Cazadero Moss

Cazadero Moss

Beside a leaf-scattered trail
that winds beneath Douglas fir
and redwood, massive
granite boulders lie, almost a wall.
High, relative to a terrain
that continues to rise
above the valley below.

Moss covers the wall,
the crevices between boulders,
as if married to the wall.
A soft blanket of green
where fallen needles and thoughts
collect, thoughts of those
who have stopped to relish
the beauty of this moment,
any moment in this place.

A late response to earthweal weekly post: THE NATURE OF ENCHANTMENT, i am sharing this poem with earthweal open link weekend #88.

Photos: Cazadero Nature and Art Conservancy, in Sonoma County, California.
(click images for larger view in new tab)

My other Cazadero poems can be found here.

Fair Niagara (revised) ~ verse epistle

Fair Niagara

Think not that I have forsaken you, Niagara.
These thousand miles that separate us
cannot deny that you still flow
through my veins like a lifeblood.

There can be no denying our intimacy,
one that reaches back to childhood. Mine,
bundled in my parents’ arms when I first met you
at the edge of your mighty falls.

Your childhood, Niagara, lies hidden somewhere
in the mists of time. Onguiaahra, your first people
named you. As a passage between two great bodies of water,
they respected your nature, both simple and profound.

The sight of salmon jumping in your lower reaches
or the light returned by a school of shiners in your clear water
take my breath away, yet it returns easily when your warm water
meets the cool air of an early autumn morning.

You cradled me as I swam in your depths
beside muskellunge and sturgeon,
held me afloat as I paddled your waters
in the company of herons and eagles.

Niagara, you have been my quiet companion,
the many hours I sat by your shore
marveling at your wonder and beauty,
contemplating life and the nearness of you.

I have heard the majesty of your cataracts, you with a rainbow
as a crown while singing of the splendors of nature.
I have seen your power and fury on display below those falls,
rushing through a canyon that would contain you,

till you broke free to flow calmly, steadily,
to complete your course, connecting one inland sea
with another. I have watched the sun set over you,
enhancing your beauty and glory.

Yet while my heart still beats for you, it has answered
the call of one most dear who now shares my heart
with you. I seek what comfort I can from the rivers
and streams of my new home, but they do not run as clear.

They do not provide the solace I find in your blue waters,
nor do they lessen this great distance between us.
Before my time has run its course,
I shall return to yours, my fair Niagara.

This is a revision of Fair Niagara, a verse epistle written for Exploring the poetic genre: Verse Epistle, a March 2021 prompt at dVerse ~ Poets Pub, and is my response to earthweal weekly challenge: SAY THE NAMES, a prompt hosted by Sherry Marr at earthweal, where she says, “Tell us about the places you hold most dear in the corner of the planet where you live.”

I’m also sharing this at dVerse – Open Link Night 293 at dVerse ~ Poets Pub.

Read about the source of the word “Niagara” here.

~ The Niagara River, with the skyline of the city of Niagara Falls on the horizon
~ At Niagara Falls in 1953
~ Emerald Shiners (minnows) in the Niagara River
(click images for larger view in new tab

Just One Tree

Just One Tree

What is my life to a cedar,
with all of my paths leading here,
contemplating age and survival,

or to an oak, with no false starts,
each of its branches offering
the possibility for growth?

A walnut will stand tall and continue
bearing fruit, while my back bends
and my options grow fewer.

Brief as my life may be, there is
solace in its ending if it should
spare the life of just one tree.

This poem originally was inspired by the first photo above, taken ten days ago on a walk at Runge Conservation Center in Jefferson City, Missouri. It sat unfinished, until I realized today that it could be used to meet the Sept. 20 prompt, earthweal weekly challenge: A TIMBERED CHOIR.



Anthropocene Labyrinth

Anthropocene Labyrinth

Which way to turn, and what to do
What steps to take to puzzle through
The ills inflicted on this Earth
Each one diminishing its worth

Resources stripped until they’re gone
With waning hope each breaking dawn
Rain forests stripped of all that’s green
Incorporated greed, obscene

Pollutants pumped into the skies
We choke the seas, yet still they rise
Vile toxins dumped into our streams
Descending darkness in our dreams

When each new dawn reveals new blight
There seems no end to this long night
The darkness here within this maze
Increases with each passing day


This poem is my response to earthweal weekly challenge: ANTHROPOCENE LABYRINTH, where Ingrid says, “For this week’s challenge, let’s examine the possibility of rhyming, or perhaps even dancing our way out of the Anthropocene labyrinth.” I actually wrote this in iambic tetrameter, and we all know I’m not all that fond of rhyme or meter.

