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   1:   Still Life with Creek

Sunlight broke upon the cows
that stood beside the heady creek.
Cumulostratus dappled the light.
The oaks brought down lacy shadows
where buckeyes shimmered like deity.

   2:   Quail

Something is bothering
the quail—some drama
outside. But I can't see
what it is from this window.

   3:   Still Life with Rain

Rain adheres to our window
and lenses the early, evening
light:   red bark, green leaves.
I finger a window where
an olive lights my martini glass.

   4:   The Window

Beneath the tree-of-heaven
the old brick building stands.
Beside the old brick building
I see something in the shade,
something ephemeral and sweet.

   5:   April

Something has leafed upon the oaks
in a green too, too exuberant
for life. Even reflected off the quiet,
spreading forebay, my eyes, in disbelief,
are quick to grab the startling intruder.

   6:   After Gyozan

Without much pain or hardship
I've reached my 35th year;
today I work in my yard—which
looks better:   these orange flowers
or the weeds rising beyond?

   7:   Hindsight

Weeds pressed the broad leaves
and startling flowers of some
salmon-colored cannas against
the fox-gray wood fence. The walnut
had grown to shade them.

   8:   Virgule

Outside, a bird was singing.
Music played in another room.
Dusk. Suddenly I looked
at myself in the mirror.


   1:   Spring

The Japanese maple stretches
its new, maroon leaves
above the golden spirea—
and is witness to the lavish
palette of spring, where robins

   2:   Turf

Something is bothering me
but I can't gather
what it is. Listless, at odds,
I approach the kitchen window
only to find two deer grazing
      near the roses.

   3:   Nigiri

Only a few, simple things
have been more surprising
than this:   a small filet
of blood-red tuna resting
on a bed of sweetened rice.

   4:   Temptation

Cruel April, first warm, lustrous,
and heartily flowered; now
cool again with a chilling wind
and still lustrous:   aureate dusk—
song—my cat enchanted by his prey.

   5:   Light

Tall, slender trunks of the
stately ponderosa increasingly
illuminate in the late April
light. The oaks wear their
new leaves like young girls.

   6:   Dogwood in an Industrial Park

The sky hindered with ice crystals.
A cottonwood struggling to leaf.
A warm day with a cold wind—April;
poppies blooming in the sidewalk
cracks where hefty workmen sit
      at lunch.

   7:   Women in Spring

A sky weakened with cirrus, oak leaves
gorging on light. A group of cyclists
pausing for water; two blondes in jackets
waiting patiently on patient horses
where a mail truck starts slowly down
      a narrow dirt road.

   8:   Girls

The afternoon spent watching some girls
rally a ball over a net, hoping to avoid
defeat. It's a tough thing to consider.
One day I want to live forever
      and the next day I don't.


   1:   Spirit

The breeze was an endearing thing
that sank deeply in my heart.
A lawn sprinkler splashed the markers.
The pastor spoke some words about Christ.

   2:   Sustenance

The sprinkler sends tendrils
of grace taken by gravity
upon the oleander's blossoms,
the daisy and the rockrose.
Sam Cooke sings on the radio.

   3:   Song

The evening lingered with
a moist heat—the windows open
and only a song drifts in
from my neighbor's open window.

   4:   Dusk

The sprinkler on the lawn
cannot keep it alive. Summer,
I walk through the yard
bare-chested, drinking beer,
until it feels good again.

   5:   July

At dusk the heat lingers;
the lake turns pink. Cows
herd by the still reeds.
Driving by in a dark car
I say to you, "Look."

   6:   August

Brilliant and aloof, the zinnias'
pompoms rose—glowing—like many,
colored moons among the hellish,
august weeds in the arid dusk.

   7:   Dragonflies

The iris has bloomed. The heat
has come—now the swords
have bent and turned brown.
Yet the dragonflies still visit.

   8:   Ruth's Funeral

Most of the men wore dark
sunglasses. The ladies grieved
in light, summer dresses. The pastor
seemed at peace with his work.

