Poems from the Color Wheel

The Emperor of Purple


The Emperor wrapped in his purple robe

Nods on his porphyry throne.

His golden thrush sings his deeds

With a whirl of wheels and precious stones.


Plums in an amaranthine bowl glow in the dark,

Trophies of wars with Red and Blue

And the unforgivable defection of Maroon

In the last of the Battles of Hue.


The Emperor broods on his porphyry throne.

Another threat lurks on his southern frontier.

The Viceregent of Violet demands submission

And makes her claim to legitimacy clear.


His half-sisters Mauve and Puce are weak

And pose no threat to his crowned head.

But her bloodline is pure, the uncontested heir

Of ancient lines of Blue and Red.


Purple, he fears, is a balkanized state

Surrounded by large and  powerful foes,

Violet’s more vibrant, saturated, deeper in tone,

Superior forces ready to go.


But the Emperior of Purple will not submit.

He has control of the ultimate source:

Sidon and Tyre where the shells of snails

Pile up on the sandy shore.

Poems from the Color Wheel



You want to know what orange is?

It’s October before everything gets brown.

It’s when an orange in your hand is like holding the sun

But it feels cool as the breeze is cool.


Orange is a full moon that’s pumpkin pie

On a faded lilac tablecloth.

Sometimes there are two full moons,

Fat and round like those Os in October

And when that happens,

That moon is blue.

Are You not Staggered

Are you not staggered by the beauty

of winter?

By the light defining the texture

of bare branches?

By the brilliance of Sirius

in the cold dark nights?

By the long violet shadows

and the faraway sun?

I am staggered by the stillness

and the silence.

The only motion is the skittering

of birds in the scrub

and the only sound is my breathing,



The Avocet Weekly, January 9, 2022

Blue Moon

O those moons!
Two of ‘em in a month,
big and round like those Os in October.

October begins with a moon,
the harvest moon, big and round,
like that first O In October,

burnt orange in a pale blue sky.
Its light makes shadows of long low limbs
on deer sheltering there in October.

October ends with a moon,
The Hunter’s Moon, the Blue Moon
like that second O In October

on all Hallows’ Eve, a pumpkin lit within.
Shadows are darker now.
Other things shelter there in October.

The Harvest Moon,
The Hunter’s Moon,
The Blue Moon—
O those moons!

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

A New Mexican Poet has a Wordsworthian Moment upon Seeing Wildflowers after a Late Summer Rain

I’m out on routine runs
this first week of fall,
the pavement wet from
a sudden shower.
The monsoon rains
have tapered off, leaving only
lonely clouds, and I’m glad to
see them go, looking forward to
cooling down and drying out.

But the rains have left us gifts:
The tornillo is full of twisted pods,
the greasewood thick and green.
The desert is lush with tumbleweeds

and grasses with light-filled plumes
rushing to set seeds.
The dusky purple rock gives way
to mounds of mustard yellow:
snakeweed, threadleaf,
and myriad unknown tiny
radiant suns.

But more–
on slopes and hills
and sides of roads,
a host of desert marigolds!
And yes, if you please,
they are fluttering and dancing
in the breeze.

When the windy winter comes
and I’m out on routine runs;
when the days are tumbleweed brown
and my mood is dry as the dusty ground,
I’ll think about those summer showers,
and in mind’s eye I’ll recall
those golden days of early fall.

Thoughts on the Expansion of the Universe


Coffee and a buñuelo on the patio
in the early morning cool.
Oleander flowers fall about me,

each like a tiny galaxy
spiraling down.
Where would I be

on that world?
At the edge of a petal,
wondering at fate.

I shield my cup, not
wanting to drown in the
murky metaphor of Nirvana.

Hard to think on a morning
like this of the Heat Death
of the universe.

Entropy increasing,
no doubt about it,
every second running down,

cooling off into thermal equilibrium.
“What are you worried about,”
she asks, my furrowed brow

betraying my state.
“I’m thinking of the Heat Death,” I reply.
“Oh,” she says, “yes, it will be hot,

but you’re not going to die of it.
Stay cool, wear your hat.
Remember that little melanoma.”

I could die of heat
or radiation, all electromagnetic
waves. Who would think the sun

would kill you,
all those childhood hours in pool
and water’s edge, getting

the perfect tan.
“The universe is out to get us,”
I reply.

Two rabbits nibbling on the lawn,
quail feeding on seeds dropped
from the feeder by careless sparrows,

a mockingbird cheerfully
claiming his kingdom…
all this innocence blooming, singing, feeding…

only I know that there is no center, but,
indeed, that things do fall apart.
Damn Hubble and his redshift.


We are stardust.
Thus saith the prophet
and who am I to argue with prophets?

What is stardust, anyway?
It sounds profound, even metaphysical
in a materialistic way.

Never mind the contradiction.
Life is full of contradictions and
pixie dust. It’s all magic, anyway,

or so it seems. But the question nags:
what is this stuff we’re made of?
It used to be ashes to ashes,

dust to dust, show me a cigar
a hug won’t bust. But I diverge.
We’re looking further down

The chain of existence,
de profundis Domine,
the ultimate stuff of what I am,

in this form of all possible forms
that defines me and me alone,
or so I like to think.

There are others, of course,
me mum and dad, etc.
but each one of them was a me.

Is it molecules of metals,
not counting my gold tooth?
I’m discounting water, too,

at this stage, all 98% of it.
It would just evaporate into H and O,
elements in their own right, of course,

but I want the hard stuff,
atoms of azurite, aluminum,
molybdinum, Mercury…

no, it must be dustier than that,
electrons, protons, balancing in their
mysterious attraction for one another.

