Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Honey Bucket Museum

The Honey Bucket Museum

the time had finally arrived
politicians stood with suited smiles
pumping hands and holding giant scissors
the red ribbon waved in the wind

the buckets weren't gone
but that didn't matter

the museum couldn't wait any longer

democracy had finally worked, mostly
just like it had for the Romans
thousands of years earlier,
flowing like their ancient waterworks

these were the men who plumbed Prudoe
no task too small, mostly

the buckets weren't gone
but that didn't matter

there were ribbons that needed cutting

[Final poem for my poem a day madness for National Poetry Month. #30 --- complete!  Thanks to all who read and shared my poems. You have no idea how much your responses fueled me and kept me writing and sharing this month!  Thanks! www.donrearden.com  ]

Monday, April 29, 2013

Weight of a Paper Warrior

A Spirit Warrior, drawn by one of the boys in Club Ki'l (Kuh-luh) afterschool clubs I've been guest presenting at here in Anchorage.

Weight of a Paper Warrior

I sit on the carpeted classroom floor
Tlingit, Haida, Aleut, Yup'ik, Inupiaq, Athabascan
city boys
I wear my Raven qaspeq
hand sewn with love by a Yup'ik friend

they close their eyes
the walls around us, and that separate
fall away
my words carry them back in time
to when they were warriors

when they fought for what they believed
to protect their families, their people
to survive

this warrior is still there, I say

in you

listen to him

these were his

a stone knife, an arrowhead, a rabbit bone charm
travel --- small hand to small hand around the circle
for some cool trinkets, for others
a weight to each I will never know

the circle breaks and they lie on sheets
of white butcher paper, draw Crayola silhouettes
then arm and illustrate 

one boy tells me:
my spirit warrior's knife 
was different and sharper
he said he will always 
be there when I am scared

another asks:
what did your spirit warrior
look like?

this little boy's question lingers and
I am suddenly naked

[Poem #29 for National Poetry month! www.donrearden.com  ]

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Portage to the Past

Portage Lake, Alaska --- upon return of attempting the portage.

Portage to the Past

pulled and polled towards the pass
huffing and puffing, squinting in the sun
this portage used by the Real People

imagined that I was not pulling my child
in a pulk of plastic, synthetic,
refined metal

instead he rides in the wood
and hide frame on my back

babiche and birch snowshoes
not Rossignol and Swix
moose and caribou
for Smartwool and GoreTex

at the base of the last step
we turned back
too steep to continue

thwarted by fear
disinclined by the incline
no inclination to pass the pass

there would be no portage for us

a portage to a different land
a portage to the past

Saturday, April 27, 2013

A Glacial Goodbye

Your mother carried you
On skis
To this glacier
a month before you were born
I pulled you here
in a sled
a month before your first birthday
we've brought you here again
a month before the second
our new family tradition

each time you are older, bigger
each time this ancient glacier
melting, crackling, splintering, calving

I fear someday it will not be here
for you to bring your family
but more than that
I fear the day I won't be here
with you

Friday, April 26, 2013




I enter the double doors to this campus building
daily, ignoring the bold black and red decal
the one on every door on every building

at this place of learning

two simple symbols
a red circle with a line through
a black pistol

several of the scopes
locked in my safe at home
look like this circle
quarter turn clockwise, swap red to black
add an extra black line
on every door on every building
at this place of learning

this is not how you teach
this is not best practices
this solves nothing

there should instead be signs
reminders, really
and just the circle
inside the circle:
books, figures holding hands, smiles,
people thinking, loving, learning, living.

on every door, on every building
at this place of learning

[DAY 26 ---- of my poem-a-day experiment. Thanks for reading, commenting, and sharing! Nearly 10,000 hits this month on my poems. That is amazing and humbling!]

