Throat of the Beast

and it occurs to me
that I, in this field,
yelling at that needle-stick
vein-splitting, first fuck, first love
first light for a born-blind man
kind of addiction,
that while I'm knelt in this high grass,
proposing nightly
to the Nothingness which always wears Everything's little black dress,
that I might just be screaming up the neck of another beast

Stubborn Gray Twist

no, you have it wrong,
it's that, this chimney smokes like my grandma
a welcome site in the cold
the order of her house
best understood
by the cut of the mason,
the weave and true
of the bricks
which stand her up in St Paul winters
and signal the survival
of a burning.

farmhouse rain

it came quiet like

a drifter through our opened windows
it played the hair on my arms as i wrote
ran my skin and skipped over my freckles
trying not to trip
on its way up my shoulder
yelling my name like an old best friend
on a grade school playground
it had so much to tell me


Artemis hangs her hand off the bed and traces a vine on my wall.  It pries itself from the paper in little spasms and creeps to the ceiling where it flowers.  She buys cigarettes to light and let lie; she says she likes the smell of humans.  A linear callus stretches from the crook in her arm to the bones at her wrist; it is the print of her bow.  There is a hunter in my bed.


The cocktail napkin I stole from Julie the bartender still smells of the Partagas case within which it's been folded for three months. I put it there on June 21st.

When my oldest brother, Bjorn, was married in Oregon nearly eight years ago, our family made the 30 hour road trip together - for better or worse. On that December voyage, I (clandestinely) suffered my first cigar with Bjorn and Dane outside our motel room and a tradition was born. Two years and a quick spring later, Dane was married in northern Iowa and the tradition bore itself onward, again set romantically in the circle drive of an Iowan hotel. This time, the posse was made complete, by all accounts, with the addition of one bad-ass grandma Mickey. For what its worth, all cigars should be smoked with this woman.

Of Acres and Acres

From the nearly pure black of a good winter night's soil I grew forth, in your palm, and I became. You drew roots to my eyes with the gentle pressing of your rigid finger and to those sockets your story continues to come.  My brain blossomed as the priority of your growth, a dream for which the forest starved itself so that its youngest may rise higher.  On an October forest floor you laid me down, your son, quiet and clam, your handful of twigs to my nervous forehead, and you opened my bones at the center chest. Retrieving a relic from within you, you uttered a grace, and inlaid it in me so that the branching of my throat would remind me of your stretch toward the sky, and I would return forever grateful to the fields, to celebrate our passing time together.

The Yelling Hill

I am forging heavy letters constantly and I hope that you'll forgive me, friend, for stowing them in your spine. The space, tail to tip, between the vertebrae so cozied in your back, nestled between the big muscles, is just right for the notes I chisel of the hard coat of a lonely truth telling atop the yelling hill.

I pack my tools quietly and set off for the ridge where truths are screamed for a fee.  No level too loud and no explitive unwelcome, that hill knows the world's darkness perfectly.  There the most stubborn confessions are pounded out of the earth.

And There, I Look and Remember

I took a priest's word once.  At the edge of a jungle, beautiful and dark, I had been standing and wondering which paths to take and which to abandon, how to navigate the dark and dreadful in order to walk in the light and majesty of this wild.  The priest walked passed me and stopped, turning back.  May I direct you, he asked, I see what god had seen for lifetimes and my ways are good.  I'll divide, for you, the light from the dark and let you live in the jungle.  But you have to follow me, to trust the sight god gave me.

He was kind and his eyes were soft, not the hard glance of extortionists and liars.  He was ready to give me some of his own good.

Beyond Crooked Man's Gulch

He walks to nowhere sometimes.  Just beyond the crooked man's gulch and the bend in the gravel where the street lights stop, he goes to weigh the world.  His parents could not say why, why their son has often stopped to hold a weight not largely his own, and sigh at its breadth and beauty.   He enlists the night to help him.  A certain emptiness is required to access the weight and while he speculates often about the desert one must cross to reach the prairie he agrees that the evacuation seems natural.  As the roads go from highway to lit pavement to gravel and dark dirt he unfastens the adornments of his day and sets them lightly to the roadside.  In the cold he shudders, he lifts trees from the ditch, he inverts them and stores them in his chest.  He senses these lungs become the same temperature as the skin on his bare arms and knows they've rooted well. If all this around him were forest trails to a lake where god was standing in wait, this may be a baptism.

Over Virginia

Yesterday I spent the evening jetting across the sky at forty thousand feet, in that space where the hallmark, anvil-shaped cells of meteorlogical fundamentals blast into the higher strata of atmosphere. They ascended from the cloud floor as a series of towers, the lot of them stretching hundreds of miles to the east.  The sun burned them orange and their folds and crevasses seemed permanent and unyielding.  One passed beneath us, eerily close, and I had no instinct for it, no lessons from the ancient plains or sevannas.  Smiling, I regarded them perilous, in the same league as dark bergs looming in the sea.

Love Letter to MN

As a boy my parents would load my two older brothers and I into our family’s big, dusty conversion van and huff it northbound, toward Duluth or Grand Marais or the Boundary Waters. We would cliff jump in Voyageur National Park and make pitiful attempts at fishing everywhere we could. We accidentally swam with snapping turtles, we pedaled down the State Park bike trails and my deep love for biology took root sometime in those early years, little fingers digging in creeks and mud pits for the creatures hidden there. You find quickly, traveling elsewhere in the U.S., that not everyone grows up with Gooseberry Falls, bonfires, eagles, moose, or mallards. We have eleven thousand lakes at our choosing and usually, our neighbors are good enough to share what they have. Our state is a cathedral to life in which we have the privilege of fellowship.

