Reflections on a Wednesday

Charlemagne said, 

To have another language is to possess a second soul.  

I'm hopelessly monolingual, but I like to think I speak a little ravenese, coyote, quail, cat, and some kind of pidgin bluebirdese.   

A poverty is said to bless the process.

Lewis Hyde said that we are only alive to the degree that we can let ourselves be moved. 

Three times I've spotted fox this spring.  

One was with her two kits, and I spotted them down the hill.  The other two I noticed as they were gazing up at me from the ravine.  

Rather feline, the fox.  

Anyone can speak Troll.  All you have to do is point and grunt.

-- JK Rowling

Still no mountain lion.  Not even tracks.  But every now and then, I sense that one has been in the area.  

Only in the last moment of human history has the delusion arisen that people can flourish apart from the rest of the living world.  

-- E.O. Wilson

Time will say nothing but I told you so.  

-- Auden


Belle Turnbulle, Unsung Masters Series, Pleaides Press

Happy to have played a small part in this worthy project: 
"Well-known during her life but long out of print,Turnbull’s lyrics of sublime alpine wilderness and her narratives about the harsh and dangerous world of hard rock mining offer us a profoundly original vision of the American west that transcends the region.
"In poems that are as consoling as they are unsettling, Belle Turnbull extracted and refined the meanings of mountains, miners, memory, and mortality. Now, nearly fifty years after her death, a team of gifted writers—serving as Turnbull’s latter-day friends in high places—joins together to rescue her work from our inattention, and return us to her company. “


J.D. Blackfoot, The Song of Crazy Horse and Wounded Knee, from 1973

Not just a beautiful piece of music, operatic in scale, but a profoundly well made epic poem.   I include the lyrics below, which stand alone as a piece of historical literature.  I mean to write an essay on this, as a song, and as a stand-alone poem, and make a plea that it be known in the world of letters.  And in the schools.  It deserves a place in the American canon.   The death dirge alone is enough to have convinced me of this. An unsung genius, this man, and the song is virtually unknown.  With thanks to my brother, for turning me on to it when I was a child, and to Chrissy, and Dave, whose travels, conversation, and poems, have put Wounded Knee back into my orbit of thought.   Turn up the volume.  You'll weep.  You'll dance.  You'll fall to your knees.  

I think it's time, great white father, that you knew my name.  

