James Grabill

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poems have appeared in numerous periodicals such as Willow Springs, Poetry East, Field, East West Journal, and The Common Review.  His recent books of poems include October Wind (Sage Hill Press, 2006) and An Indigo Scent after the Rain (Lynx House Press, 2003).  Grabill’s creative nonfiction includes Finding the Top of the Sky (Lost Horse Press, 2005) and Through the Green Fire (Holy Cow! Press, 1995).  He lives in Portland, Oregon, and teaches writing, literature (Beat Lit Creative Nonfiction, & Shakespeare), and sustainability.


A Dream of the Hippos



            One morning, I woke from a dream where prickly hedges around a parking lot became the heads of hippos with ravenous appetites for the heads of people.  


            These hippos could jump a person, chomp off the head, then root back into the hedges.  Soon x911 had been called as we stepped out toward our cars, all the green thickness circling the lot, the hippos’ fierce hungers eyeing us.  At my feet was a headless human we drug into a back room. 


            Later another day, I learned hippos were just determined endangered.  The safest place to be when they were outside was the fundraising dinner, where everyone pretended to be characters from history.


            The jay watched from a tall fir.



The Brain Preparing to Speak



            The news story about a rescue continues.  Knotted rhododendron roots & sweaty fungi wheel centers of solar heat under the yards.


            Surrounded by Roman numerals in the new report, half buried & eroded, the brain’s not only a shelter for guitar chords & parrots flying over grasslands.


            Bees labor on blossoms, as newly spaded ground sits by the door, waiting within reach of corpus callosum, near ancestors in the medulla oblongata.  & the diamond seed of pituitary clarity dips new photographs into acid memory in a black room, each profile possible a parallel workday,


            & wind from lobes of Egypt, viscous bread-scented splashes of English ale, the patio in Brazilia where species have been linked to the living that determine succession.  What moves following gravity’s bend between huge firs is a heaviness. 


            Before a speech, the brain scans its gymnasium, the craggy Utah cliffs alive with faces of regarded people & branches overhead bringing the reach of roots down.





Sunflowers & Evening Fog



            Three suns near her desk in a black frame, their yellow fire igniting private energy, & near them a gray pipe runs floor to ceiling as in the ‘50s, maybe a vacuum tube in an antique JC Penney’s, or protection guiding cables from a future solar roof I hope it becomes, the intense sun’s flowers burning their red centers & red hearings.


            Now we find thick evening fog as we leave to drive home, a few undersea doors scanned with rescue flashlights, suddenly lit long gray hair, such as what took one person down to the inside place, where she still looked for her difficult mother, clouds from a river party swelling fresh ground scent & rocky jazz in blurred lights, then silence lifting again from late fall beds & roots speaking wind in fir trees and pines. 


            Each needle with its rains & vapors sparking oils through the cells, green branchings solidly go combing inside us for what—I forget—as ancient Canadian geese are near, almost too high for us to see them, but their honking links in, from back of the mind, given a chance, the Van Gogh yellow petals chording, when deepened migration kicks in.