Some Poems From


Ancient bones
Hiding in the flower
Disguised as the yellow center
Of a purple star

Swaying spooky
In a wind of webs
The autumn flourish
Cloud nebula

Crowded with gold
And prehistoric eyes
An old sardine
Of alpha memory

Pale yellow pal
Without a web
My cunning crab
In forest flower

I like how the sky
spells your name
when I’m not thinking

and I look up
and you’re my world

shadow of eyelash

today the forests
stretch away
in the echo of your eye

the river
of the forest

the wind in the trees
never ruffles the swaying nest

what happened on that day
more than the hope
of trees and wind

a song

two badgers
in moonlight

the wind in the trees
is a cherished music

leafy branches
to their season

angel element
of the colour lithograph
periodic map of my world

you are my first
moving picture

a bird
moving word

my treasure
island girl

from the heart
like feathers of hope

on the deep forest



the like game

the river merchant
the floating lanterns

from the edge
of the cliffs
to the bright tapers
in a fireplace

love gathers
in a few words

dark ink

illuminated prow

a landscape

flame shoulder
willow beauty

a cresting wave
my pencil
made of incense

late post
new lark

retinal poetry

the light pours through
the upper eyelash

all my mothers
and fathers

seem reflected
in this water
where we watch

a moat of the moment

darling sky

is a syllable

a name is a place
a tree is a girl

who learned
the inscriptions

found a narrative
in the north

bee lore
in the south


the equations

as the timepiece
on the mantelpiece

the locomotive
in the fireplace

catches the light
of the window dial

forget what the kid said
about physics

only love
is important

when her science bares her belly in a great room of birds
and her breasts are the two worlds I am familiar with

all her missing maps reassemble in the atlas of my eyes
and the island is a tunnel through the colour of the birds

rich dirt of hell the soil of our flowerbeds
speaking vegetables tumble from mother’s open book

the other scrapbooks rot and dream themselves
back into the forcing windows of our looking dream


An Atlas for Orpheus was first published in Flare stack (Birmingham).

the I thought of Chatterton again today
The boy poet of my new home town
And other boy poets I have known
They were young men of course no longer boys
But pretty and intense and not really crazy
Toying with the ancient and new ways of seeing

Five seasons now I’ve passed his house
(His uncle the sexton of St Mary Redcliffe)
And I find the house is not as old as I expect
It’s the parchment forgeries of the old monk
A handful of centuries confused and hypertexted
That flicker in my mind’s back-lot book of days

Contemporaries of the atmosphere of heaven
Walking the mazy lanes eyelids in romantic movement
A long line unrolling from the inner ink well
Later in the anthems we were mods of Main Street
Dressed like troubadours with electric combs
Memory is the love song of eternity

Silence has no end; speech
is just the beginning of it.


the path into the woods
cannot be seen from the treetops
the wind leads to another sky

the path follows roots
triangles of growth and fall
cradle of understory

the old book fell apart in my hands
near the kitchen garden the musty library smell
mingled with the herbs and mints

what seemed planet now a tragic sun
an archaeology of stars
excited in a new forest

the light sounds like someone
saying dream dream
in the gentle voice of a child


Forest Geometry was first published in Agenda.

Such a blunder
To cut my finger
With the new French knife

Because I need all my fingers to touch you

I touch the bandage to my skin then
Touch you
Deep surface of my world

The bandage becomes the Milky Way

Weeks later in deep space
In the French countryside
The figs and grapes are ripe

And the bandage becomes a kiss

You feed me figs
Your breath your lips the you I touch
Heals my slight imperfection

The bandage is a whisper in the leaves

Because of you
The little knife
Becomes an angel

A cloud of butterflies

Folding wings
In air which tastes
Of touching


Visible from the little farm
Are Victorian bridges,
Woodlands and the city.

Local land, big sky, every season
Testing my knowledge of beans,
Perfumes, courgettes, savoy.

Corn versus the rats,
Moons and green graffiti.
Every language is an experiment,

The test tubes in wooden racks,
Tall bamboo waiting for spirals.
Sand for carrots, fleece

And onions gone missing
In rolls of papyrus and racing cumulus.
A language with only present tense.


