How It All Began

In the beginning, there wasn’t,
but there wanted to be.

Every flavor of leopard wanted to be.
Even the lazy, who only wanted to be rocks
or electrons, wanted throbbingly to be.

Each grain of sand filed a separate application;
possible dolphins sent impressive resumés.

Waves of want sloshed the darkness.
Darkness striking darkness made sparks,
and First Woman’s hand that wanted to be
grabbed the sparks and stuffed them into

her mouth that wanted to be. Instantly, salt,
garlic, and serrano peppers wanted to be.

The sparks expanding–heating–multiplying
filled to bursting her wanting belly,
but her asshole hesitated, unsure it wanted
to be, because the other non-beings
always made fun of it.

Too late! She exploded like a black plate
in an overheated kiln.

Black shards of her, white sparks
went flying off in pairs, piercing
the non-beings. A shard and spark arrowed
the leopard’s heart and it awoke, stretched,
sniffed the sudden air, alert and hungry.
Grass crashed into existence with a green yell,

then startled by its own voice,
started whispering. A hen wondered

what the hell she was sitting on, but strongly felt
she shouldn’t break it. Only First Woman
didn’t get to be. That made everyone sad—
she had the gumption to grab the fire in the first place.
It was agreed that everyone would exist for a time,
then give back their shard and spark so She could be.
But then the humans, who’d overslept and missed the meeting,

showed up and argued everyone should keep their pieces of Her,
or ok, everyone else can give theirs up and we’ll keep ours.

No dice, said the mice. Besides, we already voted. The humans
stormed out, sniffily made up a language, and wouldn’t share it.
But even the humans have to give up shard and spark until finally
She is reunited. No one knows what next. Does the whole thing start
over? Or will She walk off in search of Others of her kind,

carrying us and all our stories inside Her?

Sestina for Hope Solo

I wrote this poem when I was taking a class in poetic forms from Carolyn Wright. This is a sestina, a 12th century form that uses six-line stanzas, with six pre-chosen words to end each line. The line-ending words change position in a specific order in each stanza; after six 6-line stanzas, there’s a final 3-line send off that uses all six words.

I had been obsessing over what to write about, which six words to use, and I was stumped. I was driving the shuttle then, and I went into a QFC in Bellevue to get coffee. As I was putting cream and cinnamon in my coffee (Starbuck’s dark roast is okay, but Pike has to be heavily doctored), I decided I’d use the model names of six cars in the parking lot as I walked back to the van. They were:


I think the “si” is a sub-model of the Honda Civic, but the Civic nameplate had fallen off. In the poem, “si” used as Spanish for “yes”, as Mount Si (in the Cascades near Seattle, pronounced “sigh”), and as “SI”, the standard abbreviation for Sports Illustrated. I wrote it around the time of the World Cup, inspired by goalie superstar Hope Solo. The broad biographical outlines are correct (career, father, Richland), everything else is–well, poetry.

Hope’s stock has fallen since then, but that’s my fault. Celebrities I praise fall, ones I criticize get canonized (Princess Diana). Anyway, an interesting exercise in randomness.

Sestina for Hope Solo

Before they knock, she opens the door, says “Si”,
steps into the moonlight with her midwife’s bag, limited
English, and the lunar authority of fierce focus.
A room painted with moans: “She will need bravada.”
They wonder: mother or child? Though cavalier
in her motions, as if fixing an old Mustang

up on blocks, still she brings a new mustang
kicking into the world– “Easy, no—powerful, si.”
The birth, or the girl? Her homeless father, Vietnam cavalier,
somewhere captures a bridge for the night. Limited
means–Mom fends off bills with bravada
as much as cash, but she keeps her focus

on her little huntress, her piece of moon. Pull focus
to high school, where she kicks like a mustang,
takes the soccer team to State while in an Olds Bravada,
her best friend Monica gets knocked up, drops out. “Si,
but he loves me.” Hope keeps her world limited
to a 70 centimeter sphere, and if it seems cavalier

the way she leaves Richland in her dust, well she’s a cavalier
by blood. College: she takes a defensive crouch, her sole focus
the threshold of a net. Finds her father’s similar limited
threshold beneath a bridge, the 60’s song “Mustang
Sally” blasting from his tent. Her runs up Mount Si
barely give her the leg strength to enter. But bravada

isn’t needed here, there’s humor and truth; not bravada
but mac and cheese and stories shared, one cavalier
to another. “Your daughter is very beautiful, si?”
–horny Ramon next door, they laugh him away, their focus
only for each other. But the roar and smoke of a Mustang
gunning it under the bridge reminds them time’s limited;

smoke clears, it’s years later, and she knows life’s limited–
he’s dead, and no gold medal, no bravada
can cool the sting. The moon-led mustang
wanders China to Germany, itinerant cavalier,
battle-scarred warrior, world’s best, the focus
of interviews and photo spreads in SI–

and yes, her limited father loved her, the old cavalier,
but Monica’s Bravada is up on blocks, so give the living your focus.
This mustang brings the Cup home to mom–easy, no–powerful, si.

How to Pray

This poem was inspired by a story I heard on KUOW about a young woman who was doing well climbing the corporate ladder. She had a presentation in front of the board, and killed it. But it nearly killed her: she kept hanging around the room, waiting for everyone to leave, so she could throw herself out the window.

           How to Pray

No words prepared in advance.
     Never kneel, defenestrate—
     a leap of faith will incubate.
Bring a poppy, break a lance.

Our silver shield bears a whorl and a whore.
     Your soul is metered in volts DC
     and in how you treat the very least.
A window, cleansed or broken, is a door.

Take advantage of the gradient—
     errant in earth’s intertext,
     translate this dimension into the next—
your song or corpse will be radiant.

She didn’t kill herself, however; instead, she quit the job, and became a successful musician: tours, recordings, awards (I wish I could remember her name). Obviously the story isn’t about her, but the idea of “sing or die” must have struck a chord with me. No idea where the knight errantry came from–but that’s one of the most fun things about poetry, images out of nowhere.