  A Trip Toward the Coast

   1:   Drift

The lavenders' lavender sprays like a lawn
being sprinkled. Wind through the pines.
This June light. The lavenders' sprays;
the lawn being sprinkled. A butterfly
swaying on the butterfly iris bud.

   2:   Being Eddy

I liked the fertile resonance
my life then possessed—the time
on my hands; the loose change
in my pants pocket; the kind way
the sun brightened the angles
      on your pretty face.

   3:   Sand and Foam

Sea palms rocking on the rocks.
White water swells and backswells—
the continual agitation reaching
      for my toes.
I found some seashells on the shore
and a finally cleansing meditation.

   4:   At the Lagoon

Ocean spray masking the summer's heat.
The wind keeping everything in motion—
an idle afternoon with children at
the woody lagoon. Dogs in the side
channels; the children's soap bubbles
      burst by the swaying reeds.

   5:   Privilege

I found a condom on the beach.
I found a leg bone. All morning
I fancied Jesus as a speeding boat.
Choosing a pebble from the water's edge
I changed its location.

   6:   Carmel by the Sea

1st of July, the village swells with
perfunctory anticipation and fog;
those for whom the ocean is a rare delight
gather in clumps on the main beach
and marvel. The old woman, the local
whose pleasure it is to jog the wet shore,
moves quickly through the throng.

   7:   Ocean Frolic

Water playing on the rocks, water
prancing; water racing upshore
like boys from their mother—amphibian
dexterity. A small swell quietly rises,
and with a slap, surprises his brother.

   8:   Day at the Beach

Her disarming breasts, a cut foot,
the endless patience of young men
in wet suits; waves. A day spent
at the beach—beachlight; the pseudo-
munificent gesture of the ocean's exquisite

   9:   Soledad

Something growing there on the alluvial
fan; something domestic. Something
also in the exchange between agriculture
and the left-alone. Lettuce, cauliflower,
the elusive in neat geometrical planes.

   10:   Seen and Not Seen

I found a birdnest by the oak.
I saw a water snake in the creek.
During the hike my mind slowly
emptied. Only later did I note
the photograph I had just taken.

   11:   Shift, Uplift

Hiking now on the knuckled ridge. Dwarfed
by the jumble and exposed tectonics—
wearied by summer sun, embellished
by the wind, to that ruddy place
where the uplift rises in ribbed cliffs
      succinctly toward something.

   12:   American Summer

Stained glass window in the side door
of a lengthy motorhome. Pin striping,
trout decals, the allure of the open road.
An ancient relative with cigarette and cocktail
bent armed at the dining table, regarding
      the rush hour crawl.

  A Trip to the Southland

   1:   Road Work

Massive works of generic agri-business
squeeze the interstate's itinerant length.
August & green—all the stirring way
to the golden, central hills
worn smooth by the summer's haze.

   2:   Mirage

Given a chance the land shows
no sign of water—just dying brush,
refuse, dusky tumbleweeds; strings
of awkward pylons running off
and disappearing, finally, in the vaporous

   3:   Highway 41

Cattle in the dry creeks
of the cattle-colored hills.
Long, fenceless stretches of open land:
little oaks, outcrops, arroyos,
the wind—old music of the west.

   4:   San Marcos Pass (Old California)

Mountains rise in majestic ranges
feathered by the august air,
fronted by crumbling foothills—
rock-scarred, brush-bare, and plain
in deference to the handsome woodland

   5:   US 101 (Old California)

Wood-rail bridges, ancient eucalyptus,
oleander dwelling in the median
where two lanes should be four.
Bougainvillea lacing into the palms;
offramps leading to pale haciendas.

   6:   Laguna Niguel

One bright morning I took your photo
alongside your several cousins, askew—
the din of the freeway below you,
Mount Mojeska, behind, rising above
      the visible air.

   7:   In a Recess of the Mall

As if someone waited for this, preyed,
expected it:   your casual stance caught
beneath the recessed lighting—plain
youth, beauty, sun-rich skin, garments
waiting to mimic the bank of monitors
      above your head.

