Contrails at Sunset

Above the high desert
in the fast-changing
light of dusk,
a silver stiletto
slices the cold clear sky.
The wound is deep,
blue bleeding a filmy rose
in the long rays of setting sun.
It spreads and thins
and wavers into vapor
far above low skimming clouds
already dark.

Welcome to my poetry site.

Here are some of my poems that have been published in print and online, along with some related paintings and photos by me, arranged more or less by general topics.

I live in southern New Mexico in the Mesilla Valley on the east side not far from the Organ Mountains, now part of Desert Peaks National Monument, and, on the other side of the valley, bisected by the Rio Grande, is Trackways National Monument with tracks and prints of creatures from the Permian Period. In addition to writing poetry, I paint in oil and watercolor and occasionally sculpt small pieces in clay and stucco.

I hope you enjoy this site. As more poems find their way into print, more will be added.

A poem from Avocet, summer, 2015, still appropriate.


August

.

Summer, I longed for you

back in the cold days in the desert

and in the sandy spring,

and I mourned your passing

when the tumbleweed

turned brown and the sun

went south.

But now, in August,

under the surly, sultry skies

beating down heat,

melting asphalt and

resistance alike,

you’re like a thug in the street

or a guest who’s stayed

too long.

Four poems in recent Event Horizon, no. 9.

That Old Lizard

That old lizard lies under
layers and layers of lives
like a fossil in limestone
laid down by countless
little lives
drifting down,
down,
accreting into stone.

But our old lizard still lives.
In its depths it never sleeps,
watching,
watching,
while we trifle with thoughts
of poetry and justice.

That’s where the power lies:
try to stop breathing—
that old lizard surges against the will,
rises roaring until you gasp for air,
makes you kill for food,
even if it’s only a package of meat
in the supermarket,

drives lust, only you call it love,
drives blood like it does in your
cold-blooded cousins,
the cobra and the crocodile,
like it did in the long-necked Diplodocus
and the sail-backed Dimetrodon.

I take a pill to wipe out the incursion of reason
and curl along my lizard for the dark hours.

Mount Graham

It is an island,
not in the sea
but like in a sea,
surrounded by waves of
sage, yucca, mesquite,
cacti and other thorny things
breaking against
its rise.
It rises to agave and sotol
surging out of crevasses of rock,
then juniper, scrub oak,
then piñon, then
tall ponderosa and then
stately Douglas fir,
aspen thickets
with cool streams
tumbling over fallen rock,
then higher, spruce, with
woodland thrushes echoing calls
through the cool high foliage
and meadows where bears
dine on raspberries.

I Like Rock

I like rock.
I like trees, too,
and grass,
but rock is something else.
I love to see it lying down
in layers flat or wrinkled,
ripped apart in road cuts
or weathered in canyon cliffs,
content with age.

I love to see it rising up
in volcanic thrusts,
great glowering peaks
surging out of the earth
in silent rage

Rock is fundamental,
like bones.
Yes, I like bones, too.
The desert gives me rock
and bones,new bones on rock,

old bones beneath old rock,
rock themselves now, bones
that lived like I’m living now,
when rock was new.

Five Toes

Why did they need five toes,
those crawlers up the mud flats,
low-slung, sail-backed, dragging tails?
Did they suspect they would need
a grasping thumb
someday faraway
and dream that they would swing
from tree to tree,
or knapp a fine flint,
or build a ship and sail it
to the stars?

Burning Bush

Five o’clock.
Looking south and west,
a turquoise sky,
but overhead a heavy cloud,
vigas trailing at its edge,
obscures the sun.
The ground beneath,
a scrubby, dusty brown,
is full of of fuzzy seed
on this first week of fall.
Suddenly a shaft of light
breaks through
and, as if a switch were flipped,
a summer’s work of bud and bloom
burns incandescent.

Anglican Theological Review, Winter, 2019

Solstice Song

This must be commemorated.
All I can do is write words
while the post-Stonehenge world
rushes home, turning on headlamps
because it seems to be getting dark.

Perhaps,if they watch the evening news
the shaman who delivers the augers of weather
will note that this is the longest night of the year
and that tomorrow will be winter,
officially.

Only I know the magnitude,
the staggering significance,
the beauty.

