Friday, July 20, 2018

we were just fifteen

walking back from our loafing stoops
on columbia place
to her stoop on flocker way

not sure how it happened exactly
but when i brought my clarinet
over to the second-fifth presbyterian church
on brighton road
and placed the sheet music down for
     stranger on the shore
i never thought for a moment
there would be someone
who would sit down next to me
and sight read perfectly
the piano accompaniment

but she did
without hesitating
sweat rolling off my fingertips
her fingers
bridging the keyboard

--- e b bortz

Thursday, July 19, 2018

earth note 602

more than one
generational change
down on river road
from the babushkas
ketchup & pickle plant
to the river trail
bicycles     kayaks    
rowers     runners
the old people still fish
     a few young ones
     push baby carriages

cars with bike racks
fighting with each other
looking for a parking space

the suburbs have shoved
their way into the urban

the condos have pushed out
the pork bellies & cow tongues

the river listens
then moves on
from the auctioneer cadence

--- e b bortz

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

earth note 601

black clouds filling up
close to dusk
a lone chimney swift calls
before the downpour

--- e b bortz

Friday, July 13, 2018

earth note 600

itasca county minnesota

a few miles up the road
from town
in the middle of a rock pile
and broken glass
someone thinks they have a bead
on bob dylan's dream
even if they never cleaned
creosote out of a wood stove
or saw the inside
of a log-built sauna

there are crappies chasing
shadows they thought
were dragon flies
the great blue heron
takes a final swoop
before the summer thunderstorm
and even out on spider lake
white birch bark becomes your parchment
taking on a whole new meaning

of what it means to write a story
in the middle of a memory
in the middle of a rock pile

--- e b bortz

Monday, July 09, 2018

earth note 599

marshall trail

smooth gray pebbles
small sharp cinders
a few loosely sunken cobblestones
indigenous black topsoil
a mixup like a stew
spread by unnatural selection
crossing over mountain bike tire tracks
where the trail divides and pushes on through
like a reprieve from a heat wave
a large doe
springing to her feet
long leaps across
oak      maple      ash
leaning into a soggy hillside
to catch the sky
deepest blue

--- e b bortz

Friday, July 06, 2018

earth note 598

little colorado river

for every dry wash
on the high desert
there are lost communities
parched bodies
hidden beneath the flame
perceptive beyond explanation
way beyond
the modern sun worshippers
and expensive sandals

the original people
grew squash
made decisions together
knew the seasons
nurtured families
made music
told stories

of the future

--- e b bortz

Thursday, July 05, 2018

earth note 597

a tentative breeze whisks tears
up the avenue
their own state of mind
like droplets being saved
     the fireworks are over
yet they haven't really begun
hunger can't be satisfied
by a cup of rainwater
as pure as that may be

--- e b bortz

Tuesday, July 03, 2018

earth note 596

sparrow drying out
on a wrought iron railing

--- e b bortz

Saturday, June 30, 2018

sweet lorraine

toledo, circa 1955

walking right in on a
count basie concert
in that old hotel ballroom downtown
not far from the porcelain enamel plant
& department store
my stepfather johnnie & mother ida
worked at
taking us to experience what i now know
as the backbeat
of every clapboard house we ever lived in 
my mother's tongue casserole
endless pots of chili
on the stove
ready to be reheated
when we all came together
for supper
and johnnie would play
sweet lorraine
one more time
on the victrola

--- e b bortz

Tuesday, June 26, 2018

columbia place

northside pittsburgh, circa 1962

soaking up the smell
of cabbage and sausage
stale beer spilled over
on the stoops
at the end of the alley
screen doors slamming
out of row houses
off-white doily curtains
blowing through open windows
of peeling paint

this old world
about to change

john f kennedy
rolling down brighton road
a fixed patrician smile
genuine nod
from the back of a convertible
a village comes out 
hands waving
sometimes a fist

