Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Let Go

Somewhere outside of Kotzebue, Alaska

Let Go

when you stand
in that spot where the earth curves
tomorrow sitting on the horizon
a blade of grass tall as a mountain
the sun a cold white eye
watching your every move
remember you are not a deity
control beyond your grip
let go

when you stand
in that spot where the earth curves
remember to cry out when
she turns you upside down
gently pats your buttocks
and holds your feet tight
swinging you through space
let go

[That is it! Poem #30 for April. Thirty poems, one a day for National Poetry Month! Thanks to all for sharing my work! See you next year? Perhaps you'll write too?]

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The Fear and Hope of Salmon

A photo of a painting by my sister, Beth Hill.

The Fear and Hope of Salmon

when the river ice rots
if the conditions are just so
perfect sun, wind, warm
the sheets become crystals
millions of thin cold daggers
one rubber boot kick and an ice pan
disintegrates with the sound
of chandeliers coliding
into mirrors and

the feeling
as that ice rushes
past the riverbank
is sadness and excitement
winter all but a desiccated corpse
summer just days away
and fear and hope
the salmon will fill
the void the ice left behind

[Poem #29 for National Poetry Day! Yup, a poem a day for a whole month. I'm all but there!]

Monday, April 28, 2014

Death By Social Media

Death By Social Media

you should have seen her facebook
when she found out her instagram had died
her world began to tumblr
the beat of her heart reduced
to a twitter, just a flickr
she couldn't pinterest 
the source of her pain
a dark soundcloud followed
she no longer felt linkedin
didn't write in her livejournal
the netflix of her life, reduced to cobwebs
without a friendster
she felt herself snapchat
she found only the wordpress to write:
mylife is over, there is no one to yelp
then she wrapped a lifeknot
around her bebo
and jumped into myspace 

By Don Rearden, 4/28/14

[Poem #28 for National Poetry month.  That is right, twenty-eight poems in April, two to go. They are all here on this blog for your reading pleasure and/or pain.]

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Samurai Sword Glassmen

 Samurai Sword Glassmen

In silence sitting on sills
in buckets and baskets
on beaches and bobbing in bays
treasures, trickets, trash
Japanese fishing net floats
from another era
half a hemisphere away
on turbulent seas
from samurai sword glassmen, 
to a life drifting
beneath and above zeroes
sunken ships and skeletons of
Aleutian battle heroes 

we all long to find on the shore
a glass bottle with a message 
of hope, love, or fortune
but the recycled sake ball
contains only old air
crack one open and for
an instant smell the daphne,
tatami, fresh ramen, or charcoal 
trapped an eternity 
doomed to never return home
like so many soldiers
on this shattered coastline

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Peacefully at War

our wars are over
we no longer 
have to sacrifice
the space on our bumpers
or cover our trunks
with yellow ribbons

peacetime now
no need to 
support our troops
with stickers and flags

peacetime for now
no more moments 
of silence before games 
or cell phones for soldiers

our wars are over
no more rationing 
or restrictions of
our anti-war sentiment

we are at peace now
at least until the next 
as we are best at being
peacefully at war

Friday, April 25, 2014

For Cliven Bundy and his Citizen Soldiers

citizen soldiers where are you
when the poor need protection
when children are battered or beaten
by big brother or bullies

citizen soldiers where are you
when white men hurl insults
and bottles at women with skin
the color of the boots
with which you kick and stomp
their sons

citizen soldiers where are you
when the country you claim
comes first, comes last
for everyone but your kind

citizen soldiers where are you
when your constitution is colored
not by compromise or care
but by fear and despair

citizen soldiers, gather
like cattle with your cloven shepard
in the desert and claim
that country for your own
and stay there

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Circle of Silence

unlike some cultures
we have a word for everything
we never know when to stop
to shut our endlessly moving
mouths and mandibles

unlike some cultures
our circle is meant only
for wheels, for work, for worry

unlike some cultures
silence to us is ice
nice only for a moment
then uncomfortable.
then painful. then scary

unlike some cultures
we will fall silent forever
unless we learn
without worry of words 
to sit in a circle

