Actually Alison

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Thursday, June 3, 2021


Intended to be another kaleidoscopic poem, but it settled onto just a couple of images.

Brightness of the fire,
the darkness beyond
Mirrors the heat against
my face and palms,
The cold behind me

A few minutes and I turn
To warm my back,
Night and day of a planet
Sitting near the sun
one celestial evening

I try to turn faster to heat
evenly. Dizzy, I slowly sway,
Towards the flames, feeling
the heat, then away,
Towards the cold and dark

A top spins, traces a slow
circle, wobbles, a circle within
a circle within a circle, the holy
trinity of days, seasons
and the procession of spheres

I look up from the flames
And see a single bright light
Hanging above the orange streaks
Still and cold and clear
Venus perhaps

Thursday, June 3, 2021

The Willow

Another kaleidoscopic poem. This time in iambic pentameter.

I am a willow, slender, soft and slick
Whose bending by the river heeds the call
Of penetrating thirst, prying and thick
From spring's last frost until the frozen fall

And when the fall approaches, shorter light
Creates a closing window on my soul
Without a ballast, closed by its own weight
A cave's collapse as water takes its toll

I look behind, now trapped within the earth
A single shaft of light is all I see
It guides me down to caverns of rebirth
Where Dark remembers having been a tree

Within that darkness, eyes of glowing light!
They stay within the corner of my eye
I whirl around, preparing for a fight
And every time hear only echoes sigh

The echoes they continue past all reason
Reverberating off the limestone walls
I feel the madness tumble through its seasons
Spring of false hope, then fever, then it falls

catharsis leaves me empty as the air
That cloaks the world in whispers in the dark
I sense through nails and skin and prickling hair
That grows like roots below, my skin like bark

The flowing water gives me strength like rock
As fibers drink and yearn and push and grow
Their supple firmness crumbling the block
Until once more the sun begins to glow

Sunday, May 30, 2021

Bats and Thunder

Another kaleidoscopic symbolism poem. For some reason the passing of the seasons is very much on my mind these days.

What is this wall of darkness,
This thunderhead rising
As blackness overtakes the sky
Somehow it brings the stars

The stars go round,
each in its season returning
Forming slow streaks across the sky
Like lightning that crackles

Crackles like bacon in a pan
Thin floppy slabs of meat
Becoming dark and hard
Brittle as thin glass

A window pane, cracked, dirty,
That dull light passes through
I want to see, but can't remember
What I want to see without seeing it

An invisible presence, felt at the edges
Of the mind, feathering out
Like frost on a lake where skaters fly
Fly like bats that sweep the darkening sky

The thunderhead made of them,
Bats, their cries a shrill shriek combine
Into a roar of thunder, their prey
Ribbons of fireflies that blink from the ground up in rapid chains

Chain reactions, the lights reaching a node
Where others meet in a tangle
Its glow increasing with each collision
Until it triggers another chain

A storm of signals in the mind,
Loosely gathered ideas, not yet in words,
Spiraling in a dark funnel
Until it touches down and the earth rises to meet it,

Pulls away from the surface
Like a thread pulled from a sweater
Exposing a widening hole,
Spreading like the black circle of a wildfire seen by a hawk

Who seeks prey that run in fear
The fire a hunting partner,
Saying, you wait, I'll flush them out
Demanding nothing in return but the trees and dry grass

As the ashes cool under a light rain,
Tiny columns of smoke rise in places
Like a slow, soft lightning from ground to air
Or swirling like the tornado or the firestorm,

now small, only flakes in a snow globe,
Shaken on Christmas Eve,
The lights low, only the glow from the tree
And a cracking fire in the hearth

Summer a distant memory
And a returning anticipated
But not waited for,
Stockings to fill

Saturday, May 29, 2021

the Forest of the Kind

In the spirit of my much earlier poem, the Well, I have resumed writing poems based on a kaleidoscope of symbolic images without specific conscious meaning. I find it's a lot more fun and powerful when a poem can teach you something about yourself instead of just crafting a riddle for others but find it difficult to relinquish control of the result.

