Archive for the ‘2007’ Category

To my little sister, dying

Monday, July 17th, 2017

When it all started to slip,
you crumbled on the overstuffed sofa and cried,
My hands look so old. Saliva stretched across
the quiet chasm of your mouth. Sobs stormed through.
I reached for you, crumbling too, trying to shake
the feeling you believed your life
was not what it was supposed to be,
that your husbands and your church didn’t deliver
what you were promised if you were good
(which you were not, you wearily presumed).
And so you took what you got
from doctors and priests in dark suits
and it was not enough to heal you.

Blazing, I desperately willed my muscled love Enough
to shine on all your night secrets and patriarchal shame
with such brilliant unflinching beams
that tumors would turn
from your flesh toward my light and evaporate
like water in a stagnant desert puddle. I, too, am naïve,
to think I could reach into such rock sheltered shadow,
undo or improve the gorgeous geology of your being.

How could I move the craggy Utah bulges,
shift the polished slots of sky above your callused years
of fear of not attaining celestial glory, salve
the endless pinpricks of husbandly, venereal betrayals,
ease the guilty infidelities of your throbbing
wanting more than disease or dependency from
the men for whom you saved your lust and mud.

Can any sister do this for her sister? I wanted to.
My blood cried for it, but I am not light or even wind!
Our curving walls are too bent to bend light around,
and the wind just carves us deeper. So I am lost
in endless slot canyons, crouching here,
in the shade, in your hand. I won’t budge.
When you leave these rocks behind
and your cloudy eyes suddenly soften into shine,
may the innocence of your stubborn love finally
rise from the pores of your hands like vapor,
prismatic through the sky, casting paths of wet light.

First published in Barnwood International Poetry Magazine, 2008

Three and a Half Years after the Death of a Guerita

Friday, 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.


One Decade of Bones

Thursday, November 10th, 2011

Years ago they met on a washboard road,
their hair and his beard flying. Her springtime lover gone,
she meant to build her wooden house alone.

She didn’t. He helped her raise her cabin’s ribs.
She helped him give his cabin skin. Her lover returned.
His wife remained. Surprised, they found one day each other’s arms.

He said he didn’t think ahead of decades.
We’re already decades apart, she said.
Each time they met in wind must be enough.

She came to the mountain to spend herself, not him,
but now she wonders where their bones will crumble.
She feels hers, strong, through stubborn muscle,

squeezing arm or calf to reach past ache.
In other places bones are merely draped
with resigned skin: wrists, ribs, collarbones and hips.

She strokes these desolate bonescapes,
echoes his hands, his hands, their wind,
imagining their bond beyond reproach.

They cannot ask their arms not to recall
the song of mourning doves,
the fall, the fall, the fall.

And that is not enough!
There must be time for more than this, my love,
more kisses for our teeth and lips, don’t go.

I see a bright disease inside your eyes
Your crow’s feet sharp, your flesh revealing bone
Is this the lonely way we leave our homes?

She knows, too well, how many times she dies each year,
wonders, despite her skin: can he already hear
the winds moan low and through me without him?


tenth year flame

Tuesday, November 1st, 2011

I am gathering the coals of us, love.
Remember how we used to rub our minds together and burst
Into gentle suns? Our bellies, never a bonfire, too sensible
For such waste, but a mountain campfire banked by handpicked stones:

A first kiss on the cheek, your confident guitar, my tentative drum
(Such musical foreplay in our throats), our poems– yours earthen, mine boats,
March powwows too bright, passed flowers on careful desert hikes
Collecting concretions and moon clouds.

Too many moons I have idly tended our glowing reds,
Handed mine out to likely, lonely passersby,
Leaped our rocky circle, started rambling grasses afire.
You have watched, awaited my whetted burn and wet returns.

Creeping from connubial containment, I return, I return.
Crackling here quietly with you, warming our children’s hands
And faces, becoming the flame of the sacred mundane, the play
Of bodhisattvas and saints.

Why then do I resist and scatter? Was I meant to be a running
Forest fire consuming bodies and pretty chatter?
A lithe Zippo coquette flipping spark to lips and lips and lips?
Surely I was made for more than this, yet this.

