Saturday, August 14, 2010

Green Lake Library in Seattle

I'm in Seattle to read at Green Lake Library, which really does look out over a lake. This dry SoCal boy can't stop looking at all the Pacific Northwest's water. It rained the day of my reading, but the temperature was comfortable, so people just walked amongst the raindrops. The gray clouds flattened out the color, making Green Lake gray, nearly matching the sky. It was the little splashes on the surface that made the lake a bit lighter. Light in all directions: down, then up.

I've been playing "Flow Between Storms" on this tour, but at the Green Lake Library, I got to play it in the rain, so the song got ambient percussion to accompany it. Back at Cottage Grove in Vancouver, it was the old wood of Les Clarke's guitar that gave the song something extra; at Green Lake it was the rain. For the musician, there is a release when a song resonates with the song you're playing...or you're resonating with the world. Sound in all directions: inside out or outside in.

I co-featured with cowboy poet Clarke Crouch, who took me back to my early days in Valley Center when horses were still a form of transportation and not just a luxury. Clarke was really talking about the days before me when horses were tools to get work done. I enjoyed listening to him transport us east, to the plains and mountains east of Seattle.

Horses were big in my childhood and make appearances in "Lost Dog," "Suburban Cowboys," "The Reagan Memorial Poem," "Commie Balktalk" and  "Fire Mind." Here's video of "Fire Mind" that Adam Turner shot in SoCal.  
October firestorm rolls west over
the rim of Eden Creek Canyon.
Smoke from hundreds of homes, barns,
photos and lives of twenty-one neighbors
roils in incense of white sage
sacred to tribal people on two reservations
now ablaze, their outlawed spring burns
resurrected brutally in autumn.
Recognizing the ghost of smoke releases me
to accept losing everything so that when
our house emerges after fire, only planks of
patio aflame, I resist calling it “blessing.”

That night, hot spots burn around canyon,
the only lights there until neighbors rebuild—
power lines ignited like fuses,
exploding suburbs in the brush—
and above spot fires, stars
calling back thousands of others, dark insisting.

The day after fire, I walk the rim,
first time in twenty years. Consoling neighbors
I’d never met as they sift ashes over concrete foundations,
I trespass freely to the east,
catch five goats, two pigs, a cat with
burnt paws. I shoot two horses without hooves,
their lungs singed, the blood they breathed
the only moisture within miles. I shoot
into another mind that becomes mine.
The fire: the rifle, and my hand: the bullet.
I follow a trajectory heartless as flames over so many.

Next week at a funeral, people flow through my arms.
I survive to hold them, open my cage of ribs.
Their sobs become my heartbeat, their tears: my blood.
My warmth from pressure of motion,
the same heat Santa Anas raise crossing the Mojave.
The town weeps itself dry while I wonder,
where are my tears of survival?

Each March, I burn brush. The flame at
the matchtip, the shape of an orange tear.
Neighbors watch. Every spring a warning.

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