Monday, December 08, 2008

One Time Crossing the Desert, Hot Blooded Huitzilopochli Dreamed

I decided to live in the modest
fog I created with my body,
not the hot lights you made
with words. I can never
understand the fragments,
the pain and drugs
lost to the earth
that one day in late August
when I refused to talk to you,
or anyone. If I could
get the solution
to this solitude on the hill,
this gray space
I've built up here to compete
with your tomes, I'd open
a trap-door tone to my work
leading me to a secret
basement, another room
where I hesitate to sit.

I told you my friend
I've gone over to the dark--
the photo record will show
my brightness like
the moon's, but I am
easily obscured. Still, the devil
came in the dark, her
bright body a lie
I accepted in the half
light. I knew
what went on
in every midnight
kitchen where the witches
made the last martinis
and prepared for bed.
I had to let that all
go. It was crazy
but I stopped dreaming
of you and everybody else.
Instead, there are vast
woods unexplored, chasms
and meadows of the heart--
I have taken
supper under great boughs.

When we both
longed for the weather
to change, for a second
home to appear in the Adirondacks,
I made a note of your fancies
hoping you would list
mine in order, like some
kind of chant, like some kind
of ulterior motive, leading
to a small home in the high desert
away from the crowds,
the stacked river rocks and blue
wrought-iron gates
glad to have us
the barmaids across
the highway making
quick notes glad to have us.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

For the missing and dead H. replies to Xicotenga

About the heaven you invented: the day
I slugged one of the Catorie brothers
with a river rock because I didn't want to lose
a fight comes to mind. We were behind
the John Roberts Dam, ambushed
by people we thought were friends--
they, being from the white trash
part of town, living in the cheapest
tract homes bordering the cruel desert.

After that fight you and I would walk uphill
and down along the dry arroyos
unable to talk. It was simple and I wished
it would all go away--the kids who talked
about Led Zeppelin, the working class hatred
growing in me like a deep blue plum.
So about the cave I invented: in the summer
I'd try to see as many ways as I could

out of the desert. Even walked to the one
girl's house who didn't understand me--
the best she could do was ride with me
out to a prearranged place in the desert
where she'd placed a real bayonet
in the rocky arroyo for me to find--
all we did was drive around and then
I took the knife back home: it was
war booty, taken from a dead nazi

in 1943, stolen by the secret heroine
of this poem from her grandfather's
home in Kansas. I'll never know
why she wanted me to have it,
but after that I left for the dark
I'd begun to grow in my head,
a dark like the wide swath
of white pine and Douglas Fir
on the mountainside, underneath

the sun. I had, long ago, knowing you
O time machine mechanic,
sold that old dagger, that symbol
no one could abide. Its money
bought a real dime bag we smoked
up behind the same dam, right before
tenth grade homecoming. For the first
time I said to you in my ghost voice,
for the first time I said to you
this is our world, the land, the sky.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

H. writes to his muses to understand the death of the Novelist D.F.W.

"I am ambivalent about the gringo's attempt to convert me to his god."
--Guadalupe Carrillo Trujillo

Those of us who survive dream of the forest,
thick stands of Western white pine, sometimes
the deciduous woods of Pennsylvania,
black cherry and white birch. One time I even went
apple picking, only to drop into sleep to dream
an even deeper dream, a scene containing all the bright eyed
muses I've known, those visions I've counted on:
there's nothing I like better than falling
asleep under the constant hum of late summer crickets
with my lover, holding her tender body against the light.
Who told you that non-existence is holiness? I can
almost hear the final fury of fall, the balding
grass, the resigned and dying spiders rebuilding
their webs after the unrelenting wind,
the unused day-lillies swaying later in the day.
And sometimes it is her body I imagine
under apple boughs. I am suddenly and irreversibly
drawn to her song, I am pulled to her heart
and it is upon her heaving breastbone I make my mark,
my tongue wild with harkening desire.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

De Las Montañas Sandias
for Rachel Hadas

Let me tell you about getting lost
on the Embudo Canyon Trail—
the first time I walked up into the Sandia
mountains at sunrise I had taken
two handfuls of brown insubstantial
dust from the road behind me
to rub between my hands. All I had
was a couple cans of cola, a compass,
a lighter and a pack of Chesterfields.
I had climbed all the way to the first
plateau, 7000 feet looking over
the Elena Gallegos Land Grant,
so that I could pray to my god
for deliverance, for some way out of love
that would leave me alone in the piñon
hills for a while. That afternoon I crept
along each switchback until the desert
turned to Ponderosa forest. I thought of
a diamondback rattlesnake waiting
where the woods turned—what little
water there was, singing in the granite stream,
as I killed my death with a heavy stone
I plucked from the trail, then etched
my name in a dry rocky
meadow with a black branch.
There I was, heaving.

