Santo Cielo

A poem for Southern California…


Sainted sky…

Blessed sky?

Once so, I cannot help but feel it.

Struck-in-the-eye by its limpid quality.

Or, rather what’s left of it.

Something missing…

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Being, Not Becoming

Waves cresting sharply against a driving west wind.

Green drab, opaque brown, rising like a wall, curling,
sending a mane of spray, shiny with rainbows, up and
back as they collapse in a smother of foam.

Next wave rising up behind, ready to take its turn.

Quiet lull as water rushes out.

Big ones rise, begin to curl far out, rushing inwards in a
building crescendo, before spilling in a flurry, spending
force with abandon, creaming the surface, its visible
breath wreathed in prismatic color, hangs in air before
dissipating in a relaxation as it succumbs to gravity in a
falling sigh.

Place transforms before our eyes, low, confused in roiling
arrays of wash that hold their shape, their form, as they
walk inwards towards the shore.

Walls of water, like horses, vaulting themselves over barr-
iers – they take shape for a lingering instant before crash-

They present a moment of clarity. Being, not becoming.

A moment returning, repeating, inexhaustible, never
twice the same.

We try to capture them, to hold them in memory.

An impossible complexity, too rich, too fleeting to be

This phase itself passing – calm will return, darkness, a
change of tide, of wind….

This phase demands attention.

Edges, surfaces, lines of force, each movement there in its
predecessor holding its following moment in an incessant

Curling breakers inspire, wind hard against their faces,
exhaling in great gouts of spray, leaving rainbows lunging,
refracting golden light into all its parts, colors scattered
over sea and sky share, feeding off the sun now setting,
source of wind, source of waves, of all that make up this

Rainbows arching, and falling, expire.



Low sun on water,
Golden rocks and dun sand.


The color of sky.
Radiating off smooth water.

Scarce ripples,
Picked off in deep green,
Or indigo blue,
Where the yellow is used up.

Ripples of soft back-wash
Smothered in violet.

A play of complements and triads
Refresh the eye.
Maintaining an intensity
For as long as we can look.

It keeps shifting,
Reaches a peak intensity
Just before the sun touches its limb
To the land.

Slowly fading
Until the last ray-strikes are
Replaced by reflected refraction.


Gold drops to dun.
Dun to tan.
Still the blue,
So pale,
Just a fraction darker than the snow.
Joins blue and gold in itself together.
Not making green,
The two together,
Distilling the essence of fluid at rest.

Gulls scratch across a sky
Too calm to glide them home.
A raft of Eiders float on
Clumped, chunky bodies
Impervious to the cold.

My eye wishes the man-made
Gone from this view.
Harder to do,
As the fading light
Dulls this moment’s
Magic intensity.

A surface magical.
Carved by coursing
Energy arcing and

The sound,
Tonal equivalent to


Hovering over surface without purchase
To focus the eye.
Wavelengths too long
To capture whole.

The sky:
Clouds carved by contrails;
Colored by the soot of our
Constant fires.
Combustion so pervasive,

Cloudscape of
Meager paint
Knifed on and

Not like the water:
Fat and smooth.
Fat and smooth.
Fat and smooth.


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Narragansett Pier: An incongruous
tow crosses from North to South. A
too small seeming tug – sure they’re
powerful – a derrick-crane barge,
low to the water, covered with stuff,
stepping on waves, follows close
behind. Close behind it a long –
three hundred foot – four hundred
foot – reef-like barge, just clear
of awash. The first barge’s cargo;
drums, boxes, cylinders, and
squares, in rust red or pale yellow,
dirty white in the angled light; fill-
in beneath the horizontal linked-Xs
of the crane at rest. The second
barge looks made of brown stone
with horizontal stretches piled
sedimentary. Impossible to tell
what they’re made of, rusty metal,
wood? Stone? Close behind, a
small, red-housed tug steering the
assemblage by holding it back. The
whole procession takes ten minutes
to traverse its own length.

Action! The after-tug has gone free
and is ranging up the side, overtak-
ing the larger barge, reaching level
with the derrick barge in the time it
took to write this line. It’s form
blends into the shapes on the barge
as it ties-up amidships. The proces-
sion continues its glacial pace, a
living lesson in inertia.

