The Dangerous Life
of Free Range Chickens

April 23rd, 2017

Of sixteen since last spring:
Four chickens remain.
Six killed for fun by two Great Pyrenees,
A mother and pup
Who ran across the prairie in April rain,
Left birds limp necked,
Scattered in dripping weeds.
Then gone the oldest in the flock:
DJ Cluck dragged off northwest.
Next, the Leghorn, white,
Easy target from above.
Not a feather left. I theorize
About light colored hens,
Imagine startling talons, sudden height.
But then went Speck.
Her camouflage no help.
Still, I should have known.
Predators have a taste for the sweet.
Next, in one morning, we are missing three.
Goodbye, Elsa. Goodbye, Fawkes and friend.
There will be no more green eggs
Once the cartons are empty.
I blame the watching hawk,
Dorell suspects the local owls,
Their early morning duet.
He suggests we take a walk
To the base of their favorite tree
To look for bones. Suddenly I think
Of owl pellets I used to collect,
Full of mouse skulls, still whole.

2017

Clerihew for You Know Who

April 22nd, 2017

Counting sound in limerick
Bursting with the ego’s trick:
Scholar poet doggerel
Makes the female bosom swell.

2017

Elevenie for a Kitten

April 21st, 2017

Kitten
Glue eyed
In playful pile
Of wide eyed siblings
Leaps.

2017

How to Grow Carrots, Onions and Garlic Without Lifting a Finger

April 20th, 2017

Promise yourself to dig up the rest come fall.
Procrastinate before first frost.
Blame your job.
Forget until snow falls.
Ignore regret’s negative self-talk.
Touch their mushy shoulders come spring.
Witness what you thought was dead sprout green.

2017

Four years I have lived

April 19th, 2017

My words are hiding in his body.
Perhaps I am the culprit.
Self-saboteur who hid them there.
Home alone no poems come.
I wait in long space. He walks in at dusk
in canvas clothes, the poem I didn’t write,
with huge thighs, silk arms,
towering white smile like moonshine,
torso warm locomotive stillness.
I hold my breath a moment like kids
passing through a mountain tunnel.
He moves through me. I can’t say why
I was made for this, why I mourn
no muse. Four years I have lived
with a man who doesn’t know
he is my favorite poem.

2017

Omission Sonnet

April 18th, 2017

After the lovemaking, after his voice softens
in apology, it is likely best to steer clear
of parsing small omissions that often
mean no more than there are bigger things here
than fretting over who has kept a pocket-
sized fib to oneself. No need to get hysterical,
but one small stab of why soon needs a tourniquet.
Bleeding through the kitchen, playing oracle,
I ask myself, what does omission mean? What
did I do to make him feel he’d need a priest
to seek forgiveness? My worst fear: he’s cut
me from his wary ex’s cloth, the woman I am least
like in my book. I black her off of pages on his shelf,
afraid, by reading her, I wrote her on myself.

2015, 2017

A Question for Merrill Kellum

April 17th, 2017

The morning after you sold the farm,
Did you wake early to milk the cows,
And, remembering, simply stand in the dew
In your button up gold sweater
And brown fedora tipped just so
To watch the yellow creep up the oak
In your new neighborhood?

I can hardly believe the only time
I remember of you is the many years
Of your retirement in Meredosia,
Hands on your hips to study sky
And cocklebur fields where we kids
Would play king of the mountain
On construction dirt piles, pushing.

You would puff your cherry tobacco
Pipe on the small concrete patio
Behind your house, announce if the world
Smelled like rain on the way, as if that
Knowledge were all that remained
Of your dairy days. It was enough to plant
A slow seed in me, plucking burs from my socks.

2017

In Her Dominion

April 16th, 2017

Hecate crisscrosses
Milky deserts
Of wrinkled mythos,
Humus crumbles
From her shoes.
Ancient archivist,
She plucks a whisker
From her chin to write
The rascally world.

2017

Ekphrasis on a Lost Image

April 15th, 2017

Two flowers.
Two birds.
Two women.
Two flying squirrels.
One man.
He makes his maps,
Translates hope for legs
Into one black wing.
The counted and named
Look away,
Avoid his gaze.
Too late—
He has already made
Himself a feathered God,
And the world: a woman full
Of twins
Who will destroy him.

2017

Never Not in the Middle

April 14th, 2017

On little couch, I’m tight between
my youngest son and Love.

There’s the obvious:
Earth and sun.

I’ve been between a cabin
And Salida twenty years.

Wandering a sagebrush dream
Between abstract and concrete.

Incision and Death.
Prairie fog, white Leadville breath.

Mope and door.
Silence and the ringing ear.

Empty freezer,
Black boar.

Speckled hen,
running cow.

Now.

2017

Marriages

April 13th, 2017

1
I dreamt the white dress standing in front of a mirror
With my perfect man who would soon read the letter
I wrote him when I was 16 in Young Women’s class
At church in which I promised purity and to be
Temple worthy. We would learn our real names.
The mirror behind us would reflect the mirror before us,
Our faces would recede into infinity. We would learn
The secrets of godhood together. Populate worlds.

2
Pregnant, I wore a dusty rose dress on a mountain
His mother almost died climbing. He slid the ring
Jagged with peaks on my finger, said, “With this ring
I hold you forever.” Terrified at such solidity, I replied,
With Zuni water ring, “Please wear this token
Of my love, constant and changing as the ocean.”
One morning, a year later, I woke and the tide
Had gone too far out. I left him on land.

3
We wore only our hair and braided two long strands
Of it together, cut with a knife under the tree
Where our son was born the year before.
We put the braid in a leather bag with our children’s
Fingernails, my milk, a raven claw. Love medicine.
Inexorable drift. When he moved out, he took the knife
From the wall. I packed the family medicine in boxes,
Puzzled that something had eaten our feathers.

4
No dress. No mirrors.
No mountain. No rings.
No braid. No tree.
Just chickens. Garden.
Bees. Rolling plains.
Tiny house. Pond singing spring.
Sleepless reach. Wordless gaze.

2017

Long Day

April 12th, 2017

Brown couch of our slump
White bed of our wilt
Eyes close, bloom sleep

2017

Motion-Activated

April 11th, 2017

A motion-activated light switch
Ignores the shadow bulk of my body,
Waits instead for my passing hand,
My passing hand, my passing hand.
Damn it! My office doesn’t want
To wake up either.

2017

Walking to the Mailbox After Rain

April 10th, 2017

No one was driving in from the north
Or the south but the wind
As I walked the muddy drive,
Its dry skin almost stopping my sinking
On the way to get the mail.
Crossing the yellow highway line,
I noticed the bi-level cut of grass
Around the mailbox post—
Our neighbor’s gesture of kindness.
Anonymous financial mail
I would soon tear in half and discard
Tucked under my arm, I heard
The distant hum of a coming truck.
Time to re-cross. In the wide yard,
Young grasses waved in patches,
Thicker in the shadows of dying elms.
The odd ocotillo in the huge pot
Living lonely in the center of the yard
For who knows how long, stood
Taller than a man, with more arms.
And there, the cat litter bucket
I had just emptied in the dumpster,
Forgotten, rolled across the drive,
Tripped on the track of an early rivulet.
The propane tank, half full, crouched stout
As a legless, faceless, weathered hog.
Even though we may move soon,
You said we will fill it since it was full
When we first moved in, new with love.

2017

Moving to Salida

April 9th, 2017

In the twenty-three years that it took
To return to the valley to live for good,
I pushed three children into likelihood,

Or they pushed me into spiral books,
And twenty-three rings grew in cottonwoods
Storing the river where they stood.

2017