Wednesday, December 04, 2019


traversing up to the ridges
     and above the ridges
along perrysville avenue
and the charles street valley
leave orange sodium glare
where there were once houses
bouncing off bare hillsides
     hillsides we climbed nearly sixty years ago
when it still snowed

and below
in the river valleys
streetcars sang through hairpin curves
and car barn turn-a-rounds

wet snow stuck to you
then soaked you through
until your legs itched
and then drying off
next to a hot radiator
taking the heat inside
     you didn't mind the gray winter

the bottom of buena vista street
led into the park
a footbridge over railroad tracks
frozen in time
marking your first steps
on your own

--- e b bortz

Tuesday, December 03, 2019

earth note 722

pine and maple
hold a snow dusting
in their arms
like a meditation

the traffic reacts
goes manic
for a tuesday
school buses need to chill
or go on climate strike

a sparrow looking for cover
knows every storm
on the weather map
crows straying from the graveyard
head toward the wake

i've been told that these lines
are sounding too familiar
i can't disagree
need a change in venue
even the dog is getting bored

--- e b bortz

Sunday, December 01, 2019

earth note 721

if i could catch the spirit
in a bottle and put it on the shelf
december wouldn't be
as dark and gray
as it started out to be

these green walls might lift you
up above the fray
where the newspapers fade to yellow
the truth leaving fast
there's no need to find excuses

the leaves are close to compost
where the death knell brings new life
you said there's not much difference
a debate is never a debate
the sky is like a beginning before the shouting

those are not wet streets
but mirages
like the highway calling out
close your eyes for a thousand crows
     your voice in a bottle

--- e b bortz

Thursday, November 28, 2019

forgetting my key west cap on the oklahoma panhandle

chalk it up to age
or the red soil in your eyes
or a dark day before a moonless
or full-moon night
sometimes the stars
cover your wounds
'cept for the ones inside

sometimes you just need
to change everything
let the algae blooms
eat themselves out
or let's barge in and choke
the oil platforms
in their embryo

the heat is pushing
the rio grande backwards
up from the gulf through the canyons
of elephant butte
all the way to albuquerque
and then on to colorado
before cooling down a bit

it's never been like this before
native people in alaska
losing their homes and shoreline
to the rising ocean
charting new maps
backtracking moose tracks
reindeer herds lost on a winter night

those americana chords
were dug up about the time
of the maya
before the exceptional
became an ism
when the clay of the human hand
could lead you back home

--- e b bortz

Wednesday, November 27, 2019

earth note 720

an editor years ago
after publishing a shitload of my poems
over a several year period
asked me to stop using
the earth note numbering method
     for poem titles
implying that i seem to have found
a lazy way of titling
     there's an element of truth there

but i've never been a fan
of orthodoxy
nor of conforming
to any editor-self-inflating-wordplay
     puffery makes poor poetry

so let that stand as my
     au revoir

--- e b bortz

Monday, November 25, 2019

earth note 719

the morning had color
for a change
what's left of maple yellow
bright contrast
on a broken blue sky
scattering shadows
left by a muse or two
     you know this is a full-time job

--- e b bortz

Saturday, November 23, 2019

earth note 718

after a day of rain
the land changed
the flat roof porch turned into a still life
the rivers still too low to be heard
     hide their shadows instead
in maples well on their way
to being leafless
you already know the phrase
about weather men & women
repeating the obvious
is too easy of a way
there is no way out

when the dog barks
you know you've taken
too much for granted
a rumbling below
comes in an odd frequency
     only nonhumans and trees can feel it

if you stay to the trail
footprints and words
become predictable

--- e b bortz

Thursday, November 21, 2019

earth note 717

about the time we reach new mexico
every gnarly haired dog
will become the wildness
     free spirit
of the mesquite tree

like the one growing
out of the rock
its roots going deep
     deep enough
to survive another dry year

the sun drops on its way
to a brown horizon pulling it down
high desert dreams become dust
     as the ground shifts
mesquite twists

--- e b bortz

Friday, November 15, 2019

jerome arizona circa 1980

our paths may have crossed
about the time the art galleries found a home
on main street
long after the copper mine wars
now metal desert
a dustbin portal from the wobblies 1917 strike
& deportation from the land of the 'free'

i don't know if utah phillips ever wrote
a song about it
but he might have

and long before that
the songs of the hohokam
now sculpted into cold rock
transitioned into old frame houses of living color
     oil paint on canvas
frame makers and fabric artists
i can see a singer/songwriter
in a vintage studio
& tourists climbing those hills
carrying their own crosses

and yes there's always love
     kate wolf
heartbeats     hands & a voice
caught just in time
as the verde valley

