Upon Eating a Manzanita Berry & Half Mile Down the Road, 5th Spruce Tree on the Left

October 18, 2017

Upon Eating a Manzanita Berry


Alone in a forest of      

lodgepole and white fir     

eating a manzanita berry        

The "little apple" tartened             

by a late winter          

My uncontrollable desire         

to partake of alien bushes     

Willow or western blueberry?           

The red-winged blackbird         

laughs and poses     

as I run my hands

along a tall pinus contorta     

pull apart its seeds     

bract by bract     

pry apart its needles     

two by two

I will not forget you     

now knowing this, Tree

The delicate green bracken

and lime crustose

succeed the Indian pole forest

logged and left

given way to alder swamp

where in childhood's last days

I savored its persistent sap

on my northern skin

not yet burned by a California sun

I furtively and carefully

douse my cigarette in the dust

put it in my pocket

leave it as you found it

How many backyard forests have I seen

burned to nothing?

150 miles below me

the people are burning

in cities

Chickadee trill spirals thru

fruiticose lichen climbing

the morning

dangling from spruce

reminiscent of what we

called "witch's hair" as children

unaware of botany or biology

knowing that lupine,

purply blue

hold their fire inside

tiny black claws

filled with orange dust filament

Speaking in archaic tongues

of woodpecker, hawk and sparrow

Eating the landscape

Our mouths sticky with sun and pine

The only element burning —

the oxygen in our blood



Half Mile Down the Road, 5th Spruce Tree on the Left


You are looking for photos

of trees on the Internet

when you stumble

across a forest

you know intimately.

There is only one view

like that.

You know the cliff

in the distance to the right,

now with a strange house

upon it.

You see the sharp drop

off into the flat marsh,

the twisting river.

Only one sky that color

of blue, one white

mountain rising

up out of the ocean.

You know those red fireweed,

the tall green pushki.

You know every

square foot of that

dirt road, every bump.

There is the path you made

through the moss-covered glen

and the overgrown alders.

And finally, there is your tree,

exactly where you left it,

on the hill overlooking the sea.

And now you realize

why you have always

been so lost in the city.


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