It’s hard to imagine why they are
here, so close-in along a rocky
shore, on a course with little sea-
room for miles ahead until Point
Judith is rounded. Its movement
can only be measured over time.
Each instant shows little change
from the last. Its course precarious,
its speed ponderous, their purpose
imponderable, their ultimate end

Have they stopped? Lights begin to
show against the dusk. White lights
on the white sides of the lead tug,
pale pinpricks. They appear sta-
tionary now, only moving against
the waves; low, flat, tired swells
that trip in shallow water to crest emer-
ald green and white.

Each of the three remaining silhou-
ettes seem ranged not in a line, but
in echelon. The lead tug appears to
be heading more towards the land
than the other two. An out-of-
kilter air presides over the entire
assemblage; old, ill-equipped,
poorly placed, and off-course.
These concerns written in the
scrawl of their profiles, in the angles
and vectors of their passing.

They haven’t progressed in all these
lines. The reason for such a stop
here at this time another mystery.
Beach-walkers, traffic, fire trucks,
yapping dogs; no one pays the tow
the least attention. It’s uncanny
their blindness. Perhaps a million
tons of bristling equipment mere
hundreds of yards away, where sea-
borne traffic is normally crawling
across the horizon, the gigantism of
ships disguised by distance.…
Would an invasion fleet be as easily
overlooked? Tojo’s carriers steaming
right into Pearl Harbor? An alien
spaceship pressing down its im-
mense, yet weightless bulk on the
White House? Perhaps, if their
coming were not beat into us,
broad-cast by so many electronic
repeaters. Any true import washed
away by the superficiality of manu-
factured interest and isolated detail.

I look, I always have, to seaward,
puzzling at the signs, however
much the land turns its back on
them. As the lights begin to distin-
guish themselves from the growing
gloom – in an hour their electrified
twinkle may attract the shoreline’s
attentions. Twinkling lights de-
tached from corporeality, the trail-
ing mass and tangle lost in deep

They still haven’t moved in all these
lines. Sirens, blinking lights, rush
past behind me. Walking with their
eyes on their personal electronics,
muses and mediators combined,
clutched in their young paws; a
group of teenage boys walk by out-
of-place, out of time.

The spectacle engrosses from every
angle. Silent portents on the sea, no
way to know what it all means.
Attention drawn to dreads and
fears during this hyped-up season
of the dead, Halloween and the
Mid-term election. One lone surfer
dressed in black walks a white
board in the shallows, turns to face
the next wave, rides it quickly to its
dissolution, walks back out. Neo-
prene figure astride his white
mount in frigid waters in growing
darkness. Lost? Or merely awaiting
his three companions? Dark riders,
pale horses….

The spectacle looms over us all. Its
demands unceasing, its concerns;
draining, depressing, frightening,
and demoralizing; are inescapable.
No one controls it, though many
want to ride it to riches, to power,
to fame. There is the ultimate sign
of its proportions, when the great-
est ambition is not money or
power, but to be fed to the spect-
acle, to shine in its glow, to burn
with its fire, to be consumed; but
not forgotten, at least until the next
sacrifice reaches the front of the

The Aztec seems cruel in hindsight,
his victims writhing as he plucks
out their hearts, watched by the
fervent multitudes framed in leery
fire-light. I can now understand
they may have been willing, as will-
ing as we are to pay the full price
for feeding the spectacle. The cost
blithely undertaken, accepted
without complaint by those wor-
shiping spectacle above all else. The
cost, hidden in plain sight, in all its
improvised contingency, out of
place, ill-conceived, its future, our
future, precarious…. The whole
implausible, incongruous thing,
looming in growing darkness, ig-


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Sea Horizon

Why is it when I look to the sea horizon I always see the
past? My own past, deep past, when I was growing up in
sight of a daily sea horizon. The earth’s past, when the sea
meant bounty, an infinity spread out before us, enormity
spelled out in waves, in depths, in breadth, in fish, and in
vistas of an infinite world, an immeasurable globe where
each horizon rolled away ahead and filled in behind with
the promise of yet another, then another, world without
end, ad infinitum.

Every sea horizon held portent framed in the mind’s eye
by the Pillars of Hercules, portals to the unknown, an
unknown of possibility and immeasurable abundance.
Second only to the sky as added attribute to rocky
ground. Sea horizons stretching back in time till our
minds are met by waves crashing in steaming gouts
against crusting lavas cooling from earth’s first coalescing.

Sea horizons perhaps one of the first reflections of rising
consciousness as self-awareness pushed outwards against
immensity. Sea horizons that held our deepest fears,
home to monsters, doubts, embodiments of the alien, the
other to our insignificance.

