Keepers of the Commons and the Spring of Resistance

NASA & the Washington Post
As a bible camp counselor in rural Oregon, on nights where the moon was slivered or new, my campers and I would venture a slow walk to the outskirts of the camp's acreage, with a headlamp in the middle of our line. We'd tread to a small clearing, extinguish all lights, and watch the awesome Milky Way halo come into view.

The Run-Up

"Trump Win is a Grand Slam for Banks"
Yahoo Finance
"Trump to Tap Ex-Goldman Sachs Banker Steven Mnuchin as Treasury Secretary"
Market Watch
"Wall Street Wins Again as Trump Chooses Bankers and Billionaires"
"Trump Treasury Choice Vows to Strip Back Dodd Frank"
Wall Street Journal
"Trump's Wolves of Wall Street"
New Yorker
Mr. Trump's first-round economic appointments of Steven Mnuchin and Wilbur Ross are not the long-awaited people's justice whose specter he used to boil his campaign messaging, nor do they reflect his vision of divorcing the architects of New York finance from the operatives of political sway in Washington. And yet, even in the dissonance, there's a nauseous lack of surprise.

The Middy

my hands
ache from pounding tables
banjos and footstomping
the Minnesota north
you all look like
screaming whiskey


sideways light and heat from the early Atlantic night
when i ran
the Cotonou streets
pacing open jawed sewers
i was closer to it
closer to my brain's music player
to the machine in me, capable
and broadcasting powerful things

Like Ships

the night she arrived,
the wintered door suffered open on a shove and a gust
and her mother came trundling through with the flakes.
the room warmed and all of us huddled toward them
smiling and newly forgetful of our troubles.
we all noticed the question wrinkling her little face,
she saw all of us
and thought we looked too new,
that there should be others
more weathered than us
more nights tallied in the saddle than we had
she came from out there expecting grandpa not knowing
they'd just missed each other


press the light in my hand so it blisters
and put your foot to pebble path till you've done run
the chipped concrete walk through wind-stripped cinder walls
to the beach,
where sit a bruised blue sky and whale bones the sea leaves us

descend to the roaring coast twilight,
attend the riot beach fires whose bellies
bloat of old palms bleached by mariner's drift and
pull me into the bodied circles you make when you
stand above the tideline and drag eye for torches
hung long ago at the end of the sea

Letter to the Future - In Two Skins - XV

Hello Future.
It's Friday, July 8th, 2016.
It's been a while since I've last written you.

Rolling to my night stand in the dark this morning, a Wall Street Journal alert bannered my screen.

"5 Dallas Police Officers Killed by Snipers during Protests"

I buckled. I imagined the officers covering behind whatever barriers the Dallas streets offered as they scanned windows or parking garages for muzzle flash or gun barrels.  Thought of the paramedics pulling dead cops off streets still popping with small arms fire.

The Youngstown Order

from that soaring bridge east of Youngstown
i stretch to cast eye curl over the bridge rail and glimpse the
legion in their steady watch below on shore

i think of those trees' preform old souls who came to the river
for the call of it,

who before the Hardening cupped handfuls to their lips
drank just once of the flow and motion and were recruited,
lifted the cloister hood and beneath bowed faces
dropped root to the bedrock
they opened their blood to the river's,
came to steady in
a tangle of humus and limestone and seeping mud
of whose binded fates Earth would make model

tonight they hold heavy in a predusk canopy mist
it's cigar smoke in teeth
breath bated in the rib hollow
bone communion in the vapor

where the parish sits
that is church
where the order is set
there start the guard and
the holy study 


smelling the coffee in Paris
i make arcades of my arms
stretched behind my head, they grip me
and inch me forward toward the day
through the arches of myself
i am made to see better
this coffee and the humoring
Parisian who opens the bar
at dawn in Charles de Gaulle


five thousand dead of ebola this week
flight over the burning parliament in Ouagadougou
and the man beside me with
the two arm massage machine
he scored at the duty-free
waiting to board

Rabat Stage of Kindnesses

two young men
one white one Arab
being kind to their young daughters,
a woman grins and wines absorbing
gentle smacks that cup her cheek bones, and pulls on her hijab from
the pigtailed two-year-old in her lap,
the man on phone across the terminal is scrambling to find a pen
and from five seats out a stranger comes in
outstretching ballpoint,
someone chases someone down, holding up a belt
rescued from the recent detection indignities
to find, if unimportantly, it belongs to some other waistline

give me winter

My neighbor draws hands like houses, chipped of paint and curled against the sun. He drags charcoal mostly, and enjoys the audits of his daughter.  She knows her father by the cracked faces he pulls from his shirt pocket, people bent over their craft, winced in their subsistence.

Consider the ratchets we've set to him, the buckles to his wrists and the bit on his tongue
which takes stories gleaned on the eye and buries them like roots packed too tightly in the earth.

