Tantra

April 16th, 2018

On a morning when I hunch
In the shower under the weight
Of the paperwork of the day,
Of the week, month and years,
Sidpai Gyalmo comes to my face.
Her vicious wily smile, lip corners
Curling over teeth needle sharp,
Tongue stretched out long
And pointed like a rock star,
Eyes wide and insane with will
To look upon a world that ignores
Our need for safety, comfort.
She rides on, black mule too small
For her size but vast, wearing skulls
Of worry around her neck,
Perched on the skin of the corpse
Of her ego, her own very real
Impending death, and I give it a try.
I put on her face, crazy eyes,
Pointed tongue, exposed teeth
Water dripping like a baptism
Down our blue body and I am
Laughing at my courage to be silly,
To face this terrible world with
Its bombs and petty bureaucracy,
Its cemeteries, beds and kisses
With completely ridiculous fearlessness.

2018

Witness

April 15th, 2018

Grandpa’s final breath
Found its way into the lungs
Of my quiet son

2018

Lost Hat

April 14th, 2018

Big headed, he said,
too large to pass through,
before the vertical scalpel,
before pulling me feet first
from my mother’s riven womb,

hanging upside down
like a bloody, sleeping bat,
my mother’s warm body
for one moment–
my first lost hat.

2018

Large Canvases

April 13th, 2018

Unless rain. Campus always spotted
with students
on the lawn in solitude or small groups.
I’d walk
to the art department, a low-lying brick building.
The usual vague joy or dread
rising, not knowing
what problems I’d face before the canvas,
human sized. The welcome smell of turpentine
primed the hours ahead.
I loved that poison. Toxic anticipation.
In my corner, on a rolling shelf, a huge glass palette
the size of a table,
dried paint layered in colorful scabs,
an archeology of wounds of the current painting,
brushes thrusting
hard-end out of a mayo jar of turpentine, real turpentine—
not cheap mineral spirits for house painting,
nor the nontoxic
citrus solvent of motherhood, stealing minutes
from children—
Long hair bristle brushes gooey
with the grey sludge of sunken oil paint.
Too lazy or cool to clean them every day or week.
Leaving brushes in that swamp—
a good way to warp or kill expensive hog bristle.
Fascinated with pseudo self portraits,
I painted many women
who vaguely looked like me with better breasts, standing
in various depths of murky red seas,
lost in vast space,
knee-deep in the horizon, crucified, Tao- or Shiva-bound,
avoiding the gaze or turning
from various men. Decades of living the paintings inside,
I took myself out of that space to
drag huge swathes
of juicy blues, whites and creamy yellows over
still large canvases—that much hadn’t changed—
to recreate clouds from above or below,
blue punctuated by sun or moon.
Now elemental light. The between in here.
As if the wooden handle is a conduit routing sky,
lit spheres and space from the body.
I disappear.

Dad Says

April 12th, 2018

In a weary voice
The night before
A nuclear stress test:

“That’s the way it goes.
First your money
Then your clothes.”

2017-18

Homestake

April 11th, 2018

Pause on the side of the slope
In the powder near the pines
Ignore stone feet on skis
Snow a muffler of sound
No wind to remind you of skin
Close your vision and vanish
Two skiers pass like a sigh
Silence the final erasure
Mine zhine from the mind

*zhine (zhee-NAY) means “calm abiding”
in the Bon Buddhist tradition of Tibet

2018

Lahne’s Riddles

April 10th, 2018

If a man were paddling down the Canadian River
and he lost his paddle,
how many pancakes in a doghouse?

Seventeen, because ice cream has no bones.

* * * * *

What’s the difference between a duck?

A vest, because a bicycle has no wings.

* * * * *

Why is an elephant grey?

Because a blue bird is blue.

* * * * *

How many philaramics in a platicus rex?

Six.

tiny reveries

April 9th, 2018

arkansas river
by behemoth cottonwoods
swirls of water
agitate thoughts
until a rock
or peculiar pattern
of persistent
water somewhat solid
where the eye might rest
but off I go
mosquito stings soft skin
behind the knee
to slap me
into tiny reveries
of resentment

2018

Either Way

April 8th, 2018

Oh, to slow, to draw,
To draw perchance to poem—
Either way: the line.

2018

Another Woman’s Garden

April 7th, 2018

with thanks to Sheila and all who tended her garden

I wasn’t exactly happy, chopping back Russian Sage
Along the carport and rock-lined drive, piling
Dusty twigs, coughing. It had to be done. Happiness
Would only come in later summer days with fresh-
Branched acrid blooms. A pay off for my pruning.
It was cold at first, then warmer as I worked. First
I shed the hat, then coat, so stopped to don a bra.