Jd Blackfoot The Song Of Crazy Horse 

The Song of Crazy Horse
Words & Music by: J D Blackfoot © 1973 Published by: Tokala Music
You took his land and you ate his corn,
and on his grave your land was born.
You took his pride and you fed him dirt,
you wished him winter without a shirt
and you called this red man savage.
And after you crushed him you helped him up,
to let him drink from an empty cup.
You gave him the Navy without the fleet,
and made him lick your hands and kiss your feet,
and you named this mad dog savage.
Well I found a book the other day,
so I looked up red and white to see what it'd say.
One was a savage the other unlearned,
like a look in the mirror the tables were turned,
for history has named you - savage.
In the year of 65 when I was very young,
we watched the dust clouds to the south
we knew that you had come.
We saw you build your chain of forts
along the Bozeman Road,
but Red Cloud had his allies a-counted
long before it snowed.
And someday Great White Father
you will know my name.
In December of 66' you met me face to face.
I decoyed your Captain Fetterman
and we never left a trace.
Into our sacred homelands
your Blue Coat Soldiers came,
but we just taught you a heap-big lesson
in the Battle of a Hundred Slain.
And someday Great White Father
you will know my name.
In the June of 76' our Nation joined its hands.
We made our camps on The Little Bighorn
not knowing of your plans.
You sent your long-haired Custer
with the Seventh Cavalry,
to hunt and kill my children
for wanting to be free.
And I think it's time Great White Father
that you knew my name !
It's Crazy Horse - it's Crazy Horse
and I wish you were here to see,
cause' I got Yellow Hair cornered at the Bighorn
and I'm about to set him free.
Ride to the village to get my Oglala's,
the Sans Arc's and the Miniconjou,
Get Sitting Bull with his band of Hunkpapa's,
the Brule's and Blackfoot's too.
Ridin' home from battle came the Cheyenne ponies
with white blood drippin' from their feet.
Their riders were a lookin' and a shoutin' up to heaven
here's to Chivington at Sand Creek.
Hey there mister wagon master
what do ya' have inside,
hidden underneath of that buffalo hide.
Could it be ya' brought to me
some food from the man back east,
so my starvin' children could have a feast.
A-hey mother come look and see,
what the bastard done brought to me -
its alcohol - tobacco - and guns,
alcohol - tobacco - and guns
Now I have seen the Eagle soaring
beautiful and free,
I don't want no man to make less of me.
Do you take me for a fool
or as a little child?
And do you really wonder what's made me wild?
Hey paleface ya' better run,
because my men been havin' lots of fun
on your - alcohol - tobacco - and guns,
alcohol - tobacco - and guns. Yeah -
Now I have waited patiently
for you to pay your rent,
but as yet I haven't seen that first red cent.
I don't think that there's much chance
of me evicting you,
but watch out for the day that you get Sioux'd.
A hundred years have seen the setting sun,
but his sad country it still is run - on his
alcohol - tobacco - and guns,
alcohol - tobacco - and guns.
A hundred years have seen the setting sun,
but his sad country it still is run - on his
alcohol - tobacco - and guns,
alcohol - tobacco - and GUNS.
Now you try to trick me and lock me up in jail,
but where would a stupid savage
find the bondsmen or the bail.
I turn to run for I am scared and want so to be free.
I feel the ice cold bayonet
as it sinks deep inside of me.
But someday Great White Father
you'll remember me.
Sioux warriors teach your children
the white mans evil tongue.
Make them know the name of Crazy Horse
and the battles he has won.
So they will know the truth
when its knowledge that they crave.
Let them sing of the land of the free
and the home of the brave.
And of the Great White Father
that dug my grave.
Brown rivers once were blue
now the fish float upside down.
Ancestral burial grounds
that's where you built your towns.
The smokestacks from your factories
they pollute my skies.
You slaughtered all my buffalo
and you left me here to die.
And all of this you have done
in the name of God.
Crazy Horse he was laid to rest
on a creek called Wounded Knee.
But there is more buried in his grave
than the wisest men could see.
I have dreamed the vision of the horse that dances wild,
I have seen the land of the great beyond.
I am one with this earth as a little child.
Let my eternal light shine on.
I have dreamed the vision of the horse that dances wild,
and I have seen the land of the great beyond.
I am one with this earth as a little child.
Let my eternal light shine on.
Crazy Horse he was laid to rest
on a creek called Wounded Knee.
But there is more buried in his crave
than the wisest men could see.
Crazy Horse he was laid to rest
on a creek called Wounded Knee.
But there is more buried in his crave
than the wisest men could see.
For Crazy Horse he was laid to rest
on a creek called Wounded Knee.
But there is more buried in his crave
than the wisest men could see.
Milkweed allusion cast its dye.
And the horse that dances starts to fly.
Rhythms of metamorphous leave their stain.
Memories of happiness kept in vain.
The target tomorrow is one step beyond.
For lilies of mercy lost on a pond.
They cry out for freedom to the light house above.
They are angels of victory, peace and love.
Visions of Odin dark and oblique.
Mind over matter which all men seek.
A vague understanding with no recourse.
And a fond remembrance of Crazy Horse.
Just Ride away -
And travel right out through space and time.
Try and find a way of leaving the illusion behind.
And in this sleep your mind will be awakened.
To the calling of a dream that lies within.
You're just a child, who has but to remember.
That in yourself you just found your best friend.
So ride away -
And let your mind go through its metamorphosis.
Try and find a way -
To bring your sunken love back to the surface.
And sail on silver clouds straight through the fire.
Like a lily pad adrift on a windless sea.
A-clinging to the breast of Mother Nature.
Together sailing beautiful and free.
Ride away lord -
It's said that Crazy Horse had the power
to dream himself into the real world -
and leave the illusion behind.
So ride away -
And don't recall the things that are best forgotten.
Try and find a way -
of picking from the barrel the one that's rotten.
The key to peace is sitting on your shoulders.
So knock upon the door and you walk on in.
You're just a child who has but to remember.
That in yourself you just found your best friend.
So ride away yeah - Ride away -
Ride away - Ride away -
Ride away yeah - Oh yeah -
For Crazy Horse he was laid to rest
on a creek called Wounded Knee 


