6/11 Idaho Magazine Features - "The Demons of Boulder Lake" (non-fiction)

Daniel Claar - Idaho's Premier Backcountry Writer

Winner - Idaho Magazine Publisher's Choice Award 2010
"The Proper Filter"

Winner - Idaho Magazine Judge's Choice Award 2011
"Where the River Leads"

"Hot Spring Break "

"Stampede! "

"Seeing Things"
Winner - Idaho Magazine Second Place 2011

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

The Proper Filter - Winner Publisher's Choice Award - Idaho Magazine Fiction 2010

     A sudden movement in the willows and Jack’s hazel eyes snap instantly into focus. Fingers tighten on the bundle of black carbon fiber and silver metal lying across his lap. Another aspen leaf. He watches the solitary golden soldier fall with graceful dignity to join its spent comrades on the forest floor. It lands on the muddy bank of a narrow stream, ten feet from where his attention has been transfixed.
     “If you can see it, so can they.” Jack hears his father’s smoke ravaged voice echoing through his memory. He aims his frosty breath down into his chest rather than let it escape the small opening in his pine bough cocoon.
     Poorly prepared to be sitting in a makeshift blind at 7,500 feet in late October, Jack takes little comfort in a sun cresting the eastern ridge and casting its feeble rays across the mountainous landscape. To no avail, he wills his fingers and toes to cross the final threshold of aching pain and pass into welcoming numbness. Despite the freezer box conditions, Jack feels the anticipation burning. Some opportunities present themselves once in a lifetime, and this isn’t just an opportunity; this is Jack’s white whale.
     He found the tracks Friday evening, at the beginning of a weekend intended to get his head and heart together. Jack had just broken up with his girlfriend of six months and, as always, when confronted with emotional upheaval, he retreated to a remote part of the White Cloud Mountains. Growing up, his family had camped in the area every autumn to hunt elk. It was the last place Jack remembered his parents and two brothers together and happy.
     After unrolling a thick down sleeping bag in the back of his dented and oxidized F-250, Jack had gathered a pile of dry wood, and then blazed a half mile trail to the nearest stream. Night was rapidly approaching and he needed water for a dinner of dehydrated lasagna. This late in the year, the stream was barely a trickle, but the water remained cold and clear.
     As he knelt on the bank fumbling with a filtrating water bottle, Jack caught the pungent whiff of animal urine and sensed a lurking presence. At the same moment, he noticed huge paw prints imbedded in mud on the opposite bank. The impressions were slowly filling with water from beneath. Something had been standing there just seconds ago. The tracks were as wide as his hand and nearly as long. Jack noted the lack of visible claw marks, eliminating the possibility of bear or wolf. Only one other predator in the Idaho wilderness was capable of leaving prints that size. The hair on Jack’s spine snapped to attention. Mountain lion. Jack rose slowly to his feet, eyes searching the closest trees and undergrowth. The sound of his breathing fell silent as he listened intently. Nothing. In fact, the entire forest seemed strangely silent.
     Sitting in the blind two days later, Jack laughs inwardly at his initial reaction. He is relieved nobody had been there to witness him speed walking back to camp. The longest half mile of his life had been spent imagining something heavy smashing into his back and throwing him face first onto the rocky ground. He could almost feel the three inch razors digging into his back and shoulders, the rancid breath filling his nostrils. Jack’s instincts had been screaming at him to sprint through the lengthening twilight. It wasn’t until he climbed inside the cab of his truck, and fastened a holstered .357 around his waist that Jack realized he left his water bottle sitting by the stream.
     It was a reaction more befitting a New York tourist. Jack smiled ruefully; not since his teenage years had his imagination run so wild. He considered the likelihood of actually being attacked and couldn’t recall the last time a mountain lion had made the news. In fact, the majority of his adult life had been spent in the wilderness and although he had encountered numerous black bears and gray wolves, he had never even seen a cougar. Still, despite a rationale understanding of the odds and statistics, Jack decided the water bottle could wait for morning.
     Jack pulled a banana from his camp box, a Corona from his cooler, and sat on the old Ford’s tailgate musing about lions. Because his numerous attempts to track them over the years had proven fruitless, he had long considered the great cat his white whale. Unlike others, Jack wouldn’t hear of letting hounds do the work. He considered the practice of treeing mountain lions to be dishonorable. A man without the skill and patience to track his quarry had no business hunting.
     As a younger man, Jack had been convinced he was always just a bend in the trail away from coming face to face with the great cat. Instead, he had been teased with a lifetime of fresh tracks, scat, and a hope that always dissipated with the setting sun. A loner most his life, Jack felt a kinship with the solitary creature, but over the years his insatiable need to find the lion had been replaced by a sense of weary resignation. God, or Mother Nature, or whatever it was, just didn’t care how hard he tried.
     Lost in thought, Jack relives the night’s earlier encounter at the stream. The most encouraging detail was the volume of tracks. It hadn’t been the cougar’s first trip to that muddy bank, which meant it might be coming back. He could feel the rekindled flame burn even hotter, stoking his confidence.
     “We’ll see what’s what in the morning.” Jack said rubbing his hands together.
     He slept poorly that night. Every sound amplified in the dark, Jack imagined shadowed and sinewy beasts circling his camp, sniffing him out. His sleepless night was cut short by the alarm on his wristwatch; the green glow revealing a 5:00 a.m. wake up call.
     Less than thirty minutes later, Jack was putting the finishing touches on his hiding place. Using the infrared light on his headlamp, Jack located and then lopped off a pine bough with his hunting knife. Moving silently, he draped the severed branch over the base of a dead and fallen spruce lodged between two of its living brothers about four feet off the ground. Jack had identified the natural lean-to as an ideal vantage point for observing the stream, but the shelter needed walls.
    Jack cut and arranged a couple more boughs and then stood back to admire his handy work. The lion would be hard-pressed to notice him buried inside the foliage. Assuming, of course, the big cat hadn’t already been watching him the entire time.
     Anxious to begin the wait, Jack again nearly forgot to retrieve the water bottle still sitting by the stream. He filled the plastic container, aware that doing so left him exposed. If the lion sensed his presence, it would find another place to drink. After filtering an adequate water supply for several hours, Jack eased inside his blind. Utilizing another trick learned from his father, he opened two granola bars and set them on a nearby rock for later consumption. Opening them early prevented unnecessary sound and movement later that could give away his location at a critical moment. Jack settled into position and focused his attention through a narrow gap of pine needles, the cold dark instrument on his lap almost an afterthought.
     Five hours later, Jack quietly unfolded himself from the blind. With the exception of a handful of squirrels and little brown birds, Jack had seen no signs of life. He was out of water, hungry, and his muscles felt as though they had permanently atrophied. As Jack stretched his shoulders, a familiar sensation of defeat and foolishness welled within him. He fought off a sudden urge to slink back to camp, drive home… maybe even patch things up with Pam. After all, it had been his idea to end the relationship. Surely, she would give a fool another chance.
     Jack gathered his equipment and walked back to camp, barely aware he was retracing his path from the night before. Yesterday’s anxiety had been replaced by something else entirely. Jack found himself wishing the lion would attack just so he could see the damn thing for once in his life. Back at camp and lost in thought, he methodically ate a bologna sandwich, another banana, and then lay back down in the bed of his truck. This time, Jack was able to fall asleep almost as soon as his eyelids touched.
     Several dreamless hours passed before Jack awoke to find the sun had marched its deliberate arc across the sky and was already threatening the western horizon. Again, the feeling of missed opportunities washed over him. The big cat had surely come and gone while he wasted time sleeping. Wondering why he even bothered, Jack gathered his gear and returned to the blind. This time, he only lasted two hours before his patience was gone and cramping muscles drove him back to camp. Knowing his window of opportunity had most likely closed, he decided to risk a fire. There wasn’t anything out there to scare off, Jack figured. He might as well finally enjoy that lasagna.
     An hour later, seated next to a roaring fire, Jack washed down the last bite of salty mush with a swig of cold Corona. The empty bottles were piling around his feet and his toes felt warm for the first time all day. As he stared into the flickering orange flames, Jack felt his resolve heat up. Or, maybe it was the alcohol kicking in. In any case, he still had tomorrow. Tomorrow was another chance and not everybody had another tomorrow. The thought brought with it the memory of a photograph. A picture of him standing next to a breathing skeleton lying in a hospital bed taken just hours before the cancer claimed his father. As far as Jack knew, his dad had never backed down from anything in his entire life. Jack finished the last Corona in one powerful gulp.
     “That’s right,” he shouted into the dancing shadows. Jack flinched slightly at the sudden intrusion of sound splintering the silence. His voice dropped to a steel whisper, “It’s time to show yourself, kitty.”
     Back in the blind, Jack’s proclamation from the night before plays a constant repeat in his head. He feels different today, less pressure, less anxiety. The usual nagging sensations replaced with a surging sense of certainty. Jack feels as if his will alone can unfold before him any outcome he might imagine. There is no discomfort he can’t push off to some faraway place. He can do this all day if necessary. He can do this for the rest of his life. He is ready.
     And yet, Jack senses his determination bouncing back at him, reflecting off some unseen surface with an opaque message hammering his mind’s shore like the relentless tide. Jack feels a tremor reverberate through his consciousness; a rusted bolt pulled aside and a creaking door kicked open.  Finding lions had never been up to Jack or how hard he tried. It had nothing to do with him at all.
    And with that simple revelation, Jack realizes he is already observing his white whale. Still as a stone, the mountain lion is crouched on the muddy bank, precisely where Jack has been staring for the last two days. The magnificent cat silently laps water from the stream while two piercing golden orbs slowly shift from side to side, scrutinizing their surroundings. The color of the cougar’s thick fur is matched only by its eyes and the visible shoulder muscles bunched beneath, speak of a strength Jack can only imagine. This animal is no less a king than one of its maned cousins stalking the African plains.
     Jack’s mind reels, caught between accepting the gift before him and rejecting it as a symptom of a desperate mind. Jack saw nothing of the animal’s approach, no motion, no sound, nothing. How could an animal bigger than him just appear out of nowhere?
     Jack already knows the answer. For the first time in his life, he is simply looking upon their world through the proper filter. The lions have always been there, surrounding him, watching him, waiting for him to notice. All Jack ever needed to do was let go and realize the decision was out of his hands.
     Operating on instinct and moving nothing but his forearms, Jack lifts the frosted piece of metal to his eye and places the crosshairs dead center over the lion’s face. The cougar’s eyes continue their back and forth crawl; the black tip of its tail twitches lightly.
     “Call me Ahab,” Jack breathes as his index finger contracts.
     The click is barely audible but it is enough. In the time it takes for Jack to pull the camera away from his face, the mountain lion has disappeared. Just as it had materialized moments before, the huge cat vanishes into thin air.
     He looks down at the digital display fully expecting to see the lackluster image of a small stream surrounded by willow stands and the white trunks of taller aspen. But there it is in perfect focus, the one thing he had searched for his entire life. Jack is dumbstruck by the picture. The lion’s bright eyes are looking straight at him, straight through him. Somehow, in the micro-second before he took the picture, the cat had spotted him.
     Jack enlarges the image and is taken back by something in the lion’s face, an expression that couldn’t be more clear on a human visage. It is the same look on his Father’s face, when as a boy, Jack had been caught stealing candy from a convenience store owned by a family friend. It is the same look on Pam’s face, just days ago, as he drove away leaving her standing alone in his garage. It is the look of incredulity, sadness, anger, defiance, and betrayal, but mostly, it is the unmistakable look of disappointment.
     A devastating sense of shame grips Jack’s heart. He feels as though he has committed some premeditated sacrilege in the planet’s most sacred temple. Jack studies the small and two-dimensional countenance, the bottomless eyes trapped on display in a metal and plastic box full of wires and computer chips. This isn’t the majesty he had just been allowed to witness. This is something cold, compromised, counterfeit, and beyond all shadow of a doubt, not the treasure he had been seeking. Jack presses another button and the image is replaced by a simple question in blocky font.


