2021: A Few Questions

Can you just tell us now ⠀ What it is that you’ve got?⠀ Triple sevens for heaven’s jackpot⠀ After 2000 years in the casino hall⠀ Finally old enough to buy alcohol⠀ Make mine a double⠀ Or nothing at all⠀ If it’s the last call⠀ And that’s all you’ve got⠀ ⠀ It’s a new beginning⠀ And a whole new end⠀ ⠀ When the keys punch the headlines⠀ Into your skin⠀ Burning hot like cattle brands⠀ Will you have a choice⠀ Or will it be out of your hands?⠀ Will you see what is written⠀ Will you read your last rites?⠀ Will it be everything black⠀ Or everything white?⠀ Everything day or everything night?⠀ Is it all or nothing?⠀ Just this or just that?⠀ The record keeps skipping⠀ But nobody knows⠀ Where the player is at⠀ Something is broken⠀ Might be the record ⠀ Or maybe the needle⠀ You can get another one⠀ On the corner⠀ In front of the steeple⠀ The gates open wide⠀ The door swings on its hinge⠀ An injection to heaven⠀ Or a highway to seven⠀ Just a shot in the arm⠀ From the holy syringe⠀ What is it you’re drinking?⠀ Tell us again⠀ Do you have music⠀ In your streets with no end?⠀ Do you have love for your children⠀ Stronger than wind?⠀ Will you have my father⠀ To his own father sent?⠀ Do you live and die⠀ On this land planted deep?⠀ Do you know what is yours⠀ And what the earth keeps?⠀ Were you called into existence⠀ At a child…

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Solstice Song: 2020

Before there was light⠀ There was water⠀ And before there was life⠀ The water broke⠀ Staring up into that black ocean⠀ Eyes blinded by the falling seas⠀ On this winter’s solstice⠀ No stars tonight⠀ Just a child⠀ Floating weightless and free⠀ In a fish bowl for all to see⠀ ⠀ Mary and Joseph⠀ They live down the street ⠀ We ate donuts on strings⠀ Tied to their tree⠀ Last Halloween⠀ But tonight is for listening⠀ Country music on the local radio⠀ A long line of cars⠀ With out of state plates⠀ And a man that spoke⠀ “Don’t be afraid”⠀ ⠀ We walked a path ⠀ That led to the river⠀ Where the waters had broken⠀ The land in two⠀ We saw a man up ahead⠀ He stopped ⠀ And listened⠀ To the darkened forest⠀ A rustling noise⠀ And a woman’s voice⠀ Calling him to come in⠀ We never saw him again⠀ ⠀ A grown man on a bike⠀ Rides down the boulevard⠀ A woman in tears walks the other way⠀ They cross paths without a word⠀ She keeps walking ⠀ Tears like the rain⠀ From the broken sky⠀ Her cries fill the void⠀ And break the awful silence⠀ He keeps peddling on⠀ Awkwardly⠀ And alone⠀ On his tandem bike built for two⠀ ⠀ As lightning bolts fell from the sky⠀ Landing on the ground⠀ Unconvincingly⠀ Like actors in silver suits⠀ Performing in a school drama⠀ On daytime TV⠀ One of them curled up in agony⠀ Or defeat⠀ I never could te…

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My Father’s House

What do you see?⠀
A land taken by zeros?⠀
More zeros than you’ll ever know?⠀
By money changers⠀
That take all they want⠀
In exchange for their soul?⠀
If that’s all that you see⠀
You’ve only read headlines⠀
In the red letter press⠀
This isn’t your land⠀
This isn’t my land⠀
This is my father’s house⠀

Some small success⠀
Some chance at a dream⠀
A life built for two⠀
But what is life if not pain?⠀
A standalone shack⠀
In a narrow ravine⠀
All that’s left⠀
And it’s all that he needs⠀
But this isn’t his land⠀
And it sure isn’t ours⠀
This is my father’s house⠀

This land he travelled⠀
Paving the roads with his bike⠀
He’d led them all onward⠀
Riding further each day⠀
Riding for their lives⠀
Through sweat, tears, and smiles⠀
Roadside sandwich breaks⠀
He watched a wayward driver⠀
Drift out of her lane⠀
One from his flock⠀
Laid to rest that day⠀
It wasn’t her land⠀
And he wished it wasn’t his⠀
This is my father’s house⠀