Nasty Women and Lost Horse Press

It appears my work has been selected for inclusion in Nasty Women Poets, an Anthology, due out in the fall from Lost Horse Press.  (They'll be reprinting one of the older poems from Poetry Mag).  

My mother will be so proud.

A couple of new poems will also appear in The Hopkins Review, Summer Issue. 

Meanwhile, closer to home, one of the galleries where my work is featured on Main Street in Junque Towne, has gone belly up.   Tough times all round in the valley.  And a Denver mogul is buying up little Palisade's historic buildings, kicking the local merchants and artists out on their Palisade ears.  One wonders if he rubs his hands together while doing this.  

All politics is loco.  


In Which the Poet's Son Heads to the Office

Our boy will be graduating from The School of Mines in a couple of weeks.  A couple of weeks after that he ships off to Houston, where he'll begin his career as an engineer.  It should be noted that Houston is a good deal further from home than Golden was.  

I suppose I have been in a state of denial about this fact.    

What is life but a series of adjustments...

Fare Thee Well

      for Samuel

Stay clear of Lake Superior, 
go light in the Sea of Fears, 
be still as a hint at Rushing Creek 
and long in the Zaire. 

Behold the gold at Crater Lake, 
be hushed at Puget Sound, 
go crooked through the Bering Strait
where all the sails fall down— 

and should the falcon come to you 
with ribbons in her beak,
then don’t forget to count the trees
and all the sounds and all the seas

that you have known, before you fall asleep.


Cap'n Jack Mueller 1942-2017

I will not be reduced to false clarity or
deductive explanations of a leaf, falling.

There was a bobcat. To protect my rodents, I scared it off.

Then came a squall of hail so fierce it pockmarked my house.

My Erasmus is dragging.

What I can't change 

changes me.

Time has a twin, but doesn't speak of it.


I am overcome by reason,

overwhelmed by song.

The field is good for daisies 

and daisies for the field.


The world wept wooden tears

but it was already too late.

The degree of incongruence determines 



Wednesday night is like all the other nights --
Too far from dawn

To be taken seriously.      

- JM

You got a good weird on you.  

Thank you.  Is that an olfactory observation? 

Thus began a friendship between us that could only be described as peculiar, delightful, dysfunctional, entirely rewarding.   Jack was the quintessential San Francisco poet in the sixties and seventies, but lived his later years in the small mountain town of Ridgway, just a couple of hours away.  He was my drunken muse, my night owl companion, my hedge fund, my kin, my smoking buddy, my cautionary tale, my poetic opposite, my introverted reflection, and my friend.  

He crossed the river yesterday.  I had seen him the night before, and wished him safe passage. 

I miss him already.  

Who will watch the stars when we have been folded into the earth?

Pack wood and carry water, old friend, and may the horse, and the rune, and the chickadees be with you.  

I'm watching the soundless Dalai Lama
And listening to Buddy Holly.

I should have been born a cigarette
With a drink of sweet water.

Maybe I was the "should have been" to come,
Or maybe just one more simple form

Of animal fun. 


And Another for the Reaper: Rest in Peace, Robert W King, 1937-2017

We are wise, or old. We can afford to laugh.  - RWK
Bob was loved by many Colorado poets.  He was a poet who took his humor seriously, a journeyman, a wordsmith, a professor of English at UNC, curator of the Colorado Poets Center, and he was a dear friend.   A few weeks before he died, he asked me to say some words and read one of his poems at the service in celebration of his life, in Loveland.  Poets in the area who knew and loved him are invited to attend.  The services will be held at The Rialto Theatre, on 4th Street, Wed., May 3 at 4pm.  


