Rich Halley



All week in a warehouse
counting office supplies,
sorting and moving
little piles from place to place,
keeping records for bookkeepers to keep
so their bosses can pay the USA
its due.  Red and green bulbs
in the bank sign, sound
of bells and strangely
empty skidrow streets:

	everything frozen
	    and the east wind


	    cold air thru the plastic patch
	    on the upstairs alcove.

No heat in my room
so I practice downstairs -





and back to a tune

	in this warm house

city near the west
coast of the continent.

Clear and dark outside
the river's edge is ice;

     in the long night

I remember ravens,
wings arced against the wind
high above the river
in the white winter hills.	  



Spring in wet lowlands:
domesticated trees bloom
petals in the gutter;
small puddles of standing water
shine back the sky.

In three days I'll quit 
another job: how many
does that make in the last five years?
Play my horn, books,
a piano - so little
to show;
the jays screech and quarrel
in the pear tree.

When I fix my car
out in the street
the old man from the next house
comes to watch.
Before I can get the
distributor back right
a cloud blows over the ridge,
we both
get wet.

	Crummy Ride

Highway stretched by the river's curve;
motel lights and milltowns making
neon shine in a winter slough,
grass bottom Columbia backwater
and wind rippled in summer.

In front the fresh cropped back
of heads,
new cut stubble or neat barber's work,
blank red faces
alcohol flushed from a four day drunk
to fade
in the woods and wind.

Perfect sky darkening,
my neck craned to a smoke curl,
clouds moving
same color as soot.

Cowboy slung across the rear seat, easy
in a loose boned slouch.
Stiff back
creeping lights and the road west,
snow in the mountains
rain in the morning.

*Note - A crummy is a truck used by crews working
in the woods in the Northwest.  They get messy and
dirty in use, thus the name.


fingers nervously twisted
clench and quiver;

if I knew more
I might cry,
a belly laugh on me
my foolish "I"
as walls, sky
or dirty linoleum.

    - a leaf in the wind -

like cottonwoods seen from below
in a breeze:
flickery silver.


vines grown over the porch
Lemon Balm's in bloom and
thousands of blackberries bout ready to eat
by the railroad tracks.

Time for ripe huckleberries
in the high meadows.
It's hot
and I
have nothing more to say
than the shiny steel coil on my notebook.

"What's Vision
and how do you realize it?"

The moon's on the wane but
you can't see many stars
for the city lights.

		motorsounds down Macadam
			machine shops:



			 of a silver flute.    

	Cloud Shadow

Forty feet past the belay
a small chimney, then large blocks
onto a ramp.  Waiting
a shift in the wind
and a moment's 
chance to fix my position.

A few hundred feet of ridge
seen thru a hole in the clouds;
momentary heat of sun shining
thru and gone again.

Looking for a route -
scraped knuckles and the 
jangle of hardware;
the red rope and 
broken granite stretching 
far out of sight.

	On The Job

Coffee colored water

bail with an old
one gallon tin;
dark like
alluvium silt, tincture
of dissolved clay.

Dry earth
old man
white crew cut, burned arms
swings a pick
grins in the sun.

Cut dirt
with a sharp-edged shovel
bust dried clay.
Pineapple Weed smell on the wind
and talk 
and cold air
inversions in the Black Canyon of the Gunnison.

Pigweed and chicory
a few firs
mountains vague through the haze;
on dirt island
marooned in asphalt
head spins
and wanders to years
of days 
of work

     Swallow Poem

Long arc of a swallow's wings
at perch,
tips past the belly.

	motion and shift
                   of form,

flash of violet-green in flight

		swallow color,
                      violet-green swallow;

	insect eater

	white bellied
		cliff guarder

	with sickle wings.

Swallow worlds -
sky; the change of winds,
clouds and the stone
cliffs splotched with moss and lichen.

Climbing a dihedral
by hand jams,
sweaty stretches from nubbin to nubbin,
toes ache, fingers catch an edge and swing
past an overhang into sunlight;
now breathe easy and move
up the long warm slab
on small holds
to a ledge
and rest.

Clouds moving

heart pounding

swallows wheeling

all around

always swallows

everywhere wheeling

in pure sky. 					


Knees in the mud
pulling weeds - touch cold earth
green stems, flick
the wrist and scatter dirt
then a quick toss away:
palmate leaves or square
stemmed members of the mint family;
tiny purple flowers 
and droptip plant hairs.
Saving life
for the plants that are right
in the stomach or vase, garden borders 
or for other green
in the pocket.
Neat rows
and fine
symmetry -
a sure thing.

Looked out over the valley flats,
ditch lines,
to the hills beyond:
miles of sagebrush and jackrabbit sign,
dust in the noon sun.

a weed is a weed"
he said,
pulled another handful
and left me to finish
weeding the rest of the bed. 


Today walking
back from town
car parts in my pocket, watching
the river move
the white mountain
	headwall in cold shade
and not knowing where I ought to go
I lagged along.

