We wait for it, court it, this breath
the newborn has little choice
but to take, the drawing in,
and from whence does it come?

Some think they know, call it muse,
the artist cares only to the degree
that it serves, insinuates itself,
etheric substance filling up and up,
bright balloon rising to sail
through azure skies, over the land,
joining the clouds, nebulous
non-structures of the heavens,
jump on them and fall,
yet substantial enough to bring
needed rains, raise crops, seep
into parched soil, bringing a forest
to fullness and life;

Inspiration arrives on its own whim,
contemplate if you will the morning
fire in the woodstove as it sucks
and draws air, igniting, as it must,
the fuel inside, spreading warmth
and bright light essential to life
as are the creative sparks
we nourish inside.

Sniffing Cedar

He’s out in the shop again, the fine
clean scent of western cedar wafting
through my office window, drawing me
out to see what perfect hands are crafting
now from raw;

The straight-grained lines of red, variegated
with a neutral light, white as a crosscut wafer
of eastern pine, carefully- sawn cleats sliced
into freshly band-cleaved matched boards,
comprising the backside of a custom cabinet;

Americans on the whole hesitate to pay craftsmen
for fine work such as this, but rarely (like now)
one gives him artistic liberty and oh, I am loathe
to part with it, knowing such beauty will soon
be taken for granted, preferring to add yet
another flair to our own interior’s design,
knowing (as nature does) how appreciative gazes
cause giddy ripples in the bellies of gods.

Wound Mending

The crescent mark left by a garden knife
is slowly mending, unresisting as I cleave
yet another lifted layer of my own skin
from its center until a proper feeling
of softness returns to adjacent banks
of that once-jagged riverbed;

Like one’s own feelings repeatedly
disregarded, trauma inflicted by those
unaware of consequences, of actions
and words cast carelessly about
like roadside refuse, transformation
taken back by my own hands becomes
a thing of beauty, weaving words
into textiles for the fabric
of the soul, spinning veils
of verbiage into mantles fit
for undefended hearts.


There’s an invisible portal
in the mantle covering Earth;
look closely without staring:
focus softly, not sharp, and you
might conjure enough filaments
to pop through, unexpectedly
shifting into another realm
long ago expunged
from collective recall;

Most mortals have crowded
out memories beyond three
generations if that, not nearly
enough to make lucid a time
when indigenous folk and their
predecessors roamed a
wondrous green and blue planet,
gathering food and medicine,
striking camp to ramble because
that is what humans do, plagued
as we are with restless impulses,
compelled to elude perceived

The great Mystery held magic,
little known beyond one’s own
boundaries, where wildness
thrived, was necessary to a world
where life seemed more equally
met between predator and prey,
lacking modern means
of expunction;

Where have we come
in telescopic time, how now
to call ourselves civil, struggles
now stranded in boardrooms
and alleyways, even into ethers
of social media where the enemy
that is our own mind can be
sequestered in shadows
without cast;

Are we simply stuffing monsters
back under the bed as bequest
to future generations?

Rock face, Kohala coast
Spirit of the waterfall, Palouse Falls, WA. (See the face looking toward the right? And the leg ‘stepping out of the shower?’
Pele’s fire tender, Kalapana, HI
Do you ‘see’ the greenish/bluish fish toward the bottom of the frame? It wasn’t there, but then again it was. Near Walla Walla, WA.
Even this: someone hung an old deer or elk skull on a tree (to mark a trail? To scare someone or something?) Yet look at it from the side, and you can see an owl pecking at the bark. Clancy, MT.

Welcome to my world. I don’t often write about such extra-sensory experiences, but I have always observed things in nature that are difficult to describe to others (save my husband and girls, who likewise see what most do not.) Don’t look too hard, but try the soft focus suggested in the poem. You might view things differently, and maybe you’ll strike out in nature more often to ‘see’ for yourself! Aloha. (All photos © Bela Johnson)Rock face, Kohala coast.


What do I want to
Do with my life?

To explore and explode
a thousand thoughts
and color-filled words
that spill out and scramble
for the page … Confusion!

