Climate Change

A middle aged man in Bermuda shorts
pushes a white-haired woman in a wheelchair
along the path that leads to the pond
where today the ducks and geese float peacefully
beneath the high shooting fountains
whose spray is blown eastward in fine droplets
by the offshore winds which have finally arrived from the south
where great walls of fire and spiraling columns of flames
have been scouring up and down hillsides
in a feeding frenzy that consumes most homes but not all,
serendipitously sparing one or two to stand testimony
to what has been but now is no more,
and are now slowly receding from the banks of towns
and dry seas of grass that cover the undulating hills
which flow down to meet the metronomic waves of the ocean
while black clouds of ashy air chokes the throats
of birds and men and coyotes whose long residency
of this place once called the Land of Smoke
by earlier inhabitants will be over
when this purge of fire finally gives way to quaking ground
and the earth shakes her shaggy head
and reassembles the hills and canyon in new formations
while in the east, lands are swept by raging rivers
that topple towns and swiftly cover meadows
and to the south great shelves of ice plunge into Antarctic seas
which, a millimeter at a time, are creating new shorelines
that will in the days ahead make of Phoenix a harbor and Lake Erie a Gulf;
but until then a pale-winged butterfly, the color of lemon flesh,
lands lightly on a bright dandelion beneath the blue Madonna sky
that holds just one cloud that peeks over the horizon of trees
that edge the parking lot where a mother is calling, “Come on, let’s go!”
across the field and down to the playground
where two small children are climbing the monkey bars
and swinging in unison until she calls again,
“Hurry! Now!” and the four sneaker-clad feet race
to the black station wagon that waits, tail gate open,
bats and bikes spilling out on a mild and cool Sunday morning.


The Next Day

The thin crack in the pale gray clouds
Silently open and the light gets in,
Just like Leonard said it would,
And the wet dark day is transformed.
A tall white-trunked tree stands proud and solitary
Against the blue sky, its shadow a hand on the dial.

At 30 degrees above the horizon,
The sun shines down impersonally
On good and bad alike and washed clean
Of last year’s karma, the soul of the earth
Stretches and preens and tosses its head,
Stripping the trees to reveal bare black skeletons

With arthritic limbs studded with buds
Like tiny furled fists ready to open at the least encouragement.
From out of cars and down paths and behind bushes,
From sidewalks and shortcuts and skyways, they arrive,
The sparrows and crows and gulls,
The joggers and children and old women with dogs,

The men with fishing poles and the mothers with babies,
All grabbing at the blue sky – for all had heard
More rain was on the way which is greeted with relief
As well as dismay by a thirsty land and its people.
A woman with a long white scarf that is echoed by her long white hair
Strides past the pond overtaking the bent lady in red pushing a walker.

Two fisherman, one old and one young, heads together,
Rods leaning against shoulders, hands holding delicate lines,
Stand in high grass and debate the merits of various lures.
Brisk winds from the north loft the football from the hands
Of the teenage boys who play amongst the children
Freshly sprung from nearby schools who run through playgrounds shouting.

A toddler, legs pumping in wavy circles, races across the field
Chased by a mother who calls out his name while another
Pushes arm-waving twins in a stroller pony tail bobbing with each step.
Dogs arrive, straining at leashes, noses to the ground,
Tails in the air, bodies twitching with energy,
Ready to leap and run, Jack-in-the-box with joy.

A young man starts his rusty Ford pick-up
And sings about fast women and faster cars
As the sun sinks slowly towards the tree line,
The clouds let loose the folds of their white skirts,
The edges quietly flowing across the sky
And settling in for an extended stay.

Wearing the face of an ancient Aztec,
An old man in bedroom slippers shuffles past
And raises one horn-hard hand,
Curved fingers tipped with yellow nails,
In acknowledgement of this person’s presence.


Here is a link to the ‘Leonard’ reference:

Autumn Quietude

autumnThe fall has slid by with uncanny quiet and it was only last week that I realized the trees had already reached and passed their peak of color. In contrast to other autumns in which I visited the park several times a week, this year was interrupted by intermittent physical challenges that left me often at home.

Today, knowing it was the last week to enjoy the beautiful foliage, I go to the park early in the morning and take up a new vantage point for reflection. This time it is on an uncomfortable park bench midway between the duck pond and dog park in an area I remember for the many orange and red leafed autumn trees.

The air has a sun-warmed, dusty smell of dead leaves and heavy dew and the light brims with a golden radiance that is only seen in the fall. The sturdy baritone of the church bells from St. Philomene’s ring out a call to prayer and give balance to the high soprano of the twittering birds, the bass of the airplane overhead and sharp staccato of a barking dog.

A small flock of dark birds rush in and settle excitedly on a nearby small tree, setting loose an avalanche of orange and yellow leaves that first tremble, then shower down, making me wish I was beneath that tree with face upturned and being touched by those tumbling leaves. The birds depart as nervously as they came, wings flapping, shrilly calling to each other across the sky.

A gray pickup truck swiftly drives into the lot, full-sized American and State of California flags fluttering from stands locked in the truck bed. It stops, swings into reverse, then confidently backs into a parking spot. A man emerges dressed in army camouflage and is joined by a woman wearing casual Land’s End attire. They stuff the multiple pockets of their canvas vests with small items, pull a variety of fishing rods from the back of the truck, grab tackle boxes in each hand, and set off towards the small stream which has a local reputation for good fishing, at least by city stream standards.

