coldly at me, the red mesas
jutting up from the desert and distant
like the planets. To reach
when everything was too common
but the intruder. The stark
waterless breeze dusted the windshield.
I could hear whimpering
in the rocks where the ancient ones withered.
The buds belch out
a kind of stickiness
that leaves an aftertaste in their droppings.
The sensuousness of the heat
is deceptive—a groin feeling that repeats
and repeats and seems to weaken
in the moonlight because it has too
much to recall. I could smell
the black waters under the clay.
The red mornings, the red
mountains, the green rainstorms
in the east where the lakes bloat
are flesh scented from so many
I keep a blue bottle with
a paper flower, a yellow
swirl on a pipe cleaner bursting
from the inanimate
decay of leftovers. I think of an oak
impregnated with minerals
until it is perfect stone. All
things solid and spiritual
that die out and go on—
the Hohokam, the people who
have gone, from the pit houses of
the Gila basin to
the mountains to the heavens to
the boulevards where their spirits
are encrusted with rubber and seem
to have lost their inheritance.
The worn-down teeth of the Pueblo
who could not separate
the sand from the grain, the ancient ones,
the Anasazi, who held
the black waters in their palms
and shivered from the deepness
of such despair.
The beach house
romances, the dusk, the evenings
on the porch, the stick figures
in the petroglyphs
lost in the slashes, our feet whispering
because it was best not to speak . . .
I remember the slow-moving waters
of the swamp—the windswept
surface of the saw grass studded
with hummocks of palms and willows—
the dark cypress death tree . . .
as if symbols were necessary.
The wet planks of the pier vibrated
as I sniffed the rot. I could smell
the white man in me, the oak, the yucca,
the incomprehensible waters
flowing over my wrists.
(This poem appeared in College English.)