--- e b bortz

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

earth note 595

east fork san juan river, colorado


hand water pump
comes up dry
even as the big pines
emit a freshness
from the tips of their needles
cold as a mountain summer
on the earliest morning
just beyond the solstice
a quiet wave
leaves the valley


friday night camper gathering
at the host site
the fire cooks peppers & tomatoes
on a stick
someone brings homemade ice cream
melting through a few stories


tracing starlight back to the tent
the eyes of a deer flicker
grass rustles
bed opens

--- e b bortz

Monday, June 18, 2018

earth note 594

there's a heat wave
tearing your insides out
your heart might end up
beating in the palm of your hand
at least you'll put it on ice
to keep it running

down over the hill
where the trail begins
there's a green cluster
dying of thirst
below the outcrops
a small shift
and it'll become another landslide

no one is guaranteeing
a reprieve or salvation
no one is picking a fight
no one has a magic key or code
everyone is looking over their shoulder
what started out as a weather report
is now ending indeterminate

the last pool of water
turned out to be a mirage
all the easy riders are gone
leaving at sunrise
no one mentioned a last supper
or a route number

the wind just picked up
like an oven door opening
find your best walking shoes
the crows will get you as far
as the graveyard
where the stones stay cold
     after that
     find a neighbor
     & follow the big dipper

--- e b bortz

Thursday, June 14, 2018

earth note 593

this one
came from many places
before it landed
on the page
when there's no sunlight
to wake you
there's always
a cold sweat
it breaks out
and leaves tracks
though you never notice them
right away
pretty soon there will be shadows
at the base of the maples
that seem gentle
but you know you've been fooled
each leaf casts its own profile
never duplicated
the mourning dove will speak
the wind will rise and carry it
until you notice

--- e b bortz

Monday, June 11, 2018

earth note 592

seoul, 1990

peace will come
when it's not
bought and sold
in a weapons flea market

--- e b bortz

Friday, June 08, 2018

earth note 591

koh samui thailand

the sea is green
then blue
just as the last wave
of the old year
skips a beat
to any future forecasting

a long-shaft fishing boat
is out looking for easy pickings
as the equator
seems to shift
an imaginary line in the water
to a sun
burning through

--- e b bortz

Friday, June 01, 2018

recovering notes from the deep, part 18

pittsburgh circa 1967

my roommate on jacksonia street
who worked at krogers on the northside
had a knack for bringing home t-bone steaks
just as we were running out of everything else

     that was edible

no questions asked

and then usually there would be some partying
sergeant pepper style
and some of the girls
from our high school graduating class
would come over and we'd talk about
those still around and others who drifted away
or got drafted including those who died

the living room had bare floors that we sat on
and a sliver or two but a good gas space heater
open flames just like you'd expect
from a falling down 3rd-floor walkup

the doors this is the end
haunted everyone who came over to see us
this was a kind of anthem for those of us
living on the otherside
where we painted the bathroom walls & fixtures black
where there were no dorms
and class schedules
only hard labor
or tedious production-line-piece-work

months passed and my roommate
always restless
suddenly decided to rent a truck
and move to the west coast sunshine

on the last night we laughed and rapped
reliving our experiences
passing through the rubicon
which i thought then
could only happen once
     as i helped him pack
shaking hands like it would be
the last time
which it was
as he slipped the doors album onto the turntable
like it was sending him down the road

i never heard from him again
but pretty sure he caught
the best part
of the summer of love
probably getting lost regularly
in golden gate park
guiding groups of merrymakers
and cerebral adventurers
in and out of the free stores
crash pads
lost lovers
on their way to nirvana

--- e b bortz

Thursday, May 31, 2018

earth note 590

we've done our best
to follow the natural contours
of the land
all of its raw spirit
from the grand tetons
towering above
where there are no paths
or maps 
just inner voices
where all else
is silent

