Culling Achillea Millefolium

August 30th, 2015

Yarrow was long yellowed by late August.
I had over-waited in the name of over-busyness.
Pruning avoided in July and waves of heat
Produced crisp umbels tossing tiny flecks of seed.
Culling, I clipped skeletons close to ground,
Careful to avoid the living fronds that,
Given more water, might yet green through fall.
Piling dead growth like bouquets on the path,
I knew May would now require more of me:
Plucking ferny volunteers amid flagstones.
The red path, despite hidden plastic fabric
And paving sand in cracks, and beds
Of cedar mulch, would soon be riddled through
With yarrow roots, and more. That is the way
With years, fallen foliage and seed, everything
Becoming dirt and green despite us.

2015

Town Cat Turns

August 22nd, 2015

For two years
after the bewildering move
she refused to step outside,
claimed the upper floor,
shed upon beds
before farm house windows.
Not without a fight
I finally her tossed her out
summer’s back door.
An intervention.
She ran low
to barns and shadows,
beneath parked cars.
Tom cats took her in,
taught her night-joy,
the stealthy prowl,
naps in caves of weeds,
field mice in the chicken house.
Gone wild four weeks
without a bowl, still fat,
she asked to be let in,
more herself than
all the years before,
her new face praising
our feet and shins
and doors.

2015

Everything is Perseids

August 13th, 2015

Everything is Perseids
within my head—not beautiful.
I almost can’t ignore the beauty.
In death, master clear light.

Oh the lights
that crash inside!

For the dreamer, what is left
of the body’s habits
flashes through death’s middle sky.
I practice death eyes.

I will have no eyelids
from which to squeeze visions.

Tonight we are told to lie
on our backs with caffeine
and wait or wake for the stars’
train show before dawn.

I know I will not rise.
Not tonight, this wide.

One star is a blank stare.
Another is my hunger.
The final star is my man
driving home from Nebraska.

Come August dark at 2 am,
the sky will fall upon my bed.

2015

The Barren Gilt

August 11th, 2015

The woman will not explain away
her farm-fed fat
or forgetfulness. She is losing
more and more.
Not fat. There is genius
in forgetting.
No accolades. No profit.

The gilt was barren. Huge.
Soon to slaughter.

If enough space,
if enough
is made in the mind,

in the freezer,

poems don’t care
to be written.
Nor do her strong hands,
thinking Other
against her own fat, care.

The farmer said she went willingly.
No fuss but from the boar.

Something—what?—
remembers
belonging to another body.
No padding
under that once-skin.
She forgets. Goes willingly.

2015

Mowing

August 10th, 2015

Lambsquarter, foxtail and all their lanky friends
Rise up on the prairie inside our weathered fences
Like lush jungle or high rise apartments. It’s all scale.
Chickens cannot venture through, nor human feet.

Feral cats will brave the dive for rabbits
Or for our fat domestic cat with whom they share
Loose feline ties—unlikely friends. In games
Of hide and seek, they stand on hind legs, peer
Into the waving green, bat paws, prowl for mice
Like shadows of each other every night.

But I am singing for glorious weeds.
Their wordless philosophy filling space
Like old stories or fantasies fill the mind.
The time comes they must be mowed
To save ourselves from mosquitos who lie
In wait, shirtless, hanging out of windows,
Threatening passersby who raise their ire in clouds
With each thoughtful stop to squint at sky.

When the farmer’s sixteen-year-old son—
His country mullet curling from ball cap,
Its bleach blond ends tickling the breeze—
Drops off their Japanese riding mower,
Its wide girth and two arms bent with readiness,
I feel the thrill of machines. The thrill of men
Who make and lust for them, strange Galateas.

It takes awhile to remember the order—
Release the brake, then start? Or turn the key
And then release the brake. The latter brings a roar.
I slip on bruising headphones. Plastic, black, silent.
No music in these but my own voice amplified
With happy tuneless songs for weeds and speed.

I drop the blade, ride the thing in random patterns,
Pass back the opposite way against earlier grains
Of lain-down whiskers. Apologize to wildflowers.
Look up. Laugh at chickens who scramble to the coop
Like… well, like chickens, like tiny, fully-feathered
Velociraptors terrorizing recycled 80s movies, only sillier.