     “I’ve never been more sure of anything in my goddamn life,” Jack says with an erupting grin. With another click, he erases the picture from history. “Besides,” he adds, “I know how to see you now.”

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Final Addiction

A month now
Since she first appeared
Across the table
In a coffee shop
I never frequent
On a night
That would have
Otherwise blended
Into another yesterday

An intoxicating scent
Of hope
Infectious laughter
Wide Wyoming eyes
Plum deeper
Than morphine dreams
And I can't remember
Having ever been hooked
So quickly

A possible remedy
For the silent affliction
Of a one pillow bed
And the certainity
Of never being seen
By the one you need

Friday, December 18, 2009

In The Eye

Although the questions
And scattered condemnations
Will surely return
The stars are quiet
And I am grateful
To be left
With my bottle of wine
A waning moon candle
And the company
Of sleeping cats


I will not say
To whom
And for the sake
Of my reputation
I would rather
We keep this
To ourselves
But I recently
Said a prayer
If that gives you
Any idea
As to what depths
I have burrowed

Placed a little faith
In the hands
Of something
I am dimly aware of
And something
I do not
Believe in

Which might explain
Why nothing
And I feel
No different

Rock Star

Woke up covered
In last night's
Excessive behavior
Remembering little
Of the hours before
Not overly troubled
By the fact
I came close to never
Opening my eyes
At all

Just a little curious
As to how long
It might have taken
To find my body
How few phone calls
Left unanswered
Whether anybody
Would have known
To scatter my ashes
Across a particular
Mountain lake

How many would attend
The funeral
Who would cry
And if the situation
Would be dismissed
As an accident
Or suicide

Pouring another drink
I feel a little cheated
For having missed
My fifteen minutes

Methadone Clinic

There are nights when
The one
Closest to my heart
Requires more energy
And common decency
Than I posses

After a cocktail
Or six
When it all unravels
And I need her
To believe
In nebulas promises

Still cannot stop
I do not feel
Long enough to help
Either of us

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Angel Dust

Let’s see you move mountains
With your mind
Cause rivers to unwind
Turn the moon outside in
Make me believe again

Anything’s possible
You said
And you placed that thought
Deep in my head
Anything’s possible
You said
And like a bullet
It stuck in my head

You said I could fly
And don’t think
I didn’t try
Thought I had wings
I thought I
Would touch the very sky
But instead
I fell and I broke
And I bled

Anything’s possible
You said
And you placed that thought
Deep in my head
Anything’s possible
You said
And like a bullet
It stuck in my head

How could you look
In my eye
And tell me one more lie
Had to know
Had to know
Had to knowI would try
Anything’s possible you said
And because of you
For the last time
I am dead

Friday, December 11, 2009

Would You Believe

They finally found you
At your new address
Although six months in
Allowed you to believe
They could be lost
Or tricked somehow

Even found yourself
If the sound of
Their claws
Scraping across your wall
Had always been
Just an imagination
Gone insane

That a lover
Thinking you were a danger
To yourself and others
Has taken your
Handguns away
The shadows are braver
Than before
Some even appearing
Before nightfall
And your are left
With nothing
As the candle burns dim

No matter how close
You might feel
To another
There is some evil
That just cannot
Be kept at bay

Champagne and Tar

She had written
A dance
Just for my eyes
Something sensually
Innocent no doubt
That I will now
Never see

I had been thinking
About reinventing
The word
But now
Will never know

A painfully obvious
Of lifestyles
And the
Inescapable truth
Of toxic synergy

We both knew
How it would end
But we were
To make our time
As hurtful as

At the time
Felt like
The only way out

Thursday, December 10, 2009


Inside lonely moments
Of silence
Sleepless nights
And distant contemplation
When we lack the energy
To keep ourselves
You can still hear
A whisper

We have been granted shelter
In this dense shadow
And those
Who stretch the fabric
With a curious desire
To see ourselves
Are the reason
I feel a kettle
On the verge of screaming
When sliding my fingers
Inside her warming flesh

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

This Could All Be Yours

Absorbing the smoke
And chatter
From the local
Leper colony
I am pulled from
The page
by kind and
Curious eyes perched
Above pin-striped suit

He wants to know
If I am writing poetry
And with little choice
I confess
The afflicition

He asks me
To say something
About him
And having no intention
Of doing so
I tell him
I will

Noticing his watch
And wallet
And knowing where
My craft is headed
I tell him
To include me
In his next
Business proposal

In The Red Corner

I wake up
From the same nightmare
Every night
Breathing heavy and
Stuck to the sheets

Never recall who
What or how many
I have been fighting
But a third degree black belt
In dream karate
Is far from enough

All I can do is uppercut
And hook
Block and kick
Jab jab jab
And in the morning
Wash the bedding
Hoping one day
They let me retire
And at least respect
The heart
I always brought
To the cage

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Slobbering Acid

Throwing out more
Than I encourage
to dig through

Tired of being
A bent fork
In a warped frame
On a slanted wall
That might even out
If you stare
Long enough

Nothing here
Rarely wear sleeves
Cannot shuffle
And wouldn't know
Where to stuff
A rabbit
If I wanted to

Just sawing through
The false advertisement
Of a never ending story
Wasting more
Than my share
Of nights
The correct synergy
Might make this
Somehow more magical

Tom Foolery

Night cat stalking down the street
Shadow at my side
Gutter rats sporting poisoned minds
Wanna test my pride
So I take them to the sky

If I dogged and came belly up
Would you tear my throat
Or would you lick my side

Queen twisting in starlight drag
Wants to share the night
Dance the highmoon way
Until the eastern light
Jumps into the sky

If I dogged and came belly up
Would you tear my throat
Or would you lick my side

Fence walking my dead end street
Scarred from every fight
Alley trash so ripe and sway
Think that I just might
Might change my mind

Monday, December 7, 2009

Handmaiden Of Doom

She has been blessed
With butterfly kisses
Played tag
With the black bear
Adopted by chipmunks
And once
In the absence of a mother
A stag even trusted her
With the life of its fawn

The people
Who think they know
Agree on
Her skepticism
Sarcastic manner
And pessimistic outlook
On the bipedal condition
But as long
As there is one
Who cares enough
To see what lies behind
She will be happy
As the next
To be spinning through space
On this big doomed ball

