1.  She is compassionate.

Oh no, she isn’t, though

she manages to act sometimes

as if her heart is an open door.

Think oak thick as storm clouds.

Think iron clasps and bars.

Think sentries in black suits.

Think Meryl Streep

in “The Devil Wears Prada.”


2.  She is organized.

You cannot see her mind,

the tics and scraps, flakes,

notes, loose words, fallen

leaves.  Have you seen

her recycling bin?

Multiply that by thousands.

Even her dreams

pile up, come apart.


3.  She is comfortable in her skin.

No.  There are other skins

she’d rather, and despair

prickles like a beggarman

in the sole of her sock.

So many years, but it’s not

those wrinkles she minds.

Rather, thin places, calluses

that will never grow.




Plaster People

Wipe Feet!

Do not go in Gallery!!

Clean up downstairs

and exit Out Back

sign in the hallway outside sculpture studio, Castleton State College


Among the paintings,

installations of true Art

the Plaster People blunder,

powdery tracks wrecking

the good carpet,

powdery fingerprints

defacing all that is

canonical and clear.


One can’t have them

scattering their dust,

clouds and billows,

the stuff of stars.


The Plaster People in their

poofy hordes trample

up from the foundations.

They have buried

every civilization in turn.

Oh, look on their creative

struction, and despair!


A friend who teaches at Castleton hung this sign up in the Arts Center there.



Australopithecus afarensis



I sit on the bones of my pelvis

wondering if you looked into my eyes

you’d see an explanation,

a daughter you’d recognize.


You would know me by my hands adept with tools.

You’d hear me singing with my friends,

watch me bounce my baby nephew on my knee.

You could meet me on a summer morning,

help me gather arnica and goosefoot greens.


So much I want to know of you:

did you fish for termites, crack nuts, chew leaves,

pull strips of flesh from antelopes and birds?

Did you awaken stiff and scared from twitching dreams?

I would tell you that when I wake from mine,

I remember my Nana’s lullabies;

I want to know if someone sang for you.


What did you make of your life?

What did you understand?

When it came your time to die, were you afraid?

Were you surprised?



Your Great Rift Valley was a careless archivist:

in her sandstone house she stashed

scrapbooks of mysteries,

a trunk of discarded fashions.

She tossed the crumbled pages

of your story in the river, to the wind.


Some artist made a grinning baby

of that ball of bones

from Afar’s nipple-pointed hills:

knees, milk teeth, tiny toes,

one finger curled, brown skull

returning from the dust.



Through dust of volcanoes

on feet like mine your people walked.


I would like to walk

into your landscape:

the yellow grass and scrub,

the seeps and gullies of home.


In this cold land of glacial till

and blue lake bottom clay

I press my feet into ground,

footbones with their musical names:

talus, calcaneus, cuboid, navicular,

cuneiform, metatarsal, infantry of phalanges.


Across years and continents

these bones have arched their way.


Southern Ape from Afar,

where have we arrived,

our footprints everywhere?


We trail white vapor through the skies;

broken machines encircle us,

the crawling increase of our kind.

We’ve made our own volcanic air.

Our children are sorted into rooms,

our babies lie crying, all alone.


We make beautiful and deadly tools.

Our music would break your heart.

Our lives shatter, our bones come apart.



Brooding over you, I dreamed

I lost my way.  I stopped

at a café where they were butchering

a road-kill fawn.  A baby escaped

from my suitcase. I had to walk

home in the dark and I could

not find my shoes.



My journals are out of order,

unsorted letters in shoeboxes.

Unnamed ancestors smile in sepia.

In one musty drawer I keep an envelope

with two baby teeth, a cheap bracelet,

my grandmother’s amber beads.


Now that I am old,

I need a Nana most of all

to sit with in the dappled shade,

to speak of things encrypted

under layers of language,

this endless chatter in my enormous brain.



I cannot look too long

in any eyes.  Before I see

the hawk, I feel its gaze.

There is something wholesome

in the taste of green.

I lie awake when the moon is full

and when the moon is new.

I remember where the plums

and wild asparagus grow.

Even now I know by smell

when the snow will come.



How hard, to evolve,

walk down across the land,

feel the twinges of selection:

bones growing longer,

speech changing the brain.

All around the world is turning,

brown and yellow and green.

Stars change the sky.

Do you remember?

Did you know?

Out of time, you walk with me

toward an Earth

as strange and familiar

as that house I sometimes dream

where once we lived,

that house I’ve never seen.                                          .




~ for Barbara J. King 

July 5, 2007




An old one, written back when we had the first airedale, who died in 1996.


Civilization will not allow for instinct:

no dinners of raw mice,

no clawing the eyes of enemies,

no mating

or defecating in the public streets.


Often, the dog scenting dog, coyote, fox

–something pungent,

instructive, on a tuft of grass–

will turn against my call, ponder, consider,

squat to make her mark.


One morning, as I walked

between red cedars, young pines,

stooped to move between low branches,

to follow a mossy path worn deep by wild feet,

I felt an insistent urge to pee.


So there it was:

a seizure by immediate beauty

–light filtered through dark pines–

compelling me to say in the simplest way I could,

my animal way,


I was here.  

This place is mine.