Original Song – This Invisible Ocean

For mom.


As a wild eyed child, little shovel in hand,
I dug for treasure in a box full of sand.
I uncovered a seashell, a spiral of ivory,
And ran to ask my mother what this wonder might be.

She motioned to the plains, as she explained to me
How they were underwater as far as you could see.
I looked out in amazement as the tall trembling trees
Trickled as they shifted in the quick liquid breeze.

I turned to my mother and I said, “No way!
You mean what we see here, that’s just today?
But mama, oh mama,” I said, suddenly afraid.
“Mama, oh mama, why can’t it stay the same?
Mama, oh, mama, will the water come again?”

She took me in her arms and kissed my salty tears,
Caressed my dirty forehead, and whispered in my ear,
“If you live in this moment, you will learn to swim
This invisible ocean that we’re living in.”

Original Poem – Gone Colorado *Remix*

       Gone Colorado — Remix  (‘Cheek to Cheek’ lyrics by Irving Berlin)

Heaven, I’m in heaven
      How is it we’ve slipped into this impossible altitude?
And my heart beats so that I can hardly speak
      Two wine-drunk lovers in a silver station-wagon;
      The humming miles vanish beneath us.
When we’re out together dancing cheek to cheek

      Half-past midnight on South Colorado 7,
      Riding the highway lines at perfect speed,

Heaven, I’m in heaven
And the cares that hung around me through the week
      Teasing the subtle urge of annihilation,
      Fearless under an absent sky,
      Timeless now, for a moment.
When we’re out together dancing cheek to cheek

       The night was invisible–smothered out of sight
       By the crawling tide of cumulonimbi.

Oh I love to climb a mountain
       Lost to Larimer County,
       Lost to the summits of the Twin Sisters,
       Lost to the jagged shadows of Taylor,
      Tungsten, and Hurricane Hill.

Oh I love to go out fishing
      Gone Colorado, gone Kansas,
      We fling out spotlight of awareness
      Not knowing what blind forgotten gods
      Peer out from the flashing rock faces.

Come on and dance with me
      You, leaning in now,
      Ethereal in the cyan glow of the dashboard display
      Lowering your window,
      A rush of wind spills wildly in.
Will carry me through

      I forgive you your cigarette
      As twists of your auburn hair leap and tangle;
      If you could have known your beauty then.

Right up to heaven, I’m in heaven
      Where spectral clouds born of wind and mist
      Fall softly on the foothills,
And I seem to find the happiness I seek
      We are timeless still,
      Blissful and oblivious to our inevitable descent
When we’re out together dancing, out together swinging
      Blank stars,
      Gone moon.
Out together dancing cheek to cheek

Original Poem – To The Stars

       To the Stars (an ekphrastic prose-poem)

Ad Astra“The bronze statue of the Kansa warrior, Ad Astra, was placed on top of the [state capital] dome in 2002. […]. The warrior faces toward the North Star, a symbol of finding one’s way. The statue is named for the state motto: Ad astra per aspera, “To the stars through difficulties.”
̶ Kansas Historical Society.

With great difficulty all four thousand, four hundred and twenty pounds of you journeyed three thousand miles without lifting a foot to cross highway, country road, river, or creek, through native-named cities and native-named counties of a native-named state where you were reported to be considered magnificent and made eye contact with no one. Hollow cast in silicon, bronze, and brass, designed as a Kansa; destined never to touch the tender black soil, breathe in the soft sigh of the golden prairie winds, or rest your unliving eyes on these gentle sloping plains; and as a warrior; never to know a single test of courage or undergo any rite of passage, having no spirit to prove worthy. Grown twenty-two feet in fourteen years (though never born) you were given your Latin name.

At first you were second choice only to the crop goddess Ceres, before her reputation was ruined by rumor of scandalous liaisons with brother Jupiter. It was eventually decided that you, as an Indian, were at least a little less controversial than the incestuous pagan, and you were given the honor of a permanent home on the Statehouse dome, and awarded all the weather you could want.

After disappointing a crowd of thousands by refusing your bolts on first attempt, you were again hoisted by four hundred and fifty foot crane and finally fixed atop the copper cupola. The four tribes were in attendance at your formal dedication and blessings were televised as native tongues spoke at long last of final peace and you were declared by the honorable Governor Graves to be both powerful and majestic.

Ten years later I climb the two hundred and ninety-six steps to stand twenty-three feet below your anchored moccasins where I see you sickly green and barely clothed, even in bitter January, wearing only feather headband, necklace, and loincloth all made of your same metal. You stand in frozen motion, at three hundred and four feet and still looking up, stretching taut your bow-string, arrow-point tipped towards Polaris, the bulging muscles of your arms knowing only the ache and tension of the draw, never the relief of release or the simple knowing if you have ever aimed true.

Original Poem – Train Park (Lawrence, KS)

     Train Park, Lawrence, KS — March 12 — 12:30 pm

This park has a historical name–
Watkins or Wilson or something
that nobody can remember. We call it
the ‘train park’ for the matte-black
steam engine on silent display
on the east end–meekly corralled
within an aluminum chain-link fence.
Anachronistic, sad behemoth,
smokestack still wintry cold, no doubt,
though I’ll never know for sure–to touch
is to trespass. I sit on a wooden park bench
observing this relic of industry
resting, dense as an anvil,
across the long bowl of the lawn–
a tree-rimmed sunken oval with grass like
a frayed straw mat, a haphazard growth
of slender hay-needles among
an under-scattering of green. The birds
are mostly robins: orange-chested, earthy,
unelegant; standing on their twiggy legs, beaks
southward except for the occasional erratic poking
for insects in the spongy earth; shaded by the naked
sycamore–branches bare, dark bark stripped
to show the smooth, pale flesh of the true trunk.
Stray and wayward twitters hint at invisible others–
robins and sycamores. The March sun sinks golden
heat slowly down into my glowing skin, my cells
soak in the waves, atoms singing. The traffic
moves steadily, efficiently, noisily–work trucks
hum-rumbling North to the highway. The buzz-whir
of an airplane somewhere in the blank-blue
sky calls my eyes up into nothingness.
My gaze falls back onto the locomotive,
its iron atoms still sleeping,
refusing to reflect the light of late-winter sun, hidden
in 3/4 of its own shadow on my side–you’d rather hide
in your shadow than reflect that simple sun. I read
your name stencil-sprayed in chalky white
–A.T. & S.F. 1073–and I know I’m not as lonely as I feel.
No more out of place, out of time, or forgotten
than this locomotive and I know that my love is purest
from a distance. And I know that I cannot love you
alone, but maybe, you and the locomotive; you
and the robin in the shadow of the sycamore; you
and the park, the traffic, the city; you
and the sky, the sunlight singing in my skin; you
and the poem in the shadow of my hand.