breaking news from Montana

or Mongolia or the Mosquito Coast

we cannot nor must not


travel the main road, an old

two-lane macadam patrolled

by soldiers and tanks, uniformly


against us, so we have no options

nothing else to do but cross this plank

runway, follow its rough-cut slab


boardwalk through the heart of this

forest-jungle, a timber avenue

untrodden, mythic in size, where no one


has dared pass to the foot of its

looming beam-tower, let alone

scale the redwood monolith rising


three hundred feet toward the sun

thick as the Empire State Building

and shouldered by boulders


an insurmountable climb we must

bound and fly like bird-men heroes

there’s no other way, impossible


improbable, the stuff of this dream

back home we admire its ominous

peak a blue-gray stone mystery


this monumental idol awash in squalls

of snow and rain though we don’t know

what it means nor how we scaled it


hiding here to sneak glimpses

from this curtained gable-window

we wonder what happened to the sun


that warmed the grained apron

and how we got here from there

to a different kind of silence, cloudy


no cedar-song on its shadow-side

scale means nothing and everything—yes

those troops are still rolling this way

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In Dependence

wedding shot 001 

Got married

by the JP

on Wednesday,

July 4th,



it gave us

a long



tearing up

a sweaty

double bed,

two squeezed

in a trailer

house tub,


cold duck

from paper cups.


35 years

later we


my niece’s


on the Bitterroot

River, toast

the young

couple with


and hope

they discover

the key

we found

for longevity

together—don’t lie

to yourself,

and never lie

to your lover,

you’ll weather

any shit

if you’re true

to each other.

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At a drive-in with dectective checking c

At a drive-in with dectective checking c

So here we are in Missoula again,

the last time was 53 years ago

when you were living

in that trailer court behind

the Mountain View Drive-In.

We could sit at the kitchen table

and watch a movie out the window

while we ate our Swanson TV dinners.

No sound of course, but it was

really something to see, that

pantomime on the big screen.


Later on, we’d drive downtown

to cruise the drag and gawk at the array

of flashing neon signs in the dark,

especially the “Holiday Village” tower—

like Times Square on the Vegas Strip.


You were so young, and I was a kid,

chubby and crew-cut as your hubby

who played accordion and guitar,

shot arrows at bales of hay.

He chauffeured us everywhere

in that 56 Ford—a cloud of blue

smoke followed us to buy bottles

of Coke and bags of potato chips.


You two were just married

and pregnant with Ricky.

Before my 8th birthday

I became Uncle Mark. By then

you’d moved back to Alberton

because that was the home

you never wanted to leave

and didn’t until now after 30

or so years of Parkinson’s Disease

has all but wasted you

and brought you back to me.


The drive-ins are gone, but

your TV set is always on. Too bad

Dr. Phil and Oprah have replaced

Gary Cooper and Doris Day,

you and me doing the dialogue

and dealing Crazy Eights—which seems

way better than these self-help clown’s

pandering their tragicomic routines.


Our giant tehno-steps have left

much of our humanity behind.

I guess that’s just part of the recipe.

Now it appears your fallen cake

has just about baked, and

they’re preheating the oven for me.

Selfishly I was glad to hear you were moving

closer to me—though I know

you’d rather die on Petty Creek.


In all our days these last 60 years,

we’ve never uttered those words:

I love you. I guess we can thank

our parents for that handicap

(if that’s what it is). The old man

distrusted that phrase more than

any other, and our mother was cut

from similarly tough threads.


On Fern’s death bed we joked

the chaplain about what we didn’t know

nor believe about this life or what’s after,

and he laughed at our candor or maybe

he too was a lamb astray (we agreed

that he was a damn good minister

to pagan grief). I recalled the story

Tommy Lee Jones’ character tells

at the end of No Country For Old Men

about a dream he had where

it’s getting dark and he and his dad

were riding through a blizzard

where they couldn’t see ten feet

in front of their horses. His dad told him

not to worry, that the horses knew

the way. He’d see him up the trail.