In the sea horizon I catch glimmers of a far-off future
fullness, a restored abundance, the sea has survived and
replenished after comparable disasters before. What’s lost
to me is a present, a sea horizon that is anything but a
barrier, distance made meaningless by squandered power,
a sea exhausted, treated not as kin of our blood, mother
to us all, a mere pit.

The monsters of imagination made all too plain, our roles
as witnesses twisted into that of executioners. The un-
countable reduced to the last, to the lost, an abundance of
scarcity, a multitude of forms of barrenness. The weight
of our insubstantiality compounded by our replication to
give us the unbearable responsibility for such complete
destruction, in a race to see if we can take down all that’s
left as we cement our own conclusion.

All that is on the sea horizon. Too long did we fear exter-
nal immensity, praying for its overthrow by our own un-
limited dominion. As we near the dreadful day when our
wish becomes reality I look back to the sea horizon, hop-
ing someday it regains the power of immensity no longer
shadowed by our delusion. There is no bargain to be
made that takes us out of life’s contingency without de-
stroying all that life might promise. All this I see, or yearn
for, looking out upon a sea horizon.


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Neaps & Springs

Cycles train
from Spring to neap
show us how variation passes
through phases of maximum and
No extreme without
its opposite, no
average without extremes,
pushing the boundaries beyond
what is known. Finding its center,
it will return from prodigies
to the expected. The
only assurance is
that it will
not stop, unless
transformed into some-
thing else that
will carry
on the same dance
with different dancers, to be seen,
or not seen, by us, or some
to go on,
to go
to go


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One Word After Another

One word after another. When you come to a period, take a breath and start another thought. The important thing is to Keep Writing! One word after another. When you don’t know what to write, writing “you don’t know what to write” will show you what to write next.

“That hat, Military?”
He pushed a squat finger at the screen.
“Who is that guy?”

There’s so much to say. It’s hard to know what voice to listen to. When to jump between them. The obvious stuff, the filling-in-between-the-lines draws you in because it gives you an obvious path. But, is it the best way to go?
There’s so many ways in. So many ways to get what needs to be said out. Who’s to say which is the right way?
Waiting for inspiration? Sure, lot’s gets done while you cogitate, but building up an aversion to the messy-start makes you weak and lazy, afraid to jump in.
None of what was any good came to you any other way. Choppy or fluid, it came out and there it was. Then there was something to react to, to get traction on, to elaborate, or deny.
Until I got respect for the little beginnings, I didn’t know what I was doing. Knowing what you’re doing isn’t knowing before doing, it’s doing and knowing, seeing what’s coming out and letting it happen.
The only control we have is destructive. We can censor, we can kill, we can block. These give us control, but every bit of “good” it does, it costs us. There’s more death than life in it!

Who’s to say what’s alive? What’s it mean anyway? “I’m alive?”
That bird’s alive, the dog, the cow, the plant? The air? The water?
A wave’s alive, rushing in, rolling, and breaking; breathing in air and shooting out trails of vapor into the wind. Dense, green water piling up and tearing apart into clots of drops and trails of foam. Tugging at the bottom, pulling up drifts of sand and rolling them shoreward, then sucking them back out.
The sand’s alive, in the waves, and in the wind, streaming in streaks, waving pulses caught by the wind and spread into drifts, light and dry amidst the darker patches.
The rock’s alive, shuddering and trembling deep, deep down as breakers explode against their sides, and wash and spray caress and explore every crack and crevice on their flanks.
The whole thing is alive. I’n it? S’obvious when it’s all active and dramatic, but if that’s life, then why not the quiet, the slow, and dull?
Being present. Being aware of the plenitude. To be alive, is to recognize life when we see it. Ain’t it? What else?
“Da da dee tum ta…” We can see it, we feel it, say it. That’s living!
“Oh No!” It should go like some other way!” That’s killing it!
Don’t matter if it’s a good idea or a bad one.
“Da da dee tum ta…”
“I’m hungry!”
“You’re always hungry!”
“Yeah, well?”
“That’s what it’s like to be alive!”
Be hungry, take what you need to feed yourself. Don’t try to own it! It’ll just spoil. Good for nobody then! Ain’t it?
There’s no surplus. Get that through your head. None! What you collect comes from what somebody else was already using.
“Give and take?” Fine!
“Collect and keep?”
“Take and kill?”
Don’t matter how fine a thing you make with it…

Nobody can tell you what you need though! Only way to find out is to pay attention.
Everything is dear somehow. What you need is worth it. What you want usually ain’t.

