Ode to My Old Shovel

June 23rd, 2021
 After admiring Fred’s, a thin, 
 stubby-bladed thing
 that cut just deep enough, 
 freeing up a perfect scoop 
 of manageable dirt 
 my softening arms could heft
 without undo sweat or back 
 damage, the old farmer 
 told me I could likely find one 
 in the junk store
 across the tracks, owned 
 by a local hoarder 
 who turned her piles of pots, 
 clothes, games, lamps, 
 tarnished antique spoons, 
 vintage knick knacks,
 candy dishes and early 20th 
 century shovels into cash. 
 I did. There it was in the back 
 corner of the dim building, 
 cobwebbed, silently sifting 
 dust with other forgotten, 
 slim implements, rusted brown, 
 all of them leaning 
 against walls and each other 
 like a morning lit table 
 of retired farmers sipping coffee, 
 gossiping, reminiscing 
 the sweet promise of rain 
 in the nose. How to describe 
 this beauty? Wood handle 
 splintered but still tight, 
 easy to replace, gripless. 
 Like Fred’s, the stepless, 
 short-collared blade 
 is extra thin and strangely shallow, 
 its mysterious, misshapen tip: 
 purposely forged? or—
 workworn down to a gentle 
 inverse curve, exactly opposite 
 the pointed end you’d expect, 
 not unlike a slice 
 of homemade bread,
 yin to a new shovel’s yang, 
 as if a young man, 
 this woman, could slowly smith 
 the perfect tool 
 against the fire inside 
 a sweaty cotton shirt, 
 file it in the giving grit 
 of simple earth.   

2021
with gratitude to my old neighbor and friend, 
Fred Wahlert of Brush, Colorado

Roommates

June 13th, 2021
 Hildegard is seventeen, or maybe six-.
 She helped me raise three kids,
 watched men come and go, hissed
 either way: hello, good riddance.
 Like true roommates, we don’t kiss
 or cuddle. Sadly, I’m slightly allergic
 so only scratch her ears and chin, 
 tolerate her needled love nips,
 wash before I touch my eyes and itch,
 periodically brush her coat, let her in
 and out to prowl night’s holey pockets
 and ward off that other cat who likes to piss
 on our threshold. Little bitch. Hilde
 knows I love her: I scoop her shit,
 meow back when she wants to chit
 chat, don’t scold when I step in her vomit. 
 Like me, she’s gotten fat, likes to sit
 upright like old Hotei and slowly lick
 her round belly. It swings when she skits 
 across the floor, and her eyes, sky slits,
 are fading strangely: ghostly, distant.
 Perhaps she’s going blind, but not decrepit,
 not yet. Last week, before a 5 day trip,
 she went missing getting her night fix.
 I meowed from the porch, across the mint,
 and she returned the call from her pit
 beneath the porch, behind the lattice.
 Her eyes burned yellow, that spectral glint
 of flashlight. Here, kitty, kitty. She wouldn’t. 
 Under the steps, on sore knees, I flashlit 
 my waggling finger tips, luring her with 
 touch. That is all it took. She came, slid
 against my sharp edges, her catnip. 

2021

Hagstone

June 7th, 2021

On the beach we all have a knack for something.
My son in law skips stones six leaps across a thinning surf.
My husband harbors inner heat despite the wind.
With ease I find black stones with holes clear through
where witches live, my daughter says, and laughs.
Her gifted ears are fine tuned to tumbling staffs
of waves crashing in multi-phonic whispers and roars.
Harmonics hum along this stretch of sand, lost on me.
My ever gulping pupils ignore my poor ears, grow 
lost in mirages of hands and feet burning in the campfire,
wood mimicking bone, an archeology of grain 
that striates everything, as though the whole earth 
were breathing inside a set of giant, fractal ribs
spinning out the endless chests of gulls, men, fish,
metastasized hotels, pretty cages glowing along 
the coast like mammoth corpses or gum-receded teeth. 
Red logs remind me how many degrees my bones
will reach on the path to ash, ash my family may choose
to suspend in blown glass, spun globes to place on desks
as paperweights, or shelves as funerary art or shrines
beneath thangkas of Tapihritsa where I may serve
as a reminder, a gutted clock. Perched on a mirror base, 
plugged in, LED lit, five alternating colored lights 
shining through what’s left of me, a tiny spiral galaxy— 
starry crumbs of my body glowing in vitreous space 
like Tibetan thigles—to everyone’s surprise I will be 
not quite a comfort, not quite discomfiting.  

