Calm and Terror

Calm and Terror

I cannot move the toes of my left foot
So I am thinking of Dean Potter
Here in the dark, in my bed
Waiting for sleep to come
The only respite from the fear
And the searing, fire breathing pain that attends
This paralysis injury that not a single doctor
Can name with certainty

I cannot move the toes of my left foot
I cannot feel my abdomen
I cannot feel my left thigh or my left butt cheek

I cannot escape the feel of the invisible 500 degree red hot broiler element
Slicing into my right Gluteus and slowing paring the muscle of my hamstring
From my Greater Trochanter to my tiniest Metatarsal

So I am thinking of Dean Potter
Flaunting gravity and the laws of the national parks
That state the illegality of BASE jumping across the canyons in Yellowstone
Parachute or not, its just not right they say

Its not the parachute BASE jump I’m thinking of
I’m thinking of his feet when he walks a slackline
Barefoot across a swaying rope of webbing, yards spanned
Between peaks of a death height
No harness, no net

This is the moment, he says
“When I get in the middle, an emptiness takes over,”
“I feel a little helpless.”

I’m concentrating on my breathing, here in the dark
The in and out of air to my lungs
Governed by my now sometimes erratic heart
Also a muscle affected by the now untrustworthy
Status of my slowly healing spinal cord
I’m concentrating on my heartbeat
And how it might sound, thundering in my chest
If I made the same famous crossing Dean Potter did
Across the Enshi Grand Canyon in China on one thin strand of webbing

This is the moment, he said
“When there’s a death consequence, when you are doing things
that if you mess up you die”

Years later, today
I think of Dean Potter again
When I’m walking, barefoot on the beach rocks
And my toes
I pull them back, curl them under, tip toe on all ten of them
And know they are back with me
As I stub them, then stub them again
For the sweet glee of pain and life, calm and terror

I think of Dean Potter
When I’m talking with my friend Stephen
A rock climber of Olympus proportions
Who educates me on the tools that hold any
Body clinging to a rockface
The calm of fingers in a cleft
And the trust in line, rope, knot, carabiner
helmet, harness, cams, nuts, quickdraws
And the body that chooses to leap and let go

We discuss the New York Times article
Describing Dean Potter’s life and death
His last BASE jump was a Saturday

He said
“I like the way it causes my senses to peak,”
“I can see more clearly. You can think much faster.”
“You hear at a different level. Your sense of balance is heightened.”

I flex and splay the toes on my left foot
As a baby would after being tickled
And I remember
Stephen’s recent promise to help me install
A slack line in our backyard
Between my two tallest poplar trees

Sunsets Are Now You

Sunsets Are Now You

It doesn’t matter that they’ve occurred all my life
And determining their numbers would require
a calculation I’m incapable of
Sunsets are now all you

Each of them
As is this beachside, this ocean, this rock, that wave
As my greedy mind hoards each image
As that child does, pocketing beach treasures
until too heavy to walk
Polaroid memories collected, pleasant
as the weight of your body on mine

That heron, calling its mate against the darkening sky
As solitary in its ancient self as it is, is now all you
As are the ancestors of all the oysters
Their skeleton shells shush, shush, shushing
against the singing of the waves

The waves which are now all you
the press of the water into the beach
the force of the seaward desire
to pull the earth back inside itself
drawing the terrain into the eddied depths

the pink sky, the swathe of clouds
the golden apex of universe beyond
all of this

the full and falling sun, the rising crescent moon
and now this, the sweet shadowed darkness
where the world is merely shades of gray
black trees, violet sky, opal waves
is all you

For Roger, Four years

For Roger, Four Years

Through our four years
and my five boyfriends
We traded good morning
Small Christmas
Presents and good well wishes
when ill
Shared similar backache stories
and bottles of wine
He helped
install my new bird feeder
And answered my terrified knock
when I thought
I had set the apartment on fire
We toasted the summer sunset
Across porch dividers
We shared similar views
and watched
The dogs and runners and strollers
Wear their tracks in the trail in front of
our joined apartments