A large doughy man wearing sagging jogging pants and an oversized sweat shirt climbs out of an old white panel truck that is tucked away in the corner of the parking lot. He stretches, scratches his stomach and with a lumbering gait sets off towards the tennis courts where the public bathrooms are located.

His departure is followed by the arrival a family van. A moment later the area is filled with shouts, laughter and the scrambling of children. A toddle climbs up on the curb and jumps down repeatedly, seemingly delighted by his accomplishment for balance and daring. A sibling thumps a basketball across the pavement while an older brother sticks buds into his ears and dips and dives to an unheard rhythm. Two school-age children start a game of tag and race through the trees towards the playground. While the mother struggles with the baby in the stroller, the father calls out commands in an African-sounding language.

As the family begins their day at the park, a small gray hatchback zooms around the parking area, nose down as if following a scent. A alert German shepherd rides shotgun and then looks back longingly as the dog park is passed and left behind is a fog of exhaust.

A large white 4 x 4 arrives and stops across two parking spaces. By default it is the King of the parking lot this morning, not only by its size and presence but by the sparking chrome hub caps that spin and rotate even when the wheels are still. An equally large and impressive brown man emerges and is led by a small tan Chihuahua down the path to the pond.

Meanwhile, the sleepy man from the panel truck has returned looking fresher and more agile. After opening the passenger door and positioning the side mirror to his satisfaction, he lathers his face with cream and begins to shave. I can almost hear him whistle as he twists his cheek first this way, then that.

When I return to the car I find slender orange and yellow leaves piled over the roof and windshield. Three have blown through the partly open window and are resting, like invitations waiting for a response, on my seat. I pick them up and silently read their quiet announcement.


For the fourth day in a row I sit beneath a small maple tree at the local park. Its gold, yellow and orange leaves create a canopy of color, an exultation of life, a last great “Yes” to the life of autumn. The air is filled with a golden vibrancy that warms the fresh cut grass and sweetens the air with a green perfume. The park is glorious today.

After an unseasonably warm fall, the first rain since last April fell two weeks ago and the temperatures finally started to drop. As the nights cooled, the trees turned inward and began the yearly journey back to the core. The mighty oaks which just last week were full of green leaves are now coyly dropping one after the other, showing a bare limb here and a dark branch there. Soon they will stand exposed, tall, proud and darkly powerful.

I sit near a crossroad; the dog park and tennis courts before me, park trails all around. People pass and rarely notice as I remain as motionless as the trees and silent as the clouds that are circled by Canadian geese who call out cadence to the beat of their wings as they slice across the southern sky.

At the dog park, owners sit and smoke cigarettes around the picnic tables as five large dogs chase each other within the fenced field. They gallop in wide swinging circles like young ponies. The leader feints right, then left, with the others close behind.

A new dog enters the enclosure and they all set off at a run to investigate this visitor, eagerly sniffing mouth and tail to ascertain what has been enjoyed. The dogs bark and snarl and woof, tails wagging, hips swinging in happiness while their masters idly chat.

In a nearby field a small dark dachshund is let off the leash, speeds across the ground like a bullet and chases a laughing girl whose long blond hair flies behind her. In the foreground, a slender black woman carrying a large plastic bag filled with empty cans slowly walks with a jerky military precision down a dirt path. Each time her right leg lifts and descends I hear a clicking of metal, a ratcheting of gears.

As she marches into her horizon, I shift into dreamtime where long forgotten memories are released, unnoticed desire flow forth and unhealed wounds lie exposed for warm tongues to lick. I sense the need to acknowledge these internal energies for the solstice is soon to come. This dark night of the shortest day is the time of seed planting and conceptions. It is the time to prepare for virgin births.

The noon sun cuts through my reveries with a hot intensity. The lens of the coming afternoon has sharpened its focus and my legs burn in its rays. I slowly fold up my lawn chair and look one last time at this apex of autumn. From now on, each day will be a little shorter, a little dimmer; the trees a little more bare and dark. Soon all will feel the cool lavender touch of winter.

What seeds shall I plant in the soil of my soul tonight? What door shall I open and what guest admit? What shall I bring forth in the year to come? And what is it that waits in your heart to be born?



The house was long forsaken,

its wooden boards worn and burnished

to brown and silver hues.

On the prospect of a hill

it sat like an ancient sheepdog

keeping a diffident watch over the fields below.

In the valley and to the left,

autumn ready trees stood in clusters,

their dark branches bare and still.

From the gathering clouds, a shaft of light spearing down

spot lit one sapling still wearing leaves

kissed by Klimt colors of orange and gold.

In the center of the vale

a long and narrow basin of dirt and stones

stretched to the horizon where,

in spring, a crooked finger from the river beyond,

would probe curiously inward,

and lift the eyelids of hibernating life.

Below and right, looping strands of wire fencing

strung the undulating hills like beads

into a necklace of fir and pine.

Upon those earthy waves a running dog barked

at a southward flowing caravan of geese,

in whose wake would soon come

moon snapping frosts and fog blankets

from which the hilltops would peek,

toe-like, from the cloudy folds.

Twining down into the ground

I burrowed deep

to sleep.

Wildflower: Pen & Ink,   M. Taylor @ 1979