wisdom of old wounds


she's inside, tracking the directions north east south west, marking time on the walls. she makes light out of ribfat and digs her toes deep, kneehigh, she makes light out of ribfat. 

i am not going to write about old wounds. not in that way. cat scratch, broken glass, flake of sheet metal to the eye. broken toenail, silver hair, no broken bones, no surgeries, no overnights in hospital.

there is this place i have been circling, where she lives, and writing about it brings me great comfort, but it makes me feel more alone every time i go there. write about it:
she marks the directions on the wall. in the post-apocalyptic world i would drop to my knees and learn to sniff out sweetness and danger and new ways of naming love. the place is inside my chest, is deep red dark cave in my ribcage. is soft diaphragm floor and branched ribs ceiling, collarbone and trachea and the light shines through like sunset light over a wildfire. the deep red light, deep red smoky light, when the sky is dark and it is night the world inside will go bright with fire and fleeing animals. the kind of light that is relieving, is lay your burden down, you could run now but the fire is faster. 

mark your directions inside ribcage walls and listen to the wind carrying smoke and the birds fly faster than fire, tell the stories before it's too late. but the others, the deer and foxes and wild cats and black bear, they are slow on their feet and they know well enough to be panicked. they run as far as they are willing to go and then they lay their burdens down, let the trees take them, let the smoke take them, let the wild screeching wind take them. and the light changes. 

all the time the light changes. you will not know by the sun, in a ribcage, in a wild fire. you will not know by the sun or the stars or the sound of her voice which direction is up or down. the light has shifted, and shifted again, and you are tempted to say the light's all wrong, but then you know this way from that because you have marked, again and again, your whole life long, the directions on the walls of the inside and the breath under your feet is a rhythm you can trust. and the heat of the inside, you can trust. and the thickening shadows and half-lights and tricks of light you can trust. your arms spread wide wall to wall rib to rib, tha-thump tha-thump and it is steamy red and heart-close and it is good to move closer, it is good to taste the air with your tongue, iron-sweet. you take the stories i tell you and you line the walls with them. you stretch out your arms and say she told me this one, this one is true. as far as you can see, arms outstretched as far as you can see: she told me this one, this one is true.

(freewrite: write about the wisdom of an old wound, 18 minutes.)

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.

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.)

leave me to pray

you know. you know.

you know, as far as your eyes can see. you know. windswept plains, cityscape, subterranean cavern, cumulus cloud, as far as your eyes can see, you know. the i-5 corridor, parking lot, hawthorne, lumbering jet, rental car.

there is ice forming. long thick forearms of ice bulging from the eaves. blue sky, grey sky, night sky, northern lights. northern lights. new planets, dying planets, ringed, space debris. you know. you know. polar bear, flock of geese, girl child with frog hat, red cheeks, it's so cold. paw prints, snow. branch bending bending and you know.


this horizon. this landscape. build me a shack and leave me to pray. fly me to the moon. take my hand. kiss me in the rain. smile at me like i am the most special thing you've seen all day. build me a shack and leave me to pray.

leave me to pray holy holy and thank you god and thank you mother and thank you swirling planets, unfurling plants, bear tracks, blue sky, thank you.

leave me to pray and i will turn my head east for rising sun, south for dark shadow noon. turn my head west and i will prepare for sleep. leave me to pray and i will turn, every time, i will turn north and say thank you thank you thank you for this gift of facing death and trusting in my rebirth. every time, i will turn my face north and trust in my rebirth.

you will know me then, upon my rebirth, and you will know me then, you will know me then.

build me a shack and leave me to pray. face toward the sun, moon, shooting stars. you will know me by the iron honey of my my rebirth. you will know how desolate the landscape.

(freewrite: you will know how desolate the landscape, 14 minutes)

to believe

I believe in black pepper. In burning leaves inside my house: sage, mugwort, cedar. I believe in magic.

I believe in transformational moments, gateways, portals, hidden cupboards and secret gardens. I believe in layers upon layers of what is real.

I believe in my digging hands and in the ways I listen to animals. I believe walking barefoot makes me happier, or less sad.