2021

Matroyshka Dolls

May 23rd, 2021

for my mother

So many memories I can’t access but know.
I still own the I Can Read books you read to me–
flyleaf scrawled with my name in child’s careful cursive,
saved to read a thousand times to my kids–
but not the viscera of your voice reading them.

It is a small tragedy. Cosmic irony.

I have passed my voice through books
in endless silly accents against the truth
my children will forget my voice too.

This perhaps is the great loneliness
of motherhood: to be the only one to remember
the dream of raising a child raising you
into invisible servitude, constant, busy solitude.
How hard you try to hide the struggle,
remember where you buried the bone
of yourself, avoid the fall into empty holes.

As a mother forgets her own mouth
on her mother’s breast, so do her children
forget the lullabies she sang, thousands of meals,
imaginative games, lessons on magical rocks,
nearly every reassuring caress, except the ones
bookmarked by chronic, irreparable loss.

Doll. House. Family. Father.

Mother, I don’t remember
every bedtime, but my heart recalls them all
as one grand, archetypal Tuck In, complete
with prayer. The reverence of your voice,
its cadence washing over, eroding worry,
rhyming with every helpless mother’s prayer.
I know that ancient language in my cells.

Everything else is fog. We forget
our deepest happiness like we forget air.

I don’t remember being an egg in your body.
Small, quiet moon tucked inside the tiny nest
of your fetal ovary. Together we floated,
little astronauts, two Russian dolls
stacked inside your mother’s body.
I can’t remember, but I know.

We’ve been together from the beginning.

2021

Instead of Children

May 7th, 2021

Asleep I dream of clay and children

          and not enough time

to show them how to fully open the eyes

          of the hands, the fingers of the eyes.

Awake I dream of clay instead of children

          and not enough time

to fully perform my own concerto, lucid fingers

          bowing from silence

innate melodies of mud and fire into mugs

          that become children.

2021

deep end

April 24th, 2021

slick and sharp
as a new needle, as a girl
I forced myself

to jump feet first
incremental courage
nine feet, sixteen, thirty-three

pinching my nose
eyes clenched closed
belly coiling velocity

life rushed up stories
to swallow my inches
how we must live

stitching sky and water
to earth, back up for air
miles of unknotted thread

trailing behind every dive
releasing the seam years
and years behind me

2021

Dog Psalms

April 18th, 2021

1. God stares out the window for hours, surveying His domain. Everything smells of Him. He waits.

2. God wants to find a good, fresh bone on His walk, perhaps a tibia attached to a knee, still sour sweet. If he’s lucky, He can sneak it into the house before I close the door, curl up with it on His bed and chew Himself into a dream of a yipping chase in which He, exploding from His hiding place, lands His teeth exactly on a leg and wakes to find it so.

3. God is always begging to be scratched, to leave His musk upon my hands and through me touch the world.

4. God longs for a grungy god-couch upon which He can lie with me, kneading His silken ears, our hearts aligned, my morning breath and distant crotch thrilling His modest, omnipotent nose with my story of love and loss, and through my sorrow penetrate my soul. Perhaps you already know: God is an olfactory historian, a healer, a pleaser, a connoisseur of forgiveness.

5. God has brown eyes. I cradle His slim face. We take each other in, unblinking, oxytocin surging, mutual medicine.

6. Every evening, God begs me to walk with Him. When I emerge from the closet in my unwashed walking jeans, He smells what is in store. It sends Him into frenzy. He dances back and forth between me and my husband, a reluctant walker after a long day of work. Egging, wiggle-begging in ecstatic downward-god pose, He prances, tosses His head toward the door. Come on!

7. Tired as we are, we go with God.

2021

with thanks to Rilke for the phrases explodes from his hiding place and the modesty to use sorrow in order to penetrate our soul

Betelgeuse

April 17th, 2021

All light is former mass
she heard a man say.
Deep in the shape
she has made
rests a glass lotus, no,
a bottle of colored sand
swept from a mandala,
no, a black hand.
In the palm is a wheel.
It spins her into sets
of five limbs: arms, legs,
head, each arrayed
with five ways to take
the world, take it in:
five fingers, five toes,
five monstrous senses:
eyes, ears, mouth,
nose, skin. Some
centrifuge pulls her
out from a center
like carnival taffy or light,
a star exploding slowly
in the shoulder of Orion.
Up close, she shines.
From far enough away
she’s already dead.