Thursday, April 25, 2013

How to Build a Bomb

How to Build a Bomb

add two parts oppression
blend sadness, loneliness, fear
a dash of ignorance
mix in hubris, egotism, vanity

bring to boil
broil, blacken
let cook
bake covered
bake uncovered
let cool

pour into pressure cooker
sprinkle with terror
garnish with counter-terror

turn on high

[Day #25 --- poem a day challenge for National Poetry Month. ]

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Vitruvian Man

you are the Vitruvian Man, mid-air
flying over the handlebars
File:Da Vinci Vitruve Luc Viatour.jpg
of a mountainbike 
twenty-five miles an hour
winding narrow paved Flourentine road

certain disaster
just as the man Davinci convinced
to fly in his crazy craft, 
from that wine and olive-grove hillside
you will be a crumble wreck of a corpse

but what should have been
bones and blood
instead two quarter sized burns
above the knees
road rash, a torn fingernail
a bike bent and broken

the culprit, a camera
clattering down the concrete

somehow, strangely, you are standing
on your feet
a Vitruvian man

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Village School Bus

The Kasigluk School Bus --- after dropping off most of the kids.


in August, the school bus arrived
a giant aluminum boat
we piled in, half a village
of children, grinning
into the brisk morning air

October ice, freeze-up
found me stuck
on the other side
ice-pans keeping the bus
from delivering us home
on the river road

no relatives to stay with
Wilson's family took me in
slept on the floor
beside his bed
ate blackfish, dried pike, white fish
salmon strips, seal oil
charged the occaisional frozen
pizza to my dad's account
at the village store
maybe a few extra corn-nuts
and blackcherry Shasta

when the river froze
the bus arrived
to take us home

a giant wooden sled bus

Monday, April 22, 2013

Earth Day Sale

in our culture we find
one day to honor those things
we say we love most
one for
our mothers
our fathers
our leaders
our genocidal explorers

create cards
hallmarks for a single day
send roses
buy candy
close banks
find empty mailboxes
                  waiting for cards
from the other days we circle the sun


[Day 22 Poem-a-day challenge for National poetry MONTH, which is at least thirty days. Thirty.]

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Caring, On Ice

stand at the face
of a glacier
stare into those
crevasses of time
wrinkles on around
Mother Earth's eyes

and tell me again
her tears
matter not

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Spring Runoff

today I am an icicle
on the eave, the edge
melting in the warm
winnowing away
clinging to a fragment
of winter while
above, the blue beyond
and I cannot runoff

Friday, April 19, 2013

Magic Carpet Kid

you float into my office
as if on a magic carpet
heading to Arizona, coach
you tell me
going to learn to fly helicopters, coach
you say
grin as wide as a rotor swath

over a decade ago
after a sleepless night
on cold hard village school floor
I drew impossible black lines on a clipboard
overtime out of reach, my first loss looms
seven seconds left
down by four
we can win this, coach
you said

more impossible lines
you were the X
inbound from the baseline
find the far left corner
skip pass back to your X
 X makes the three --- then trap
on the made - steal and shoot
make it
get fouled
make it

and you do

you ---float
as if on a magic carpet

and we are lifted
seeing in you
what is possible for us all

[Day 19 Poem a day for National Poetry Month.]

Thursday, April 18, 2013

For a Day


for a day

become kind and care

for    a     day

the    next   it   begins                     again  the soured divide


for a day

we converge

if only
                                     for a day

[Day #18 of my poem a day insanity for National Poetry Month.]

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Assess This


we sit in a circle
as our ancestors

this is real learning
she says
but in school
its all memorization and tests
and you forget afterwards

just like how we forgot
the circle
isn't only to be darkened
with a #2 pencil

[Day #17 of my poem-a-day marathon for National Poetry Month.]

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

After the Marathon Bombers

Boston Waterfront
 After the Marathon Bombers

1. On your mark
2. Get set
3. Go
4. Start slow
5. Don't get caught
6. In the excitement
7. You'll burn out
8. All the others
9. Think about them, the finish line
10. Run your own race
11. Set your own pace
12. Not even half way yet
13. Or now
14. Finally, midway
15. Begin to hurt, bleed
16. Drink more
17. Avoid cramping
18. Blisters
19. Prepare for
20. The Pain
21. The Wall
22. It's here
23. Or here.
24. You want to die
25. But you push through
26. Triumph over the terror
26.2 And keep running