Shared with Open Link Night #300 September Live

Image source: Denver Museum of Nature and Science

Rolling Coal

Rolling Coal

Rolling Coal32 in ’85, in a B model Mack
more than 20 years old, accelerating
from each light with gray-black smoke
spewing a cloud of death, my signature
the black particles settling everywhere,
to my great embarrassment.

Mental notes, gathered through the day
while I struggle with a transmission
that has seen better days, jotted down
at day’s end, nothing more than rants
about profit over ecology, an economy
of words just short of poetry.

Three more years before those dinosaurs
are retired, even then seen around town,
someone else’s signature, and my writing
turns to things internal, poetry. Even so,
trucks that shift like fluid, leave fewer visible
traces of their passing, continue with emissions.

’06 and retirement, just when electronics-
tailored engines start to address air quality.
No longer my concern, but isn’t it?
More time means more time outdoors,
just as conscious, my appreciation reflected
in my poems composed on a kayak.

Driving home after a day on the water, I wait
for the light to change. Some people never do.
Green light, and the pickup ahead takes off,
rolling coal enveloping my car in black. Too late
to close my vents, all I see and taste is black.
Hoping to clear the air, I pull over to take notes.


This poem is my response to earthweal weekly challenge: EARTHCRAFT.

In 1985, I lost my job on the loading dock of a trucking company when a merger brought in men with more seniority. I had obtained my CDL (back then called a Class 1 license) when I was twenty-one, but had never used it. That license led to my next job in local pickup and delivery and served me until I retired in 2006. At first, I was low man on the totem pole at the new company, with no choice of equipment. I often drove the oldest trucks in the fleet. Emission standards were very lax at the time, and those trucks were in sad need of retirement. Nowadays, it’s not uncommon to see diesel-powered pickups with exhaust systems modified to bypass emission controls. The drivers are called “coal rollers” for their practice of blasting pedestrians, etc., with their black exhaust. The trucks I was embarrassed to drive in 1985, for the same company as the image, looked much worse than that picture.




Gorgeous_1Consider the river that cares not
what man thinks of it, churning
over obstacles that will not impede it
in a gorgeous canyon, miles from
a roaring cataract yet filled with the sound
of a rapid staccato best heard at the water’s edge,
that edge approached with peril for it cares not
what safety one desires when near, its own safety
never at stake, raging as it does at the disservice
served upon it, the waters it carries never truly clean,
yet powerless, despite its power, to change that course.

Gorgeous_2Now walk the trails that lie beside it, trails
that care not whether they are trod by soled feet
or the pads of wildlife content to share
with those who understand the fragile nature
of their home, this pocket of green. Marvel
at the escarpment that once was the falls
as the river wore at its limestone foundation
in its inexorable march to the current home
of those falls. Move briefly through shadow
between boulders larger than a house,
cleaved from the side of the wall towering
above you, as you wind your way to the river.

Georgeous_3Watch a heron pull a fish from the water as you sit
on the rocks at the river’s edge, then gaze
at the roiling water beside you, sun glinting
from the foam of the rapids. Follow that light
to see the sun approach the crest of the gorge,
all the while taking in the green that surrounds you,
green that would not be had it not been preserved
by those who understand its fragile nature.

Niagara Glen Map


This poem is my response to earthweal weekly challenge: Sanctuary, a challenge now closed, so I’m sharing it with earthweal open link weekend #71.

The Niagara River, the strait of water between Lake Erie and Lake Ontario, carries all of the water of the upper Great Lakes. Much of the thirty-six mile length of the river was lined with industry, including within the gorge below Niagara Falls. The majority of that industry is gone, with the few remaining on the US side in the stretch north of Buffalo. While stricter regulations and ambitious cleanup campaigns, from the late twentieth century onward, reversed much of the degradation of the lakes during the industrial era, toxic sediments still exist and agricultural runoff remains a serious problem. The Canadian side of the Niagara River is a true parkway, maintained by Niagara Parks of Ontario. Beyond the falls, from the whirlpool to the end of the gorge is Niagara Glen, where a stairway descends the gorge wall to join four miles of trails that lead to the river’s edge as they wind through a Carolinian forest. When I lived in New York, I often crossed into Canada at Niagara Falls, just to walk those trails. The rapids within the gorge range from Class III to Class V.