Inheriting another’s plants, you learn
How she or her renters pruned. Or not.
By ragged or planed edges, I see where women
Broke or cut back growth with hands or shears,
Or simply let nature prune with years. I guess
The ages of all those women’s backs by how
Tenaciously established is the matted grass
In crowded strawberries. They anticipated me

Or perhaps their own flagging memory by leaving
Names: be grateful for brittle plastic cards
Next to crispy plants: Bleeding hearts—Dicentra,
Virginia Creeper—Parthenocissus quinquefolia,
Silvermound—Artemisia schmidtiana nana.
And mysterious red barked trees, only one tagged:
Montmorency Cherry—Prunus cerasus.
I get out garden books and look them up,
Marvel at what sisters are willing to give space to grow.
A lover of useful medicinals, I learn to accept
Other women’s medicines of color, shape, texture, scent.
Not all plants must be ingested. The eyes, the hands,
The taking in of nose-breath—these are mouths too.

I learn the messy logic of their winding rock-lined paths.
I learn their vision of layers—ground huggers to towers.
I learn the shapes of new leaves nestled in the clutch
Of last year’s deaths. Some stalks break like hollow straws
In my grasp, woody others need shears.
Bleached skeletons give tiny greens from their hearts.
I learn backwards, how death looks before life,
The way my sister’s face gave me a life-face.
I sprang from the center of her fade, newly bodied.

Faced with death, I try not to tug. Instead, I break stems
Flush to soil. Sometimes I do pull, examine and bend
Roots to see if they are wick, supple, rhizomes sending
Shoots. Most, if perennial, do not easily give up their grip.
In early April, some, like me, already whisper green.
Others do not. They need more wet and heat. I wait.
If they pull easily, my guess: simple annuals who carry on
By sending out black seeds. Who knows in which bed
Or designated path I will meet their lawless offspring.

2018

This His First Night Drive

April 6th, 2018

After the movie, driving home from Alamosa,
I pulled off Highway 17 so we could swap seats.
My son—newly permitted, this his first night drive—
Clutched the wheel tightly at ten and two o’clock.
Tense? I asked. I’m nervous, he replied. Why?
All these bunnies on both sides of the road!
Sure enough, there they were—every few yards,
Ears poked up in tufts of grasses I had overlooked,
Giant desert jackrabbits peering out in silhouette,
Perfect profiles of chocolate bunnies, ears perked.
Prolific— no wonder they are Easter’s mascot.
Farther down, more and more, their lumped corpses
Littered the road, unable to rise from the dead
Except as wings, promising a veritable buffet
For morning’s magpies. (A memory: we almost
Named him Corvidae). Poor Sam, I thought,
As knowledge of this deadly power dawned on him.
First, he dropped his speed. Then, this boy, who
Hasn’t yet discarded childhood’s matted teddy bears,
Who shares a bed with his old dog, began to practice
The fast stop, brakes slammed just enough to save us all.

2018

If I Could Draw a Celtic Knot

April 5th, 2018

On the yellow-fringed curves
out of Crestone, a yak herd.

Two black bulls lock horns
at 7 am, joined by a third.

Slowing down to observe,
my eye floats above pasture,

looks down upon their rut-knot,
laughs at the thought

of drawing a triple head-butt—
a symmetry, a trinity, of yak lust.

2018

Swiping through Netflix

April 4th, 2018

Swiping through Netflix
Nothing sticks. Wasted minutes
Better spent silent.

2018

Icon

April 3rd, 2018

On what felt like
my life’s final night
with my father,
his fast yet failing feet
shuffled to the archway
and lingered,
voice stolen—
a stooped silhouette,
icon backlit by blue light—
to look into the room
where I lay in the dark
on an air mattress,
slowly deflating,
for a last look at me,
his breathing child,
who would
drive away forever
in the morning.

2018

Just Before Seven AM

April 2nd, 2018

The naked Easter bunny puts on
Her husband’s thick cotton robe.
Upon sliding open the deck door,
Styrofoam egg carton in hand,
She hears neighbor children
In the upper octaves of delight—
Did you find the green one?
Here’s the pink!—and she is grateful
Her own children sleep late.
And she is grateful for the way
Sound carries on a mountainside
As she goes to work, hiding eggs.

2018