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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Oceans and Lakes

The impending ocean announces itself in a way that lakes do not. I’ve seen more lakes than I’ve cared to count lately; mountain lakes and manmade lakes and reservoirs and the always strange and briny Mono Lake. Rarely do these still and scentless bodies of water give you a heads up that they are there (particularly if you’re not a map watcher). You often must come within sight of their waters before you think, “Look at that, there’s a lake here.”

But the ocean is for the devout, in that you do not have to see or hear it to know it is there. Our body senses its existence. The atmosphere changes, the wind blows a new way through the car window and the air weighs more heavily around your being. It begins to smell like water—powerful, unconstrained saltwater—from many miles away. It speaks to us.

Be wild here, says the Northern ocean, and I am bundled up and unruly, flipping shells and jumping rocks and peering into every tide pool.

Relax, says the Southern ocean, and I am under the sun and into a book, my purple-patterned towel spread across hot sand.

Somewhere between these two cultures a wooden pier juts out and divides north from south. Once used for shipping, a bait shop now draws in a steady population of quiet fisherman who, in turn, pull a population of gulls who keep a close eye on the day’s catch.

I keep a close eye on the ocean. I am a girl who grew up near water, a girl who took many childhood trips to the marina with her parents, and whose father owned a sailboat, a power boat and  a handful of smaller boats – not all of which I can recall, but I’m sure I counted at least two canoes sitting in our yard before I’d turned 21. I know this as I sold them after my father passed away. A man of Native American descent named Tomas came to buy them one afternoon, carrying them away from the grassy slope where they rested upside down, and that is as far as my memory goes as it has been many years – and because the mind is funny about what it chooses to remember.

And as I am a girl raised near water, one day after weeks in the deserts and mountains of inland states the ocean was a welcome sight and sound and smell. There I stood at the shore knowing that a handful of hours south these same waters were breaking against San Diego, and three days north they would filter into the Puget Sound and swell much more gently alongside my hometown, Seattle. This realization is akin to looking up at the moon at night to know that you and someone you miss and maybe love are both under the same sky, except we are both—we are all—not only under a moon, but along this shore. Connected by currents, all types of them, both water and human.

(written summer 2014; revised for ColetteKay.com)

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Prayer for Spring

Three days in and your gifts,
tangible and not, have blossomed.
The earliest yellow buds peek out,
the snap peas climb and cling wildly.

Sun, we undo months of curtains
to let in your buttermilk warmth.
As your stay increases each day
so will I turn my face to the light.

Digging my fingers into potting soil,
my emerging naked feet on the grass,
the heart is ripe and swelling for you:
newly arrived season of growth, of hope.

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Join Me in the Lake

Heat of summer, forever-long afternoons
of sun bearing down almost violently
have turned the lake into a warm bath.
Dark comes and this is the place to which we drive.

Four of us share this night, now a tepid oven.
Our group walks, laughing, along two edges:
where city park meets lapping water, and
where youth rushes too soon into adulthood.

The sky is black, the distant hills flicker
with neighbors’ white house lights, and
somewhere nearby is the whir of the freeway.
I do not think we can be seen

and so I remove my clothes
and wade in, up to my small naked belly
at which point I turn back to see you
still standing on the shore.

Someday when you are free enough to
revel in a night swim, then I will know,
though I will not at first say it aloud,
that I have seen myself in someone else.

(March 2, 2019)

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