--- e b bortz

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

earth note 589

heat and wind can't decide
how it'll get through the day
maybe just give up and rain
i watch the leaves for direction
bearing down on the avenue
the cars have become manic
     and now a police car
     gunning it
     lights flashing

there's a robin who hangs around
most every day
on the roof gutter
never much to say
skittish before
taking off
dodging just over the box truck

not a good day to move

--- e b bortz

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

earth note 588

photos by Sandra L Hazley

little torch key

every warning has a storm
even as the water becomes quiet
and your hands
take flight

--- e b bortz

Sunday, May 27, 2018

earth note 587

gray clouds
have their own sound
falling to earth

my eyes
are tuned to listening
from bare mist
there's heavy breathing

maples remain still
in their own language
hiding in green

--- e b bortz

Saturday, May 26, 2018

earth note 586

a poet travels light
in a full body
of white pine sprouts
before going thin
as bamboo

--- e b bortz

Friday, May 25, 2018

earth note 585

old bahia honda bridge

a sunset can be a portal
north or south
no decision is final
there's always a chance
to change direction
when the manta ray gather
follow the shadows

--- e b bortz

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

earth note 584

before it's all over
everything will have its say
even the chainsaw
peeking out of the city park
an unabashed counterfeit dollar
looking for a quick cash-out
or just following orders
     future generations of buds
     before they're born

--- e b bortz

Saturday, May 19, 2018

earth note 583

canopy waving
leaves turning over
like hands opening to rain
or an ocean surf
or a corner of the world
that can't be bought

i never understood
much about the buddha
except the stillness of the form
in the heat
in the afternoon

before the monsoon
your body will drip
like a rubber tree
water not blood
is where the river begins

if the soul could speak
it would begin
with a whisper
that you might not hear

once in a rainforest
i heard but never saw
a waterfall
laughing in steady rhythm
     like a heartbeat

--- e b bortz

Monday, May 14, 2018

don't talk to me about context

the editorials leave blood on the page
the only thing real
are dead palestinians
at the gaza border
drones survey a plain of death
thousands of gunshot wounds
below the kneecap
a generation missing limbs
facing a generation of snipers
where symbols have no meaning
you only need to see
the missing limbs

--- e b bortz

Wednesday, May 09, 2018

earth note 582

photos by Sandra L Hazley

bear river, nova scotia, late summer 2004

as the tide went
so went the clam pickers
the artists having now moved in
praising the ritual
as old as human feet at this inlet
there's a frame house with dylan's verse
painted on in bold mind-blowing colors
     one hand waving free    
     in quotes

at the mi'kmaq gathering
the drums and dream catchers
find whale voices
in harmony

--- e b bortz

Tuesday, May 08, 2018

earth note 581

canyon walls like cursive
their lines impatient with the sun
and the river rush     
     an echo below 

when dusk comes
there are words that fit the poem
you think you've found
before they adjust and move on
fissures are connected
passing over each hour
finding new meaning
from warm and cold rock
     a grounding for the body
there might be talk from some
that a hand came down
to touch all this
or maybe it's just magic
beyond the supernatural
the sun and moon
with a hand as well 

by night
a new song
and galaxy
will take flight
--- e b bortz

Sunday, May 06, 2018

earth note 580

i thought the end of the road
would T-off into
two new directions
so i kept walking
even shin-deep in peat
wetlands to feed
all of your best intentions
but no
that isn't enough
the end of the road just
brings you back
to where you started

when ginsberg played his squeeze box
all the walls and cigarette smokers
went into a panic
even strom thurmond shit his pants
the monsters went into hiding
even if it was just
for an overnight

then when you least expect it
the road will turn dry and rocky
the heat will pry out every last
drop of your brow
leaving you a hollow frame
in place of that fleshy smile
lips love
diving into

at some point
you'll become
on the great prairie
of endless sunflowers
without fear or compass
and earth
will breathe
in spite of the plunderers

--- e b bortz