Category Archives: What inspires a poem

Magi of the Meadow

Between May 1987 and May 2003, my wife and I gardened a “Birchwood Acre” about 3 miles north of downtown Bellingham, WA. In the late 1990’s, I strung lights on three trees growing in the corner of our mini-meadow for the holidays. Whence came this poem.

        Magi of the Meadow
In a far corner of our meadow

behind the wild roses,

Magi emerge in predawn light,

bearing gifts of resin gum,

oil, and sweet incense.

Leading in columnar splendor,
with branches erect, an incense cedar

bears sweetness in leaves and fiber.

           Blue spruce, with gum and spring honey
    hidden in a bristly cloak defying touch,
    advances on the right.

    Western cedar, crossed boughs
in gentle grace, spreads oil
and fragrance on the meadow trail.

    Preceded by a melody slipping
    on the breeze as a misty rain,
    in their habits adorned
    from crown to sweeping skirt,

    a thousand jewels in the dawn.

                Bellingham, WA

“Words in Silence Speak”

When westerly zephyrs tease roses, and
hummingbirds hesitate their nectar search
to hear silent voices on the wind;

when the south wind moistens
earth’s vagrancies in fog and mist,
hese voices travel beyond;

when east wind rustles leaves,
golden tinder sparks the air,
passersby read the posted words;

when north wind blows men and treasure
to the depths of the sea,
I listen for these voices;

when the rhythms of wind and sun
are in moments of harmony and peace,
slips of paper—words—silent voices,

old, new, experienced and being, are
pinned to weathered faces of a cedar stylus
with heart and spirit in an aura of love.

    Yakima, Washington

The Poetry Pole was planted in a rose garden by the sidewalk in residential Yakima, WA, in 1995. There it stood until last winter when Jim Bodeen, its caretaker, moved to Selah, WA, and planted it by the sidewalk of his new residence.

According to Jim—poet, English teacher, Viet Nam veteran, advocate for young Latinos, and founder of Blue Begonia Press—the idea of a poetry pole came to

him in a vision. Encouraged by friends, he a planted a four-sided cedar post “along the path of the mailman and the butterflies.”

Egalitarian and democratic, The Poetry Pole is accessible to all ages, life-styles, races and cultures. Poems may be personally pinned to the post or sent to Bodeen by mail or e-mail.

I first learned about The Poetry Pole last spring, when Terry Martin , co-editor of Weathered Pages: The Poetry Pole Anthology, read from her own work here in Bellingham. Last summer, my wife and I visited the original site, unaware the pole had moved. That was OK; I still felt its presence and was inspired to write “Words in Silence Speak.”

For additional information go to

Eight Bells Toll

A gale force blew across the sound that October night

when the MISS LINDSAY dragged her anchor

and rolled her keel

in the shallows of Portage Island

before eight bells tolled over Bellingham Bay.


Was it a rogue that broke the swell

and swamped this purse seiner,

her nets stowed and holds clean,

and drowned these fishers

of Russia’s tides and Mexico’s shores?


With voices hushed and tears freely flowing,

the mourners still hear a crewman’s voice—

once crisp and clear—now a whisper in the wind:

Do not wait for our watch to end.

Do not wait for eight bells to toll over Bellingham Bay.


The seiner’s pulsing diesels vibrate the sea

under gray and misting skies.

Its crew tosses a wreath on the quivering bay.

With their skiff, they circle

as if pursing their comrades’ last cast.


They return to their stations

and sail into nightfall

leaving their tribute

to bob on the harbor eddy

in eerie afterglow of fishing lights.

                    Hale Passage, Puget Sound, WA


Just Zucchini!

     Sometime in midsummer 1998 when my wife and I were very much into gardening, we made the mistake of taking a few days off. When we turned, our zucchini patch was a monstrous jungle. With a wheelbarrow load of fruit, I could only think of one thing to do: write a poem! The next spring, our Master Gardener Foundation used my photo on the cover and Just Zucchini! as the concluding page of a cookbook.