The Story of Joline

In the fractured sleep of night’s immersed
in dreams based in nothing familiar or known,
one word repeated over and over – direct.

I watched power-less as background images
of tall buildings, lattice, and cross-stitched patterns
rotated and approached my view with ever increasing velocity.

At the end (or beginning) of a tunnel
bathed in wavering light with no sound
a shadow slowly approached.

The sides of the tunnel began to
move and rotate, grey lines
and intricate patterns covered everything.

and I briefly lost sight of the shadow
until something pushed me through
and I landed on the empty fields

near the forest where we first
met in ancient times and you
silently spoke directly to me.

With an apathetic look in tired eyes
he turned away from the edge,
hundreds of feet above the turbulent
waters, and walked toward the forest,

across the empty road absent
of any traffic since the morning,
into the cultivated fields, curiously empty,
and sat next to the stone marker and finally wept.

I see you in fragmented dreams
images from a life I have not lived

unfocused faces and voices
mouthing words I cannot hear.

I see images on billboards
and movie vignettes where

touching moments break through
the wall 20-years old.

I see you in rare dreams
sourced from beyond this life,

beyond the choice I made
and the weight I have carried.

If you are out there behind
the trees the shadow

following me through the
forest as the sun sets

please let me know,
please let me know.

At last we have arrived
at the transition.

An outpost where the river
falls into the sea.

Here we will setup camp
and wait for her to arrive.

I did not sleep well that evening
the voice of the stars and the silence of the sea

wrestled through the smoke
and through the flames the moon smiled.

What does this mean?
Is she near?

We travelled 40 days to
find this space and now we wait.

The book only spoke in hushed tones
only alluded to her in veiled visions.

At last I fell asleep and this dream
passed through time and quasars

violent shaking and collapsing
as the space closed around me.

I awoke on a mountain peak
overlooking a valley but

no longer near the outpost
as the sea falls into the river

the moon consumes the stars
and she reaches down from the sun.

I have been writing about the character of “Joline” since 1993 mostly through many, many poems.  Earlier this year, I started on a screenplay that ties together real-life experiences, some people I have known, and a storyline that emerged from the poetry.  In completing the outline and determining locations, a lot of it will be based in Alaska, and Haines in particular.  Below is a photo form Haines that is providing am anchor for the beginning.

Haines, Alaska
Haines, Alaska

In another life, defined
by just one different choice,
I walk next to you as you
lead us along the shoreline –
bare feet sinking in wet
sand, the early morning filled
with a grey mist, seagulls,
the whisper of waves –
near the pier a rock
pile surrounded by seaweed
and cold coean foam, you
stop and point –
“Daddy, that starfish only has four arms!”

Another poem from the “Joline” series.


We walked to the river
beneath the towering cement bridge.

A solitary barge moved with
grace and silence.

Our voices were not silent.

Djarum smoke filled the space
between us as we took turns

speaking and telling stories
releasing pent-up anger.

I felt your direction was directionless
you felt I was not happy with you.

The fragile state of mind we brought
fractured, exposing the vulnerabilities

and baggage weighing and influencing
our thoughts and actions.


Who was right?
Who was wrong?

Pride became the wounds
opening before our eyes

and that road we foolishly
set to walk together, vanished.

Fort Snelling, Mendota Bridge
Fort Snelling, Mendota Bridge

From a series of poems and prose about Joline

Cigarette smoke settles between us
a soft crackle with each hit
between each sip of coffee.

An ash falls from yours
while we discuss literature,
Chaucer, and final exams.

Looking back, we were just kids
racing toward adults
from one credit to the next.

Concerned with grades, beer,
and pleasure – tomorrow did not exist
and our relationship was fuzzy,
undefined, messy, and hurtful.

But we cared little, and made up
often – lost into ourselves we left
everyone behind closed doors,
swirling in whiskey and Djarums.

Months became years and we
both changed, became more aware
of direction, other pursuits and the
terrible couple we were.

Fights became more frequent
angry outbursts more violent
and still we tried, even through
slit wrists and copious pills
we came back for reasons I forgot.

But I do not know this yet
as we share coffee and cigarettes.

From the collection I am writing about “Joline”.

It was a beautiful fall morning
with sun scattered by oak and aspen
atop the hill overlooking the
bustling city.

We sat at the picnic table
with coffee and each other’s hand.

We talked of dreams and plans
for life after today, but for now
it was about us and now.

We watched the sun scale
the tallest building.

Never for tomorrow would I
give up today while in your
presence, while looking
into your eyes, still clear
and free of angst, free of doubt,

I admired this about you,
almost envious, from the
start, when we met at that
cafe nestled among the gift shops
near the city center.


When evening light
scatters across the horizon

hidden behind the treeline
moving to the wind and

free of clouds, the orange
disk fills my eyes with

a field neither land nor sea
but made of light and our

feet walk gently upon this,
though I do not see you

my hand holds something
and from that I know you are here.


Back, years before this final moment,
I swam alone in an ocean of black water

with waves constantly throwing my
body between waves.

I caught glimpses of you in the
distance but I did not know how

far and I did not think I was ready
so I let you go, freed of the bonds,

and in my thinking gave you a
better life beyond here.


I awoke the next day caught again
between relief and panic.


Each year I think about you
and what might have been

what could have been
what my life would look like.


Each year pain and acceptance
filled my vision until I decided to let you go.

Guilt hung around for a while longer
until it too decided to let go.


18-years have passed and I see your
face in my dreams, in the setting sun

and the rising moon, in the still water
of the river flowing out to the sea.