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.


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.




April 13th, 2017

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.

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.

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.

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.


Long Day

April 12th, 2017

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



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.


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.


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.


Intellectual Property

April 8th, 2017

SAMO’s copyright
did not protect Basquiat.
ART bought what he stole.

His streetborn soul.


Jean Michel Basquiat, Untitled (Cadmium), 1984, MCA, Denver

Jean Michel Basquiat, Untitled (Cadmium), 1984,
MCA, Denver

Fine Audience

April 7th, 2017

The shabby roof of the earth
Is just southwest of my house.

You think I’m being metaphorical.

(Show photo of severed shed roof
in the tall grass prairie, something
we never got around to burning.)

Thomas said you know a place
For the first time by returning.
I say, just before leaving.

We are both right.

A martini in a mason jar
With anchovy stuffed olives
Helps render the insight.

I’ll always wish meditation
Were so quick to tender
This lingering off-pillow presence.

Habit is hard to make.

In the red guest house
Where artists and poets have slept,
I have laid out their books
And hung lithic broadsides.

Covers curl
For moist air, for fingers,
For fly leaves and title pages.

I read aloud Jack’s poem on the wall
To no one but myself.
Twice taught.

I am a fine audience.


Baby Mama

April 6th, 2017

Belly too big for such a small animal, spring nights warmer,
We nudged the gentle feral cat out of the laundry room
To give birth in some hidden place, to add her progeny
To the lineage of striped cats who’ve roamed prairie for decades.
But days later, her paw. She limped, licked it furless.
Two tiny wounds. Snakebite? Damn it. We let her back in.

The day before April Fools’, on his way out, I heard him
Make a perplexed sound, turn around, announce to his daughter,
To me, “Come see the kittens.” She gave birth to the first two
In the litter box. Repulsed, I arranged a dirty towel on a pillow,
Moved them all there, where, two hours later, two more appeared.
Two sand and black stripeys, two black with half calico faces.

She earned her name last summer when she showed up
Pregnant, too sweet to be believed wild, but wild nonetheless.
Enthralled with processed cat food and human touch,
She slinked around our door, tripped us walking too close,
Disappeared a couple days, came back thin. The kids
Searched the farm, a day later found a weak kitten in the corner
Of a close-doored, open-windowed barn room filled with milk jugs,
Boxes, crushed beer cans and scraps of dusty pink wall insulation.

The kids probably touched the kitten too much, put it back
In the barn. Baby Mama, nearly a kitten herself,
More interested in us than nursing, gave up on it. Next morning,
I found it smothered in the insulation, stiff. Surprised
To find myself judging a cat for derelict mothering,
I buried her kitten in the grassy field, forgave her, so young,

So newly loved. Last night, after six days of non-stop nursing,
She slipped out the laundry door into the dark. Kittens snuggled
Like warm monkey bread all night without her. Surely,
I thought, with a healed paw, her body craved mice. Or freedom.
We called for her this morning, like parents of an addict,
Not expecting much, but hoping. Kittens slept, still breathing.
Finally, stepping out to start the car: there she sat, elegant,
Behind the rear wheel. I opened the door, praised her return.
In she ran, hot with milk, and lay down with her fat, blind ones.


Refrigerator haiku (magnetic poem)

April 5th, 2017

Wanton world puddle
Ricochet cloud runs dark wild
Heart galoshes thrill


Forgetting Air

April 4th, 2017

Some spring mornings in Fort Morgan,
stepping into the parking lot,
crossing the mowed lawn of campus,
it is easy to forget about air.

The breeze is strong and clean and sweet,
oddly lacking our factories’ famous scent:
cheesy beef beet poop soup. Relief!
The smell of money went walking somewhere.

But then, entering the building,
we are greeted with night’s awful breath,
inhaled and held by brick and mortar
long before morning wind kicked in.

A building cannot exhale through a new day’s
shortly opened doors. We enter the stench,
take our usual breaths, filter, forget:
like inevitable death, it fills us.


Questions for a Pumpkin

April 3rd, 2017

Do your seeds sing a slick song?

Are you aware you are
both food and lantern?

And home?

Do you dream of hundreds of tongues
searching the cheeks of a huge mouth?

Or of wingless albino bats trembling
in a wet cave, upside down?

If a woman entered you at will, a kept woman,
would he carve windows of ears, nose and eyes,
a doorway of a crooked-toothed smile?

Would she become a candle in your belly,
throw herself in a flickering dance
to light his way home?

Can you accommodate two?

Or love?

Would it hurt, would you mind,
if she bakes and scrapes
the innards of your entrances,
blends in eggs, sugar, milk, cinnamon,
rolls a crust, pours you in,
eats you, her home, with him?



April 2nd, 2017

At thirteen, the stubborn plastic tube
of childhood ear infections had to be removed.

In its wake, the healed hole did not close,
stole bird wind and breath hymns. Instead,

he learned to drum blast beats, buzz rolls,
crash and snare. He learned the muted world,

to turn without fanfare or shame
his better ear toward a quiet voice.

If we had known how easy healing could be
without major surgery, we’d have done it sooner.

With simple tool, a doctor roughed the edges
of the perforation, made a bleeding wound

of tympanum, and with a common hole punch,
cut a dot of paper thin as cigarette skin.

When she placed it on the ragged hole,
it became a bridge for blood, for hope,

for cells to build themselves a road
over the small chasm. Sound began to cross

at once. Driving home, the radio rushed him.
Overcome, he dialed down brass and bass,

like a solitary monk who hasn’t seen a friend
in years first bows from the neck, the waist,

then holds him at arms’ length
before the caught breath, the full embrace.


Toward You

April 1st, 2017

A Christmas cactus burns
seven fuchsia blossoms
toward a northern window.
On the other side,
the dim room inspires
only one bud, still tight,
the last to let go.

Here I am, blue out of season.
How many blooms do you see, love?
On the dark side, a tense fist.
You, my light, my southern exposure
know me better than this.
I can’t help myself. I turn.
Open all my hands.