In a Dark Time One Reads Nothing but Heather McHugh

What He Thought

For Fabbio Doplicher

We were supposed to do a job in Italy
and, full of our feeling for
ourselves (our sense of being
Poets from America) we went
from Rome to Fano, met
the Mayor, mulled a couple
matters over. The Italian literati seemed
bewildered by the language of America: they asked us
what does “flat drink” mean? and the mysterious
“cheap date” (no explanation lessened
this one’s mystery). Among Italian writers we

could recognize our counterparts: the academic,
the apologist, the arrogant, the amorous,
the brazen and the glib. And there was one
administrator (The Conservative), in suit
of regulation gray, who like a good tour guide
with measured pace and uninflected tone
narrated sights and histories
the hired van hauled us past.
Of all he was most politic--
and least poetic-- so
it seemed. Our last
few days in Rome 
I found a book of poems this
unprepossessing one had written: it was there
in the pensione room (a room he’d recommended)
where it must have been abandoned by
the German visitor (was there a bus of them?) to whom
he had inscribed and dated it a month before. I couldn’t
read Italian either, so I put the book
back in the wardrobe’s dark. We last Americans

were due to leave
tomorrow. For our parting evening then
our host chose something in a family restaurant,
and there we sat and chatted, sat and chewed, till,
sensible it was our last big chance to be Poetic, make
our mark, one of us asked

“What’s poetry?
Is it the fruits and vegetables
and marketplace at Campo dei Fiori

or the statue there?” Because I was
the glib one, I identified the answer
instantly, I didn’t have to think-- “The truth
is both, it’s both!” I blurted out. But that
was easy. That was easiest
to say. What followed taught me something
about difficulty, 

for our underestimated host spoke out
all of a sudden, with a rising passion, and he said:

The statue represents
Giordano Bruno, brought
to be burned in the public square
because of his offence against authority, which was to say
the Church. His crime was his belief
the universe does not revolve around
the human being: God is no
fixed point or central government
but rather is poured in waves, through
all things: all things
move. “If God is not the soul itself,
he is the soul OF THE SOUL of the world.” Such was
his heresy. The day they brought him forth to die

they feared he might incite the crowd (the man
was famous for his eloquence). And so his captors
placed upon his face
an iron mask
in which he could not speak.

That is how they burned him.
That is how he died, 
without a word,
in front of everyone. And poetry--

(we’d all put down our forks by now, to listen to
the man in gray; he went on softly)-- poetry

is what he thought, but did not say.


In Which the Poet Probes the Mysterious Many-Armed Beast of Social Media

Results are mixed.  But generally the town squares of the day are square, or straight, or off the charts oracular, (and circular), intensely bent, or comfortingly bi-polar.

Twitter is built for brevity, but goes on and on and on.  It has the distinct feel of a house of footloose gremlins and their prickly spawn.  It's scarcely populated by poets, and those poets who are present tend to be the ones who object to Facebook on principle, and more power to them.  It's well suited to those with a quick wit and a pulse on the entire planet.  A particularly good place for the well-read, the clever and the curmudgeonly. And your basic egomaniacal ignoramus who doesn't know it.

Facebook is great for cats and memes and pokes and winks and those who like to engage, argue, and express their deepest fears, not with blood, or sweat, or ink, but with link upon link upon link.  It's the hub of social media, it's got the boomers by the short hairs, and it knows it.  And it shows.  Already it looks tired of itself.  It's always seemed to me a missed opportunity for creatives and carnies and poets, who tend to turn into sales people when they log onto facebook.  For all the material, and of course there are exceptions, there is very little real riffing or spontaneity, or dialogue.  Or creative weirdness.  But its familiarity and safety is its great virtue, and even a cloistered old poet enjoys stopping in now and then, comforted to find so many loved ones sharing links amongst themselves.  Or with themselves.