Broke a winter bud
off a pussy willow:
	crushed between the fingers

the live green inside.

	Another Day in the City of Roses

Steel and oil: parts
that fit

	click together.

Squatting in grease
trying to make sense of the shapes -
bend the mind.

Damned oil pump plate stud
stripped from the crankcase
cost me six hours and all over town:
the sun was out and Mt. Adams 
clear behind Silver Star.

Each night, across the bridge in the dark
lights float the river;
sometimes that strange red glow overhead:
city neon reflected back
by low clouds.

Walking the last block, carrying groceries
watching Sirius sparkle
many colored - almost like Arcturus -
I tripped on the curb and
broke the mayonnaise.


	Thirtyone Miles of Trail in the Wallowa Mountains

Across the rocky meadows
          seed heads dry
          in the wind, shake
              and rattle.


	      of a kingfisher, surprised,
	      winging down creek to
	      land in a clump of willows.

A hawk screams
      trees creak
squirrels chitter and run to hide
		    behind down timber.


	in the valley bowl
	the chainsaw sputters
	the echoes die;
	enough noise for anyone

		  you'd think.

Up steep swithcbacks
breathing hard, rhythm
with pace:

       "Something about you mama
	        sure gives me the blues.

        Something about you mama
		sure gives me the blues

	It ain't your dropstitch stockings

	It ain't your blue buckle shoes."

All this junk, treeplanter
myths and the like,
fragments of bebop solos
floating out the mountainside
springing up from improbable
nooks and crannies in the
mind, drowning out the sound
of the creek, the scuff of
bootsoles on dry granite.
Enough noise for anyone.

Overhead, the silence
of the blue sky
is audible.

About noon Howard cut a pine.	
I grabbed it, dragged it below the
trail and swung it out
down the hill.
It bounced against a cluster
of maples; suddenly
hornets around my head
and I ran swatting, scattering
tools and pack along the trail.
Returned a bit later to find the nest
hanging perfect - no signs of life:
a calm smooth gray sphere.
I passed it carefully.
This time.

Red rocks in the creekbed
snow still lying on north slopes and
high ridges - fresh coyote tracks
break the crust.  In sunlight
spiderwebs through the dewy grass, the shine
as they move on the wind.
A multitude of satisfactions around here
deals too great to pass up
100% off, totally free.

The hell with all this nature stuff
where's that peanut butter?
(one o'clock and six
hours from breakfast)
A man can't work on an empty stomach
and old Geo. Washington Carver
didn't live in vain.  Mmmf!
See those Pondersosa Pine bark scales -
fragments like puzzle pieces.  Why
if a person looked long enough
for the right ones he could
make a regular jigsaw puzzle;
go down in history, maybe, Ripley's

A woodpecker taps pine bark,
makes a drum from a dying tree
all in a day's work.
Nuthatch from the corner of an eye;
by the spring an old camp
and remnants of a fiery meal:
bearshit full of dead yellowjackets.

Working down the top of Jim White Ridge
through sunlit meadows, following
the trail, checking the drainage:
the world vista as seen
from the business end of a shovel.
Then into dim light of lodgepole
thickets, cutting limbs, clearing
the way for riders on horseback.
The saw bites, woodust flies
drifts in the eyes.
Three more pulls: the limb quivers
then arcs slowly
through still air to the ground.

At midday, bird
calls are few.
The long warm afternoon
smells of pine and dust.
In a patch of sunlight
three feet to my right
two bluebottle flies
sit quiet on a boulder
irridescent and precise.

One afternoon we knock off
early and head down the ridge
in warm four o'clock sun
figuring on a bath in the
creek.  Walking into camp
I see the inspector
coming up the other trail:
lined face under a sweat stained
hat, riding a tired mare and
leading a white mule.
He wants us to
dig deeper drainage dips -
new specs from the head office
it seems.  We sit and bullshit
by the chill running water,
sweat drying cold on the body,
the horses' tails flicking flies
as the air cools.  The sun
drops past the ridge.

Back to Portland down
wet highways, gulls overhead
in the last light, crying;
wind in the cottonwoods
white farm houses and a
black storm in the west.
I rode with a carpenter from Colorado:	
he'd built condominiums in Dillon
Valley same as me the year before; 
fifty years old and no home
nursing an old car west
to some unknown job -
put in your time, restaurant food,
sleep.  Evenings in a motel or mobile home,
the tavern down the street.

	"Maybe I'll stop in Portland
	and see my brother.
	Only one of my relatives
	I still get along with."

The car breaks down.
On from The Dalles in a melon truck
to Troutdale truck stop at 3 AM;
it takes four more hours to
make that last 20 miles home.
In two days
hitch the same route
back the other way. 

At night I sit
by the fire and
play my flute.
Seven tones: a scale.
One way to divide
an octave.  Stick to the seven
and center round one -
only the relations change
but it
Like thoughts in your finite head.
The scale transforms itself
into the blues.

