Inscription on Helicon

I have seen her now: seasoned with eternity,
simmers in her sky-cold sylvan pool, hard and white
as the waning moon and quartzite banks, the last softening
membrane of youth seared away in the slow forge of forever;
breast peppered with translucent constellations
when the sun breaks through the leaves.

No fleshy delicacy—even of the slightest young brides,
but the taut, radiant hide of an ageless queen,
Immortal virgin, so say they, but naught of docile innocence;
her purity: homicidal violence.

She it is who haunts the dread hinterland,
  forbidden interior, wildland of man;
    No love for the society of Olympus,
and no Earth Mother, more terrible
  than any Aphrodite.

I have etched here these scars on this stone, scraped
  as I hide, catching my breath, wrapping my wounds,
    year over year, binding my bones,
    to report that I have run this long,
  even to the sacred springs on Helicon.
Not pious nor merciful, she makes sport of me still.
  The hounds come.

© 2015 Kaweah

Hotel Jericho

Old Jacksonboro Road crosses the Savannah Highway within a half hour of Charleston. The junction has a name: Jericho. Today it is considered part of the town of Adams Run (as though you know where that is).

The Notre Maison Boys Home

The Notre Maison Boys Home
Source: Rebecca Reconnu Biggs Grainger


As far as I know, Jericho was once the site of a hotel, a store with gas pumps named Caison’s Groceries, and a school annex for Coloreds. The store had a post office inside. Mom and Dad bought the old hotel in 1970, when we returned to South Carolina. I was just 5. We didn’t stay there long. Sometime after we left South Carolina again in 1972, it all burned down in a couple of fires (I have an alibi: I was out of state).

The hotel had three stories, if one counts the spacious attic with dormer windows and and old four-legged bathtub. It had exterior wooden stairways which functioned as fire escapes. It had ten bedrooms and four bathrooms. When we moved in, one of the bedrooms had a sagging floor. The bathrooms were equipped with showers, but none of them functioned. We all had to bathe in my sister Duska’s bedroom (the attic).

About six years before, the house had been converted to a boys’ home by David A Reconnu and his wife Nima. They operated the boys’ home for about four years.


Source: Thomas C. Hucks

The adjacent store (peeking through on the right edge of the above photo) came equipped with a soda vending machine that would allow a mischievous boy to yank a bottle out without paying. The trick to it was not to brag about snagging a free soda to one’s mom.

When Mom and Dad first found out about the hotel in Spring 1970, they saw it as a place that might serve well as a home for seven and a dog, a chiropractic office, and a Bahá’í center. I must confess that if I were driving down the Savannah Highway and I saw a FOR SALE sign posted in front of that old hotel, I would have been sorely tempted to stop for a look-see.

It seems they bought the house sight-unseen. When they actually laid eyes upon it, it was pretty badly trashed, featuring a trash pile in the front.

Among my favorite memories of Jericho was the the trash pile in the back, all blackened from the last fire and wet from the last rain. I can still smell the aroma of molten plastics, rotting food, and rusted scrap metal. I also remember when a crab, recently taken from the ocean, got a hold of a cat’s tail. I’m not sure how that happened, but now I suspect it probably got some help from a teenage boy.

Across the highway, there was a hotel of a different kind that was even more noteworthy: a maze of tunnels that some neighbor kids had dug out. My memory of that system of tunnels has endured in my mind as one of the great achievements of kidkind.

It turned out the Hotel Jericho had too many maintenance and repair issues, and it wasn’t easy to unload. Mom and Dad weren’t able to sell it for a year or two after we left Jericho.

Jericho School Annex for Coloreds
Jericho School Annex for Coloreds.



It turned out that the property was in worse shape than we’d thought. All the while we lived there, and for years before and after, going back to before the boys’ home, there had been a fertilizer plant operating behind the house, contaminating the soil and the groundwater. The area, including the site of the house, was later declared a superfund site. One of the companies that did the damage, Kerr-McGee, was infamously featured in the Karen Silkwood story. The sign of the company that ran the plant later still stands by the highway. Apparently, the fertilizer plant had been exporting fertilizer laced with quite a variety of toxic chemicals.