Trophy Hunter

One the hottest day
You might find
A cold
Detached shadow
Grinning across
The broken hearts
Of innocent women
In my desert
Lining the trail like
Scattered bones

Removed from
the reach of the dead
And waiting
For another to freeze in
Hell's headlights

While the rest of time
It sits in plain sight
Like a yield sign
On an open road
Unable to weather
The elements
And bullet holes

Friday, December 4, 2009

Know Your Place

It is spring
And once again
He is mocked by fresh leaves
Comfortable with their role
In this fuckery
While he struggles
To leave behind the years
Remembered as a dream

The past summarized
In one admittance

He has not become

No sidestepping tomorrow’s charge
The lost nights
And forgotten promises
Buried beneath
Half hearted resolutions

Take it away
No longer will he look for meaning
He accepts the fact
Movie sets will forever transform
Before he catches
The stage hands

He can’t save anything
Or anyone
Anymore than he can preserve
His own sanity

Not tonight

It is easier this way

Crib Death

The ritual
Should have been
Somewhere around
the second trimester
And deposited
In a dumpster

We chose
To force it out
Until what we had
Was a bloody spectacle
Of proper nights
Long past
And a reminder
That for the sake
Of deceny
We should have
Given up
On something so
Settling for a natural
Tendency to exaggerate
The memories

Ten Cent Admission

The women
I have loved
Grow more scattered
Every day
While the friends
Once allowed
Are moving away
From the words

A cold exchange for
Digital implants
And who blames them

I am now
Half the draw
My mind suspected
To selling tickets
For the
Carnival De Grotesque
In which
I once was
A main attraction

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Damage Done

I greet the eyes
Of a woman
I see
Lashed to a
Sinking ship
I tell you what
She reminds me
Of me
Oh she reminds me
Of me

She looks away
And I know she thinks
Hope is just as bad
As drowning alone
But maybe we
Can give it a row
Maybe we can plug a hole

The two of us
We are barely afloat
Oh we are barely afloat
Take my hand
We got one last chance
To keep this wreck afloat

The waves crashing down
Are cold and dark
The bottom is so dark
And deep
We can’t forget
All these springing leaks
Now that the hull is breached

One last glance
And I know she thinks
Love is just as bad
As drowning alone
But maybe we
Can give it a row
Maybe we can plug a hole

The two of us
We are barely afloat
Oh we are barely afloat
Take my hand
We got one last chance
To keep this wreck afloat

Once Was Lost

So wrapped up
In what I thought
Love had to offer
Went ahead
And placed a cause
On hold

Noticed myself
Looking for something
Acceptable in people

Found it possible
To enjoy a sunset
Ignoring the fact
That if it wasn't for
The factories and
Personal smog machines
The tangerine sky
Would be nowhere
Near as vivid

For the first time
Made to believe
In her touch
Unable to define
The impossibility
Of trust
However temporary

Suppose It Shouldn't Matter

From both sides of the tracks
A hundred frog orchestra
Smothers the traffic
Tomorow's paper work
Approaching trains
And I do not care

I am lost in the song
If they sing for cousins
Disappearing from our earth
Or friends found with five legs

I stare at a night sky
To focus on the layered rhythms
And watch two suns
Caught in a black hole
Collide and scatter
A shower of sparks
Across a thousand galaxies

Entire solar systems swallowed
Pulverized and compressed
Into a pin head of darkness
Weighing billions of tons

Enough for one mind
To collapse on itself
And still
Here I stand
Worried about frogs

Where's The Remote

When they catch me
Off guard
My heart breaks
Like no other
And I almost weep
For the truck driving pedophiles
And lesbian taxidermists
Hitting each other With chairs

Of course
Reminding myself
There is nothing I can do
Is only a click away
And judging
From the epic comedy
Blaring from seven billion channels
And roller-coastering
To an unfunny finale

I’m not positive it would be
In anyone’s best interest
If I could

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


Born in a barn
Born in a swamp can’t say
But he's been a freak of nature
Since busting out his egg
Likes to loves the ladies
Hypnotize them with his eyes
Catch him with the sinners
Something new between the thighs

Coming down the road
It’s a snakeduck snakeduck
Slithering waddling
Down the road

Always finds himself a
Heap of trouble right away
Once took the Sheriff’s daughter
And rolled her in the hay
The Sheriff formed a posse
To hunt the snakeduck down
And that’s when he learned
The snakeduck doesn’t fuck around

Coming down the road
It’s a snakeduck snakeduck
Slithering waddling
Down the road

The snakeduck is a monster
Or so the people say
Just for ending what they start
In his own toxic way
No one ever heard from the Sheriff
Or his friends
And no one ought to fuck
With what they can’t comprehend

New Highs Old Lows

Sanctuary is a word
I like the sound of
Couldn’t tell you where
But I hear it’s gravy
Thick blue and ready
To suspend thought

Never again feel like
An imposter
With a ring on my finger
Never again remember the man
Who introduced me to fear
Or the girl
Who taught me something
About love teasing fingertips

Time to sort through ego
And whatever it was
I thought I knew

A refuge where
Despite being numb
I am lost in each breath
And let myself forget

I have to come down

There is always a thread
To be justified
So find the balance
Between everything wasted
And everything learned

Tuesday, December 1, 2009


A woman left behind
On the horizon
A weekend cabin trip
Planned for March
And just like that
I am trying
To remember
Why last week
I was doing my best
Impersonation of
Spontaneous combustion

Cannot figure out
How I get caught up
In one night
Month or year
Of tragedy
Or triumph
When I know
There is plenty of both
Penciled across
My pocket sized
Life planner


In our least
Intoxicated state
I like to think
One of us
Might pull you aside
And insist
You steer clear
Of this madness

Get out
While you can

You have yet to
This kind of
Entertaining abuse
Is a gentle version
Of where
We are headed and
How the laughs
Come harder
Every wasted night

Shelving Boxes

For years
I wasted my sanity
Rehearsing different methods
Of telling a memory
How much I hated
And how
I needed him to pay

Never thought of this person
As someone
Who loved a Norwegian Elkhound
Drank coffee
Collected comic books
Or breathed in and out

I only remembered the fear

So consumed
With blaming a cartoon villain
I refused to recognize
The revenge was killing me
Until one day
I found a plastic box
Full of marbles
The same container
That once held his ashes
And I realized
You can only bleed for so long
Before death has its way

Tracking The She Wolf

          My eyes crack open to a blinding light followed by ruthless, stabbing pains in both temples. Before passing out last night, I vaguely recall opening the bedroom curtains so the sunrise would serve as a natural alarm. The reasoning behind this decision is less substantial; a will o’ the wisp teasing me through the fog in some dark forest. I need more sleep. Why would I, nay, why would anyone do this to themselves? Through the open window comes an uplifting chorus of bird songs and I suppress an abrupt urge to grab the .44 Ruger Redhawk always within reach of my bed.

          Ignoring the screaming protests from both body and mine, I sit up and massage my shaved scalp with one hand. My throat stings, my tongue feels like sandpaper, and my mouth tastes as though I spent the night gargling tequila shots out of an ashtray. I experience a flashing vision of rotting teeth and bare breasts being flung around in a smoky night club; the smell of cheap beer, cigarettes, and defeat lingering in my nostrils. Last night my band rocked the dingiest bar in Nampa, Idaho. At the time, punishing ourselves with Red Bull infused cocktails seemed the most brutally efficient method to atone for our sins. I would refer to the bar’s clientele as more animal than man, but no animal has ever disgusted me enough to make such an unfair comparison. In any case, I’m glad Jamie had the good sense to stay home.

          Thinking about my wife, I suddenly realize I am in bed alone. Oh yeah! My memory seizes on our last conversation like a proud puppy fetching a stick. Jamie wasn’t about to sit around this weekend and wait for me to play the screaming rock star. She is out in the wilderness, on a solo backpacking trip, no doubt still buried in a cosy sleeping bag or just getting up to brew coffee in the brisk mountain air. That is why I left the curtains open; that is why I’m punishing myself. I agreed to meet her around noon at remote Grandjean campground located on the very edge of Idaho’s Sawtooth wilderness.

          Dragging myself into the shower, I wash up, brush my teeth, down four Ibuprofen, and drink nearly a half-gallon of water straight from the faucet. Afterwards, I throw on a pair of camouflage shorts, a ratty t-shirt, lace up my hiking shoes, stuff a few snacks in a daypack, and hop into my silver Toyota truck.

          An hour later, I’m eating a banana and racing along highway 55 next to the roaring Payette River. With spring runoff near its peak, the white-water is a continuous maelstrom of terrifying energy and noise. Recently, a woman drowned nearby when her husband and children shoved off into class V rapids without any rafting experience whatsoever. Only an annual handful of the most hardened and reckless kayakers even attempt to navigate this particular stretch of rapids. Needless to say, the family’s ride was over in minutes with the mom dead and the rest lucky to have survived.

          I experience a fleeting concern for my wife’s safety. Like our powerful rivers, the Idaho mountains can be unforgiving to those with poor preparation. However, Jamie is a skilled backpacker and this is not her first solo expedition. My anxiety is replaced by a prevailing sense of pride. While I have met many women who are more than capable, I only know a few who are truly comfortable alone in the high country. Jamie’s mom worries immensely, and our friends think she might be crazy, but my wife refuses to let irrational fears control her behaviour.