A son that knows⠀
Too much about too many things⠀
Nothing to gain⠀
From his father’s love⠀
He’s moving fast⠀
And his dad moves too slow⠀
The son doesn’t see⠀
Just how much his father carries⠀
But one day he’ll know⠀
That his father’s failure ⠀
Was his greatest success⠀
And that he’s not the only one⠀
That was carried in those arms⠀
It’s not his land⠀
And it never will be⠀
This is my father’s house⠀

So get out of this house⠀
If you think you’re any better⠀
Get out if you think⠀
Your owed a damn thing⠀
Get out you bastards⠀
You never lived here⠀
You only came when invited⠀
To feast on his generosity⠀
There’s no gates of gold⠀
It’s worn down and rusty⠀
Broken and dirty⠀
But we’ve kept it clean⠀
It will never be your land⠀
It will always be his⠀
This is my father’s house⠀


Her Name was California

He’d laugh this little howling cackle that pulled you into his slipstream as you made your way along the path, down the makeshift rope, repelling into the cove below that you’d never seen breaking before and now was suddenly cracking it’s sonic water booms on the reef below. Everything made him laugh. And almost everything he laughed at led you to math, calculating the odds of survival. ⠀

Some friendships are like this.⠀

He led me to a burning mountain. He led me to wildcats prowling in broad daylight. He led me to a cabin where I spent long evenings watching dragons in the heavens war against the winds on earth below w…

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Medicine Cabinet

When the music ends⠀
The lights go on⠀
And everyone slowly leaves⠀
Yet somehow the room is strangely dim⠀
Somehow darker than it was before⠀
When the house lights were off⠀
And the music filled the spaces⠀
Between the empty glasses ⠀
That are now also slowly leaving⠀
White rings on the wood tables⠀
As we hum to ourselves ⠀
And dissolve back into the cold night air⠀
And warm beds that await⠀

If we’d known then⠀
That the music would end in this way⠀
We’d have stayed all night long⠀
Played all night long⠀
And drank the bar dry⠀
Letting the jazz⠀
Lead the revolution⠀
Until they came with lights blazing⠀
To pry the saxophones and drumsticks⠀
From our cold dead hands⠀
To confiscate the pianos⠀
And abolish this beautiful night⠀

So now we sit in the quiet darkness⠀
Of a bright winter day⠀
Humming sad tunes to ourselves⠀
That we’ll later play softly ⠀
On our contraband pianos⠀
Sitting in our empty rooms⠀
With the lights off⠀
Because everyone knows⠀
The piano is just a medicine cabinet⠀
And the music will never end


Anaheim Bay

I was born in Anaheim⠀ Happiest place on earth⠀ I once got stuck in Hell there⠀ When Mr. Toad’s wild road broke down⠀ And I swear on my life⠀ I have seen with my own eyes⠀ Snow White⠀ Sucking on a cigarette⠀ We weren’t supposed to see that⠀ And we weren't’ supposed to be here either⠀ In Anaheim Bay ⠀ ⠀ But here we were⠀ After crawling under the fence⠀ While a large swell was pushing small waves into this bay⠀ An unusual event⠀ The warships weren’t fazed⠀ Some other kids were already here⠀ Further up along the shore⠀ They must have snuck in somewhere else⠀ They had boogie boards⠀ Playing in the shorebreak⠀ One of them ate sand⠀ The other rode 50 yards along the shore⠀ On a zipper of a wave⠀ Laughing⠀ But also hiding⠀ In Anaheim Bay⠀ ⠀ We watched for awhile⠀ And we were about to leave⠀ When we saw a surge pushing down the jetty⠀ I ran to it⠀ On water⠀ And rode barefoot⠀ And I mean just barefoot⠀ No board at all⠀ Banking into it with speed⠀ Knees absorbing the chatter⠀ The rebound wave off the jetty approached⠀ Up and over the section⠀ Carving back to the whitewater⠀ A cross between barefoot skiing⠀ And roller skating⠀ Until the wave flattened into deep water⠀ In Anaheim Bay⠀ ⠀ My brother yelled⠀ The kids were waving frantically⠀ The cameras on the cell tower turned⠀ And focused⠀ Someone heard a buzzing noise⠀ I wasn…

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17 Mile Ghosts

Pay the toll⠀
A piece of your soul⠀
And leave it there as a sign⠀
A cardboard box⠀
Full of rocks and socks⠀
From which we will rise in their mind⠀
Extrapolated⠀
And captivated⠀
Forever to walk this lonely line⠀
They’ll see us standing⠀
Calling out in the night⠀
With bare feet wet from the brine⠀
They’ll slow to a stop⠀
They’ll wonder how⠀
The water and ethers combined⠀
If they listen we’ll say⠀
It was because we payed⠀
The guard at the gate to get by⠀

