Archive for the ‘2018’ Category

When he is not home

Wednesday, January 30th, 2019

When he is not home
to warm the bed with me
I pull the duvet overhead
and breathe and breathe
then lift the cover just a bit
to suck warmth to my feet–
still cold when I fall asleep.

December 2018

The Closest Ones the Brightest

Wednesday, December 26th, 2018

On a day of domestic nouns, undecorated,
This Christmas refuses to go retrograde
Or snooze through the moment by resurrecting
High-buzzing toy trains or the forsythia bush
I planted when my sister died. My nostrils
Did not flare in sorrow over chemo anecdotes.
Sunlight yellowed only the mountain range.
Wrapped in a blanket, feet propped on the porch,
I slipped into a micro nap and woke to coyotes
Broadcasting the new minutes of evening.
Juncos flitted behind me in the pines.
Later, walking piñon trails of moon-lost night,
Strange flashlight throwing sight forward
And back at once to warn our single-filed feet
Of stones, I thought of red clay, the joyful skill
I find my fingers still possess, of gently pinching,
Smoothing shoulders, clavicles, muscled necks,
Of fashioning tiny human forms for company,
Of Nü Wa, Chinese goddess, who carefully molded
The noble from yellow earth and, tiring,
Gave up to make the poor by dipping a rope
In mud and flicking it about, dropping dollops
Of common folk, elbows bent to serve.
Thank gods the thick Milky Way sparkled me
Out of my head and cold thighs itched me
Out of Marxist bitterness because my dog was
Out of town, not stitching me with dog bliss
To the night, the sandy mountain trail all his.
Only my man was by my side, quiet, digesting
Chili and cinnamon rolls, both of us making
Walking sounds, his boots clicking, my jacket
Swishing, both of us squinting at headlights
Crawling up Road T, heading our way, gaining
Elevation, the closest ones the brightest.



Wednesday, December 26th, 2018

Anthurium leaves are poisonous. They contain calcium oxalate crystals that cause severe burning in the mouth. Guide to Houseplants

Five shredded leaf tips
Glossy red bloom ragged too.
Still the cat returns.



Tuesday, December 25th, 2018

miles by miles grey cloud
blanket balanced just atop
Challenger’s flat peak

Dec. 25th, 2018

Outside My Classroom Window

Thursday, December 13th, 2018

Wind-whipped black trash bags—
Dumpster flags flap above sill.
No, two ravens shine.


The Guitar

Friday, December 7th, 2018

A guitar watches a blue boy
play video games all day.
Its blind eye does not blink.
He cannot think of school.
Strings vibrate when he
laughs in vanished victory,
groans in bloodless defeat.
Xs shine in his eyes, ask
Why do anything?
The guitar has no reply.


Welfare State

Monday, December 3rd, 2018

You Tom Buchanans
You Ayn Rands
You million- billionaires
Who hold out soft hands
You forgetful heirs
Who suck
On birth-earned generations
Of well-invested
Family-sponsored welfare:

Spare us—
The teaching poor
The working class
Paying off
Our bloated master’s
Who never wake
From nightmares
Of looming financial
Or bodily disaster—
Your judgment

For begging more pay
Or worse, to suck
Your hoarded
Christian taxes
While we pinch
Days and months
To fund your profits
Your endless battles
Where you send kids
Who trade the bodies
We made them
For promises
Of health care, travel
To die protecting
Your subsidized
Hand me down


This Day,
Minus Love and Cold Potatoes

Thursday, November 22nd, 2018

Put off cooking. Pour Horizon low fat eggnog into Solar Roast coffee. Sit on the couch where you slept last night with two dogs. Leo yours, Lucy a travelling friend’s rescued rez dog known for fearing men.

Her barking calls you out of sleep. Dimly take it in: your lover rising in warm bare skin, silhouette calling out the door, down the hall, voice high and kind, unlike the one he gives your cat: “Lucy, Lucy, shhhh….” She does not stop. Thirty-two toenails tap the bamboo floor, pace in a state of high alert.

At first, you are proud of Leo’s vocal restraint, then concerned. Not much of a protector, his specialty is fending off grazing deer. Touched by your man’s tenderness toward the animal wrecking his sleep and feeling responsible for taking on dog-sitting without his consent, when Lucy starts her ruckus yet again at ten till one to warn you of your son’s peanut butter and jelly driven post-party intrusion, you rise, slip into a t-shirt, backwards, inside out, lie down on the second-hand sectional couch, call the dogs to join you. The fire he made still ablaze, without a blanket, you doze in its orange window, dogs quiet now, and dream.

You wander a land of Mormons, testing sanitized realms, re-reading pre-internet tracts, artfully dodging earnest, clean-cut men and skirted wives. Certain you could never return, you wake relieved and fall asleep again. Twice you dream of going back to bed, to him, only to wake in two separate dreams of Lucy’s barking, after which you really wake, drooling on the couch in moonlight, fire licking lowly, dogs snoring or nervously skittering. You let them out to pee. Lucy barks at night in general, laughing coyotes north of here, cousins of her friends at home a mile uphill. Leo smiles at her audacity. They settle in a final time. You leave the couch, return to bed’s oblivion. It might be half past three.

