Tuesday, September 30, 2014


Here is a big guy I caught on an Oregon coastal river.  When I was a kid fishing in the same spot, a giant one, maybe 60 or 70 pounds, knocked me on my butt as I guided him to shore, then charged with his hooked toothy jaw, swerving at the last instant as his submarine airborne olive-speckled back sank into green invisibility.  The line broke and neurons fired.  I was living.

Last year, Toyon, at Humboldt State University, published a poem about another big salmon I lost:

Cliff Salmon

The monster Chinook bit my lure, my foot slipped,
and I crashed 14 feet into the water with a sore butt cushioned by stones.
Stuart jabbed me with a net to save my life but I told him to get the fish.

In that moment I was a water version of Sam McGee standing heart-deep,
bloody arms and legs, happily watching the olive-spotted slab
of ocean-bright silver run and roll and head shake and leap.

Five freight train runs and still strong enough to make the reel sing.
Five freight train runs and still strong enough to break the surface
of that other world.

Our adrenaline surged around boulders into slack water,
him eyeing the crazy fisherman who wouldn’t let go,
me eyeing his ancient prize of 10,000 years of wild red flesh,

brought together by hard rain down the mountain,
he, eventually tearing free of the hook, and I, outside the flames of time
for only as long as we fought.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Starfisher Days

I had a good 6 mile walk along the sea today remembering my Starfisher days in Oregon.  Very soon, I will be back there eight months a year, and here in San Diego four months a year.  Last week I was delighted to join writers Peggy Shumaker and David Romtvedt at Clerestory: Poems of the Mountain West, and John Steinbeck, Arthur Miller, and T.C. Boyle in Confrontation. Clerestory accepted "Meditation on Emptiness Between Universes," and Confrontation took "View of Modern War from Space Station."  Fish on!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Rumi Snow Cone

On my daily walks along the sea in San Diego, young ones sport neon-bright tattoos and hair streaks like they crashed into a giant snow cone stand that morphed into beautiful art such as eagles, roses, haiku, etc.  I want to ask, “Yeah, but why not put all those colors on your soul too, instead of just skin and hair?”

I imagine them saying, “Keep drinking your Jolt Cola, old man.”

I will.  Rumi is my Jolt Cola.

Speaking of California surf, here is my latest activist poem that appeared in Rivet: The Journal of Writing That Risks: “What I Can’t Say at My Neighbor’s Party Looking at a Map of the United States.”  In a related matter of media distortion, I watched the film Fed Up, which should be required-viewing for all students and parents.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Five Seabeck Poems

Thanks to Larry Kerschner, editor of Pacific Call, and Ellen Finkelstein, organizer for the Western Washington Fellowship of Reconciliation (WWFOR),  for publishing my "Five Seabeck Poems" I wrote July 3 through July 6 as a Friends of William Stafford Scholar at the "Speak Truth to Power" Fellowship of Reconciliation Seabeck Conference on Hood Canal in Washington.  I wanted to go because poet William Stafford and his wife Dorothy were FOR members since the 1940s.

Monday, September 1, 2014

Manifesto from Poet on a Dying Planet

Thanks to editor Crystal S. Gibbins of Split Rock Review for publishing my "Manifesto from Poet on a Dying Planet."  This online literary magazine was founded in 2012 in the Northwoods of Minnesota, "among log rollers, hikers, anglers, and dawn treaders" -- just my kind of place. The magazine's three issues have great poems by Cullen Bailey Burns, Charles Rafferty, Karen Skolfield, Michael Hettich, Dana Yost, Vivian Faith Prescott (image-poem), Amy Waugh, Grant Clauser, Nicholas A. White, Emily O'Neill, Emily Corwin, Barbara Draper, Mark Thalman, and John C. Mannone.

My poem in the current issue, "Bumper Sticker: Extinction is Forever," is meant to go with my "Manifesto . . ."