Anatomy of a Mason Jar

February 25th, 2017

First you were for cucumbers,
Bread and butter pickles I taught
Him to love, their yellow
Stain brightening egg salad.

Or was it beets, the obscene
Lolling eyeballs of earth. Red.
Your glass a lantern full
Of cloved, impossible sight.

It doesn’t matter. Rusted ring, lid lost,
You have outlasted better glasses
In the cabinet, crystal goblets,
Cheap tumblers, stately beer pints.

Our finest, my pride,
For serving guests wine despite
Hard water marks on your shoulders,
Mineral threads along your neck.

Humble belly of water, tattooed
Name in raised script, you are the vessel
At my bedside, the three a.m.
Wide mouth kiss against parched lips.

Settling back into the down,
When he hands you to me
In the prairie dark of dawn,
You are his clear promise.


Burning Books with Jack

February 20th, 2017

When he threw Amor Fati
into flames, friends and poets gasped.

White book! Heads shook.

I ran to find mine bubble wrapped
in a briefcase, amateur sky
with all the colors in it.

ah jumped in after Jack like a sigh,
and Danny’s script, wanting nothing more
than for words to say nothing,

burn, be nothing with his.
Glowing gold pages turned with the stick

of an acolyte. Spent light!

Unreadable ash
made of us and especially
Jack gibbering joy-scat

to the earless moon, hands
grasping at the halo like a drowning man,
fingers coming up empty and fool.


Three and a Half Years after the Death of a Guerita

February 3rd, 2017

There is no time
to spend with you today,
lover of all things Latin
(especialmente the men),
except in songs that we once
heard together and sang.
Remember how our sister-sound
would mesh, two voices
from our mother’s throat?
We made one sound
of her parted flesh, a boat
with two sails blown full.

On this Day of the Dead I wear
your black peacoat, its pockets
finally emptied of your things:
old tissues, El Salvador keychain,
plastic packet of gum with foil
burst open over two empty wells.

There are many ways to hold lost hands.
Hold the things they held.

For two years, I touched the tissues,
the ones you worried chemo fear into.
They finally fell apart. I chewed stale gum.
I can’t recall—are these gloves yours?
I forget what you wore even as I wear it.
Your hands are cold.

Do you remember how
the grave digger surfed the water
in your Illinois grave? Oh, the March rain!
You—in walnut casket and concrete vault,
your faux gold name plate crushed
under his boot—were the board.
He rode you. Wow, look at the buoyancy,
he said in wonder, arms out for balance.
I was glad Mom had left; thought
Shakespeare would have loved this script.
I grinned. That lovable fool,

I shoveled along with him. Good worker,
he said, while I tucked you in from the edge
of the hole, slid and fell and stood and threw in
a foot of dirt. Aguas, aguas, I heard you say,
Careful, careful. Water gurgled and
sucked at clumps with thirsty slurps.
I couldn’t bring myself to stand
on your body, twice-boxed.
It would have made the work easier.

I didn’t clean my black boots a year,
whacked the clay-rich clods into a plastic pail
now lost somewhere in the basement.
I had meant to wet and sculpt of them
a headless goddess like the ones
you made in college, recuerdes?

Why do I save these odd mementos?
What good is it to clutch what enclosed you?
It only makes me sad, and, shhhh, relevado,
when I forget their context, when I forget
the way you filled your clothes, when I lose
the mud that holds you, waterproofed.

Saving and losing you, over and over:
such strange ointment, mi manita.



Translations, for my mother:

guerita: a white girl beloved of Latinos
especialmente: especially
aguas, aguas: literally waters, waters, but figuratively, move easy like water, be careful. Becca’s husband said this as she wheeled around her IV rack at her first chemo. She translated the words for me at the time so I would understand he didn’t literally mean waters, waters
recuerdes: remember?
relevado: relieved
mi manita: short for hermanita, little sister, it is especially a term of endearment for a sister for whom one’s love goes deeper than blood.


Middle School Football

January 24th, 2017

Our sons, their plastic shoulders dream
Of manhood. Each time a body falls
And a groan rises up like a man,
And the body is rolled or limps off field,
Holding a stomach, a wobbled leg,
There is a mother somewhere.
Maybe her eyes water, too.


