The Community Garden

It is not what you expect to find
after trekking uphill five blocks
in the Japanese District after a
hot day in the city. It smells like
compost tumbling over itself
here on the side of the hill,
is strewn together good enough
with spare wood, multi-multi-use
buckets and laminated signs
some person with a printer
tacked to tree trunks to guide
visitors toward an exit; yes,
wabi-sabi enough to get lost.
It is how we ran our land when
I was young, making do with
parts of things and scraps and
pieces of other things. I forget
the city outside. Chicken coop
signs (please do not feed us rice),
sunflowers grown beyond a
hand’s span whose peach fuzz
necks bow to watch weeds sustain
this morsel of wild in the city,
now I barefoot along stone steps,
toe my way down the other side,
find a sitting-rock in the orchard
and do that a while among this
stench of four-days-fallen apples
and flies on a summer afternoon
and when I am done scribbling
memories search for more to do,
for more to think about, perhaps
another reason to stay put.

(August 27, 2019)

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Landmania

At the feet of mountains, meadows and shores I turn from busy-minded woman to awed servant of our earth. I breathe the pines smelling like childhood camping and hold to mind valleys cradling cloud shadows in the afternoon, once in Montana and another time in New Mexico. 

I know now: that the still of a mountain lake arrives twice daily, at each end of the light; the embrace of everyday grass under bare feet; the change in the air that signals an ocean is a few miles out of sight; a love affair that, next to humans loving one another deeply and intimately (the only way worth doing it), most makes apparent life’s worth.

Love and land. Currency of choice, given the choice.

A stretch of road once led (still does) through northern New Mexico toward Colorado. Such flat, open ground is good for the mind. It doesn’t change at every turn; it doesn’t make you work to maneuver through it or ask much of you but to hold reasonable speed, if you like, and keep one eye out for the pronghorn.

If arriving somewhere new at night, then you are not yet there. The exploration begins in the morning, when the sun rises to reveal the surroundings. The evening before was merely counting a series of freeway exits, unpacking the car and falling into the bed or chair or arms of wherever your inner compass has taken you.

“I began to feel I loved the land and to know that I would never forget it. There I would go for long walks alone. It was alive, I was sure of it. I wanted to identify myself with it, to lose myself in it.” – Jean Rhys

(written in 2014; edited for ColetteKay.com)

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An Odd Way to Sleep

I said to the closed-eyed dog lying in the middle of the floor like a Sphinx:

That seems like an odd way to sleep;
it looks more like waiting.


But as a dog he will do what he wants, and it remains unconfirmed what and if they think – so maybe he is in fact sleeping and waiting, one in the same. What do we know?

May 30, 2019

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Notre Dame

Not leaves, not petals, not seasons:
this we know comes and goes, as do
the bodies of men, animals, the living.
If growth pairs with passing, in our
impermanence did we believe that
what our hands built would last?
Bricks erode to sand, wood to ashes,
colors let go of themselves under
a sun that science claims is dying.
Before then, islands will submerge
as new mountains give rise to nations
destined to fall. One day all this will
whittle down into strata in the rock,
dust in air, circulating, undetected.
But, think of it in such way that we
are grounding and dancing at once,
intertwined with everything that has
existed, returning to again become
the single nameless whole. Please
remember: we are in this together.

(written April 16, 2019 in response to the Notre Dame fire)

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Small Movements

I believe in libraries, in used books,
and the parts of life that we are
blessed to touch with bare hands
the way I feel alive and at peace
cutting herbs from the garden,
or hanging clothes onto the rack
one by one so they appear as an
ordered design, to the extent that
when I open my closet doors they
expose a fabric painting. This way,
each day begins and ends with art.

I believe in the experience of life
being pulled from the ordinary,
deriving joy from activities like
swirling syrup into my oatmeal
each morning as the sun circles
my white Spanish home on the hill
and enters through the window
from which I stand and delight in
newly born leaves on the trees
and birds building nests therein,
calling morning to night, I tell myself
because they are alive (do they or we
need any other reason to celebrate?)
And the squirrels running the lattice
who drive both dogs mad with glee;
I hear them too, knawing on seeds
in the Cyprus outside my bedroom.

That the small movements of the world
are as important as our ability to sense them
and that everything we touch we become
and this can be good: I believe in this, too.

(Written March 30, 2019 as an ode to the joys of a simple life and a lovely apartment.)

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Upon Finding a Sand Dollar

Seeking receipts for car service printed
during the past year, instead my hands
found in the corner of a heavily papered
glove compartment not gloves but this:

One flawlessly, quietly intact sand dollar.
This flying saucer of the ocean had been
forgotten under bent-at-the-edges receipts
mounting for nearly two years, which goes to

show how often the convertible’s corners
are cleaned – and which leaves slight
judgment of self as to why this was not
discovered earlier, but most importantly:

How did it get there? Marine missiles fire
in the memory, ruling out that it might be
from our local beaches, nor a souvenir from
Mom’s house where she, too, collects shells.

Instead the weaving mind rolls itself into
the coastline of a Del Norte County town
where once we stopped as a family of four
for chocolate hermit crab cookies, then,

decades later I returned–a lone woman–and
found the bakery gone, and went to the beach
instead and put my naked feet in the water and
walked the sand strip, my spaniel smelling

the radius of his leash. If memory is correct,
which it is sometimes, it was an older man who,
seeing my aloneness, gave the trip its purpose
with the gift of one of his roundest sand dollars.

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