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Dah Helmer


Wind Stuffed Shells


As if the ocean’s ears,
I pick up two shells,
imagining a head between them
blue syllables of waves,
sky of starfish.


A line of pelicans arrive
hauling distance, hunger.
I say,
the wind in my hands,
breath of winter’s brew.


Drifting the water, a dark log,
peeled from the shore
is a heavy body, face down,


In a red raincoat, yellow boots,
a little girl chases a seagull.
Flapping her arms, she jumps
and flies
for two seconds.


I take out my notebook
and write,
in between grains of sand,
about how the ocean
lost its hearing.

Echo Ech Ec …


In an alley I tried to capture an echo
in my mouth
but it was pinned between two buildings
that held it until it broke

There is no way to repair an echo
you can make another one but
it will never be the same

In trying to explain this, the light
in the alley is shrinking


After we die
all of our echoes return and sing for us

Very Strange

Today, the light has a sharp edge,
one swing of a sunbeam
and the tower-bells
melt to a bowl of soup.


Flowers are sweating and
the dried grass, like limp scales.
I think the day is crazy, almost
sour and sick.


I’m standing under a tree
viewing abstract shapes
on the ground
with stylistic movements.


One by one the white clouds
are blisters
with a simple function.
Sometimes the cat wakes up.


If I had a flute I’d play
something rhythmic and slow,
something deep and soulful,
like a smooth heat wave.


Dividing my time watching
the day then not watching
is a bit mad. The truth is,
I should be napping.

Night, Desert

Darkness cups my eyes,
the rising wind, the waking night
the palm’s green hair
in the moon’s comb


This is how the desert
holds its dust
like a ball of twine
from the center
the core of magic


Blowing from the dunes
I let the sand escape
between my toes
heartless tumbleweeds
run like bony horses


This is how the shed skin
of a rattler feels
leaf-like, breath of scales
warm without a pulse


There’s a spattered sky
stars like stumps
in fields of black dirt
stars dropping light
they cannot hold


This is how coyotes
crowd around you
in a constellation
dividing their hunger
between them


skinny bodies weakened
from starvation
cracked open
teeth of arrowheads


In the tall palm
a crow
sends out a warning
scavengers, survivors

Night, Forest

That I still find things uplifting
makes me want to kneel
in the silver swell of moonlight
under the heat of wings
or the sway of branches


That I still believe in white sage
takes me to its catharsis
the rising smoke smudging
all that’s left of my spirit
dangling from these bones


On nights like this
nothing cries nothing mourns
nothing stirs
in the holes dug by gophers
My muddy footprints
rotting in the trampled grass


I follow the natural rhythms
of one thing to another
the forest, a choir of harmony
the air, a chamber of blankets
song and comfort
O earth, cushion, rugged womb


That I still believe in the moss
cold-pressed on damp trees
or that coyote tiptoeing and ready
to bolt like an echo
at the first crack of twigs
its predator eclipsing in strength

Night, Valley


I’ll tell you how the valley

is a womb

and wind is blood


how trees are bones

and trunks

are spines


how dark sky’s ice


the tired villages


Because it's winter

the river

a dangerous beast


not just frozen but

a beast

not just a river but


a body swept away

I’ll tell you how wind

is a frosted mouth


blowing its chill

over the night

while satellites crisscross


like rabbits in snowy fields

and how this cold snap

is a wicked snare


DAH is a multiple Pushcart Prize and Best Of The Net nominee.

The author of nine books of poetry, DAH lives in Berkeley, California,

where he is working on his tenth poetry collection, which is due for release

in October, 2020 from Clare Songbirds Press. DAH is also working on

his first collection of short fiction

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