Pre-Inaugural Dream

January 20th, 2017

Sugar weak, core and limbs
radiating with it, I woke in the
dark first hours of January 20th
having just dreamed of living
in a small mountain town,
perhaps something like Crestone,
where people stopped to talk
on dirt streets, share food, laugh,
linger near the new art installation:
two bushes whose lowest branches
were trimmed just enough
to allow us to crawl beneath
on our bellies, get caught on
a few twigs, a few leaves,
feel our breath speed,
a vague dread rise. Stuck once
or twice, I paused to notice
the beautiful tangle above,
the calculated trimming.
It was only a bush. I was small
enough to pass. I stood.
Before me were two doors.
Like exit signs, the words
WOMEN over the left,
MEN over the right.
Hard as a mannequin,
I passed through WOMEN.
On the other side, my youngest son
sat on a bench, studying leaves
he had plucked from the shrub.
Rosemary, perhaps, or sage.
I felt lucky to live in a town
where art was the place to enact
and defeat fear, not the pillow,
the walking into the day.

20 January 2017
after reading before bed, “A Trump Attack on the Arts would be More than Just Symbolic”

What are You Doing
Among the Dead?

January 17th, 2017

In the dark I am crawling
on the bedroom floor of my sister’s cancer memory,
asking, do you need to pee?
We are whisper laughing.

I am waving
my arms, demonstrating
Shiva’s dance over the pygmy
of me.

Taking credit for love, I am dancing
at a Mexican Hindu wedding,
where I later leave a dead woman’s shawl hanging
on the back of a seat.

Dust is collecting
on two boxes of animal ashes: Mojo and Siami.

I am questioning the dream
of my father’s mother never smiling,
of my advancing lips, her turning cheek.

That photo? This is what I believe:
It was only a sunfrown she made, holding her new baby.
The story is mother’s mother was never mean.

The dead are storytelling me.


That Burro on CR Y

January 15th, 2017

Early riser, that burro on County Road Y.
There is no herd to keep her company,
No fellow burro with whom to rub muzzles,
Take turns chewing burs from the other’s fur,
Brown teeth a loving vise, releasing seed
For the prairie. Fie the bur in her side; she’s made
Friends with a fence post, a couple rusty barbs,
Too alone to hex the couple in the bedroom
Down the road, laughing at her morning bray,
Wiping sex away with a red towel.

Boggle words: riser, burro, is, herd,
her, rub, burs fur, vise, fie, bur, side,
hex, sex, red

Confessions of a Hero Worshipper

January 15th, 2017

Have you made the desert
exodus, escaped enslavement
from the paper marriage,
that death warrant to wholeness?
Waters do part when they must.
Have you stopped hoping for him
to ride away with you to safety,
for half a woman to save?
In a room of one’s own, one finds
grace. My room was not a room
but my own face looking behind
my face. Dancing in my nudey pants,
I became my own pilgrim,
my own John Wayne,
the new policeman ruled
by the wisdom of forgiveness.
This was the last day
of my dance with duality,
my true marriage, my holy
matrimony. What is patrimony?
(Do not think too much about
the economic exchange of sex.)
You may want someone anyway.
Man, are you brave enough
to marry what needs saving
in you? When I look
in my own eyes, darling,
I see you, looking back.
It’s nice to know someone like you.
We could be the parents,
the heroes and heras
of the greatest generation.
Ignore those who say
not today.


Our poetry group listed titles of books
picked randomly from shelves in the discard
section of the East Morgan County Library
(thanks to Timmy Fritzler, for that idea!)
Another poet, Brenda Wildrick, suggested
we use those titles to explore a theme.
Here are the titles I used:

Confessions of a Hero Worshipper
The Paper Marriage
Death Warrant
A Room of One’s Own
Dancing in My Nuddy Pants (Nuddy changed to Nudey for the sake of assonance)
John Wayne
The New Policeman
The Wisdom of Forgiveness
The Last Day
It’s Nice to Know Someone Like You
The Greatest Generation
Not Today

Clockwork, or Ghost in the Machine

January 5th, 2017

Not enough of me
To pour into machine molds,
Missing teeth, I cannot fill
The silent, giant gears.
Metallic shriek: I turn
Against, into you.


