Five Years, Into the Fire

Sun Magazine Writers Retreat, Esalen

This year is my best experience yet. I am present, connected, tolerating my reluctance to engage at times, and participating more than ever before. I converse, listen, share with many participants and staff. Sy checks in on me, as does Tim. They remember the shape I was in the last couple years. Not this year. I’m in good shape, full member of this transient community of writers.

This year I branch out into poetry sessions. The following two poems are based upon prompts, first from the “Poem of the Moment” and the second “Mining the Dream Life”. Both are true stories. Feedback is welcome!


Stillness in motion

Oh, that fantastical moment!
When 1000 mile tour becomes

Though bicycle is heavy laden
With camping gear and clothing and rain gear and food and writing supplies

And rider likewise laden with history and memories and regrets and wishes and fears

That fantastical moment
when legs are stronger and no longer complaining
When back home affairs are finally in order
When mind has let go of distractions and obsessions and racing thoughts

That fantastical moment when the next 1000 foot hill is overcome with ease
And the next 1000 foot descent is unbridled and fearless and breakneck

That fantastical moment
When rider and bicycle have merged
When distance and time collapse
When there is no future and no past

When there is only

The hot sweat stinging eyes
The cool breath filling lungs
The strong pounding of heart
The good aching in legs

And the flaming scarlet ice plants clinging to golden sandstone cliffs over glowing turquoise shallows
The hawk and buzzard and pelican soaring against
the deep blue California skies

And the scents of eucalyptus and pine and wild dill and sage and brackish slough and briny sea

And the soft whirring of wheels on pavement
The wind whistling through helmet
The gentle surf hundreds of feet below


Kitchen Comeback

“You’re not going to die again, are you?”
I snap at my friend Zach
David glares back at me, with the pained look
only a father could give

Zach’s talking, excited, nearly bubbling about
a new violin piece he’s working up
Evan smiles too, imagining a new line
on the standup bass to accompany Zach

We’re all in David’s kitchen, warm against the cool Newport evening
I’m kind of surprised to see Zach
He died two weeks ago afterall
I guess they revived him. Again.

“You’re not going to die again, are you?”
I am sarcastic, angry at him for giving us such a scare. Again.
Zach beams, his normal glowing self.
“Of course, ” he responds lightly, with a stunning certainty.

I grab hold and hug him tightly, never going to let him go.
Then it hits me. I remember. He is already gone. Forever.
My sobbing awakens me in the dark night.

(This is a direct transcription, in poetic form, of a dream I had shortly after Zach’s death last Fall. Many of his friends described similar dreams.)

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