My brother Joji was born into post-bomb-drop Japan. A “brown-skinned-bastard” from a Black American soldier. I imagine his young Japanese mother, as the earth shook for a moment, then blew away. What could she have thought about the new world of sickness, terror and a flood of American GIs? All I know is that trauma was passed into my brother. His life was always a long shot. 

There is a blank-faced, concrete-block nuclear power plant right down the river from our town’s modern art museum – not far as the wind blows – from my home on the hill. It had some close calls with leaks, and I hear tell of cancer clusters nearby. It is shuttered now and a contracting company is disassembling its guts. All except the fuel-rods, which are too toxic to ship away to the “safe place” in Texas. Probably near native peoples’ land…or anyone poor. When a friend asked me to join her at the museum, to be part of creating and performing an artistic anti-nuclear protest, a Be-In, a union of souls in the rippling blue light of projected river waves, I knew I had to do it for Joji, for me, for my river.

That river is where I kayak with my daughter. We have become well acquainted with the eco system’s tender beauty and contradictory use as a motorboat speedway, dam feeder, and where some folks throw crap over the edge of the embankment in an out-of-sight-out-of-mind deception. We river paddlers know the truth: that garbage just lodged against a tree or bush, or got caught in a nest.

The show had “movers”, singers, a comedian, musicians, and poets. The poem I wrote and read was about paddling along the river, seeing, thinking, imagining, and mourning. The poem is a prayer for nature to lift us up in the face of tragic stupidity. It’s epic.



Balance carefully 

Transfer weight

Shift rump, ballast of self, of body 

Feet first from 

worn wood 

into the hull


I am floating above the soft muck,

sitting aloft

from the bits of fiberglass flaked

off motorized craft,

swollen cigarette butts

…then a can floats by

Paddle Paddle, 

raise eyes, 

to the untouched today-sky

Paddle Paddle

I hug close to the trees,

is that a blanket?

There’s a blossom,



beer bottles

broken glass


Black-necked geese 


and feed

in the shadows

of graffitied cement 


rusted girders:

once shiny in the depression times,

trading ore


food on the table 

lives lived longer


than starving in a shack

Paddle, Paddle

And paddle some more until

I pass under wires stretched 

From metal tree to metal tree,

to the wide shallows at the

carved and curved bend

above the dam with 

man-crafted fish-ladders

where a huge block tower




and jagged just below the surface 

Don’t get too close!

it can scrape 

can cut and cave in

the thin protection

between me 

and the invasion 

of water…

Or worse.

I want to move on,

but am drawn:

eyes down, 

the clouds below me…

until the underneath comes up,

it looks about the same, 

but is it?

Is there a

not-right color?

Peering pulls my 

scuba-diving mind


where the ticking little bubbles are muffled

slow, sleepy, tendrils trail out from 

not quite closed enough pipes

not quite thick enough walls

not quite secure enough seals

to contain

the creeping little crushed atoms,

tiny broken neutrons

bits of matter, 

and the by-product of

smashed oblivion



reacting, reactor 

where between donuts and coffee

the universe’s guts exploded with sickening


to turn turbines

and make magic 

for plugs, plasma screens, popcorn poppers


The crazy monster mushroom

 balloons and sizzles itself, 

screams of people’s skin on fire,

earth and spires 

shudder and blow back 

tons of should-be-here

but isn’t anymore

and the new-other 

replaces it

Encases it


the life and health and the normal,

It hangs around in dirt and water

It goes into mouths and mommies 

And brains and babies, 

and it’s not supposed to do that,

not supposed to make

illness that eats and gobbles up

gaining ground 

grinding cells, 

growing toxic tumors that no one can 

really say are from 

Good old Yankee

Good old boy 

Good money

Good God!

 Of course it is! 


Paddle paddle

please help stop this rattle rattle

in my heart

send me a blue heron 

to whisk away the barren 

horrible truth 

on this sunny day