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Waiting Room

I wait in a waiting room
across from me a modestly dressed woman
dark skin, blue scarf over tightly curled black hair
she holds a sleeping boy,
and I wonder what
they are waiting for
what procedure or percentage
awaits them
insured or uninsured?
urgent or elective?
and does she wonder why
I am waiting?

the Botox brochures
and photos of smiling white faces
glossy perfection
perfect, perfectly fake
wait with us

I'm not waiting here for Botox, I want to say
as I fill out the paperwork
it's this little bump, I don't say
running my index finger to my cheek
just getting it checked, I could say
in case, you know?
probably nothing

but I say nothing and wait

this is, after all, not a talking room
this is a waiting room
and small talk seems plastic here

[Poem #23 for National Poetry Month.]

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Feeling Your Weight

Check out Portugal. The Man's new song for Earth Day #EndangeredSong

Feeling Your Weight
we hike through the hemlock
trunks thick as the two of us
combined, you riding in a pack
upon my back

the sharp rays of evening sun 
reaching into the forest
I wait for the towering trees
to inspire you
will it be another bear hunt?
a monster chasing us? 
perhaps bigfoot?
what will we play?
just shy of three
you are, it seems
always reading my mind
already finishing my sentences
always surprising me
and I'm waiting for our play 
to begin, but also thinking
about tomorrow 

I plod up the trail, feeling your weight
thirty plus pounds of questions
you point to one of the giant stumps
the trail winds around
what's that? you ask
I stop. A stump, I say
no, you inform me
no, that means the Once-ler was here

Are you the Once-ler? I ask.
Your answer?
No, Dad. I am the Lorax.

And like that, you tell me 
tomorrow will be okay

[Poem #22 --- National Poetry Month and Earth Day! In support of Earth Day please search for and share the Sumatran Tiger song and the hashtag #EndangeredSong by the amazingly talented Alaskan band Portugal. The Man. There are only 400 Sumatran Tigers left in the world. Share the song, spread the message. Thanks!]

Monday, April 21, 2014

The Words of the Earth

"Thank you" in Yupik.

The Words of Earth

when the words of the earth
fail to move the tongues
of those meant to speak
we lose more than language

when the words of the earth
fail to reach the ears
of those meant to hear
we lose more than a culture

when the words of the earth
fail to reach the hearts
of those meant to know
we lose our souls

[Poem #21 --- the morning after the Alaska Legislature finally recognized our State's incredible REAL wealth, the rich native languages of the land.]

Sunday, April 20, 2014

The Miracle of the Chocolate Eggs

I remember 
questioning in my kid head
the possibility of such miracles

a fat man in red who could fit
down our chimney, a sled pulled by
reindeer who never lost their antlers
just to bring me presents

a fairy who could recover my tooth
after my grandmother accidentally
swallowed it
left in a glass of water
on the counter
and yet still pay me a dollar in coins

a man who walked on water
who died, just for me
then rose from the dead
and later into space
on something that appeared
to my kid skull a rocket
but was corrected,
that was a fiery cloud
and he was headed to heaven

then there was the silly bunny
who laid eggs,
and left candy

I never questioned the candy
or the miracle of the chocolate eggs

[Poem #20 for National Poetry Month! Happy Easter and Happy Spring to All!]

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Gathering the Turds for the Final Vote

Gathering the Turds for the Final Vote

the turds were all gathered at the Capital 
the final big debate
the room smelled of money, sweat, and turds 

all the pressing issues of the day, for Alaska
resolved, solved, solutions in resolution
all that appeared to remain 
this final piece of 

the turds, in their place
the lobbyists, concerned citizens, activist students
even the governor,  in attendance, 
each with their own turd interests

discussion began
support for the clear front running turds, apparent

Moose turds already had their place
in many tourist shops, 
earrings, swizzle sticks, even a festival
and the lobbyists 
for those small round brown balls
had done their homework