Allotment was first published in The North.

to Caroline

I can’t find the hidden bridge
The August clouds of Rome
Illuminate a handwritten manuscript

I call you on the wind
Telephone towers
Sim card of simulacra

From the house of Cicero
Sorry closed
Come back tomorrow

In the Campo dei Fiori
A waitress swings an apron
If you don’t drink I’m fired

And the secret society
Will burn the bronze statue
Of Giordano Bruno again so what

Scant minutes left
In the tower of wind
And the secret forests of Rome

I’m lost so I sleep
Patterns connect in paving stones
Concentric cobbles

Where fingers have traced a map
A body of stars and water
A dream bridge

I close my eyes and see you
At the tower on the bridge at Cahors
I call again and the wind says yes


Wind was first published in The North.

We were trees
In a forest
Of glass harmonicas

We woke up singing
Planning worlds
Where we would be the trees

And deputize all the others
Our friends forming
A human alphabet of trees

In spring and autumn
Long masquerades
In all our branches

We woke up thinking
A winter path disappearing
In the dark dream of the woods

Summer playing
Another rubber tree
Masks among the palms

Our roots
November fireworks
Illuminating local nebulas

If April
Really does return
May the forest be your song


Trees for a Day was first published in the anthology PLAY (Paper Dart Press).

Rare pussy willow
On the border of the allotments
Salix of all middle worlds
A beauty spreading in her rose
A tree of spring in silver light
The branches like cupped hands her fingers
A perfect forest in one tree

The cutter has not coppiced here
For a generation or three
Perhaps he died before passing on the craft
Or the skill was not transferable
At the local wild place
And the world moved on
Into a digital forest

In dark daylight the cutter returns
With sharp tools
In fitted wood
He shows the sky
A forest of dreams
And turns to work the borders
Where the new wood sleeps


The Coppice was first published in Raceme.

You held our life in the palm of your hand
After the bitter bread of exile

George Seferis, Mythistorema

Where will you sleep tonight?

Will you write a song
About a pistachio tree?

Will you rename a boat
Or will a boat rename you?

The frontier of your feet
Will remember grandfather

And his proud pistachio tree
In the garden of summer.

Small brown birds fly up
Like the motes in your eyes.

Your guidebook is made of dreams
And the borders of night.

The authorities cannot police the Unseen,
But where will you sleep tonight?


Atlantis was first published in the pamphlet Asylum (Lansdown Poets) and was read as part of thought for the day at Bath Abbey.

landscape is polysyllabic
like a song of the road
the hello in history
has many sails

stone smoke transparent
caves of pre-eternity
a movement in the sea language
pebbles in the morning

stone dance

place name

ocean thing

wing tree

Boscawen-Un stone circle
St Buryan of the lichen
“the pasture of the farmstead
at the elderberry tree”

circles are common in nature
fungi                              Luna
the pupil of the human eye

from here you can see
the merry maidens
and the sea

eye and ear and circle leaf
the village idiot a great dressed rock
on the path above the stones


Stone A was first published in Raceme.


Some poems from magazines and anthologies

pale pumpkins
in the white magic of the fog
the woods intuitive
formulas of words and hills
the sound of wings
in the green chair of forest

a broken stone rebound in twine
the word it was made for
between the music
and the birds maze
green caught
in a cool web

san ancient oak
and double redwood
embrace in a mossy clearing
oak limbs curl around the redwood
like a lover touching just
where the redwood twins

two days of sun
and the lichen dries again
into eternal forms
flowers within flowers
circles linked like clearings
along the forest path

blue stone from the next ridge
pine cone
oak corn
red souled hawk screaming brightness
trees casting longer shadows
illuminating spider webs

bright pages
in a fogbound forest
like an old friend across the creek
far away in a quiet bird
answering music with music
and light with shade


Indian Summer was first published in Poetry Salzburg Review.

A man is sleeping
In the undercut
Of a giant redwood tree
In woods at the edge of the world.

Ten men could stand
In this carved cave
For the black flash photograph
Before the final fall.

Logs so large
A single tree
Fills twenty flat-beds
On the forest train.

One log per car
Steaming toward the sawmill
In the morning fog
Downhill through the slash.

The sleeper dreams.
The trees are high and cold
In this paradise
On the edge of the green world.

The sleeper is a young man,
Still healthy in his fir-sickness,
Caught sleeping in the undercut
He dreams of ancient wood

Sleeping in his axe.