~ click any image for a larger view in a new tab ~




I walk trails, lands once
deforested, now green, thankful
my health is restored, that I can look
between the trees to see a buck
spying me between the trees on a swath
that once was a road cutting across hills
once clear-cut, now restored
and as beautiful as the view from a bluff
that looks back upon them. Looking back
seventy years, who thought farmland,
once depleted, could be so full of life?
Looking ahead seventy years, will this be
no more than a pocket of lost hope
in the wider expanse of some other world?

This poem is my response to earthweal weekly challenge: VOYAGE TO THE OTHERWORLD, where Brendan says, “As with myth and dream, modernity has almost lost its Otherworld. The language of wonder and flight is paltry and dry. As the Earth becomes haunted of vanishing life, so the everteeming Ocean is a faded, seldom and flickering place. Change is inexorable; ghosts and monsters abound. But all is not done … Getting to the Otherworld is a voyage of equal parts doubt and faith.” He asks, “What help is there, in these immodest, shrinking and fuming times? Can we still hear the call, can Otherworld sails still trim, do islands still wait for us above the waterline across the main? And what does the Otherworld dream of a world such as we wander today?”

Before 1940, private landowners intensively cultivated the area that is now the 16,500 acre Cedar Creek Ranger District of the Mark Twain National Forest in Missouri, resulting in depleted and eroded soils. In the 1940s, the Soil Conservation Service began purchasing and rebuilding it, stabilizing gullies and planting trees and grasses. It has been managed by the U.S. Forest Service since 1953. The photo above is from my November hike on the Cedar Creek Trail. This section of the trail was once a country road that passed through farmland.

Earth Shaman’s Plea

Earth Shaman’s Plea

I cast my thoughts to the heavens,
seek succor from the stars,
that they might hear my plight,
send solutions to a soul
wounded to its core, yet unwilling
to cast from its presence the scourge
that has brought this plague upon it.

Earth Shaman's PleaAre not all elements essential to being,
each one a part of my whole? While some
have fallen to circumstance, making way
for others with a nature more fitting
to my own, these place upon me
scars that cannot be erased,
that jeopardize their own existence.

Should they exhaust all that I have
to offer, leaving nothing but desolation
in their wake, what is their next course?
To die with me? To leave me behind,
leaping from world to world, then on
to the very stars to whom I beseech?
Are they destined to know the same fate?

This poem is my response to Wounded Healer: Songs of the Earth Shaman, where Brendan says, “I can’t help wondering if the wounded healer for such global malaise is the Earth herself, a damaged wholeness, borne of human madness and the terrible spells of the Sorcerer’s Apprentice — air conditioning and solo vehicles, plastic wrappers and nuclear bombs. Maybe the song we need to hear and emulate is the wounded Earth’s?” “What and where are the wombs formed in the wounds of sea level rise and wildfire, mass extinction and ocean acidification? What then are the Songs of the Earth Shaman?”

Image source:

Following the Roots

Following the Roots

Following the RootsLong past its prime
a mighty oak stands, still.
In a forest of green,
no leaves grace these branches.

Time and the elements
have taken their toll,
yet its majesty can be traced
along every one of its limbs.

Witness to hundreds of years
of mankind’s history, its own
can be seen in each of those lines,
every branch a tale of its environs.

I wonder at its thoughts, formed
as each new bud opened, transitioned,
and fell to the ground to nourish
its own roots, food for those thoughts.

My own thoughts follow the poetry
of those paths, falling to take shape
on the page, in the hope to capture words
that stand as tall, and for as long, as that oak.

Off prompt for Day 13 at, this poem is in response to earthweal weekly challenge: TOWARD AN ECOPOETRY. Brendan asks us to consider how our poetry works or doesn’t in regard to six offered questions. I tried to touch on the following:

3. If our inner lives echo natural rhythms without, how can we come
   to understand the inner by growing closer to the outer?

~ Day 13 ~

This Fluid Connection

This Fluid Connection

This Fluid Connection

I’ve paddled to the middle of the Niagara River, drifted
along a sandy shore to see a green heron among watery roots,
heard egrets high in a tree call my name.

When I sat on the shore of Lake Ontario sifting pebbles
in search of beach glass, my thoughts echoed
in each wave lapping at my feet.

Even here, far from those blue waters, I sit
on a quiet stream and know all that surrounds me
is speaking to me with my voice.

I talk to the water as if to myself,
learn from my own responses.

This poem is a response to earthweal weekly challenge: THE TEEMING, although I’ve missed the Linky window for that.  Also, I’m off prompt for Day 11 of  On this 11th day of National/Global Poetry Writing Month, this is my 16th poem of the month.

NaPoWriMo 2021

~ Day 11 ~