the other turds just didn’t have the support
black bear and brown bear turds 
while often appearing to have perfectly edible blue berries
 and interesting colors
 lacked a certain commercial appeal

hare turds were too small, too much like kids’ cereal
whale turds, too big, too mysterious
owl turds, not actually turds at all

then someone suggested polar bear
and a lobbyist passed a note over the balcony
a reminder that turd wouldn’t be around much longer
they would have to gather the turds in another session
move on to other turds

musk-ox and caribou were proposed
but no one felt any particular attraction to those turds
unless there were wolf turds involved

a few moments before the vote
moose still the front-runner
a new turd appeared
more specifically: a whole white five-gallon bucket of turds
conservative supporters of the moose turds laughed
just another silly liberal ploy
 to bring attention to rural turds and the buckets
 that so often hold their foul stink

this was, after all, their last vote of a banner year
beautifully un-bi-partisan
this was an important vote for a singular object
turd not turds
just like they had voted for the Alaska State Gun, a Winchester Model 70
 the Alaska State Boot, Bunny
 the Alaska State Lubricant, Crude
 the Alaska State Position, Missionary

Yes ---
 this was the time to vote for Alaska’s State Turd

[Poem #19 ---- special thanks to  Scott Woodham, my editor at Alaska Dispatch for the crappy idea. ]

Friday, April 18, 2014

Anything Helps

Anything Helps

I ready myself for morning
phone calls, messages
they found you today, "he's blank"
they say, "blanked himself"
"he was blanking" they repeat

I ready myself for the afternoon
when I roll to a redlight
winter cold, windows half frosted
four o'clock, twenty minutes until dark
you at the corner, shuffling in frozen boots
cardboard sign, black marker letters
anything helps, thanks

I ready myself for nights
when I can't find sleep
because, I'm not ready
for what the morning might bring

[April 18th --- the 18th poem for National Poetry Month.]

Thursday, April 17, 2014

On Enormous Wings

may you spread
your enormous wings
and fly
as you carried us
through vanilla bean air
through sleepless nights
curing us
with Father Gonzaga, and
turning us into spiders
pondering how you
flew so effortlessly
with language and love
the logic of your wings
so natural
so completely human

[Poem #17 for National Poetry Month --- April 17, 2014 --- the day the world lost Gabriel Garcia Marquez.]

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

What Good Remains

One of the most remote graveyards in me.

What Good Remains

disturb no dirt when I depart
leave the earth alone
topple no trees
carve no cross
carry no casket
pluck not a flower

donate what good remains
place the remains on a hill and
thank the scavengers I so love

cry no tears
remember how I believed heaven a mountain, a river, a snowstorm
recall how I said I would return in the wind, the waves
listen to the ravens, the leaves, the caribou click
forget not how I saw life everywhere and
know that is where I went

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Windshield Stars

No Alaskan car window is complete with out these!

Windshield Stars

on the radio
the anniversary of the Boston bombing
fragments fly at my face
an explosion of white
from the tractor-trailer
I close my eyes for a moment
the dust clears
 the only scars
small stars on my windshield

a marathon from home
just a short distance
by car
but on foot
bloodied, chaffed, dehydrated
a different story
fear is a pressure cooker and
distance from loved ones
grows with each moment
each foot step
each fragment that flies
in our face

driving, running, living
the finish lines have blurred
the stars brilliant and growing
silver threads around our hearts 
leave me wondering when
we will wear safety glass 
in this new race 

Monday, April 14, 2014

The Complications of Clockwork

My view from Bear Valley, where this poem was composed...