Asleep in the Undercut was first published as a broadside from Clamshell Press (Sonoma).

there is some magic in the town
that lasts before the old world
starts to drown to music

spades trowels asparagus knife
and a tool without a name
in a spout of sunlight in the shed

dark rainbow razor behind
the heads of vegetables
hands moving with blades above the visor

bird wing soft razor of flight
screens stamped with the grey detritus
of the lower perpendicular

blading tracks of light
in loose spools of chaos
cakes in lanes of fiery trees


The Old Woods was first publihed in Raum (Glasgow).

image of the major
arcana carried
like a gift
through the deck

wanting the song
it came quietly
like a stamp
on an envelope

image oval
of the heart
perforated edges
torn from a larger sheet

each card a song
a breath
shuffling the deck
for a palm tree


The Rebus was first published in the Santa Clara Review.


in the family of soils
we are cousins of the sand

will save us


a photograph of a snowflake
with outrigger of words

a snowflake in the shape
of your hieroglyphic name

in snow-melt season
we toast & drink your dna


echo system
pretty planet

a directive

pine nuts
in the language of yes


Blue Book was first published in the North Coast Review (San Francisco).


and if this isn’t love, it’s shit


San Francisco is the terror of a lost star, breathing dust in shattered rooms of the presence.

It’s the curve in the North Beach freeway, dedicated to the sorcery of wind.

It’s Portsmouth Square where firecrackers mark time in tao-step for nearby office workers in their financial windmills.

It’s fantastic mystical cafes and bars that might not exist anymore.

It’s some of these words in a cityscape, rising voices, songs in praise of darkness.

San Francisco is a beautitude of sewers and laughter, a warm race of spiritual hedonists.

It’s a beautitude of bridges and gulls with a cold heart of capital.

It’s mountain people and forest folk selling songs and food, while kids on transparent skateboards practice geomancy and karate voice.

It’s Irish cops and coffee and multi-ethnic crooners with stiletto coke spoons in Cuban heels.

It’s the US Immigration office on Sansome Street.

It’s a pack of gulls reeling sanely above a Fillmore schoolyard.

It’s the Filipino Vampire of the Spirit, and El Tecolote, and the Shadow’s shadow.

San Francisco is the Caesar’s Palace of duende.


At the end of our streets the stars

George Sterling

? Que sera San Francisco?

It’s the labor strike waterfront where the ships Saturno and Cosmos once sailed from Uruguay.

It’s Louise writing a long novel in painstaking notebooks – at the beginning it was made of words and at the end of meaningless scrawls.

It’s the memory of a poem by Borges or Parra or Kaufman or Sinisgalli recited in a Southern voice.

San Francisco is the next street, the one I’ve never seen.

San Francisco is bright air with cool and little parasols of fog.

It’s some trees like a minor poetry of uncursed meetings.

It’s inversion, conversion, and reversion of the participating rainbows, a confusion of shadows and steps.

It’s the green-white youngest port on the trembling goddess rim of the West.

San Francisco is a Montreal of the spirit come home after a clear blue morning.

It’s a dancehall sound strung far out on the headlands on a golden chord of breathing.

It’s Ocean Beach in dreamtime with wild dogs and bonfires and the gypsy lady on a three-legged stool.

It’s the skyline seen from a window in the hills, beyond the glowing bar of the Bay.


First published in the City Lights anthology The Other Side of the Postcard.

The city moved into curve

Albas washed the streets.
Children sang.
Love became lunch
carried to work.

The people gathered in a central apse
of the city.
The stage manager came up and said
“You must change all the nouns
into verbs
Because everything is moving.”

And everything was moving.
Children were playing
in the gardens,
Antelopes changed colours
like chameleons,
Grandfathers stood on their heads,
Flowers exploded,
Musicians painted their instruments
while playing them,
And all the sundials did a tango.


Hymn to Secular Pronouns was first published in Square: A Journal of Architecture (San Francisco) and reprinted in the anthology PLAY (Paper Dart).

Tycho Brahe was right
Love and hate still orbit
Terra crayon
The blue and white button
On the night poster

Kepler the elliptical lawyer
Objecting and overruled
By Jesuit moonglow
Copernicus a blaze of perfect citations
Witness to the helios

Gas ray explosions
Kiss the broom star
Two on a tower
Tell a bright tale
Of night vision

What the Nolan saw
In Canon Koppernigk’s glad kaleidoscope
A system cried in the streets
In the almanac
Garnished with glorious lights

No circumference no center
The universe all center
The center of the universe
And the circumference

Here the only history
Is scribble
In the margins of a star map
And the map’s all wrong
For this mode of transportation

Our engines are composed
Of all the flowers in the universe
In bloom at this very moment
Thrusters pollinating departures
Arrivals dispersing gathered light