Rochester Post-Bulletin: Companies indicted after lead, cadmium found in fertilizer


The Charleston Post & Courier: Pact would clean up toxic Stoller Site

© 2006, 2013, 2015 Dan J. Jensen

(small world)

The universe seems to be
Very big, and who’s to say
  it’s alone.

Somewhere out there,
  someone is just like you.

Somewhere out there,
Someone just like you
  is walking
With someone like me.

Maybe they aren’t that
  far from here.

© 2013–14 Kaweah


The Peace-Loving Elements

The cataract grinds away the granite
But water only wants to find a low place
And take the form of its container,
Conform to make its peace.

Earth falls too—
Crashes down on itself
Till the land is level,
At peace.

The wind blows savage over the plain,
Falls from ridge to trough and
The gradient is lost. No high, no low,
No sound but peace.

Fire comes, hungry,
  willful, wild;
Thaws frozen seas, steams
Oceans and the rains fall, turns
Air against air and the winds sing;
Heaves continents, piles mountains up,
Sends the peace-loving elements off
  to war.

© 2013-14 Kaweah



They breathe only what can be inhaled
from others. That is their way.

When you had no more air for them,
their memory of you was a bible.
They buried the book and mourned it
as you lay breathless, solitary,
according to their law.

They encircled their book,
emitting weeping sounds,
embalming it with rose water
and saline solution.

I stepped up secretly, discretely
pushed each one into the hole,
back after back, there not being faces.

The tomb was spacious
(The book was large).
The earth weighed heavily on the spade,
but it rested well upon them.

They have come to no harm, do not cry.
They lie there today,
sipping each other’s air.

© 2013–15 Kaweah


Meeting Minutes

A fool question, but a safe one,
he figures.

Wouldn’t want to give her
the wrong idea—or worse yet,
the right one.

“San Paulo,” she answers,
as if he were there, not lost
somewhere between the
eyes and mouth,
where it can be hard
to hear anything.

”That somewhere near
Ipanema?,” he wonders—aloud,
and she laughs, of course, and the heat
rushes to his face, and the colors
drain from the world,
and she smiles and the stars
draw arcs in the lunch-hour sky
‘round her hair, the breeze
blowing all the patio umbrellas
tumbling and laughing
to the sea, o mundo