Four years
of tracks worn
in pavement
and the seats of our deck chairs

Four years
of tracks worn
in the stairs we shared
to and from our homes
joined by one wall

My daughter and I moved
away 6 months ago
He and I stayed in touch
Exchanged emails and another round
of Christmas presents
(he cherished the handmade candles we gave him by
lining them
in his windowsill, they never burned
and in a way, this was his gift
back to me)

Then, after four and more years, and into my sixth boyfriend
I did not hear from him for a long time
And today I heard
that I would never
hear from him again

The practical side of me says
it is that he still had decades yet to live
54 and healthy, he jogged and gardened
We all loved his collection of 27 blue pots of varying largeness,
housing fragrant exotic grasses and graceful oriental maples
A paramount apartment garden
A landmark of hard-fired blue glazed clay and cascading fronds of greenery
grown, tended at his hand

The side of me that won’t cry—yet—says
some of it is the classic tragedy of any life lost,
the reminder of all our expiration dates
we brace all our lifetimes against
the invisible mark stamped
upon each skin, or heart, lung, or brain

But this side of me that writes
these words say
it is selfish,
all selfish of me
to feel this way
Because, here in my new living room
I live and I see
his gifts to me
the large glass flower on the copper stem, the painting on the wall, and the pottery
Over four years and five boyfriends
I see that
all I want is that
Roger is not dead


…i am reposting this because i finally placed the bottle i had of a portion of his ashes in my garden this year. i remember Roger.

The Marriage

The Marriage of Courage and Fear

Anxiety and Excitement pluck the buds
And shape the wedding bouquets
Flower girls and ring bearers
Perfection and Mistakes strum the harmonious
A fluted cacophony

As Fear, or is it Courage?
White veiled face
Proceeds down the aisle

One sided pew whisperers murmur
No no no
As the opposite pew rises in a susurrus
Yes yes yes

She rises step on step
Where the two-faced Joy and Sorrow wait
Holding the prayer book, readying the vows

And Courage, or is it Fear? Waits
Black brimmed and shadowed face
All Patience and Hurry at once, then

Courage and Fear rise together
Greeting the Mate
All Approval and Rejection at once
Slide silver rings onto fingers

Fear and Courage
Courage and Fear

You May Kiss the Bride

…i spent a weekend dancing with nearly 70 souls, guided by Kathy Altman, in the emerging Open Floor tradition. the theme of the weekend was Courage. and she spoke of the marriage of courage and fear. these images came to me while we danced…i hope they serve you.

Be Wildering

Be Wildering

Unsuspecting: C- and I, on a long and rambling walk, often find ourselves inviting in unexpected engagements with surprising people. They emerge, as is said, as a knot from the woodwork. A shape in an old paneled wall; a face presses out from the flat space and speaks.

Remember the day we walked to the crowded beach. Lines of barbecues smoke-signaled the advent of well-done hamburgers. Families and children bird-called along strings of towels drying in the breeze. Lines of youth, bounding the beach with their drum beat feet; chasing balls, Frisbees, and the last rays of summer.

Unsuspicious: We find ourselves engaged in a conversation with a stranger clutching a worn notebook. An apprentice Palm Reader, she is here to practice her new skills, for free, with those willing to sit and hold hands. She materializes from the crowd as a red breasted robin among a cage of gray sparrows.

Remember her soft hands and long gray hair. Remember the waves right before she caught us: Our conversation must have been about love, or its loss. Her words to C-: You are an outspoken leader with a heart of deep compassion. Her words to me: You are inspired, with a creative heart and a soul that calls in the wounded birds.

Unassuming: We chitter, our own cage doors opened to possibility—and bewildering conversations. Chance meetings that widen windows and minds. Seagulls along the shore squawk for bread crumbs from toddlers. Salty, ocean waves are greedy for sharing. The scent of tomatoes, brown sugar, and smoke fills our nostrils.

