Thursday, January 31, 2008

Who's reading?

Sometimes I wonder how many people read this blog. I can think of half a dozen friends and family (hi mom!) who have referred to something they saw here in the last year or so. Perhaps this half dozen constitutes the entire readership. Honestly, that's fine by me, especially after my good friend Jo reported the other day that she spent a good long while sampling Engaged while nursing Ruby, her beautiful four-month-old daughter. Poems and politics for friends, moms and babies. Absolutely, yes.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Wednesday night in White Center

Spanglish Potluck at Cafe Rozella:
una noche de palabras y música
an evening of words & music

with Wendy Call and Maria de Lourdes Victoria
with music by Charanga Danzón, led by Irene Mitri

Co-sponsored by Hedgebrook & Supported by 4Culture
part of Hedgebrook's Women Authoring Change series

Wednesday, January 30, 2008
7:00 pm
Café Rozella
9434 Delridge Way SW
Seattle, Washington 98106

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

MLK Day listening parties

Do you have plans for Martin Luther King, Jr. Day?

A few nights ago, I heard a broadcast of his 1967 speech “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break the Silence.” I'd heard it before, but once again I was floored by this powerful statement against the war and for a radical transformation of American values and policy.

I was driving when it came on the radio. As I approached my neighborhood, I took a few detours to pass through busy pedestrian areas, with the windows rolled down despite an icy chill, hoping that others might catch a spark from hearing the sound of his voice. In the final minutes of the speech, I was sitting in the car outside my apartment, when a friend called. I answered it but simply put the cellphone down on the seat so whoever was on the line could listen, if they chose not to hang up. Luckily, once the speech was over, I found that the friend on the line was as awed as I was. We began to brainstorm ways we could get others to listen to the recording, such as hooking up a public address system to a car or cart and amplifying it in parks, parking lots, street corners. We began to lay plans.

These plans fell by the wayside during the busy week, but here's what I am going to do instead: I posted a flyer at the entrance of my building, inviting my 20 or so neighbors to join me Monday night to listen together to this moving address. Then we'll see where the conversation takes us. Then we'll eat some food.

Doesn't that sound great? Don't you want to set up a listening party, too?

Alternative Radio sells the recording as a downloadable MP3 file, at (They also sell CDs and cassettes, but it's too late to order one for MLK Day.)

It's also available to listen online at

If you put together a listening party, please let me know.

PS If you're in Seattle and you have Monday free, don't forget the annual Martin Luther King, Jr., Celebration with Workshops (9:30am-11am), Rally (11am), and March (12pm) from Franklin High School to the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Park. (Free food and refreshments served afterward in Franklin's lunch room.)

Monday, January 14, 2008

Jan. 31: "Media Coverage of US-Iran Relations"

A forum at the University of Washington, Kane Hall. (Click the headline for details.)

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Playfield at T.T. Minor

Four friends, women and men
run football drills on the muddy field.
Quarterback looks to the runner
who fakes left, breaks right.
The pass flies a rifled line
straight to her, ‘til she’s tripped up
and tackled by the cornerback,
who slobbers, ears and jaws flapping:
a joyful three-legged dog.

Dear sir,

I didn’t catch you name, as the rain was falling hard
and the heater fan was blowing. I shook your hand,
admired your smile, the glint in your old blue eyes.
I was glad to point out to you the skyline,
honored to pronounce a name you had never heard:
Duwamish. Welcome to Seattle, sir, from Arizona,
whence you came by the will of God, so you said.

You charmed us with your gift of gab, your snow-white hair,
the knowing wink that came along with jokes,
your shiny sateen jacket
from another generation. You start a conversation,
compliment the young banker and his comfy running shoes,
well-deserved, having stood all day in loafers. Your words
were sparks, striking up smiles between strangers,
we who normally ride in silence.

I’m very sorry, sir. Usually I do not yell,
I do not swear at elders.

I began to wonder
when you said calcium was bad for women’s bodies,
that it killed them, but I didn’t blame you.
Each report about our health
is bought and paid for.

The bus arc’d around onto 99
and I felt the conversation turn. Did I hear you right?
That America has prisons prepped
for all the Muslims? I wouldn’t put it past this cowboy in chief,
but I think that’s a little much.