Kitchen sounds pull you partly out of sleep, imagining your love making cinnamon rolls, the KitchenAid churning, flour sifting snow on countertops while coffee drips its promises. You think this life is good, arise, vaguely plan to write, even though, entering the kitchen, you see he is only doing dishes, tall in thick cotton navy robe, the king of morning. You bury your face between shoulder blades, steam pressing against your clasped hands. He thaws.

Then begins the gathering of packages and cans of your mother’s Thanksgivings: King’s Hawaiian Sweet Rolls, Great Value French-fried onions, French-sliced green beans, Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom soup, Pepperidge Farm stuffing, Full Circle boxed chicken broth. The month’s belt too tight for most organics, you shake it off, decide there is no hurry, abandon cans for the couch and coffee and him, where this poem begins.

When his little girl wakes, she goes for the iPad first thing, begins her Roblox binge. Soon, you coax her from the screen, together start the pies with Libby’s can of pumpkin, three fist-sized Granny Smiths. Rolling your actual granny’s butter-flavored Crisco-burdened piecrust, you feel blissfully, not quite ignorantly, thankful, take your place in American history, happy despite your interrupted middle class night and economic iniquities, pray the destitute in Crestone’s nearby mountain caves can forgive you the way you forgave the rich for selling you this day, minus love and cold potatoes you dug up yourself: purple and golden knots of hard hope you found beneath the freeze.


The Andersons’ Thanksgiving Turkey

Wednesday, November 14th, 2018

They feed me like a queen.
Ahk! I’m too fat to stand on my own feet!
Please give me more of that fancy seed.
Why does this red water make me so serene?

I wrote this riddle poem as an example for my middle school students who are learning how to liven up their writing by using all four sentence types: declarative, exclamatory, imperative, and interrogative. Their riddles were sometimes hilarious, sometimes cryptic, and they learned something about the power of sentence variety to boot! Woo hoo! Who knew I’d love teaching middle schoolers this much?

Dissolving the Body

Saturday, November 10th, 2018

Brown curls fade like meteors
Across an inner sky.
My head, a solid thought of starlings,
Parts and spreads.
Fingers fizzle out like sparklers in July.
Arms swirl like sand bars
Stolen by midnight prairie flood.
There goes my heart, a shattered
Glass in slow motion rainbow.
Blood, what becomes of blood? Mist?
Lungs disperse like a careless cough.
My lunch is carried off in my guts
By invisible vultures.
Hips loosen their grip on motherhood’s
Lingering ache and break into light.
My legs explode and lift
Like two burst pillows in a gust of wind.
These feet go walking as dust into dust
In a million glinting rays.
My stories move and move through
Edgeless space like radio waves
Transmitting all the tongues and songs
And breaking news and silly sitcoms
Of humankind. I laugh a laughless
Laugh track, completely uncanned.


One Friday Morning

Friday, October 5th, 2018

Exactly one week after a young man drops
three feet to the ground from a piñon branch,
landing–his mother imagines in quiet horror–on all fours,
then crouched like his childhood superhero, one hand
pushing himself up in slow motion, the other rubbing
his throat, coughing, gasping, eyes watering
as he begins the walk home, hoodie pulled tight,
stars winking forever behind the gibbous moon,
she is dragging crushed cardboard pizza boxes
and five bags of household waste—two of which
she has marked with T in red permanent ink,
the other three with R—to the end
of the grey gravel drive under the piñon.
With clear packing tape, she attaches to one bag
a $30 check in a business sized envelope on which
she has written Thanks to the thin local man
who picks up the bags with his truck every week.
An hour passes before she realizes it is not Monday.
Against weekend bears, she carries the bags back
to the storage shed, sees the beer box on a shelf
she has filled with kitchen knives, painkillers,
flu meds, scissors, extension cords, hammock
straps. Gently closing the door, she turns a key
in the padlock. Thinks of where to put her keys.
Catching her breath, stepping out from the car port,
pacing the drive in no specific direction, she notices
Russian sage, the bright rising mist, scans the forest
at the foot of the Blood of Christ mountains,
offers a wordless apology to the unknown tree,
unable to untie her son’s broken hope from its limb.

5 October 2018

Late Blooming

Friday, October 5th, 2018

To decide if you need to buy tomatoes, you visit yours.
One rots on the rock upon which you propped it
to avoid moist soil. Prehistoric armored insects
encircle it like centuries, or sentries, overseeing its
slouch, its decay, waiting their turn. Nearby, volunteer
marigolds riot gold despite blighted potato leaves,
freckled black. There may be nothing underground.

Nearby in another bed, mixed greens and red
nasturtiums flourish with volunteer snap peas
still wearing their purple hats, climbing
gone-to-seed arugula. And here, more volunteer
marigolds outlive their curly-seeded cousins, calendula,
offer shade to yellow-tongued violets’ small bloomings.
You couldn’t have anticipated these fall palettes:
complementary, analogous, too pretty, too tough to eat.

