Crannóg, Trees, Vortexes, and Home

It made me very happy to know that Crannóg Magazine had selected my poem “Unleaving” for Issue 47, now available.

It makes such a resonant conjunction of different places and times! Crannóg is published in Galway, Ireland, yet this is a praise poem to the trees of northern California, and starts out with an American kid’s baseball memory. It’s the March issue of Crannóg (it was to have been launched at the Crane Bar in Galway on March 2nd, but for the storm) – which means that my birthday approaches, along with that of my Irish step-grandfather, gone now. And birthdays seem increasingly connected with leaf fall, yet the poem is filled with memories of childhood.

“Unleaving” is one of my most personal poems and one I love to read aloud. The title is a reference to Hopkins’ poem “Spring and Fall,” which begins: “Márgarét, áre you gríeving / Over Goldengrove unleaving?”


Years and years I’ve come to you like this –
sliding in to touch base, dirt in my teeth.
Years and years I’ve leaned against you,

Green skin, sap-stuck, fissured
as mine is now. You wore willow
and I climbed up weeping.
You put on god tree when I needed gods.

Still, it’s strange to find you waiting,
back here where we began. Years and years
round to the smell of dust and tannin –
as if this life I’ve made so much of

were nothing but a squirrel’s flimflam.
Once I fell through a vortex of spinning
aspen leaves. It’s taken me a lifetime
to know the place for home.


Reading so many beautiful poems of gratitude and thanks-giving this week, I wanted to share this, from my last book, Crazing:



The storm drives all ashore—thrown stick with dogteeth, twig of twisted pine,

thumbnail jellyfish with dark sails fallen, torn kelp, fouled ballast, soapy olivine foam.

Everyone here has the same story.

We are blown here out of sight of ourselves, staggering and dismayed.

Yet we are perfect — without ladder or pyramid, pinnacle or pietà

perfect, perfect, perfect, perfect—
as one would say this, this, this, this

seeing, in this dire wind, what there is to worship.

Rivendell Residency II

Rivendell Writers’ Colony was magical in October. The main house is set on a bluff looking east over a long, often mist-filled valley.
Each morning from my beautiful room I watched the sun rise
over the valley and the mountains behind.

During long Indian summer days I wrote in a hammock under huge oak trees, watching the changing clouds and light; I walked through the woods to talk with the neighbor’s horses; I sat beside a pond littered with red and gold leaves.

I love that Rivendell was named by a previous owner’s children for the hidden elven refuge in Lord of the Rings. A safe house, a sanctuary. And I love that it once housed a girl’s camp – despite its grace and elegant lines, it still has a bit of that happy camp feel, ghosts of girls’ voices calling, games.

There were five other writers in the main house, all working on major projects, several of us under deadlines. As the lone poet I was the only one without “pages completed” to report – to cheers – as we drank a glass of wine and cooked our dinners together – or celebrated around a campfire down at the pond. I felt honored to be there among them – terrific young writers working on interesting projects – and now, friends.
Rivendell restored my creative energy. I filled a notebook with raw images and lines and ideas for poems. I completed several revisions. I had a major epiphany about how to approach the next phase of Whale Fall. Here’s a poem from the first day:

Noon light clear and diffuse,
sky empty, like the beginning
of a fairy tale. So we set out,
belongings wrapped in a kerchief

of amber leaves. We step
into unbound light, blithe as birds.
Beneath the falling shadow
from straight-boled,

kelp-fingered oaks,
the hammock swings at its mooring,
bow pointing into the risen breeze.
Oak nuts pour like rain.

The light turns gold as field
corn, sharp-edged with autumn.
A bright yellow butterfly
is a leaf charged with intention.

You must empty, strenuously,
if you wish to follow it. You must
rise from dead, dropped, moored:
become that small sun, that fire.