Your Words

September 27th, 2014

Your words,
Like your children,
Are trying to leave you.

You are misspelling publicly,
Hands covered
In erasing’s word dust.
Wipe them on your pants.

Walk down narrow hallways,
To your fauxwood desk.
Try to read fluorescently.

Take words to another room.
Watch them swim.
Misread with enthusiasm
To strangers.

Dream the back roads home
That fields are mowed of cornwords.
Tractors pile them up for milk to eat.

The book on disk
Hangs sound in the air.
Your mind creates a page for font.
One word at a time disappears.

At home, chickens hear
Their namey names and run to you,
In love with singy songs promising seed.
They bite your fingers.

Step over paths of the melon patch
Into crispened hands
Holding cantaloupes, ignored.

Embittered after sweetness,
They fall off vines, a homeless alphabet
You cannot eat
So feed to feathered things.


After the Roast, Advice to an Angry Son

September 22nd, 2014

If your children ever ask you,
Have you ever…
They don’t want the truth, but do.
Honesty is not the same as love.

But should you feel compelled
To someday tell them how you’ve flown,
Where you roost, be sure to choose
Today’s mistakes like eggs.

The night may come your son
Will feed them to you rapid-fire,
One by one, just to watch you
Gorge and puke up feathers.

Choked sobs and combed excuses
Will not be enough to redeem you
Or him, or your parents’ parents’ parents.
In the beginning, the nest got robbed.

Furious, beautiful boy, I know.
This is how we try to straighten up
And fly right, broken and young,
Before our chickens come home.



September 15th, 2014

Crickets call to crickets
And toads to toads
But not to me
Through locked doors
And farm house windows
With broken latches.

You slip in like hot wind,
Like junebugs through light cracks—
You, as in Lonely Old Me—
To lie down in this new bed
Having been lost for two springs.
Where have you been?

I know you by your hands,
The way they wrap my arms
To clutch my back, touch shadows
In my face, test new found fat
And thrill that love is feeding
Me past ache and pretty bones.

Like poetry you chant
My lover’s name in Denver
Searching for his daughter
The way you always did the year
You held me through blue winter
And a bluer spring.

I love. I love. You sing it still.
Your singing more than once
Has made me crazed, has made me.
Now I sing the same two sounds to you.
Who began this song? No matter.
We come home when called.

Moved by your easy return,
Your latent tenderness, I hold you
In this dark house. We wait.
The prairie sings itself to sleep.
Love comes home to us like morning,
Close and cool, even in August.


This is Not a Test

September 7th, 2014

after A.E. Stallings

1. Stepping out of the car at the Comfort Inn,
We watched my Mormon father
Cross the parking lot.
a. Each man grew a comb in the closing distance.
b. Palm to palm with a black man, Dad looked up.
c. Suspicions about my partner’s name: confirmed.
d. One neck throbbed harder.
e. All or none of the above.

2. In Maverick’s Country Grill
Over roast and mashed potatoes,
Dad called Dorell a big boy.
a. Boy, of course, meant youth, and “Welcome, son.”
b. His mother’s grandfather’s will bequeathed a man to a man.
c. His wife didn’t kick him under the table.
d. Dorell held my father’s eyes and smiled outside of time.
e. All or none of the above.

3. When we sat in the dim hotel room
Lit by the screen of perpetual John Wayne westerns,
My father and I, surprised, choked up in patriotic pride.
a. Which America made him cry?
b. Did he notice our fingers laced with Dorell’s like keys?
c. “America the Beautiful” rang from our palms.
d. He didn’t know he would stop his monthly phone call.
e. All or none of the above.


If I Should Die Today

September 7th, 2014

If I should die today, shave my head
And save the tangled nest for spring.
Place it under nettle’s stinging leaves—
Watch phoebes weave a head for eggs.

If I should die today, help me sit
On any solid spot with folded hands.
Legs crossed. Spine straight. Chin tucked.
If you must, tie me to a stake.
Even dead I work on waking up.

If I should die today, whisper in my ear
I never was my body though it tried. Help me sing
The sacred tones I know without a voice.
Call Geshe-la, he’ll know the way to walk me
Through brilliant walls of sound, light and rays.

If I should die today, don’t mourn
Each place my body doesn’t fill.
Baby, lay your face on my red pillow.
Know the salted scent will live but hours.
Children, dance a night in my old clothes.
Next month, bravely feed them to a flame.
Dear friends, keep on writing poems.

