Forever Grief

Forever Grief

On Ann’s last birthday, April 7, 2018, we spoke of a trip along the West Coast. I would end up driving that length alone late June. The stone is one of two purple hearts seen along the way.

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if only because they are beautiful


If only because they are beautiful

I remember standing before the monitor

in the small room with windows for walls

reading a message on the black screen

with white type, somewhere between

programming language and visual copy

4,000 tigers remain in the wild

4,000 left near the close of a century

that began with about 100,000

Nothing else, no images.

A black background, white symbols.

I do not remember if I wept then and there.

I do remember opening the door to walk

out of the glass room into the lobby

and then another door to the sidewalk

where I was struck by a bustle of students

on their way, somewhere.

Much like the time after

I watched Schindler’s List alone

curled up in the soft seat of the old theater.


the world had not changed

to meet the other one

so real

as in alive and vanishing.

In the classroom we would study

the unspoken world

that can be read on flyers in black and white

at the petition table

in the mall where people pass by

on their way somewhere.

And the sorrow that shatters glass walls, twisting

metal frames, stops at the throat

where it is reserved for pet euthanasia.

Buddy passed on the steel table

while I rubbed his forehead

as I sobbed, after I’d given the veterinarian

a page with letters and numbers

in black on white

a wild story of loss

the domestic goes without knowing

until the story is seen.

For days I greeted buddy as I entered

the quiet house,

stopped stopping myself from calling, until

I stopped calling.

In the morning and the evening

what really hurts is having no one

to talk with

so the bachelor from Appalachian coal country

is befriended by feral cats who walk with him

through the woods.

And with each one’s passing, he lets out a wail

like mine for the wild that grows lonely.

Because I do not know what it means to be hungry

among big cats

I love them if only because they are beautiful

and beauty is what I grieve with my fingers

tracing the scars on the face of a West African king

one left

of 250 and going


note: If Only Because They Are Beautiful was written February 2014 during a month's witness with big cats. Tiger stats are from 1996.  West African lion stats are from 2014. The poem is voiced in this short film that features some of Bryan Holland's paintings.

The Wild Ones


Where do we belong, the wild ones

entrusted to God?

The wild ones, who do not know fences

because God does not build fences

The ones who read light, dark, movement, sound,

temperature and scent to find our way

through the forest

Where do we belong

when the forest is gone?

The wild ones who are out of our skin

with the torment of waste and rape, ravaged

by crying babies and screaming mothers beaten,

bombed and abandoned

Where do we sleep but in the alley?

Where do we eat but from the waste?

We, vultures in the wake, whom God has chosen

to digest the decay,

Where do we belong

when everything but us is clean

on the surface?

Where do we belong, the wild ones

who live honestly without question?

And who but God feeds us by hand?


note: Written March 2014 during a month's witness with wolf, 'The Wild Ones' like 'In Solidarity I Am' is one of few among my poems that's been completed in a flash once the first line appeared and without editing since. 'The Wild Ones' was written as a transient myself in solidarity with all homeless individuals.


Passenger's Prayer


If I be anyone in this life

let me be a messenger

let me write beauty on the sky

let me write a love letter

 Martha's Groom by Denise Monaghan /

Martha's Groom by Denise Monaghan /

so wide and deep and long

that it turns day to night

forcing men and women to look up.

Let me be a reminder of what is


and what is small.

And if my being is not enough,

if my death is the only reminder

of the power to exhaust life,

let me die,

this love proved


note: written during a month's witness with passenger pigeon September 2014. September 1st 2014 was the 100th year anniversary of the last known living passenger pigeon's death. She was named Martha. She was born and raised and died in captivity. 

Denise Monaghan's painting 'Martha's Groom' is shared with artist's permission. 

In Solidarity I Am

Surely I did hunt and gather in the forest
my eyes fastened to the ground
watching the path, searching the edges

spotting small bright shiny things
now bottle caps I cannot eat

and still

I collect them.

In solidarity with albatross, I hunt and gather
saving a few indigestible things from the sea.

