Palm Dawn 3

Palm Dawn 3
Art by Zen Oleary

Florida Storms & Hurricanes


Does it matter that tomorrow is
Friday the 13th? Do such
superstitions have any tentacles

boring into reality? No, course not,
we say, yet at the back of mind
there whispers a sibilant "what if"?

Memory chips from long ago
coded deep in our DNA
beep ominously in our heads.

So I sit and wait for the day
and the storm and the possibilities
that ghost dance on the mind screen.


It feels like a mini-rebirth as if
I'd held my head underwater
for days or retreated to former

lives as a sea creature or
the mindlessness of kelp fronds
or some small critter hunkered

down in the saw palmetto
breath slowed & wet &
waiting for a memory of the sun.

Like any newly hatched creature
I'm tired, blinking with slitted eyes,
a bit ragged edged, gulping newly

discovered air that is cool & damp
& I'm blinded by touch and light
& the sounds of breath & birdsong

& these words that tumble into my life
like errant butterflies molting messages
that speak of images and lines and love.

August 16th

Waited in line an hour for gas
& they're giving out ice at the
high school if you can get there.

The tanker truck rolled into the
station & the crowd camped out
waiting gave a cheer as if

they were in church & the truck
were a miracle in blinding heat
& their belief had borne fruit.

We've each dug our foxholes,
spaces in the day's fabric, their
only requirement walking distance.

Citgo & Subway are the new names
of our community center, help line &
place to call from on a neighbor's cell.

We're like bugs who've crawled up
the wrong plant, one whose leaves
we don't eat & we're flipping our

antennae looking for the way down.
Normalcy stands on its head as we
grunt with the frogs on torn lily pads.

Short Dozen
8/17/04 (after the hurricane)


words are
not lean enough
to sweat
the smell of fear


mind flattens
like a pancake or

the scentless skin
of a snake shed
on a dirt path


skies breathe
great long exhales

violet hued
& green



plough ahead
of the moment

terror seeds
in the back
of mind


when it ends

your life
is your skin
turned inside out


dark skies
and winds
bent palm trees

tossed jets
like marbles

Palm in Hurricane

Palm in Hurricane
Art by Zen Oleary


people are pebbles
caught in white water
storm rapids


a jagged gash
cracks the surface

events & places


this is the story
of centuries

we thought
we were immune


the pictures of the world
we've had in our minds

sprout toxic mold


strangers' voices
now intimate as lovers


we each recoil
in our own way

spent shell casings
lined up on shelves
as if in a museum display

Mowed Down

I walk around looking
for different angles
to take photos of rubble

& sheared off trees.
I feel like a falcon
hunting images as prey.

Enough, it's time to turn
the channel but there
isn't one to change.

Humvees at the airport,
soldiers with M16's,
hot meals handed out

from truck cabs along
with water and bandages,
a widow on the news

husband dead two months
her house gone & she in
her 80's overwhelmed.

This is a different kind of war,
a random hit without malice,
just the doings of the planet,

wind currents & ocean,
and we're in its path like
insects under mower blades.

How Does a Bird

How does a bird weather
the great storms hunkered
down under branches

or nestled beneath leaves
his small body pounded by
rain that slams even us

with drops that punch and sting
with winds that skid airplanes
across hangars and peel roofs.

How in the screaming dark when
trees bend and heave branches
like leaves while limbs crack

and debris skitters across the land
how does a small feathered bird
survive and come out with the sun

the next morning to feast on
grubs in newly exposed bark and
hunt as if the world had always

looked like this all landmarks
erased and nests blown away
and sing all is well, all is well.