Live in sounds that pray.


Why He Works

September 1st, 2014

Not for money, though it drips in.
But for the fact that bathroom pipes
Need not freeze in winter
Nor tile stink of mold and urine
Nor laundries think of dungeons.

Further, our food is nearly free
If this bit of turned and seeded earth sips
Like clockwork from porous black hoses in shifts
So every motherwort and yarrow, nettle,
Watermelon and hidden toad has her turn.

And generous, compassionate weeds—
Full of their own wisdom and stealth
Which even the best of us overlook or poison—
Mulch-stopped, need not choke heirloom tomatoes,
So red can vine on heat and cool our tongues.

And what of chickens? They, like us, he knows,
Love four walls around their evenings
And roosts for sleeping, and run of earth
Safe from swooping hawks and clever foxes
Where they can dream of worms and eggs.

Finally, an ancient shack, ripe with every kind of cat
And rodent excrement, in his mind and hands transforms,
Becomes a careful plan to keep our friends warm
While western sky shines through two windows
He framed above our heads so we might look up.


Here in the Barn

August 8th, 2014

Here in the barn
In the bardo
Of my body
Roosters learn
To rest with
Gentle hens.


Garden Variety News

June 24th, 2014

North winds blew the paper news
Out from under crookneck squash.
Words weighed down by yellow straw
Flopped upon the sprouts of beans
Who bowed and almost snapped.

We’d laid it down for water’s sake,
To suffocate the weeds, but compost
And blue thunderstorms didn’t bother
To read about the captured soldier
Who’d faced the desert as if he were free.



June 14th, 2014

This morning
Space was a golden mother
Without body
Whose body was also mine,
Whose breath was sky
Playing ocean.

I didn’t know
Where I was
But home.
I was the child
A mother cannot help
But love.

I was the mother
Of the naughty,
Golden child
Making room
On my vast lap.

Go ahead, we said,
Personify what you can’t
If that is what it takes
To break you
Open like bread.


Buddha Sends Her Son to Bible School

June 11th, 2014

Morning light is low
And yellow. Dirt roads
Of the small town glow.

Cattle on the outskirts
Shine like gold.
It’s early June.

Buddha drops off
Her son, now eleven,
At Bible School
With his best friend
To learn the stories
From which she grew
Like dandelions.

Everyone needs
In which to root.

From behind the windshield,
She sees young mothers
In long, sleek skirts.

Their hair is clean and filamental.
Their shoulders are not bare.
They carry babes on soft hips,
Hold small, washed hands.

Plump greeters in cartoon t-shirts
Smile at the welcome table.
A breeze moves their white hair
In waves like rows of wheat.

Cowboys for Christ,
A bumper sticker reads.

A puff of cottonwood floats
Through the passenger window,
Past Buddha, out the driver’s side.

The air is so many flowers sweet.
She sees only a peony
The color of lipstick.

Unexpected grief rises in her body
While she drives home.

The joy of congregation.
The shame of we’ve missed you.
The Spirit throbbing her throat.
The day it lost its name.

Perhaps she could return
To church.
One metaphor as good a door
As any,
If one remembers metaphor
Is only a door.

The morning passes.

Later, planting seeds with her
In prairie dirt, the boy confesses:

If the Holy Spirit, that part of God,
Is in each one of us, why do we sing
In soft, high voices “Only God is Holy”?
I don’t like to sing that song.

Later still, sunburnt, the boy
Sips water at the kitchen table,
Speaks of baptism in the name
Of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Buddha asks him, Where’s the mom?

His eyes search the space of the room
As he relates the shortest scripture:
Jesus wept. For Lazarus, his friend.

He then quotes God who spoke in flames,
I am who I am. The bush roared bright with anger.

And further, I am the Lord God,
And there is no other besides me.

Confusing books of the Old and New Testament,
He proudly pronounces numbers after many names,
Uses new words: Isaiah, Exodus and verse.

Buddha remembers when she first learned
I am that I am,
Considers who and that and Popeye’s what.

Her son declares this week
The best of his life
Though neither he nor his friend
Found it fair, at first,
When they didn’t win
A prize by school’s end.

That’s bull, his friend had said.

When their teacher realized
Her mistake, she gave them
Each their just reward:

Matching water bottles
For good behavior
And a flashlight to share
For memorizing God’s word.

There is no belittling light
Of any kind in its becoming sound.

Buddha wakes up
In the way words become flesh
And dwell among us.