So heed my words⠀
And stare straight ahead⠀
For it’s from this earth you were made⠀
You belong on it truly⠀
Its dirt is your body⠀
And these guards are made only of shade⠀

You’re a plumber⠀
A builder or an electrician⠀
Whatever it takes to convince them⠀
To let you pass⠀
Without taking your cash⠀
It’s not the money it’s the darkness it gets them⠀
So give them only a nod⠀
A two finger wave⠀
And a subtle but sure acceleration ⠀
With confidence high⠀
Drive right by⠀
Subterfuge will be your declaration ⠀
That you belong in their night⠀
But this day is all yours⠀
Like Dali, and Griffin, and Vincent⠀
Masters of sight⠀
Pursuing their vision⠀
Trespassing all baseless tradition⠀
Their work lives on⠀
But they are gone⠀
At rest and free from earth’s friction⠀

So when the future arrives⠀
And they ask our ghosts why⠀
We’re still here and still walking this path⠀
We’ll tell them plain⠀
We believed the guards⠀
Who said we’d have to pay to get past⠀

So stay free in the sun⠀
And when the day is done⠀
Just move right along down the line⠀
And pay not a dime⠀
To the liars in wait⠀
Who seek to trap you in debt for all time⠀


The Morning I Was Created

On the morning I was created⠀ I crawled out the back of the old yellow van⠀ Wide-eyed and blinking⠀ Wondering where my brother had ran?⠀ He ran to the sea⠀ He ran for his life⠀ Past the razor’s edge of the earth⠀ Into the mist where the horizon is long⠀ Where the black dots line up and wait⠀ Is that really where my brother had gone?⠀ He ran to the sea⠀ He ran for his life⠀ I unearth sandwiches buried in sand⠀ Sealed plastic baggies with PB and J’s⠀ Perfect gives from Mother Earth⠀ So why did my brother rush into the haze?⠀ He ran to the sea⠀ He ran for his life⠀ Looking around I see girls on the move⠀ Their bikinis and bodies these young eyes amazed⠀ What were we talking about?⠀ And how did my brother get past them unfazed?⠀ He ran to the sea⠀ He ran for his life⠀ He told me to join him before he ran off⠀ I was unsure of myself and scared⠀ Of the ocean and its blackened depths⠀ What made my brother think I would dare?⠀ To run to the sea⠀ To run for my life⠀ To follow him out and beyond⠀ To the great sea where its rhythms unfurled⠀ To leave the logic of land for the great “into-ocean”⠀ But he was my brother and did he not rule the world?⠀ So I ran to the sea ⠀ And I ran for my life⠀ Bewildered by movements unknown⠀ I tried and I tried and I tried and I tried⠀ I couldn’t get past these white rolling waters⠀ “Where are you, brot…

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Kindling

Some things are easy to overlook⠀
Others take a little more work⠀
Natural beauty⠀
Simple love⠀
So often get left where they lie⠀
While the headlines print bold⠀
On our aching flesh⠀
These haunts where our demons lurk⠀

Crashing stocks upon the shore⠀
Homes condemned to their blight⠀
The need to eat⠀
A will to survive⠀
We’ll do what we must to get by⠀
Sell our daylight for leprechaun’s gold⠀
That will vanish⠀
In the dark of the night⠀

We wake to a frozen sunrise⠀
Empty and cold and ruined⠀
It’s easily missed⠀
But always there⠀
The lift in our hearts at the sight⠀
Of these earthen glories before us⠀
By which we know⠀
That we are nowhere near the end⠀

So we’ll use our bodies for kindling⠀
To build this blaze bright and warm⠀
Our skin burns hot⠀
This smoky font⠀
A poetry of ash in the wind⠀
As we soak in the beauty around us⠀
We are fire⠀
Just in a different form⠀

Some things are hard to overlook⠀
Others take a little less effort⠀
The pressing needs⠀
The desperate pain⠀
Can grow louder till all else recedes⠀
While the light within and around us⠀
Steadily burns and waits⠀
To bring joy in the midst of the hurt ⠀


The Ocean is Just Leftovers

It’s true, she loves the river⠀
And it’s steady constant force⠀
The ocean is just leftovers⠀
And she prefers the source⠀

She leads me through the briars⠀
Stinging nettle, oak, and sorrow⠀
Some pain for the present moment⠀
But the rest we’ll save for tomorrow⠀

