What I was thinking about when writing this poem.
“Children in a democracy.” Amarillo, Texas
Dorothea Lange, November 1940, National Archives

The Plum Tree

In June, I noticed it first

Next to the worm-eaten apple tree

Dark bulbs blooming modestly under shapely leaves

Just growing there by the sidewalk, surprising


In July, its limbs grew heavy. Volunteers hit the ground,

shameless and redolent, an offering to ants

In my dusk dreams, I would come back, fetch them

And then what? The sweetness, alone, would kill me


Each night, I peered, nervous, into the house

Plucked the plumpest one, a purple purse of satin

Tight then wet, flesh and juice. In public!

Stain down my hands and face, my scarlet affair


In late July, I waited for someone to come, to notice them too

Anxious for the waste of it, I thought up baskets to collect them

No one came to harvest, least of all me

Some fell in the morning, some in the night. A lot.


Tonight, on our walk, the smell of plums,

warm on the earth, made my chest constrict

I crept under the canopy and found the last three

I gave them out like fishes and loaves and thought of love

–August 2, 2017, Portland, Oregon



circus tent

On your 42nd birthday

Some nights, the sky is green-grey like your eyes,

electric and hushed, a revival tent before the miracle–

a thrum of whales stitching their ancient seam in the sea


Some days, your soul spirals upward like blossoms,

meadowlark songs skipped like stones on a prairie–

light from the water trilling up at tree leaves


Some years, the humming of life is colossal,

cello played to a canyon whose limestone wails back.

Others drip by on calcium spires into sullen pools



I’ve known you since you were 29

Today you are 42

“Why haven’t you written this poem before now?” you ask


Before now, I did not know:

how the iron filings of your will

seek the lock steel of my heart

how your mind makes a guide rope

mine can follow in the dark

how my body returns to yours

like a soldier undeployed


At the start

I knew you were the face of a tiny owl,

the edge of a continent overlooking the sea,

a wonder


But now I know

you are that miracle

that comes to pass, despite disbelief

–May 18, 2018, Portland Oregon