then I say, that this doubt I intend to solve and clear up in this little book, in part even more doubtful

— La Vita Nuova


Some years ago, with little preparation and little more than a first-aid kit and $1,000 in cash, I found myself leading a number of American middle school students on an exploration of the flora and fauna, language and customs of Baja Sur. Our first night we drove from Los Cabos into the Sierra Laguna to an old ranch that had been operated by the same family since its homesteading by a Spaniard several generations ago. We dropped our gear beneath a palapa and made our way up a dusty trail, just a little more barren than the surrounding desert, to the main house, a cool, wooden structure with most of the living, even the sleeping, done under low roofs without walls. The rancher, waiting for us in a small side yard, hung a goat by its hind legs from a rickety gallows-like rack, a goat he was going to slaughter and prepare for us as welcome to Mexico.

The kids sussed out what was happening pretty quickly. The vegetarian and the squeamish peeled off and sat at a slight remove, trying their best to take refuge in a hammock with a scrubby old tree between them and the goat. The rest of us formed an arc around the goat and watched as the rancher pet it for a moment then stuck it quick with a knife, puncturing the artery in its neck. The goat barely flinched. The kids were curious and solemn, on their knees or sitting cross-legged beneath the goat bleeding on the rack.

The goat took a long time to bleed out. There was so much blood, a steady, finger-thick stream of red blood draining out the goat’s neck in the dusty desert light. So much blood. More blood and more time to bleed out than I could have guessed. We sat watching the goat calmly die. The blood collected into a bent up tin pot set on the ground. I asked the rancher what he did with the blood. He said, “For the dogs.” That’s when I noticed the dogs.

The rest of our arc was completed by five or six scratched up, weathered dogs. These dogs, lying in the dust with their tongues lolled out, eyes a little closed, happy and patient dogs, observing some inscrutable dog rule. No dog looked at the blood and no dog was any closer to the blood than any other.

The goat bled out. The rancher moved the bowl full of blood a little off to the side and began to skin the goat, still hanging from the rack, and the kids and dogs still in their arc. The dogs betrayed no interest in the blood, did not move. And then another dog, a dog I hadn’t seen before, moseyed into the center of our arc, lazy and happy, even more beat than the others, bigger, rougher, scarred along his back, missing bits of ear, and calm. This dog had a finger-sized hole through his snout where it had been pierced in a fight the night before by the tusk of a wild boar. This dog got to drink the blood first before all other dogs. This dog was the rule.

The dog entered our circle beneath the goat and lapped at the bowl of blood. Instantly he became erect, sauntered over to where the squeamish kids sat and vomited the blood at their feet.

as the bearer of the empty


all that opens upon

                                    the tomb

of the forest in spires

                                       the sky


 I. A1

beyond adornment

as adornment


open of itself

the ideal that at work


the world an eclectic lost  



the children who found



transient affirmation


brought this expression to bear



enjoin the fruits

                               which vision


               I found children


to behold

                  that sense

that landscape intends




                    being of

this earth sounds

                                in constant hail





generational sounds within





which ought to be just




creatures would not eat

would watch sequences

to cross upon this

no analogue at all



             and makes no trouble




as waves tolled about the sea


of the works as eternal nature

all you cannot be

                                where the lee





Springs and summers in my mid-teens I’d ship aboard a 112 foot tallship, sailing about the Puget Sound and San Juan Islands. I made my last trip aboard her as a 17-year-old deckhand, a return transit from Alaska to Washington through the Inside Passage. I climbed to the masthead and carved my name into the main cap with a knife, 89 feet above the water, where the rolling of waves of even a couple feet can translate into a 20-foot arc through the air. I saw on one watch for the first time both the Northern Lights and bioluminescence — full vibrant sheets of light above, bright sea-drift scudding by beneath.

In port at a fish camp on the BC coast, I got drunk on Zima stolen off the transom of a powerboat and taught myself to cartwheel. I also met Layla there. When the ship tied up in Victoria a week later, Layla meet us at the dock. With permission to go ashore I disappeared for three days, gone until it was time for the ship to return to the States. A kind of heartache I hadn’t yet known combined with a general weariness from being on the same boat with the same people doing the same things and being out of weed since we nearly perished climbing a waterfall to a hot spring and dropped our drugs into the cataract. So, ashore that evening in Port Angeles WA with the First Mate’s 15-year-old son, I complained that if only we had any money we’d jump ship and head back to Canada. But we had no money. We bummed cigarettes off drunk natives and pushed shopping carts off a dock.

And then we found a purse which held a $100 bill, two state IDs with the same picture but different names, and the meager remains of a dime bag. The First Mate’s son and I considered ourselves quite lucky, packed our gear and jumped ship. We spent the night in a hotel ashore then caught a ferry back to BC in the morning. His lady met him in Victoria’s Inner Harbour. Layla didn’t answer my calls. Finally, a friend answered Layla’s phone and told me that she wished me well but would not meet me and I could not stay at her place. I spent the next three nights sleeping under a pier or on the roof of a 50s-themed restaurant, mostly alone except when I was asked by a lingering middle-aged man whether I was “working or just waiting” and when I met a pregnant hooker who got me high and let me hang out in the limo with her friends. 

One night, somewhere along the Inside Passage, just myself at the helm and one other deckhand on watch, something splashed away off the starboard beam. Two bold streaks of blue light arced through the black water toward our bow. I throttled back, sure we’d snagged a net, and stomped on the deck over the captain’s cabin. The captain turned out promptly and decided we hadn’t snagged anything but maybe I should go take a look over the bow. In our glowing blue bow wave two porpoises frolicked and rushed, their silhouettes alight with phosphorescence. They darted through the dark, their own decaying wakes streamed far behind them. When submerged, the sea fully illuminated the porpoises and when they surfaced into the night they would disappear, their spouts faintly aglow. Only in the deep were they clarified.

these are

                 the leys of energy

maybe and not

                            by the way lies



                          with care held


the imperative to standard

polarities but we




how space looks too


proximal inasmuch


               specific to

rest given over to


whoso complete and constant



 needs landfall nowhere

                                            the sea

at some points limits

                                       all converge

the sole daughter endures too free


with the creature

                               patience is


groaning in the habitat  



 the world enough makes



in company alone resides

within the recess

                                in order

order removes to

                                to do wrong



                  clear of the dose



  whoso complete and constant


emission which we are


       some to some given

nearness has to quarrel

come close round

                                 about now



 the environments lie




        gathered with idle force


             lies the propagation






The epigraph is Emerson’s translation.