A Slip of Pink Paper

Summer lake, Paisley, Oregon, U.S.A, photo 1. Wagon Wheel
Shoved deep into the bench seat
of an old Ford truck 
we found a kitten.

The bench seat, like a black sofa,
leaned against the chicken coop.
We used to play house 
and pretend outside was our living room.

It was dead, of course,
the kitten,
you can't stuff a body,
no matter how small,
between the stiff cushions 
of a Ford bench seat.

Other animals had been found, recently
Cats, kittens, chickens, a mouse.
They said it was a coyote
or a fox
but how can an animal
stuff a kitten into an
abandoned black bench seat?

There was that day when...
A porcupine attacked the dog.
The dog howled in screams
as men pulled her from the truck.
It wasn't a porcupine that killed the kitten.
This needed human hands.

We ran home
to tell our mothers.
We climbed over split rail fences,
through dead and dying orchards.
across old rail tracks that once
transported swine, beef and grain,
but now the trains were ghosts
and the rails vanished into the

We reached the farm house,
the white peeling paint revealing rot.
We'd lived there, but not long, two families without 
fathers, and many kids. Sometimes men
would visit. Some fathers. Some not. 
They'd bring beer.

We were out of breath from running.
We heaved and pressed our palms against our knees.
Ma! we called. Ma! It's dead. 
A kitten! we called.
It was empty.
There were no mothers.
No fathers. no adults.

Stapled to the door
A pink paper. Animal Abuse it said.
The animals were all gone.
The dog with the porcupine quills.
The cat missing kittens.
The puppies. The chickens.
All gone.

A dust kicked up around our tired feet.
The pink paper waved in the breeze 
the tape held it to the door.

A car was approaching from the distance.

They would take us next
put us in foster homes
send us to strangers.

Soon we forgot all
about the kitten.



I let my girl out-
She rose like a lion
From behind a great rock-
Mad as hell
At the adult in me.

She pulled down her knickers,
“I ain’t afraid of no snakes.”
Made ribbons in her hair
Of grass and flowers.
Tore her Gingham dress,
Fine shreds of printed fabric
Dropping from her shoulders,
Like water on a ducks back,
Till she was thin bare.

Naked she climbed
The blue oak
and swung out from sturdy
Yipping and yeehawing
Till she plopped into the

Climbing out
Of green mud,
Tendrils of clumped
flowers and grass,
mashed dreaded locks,
like a rasta child.
Her teeth glared white
Belly flop,
Into the dark
Pool of water.

She was an animal.
A Beast-
To the very core,

And I wept
For forgetting her.

Some Fairy Tales

A Tiny Pea

A princess complained:

Please move me. I can’t sleep the pain is far too intense.
I can aspire to be so,
so small.
I can hide in a crack
In the corner
of a tea cup (in the farthest
circular edge). I could
lie between the mattress,
40 mattresses deep
and wait-
and wait –
Please move me. I can’t sleep.
The pain is far too intense.

A princess complained:



Crow is eating cheese.

Cunning Fox,
Red with snow white tipped tail—

“I sit below your branch
Mouth open,
Wide toothy grin,
And wait, and wait
Would I—”

“Fly to my branch?
Or bring me to your level?”


Kid Wish

I want
to hold
a butterfly
in my hand
and borrow the powdered
as shadow for my eyes.



The summer sun curled the bark of the Manzanita
exposing the soft pulp.
I’d run my fat palms over the smooth flesh
and tear dried bits of bark that crunched
like crisp potato chips
I was pulling back bits of skin,
after sunburns, from playing too long at the public pool house.

With our feet in the cold Feather River we’d
to be Concow women washing our clothes by the bank
and grinding fresh corn into flat cakes
with stones against the rocks.
We cut our fingers
with a stolen jack knife
(the one you snagged from your mother’s boyfriend).
The exposed crevasse of sliced skin boiling,
running down our fingers like red tributaries
kissing and mating
into an estuary between the first finger and the thumb.
We spit
pressed our fingers together
and prayed
now we could never be separated.

I had watched the bubble of our saliva slide over my knuckle,
like a swollen rain drop
it plummeted to the earth
swallowed by the muck that oozed between our sweet toes.