balance beaming

what about you, waldo i say to willow
who’s wearing the red and white striped hat
while we pluck out the dried vines
and flourishing variety of weeds
in the north garden beds
port with the glittering shoes in his hands
making up front porch dance moves
and cynthia balance beaming her way
across the bench/table while we clap and clap and don’t clap
during some after-dinner rounds
of affirmation
from the water world:
Hindu devotees pray in the waters of the river Ganga as they take a dip to honor the souls of their departed ancestors on Mahalaya, which is also called Shraadh or Pitru Paksha, in Allahabad, India. – voice of america, day in photos

bringing out the sweetness

how she edits herself outloud, changing something about
talking soon in the near future
to gratitude for this moment

the hum of someone’s combine in the distance
as heard from all edges of field three A
someone at the wheel working their way through this year’s soy or corn harvest
while we, work-gloved, work our way up/down rows of towering sorghum
(some at least 15 feet tall)
stripping leaves and snapping seed heads

the burst-flavor of sungolds and how
the temperature change (from warm to cool) changes them, 
bringing out the sweetness
the spill of blue and black and white feathers
in the path on our way to field three,
a dejavu of yesterday’s spill of feathers
found on the path out the the broom corn
only they were all red
the quiet quiet of no moonstar-the-cat
meowing at my window
at the end of the day
reminds me of a dear friend from undergrad i tell caleb
about the smell of hot metal

issac teaching us
bookbinding with cardboard and
somehow the ongoing joke becomes about cutco
a built in advertisement

from the water world:

Rescuers evacuate flood-affected children in Ningde, eastern China’s Fujian province. Typhoon Megi smashed into the Chinese mainland, killing one person, after leaving a trail of destruction and four people dead in Taiwan. – voice of america, day in photos

on this sunbright day

the only thing you need to know/i need to tell you
about today
is the shade of that green
(light moss? but glowing)
an entire field of stripped sorghum stalks
waving in the wind
against clear deep blue blue sky
as seen from close up but also from a distance
undulating is not the right word
and neither is dancing
but the thing those stalks are doing
(leafless but seed head still intact,
catching the breeze on top of the skinnyest
swaying-est parts of cane)
kinetic, at the very least,
on this sunbright day
shapes and light and elements

also, there was this thing mo said
in response to a question
about her upcoming departure
something like:
i’m never prepared to leave a place
that feels like home to me
but it’s time

and then of course
there’s also the rhythm
of us moving
as a crew
row by row down the field and back –
in the first round, with the necessary
heavy duty gloves for stripping
those leaves off
and in the second, perhaps with gloves,
but definitely with machete
to cut that quick-grown sweet forest down


glints of light tossed off the crystaly edges of growth

emory handing me the hammer and chisel
atop the cistern where his geode collection
is laid out
glints of light tossed off the
crystaly edges of growth
whistle/screech/cry of what i assume to be
a red-tailed hawk and other
smaller sounds drifting down
from underpass treetops while i
consider the soft sounds of
tomato against tomato as i drop
the amish pastes into buckets
(so much different than the sharp plunk
of a just-harvested bean)
walking up and down the trellised
and blighted lookfar rows
the home-made fishing poles emory carries,
one made of a sorghum stalk
(or is it cat tail) and one
made out of a tree branch
both with line toed onto an end
and a hook tied to the dangling part of the line,
how we stand in the water up to our knees
waiting to feel the particular tug
of a blue gill chomping
on the hooked hornworms
BOATMAN emory calls out
pointing in the direction he wishes me to paddle
and then the face
which reminds me of a snake
(a glare with bared teeth
which somehow remind me of a flicking forked tongue)
it’s my rage face he says
emory and i shout-counting ONE! TWO!
and then shoving the canoe
up onto the beach on the silent three
dottie and i lip sync-ing into carrots
in teh kitchen as the dancey-club tunes play
and the steam from the pot on the stove rises

quinoa cooking in the haybox
while the thin slices of illinois squash roast and crisp
in the oven while the shoyu-toasted seeds
cool and the edamame sautes in the small wok
and the shredded carrot salad marinates
in its dressing

it didn’t start with you she names
the title of this book on inherited family trauma
somewhere between lunch and dinner
(which is sometimes the best way
to mark time here – via meals)
the temperatures drop and the sky
clouds over and this coolness
matches the sunset sky colors
(molten red-orange at the center and radiating out
to a cool dusky purple,
the range of which fills
the entire western sky
along with cloud shreds
shifting along dusk
to dark)

for the river

5something a.m., maybe closer to 6
sky still dark, fog dropped in patches along road
five of us car-packed, waking and joking
and when mo (or is it isaak) say in absentia
i say that would be a great band name
and they’d never have to show up
to their shows
and if i had to put it on a graph or pie chart

i’d say we spend at least 50% of our journey
deep rumbling morning laughs
there are also jokes about
britney spears making a statement
with the bright orange cargo pants in the
genie in a bottle video

the water is life signs
strung on a line in front of the river
and then
the sun coming up over the water
pink-orange rising
as dottie and i stand track-side
to watch the light move

king of wishful thinking lyrics
spilling out of a car of characters
including a woman in a giraffe costume
as they stumble out the opened doors
towards sunrise
the sheriff cars and security cars gathered
in the early morning around the backhoe
which three people are locked to
which means it is rendered
unusable which means
a victory in the quiet unfolding of the day
which lasts for at least three hours