The Pisan dial
Speaks to Galileo
Lancetta still pointing to its motto
Instar globi stat machina mundi
Like a ball stands the machine of the world

The earth spins
And travels around the sun
In a year and a day
The daughters of Pythagoras
Still celebrate Double Venus

The eye is my library
Says Ptolemy
Sky write astronomy
Seven stars in the sky
Green grow the rushes O

A student of chaos
In the Campo dei Fiori
De umbris idearum
On the shadow of ideas

Ars reminiscendi
Et in phantastico campo exarandi
The art of remembering
And how to lay it out
On an imaginary field

Redshift blueshift
One word prophets
Of the looking glass
They teach nothing
In return for vastness

A flower is a message
Perfume is a path
The bottle is quantum
In the foamy wreaths
Of passing ships

Light pours down
The quantum days
The paths rise and set
In the ordinary conic sections
No end to the guideless sky

Convection currents circulate
Heat in the home star
Not satisfied with one tree
Our branches
Grow in both worlds

Dirt and sky
And canopy wave
In the simple language of light
Navigation is a flower
Already floating in her kind


History of the Sky was first published in Synaesthetic (New York City).

banana knife
both pruning knife
and delicate machete
above Kealakekua Bay

a curved blade
made to cut
the fragile hands
from the big green stem

flowers plucked amid bees
on the three-legged orchard ladder
sometimes a small hornet nest
hidden beneath the cowl leaf

pruning the red pendulum
of the unborn flowers
angels of the air
and insubstantial odors

spiders net from leaf to leaf
in the forest rows of pseudo-stem
above the greeny jungle canopy
a tropic hawk rings up and screams

two ships in the bay at noon


Honaunau Banana Farm was first published in Chaminade Literary Review (Hawai’i).

Peeling ‘ohi’a logs
On the slopes of Mauna Loa
Above the ocean horizon
Where the forest, climbing steeply,
Hides itself in sky.

In the earthy scent of the deep woods
Surrounded by ‘ohi’a blossoms,
Bright scarlet hairs
Darting from the dull green caps,
The draw-knife slides easily
Between the bark and inner skin.

The logs lay tenderly
Along a trail of clearings,
Birds scream their litanies,
A wild pig snorts invisibly,
And tiny centipedes wave their tail-knives
When disturbed beneath the bark.

Long parchments of peel
Lay scattered on the mountain,
A skin escaping from its wood,
A rippled texture of wood wave
Along the largest logs.

Purple salamanders scurry underfoot
When the peeler walks to the water jug
In a shadowed field
Filled with the spikes
Of yellow wild ginger
And proud green ti leaves.

The dark wet woods of ‘ohi’a lehua
And the giant velvet-fern hapu’u
Part slowly for a trail
Of long-hair moss on rocks
To a giant stump now soft with mould.

Red ‘ohi’a hairs
Mixed with green seeds
Are peppered over the ground
Between the peeled logs

And the tree line of the sleeping lady.

The wet skin of the logs glistens
In the forest shrouded sun
Like a palimpsest
Prepared for a tropic almanac.


Peeling Logs was first published in the Bloomsbury Review (Denver).

Come to the beach with us,
Prays the axe-man
To the big trees,
We will fly to other forests
Over green hills of ocean.

The raft curves
Like the ocean on which it rides.
Bird curve origin of outriggers.
The magic knife becomes a paddle
For the sun raft.

The navigator sleeps in warm rain.
His dream is a woman
As the proa sails
Toward the island of gifts,
Turtle Island,

A place to hunt
And an unseen atoll
To reckon from.
A voyage chart in the sky skull
Of the navigator’s mind.

The flying proa of the Marianas
Magellan saw in the wind congress 1521,
The ocean singing,
The outrigger
Bass keening of carved paddles.

A woman sings
An old island song:
While my body sleeps
Can I go to him in a dream?
Can I go to him like rain falling?


Proa was first published in Storyboard (University of Guam).

Unseen feather-tongues of rain
Sweep the corrugated metal roof
Mixing the rust with fallen leaves
Down old gutters to the single chute
Above the wooden water tank
Half hidden among the broad-leaf ferns
On the rock ridge behind the house.

Wave on wave of downpour,
Tribute of integral water,
Floods the drum of evening
And imitates the sound
Of the distant surf
Unheard in the storm.

The rain itself raining upward,
Roots reversed in the yielding air,
The house becomes a hollow gourd
As the rain raises into a single voice
Combining with the many voices
Of the dark surrounding forest.


