New Poem for a Cold Night
It's all ice on top of snow here. The migrations really touched me this year. My cranes came over in fast wedges--no time left for dawdling in circles in the sky. The last geese and ducks are long gone. The last lone wild turkey walks around in a general snit as the freeze comes down. We see his footprints come across the white lawn and on our porch where he apparently peers in the glass door looking to see if anybody is going to toss him some cracked corn.

I'm less than 100 pages from finishing my new novel.

But I got an email todaty from White Eagle giving me Da Biz for not posting some beautiful writing this week. I don't know about beautiful, but here goes. A new poem. I was going to send it out to a lit journal, but hey--this is my own lit journal. You want me to publish one of yours? Send it my way.

In fact, I am going to follow the example of the old poetry teacher Judson Jerome and put this poem in the PUBLIC DOMAIN. If you have a lit jrnl out there that needs a poem, and whatever little bit of a "name" I have accrued, you hereby have my permission to take this poem and add it. Go ahead. But send me a copy. (Man, I am full of the Christmas spirit this week.)

Here goes:


The Duck

immense waves of flight
out from forests, out
from broken-mirror beaver
ponds of frozen mountains,
they fled from ice storms coming.
their shadows fell across the freeways
for days as I too migrated from frost
falling downslope and west,
looking to rest under a forgotten sun.
end of the continent--

it wasn't working. San Diego.
after this bad spell I had, after
one too many ghosts in my bed, you know
how you wake up some mornings with the smell of the
invisible on your fingers and the ruined broken plates
of your plans in slivers in the fireplace.
the first time I made these mistakes I was young
and poor: I was not young
anymore, but was still poor and making the same bad moves.
had enough for gas--1,000 miles: got to the house
of an old lover who stripped me naked
and drew me a bath.
I hoped
to find a home in the city I died in
for my first quarter century.
the water did not wash away
my sins.

she said: get
out. so I went out to see if my old home town
had anything as interesting as an aspen, anything
as good as glacier water or
buffaloes churning in the purple shadows of far
to Mission Bay,
put the club
on the wheel in case some vato was in the market
for a snow-beat jeep, and donned my
Colorado Department of Wildlife baseball cap.

old body made older by the fabulous
hunks of southern California flesh jogging around the bay.
just my rusted ankles and aching back and stupid, dark
ideas in a splitting head. sewage
afloat in the bay, the famous California
brown trout--idiots from El Cajon sped away
on ski-do's yawping "YAHOO!"
my usual splendid pace.
feeling hideous.

you have to remind the body it exists.
it's not all bad dreams and drooping lusts.
I passed
old men staggering along
the bastards
until my rusted right ankle
threw red sparks into my bones and
caught fire in the kindling of my leg
and pulled me down on a rock
in the piss-yellow sand, feet in rotting seaweed
and heart in the guano.

the cool air felt wonderful.
a train rolling out of San Diego, going anywhere
I wanted to be
sounded its long cry and faded
I walked to the water, put in my feet.
warm as a bath.
not bad,
I confessed.
fish fine as needles
tried to sew my toes
near the effluent pipe
that carries tampons,
teardrops and coffee into the sea,

a duck.
just one.
a mallard male,
balding and ragged.

I sat on my rock and said, 'hey."
he jumped. looked at me. wack, he muttered softly,
talking to himself. wack,
wack. I said similar things
to myself when I
typed or did
the dishes. he turned his head and watched the water.
so did I.
"all right," I said.
he looked back at me, clacked
his beak four times,
settled. he fluffed
himself and tucked
his head under a wing and went back
to sleep.

a loud wind-surfer rattled by.
"what the hell!" I said. waaaack!
he cried. wack-wack-wack!
our heads swiveled in unison
when the absurd slapping of joggers' shoes
went past us.
we watched them recede: we lost interest in their errands
at precisely the same moment
and turned back
to our meditations.

the wind ruffled his feathers.

the wind lifted my hair.

me and the duck:

I understood
the winos
of my youth,
the filthy old men
in the plaza downtown
when a fountain gurgled greenish water
and they still called the town "Dago"
and sailors rushed up Broadway
looking for tattoos
and hookers:
those old men shuffling
their vague plaza circles
reeking of piss
and port, no cents
to get on a bus
out of there: tossing
stale bread
to the birds
of the sidewalks.
holy vermin,
all of them:
those lonesome rummies
with their beautiful pigeons
sharing daylight
before winter got there.
old men
their pals.

I couldn't stay.
I didn't know
where I had to get, but
I had to go
and never
come back.

he said when I said, "so
I had miles to flee
before it
I left him
to rest
before he too
to his own

[December 13, 2007: snow]

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