The Complications of Clockwork

I try to imagine
this same spot I sit
centuries ago
Thirteen hundred and three
feet up the mountain
and let me pretend
that was the date

below in the valley
cacophony of confusion
cars, racing rocket bikes
train blaring at crossings, Cessnas,
Jets landing and leaving 
closer still
rolling rubber on gravel above
the distant freeway rumble
all this gas-powered earfiller
punctuated with a sleddog's bark
a confused rooster crow
then silence

the ears ring at first
adjust to the new era
then the hollows fill
the creek runoff
a chickadee chirp
a raven calls, then swoops
and prunes her wings 
beak pecking a feathers 
she croaks like a wood carved toad
snow crust crunches in the Hemlock
beneath moose hooves

the city below is gone now, too
a lone smoke tendril 
at the ocean shore
so far below
a campfire
perhaps a cousin
or an enemy from another tribe 

I let the spring sun warm my face
as I would have done then, too
and so many things would be
as they are without the rumble
of machine, the complications
of clockwork, castles, and composition

clear, clean, civilized 

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Blood Moon

prepare for the monster
in two sleeps he comes

empty your cupboards
find the biggest pot
the widest pan
one of each

tear two strips of cotton
roll and wad them
one for each ear canal

gather outside just before moonrise
and when her pale orb appears
on the horizon
bring the pans together
with all the force of your soul

let the clatter fill the night sky
so that the monster relents
and does not devour

so we may, for once be
a celestial savior to 
she who turns our tide

[Poem #13 --- for National Poetry Month. The Blood Moon will be Monday night....]

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Old Dogs


We sat on the a gravel bar
a campfire between us and Three Step
"go get me a Coke" I said to your father
and he cocked his head, half lifted an ear
my friends roared in laughter, at me
my silly notions that I could teach
an old dog, a new trick, on the spot

they weren't laughing when he appeared
by my side, with the red and white can
in his mouth
and for a moment, we were all scared
he understood something we didn't

for ten years he was the best dog ever,
your dad, a red merle Aussie
a fighter, a lover, a fishcamp stink-head thief

and now, nearly fourteen
you plod down our gravel road
glazed with an ice, like the thin layer over
your old eyes, your ears failing you
Kita, Yuma, Charley, your father Loc,
even your own sister, Tundra, now just
a wooden cross on the Takotna River

for ten thousand years
dogs like you, like your father
like all those good dogs in heaven
have joined us around campfires
brought us warmth and laughter
licked the tears from our cheeks

we are better because of you
and perhaps all these years
it has been you, trying to teach
us a new trick or two

Friday, April 11, 2014

When the Darkness Returned

when the world was dark
they found fire
when the fire burned 
they concocted medicine
when the medicine failed
they said prayer
when the prayers went unanswered
they made war

and when, the darkness returned
they gathered 
around a flickering fire
and found hope 

Thursday, April 10, 2014


handsaw blade
filed to an edge
for cutting, chopping, skinning
no knife as efficient
no knife sufficient
once you've used an uluaq

referred to as a "woman's knife"
by some scholar
or polar explorer
who wasn't smart enough 
to recognize the shortcomings
the fulcrum failure
of his own blade

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Lost in the Flash

Lost in a Flash

the pen is only mightier
when the sword hangs
upon a wall
an ornament of old
object of inspiration
for fantasy
blood on the page
imagined and mere metaphor
for adventure and dragons
to slay and the knights
in their armor on horses
not stampeding masses
of terror and childhood
lost in the flash of
kitchen knives
flourished like swords
in a place meant
only for mighty pens

[Poem #9 for National Poetry Month --- a poem a day. Today's poem my response to the horrific school stabbing in Murrysville, Penn.]

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Recipe for Peace

lead the men, every one of us
by the hand
from our cells
our precious boardrooms and barrooms
banks, bunkers, and bombshelters
tiptoe into the bedrooms
of our sleeping children
let us see their soft
round faces in the glow 
of a nightlight, or flicker of a candle
stand with us
for a heartbeat
let go of the hand
allow us to cover
the sleeping child with
a soft blanket, adjust the pillow
pick the fallen stuffed whale
or bunny or bear from the floor
and slip it in the hollow
between blanket, pillow, and bed
allow for one last look
guide us from the room
leave the door cracked
and then ask us to explain again
this war, the last, 
and the one on the horizon
ask us once again 
and if we have no answer
take our hand tomorrow night
and repeat

