The mist stifles all sound, confines sight
Numbs time, suspends the linear
Encloses you in tentative comfort
While scaring you with limitations
You find yourself worried about the quiet
Near the shallow ripples of the lake
Where the hills slant their hardest towards the shore
And the moss smells of old summer
But time isn’t looking for you
Even though you’re looking for it.
I will pick a blue flower.
The old one sits in a vase. Navy blue, blackened, dry crumbs, as if pressed inside an old book. A little life clings to its edges, a lingering glow. Mother nibbles at these fresh parts, the fresh blue, mixes it with her saliva, spits it out through stained teeth. It lands upon the goddess. She has done this, countless times. We will eat again.
I look at the goddess, the image of her. Her likeness, plaster and paint, a shadow of once she once was, if she ever was. I imagine the tips of her fingers not being broken as they are now, the days when she could feel things. Her face must have smiled then. Now, only her eyes touch you, follow you. She beckons you with frozen arms, covered in lifetimes of blue that run deep in dried drips, darker in spots, lighter at times.
There is more than blue.
Dry red patches run underneath the swashes of blue. I’ve been told they’re before mother’s time. They appear at the hem of her dress, upon her breast, and below one of her eyes. Were there ones who offered red upon the statue? There must have been.
I ask mother. She’s kind when she answers questions, even questions that have no answers. “Red runs, hides, carves up images, buries the leftovers. Never bury a goddess. It’s bad luck.” I believe mother. But I don’t understand. All I know is that I must pick a blue one.
The dance starts. This occurs after mother makes her offering, for the harvest. I know the steps, taught to me when I first learned to walk. The song is our melody. The dance emulates the village, its round shape, its huts, sticks, mud. That’s when he nudges me. I think he likes me. I’m not sure I like him.
He holds up a knife. He tells me to take it with me when I go to pick the blue flower. I tingle inside. It could mean anything. I don’t know why I take the knife from him.
The outer gates of the village are opened. Outside the walls is a land of fibers, a yarn-like forest of white string, two feet in and I become invisible. There are trails, their endings unknown, fables surround them, cities of wonder at their ends. I ask the trails questions. Is it funny to talk to trails? They answer or I do.
They tell me about colors. It is that they wilt, turn to yarn, power hides in their shadows. Listening to this voice, I feel as if I’m buried in the forest. I can feel everything grow around me, how everything stretches to the sun, all life, love curls around my feet. Images, images, images. All is images…
Except for the knife. It’s no image.
The knife is heavy. I press it to my chest to feel how it vibrates. A steel coldness. It’s sharp. I feel a prick of pain. I drop the knife. Then, I pick a flower.
When mother sees me, she holds my heart, not my real heart, its image. A new blue flower sits in the vase. Mother’s lips are stained indigo. We will eat again.
The dance starts. I see him move in steps he’s known since a child. He cuts the weeds around my feet with the knife. I look down at my feet and they’re covered in blue.
My fingers are dry, cracked. I hold my arms out—wide—to the sun.
There’s a quietness about the river
broken by a random leap, splash of steelheads.
a prairie hawk loses a feather.
The natives drink a loud liquor
on their fishing platforms, dip nets
looking for fish who choose
to become parts of ceremonies.
The valley refracts strong light
that moves with the quiet.
Hills are made of dead gold,
skeleton orchards, lost spirit guides.
Bear scat litters small pastures
where the river overruns its banks,
forming shallow pools.
I’m cautious like a fool and listen.
The sun sets earlier here.
I knew that going in
I’m searching for rain or shadows
They only last for a short period.
My phone drops, small echo
Black screen on slick green moss
I yell for some reason
Maybe to prove I can make a sound
The sun throbs red…west…hovers
next to the peak of Mt. Hood.
Highway 14 yanks at me with its noise
where occasional deer lie still
on the shoulder of its pavement,
small trickle of blood in their teeth.
Dusk is as good as night here.
A wide emptiness sits over Spirt Lake from Harry’s Ridge to Harmony Lake Viewpoint. An emptiness of vast distance with stars or sun, clouds and wind…a series of personalities, always in the process of change, threatens to knock all thought out of you.
You search for the mountain. Some days it’s larger than any life you’ve ever known, yet appears accessible, as if you could simply stroll up its skin to the summit, say hello to the sublime. Other times it hides behind mist, playing hide and seek through clouds rolling over that same emptiness.
As you watch the emptiness, you notice a small herd of mule deer. They feed between the mountain’s ponds, little scoops in the earth, formed by the eruption, filled by endless springs, alive. The deer watch you with slow caution until you break into all thought and speak to them. With that sound, they move away from you, bringing that sky, the emptiness, back down to the ground. All thoughts are returned to you and the sky resumes its simple task of appearing, with regularity, over your head.
And it’s only when you get back home when you realize the reason you search for the emptiness. For you never knew you’d see the deer and you were aware that the mountain may be hard to see on some days. That same sky is inside you, full of stars or sun, clouds and wind…a series of personalities, always in the process of change. And it takes your own voice, one that you can clearly hear, to break into all thought, making that sky settle back down to earth.
Holding it in, close, became a strength
An essence, a nugget, bloom’s heart
Shaped by chinks, cracks, and splits
Of a shell you wished was a softer hue.
Relinquished, expelled, produced a body
The lucid form of your careful ambiguity
From a cold clay, carved and baked
An Image of remedy, poison, and sacrifice.