2021

with thanks to Rilke for lines 3 and 4

The Reverence of Dogs

April 9th, 2021

Hank drops his humble offerings
at the feet of the household yard gods.
All winter, snow does what it does.
Generous, he lays down more. I do
what I do: ignore his poop till spring thaw.

St. Francis came crumbling with the garden
when we bought the house three years ago.
Face eroded, hips severed from legs, he leans
in crisp sedums against a post, blesses
the perfect pie of a rescued dog at his feet.

Gaia, kitschy relic of early motherhood,
green resin figurine gifted by a dying desert
midwife, perches sun-faded on a stump
in yarrow, smiles serenely over Earth belly
where there is still room for the turd in her lap.

Parinirvana Buddha’s resting head, small town
thrift store find, cracked, epoxied, spray painted
black,  idol I cannot let go nor forget, drifts
in the promise of daisies, eyes high on death,
sweet whiff of long-wintered dung, nearly dust.

2021

doing nothing

March 26th, 2021

I am done mutely berating myself
for avoiding doing things

I told myself I’d do on my days off.
I won’t do them till I do, or must.

Sweep the floor when the feet say.
Suck skin off chai when eyes

take a break from the dog eared page.
Write words to frustrate my future mud,

roll out clay, curl a slab into a cup
only when the body, empty, erupts.

2021

Wonderland

March 16th, 2021

Pandemic Philosophizing, conte crayon, Allison Wonderland

Allison’s witness doll
dancing masked
with an egg
with me
over a shallow grave
friends take turns in.
Heel to head
dirt mandorla:
I lie down
in a strange death
pasture, crack
toward sky, gravity
mixing grief, snow melt,
relief, eye water.
So many ways
to make mud.

2021

(a combined response to Wonderland’s Pandemic Philosophizing and her 2020 earth installation, Feral Nostalgia’s Delicate Commonweath)

Little Rachel Dreams
of Regeneration

March 13th, 2021

In third grade,
I read Pets in a Jar
cover to cover,
renewed it for weeks
or maybe months,
until the librarian
reminded me other
kids might like it too.
For the rest of childhood
into my teens,
I sought planarians
in wet ditches
and culvert weeds,
scooped jars of murky water
from neighborhood ponds
crouched in cattail reeds.
I never found one,
would never know
if I had courage enough
to slit its funny face
between the eyes
and split its tail
into a fork to watch
it heal into a living
double-headed X,
or better yet, or worse,
a tiny headless man
with two legs, two arms,
two faces for hands,
four tiny, forgiving
eyes, now twice as wise
thanks to me.

2021

Reteach a Thing its Loveliness

March 5th, 2021

“…sometimes it is necessary/ to reteach a thing its loveliness,/ to put a hand on its brow…/ and retell it in words and in touch/ it is lovely/ until it flowers again from within, of self-blessing/ as St. Francis/ put his hand on the creased forehead/ of the sow…” Galway Kinnell

I’m not sure which I prefer—
a dog-ruined couch
felted with fur and saliva,
my heart unfurled
by that dog’s head on my lap,
mother-loneliness ruined
by unblinking brown eyes,
child-starved fingers sated
by silken ears and skull,
his musky scent a welcome
pocket of ancient wilderness
inside my home,

or this clean couch,
spotless but for drips
of coffee here and there,
bread crumbs tucked
in corded seams,
its arms stained
with my arms’ oils,
my heart in solitary repose
considering a poem
by Galway Kinnell
called “St. Francis
and the Sow,”
while my dog rests
over there on his bed,
his chin on the low
window sill, peering out,
a palm of morning light
upon his brow.

2021

List of Dreams for Yeshe Walmo

March 5th, 2021

Dead mouthed,
I stain red pillows
with drool.
Tape my lips.
My list of dreams
bore dreams.
They found me, bent
me, broke my face,
turned sons
to grandmothers,
trees to saviors,
daughters
to fathers, fire
to prayers.
Better not to list
one’s dreams.
This moment
the required dream.
Shake me, take
my head, bead it
on a twisted cord.
Wear it, blue one,
wake me.

2021

Crestone Poetry Festival:
Feb. 27 -28

February 19th, 2021

Please join us for a FREE virtual Poemfest with your favorite poets…

from the Sangre de Cristo mountains and beyond. Our virtual festival this year will be a reunion of the community we’ve enjoyed the past three years. The fourth annual Poemfest will be different from those in years past, but we will feature some of the best writers in Colorado and New Mexico, and we will pass the gourd.

Visit Poemfest.com to register!