A dragon, red, it waits for me
Its painted wings outstretched
'till they blot out all the sunlight
And the gold within its nest

And the darkness now is absolute
A silence without end,
A void without vibration
Where the silent watchers bend

They bend until they double back,
They bend until they break,
And the heart of every scoundrel
Is the twining of a snake

The writhing mass is wreathed in flame
A burning blue of gas
As each of us, a bystander,
Assimilates our past

The hours stretch like shadows
On the ocean floor of time
As Leviathan lurks hungrily,
Devours the divine

The thousand suns within the whale
Form stars as points of light
Like fairy dust or fireflies
On warm and windless night

The night you asked to marry me
We tumbled in the field
The fireflies went whirling by
A world of burning wheels

The wheels are on a chariot
The rider wreathed in flame
A rigid sword, a stallion
A blazon but no name

The shield a shell around my heart
The fire, dragon's breath
As all is burned to ashes
And the world is scorched to death

But there within the ashes
And the scarlet scales like rain
Lies a burnished scale of silver
And beneath it hides my pain

The pain flows like a river
Through the ashes of my mind
To the edge of light and darkness
And the forest of the kind

Saturday, May 29, 2021

we are not that kind

I wrote this the last time I visited my grandpa, just before he passed away. He had dementia and I'm not entirely sure he recognized me but he was kind and happy to see me. It is not only about him and does no justice as a tribute, but it is something I still have from that visit.

we are not that kind
of treasure
not diamond-rare
pliable and conductive as gold
nor sun-generous-warm

but every stone shows
in its arbitrary soul
the will of some power that put it there
whether stream or quake
or beast or human hand
and bears indelibly the mark
of other stones it met
each moved by that will
a hand etching itself
a fresh cut path of god through god

even those who forget
where they have been or are
bear the mark of one who knows
words unsaid but etched
in the lines of the face
and reflected in the eyes

Saturday, May 29, 2021


I was trying to make some deep point, inspired by the book Godel, Escher, Bach, about meta-patterns or something, but ended up subverting my own intricate idea which never quite gelled, realizing instead that what is most important is our ability to jump out of a logical framework and revert to heuristics, to an intuitive approach that keeps perspective grounded in the now.

perhaps paradox, circular spiritual symbols
and concepts, cantor's diagonal,
death of cognition yet maybe metamorphosis
of conscious thought, these form feedback
loops, Lorenz attractors that nearly yet never
meet themselves as they spiral, systems
of chaos, cords of Gordian Godelian knots
of meta-unprovable prophecies that fill
all the axioms of every parallel world
with winding paths and endless state machines,
a mad march of Mandelbrot sets and systems
of simultaneous differential equations
and number theoretical superpositions
stating insanely, "this statement is false"--

Fuck that, take the escape
hatch, handle the halting problem
pragmatically, make peace with paradox,
exile existential angst,
forget infinity, accept limits on loops
and live in the finite future of small thoughts
and quick laughter, lighten the load of logic
with something that defies the final analysis:

that the state space of all possible poems
of this limited length means most
yes vastly most and many more
of even the really good ones will never
be seen, read, written, thought or heard
in this or any universe and yet
here is this one, written despite
all improbability, impossibility,
paradox, and probably common sense and courtesy,
straight from the first silence before the big bang
to this strange state and moment of the world,
these particular people
and finite faces
here and now and real.

Saturday, May 29, 2021


I was dating someone and I think we both really liked and respected each other but time after time we just didn't see things the same way. I think that this is always true to a certain extent, that no one really knows the real you, but that some relationships come closer than others to alignment with how you see the world and that this is important.

trying to show you a star  
our heads almost touch

the point from which I gaze  
remains mine alone

a view nearly paralleled  
if you look   
            far enough away

Saturday, May 29, 2021


Just playing with vowel sounds, trying to cluster them around one particular vowel at a time and then gradually slide from one vowel to the next.