          Still, experience and education are no guarantees in the wild; potential obstacles are numerous and often times, life-threatening. Despite the inherent dangers of backcountry adventuring, the situations I worry about most are those involving other humans. Wild animals never prompt me to bring weapons into the mountains, but I cannot say similar things about the unpredictable nature of people. In that anthrophobic manner, Jamie and I are very much alike.

          The train of thought reminds me that in my packing haste, I left all of my weaponry at home. Without at least a substantial blade, I feel naked. It doesn’t help my situation, but I take comfort knowing my wife carries her hunting knife and a pearl-handled, antique .22 derringer. Although I am not convinced the tiny, archaic two-shot pistol will even fire, it could still be used to bluff her way out of a precarious encounter. As a young lady, my mother once stuck a .357 right in the faces of a couple drunken hunters who invited themselves into her camp with bad intentions. You just never know.

          Soon after, I turn and drive northeast on Highway 21 for another 70 minutes before finally reaching the Grandjean turnout. My headache is waning with each passing mile and the smell of fresh pine has me feeling almost human once again. The digital clock on my car stereo indicates I am over an hour early. Chances are my wife is still hiking. I drive through the sprawling campsite and find her Hyundai parked at the trailhead. The maroon hatchback is empty of backpacking gear. I look up at the towering, jagged peaks dominating the landscape. Sure enough, Jamie is out there somewhere.

          At the same time I make the decision to track her down, I realize my portable filtrating water bottle is still sitting next to the kitchen sink where I left it this morning. No weapons, no water… what is this, amateur hour? No more getting packed for outdoor activities when I have the functioning brain power of a zombie.

          In light of the situation, I opt to leave my daypack behind. Carrying nothing, I’ll be able to cover ground more quickly. The midday June sun has long since burned through the morning dew and the temperature is surprisingly hot for the time of year and elevation. I figure I can walk at least 8 miles in the increasing heat without water. That means a maximum of four miles in and four miles back out. After that, dehydration will set in quickly. I drink my fill of water from a pump at the trailhead, soak my t-shirt, and tie it around my head. Time to get walking.

          Less than a quarter-mile down a narrow trail hemmed in on both sides by walls of spruce trees, I spot the largest pile of carnivore scat I have ever seen in Idaho. The mound is packed with elk hair and is no more than a day old. I keep moving and find an abundance of sign. A pack of wolves containing some sizable members has been through here recently. Several of their tracks are clearly imbedded in the earth from when the ground was last damp. The larger ones have feet the size of my hands and I’m not a small guy. Their tracks are heading in both directions; the wolves are using this trail as a highway.

          I crouch and crab walk over the trail attempting to distinguish Jamie’s tracks from the ample boot prints of other hikers. It takes me a few minutes of scouring the packed dirt for evidence, but eventually I find a single, clear impression that is both her foot size and bears a recognizable tread pattern. Something about tracking living things always makes my blood run hot and brings a grin to my lips. Although mostly diluted, I like to believe the Cherokee blood flowing through my veins still has a powerful influence over my heart and mind.

          Hiking deeper into the forest, I find a spruce trunk bearing the recent claw marks of a black bear and shortly after, a half-buried pile of mountain lion scat. Even wild cats are tidy about their business. Never have I seen so much evidence of predator activity in such a confined location. The wolf sign, however, continues to dominate the trail. I cannot help but wonder if Jamie has seen any of these majestic and elusive animals streaking through the trees. Even the possibility leaves me feeling jealous.

            Thinking about lions, bears, and wolves (oh my!) causes a shiver of excitement to bolt down my spine. This is what I crave. This is what humans need. We need landscapes littered with carnivores like what existed in North America five hundred years ago. We need to spend time alone in the pitch black of moonless mountain nights where every cracking twig and rustling leaf is amplified tenfold. We need to feel the undeniable sensation of being watched while hiking remote ridges. We need to know there is something wild out there, something with teeth and claws, something with flashing eyes in the campfire light, and above all, we need to embrace those things as something vital in our lives.

            As usual, I get lost in my philosophies while walking. I think about fear and how it has motivated so many horribly short-sighted decisions throughout history, especially concerning mankind’s role within the natural world. I think about my own fear of other humans. I know full well that I would trust a pack of ravenous wolves over last night’s lecherous, addicted, and criminal bar crowd. Surely, if we allow real monsters to share the city streets with our children on a daily basis, we can also find a way to let wild animals exist in their own environment with as much peace as we can possibly ensure.

          A sudden fork in the trail brings my wandering mind back into focus. I have walked maybe two miles but my throat is already parched. The left path looks as though it will soon hit a series of cutbacks climbing a sun exposed mountainside, while the right one heads in the direction of more trees and what sounds like a distant stream. With no idea which path my wife might have chosen, and the trail bed now covered with small stones telling no tales of traffic, I close my eyes and open the rest of my senses to the wind, rocks, and delicate wildflowers all around. Within seconds, I feel the universe tugging at me. I am supposed to go right.

          No more than a hundred yards later, the trail runs straight into an icy stream still surging from the snow melt. From my vantage point, crossing the flow seems like a hazardous proposition. Jamie would know better than attempting to ford such madness, especially alone. So much for my natural instincts.

          I am about to turn back when I notice a solitary backpacker crouched on the bank downstream filling a water container. She is a petite young lady with long brownish-blond hair, exposed muscled arms, and a hunting knife strapped to her hip. For a moment, I am tempted to slip into the trees and wait for her to walk past before springing out in surprise. However, I don’t feel like getting shot or stabbed today. Instead, I sneak quietly within ten feet of her and wait for her to turn around. She does, but instead of the startled expression I am hoping for, I am greeted by a serene smile. She is dirty, and obviously tired, precisely how a backpacker should appear by trip’s end, but Jamie could not look any more at peace with her rugged surroundings.

          “I had a vision you would find me here,” my wife says with a sly smile as she steps into my embrace.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Curing Beef

While this body
Sculpts itself
Around me
I remain trapped
Inside a mind
Over which
There is little control

Imagine myself
As a slab of meat
To hooks on wires
That cannot be reached
Of how flexible
I might become

Even if I could
Get free
Would find me
As hotdog filler
On some butcher's
Stainless steel floor


We were walking around
Our hometown
The gravity got us down
There was a lifeless moon overhead
When she said
You know we’re probably better dead
Born a hundred centuries late
Was our fate
Minus money
Power and hate

Minus the money
Minus the power
Minus all the mounting hate

I couldn’t help but agree
With everything
The hurt made me want to sing
A song about impending night
In our sight
And nobody left to fight
Crushed beneath our apathy
The safest thing
This nightmarish sleepless dream

All I see
All I see
All I see is nightmares in my dreams

What a surprise
If you open your eyes

One thing left to do
For me and you
Is build an army just for two
Go down in a blaze of peace
And charity
In this war against our dignity
To battle in the face of defeat
For you and me
Is the only taste of victory

The only taste
The only taste
The only taste of victory

What a surprise
If you open your eyes
Well here’s your surprise
You can see through the lies

Cheap Cologne

Selling out so quickly
He is forced
To search
For a liquidation tag
Someone clearly
Stuck to his back
While sleeping
Passed out
Or wrapped
In his own reflection

If he could escape
The fact
This behavior
Has him terrified
He might find it
Somewhat humorous
To watch the
Fleece line up
And purchase faith
In the latest
Comic book ad
For x-ray sunglasses


Dreaming about
White rooms and rows
Of accountants
Shackled to typewrites
Clacking away
On a screenplay
In which
The protagonist
Insists the script
Is heavy handed
And regardless
Of the equationed
Cuts of language
Dragging the story
To balanced climax
Everyone will wonder
What happened
And why
Did they waste time
Engaging numbers

Runs In The Family

The voices revert to static
Each time
I look for a witness
Or reach
For my tape recorder
A young girl and a preacher
Trapped in reverb
Chant curious things

He watches us
He knows

The voices live
In a fifty watt Budokon
Make me wonder
How symptoms
Of mental slippage manifest

The rest of reality
Appears to be going about
Its business

Wake and bake breakfasts
Cocktails for lunch
Happy trigger cops
Civilians sporting Kevlar
Another prison built
Ebola in the backyard
The voices in my amplifier
Are my only real concern


Three women
Slink through the door
In various
Stages of undress
Bringing with them
The floral scent of promise
Something amiss
Amongst the charred
Cheap tobacco
And defeat

Through narrow slits
Tries to will
A single glance
Towards a dark corner
Where one man
Scribbles alone
But the behavior
Is predictable

They will order
One drink
Smell the fear
In this hole
And dissolve
While shadows sit
And question their lack

One Brave Act

The red hot
Cherokee blood
Still flowing
Through these veins
Insists I add
To a collection
Of scalps
For no reason
But to prove
I was born with
Warrior heart
And not the kind
Who would
Settle on words
To get a point


The clowns we meet
On the street
Are real
Don’t you see
They’re walking
In circles over
Last year’s big thing

