Gotta Wonder about the News by Paul Belz

Some dude, named bank robbery suspect
sits in his car, a slug in his head,
stares at San Francisco, doesn’t see.

Did he remember dogs at his end,
or think about black tailed deer, and that osprey’s nest
he found on his last hike? Maybe he hummed Coltrane,
Lady Gaga, Michael Franti, Bach.
He might have owned a parrot who greeted him, Hi, love,
and nuzzled his scratchy cheek with its feathered head.
Maybe he cooked a righteous stroganoff,
beef bourguignon, sauerbraten, baked Alaska,
sweet potato pie and never robbed a bank.

His name’s just suspect. No one knows
if he worked with homeless children,
lead workshops against rape, cared for his mom.
He’s dead, like Clyde Barrow, who may have liked cats.

Political Experiment by Paul Belz

Cottages_at_Cleadale_-_geograph.org.uk_-_838732

The landlord, “The Laird” went away,
deserted this island like a pond drying up.
His mess – broken down houses and pier,
spotty electricity, bare land, followed him.
Dancers, farmers, dreamers took charge.
No awaiting laird’s permission to plant trees.

A mud matted border collie
demands hikers toss stones towards Laig Bay
and Isle of Rhum whose wind slashed hills
slip in and out of clouds. No laird,
just an insistent dog who digs, tosses sand
when her guests pause to watch ring necked plovers
scurry on rocks. The hikers aim stones away from birds
and their barking friend fetches.
Late feudalism stumbled,
choked, flowed into abrupt democracy.
Cattle graze
on common land among old volcanic peaks,
Rabbits hop, corn crakes flutter among blue flowers.
Bats zip and zap mid air
near hidden cottages and crofts.
Thin roads weave through grassy hills.
Drivers pull over for sheep who “Baaa!”
in a hundred tones. White waterfall crashes
down black basalt cliffs.
No laird here;
farmers, historians, artists, teachers, cooks –
and a dog who runs back with a stone.

 

–Isle of Eigg, Scotland, July 2015.

 

 

Paul Belz is an environmental educator and writer, currently based in Chico, California. He teaches natural history for preschool and elementary students, their parents, and teachers. Paul has published articles in Terrain Magazine, the East Bay Monthly, Childcare Exchange Magazine, the website Boots’n’All, and the blogs Wild Oakland and Green Adventures Travel. He’s co-editing a book on bioregional education with Judy Goldhaft of San Francisco’s Planet Drum Foundation. His poetry appears in a number of publications, including Canary, Living in the Land of the Dead (an anthology on homelessness by San Francisco’s Faithful Fools Ministry), Poetalk Quarterly, Just Like Cabbage, Only Different, The Poeming Pigeon, Blueline, the anthology What’s Nature Got to Do With Me? and others. His other joys include hiking and camping, world travel, vegetarian cooking, and long walks around San Francisco and his hometown, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Two Poems by Paul Belz

Point Reyes Remains

Imagine limousines slicing through Pacific winds.
What if putting greens sprawled on coastal scrub?

This never occurred. No cul de sacs now.
Thirty pelicans rise, dip, bounce over waves,
turn and wheel above sandstone cliffs.
No Mercedes-Benz, just brown and gray quail
shaking tassels, herding young into coyote bush,
away from fox. Praise us a little, why don’t you?

Some dreamt of asphalt here. Split levels,
Chandeliers, saunas, dry bars,
picture windows facing the sea. They lost.

No wine bars or chateaubriand
with weekend jazz. Just osprey
flashing white from their wings, sticks in beaks
for nests in Douglas firs. Sometimes we got foresight!

No hair salons, just great egrets, tall white birds
strolling through marshes, beaks poised for frogs.
No cars – just sparrows singing in pines.
No cigar shops, only wildflowers and elk.
Houses don’t thrive here. Whales rise,
spray the sea, flash tails and flukes to the fog,
dive deeper than light can reach for a feast.
Sing our praises just this once.