Stone over stone
pounds the ground
oh, low open sound
rings loudly
sings down high cliffs
in sea of sky
by freely wheeling
cries pealing,
diving from sky to sea,
hard birds fall far
piercing warm bay,
breaking calm water
as far away,
down dark abyss,
all awful ancient
cetacians are

Saturday, May 29, 2021

for whom a rose

A very beautiful friend who I had a crush on posted an exceptional selfie one time and I realized that when people post things like that they do want attention, but not necessarily a particular kind of attention and not necessarily from you. Wondering if I was among the intended audience for that picture led to this poem.

we who walk the garden path
know not for whom a rose
opens its bloom, exposing
stamens, hypanthium
unblushing to the day.
certainly it is not
for those who stumble by,
treated to the fragrance
of another's design,
nor even the bee,
courted as she is,
lured by a perfumed
neckline, a sly nod,
to bend an ear to whispers
meant for one who knows
that same soft subtle dance.

Saturday, May 29, 2021

dog trains

Special events like weddings sometimes bring an existential clarity to moments during and after. This was one of those moments that just felt like a lived poem.

after the wedding
before the reception
I run three dogs
as evening falls
in the abandoned lot
and two trains pass
sounding their horns

the dogs
all herders
no sheep in sight
chase each other
a lazy circular game
as the momentous
sound goes by
and I run alongside
calling out
this way
this way
this way

Saturday, May 29, 2021

Different Suns

This was me getting closure after the end of my first marriage. Sometimes two people are just headed different ways and there's nothing they can do about it.

I once cried out in silent dark
and heard nearby an echoed voice
who shared my fear

I found her warmth and held her close
as through the night we searched the sky
for signs of dawn

but when she called out to the dawn
and stood and stared, said, "can you see?"
I saw no light

I panicked, blind, and turned away,
and in the other wall of sky
there rose the dawn

in worried awe, and back to back,
we watched our dawns; each wondered what
the other saw

warm from behind her hands met mine
our seats and shoulders gently pressed
as my sun climbed

and when our suns were straight above
we seemed to see a single sun
its twin a dream

we lay and twined on burning sand
in soft warm shade of lovers' arms
we slept a while

but when the noon grew old and passed,
I saw reflected in her eyes
that different sun

and as our suns sank in the sky
we gazed beyond each other towards
that distant line

I met her eyes and saw there tears,
"why do you gaze into the dark?"
although she knew

then she broke first, released my gaze
she brushed aside my arms and stepped
into my night

I walk the tracks from whence she came.
her past heels face my fleeing sun,
a line in sand

Saturday, May 29, 2021

A Little Less Wind

This was an attempt to capture a feeling I have come to realize was probably depersonalization caused by gender dysphoria. At the time I feared it was narcissistic personality disorder.

As I hear myself
make a joke
and laugh,
count the reactions,
I almost seem real
to myself,

almost can penetrate
the invisible film
that separates Self
from body.

It is those times

when not myself,
feeling false and hollow,
that I am most aware
of what I'm not.

High on a hill,

the traveler sees
the distant inn,
then climbs the long way
down to the valley,
the inn lost to view,

but feeling a little

less wind.

Saturday, May 29, 2021


This was inspired by a new age piano piece written by a friend in college.

Those nights when nothing's wrong
yet something breaks inside,
when other lives intrude
playing tag in a room not mine
where I sit and watch their shadows pass

And the memories--some of them are real,
those which have weight, form,
almost enough to keep and hold,
some favorite coat, soft from the years

And the cold air from the window,
blowing out the candles of the mind--
I shiver, slide under warm covers,
dim the light.

I can almost hear the approaching crescendo
of dreams.

Saturday, May 29, 2021


This is a sestina. Instead of rhymes, the ending words of the first six lines repeat in all the other stanzas, shuffled in an intricate fan pattern which alternates bottom then top from the outside in as relates to the previous stanza. Like the Well, this is a poem that became more true and applicable than I could have imagined, long after I wrote it.

This love
I feel for you
is both a pining
and a flame.
To hear your voice
is all the world.

Yet what is constant in this world,
where others mock love
and with a cruel voice
turn their backs on you
and leave your flame
to burn among the pines?

And among the ashes of the pines
lie the charred bones of the world,
moths too soon to flame.
A plume of smoke, the remains of love.
Amid these wastes I call to you
and fill the vale with my lonely voice.

Then, small, like a seed, your voice
responds from beyond the ashen pines.
In too-long moments I run to you
as if from far across the world,
propelled only by my love,
all else wreathed in dying flame.

