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Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Madre (Life Notes)


Woodland hills of Bolinas Ridge west of the summit of Mount Tamalpais: photo by Hydrogen Iodide, 25 November 2005

Like a big tired buffalo

or ox

Mount Tam kneels beneath

a glittering ceiling

her blue and green

flanks rest, her shaggy

head settles

and drinks from the lagoon.

The fur of her underbelly is burnt and brown

cars wind down it

like ticks. The top

of her head is yellow and balding

except where a few squiggly redwood tips

crest it. She rests, in the blazing

light of a June afternoon, as I do.

Life is not conditional. IF

is only a


A whole life –- yours, mine, anyone's –-

can pass by in an instant. Hers

continues, like a music without notes,

unless you really strain

your ears to hear them, and maybe even then.

Dying pine tree near the summit of Mount Tamalpais: photo by Hydrogen Iodide, 25 November 2005


ACravan said...

What an extraordinarily natural and touching tribute to a natural place. It doesn't so much take my breath away as restore it to its proper place.

Life is not conditional. IF

is only a


That's just what I was thinking yesterday -- or something like it.

I'm always amazed to find an artifact that must have caused its creator a great deal of effort to bring into being seem to belong to the world so inevitably, so naturally.

Issa's Untidy Hut said...

"and maybe even then."

Fine, fine, Tom. Thanks.

TC said...

Many thanks, my friends.

I love the idea of one's breath being restored to its proper place. In a rather fraught time here, sleeping and breathing have lately seemed like fugitives, fled beyond pursuit.

But when I look at this poem and photos and the memories they evoke, my breath, too -- to redeploy your apt phrase, Curtis -- is restored to its proper place (even though the "actual" place is for us now forever buried in the enchanting out-of-focus paperweight blizzard-swirl of the long-ago...)

ACravan said...

I found reading Madre (Life Notes) particularly therapeutic in view of my ongoing "dislocation" problem. A friend of mine who is a Pilates instructor once told my wife that, although she thought I had some admirable qualities, I had no idea whatsoever "where I was in space." She also, like others before and after her (including doctors at various times), continually had to remind me to breathe. Madre (Life Notes) breathed life into the room and into me.



Great to see the mountain here (and just up there!), hear these notes. . . .


first grey light in sky above blackness
of ridge, moon above planet in branches
in foreground, sound of wave in channel

“more elaborated,” position
of space in more that

not far from it, what would
be called, becomes it

silver of low sun reflected in channel,
cormorant flapping across toward point

Ed Baker said...

that top photo is def
innately Mother !
maybe "her" as buffalo

"rent" in the fore
and the resting tine breasts

up on the right

I am thinking of that American Indian mythological

(as I recall) the mother of all life (Earth) that White Buffalo ?

I too

was up all night tossing things in mind
and practicing breathings

that rut in that mountain precisely

& the silence

Ed Baker said...

I didn't make up that White Buffalo myth ... it is
a Lakota beliefe and

well ... let us all smoke that .... pipe...

what's that old saying?

"put this in your pipe and smoke it"

and that old ditty"

"Buffalo Girl won't you come
home tonight come home tonight
come home tonight and
dance by the light of the Moon?"

gamefaced said...

and here i thought living a life was nothing but conditions and all this liquid ifs meeting made me. but i do love that line sir.

TC said...


and here i thought living a life was nothing but conditions and all this liquid ifs meeting made me.

I think I think that thought too now, every totally conditional night.

Then, now.

This poem dates back archeologically forty years, to a daylight dreamed real or stab-in-the-dark reality dream maybe not quite so totally conditional... anyway another place, another time.

The period of dirt roads and family subsistence on under $1000 a year and feeling lucky at that.

Still remember writing it, sitting inside a small homemade outdoor hutch constructed of carpet scrap and cinder blocks, with a corrugated plastic roof, looking up through the summer haze to that great bison mother mountain.

She seemed like our friend.

She has endured a lot. Now she looks down on designer clothing brand owners and movie directors and oenologists and weekending imperial gourmet queens.

And does she care?


I didn't make up that White Buffalo myth ...

and neither did Pawnee Bill.

Marcia said...

Places like Mt. Tam - and the Black Hills and Rocky Mountains - give us that one chance in today's world to breathe, to be alone, to touch the face of something so much greater and larger than we are.

Ed Baker said...

way back in the day me and Jamie Brownlow
long about 1974 or so
camped out in The Badlands The Black Hills

South Dakota

I am telling you ... it was like being on the moon !

Jamie and I were on the way back from California
to check on his family
who were in that huge flood that wiped out his family's town..

I forget the name of the town..

Jamie was )is) part Indian as I recall OGALOOGA

(Sioux ?)
and while camping we cut our thumbs and exchanged blood

Marcia... I like to think that there are some things/places left ..... virginal

now to see if I can find the name of that town and the flood

TC said...

I once walked the trail around the base of Devil's Tower. You can see out over the ridges and grasslands of the Black Hills stretching away for what seems like a hundred miles. When that was Indian country, it was possible to look out over a great wandering sea of Bison, from that sacred spot.

Robb said...

Beautiful, Tom. I love the warning yet I also think "can pass by in an instant" is misleading - every life passes by in an instant whether we like it or not. Iggiz told me that once, and I believe it, right or wrong. Where are we? Sometimes when I close my eyes it's the same as when they are open and that makes me wonder.

TC said...

Iggiz, he knew.

Sometimes when I close my eyes I wonder if I will ever open them again.

To sleep, perchance to dream... 'twould be bueno.