The Philosophy of Animals

January 1st, 2017

Sky never asks raven to stop being black.
It burps happy nihilism through the blue,
Drops poop on an island of the Cache la Poudre,
Perches in a stand of ponderosa pines above
A group of young drummers come to snub phones,
Pound hard then just enough to hear: the flute,
Twigs break, a rufous hummer suck red juice,
Bomb those with ruby throats. A sugar war.

This, far from my world of paperclips and bookish
Windowlessness, even farther from the South Platte
Where, seven miles north, a man chases opossum
From our drafty hen house to its proud egg stash.

Chickens watch the red light debacle, doze off.
Once-feral-cat slips through the old door’s cracks,
Past stacks of concrete blocks, to sip the heated trough.
Too young to know what owls and barking coyotes mean
Too young to linger with her single kitten in the barn,
She longs for touch, mews the dark back door,
Ignores her virile brothers’ glowing eyes in trees,
Sleeps in pick-up crannies ‘til the engine goes cold.

Come morning, I let her in, upset my fat Siamese who
Screams and squirts bright piss across the kitchen floor.
The new cat chases her in skids and thuds
Up narrow stairs, the attic room her private lair no more.

Books on New Year’s Eve

December 31st, 2016

TV tired of the stare,
Hummus, salmon, mandarins consumed,
The child’s chocolate wafers shared,
Facebook a bankrupt moon,
Over crumbs and a countdown dare
The family wonders what to do.

The woman opens poems.
The man, his mystery.
The child finds riddles hidden.
Quiet is a key.
No one looks up when
The metal vent bangs with heat.

31 December 2016

Boggle Love Poem

December 15th, 2016

I would loan my own—
No, better, I would
Make for you a coat,
Embroider all the words
For love in Latin,
Fill it with fine batting,
With a bit of Tao.

No, it would be a quilt,
Warmer than coal
Fuller than nil.

Born beneath it,
We two,
Despite the old ban,
Our breath a quiet lilt.

Earth would tilt anew,
Chase our canned heat
Like a con sun,
Like a dumb lab’s tail
And never rest.

The tin moon, jealous
Of the way our love lit
Up a continent,
Would quit.

How to write a Boggle poem: Dust off your old Boggle game (remember? the one on the closet shelf sitting on top of five different kinds of Monopoly board games). Shake the letters, remove the lid, turn over the three-minute timer, and write a list of as many words as you can find. When the last grain of sand drops and time runs out, turn over the timer again. Write a poem for three minutes, using as many words from your list as possible. Among the words I found in this game were quit, tin, lit, lilt, bat, ban, con, quilt, bit, Tao, nil, lab, no, tail, it, and tilt. My sweetheart read me his word list, so I borrowed some of his findings, too: coat, coal, loan, can, and Latin.

Weltschmerz, or
How a Girl Saved the Pie

December 3rd, 2016

I was not thankful the morning
The girl listed all the people
She guessed for whom I was thankful.
She guessed everyone right.
I was fine with being wrong.

Despite a friend’s advice not to bake
When having negative thoughts,
I took the chance of ruining
Pumpkin pie.

With grand introduction,
In TV voice, the girl made me
The master chef of my own
Cooking show. I wanted
To smile. I couldn’t. I rolled
The dough, handed her the pin.
She rolled. I measured spice.
We took turns turning
Black spoons over the bowl.

The spices look like skin.
There’s mine, she said, cinnamon.
You’re this one!
Ginger, I clarified.
And Daddy’s here.
With pestle and mortar,
We hand-ground cloves
Looking like no one we know.

Stirred, we were a new skin
We couldn’t name.
And joy, buried beneath late November,
Knew I would remember
To tell you here.

24 November 2016
with thanks to Shea

two gratitudes

November 26th, 2016

thankful tonight
to be infinitely smaller
than all the tiny stars

thankful tonight
to not know which
are long dead



November 25th, 2016

Cheshire smile buried in the beard.
Creamy rye stuffed into a kiss.

Stinky cheese runs off with my man
And marries him in Paris.