there's a poet in the barn

there is a poet in the barn. climb up to the hayloft and she has covered the walls with words, covered the beams with words, and closer, look closer, hold your breath and swan dive from the edge and you will land graceful and sweet in the loose hay and you will open your eyes and each blade has been given a word.

the cows in their corners and the horses in their stalls. the rooster on the rafter and the owl in the roost. poems.

there is a poet in the barn. a woodpecker in the oak. the sun slides along the horizon and lungs fill with dust.

there is a poet in the barn. the whole town knows she's there. she writes birthday songs and wedding vows and funeral blessings. the whole town knows she's there and on a special day mama might send a little one (oh you hope it's you!) down the road with a fresh loaf of bread, and you will say: what will you give us today? and she will hand off a story, written on a blue glass jar, about the crows that play-dive each other until the sun goes down. or she might crack open that loaf and write in sweet butter the names of all the beautiful things she thought of this morning. the little one (and you hope it's you!) will run fast down the road, kicking up dust and laughing, because going to visit the poet is like christmas, is the day when you are the most special thing, and when you get to town everyone wants to hear what you've been given. they stand around you in a close circle and gasp and smile and hold their fingers to their lips because what you are saying is most delicious and pleasing, and afterwards you get hugs and tousled hair and all day long people are thanking you and even though you didn't write the poem, she wrote it for you and everyone knows it and it is good to be the thing that inspires beauty. so you don't want to be greedy, but you try to be the one mama chooses, every day, or at least every other, to be the one sent down the road to receive the poet's blessing.



Originally published: "there's a poet in the barn." Line Zero. 2 (2011): 111. Print.

all the pilgrimage places

give me something to hold under my tongue. a pebble to roll around in my mouth. in the desert, sucking on a stone will quench your thirst. give me something to hold under my tongue so i will not be thirsty. give me salt, salt lick, salt water, taffy. give me spice, something deep and earthy, exotic and familiar. give me a word. give me quixotic or conundrum or marzipan. give me a gravelly woman's voice, give me low notes on a viola. give me something to hold under my tongue. a secret. a joke. the story you had forgotten to tell anyone. 

give me middle of the night, can't sleep, instead i'll write and look at the stars. give me stars. give me stars to roll around in my mouth, hold under my tongue, stars to quench my thirst. give me cool river water and twilight bats. give me the knowing you will not die alone.

give me dreams, nightmares, plans. give me your best ideas and also the ones that someone else has thought of first. give me fresh green beans and bumblebee. salt lick, again. and unearthed roots. toes in sand, toes in water. open clamshell and lobster shack at midnight. give me the shifting land, pulse of island moving with the tide. earthquake and tsunami. give me natural disaster and also unnatural: oilslick, serial killer, kidnapped child. give me bloody mess, broken glass, door busted open. give me she left without a trace, she disappeared, and whatever happened to her? give me i miss you. give me hands stretched out, hug on the street corner. give me everything is better, everything is going to be okay. give me yes and give me no and give me maybe too. give me i don't know and i don't care and i care so much i don't know what to do. give me falling in love and breaking up and somewhere in between. give me raw placenta, babies born, trees planted, trees swaying, trees opening up and digging deep. give me the earth beneath my feet and the reality of magic.


Originally published: "all the pilgrimage places." Line Zero. 2 (2011): 143. Print.


trucker's atlas

i should have planned ahead. 

should have known it would end up this way.

i should have taken notes, sketched landmarks. left breadcrumb trails and taken cartography classes. there have been so many long roads. shortcuts i took only when my palms would itch at the thought of detour. people could benefit from that sort of atlas, i think. the record of backroads we managed to take, one end to the next, with or without disaster. people need that kind of information.

people need to know which road always washes out by which stand of trees. which day week month you can be sure to see which creatures behind which shadows. people ought to be able to make informed decisions.


i have some information.

i know that ten-mile stretch where you can turn your radio dial to the in-between station and be guaranteed to hear a song that will break your heart. i know about the woman who leaves hot biscuits on the bench by her mailbox. i don't know who she leaves them for. i assume they're for me, because they're always there, always hot.

