Shedding the Old Cloak

The plum trees signal
leave the cave,
their delicate pink buds
brave enough to face
the last winds of winter.
I have rested, gathering
strength from the dark,
the silence of root.
From the wet ground
new life slowly rises,
the comfort below
shed like an old cloak
for what waited unseen
with the colors of spring.



photograph by Sandy Brown Jensen


Across the Alvord

We scurried around
staying busy while winter
passed over the valley
and capped the mountains.
Warm air invited crows
to mass beside the river,
street people to flourish
in makeshift tents.
Even the rain let up
so no one complained
except a few old men
who remembered snow
and the way the great Columbia
used to flow from Canada.
They talked of beaver and wolf,
rivers filling the Coastal Range
and along the foothills of the Cascades
floods that stretched over miles
bearing silt from massive glaciers.
How fox would patrol the banks
and lynx screech unseen on the ridges.
The old men bagged groceries,
pumped gas for Costco
then with a grubstake
left for the Idaho
and across the Alvord
into the mountains of Nevada.
We won’t see them
until the snow gods return
when people tire of hot air
and pray once more for winter.



photograph @flaneur1874


Winter Rest

The weight of winter
blankets the mountains,
burying dark caverns
and rivers beneath blue ice.
The silence of snow
while the giant sleeps,
the only sound the crack
of a breaking branch.
Down in the valley
coils of wood smoke,
the restless cars
and persistent rain.
The Earth weaves her spell
as the fat bear snoozes,
vole and marten peeking out
from their snow covered dens.
Vast clouds stretch across the ocean,
covering the land, inviting us
to enjoy the winter rest.
There’s wood to split,
the brightness of fir logs
as they shine with inner light
and the slow cooking soup
lifting marrow into stock.
I sit by the fire,
something cooking in me,
giving myself to darkness
as the blanket of snow
stores in root
for the season to come.



photo @50shadesofpnw


Grandmother’s Blanket

Crow came by
bringing news of the forest,
of salmon asleep in branch water,
beaver at work in the creek flows
and rooted beneath the ancient trees
the peace of the earth gathered in pools
still and deep beyond measure.
Beside the old well
grandmother spreads her blanket,
her shells and stones laid out
in circular patterns,
her hands weaving stories
of what has been
and what will be
she softens with her teeth
for clothes we may wear
as we walk upon the earth.
Crow carries her heartbeat,
his black eyes and feathers
shaped by her in the long ago,
the messages he brings
reminders to be alert,
think of her beside the well
as we follow the great river
on our journey to the sea.



photograph by Edward Curtis


Soft Snoring Animal

Gray sweeping clouds
pass over the rain soaked land,
carrying ocean’s gift
to the high mountains.
Winter takes hold these long nights
while bear sleeps in his cave.
We carry on above ground,
displaying our flags
and assured opinions
as if what seems solid
will not pass in time’s river
or dissolve in the great sea.
For now I’ll join bear
with an eye to the moving clouds
and the star wheel when it appears,
letting my mind drift
with the soft snoring
of an animal
beneath the earth.




Lord of the Dance

Big drop rain and gray skies
settle over the land,
cold air and wet ground
bringing rest to the earth
in the deep sleep of winter.
Guides inform me
during blanket weather
in the shape of crows
and bare branch trees,
telling a story
older than time.
Bear dreams in his cave,
salmon come to life
in upland creeks and rivers
as the Old Ones shape a future
under the January moon.
I hold fast in the rushing water
of time and familiar faces,
letting care be taken
before speaking a word,
bowing to the Lord of the dance
then entering the flow.



photo by Shlag



Out of the world’s confusion
like a thorn filled briar,
we reach out to the heavens
our playthings set aside
for body, mind and heart
to follow the stars.
We travel by night
under deep space shining,
gaining our bearings
for the direction we take
to find our way onward
to the birthplace of innocence,
bringing our gifts
to the great light reborn.




Wanting to Give Birth

Loden green moss
and gray bark
mark the trees
gathering rain
and mists of fog
as winter settles in
with cold comfort.
I rise from the dream time
to rivers running full,
carrying mountain messages
to the ocean bar, telling the great sea
what lies beneath those peaks,
ready to awaken when the gods call.
Feeling tremors beneath the river,
the wanting to give birth,
I keep a winter vigil,
tending to the seeds of color
deep within the silent landscape,
deep within the earth.



photo by Peter Mansbach


Murder Incorporated

On seventh avenue
near the crossing with Sandy Boulevard,
thousands of crows fill the street trees,
line the rooftops, the power lines,
every pole and perch in sight.
Crows are flocking to Portland,
crossing every border.
They like our progressive politics,
the entrepreneurial business climate.
Crows are innovators, dressed in mod black,
always in touch with fashion and the latest trends.
They’ve taken seventh avenue
spreading east toward high ground.
No walls will stop them
although the hawks we brought in
and built nests for on the river bridges
chased them from downtown.
The hawks won a battle
but the crows are here for the war.
The city is prime picking and they’ve cornered
trash removal, avian security.
Murder incorporated, they fill the overhead space
and the people just drive on.
Me and my buddies are loading up on ammo,
oiling our guns, dressed in camo.
We know a fight when we see one
and we’re damned if crows will take our town.
We do like the way they look on the high wires though,
the black gear and cocky attitude, free air and all that.
Maybe we’ll make a truce, carve out a treaty.
There might be room for us and the crows
but there’ll be a price. No handouts,
no camping on the rooftops.
So far the crows say no deal, but we’ll see.



photo by Gabriele Diwald


Fisher of the Dark

I throw a line
into the dark,
the only bait
hunger and a sense
of what lies waiting
in the last hours of night.
There are tugs on the line,
then a bite, a face
from the dreamtime,
something to satisfy
the soul’s craving.
I pull you in,
remembering how
we fought and danced
across the time
we were given.
I once passed you
in a doorway, glad
to be unrecognized.
Felt you behind me
in a crowded room,
angling for contact
while I was sure
to look away.
But now
in the dark morning
there’s no escape
from the unerring fisher,
so I look and hold
your pulsing body,
remember and let
there be this knowing
before releasing you
back into the eternal.