(Lake Quinault, Olympic N.P., Washington)

The bow blade
cuts the water’s fragile skin,
prompting cool white blood
to gurgle up from nearby pores.
In lines straight and curved,
it severs east from west,
placing me between two lakes
instead of at the heart of one.

But, in my wake,
the healing is always underway:
the water’s skin rejoined
along an ever-widening trail
of slowly disappearing scars,
the two lakes one again
as if this blade and I
had never traveled through.

Weeping Rock
(Zion Canyon, Zion N.P., Utah)

The water wells
in tiny ducts,

slips meekly out
and trickles down

the sandstone’s wide
and wistful face:

a thousand pings
of pure release,

a symphony
of saltless tears.

The Seven Pools
(Haleakala N.P., Hawaii)

I see it as a necklace.
streaming down
from the feet of ginger trees
and held
by a silent congress of rocks.
filling one glittering pool
before it is pushed down
into another,
then another.
as both the jewels
and the chain
that makes them

But, as I watch
the water that flows
from the pools
into the ocean just below,
I see
only a link
on a larger necklace
that dances
to the tune of tides,
that yields
to the swelling sky,
that licks
the leaves of ginger trees,
that fills
with its life.

Bubbling Mud
(Bumpass Hell, Lassen Volcanic N.P., California)

There is much to see
in this tight little pocket
of geothermal oddities.
But, even more than steaming ponds
or smoke that leaks out from the ground,
I am taken
with this pool of brown, stewing mud
and the way
its blisters rise then swell then pop
in a chorus
of proud and public
Such music
to my ears, these sloppy, slapping sounds,
that mock our self-important airs,
that celebrate the coarse in all of us.

Lake Solitude
(Grand Teton N.P., Wyoming)

It’s also called
Lake Multitude,
in honor
of the summer swarms
who make the long hike up
for a glimpse of shivering blue
beside the flickering green
of the meadow
beneath a blossoming sky.
But I arrived early,
well before them,
and it was all mine.

Brooks Falls
(Katmai N.P., Alaska)

In its four well-traveled years,
this sockeye salmon has cruised
down frenzied rivers,
through cold and gloomy lakes,
and into a vast, exotic ocean,
about ten thousands miles in all.
Now, to return to the place
where it once was given life—
and where it soon must lay its eggs
before its own life draws
to a quiet, natural close—
it needs to summon all its energies
to hurl its aging, driven self
over this wide, swift-flowing falls.

The first leap falls short.
The second succeeds,
almost. And on the third, it soars
into the paw of a patient, waiting bear,
a thousand pounds of gluttonous brown.
With one slap, the salmon is dead.
Then, in one paw, it is held upright
like an ice cream cone
and consumed in four methodical chomps.
Its only consolation being
that it never knew what hit
in a world where lives
can snap like breadsticks
and plans are always being revised.

Lake Clark Pass
(Lake Clark N.P., Alaska)

Gathering speed,
our tiny plane grazed
the milky green glass of the lake.
Then, with the mountains,
we rose.
High enough
to look straight
into the breaking waves
of glaciers,
frozen oceans,
pouring forth
from one mountain pass
after another.
Close enough
to spot two Arctic swans
as they drifted
in a lazy glacial melt.

(Yellowstone N.P., Wyoming)

The ground groans.
The water, scalding,
aching to break free,
shoots like white lava
into a womb of sky.
Then, after only
seconds have elapsed,
all is silent, still, serene.
The water rests, calm
as cooling sweat upon
the craggy skin of earth.
The moment holds,
tight as lovers’ kisses
when it’s time to part.

The Confluence
(Canyonlands N.P., Utah)

The guidebook says
that this is where they merge,
these two great rivers,
the Colorado and the Green.

But shoved together is the case,
in a marriage arranged
by stern canyon walls
that press like unrelenting family heads.

And neither much appreciates it.
One khaki green,
the other mustard beige,
each stays on its side of the bed.

Then, in a touchy truce
they flow,
united without uniting,
a consummation unfulfilled.

After the Autumn Rain
(Redwood N.P., California)

Pillars of fog
drift upward
from the solemn hills.

Are they reaching
for the clouds
that left them behind?

Crater Lake
(Crater Lake N.P.)

So deep
and deeply blue,
it looks
into my wide green eyes
till only blue is left.

At the Vernal Falls Bridge
(Yosemite N.P., California)

It’s waters
pound past
like wild,
snorting stallions.
This river