Monday, April 15, 2013

Bake Sale for Big Oil

for his was a brilliant plan
as their leader he knew
they needed him to do
something big

for their problems
enormous, like their state

honey buckets, tuberculosis
a contagion of self-slaughter
domestic violence, homelessness
needles, pills, empty bottles

so many problems
must be his action

he got started immediately
putting together all the ingredients
mixing, setting the oven's temp

soon the timer chimed

for his was a plan brazen
beyond measure
he chose respect

a bake sale for big oil

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Two Ways to Freeze

old cabin
hidden in the spindly spruce
boarded windows
moose antler
irony freezer
to ski to your door
in the blinding sun of spring
is one thing
to stumble upon you
in the dark of winter
freezing fear, another

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Sleep, My Love

Sleep Skiing.
 Sleep, My Love

I once loved you
I still do
I imagine us entwined
Beneath the covers
Remember those times
Together, when you
Stayed until noon
When you held me
In your dark arms
Shared with me
Your endless dreams

Now you are fleeting
Only short glimpses
Of late, never enough
To leave me satisfied
My head confused
A mix of emotions
You disappear with the
Sun, earlier each morning

I want to cry for you
Would pray,
Would pay, for just
One night, again
Where you slid
Beneath the covers
And stayed
Until I said
Good morning
And meant it.

[Day 13 of Poetry insanity. One month of a poem a day for National Poetry Day.]

Friday, April 12, 2013

More Snow Fall

More Snow Fall

through waist deep snow
I carry you on my shoulders
you sing about the old farmer
and yell, "Tree! Tree!"
at each hemlock we pass

I struggle with every step
wading, post-holing, breath
exploding from my mouth
white plumes that you reach
for with your black mittens
"Hot Hot!" you cheer.

my foot drops without warning
the culprit an old moose hoof
punched even deeper
we tumble forward
I lift you off my shoulder
as we fall, turning your face
towards the brilliant blue above

for a moment, dead still
staring up at the sky
snow fills the hole around our faces
I worry you are scared
or worse, hurt
but then you giggle, and ask
"More? More?"

I won't be there to always
catch you when you fall,
but I will always fall with you
and be there when you're ready
for more.

[Day 12 of my poem-a-day-marathon for National Poetry Month.]

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Tundra Tapeworm

Know what river this is? If so. You're infected.

like a tapeworm
these rivers attach
themselves to your insides

when you can peer out
from your exit row
at 20,000 feet and know
one bend from the next

you are infected

these twists and turns
burned into your brain
the arteries and veins
of your life

there is no cure
for thismalady
no stick to wrap the worm
and twist it from your guts
a half turn a day forever

[Day 11 of my poem a day marathon for National Poetry month.]

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

On the Raven Commute

On the Raven Commute

they head to work in the morning
as we do
but they fly and swoop and play, together
we drive
stare ahead without emotion

at days end they commute
as we do
towards home, rolling and cackling, together
we drive
stare ahead without emotion

we could learn a thing or two,
like we once did

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Seal Oil Salesman

A good friend's jar of seal oil.

Seal Oil Salesman

Step right up and dip your:

Salmon! Pike! Whitefish! Blackfish!
Lushfish! Halibut!

For all fish:
Dried, smoked, baked, frozen,
fermented, and raw!

Ingest for:
Stomach ache! Constipation! Diarrhea!
Body aches, cold, flu, general malaise!

For Eskimo Ice-Cream mix with:
A splash of boiling water, Crisco,
whip with your bare hand
add sugar
salmon berries, blue berries, and crow!

Rub on:
Frost bite, burns, sore joints!
Cheeks! Lips! Wounds!

Use for:
Waterproofing, lubrication, softening!
Heat, light, and warmth!

Does not:
emit carbon, pollute, cause wars

Does not:
ruin beaches, rivers, lakes, oceans

Does not:
cause cancer, greed, avarice

Does not:
require pipelines, drilling, corruption

[This poem was picked up by public radio and read over the air on Bethel's awesome radio station, KYUK, by Shane Iverson. You can hear the poem, complete with perfect background music, here! ]

Monday, April 8, 2013

Kim Jong-un: Too Much in the Sun

Kim Jong-un: Too Much in the Sun

his soldiers march in comical precision
punching the air like a million Mike Tysons

they parade giant missiles through town
on the nightly news we see maps
drawn with concentric circles
told not to worry

his nukes can only hit

but when they call him crazy
I can't help but think of another son
who lost his father
and that mousetrap did not end well

[Day 8 of the poem-a-day marathon for April's National Poetry Month.]