The Path of Water was first published in the Xavier Review (New Orleans).


We drove through Ong’s Hat
Or some other sudden-town in the pines
To a finger-board of roads
In the lost geography of summer

Harvey Cedars where the old folks went
Or Love-Ladies three rows of clapboard houses
With long porches lined with wicker chairs
Far from the beach and sand fleas

But sand was everywhere
The dunes began at the back steps
And lost themselves in clouds of gold dust
Streaming across the bay to the salt grass

Secret sand in every guest room
And maze-work ridges of patterned sand
In the shower stalls and dressing rooms
In cool green shadows beneath the house

In the transit of summer
We overheated the car
To the north knob of the island
Driving through our own salt

To a red and white lighthouse
A promise of adventure
Alone like us in the sand
Watching the salt stars rise

The whale is captured and brought back to the coastal house (temple-library-school) where
the lower floors have been flooded. The ship is the Mayflower. Columbus has led a mutiny
against the Puritans. When the whale is brought to this place, I am the communicator (or
whale trainer). During a session in the pool, the whale rages at me. I almost drown twice, but
it is the whale who finally dies, a suicide. My pencil cannot describe the power of this event.
The tragic whale and the failed communicator overlap in dreamtime, but the beauty of the
flooded house, the beauty of the whale, is stunning, as are the ship’s dual rudders, which are
fashioned of exquisite stained glass.

for Lee

Everything must pass
The mountain test
And bathe in the cool
Cauldron of descent

Like a painting
In the invisible knife
Of a white room

A scimitar of song
Surrounds the bold
Like psychological poets
We must take the jump

Or jump the take
Into the cold Pacific
Or a dry lake
And not look back

At the hour of flight
Before the dazzling wax
At the mouth of our cave
And inscrutable doubt

Fulcanelli’s favorite apprentice
Was worried when the lab was relocated
To Frisco in the 30’s
(This was after the completion
Of Fulcanelli Dam in Wyoming).
The feeling among the novices was
That California was a dangerous land
For the Work.
Jules (not his real name)
Was a green magician
And didn’t yet know
He walked on Vulcan’s wedding bed.

F. was here for work
Beyond the worst nightmares
Of his apprentices.
He made them go to burlesque shows
Where they’d sit sweating and aroused all night.
F. spent most of his time in the kitchen.
Silicon Valley was still
Just an ingrown toenail
On his right foot.

When F. began appearing
To certain physicists and poets
He would rant and rave
Berating his surprised hosts
With alchemical invective,
Shouting devices
And invariably disappearing
With words to the effect
That he, F.,
Could destroy the world
With an ordinary kitchen stove
And a few common household substances.

Bombs, boys, bombs!
He’d yell in the roomy workshop
Above the budget pharmacy
(We also process film).
He’d get so mad he’d teleport himself
Back to planet Mython
To relax a few months
Writing science fiction stories
Which had become a pop cult
In the dogstar system,
Each book shaped like a tiny oven.

He called it
Alchemical anxiety.
Citizens feel it everyday
Traveling through the towers
But the animals feel it first.
Sometimes, shortly before a major rumble
Pianos jump out windows
And cameras come closer to their metaphors
Recording death in the lower left foreground
Instead of waiting with the poets at the lab.

Drinking with Jack
In the backroom
Of the fabulous Hotel Utah
A mirage of gentle degenerates
Too dangerous to love
Wandering camera halls
Fusing souls in rhythmic light
From the 6th Street COKE sign

Drinking with Jack
And daughters of the rich
In a bright video morning
Softening the blow
With the laughing
Drug of living
And a singing goddess
In the shattered parking lot
A New Jersey of geography

Redwood and foreign forest
Intersecting in the back bar
Theatre of sex
A barbary cinema of souls
In a kitchen wishing well
Above the NIGHT club
The pinned and unhinged
Doors of precondition
And transreal lyrics
Of the inner eye

to my creditors I leave
my avarice and sloth
and proxy punishment
for all my crimes

to my renters
I leave all my lands
to my landlords

and the hollowness
as of reeds
within my archival
map collection

to the next singer I leave
a testament of timing
acorn acres
and a pine test

a test
I have failed
at tree ring intervals

like the space between
or the blank
space in a notary’s seal

I wanted to live
in the charmed obscurity
of tiny birds
so I did

it was like breathing
nourished by wings
in the free
school of the wind


Jim Duffy’s Saxophone. Photo by Jim D’Arpino.