How Many Times

how many times have we missed this?
this invinceable night that calls
and i have to believe we all come running
knowing the moment is fragile and fleeting

In the Rain

Love the image that hurts you,
if happiness is what you behold.

there will be a sunset on the blaze
a lovely darkness to this fire

Eerie is the Field

my brother lies down
makes his bed in the grass,
his eyes start to shiver,
chilled by revelation
he tells me a of a shift,

"i stitched you a vision"
he says,
"i twisted space around my finger
i readied the needle
and wet the fray with my tongue,
i wished you something warm
for the cold wall of your home."

The Exodus

He felt warmer now but feared it may just be numbness.  His back spasmed and cramped, that dull exhausted pain from constant shivering.  He tried to settle himself into a snowy den. Just easy breathing and a measure of will, that's all.  Charlie peaked at his hand, crossed over him, and assessed the ugly wound. The inky cut had begun to dull down and blend into his skin.  The crude tatoo had cleaned a bit, the newest tally starting to look like the others.  He flexed the muscles across his chest, collapsed his shoulders inward, his cold duster moaning as it stretched, and resigned himself to another night in this young winter's dark.

This Clammoring House

These mountains are the texture on my soul.

I have an unusual relationship with the front range these days. From the hours of eight to eight in the western suburbs of Denver, I only see those hills when I'm headed east. The black boots I wear as a semi-comical testament to our collective manliness usually prop themselves on the head of our pram, squishing my knees up near my chest; the IV bags, the needles, alcohol wipes and band-aids, the intubation equipment and the oxygen, the shiny pointy gadgets used for ugly things: they all bounce along in a cabinet to my right. The heart monitor and the drug kit, maybe a dangling stethoscope and a select few other pre-prepped items have a place of honor on the bench to my left. The pram's newly dressed white sheet stretches from me to those back windows and then, if we're headed east, I get to look at the slow fury of the earth we're leaving behind.

My young memory in this rig has barely had a chance to get up and stumble around on its own in its new bouncy, clammoring house. Yet, exaggeration, lies, self-deception, immense suffering and death all happen at the mountains' feet, that much it can promise you. It remembers also that, once in awhile, a woman in her 82nd year breathes easy, leans back on that white sheet and stares out the back windows, just like you, for a twenty minute ride to a far-off hospital. She chats with the young, know-nothing medic next to her. She's neither restless nor shaken to awkward trivia. She hasn't uttered an insincerity in some time. Silence would be fine by her. Or not. Whatever have you. I try to catch up.

She knows the mountains too. Its where we're closer in age. They give me a texture, a surface disturbed enough to alter stillness and allow the mind to boil when it needs to. She can understand that too. We both can, even as we're headed away from that slow fury of the earth, eastbound, in this clammoring house.

The Great Forests' Paralysis

We use paralytics in medicine sometimes.  Their application saves lives, awarding the contrived airways of science to those unable to protect their own.

Rumor has it, however, that the administration of a paralytic without the accompaniment of rosey glassed forget-me drugs - the heavy sedatives and graceful amnesics - inducts the recipient into the tiny cohort of humans who can or could describe the phenomen of a live burial.  Every sensation remains intact, the voices of your invaders and the steel and drift of their tools fully familiar.  But for the life of the paralytic, some as merciful as twelve minutes others as pernicious as a full hour, the patient forfeits defense, objection, and conscious dignity.

The possibility humbles the caregivers charged with wielding such pharmaceuticals and a reverence for the imperiled bodies on stilled beds before them comes forth. 

One is forced to wonder, standing at the foot of the great red woods, if they do not also know such a paralysis.  Is their two-hundred year old silence, baring the chain teeth of man's saws and the choking fog of his mechanical children, a merciless half-life of Nature's apothecary?  Looking at their skin and their arms numbering in the hundreds, the towering testament to their long lives and the community by which they're surrounded, I fear their useless awareness of their live dissection and their neighbors'.

They swallow lost spirits and reground them, a vocation both they and the monks have found best accomplished in silence.  As caregivers it would suit our want for wisdom to mind the tapered egdes of our tools, our presence in the proximity of lives that notice and witness and feel but do not reach out to us to applaud or curse our craft.

this is very consious.  i assure you.
i would not approach this door otherwise.
conscious and sober, you have me.  what might you say?

There are many thousand buildings burning
in my head.

And i think I'm to blame,
I think,
running in the snow,
they're at my back and i know,
these are my flames.

and I'm happy,
so proud,
I've burned this city down.

the silhouette of a man,
his hands reach for the most fragile gifts from the sky,
oblivious, likely insane,
to the hell he's ignited behind him.

that is me.  conscious and sober.
you have me, what might you say?
ignore the flames or embrace them
whatever you do
what might you say.

our father

he remembers his father speaking to him.  always hidden. but vulnerable in a sense you wouldn't expect to be possible, while also masked.

"this is the shadow" he would say, referring to something there, off from us in the distance, casting a subtle darkness our way. 

"this is the shadow, and wonderful it shall prove to be."
always he said this as if sitting in a rocking chair. and at times he was.  always steeped in the somber thoughtfulness that provoked our father to speak directly in our eyes.

it was not an evil darkness.  our father did not believe in evil.  he did not believe he should waste his time with such things.  he only believed in sight and blindness.  in those that notice the darkness and anticipate the light, and those that don't.  blindness was much worse than evil. 

the darkness was in days before a hurricane and days before a woman gave birth.  the darkness was the same in those things and like i'm saying, the darkness was not evil.

"the dark don't give quality to the light or the other way 'round," our father'd say, "that's why they chase each other so."

those that heard our father easy should probably sit in company with him on that porch.
it was a big porch.