Placing the Stones.
Placing light next to light.
Finding that moment
that had to be waited for
these millions of years,
wearing down, wearing away,
then waiting for me.
Hundreds of miles
of famous California rivers.
I get to three of them—
Smith, Klamath, Trinity,
and one found creek—Dry Scrabble
off the Smith—
I get a small patch of each
by hard, slow driving, and guess work,
then maybe get an hour on each
on different days.
THE MOUNTAIN IS OUT, CHOOSE YOUR OWN TABLE
And would I leave for the rivers this morning,
if we were ready. I don’t know.
I’m still in the space
from the walk on the moon
with my brother two days ago.
Dry your eyes for Madame George.
I’ve been listening to that song now
so many years, but it’s only recently
that it’s become a sort of Requiem.
Dry your eyes.
We were walking between the Burroughs,
my brother and I,
we were putting everything on the table.
My brother didn’t tell me,
Put away the camera,
he just said the camera could never do it justice.
Some kind of table, Chuck.
Some kind of table.
Go see for yourself.
As he walked ahead reaching the skyline
the Robinson poem came into his head.
Where was he going that man against the sky?
That line that arrives every time I step on a trail.
This time the poem arriving
with a complete history of the dream
interspersed with the biography.
Truly, this is the tundra.
This is the moon.
Three Rivers—Klamath, Trident, Eel,
along with their tributaries. OK, a fourth,
the Kern, you knew from the Merle Haggard song.
Swimming Kern River. Maybe you couldn’t reach
that one, this time. The stones. Just to know
where the ones practicing,
the ones walking the way, where they had been called to,
and where they found the stones.
To put one’s hands in those rivers.
Glio Blastoma. So that its spelling is not in doubt.
Getting perspective when the mountain is out,
isn’t that it. The perspective of the moon.
The helicopters carrying water into Sherman and Muir.
This unmaintained trail where forgetting was encouraged.
It’s a long way to Buffalo.
It’s a long way to Belfast, too.
Landscape stones. Miniature landscape stones.
That’s what you’re after.
The stone waiting for you.
The Japanese art,
by flame-lit height made higher,
with nothing on it for the flame to kill
to loom before the chaos and the glare,
as if, oh my, the next part
is too beautiful to steal. Just keep walking.
Better that way. Better. Yes. Better and not better.
That part didn’t matter.
Someone brought me here first.
My brother’s right about pictures
not doing this justice,
but is it justice we’re after? Is it?
Or, are they, these light flashes
on paper, ephemeral as they are,
the only true cairns we’re looking for,
marking memory trails if not the map,
the geography of the poem.
Magic mind accompanies the trail too.
It’s not only healing those river rocks.
That old Jewish Prayer, Un’taneh Tokef,
through the voice of Leonard Cohen dispensing
with Jabberwocky once and for all.
The way you discovered the one leg to be
longer than the other, the discovery—
you’d been on the mountain that long,
how good that made you feel.
The little epiphany.
Patina in the stone.
This prayer of awe.
I don’t care if there are professional collars or not.
The empire of careerist religiosities.
The collars claiming their Lord,
recusing themselves from the poem.
They had to get rid of the poet.
Home free, easy enough.
This is an unmaintained trail.
Better stay on it, for stone’s sake.
Stay on the unmaintained trail or lose your storythread.
O smoothly textured waterfall.
Water way and water fall.
Heavy and light. Wabi-Sabi.
Joy to touch. Cuentocamino.
Who by fire, who by water.
Who rest, who wander.
This is the Burroughs. Yes.
Taken off the map because of overuse.
Thank the Rangers on the way out.
Thank your brother, caminante.
BOOK LAUNCH, HABITATION, GETTING TO KNOW
ONE’S WAY AROUND THE BOOK: LETTER TO SAM HAMILL
FROM THE CHAIRS AT ELLIOTT BAY BOOK COMPANY
So it’s all an act of love.
Wanting to be part of the family,
a long conversation with the dead.
What you say to end the reading.
Book for a generation. Book it for the next one, too.
…the outer/warmth of the fire, the inner/ heat of the line.
What you write to Levertov.
Asked to read the poem during Q&A,
a bit out of gas, admit
you’re just getting to know this bound life
in your hands. Still, your response
to the question, complete:
Come visit me, I’ll read it to you.
Years ago, you pointed me to Levertov’s
essays on the line from Light Up the Cave.
Rain drops outside the bookstore
come from angels emptying tear ducts.
After Labor Day, testament
and testimony, a new one for our time.
Do you miss the Constitution?
Do you miss any of your civil rights?
The side of sharp from Seattle Spring:
After 94 days of consecutive rain
even frogs don’t sing.
This letter can still go either way:
your riffs outside the poems, or list how
your work’s lifted us over time.
Talk about dumb luck.
You fucking idiot, that’s the title poem.
No good deed goes unpunished, like you say.
Morning after, outside SAM,
waiting to stand before Morris Graves and Mark Tobey,
Merwin in my notebook: Songs that come back
to themselves in the old voice.
White birds of Graves from the inner eye.
Later, your Memoriam to Graves,
…who painted the wind, remembering his words,
no narrative in the painting, it is what it is.
You take us into the chicken coop,
a hundred dying chickens in jaundiced light,
mother with eggs, keeping
what’s tarnished, cracked and fertile.
And Graves, the only one forced into military service.
White birds painted before prison, knowing scripture.
Did he know Yeats? Emerging from retreat
the crane will dance, the lotus blossom.
In Vietnam I took R&R to Sendai and skied Mt. Zao,
rested in hot springs where Bashō soaked,
returned to Tet and Tan Son Nhut in flames,
worked Med Evac while King and Kennedy
go down in the empire.
Sam Hamill, your devotion defends invective.
The word repeats as mantra.
Your Catullus, the nastiest.
Your Bashō knows the road as home,
each day is a journey.
Home belongs to you.
Your word above all the rest.
You sit at table with Rexroth, McGrath, Seferis,
Levertov, Broumas, all the ones
you name in Habitation, all present, all at table.
Neruda’s muertes pequeñas, muertes graves,
en las Alturas. Naming them:
Juan Comefrío, Juan Piesdescalzos.
Living and breathing as much as Terry Tempest Williams.
You begin with Han Shan and take us to Tu Fu,
guide us to Red Pine and Hunger Mountain.
Sacramental relationships, all.
Call this, walking the interior.
I say to Bassett before the reading,
You open my heart being here.
Pound got so much right, you say.
And so did you.
Just being here as the poet says,
this, the long road home.
Qué te vayas bien, hermano.
Sube, una permanencia de piedra y palabra.
ACROSS FROM SEATTLE ART MUSEUM
SITTING IN THE GARDEN OF REMEMBRANCE:
NOTE TO MOM
And where, really, have I gone, Mother,
but by your side?
outside the museum,
you’re with me.
We’re still riding city busses.
Have I ever ridden
a city bus
without taking your picture?
4 September 2014
THREE THINGS MY MOTHER TOLD ME
IN HER OLD AGE, EACH ONE BEGINNING
WITH MY NAME: JIM,
you don’t have to go to El Salvador
to find God.
you’ve gone too far this time.
you belong to the school that never closes.
2 September 2014