Monthly Archives: January 2019

Tuesday Fragment

if it all fell to earth before you
like first snow or warm rain

was laid out before you
so you could choose
that which would satisfy you most

could you
open your hands enough
to take it
fold your arms enough
to hold it

if there was one song you could hear
without weeping or turning away

one melody subtle harmony
perfect for humming along
or remembering fondly

could you
open your ears
and hear it
could you 
set your face 
to smile past your tears

all we have 
are possibilities
if we shun them
we have nothing

all we are
is what comes to us
if we flee it
we are lost


The National Mood, January 2019

Standing over
a roadkill dog
Poking it
with a stick
Saying

it is fine
it is just resting

Clearly still alive
Look at the movement
under the skin
Look at the eyes
still wide open

All it needs is
a little tender loving care

All we need
is to turn it over
and it will
get right back up

run in joy
over the plains
to the sea and back
to us

its tail wagging
no teeth showing


Wall

Something there is that doesn’t love a wall,
said Robert Frost that one time.

He was making
a point about how weird it is to think
walls help anything, that the earth itself hates them
and tears them to little wall bits;
you had to keep at them to keep them whole;

something there is that knocks them down
then knocks them down again.

What he didn’t say: something there is in us
that doesn’t love another. Something in us 
that doesn’t love, that pays love lip service 
even as it short sells love against some imagined
future gain, and that’s the force that builds the wall.

Perhaps he did say it when he said so little
about the neighbor who comes to set the wall 
back in place, who only knows how to repeat
what his father told him even as he casts aside
the poet’s note about the folly of pines and apples
devouring each other?

Perhaps when the speaker named the neighbor
as some risen caveman wielding stone
he was trying to tell us something — 
Frost by all accounts was himself
a bastard and a half
and he might have had
a moment of clarity there
when he put the speaker
right there beside the savage
as the two of them mended wall;

think on that —

even though he knew
every wall will someday fall,
that in the long run
that wall would do nothing,
a man stood beside another man
and together they built
a useless wall.


Then And Now

I don’t do nostalgia.
It wasn’t better then.

I hated life a while ago.
It improved, failed, improved again.

That was a bad body I had.
I was a bad, bold mistake.

My mother was a bad cook.
My father wasn’t wise. Or maybe

I’m the dumb one and my taste buds
got too numb to feel comfort.

The music was the music.
Full of promise, most unfulfilled.

Some came true then other songs
came along and made those wrong.

The movies were rude and crude
and shifted little, if you look around.

My old books smell as musty
as the ideas therein.

Even the sun was dim back then
in exactly the way it’s dim now.

The only thing then had over now
was the feeling that hope had a point.

I can’t live on that full memory
when I bite down on tinfoil today and every day.

It hurts exactly the way it always has.
I remember that and only that from my youth.

Hope was a luxury then,
a luxury now. 

Go on living. Bite down. It’ll hurt. It always does.
That’s the lesson of the past:

you will only remember how the world can glow
once the agony ends.


Travel Brochure

Come to our stunning land
of shuttered offices
and shattered myths

of historic capital founded upon
no memory. You will
travel in its ruts

from one coast to another
and learn to pronounce
place names in the tongues

of the forgotten. Dine 
upon its bounty, pick your teeth
with its sharp old bones,

see its cloudy mountain tops
and thrill to its endless,
burial ground plains. Its cities

will snare you, its villages
will hang you up, its forests
and lakes will burn before you

as you marvel at the light
and the way it moves
the shadows away

from your scrutiny.
You’ll go mad with tourist joy
at the mystery. All expenses

paid by others, 
meals included but often
rushed and spotty.

Restrictions apply.
Some assembly required;
bring tools, glue,

your own plans,
lowered eyes and 
brows. Patience. Armor.


Jerry Or Tom

I call him
Jerry or Tom,
that White Man In Me.

Jerry or Tom,
who I prefer to
forget about

but who refuses
to stop being
me in public.

And I call 
that Mescalero In Me
Tom, or Jerry;

whatever 
Jerry or Tom
isn’t using today,

he gets. I wish
I knew more about him
than I do, except

I make up 
too much already
and the older I get

the less inclined I am
to indulge in
dreams

about Tom
or Jerry, whichever
he is. Who knows

whichever one
is the Truth?
Can both be, or is Truth

truly a casualty
of war and as I am
war embodied, 

am I pure lie? I have
friends (I think) who say
I make too much 

of all this: be yourself,
they say, little of
that matters, really.

