Yellow Dog’s Ears

Pretty Wife and I were helping clean out a storage unit for beloved stepdad Paul when two sheets, one “NLQ” pin-printed in faded ink and the other handwritten, fluttered out of a box full of things to throw away. The ball point page is in my readily identifiable hand printing; the dot matrix page has my name inscribed with a flourish at the top right corner, in my mother’s swooping cursive.

The computer-printed page includes the following two items, mailed to Mom when I was stationed at Fort Stewart, Georgia in the mid-late 80s. I would have been an untutored (and thus PRE-sophomoric!) 21- or 22-year-old.


Long, long and dusty
fraught with the look of the desert
rabbits look lame as they hobble
limping to save their speed

(and where does it lead?)

short, twisted, green and malodorous
swamp water sucks at their ankles
each thinks of their freer, finer home
though most have never been

(why do they stay?)

bright goldenblue sunshiny sky
vast over all its environs
hawk circles reveal their thieving
the world goes round again

(why don’t they see?)


October days that mug the night
sticky-sweat sweetness of the dying summer
impresses on the footbound

But I am safe and sane at sixty-five

Trickling whisper of a god’s caress
folds back my leftside radar while
the wheels roll, the semis roar and
the crinkled leather ladies
in kosher Cadillacs
puce, maroon and lilac
having found New York less blest in fall
gaze imperious and curious
appalled and impelled by my beard stubble
doughy in the tint of their glass

They sweep on toward winter beaches
ribbon-river of I-95
tied to their plasticaddy grilles
Miami-eyed at ninety-five
two tons to a lemming

Laughing, made arrogant by humbleness
I sing to the cracked beat of the country
split open a Bud for its cool tangy mist
drive into the dingy dusk with
my arm on the window, my
mind on a girl

Road trippin’


The other page, hand-printed, is a tiny meditation written at the edge of the water after driving across the country to school, then across this broad state to visit a woman more dangerous to my mind and the mortality of others than I’d allowed myself to admit at that point on my timeline.

I was filled up with swirling impressions of Georgia and Oklahoma and Texas and Korea, and feeling a strong need to purge my dive tanks with clean, Pacific NW bay water.

Next to my name, this page is dated 14 FEB 87: Valentine’s Day, my first maximum security prison visit day, and the precise date that my terminal leave ended and I transitioned from an active duty, rocket artillery section sergeant to a National Guard, infantry squad leader… freshly 23, and more or less a civilian again

That day was the first and only time I ever saw her with long, curly hair.


Penrose Point State Park, 0700

Driving too long behind
Coffee-filtered eyes, red-twitching
I have come
To the place of spirit’s birthing

Potlatches echo in this space
The land’s deep green
Repeated on the sound

The loon’s cry echoes
Unchallenged on the flat still
Morning waters; I reply

With stilled but trembling spirit
Bend a creaking, car-worn knee
To taste the salted waters

I have been too long away

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