for Ms. Oliver


What am I doing
when you look over and catch me
and a scrap of laughter finds its way out
as you ask me

This isn’t exactly rhetorical.
And I know I usually answer
“Just thinking.”

But what happens is
we fall for someone,
and even if we don’t admit it,
we notice

when they read a book
and the morning sun filtering in through the blinds
gathers in their hair
like light illuminating a marble sculpture
as their eyes drift away from the pages;

and they have their own little sounds of contentment
that exit and dance in the air
as they spread butter or twirl spaghetti;

or there’s that thing they do with their face;

or whether they talk or remain quiet in the woods-
whether they know of wisdom or of reverence;

the way they say exactly;

and their endless ocean of silence
made up of every word they never say,
and the why;

and islands, as well-
those secret islands we might bring each other to,
and the maps only each the other holds,
will ever hold…


the bird’s feet run, stop, run, stop, run across the sand.
The bird is looking for something,
and the spray and flowing crawl of the sea
whispers the tracks away.

The dog lopes along the snowbanks,
breaks into a run, cuts to the side, stops, turns,
runs back and tackles you.
You have forgotten that he loves you
and so now must be reminded.
It’s not your fault. The dog knows you’re only human.

The horse is stretched out
and running freely into the wind,
which does not slow her.
The fields are deep in green
and the thunderheads are dark of blue,
and she kicks at the striking lightning.
The horse loves the storm, you see,
as the storm loves her back.


that I have buried many dead things,
yet have unearthed my own heart every time.
Consider all the times we’ve each done so.

So in all honesty, when you catch me,
I’m not “just thinking”
(even though that may sound better).

As you’ve noticed, I like to pay attention.
Must pay it, in fact.

If I could offer a thing more precious,
then please,
tell me.

That’s all I’m doing, my dear.

I’m just paying attention.


My dear,
a dog, you say?

and that’s how you might come off,
if you want to.
I do the same, you know.

Nothing wrong with that.
They teach us how to be better humans.

All life is an unfolding, though-
from the penitent,
the servient,
the agreeable,
to the undormant,
the lost,
the restless prowl;
and perhaps,
back again
in that long hunt for the pack,
for a kill of your own.
And even then, back again.

I got quite good
at holding in my howl too, you know.
They want nothing more
than a helpful bark.


Who can see what lies hidden
in the secret fires of your heart?
Who can see your eyeglow
at the scent of blood?
Who can hear the sinking sun-chorus
fade into nightsong,
or feel the rain cling to their coat
as they slip through the deep-wood?

The very same lies in wait,
inside the faithful one
curled at your feet.
This you’ve seen.

They do teach us, don’t they?

It’s the same for anyone like us, I suppose;
it’s all in the way your soul walks the earth,
in the tracks you leave,
in the scent you follow-

je suis cage,
je suis libre,
je suis chien du maison,
je suis loup du bois

In the Halls of Light and Thunder

There is an aurora tonight,
and my pen is heavy.

Friends drove out beyond the light pollution
to witness this miracle-
out to where I came from,
to where my heart
lies beating in the wilderness
where it was forged.

I did not go,
and I have no answers for their questions.
This pen feels like a neutron star.
My soul has flown south for awhile.
That heart, out in the mountains, seems faint-
so faint from here. I strain to hear it.

I wander to the edge
of these suburbs at midnight.
I have no answers for their questions.
The distant voice of the highway
hums in the dark.

I cannot see the aurora, but what did I expect?

A thunderstorm is gathering, though-
quickly, insistently, intently
to the west;
cutting between the solar wind
and the city lights.

It is silent save for crickets
and I force this pen to move,
because I have to.
I have to.

A scent of summer flowers and water cleansing
I force this pen to move
and I have no answers for their questions.

I cannot see the stars,
but they are where they are.
I cannot see the aurora,
but it dances on the face of the earth.

Rumbling echoes fading in the dark.
Electric arclight stabs and spits and forks
staccato into the cloudwall rising.

I strain my ears to listen.
I breathe.
I force my pen to move.

Heavy it may be;
but how else-
how else to hear your heart beat,
to hear you breathe,
somewhere out there,
under a storm of your own
(and, perhaps, a solar wind)?

How else
to hear my own heart,
singing in the mountains?

A stray dog stops for a moment,
at the edge of these suburbs,
in the rumble-echo,
in the rising summer wind;
we regard each the other in silence.

Finding no questions to ask me,
he resumes his journey without looking back.

Canis Lunaris


Why does she run,
always out of reach,
twisting halfway
in a leaping dodge through the fresh powder
and over the melting riparian edge
with that sly and challenging smirk,
that furrowed brow?

All day, I thought it
-play-, thought
-pack hierarchy-, thought
-willful child-,

which I accepted, of course.
Leashes are to be used sparingly.

Should I have even been asking?

It only occured to me
after some time had passed-
she was trying to show me the


and that I, being only human,
couldn’t follow all the way.


She was sitting on the couch,

Well, not really dying, per se.

She was staring out the window
at the darkness fallen across the land.

“I hate winter.”

She shivered, even with the blanket.

The dog wandered over,
hopped up,
sat down next to her.
Opened its jaws, grinning.

{Know what I like about winter?}
“What’s that.”
{Spring’s just around the corner.}
She sighed.
“I suppose.”
She stared out the window again.

{Let’s go run around and eat snow.}

She raised her eyebrow.
The dog raised one back.

“OK. Come on.”

{Cool. I’ll wait for you at the door.}

She grabbed her coat.

{Oh. My. God.}
“What now?”
{A small piece of bacon on the floor.
See! Like I told you
when I woke you this morning!
Best day ever!}