Remember—as I did, later that evening, alone in my many windowed home—how deep the lines in my palms felt as I watched her walk away. How deep the sag of her left shoulder—against the height of the right. As she rose and limped away, two red feathers fell.

a late night check in

hello…twice i have put up and taken down my blog. i post because i want to be seen–read. i remove also because i want to be read–published!–in a good old fashioned paper book. so i removed most of my work off my blog again and took succumbing down for awhile. we shall see if my EGO can keep it this way. i have kept some pieces up–mostly haphazardly, though i have taken down most of my favorites. i am undecided what is the best method to send my voice into the world. i dislike the politics of publishing versus blogs… i mostly wanted you–who have commented and read in the past–to know how much i appreciate all you read and what you have said, and i’d like to share with you without jeopardizing my chances of being published in the PAPER world. i’d also like to stay engaged and be inspired by the works of others in this medium. how do we balance all of that?

the day they cut you open

The day they cut you open

You have been sliced
and scarred
at other times in your life;
above your eyebrow and below your waistline.
The pink lines trace divergent life stories
and separated ages:
teenage skateboard crashes
and middle-aged hernias.

I suspect you might believe that the worst scars
were inflicted by me,
but no medical examiner would uncover them,
no matter the sharp depth
of the autopsy razor.

The day they cut you open
is 3 days before Christmas.

I wait in this vast windowed waiting area
with glass as tall as the evergreens outside
and listen to the holiday choirs sing on the hospital intercom.
I plan the rest of my gift shopping
and wonder how I will work two weeks in 3 days
so I can spend my holiday vacation feeding you
small white pills, and applesauce,
and warm tea,
and count your breaths alongside my heartbeat.

As the snow falls;
as the cuts in your flesh seal.

I watch the morbidly obese nurse pace down the hall.
She moves with an odd grace I would not expect
from a skeleton asked to move
so much substance.
She smiles deeply at the man in the wheelchair waiting his turn.
Perhaps her physique expands to match
the compassion in her heart;
I hope her life is long and healthy.

I wait for you to emerge from Recovery
So she can smile at you, too.


West Coast Trail Rainforest (imagining the worst for you while hoping for the best)

his car, packed
enough food for just one man
the trip, driven
enough road for thousands of wheels
the trail, hiked
enough space for skies full of thoughts
the beach, camped
enough miles for years of loss

thoughts come
numerous as the rocks on the beach
and as uncomfortable
as under a naked ass
at high tide

in all this space
absent the cluttering electric
this is the real unplugged
the acoustic pluck

if it could only be so pleasant
as that one folk song

but the dissonance astounds
the beach echoes
waves to the edge of the damp forest
where hollow takes on a new meaning

where tree roots enter
and never return

later in the tent, you try to rest
the weary contemplations
and your head
on the fleece-lined blow up pillow
that packs down smaller
than your left testicle
you try to rest, but you stay awake

at night

the mouth
chastising the brain
that convinced you

this trip was a good idea
for a half a century
old body wondering if this life
is a glass as full as
a tipped-over era

Postcard #7

Where We Climb

we would disappear
into this
green footfalls
muffled in the embracing
forest branches
welcome the ones
who would vanish in this

Written on a postcard depicting the forest at the feet of Mt. Rainier, one of those “wish you were here” kinds of places. I can’t get enough of these pinnacle places. Sent to Judy in Qualicum Beach, BC.

Postcard #6

Damn Postcard, Glorious Mountain

in every vision i search
words to describe
but it is just a
snow, glaciers
she is a tower; bows into the lake with
four small hikers in her distance
one dead tree
with this pen and this
small square paper language
and an imaginary iceberg
urging the melt
i yearn merely to stand
at her feet

Written on a postcard of the foothills leading to Mt. Baker and her glacier-heaving sides. Sent to Lynne in Hoboken, NJ


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