Monthly Archives: March 2000



The odds are overwhelming

Every time we play the game
we find ourselves on a level field
with the all time all world all star team

Homer, Whitman, Rumi and Omar Khayam
Wordsworth, Shakespeare, or whoever
wrote his stuff

It’s like always batting against Nolan Ryan on
his best day
Like trying to strike out Mickey Mantle, Ted
Williams, Babe Ruth without a hangover
and Reggie Jackson in October

Great poets never tire or retire, they just die
and still play with their best stuff

Soccer players today don’t have to play Pele
every day
But with translations and free agents
we write up against Neruda, Viello and Paz

Or heads up against Leo Tolstoy and Anna
with an East German judge

But we play



On the prairies they know
that you have to use snow

In January on the Wood River
the laces got wet and then stiff
and could not be untied

Walked the whimpering long mile home
in one frozen skate and one warm boot
part of my foot and all my toes
numb and milky white

On the prairies they know
that you have to use snow

Too much warmth all at once
can bring the feeling rushing back
with more pain than you can stand

I have since learned
and this is the sad part
It is the same way with the heart



The tree planter writes a book

She is a knife
sharp as mountain morning
blade steel blue as northern lake

she swings with youthful abandon
cuts through light, shadow, and flesh

We stand white bone to white bone
and bleed into the earth and sky

Ten years later she writes another

Knife cuts dull meat and metaphor
catching only small reflections of light
through comfort of kitchen window

The reader and the blade
yearning for the grindstone
and the trail of sparks

A Poem Before Holland


I travel to Holland
on wings of a childhood story
silver skates and finger in a dike

To lands wrestled from an angry sea
a sea that dearly wants them back

Unceasing vigilance to keep the prize
a dark line drawn across their eyes

I see windmills chop the salt wet air
Art and flowers leaping up in faith
behind thin walls

Back to the little boy and the dike again
legal drugs and red lights in the rain

These are a fair and sturdy people
I like them now, and I like how

In a land where children must
so often act as men

They do not pass acts that treat
their men as children