Annual Work Plan

October 11th, 2015

The year is not a hill.
Push the annual work plan
Aside. Due Friday.

Fill in blanks of travel forms.
Attach receipts with paper clips.
Think meals in terms of per diem.
Not sushi, sake, miso, friends.
Forget the empty gestures
Of distant conferences.
Count miles. Cash in.

Circle words and numbers
On sixteen rubrics.
Learning must be proven
To students
And bottom-line feeders
For whom it is not enough
To assess light in one’s own
Or others’ eyes.

Out here in the dark,
Everything measured,
Ferried for a price.
Your ____________.

Fill in the blank.

Scribble conversations
In margins and hope
Against arms.

Time ticks. More work.
More work. More work.
The to-do list self-goading.
The state mule self-loading.
Note how time erodes.

Note how quickly, how often
It rings: the digital singing bowl
Of Thich Nhat Hahn.
The app you, overloaded,
Downloaded for fun, for free,
A precious boat,
Set to chime about every hour
(Programmed unpredictability)
To wake you out of mire.

When it sounds you pause
One moment to own
Your skin, your silence,
Vast mother holding the stream
Of your moving mind hands.

One second, maybe two,
You close your eyes.
No desk, no screen,
No mechanical pencil.
No end to desk, to screen,
To mechanical pencil.

Ease back in. Submerge.
Open-eyed. Swim.
Breathe beneath surfaces.
Newly gilled. Remember.
Work inside you
Without space is a stone.



September 26th, 2015

You’re parakeet.
I’m hummingbird.
This means nothing to nectar.

I’m milk thistle.
You’re tomato bloom.
Let’s build boxes for bees.

You’re cast iron.
I’m stainless steel.
Who knew the earth could cook?

I’m Russian olive.
You’re cottonwood.
Don’t believe in trash trees.

You’re snare crescendo.
I’m cello smoke.
Song is sung by silence.

I’m camera.
You’re handheld mirror.
Bedtime burns our selfies.

You’re lost button.
I’m tarnished dime.
Whose deep pocket is this?


A Safe Place

September 23rd, 2015

It’s four in the morning and the Blue Andalusian is snuggled on a roost
With the Silver Spangled Hamburg in their house. A Great Horned Owl
Ignores the four who didn’t find their way inside for dark—the Araucanas
And Cuckoo Marans, two of each. The wind had blown the door closed.
They rest on a rib of the sagging run roof, heavy with sleep, unbudgeable,
Brave with the innocence of earthbound, dun-winged things. I am not
Thinking of them in the grey light of my bedroom, I am not praying
For kachinas to throw zucchinis into the knuckles of a nearby cottonwood
At a raccoon who is hungry remembering the way light glinted on the iridescent
Speckled Sussex, such an easy, timid target, friend of the wind-haired woman.
Always squatting to be stroked, her purples and greens were a welcome sign.
The others had squawked and clucked like guns while the woman sat inside,
Listening to the silence around their alarm. In the ruckus the raccoon worked,
Dragging their flapping friend to the nearby fence woven through with weeds
Where she ripped off her head to take back to the tree, a trophy. The rest
Of her awkward body would have to stay on the ground. Upon her return,
Raccoon found it easiest to enter the hen through the vent. Oh, the almost egg!
The shining innards! How kind of the woman to leave the carcass out
A whole day and night to let her finish the feast—sun broiled, braised
In her saliva and the scat of beetles and flies. But I am not thinking
Of any of this tonight while stratus moves in overhead, dropping September
All around us, cool. In this bardo, I rise two times in the wake of my own blood
Threatening stains, barely grateful for walls and predictable dark, the open
Window, a lack of predators, a warm bed, a safe place to make water red.


Or plumes.

September 13th, 2015

Cucumbers too large
For Mason jars or the heart
Dream of being juice


Things to do in Morgan County

September 6th, 2015

Without aversion, sugar beet lime
And dust laden steam

Facing east, lightning—the blood shot eye
Of someone else’s bruised socket

Potatoes growing silent and large,
Red and sightless promising roots

September’s velvet palms; lambsquarters
Make December’s brittle lawn

Through crickets sawing love
In the kitchen, the closet, your head

Wake up
On the rolling prairie
Trying to mimic the firmament


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.


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.


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.


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.

belonging to another body.
No padding
under that once-skin.
She forgets. Goes willingly.



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.


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

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.

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.


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.


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

hills of condo
rent control
all surprising
grain silos.

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