A gentle rain cools the last spark of flame,
its rhythm like a hushed voice
speaking of new growth, new love.
We walk among seedling pines,
speak of the turning of the world,
my eyes always on you.

And I hope, now, to be ever near you,
my heart surrounded by a living flame,
proclaiming to all the world
with its crackling voice
that it, my heart, pines
only for your love.

Friday, May 28, 2021

Grand Teton Pass

This was inspired by a painting my brother did, which I believe was from a photo taken when we went there on a family vacation when we were kids.

There are still places
where spirits do not disbelieve
in themselves and the sovereign value
of the loam they in silence tend,
where violence is the slow thrust
of mountains against the gnaw
of rivers and the sky,
and art is the fall harvest
of another layer of leaves
for a canvas of earth and pine.

Friday, May 28, 2021

Night Sea Song

This was just an experiment with unique rhyme and form patterns but I think it actually captured something worth saving. It features rhymes across stanzas and I like the feeling of continuity that adds.

I am very tired,
sitting on the soggy wet sand.
My mind begins to shudder.
A crashing wave shimmies up the land.

Boat without a rudder,
drifting to the foaming wind's sigh.
It sports a lonely candle.
It beckons me, tempting me to cry.

Pray that I can handle
staying up against my mind's flood.
Though in my mind they're mired,
they pull in safe, real in flesh and blood.

Friday, May 28, 2021

The Canyon

This was inspired by a painting by my brother.

A river feels different
to earth and stone--
our cold splash,
soothing rush,
cuts through eons
of sedimentary rock
like a bone-saw.
These naked cliffs
tell a story
like the rings of trees--

Vast oceans rise and fall,
shale above sandstone
means a deepening sea.
The surface hills scraped clean,
molded by glaciers,
great hands of ice
that vanish without a trace
except for long snake-piles of till.

The trees clinging to this great upheaval
seem momentary, incidental;

we, a breath of wind.

Friday, May 28, 2021

Night Sailing

This is a two-voice poem experimenting with a layout that more closely dictates the rhythms of the two voices relative to each other. It features a slow floating line over a steady rhythmic one, meant to mimic the feeling of a boat floating on little chopping waves.

The two voices are to be read aloud simultaneously. The bottom part should be fairly fast with a steady rhythm. The top part must be stretched out, with the words elongated and enunciated very clearly, or the meaning is lost on the listener.

           I        am        at        sea,  
A wave, it laps and laps, the wave, the wave.

   sail  -  ing       a   -   lone   by  
It laps the wood, the hollow, hollow hull.

    moon   -   light,   the       sound   of   
The brightened sea--the moon, the moon is full--

    my      voice     small      and     weak  
The shining hills and hills, the dark concave.

    as      it        ech   -    oes  
The looming land, the trees, the shadow trees.

    my     song    off        the   cliffs.  
The slowly sliding coast, the rocky walls.

    I     am     cold,     wea   -   ry,  
The brisk breeze whistles, cries and calls.

    wet     with salt     and   spray.  
The moaning mast whimpers to be free.

    I       see     O  -   ri - on,  
The rumbled rush of water, waterfall--

   big       dip    -     per,     north    star.  
It pants and groans, down past the darkened grove

       They   guide    me        home  
where, in the rocks, a chink within the walls,

  to     long    stone  stairs.  
a hidden grotto--falls above, above.

  A      warm     light shines high,  
Below, a mooring, solid stone  halls.

   where  morn - ing       sleep    waits.  
An echoed cry, a mourning, mourning dove.

Friday, May 28, 2021

a CRODEN Haiku

I was in a poetry class where we had to write poems in various styles and I decided to see how many categories one poem could fit into. It's a bit of a stretch, but I called this one a Concrete, Rhyming, Objective, Dramatic, Ecstatic Nature Haiku. The acronym doesn't mean anything beyond that.

          God in  
a simple pine cone

  A   tree.

Friday, May 28, 2021

In Praise of the Soul

Just a cheeky sonnet poking fun at religion's tendency to mix metaphor with literal truth.

The soul will help you through life's barren land, protect you from the thorns along the way; each night it's laid to rest; it's there each day; without it you stand naked to the sand.