Sunday, April 7, 2013

For Dan Bigley

Two Ghosts of the Kenai

For Dan Bigley

in a flash
the world gone black

the culprit
a brown blur of brawn

the bear's eyes
the last your own
will ever see

all hope
would seem lost
in the darkness

and yet you
become the sun
and show us all
how to see

beyond our own

[Day  7 of my poem a day marathon for National Poetry Month. Check out Dan Bigley's new book Beyond the Bear .]

Saturday, April 6, 2013

On Today's Agenda.


  1. Second and call the Question
  2. Discuss. Discuss. Discuss. 
  3. No order to the points. 
  4. Please no point of clarification.
  5. No moves to entertain.
  6. Favor all those
  7. Unanimous and
  8. Someone please motion to adjourn
  9. This death by agenda

Friday, April 5, 2013

Blue Berry Blue

Blue Berry Blue

a white Styrofoam™ cup
filled to the rim with tundra
blue berries
just picked, the skin
of each a light soft blue,
and just beneath the surface
a deeper blue, a darkness

not unlike the bruises
often found on the very
Alaskan women who pick
these sweet berries
their numbers, like the contents
in the cup, beyond count

and our leaders argue over the oil
focused only on filling the pipeline
with the darkness
needed to manufacture the cup
and they continue
to ignore the contents

[DAY 5 --- of my poem a day for National Poetry month.]

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

100% Tundra Cotton

 100% Tundra Cotton

I want them to discover
the value of tundra cotton
swaying in the breeze
plump blue berries
and moose and salmon
spiders, furry yellow caterpillars
mosquitos and even no-see-ums

I want them to know
a crane call from a loon's cry
the difference between a
rainbow and a sundog

I want them to imagine
gold deposits beneath
their favorite park
an oil well under
their swimming pool

A Loving Unkindness

Building Materials (Photo by Don Rearden 2013)

A Loving Unkindness

last year I doubted your choice
for a home
a Seuss-like spruce
spindly and impossibly tall
unprotected from the williwaw winds
that whip and turn trees
in this valley
into toothpicks

the stickhouse endured, your loving unkindness
survived, narrowly
one of your coal black youth
flew like Davinci's craft
busted a leg, landing instead
at the avian hospital,
thanks to a human neighbor

now you are back. Rebuilding.
flight after flight, with just
the right branch of hemlock or birch
you work together throughout the day
day after day, crafting a home
built to survive hurricane gusts
you prepare for new lives
eggs, then hungry mouths
open toward the sky, waiting

and I will not doubt you again
as I chose this mountain valley
for my nest,

[Day 3 --- of my National Poetry Month Madness. A poem a day for a month.]

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Musk-Ox Stew and Mexican Beer

Ablaze along the Bering Sea Coast Photo by Seth Kantner
 Musk-Ox Stew, Mexican Beer

we made camp at the edge of the earth
amid the white bones of a whale
and the grey skeleton of an old skiff 

we collected driftwood, set ablaze with dried moss
and maybe a splash of dinosaur
wolfed down the fire warmed muskox stew
in gloved hands, sipped half slushed Tecate,
cut slices of lime with a Leatherman

the cold war sun slipped beneath the sea
a submarine bound for the gulags,

a frigid black sky followed
we gathered more sticks, more moss
hunched closer to the blaze
surrounded by waves, wind, and bears

We told stories, laughed, and spoke of nothing
and everything

as if this had always been
and would always be

then like gasoline on water,
the colors slid across the surface of the sky
ignited, and bathed the edge of the earth
in the icy light of Aurora's warmth

[This is Day 2 --- of my marathon Poem a Day for National Poetry Month.]

Monday, April 1, 2013

April Fools Gold

April Fools' Gold

We dig until our fingers bleed
until mountains become gaping holes
visible from space
rivers run the color of rust
flavored with arsenic
for the fish and fowl

We lust for the lustre
shimmy for the shine
hammer out thin coats
to cover our dead and devine,
those poor prophets
we have enshrined in gold

the very object of our worship


We fool no one, but ourselves.

[April 1st, 2013 --- part of my poem a day for National Poetry month!]