Remember when you were small—
before you read words—
you taught yourself to read clouds?
You’d lie on your back
for hours and never tire
of the stories the clouds told.
There was the one about
the dragon who became
a three-legged elephant
and another about a thin, bearded man
who chased a fat lady so far across the sky
that they became a heard of buffalo
and then a fish who leaped to his last breath
from a pinky purple sea. You thought
you’d grow up to make a living at it—
reading clouds—not knowing
that cloud reading is a thankless task
left only to children and dreamers.
Good days those were,
when reading clouds
was your bread and butter.
from Fan Mail From Some Flounder
Some Facts About Poets
Poets do not grow on trees,
but they do tend to inhabit gardens.
Poets are not above the law,
but the law is of no concern to them.
Poets have a mission, which is,
They run like any other human, but
are known to sprout antlers and wings
when least expected. All poets began
as children, back before the dinosaurs.
They grew aware of sun and moon,
flying saucers, mud, and old age.
They never forget an ancient touch, taste,
or smell, but can’t tell you what was for lunch
yesterday. They are Einstein’s theory
of relativity in the flesh. They don’t
split infinitives, except under duress.
Their shirts are clean, unpressed.
Awake, they dream.
Asleep, they work.
Poets are just as rowdy or quiet
as the next guy. They love the world
and will tell you in every rhythm imaginable
and ask no wage for their tinkering.
from Fan Mail from Some Flounder
Down by the Lake
Low lying strata of clouds
press down upon the lake at dusk
in cool grey blues. Then incoming,
slow, a hot pink glow burnishes the cloud tips
as the sun sets somewhere far away
on the other side of town.
The lake is calm here,
though storm clouds huddle
on every horizon and steely
columns of rain advance
like tipsy soldiers after the battle,
coming in for a good soak.
I expect something is about to happen.
What it is, I cannot say. Could be
the rain will come, or not. I do sense
(like the gull hanging on the updraft)
that the light wind holding the lone,
brave sailboat, also holds me.
from This Particular Heaven
there are all kinds of whisperers.
Horse, dog, cat. You name it,
someone is whispering to it.
American idols, who are they?
There are politicians whispering
behind closed doors, on cell phones,
to large piles of money. Who
are these faces and what lips
can whisper such secrets
designed to hurt so many?
As for me, I am whispering
to the trees. For so long,
they have whispered to me
and now I beg them, please,
teach us to be more like you,
steadfast, but flexible.
Don’t just hug a tree.
Be a tree: root, stretch
shade, blossom. Then,
when the wind blows,
whisper, thank you.
from This Particular Heaven
The orchids fell away
and left two dry sticks.
I kept them by the window
all through winter.
There were those who scoffed,
faithless in the ways of death.
But who laughs now?
Only me and the new blossom.
from The Accidental Present
Straighten right and up fly.
Tide high in morning,
and broke for go.
Lamp the lights
and harvest the gather.
Let no unturned go stone.
Hearth the sweep
and bread the butter.
Be neighbor to your good.
Then, let no island be a man
and avoid making molehills
out of mountains. Beware
the teapot in a tempest
and remember, people living
in glass stones should not throw houses.
Take yourself with a salt of grain,
for there is nothing sun
under the new.
Up wake and give day
for the thanks. Fandango
the dance and go peace in forth.
Tread earth over this good lightly.
from A Brief History of Mail