His father rode off and disappeared.

The boy was alone, yet he wasn’t afraid.

He knew his dad would have a fire

built by the time he got to camp

and be waiting to dish up the beans . . .


My voice cracked, picturing

my mother standing at the stove

frying bacon, no dentures, hair on end . . .

then I cried when I saw you crying,

and we laughed and cried

the way grown children laugh-cry

bucking up while their mother dies.

I loved you then more than I ever had,

and I have loved you every day

of my life, like those nights

we popped corn and danced

while Butchy “rolled out the barrel”

on his mother-of-pearl squeeze box

or that shark-toothed guitar

while we sang and circled and danced

and fell, rolled laughing on the braided rug.

You were so alive and so much fun

back then when we were young

and happy to be laughing . . . now


I know you’re wore out and our tour

is almost done, that this ode

is overly sentimental and sappy to some

(those smart-young cynics

and plenty of older ones)

but I didn’t write it for them. Odes

written for loved ones are the roots

of poetry best published on

refrigerators and bedroom mirrors.


The postmodern literary world doesn’t

abide clumsy love-letter poems, so

no one will ever read this

in Poetry magazine. That hardly

matters to you or me . . . so whoever

gets there first will remember

to stir the beans, maybe cut up

some hot dogs or bacon for the pot,

and keep an eye on that coffee can

before it rolls to a boil and puts

the fire out ’cause we’ll both be

more than ready to eat by that time . . .

and joke about our saddle sores.

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rose hill blues


          chorus 52–for Jack


funny you should mention

them ol clickity-clack blues

i been rollin round with dr. sax

searchin for my walkin shoes


so its funny you should mention

you got that hobo moan a-goin

cause ol master jack he cracked

them railroad blues stoned


and he spun it for the ding-dang-dung

punny fun of it, spent his dues

pulled his daisy with bowery bums

who dug his high-ballin blues


it’s funny how it rattles the panes

and slam-bams you to sleep, switchin

trains, bells and whistles in your black-rain

dream, empty bottle in hand, fingers twitchin


i’ll be damned if it ain’t funny how

that beat-hip trip rolls round again

and the bluesmen join up singin

in boxcars robert johnson hymns


brother we’re all takin for a ride

we’re all born to sing a kind of blues

that’s why we love trains in the night

that’s why we refuse to choose


just lay down, listen and snooze, lose

ourselves like kids tucked-in on rose hill

listenin, schemin to hitch and sing

bobby mcgee or maybe woody guthrie will


set us free as reds in the land of white

kerouacian mimics tippin back a pint bottle

like blue-black runners powderin the night

and casey jones speedin dead at full throttle

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pickle smile blues

shakespeare & co.

shakespeare & co.


the old lady broke my pickle

jar, coins across the floor.

she picked out all the quarters,

didn’t close the fuckin’ door.


oh, mercy, momma,

you’re just a two bit whore.

you don’t respect your daddy,

he want you that much more.


so come on home, baby,

when your sober and poor,

come back to me woman,

shop your daddy’s store.


he’s got a big ol’ pickle

jar of foldin’ cash,

been savin’ it up

just to kiss your ass


again . . .

the fool he’s always been,

a blue . . .

briney pickled fool.


i’ll buy you diamonds & dresses,

honey, a big convertible car,

anything, sugar, whatever you want,

just get outta that fuckin’ bar.


i can’t think straight

since you been gone.

if you’ll put away the booze

i’ll mow your lawn.


come back baby,

stay for awhile.

just let this ol’ canner

give you a pickle smile.


oh, mercy, blue . . .

i’d do anything for you,

pickle my beets, sugar,

scrub your honey pot, too.


they say, sweet pickle momma,

you’re just a two bit whore,

say you don’t want your daddy’s

little pickle anymore,


but if you come back, baby,

come home for awhile,

this ol’ love-struck trucker

will give you a sweet pickle smile.


it’s true . . .

i’m the bread & butter pickle for you.

ooh, blue lady . . .

pucker up to my dill and chew.


baby, i gots the right pickle for you.