But is there no end to this elemental dust?
This is truly elemental, dear Watson,
I detect bosons, gluons, smaller-than-thouons,

particles that flash in and out of existence,
matter and anti matter, gamma rays, photons
and the ineffable electrons, one of which may be

anywhere in the universe at the same time.
So this is what they call matter?
Does it really matter?

Perhaps only to me,
wondering how all that stuff
arranged itself to be myself.

Pardon my radioactive decay,
particles flying off into space
like sparklers on the Fourth of July,

looking for other particles
to dance the tango in the Dark Matter Bar,
where something like passion,

call it gravity, ignites a new star
which then explodes scattering stardust
and the whole matter starts all over again.


A commonplace thought it is
to think of all the stars
and the vast distances among them

strewn together in clusters and strands
in space so deep it can’t be seen,
beyond the reach of light,

strewn together in ancient times
like pictographs on the stone of the sky
by imaginations more poetic than ours.

Who knew that the sun was a star,
that there was a galaxy,
that there were galaxies strung together

like the fibers of a sponge,
like the vast distances between elements
in a molecule,

room enough for a smaller atom
to wander within like an asteroid
In the solar system?

Is there an end to these depths
and these distances
and these times?

Like the Big Bang
and inflation at ten
to the minus thirty-five seconds.

Not long ago we thought the Milky Way
was all there was and all there ever would be,
world without end, amen.

All the stars and stuff we’d ever see
draped around the earth like a lei
of milky plumeria.

What if we could see it all,
the entirety of it? Then we would say,
Is that all?


The harp, with its strings,
its gilded arch like a cosmos,

the strings vibrating,
singing into existence

those particles or waves,
whichever you prefer.

It’s all the same, anyway,
energy, mass, the speed of light…

there are no words.
You can’t put these things

into words, you know,
nor can you see or hear them,

the vibrations.
That’s all there is, actually,

vibrations. We are strung
on those strings

like a plucked chord,
the strings running through us

suspended in space-time
on waves of harmony.

I think of the detail
in Bosch’s painting of Hell.


This is the hard part:
there was no space before the Big Bang.
We can’t even say “before”
Since neither was there time.
Reason grapples, imagination boggles
At nothing, no thing.
Words fail.

Think only of everything
all at once, suddenly
bound up in perfection
all together, space, time, energy,
massless for a moment
or nano-moment

—I will use that word,
these are only words, after all,
poor attempts at thoughts
of the unthinkable—

So there was no space
no place for mass
when there was no thing
not even space or time
in which to move or fill
in that blink of the cosmic eye
until the heat of creation relents, cooling down
never to be that hot again.

Now the electrons can choose their orbits
Around the protons of hydrogen
And release the photons
To race through that new space
Setting limits and be the constant
We can’t see beyond
Or fly faster than.

Galaxies, clusters of galaxies
fly apart
But not into a ready place.
They stretch and pull
And create the very space
Where they want to be.

Neither is there any future
For creatures until
They make it, expand it,
One by one,
The beach-creeping fish,
Determined to walk, stretching the DNA

Into new configurations
In ways we do not know.
We pull and stretch
Like stars against the web of time.


She’s falling, you know,
the Moon,
in a straight line,
but pulled
in earth’s embrace,
she’s like a dancer,
her phases
are colesitas
in a caricias of the


You’re just feeling sorry for yourself, she says.
Self pity–as if I mourned
Merely my losses and failures.
So much more to mourn
To be moved at the core
By an animal in the road

I drive across an intersection
After the light turns green.
A leaf in the road turns
And flops like a living thing.
It is a living thing,
A toad caught in the traffic.
I can’t stop.
I feel the panic of the toad
Lost in a world beyond comprehension
Beyond its boundaries
Perhaps only I feel the panic of one
Lost in infinitude,
Not knowing the crushing fate
That I have stumbled into.


Two bodies, drifting
Find a universe together,
A cosmos of their flesh.
Gravity waves pull them together
like colliding galaxies merging
Until they become
A cluster of two,
Bodies gleaming like stars
All energy in nerves like filaments
Uniting the clusters
Muscles taut.
They find their way, uniting in
Embrace now, for a while,
feeling their forms beneath their hands,
The curving thighs, the arching chests,
full of breath and mounting joy
And find the hot centers of their swirling forms,
Star-studded, incandescent
This quivering of the quantum froth
the infinitely small
Resounds through the infinitude
Surely if there were life out there
They would feel these waves of ecstasy.

It is the sum of you
Your galaxy
Your incandescence
Of possibilities
Caught in this quantum


Art is such a vague word,
Like love.
Hate is precise.
But art is like love,
All-encompassing of
Something or other.
Art is like what Kenneth Clark
Said about civilization.
I know it when I see it.
Not sure if I’ve seen either lately
I’ve seen pictures and paintings
And pictures of paintings
But I look in vain for art.
Perhaps it’s conditioning
And I recognize only the old masters
in the Louvre of my mind
Hanging on the tunnel vision
Of my tour down the hall,
Not regarding the doors
Leading off the side,
If I only knew math
Then I could figure it out,
Consort with cosmologists
And see the significance
of the speed of light.

Akhenaten in the Dark

in his royal litter
lies in the dark,
listens, hears whispers.

They are only whispers.

knows their voices are
only chants of priests,
their presence, only incense.
their forms,
only rock-hewn imagining
of ancestors.

knows the dark sanctuaries
where they live,
has seen the Sun
conquer their courts and chambers,
overcome their stone-bound
impassive visages.

They are only whispers.

knows the One,
the only One.
will rise himself
to attend its rising
between the two hills.
Brown Akhenaten,
blessed by the One.

They are only whispers.

Malpaís Review, Spring, 2015