Ansel Adams

            A mass of fractured granite flattened by the moon--

             This winter evening looks like night.

            We know the monolith is Half Dome rising.

            The stillness in the photograph is not quiet;

            It moves as the snowy clouds slow down,

Awake in a clinging arch of trees.


Yet we are made of igneous muscle,

Metamorphic brain and sedimentary fat.

Hunger, abstract as rock,

Blinds our vision.

We can't let go.


Still we place our hope in photographs and fictions:

The meticulous eye, the careful wait,

The perilous exposure and slow development

Are lenses through rocks, through light itself,

By degrees of gray, inward 

To the mind.


Thank God for Polaroid;

Its stock may rise before our fall.

It may teach us to watch

Until our bodies wake.

                                                                                     from Piedras (1978) 



To David Maxim, After Seeing His Himalayas         

                    Two continents collided to raise these icy rocks

                        Almost thirty thousand feet above the sea.

                    We know all that from glacial records:

                    India slipped away from Antarctic cold

                    To touch warm Asia, then kept on moving,

                    Folding the Earth, thrusting it upwards,

                    To bring us closer to a cloudy Heaven,

                    To build colder mountains for Tibetan monks.


                    Now, ages later, you touch paint to canvas.

                    You remind us of our earthly powers.

                    Oils form faults and fissures, hazardous crevasses,

                    Layer on layer, brushes and scrapes.

                    Cliffs rise toward the sky

                    And time slows down.


                    You do it all with colors.

                    They float through our warm eyes

                    To collide with mental patterns

                    Larger than cold mountains.

                    This is a kind of knowing,

                    A way for us to see things new.


                                            from Piedras (1978)



With Karla and Susan After Visiting an Exhibition

of Judy Chicago's Work



Here is an opening,

a major pair of lips,

to kiss and to

grow from.


Wrapped as they are

and shut in a box,

we can sense multiplicity

as hands and flowers

reaching out to pollinate

plants like our own.


What stands for us now

and enters this sheath

can never be the same



There's no more sower and sown.


We're all teeming earth

with wide mouths

and strenuous tongues

singing to be free.


                                                                                                from Piedras (1978)


Feux D'Artifice



                                green, red, violet, white, blue--

                                     shine in the north sky,

                                open their dazzling eyes

                                       in wide circles;

                                then, failing to dilate further,

                                        fall back into darkness.



                                come to us later--

                                        the snorting of cannon fire,

                                or the hissing and fuming of dragons

                                        speaking to distant hills.


                    Standing here in the night,

                                we keep warm by our own fires,

                                        feux d'artifices,

                                insatiable desires

                                        for vaster worlds--

                                the bloom of our flesh,

                                        our noisy empires,

                    the explosion and sigh of fictions, planets,

                                the darkening stars.


                                                                        from Piedras (1978)


Minimum Impact


                   Where lupines, larkspurs, cinque and avalanche lilies

                      Cluster near heather, paintbrush and short fir trees,

                       We learn to walk more gently,

                       Take the path others have taken,

                        Never camp.


                        For this is a new zone we have come to:

                        Like wilted Alaska cedars mixing with the firs,

                        We have escaped the clear-cut hills below us

                        To face long winter

                        And summer to brief for waste.             from Piedras (1978),

                                                                                first published in Transactions of the Pacific Circle (Fall, 1975)




The Edward Curtis "Last Views"


            Beyond the darkness

            and the occasional fuzziness

            of the photographs

            of Comanche, Yakima,

            Lummi, Flathead and Sioux,


            There is a red-orange tinge

            almost like sunset

            on winter afternoons.

            I feel the lives

            struggling fiercely in the old ways--


            Geronimo blanketed against cold,

            tepees raised within the forests,

            painted warriors,

            fishers and hunters,

            women collecting wood in the snow.


            These people look beyond

            the shadow in the camera.

            They know this kiss of death

            is painful but not lasting.

            They have implacable eyes.


            What we call wrinkles on their faces--

            like canoes of stretched elk-skin

            on strong fir-saplings--

            are the markings

            of spirits still living among us.


            And what seem like grim symbols--

            eagle feathers, weasel and deer skins,

            bone and grizzly-claw necklaces--

            express an integrity

            we find we need.                       from Piedras (1978)