When one trips
They all fall
Something new
A skinned knee
It hurts for a bit
But they’re real
Don’t you see

The sacks of meat
On the street
Are real
Don’t you believe
They’re saying prayers
They’re waving flags
I think it’s safe to agree

When one trips
They all fall
Something new
A skinned knee
It hurts for a bit
But they’re real
Don’t you see

Ollie Ollie Oxen Free

Weary of looking
For myself
In these ludicrous
Inhospitable locations
Where the service
Never equals the tips
As I am becoming
Difficult to find

Should be
In a mountain meadow
Reminding the world
Nothing short of radical
Reconstructive surgery
Is necessary
To uproot the cancer
And reseed
The bald spots

Having spent
A former lifetime
Staring at glass lakes
For affirmation
I am
Somewhat hesitant
To admit
They might be right
And more locatable
To care less

Tuesday, November 17, 2009


He has a plan
To arise from ruin
Laid out
And falling into place
Exactly as it was
Chalked up
In the off season

A coach of the year
Award hung
Behind the scenes
Where he manipulates
Players on
Or near the court
And successfully forgets
Those otherwise distracting
Career ending injuries

Anyone believing
It isn't whether
You win or lose
Never experienced
A string of victories
Quite like this


No words to explain
How necessary it felt
For once
To truly feel alive
And of some use
Of a drunken
Comedy routine performed
For the precious few
I have a hard time
Calling friends

Almost lasted two days
Long enough
To tease me with
Some sense of hope

But having written of the
H word before
Should know the sensation
Can be summarized
In eight letters

Ain't No Thing

Woke up with the sun
In my bed
On a black stone trail
Where blending flowers
Mammals and birds
Blinded my ears
With easy summer laughter

The path led into rows
Of silent symmetry
Carved granite
Rusted iron
Brittle bouquets
Names and numbers
Now clues for the curious

Instead of taking leave
My animal companions
Burst through the gates
To sing and chatter
In the face
Of shoulder to shoulder
Head to toe death

On bent knee in awe
Of their defiance
The expiration date
Over which I perched
Matched the exact date
Of my birth

Some vague and instant
About the cycle of things
Left me feeling
Slightly better
About my own sickness

H.E. Double-Toothpick

Low then high
Waiting for it to feel
Like the first time
I never thought
The lines of wonder
Would appear but
There they are oh so clear

There they are
Behind the eyes
Burrowing creeps
Completing my disguise
They never leave
This place behind
Once they’ve settled
Deep within the mind’s eye

Did you ever have
One of those days
When you felt
Your life crumble
Slip away
Through your hands
Down to your feet
Just how low in this life
You gonna reach

There they are
Behind the eyes
Burrowing creeps
Completing my disguise
They never leave
This place behind
Once they’ve settled
Deep within the mind’s eye

I am almost certain
That I was sure of something
At some point and time
Some cause or creed
That I could argue with the best
But nearing the bottom
Of this bag
And all the nights before
I find myself
Defending both sides
Nothing feels more right
Than anything else
And if you care enough
To still believe
I got to hand it to you brother
You’re a better man than me

Smoke from the pipe gets in our eyes

Monday, November 16, 2009

Merry Go Round

The killer showboats
In fancy clogs
As I piss away the coffee
Last night’s abuse
And plead for anything
To make me feel

In the urinal’s reflection
It seems so
This breathing
Stabbing the same circle

I am bored with sobriety
Tired of being twisted
Anesthetized to the
Homogenized plastication

The slick red wrappers

Where is the plague
I promised
My outside shot
The placid river
The smell of fresh kill
And pine

This is more reality
Than I ever hoped to find

Poets and Junkies

I have decided
To stand for something
Bolder and
Somewhat more tangible
Than the my usual

So I defy and
Deny the research
Stating our magic
Stems from disorders
Or chemical imbalances
However serious
And probably deserved

The rest of you
As the end result
Of dedication or
God given talent
We are mistaken
For a misfiring synapse
Cheapens the entire
Miserable experience

A Little Sympathy Here

There is a gathering
Of ghosts
Smoke and death
At every table
In this bar
So forgive me
If I can't bring myself
To care about
The wine stains
Or just how earned
Your obscene
lack of money is
Or what expectations
You had
Down the line

The second this
Sloppy train-wreck
Becomes unwatchable
Do me a favor
And quit acting like
You can't see
The glowing green
Neon exit

The Finish Line

Out of the lysergic mist
A mile marker appears
And he is filled
With a profound sense
Of unease
Like wishbones breaking
Into three equal pieces

All the years
Of being tossed around
By a falling sun
Have left him searching
For a side road
To suspend a world
Forever out of hand

No more of the
Split second understanding
Slipping into the fog
Before it can be snared

Wants nothing more
Than to never be teased again
And however it plays out
He finds himself
Looking forward
To the very last page


Wide awake it's another day
I feel the strings pulling on me
Can't deny what I can't see
I feel the strings tugging at me

Morning drive the entire way
I feel your hand on top of me
Can't forget what I can't see
I feel your fingers manipulating

Every thought I ever had
God damned
Every thing I ever touched
God damned
Every one I ever tried to love
God damned
You wanna live just like me son
Cuz that's just what I am

Work again and I have to say
I feel your eye watching me
Can't escape what I can't see
I feel your eye dissecting me

Try to sleep it's the end of days
Even the sheets whisper to me
You can't beat what you can't see
Even the sheets are reminding me

Every thought I ever had
God damned
Every thing I ever touched
God damned
Every one I ever tried to love
God damned
So you can fuck right off
For all I care

Friday, November 13, 2009

Works Both Ways

Like some kind
Of real life horror film
The men in white gowns
Pry open a platypus
And poke
Her interior snout
As if that will somehow
Filter the air
Replace the trees
Restock the oceans
Or at least
Intoxicate the sober

With fading senses
We justify this
Inalienable right
To satisfy absurd curiosities

So I will hear no complaints
When the visitors
Finally touch down
And probe us
With sharp
Shiny instruments

Better In Theory

The smell of death
Is impossible to stomach
Yet still we lay here
A couple
Of negatively charged magnets
Stuck to the mattress

An ochre moon wanes
Between stagnant clouds
The wind rattles the branches
Of a thorn tree

Through the glass
A flame point siamese
Ingests our daily evolution
With graceful indifference

Lost Cities of Gold

All strung-out on alcohol
Valium and Chocolate
Wasting our youth
Crossing cattle guards
Hoping for sympathetic trolls
As dreams gradually blow
Out the back of a truck
On some never ending
Desert road

Chasing stars
That cannot maintain
Their glow
Expecting clouds to hold
A lion face pose
Compromising dignity
For loving degradation
The whole time pretending
A reflection
In our side-view
Is not as close as it seems

What I Wouldn't Give

We pull the rancid and
Sticky strands
Straight from the air
Sculpting them into something
That in the mind
Is rare and beautiful
And not unlike unicorns

Then we throw these
To the heavens
And wait for their return
We have heard a story
About letting go

We expect gravity
To function
Like they told us it would

We waste
Entire lifetimes
Waiting for a friend
To open the door
And release this vacuum

Two Bullets For Each Cure

We pile it on
Hoping to convince ourselves
The trashcans will hold
A little bit more
And soon
We will be able to
Bury the entire planet
In the hole
We have dug

Betting our latest religion
Will manufacture
A savior more genuine
Than the moon
And those
Who already
Tried and died
Throughout the centuries

I once found
More faith in the eyes
Of a catfish’s severed head
Than on the pages
Of these
Blind prophets


While I dig through
Disgarded pizza boxes
You get off my street
And remove
Your delusions of hope
From my trash can

You manage to find
Teaspoons of sugar
In every story
On the condensed
Morning misery

While here I sit
A monster more
Twisted than me
Just couldn't exist

Thursday, November 12, 2009


He'd take some herbs
A bottle of wine
Make mountains of vino
And rivers of kind

To junkies and whores
He'd offer his hand
Knows we all need
At least one second chance

He'd slap on the bass
Play mean lead guitar
Rock out the drums
And hang at the bar

What would Jesus do
What would he
What would he do

He'd dance with the wolves
Fly with the squirrels
Walk with the whales
And wink at your girl

Allow you to strike
Without fighting back
That's just his way
That's how he reacts

He'd ignore the laws
Of those who would rule
Says live for yourself
And not like a tool

What would Jesus do
What would he
What would he do

He wouldn't make light of our malignant pain
He wouldn't start wars for corporate gain
He wouldn't drop bombs from a fighter plane
He wouldn't spill blood in his poppa's name
Let's go

Three Black Eyes

Each time I grab
The last word
I assume it to be
A dragon finally slain
Hydras tied in knots
An unparalleled
Dying unnoticed
With a million
Other things

Until it breathes
Once again
Out a throat
Not made for singing
A message
Unfit to hear
And it feels like
Starting another round
With a gladiator
That can’t be beat
But won’t stop fighting
Until he is

Good Question

Got lost
Amongst immense feedback
And smiling lesions
To the point
Even a low brow
Street rat belonged
With something
Outside of
Tomorrow's flashback
Placed in the hands
Of a poorly cast
Stunt double

