Your Air and My Air

I may not be
The sort of person who can
Soar through the clouds
As if my intellect has wings
I’ve told you this
So many times
You might tire of hearing it

You might tire of hearing how
The soil of the redwoods sustains me
And gives me a knowledge
Wholly unlike your own

But I am
The sort of person who
Can scramble up the redwood trees
And as long as I remain safe in their branches
Connected to the earth through their trunks
And as long as I remain connected to water
Through the mist they drink in through their leaves

Then I can take in the air, the heights
I can think far and wide
I can put words together

I can do all those airbound intellectual things
Without the benefit of wings
As long as I stay connected
To the mist and the soil

So don’t write me off as saying
There’s no place in my life
To be up in the air
I just get there differently than you do

And my mind works differently
Because of its constant connection
To the ground and the mist
Without which I become hopelessly disoriented
Because my air is not your air
And going where you go…
It feels too much like endless falling
Tumbling without anything to anchor me
— I’ll stick to the trees, thank you.

Falling Out Of Your World

I fell out of your world today
And landed in the dirt
I knew the name of every plant
Of every tree and mushroom

You can’t know what this meant to me
This knowledge without thought
In your world, wit is easily won
It’s your solace and your weapon

In my world, it’s like flecks of soil
That pile up with each passing year
It grows slowly and naturally
My mind doesn’t soar through the clouds

I looked up at your world today
You seemed so happy up there
Because you do soar through the clouds
Your mind eats equations for breakfast

You can’t imagine life down here
It’s too slow and too ordinary
For days at a time I do nothing
But soak myself into the soil

But the soil talks to me
Like the clouds talk to you
And from the underground depths
Understanding flows up to me

I know that you love your life
Where the breeze brings you words
And the clouds carry equations
And you can dart everywhere
With a touch of your wings

But I love my life
I have deep roots in the dark places
Water springs up from the soil
And understanding can only happen
By listening to things without voices

I am a thing without a voice
Perhaps that is why I belong down here
And not up where the voice of the wind
Sings unceasing words of knowledge
To people whose heads fill with words

I fell out of your world today
And I thanked the gods of mist and soil
Of the dark and the damp
Of the roots and the trees

Because you may thrive in your world
But to me, it’s a lightning storm in my head
And I belong curled up inside the ground
At the feet of a redwood tree

A Poem About Realness (1999)

In the center of the wood in tangled gnarling knots I sit
In every part of every tree I grow the waiting path
The light that filters through the trees reflecting colors dark and deep
The stars that glimmer through the leaves reflect me just the same

The roots that travel searching deep and ancient through the darkened soil
The smell of earth that tells you more than any sight can say
The deepened grooves inside the bark that guide you winding wondering
The stillness deepness permeates and holds within the path

The moss is dangling from the outer branches of the tallest trees
The higher branches reaching leaves and needles to the sun
The warmth and cool unearthened sound that makes the forest what it is
The paths they take all from one place which in all paths begun

I sing the song that comes from there and blends and sharpens in the trees
That changes still and stays the same and shines in forest light
That twists and turns and follows flying endless into from the path
Where travelers and wanderers may in the end find me

A wanderer might find the path in smallest roots and gnarling trees
The spaces in between the trees might show the path as well
The forest and the stars will show emerging patterns still the same
And if the forest brings you fear, then you have not found me

The ancient stillness of the wood reflected from and through my world
For at the center lies the path and in the path is me
However wild the wind may blow the movement of my path remains
For if you fear the forest’s edge then you have not found me

I Am Not A Word-Fish

I handed you a lump of wet soil
You threw it on the ground
Told me never to get your hands dirty again
I didn’t have the words to tell you
That lump of soil was me

You never liked me handing you things
“Use your words” you said
So I used words — my way.

I read every book I could get my hands on
I picked up phrases and sentences
As if they were toy blocks
And I arranged them and rearranged them
Until they said what you wanted

“What a brilliant child,” people said
As I stood there choking to death
On other people’s words
Pouring out of my throat so fast
I had no time to breathe

Do you understand yet?
Every time you call me clever
Every time you call me smart
Every time you call me brilliant
Or gifted, or talented, or gifted and talented
All I remember is choking and drowning

And I am supposed to be grateful
For being waterboarded into language
I am supposed to be happy
For choking and drowning
On other people’s words

And you thought you were helping me
When you put me in rooms full of
Children who swam in language
Like fish in water
Children who used my choking voice
As a joke between them all
You thought you were helping

You think you know something about me
Because I stuffed language down my throat
And vomited it up when needed

You think you know something about me
Because someone confused that
With being a language-fish
And threw me in the fishbowl
Until I almost drowned
Because language-fish have gills
And children
Who stuff books down their throat
For purposes of vomiting later
Only have lungs

And here’s the part
That makes me cry
Every time I think of it

I still tried to communicate
My way

I handed people lumps of dirt
I tried to hand them the mist through the trees
I let my hands flicker around my face
I handed them marbles and little ornate sculptures
I tried to show them the whole world in the color blue

