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Lit this slash pile one week ago,
a small pile as far as slashing and burning goes
Since then it’s melted,
rained, and snowed
Unusual and erratic behavior for January
and February in this country
Country that the Salish would’ve known
to move out of before winter set in.
Shouldn’t be anything other
than frozen and buried in snow
but nothing acts now in the way
it used to, and no one can predict
what’s coming, yet we keep reporting
our guesswork like we know something,
still playing make-believe with our
ideas about control, specifically about
how we’d like to be in it—
maybe because we like the idea of
stability so much and wish we had it
despite our tireless irony.

And here is this little steam-***,
this natural wonder of vitality and perseverance,
issuing one more quiet reminder
of how little we know of our actions
or the cycles they’ve started.
Narrated this poem. You can listen to the reading here:
Jar lids pop
snow sheets slide
pitch pockets snap
water kettle groans

First light exposes
crystalline canvases
against frozen glass
the stove’s heat
melts them away
like ice Mandalas

All that is beautiful
is impermanent.

All that is unique
lives only once.
I recorded myself reading this poem. You can listen to it here:
Douglas Balmain Oct 2023
There's a sense in which
I could be anywhere—
everywhere is the same
as here.
Douglas Balmain Aug 2023
Ghosts dance around me
and I am stepping on their toes
they curse me as I walk backwards
tracing old footprints
wishing them to come back into color,
that a familiar hand
and a smile I remember
might reach back out and ask
if I can keep a secret—
if I’d like to dance with them again?
Douglas Balmain Oct 2022
Here is an exercise
to help you learn a little bit
more about where we are
and what acts on us:

Pour yourself a bath,
as luxurious as can be.
Put in the salts, the oils,
the fragrances, the bubbles…

Make sure you pour
it hot, as hot as you can
handle when you dip in that
first cautious toe…

Slide in up to your chin and
soak in quietude while
your muscles untie their knots
and you lose yourself to that dreary
form of half-awake relaxation.

After a time, your tranquil state
will become a quiet form
of discomfort. The body
will begin to simulate a rising fever
as your temperature moves upward
towards equilibrium with the water,
the stomach will start to feel
unsettled and you
will have had enough.

Now, here comes the test:

Remove the drain plug and
remain motionless, unresponsive,
as the water slurps down
around you.

Your body will fall
as the water drains,
folding and bending
gravity packing you down
molding you into cast of the
tub you are laying in.
When the water is fully
drained and your rubbery,
warm muscles are stripped
of their recent buoyant freedoms,
you will feel with full awareness
the immensity of that Universal force
that acts on us without rest.

It’s amazing that we aren’t
all in exceptional shape.
Douglas Balmain May 2022
Dear lost brother,
when did you forget
we drink from the same cup?
Douglas Balmain Apr 2022
I got to bathe an elephant,
in Wyoming of all places.
It was not in a zoo
nor captive in any way.
No, this was a free and
autonomous individual,
an elephant all its own.

It rejoiced when I sprayed
it with the hose. The water
bubbled and frothed from
its trunk. It shook and blew,
smiled and stomped, as
the red desert dust ran down
its legs and pooled at its feet.

We experienced joy in
experiencing joy and became
weightless in our own levity.
Never have I felt such
loving gratitude, nor purity
of soul, as I felt emanating
from this great, sentient beast.

We played for hours in the water
and sun, laughing in the middle
of this little western town,
plain for anyone to see.
But when I smiled and looked
around, I had the strangest
feeling that nobody had noticed…
nobody, that is, but me.
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