If you ever lose heart and the earth seems as distant as stars fading into the noise of your busy mind, know this. That a tiny island exists in the blue hands of the ocean. That a tree grows upright into the salted clouds. That two eagles love each other enough to spend their lives greeting the morning sun together. That two eaglets stand in their nest, gazing at the heavens. Looking down to the forever ground. They eat and sleep and flap their wings. And one day in July, one by one, they will jump into the air. They will know the difference between existing and what is beyond. They will hold onto nothing. The hurricane will come, courage catching their pinions on fire, as they mount the wind, climbing ladders into realms of the invisible.

--T.L. Stokes

Saturday, August 27, 2011


In the last days of summer fields turn
gold, warming as the burning bowl
wends its way. Drying stalks open
like curtains to our feet. Grasshoppers
snap their hard bodies.

When she walks, the girl's hair sways
like a horse's tail. Her long arm reaches
into thorns for black berries. She feeds
two to the dogs.

She says it feels like something's broken
inside of me.

Back at the house we both grab
a couch and a dog. Her eyes are rain
between stretches of blue sea and cloud shapes.

The small promise of the cell
and embodiment leaves her,
like the seeds of grass, like rain,
like the abundance of all things.

A secret tide. The wind, so quiet
it's almost not there catches on a stem
in the field for an instant, a handful
of seeds spill.

The sun fills the rest
of the valley of the day.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

After the War


Horses are wind across the field. The woman
braids fingers into the horse's mane, running like this
makes the brain go silent. Dreams chasing her fall
in the grass. The sun picks them up. Hoof beats
drumming are thunder and years of soldier
clothes and horrified scenes are over. The hours
with horses are the only real freedom. She enters
the wind of their breathing. It pulls her hair back.


If she could do anything it would be this:
undo the harm to others and make amends,
but how do you change history? She lifts up her hand
and the walls of the day are filmy leaking color
and dissolve away. She opens her hand and the
sun grows brighter, shines until she see nothing.
And the quiet is loud and the crying comes like
music closer and closer and the colors are harsh.
Someone is lying in the mess. There are pieces
everywhere. Someone is shouting or shooting
and then it stops. The bird in the cage of her throat
swells and flutters to come out.


The pages of the book of her life
are torn in places and it was hard to read.
She placed it on a shelf and forgot about it.
At night when she can't sleep it calls to her
like a bird she forgot to feed. It calls and
calls but she can't hear it. The night fills
the room like a black lake. When it gets to her
nose she waves her hands trying to remember the
formula someone once gave her, to breathe
under water.


The woman picks up the book, moves a hand
over the cover and begins to remember her
name and what language her life is written.
A few pages are missing. She runs a finger
over the uneven edge and as she does, it
begins to mend. The paper like dragonflies
opens and shimmers. The words begin to
fly around the room. They circle her head.
Just then the dog walks in. The book is gone.
The day shifts.


Two horses stand by the old tree of crooked elbows.
An eagle watches everything. The woman rises from
the brown field all soft and unreal and her body
becomes a large dark bird, opening and closing it wings
tasting summer and its youth, all forgiven because there
is nothing to be forgiven for.


This is life. Horses. A book. A dog. An eagle. Seasons
of death and life. Recycling storms and floods sweep it away.
Out of the dark void of all things, the universe of endless mystery
floats. Black holes, infant stars. The past does not exist,
nor time, nor future. The woman reading. The love of the dog
saying with its dark eyes this moment is all there is. This
moment I am everything you lost and gained. I am those who
were harmed, I am those who have loved you. I am all things,
sit with me. Feel how I forgive you, how large and expansive
this is. I am the gift you give yourself. I am what you didn't
know, your spirit you misplaced in the darkest hour.
Feel, as I return to you.


There was a sound like a click when gears come loose,
something slides, a shift in the air. She takes
a deep breath. The woods begin to awaken, the water
bends away. The woman feels the red muscle of her heart
come free of its cage.

dedicated to Msseaman
and Karamia, her dog

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

The Singing Shell

The sun lays its head on my shoulder,
I drive down the freeway. The sky
was not pink as you remember it,
nor the fire of it a bloody orange or red,
and the smoking drifts did not curl like twine.
Boats did not rise nor sails catch the heaven.
It was not anything you could imagine
nor anything named.

Without definition sky opens her book
and tells you a thing about your life.
Tenderness you miss. Where the eagles
will be when you can't see them. Where
you are, what kind of a mystery, and it's gone.
The vibration does not tremble the ear,
you can not imagine this; something remembered
from before you were alive. A drawing
on the Sail Maker's table. That spacious feeling
just before you sleep.

The sun glances away, and when you turn your face
the shadow wraps you up. Have you seen the opal moon
gleaming and wide, suspended voyager, cold light?
A childhood promise, a new shoe. The sailor's dream.
Container of all poems and romantic thought, wish-bearer,
your singing shell. There it is in the thick round sky,
a black sea surrounding its beautiful loneliness.

for longing


I only wanted one thing and that was, just once,
to lie across the massive nest of sticks and twigs.
Stretch my body out and see how big it was.
So in dark cloud of the night I climbed up, pulled
myself over the branching rim and without a sound,
laid down and slept.

