The Answer

Beneath the dim glow
Between night and day,
Before the storm,
The lioness retreated
To the creekside wood.

He turned from the reptilian
Alto-stratus in the high, blue east
To the storm-laden west
And blinked.

A flash of coral pink
On rock, tree, and meadow
That somehow
Missed the sky?

He whipped around in surprise;

High clouds catching fire
Over the east, somehow
Casting deeper shadow on the land,
And towering over the west:

A narrow arc of refracted daylight
Glowing in the final breath of darkness
Like an answer.

© 2013 Kaweah


So Spoke Zarathustra

“The gods indeed did not choose rightly …” —Ahunavaiti Gatha

The clouds rumbled.

“Bastard! Devil!,” a bearded man screamed at the sky.
The mountain wind whipped his hair across his face.
The hair was not grey, but the face was not young.

He looked around,
surveying the black bellies of the thunderheads
gathered around the mountain.
The man turned his eyes back to heaven.

A smile spread from his cheeks to his eyes.
He inhaled deeply.
A mad laugh burst out of him,
and he shouted at heaven.

“You dare not kill me, you fool!”

and he shook his head.

With a lower voice, he began to speak as though
he were talking to another man on the summit.

“Death is my ally. Death—
is my power over you.”

His voice elevated as he continued:
“Kill me and you have nothing!”

Now he began to whisper, as if to a confidant.

“My friend. You and I know of powers
greater than the thunderbolt.
Greater than flood! Drought!

… If you do not kill me now, I will tell the others.”

A flash struck the peak to the south, and then a crack split the air.

“You — MISSED!” The first man screamed, laughing,

but then the wind subsided, and
his face grew more solemn.

“You know, we too
have harnessed fire.”

© 2013 Kaweah


Sierra del Fuego

He knew her best,
I have no doubt of it.
And didn’t he name her better
Than did the Spaniards? Hah!
What did they know?
They never even approached her.

Today I received another incident report
From the Range. She has
taken to burning again.

It’s inevitable.

If you’ve ever walked her wooded elevations
on a day like this, under the faithful
California sun,
you might reckon the thickets and the woods to be
on the threshold of ignition.

What isn’t burning is baking.
You can smell it.

The cold fire of alpenglow on the high peaks,
That is a reminder.

I remember, John, how you waited out a mountain
fire in the charred heart of a Sequoia,
that Giant among giants who needs
a little fire now and then.

I would have liked to have been on Paradise Ridge,
there with you, that night.

I would have been waiting, a little nervously,
for the right time to say,

Now tell me
you never considered

Range of Fire.

© 2013 Kaweah


In Geologic Times

Not so long ago,
I came upon Half Dome
half done, shrouded
in oak scaffolding.

Squinting my eyes,
I noted stocky little men
on the network of hardwood
with rosy cheeks and
beards like their bellies,
some chiseling away at the granite,
some polishing.

Looking again at all that
scaffolding, I recalled
how spacious the forests
and the meadows had been
before the white rangers came
and saved everything, and then
I thought, well,
these guys did it!

But what about the glaciers,
I inquired of one of the little people
who’d come by to offer me a pint.

What’s a glacier, he asked me.
Some kind of elf?

© 2013 Kaweah


Plan B from Outer Space

Okay. I can see now
that it’s not going to happen.
I have a backup plan.
What we need is
a way to pull it off
without me.
Here’s what you do.
First, you must make certain
that I’m not around.
Others may be there.
Just make sure
that I’m not one of them.

An empty chair is a good start, or
an empty space between chairs,
if an empty chair can’t be found.

A glass of water will do,
An empty glass would do
even better.

I’m ready when you are.
Oh—about the check:
We can go Dutch.

© 2013 Kaweah


River Mercy

At his feet she is laid resting,
holding up the sun to him;
she presses it
up into his boughs,
and carelessly drops the rays
to filter through him.

And he sees his self
image in her

She naps between them
this afternoon.
She is her blood; together
they stain the rocks
and earth emerald.

She doesn’t rush about meadows
searching for leaves.

She sits napping in them,
flirting with the sun;
her dreaming eyebrows
laugh at time.

She comprehends me (I stand
ankle deep on the warm,
round pebbles;

I watch the still
currents of thought), and I—

I feel the way she thinks.

She wanders in her musings
against her crescent banks
and canyons.

she grinds them
with her snow fists and
tramples them
with her dall hooves and

I see that they love her.

© 2013 Kaweah



Good and bad are like
Darkness and day,
Night and light,
Some people say.

But hush, shy world,
Let us whisper and conspire:
the sun has flown away.

Will you be my arbiter
between beauty and
truth, nightflower?

A bursting, jubilant wildfire
of crisp color sleeps by day
in her casket of aridgreen
stained leather leaves, while

the world spins
mad in the void
spawning evil and good
by the clock, but

she blossoms
in background

He rolls, whispering,
laying his worldshade
on the houses and the rooms.

Her folded fingers shield
her shaded dreams
from the harmful frequencies
that burn the day.

until gentle
eyes of night
peel her thorny blankets back
with desire and darkness
to a defenseless finery
of petals.

© 2013 Kaweah


A Going-Away Party

Doesn’t everybody get at least one party?

Jake got one when they found him with a gun in his bathtub.
It was a big one.
No. I mean the party. The gun was tiny.

Lots of folks showed up.
Family, neighbors, friends.
Some even came down from high places.

They even hired a preacher.
He looked good (Jake, I mean).
You should look so good, brother.
Those guys do magic.

Oh, come on! You’ve got friends!
I’m your friend, man.

Sure, anything you like, bud.
Name the place. I’ll set it all up,
but you have to make the guest list.

Whaddaya mean?
How about this:
Anyone who’s come to see you in the last, say,
five years.

Oh, come now. There must be someone.
What about your neighbors?
The delivery man?
The cable guy?
See. I told you.

Ten years, then.
Come on. You’re pulling my leg.

How about the wife and kids?
Him too? You sure?
Better run that by the kids.

You want a preacher?
Okay, then. How about a band?
Huh! They might be a little busy.
I can try, but how about a plan B, like a cover band?
Whatever you say, man. It’s your party.

Plugged or unplugged?
How about a playlist?
Is that even possible?
Whatever you say, man. It’s your party.

How long you gonna give me?
No. I’m sure that’ll give me plenty of time.
It’ll be the best party you never had.
You have my word on that.
Cross my heart and hope to die.

How to Look at God

Sol rules the sky,
a celestial Medusa,
flames swinging and waving out into space
like so many yellow snakes,
the failure of the metaphor being
that we may look upon him,
though only through his companion;
a month being nothing more
than the time we must wait
to see the fire of heaven
as he sees himself, fully,
in his mirror
of wounded stone.