I had tried so hard
To learn their language
That I choked on their books
And vomited their words
All day
Every day

They didn’t even see my language
They didn’t need it like I needed theirs
So I was not only invisible
But laughable

And you wonder why even mentioning these people
Makes me so furious I could choke all over again
And you wonder why I can’t identify with all those word-fish
And why calling me a word-fish makes me want to slap you
Until the flashbacks of choking and vomiting subside

I’ve finally wrested control of words
Against every odds that I started out with
And nobody was around to herald that achievement
Because they assumed I was a word-fish
Not a land creature vomiting words involuntarily

Nobody was around to hold me
When I vomited those words over and over again
Nobody was around to congratulate me
When I finally mastered the real use of words
Nobody was around to listen
When I used objects and body movements
To say more than words ever could

And you wonder why I resent your compliments
And you wonder why I burn with rage
When you ever, ever hint that this was easy
That I was born with a ‘gift’
That I didn’t have to claw my way
Every inch
To language
That I didn’t already have
A language
Of my own

Curl up, curl up so tight

Curl up, curl up so tight
Curl up so tight, that you curl in the night
And the night curls down inside you
Like an owl wrapping her wings around herself
Eyes wide open and ready to fly

Curl up, curl up so tight
Curl up so tight that you curl in the earth
And the soil fills your body
Like mycelium spreading itself through you
Waiting to release its spores

And the spores release and the owl flies
And you remain curled up so tight
Your eyes squeezed shut against the night
That when the light turns your way
It takes you by surprise

I curl up, and I hand myself to you
Because you’ll know what to do
You know what marona is
You’ll know when to hold me
On the palm of your hand
You’ll know when to set me down
Carefully so I don’t break

You’ll know when you hear the owl
And smell the soil
And hear the silent music
That I’m here with you too

Love Poem For People Like Me

This is what love can be:

I taste with the soles of my feet.  I taste dirt when I walk, but when my feet touch your skin, I taste fruit and sweat.  Your entire lifetime caresses its way through the scent of your hair.  I want to lay my face in your hair forever, smell your life, taste the tops of your feet with the bottoms of mine.  I want to smell that scent that only enters your sweat when we touch.

And then I want to curl in on myself until I become a marble, or a rock.  And place myself in your hand.  And you can put me in your pocket.

When you need reminding that something in this world is real.  When you need reminding that you are real.  Take me out of your pocket and hold me in your hand.  Feel the deep bass note resonate throughout our shared existence.

This is what love can be.

Mud and Wood-Sorrel

Who did you hold when you fell to the floor?  And will you ever tell me more? Your cast iron hands and your filigree mind have never had much time for my kind. I can rise from the floor and take my leave of here, anytime I want. Just remember, anytime I want.

Tell me of earth, you who have never touched it, but only held it in your mind, an abstract component in one of your filigree spells. And I’ll tell you of words, I who have seldom seen them but as the birds that Donna spoke of, falling without a sound. And maybe somewhere we can touch and find our common symmetry. Or maybe only common disdain. So common, that disdain.

I held out to you a hand full of soil drenched in water. It had the smell of roots, of fallen needles, the beginning of green wood-sorrel. You shouted, drop it, get out, get it out of here!  Get my damn mud out of here before it ruins your floor, your house, your clothes, your furniture.

I fell down on the floor to examine the soil. I ran it over my fingers and inhaled the rooty scent.  And I could find nothing amiss. Nothing of this mud you spoke of with such disdain.

You were never aware of the power of the words you threw behind you, one scrap, one song, one to sting. Mud, you called it, and suddenly it became filth, and I became filth by association. You never saw a beautiful or useful building constructed of mud, I imagine, nor all the other uses of mud… or the very tone of your voice that tells us all “Mud is beneath me, beneath me, beneath me, Mud is beneath me” would simply not be.

But people heard your words carried on the wind. They do that. Your words ride the wind whether you will them or not. And people hear them, and people change.  Your words carried down to someone whose house was made from mud, and when she heard the tone in your voice when you said mud, for the first time she was ashamed.  Half ashamed, half defiant, but all unnecessary if you’d kept your disgust to yourself.

My voice is the color of mud, and my skin is the texture of bark. My love has the depth of water, my touch is as soft as mist dancing past trees in the dark.

But right now I feel bone dry, as if my roots can’t push the water far enough into the sky.  And there’s haze between me and you.  My eyes are like a desert, my kidneys burn in the night while I’m waiting, waiting to put things right.

Can you enter my life without burning me from the inside? Can you steer your way round the curves of my body without looking for all the ways to tell me they’re wrong to exist. Can you?

Or will you just shout at me that I am mud?  And with your words, turn that into an insult rather than a thing of beauty?

I want to curl up underneath the mud and show you I can turn into wood-sorrel.  Show you that nothing can uproot me, least of all words.  And hold my roots in the ground and turn my leaves to the sky and taste how sweet light is and be cradled in the muddy dark.