The path is narrow and overgrown⠀
If it’s even a path at all⠀
Two roads diverged and we took neither⠀
She heard the river’s call⠀

Down the bank we scrambled and slid⠀
Grasping roots along the way⠀
These roots they hold back mountains⠀
They can hold us here today⠀

Scraped and bruised and winded⠀
At last we find relief⠀
We swim and laugh and stub our toes⠀
Even blessings hold some grief⠀

My mind drifts off to the coast and its songs⠀
Why oh why am I here⠀
I followed her and would do it again⠀
But we should have brought more beer⠀

How we ended up together⠀
A mystery untold⠀
I am a pool of simple pleasures⠀
She is the mountain, faithful and bold⠀

It’s true, she loves the river⠀
And it’s steady constant force⠀
The ocean is just leftovers⠀
And she prefers the source


All This Time

A Song for Santa Cruz Island I might have been a late arrival But I’ve been here all this time I was here when the plates collided I passed the bread and wine I was here when we emerged from weeds When the heavens gave us fire When our songs kept our mother awake When the rainbow held us higher Vizcaíno saw me here in 1602 He called me by my name The island of Bearded people it was And to this day remains I saw them come and plant the grapes To sip the nectar from the vine Prohibition shut them down But the idea was never mine The sheep were led to slaughter And silent so was I When the cotton gin reduced their worth To diamonds in the sky I saw the pigs run feral Chased off by dogs who fell from the air The pigs are gone and the bacon fried You’d never know they were there My name is Stanton now and so it was On the day I signed And gave the land unto the guards I was ill but I wasn’t blind They will keep it from abomination A trampled barren place But I’m well aware they’d sell the air if they could As well as these lines upon my face It’s for the good I’m sure they’d say They’ll save the earth with money Listen at the gate when I pass in the night I’m laughing but nothing is funny I did what I must and not without Caire How I longed for a better hand It was them and their lawyer’s greed Or else it was the land I’m the homesick Italian that built the Chapel W…

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Dividing the Rest

A fine line
Divides the pursuit
Of overwhelming joy
From sheer
And loathsome
Irresponsibility

The high tide line
Divides
The rest

Consider us divided
And
Conquered

Even the Spaniards
On the tall ships
Know…

Both victory
And defeat
Taste better
With a dash of salt
And lime


Book of Etiquette

Who wrote this book of etiquette?

All of the pages are blank
As though the ink has spilled right off the paper
Leaving us to write our own rules with pencils
And skin
And burning eyes

After reading from cover to cover we are left
Just as we were before
Somewhat crude
And still rather unrefined


Our Good Fortune

Even though she was royalty
We continued to stare
At the lines
Around
Her blue eyes
And at the
Shape of her
Trembling
Lips
That encircled
Her delicate mouth

Meeting her was
Our good fortune

She showed us grace
And mercy
We did not
Earn

Little did we know then
Just how good
The Queen would be to us

Or just how difficult
Fortune can be
For those
Who have received it


The Mountains Never Forget

The hills are burning
And we breathe the smoke
Of their exhalation

Second hand exposure
To long forgotten memories

The mountains never forget


Bigger Than It Looks

Hovering over the water
Weightless over the face of the deep
The storm rides silently off to the hills
To darken the eyes of the cattle
And drown out the country music

The light that remains
Clear and unfiltered
Falling from above
Reveals an orchestra of liquid geometry
At once carnal
Yet also divine
Each note the offspring
Of a passing storm
With the laws of fluid dynamics

We’re drawn to the symphony
The melodies ring beyond the hall
To the cliffs high above
Calling us to a quick dip in the sea before dark

But once inside the concert hall
We’re swept away in a mass movement
Of salty sweat and black leather
Nearly drowning in the mosh pit
Bruised, bloody, and broken

From there we glimpse the orchestra more clearly
Four awkward teenagers
And a mountain of noise
Who allowed these kids to take the stage?

It is here that we learned this law of the sea-
It’s always bigger
Than it looks from above


Washed Away

We came to this mountain in search of gold
We’ll leave with pockets full of solitude
We speak to the wind
We are here now
Everything else is gone
The cars and houses
The monies and the media
The interconnected web of information that
Ties us all together
None of that can truly exist at all

We know because we’ve listened to the quiet
That raged so loud our ears bled
We know because we’ve stood on the edge
And peered over
And seen everything we ever held on to
Smashed against the rocks
And washed away
Only to be returned as the treasures of
Small children on the outgoing tide

Dream on, dreamer, but when you awake
You’ll find nothing here
And that will be all that you need


Our Father

Our father
Kept us moving
Even though
We stopped a bit too often
To read the signs
And ponder
Their meanings

When it was time to move on
We would often
Have to push with all of our might

Barefoot
On the rough pavement

Our father
Drove a Volkswagon


The Choir

Sunday morning.