I’ve got some who sneer and say
I’m pure Tom, others
who scrape and say

pure Jerry,
others who praise me
for being entirely

open to such torture.
On the rez
they’ve called me

other. In the office
they’ve called me 
other. Once at home

the White Man In Me
sits up and barks
at every little sound

whenever the Mescalero In Me
isn’t doing it and it’s striking
how they less and less often

agree. Tom tells Jerry
to die. Jerry tells Tom
the same thing. Maybe

that’s something
we can all agree on —
after all I get to 

ride behind them 
and watch them
punch it out and

such fatigue as that
you might imagine only
if you know them

intimately or have
your own war-pair
to wrestle with. 

What keeps me going
is knowing that I am what
the people who made this happen

wanted to happen: one of
a host, one of a generation of 
denatured progeny

drifting between names
and selves, guilty and raging
and disintegrated; knowing that

and hating that
and refusing to die
until I figure out a real name,

one they would hate, 
one I can finally live with, 
is all I’ve got now.

Tom or Jerry, Jerry
or Tom; at the end
the cartoon will circle in

upon them, upon me.
I will have no certain name
then, other than Dead Man

and then Tom or Jerry,
Jerry or Tom, Mescalero Or
White Man In Me Or Not,

shall become as academic
as anything else ever carved in stone
over a set of sodden bones

or left on the wind
in high desert, never
to be spoken again.


Observing Sparrows

Observing sparrows,
drab and puffed, pecking
at my homemade cakes of
suet and seed.

A squirrel climbs the feeder post
but will not touch the food itself
thanks to red pepper flakes
in the seed mix.

Squirrel skips about 
below the feeders, nipping up
bits of neutral, unseasoned
feed fallen from above.

The sparrows 
seem unbothered. Maybe
they even like the small fires
in their food. 

I should be
putting my talent into
saving the world,
unless this

does save the world;
perhaps I fret needlessly
that there is so much more
to be done. This is such 

a small thing, this feeding
and saving and replenishing
while not harming as I go.
I do not like thinking

it’s all I can do, but it might be.
I do not like thinking I am reduced
to rendering fat and making poetry;
would rather imagine myself gunning

and shouting, slicing and 
leading a charge. Instead
I wince at my pains, stay off my feet,
nurse my confusion and memorialize

all I once was
while the sparrows
eat, the squirrels eat, the cold
settles in

and the world 
goes on without me 
to stand and bar
its crushing way.


Impish And Sweet

They asked me
to be more
impish and sweet.

They looked me
in the eye
and asked this.

I could not,
did not understand,
couldn’t. I’m just

too serious, too
stolidly sour, too
resistant to change

but also: they
knew me, why
ask me this?

They said nothing.
A head shake,
then turning away.

Impish and sweet
seemed easy, I
guess. They seemed

disappointed in my
unwillingness to shift
all I was

into that mode 
for them. Could
not accept it,

so I was
rejected, dismissed, and
forgotten at once.

And yes, it
stung. Of course.
It always does.

Yet, in being
stubbornly myself I
cooled that pain

eventually. They did
what they did, 
I moved on,

and those words
slipped off me
like beads of

sweat, like mistakes
left unfixed, like
rain on glass.

Impish, sweet: I
may have missed
out, I guess,

could have sunken
into their perceptions
and drowned there

happy enough. But
today, though I
may never be 

be sweet, impish,
or connected to
them again, somehow

this is fine,
this is better
than dying there

in the arms
of one who
asked for falsehood

to become my
costume, my daily
garb, my mask

worn all day
and night and
never to be

taken off again.
They asked me
to slay myself

for favor of
their dimpled smile.
I said no

and though I
spoke it to
the air alone,

spoke it loud
with stony tongue
I owned, with

salt I’d ground
to flavor all,
I did endure.


59 Looming

sound of boots
pulled from stinking mud

distance 
from center
of a swamp
to hard ground beyond it

a map you won’t consult
because it may reveal territory 

road trip
you won’t take
for fear of dying
en route

distance 
to action through words

speech
you won’t make
because it contains
promises

a room 
you won’t leave in daylight

a door
you won’t open
you won’t even unlock
in case you have to walk though

age
you never asked to achieve

frontier
built from demands
that you justify yourself
before you go


The Long And The Short

the length of time
it takes for me
to explain again
to yet another person
the pain of all the generations
(indigenous and not)
that have preceded me and 
settled in me

shortens my life
by decades

thinking of all
the decades I’ve lost
in which
I could have done
so many trivial things
that would have made me
unremarkable

in truth all I wanted
was an armchair
solid food
a beverage and
a little love
from loved ones

along with a little respect from
those I meet

but here I am
and the long
and the short of it  
is that I’m either
ten feet tall and looming
as a learning experience
for some or
microscopic
beyond the vision
of others

I’d just like to be
five foot eight
thick and graying
and left alone