I’ll forgo sacrifice,
bird, goat, or human,
but maybe a choir of chanters
should gather on a west-facing slope,
singing—not hymns of praise to the sun,
busy burning hydrogen in its hot heart
and having no room or need in that chamber
for affection for us—
but singing carols of mysterious
monosyllables signifying “we are,”
and we are aware
and we are filled
with awe.

Emerging Poets of the West, 2019

Deer in the Suburbs

Stepping out the front door
I see a fawn standing not ten feet away,
its mother another space behind.
We freeze, the deer and I,
suspended, it seems, in time.
All startled, we regard one another
for a long moment.

This is the fawn we found two days before,
curled in a nest of grass and brush
while the doe grazed unseen not far away.
We left it lie in its instinctive invisibility,
scentless, motionless to prey.

I am drawn into the fawn’s eye,
that dark infinity where life abides
with beauty, peace and innocence.
I want to know its depths, its secrets,
be one with its spirit,
feel the wildness.

The doe turns and walks away
and the fawn runs behind
in his newborn rocking gait
and we see them cross the street
and disappear behind the great live oaks
of a neighbor’s yard.

Amethyst Review, January, 2019

Speaking to the Unknown


I speak to the unknown
having asked
puis-je vous tutoyer?

I don’t expect an answer
in any voice I could comprehend,
but maybe some form of communication

will pass between us, familiar,
maybe not knowing at the time,
beyond thought,

beyond ideas, structure,
release from the bonds of words
into something like the dream.

Amethyst Review, December 26, 2018

Deer at Advent was just included in Amethyst Review. on December 7, 2018.

Deer at Advent

The dark deer come out at dusk,
out of the huisache and mesquite
and tangled vines,
their contours drawn in sinew and bone.
I watch them graze on grassy lawns
beneath the low spreading limbs
of great live oaks.

The light deer come on at dusk
on spacious lawns
with wreaths and sleighs
and Christmas trees,
their contours told in arcs of gold.
I watch them glow
beneath the low spreading limbs
of great live oaks.

The dark deer
and the light deer
together on grassy lawns
beneath the low spreading limbs
of great live oaks
celebrating wildness,
celebrating light,
solstice and
the grace of
salvation. 

 

The Arroyo in Autumn

I walked down the arroyo
this afternoon, mid afternoon,
say three (not keeping track of the time).
The sun was three fists high in the south,
the shadows long and diminished by light
glinting off sand, glancing off shiny surfaces
of yellow dried weeds.
Branches of mesquite and willow
were filled in a luminescent fog.

If I were a watercolorist, I would paint this.
I would lay tints of transparent colors
on the sized surface,

let the colors flow and intermingle,
making tints that light chooses,
interacting with the white linen rag.

Like the pigment diluted to a wash,
I feel transparent in this moment
as if I am painted,

a mere form suspended on this atmosphere,
structured somehow among the particles of light
that blow through me, not against me.

I am also light,

weightless,

translucent.

The Weekly Avocet, (November 10, 2018). Thanks to Charles Portolano and the staff.

Two poems in Almagre Review In August.

La Alondra

Amigos,
hablemos de amor,

y cuando hablamos de amor,
debemos hablar de la música,

y cuando hablamos de la música
debemos hablar de la voz,

la voz y la guitarra,
la voz del Sur y de la frontera,

la voz del río
corriente entre los campos,

la voz de La Alondra
que canta de tristeza y de alegría,

de la pobreza del pueblo
y la riquieza de familia,

la voz que surge de la tierra
como el maíz, y alimenta el alma

como el maíz alimenta el cuerpo.
¡Eschuches!

¿Puedes oírla cantando
en la Plaza del Zacate?

cantando por una moneda,
una moneda por leche,

una moneda por masa,
La Alondra que canta

para la familia,
para la Raza.
para el amor.

Tu No Sabes Nada

We walk toward the cathedral,
its baroque splendor gleaming
in the afternoon sun,
its dome rising behind the
twin towers of the façade.
As we pass the doorways
along the plaza
I see a smaller dome,
brown, an old woman
huddled on the street,
her palm open.
I glance sideways as we pass.
“Tu no sabes nada,”
she says.

Contents

In The High Desert
Constellations
Coyotes
Sun and Moon
En la Selva
In The Garden of Venus
Brother Francis
Monuments
Extinctions
Cocina Mexicana