One time I walked
until the trail ended. From where I was standing
I could just see the sheer rock face where two climbers
were testing lines, a thousand feet above me.
It was Albuquerque—dry, still air,
small campgrounds in the Sandia foothills
made from native granite, rock shelters
where we could drink and cook
all night, talking of the stars, speaking
in whispers when the small animals around us
arose to live their lives under the brilliant moon.
Last night I dreamt I read your poem
under the insufficient starlight of southwestern Ohio.
Where I am now Dunbar’s ghost lingers
in the soft afternoon—there is a tenderness
out here, to the rolling hills and thick stands
of white oak that could not exist
in the hot desert places I once called home.
Is it me or my heart that cannot stand
the way you’ve sketched-out my sad, dirty
town as a place for your pale rebirth?
I might as well be in Columbus, waiting
for the bus to take me home. I have been spared
the full-blown horror of schizophrenia,
the voices and disconnections hanging
like loose threads in my old Navajo blanket—
when I left Albuquerque I kept a locket of hair,
a gift my first lover cut for me ages ago.
One night I burned it under an oak tree—
I’d started the fire with a pile of dry white
clover flowers I picked in my yard.
So goes the procession of the Lord into the night sky.
It was the city as seen from the woods, the city
inverted like a bright mirror in the night.
You see, when I was young I’d climb
all day just to seek the cracked mountain’s
secrets, the dry passages, the thick scrub oak
that told me I was near the top of the range,
able to see the volcanic peak guarding
one edge of the Navajo Nation. The air was thin,
I could feel my heart for the first time pushing against my chest.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Carta de Huitzilopochtli a J. S. B., con Humildad

Every day you have to know I’m up here
On the banks of the Greater Miami fighting
The gringos: I am one of those men
You called forth in one of your poems. And because
I live so close to them, I can taste their greed when I eat,
When I break bread at daylight, sitting
In a clapboard dutch-roofed farmhouse
That overlooks the oak-lined street.

Listen: this morning I drove my son
To school. I thought of the war, I looked
In vain for any other dark haired heads
Like mine stumbling through this wicked
Part of Ohio I never imagined in my little
Desert home. My son’s eyes tell me I am there
And otherwise a part of a greater nomadic urge—
To leave the Chihuahuan wastelands forever in search of water.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Uneasy Travelers on the Ghost Trail, 2008

For Mark Lee

When I returned it didn’t matter. Twenty years
in the hardwood forests watching thick
green rivers weave their way in places
I’d forgotten—it was at Lake Nokomis
I saw the comet bear down from the northwest
sky and should have known it’d take a long time
to sort out the future. Now I am here

thinking of a desert home, whether or not
I could stand the small black widows
or even the sunlight—I’ve gotten used to
the thick oak and maple filling most
of the forgotten southwestern sky—
most importantly, there is something here
to keep me from dying. The first lilac buds and viney
morning glories scatter patches of color that conquer the winter.

So where are you today, dear traveler? I cannot
envy one man’s death in Tucson
Arizona, cannot figure if you swerved
to avoid the sun or simply because you erred
in reading a map too closely, to confidently.
I am here on the other side of the country
beginning a ghost song for you—lately,
unsure of the afterlife and whether or not
to be brave, I have sacrificed my only peace
today to pray for your deliverance.

Where we are tonight depends on my life now—
on a clear straight road in central Illinois
one summer I stopped to watch the grasshoppers
flick across thick grass plains. I was on my way
to New Mexico, and had stopped because I could
drive no more with out becoming drowsy.
From far away you meant to call me
on my meanness, what I said one lost day
years before your hero died.
The three resuscitations of Rudolfo N. Carrillo

At first he rolled his eyes—I thought
he was looking askance at paintings
of Manolete on the wall. Then he toppled
sideways onto the floor—we were somewhere in New Mexico,
judging from the light through the windows,
judging from the stone-dry air of the house. I was there
to help his soul out. The morning I arrived,
my father was sleeping on the couch—he looked
like a child. There was nothing wild in his shape
but I could tell he was dreaming—this is the body
that carries the seed, this is the hand that harvests
the hard yellow maize and grinds it to paste.
But I was dreaming too. So in my dream my father
seemed alone in his own mischief. Against
the stucco walls of his own home he wandered
like an empty ship. This was the second
resuscitation. When I breathed deeply
into his very soul I lit a furnace briefly, a pale
glow that didn’t last. Remembering how
it was done, I began to sing—
for the third time my father awoke,
stirred by the electricity of hope he found
in my face. He told me so before he left
the room, before he slept and I left
him to his quiet doom.