The forest is last to relinquish winter. Snow still sticking between its toes, it has thousands of shadows and shades, ways to hide from sunlight. On these days of last melt, snow packs down hard on the unexposed trail, creating a thin slice of ice, a layer of water sits on its top.
My hands grip fern, turf, searching for the darkest earth below me. I’m on all fours placing one limb in front of another, hoping to find the firmest soil. I read the forest like braille.
The trail hangs on to the valley as if stapled, tacked on. Cold gusts follow the shape of the mountains, on their way to meet the current of the river.
The Clackamas pays sly attention to my insecure movements. It would take me as I am, all limbs reverted back to bones, a boulder covered in moss, willing to hide me, partially, in its current. The wind and hills will cover my voice.
I refuse to slip.
A warmth curls upwards, the sun finds a clearing. The trees across the river turn gold. My feet hit soft snow. I look back up to the denser part of the forest, I can see light tickle the ribs of the trees, slanting beams down to me. My hands are warm, my eyes tired.
Out on the ledge, the snow hushes the wild.
This kind of quiet soothes while it scares
Strange mixture of awareness.
A lone northern harrier is the only singer.
She strafes the powder with one beat of her wings
Eyes on everything, including me.
I follow the trail by footprints.
Cougar’s, coyote’s, and smaller critters’.
An occasional imprint veers off
Into the untouched soft carpet
An outlier perhaps, a rebel, a seeker
Leading to a bush, taller pines,
The wind won’t care for you here
Hides, waits to spring, to pounce.
I look over my back into the still.
It’s only the silence stalking me.
I shiver either from fear or cold
Interrupted by the occasional cracking of stray ice.
I will not let the wind trick me
Taking me too close to the ledge
Though I can’t help but peek
Over the edge, down near the warm river
Where I imagine soothing voices, movement
If such things exist.
The ledge fools you with a number of beliefs
Including the truth.
These new buildings, I swear they got no soul.
They need to grow into words, become particles on a page, rise, metabolize into earthen words, soil, dust conjunctions filled with creamy authenticity, reshaped, interpreted into life.
They’re turkey stuffed with dust ball offices, lights dimmed in the simmering evening, windows reflecting hybrids who breed upon the free range freeway below suffering from ever-increasing lane exposure.
I looked inside their forever blowing bubbles pressing my mug upon the surface and it distorted my viciousness. No mild bologna gonna fix my sandwich.
They think me a freak, freckles with a face, go figure… frizzled fleshpot of unpredictable plots.
They ain’t wrong, ‘cuz they good, they good, yep, goooooooood, …enticing me with their mixed-use bottom floors where they burn rubber on tofu plates salad Westinghouse.
I smell the leftover spice route and I’m drooling like a starving scribbler, my bent nickels hitting hard, their floors a fool’s concrete.
Still sitting ugly next to pretties, they pipe in pop opera, jaded hip hop, indie stink, and heavy rectal, tuned down, so low it makes my Spock ears quiver and my head turn to tuna until I’m ordering La Luna and every other constellation that’s hung up on itself back in the kitchen.
I don’t have time to listen to Jack. I’m elevator resistant and refuse a free ride into debt’s penthouse.
I’m trying for the dirt dangling in the unbought lot where the weeds bloom, to give shouts out to the invasive species and expose the beauty of my immigrant fat ass.
My socked feet brush waxed tiles and I know I’m just a plastic tangle from the womb of a wannabe hippie.
My words grow condominiums in the community garden and I have my own private manure.
The stingless bees only last once a year, a one-and-done pollination, vegetables appear on my plate, I ate, I am eaten, soft-skinned new building, digging in the foundation for soul.
She had her voice and it was buried deep inside in a place so sacred, so lonely. Only occasional tears that sprung up within the course of a life could witness it in raw form. When she sang, she camouflaged it with a myriad of spices, electricity, effects, grace notes, some call magic…knowing that if a song were stolen, a particular special song…her raw voice, that depth of melody, would find its way back. It had never left nor would it ever leave.
But it was when her best friend stole a song that she became impatient. She decided not to wait for her voice to return. She confronted her friend who had hidden the theft by a distance of distortion, waves of unsettled motion. The demand she made caused ripples, heat, heat, heat, until the voice returned, even though if she had waited, it would have returned on its own. A costly mistake. She is now avoided.
Her gift. Her curse.
You can hear her if you are very quiet, compassionate, through the most menacing noise. The noise…now…will never leave us.
Ren gauged the sky by clouds, how dense they were against August west hills.
When they sat high above the hills, like loose bones on taunt skin, he threw an old mustard-colored blanket upon the backyard lawn.
The lawn was a sea storm of bumps, weeds, and grass, but after a while his back adjusted, conformed to the waves, and while buzzed on a couple of ales, looked up into the sky, which was blocked, partially, by an overgrown fig tree and a couple of out-of-control bushes.
He was not good at maintaining the yard. The neighbors, in an innocent passive-aggressive style, let him know this.
Kate would come over from time to time, sit with him, with a cheap bottle of wine from Trader Joes, riding a rattle-trap Schwinn to look at the sky with him.
So much looking upwards, they thought they found something.
The house’s paint had cracked by being exposed to that same sky, along with the wood siding that was splintered and there was even a cinder block, painted green, plugging a hole in the roof.
The neighbors politely didn’t mention these things, though they worried about their property values.
Neither did Kate…mention these things.
‘Twas the vinegar that tippeth
Toward the leftover quiche
Oh, lonely empty bottle, recycler boon
When sun meets to kiss moon—
And mustard, your yellows bold
A bit old, but still at play—
Mummified lime, plastic lined
Awaits blessed water of the fizzy kind—
Four salad dressings,
Daughters of the virgin oil—
Bright Wednesday’s sauce
Must find solace at all cost
Before the scourge of poisoned moss—
A couple of red jellies
To keep a merry belly
Harvested during the sweetness
Of His grand spring—
A dire few leaves of spinach
Must be eaten in a pinch
Or thrown into a stew anew
Cat food can, oh my love be content
Yet, small miracles abound
In these cool vestiges—for—
Behind the onion skins
And forgotten slice of apple
My hand moves with assured fate—
Look at what Providence hath left!
A cold beer is found no less!
O, wonderous workings, I’m blessed.