Water and Light

 

I was a tagalong

When Grandpa

Showed my dad

His rose garden

He knew little English

They shared the language

Of fertilizer, weeding,

Water and light

 

My father died

Grandpa showed me

His spring bloom

As if I was my dad

Speaking a language

I had begun to learn,

The fertilizer

The water

The light

 

The weeding

 

In lush life beauty

We felt his absence

Although a teen

I think he looked

To me for comfort

 

Grandpa

Lost a son-in-law

A fellow gardener

A man that knew what it meant

To till soil and plant seeds

A man who knew the value

Of fostering life in foreign soil

 

To this day

I take in roses

Inhale the heady redolence

Of companionship and loss

Emmy Lit by Distant Stars

 

I woke tonight

From a dream of Emmy

That lives in the galaxy

Of my youth

 

In this dream

We are desperate

Trying to find a place

To make love

 

In a friend’s house

While they sleep

Emmy asks questions

Between kisses

But I cannot hear

Her whispers

 

We go to a party

It is 4am

A record player scratches

Out old tunes

 

The lights are bright

Nowhere to wrestle

Under sheets, caress, feel

The dark of her hair,

The cool shades of her skin

 

She calls her mother

On a landline, tells her

She will stay with me

As if her parents cared,

As if anyone cared

 

I awoke to the sound

Of a rotary dial

Spinning in my head

She was disconnected

 

The last I heard

Emmy was arrested

Six years ago

During a drunken rage

Cuffed in the back seat of

A State Trooper’s car

Angry with the dirt

Of life, she kicked out

The rear window

 

Sometimes I search

For her in the cheap

Universe of the internet

Find a featureless, grayed out

Picture above her name

The faint glitter of a star

Blown out eons ago

 

I will stay awake

Think of her as she was

Sweet and shy

Someone who cared and hurt

In the same breath

 

Think of how

Only in dreams we love

That is where I keep her

That is where she is safe

Tucked in the constellation

Of my mind

 

A place that is dark

A place time and light

Can never find

A safe place

Where we hide

Where we live

A place

Where we can

Still find love

from Wake of the Desert Belle

AJO

 

There are days I want to move to Ajo

where Tuesday night bingo is a cultural event,

High School sports are of interest to every one

and Dairy Queen has the best treats in town.

 

Main street homes are lined in neat rows

like a model train’s landscape,

some perfect like dollhouses, some vacant

with for sale signs, with brown weeds

poking through chain link fenced yards.

 

I could buy one of those vacant homes

or roll a dusty fifth wheel to Belly Acres rv park,

let the air out of the tires, put it on blocks.

 

I could stroll in the town square

admire the Spanish architecture,

the mission style church

achingly beautiful with quiet simplicity.

 

I’d go to Marcella’s, order enchiladas

served by big stoic women; rice and refried beans

spilling over the thick white plate,

overhear the man in overalls, white tee and crew cut

tell of a calvary rifle he found in a wash,

can’t decide to let it be or give it

to the Copper Mine Museum up the hill.

 

I would keep to myself there.

drink at the Bamboo Lounge/bowling alley,

while people at the bar whisper and wonder

why I moved to Ajo in the first place.

 

At night they might stand where the

street meets my weed riddled driveway,

see the flickering blue light

from my old TV screen,

the dark silhouette

of me watching in silence.

 

 

Stand there, wondering

while I turn off the set , watch the white flash,

as night envelopes my room,

as the screen recedes,

as I follow that final, white dot

 of eternity.

from The Song We Left Behind

Salem Market

 

Summer bike ride

Shaded, hilly, winding roads

To the only store in town 

Yoo-hoos, Ring Dings, baseball cards

In each pack a brittle strip of bubble gum

We feasted on stone steps to the library

Sweat on our brows

Trading doubles, picking all-stars

 

The library

A small rickety room,

Was the first school house

Bell tower

Imperfect glass panes

Air bubbles, varying thickness

Floorboards hammered in place with

Square nails creaked and groaned

Fine Dr. Seuss collection

 

Across the road

A church and cemetery

Bats and belfry

Tilted, weathered gravestones with

Chiseled settlers names

That became names of roads in

This small town that went nowhere

 

 

Boys then, we visited by day

Black mold stained graves

Read the faded dates and epitaphs

One night my older brothers and their

Friends sat among the dead

Got stoned, played poker,

Flipped cards trying to guess each one

Thinking spirits would bring foresight

 

Things changed

The library moved in the seventies

Sky lights, a thousand more books

Dr. Seuss hard to find

In the eighties the church burnt to the ground

It was updated, recorded chimes and PA, no bats

Graves too close to the road were exhumed

Moved up the hill

Final resting place, my ass

 

Strange that tiny market remains

Kids still pedal bikes rolling

Down those nowhere roads to

A first fledgling ride of independence

 

And of course you will still find elders

Sitting at night among the dead,

Playing games of chance,

Placing their bets on specters

Hoping for insight  

On what card comes next 

from The Adventurers and other poems

CABIN

 