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black lab

How ya doin’? Good to see ya. Pull up a chair.

Me? Well, I’m still here, and I shouldn’t complain,

But I been better. Seems like everything is goin’ to Hell—

Had to bury my old dog here the other day.

So I’m all alone now. You know My cook passed away

A couple years back, and then my old dog got tore up

By a pack of goddamn wolves. So I had to put him down.

Buried him right over there. He was a good old dog,

Just him and me out here, somebody to talk to.

I’d had him for 14 years.


And I never figured them wolves would come back,

But I sat out here the next night, had my .22

Pistol just in case they showed,

Didn’t think so, not in a million years.

It was just gettin’ dusky when sure enough

I seen that white son of a bitch come slinkin’ up

To that spot where he got my old dog.

There was blood scent there, and he was a-sniffin’

The ground, so real-slow-like I grabbed my gun,

Laid it across my arm, and squeezed one off

Into the dirt. That old wolf jumped back and ran

Off about four or five yards, stopped and looked at me.

The next one I pulled off found its mark,

And he went down, so I walked over to finish him off.

He was dead: one little hole above his right eye

And the back of his head blown off—.22 long,

Hollow point. Big son of a bitch, one of them Canadian

Transplants, must’ve weighed 150 pounds.

His molars was ground down pretty good, and that old

Yellowed fang was a good inch and a half long.

He’d been around, weren’t no spring chicken.


By then it was dark, and I was still pretty upset

About losin’ my old dog and all, so I just went on in

To bed. And the longer I laid there the more I thought

About what I should do with the carcass. I decided

With all the politics and bullshit about the wolves

And such, the best thing would be just to get rid of the son

Of a bitch, so I got up and got dressed. I backed

My little pick up over to it and horsed him onto the tailgate.

It took me awhile to get that rat bastard into the bed

Of the truck. I bet he weighed more than me.

Then I drove down to the old bridge over the river,

Backed up to the railing, and rolled him over the side.


‘Course nobody ever asked me or anyone who lives

Around here what we thought about relocatin’ wolves here

Or grizzlies for that matter, but I think they should’ve.

We got to live with them. And I’ll tell ya

It ain’t no picnic watchin’ a pack of those bastards

Kill your dog. That old dog was my best friend.

‘Course none of them care what I think. They’d like to see

All us old-times out of here and livin’ in a city,

Then they could do what they want. And I don’t know

What they want, but you can bet your ass it has to do with

Money. They don’t give a good goddamn about the land

Or the animals or the folks who want to live out here.


I’m 86 years old and I never lived in a town. Hell,

I worked sawin’ logs till I was 68, and I’d a-kept goin’

But they couldn’t pay me under the table anymore.

So now I just do odd jobs for folks who bring me things

Like meat or groceries or beer . . . I got loaves

Of banana bread in the freezer. You wanna beer?

I got a whole bedroom full of beer. I might drink one or two

A week, but I don’t drink much anymore. Yeah,

I believe in “live and let live,” but when you kill my dog,

You cross the line. He was a good old dog. Hell, he ran

Right up to ‘em, bein’ friendly . . . never had a chance.

I think I’ll go get me a cat in a week or two

Just to have someone to talk to. I figure a cat

Would be good company, and he’d at least have a fightin’ chance.

He could run up a tree. A dog don’t stand a chance.


Well, I know you can’t shut me up and I know you gotta go, but

I’m sure glad you stopped by and listened to me run off

At the mouth. It gets a little lonely up here talkin’ to yourself.

It’s been kinda quiet since the cook died. And now

That my old dog’s gone . . . , I’m fixin’to get me a cat.

