Poetry and Moss in the Northwest

Since moving from sunny Albuquerque to soggy Bremerton, Bob and I found reading we both like quite a bit at the Hugo House in Seattle, Works in Progress, an open mic for all kinds of writing on the first and third Mondays of the month, 7-9 p.m. (sign up at 6:30 p.m.). 

Here’s a bit of what I’ve been writing since the move. The water has been as good for my poetry as for the moss. So has the moss.

The Welcoming Committee

I think they yelled “homo”


or perhaps it was “om” or “home” someone hollered from a speeding window

as I walked along the tall iron fence around the naval base, before

I turned onto this quiet street and sat on this bench to talk to my notebook.


While the moss picks out a life

between cobblestones, I transform

the indifferent gift of hollered wit

through the alchemy of incomprehension:

Was this the call of longing

for home, for peace, for natural order?

the anger when home, peace, natural order

become a question?

Do I always have to be the questions

no one wants to answer?


I am like this moss, lost

to home, to peace, to natural order, fit only to fly

on wild winds, to root in specks

of earth, to encrust the predictable concrete with life

in all its chaos, to be

soaked and sated and washed away in the next rain.


A passel of school children passes chattily

behind me. Someone has told them

they can be whoever they want to be,

as long as they button their shirts

on the correct side. Perhaps

they are telling each other now. 


I love taking the ferries, and they’re a good, er, “place” to write.

Meditating in the Dark

In shadow where water hides from sun, its surface

takes the shape of Earthly things—

  evergreens like a many-turreted, ivied castle wall

  red smear of little house on shore

  denser dark of the ferry below that shows nothing of earth, heaven or water


The nothing is a membrane

between worlds where a gull floats, pretending

to be a duck far from shore.


There are shores

whose veils of evergreen

I don’t want to peek behind.

My surfaces are as opaque

as water.


This was the first poem I wrote in Washington:

The moss on the stairs isn’t climbing

The sidewalks and bridges, the stone walls of our new city are growing, furred with moss. Mold spores black fronds

in the puddles around our sink. Even the damp folds of my nervous system are growing: green, black and furred red, toxic


and nourishing. People tell me how brave I am, starting over like this. I don’t

understand. I didn’t spore in this new puddle, only splashed down, still myself.


I’ve been watching the last of the move-in bruises fade, the one that came not from boxes but my fist. The silhouette of palm and pinky is faintest stain

seventeen days since you asked me to stop hurting myself, “Please,” and I held back my hands along with the howling I’d dammed with blows.


You’d hoped the good sea air would heal me. It does. You hoped it would heal me

more. I want to tell you: This is life: how it feeds, how it poisons. The same act.