Collected river rock for walls

Wood, plumbing, wiring

Carried by pack mules

Leaf green door and window frames

Checkered curtains hang on brass rods

 

I finish lunch on a wooden

Bench by the front door

Stretching sore calves,

Trying to find a comfortable way

To rest an aching butt

 

A red fox saunters by

Sizing up what I might leave behind

I digest an Oreo

Recalling the last fox I saw

50 years ago in a hayfield

While my father and I tended his garden

 

We watched it leap from hiding

Then disappear among tall grass

Like a trout springing from cool depths

 

The fox at the cabin lingers

Calmly waiting for a morsel

His presence will be a seed

Of memory buried near my father

 

Frail roots sprouting

Taking hold when the thunder, flash

And rain of awareness arrives

Bearing fruit while winter

Lies fallow in the distance

from The Song We Left Behind

Status Quo

 

I appear content

To you,

I am satisfying as tepid milk

On a summer day

You ask what do I want?

I have no answer

 

I have no answer

To me and you,

About the choices on the menu

Dropped at our table

I choose the first dish I see

The way I picked you

 

And here we are

On a restaurant patio

By a babbling brook

Near a village green

Where an old cannon sits

That children hang and leap from

 

Wars seem far away

But one is right here

Raging within

It is a cold war

With entrenching tools

We are dug in

Trench footed and starving

 

Through this interminable war

Peace only comes at Christmas

Climb from our holes

Cross battlelines

To smoke cigarettes

Play a harmonica

Dream of the home we left behind

 

Then the waiter comes

Asks if we decided

You answer quick

Warm milk on a summer day

I am clueless

aquí

La lluvia es un gran problema

Llegó esta mañana

Vacilante y tímido

Apenas audible

Toques en el hombro de

esta tierra roja del desierto espolvoreado

Rayando el enorme saguaro

Donde generaciones de reyezuelos

Tallaron sus hogares

Ellos y codornices errantes

Haz de la lluvia una razón

Para acurrucarse y refugiarse

Como el sol empapado

Que es demasiado a menudo el invitado

Que se queda después de la fiesta

Reírse de nada

Quemando su presencia borracha

En tu cabeza cansada

Hago una segunda taza de cafe

Toma el aire sepia

Tierra y cielo

Mezclar como uno

Como mis pensamientos y mi respiración

No preocuparse por los relojes o los calendarios

Tomando la naturaleza sometida

Acariciando una taza caliente

Un momento de gracia

Puede parecer eterno

Esta lluvia

No hará nada para calmar

Cepillo marchito

Llena el río Colorado

Pero es lluvia

Con su 'tímida paz

Que transforma

Hace brillar las montañas de obsidiana

Hace la segunda taza

Prueba mejor

Day Life

 

Birthing sun

Dispels dead of night

Pre-school morning

Children temperatures’ taken

Hug teacher’s knees

They scratch and peck

Like hatchlings from Easter eggs

Striped legging girl

Dark curls and eyes

Hops on one foot

Sees her little blue-eyed beau

She will draw

Crayon hearts for him

 

Mid-life day

No cover, no shade

Power lunch martini’s

Sharp attire professionals

At the five-star restaurant

But under tables

Matchbooks balance uneven legs

Band Aid bleeding heel of the Stiletto lady

The executive’s Italian leather shoes

Scuffed, the shine gone, soles worn thin

 

Old man sundown

Walks scruffy mini poodle

Crosses the intersection

Traffic paused red light

Breeze picks up

Billows light white jacket

He is a wrinkled sail

To the dog’s undercurrent pull

The tightwire taut leash

 

White beard stubble

Knotted brow

Senses the umbilical cord snap

Into indifferent night

Knows he could fall

No safety nets

With a dog at the helm

Sniffing for god

The Practice of Mending

 

I stitched your stuffed animals

With skills I learned from my mother

Rudimentary needle and thread,

Dexterity of containment

Not a surgeon’s ability

To replace broken hearts

 

My greatest achievement

Mending your “water baby”

A doll made lovable by how

Much it could be filled from the tap

The cat found her rubbery body

Delectable puncturing her torso,

Biting fingers off with sharp teeth

Her squeezable life dripped out

As did the tears from your eyes

 

I did what I could

Utilizing my caulk gun

Filled her with thicker liquid,

To plug the holes, stop the leaking,

And she remained huggable

For years until the solution

Congealed and hardened as some lives do

Yours never did

 

Not with the divorce we put you through

Not with the damage done

Not being a surgeon, I did my best

Not knowing how to fix a broken heart

I stitched the best I could

Trying to keep

What makes you whole from spilling out

I filled the empty space

The best way I knew how

With all the love I had

 

No, you never hardened

Stayed as huggable as a newborn

And now you are a nurse

You heal others

Stop their bleeding

With a tapestry of skill and love

Better than I ever could have hoped

And as the years pass by I see

My simple stitches held true

My mother taught me well

from Love and Chaos