Monday, July 22, 2013

Summer Journal

I remember the grim Navajo staring
          coldly at me, the red mesas
jutting up from the desert and distant
          like the planets. To reach
out and touch one, a meteor
          in the midsun on a Tuesday
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.)

Monday, July 1, 2013

This Way

Death Valley is where Death lives. (There is no Life Valley.) 
        Death is not a tall, pale, frightening bald man with a roundish white-washed face wearing a foot-length black gown with a hood who’s skilled at chess but an ordinary bodega owner who likes dominoes. 
        No matter how thirsty you are, he won't sell you a bottle of water, even at an inflated price—not if it means moving from his comfortable position on a chaise lounge. 
       He tells you to go die on the other side of a nearby rock formation that has been there for ten million years. 
       "It's where every Death Valley hiker ends up," he says. Begging doesn't help. You try to grab him, but he evaporates. After all, he's Death, not Life. 
       He reappears 50 feet to your left, still on his chaise lounge, sipping from a bottle of orange-flavored seltzer. 
       There's nothing you can do—you've gone too far to turn back—so with the last of your strength, you climb to the top of the rock formation. The view is spectacular. Then you slide down the other side.