Monday, April 7, 2014

National Champions

National Champions

they packed the bars and living rooms
cheering, drinking, yelling at big screens
at the referees, at their friends

we sat in a theater, transfixed
empty stage, save for two chairs
two writers
speaking of love
for language, for mothers
for ancestors and healers
the magic of life and slap of tortilla
makers and brick-makers
garbage pickers of the heart

no game could have equaled tonight
no score, no last minute shot
not one shining moment

they should have been there
turned off their screens
to listen, to learn
travel across the borders
that bind us, and blind us

[Poem for Day #7 of my poem-a-day challenge for National Poetry Month. This poem was inspired by a 49 Writers Crosscurrents Event at the Anchorage Library with the amazing and inspiring author Luis Urrea and the talented and insightful Alaskan/Los Angeles writer Bryan Fierro. ]

Sunday, April 6, 2014

The Blue in Your Heart

Portage Glacier, Alaska 2014

The Blue in Your Heart

the color of this ice
has no more to do with the light
of the sun
than blood has to do with the love
in a heart

the blue in your heart
has no more to do with the light
of your love
than ice has to do with the sun
in your blood

[Poem #6 -- Poem a day for National Poetry Month]

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Totem ---- Poem #5 in the poem-a-day challenge

Sitka, 2014


reach like a totem
into the sky
the blue

build like a totem
upon the ancestors
animals all

stand like a totem
testament to time
wooden warriors

Friday, April 4, 2014


Inside the People's Zoo


the animals came from all over
to see for themselves

the habitats were the finest
almost so natural
some didn't seem aware,
of their circumstance, didn't bother
to look up from the small light boxes
those devices that had ended it all for their species,
the captives barely noticed the zebra or kangaroo family passing
by the bars
or the brown bear, stopping to
study the strange antics
of one of them, a tall skinny male
as he paced, made strange sounds
speaking to the air, left hand waving,
the other holding one of their false brains
pressed against his pale face

momentarily amused
two monkeys paused at another display, drawn to the noise
hoping to catch the creatures procreating
instead, another of their light boxes
this one covering an entire wall
on it half-sized images
--- from the time where their numbers were great ---
in their silliness scurried about
kicking at a round ball
those watching cheered
and drank deeply from troughs
of beer

the monkeys moved on
wondering what life had been like
for the last of these crude beasts before
their rescue by the zoo

[Day #4 in my poem-a-day challenge for National Poetry Month]

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Theory of Mind ---- Poem #3 in My Poem-a-Day for April Challenge

Theory of Mind

the elephant studies himself
in the mirror
twists his trunk
opens his giant mouth
all but takes the razor
and shaves his chin

this, scientists tell us
reveals the potential
for the theory of the mind
an elephant's capacity
to see the world
from someone else's
point of view

perhaps even to see
what that we
so often lack
 - this self same theory -

and can see only

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Flash Burn ---- #2 Poem of An Original Poem a Day for National Poetry Month

 Flash Burn

the patterns of kimonos
seared into skin
blistered burns and scars
intricate designs upon flesh
of the dead and dying
thin man, little boy, fat man

shadows burned into walls
walls burned into shadows

the flash burn they say,
"is typically a surface effect"

but on the surface
of a man made sun
in two thousandths of a second
the effect, mere shadows
tattooed on our souls

[Day #2 of my poem-a-day challenge for National Poetry Day.]

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

A Poem and An Apology, from a Fool.

Today, this is me...your writing DODO

I will once again be posting a poem a day for the month of April, as a celebration of National Poetry month and a thank you to all those who have supported me and my writing endeavors over the past several years. I hope you enjoy the poems this month, and I hope you'll share and comment on those that move you, make you laugh, or cry, or curse.

Speaking of laughing, crying, and cursing...I owe many of you a huge apology for my devious joke today. I did not anticipate such an overwhelming and supportive response to my ridiculous announcement of publication for my new novel. It is true that I do have a new novel written, but I am as of this moment sans publisher. There is no Dodo Books. No Great Auk House. No 189 countries pushing to bring the novel to the US before climate change really devastates us. Those were all the words of a joker, perhaps one who is a little sad that he can't yet share with you his new work, perhaps one a little frustrated with this whole glacial world of publishing while the glaciers are melting and his book becomes less and less relevant!