I steer into shapes of fields like a vicious ship.
Weeds lie down under me with little resistance
Releasing swarms of homeless young grasshoppers
In waves. I worry for the garden, wonder if I should
Spare some weeds to lure the hoppers away
From mustard greens, arugula, tasty canopies
Where whole families of toads hunt and stare.

Before long, I’m done mowing the odd triangular plot
Between the henhouse and the hotwire
Bordering the pasture. Over my shoulder,
Chickens joyously dash into the newly opened space
To do their own mowing. My mind, too, is a range.

I park the machine, stretch and scan. Plan a walk
Through areas no longer lost. I am sweating,
Covered in fine grit and blown-back clippings
Spit by careless wind. When Dorell comes home
From the house he is framing, he kisses my neck,
Declares, “You smell like me.” Licks his lips, “Salt.”
And with that word and work, earth trying
To escape us, that is what we are.

2015

Soft Equations of State

August 3rd, 2015

(This erasure/collage poem was written by deleting most of the words in the article, “Soft equations of state for neutron-star matter ruled out by EXO 0748-676,” written by Feryal Özel in Nature, 29 June 2006. The words in this poem were taken from their article in this exact order. No words not found in the article were added. I created the accompanying collage with images from several issues of Nature as well.)

IMG_8264The interior of stars matter.
That the early universe achieved
terrestrial matter appears to rule
out soft equations and unconfined
centres.

The radiation flux,
the stellar surface observed
from a single source is color,
temperature, expressions, yield—
the stellar parameters.

Tighten these constraints,
the slowly spinning stars,
rotational infinity, a fitting function.

The main uncertainty bursts,
dynamically unimportant flash.

Shown are the contours,
the black shaded area.

Uncertainties, uncertainties
limit the actual radius of the star.

Freefall, time scales!

Unknown binary system
affects the X.

I can obtain lower limits
as a strange star.

Only the stiffest equations of state
in a small orbit are negligible.

My method is a direct source,
a globular cluster.

The mass and radius of stars
are excluded by my self-bound,
bare, strange matter.

Stars, I therefore argue,
represent the ground.

2015
with thanks to Debbi Brody for sharing this marvelous writing/collage technique

The Professor Introduces her Old Wardrobe and the New Semester

August 2nd, 2015

It was challenging gathering the large pile
of brown and black polyester slacks
and sensible pinstriped skirts without
the never ironed cotton-blend button-up shirts
and permanent press, slouchy cowneck blouses
sliding off the top, but she managed to haul them
towering over her head to the windowless classroom
where students sat quietly with literature books
still in shrink-wrap on their laps
should they decide to drop the class after today.
She heaved and the pile slumped
in the middle of the room like a dead animal.

Students fidgeted in the circle of chairs
she had arranged for just this moment.

A pissed-off Prometheus, she lit
a strike-anywhere match on her blue jeans’ seam
and tossed it on the brindled pile.
It hissed and crackled into a huge black puddle
Catching carpet now a flaming ring.
When she ordered her students
to throw in their chairs and books,
the conflagration drove them from the room.
The fire alarm calmly ordered mass evacuation.
The Professor stood with her class on the lawn,
warming her hands over her place of employment,
passing out wire coat hangers and marshmallows.

2015

Summer Supper

July 24th, 2015

By mid July the biting gnats give up.
And though there may be one or two about,
You, too, must give up fearing six-inch swellings,
Dare to wear vanilla round the holes
Of your face. Reach into zucchini, find the few
That sprang to forearm length before you knew it.

Forget fast food. So easy to sauté quarter moons
With sweet onions—themselves moons sliced
Radially from the core—in butter, olive oil,
Sea salt. Do not measure. Know your salt
Well enough to pour it in your palm.

While moons sizzle golden, take a walk.
Trim dill from lowest stems. Ignore insects
Flushed by your passing. Think cool, green nerves.
Sniff the plump handful on the stone path
Back to the house. The kitchen now a scented fog,
Chop the dill with butcher knife on thick block.

Don’t throw everything you have into the pan.
This isn’t waste. Chickens love kitchen scraps
And dill will explode its firework finale
For months to come. There’s more. Relax. Remove
The medley from heat. Hum in concert with your lover

While you eat from your plate with fingers.
Suck the buttered song from each one.
Suck his peach barbecue from each perfect rib bone
Cut from the barrow he woke each morning
Through three seasons to feed a farmer’s corn,
To pour steaming water in the trough.