   8:   Movement Relative to Movement

Gazing down at the stalled freeway,
its continual animation transfixed
by pylons, hawks on the powerlines,
gunships and jetliners overhead; sporadic
trains crossing—I fall back on the bed
      only to feel it move.

   9:   Immigrants

Condos and townhomes, townhomes, condos,
the otherwise large dwellings tethered
only by an excess of exotic fauna—the articulate
landscaping slowly devours the undeveloped:
opuntia spreading in fleeting clusters
      among the sun-worn chaparral.

   10:   High Desert Saturday (Old California)

Miles of sagebrush running off to reach
the alluvial fanning, mountains. This distance
altered only by little outposts springing up
or dying under a western sky, spilling
      its quintessential clarity.

   11:   Mono Basin

Ruddy boulders and sagebrush, outcrops
breaking the skin. Pinon and aspen.
Aspen dying in bands. Range upon range;
spiritual giddiness, grace. Ancient
volcanos still resting in the airy heights
      above Mono Lake.

   12:   Retinal Plunge (Sonora Pass, Old California)

Imagining the shift, feeling the uplift,
the glacial tearing, the pull of gravity,
water's crush. The sun upon us, the lessened
air. Its touch gathering at our feet
and entering there. Immaculate youth,
      hard beauty, augustness.

  North Coast Travel

   1:   Highway 37

Across the mud flats we raced
on a road laid upon brackish waters,
a road too driven for safety and
comfort. Across the mud flats we went
among the zippy imports and the egrets.

   2:   Sand and Foam

I took my daughters by the hand
among the sandpipers and the kelp
and walked along the shoreline.
The seawash wet our pant legs.
The sun changed color and shape.

   3:   North Coast Sunset

Dispersed by a low-slung fog bank,
the sun goes down. The sea turns
a reflective, unsettled gray.
Two young girls sit shoulder
to shoulder on the still-wet shore.
It is most idyllic:   the seals
on the rocks, the pelicans feeding.

   4:   Fire

Against that empty and colorless canvas,
the Bishop pines darken to silhouette.
Smoke drifts above our little fire.
I am quickened by your face in the firelight
and the black, black woods beyond.

   5:   Eel River Fever

The wind blew. The wind blew
and then it gusted. A fever came
upon me as if readied by the wind.
I did sleep a heady sleep
until Mars appeared that night.

   6:   Eel River Serenade

And I woke to various infirmities:
I was beleaguered with ache and pain
—but my spirit soon rose when
my daughter sang her songs to me.

   7:   Parkland Operetta

Through oak leaves and rubbery madrone
a cooling breeze swept the canyon.
Big trucks rattled on the highway.
A shapeless old man helped his son
to start a car. The river ran.

   8:   Aquatic Life

In the rookery sea lions barked and
seemed clumsy as we must have seemed
groping about on the kelp-slick rocks—
so many tidepool dramas we then found
at the edge of the jade-colored sea.

  In Autumn in California

   1:   Near Malibu

The red and yellow sun
sat upon a power pole.
Weakly, the naked hills
eroded onto the highway.
The bay, having gone flat,
left some sun-worn surfers
to loiter the sandy parking lot.

   2:   Down in Monterey

On rocky cliffs some young men had
removed their shirts to sun; joggers
shared the skinny bike path. Six
slim boats sat upon the bay;
yellow iceplant spread the bluffs
while kites climbed the pushy wind.

   3:   October

In the luminous evening light, little finches
found the tallest summer weeds and bent them
until their seeds spilt among the zinnias
whose blooms were now hampered by the night air,
having gone from bold brightness to cool pastel.

   4:   Marin

A camphor smell slips away
from the wistful eucalyptus.
Everywhere little houses cling
to the failing hillsides. Lanterns
sway upon the decks; bubbles.
Bubbles well up, and some
from the glass stem—how lovely
your wife is leaving our little tub.