Nonetheless, I am sincerely sorry for the prank. I wanted people to laugh or be momentarily tricked, not cheer and be excited for me and write kind notes of congratulations.  I didn't anticipate that in the busy rush of the day folks would cheer and give me accolades and not realize I was being a complete and utter smart-ass.

Today I learned a little something about April Fools Day...and your response was humbling and really a bit of a lesson for me, today, the fool.

And NOW for your poem of the day.

Play. Ground.

to let the blinding sun
reflecting on the snow
etch each second upon your memory
like a flash burn shadow
as your son cackles like a goose
chasing you around the playground

remember the crush of gravel
beneath your boots
the cold iron of the equipment
the splash of slush

his laughter, so pure
then small black boots
betray him on the ice
silence for a fraction
as he flies, a superhero

that moment of the air
sucked from the world
then open mouth,
a wail, then tears

remember that, too
and the hug of endless tomorrows
as you carry him towards home

US Publication coming for My 2nd Novel


 It's happening! US publication for my next book!

Shishmaref, Alaska. Photo by my friend Dennis Davis
 Many of you are already aware of the long struggle to get my novel The Raven’s Gift into print here in the US. At the time, that manuscript, with themes of the world ending, faced the publishing boards in some major houses as the world did seem to be ending. The big houses here in America passed on the book, but other countries snapped it up. Three years later, Penguin Canada brought the title to the US through a cool little boutique of Penguin US called Pintail. The Raven’s Gift went on to become a one of the Washington Post Notable fiction selections for 2013.

Until today, my new novel, Moving Salmon Bay, by all appearances, seemed to be headed down the same strange river. Where The Raven’s Gift was initially published in Canada, this new novel seemed as if it would first be published in France and only in France.

Once again rejected by the US, I thought I would have to wait to see what would happen in France and hope for my own stubborn country to come around some day before it was too late, and this stressed me out to no end. The book simply couldn’t wait. We as a species couldn't wait. The title says it all, the book is about a fictional Alaskan village that is moving. The reason they are moving? It isn't because they want to live somewhere with a IHOP. It's climate change. Global warming. Seas rising. This is a reality that nearly a dozen Alaskan communities face right now. The projections from scientists have revealed our earth's warming rates are increasing. The projections haven’t even been fast enough to keep up with the warming trends.

The peril some Alaskan communities face is the same that so many other communities across the world are or will soon also be facing themselves.

 If Moving Salmon Bay wasn’t going to be published within the next year or so, it might be too late. The story would have been not only passé, but completely irrelevant, as the major publishers themselves will have relocated, leaving editors, publishers, and publicists at the major houses themselves climate refugees.

Great Auk House
While climate change and the threat of rising seas appear to be something that America cannot or isn’t willing to address in any meaningful way, there is suddenly hope for the publication of Moving Salmon Bay! Just as the Canadians knew that the message in The Raven’s Gift would resonate with Americans, when our own American publishers did not, a multi-lateral publishing house, comprised of 188 of the 189 countries attending the United Nations Climate Change Conference will publish the novel in the USA under the Dodo Books banner, an imprint of Great Auk.

While I’ll still have to toss and turn in bed at night, distressed for my Alaskan friends who live in fear of each big coastal storm, I no longer have to shrug my shoulders when fans of The Raven’s Gift ask when my next book will be out. I no longer have to lie about interest from publishers to friends and colleagues who have read the manuscript to Moving Salmon Bay and who say it’s better than The Raven’s Gift.  I can now tell them they can pre-order a copy of the novel on my website. I am relieved and grateful to the rest of the world for their support of my work (and for acknowledging climate change), and while those countries don’t have the military or economic power to make the US do anything related to saving the planet, they can at least bring us good books to read while the fool ship sinks.