I am looking for tinder and kindling, love,
But have used up what is near. I must walk long
Nights into howling woods of hungry cells,
Gather lies of discontent and selfishness.

Will these burn forever? Toss in aversion for good measure.
But the stench! Worse than piss fir. Still I search.
Plentiful the sage, the sweetgrass of my heart,
Throw it in and pray, throw it in: we are a prayer.


I am pacing my whorehouse heart

Wednesday, May 18th, 2011

The exit is barred. Its walls drip too bright
perfume in the parlor, musky Indian
sandalwood, something indefinably sour
in the halls. Every bedroom door is open.
As I pass, there I am again and again contorting
in the oddest shadow and redlight sheets, twisted
beneath legs clenched around necks, soles of feet
pressed together praying over backs
and sweating heads. The moans mine,
the deepest loneliness of pleasure, the sighs
as black as bottomless throbbing. Skin
slapping, suction sounds cradling shame
like a fatherless babe. I wonder how
to escape, why doorknobs lie
in corners, why windows are nailed,
how to tame the tongues of my body
lapping at flames in any eye that sees.
I would take the fire, if I could, and burn down
this house, spread ashes of desire across my face,
walk on knees through town and wail.


undressed on a morning precipice

Saturday, April 16th, 2011

I ask you sun
to seep into my deepest
nightbound spaces

those that clench in breath held ribs,
hide hunched fear in shoulder
blades. I await

you where the blood is made
and cleared, those places
I take for granted

like a too good husband
or plain faced wife.
Grant me a willingness

to slow, to know
my ripened breasts
as perfect currents

waiting for bears,
that the smooth soil
of my liver filters

with ease, filling the roots
of my being of countless beings
with your liquid gifts.

Lift my arms to your warm kiss.
Lie upon my chest.
Brighten every hair

(what endless tender antennae!)
My smallest voids receive you
there, blessed.


What the morning brought

Saturday, February 19th, 2011

The rooster at the edge of town
beat the alarm to the day
so as I lay there waiting to rise
I traveled shadows across eleven hundred miles
under shoulder pebbles and mountain needles
through black strings of streams, beneath sharp
knives of yucca and the twisted love of endless
Joshua trees, into tarred cracks of L.A. streets
that took me to your door. I thinned myself
against the frame, and slid, upright, wraithlike,
on tip toe through. I found you
in your shadow bed, kissed all the darknesses
buoying your sleep. Into the ear of your dream
I breathed: night makes us into morning,
and pressed my sunrise cheek against your head.


Satin Sonnet

Saturday, February 19th, 2011

We slept on satin midnight blue through wind
and swirling snow though yesterday was warm.
Sleep’s perspiration stubborn on our skin—
a silent echo of the springtime storm.

For satin does not with a body breathe
like cotton with its earthen fibered thread;
it’s made for sliding through and ‘round our need,
not dreaming without reaching ‘cross the bed,

though, we did reach as morning broke the night
and woke dark rivers in our silken arms
instead. We whispered, can this love grow bright,
or does love wane once lovers are disarmed?

No satin can improve our honest love, my love,
just holding on ‘til death says we’re enough.


We cry

Saturday, February 5th, 2011

You go home, girl, and love him.
~Mary, waiting

My love
is not
in dim
too thin
feet cool
crack lipped
glass eyed
for days
to die.
Hers is.



Saturday, February 5th, 2011

County, CO

We make sugar here,
watch trucks roll in full of beets,
heading for the billowed white cloud
eight miles away.  Think mounds of tan
rotund carrots, not the red obscene. Remember,
these are sugar beets.  They sit in piles for weeks,
months on bare ground. Rotting mountains waiting
in rain and snow, majestic beneath beet cloud steam.
Maybe your sugar comes from some exotic island,
not from the great western plains where high school
cheerleaders spell in short skirts and autumn rosy
cheeks: B-e-e-t  D-i-g-g-e-r-s, BHS, BHS, BHS! Yes!
Have you ever breathed the powdered air of a beet
town, or been surprised by the symmetrical stench
of pyramidal piles of white beet lime?  Or walked
antique Escheresque factory steps where grated
steel winds and leads beet workers nowhere,
insured?  Come see what sugar does, how it
makes women’s bottoms blossom in
community college hallways,
men’s eyes roam, children
run, and my coffee
so sweet. Come,
share a cup