It leaves its mark no matter where you go; it always leads the way; it comes before your mortal form; it leads through every door, reminds you that to leap you first must sew.

Your soul records each blade of grass you crush, each ant you tread upon--though conscience numbs, when fleeing from what's just beware what comes; your soul is always first to bite the dust.

But other souls begin like "so"--I'll take to spelling it "L.E.," a shoe to make.

Saturday, February 27, 2021

Polar Souls

I found a book of two-person poems once and was very inspired by it. This is one of the few attempts I made at this form that worked. Someone very close to me at the time was struggling with bipolar and while this poem doesn't do any justice to the pain of that illness, it came out of that experience.

(For two people, reading simultaneously.)

The sun itself             The sun, a god,
has no power               full of power,
in my world,               lights this world,

where tired trees          where trees dance
slide slowly down          a still dance
wet window panes.          in morning light.

I shiver in                I bathe in
warm window light,         icy rivers and
wonder why nothing         know that everything

is new at                  is new at
twenty-one, wonder         twenty-one, wonder
what nameless sickness     at the cloud

or hidden discontent       of open beauty
cuts, like a               that, like a
frozen river through       rushing river, flows,

the cold ground            thawing the ground
of my life.                of my life.
Why do I                   Why do I

crave darkness,            seek the light,
the anonymous chill        the naked glow
of being no one            of being one

to anyone, alone           with everyone, surrounded
on the borders             by the shafts
of the field               of the light

of dusk?                   of dawn?

Saturday, February 27, 2021

The Well

I wrote this in early high school, more than twenty years before I realized I was a woman. When I reread it after coming out as trans I gasped. This was the first poem I wrote deliberately not understanding my own symbolism, just letting it flow where it wanted to, and I think there was a lot of subconscious power for self-exploration in it that I wish I had learned to tap into more deeply and taken more seriously.

Some things seem much deeper than they are
my mind's a well--I'm careful not to fall
I can't see through its darkness very far
yet just a little farther would be all

I draw up water like a heart pumps blood
each sip a beat, it throbs beneath my skin
it shatters in my heart to break the flood
each dewdrop grabs its neighbor, stretching thin

In each-by-each each drop treads caterpillar
each leg sucked in to touch its leader's place
its tiny legs are both the sail and tiller
a tiny green boat in a timeless race

The wind picks up--the boat begins to fly
it's carried on a wave of liquid stone
a whirlpool winks its ever-hungry eye
it plummets toward the bottom of the cone

The sun comes out--it draws the vessel up
a twisted relic, old--yet strangely bright
I mend it, then I float it in my cup
it shimmers in the early morning light

My lips are parched--I move to take a sip
the hapless vessel sounds a warning bell
too late--it runs aground upon my lip
I throw it back to float within the well

I'm through with drinking, now I wish it back
again, again, I let the bucket fall
I cannot find it in the hollow black
a princess who has dropped her golden ball

Some things are much deeper than they seem
the water's surface only is the start
the sinking treasure winks--a final gleam
before it hits the mud within my heart

I grasp the rope in tense anticipation
of the dive into the ocean of my past
I step into the bucket--all sensation
preparing for the water's frigid blast

I panic, seize the rope to stop descending
a pop--the rope goes slack within my hand
I dive--the murky depths seem never ending
'til I spot my treasure resting on the sand

I clutch my prize as back to earth I grapple
I feel its weight--it drags me toward the sand
I free myself from Adam's horrid apple
as up I swim, now free to use my hand

I reach the air--no rope, but there's a ladder
how strange I did not see it going down
I cannot climb back down--no thing is sadder
but it saves all those of us who nearly drown

Saturday, February 27, 2021

The Storm

I wrote this in about seventh grade. In high school I got it published in a youth anthology, making it my first published piece.

An idle walk on a summer day,
strolling lazily through the pasture.
The gentle droning of bees.
A thick haze covers everything.
It is hot.
Agitated clouds hang waiting,
low over the horizon.

The bees no longer buzz;
everything is still.

A breath of cool air wafts gently by;
the stillness is broken--
dark clouds rushing closer, closer,
the slow stalk of the tiger,
closer, ever closer,
the rapid rush of a river,
blotting out the sun.

The gentle rhythm of rain on the grass.