No surplus.
Everything is already in use, of use, to something, or somebody.
Don’t forget it!
“Da da dee tum ta…”


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This fall’s
first day
of loom.

Water warmer
than the air.

A thin
warmed by contact,
a lens,
bending light
over the horizon,
whatever lies beyond its limb.

Distant ships,
float mirage-like
just above the edge of the sea
by loom of far-off waves.

Headlands appear taller
then break up into
blips and blobs reflected,
top and bottom, by
bright, light

half-glimpsed, vertical strokes
line the eastern horizon,
reflections of a grim future
girded by spinning blades
passing themselves off as flowers,
or gannet-like wings,
as benign as over-sized children’s pinwheels,
demanded by over-sized children,
determined to hold onto
all of their toys.

Red, green,
and blue
blossoms burst from this line of
distant spear-points,
vanguard of this year’s Bermuda Race,
recapitulating the Triangle Trade,
in reverse,
overlooking that Gold Coast,
Slave Coast, where rum from Caribbean sugar
bought more bodies,
to grow more sugar,
to make more rum,
to make the merchant ancestors of these adventurers,
in spirit if not in flesh,
rich enough to continue to play
at sailing,
riding to Bermuda
in the closing days
of warmth.

A distant barge
slowly coalesces
impossibly far behind
a ridiculously tall-periscoped tug
carrying today’s slaves-in-a-barrel,
progress over the old system,
a mainline hit,
its true costs payed for along
other, darker

three decrepit draggers
mop-up what’s left
living in this local sea
while surfers drive many miles
to slice through
empty waves.

Sailors, fishermen, towboat-men, surfers,
and strollers upon a beach
strewn with subtle plastic,
microscopic flakes and nodules,
our new plankton,
discarded toys, bottles, bags.

They call those, like me,
who call out what’s looming
spoilers of the fun
that holds them to
their grim work,
consuming and destroying
the last scraps of a
viable world.

Ignorance abounds,

I don’t see
how it can be claimed.

Who is the Doomer,
when they give up on
what is looming
to push on doing
what they’ve “always” done,
watching world retract and crumble,
pushing to
do it
yet more
and more?

in their optimism.

in their optimism.

by their optimism,
of any way of telling
hope from wishes.


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This Could Be Cuba

The sea is tropical,
pale green,
frothed in washed-out viridian:
as if
by a summer’s worth of sun.

The sky is thick,
and filled
with salt-mist
hanging above
left-over breakers.

The air,
too light to call a breeze,
as warm and gentle as a breath.

A broken-off
of strato-cirrus,
pale against pale,
marks a far-off
tropical storm.

But for a lack of palm trees
this could be Cuba,
or Tortuga.

The wash
holds the wrecks
of Portuguese Man-of-War
wide disks of domed jellies
with their fronds
worn-off in their passage across the bar.

The shells of alien crustaceans,
giant sand-fleas,
on the eddies of Gulf Stream.

The rush and tumble
of the waves,
breaking on this rising tide,
forever rushing,
and always replaced
by more,
and more
rolling in from the East.

At the head of a grand conveyor
three-thousand miles long,
reveling in the illusion of movement;
as if I was progressing East,
not watching them all roll westward;
just sitting,
just soaking it all in.


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To Hell with Good Intentions

Thoughts occur
poems arrive,
these usages ring true.

Not as passivity
unless that of the
patient hunter.

The ancients called
the voices within

They knew better than to assume
to own them merely because
they were inside us.

Ownership, Private Property
necessary evils?
Necessity gives them too much dignity.

Ten percent of the cells within us are us
the rest, the totality of which
“we” are but a tithe, belong to the world.

It’s not so much the world intrudes
but that we are mere infiltration
into the world.

Mere accidents of scale
keep us from seeing
the myriad of all that we temporarily invade.

We don’t own our own bodies
the space on or in
our skin.

We can own actions
if we chose
to destroy.

Destruction is
the only avenue open
to control.

I capture
by writing.

It allows me
to string thoughts together as they come
to witness and reflect.

I know no other way
to – harness? –

Not so much
as ride.

The paintings in the caves…
We have no idea how that felt to make them, to see them,
to descend into mother earth in darkness and constraint.

Bringing the idea of fire and light
into this realm of

Finding the shapes in the rock and coaxing them to life
animated by the mind and the flicker of weak flame
in dank air.

No one complained then
of a lack of ease.
Such a miracle was a Gift.

The relationship of made to maker clear.
The only ambiguity was who was who?
Do we make what we find?

Does it make us?


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