¡EL BIRCH!

May 25th, 2020

Scratched into the campground bathroom
wall, these two unlikely words, ¡EL BIRCH!
complete with inverted exclamation point.

In the stench, I conjure a grandmother sitting there,
holding her breath, noting the swear, thinking,
“No, that won’t do,” so planned a quick return

with a nail file from her purse, to carefully turn
the curse of the T into a tailed R, shout-out to a
white tree that doesn’t grow naturally in these parts.

2020
Memorial Weekend
North Crestone Creek Campground

Excuses

May 25th, 2020

Meditation is killing
my poetry, my storytelling
my need to be read, to read.

Or is it all the screens
stealing me from my body,

my need to be out in sun
bagging winter’s dog shit,

pulling up the yellow dead
from last year’s plots
I never harvested.

2020

Backyard Chöd

May 20th, 2020

I am a suet seed cake pressed
into the shape of a woman.
Pop me out of my package.
Encage me in a green basket.
Hang me from that piñon limb.
Watch the Western Tanager,
tiny feathered sunset, delicately
eat my head, steal my eyes.
Two Black Headed Grosbeaks
vie to nibble off my arms.
Their brown striped wives spar
to take turns with my neck,
leaving shoulders for the muted,
butter mate of Tanager.
Everyone flees when Magpie,
huge with white, black and blue
plumes swoops to gobble up
my seedy breasts. My heart!
The limb sags. The basket slips.
Hidden behind bedroom glass,
you knock on the window
to scare him off, leave some
for the Mountain Blue Bird, sky
too timid, too diminutive to spar,
watching from the bird bath
dreaming of my knees, my toes,
but he is too slow. Grosbeaks
get to them first. Tanagers
return like a gang of seven
red setting suns, crumble up
my guts in rounds, dropping
crumbs for the chubby-cheeked
ground squirrel and nervous
chipmunk, both planning wings
for their next life. When all that
is left of me is grease on a green
basket, the sun licks that off
like batter from birthday cake
beaters. Now I flicker and blink
in the eyes of a dozen backyard
birds, the tiny hearts of squirrels,
in the slant light of day reaching
over the San Juans, every ray
waving goodbye, goodbye.

2020
This poem is inspired by the ancient Bön Practice of Chöd, as seen performed here by my friend Geshe Tenzin Yangton, the purpose of which is to cut through attachment to one’s body by ritually offering it to all sentient beings. Alejandro Chaoul Reich provides a detailed explanation of it in his book, Chöd Practice in the Bon Tradition.

Unconditional

May 19th, 2020

A broken lower incisor
abscess made him thin.
Stress stole her eyelid,
ear and cleavage skin.

Toothless and Scabby
lisping and peeling,
Gaptooth and Seczema
loving and ringing the 50s in.

2020

Time Travel

May 19th, 2020

horsetail on the trail
turns me Paleozoic
in my new Merrells
Native_Horsetail_Reed_Foliage__33248.1585424574

My Mother’s Geraniums

May 16th, 2020

It is safe to write about red geraniums,
their sharp, earthy aroma, and imagine them,
once summer and hummingbirds have passed,
dragged in off the porch, blooming indoors
all winter like my mother’s prayers, so red,
such bright fistfuls of love for her wounded ones,
it is hard not to think of blood, her blood pumping
through all of us, if it could, if she could will it.

2020
in honor of my mother, a week late

could be sky

April 29th, 2020

the robin

throws herself

at glass

every window

for days

like me

2020

stalemate

April 28th, 2020

a rasta once asked
do you know she is your queen?
she is, he agreed

queens cannot compete
with fantasy when sad kings
prefer smoke to light

he stops hearing her
dubs her his enemy’s name
forgets he’s the foil

why have peace talks
about the same war they’ve fought
the last seven years

they wage a battle
who can go without speaking,
eye contact, longest

every small move
through their rooms is a chess game
neither one will win

2020

A Glass Window
Is A Glass Window

April 25th, 2020

A few dozen attempts—
bumping her orange breast,
battering fragile grey wings,
tapping tiny claws against
the glass sky of our bedroom
window— brought no success.
We stood on the bed, shoved
our faces against the pane,
knocked, waved our arms,
growled like friendly monsters,
turned on and off track lights
to flash warnings overhead.
Only the latter seemed to give
the robin pause, an inkling
that perhaps an entire world
exists beyond that promise
of sky where other beings live,
move as shadows or gods
beyond her realm, laughing,
shaking their giant heads
at such heartbreaking will.

