Song of Pacific Salmon

I come from lakes.
I come from rivers.
I come from oceans.

I come from egg.
I come from sperm.
I come from milt.

I come from a dying mother.
I come from a dying father.
I come from river gravel.

I come from alevin.
I come from fry.
I come from smolt.

I come from swimming.
I come from feeding.
I come from leaping.

I come from struggle.
I come from death.
I come from life.

Celestial Polygamy

Never has polygamy twinkled so sweet
as when solitary Moon weds sister Stars

The universe provides the marriage bed
infinity in hues of blackest silk

Earth attends as bridesmaid
arrayed in dusky patterned tartans

The groom, with yet roving eye,
pulls the seas greedily to himself

The shy brides keep their distance
though their happiness sparkles and shines

The reception is merry and long
husband and wives content together

Until that boisterous blustery big brother
shows up at the bedroom’s door sill
and outshines them all

My Memory

My memory is a trickster thing
Malevolence it’s ruling king

Triumphs, loves and every bright day
Leave no trace, slip easily away

While every hurt, hunger and humiliation
Replay with endless stubborn fascination

My memory has no respect for new joys
Guarding only the old and broken toys

Those worn nursery relics that give me pain
Are all my imp memory deigns to retain

Each new enticing present pleasure
Has no value in my memory’s treasure

Where every small mistake persistently polished
Leaves all new joys heartlessly abolished

My eyes behold pastoral beauty
While memory attends to third grade cruelty

My senses thrill with wondrous feasts
While memory recalls my least defeats

No god could worst punishment decree
Than the devil my own memory is to me

Kodiak Raft Trip

We paid extra

For a float trip day
Down a long silver river
Flowing from a high mountain lake

Guided by Aaron and teenage Faith
Oldest son and youngest daughter
Of the lodge owners

Down the river on a raft
During salmon run
In late August

Sure to be salmon
Alive and dead
And bears, fishing

First, to get to the lake

The float plane landed
In the ocean cove
Taxied onto the gravel beach

Gear loaded, we glided up
Over mountain meadows
To the high lake

Aaron and Heather did everything
While we watched
Tourists, paying to be pampered

Thirty-something Aaron
With 15 and more years experience
Remarked the low water

“It’s been a dry summer.
Driest in years, drier every year now.
We’ll be lucky to see any bears.”

We saw lots of decaying salmon
Doing their part
To enrich the ecosystem

We saw some live salmon
Doing their part
To continue the species

We caught rainbow trout
We caught Dicken’s fish
Pink polka-dotted Dolly Varten

We saw no bears that day

Time and again

Aaron and Heather walked the raft
Over rocks covered with more
Dead fish than flowing water

While we paying customers
Sat royally ill at ease
In the bottoming raft

That night, back at the lodge
We asked if the dry summers
Were a symptom of climate change

“Climate change is ridiculous.”
The climate is always changing.
It’s just a string of dry summers.”

Said a gently smiling Pam
As her family
Nodded in knowing agreement

“Come to the table
Everyone.
Dinner is ready.”

“Let us pray.”

Alaska Haiku

Vast vessels through time
Ships of ice surf mountain waves
We name them glaciers

Beyond lake and road
Mountains rising proud through mists
Dare to reach for God

Eyes sting, nose wrinkles
Gray smoke, black trees, red gold flames
We drive silently

Otter on her back
Baby clutched on her chest
Rock-a-bye on waves

What need of any god
Born of imagination
Nature is divine

Dark green spruce arrows
Shoot high from gray brown rock bows
Bent above the sea

Marsh ducks and tall cranes
Silver road and iron rail
Gray blue Turnagain Arm

Green summer lingers
While golden autumn arrives
Winter white awaits

Suddenly a city
Anchorage stakes our land claim
Mountains ignore us

Yukon

The road like molten silver
With a streak of gold
Flows, flows
In endless stream
Through endless green

Trees, shoulder to shoulder, crowd the banks
Of the silver and gold road
Claim all vision
All possibility
On either side

Ahead mountains surge upward
Freeing themselves
From the marshalled green ranks
That cling and climb
In doomed determined effort
To best the summit

Tall sharp shooter spruce
Bayonet the watery sky
Then guard the shores
Of the leaked sky lakes

This land is wider than any poem
These trees are deeper than any picture
This road is longer than any map
These lakes are bluer than any color
This sky is louder than any sound
These mountains, ah, these mountains
Rise higher than any god

Here is infinity
Now is forever
Vast is divine

Driving Through Montana

Days
persistent slow as the fields
stretched sonorous
sky to sky
grass and grain
gold and green
dawn to dusk
work to rest
work again

Years
steady slow as the growing
plant to seed
tend the growth
sprout to stalk
pray for rain
ripen to harvest
smell the sun
tractor, thresher
reaper, combine
silo, grainery
fallow fields
winter rest
begin again

Life
straight slow as the train tracks
made for long loads, steady pulls
rulers laid between field and road
measured progress
from terminal to terminal
division lines across prairies

We are will-o’-wisp
gadflies
picture takers
memory makers
strangers in this long strong land.