The al-Qaeda, they’re out to get us, just like that September,
only next they’ll go for Arizona, Boston, and every other town.
They’re all around us.

No sir, I tried to say, but I couldn’t get a word in.
It’s all in their religion, you said.
And that’s when something broke.

I’m sorry sir, you’re mistaken.
Al-Qaeda’s just a fraction,
the very smallest portion
of a peaceful people.

No, they’re killers, you said, it’s because of their religion.

How many Muslims do you know?
You only dodged the question.

You, sir. You are al-Qaeda.
You are not like them,
but one and the same, those who only speak of threat,
of danger. You fear your neighbors
but never meet them. You fan the flames
that fuel the tanks. You throw stones
that pave the road to empire. You do not plant,
but only cut the branches
of olive and of laurel. You feed them to the fire
that may broil us all.

Skagit river revising

I use this blog, in part, to let new poem drafts breathe a little, and later I go back and revise them online. I recently revised "Skagit River rising" enough I think it deserves a fresh posting.

Waters swell, silence
rapids underneath,
spread beyond the banks,
turning grassy paths into marsh, indistinct,
erasing boundary between the river and the land.
Eddies churn in circles
and crows watch the eagles skeptically.

Warnings buzz around our heads—
the list of tasks, reminders shouted from room to room,
radio waves and newsprint chattering predictions:
The river will overspill.

The woodpile by the barn, we tie it down
to stop the river lifting it, piece by piece,
to carry out to sea.
We move furniture and handtools
to higher ground, beyond floodwaters’ reach,
and stop to make a pact
with neighbors: our hands
are theirs.

Mount Sauk – its snowfall feeds the river –
lurks invisible behind the house,
behind the clouds we breathe.
Sadie barks. The air is cold and still.

Then the first fat drops
start a clatter on the corrugated roof,
falling heavy on our heads.

As waters gather,
mice abandon burrows, squealing
into open jaws of field and sky,
and the sky begins to sing
its ancient lovesong to the river.

Burroughs Peak

August in Seattle.
“Chance of showers”
turns to dismal drizzle.
Some summer, this.
I’d rather curse the darkness than light a damn candle
so I rev the engine,
head for the mountain in the clouds.

Driving the lonesome road,
living an ad for Rai-
I wish Amanda were here.

Past the tollbooth, the winding curves
to the parking lot at the end of the road.

Boots crunch on gravel.
Cool air, matterhorn peaks.
So steep, treetops nearly kiss the slope.
From the water bottle a breath escapes.

I climb and climb,
find little lakes
hear marmot squeaks
stop to sample pine needle scents.
Fingers sticky from a snack.
Chipmunks nibble and scamper.

Boot steps fall to the rhythm
of syncopated strings–
a Turkish diva sings
pop songs in my head.
And I haven’t broken a sweat yet,
stopping so damn much to scribble!
But I came here to get away.
Keep going,
keep breathing.

Path rises into tundra,
steeper now, and narrow.
Water droplets on my cheek
but it’s not rain –
it’s a cloud
carressing the ridge,
the mountain's skin and my own.

Two fingers on my jugular vein
feel the blood course;
red and orange flowers
burst among fragile grasses,
give way to wet black stone
adorned with green lichens’ glow.

Nothing now, but breathing shrouds,
the narrow path, and stones,
all else disappears at a short distance
‘til the sky throws down
a shaft of sun,
falling on the Emmons Glacier
rolling off the shoulders
of these hulking wonders.

Is that rushing sound
the wind
or the river?

I wonder.

At the stony peak
I find the answer.

What I did for the holidays

Leapt down the coast in jetplanes
to a young lover in Oakland
who kept her socks on.

Leapt out of her bed
before dawn, over Los Angeles,
muscles moving with love, blood-deep
and dread of my father's bitter rancor.

Over dinner of crablegs
and sunset, he hands me bricks
one by one, complaints
and ancient grudges
to build a cozy fortress
around us.

I set them aside,
climb down the bluffs.
The tide is low and the moon
is full. I leap from rock
to rock, over tidepools

to touch mottled starfish arms,
run through tresses of ocean grass
with my fingertips, kissed
by the thousand numbing lips
of anemone
folding inward.