   5:   Near Big Sur

Covered only with brush, the mountains
ran down to the water in steep gradients
and the sea bit back at the rock
and the yellow sandstone, thus keeping
its share of the earth flat and supplicant.

   6:   Mono

Big, rocky paws knelt before the water.
Birds stood in repose, the water lapping.
It was an old happiness, relentless awe,
standing in the presence of Mono Lake.

   7:   Highway 33

Light that fell through the nut orchard
was broken. It strobed across the road
and our car. It made utility pole shadows
long. The tilled fields would have been brilliant
if brown could be brilliant; in the low distance
nut orchards rose up in clusters of close fans.

   8:   Orr Creek

Is it just light that washes
across this morning landscape
and brightens my daughter's face:
I see the glass cowpond, the dead-brown
pastures, the very yellow trees.


   1:   December, San Joaquin

All things harbored by the interstate's
narrow perspective—distance
a mere collar of low, wintering trees; seasonal
fauna, stilled egrets. Here, all that thrives
thrives and collects in the enveloping haze.

   2:   December, San Benito

Broad, tilled fields exhibit majestic brown, &
that neat magic of furrows—plus two, captive,
winter oaks. Through the filtering haze
the hills rise in sweet, dreamy tiers
as in reproductions of 18th century prints.

   3:   Winter Fields

Shadow-furrowed black fields spill
across the ditchless blacktop; crows. Old barns,
old sheds, lofty windbreaks—somber, back-bent
bracero life. The listless mountains rise
in misty plates, like in old, Japanese landscapes.

   4:   Winter Berries

Unsuccinct, alien, wrapped in black plastic,
the plowed hillsides shine in cruel excess.
Pylons tiptoe through, quietly, above
the nascent, afternoon traffic. Across
the agricultural plain the ancient mountains
      rise in hazy panels.

   5:   Hatton Canyon Reverie

At dusk the willows turn goldleaf—bronchial, a
gray lattice-work beside husky, green pines; pampas
hillside flagwork, pampas epaulets and plumes; lessening
winds and sirens. Beyond this the Santa Lucias
bronze in the gull-breached, asservate light.

   6:   Monterey

Monday night at the mall, final Monday
of the millennium—untenably bargainesque and
munificent:   I watch Mexican girls move in pairs—
thick-hipped and giggling—adverse to gang boys
circling the parking lot, eyeing, bumping, wielding
      red-hued laser lights.

   7:   Hatton Canyon Reverie II

Morning—goldleaf flaring from the canyon mouth;
the Santa Lucias backlit, blackened and layered.
Brisk ocean breeze; small birdsongs; exhilaration.
An old collective of broad oaks on the knoll
beyond the commercial center—their preceeding

   8:   Ocean Gray

A boy and a girl knee-deep in the sea
screaming at waves that collapse in roughness,
into saltspray and foam—beyond that
the sea is calm, listless, and flattened.
Slowly the sun settling upon it.

   9:   Ocean Blue

Now lifted and perching on sand dunes,
beyond the ice plant and salt spray,
admiring the handsome and spreading bay—
below the kites, hang-gliders and gulls—
noting the noteworthy largesse, the ocean

   10:   December, Pissaro

Late December, late Pissaro—car-crowded
and car-direct:   sun-browned fields lying
fallow and carressed. Clusters of cropped
red almonds; tangle of leafless, gray walnuts.
A long, quiet line of languid, ascetic poplars.

  V.I. & B.V.I.
   1:   JFK

Dissolving now into the time/place delirium
of airports. Corporate ingenuity, travelers'
kiosks, haze, the multi-cultural repatriation:
"Please, sir, take me there. I wish to visit
my mother who will not leave the forest."

   2:   Sugar Beach

Palm fronds rustle in the evening's trade wind.
Moored sailboats eddy on the little swells.
A silhouette of unzoned power lines runs
past the beach resort and down this spit
      of utter third worldliness.

   3:   Portrait of the Artist as Tourist

I found a wallet in the surf. I found
a turtle shell. All evening I played out
the matrical combinations of their elective
affinities. It was haughty, ambiguous
      and dense.