i could tell you about the dirty old dog whose feet smell like toast, who loves to sleep in my cab from the town with the trees to the one with the water. she waits for me on the bank until i swing by to bring her back to the shade of sweeping branches.

there's the one stretch, the wide plain between the sun on the tallest tree, and the moon on the smallest hill, where i roll down my windows and holler out whatever old songs come into my head. that's how i first met the toast dog - she heard me singing and came running through the brush, hot biscuit in her mouth swiped from the bench down the way.

i taught myself how to sing on these roads. and i've memorized poems, long wordless tributes to the women i've loved. i especially like the poems i've written for the woman i've only seen once, 50 miles fast past, she never even knew i was here.

i should have been more forward thinking. known how much it would be needed. everyone needs a map. and if i'm the first one on these roads, or the first with a pen handy, i'm doing you all a disservice sitting in my truck, humming, eating biscuits, tracking the movements of the sky, when i should have been telling you what i know.


Originally published: "Trucker's Atlas." Thread and Bead. Kristin Berger, 16 01 2010. Web. 26 Mar. 2012. <>.

“Trucker's Atlas.” VoiceCatcher. 4. (2009): 70-71. Print.



desire in the liminal spaces

it is walking to the center of the place which is as far as you can ever walk, carrying a thing which is heavy with everything because your desire is everything and everything that ever was, will be.


it is a sky full of planets and it is also the salt dried on your palm.
it is a small brown sack filled with all of the things and it is tied tight with leafy green vines and thick red thread and the long hairs from your elders.
it is a small heavy thing and it smells of freshly turned earth and freshly born child and freshly stormed sky.

it is a small heavy thing, your desire, it is a small heavy thing and it pulls you forward, turn around this way this way this way, always forward. never mind it feels backward or to the side, ever forward. small heavy thing it wants to go to that place in the center which is as far as you will ever walk, which is a place all lit up with shadow and sounding like what all the sounds sound like, children laughing, water flowing, birds winging. it sounds like all the things, plants growing, cells dividing, ideas forming, it is the place in the center all shadow and light and it is this place in the center where you will dig a hole with your strong hands, using your strong back.

you will lay this small heavy thing which tastes like desire and you will sit patiently and watch the water table rise and the planets orbit your sky and the dust will lay itself easy on your desire and it will grow itself into a tall magnificent thing that reaches deep and high and wide.


(freewrite: an area of your life you could use some advice about: 11 minutes)

what is your creativity made of?

suspensory behaviors

salt flats and brachiation. branching fingers breath river spilling into night sky. prayer. fire. things that come in threes. reaching, always reaching. the earth, the sky, things unknown & unknowable. the thing that happens when i close my eyes.

prayer. please, please, please.

cave paintings and rituals dangled from trees. the water at night, fog, the fire started from nothing, three fossils and a yes. follow the path, lick the salt, open my legs, open my heart. eyes, mouth.

say it. say what it is. and again: say what it is. and again: say what it is.


three things the same, earth, sky, salt. brachiation, breathing in, out, branching and reaching and it is tree bough, lightning storm, blood through veins, dried and aching riverbed. it is prayer. it is telling the things again and again until they settle into the soil and then become stardust and no matter what else happens, someone somewhere will breathe it in, will breathe in the thing, and it is no longer just a thing i know, it is no longer just a way of keeping track.

it is dust in lungs and salt on tongues. it is prayer and incantation. it is fossils in the creekbed, unexpected and surprising. it is child swinging from a tree, it is nebula, it is deep sea unnamed creature, it is unknown and curious and the things i have to say are the air i breathe and the fires we set and the fingers that touch our skin.

it is fucking and laughing and dying and confession and the long journey down the dark mossy road. water cupped in my palms and my eyes adjust to any light and my feet touch the ground.

my feet don't touch the ground. my feet are tools, my feet are diggers. i am a digger, my stories are diggers and there is a moon in the sky and creatures i have never seen and what i will tell you will be carved into the soil. the things you want to know get planted deepest and steep through the long winter until we are hungry again and remember to reach out our hands.


freewrite: what is your creativity made of? 15 minutes.)