2020

Hank Knows What

April 23rd, 2020

It happens nearly every walk.
Hank dives into woods like a deer
hurdling logs and bramble.
Then the yelps begin. One or two,
or, like today, a litany of shrieks
accompanied by popping cracks
of unseen branches breaking that
sets me running, whistling, yelling,
hatching plans for mountain lions,
mother bears, bull elk, unexpected
yucca knives or cactus patches.
I watch for his emergence up ahead
or behind, but often, I am wrong;
he is waiting on the opposite end
of my terrible anticipation, sitting calmly
on the trail, or running to me full stride,
adrenaline lit, crazy eyed, tongue
lolled, breath ragged, coat dry,
unscathed by Hank knows what.

2020

White Woods

April 22nd, 2020

Gentle graupel in the aspen grove
where many trees have also fallen,
bark peeling, drunken leaning
on others, angles reminiscent
of the makeshift forts of youth.
Leo lost his collar on a branch, dodged
my effort to slide it over his face,
whitened with age, ID tag tinkling.
Except for a few sawed off limbs
that otherwise would have interfered
with the trail—one amputee looking oddly
like a gas mask in this time of Covid-19,
one letter off of making me think
of nineteen ravens on a road—
the whole wooden mess a testament
to this town’s peace with entropy,
its loving pact with benign neglect, to let
woods be woods without human
meddling. Lightly pelted from above,
the dogs jogged on, occasionally
looking up at sky, wondering, mouths
open, catching graupel. Our coats,
speckled white, became wet.
We walked on, admiring the creek,
lapping its song here and there.
Thunder rolled. Hank reined in
the tangled thread of his roaming
at my side. Lost in thoughts
of Hank-turned-Christo, weaving
the forest white with yarn spooling off
his black back, I also lost track of Leo.
Liverspotted with his usual fear
of thunder, he disappeared. I called
and called his name, whistled
our whistle to silence and empty trail
for too long. Maybe he was quivering
in a lump under some ponderosa
I had missed while dreaming aspen,
woven yarn, graupel. Five minutes
from the car, my phone rang
inside my pocket. It was Caroline.
“Leo’s here. He showed up shivering.
Lucy is consoling him.” And she was,
when I arrived, with her customary
sniffs and licks, full red-body wag.
He could have landed anywhere,
at any other home. We laughed
at the wonder of dogs, the miracle
of a nose threading space with hope
toward a friendly door from the deep
heart of woods and mountain thunder.

2020

Dead Metaphors

April 20th, 2020

Four turkey vultures
riding thermals overhead
used to mean something.

2020

Mueller, Not Kerouac

April 19th, 2020

City Lights Bookstore
I look for Jack on the shelves
Not as books, but air

(He’s there)

15 February 2020

When I Think I’m at Peace

April 18th, 2020

Coyote loves digging me.
I follow him to the boneyard
again and again. In the quiet
I caress the bleached skulls
of my favorite mistakes.

I remember eyes moving
in sockets, lips, tongues,
each one very hungry,
headquarters of whole
bodies I thought were mine.

Arms and legs, fingers, toes,
vertebrae, hips all mixed up
as one. Guts are long gone.

He sits at my feet, panting
proudly like a lab who just
dropped a fat, warm goose.

Good boy, I say. This humerus
is for you. He runs away.

2020

Liver

April 17th, 2020

Life cracks you in half—
a stick for Prometheus
to bring you fire

2020