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Dick Bakken

Letter from Debra

Living in a tent

has really calmed me down.

That fear of darkness

is almost gone. Charles was away

for some nails right before full moon

—and I loved the nights

alone. I bathed in the water tank

by moonlight

and slept so naked.

Lately the foxes

are moving in closer. I glimpse

their faces through my fingers while

sipping tea. At dusk

the vixen hunts across our meadow.

When I whisper, she stops—

and shows her tongue. She and her mate

drink from the old water tank

where I bathe.

Michael comes out

from town on weekends. He never

gives me noise when I shake

off my dress and dance just because

there’s a moon.

At midnight on solstice

he’ll shinny whatever one glimmered oak

I step to

and steal mistletoe.

These shy little creatures

are coming so close—

They sit out in the chaparral and watch

while I’m alone in my nightgown

like I won’t know

they’re here. I don’t want to disturb them

with hammering

or have cats or dogs. They drink

from the water I bathe in.

Charles says

our cabin is nearly finished.

But I don’t want to live inside walls

any more. In the tent

I can look out at the stars, breathe

blown air. I love undressing and waiting

in the meadow tank

where my foxes

wet their naked tongues.

High in Idaho Rockies*

So lost since daybreak way up

wakened in all that oxygen,

I crashed down through wild

brush to step up on log rot

suddenly breath to breath

with an elk. I knew his heat

wafting my face, eyes widened

as mine. I could have touched

his quivering lips, that heart

pounding into my chest.

Alive with oxygen I marveled

through a span of antlers revolving

with that great head and all of me

before he stepped calmly away.

I heard him vanish into brush

and silence, then down beyond

where he had breathed, a cutbank

wavered, thus a road. He dissolved

back up into Idaho, me an hour

on down into Montana and

a long hypnotic trudging out.

*Ends of evergreen needles and mist
droplets from creek cascades make
points round which oxygen is created.

What is Sleep

transcribed from taped live improvisation

sleep is the brain of a flower

sleep is your last chance to open like a parachute

sleep is a train with gold windows coming over a waterfall

sleep is that long sled ride down a snowy hill

sleep is the star at the bottom of my beer

sleep is an elephant kneeling to a child with a sparkler

sleep is the castle you were born in

sleep is in love with the butterfly of my lips

sleep is a horse nobody else can ride

sleep is the desert at night on a lunchbox pressed to our heart

sleep is the journal of God


that’s what sleep is

sleep is a nun driving a tractor into a snowstorm

sleep is a stop sign in flames

sleep is a semi rolling wide open through a cathedral

sleep is the highway away from my head

sleep is glowing like any tailpipe in the stars

sleep is a loose ribbon falling from the sky

sleep is a balcony full of soldiers tossing rose petals and panties

sleep is the lost dress that floats

sleep is a blind sailor who kisses like a woman

sleep is that milk you thought you’d never get again

sleep is not ours to keep

sleep is where the wind went


what is sleep

fog in a cat’s mouth

                             popcorn on a lamb’s back

                                                                  a cloud in an elevator

sleep is a Cadillac with a hood full of doves

sleep is a watermelon kissed by a priest

                                             sleep is a hot

                                        flashlight to my heart

                                    as I swim to the cellar with

                                        my red eyes glowing

All three poems from The Whiskey Epiphanies, by Dick Bakken, Pleasure Boat Studio: A Literary Press, New York, September 2014.

Dick Bakken's brand new book is The Whiskey Epiphanies: Selected Poems 1963-2013. His poem “Song” was displayed across the USA in Poetry on the Buses. He won an Arizona Commission on the Arts Artist Projects Grant and the 2010 Bisbee Idol First Place Trophy for rapping his poem “A Fish in School.” His work appears in Greatest Hits 1967–2002, 100 American Poets against the War, and New Poets of the American West. He lives in Bisbee, Arizona.

— posted November 2014

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