24 million gallons a day someone says
about the amount of fracked oil
that will be (if the pipeline is installed)
running underneath the mississippi
i was stationed in guam he says
in the go-around about where we’re fromand what brings us
to this shore of the mississippi that is
being drilled under
in order to lay pipe
for the dakota access line
and we took out sacred trees
and now, i’m here to make whatever right i can –
i’ve been on the other side

the ornithologist
who reads aloud the list of over 25 birds
that depend on this river
these waters
some of them year-round
some of them migratory
and how the list sounds like a poemwhich it is
just like the river
just like the sweat rising on the surface
of our limbs under the startling-hot sun
just like the shape of the pelicans’ beaks
jutting out in front of them
just like the silence up above
where the backhoe and drill have been stilled
because of the people locked to the machinery
the arc of the moral universe is long
frank from the des moines catholic worker quotes mlk
but it bends towards justice

i dressed up for the river/water i say
when several someones comment
on my coniferous tree/blue sky leggings
and blingy neckerchief

how we cheer when the
grinding drilling machine sounds on site
come to a halt
when the water defenders cross the fence
and therefore the operation
has to be shut down
(osha rules, if someone without safety gear is on site
it must shut down)


singing sweet rising

sound of singing sweet rising from
white two room mennonite schoolhouse as i
run past then circle back where the gravel of
chaney road hits the blacktop of highway w

hum-buzz of hummingbirds diving in
and out of zinnias as i clip brown dead heads
off for seed
while adam and alicia’s laughter rises
from the asparagus patch they weed
a few beds over

first the sweating from
grub hoeing in the
scythed weeds in the old onion beds
in the unusual late-september heat
and then how we haul huge carts of hay
for our garden bed retiring project
all on top of this morning’s four-mile run
today is a great day
of embodiment
the cool patches of pond water i move through
arms as oars
water washing sweat and moldy hay dust away
tropical is the best i can do
to describe the palette of
sun and sky as the great star
dips down into horizon as seen
from where i sit on the dusty rock road
where gibbous purrs and circles around me

from the water world:

Fabienne Rochat-Jaeggi comes out of the Joux lake after her morning swim on a warm autumn day in Le Pont, Switzerland. –
voice of america, day in photos

though the wings cannot yet be discerned

6:30 am
sky made of red-pink patches
as seen through the spaces
left between tree limbs
the day in insects:
1. two squash bugs found on the inside side
of window screen, i pick them up between my fingers,
open the screen, and toss outside – they leave their
jolly rancher green apple scent behind

2. the distinct sound of a cockroach
falling from the ceiling (crawling out of the crannies
between the beam and everything else )above my bed and landing
near the pillow (this time, i’m not in bed, but sometimes i am)
followed by the distinct sound
of me crushing it between pieces of paper

3. one cricket on top of another
connected at the tail/rear
slightly pulsing
on an edamame leaf as i pluck
pods from the plant
emory showing me our chrysalis
that is beginning to turn dark
though the wings inside cannot yet be discerned
the mossy minty greens
of emory’s shirt and shorts
(close in color, but not the exact same)
and the purple of his crocs
how i tell him i like
his colors today
the crunch/chew of the piece of
licorice gum that emory pops from its
foil seal pack and drops
in my opened palm

the crack of dried edamame pods
splitting in half and the dried dirt that falls from
the uprooted roots
as tookie and i
pod by pod collect the seeds
for planting next year

the pink blush of pomegranate jewels
spilled onto the small plate that we
pass around at the meeting where the
sweet tang bursts in our mouths
on this equinox we eat appropriately:
a dinner in which almost every dish
is made of a brilliant orange color:
mo’s moroccan stew with the season’s first
butternut squash perfectly tender and rich,
the sweet orange bell peppers cooked alongside the beans
and the sungold soda (special quart of sungold tomato juice
mixed with cistern bubbles
for an effervescent experience)
tokyo drifting tyler jokes about
the car that shot up underpass road and
tokyo drifted onto sandhill road
in the moon-n0t-up-yet dark
while the crew of us
make our way up the road from lookfar
and how, even though tyler isn’t even complaining about anything,
i tell him quit yr bitchin which is already
a funny phrase on its own but is especially
funny to me at this moment where it doesn’t
even apply