For Chopin’s Women

Saturday, February 5th, 2011

When you can’t listen to any more
love songs and the ones in your head

have begun to fade, and your lover has stopped
singing about you, and reticent letters have come

to an end, and your children are seldom
adorable, and your husband only

a friend, disappointment gently gives
way to weightless, faceless grace.

There is nothing to be unmade. Nothing
about which to be jaded.  Nothing

from which to run.  Nothing
for which to wait.  Unsolved,

you just stay. Watch
the day.  Play at words.

Maybe pray to recall
how to love in this strange

place, or at the edge
of your mind, swim away.


My child teaches the wisdom of no escape

Saturday, February 5th, 2011

In the bath tub he makes magic
potion with shaving cream.
“It can turn people into bears
and fish and fleas,” he says.

“May I have some?” I ask.
And add, “I want to be a bird.”

He pulls the frothy bottle close
to his chest, hand over its lip,
grins, “No…you’d never be
our mom… ever again.”

And I am pegged. Does he know
I want to fly away? Not forever.
Just today. And maybe tomorrow.
Or a week. No, a year. West of here.

“Can you make a potion that wears
away so I can turn back into me?”

He shakes his head no.  I smile and leave
him singing of bees. I think, he is right,
there is no getting away from me.


three degrees below freezing:
if there is light enough to see

Friday, February 4th, 2011

It is cold.  People are careful,
wear more clothes than are comfortable.
We wrap arms around ourselves
and lean into the warmest places
we find, and in these places
still find cold around edges,
seeping through seams,
or deep in the core of things
we thought would always burn.
We lean for a long time and wait
for heat to build on heat.
It usually does.

We want to think we are earths
crusted around molten cores
of roiling light.  But that light is dark
inside.  And though we say it is, it isn’t light,
it’s heat we seek in times like these.
We trust the deep fire of the body,
of each others’ bodies, to deliver, and
hope the heat is light. In heat lives the body,
in the body: light the eye can’t see
until we break open and what’s inside seeps
slow amber glowing.  Here, I have broken,
come warm your hands, read by me.


The faith of hounds

Sunday, July 18th, 2010

Church bells ring at 9 o’clock
People called to pews
From aerial view,
crawling ants
disappear into squares
Old hound howls out
low-oh-only me
and stops when the bells do
a prayer in her tail


with thanks to E.B.

of breasts and mushrooms

Friday, May 14th, 2010

A loose jowled, broad shouldered woman in black
wanders our camp with large handled basket and
pendulous breasts swinging freely beneath peasant blouse
above thin legs. She asks in lilting accent, perhaps French,
“May I have your mushrooms?” as though they were ours
only for camping for a price on a mountain where air hums
with RV generator songs. Admiring her trespass of parceled
campground boundaries, her astute respect for American
habits of possession in a quest for fungal delicacies,
and having enough delighted in their frumpy company peeking
at my pointing children from tiny mosses and pine duff, I say,
“Yes, of course,” and notice her basket nearly full, soil clinging
to creamy sponge roots below dozens of burnt red waxen caps,
echoing her own robust form.  She squats and pulls. Wanders.
Squats and pulls some more, looks up at me, around me,
as I write. I want to walk with her, watch her cook these mysteries
over fire, taste her Rocky Mountain dreams of French cuisine.
I imagine, instead, her crossing into other camps, ambassador, visiting
my rough brothers-in-law, their blonde wives, leaning against red
trucks and silver mini vans, not far from here, through lodge pole pines,
her gentle request, their eyes upon her passing swaying breasts,
crude comments chuckled beneath beer breath,
relieved their own wives’ tits are tucked away,
firmly compressed, hiding their age, padded and wired
from wandering eyes, mushrooms unable to rise,
no nipples greeting the duff of day.