It’s all I want, and
then the pictures begin
scrolling, rolling on the
insides of my eyelids
and I am dazzled
and amazed and fully
invigorated by those
visions as well;

Then I wonder about focus
and how I could possibly
slice the creative pie
I’ve been eyeing all my
life, drooling until I die
over-stuffed, never

slice of home ~ bj

Ink Blot

Quill pressed to vellum
and the raven liquid bleeds
onto the page, seeping
into parchment as words impress
themselves on minds of those
who seek elucidation;

There is no turning back
save the alchemy of fire,
while a mere century later,
fingers snap plastic keys
as a chosen cypher spins
into centrifuges turning out
multiple languages simultaneously
in a virtual world where assurance
of retrieval is never warranted;

Still we tap away, searing mots
into memories like images
of aging film stars who can never erase
a thirty year-old face from the fantasies
of future generations.

image: Amanda Johnson

written in response to the prompt “quill:”



Back In the Flow

I find myself in the middle of an eye,
watching myself in its blank stare.
The moment scatters. Motionless,
I stay and go: I am a pause.
~ Octavio Paz

I’m riding my bike into town, thinking of how the world looks through my own eyes. My view, my dream, my world. As if these perceptions, when stitched together, assume everyone’s reality; a bit like captured fireflies in a jar or a bottled terrarium.

When “I” die, this unique collection of experiences and expressions that I have creatively embodied dies with me. Like a snowflake, the tapestry I have woven, for better or for worse, can never be duplicated.

If each of us recognized we have that kind of power in the choices we make – could we, would we change the world in any significant way? Would we still get caught up in someone else’s dream because it somehow seems easier? Given that we possess amazing minds, does it really seem simpler not to exercise our own creative powers? Given the nature of dreams, how can it appear less discouraging to support another’s vision to the exclusion of our own? We all struggle at times, bearing ourselves false witness.

Therefore just today, I will pretend that what I do, think and say makes a difference. If I cannot summon the energy to actualize a dearly held dream or desire, I will simply contribute my intention to visualize a harmonious world. I will pray for the alleviation of suffering. I will still the voices of doubt and fear, replacing them with hope and kindness – just for today.

And then tomorrow, which is really just another today, maybe I will once again release the pause button and begin participating in Creation.





How can we hold harmless
the jealousy of poets,
artists of the mind who articulate
where others flounder,
dry-docking on their facts?

Words spoken burn daylight
and time cannot retract itself,
no excusing, bowing out.

Forgive us then, the endless pondering,
refining knee-jerks, transforming;
editing reserved for the pensive
turning corners with phrases,
rounding bends of the imagination.


Dervish Mind

Although generally settled in my skin or in the garden, occasionally I discover, quite surprisingly, that I am also skilled at manufacturing worry. I wonder if it’s the challenge of many creative types at this time of life, where we find ourselves at the juncture between that which we have achieved through realizing youthful ideals and the inner call to express something more heartfelt before we die. Ideally this contribution would both benefit a world in need as well as enhancing our own spirits.

It is on this unknown road that I have been traveling now for several years with little tangible result; that is, an end product as measured in the way society gauges such things; in the way that I, myself once assessed them. I’ve always been a person with never-ending ideas, a perpetual flow of possibilities scrolling through a dervish mind.

Over the years I have embraced the practice of waking, walking awareness. The vexation of mindfulness is that, once in awhile, I glimpse myself whirling away, mounting virtual scenarios on the Pinterest board of my mind. The downside is that my body interprets these fantasies as real, and adrenaline surges up through my core, causing yet another uncomfortable hot flash. And though it is annoying, this mercurial thermometer provides a useful key to conscious awareness.

The upside to mindfulness is exactly this: to listen and learn; to observe and ingest; to sift and cast out and finally grow in wisdom, as a result. Some choose doctors and prescriptions. Personally I’d rather un-mask and un-earth the karmic residue that keeps me from arising, phoenix-like, from the ashes of my own ego’s immolation. And the more I surrender, the sharper my vision becomes, metaphorically as well as literally. Like a figure walking toward me through a mirage, that vision begins to take form.


Into White II

Last week I posted a short poem resulting from something I woke up with and wrote down in the middle of the night. This is an experiment in stretching it out:


Seeking silence, can I ever discover

a place as quiet as this?

Yet as intention and supplication draw it nearer,

I yearn for the flowering of solid

in the fields of uncertainty.


Is this the human condition;

are we meant to desire by design,

only to be disappointed upon materialization?


Perhaps this is creation’s essence;

why expansion and contraction exist.

If the gods will it into being,

are they likewise bereft at culmination,

precipitating perpetuity?


Finally, does this this exemplify the ultimate artistic temperament?

Create, suffer, create –

only to despair that what we envision

can never match, in execution, our fantastic illusion?