His survival
A trash mystery
He can't put down
But having skimmed
The body
To read the last page

Fails to understand
Why anyone thought
It was him
the entire time

On My Heels

Throwing down
A couple more shots
Addingto my tale
And trail of
Alcohol soaked receipts
Staring at an
Insurance policy
Deciding to cash in
Place a dent
Amongts the bets
In emotional debt
Over the last six months

I am a pirate
Who has lost the taste
For rum
And the only treasure
I have found
Is an anniversary
In the arms
Of another
As she sleep talks
Her way
Through secrets
I don't want to know


Never stop
Thinking about
The inside feel of
This woman
Or the curves
of her

Never hurt
From the touch
Of another
Like I ache
From her voice

She steals
My desire to escape
And although
I am not sure
She has found anything
Worth holding

I cling to her
As she weeps
Through my fingers

A Father's Pride

Found him under
The neighbor’s hedge
Dignified and
Waiting for death

Figured the bones
Sticking out of his back leg
Were his biggest concern

I peeled his body
From the frozen earth
And held him until nurses
Carefully removed my fingers
And took him
Into a back room

The doctor told me
His pelvis was crushed
Or nine serious fractures

His odds were about even

I wouldn’t have believed
After the seeing the x-rays

Almost convinced myself
Making him live
Was the worst thing
I had ever done

He hated me for months
Hated the medicine
Hated pulling himself
From room to room
With front claws

His indifference to life
Became a mission
For revenge
And because
He was my boy
I knew full well
That would carry him
Through several more lives

Marching On And On

I believe I’m right
Got you in my sights
Marching on and on
I see through
The excuses you use
To keep me on the wall

Perpetrate the fraud
You think I’m in a fog
I’ve seen you all along
You thought to take my heart
Smash it all apart
Stomp all over the shards

Unbridled animosity
Such a curiosity
You wanna try and
Out crazy me
You have no idea
Of the depths I reach
I can close me eyes
To the sound
Of your screams
Walk away while you
Sit there and bleed
Trust forever
This solitary thing
You don’t wanna try and
Out crazy me

I believe I’m right
Still got you in my sights
Marching on and on
I see through
The use I have for you
And that is none at all


Spring once again
And I am dragged to sleep
By gentle mocking
Of fresh leaves
With their role
In all this fuckery
While I summarize
The last ten years
In one admittance

I have still not become

No longer
Can I set myself up
With half hearted
And wholly unrealistic
No longer do I wish
To understand
Or attach a meaning

I accept the fact
These movie sets
Will forever shift
Before I
Catch the stage hands

Land Of Og

Another sleepless night
To perfect
The synergistic spin
Six times over
Rattle off a list
Someone keeps track

One thing is certain
They have no jurisdiction
Over us in Utah

Swim to make sharks envy
Abuse the eye flare
Because it burns so good
Laughter surging
Inside a flashing second
Of pillows
Glued to the ceiling

I think someone
Is trying to tell us

Hope they found
The off switch

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Family Stump

Still in mourning
For a couple of boys
In a black and white
Long pale hair
And teeth so big
No one ever looked

Like their father
And the father before
Their world was full
Of echoes
And eggshells

The only defense
Was keeping it behind
A smile
That never quite matched
The holes
In their eyes

Don't Ask

On a couch for six
Watching blades circle
Above my head
And widow makers crawl
Across my wall
Another woman
Is no doubt
Inventing reasons
To leave

Should be fingering
A bullet
Selected for such
An occasion
Somehow struck
By a feeling of serenity
Filtering through
Six or seven senses
Magic in the act
Of breathing
Joy in a mindscape
I wouldn't wish
On anyone

And I can't stop

Monday, November 9, 2009


After giving in
And making love
For the first time
I told her
My reputation
As a cynic
Of considerable skill
And notoriety
Was in danger
Of losing luster

She laughed
Assuming I intended
A joke
So I kept her out
Of the shadow
Vowed to show
Of the other side
And before
I could turn around
She was leaving
Her panties on the floor
Of the next poet
Who could not find
His comfort
In this world


Here is to a Rome
A Rome that never fell
In space and time
And doing well

Here is to a sun
A sun that never burns
Through the haze
In our eyes
And why
We never learn

Hungry little cells
As we shrivel in the shadow
Of our own majesty

Here is to the war
And all the lost graves
Tell me
Was it worth the kids
We all boxed up
For the fuckin' parade

Hungry little cells
As we shrivel in the shadow
Of our own majesty

What To Say

When he is finished
Feeling his way through
The stocking of soda
And candy machines
An old man sits behind
Thick sunglasses
In a storage closet
Serving as his office

A thin white cane
Between his knees

Never thought twice
About the light in his office
Always being on
Until one day
It wasn’t
And in a blinding flash
I felt
What it must feel like
To be alone
In the dark

Showing Some Color

Two weeks removed
From the shelter of marriage
He finds himself
By nights in bars
Too many rounds
And not enough friends

Buying strange women drinks
Between naked auditions
For bad
Black and white movies

Weekend cabin trips
With electric sex
On the skinny mountain air

Pain killers and pushups
Bong rips and street ball

The truth he avoided
Translucent in his cave
Blinded to his own

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Lucky To Do So Well

As I approach
Her coffin
The flashbacks take over
She sits up
Asking the same questions
Again and again
What is my name
How old am I
What am I doing
In her house

The half dozen
Collected for the send off
Laugh and agree
She hasn't looked this good
In years

A stranger
Pretends they were friends
Asks us to believe
In comfortable fairy tales
And it isn't her death
Bothering me

We all get to try that
Once at least

But having this to show
For a century of breath
Is indeed something
To cry about

Trust Me

It is not my intention
To make you
Little bird
I didn't design
This hall of mirrors
That takes such a toll
On your migrating family
And friends

In fact
I'm the one
Stepping on heads
When they bounce off
With broken necks
Before the murder arrives

I suppose
That is hard to understand
And I certainly don't expect
Any gratitude

To you
We must all look the same


It was the day
Streetlights hummed
Long before the sun
Actually set
And whatever is up there
Emptied trays of ice
On the city below

Never have I seen
Darker skies
Or felt such static
In the air

Helped me understand
How someone
I played basketball with
Less than a week ago
Is now
And maybe forever
In sterile dreamtime
While strangers and friends
Search the crash site
For his Ginger

Doesn't make sense
She repeated
With the sizzle of each
Frozen stone

Not every story
About a boy and his dog
Makes us feel good

We just take cover
And realize
We are not in control

Friday, November 6, 2009


Lo and behold
A child was born
Unto this world
Torn from the arms
of his God
Right after birth
Another mouth
Without a chance
To ever be heard

Into the pit
We threw a child
And out of the dark
Came a monster

A self-fulfilling prophecy
That starts at the end
Sealed his fate
When he was eight
The other only ten
The game
The gun
The flash
The scream
He hears in the wind

Where is the mom
Who is the dad
A future in chains
Behind his back
Into the pit
We threw a boy
And out of the dark
Came a monster

It’s not what he wanted
What he wanted to be
It’s not what we wanted
Not what he wanted

Into the pit
We threw a man
And out of the dark
Came a monster

Must Be Taller

As revolutions pile one
My perceptions
Of what is real
Slip through these claws
One second so
Four dimensional
The next
A waking dream
Daze spent
Lips attached
To prosthetic limbs
Shaped like bottles
Blown glass
And cups of tea

Another trip
Into the familiar
Twisting landscape
Where escape
From the concrete
Straight lines and numbers
Is not only possible
But positively
Habit forming

A universe of space
Kaleidoscoping time
And vast
Terrifying silence
Where chameleons
Fear to loiter
And we natives
In all this freedom

Automated Nirvana

When I have no questions
For the clouds
Chemicals consumed
Or friends
Across the table
I am half convinced
This lobe is attached
To a joystick
In the hands of something
Bored with stomping
Through the galaxy

When not plugged in
I begin to wonder
In my own directions
And whatever has control
Is catching on
Because it allows
The suspicion
That none of this
Is real
To strike me less often
Than it once did


A reinvention
Of myself
Might offer
Dramatic results
In ten weeks
Or less
So I walked away
From an opium
And said good bye
To a swelling gut

A few bills
Shed a mole
Got some ink done
I could forget

Bought a rooftop view
Of wild kittens
Thriving gardens
And gothic steeples
I quickly
Failed to notice

Still looking
Across my world
With the same
Hateful pair
And crawl into bed
With one person
I will never escape

Last Chance

He needed us
To believe his story
Of a metal mountain
So massive
It would one day
Tip the earth off its axis
And hurtle our plague
Into space

During each attempt
To enlist volunteers
We laughed
Drank our scotch
And smoked Chesterfields
Until he walked away
With blueprints
Wrapped in his fist

He gave up on people
Like us
Choosing to roam the alleys
And parks
Still mumbling to cats
And children

When they found him
Stabbed and frozen
In a heap of aluminum cans
I had to wonder
If we had killed
Another savior


Having seen my share
Of red eyes
And black tears
In the first few weeks
Of this new year
I feel the waistline
Growing thin

Try to convince myself
It’s only
The annual cabin fever
Although I realize
The sensation
Is three months early