   4:   Birdsong

The ceiling fan's propeller silhouette
beneath the skylight—brick veranda
open onto the bay. The first notion
of light, then someone starts his long solo
of commentary, happenstance and commentary.

   5:   Distant Thunder

Spotlights on the palm trunks. Coconuts.
Trade wind rustling the fronds again—a brief
intrinsic pause. Same stars. Same desires
and something else, inarticulate,
      flexing, elusive.

   6:   Roadtown

The cock crows in the midday heat.
Standing water stands in the deep gutters
and vacant lots—lizards, chickens,
refuse and blossoms. Heavy musics
move by the lime green shanties
now coral or yellow with violet roof.

   7:   The Night

Night tide drumming on the breakwater.
The ceiling fan with its quiet heartbeat.
A little time to spend awake
      after a brief, morning rain.

   8:   A Day at the Beach

Flesh by the pound—tourist flesh—
sailboat white or coral pink
or honey-tanned and well-fed. Sultry
pageant of beachplay and string bikinis
and plain desire smeared across
      this palm-lined apparition.

   9:   Old Slavery Days

Thick black faces. Thick black songs.
Drumbeats only missionaries hear.
Hard labor and separation and fear
whipped into hatred through the long,
      long misery of sugar.

   10:   Same Things

Hiking now through jungle forest. Tree
roots tripping our feet, sweat; loving
this wind and shade—plain, plain things.
I'm thinking back 100 years, 400 years,
10,000 years:   same thing—wind, shade.

  Alone in the Afternoon

   1:   Nominal Perfection

Water droplets on the lupine
leaf, diamondesque. White iris,
bearded white—flawless astonishment.
The Spanish lavendar in low ascension:
tiny angels, purple wings, nacimiento.

   2:   May

Morning chiaroscuro:   ill thoughts,
quiet rage, anger and frustration; I take
the long way to work. Lingering, I notice:
on a morning like this I think otherwise,
      things could change.

   3:   As Love Continues

The dry heat of this summer comes
too early. Yellow weeds line my yard
in mid-May. My wife sighs and takes
to her bath. And again I marvel at her
glistening submersion, the aureoles.

   4:   The Sway

Middle of May—mid-afternoon; sunlight
filtering through the maple's leaves—the sway
a journal of breezes:   butterflies, poppies,
dragonflies, English lavendar. A spotted Towhee
sings, it seems, with my neighbor's string trimmer.

   5:   Outright

The world is full of little beauties especially
outright in May—the Scotch broom
blooming, a bank of red hot pokers,
the black dog riding in a white pickup truck,
the young woman behind the steering wheel.

   6:   Catalpa

Years ago, in a smokey workshop
a woman read a poem titled Catalpa.
An unfamiliar tree in an obtuse poem.
But on this warm morning in June
I clearly see it bloom.

   7:   Day Off a Work

I take a day off of work, decide
to go for a jog; I find the park
empty of its usual crowd. It's only me
and the sun (my struggling to breathe),
the birdsongs, the dog poop, the horse shit.

   8:   Wind Chime

Alone in the afternoon—sitting in a chair,
thinking, drinking, sweating, renewing life's
irritants of work, friends, and promises—
not hearing the wind chime, not hearing
the birdsongs, not seeing the breeze
      vibrate the window blinds.

   9:   Remembering Susie

Her father died in the war
in France, by a dirt road
behind a row of elegant poplars
that could not save his hurried life,
on a June day much like this one.

   10:   Nominal Eternity

June 5th:   the wild grass long dead, now
moving into the mullein, the mustard, the wild
sweet pea already looking windblown, dusty
and haggard where I then paused
to wonder:   might this become a memory?

   11:   Early Summer Pastoral

The canopy of the trees, the restricted vision,
creates a slightly swaying, wistful intricacy
somewhat akin to jazz:   the simple, yet
unseen melodies; the structural strength
in evidence; the occasional, thrilling breakthrough
      into pure blue.

© 2012 rdking