Somewhere under a cathedral ceiling the choir is singing an old song.
Out here under the open sky the choir sings the oldest song.

Somewhere under a cathedral ceiling, a choir is singing a new song.
Out here under the open sky, the choir sings the newest song.

The angels sing softly on the wind, they roar like thunder on the water.
They’ve sung from the beginning.
Unceasing.
They’re still singing now.
They’ll sing until the end.
Maybe even longer.

I worship out here with color, because I usually sing out of key.

When I am finished, I will go sing badly in the cathedral.
I enjoy those songs too.
Or perhaps I won’t sing at all, but I may still hum along.

But one thing is certain- on this Sunday I will go at night
Because the morning
Is full of light.


She Will Not Be Moved

Out from her
Slumber
Eyes blinking
At the newly minted greens
Of a silver spring day

The forest is full
Of dollars
But she is hungry
For the fish
That used to swim
Up the river

Today
She will
Stand still on the old
Logging road

And even though
The whole earth shakes
On this day
She will not be moved


Rabbit Trails From the Sky

As the old roads evolved into flight paths
We considered the implications
Of exploring
Rabbit trails
From the sky
And determined
For all the expansive visions
That pass through an elevated state of mind
There are other paths that are still better
Traveled on foot
Where you can hear the
Crunch of gravel
And feel your blood move faster
With every uphill step
And be reminded
That nothing worthwhile comes easily
But for now
Just sit back and enjoy the views
We’ll be landing soon enough
And besides
Here comes the flight attendant
With snacks


Grandmother Rock

They sit motionless, watching passively, not engaged in the passage of time like you or I, yet not outside of it either. We travel the world searching for new experiences, new understandings of what it is to be alive. They watch us come and go and always return again to their steady gaze. Changed, yet somehow always the same.

They have no need for comings and goings, yet they do not mock us. They know better. They have seen enough to know that our days are short, and our nights long.

They’ve seen our births. They’ve seen our joys, our fears, our love, and our tears. They’ve seen us wed, and they’ve seen our blood shed by hate, by sorrow, by intoxication, by miscalculation. They’ve seen our recreation, our red tape, our revolutions. They’ve seen our wars, our battles, our nobles, our scoundrels. They’ve seen us die. They’ve seen our burials, our burning bodies, our ashes scattered amongst them.

This is their secret: knowing without any effort that if they wait a little longer they will see it all.

If you are still, and you can hear the silence between the rumbling oceans, you just might even hear them sing.

Each has a different voice- one loud, one soft, one strong, one deep, one high, one low, and one with the voice of our Grandmother.


Heaven and Waffles

We’ve spent long days here
North of the river

We’ve spent
Our last two dimes
On
Heaven
And waffles
And a good night’s sleep
Sheltered
From the falling snow
Until the storm blew over

And now we ourselves
Are spent
Worn out
Like the two
Ragged
Dog blankets
In the back of the van

One more look at the ocean
Before we head home
And two things
Become clear

We’re not going home tonight
And
We’re gonna smell like dog
In the morning


Solid Gold

They took one last look at the river
And longed for another time
Saddened by the parade of motorhomes and meth
Stretching from the ends of the earth to right here and right now
They refused to join the neon funeral procession
They took their stand
And to this day they remain
Still
And beautiful
And made of solid gold


All That Still Remains

Cerebral flapjacks cooking on the whiskey bar
Artificial roller coaster couldn’t beat the bumper car
Creepers in the bushes, don’t look now
It ain’t no good
Sanitize it, light the wick
Then give ‘em all your food

Paint the cave and take a bath
But what about the money?
Stick parade, children laugh, hiding from the sun
Drink the water, drink the brine
Eat the fish and honey
Leave a tip and exit quick
As soon as all the eatin’s done

Sun and wind, electric eels, out drying on a line
The pizza burned the house down
And blamed it on the wine
Our feet are wet with old concrete
The Romans laid to last through time
We checked the clock, the time ran out
They said they didn’t mind

How about the ancient ones
Still soaking in the past?
The love they made, the things they said
None of which would last
They wrote their names upon the walls
Like flowers through the cracks
They killed the sky, they drowned the moon
They wrote them loud and fast

Look around, make no sound
What is it we have gained?
This is it, there’s nothing more
This is all that still remains