My Book Featured on My Friend John Harrison’s Wildlife Blog

John is an extraordinary wildlife photographer and coauthor with Kim Nagy of Dead in Good Company, a collection of photos, essays, and poems about Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge, MA. He begins his blog with several lines of my poem “At Mount Auburn Cemetery.” Click here to read it:

Here’s the title poem from my new book.

“Before There Was Before” was first published in the journal Common Ground.


Before there was before, there was still before,

no verb to carry the abyss.


Light from dark, this from that, an easing

of boundaries, a slit

making a run for it,



blue at the edge of that pose.



The Big Bang hurled all the starstuff

ever to be made—brazen tumult,

lashed by the muscle of spume,


hydrogen and helium waiting

for their rings to close,


dark tonnage, billions and billions

of mewling seedstars,


all burning and burning

themselves out, the universe

braced to decay.



The shoulder of one boulder settling

against the shoulder of another.


Canyons cleaving, granite

wrenched free.


The apple asleep

inside the sleeping tree.



The tide slinks in.

Shelves of blue-green algae.







Shaggy-maned mushrooms

sink and dissolve. Beneath,

beetles frill.


Pea vines, holdfast clovers.

Bees shiver the white throats—


Whales slip through the slot.

Baleen and blue milk spilled

through all the rooms of the ocean.


Long lives call and click

the grievous migrations.


Sharp-shinned hawks seize

their trophies, clamping down

the whole lid of air.



When trees come, they are meant to

be climbed.


Stay away, or come, or come

just this far—you and I are

here, the compound of us,

a colossal conjunction.


And the calendulas in the field

who are riddled

with life-spark and flaws.


Let’s take a stab

at the dark, let’s

time our tea,


if we have tea,

if we have time.






My New Book, Before There Was Before, Is Here!

Click here to read more:

The cover is a detail from a painting by Cambridge, MA, artist Tanya Hayes Lee, titled “Genesis Series: The Second Day, 8.” I’m really glad to have found her paintings a few years back.  And kudos to my publisher, Iris Press, and Beto and Robert Cummings, for shepherding my manuscript through and for the beautiful cover design. I’ll post a few poems from the book soon. Before There Was Before Cover.indd

Skunk Cabbage

Saw my first spring skunk cabbage of the year today at Mass Audubon’s beautiful Broadmoor Wildlife Sanctuary in Natick, MA.IMG_4383This poem is from my book Western Motel.




Skunk Cabbage

Out of nowhere, then,

skunk cabbages astonish

the meadow: pursed

and swollen spathes,

putrid fists, ugly,

unreticent, and inside,

a knotted yellow swarm.

Slugs, snails, five-lined skink,

blue-bottled flies are avid

on the cud of mottled leaves

whose stench is salvage.

How long winter slung itself

over my shoulder,

each rogue thing

obstinate, returning—