Category Archives: In the woods


I unearthed my old grad school poet’s notebook this morning. Cracking the cover, I found a sheaf of paper that held several iterations of a poem (c. ’00) I remember sweating over for months. My handwritten revisions scrawled on the printed pages a glimpse into the mind of a young, hungry, hopelessly romantic, and obsessive poet trying to find “the thread,” as William Stafford writes impeccably about in his poem The way it is. I’m emotional here, finding these artifacts of myself, and re-discovering Mr. Stafford’s poem. So much time has passed in the last 15 years. So much life. Love. Loss. I’m amazed, heartbroken, grateful, and open-armed for today, and the rest of the days that I’m given while on this planet. I may be a little older, but thankfully I’m still hungry, just as hopelessly romantic, and (slightly) less obsessive. And I guess that’s the point. Somehow, I’ve managed to hold the thread. 

Whether or not the poem has done the same (let alone found the thread the first place) is another story. Anyhow, I thought I’d share the finished (as it were) piece with you.


Exhaled from routine like birth into warm water I cannot see where I’ve been. Trying to climb from here the trees reach their nimble fingers & arms & backs & roots accept me. Hold my weight & rock me as I climb. They won’t break as I won’t break. There is always energy in the tree and myself. A will to stand.

Into the tree I am absorbed & moved with the xylem & phloem & I can see with leaf-eyes & feel with bark skin & intercambial intuition & my feet are warm & moist in the summer & cool & dry in the winter.

I will stand when I climb on my father’s shoulders or my mother’s fierce love & leap for the ring of blue sky over a field of yellow wheat & valleys of wild craning sunflower necks with their collective corolla-eyed sun-mane as they face the sun until it goes down.

Without fail I will swing on those rings over the river that grew to swallow towns & fill harbors with driftwood & dreams & styrofoam & people who could not hold on & now float & twirl in the eddys roiling off upstream rocks to the harbor (always back to the harbor). A meromixis. Our bi-annual aqueous rotation from sediment to surface. We hold on though, for all we’re worth in spite of ourselves. 

Steam that rises from super-hot lava super-cools in saltwater forming islands that can only serve as places to stand or tie off our boats while we bob & glass the horizon for any signs of life & look at our broken oars with longing & angst that we weren’t better prepared & all of the focus in the world isn’t making me feel as though I’ll sustain the black clouds that are passing to the north of us drawing cloud buckets of ocean to distill & carry & deposit on parched, thirsty Mid-Western ground. We’re all so miraculously connected.

Through the course of a sunrise
the philosophies of a full coffee pot
& a yawning stretch make sense.
The front door starts the deer from their beds,
flagging through swale, slow bounding into
the stand of hardwoods east of the house like a list of poems I have yet to write.
Familiar & unrecognizable people mouth silent words
& then disappear into a lingering sense
that something important happened while I slept.

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Filed under In the woods, On the water, Poetry


For a minute

hush for one second
I said

hold still
what do you hear
I asked


then off they went


Filed under Fatherhood and venison jerkey, In the woods, On the water, Poetry



look out from the mountain
hear her voice giant and sprawling
a song going on & on
in pine and sky
her inspiration far
closer than her horizon


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Filed under In the woods, Poetry



I sing my wisdomless parable to the again changing season. To the birds’ hushed morning selves. To the gathering blanket of snow. To the clouds thinly veiling the west-setting moon while a fire builds in the blue east/southeast. It’s a song I sing alone from inside my flannel collar and a pair of untied hunting boots while the dog does her business and my kids still sleep, soon to be finding their own path in this day. It’s a song I’m growing happier to sing and each time it escapes my lungs it travels with gathering volume and purpose that carries further into the dawn woods. That carries past farm fields and timbered hillsides, past river-valleys and table-flat expanses, past canyon depths and mountain-pine heights, past desert-purple storm clouds and achingly endless highways, past oceans. A song that carries years of highwaysong tires, scuffed duffel bags and perpetually rigged fly rods, a windshield full of bugs, bad wiper blades, diners with homemade anything, crackling FM radio signals and heartbreaking lyrics, big-city bypasses, rocky coastlines, saltspray and surf, tide charts, rivers, buzzing florescent gas station lights, small-town stoplight intersections, drawls and colloquialisms, live music, cold beer, brown liquor, hot coffee held with both hands, second-shift factory traffic, railcars, cattle in tall grass, school busses and minivans with soaped football pep-rally windows, dry-stacked stone walls, stretched-wire fences, kudzu, red clay, midnight-black skies shot-through with stars, 6 a.m. flights, foreign places and voices and smells and tastes, familiar hospitality, fold-worn and yellowed paper maps, the blur of sage and horizon promise of life lived at 80 miles an hour. This morning though, while they still sleep, a heart-in-throat song of conquering the sledding hill with the kids, swimming summer away, breakfast table truths, sporting events, report cards, creek-bottom hikes, family cookouts lingering on into firefly nights, friends, laughter, campfire smoke and universe-bound sparks, being outside and in this life one season into the next and on and on. This song finding its wisdom and place. Here. In life’s run-on sentence. Peace in the cacophony.

It’s small peace. A comma. Perhaps.
Maybe a line-break. 
But peace, regardless.
And I’m grateful for it.

Here’s to 2015.


Filed under In the woods, On the water, Poetry, The road


In the woods. On the water.

shifting thumbprint wandering at dawn higher arc of lightrise laying claim to shadows in the woods connection of connections swollen creek beds blessed arteries of water & reflected sky from heaven to here earth’s heartbeat a pine-needle gallop eastern facing westward warming

hill to hill picking up the eternal conversation right where it left off same words evershifting cadence mumbling brightly then brighter still birds alive again in song cardinal & fox keenly unaware of their own fire a shock of life in this landscape a breath in this conversation running headlong into the sudden color of tomorrow

remember green remember when there was green there see it from our hilltop sodden waking mat of leaves underfoot the sneaky hue of maple buds overhead the world is brawling & wide bursting from this outstretched palm connection of connections carrying on how easily we forget how to live how simple it is to be alive


Filed under In the woods, Poetry