2015

Surfing the News Four Days after Seeing the Dark Knight at Midnight with my Thirteen-Year-Old Son in Fort Morgan, Colorado

July 12th, 2015

for our mothers and fathers

One young man—on every screen in debut daze of ridiculous hair
and smoky dreams of frantic arms in solitary confinement—
couldn’t find his world face. Perhaps exhaustion stuffed it
under his hard pillow, or pills ate it, or sleepless monkeys
of his own dark reckoning hid it in the cell drain.

His mother and father stand behind him like newly born gods,
like your ancient god, they who continue to love,
have learned of their own terrible, unsinkable love
for a murdering son, have shrunk before the truth
that no amount or kind of sleepless rocking baby love
saved him from his shocking midnight burden.

Terrified mothers cast Facebook slurs, wring our faces and shirts
to wrestle the fear he could be our own adorable boy, shuffle
silently through every memory of toy and digital gun, tremble
at the monstrous love we know we’d find behind our breasts
while other mothers dream our sick child’s systematic death.

26 July 2012

San Francisco Flowers

July 5th, 2015

Tulip clouds
careful trees
crowds of touring
Japanese

hills of condo
rent control
all surprising
grain silos.

2015
in response to Les Barta’s photoconstruction, exhibited at the CACE Gallery of Fine Art in Spring 2015:
San Francisco Flowers

Vermillion Flowers

July 5th, 2015

Hearts of flowers may as well be eggs
and wheel hubs—tender yolks.

Before you know it,
eggs grow ears toward cowdom.

A yolk nosed cow
sooner or later makes a sow.

Finally honking cars
with their own pig snouts

are flowers blooming ridge lines
lifting cumulous clouds.

2015
in response to Les Barta’s photoconstruction, exhibited at the CACE Gallery of Fine Art in Spring 2015:
Vermillion Flowers Image

Fine Arts Phenomena

July 5th, 2015

The fountain of water is of the Corinthian order.
Fluted drums become acanthus curls,

Like men’s pant legs.

The frieze across our chests is full
of muscular gods facing the ancient harp.

We know the song has changed.

Columns pretend to be trees, whole
forests fluted with bark, crowned with real leaves.

Columns of cloud feed woods and fountains rain.

The stone dome over your bone dome
is no greater or lesser a feat. Face it.

Clouds and arms are the same. A colonnade.

2015
in response to Les Barta’s photoconstruction, exhibited at the CACE Gallery of Fine Art in Spring 2015:
Fine Arts Phenomena Image

Sunflowers

July 5th, 2015

A horse head blooms yellow petals
over four legs not its own in sweats
and white sneakers, a tourist.

Cars bloom, spin leaf wheels.

Even mountain peaks pray
for budding yellow petals
when the sun throws rays overhead.

Does everything long to be something else?

The slow nature of time spreads
out the process and lies:
you are only you. No petals allowed.

2015
in response to Les Barta’s photoconstruction, exhibited at the CACE Gallery of Fine Art in Spring 2015:
Sunflowers Image

Golden Gates

July 4th, 2015

The earth loves repetition.
Mountains are pyramids.
The Golden Gate quotes the city
On the hill, rolling up into itself
Like clouds. The bridge
Could be a prison or a barge.
Cars mimic clouds rolling to work
Dreaming of being water, blues
Under the bridge or mountains
Sprouting gentrified houses
For people in the center of the fringe.
Look how earth became steel,
How steel became a road over water,
How water would destroy the bridge
If not for painters, for golden paint
Named International Orange
Ironically the color of rust.

2015
in response to Les Barta’s photoconstruction, exhibited at the CACE Gallery of Fine Art in Spring 2015:Golden Gates Image

Furnace Creek Phenomena

July 2nd, 2015

Your face is a ceramic tiled roof.
You think I don’t see water roll off you.

Some days, your hands and feet hang limply
From the windows of your limbs.

You walk over stones placed by no hands.
Your car, with wheels for feet, aches for grass.

2015
in response to Les Barta’s photoconstruction, exhibited at the CACE Gallery of Fine Art in Spring 2015:
Furnace Creek Phenomena