And I think I must have been free, as in wild,


Because I have let go of everything and everyone
for the freedom to choose what I serve and how.

In solidarity with wolf, I run steady
toward a son, called Home.

And I know I held the match that burned millions. Yes, something of Hitler is in my soul

and I burned too, after he spread tar in my mouth
for telling the truth.

In solidarity with the solitary prisoner, 

I sit alone with God

in search of understanding

for the harms inflicted by the battered child
harms no man forgives though revenge appeases.

Indeed, I believed peace was possible long ago
and I believe peace is possible today

because peace is with the child
cradled in his mother’s arms

for the first time, he is learning to breathe
with each gurgle she assures him
and with every silence she checks to be sure...
he is breathing, they are breathing together
she is his ocean and he is her river.

In solidarity with the mother, the child
and the breath that joins them
I am this careful peace, a slave to their gravity

the singularity at the center of a black hole


note: Written April 2014 as a transition poem between a month's witness with wolf and albatross, 'In Solidarity I Am' is one of few among my poems that's been completed in a flash once the first line appeared and without editing since.

The isolated resilient child is one who has learned to ignore ignorance. Darkness is hardest to resist when locked in a dark room. Yet going totally dark proves the light.

'In Solidarity I Am' begins with reflection on one of the first stories that split me wide open. This, of an albatross mama unable to feed her babe because she had a toothbrush lodged in her throat (TIME magazine / 2000). 'In Solidarity I Am' was offered in an Extinction Witness post along with a message on feeling this pain and facing ourselves and one of Chris Jordan's Albatross photographs. 

 Albatross Photo by Chris Jordan /

Albatross Photo by Chris Jordan /

'In Solidarity I Am' was specifically chosen for this day with the rawness of Nikolas Cruz' self-destruction in a mass shooting February 14, 2018. 





another word

for senseless

used to describe

a man child

who aims a pistol 

at a woman's womb

whether or not

he pulls the trigger


note: prompted by a read of  yesterday's news in The New York Times


saving hell


There is a sadness she swallows

for the ones captured

to be measured

for the schooled

curiosity of cool calculations

by sex








in the name of preservation.


She projects onto these samples

the feel of freedom caged,

an immediate anxious depression


sleep and dream

the only escape

to an excitement in the uncertainty of whether

she'll be eaten, drown, or burned alive,

or survive for another round


anything to avoid the dullness

of locked alone in this room,

living a cozy hell someone wants to save.


Far better to feel her pulse

- to know the pleasure and pain of the brutal heaven


note: ‘saving hell’ was prompted by this Abstract to ‘Amphibians and reptiles of C. E. Miller Ranch and the Sierra Vieja, Chihuahuan Desert, Texas, USA’ / Drew R. Davis, Travis J. LaDuc

“We report the occurrence of 50 species of amphibians and reptiles recently collected on C. E. Miller Ranch and the Sierra Vieja in the Chihuahuan Desert of Texas, USA and describe their perceived distribution and abundance across various habitat associations of the region. Our recent surveys follow intense, historic sampling of amphibians and reptiles from this region in 1948. Of the 50 species detected in recent surveys, six were not collected in 1948 and an additional three species documented in 1948 have yet to be detected in a 14-year period of recent surveys. Combining data from both historic and recent surveys, a total of 53 species of amphibians and reptiles are known from the ranch (11 amphibians, 42 reptiles). Land stewardship and conservation practices have likely contributed to the persistence of the majority of these species through time. Additionally, we discuss the status of amphibians and reptiles not collected during recent surveys and comment on potential species that have not yet been detected.” via ZooKeys

for desire proves


Among fatal acts that she cannot swallow,

most, she is sorry that she repeated

unnecessarily and intentionally

something hurtful

that he told her

in confidence


all other cruelties she enacted,

even the lies of affection,

pale to this betrayal

in relation to someone

so pure of intent

as she once considered herself


Desire proves a fire breathing beast


And she is sorry

so sorry