But there are older songs
still with us: the wind
moves down canyon, the
twigs of fir and larch
quiver, the pine needles

	Fir tree's song 
	Pine tree's song
	Sky ocean

	Sagebrush on the
	Bunchgrass hills
	Rattlesnake's song

A thousand cities now in motion
where's the U.S.A.?
	- white water polished granite?
	- washed blue autumn sky?
	- rusty red Prince Albert tin?  Shades
of my grandfather loading his
pipe, working 14 hours a day
in the blacksmith shop.
Building wagons for 
men to haul the gold
out of these granite hills.

Hexagram 56: the wanderer.
The only time I ever
threw the I Ching
that came up twice
in succession:
odds 4096 to 1
but then again
today on the trail I passed
two Mars Bar wrappers
in a row:

	What omen does that portend/

I am either:

	a. Too stupid to recognize my own brilliance
	b. Too brilliant to recognize my own stupidity

Forget all these
useless ideas, just
get back to work. 

Mud glistens on a shovel blade
spatters in the face: wet
fetid smell in the midst
of dry grass hills.

In warm smoky nightclubs
in Portland and Seattle	 
musicians regurgitate the top
forty under hot stage lights
and double shots of tequila
between sets.  "You can sell
anything if you package it
right."  Diverting the public
mind from that terrifying
inner psychic void.
The real
traditions remain
largely unnoticed.

The darkness outside
the campfire is alive
with animals: slight
cracklings in the brush,
coyote and deer mouse
checking the scene,
dark shapes
moving in darkness.
Hard frost tonight.
Capella and the Pleiades
turn toward their
winter positions.

Just after dawn
pitch filled blaze
the same light
color as lichen.
Place where a
grouse was killed:
scattered barred 
feathers.  Maples
paling, tamaracks
turning more each
day, needles sift
down; and each
morning the
increasing chill
the first few
minutes down trail.

Freeze in the morning
sweat in the midday sun
at night the campfire keeps
only one side warm
at a time.

Bridge repair over trout riffles
where the Little Minam
forks into Boulder Creek:

Cut and peel straight poles of larch,
lodgepole pine and spruce;
transverse cuts with the saw, then
split 'em out.  Adze smooth
and fit to place.
Drill and fasten with nuts
and bolts of treated steel.

A mouse chewed
the ends off my hatband
we salvaged a broken stove
strange dreams, dirty face
toes slightly damp and cold;
over the fire Aquila glitters
through a hole in the trees.

	"You call that
	a day and a half's work?
	That's not worth shit!"

In a clear sky cumulus
thunderheads appear in the east,
make rain streaks over the Lostine
but blow south and miss

The world turns on such
small axes.

In town after a two week
stretch in the woods
we get our partial payment.
Luxury of a shower and
all-you-can-eat dinner, then the
public library and back
to the Rivers Hotel
by the railroad tracks
past the Salvation Army
and a stop
at Marge's Bar.

Trains all night honking
a double-toned horn
in sixths; towards morning
snow falls.  This 
center of the world:
the doughnut shop,
high school homecoming
parade down main street
still there with long hair in '72;
elk season rolls around
each year to shiny
pickups and new 
rifles with better ballistics.
In the dawn
to the west
the open lower slopes
of the Blue Mountains
are white.

Back at night, stumbling
in darkness under heavy packs,
boots sink in mudholes, catch
on exposed roots.
Down the first open hillslope
I see Capella and the Pleiades
rising northeast.

      in the dark,
       dirty tent floor,
books and cups scattered around.
and breakfast.

Static shapes of frozen mud
curl and jar under the bootsoles.
Tiny sparkles in the sun
as the interstices thaw into goo.
Trees and highways,
clumsy trails and squirrel 
	in the forest another
year.  In five, 
more roads and clearcuts,
all of it seemingly endless. 

Breaks of the Minam:
open benches, rimrock and saddles.
Dry grass in the sun,
young volcanic strata;
hard flecked granite
east side of the drainage and higher
peaks toward Idaho.

World of a mattock
pick head - how many
swings per minute
or minutes per water bar
or rocks per cubic unit of dirt?
The angle and outslope of dips,
depth of the lower edge:
changing translations of
specifications from the USFS

A single dark line
stretched raw and muddy
through new snow: a trail.
Twin Flower growing
to the side, White Fir
and rimrock above
but this is the locus
of human domain:
an eight by ten foot swath
cleared to official
specifications and inspected
by a U.S. Govt. employee. 

The snow is littered
with pale gold
larch needles.  The wind
gusts sharply.  Frost 
stings the toes.
Another year now 
turning to winter.

Last day.
The green jeep hood 
wobbles in the wind.
Higher the snow begins
light and dry.  We slide
on slick tires.
Finally finish
digging ditches in
six inches snow,
pack the gear
and head down
toward the city.

Far in the west
over the ocean
clouds are thickening
and building,
bringing the winter rains.

		November 1972
		Little Minam River/ Rivers Hotel
		Union County, Oregon


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