Nearby, a hammock of similar hues hangs between two
piñon trunks on straps that recently have come to mean
unfathomable lethality to your thought-hewn son.
You must take the hammock down. You try to shake
off grief. You shake needles from the woven cloth,
lay in it beneath the branches, swing in your cradle.
Somehow, in the dapple, you decide to trust
his wooden wisdom, fate-earned, your dark Odin
who survived his own terrible world tree.

5 October 2018

Still Life

Friday, September 21st, 2018

Hiking trails of the greenbelt between Crestone and the Baca for almost a year now, I can’t help but notice the random piles of old junk left by squatters and wanderers of bygone eras—hippies, or even further back, miners—under the pinion pines. Stripped trucks, ancient refrigerators, gorgeous mounds of rusty old tin cans whose lids still hang on by a thread decades after feeding someone who didn’t mind cold beans.

Last night one smallish can caught my eye so I picked it up, thinking I might draw it. The inside was full of dirt, powdered rust and bleached grasses caught in abandoned spider webs. When I shook the dark red powder out, the can coughed and spoke in a voice old and gruff, like a slurring drunk bachelor with chew in his mouth.

“Whaddaya want?” the old can said. “I can give it’ya.”

“I want this,” I said, surprised at my spontaneous conviction, and even more startled by my lack of embarrassment or personal concern to be talking to an ancient can.

“This?” the can hissed. “You want this?”

“Yes, this. This sandy, cactus straddled trail. This dog smiling, tongue flopping, as he zigzags back and forth, peeing on every rabbit brush he passes. My house with dishes crusted with Cream of Wheat in the sink. My husband piling wood. My job corralling restless kids into words and paint. My loving, befuddled, Fortnite-comforted sons struggling to become men in the outrage of Trump. My aging face. My ratty hair threaded with wiry white. All this.”

“Your wish is granted,” he said with a force that spit out a piece of grass that picked up a small draft and floated away.

I studied his fragile edges as dusk fell. I placed him on a shelf. He hasn’t spoken since.

Music of the Spheres

Saturday, September 15th, 2018

We’re all here, and we’re watching a concert
that will never be replicated exactly the same.

Ólafur Arnalds

A soft voiced man from Iceland
samples mute pianos, feeds the songs
to lovely code that sends the notes
again to ivory. Euclidean algorithm,
the disembodied spirit plays the keys.
Did he say code arranges songs
more human than hands can fashion?

Unimagined tinkling patterns grow,
play one time and ever gone. Inimitable.
Choked, we scroll. We scroll. Commenters
weep without knowing why, string together,
post, well-timed slide shows of nature photos
matched with Arnalds’ almost-sorrow sounds.

Marry wood and spring machines to new
machines to snow, to ice to ears to hearts,
to eyes fixed on handheld windows. Kitchens,
beds, desks and couches glow with solitude.
Outside, choirs of crickets mix the stars.


A Fall Poem

Wednesday, September 5th, 2018

White fuzz on the potted rosemary might kill it
if I don’t do something. Lazy or too busy.
I don’t make the nontoxic spray.
I place the pot in the rain, hope its spores
don’t drift to other plants. Accept its days
are limited. Late summer. Three volunteer
larkspur in fake terracotta, ferny mysteries
that came with the house, are dead, the basil dwarfed,
petunias barely blooming one per scanty stalk.
High altitude abundance pulls back into a paler self.
I rip open papery tripartite pods, cast black seeds
like pepper over the deck. Don’t hope.

Just weeks ago larkspur were cornflower blue,
my childhood’s favorite waxen color.
But I am writing to forget the smell of crayons.
I am writing because my words are scabs
doing work on the cheap while Poetry shouts
and jabs its signs at air, wanting something
more than tired father woe. The scabs
have nothing else to say but this: My dad is dead,
my dad is dead, and I don’t dream or even sense him
in his favorite songs. I can’t project my grief
to make him seem alive in Jacob’s ladders.

What did I expect? I dropped his church
in a canyon south of Lehi. Red rock. So what
if I fed him ice cream in a busy parking lot, drove him
restless up to witness Mount Timpanogos
one more time while listening to LDS radio broadcast
hushed tones of patriarchs and tender wives
in interview selling the dream
of eternal benevolent fathers. It almost felt true.
I’ve no pendant of his thumbprint on my throat.
I only have his hands. And feet. Huge chin. Square cheeks.
I passed them on to children, as will they. Eternally.

It doesn’t matter. Everything you have,
he proudly told me once, you’ve done on your own.
Or something like that. A backwards compliment.
Another way to leave me nothing but myself.
Another way to slap the back of his own painful honesty,
polish this facet of his charming self-loathing:
how great I turned out without him. His absence:
the great hand that rolled, coiled, fired and filled me.
This cracked pot can’t hold him anymore.