The sun slips through clouds slowly enlarging
the last day. A day like all the others, it opens like
my hands. I look down at them marveling how
feathers have begun to sprout from all the fingers.
I lift my dark head, shine the bead of my eyes
to the beaches, the sea. Listen while the sun cracks
open, spooning lemon through the woods, over my back.
I stretch out one leg, open and close my bright talon.
Unfold my right long oar of a wing it brushes over
my sister. I look but she's left and perches on the
babysitting tree glaring at her world. She is scary.
I love her. I sit up, stretch and bow to the day,
open the dark prayer of my wings. Shoot white
paint. Shake and ruffle out my feathers. Begin to count
them, sliding my beak along the stems. Comb and tuck.
Thirsty lungs open and suck in the salty air. I shake
my lovely feathers again. Then I get an idea. My crop
is a small echo and my belly seems large. Lake a cave
of little voices. I scan the horizon, listen for the spear
of our parent's call. Across the beach they sing a different
song. It rises like a hunger leading us away. Without even a
brief hook in the wind, or changing slant of sun coming
down the old stump. Without a thought really, I reach into
the sky, pull it towards me. Clear the jagged branches. Sweep
upward. Alexandra comes too and we simply follow, Mom
has gone and Dad brings us along. The salmon singing tell
us it is time. If you look over whale rock to the right beyond
Hidden Cove, above the trees leaning down, see our dark
shadows go smaller and smaller. I point my face towards
what I do not know. Alexandra says it's rivers in the north.
My heart like a pulsing stone feels like it could burst
and I sing and sing my joy and trepidation. Alexandra
silently pushes wind, determined as her raptor heart dictates.
Steel and fire. Inside I have a small thought, I know she is
a little afraid like me but never shows it. We follow the large
wings telling us hurry, come quickly. Like burning meteors ,
night's falling river, the fish churn toward their memory.
Each salmon is a word, a benediction, the last gift. Even
before we get there we write prayers across the sky.

for fledglings David and Alexandra

c2011 T.L. Stokes (all rights reserved)

Sunday, August 7, 2011

The Boy as an Owl

“Close your eyes,
Have no fear,
The monsters gone,
He's on the run and your daddy's here,

Beautiful, beautiful,
Beautiful Boy,”

Beautiful Boy by John Lennon

I sit in the room with two windows
waiting for the moon and the poem,
and I look into your eyes and see us
in the darkness.

Beautiful boy.

If I am light now and yellow, you are all the shades of black,
the back cover of the book, the stolen joy,
the owl in the night perfectly folded.
Sapphire beads and shade
in the valley of its face.

Though I know you didn’t fit
in a world of distraction,
the hidden rules,
you gloried in the forest of your existence,
late elbowed together with your own kind,
flying silent.

You moved in a realm
to which we were blind;
shut doors you knew
and didn't know were there.

Where are your hands now Terry?
Laying all the letters down
in lines of neat and ordered soldiers,
smoothing the paper as it slides through the press.

Ink defining tips of fingers soaking up the scent of it.
Eyes darker, wider set.
You shuffle in and out of rooms
perfectly at home as a foreigner,
while ink of the dreamtime
writes an explanation.

The sky is falling with the sun into the brim.
Here lies the vastness and horror of separation:
nine tenths of your life was a room
and no hallway to get there.

Going away was how you arrived and off
you've gone. Without a kind word,
“what a nice hand to hold”.

You slip from my marrow,
hasten your breathless feathers.
I sit on the edge of the bed on the anniversary
of you taking your life away,

and I don’t even know
that under our rafters
you sit by the lamp shade
on top of the bed post,

folding your speckled feathers
together like a book you’d like to give me,
or a song,

humming like owls do
when they’re satisfied,

…”beautiful beautiful boy.”

For the Spotted Owl we loved so well.

Thursday, August 4, 2011


In the land of giants is a room
hidden in the outlines,
down in the sweet fir scent.

Under light of the sky,
outside shadows,
a place to sit.

Across the bay they come like geese
spirits casting brief reflection
fingers on the waves.

Bird voices
looking for the kindest weather.
People wearing their animal skin,
others raptor-hearted, feather-haired
come to us wounded.

They limp or land hard,
leaves rustle and fall.
As ghosts of the earth
we gather them to these green arms,

speak to them low in a language
they will understand,

hold them
until they remember themselves again,
knit their cells together,
look up,

feel the balance,

drink from the sweet well
of that river
we know as peace.

for the observers of raptors
who search for healing.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Cliff Dwelling

The woman and man
who live here
rise with the eagles
and the sun.

It is the only way to follow cycles
of the day in perfect unity.

Connected with the light
as it adorns each piece
of earth with form.

Drawing forth our memory
of who we are
from the forgetting of
the dreamtime.

Pearl Rock has a necklace
connecting her to the sea.

Abalone clouds are ships
with all destinations
to one place--the mountain,

who gathers them onto
her white shoulders.
Her arms stretch to either side
including us all.

Here on the cliff we sit.
Whale rocks
float in the high tide below
without moving.

All the stones
came here for a reason.

I listen to them
and the king fisher
calls in the distance.

Mother of all arbutus
holds the squirrel's treasure,
her body now a sculpture,
gray and black.

Next to her grows the eucalyptus,
in ever-widening arcs
flowers short and tall flame.

Their colors are the drink
of air and bees.

Nuthatches circle my head
as the sun lowers
toward the ring of mountains
and finally
into the sea who sails away.

for Madrona and Wolf
with gratitude.