--- e b bortz

Tuesday, November 12, 2019

earth note 716

first flakes are listless
almost still
random rendezvous

to even fall this gray morning
is still something
of a transformation

--- e b bortz

Saturday, November 09, 2019

i never said the highway wouldn't be just an empty promise

any direction
year in year out
corn fields or orange groves
when it all passes
it's just
earth or ashes

just because you hold the wheel
doesn't mean you'll ever stay
on the straight and narrow
the lines in your face
and below your waist
tell a different story

someone a long time ago
told me that every day
that passes without a reckoning
is just another wasted one
you run out of days

what looks like doom
might just be the end of time
or a song not written yet
or hidden words between the lines
you forgot to speak
when you had the chance

--- e b bortz

Thursday, November 07, 2019

earth note 715

riding rain and a gray overcast
a drum line of crows
echo from the wings
to center stage

followed by an entourage
of a hundred more
their voices riffraff

then fade

--- e b bortz

Monday, November 04, 2019

all the old imperial quotes

puffed up from fifty years ago
like a wake & speech that never end
back to life
just to grab those last couple foundational illusions
     obedience & authority
then to polish the buttons on the uniforms
     one more time
for another war cloaked in the rhetoric
like 'we have no alternative'
but to soldier on
and protect the oil fields
for future generations
with the vast deserts of the inferno
where the abyss will rise up and find
the silent majorities

--- e b bortz

Thursday, October 31, 2019

earth note 714

riverview park where you can't see the river

beginnings aren't always what they seem
like the ohio valley
purportedly beginning
in its customary thick haze
where two other rivers come together
unless of course the deep green north fork
was always the allegheny
like the ohio was never born
but only a continuation of the north fork
and where a south fork monongahela joined in
unless of course as summer peters out
leaving the insides
of a monotonous confusing screenplay series
sold to netflix
stirring up the drought
on the way downriver
everything dried up
like a cracker plant full of plastic promises
for every bent chief executive
a folded worn out dollar bill
might be okay in a monopoly game
but it sure as hell won't explain
who buried the rivers in silt
who grew the fly-ash mountains and dams
and where are the weeping willows
when you really need them

--- e b bortz

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

earth note 713


it all started at the southern tip
of digby neck in nova scotia
the whales speaking of loneliness
but with their innate knowledge
just before sun up
knowing the atlantic as deep
as the coming rain
before it doubles back as a nor'easter
painting the shoreline deep rocky gray
disregarding any difference
between night and day


by the time you reach
the acadia wilderness
autumn will finally take hold
all the storms pushing inland
the possibility of a few weeks
looking dry


from cape cod
there are drums
banjos and fiddles
before the state park
closes for the season
one more trip to provincetown
for the rainbow frame houses


it's a long stretch down
to ocracoke island
sometimes the headwind
as beautiful as it might be
will stop you like a wall
choose your winter coat carefully
or don't stop until you get to


daytona beach
in the company
of a thousand beach bikes
there's always a cajun dance
that started somewhere in nova scotia
don't care if they call us squatters
so far the sand is still free
and the roar of the highway muffled
by the rush of the halifax river

--- e b bortz

Thursday, October 24, 2019

earth note 712

start writing in darkness
by dawn
all will be clear

winter still two months away

the streets are filling
with advocacy
water wars have begun

leave the oil & gas in the ground

beyond the desert
a canyon known as wealth gap
says it all

a square dance from fancy gap western virginia
ain't no reel

a derrick in every hollow
is a poor excuse
for a schoolhouse

find a lonely fiddler without a bow

the highway is more than a blue ridge
your bumper to bumper
has forgotten the aboriginal mounds

listen to the river it will take you home

a black sky
has the capacity
for empathy

give out a shout if you see a sunrise

--- e b bortz

Monday, October 21, 2019

earth note 711

a roof and chimney throw a shadow
against the hillside
mortar and shingles go missing
boarded windows line the alley
migratory birds gather in the old churchyard
maple green holds on
goes orange without notice
the sky will sing
when it's time
blues is always an open highway

--- e b bortz