Moondrifter Reverie



THE BOOK: Moondrifter Reverie.


  Keith Emmons.

: Michael Scofield and Susan Gardner..

: Santa Fe, New Mexico publishes poetry and poets’ memoirs and literary fiction.Our books represent the point of view of the author and are beautiful objects of lasting value. The authors retain full rights to their work. We use the best papers and printers, with manufacturing processes that are low impact and resource conserving.

Image result for Keith Emmons + Zen + Moondrifter Reverie + photosSUMMARY: In this poetic memoir, author Keith Emmons chronicles the unspeakable beauty of life in a houseboat on San Francisco Bay during the free-wheeling days of the 1970s, and incants his dismay as his vibrant waterfront community is crushed by land speculators. Keith’s colorful language flows as free verse, haiku and short poems. “I felt as if I were there,” readers remark. Moondrifter Reverie recounts the author’s “coming of age.” While he and his New Age community celebrate each jubilant day on the open water, he is disabused of his naïve yet valid reverie through the shore people’s pragmatic constricting materialism  — aka. money-making greed — which crushes the idyllic life he assumed would last forever. Yet we know Keith survives, for as “the creatures of the sea have faded from my eye and the winds of my dreams have turned into the gears of the approaching engines gnashing their metal teeth. As I have heard their relentless approach as they close their jaws around me.  I will be away, slipping between their teeth, to another world they’ve not yet found.”

THE BACK STORY: Could I afford a home in Marin County, California, the richest county in the United States? No way. But I could buy a place to live: Claire and I moved in with million dollar views in every direction for $1,400 onto houseboat Moondrifter, anchored on San Francisco Bay. The Moondrifter is a wood Landing Craft abandoned by the Sausalito shipyard after World War II, upon which Bob Spotswood carpentered a tiny cabin.This was the hippie nineteen-seventies. Just inside the entry hung Bob’s painting, the moon as he saw it one night during an acid trip. Claire & I floated in pre-matrimonial bliss as time and tides swung our home, rocking in circles through balmy California days and the bow-busting waves of Pacific storms. Eventually however, developers got control of the waterfront shoreline. Enter the“waterfront wars” as our community fought to save itself from the deadening Master Plan to kick out “freeloaders” and line up all the houseboaters into forty-hour workweek rent slaves. I lived through it, and recorded our joys and sorrows.

WHY THIS TITLE? Readers love Moondrifter Reverie’s title and the cover’s water image. The cover is Susan Gardner’s original photographic work, and Susan, Red Mountain Press’ owner, helped create the title too. As we searched in the work for the best title Susan said, “Keep looking. It’s in there somewhere.” I lived on Houseboat Moondrifter and I was a spiritual drifter. I take meaning for “moon” from Alan Watt’s teachings that in life we often “mistake the finger for the moon.”  This is to say we mistakenly take dogma, or our ideas, or our words even in poetry, to be the actual reality they are trying to reveal to us, as opposed to being our personal reflection of that reality.  So the moon is, for me, a symbol of illusion. And for me, living on the Moondrifter was a delightful, delusional, dream reverie.

WHY WOULD SOMEONE WANT TO READ IT? You’ll love the poetry: spacious meditative haiku and near stream of consciousness story telling. It’s a fun read.

And on a another note: at this historical moment in the United States we see the aggrandizement of personal and business power, particularly in real estate development, punishing the softer arts – personal relationships, artistic creation, environmental sensitivity, and so on. Moondrifter Reverie is a heart-rending, meditative, yet joyous frolic of this timeless conflict between community and the powers of destruction. We must be be sensitized to this conflict to arrest its progress before tender behaviors and communities that define humanity itself are forever annihilated.

“Keith’s lyrical gift is gentle on the heart.  Moondrifter Reverie invests the anxious 1970s with nobility and even, dare I say, with dignity. … recreates the sheer loveliness under the hustle and bustle and delivers it fresh.” — David Landau, novelist, Death Is Not Always the Winner.

“Emmons is a Zen poet — not poetizing about Zen but embodying its realizations. He knows we can’t tell our entire stories, even of ourselves to ourselves.” — Edward Barna, Vermont poet and writer.

“Moondrifter Reverie takes me back to the 60s and 70s when so many of us struggled to make our communities reflect our own esthetics and values.” — Len Anderson, Founder, Hummingbird Press.

“Moondrifter Reverie celebrates sunshine on the mudflats and the desire to live free. Keith captures an era, the spirit of youth, hope and possibility. Plus his poetry is dang fun to read!” — Peter Prasad, author of Campaign Zen 500BC-2012.