Short Dozen


monster storm
churns the sea

we've forgotten
the magic words
we never knew

to keep it away


a frog lawyers
the morning

croaking demands
& definitions


we are all
flashes of light

in a momentary wind


runs sound-prints
thru the afternoon

rain dances
your name


fill the hour
like the taste
of honey

lazy & rich


when you demand
I resist &
turn transparent

too slippery
to hold


I'm flattened
by the day's debris

by things
undone unsaid

charged with the
lightning of desires


you appear whole
a separate being

yet your breath
tracks mine
& our souls' DNA
is a match


have I told you
it's your face that's
imprinted in my words

you're the light
my moth-ness seeks


troubles find us
demolition derbies
& dirty bombs

yet our souls
are unmarked


I cannot tell you
I love you
without saying
I love all


when we were children
we used knives &
swapped our blood

now we tell stories
around the campfire
& share laughter

they're the same thing

Short Dozen


this writing ~

like the rabbit
hidden in grass
who hears
the fox circling


frogs argue fiercely
with voices that

punch holes in
the morning silence


we build small bridges
over chasms
of uncertainty


things looks the same
but the flavors
have hollowed out


like any animal
I have found a burrow

now to drag in
a few leaves
to ride out the storm


how simple
fleeing makes things

life condensed
to an overnight bag


all my stuff

like crumbs
left from a feast
or silent songs


if everything goes

will I be reborn
like a hermit crab
hunting a new shell

making love to the moon
thru the holes in the roof


I feel like a turnip
in a soup before
the fire's lit


I want to hear
your voice
to brand it
in memory


the sky
is a riot
of colors
& clouds

a child's drawing
gone mad

Your Hands A Storm

Your Hands A Storm
Art by Zen Oleary


how we cling
to what
we think we have
& do not own


I look around greedily
trying to memorize
what is here

not things but the
songs that run
through & beneath them

the curves of lemongrass
& jars of air-dried herbs
the citrus heavy with

soon to ripen fruit
paintings whose
brushstrokes I still

remember making &
sheaves of poems
in a heavy loose-leaf &

books by favorite poets
all this that sings of home
& creates the music

that's the background
of the day like lush soil
gives richness to a garden

and I think of all the others
I've read about past & present
who've had to flee homes

and I feel like one ant in
a long procession winding
back and out of the canvas

of time and place, a procession
whose sound is the steady shuffle
of feet & a blinding silence.

Short Dozen


I walked slowly
sipped the flavors
of the garden
and earth

then mindfully
let it all go

let it fall away


this morning
like waking up
after the flu

but clear & clean


planning to
take photographs
of the storm

back in the stillness
of the moment


words from friends

the light shining
thru butterfly wings


people fleeing ~

long snaking lines
on the interstate

dependent on
gas in short supply


millions heaving
in one breath

we are brothers
for the length
of a storm

Plaza Storm

Plaza Storm
Art by Zen Oleary


the frogs croaking
at the door

blissfully unaware
of tomorrow


virtual lifelines
snipped by winds

your words will vanish

flowers cut
from their stems

waiting for power
to be restored


this moment is all there is

how true when like the story
you see tigers above
& tigers below


in the old pirate tales
one walked the plank

the wood creaks
under my feet


if I can't see you
part of me will starve

and I will have to
imagine you


it is not going forth
or putting on armor

now that preparations
are done ~ it is

more a resting into
the moment &

Short Dozen


I sit
like a bug

caught in
a hurricane's web


to turn or twist

I wait
for its hot breath
& maniacal
screaming voice


people circle
the hotel lobby

like cows in a field
aimless & on the move

indulging in
the appearance
of purpose


ducks chug
bread thrown
from balconies

preen their feathers
on the lawn

it's a good day
in duckdom


a sense
of menace
in the air

like ancient
unnamed gods

Downpour in First Light

Downpour in First Light
Art by Zen Oleary


when we step
from this haven

will there be
to return to


on the TV

speak to a reality
whose language
we have forgotten


we skate
on the surface
of the moment

trying to leap
of anticipation


wind and rain
are the new currencies
of the day


becomes the now
stretched out

with the rasping
screech of chalk
on a board


the day
leaves teethmarks
in the mind


morning & sunshine
feel like
shipwrecked sailors'
dreams of land.

Storm Ducks

The ducks ate
dabbled in the lake
tails up and bobbing

feathers blown high
like quilled chimneys or
they wobbled onto land

webbed feet squishing
lawn mud & fat grubs
fleeing from drowning.

The ducks ate
a marathon musical
of smacking beaks &

contented grunts
nothing unusual
their bodies said

just a shake now & then
dog fashion & a nip at
a neighbor's tail feathers.

The ducks ate
or slept like fat stones
littering the grass

oblivious to all our fears
predictions & preparations
that's how the ducks did it.


Is disaster the new ordinary
as it has been for millennia &
is now in much of the world?

When the snug nests of
our illusions are blown away
those images of ourselves

which exist only in our minds
fracture & bend with the
twisted branches of this now

that spurns our definitions
that is lived in nanoseconds of
awareness & moments bracketed

by the limits of vision & the
reach of hands in a holding on
in this staggering community

of the dazed and bewildered
who make do & celebrate
a kitten found under the shards

of what was once a house or
cook soup in a communal pot on a
camp stove & call it hurricane stew.

If disaster is the new ordinary
we need to change the stations
in our minds & find new songs.

Hurricane Ivan, Woodcut

Hurricane Ivan, Woodcut
Art by Zen Oleary



a sense of
being unfinished

a projection
a ghost making
from the mind

yet it is there
on satellite

this day
that has
barely begun

the ecstasies
of dragonflies

drunk on larvae
swelling in
new rain ponds

yet waiting

for coffee
for love
for light

for a hurricane
named Ivan

After Storms

I'm hungry
after the storms
with a gnawing
that wants
to devour
the day
or inhale
your eyes
or sip
the clear wings
of dragonflies

I want
to get lost in
the light
from leaves
or swim
in the heat
on pond water
framed with
ibis wings

I could
eat trees or
swallow beetles
and rub my skin
raw with
the perfume
of light
or swallow
birdsong in
heaving gulps
with this hunger
that erupts
from the bones
which no words
can feed

Zen Oleary
August 12 thru September 30, 2004

24 of Zen's personal favorites among his poems can be accessed at:
24 Poems by Zen Oleary