the rhythm of this harvest

with our earmuffs (sound barriers, not warmers) on
we (sometimes me and jacob, sometimes trish and i,
sometimes me and one of the two visitors by the names of
adam and alicia)
work our rhythm out- reaching for cane
(tanlged in its tallness) and feeding it to the clacking
grinding moving mill
while down below at the sugar shack
the fire in the boiler heats up and
stan and joseph work in the mists rising
from the steam pans
and we take turns sipping just-pressed (green) sorghum cane juice
and taking in the light, the flavor, the rhythm
of this harvest
sweat forming at my knees and
rolling calfward
on this late september
88-degree day
while i rotate between
gathering and feeding cane
to the mill

moving the paper labels over
damp sponges
to activate the adhesive
before placing them
on jar after jar
i sit and repeat the motion on the porch
with cynthia and mo each doing the same
i’ve experienced it for 23 years of my life

i say (while also acknowledging its power and magic)
about bleeding once a month and now
i’m done, i’m over it
joseph feeling my flexed bicep
as i carry a case of sorghum-filled pint jars
to a shelf in the sugar shack
this is the hottest sorghum cook day
i’ve ever experienced i tell cynthia
who is sweat covered
from feeding wood to the red-hot heat
of the boiler whose temperature
should remain between 90 and 100
the red scrapes that the sharp ends
of cut cane leave on our forearms
(their signature ‘i was here’ mark)
and how it becomes habit to keep feeling
the slightly raised skin around them

this is your growing edge bruin says
how the pre-sunset light these days
coppers everything it lands on

emory with his red rope and padlock
the next mario manzini saying
wrap it (the rope) around the chair
and my wrists and me if it reaches
and then lock it
and i’ll escape

all kinds of gold

the ginormous bug
(which if i remember correctly, trish calls an assassin bug,
or perhaps a soldier bug
and which the internet tells me is a wheel bug
[which is a type of assassin bug])
i find on one of the clothespins on the line
as i clip my tshirts and skorts and hankies and underwear and socks up to dry
and bring to emory who tells me to show it to cynthia
who just showed him a chrysalis made of
all kinds of gold

what punches me in the gut
as baigz talks about the drilling
under the mississipi
for the pipeline in progress
is how the process involves
first drilling all the way across (underneath the river)
from one side to another and how
in order to break through
the un-break-through-able earth
water is taken from the river
then chemicals are added
then it is drilled/blasted through
to make a tunnel
and the chemical-saturated earth that is bored out
is carried away
by the truckful
and dumped 5 miles or so away

it’s official – today is the day i give up trying
to describe/repaint the sunset sky, i’ll
just say this:
a mass (cloud – thick and dark) moving in
from the north and west
a mass whose north and south edges are visible at the same time
a mass whose thickness doesn’t let light through
but it’s edges are gilded, sherbet-like, or
the place in an actual rainbow between the red and yellow,and before that, it was the way the light
turned everything it fell on
gold and glowing
(which i consider to be the universal signal
for being called to stand/walk/move/be underneath that sky –
to lay oneself in the rocks on the road
to take it all in
and when i say all i mean
i didn’t even tell you about
the lightning rippling behind/through
the mass
nor did i tell you about the jagged edges
of some other clouds
further north and west
whose darkness and discernable edges
against the varying intensities of glowing pink
look like paper edges
torn against the glow
nor did i tell you about those other kinds of clouds
off to the east
that look like drops of moisture about to fall
from a ceiling but still clings
moments longer
lengthening before its own weight
pulls it down

as the sky gives itself

how the light at this angle
at this time of year
falling through loft window
encourages/invigorates/makes so much feel possible
and makes me want to do everything i love
all at once
the blood spot
(still wet and bright)
on a leaf just outside the fortsythia
where emory and i were sawing/lopping
in efforts to maintain the fort
and later, the blood on the sink and
a dot/drop on the floor and how i
wipe down the dried smears on em’s arm
and how he holds his hand higher than his heart
like i suggested and how joseph ointments the baindaid
he wraps on em’s pinky finger
whose flesh is flappy and ragged
but the cut is not so deep

we should probably lay low em says
after his finger is bandaged and wrapped
and after i’m done organizing
the chaos that is the first aid kit
which dottie jokes should is more like second aid

a name for seeing new views/land/road
when one runs farther than they have run before
a sort of opening
perhaps similar to how it felt
to hit the highway in the early morning
with tony and brent

on my first month-long road trip as an adult
which somehow felt different than
our family travels (always by car) as a kid –
a sort of opening / celebration
rubbing my fingers together
to sprinkle the salt
on cynthia’s delectable apple crisp
humming/singing – a name for the sensation
in my cells, in these limbs
of a post-run/post-outdoor-shower/post dinner body
as the sky gives itself over to stars and
night and i lay on the loft bed (also known as a foam mat)
not bedtime but just a call to be in stillness
and feel my ribs risefalling
while i take the shifting light in

the eastern screech owl sounds drifting in
through window/door screens
while the closing credits to a serious man
rise from bottom of computer screen to the top
dottie, ty, cynthia and i
lined up on the ginormous futon,
none of our feet reaching the ground