AUTHOR PROFILE: I graduated from Harvard without discovering answers to any of the real questions of life. The Vietnam war was raging and I was cannon fodder. I had learned one thing: the course of our society was somehow badly twisted and I was determined not to be a part of it, although I had no idea what better direction to go. So I just plain went: hitchhiked two years around North America visiting Zen Centers, ran a rock group in Mexico City for three months, lived ten years on a houseboat, married, two kids, ten years selling real estate in Silicon Valley, divorce, single dad, remarried, twelve years of intensive Buddhist studies and most recently a three-year, three-month, three-day silent meditation with my honey at our off-the-grid home in the Santa Cruz mountains. The entire time I wrote poetry. Moondancer Reverie is my first published book.


AUTHOR COMMENTS: “I knew we were losing the battle: the last free ride of ‘livin’ on the water’ was almost dead. I can’t say if the Mayor was in the developers’ pocket or the developers were in the Mayor’s pocket, but one thing was for sure: our waterfront community was about to be flushed. I couldn’t stand it. So I climbed to the top of the three tree trunks lashed together on a sunken barge nearby, sat cross–legged, and purged my soul:  in three and a half days sitting thirty feet in air over our beloved waterfront, I wrote down the whole ten year’s  — 185 pages. Seventy-five pages of that turned into ‘The End of the Veil.’ About fifty pages of ‘The End of the Veil’ turned into Moondrifter Reverie, with the addition of haiku and short waterfront poems.

I did perform one act of defiance, at least that’s what I thought it was. As the developers encroached, raising rents and evicting my poorer neighbors, I built a new gigantic houseboat. Three stories tall. With a historic wooden railroad car inside it. Made in 1889 by Carter Brothers. They built the original cable cars for San Francisco, too. My idea was to build something so big and beautiful  — in your face! — that the developers wouldn’t dare kick me out. Sure, I was a bit naïve. But it turned out okay: check it out on the Internet, there are lots of pictures of it there in a Google images search: “The Train Wreck Sausalito houseboat.” The Train Wreck is part of the National Building Museum in Washington D.C. now, too.
Now the rooster crows
like nobody would notice the yellow sun
but the mommas of Gate Six noticed,
I can tell, cause four grade schoolers
just ran by skipping and
yelling “Hey,
is the bus gone? Come on!”
toting their lunch pails, leaving our community,
up before everybody, to learn

something about how shore people think.

Gate Six, this is where rubble is King!
Gate Six your gate is a small path
past the compost heap, corn husks and cantaloupe halves,
through blooming squash, petunias and lettuce heads,
over the itty- bit bridge to the meeting area,
by the Brown House, between the ferries:
Charles Van Damme,
its hulking square frame
huge beamed red paddle wheels
and the two-stacker white Issaquah,

her lower decks submerged at high tide.

No straight lines at Gate Six,
sinking planks, tipsy floats, sunken barges.
Building inspectors don’t even enter here past the sign
“Tourists Stay Out: We Live Here,”
past the hot wires hanging along posts
the bizarre confusion
of square houses geodesic domes,
hulking tugs styrofoam floats flat roofs
peaked roofs windowless lifeboats,
the two-masted Governor MBM.
Dirty-faced faced stone-pitching kids all barefoot
pregnant mothers scruffy fathers
talking of weather and boats and beer and scores
and sitting round the meeting table watching
comers and goers day or night.
Scrap-wood fire in the cut-out metal float
the dogs
barking at strangers a rooster
strutting about flapping o
n an overturned crate,
at Gate Six

where the folks know each other.

Know where Adam ties up
where Andy stretches
where Jonquil wakes
from dreaming of marriage, dancing drums,

and Evie

sees the new sun on the water
and Ale
pours his first cup of beer
even before he opens his eyes.
The overturned skiffs.
The corrugated metal shacks
and heaps of boards.
The picnic table.
The idle chain-link swing set
a mother in a long green dress
walks her blond girl to the bus

hand in hand.

The masts, antennas, radio music,
“Mierda” written in green, trash cans,
this is where rubble is King!
And we wend through it
and like it this way

cause it keeps out strangers.

And we like our privacy
and our little community
we like being a bit scary
we know what it’s like here
and what pier to take
and what ramp to cross
and if you get lost when you come down here
then please

don’t come down here.

Don’t bother us with
your landsman’s rules and shore ideas.
We got our own ideas by the water
and they suit us fine.

just fine.

LOCAL OUTLETS: Buy Moondrifter Reverie from:

2) any local Small Press. Distributors:

3) from me through my website:


PRICE: $18.95.

CONTACT THE AUTHOR: I’d love to hear from you! Send me a note through “Contact” at my

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Recently retired after 35 years with the News & Advance newspaper in Lynchburg, VA, now re-inventing myself as a novelist/nonfiction writer and writing coach in Lake George, NY.

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