Craig Wisner


Untitled (Sunday driving).

FullSizeRender copy

We drove for 12 hours

trying to catch the tail end

of the goddamned thing,

walked salt flats and rolling grass hills

looking for it

-everything dried out and parched

and it’s not even

summer yet.


You can smell the coming fires

in a warm, straw-like scent

hanging on the breeze

and we all talk, only half-joking,

of giving up and just hitting the road

for somewhere.


When the tires come to a halt

on another gravel turnout

and we stagger out

the cows look up slowly

from behind heat waves and wire fences

and it seems they know that the cows know

that they, too, may have little choice,

and that the will of God cannot be accounted for:


You get what you get

and you don’t throw a fit.


I have to wonder if our children were born

as melancholy as she and I

or if we did this to them

as I stand back watching and find the pair drawn

to oil seeps and broken glass on the desert floor,

or staring into the light of the sun

struggling through a coastal fog

and meeting it all with sighs and a far off look

that seems to penetrate a future I cannot know.

They are content, just like us, to drive and think

and revel in places where we’re strangers

and people let us know it,

feeling outside of it all.


(perhaps to make us feel that much closer)


We drove for twelve hours

until we caught it again, if only for a day

sitting separate from the blur of the world,

safe behind the window glass

-singing, wondering, being together

knowing these actions, conversations, memories

are the only solid footing we have.


Photo Credits:  My Son


Ask Forgiveness.

Pounced upon

by twilight demons-

runaway thoughts

rage and prayers

–prayers for the Angel of Sleep

to stave off another morning

of burning eyes

another day

of ragged-toothed anxiety


beneath the ribs.

I’m tired.

Even though

it’s not so bad

and shouldn’t feel so bad

I’m just so tired.


Seeking refuge by day

I have found

that hungry ghosts

cannot cross streams

and bare feet

in gravel and water

serve as protection

against a quivering heart.

Standing in a waterfall

arms outstretched

I ask forgiveness.

Under an outcropping

of desert shade-

ask forgiveness.

Ask on behalf of all beings,

ask it of salamander, cottonwood

frog, and rust-bellied towhee.

I ask forgiveness

and swear I’ll never

take it for granted



Canyon Dweller.

Lingering words from canyon wanderings.  On a side note, I am quite pleased I can say that I have perfected cowboy coffee.

And then there is the Cycle of Things:

Seeing my son, so much older now

with The Burden in his eyes

and knowing all bets are off

as I’m not certain

I could save him

from the momentum

if I tried.

Confirming the level

of wine in my bottle

( 1/3 )

I deduce I ought

put another log

on the fire.

(for my wife in a dream)

I see you stuck in a mire

and I can only scream

off from a distance

that you’re beautiful

and should be free

and then hope

it will be enough.

a pitted iron stovepipe

breathing smoke

into the stars

My son

snoring in the tent now

flesh, bone

man-sized and


on the verge

of being set free.

I prefer pencil

as I know

when I’m running out.




Playing in the Rain. (3/9-3/10/2018)

I meet a lot of people who’s worst nightmare is being stuck deep in the woods alone at night.  I slept better than I have in weeks.

Once upon a time I got out more often for overnights than most people I knew.  Morning birdsong and coffee in the rain tell me that it’s high time to get back to work.  My thesis nearly done and behind me, there now lies more important business to attend to- canyons and streams to be inventoried, desert washes requiring contemplation.

Sitting. Not Doing.

I was going to pack a journal.  And my flute.  Or a book.  And possibly implements for tea.

I left it all at home.

My better mind reminded me of the importance of making space for nothing.  Allowing time to let thoughts rise and fall, unclinging and unhindered.  Not doing.


I have to confess that the world at large is moving far too fast for me, completely at odds with the stillness that I crave.  I’m increasingly feeling like a stranger in a strange land.

Seeing an owl in flight brought me home.  An hour of streamside sitting and the illusory city-self begins to slough off like an old skin.  Pink sunlight on the peaks above and a cold wind snaking through the canyon brought me home.

Grasp the feeling.  Protect it.  Nurse it as if it were a tiny ember.  Carry it in cupped hands through the coming days of traffic and crowds and noise until it can be brought back to life somewhere quiet and wild.


Human Echoes.

Hiking canyons, scouting deer country, filling in some blanks on the Angeles High Country map with Adan.  ~7000 feet at the end of December and nothing but warm sun, clear skies, and a dry wind.  It’s hard to complain.  On the other hand, I can’t help but feel like things are really changing here; summers longer, winters later.  Last year’s rainfall seems quite the anomaly contrasted with this year’s Christmas wildfires.

But it’s good country any way I look at it.  And it’s my backyard.  There was still a ton of deer sign, one sighting, and lots of beds, rubs, and browsing areas.  Big cat shit, bear shit, coyote shit…wild shit.  There has been a lot moving through these canyons.

Including ancient people.

Emerging from cool shade into a sun-warmed clearing, we both immediately commented that this would be a perfect place for a camp.  Within moments of uttering this statement, I found one of the most perfect bedrock mortars I’ve seen to-date.

Carved into a boulder nestled beside an oak, I scooped out the debris gathered inside of it, running my fingers across the perfectly smooth surface at its bottom.  Whatever ancient people left this, it was an amusing testament to the fact that yes, this has always been a great place to camp.  Whoever they were, however distant, I felt a certain kinship.  Despite the possibility of being separated by millennia (many estimates of people in this region tag them between 2000 BCE and 200 CE), we’re still Homo sapiens with the same sensibilities.

As I stood surveying the surrounding ridges and peaks, I could hear the children and smell the smoke.  I wonder who was the last to grind acorns here and whether they knew they wouldn’t be coming back.

The Meaning of Human Existence.

I have a week off from grad classes, affording me the luxury of reading something for myself for a change.  This was my first foray into E.O. Wilson and I’m quite impressed.  He articulates things I’ve intuited for some time and his background in entomology and ant behavior is an interestingly fitting backdrop to any conversation on social behavior.  I read it in a mere two sessions while on an overnight with my son and a friend of his.  Teenagers are nice; the boys took care of themselves while I broke off to read.


Sitting streamside by candlelight, equipped with a down poncho, pad, and backpacking chair, I was prepared for some serious backcountry leisure.  Rocking back and staring at the stars while pondering a paragraph, there couldn’t have been a better setting.

I finished the final pages in my sleeping bag with coffee before the kids were up.  A proper stretch of reading indeed.