Scents of Place

There is something profound
delimiting each place I have claimed
as home; the tar-pungent tang
of creosote bush portending rain,
sweeping sideways as though pencil-
sketched on dun-colored canvas
as it spills from oceanic heavens along
open stretches of Mojave desert;

The smoke of brush fires tended
by human hands breaking trail through
twists of hemlock- and fir-peppered deciduous
forests of rural Maine; freshly-felled poplar
hewn into cones by toothy beavers busy
harvesting food and shelter for an ever-
impending winter as nearby cattail-flanked
marshlands waft musk into nostrils aroused
by their complex bouquet;

Now home in Kohala, Paklan and varieties
of gardenia overwhelm the senses first,
while undertones of Cattleya and banana shrub
glide subtly on variable breezes spiked salty
from nearby oceanic cliffs as Pamplemousse
blossoms overwhelm the more subtle lavender
and rosemary, mint and oregano bedded in
to round out a complex tropical palate;

The eucalyptus groves of my youth fill gaps
in the imagination, painting scenes like
so many watercolors bleeding into one another
until, despite what I might have attempted
to paint, a more vibrant vision emerges
to sustain me;

Life turns capriciously on the unsuspecting,
contrasting signals drifting into awareness
as though conveyed along scattering winds,
yet in one stroke, certain odors bear gifts
both past and present, sliding the doors
of time like slices of glass under a microscope,
shifting blueprints of existence, mysterious cards
in a gypsy’s hand shuffling once, twice,
imparting significance to the present moment
only to calibrate again to situation and experience
as time extends itself into infinity.

“…Magnolia blossoms fill the air and if you ain’t been to heaven, you ain’t been there…”
(New Orleans ~ Guida and Royster; image: bj)


After the Rain

As if there could be too much rain
in a water-parched world we head out,
two spotted canines jostling for space
in the Scion’s passenger seat chasing bright,
leaving gathering darkness behind;

Off the highway we turn downhill
toward a squall-rimmed sea, heavy mist
dispersing over adjacent desert landscape,
kiawe and natal grass greening
under amassing gloom as we knock the car’s
bouncing bottom on a rough path
and not for the first time; spilling out then,
tails swishing time to swaying seed perched
atop long sturdy stalks and they disappear
into it, diving deep below old rock roadbed,
popping up to spot us and if dogs don’t smile,
it was a good imitation;

Apace we head back, borrowing time from circumstance
as the sky brushes watercolors over the now-calm
Alenuihaha while the knobbly Kohala Mountains stand
rooted fast, decked out in their very best emerald velvet;

Then home we go, tongues lolling that good kind
of fatigue, to the best dark cacao squares
and sweet potato subji made this morning
as the two collapse onto a thick pile of rug
under our feet content, as it were,
with an evening well spent.

dog photo: Chris Johnson; landscapes: BJ



In the silvery light of morning
when nothing else matters, save the thread
of a cock crowing in the distance; face
of my beloved etched stilly in that pale gleam
before sound, as might have existed
in the beginning, prior to clamorous tires
on asphalt; kettle set to boil dew-encrusted
leaves pinched shortly after sunrise
while the veil into worlds of the waking lifts
along with drowsy eyelids;

By the brilliance of high noon, ti blades
begin to droop, edges curling against
the intensity of tropical sunlight
while I contemplate the arbor,
uninstalled assemblage lying raw
and savage under dull tarps
and scattered leaves dropped
from deciduous overhangs, dappled
with rose and white blossoms lilting
on brisk breezes, harbingers of spring;

Come the waning shades of dusk, paragons pull
out paintbrushes to streak across
the heavens, sometimes carelessly,
though more often as if contemplated
from a distance, stroke here, blot there,
while white-winged egrets soar northward
to bed down in the ironwood-lined cleavage
of tiny cinder cone volcanoes decked
in velvety green.




Out of silence arrive conditions,
long-lost children of the aching heart
of creation, rolling over the dark and wide waters,
gathering momentum, building crescendos,
thunderheads threatening vistas swelling succulent
with potential, conclusions suspended in the wings
of soaring seabirds or crowded jet liners;

Then without warning, gushing headlong
into thirsty ground, mating need with desire,
soaking and stripping, freeing nutrients
from their long-suffering dormancy while buds unfurl
fragile heads, tentative at first, arching rainbows
glistening, straightening spines emboldened
as draping verdant luxurious velvet spreads
over scorched, scratchy burlap of earth.



Crystalline silhouettes contract and pucker,
kissed now by sun like a lover rounding shards
of earth where thundering hooves
of waves seek ecstatic ground, flicking fingers
of saltwater sucking themselves dry
in flat palms of lava braced against shoreline
above which frigatebirds soar without pause;

Pass it, shake it, pour it on, dive deep
into its briny depths, oh, carry me, bear me
forth on waters of rebirth and distant lands far-flung
and wide enough that I can breathe unhindered, miles
from cityscapes and crowded streets;
grant the comfort of stillness, of liquid earth rolling
thick and crusty into oceanic depths, billowing
into uncluttered atmosphere marred only
by thunderheads gathering for the thrill
of distilling wonder.



Unspeakable beauty,
the snow lies in drifts;
soft blanket cushioning fragile life
humming just beneath the surface.

Quiet contrast:
brilliant blue sky,
tree limbs cradling old nests
and the occasional flock
of chickadees scolding empty feeders
which must look like the mothers
who have abandoned them.

We all tread through scarcity,
lope through abundance as the heads
of crocus pop through the crystals.
How odd both are always present,
yet we respond to Nature in repose
or madly fecund,
as befits our own inner drama.

See the sky?
How does memory serve
when we juxtapose fear and folly
over such blatant beauty as this?



Restriction is a mindset
borne of concrete and steel and stasis.
Seen and not heard. Sit still in school.
Conditioned respect a static response.

Still, wander out into the countryside,
its very nature abundance.
Just notice!

Trees swaying wildly,
birds warbling boundlessly,
feathers and songs and petioles
exploding iridescence, vibrancy,
syncopated symphony
of wind and rain and streaming light;

meanwhile a blazing orb of fire slips
into the sea, molten body
capturing breath,
slowing heart rate,
surging open ventricles
pumping vitality into eyes settling
into sockets of slumber, resting
in peaceful, ecstatic repose.