stranger in the land


The old words climb from the well of time
like a Norway spruce,
aquamarine – set loose
like fiery needles from the flame

of Psyche-Liberty (breaching
Columbia, rose-grey
dauphin).  Light spray
from Ocean’s breathing-hole – the sting

of Cuban salt.  Strange emissary,
stranger in the land,
your phantom clock-hand
gravitates toward Harper’s Ferry –

ticks back, between slate gray
clouds, the frozen sword
over its chessboard hoard
(gold poison-cup, primed to betray

the Union).  Carlsen’s hesitation
in hamlet-limping lines
of Sabbath silence... Martin’s
magnanimous memory... the unknown

veteran, shrouding a still-life
Lincoln penny (pinned
atop his heart).  Sound
heard in Ramah... Rachel’s life-

saver, bobbing Caribbean blues.
Queequeg on welded keys
surfacing velocities
Atlantis-radiant... bright jasper hues.


                          "Reminiscences of 1865", by John F. Peto (Minneapolis Institute of Art)

bobbing like a robin's nest


Out of a thousand painted threads,
Agnes, you warp a frame
for some belle dame
of sanded mercy.  Mounds of pebble-

heads, broken by force... the list
of useless tears... unspoken
outrage in the caravan...
the camel’s otfe-hump (if you insist).

Henrigold the river-god
bobbers oiled Jordan
with Lorelei (raison
d’étoile – mosaic mermaid).

It was the frame, Agnes, it was
the bloom, encircling
a gold bee-sting –
it was the Viennese princess

who rose from copper strands of wire –
who lifted bottlecaps,
ineffable mayhaps
into a mossy petroglyphic spire.

O spider-thread of nothingness
O Hamlet’s hesitation
Guillaume Bier creation
bobbing like a robin’s nest

around an Okie stump (of Manitou)
twin-man   twine sister-span
love’s Everywoman
Miriam   a   song in C major   (for you)



tender as a safety net


The cloudy voice of Okeanos
over snow-muted farms
hums Dakota charms
for fettered waters (under us).

The boredom of the barbed-wire
borders will dissolve,
disintegrate.  I have
a dream, sang Memphis Fire

into the tumbleweed.  Chalk lines
drawn from Grand Forks
to Santa Fe, these marks
scored by tornado, Time refines –

files into church basements & barns
bent cedar spines, weathered
by old sand.  Spare word
spun inside-out by drought yawns

into dappled pastel yarns – gray
background looming, warped
onto rainbear cube (tarp-
tepee tender as a safety net, hey

ey yo).  The fluted planes of brave
Dove-Turtle ring like wave-
tongs on your heart – weave
future pastures from a lichen grave.

Like some drab village near Drobdorf
transmuted by these panes
of plumb green-violet... the lion’s
eye, her peacock metamorph.


Lyonel Feininger, "Village Church in Thuringia (Drobdorf)"
Weisman Art Museum, Minneapolis


Rhode Island was purchased by love


The last of the autumn thunderstorms
crashes through town,
hail & sleet coming down.
Quick whitecaps fleck the enormous

imperturbable Mississippi flood.
Bridge-work almost done,
the sturdy crane-&-pylon
men climb the sweat-&-blood

iron stairs up to the ridge
just one more time.
Labor is no crime –
titanic force poured to the edge

so that a featherweight robin redbreast
might perch atop a flange
of international orange
and warble good, better, best

into her indigo infinity.
Good will is balance, justice,
equanimity.  Who is
the man untouched by vanity,

cupidity?  I will hold him close
in my heart’s treasury,
for he alone is free.
Not price nor money could have purchased

Rhode Island; Rhode Island was purchased
by love.  Understand, Sophie,
this ocean mystery
of your first scallop-skipping space –


the star of Rhodos-Liberty
crowned with a ring of palms
sealed with a steady calm
handshake – confirming equity.

Guide of young Roger, ancient
Canonicus – father
& son : the grace to weather
every gale of greed, any fraudulent

unknotting of their pact of peace.
They step like lambkin twins
from a kayak circumference,
an almond eye, figuring Providence;

the planetary hearth of promise
knife-beaked Raven spied
beneath his southwest glide –
Cautantowwit to cedar wilderness

like monarch checkmating to Mexico.
Primordial Ragnarok
& other nightmares lock
the curse into a seeming cul-de-sac – so

your peace which passeth understanding
like a limping child’s sun-
yellow gyroscope, must turn
upright again – Ravenna plaything,

gather us into the river dance
drowning Man’s arrogance –
evergreen presences
surfing Ocean Stream (taut spring romance).



hen hides under blanket


In the muted Bruegel colors now
a raven’s-eye view circles
round twin Mirror Lakes
in Mendelssohn, so long ago.

