Red fox

Two Poems by Judy Halebsky

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The Circumambulation of Mount Tamalpais:
A Limited Series

A Note from the Author:
These poems are excerpted from a longer work-in-progress that has an abecedarian structure. Abecedarian poems are based in alphabetical order and move through the alphabet with each word or line or stanza starting with a successive letter of the alphabet. This work also references many other texts in alphabetical order such as dictionaries, encyclopedias, and (my favorite) glossaries.


Terrestrial /təˈrɛstrɪəl/ of land (not water or air) red fox, puma, bobcat, badger, ants, bees, grasshoppers, lizards, moths, cicada – I could keep going but you too have wikipedia and your own sense of what should be listed and unlisted, counted and claimed, what I need to tell you here is that we’ve always tried to structure our time and attention. Basho left the city. Cold Mountain lived in a hut. Hirshfield spent 1000 days sitting Zen. I go between coffee shops, walk myself from dawn to night. call up the poems, the prayers. ask to be lifted out of here. send up a flag so the spirits can find me. when I call, they come.




Vernal Equinox /ˈvərn(ə)l /ˈɛkwəˌnɑks/ – spring, when the longitude of the sun is zero, the point at which the sun passes from the ecliptic to the celestial equator or from north to south (this won’t be on the test, I promise) every day is a chance of failure. the 19-year-old on the all day hike brought a pack of gum. at each stop while others ate dried fruit and nuts and chocolate bars, she chewed a fresh piece of gum (these thoughts are not currently related. except that hunger takes many forms)




The word circumambulate, from the Latin roots circum (around) and ambulare (to walk or go about), denotes an intentional meandering that celebrates the sacred by entering into relationship with it through movement. Circumambulation is practiced by many religions around the world as it cultivates devotion and unity, both in an individual’s mind and body and in the community that practices together, as one. In 1965, poets Gary Snyder, Allen Ginsburg, and Philip Whalen created a route for a circumambulation around Mount Tamalpais—Mt. Tam, just north of San Francisco—with designated places to stop and chant along the way.

In this limited-run series, four writers from different backgrounds share their own experiences about the circumambulation of Mt. Tamalpais. Each of them offers a unique perspective on their relationship to ceremony, their connection to the mountain, and the transformative nature of this practice. Andrea Ross’s essay speaks to the power of observation and of seeing “familiar things in a new way;” Forrest Gander’s takes us on an audiovisual journey into “lived sensations;” Judy Halebsky’s abecedarian poems move between the mundane and the spiritual: “send up a flag so the spirits can find me. / when I call, they come.” And in the final piece, Catherine Girardeau guides the reader through each of the ten stops of the mountain, where she finds “clarity out of confusion” and a way home.

  – Leonora Simonovis
     Series Curator and Currents Editor


Judy HalebskyJudy Halebsky is the author of three poetry collections, most recently, Spring and a Thousand Years (Unabridged), which was a finalist for the National Poetry Series. She has received fellowships from the MacDowell Colony, the Millay Colony, and the Vermont Studio Center. Her passions include the Moth-style storytelling and walking as a day-long activity. While living in Japan, she walked parts of Bashō’s route in Narrow Road to the Interior and the 88 temples of Shikoku. Now based in Oakland, she directs the MFA in Creative Writing program at Dominican University of California.

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