Snapchat is for YOLOs who toast their bodies and their beers without a modicum of fear, secure in the knowledge that everything disappears.   Although the Snapchat world is about stimulation and gratification and cartoonization, it's the most zen of the digital town squares out there.  Everything evaporates as soon as it's seen.  The caption, (the koan?) is king.  And the name of the game is fleeting.  Live in the moment, it seems to urge.  But, like most things zen, it's mostly pretty reductive. I confess I didn't stay long.  Best suited to the hungry yoot and the hungry ghost.  

Pinterest is excellent for horders on a budget.  It's eye candy, stimulating, and briefly satisfying.   Its distinctive feature and primary brilliance is that is puts buyers directly in touch with artists.  Facebook has no such feature, and is poorer for it.  In the world of Pinterest, every image 'pinned' to someone's board contains a link which leads directly to its source's contact information -- whether the artist has an account or not.  I've sold more work and had more inquiries from Pinterest sources than any other, and I've never had an account. A good place for visual artists and crafty types selling their wares to establish a presence.  Strangely enough, one's poems also end up displayed on Pinterest, particularly if they're short and deceptively cheery.

Periscope is awkward, terrifying, and weird.  It has promise, of what I am uncertain.  I didn't spend much time investigating, but it appears best suited for the brave, the bizarre and the ultimately shameless.  

Vine has the attention span of a gnat, which I suspect is its allure.  Another one designed entirely for the yoot. 

Instagram is all about aesthetics.  It seeks clarity of vanity, is not opposed to hilarity, and is very short on biography. The aesthete, the eccentric, the architect, the traveler, the juggler, the healer, and the obsessive compulsive are equally at home there -- so long as they take mighty good pictures of what they do. And post them sparingly.   No albums with 55 pictures of grandma's birthday party.  One artful photo of grandma fallen asleep in a dusty beam of light will do.  Skill is the name of the game. At a glance you can see what an account is about, and what its tenor.  All language here is visual, and the grid of the thing can be shifted and viewed with remarkable ease.  Only on Instagram can a meticulous artist create a mural with an interface that appears to be a grid.  The look is sleek and the thing is fast-loading, (they don't call it insta for nothing), and it has the best photo editing/enhancing features I've encountered.  No links.  Speak for yourself, it seems to say, sans words. It's the only of the digital town squares I investigated that hooked me, and my account remains intact.  Some of the best, most creative political commentary I've found were on Instagram, and they were wordless. No sharing beyond its borders, which is a real pity. Best suited for creatives, perfectionists, reductionists, and escapees of any kind. 

Meanwhile, down in the ravine tonight, a bunch of neighborhood cats, deprived of all social media opportunities, are having themselves some kind of orgy. 

Many campfires, one fire, indeed.  


Belle Turnbulle (1881-1970)

Only the drift of tameless folk,
Tough in sinew, tough in bone,
Knit in their outlandishness,
Long endure by naked stone.

from Will Boil Too Early, The Ten Mile Range Belle Turnbulle 

A few dear poet friends and I will be discussing Belle's work at the Breckenridge Creative Arts Center the evening of Friday, April 21.  More information can be found here:  rANGE

Turnbulle, who lived in Breckenridge for the last 30 years of her life, came to speak the dual language of mountain and mining: 

Mountains were made for badgers, Probus said,

And badgers for the mountains.  And so long
As I can claw a tunnel, with the strong
Smell of the ore beyond, I shall be led
To sink my pick in holes unlimited,
To rummage in old stopes and raise the song
Of victory too soon, all laid along
Hellbent to crack a granite maidenhead.

And men of war may hoot and presidents

Rock down the chutes to hell, but I'll be going
Soon as a patch of mountainside is showing.
Soon as a bluebird settles on a fence,
Two shall string out and beat it up the trail,
A jackass first, a miner at his tail.  


In the meantime, here on the edge of the world, it has been a quiet morning.