The Lizard Catcher

Ten years old, she named the lizard Jim,
held him gently by his neck,
that blue belly she caught without my permission.
He twisted his head, nipped her with tiny teeth.
“Stop, Jim!” she giggled, and shared him with the class.
“Let him go!” I told the uncontrolled girl
of deep voice, shoulder length hair,
demim shorts, paintless nails. She grinned.
All the kids longed to touch his scales,
this bit of bumpy wildness in their friend’s hand.
“Set him free!” Contented by his rough touch,
she placed him on an oak’s root. Her friends sighed.
Reptile scampered over crunching leaves, dusty soil,
to darkness and safety in a log’s crack.
“Bye, Jim,” she whispered. “I’ll join you there.”

 

 

Paul Belz is an environmental educator and writer, currently based in Chico, California. He teaches natural history for preschool and elementary students, their parents, and teachers. Paul has published articles in Terrain Magazine, the East Bay Monthly, Childcare Exchange Magazine, the website Boots’n’All, and the blogs Wild Oakland and Green Adventures Travel. He’s co-editing a book on bioregional education with Judy Goldhaft of San Francisco’s Planet Drum Foundation. His poetry appears in a number of publications, including Canary, Living in the Land of the Dead (an anthology on homelessness by San Francisco’s Faithful Fools Ministry), Poetalk Quarterly, Just Like Cabbage, Only Different, The Poeming Pigeon, Blueline, the anthology What’s Nature Got to Do With Me? and others. His other joys include hiking and camping, world travel, vegetarian cooking, and long walks around San Francisco and his hometown, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Why We Need John Lennon by Paul Belz

Years earlier, I hated the Beatles.
All girls I longed to kiss screamed,
The Lads smoked (I was a good boy),
they played loud, and that hair!
Daring me, you dragged me to “A Hard Day’s Night.”
Defiant goofiness hooked me for life. Years later,

we listened to John again and again –
“As soon as you’re born, they make you feel small…”
our mantra. We shared Ruffles
with sour cream onion dip and Cokes.
“Yeah, after the Air Force, I’ll be done with the Draft,”
you matter- of- factly said, your eyes softly screaming.
Safe with a student deferment, I found no words,
life- long friend.

We’d chased Nazis and Commies
out of town with cap guns and toy tanks,
guzzled buttered popcorn and watched King Kong
smash Godzilla again and again.
After all the summer nights we spent on a porch
wrapped in soft sleeping bags, lullabied
by crickets and woken by work bound high heels,
after all the marshmallows we burnt to a gourmet ash,
and the nights we blammed rock’n’roll
on amplified ukes and bongo drums
driving my poor mother mad, after the make out parties
you described to shy me, I hid in pacifist dreams and had no words.
“…they hate you if you’re clever and they despise a fool…”
Reach him, John, I wished, opening more Cokes.

One New Years, I bought your Air Force weed.
We sat, stoned, motionless, and scared in a slow car
full of old pals while some cop followed us
three miles and shrugged us off. “…’til you’re so fuckin’ crazy
you can’t follow their rules.” That was our last time.

You wrote my mother from Vietnam
and survived. I had no words when the Air Force
released you to that canoe trip
where white water threw you helmetless
to boulders. I was helpless again,
but our brother John caught you,
helped you dance and howl.

 

 

Paul Belz is an environmental educator and writer, currently based in Chico, California. He teaches natural history for preschool and elementary students, their parents, and teachers. Paul has published articles in Terrain Magazine, the East Bay Monthly, Childcare Exchange Magazine, the website Boots’n’All and the blogs Wild Oakland and Green Adventures Travel. He’s co-editing a book on bioregional education with Judy Goldhaft of San Francisco’s Planet Drum Foundation. His poetry appears in a number of publications, including Canary, Living In the Land of the Dead (an anthology on homelessness by San Francisco’s Faithful Fools Ministry), Poetalk Quarterly, Just Like Cabbage, Only Different, The Poeming Pigeon, Blueline, the anthology What’s Nature Got to Do With Me? and others. His other joys include hiking and camping, world travel, vegetarian cooking, and long walks around San Francisco and his hometown, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

 

Editor’s Note: Watch Califragile in the next week for some of Paul Belz’ nature poetry.