Resign to keep pushing
Towards our first warm day
When I’ll settle
For an iron rim
A chain net
And the sound of a ball
Passing cleanly
Through the hole

Thursday, November 5, 2009


Beneath the arch
Of a tired street lamp
Rain falls from darkness
Into fake moon glow

How wise men appear
After the scene’s dying breath
With carpet cleaners
Giving dirt
A reason to invade
Our homes


Nothing safer

Conspiracies get wild
In my neighborhood
Everybody’s been lifted
Everybody’s tired
And look mom
Nothing but stumps

Add more freaks
To the line-up
In tonight’s big show
We love abuse
And use cigarettes
To track time

Trash Fiction

One of many voices In my head
Would have me believe
They have found a new strain
The usual coffee and chatter
Delivers the find in somber tones

And as long as I sit there
Enduring the end
In this deliberate suffocation
The bad guys always win

The rigid heads
In today’s traffic jam
Accept the latest delay
Were I half the man
I claim to be
I would walk away
From you soulless machines

But as long as we sit here
Enduring the end
And this deliberate suffocation
The bad guys always win

These plastic prisons
This unbreathable air
And I am no better
Most days too high
To even care
And as long as you sit there
Enduring the end
In this deliberate provocation
The bad guys always win

The bad guys
The bad guys
The bad guys always win

Marty And Earl

My next door neighbors
Served in the White House
For thirty years
As dope smoking
Christian chefs and they
Are closer to politics
Obesity and burnout
Than I ever need to be
But they do lead
A magical existence
Preaching the good word
Between knife hits
And barbeques

They still dream about
Motor homes and fishing holes
While I search for my cabin
On the shore of a
High mountain lake

The only difference
Is our definition of spirituality
And thirty years
Of forgotten smoke rings

Wednesday, November 4, 2009


Living alone
In a twelve foot camper
He develops a habit
Of checking the battery
Thirteen times an hour

He uses binoculars
To watch
The neighbor’s big screen

He lies in bed
For someone to come
So he can ask them
To leave

He has a tendency
To imagine
Honeycomb patterns
Of a trillion homes
Identical to his own
Stacked together
And spreading for miles
In every direction

Each one holding
A heart
Afraid of the competition
But unwilling
To silence the generator

Poetry Is Not For Love

I am more concerned
With the cycle of things
The nothing
The spiders
The strings holding
Us together
And shredding our hearts

I accept
The temporary nature
Of objects
Friends and feelings

I understand
The relationship between
Women licking stamps
In Tibet
And snow collecting
On my windshield

I know all of this
And still
I wait for her
To walk through the door
Of this dimly lit bar
Casting one smile
In my direction

Tuesday, November 3, 2009


My blood has been poisoned
And it pains me
To see him swelling up
So empty
As a child
Knew compassion
Now there's nothing
Yeah there's nothing
Behind the lashes

My blood has been poisoned
And it kills me
To see him step in line
So willing
As a child
He would stand up
For the have not
Half empty soul cup

Well it's his blood
In my vein
And our faces
Oh our faces
Oh they still seem the same
But I wonder
If I wander
Well I wonder if I wander
Will I wind up in his blame

There's a point here
And I'll make a
D. Claarative type of statement
What I mean is
That I need to
Figure out just how to phrase
What fucking happened
Why cant you wake up
Get away
Get away from the man
Who'd see your throat cut

On The Bright Side

For the first time
In what feels like years
He wakes without the fear
Begins to walk
And the first thing he notices
Are cars
Until he knows
There can’t possibly be
People for them all

Hears the distant rumble
Of more cars
Cars assailing the senses
In a collective drone

He retreats to the river
Only to find
Yellow dinosaurs and orange men
Replacing the muddy bank
With handrails
Astroturf and airbags

The howling
Of mechanical lizards
Mixes with the roar of cars
And he flees
Nearly screaming to a forest
Where he uncovers
Plastic heads
Painting X’s on trees
And whistling
For the grinding of steel teeth

Covering eyes and ears
He stumbles home
To his cats
His faith in humanity

The Hardest Thing

She followed me
Out the front door
I be the first
To break
The last eye contact
We would share

An image
I have failed
To drink
From memory

As I drove away
From her
The house
Our cats
And a life
We began together
I wept
Like I never want
To remember

And for once
the voices
Allowed the tears
Without insisting
I act
More like a man

Passing Phase

On the dark side
Of every moon
And drop of acid
The jackals wait
With sockets of ash
For the last grains
To fall
Sunday morning ravens
Defecate on a crucifix
The wind tears holes
In an old glory
That never really was

Rain and rivers
Tenderize the landscape
Into quiet submission

Oceans and beaches
Hungry for more

And I have earned
The right
To tread through
This body of apathy
When all there is
Worth mimicking
Is her indifference

Monday, November 2, 2009

The Nothing Of Things

When was the last time
You looked at the sun
And felt the fingers trace
Across your face
Without a doubt

How long can you stand
In the winter rain
Wonder why
No one seems
To ever weep for you

You'd like to believe
It seems comforting
Can't find your faith
In the nothing of things

Where does it end
All this waiting for signs
To show you what hides
In your eyes
Beneath your mind

Remember the words
Once upon a time
How long has it been
Since you even
Tried to try

You don't have to believe
In a golden king
To find your faith
In the nothing
In the nothing of things

January Thaw

After I finish the
And monotone dispensing
Of indifference
She describes her brother
Shotgunning himself
For the holidays
And how
Nobody remembered
To keep the receipt

As one
Who is hesitant
To stack more pain
On top of his own
I push the buttons
Jostle the mouse
And maintain a
Positive attitude
While imagining
At breakfast tables
Spooning oatmeal into
Mouths already dead

Friday, October 30, 2009

Hostages At Lynx Creek (Idaho Magazine - April 2010)

     We have been here before. A quick comparison of the lichen encrusted boulder to a picture in our digital camera confirms our suspicions. This is the rocky game trail descending to the Middle Fork of the Boise River, and on its banks, our destination - Lynx Creek hot spring. The last time we ventured down this path, my wife, Jamie, and I, experienced an unbelievable incident with a herd of mountain goats. We had stumbled upon the goats grazing near Lynx Creek and enjoyed a rare opportunity of observing them at close range.

     However, just minutes into our private viewing, unleashed huskies appeared on the other side of the river and charged the herd. The goats panicked and fled using the only escape route available - the trail upon which we were crouched. Before it was over, a stampede of goats washed over us and we survived a face to face and once-in-a-lifetime stare down with the monstrous herd leader. As I recall, it never blinked.

     The owners of the huskies arrived shortly after the goats vanished up the mountain. They waved and shouted and probably expected us to return the enthusiasm. What they got was reluctant acknowledgment from two people who would have liked to lecture them on keeping their dogs under control. A loud river separated us at the time, so any communication effort would have been us attempting to mime a mountain goat stampede. We opted to keep our dignity.

     I’d be lying if I said we returned to this remote drainage of the aptly named Sawtooths just for the hot spring. Neither of us has mentioned it, but I know we are both hoping to see the mountain goats somewhere in these jagged peaks.

     Jamie and I have barely begun picking our way down the trail when we hear a rustle in the trees below us and out pops what… but a couple of huskies. Again? Really? At least this time, they are close enough we don’t mistake them for charging wolves. Well, that and the red doggy saddle-bags are a dead give away. The huskies hesitate, sniffing the air cautiously, but their wagging tails betray their intentions. I like that quality in dogs; they tend to assume the best about people. We hold out our hands and call softly to them which serves as enough of a welcoming gesture. The dogs trot up to us, smell our fingers, and allow us to scratch their heads.

     Moments later, a third husky appears down the trail and behind it, what appears to be a hallucination, or some kind of wild mountain woman. I notice Jamie's eyebrows arch in surprise. Definitely not a hallucination, my wife sees her too.

     The lady is incredibly tan and lithe, covered with tattoos and piercings. With the exception of a walking stick, a small medicine bag tied to her belt, and a monstrous hunting knife in a sheath around her left calf, she is carrying no gear. She is also, I assume, not expecting company as her shirt is completely unbuttoned with the two sides tucked into her pants revealing a wide strip of flesh from neck to waist. The lady fastens a couple of buttons as she approaches. Her lean-muscled appearance defies the age in and around her eyes. I figure she has to be pushing 50. Obviously, she is an old school, Idaho kind of woman.

     “I love your doggies,” says my wife as her three pets swarm us poking at our hands with their warm muzzles.

     “Thank you,” she replies. “I wish you could meet them all. My one-year old, Tiny, ran off a few hours ago. One second he was with me on the trail, the next… gone. I didn’t even see which way he went. I’ve been looking all morning.”

     While Jamie expresses her sympathies, I can’t help but question the mystery woman’s lack of equipment. Her hardcore, unencumbered appearance has left me feeling like rookie mountain tourist with a forty pound pack full of gear and food. I begin to entertain the idea of ditching everything except my underwear and hunting knife for all future outdoor excursions when she mentions her backpack is safely stashed on the main trail.

     “I’m worried his harness might be caught on some underbrush… or maybe he saw a deer to chase…” As her voice trails off, Jamie and I exchange a knowing glance.