This warmth, this easy prairie frequented by peddlers of sloth and shriven men, it is retreat's great stage.  It sinks the ties and sets our tracks to the lying sun, when what we need is night, what we need are the forest leaves in retreat, the clandestine dispatches that come in advance of the whip winds and frost to empty the unhardy tracts and ready the bodies for sharp breaths.

give me winter

The danger I've seen is in the slow sweat, the crawl of skin that says don't move don't think don't lift yourself to become that creator, your world is full.  Suffer the sun, the day in the light you'll log your fare and be a man thankful for rest.  the turn of those words will snag.  don't make my neighbor a man thankful for rest but from time to time a thankful man that rests.

give me whole states of breathless grass, frozen upright on the hills.  give me young men, delirious laid out on concrete swearing that good infinity above them is better read when man leans away from the sun.  give me the sisters who pilgrim up the logging roads. let me sing quiet and shivering as they sink their hands in the clearings and resolve to bring back the earth to where they go from here.


you got this boy walkin
in mine town hills
his blood's in the bricks and copper now
and his eyes are seasoned,
by these weights they're bowed

he is the maker of winter
hands trained blind,
for all his seasons in the soul's dark night

on a crow's call
and the gargle itch of Irish whiskey in a protestant throat
I think of him
think of his hands
that crinkle and dust
like the fall leaves that heal everything
being broken and smeared
into the hungry ground

he stows lessons in black lake waters
and does not negotiate their release
sometimes the smiling hoards of winter come
with violins and banjos
and my friend points them to the lake
where he set down his secrets

Passed Down

I'm sure you remember the night grandpa died
Meike had come,
and us in our little apartment
Bjorn was speeding into New Mexico with a heading for the map's empty of left Texas
past the pilgrims for South by Southwest
he got me on the phone
i closed the dual doors to the bathroom and stood by the counter whispering
wondering if i should call my mom and crawl into the bathtub
fuck inheritance
damning to flip the river and see a banker looking up at you, while
your brother runs fifteen hours by night to capture a
day with two broken women
he's gonna send that rock face carrying his mother's fresh loss and just
as i've straightened to hear my sentence for negligence
and half human impulse
my mother phones.
she got there before he went.

Over Beibei

marble balcony of Southwest's international dorm
my back to the 5th floor pillars, an overlook
to the entry and the north road winding into campus

somewhere notes i wrote there about central China's humid nights and
the stumbles of her imperial wander to power

footsteps come up the staircase inside, laughter and perfume billow
to me
on the balcony
Friday excited and freed electric
alive with sex and the like-nothing-else open sky of new country
and I smile, close eyes against stone

the Germans have a party
Zimbabweans, Brazilians,Tanzanians
and somehow they all know Portuguese
but its a Russian tongue that finds me on the window stoop
fixed on me, despite her friends
generous of confidence and space

she can't know the barriers in my chest,
built there slowly by my hands rubbed clean
of prayer and guilt like sediment from the strange strength of a monastic youth
how already twisting in my lungs was a different answer to her offer,
one that saw and reached for the thread uninterrupted
between her hair and the eastern night that waved it just so

that she was part of an answer to 'why'
about all things
that creation's line ran through her
that though I would struggle with cowardice
my kin were the currents in Jin Dao gorge and the 800 year old stone
along the Lijiang streams
that I was not as young and new
as the wretched language of no I had mastered

but i learned slower than that balcony would've wanted for me
heroes were made and lost in the air

and the fire of human newness
brilliant faces and only-first-names lit mad with want
in the stowed-aside marble coves of earth's raucous balconies
cannot be served
in frightened posture or
the slinking away of the soul

The Ray

i was probably readying a worthless coin to be shuffled out the driver's window

the crutch man knew our car
he made his legs work beneath him
by throwing and catching them at angles propped against the pavement

polio hadn't taken his limbs so much as caused them to be repurposed
we usually smiled over a traded franc
"good luck"s and "good bless you"s

the black top steamed, the ocean town air stuffed of liquid and moto smoke
and the vapors of unmoving sewage.

across the median the queues honked furiously,
they skirted a downed moto
each next car to reach the front of the impasse
uncertain of how to regard the small line of brain and blood in a ray
from a young man's head
stretched quietly on the avenue

Old Tin Basin

i will not speak
you may if you like but
here on the floor
below you, i'll
take your feet.
drag the basin close,
dented metal and stiff, wearing patchy gray and the brief bite
of hot water, a simple soap and I'll
wash you.
just listen to us, water and tin
let's be quiet, see what reads in the
worn press prints of your soles, let's
be just like the quiet. let the world sleep or
walk by in the night, but
i'll pursuit these lines, run your knuckles and tell you
things in the old contraband murmurs, language
cast cross the quiet lines of
divided Babel those early days, let's
be quiet lovers on the cordon wall, I'll wash you in a meter
you know and you'll not worry for the voice

Lead Pipes and Teeth

we don't think much about lead pipes and teeth

Of Steel and Gravity

he's frail, this one, like me.
i watched him die

Dry the Banks

leaving China

In the Black Iron Balconies

me and glen
sat atop my black iron balcony,
did he stutter when he said 'em
those truths out there.