Heidi & Holly, Jamie Freeman –
kids in a panorama
skate across my retina
from a Flemish Ice Age (Union

Pearl, foundered in frozen cup).
Laertes, will you drink
with meI think
not, yet... & so I take it up.

How gravity spins round the Sampo,
Longfellow – how Minnehaha
eddies through Edina
like a maelstrom over Nanabozo

– silly wabbit in the old cartoon
of Manitou & Redman –
stormcloud, lightning (Hen
hides under blanket, ‘til monsoon-

tornado trundles off to Canada).
Rabbi, Rabbi... Raven-
priest, Melchizedek... when,
O Wind, will this wallowing miasma,

lethal raincloud, lift?  A voice
from hurricane murmured –
when the agate here immured
in North Sea tears, as in a vice


floats into primeval Paradise
upon a simple kayak-word
out of the lunar hoard
of acorn-candelabra : REJOICE.

The train rumbles over the bridge
in the iron night, in the rain.
I won’t be back again
until Ferrara meets the Iron Range

in a poem coming down from winking
Starry Night.  Those whorls
are fingerprints – pearls
whispered out of Ocean, drinking

planets, orbits, icons, emblems
drawn from infinite thirst
for a milky source (first
taste of infamous black diadems).

Bears navigate a starry circle
over Berryman.  The stone
crypt glows in the bone-
castle.  Jessie Ophelia will

step down from the riverboat
beaming for Minneapolis.
The sky is gray, is
Minneapolis, St. Paul... c’est tout.

In Mendelssohn the Mirror Lakes
are ripples ever-new.
You’ll understand... you
live there (little rings an iron makes).



only Ophelia remained


A little Hamlet, on remote planet
in Denmark, was troubled
with Mors – he stumbled
as against a stone, to understand it.

Pebbles flung from anxious Hell
pinged against his helmet;
a pearl-toothed kismet
glimmered from the poisoned well.

It was a union greatly to be wished.
Its whorl unfathomable
shone... like Luna in a fable,
agate Leviathan (unfished).

A curse enclosed it, like a shell;
a nightmare of the sea –
a beast called Jealousy
clutched, rang it like a bell

from bottomlands.  It was his grail.
The angry Minotaur
grunted through Knossos-tar
in the crusted mirror – you must fail.

Denmark was full of hardened criminals.
Only Ophelia remained
to pluck the sweet Beltane
of innocence (from sordid halls).

Hamlet stepped up, to meet his fate.
He smiled into the teeth
of Sheol – sensed beneath
basalt of gladness, past debate.



cold reflective casket


They’re readying the great Webb Telescope
to spy on deepest space,
remotest time; a Falcon-Ace
of 18 hexagons – unfolding envelope

or massive sunflower of minstrel mirrors,
golden Land o’Lakes
lenses.  Infinity takes
a very cold reflective casket (yours,

Ophelia).  Meanwhile, down here below,
some Leopardian teller or
Poe-boy bookseller
must trace Columbian fall of sparrow

into bleakest night, last
trumpery.  O quintessence
of hollow volumeHence,
3-Card Monty – hateful guest!

As if the door to honey-milky
Providence were locked,
foredoomed.  A thousand shocks
in sovereign succession, so quickly

hammered to an Irish skull...
Earthquake, heartbreak.
Ophelia is in the lake –
my center sinks to muddy soil.

Sun gleams in fireplace of camera,
her little room on high –
her lampblack like a sty
in prism orange (strange negative aura).



rivers keep on rolling


A clear day toward Thanksgiving.
Light on slight mantling
of snow, along the slanting
Mississippi (wave of returning

gravity into the mouth, the Gulf).
There is a magnet
in the heights, a great
Pole Star, that rotates over Beowulf,

Black Elk; there is a matrix point
for all our muttering,
for crazy flotsam drifting
to the sea... a limestone font.

A child climbed from a light-lapped cave
along a spiral trail –
a thread from beryl-burial
to emerald grail (one sea-swell wave).

Beneath grey-wingèd clouds she rose,
called forth by whisper-smoke
of Earth’s holm-oak.
Her name is Imago, her echo flows

into the planetary sarabande –
stately processional
(spring, summer, fall)
to Morning Star, at seasons’ end.

Her name is Liberty, she rides the prow
of every soul – bright salt
of gaiety – the glistening vault
of Ariadne’s crown gracing her brow.