     “Were you down by the hot spring when Tiny disappeared?” my wife asks.

     The tough old lady shrugs. “I don’t know of any hot springs around here.”

     Like Jamie and I had done on our last trip, the woman picked the wrong side of a massive granite outcropping where the trail ends at a cliff’s edge and a sheer drop to the water below. The raging river has spent thousands of years carving a steep and narrow channel straight through the granite resulting in a narrow gorge of dropping waterfalls and churning whitewater. She had missed the trail that follows the drainage down the other side of the granite monolith all the way to the river.

     We tell her about the hot springs and mountain goats and theorize Tiny had heard or smelled the herd, went looking for them, or possibly chased them, and wound up getting lost. The woman accepts Jamie’s invitation to join us for another trek down the mountain.

     “Might as well,” she says, “that knucklehead could be anywhere by now.”

     Despite the uneven terrain, we make quick time. All three of us are eager to find the missing pet. We smell the hot spring and hear the river before we can see anything through the trees. Moving cautiously, to avoid any potential animal surprises, we creep into a small meadow at the river’s edge. This is the same place we found the goats grazing on our last trip. This time the area is deserted, no goats and no dog.

     I remove my backpack and begin to search for animal sign. Almost immediately, I find fresh goat tracks and wet droppings. The herd had been here this morning. I also notice a couple of muddy canine tracks. They are too small to be anything other than juvenile wolf, or mid-sized dog. It seems more and more likely Tiny found the mountain goat herd. I experience a wave of agitation at the thought of more unleashed dogs tormenting this family of goats. The mountain lions and wolf packs should serve as adversaries enough in this wilderness. Dogs that can’t stay with their owners should be kept on a leash.

     If Tiny had been here, he is long gone. The lady guesses he may have returned to their camp site from the night before. She hides her feelings behind a wall of rigid body language and terse replies, but I sense a worried desperation taking hold. I look up at the towering Sawtooth peaks all around us. Where does one start looking for lost pets out here? There are no answers on the mid-day breeze.

     She thanks us for our assistance and we jot down her phone number in case we find her dog. The woman whistles for her remaining huskies and begins to ascend the trail for who knows how many times that day. We watch her go, silently casting our wills against the cosmos that she finds Tiny.

     Jamie and I set up camp and eat a quick lunch of peanut butter and honey sandwiches. We spend the day exhausting ourselves in the sun, alternating between quick dips in the freezing river and leisurely soaks in the hot spring. We do our best to forget about the missing husky, about the problems of other people, and enjoy a perfect summer day in one of the most beautiful places either of us can imagine.

     After a dinner of meatballs and barbeque sauce, we climb into our small backpacking tent to avoid the mosquito hour. As the heat of the day relents, and before the cold mountain night sets in, the mosquitoes come out in force, hungry for blood. We are killing time playing cards and flicking mosquitoes off the mesh walls when Jamie suddenly cocks her ear to the wind.

     “Did you hear that?”

     “I used to sing in a rock band,” I remind her. “I can't hear anything.”

     “There it is again,” she says and grips my knee. “It almost sounds like a child crying... somewhere in the cliffs.” I listen intently for a few seconds, but all I hear is the nearby river. I can tell Jamie is a little freaked out, so I decide to change the subject.

     “How about a… back rub?” I ask while casting an amorous gaze over her bikini clad body and smiling mischievously.

     “Yeah right,” she says. “That's exactly when the ax wielding maniac shows up. I know my horror films. THERE, you had to hear it that time!” she exclaims pointing to the cliffs above us.

     I listen again and this time I hear it. She is right, it sounds like a distant and disturbed child, somehow human and yet not human at all. The sound is eerie to say the least. “Oh that,” I say, playing it off as casually as possible. “That's just a Central Idaho demon baby. Nothing to worry about. Quite common in these parts.”

     As we listen, the sound grows louder and spookier until I am finally compelled to check it out. Feeling slightly vulnerable wearing only the boxers I had spent the day swimming in, I grab my hunting knife.

     “Wait a second.” says my wife, “Either you’re going to walk off and never return, or, you’re going to come back and find me chopped to pieces.”

     I laugh, but can’t help notice a sense of unease in the cooling air. Surely, just my imagination in overdrive. I make it about twenty steps before I have slapped and killed the third biting mosquito. I retreat to the campsite.

     “I need some clothes.”

     “My hero,” says my wife and tosses my pants and shirt out the tent door.

     “I don’t see you out here.”

     Never one to back down, Jamie throws some clothes on over her blue bikini and joins me. Meanwhile, the cries in the rocks have become more frantic, more desperate. Jamie and I make our way into the rocks above our campsite trying to pin-point the sound. I am carrying my knife out in front of me, looking like a hitchhiker with a long and razor sharp thumb. In the fading light, we scan the shadows on the cliff above us and locate the source of the cries.

     It’s a yearling mountain goat perched on the top and very edge of the cliff braying his concern to the echoing gorge below. Is it stuck? Where’s the rest of the herd? Clearly, the little goat has been separated from its family. I am suddenly reminded of the lost husky. The appearance of the young goat lends more credence to our missing dog theory. Perhaps Tiny charged into the herd causing the goats to bolt in all directions. Maybe this little one was singled out and forced into running in the opposite direction of the rest of its family. Who knows. We are left with speculation.

     The goat notices us just after we see him. The worried cries stop instantly and the animal appears relieved to have company. It begins see-sawing its way down the cliff where there is nothing any human would consider a path. Even at its young age, the animal is surprisingly dexterous. However, despite the goat’s bounding energy, something about its gait seems off. I can’t be certain, but I think it might be limping.

     Jamie turns to me and insists we get back to camp. We both know there is nothing to be done and we certainly don’t want to confuse the youngster or cause it further alarm. We retreat, but as soon as we are out of sight, the cries begin again, even more fervently this time and getting louder. The yearling is following us. We duck into our tent hoping the goat won’t spot our camp hidden amongst a small stand of spruce trees.

     For the next hour, we are tortured by the tormented cries. The yearling never appears to notice our tent, but it hobbles by within a stone’s throw of our camp. We are reminded of last year’s goat stampede when a nanny, with her new born in tow, pushed right past us on the trail, so close we could have touched them both. The fact this lost yearling could very well be that same infant isn’t lost on us. I even go so far as to entertain the ridiculous notion that the goat recognizes us and knows we mean it no harm. Jamie and I are tempted to see if the frightened goat will come to us, to see if there is anything we can do. Surely, an ax wielding maniac is preferable to this drawn out suffering.

     I consider the prospects of raising a mountain goat on our quarter-acre lot in Boise. It probably wouldn’t appreciate the summer heat, and really, what would our three cats think? However, we realize interfering with wild animals isn’t part of nature’s intentions. On the other hand, I can’t help but think nature didn’t intend for people’s unleashed dogs to harass these goats either. I sit in silence and watch the tears roll down my wife’s cheeks. We are being held hostage, afraid to move or make a sound, by a fluffy, adorable animal.

     Finally, mercifully, the goat retreats back up the mountain, its desperate cries fading with the last remaining light. We ponder the events that may have lead to the goat’s current predicament. Again, we ask ourselves if there is anything we can do, but we already know the answer. That night my dreams are haunted by lonely cries on the wind while my body, nearly swallowed in shadow, lies paralyzed on a forest floor. Above, the black, indifferent universe and distant stars mock my concern.

     The next morning, there is no trace of the yearling, no distant cries, nothing. We tell each other stories about the baby goat finding its family during the night and how it’s currently being smothered by an overbearing and relieved mother. Perhaps we have become too attached to this family of goats. Perhaps the few thrilling seconds we spent amongst the herd, or the fact they chose to not harm us when they could have, has left us feeling somehow indebted to these animals.

      In reality, I am pretty sure something has found the baby goat by now. Nothing making that kind of racket will go unnoticed in the wilderness for long. I can only hope it really was the herd and not a mountain lion or wolf. I also realize my anger with Tiny is unfounded. Like it is with the baby goat, this is no place for a lost dog and he will be lucky to be found alive. Something as simple as a leash could have possibly prevented the plight of both animals. Nature is a harsh mistress and rightfully so. However, the lives of mountain goats, and even dogs, are difficult enough without further complications at the hands of humans.

Know What I Mean

There is more of me
Scattered through time
One amongst the pines
Walking rivers
Biting tongues
Through the twilight of reason
To watch it go

Does it help
To be specific?

Trashcan in chain mail
Obese moon
On melted pillar
Ugly hunter
Shot cow
Smell of hot blood
On frozen earth

Is still everything
As it remains nothing
As it always
Will be

Gift Exchange

Everything has changed
Since these boxes
Last closed
Bows and ribbons
Seven rolls of
Picturesque snowman scenes
And a nativity set
I put up with
Year after year

Difficult to even touch
These artifacts
Let alone separate them
Into two distinct piles
A holiday time bomb
Left for me

Sometimes think
I got out a little easy
And maybe I did
But at least
She won’t have to
Leave her memories
On the doorstep
Of an apartment
She has never seen
Where the silent cries
Of a cat behind glass
And familiar wind chimes
Crash in on her