Floodwaters will cleanse us all. I believe in water's edge. I believe in discovering forgotten language, driving all night to get there, pictures of people painted on cave walls, I believe in bats.

I believe in walking it off. Listening to other people's stories until I can think of a new way to tell my own. I believe in grapes after the first frost, whiskey straight up and slow.


I believe in kissing in restaurant booths and up against the wall and under a tree. I believe in trees. Moss and stones and dirt and mud. Avalanche earthquake tsunami hurricane tornado forestfire flashflood rabiddog.

I believe in black bears crossing invisible lines and coyotes trotting through the neighborhoods. Shooting stars, listing docks, baby birds learning to fly.

Owls falcons hawks eagles. I believe in fish as big as my arms spread out and also in the critters rushing my bloodstream that I will never see. I believe in amoeba and protons and dark matter and dust.

I believe in the things you say and I also know enough to believe the things you don't say.

I believe in rings inside a tree and heart-shaped rocks and falling asleep when I'm tired.

I believe in fucking until I can't breathe and then diving deeper until I can't see. I believe in coming back up for air and new prescription lenses.

I believe in atrophy and regeneration. Death, rebirth, liminal spaces.

I believe you when you say the thing and when the door closes on you at the airport.

I believe you when you say the thing and drive away, our dog in the front seat excited to go.

I believe you when you give birth to that baby, when you stand at the edge with me and point out the whales.

I believe in footprints in the snow and antler scrapings and the furtive burrowing of brown furry blind things.

I believe in bears reaching into holes to find honey. I believe in sticky paws and bumble bees and blue summer skies.

I believe in the northern lights and solar flares and that some planets have rings.

I believe in driving fast on country roads, singing along and windows left open.

I believe in rolling over to wake up alone, and I believe in listening to you snore. I believe in underwater caves and calderas and tectonic shifting.

I believe in holding hands and walking with my eyes closed.

I believe in parking on the side of the road to have the talk, to tell the secrets, to sit quietly with my hand on your knee.

I believe in watching you dance and rubbing oil into your knuckles and calling out your name 3000 miles away.


I believe in love letters and canceled stamps and whale songs and bird songs and the song you make up while you're washing the dishes.

I believe in spiced foods and salt and lemon zest and chili on my chocolate.

I believe in standing at the edge for as long as is necessary and I believe in falling, flying, and walking away.

Hot air balloons, orange pickup trucks, gravel roads, kudzu vines and trap doors.

I believe in sleep walking, sleep talking, and love.

I believe in saying yes, repeating stories until I get it right, propping the door open, letting moss grow over the path stones.

I believe in words spray painted on sidewalks, brand new birds' nests and lightning-split trees.

I believe in magic and miracles and fairies and elves and goblins and trolls and wizards and witches. Hobbits, Voldemort, centaurs, giants, bogeymen, shadows, light, and heartbreak.

I believe in what hasn't happened yet, and the color blue and lupines growing up the side of the hill. Gratitude, generosity and forgiveness.


two parts:
(freewrite: list what you doubt, list what you believe: 14 minutes)
(freewrite: what women know about love: 14 minutes.)


never was a little girl

I've lost the box of my growing-up pictures.

little .JPG

There's the possibility I might knock over some box somewhere in this process of moving. I might knock over a box and find the secret hole in the floor where this most important of boxes has fallen. Or maybe I will find the story of its disguise. For now, though, I am preparing for a fresh loss of memory.

Saying goodbye to this house. The fruit trees: plum apple fig. The blackberries. The birds. The view from the bedroom. Love. Saying goodbye to this short walk shorter drive. This home of trying so hard. Of leaving. Of staying. Splitting open shrinking down. That hummingbird. The peregrine falcon she insists I did not see. The raccoons the opossum. That mouse last week. The geese (good morning, girls.) The stranglehold brambles. I will bring the hammock with me, but where will it go? Show my bloody fingers and take a deep breath.

I strike the pose. Mug for the camera. Come too. Come with me.

There are so many ways to tell this story.

(journal entry, 2008)