So next time yer up this way I’ll buy you a beer

And introduce you to my new cat. Well, drive careful.

There ain’t no log trucks to speak of anymore, but ya gotta

Watch out for them Volvos. And there ain’t no hurry.

We’re all gonna get there before we know it anyway,

Some just sooner than others. I’ll leave ya with this one:

I eat when I’m hungry, and I drink when I’m dry,

I lay down if I’m sleepy, find salvation when I die.

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psyche flowers

The sun warm on my face

and arms, air cool

on the back of my neck.

“Senor,” Dylan on the stereo,

wafts out the window

backing up the birdsong,

soloing duets on this summer

morn. A lawn mower

sputters to buzz-roar-drone

as a jet sweeps overhead

on its airport approach

eclipsing the white scythe,

cloud-looking crescent moon

in the blue sky. A breeze

picks up, the sunflowers dance,

Luna wends her way over

my tablet into my lap,

rests her wet chin on my hand

and begins licking the hair

on my wrist before moving on

to her own coat, toes, and nails,

periodically touching her

damp nose to my skin,

then nuzzles her head under

my arm. She’s become

quite lovey-dovey after years

of neglect. Finally sated,

she moves to the table top

to spread out and snooze in the sun.

I wake to the harmonica riff

in “Just Like a Woman” and two

moons, yellow and full, twin

candles burning in the midnight

fur of her, then shuttering

down. We doze again

letting easy summer roll in . . .

“Forever Young,” forever here,

forever and always another

year turning back and forth

the mother and the sun.

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how to write a poem


clark fork

eat sauerkraut for breakfast

build a fire on the living room rug

nap in a musty crawl space

begin digging your way to Burma

listen to Hank Wilson’s nasal croon again

let the splits in your fingertips squeal

do the cryptoquote and crossword puzzles

finish your cold coffee

walk to the river

talk to yourself

jump in

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not so lonely blues


ain’t got the blues

this mornin sun has

slanted through the blinds


ain’t got your blues

for lack-a money honey

so you kicks my behinds


ain’t got the blues

been snorin till my pussy

licked my nose


ain’t got the blues

I had for breakfast

when I refused to buy you rose


ain’t got no blues

a growin moldy fur

on my last orange peel


ain’t got no blues

little darlin hammerin

regret for a shit deal


ain’t got no blues

this afternoon that final

notice in my slot


no I ain’t got no blues

motherfucker a taste

of you is what I got


ain’t got the blues

this evenin naggin me

to comb my hair


ain’t got your blues

cuz my fuckin life

ain’t goin nowhere


ain’t got the blues

stuck in my throat from

gobblin bony trout


never got no blues

from any woman

who decided to eat out

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photo by David J. Spear

photo by David J. Spear

Lawyers study here

Poets sleep

For inspiration

Dream lawyers

Surfing Santa Cruz

Or net neutrality

Poets savor

Coffee & bacon


Hair on end

Pillow mussed

Ratty bed-clothes

Blue lawyers spin

Poets dreaming

Keats penning

Un-urned odes

Melancholy notes

Feathering musky

Fever soaked sheets

Lawyers lie

Naked and tied to

King-sized beds

Buy black leather

Wood-grained testimony

So help them God

Donated furniture

Oak & brass

To support

Sleepy poets

Dreaming justice

For all & peace

Given the chance

What Lennon asked

In Ghandi’s name

A twist of Irish

Knowing money

Can’t buy love

For broken benches

Let alone

Sandy beaches

Ginsberg to Darrow

Gaza to Graceland

American nightmares

Silent as the snow

At Wounded Knee

What we need

Why we fear


To laugh & breathe

So live it up

& let live

Since we’re here

Air conditioned

White on black

Leather chairs

In the lounge

Not hanging

On the streets

Of South Chicago

Or in Walnut

Trees wafting

In the winds

Of change . . .

Love is free

Or it isn’t


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