Monday, January 17, 2011

Touching A Sore Place

Photo by Maureen Hurley, Marin County

—Daniel Williams, Wawona, CA

A chunk of firewood
Is at heart a hunk of time
And time moves slowly or
Quickly according to perspective
I found this stunted old oak
On the southwest-facing slope
Of the Merced canyon

500 years it fought to live
Encircled by Yerba Santa
Manzanita     bear clover
Its leaves a thousand green
And gold butterflies
Given flight by winds
Howling down canyon
A lack of water
On this arid slope
Compressed its tough cells
Into a thick tight metal

I gather its snow-torn branch

Then cut its branch into compact loaves
For my stove     from acorn to
Firebox what long worlds of earth
And animals and people
What endless crawl of light and dark—
This winter solstice it will keep
My little cabin nicely warm
For just one night

While silent snowfall builds
And wind stacks layer upon layer
Making rafters creak
This 5-century flame will melt and
Dissolve itself into a bed of royal blue
Its terrible temperatures having robbed
It of all time in just one night
Then from hot to warm
In the endless cycle of cosmic cold
It recalls nothing of canyons and white heat
This fine gray dust cleansed of all things


—Daniel Williams

We’ve all gathered here
To put this place together
Out of the goodness
Of our hearts
All materials having been
Donated by local merchants

With the blessings of pastors
And of course corporate backing
We have worked 24/7
Sawing those saws
Swinging those hammers
Creating walled space

If you are over 30 years of age
Since you’ve arrived on this planet
Over half the species that were here
Before you have gone extinct

Close to two-thirds of all the oil
This planet has ever seen
Is now gone

You have another 30 years
To see a robin

10 years and going to Glacier NP
Will be an exercise in futility     but
You still have 10 years
To see a giant sequoia

In 20 years whatever you do
Don’t go to the seashore or
Swim in any ocean

In 50 years your planet will be
An arid lifeless rock
Every species having gone off
To find a planet that truly needs it

If you can hold on five years more
There may be spacecraft and fuel
That can carry a few of you safely
To yet another arid lifeless rock


—Daniel Williams

Inside there are cedar logs on the fire
A feral warmth creeping throughout
Each room     Inside is all about the
Exterior what impinges upon us
From our personally created space

Then step outside—
Outside the world is all about the
Interior we gaze out from within
And hunker over our own
Blood-borne flames

After snow the sweet tang of ocean air
The fragrant scent of frost and pine
Of mold and earth
However faint

I stoop to shovel a light fluff of snow
Off the pathway to the woodshed
The ground frozen hard
My heart pounding

Cougar tracks trotting past through
Bear clover in the ravine to the river
A four-point buck moving fast
A lead gray sky

Outside pushes me through my door—
Inside a slight incense of smoke
Peering through my curtain I watch
Darkness coming on


Autumn Equinox
—Daniel Williams

Mountain Peak
Wedges darkly between
Sunset     wide expanses of trees
Water ribbon wraps
About boulders and firs—
Sudden evening     quietly damp

Star lowers into electraglow

Our wedge widens into a
Dark bird    great blue heron
On wing following its beak

To mysteries waiting
Beyond the waterfall
Withering on cliffs opposite

Red flash to the west
And our shadow-bird melds
Into a greater blackness of vivid sky

An oak sits on the meadow

Its leaves aglow with light
White mists all around
Internal fires cold flames licking
Ends of branches ever so much

More brilliance than awesome wings
Of any dark bird of the mountain
Could ever cover
Without turning to ash



but don’t swim there.

Stay safely along the
crusty shore:

that moment of awakening

when vision is blurred
by the slippery, broken
bridge between last night’s
dreams of prospects

and the unfinished
chores awaiting each
new day.

Step back
away from the river
and gather firm materials to
finally build a reliable bridge
that your children may cross.

Step back from the sirens
of tears that lap at your feet
and follow your children
across the bridge.

—Carl Bernard Schwartz, Sacramento


—Carl Bernard Schwartz

In Mexico over 150 cars,
including a police car and
an ambulance, were involved
in a mass collision. Officials
blamed it on the fog and ice.

In Tennessee about 20% of the
females at one high school are
now or have been pregnant.
Their parents blamed it on the
fog and ice.

In New York the Knicks lost
a game to the Kings. Knicks
fans blamed it on the fog and

In purgatory some souls were
sent in the wrong direction.
Angels blamed it on the fog
and ice.


—Patricia Hickerson, Davis

Los Angeles matron—
really a 40-year-old child—
flew up to the magic city
in 1968
Parnassus St., 3 a.m.
large bare room
crowd of 70 people
heavy aroma…
bongos, drums, congas
cha cha cha
hey, you’ve got good moves

slumped now
dreaming down down down
turned inside out head bent
sitting on the floor-borne mattress
was that someone banging the door downstairs?
sit tight, is it a bust? flush your drugs…

too much noise we’re told
oh sorry, officer
we’ll stop it right now

time to go home
into the sweet dreaming Marijane sleep


Today's LittleNip: 

Like touching a sore place, once he has seen the abyss he is forever at its rim.

—Stephen Dobyns



Photo by Maureen Hurley