurring dream, I sit with Grandma
on a dock bench over Wake ‘Em Up Bay. She
tells me stories about fish, birds, and boys.

Wearing bright colored swimming trunks,
and black numbers in big white circles
on their bobbing backs and chests,
super tan dead men float in the bay.

I think they look like Ken dolls.

Grandma keeps spinning yarns
like the corpses are nothing but logs bobbing by.
At one point she stares out over the bay,
“Musta been a big storm last night.” she says,
then she spins a tale about this frog who became a prince.
She ends with, “But that, my dear, was before you were born.”
and lights shine from behind her eyes somewhere.

The dreams vanish until years later, after Grandpa passes.
They visit again, but this time stories spill
from my life into Grandma’s ears, and she laughs
while the well proportioned bodies buoy about the bay.

03 April 2010

Partly Forested

My folks’ home sits on Holland Creek
between the Bob Marshall Wilderness
and the Mission Mountains in Montana,
where one measure of time is fire season.
Summer lightning hits trees and choppers pinpoint blazes,
trying to get there before the fire gods flourish—
before they raze habitat, houses, and pieces of lives.

Deer parade in single file through yards,
eating black moss that hangs from lodgepole and ponderosa,
eating seed spilled from Mom’s big feeder out front.

The valley is a grizzly corridor between two ranges.
Phones ring out sightings of mountain lion and bear.
“Keep an eye on your dogs.” or,
“Sherriff found a lair.”
Five-toed, foot-long tracks in new snow
end spring walks with the dog.
“Griz tracks west of the campground.”

Out the window, the lingering creek
reflects evergreen ghosts
that capture last night’s snow .
Perfect postured pine stand together
dense along Holland’s eastern shore.

Out back, away from the creek
Dad cleared a boatload of trees
and turned them into tables, shelves, and bird feeders.
Pulling down pine with tractors, Dad and his saw-mill
create a partly forested paradise, civilizing trees
to protect his home from lightning fires
that turn everything to ash.

02 April 2010

Frozen Falls

The snow covered path
rises and turns
beneath our feet.
A crow follows and leads.
From ponderosa to ponderosa,
it keeps track of our trek.

Silence staggers,
when we listen
for the sound of the falls.
The crow lands
on the final rise
in the trail,
to monitor our ascent.
Caw! Caw! Caw!

It flies to the top
of Memorial Falls,
and points out the obvious.
Again and again
the crow screams
while it stands atop
the sarcophagus of water
trapped in flight.

01 April 2010

Video Gem

Joni Mitchell - Night Ride Home

The Punch Line

Other kids bully me,
and then ignore me or laugh.
Like it was nothing.
Like it was one big joke.
Like I was nothing.
I am a joke.

The punch line?

I'm all alone.
Not one person eats lunch with me.
Not one eye catches mine in the halls.
The teachers don’t even notice me,
or them,
or what they do to me,
or what I do to myself.

The real joke?

They get away with it every day.
They get away with kicks, spit wads, and pushes.
They get away with web sites using code words
to call me fat
to call me retard
to call me anything but friend.

The stupid punch line?

One day you’ll look back on this and laugh.


How can you be lonely in a room full of people?
Is there something wrong with you?
Allison Thompson’s mother said
(Mom, hands on hips, mocks her)
“Your daughter stood in the corner
at my Ally’s boy girl dance party.”
You stood in the corner.
Is there something wrong with you?
Allison Thompson is already dating.
You could use a date.
You never have any friends over.
You stood in the corner?
Is there something wrong with you?
How can you be lonely in a room full of people?

This is one of several pieces I'm working on with a middle school voice.