Monthly Archives: October 2021

Fire In The Hole

the crater where we live shows
that an explosive heart once was set off here.

no one knows the names of all those
who were there when it blew apart.

the names of all those who became alarmed
at their disappearance are unknown.

that said, we must acknowledge 
that there are oceans of blood in the soil

where we live because
it’s all we have ever experienced.

we can’t see over the walls
to the things that may be out there.

whether it was always meant to be this way
is irrelevant to the limitations we face.

if it ought to be another way,
if another way is still possible, we can’t say.

crater walls limit what words we know.
walls keep us from even asking for more.

many of us don’t even know
the crater is a crater.

if we do we think time and erosion
have leveled it to memory alone. 

anyone who has been to the walls knows better.
they come back and point to them,

then lay hands upon the soil at our feet
to bring the blood up oozing

onto our shoes. they try to tell us
but we can’t seem to understand

that everything old is still new.
the ticking we hear is not an echo.

there is
fire in the hole.


No Clocks

That annoying piano riff that opens
that annoying Coldplay song
is running over and over within me.

I just want it to stop
so instead I can hear
one strong memory
of a living river
I’m not close to
anymore:

Rio Grande
between Santa Fe and Taos;
white water
by the road

where I pulled over thirty years ago
to sit and listen
straining to hear the wind over
ghostly penitente crosses
that might stand
lonely out there still
somewhere on land no one
can get to now because we’ve 
forgotten the way there 
in the cloud of clatter
where we are forced to live.

The lights went out long ago
in the lodges of the penitentes,
and their voices have been
drowned in
noise:

in my head,
that annoying piano riff;

down the street,
the Sunday morning mower
cutting a ridiculous lawn
down to community-approved size;

on a neighbor’s radio,
the allegedly
newsworthy voices
of the insistent dumb;

and in my head,
louder than all the rest,
roaring sorrow and 
invincible ticking down
to a near certainty that
I will never return to
that notch in the side
of the road. 

Some things, I know, 
cannot be saved;

but for there to be
no compensation
for such loss?

Like that piano riff:
ubiquitous; an earworm;
nearly unbearable.


Land Acknowledgement

When a civilization collapses,
it does not evaporate and vanish
but instead dissolves more or less slowly,

stains the earth and soil,
tints the waters for an age
or two after it appears to be gone.

What colors do you see 
under your feet? What is the tint
of what is in your glass? More to the point:

when you make a land
acknowledgment, open your mouths
to say “Today we stand on the land

of the Nipmuk, the Mskogee,
the Lakota,” do you think of this
in terms of what you can see and taste

right now, or is it more akin 
to describing long-extinct
fauna and flora? Do you even look

at where you are
before you speak?
We are dying to know. 


The Unlikely Event

In the unlikely event that I become the center of the universe
I would like it to be known that while I did not ask for it
I embraced the necessity of being the hub around which
this great disheveled wheel can spin as it threatens
to whirl off into the obvious darkness that waits to receive it
when the final day arrives with or without fanfare. Know that

I did not have to do much except sit there as my hair flew
on the undulating wind that rose around me from this whirl
of decay not slowing down but speeding up in a reversal
of what I always thought I knew of entropy, once again
revealing the limits of my understanding and even of my ability
to understand the wide repercussions of what was occurring. Know that

in the unlikely event that I become the center of the universe 
as we know it, I will have been as humble and as much a servant
to the mystery of how things tumble and fall as I am now, when 
the only universe I know keeps me edged out on the fringe of the spin
where I can feel it and see the trails of far away centrality 
that do not include me, have never done so, promise me nothing at all.

 


First

first we say now
then we say then.
once we know how
we say now is when. 

we say this
with one mouth
while still
of two minds.

so say we both
as we lose faith
and hope and
all the rest.

on a day 
in fall float
above the body
watching the body

open the capsules
and pour bitter
tranquilizers
into a green glass

of water until
it is half sleep sludge
and the rest is
not at all clear.

we say now and then
we say no. we say
now and then we say no
and then we fall away

into yes and yes again
and then no. and no.
and then no
thing at all until

awakening, bitter.
the mouth tastes it
when it is of one mind
at last again. sick

unto death but not
close enough. shove
the glass into
a black corner. close

our mouth and pretend
we are whole. we are
fifteen and already
a failure. we say that.


Third

For one long moment 
before October ends
in cooling November
after bursting
from September’s fire,

we stopped under trees,
thinking about
dark ways home
from here. 

One day.
Here, now.
A long time coming.
A long time still ahead
(even if how long
remains undetermined,
even if still shorter
than what’s come and 
gone).

A month
like this one just passed
was not promised.
No September
ever has been.

But October?
October,
threatened October,
is a different matter.

Put our clothes back on,
our jewelry. Walked out of
the woods
to the car.

Found a dark way home
to wait for winter.


Second

Drive fifteen miles north
into the forest between here
and the next place people
are bound to be, leave the car
with the keys still in it
in a rest area, walk some distance
across the leaf beds below
the huge old trees until
you cannot be seen from the road;

take off everything — poor clothes, 
random adornments, your long-inadequate
glasses, the bandage on your left arm;
lie on your back and stare up along the trunks
toward the sky that’s a rare shade
of black-tinged blue between the crown-shy
upper limbs of — what are these, oaks
or maples? You lift up a leaf to your eyes
and try to define and decide
but without glasses it’s all you can do 
not to close your eyes and say, enough
with naming things. Any other day
you’d have known without thinking.
Today, thinking is forbidden. No more
definitions, only one more decision
to be made — and the former wound
is already bleeding so even that 
seems to be complete.

What a sky to be under.
What a bed to enjoy.
What a time to be alive. 


Purification

On Sunday morning
you discover you are not
who you were 
the night before.
You were a mistake,
you’ve been corrected,
and it hurts but still you try
to maintain a facade of 
used to be
for the sake of
those you love.

Sadly, your hair
betrays you,
its random gray
and consistent wispiness
whispering, casting
your purification as 
perfidy. You plead 
that it’s not true,
but you can’t explain it 
well enough, and you are cast out
of the castle you’ve built
with all the ones you have loved — 
but the question remains:
if you have been purified,
if you are better off now
than you were
when you fell asleep
last night,
were you betrayed at all?


Something’s Red

The air or the light?
Something’s red.
The green house looks red —
what’s tinting it? Maybe
it’s neither air oe light — 
instead it could be that
my eyes are bad, full of rosewater
or fruit punch. Or the sun
is blushing from
being caught out
this early — a rise of shame, 
tiptoeing up the sky
until it can brazen it out.
I’m haven’t mentioned the air again
because it’s everywhere and it might
hear me and then who knows
what would happen. The air
might choke me or it might be
indifferent. Or perhaps it might say
“well done, that was a test just for you,”
and for a change the air
won’t depress or oppress me today
and all I will have to contend with
is the red light or the 
paint in my eyes which of course
might be blood, I just don’t want
to say that too loudly, it never pays
to acknowledge that the bleeding
you see in the world is all you.