Archive for December, 2011

The Bird Slave

Open your mouth, a

sound may ensue, who

the moon so pure

a wandering monk carries it

across the sand[1]

the breastbone of

a sea otter bleaching

at the Mattole Estuary

daylight, footprints

losing form in wet sand

so close to the sea they

are little seas, hooves

of stilt walkers


above, probably above

wherever you are

from Cape Mendocino.

‘Rest assured you

will feel the Wrath

of Ruwanda and

the stick of War!’

Sonia Gandhi’s photo

somehow mothers this

improbable sentiment

the detritus of a lean-to

on the beach, giving us

an approximate date

in the moonlight a worm


drills through a chestnut[2]

once again the sun

has risen, flat painted

boards glow a minute

& a half, no more

we all know about


especially the rust on

the fishing boat’s fuel

tank, half buried

harbor seals driven

from harbors by sea

lions bob in the ocean

surf evenly rolling

monotonously except

in suggestion, extending

the Lost Coast and

nomenclature rapt

with temporality

the Mattole Indians

exterminated, joining

the seals at sea

but for a woodpecker

tapping at a post, no sound

at all in the house[3]

due west Japan

is the nearest neighbor

save the whales

calling to migrating birds

to anemones gyrating

toward nudibranchs

Suribachi never plumes

while shrieks are rarely human

jellyfish rise and fall

toward the bird slave

it has a name

you can discover

in the sand, some say

baby mice in their nest

squeak in response

to the young sparrows[4]

no rainbow forms

under its wing even

when the sun catches

the rain

sweeping the beach

decaying trees

stripped of bark

may you be filled with

loving kindness, may

you live in peace & ease[5]

barred-tailed godwits

en route from Alaska to

New Zealand non-stop

as the slave’s wings

close without gender

without shadow

come out to view

the truth of flowers blooming

in poverty[6]

the heart

Lord Kelvin’s

coldest moment

the rough sea –

extending toward Sado Isle,

the Milky Way[7]

in the hills above

the estuary armed

patrols defend

the marijuana crop

in the lagoon diaphanous

mist incubates

the Slave Bird’s egg

ripe with volcanoes

feeding from the eye

a star, a desiccating star

sifts the beach’s sand

poaches basking cetaceans

bakes the dunes, the windswept shrubs

wonder only

cloaks life held

in a breath

dilapidation hides structure

jumbled colors disguise order

torn curtains hint at peace

the bird flutters, readies

its wings to fly

enforcer, silence, wind

[1] a translation from Basho

[2] another translation from Basho

[3] yet another translation from Basho

[4] still another translation from Basho

[5] metta mantras

[6] an instruction noted from Basho

[7] another Basho haiku


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