© 2013–15 Kaweah


The Stacks

I don’t recall how it began
I was asleep at the time
maybe long ago in a boy’s dream or some
        half-remembered adventure
          wandering again
through that vast and foreign city of childhood
        that never once was the same
in so many days and dreams
        maybe this time he’d lost someone
          I don’t recall
    Hearst Avenue or some such
boulevard    walking downward
a fenced park to his side    an iron gate
concrete path    neoclassic façade    the
        pinkness of granite
    the cherrywood doors    ajar
Stepping up    cold stone by stone
slipped with the night air    through the entryway
to the dark inside    a broad desk    a bronze reading lamp
too dim to penetrate the dense air and a woman
    old white hair skin folded in ribbed shadows
        in the green lamplight seated at the desk
stood and turned not seeing me    walked out from behind
the oak battlement    turned his way cocked her head to say
follow me patron and so he did    back to the stacks
the green lamplight remained    fading at our backs
her ancient wiry frame    hung a knee-length dress
black in the green light    vanished here and there
as she passed through the shadows of
    the densely packed shelves
        the knocking of her heels
echoed off the bindings and the floor
her bunned hair was black now in the dim light
    the curve of her hips was complete
        each leg in fullness but undressed
seeming to note my hesitation she turned back
she was young she was fruitful she
    wore the old woman’s dress
but it embraced her now and her glasses had the same frames
but the glass was dark as the stacks    somehow I knew
I knew her from somewhere she stopped and turned and
she pulled a book off-shelf    handed it to him and
    she leaned against the shelving and waited
I looked through the volume all the pages were naked
he looked up to her and showed her    two of the empty sheets
she turned away to the stack and reached up
        lifting off her heels to her toes
    dangerously drew out another volume
I could hardly make out the black silhouette of her face
her hair    her dress her calves in the crescent light
her bow-like length flush against the mass of bindings
she pulled the book down and I turned timidly as
        she handed the book to him and
I handed the empty book back    only to find
        the next book was empty    so
she led me down the slot canyon handing him
volume after volume of emptiness
    sometimes the pages were fresh
white and glossy sometimes they were
yellowed and cracked with time and
    the verdant librarian she led me
though the shadow to where the stacks ended at a wall
the shelves there empty    but for a single book
I could see this clearly    in the light of a naked bulb
that shone from high on the wall    I could see that
the librarian’s dress though black was not opaque
I could see her through it in the white light as she
handed him the lone book that he could not open
because of what I saw under the linen
    some kind of writing
the script glowed dimly in the light in the black fabric
he reached for her collar and turned it out
    there was writing
in some Latin form    there was another collar
under the collar    white and it too had writing and
he turned it over and I saw the deeper layers
and I licked his fingertips and he peeled back the sheets
back as the pages of her breast opened    a white rose
the petals turned silently    the words
    incomprehensible and familiar
he dug through into her pages and I
listened to her breathing    clearly
    and deeply
with every new page my hands tingle
to the touch of every silk petal
but the fingers begin to quake and stumble
and the pages slip out of their grasp
and the dreamer slips out of the dream
eyes fixed to the ceiling
we listen to the breathing

© 2013–14 Kaweah


Jeffers and Fire

Here’s the presentation that I delivered (in part, having run out of time) at the 20th conference of the Robinson Jeffers Association in Carmel, California on February 16, 2014. It might interest anyone into Robinson Jeffers, the Central Coast of California, fire, Moby-Dick, Heraclitus, Zoroastrianism, etc.

Fire as God in the Poetry of Robinson Jeffers

Several assertions are made:

  1. Jeffers was a fire poet,
  2. Jeffers’s fire-muse was the place that he lived, and
  3. Jeffers’s god was a god of fire.

Cape Horn


Ahab found his madness
    pulling ‘round Cape Horn,
Bound down before his sirens—
    howling Odysseus,

There where the seas broke through
Hyper-extended America, twin
Who’d fain stretch themselves thin
    as Panama,
Pole to pole to barricade Magellanic

But Patagonia stretched too thin, and the waters
    broke the Andean spine,
and the cold blood poured through, pushed
    vertebrae out before it,
Warped Patagonia, Antarctica inward
like pincer-horns—a narrow funnel
For all the polar seas
And the southern gales to ride through;
Storms sliding down the Andes,
And beneath the wave crests:
    prowling icebergs,
    creeping coastal shallows.

Plenty bad with the Roaring Forties,
    Furious Fifties riding your back,
But a watery hell with them whistling
    ‘twixt your nostrils and teeth;

Twice dismasted the Garthwray
Before she finally turned about, sailed
‘round the world to reach Chile
    from Argentina;

And Magellan and Drake snuck through,
    lost half their ships,
But the Spanish, for their part, preferred
To cross the land and build new fleets
Than rip hull and sail
    on the Horn.

© 2014–15 Kaweah



Land of the Esselen

Land of the Esselen

Take the bodies of the land and the sea.
Grind them together for thirty million
and something’s bound to chip off.

Look. Not even the heart is left
hunks of Sierran granite spilled
up and down the coast;
the continent’s bones scattered
across the exposed sea floor
from Bodega Head and Point Reyes in
    the north,
past the Farallons, Pinos and Lobos
down to that plutonic shard the Spanish
“the South,” where you may have heard
an older people, beyond the cliff,
up the canyon, under the shadows
of the white peak, the red giants; who
spoke in ways foreign to their neighbors.

In that country, all was life,
everything thinking;
rock was memory, and nothing
was too inhuman
to have a name.

© 2014–15 Kaweah