Thursday, September 16, 2010

Motorcycle riding days, 1977-78

'pa mis amigos motociclistas

Not like I want to
go back, when Cotton
Belt locomotives ran
between Tucson and Las Cruces
it’s not my
favorite time, but
I want to thank you
for keeping
me in mind. I haven’t
ridden a dirt bike
since 1980. And
all that desert east
of Juan Tabo Blvd.
has since been plowed
to make room for houses.

In that short year I owned
a Kawasaki KE 100,
beat it up so bad
that when the bank
came to take it
they had to carry
it out in pieces.
We used to ride
out to the high
desert. We used to
take turns
racing on well-cut
tracks that had been there
since the 60’s.
Then there was danger—
yours or mine,
the resentment bred
in working-class kids
who had to live
among the rich.
So for a while,
when my dad
could afford such treasures,
Rudy and I
rode with you,
smoked with you, learned
how to fight,
how to compete
with riders and bikers,
some meaner than others.

But the other thing is this—
for the first time
I saw the desert
on my own,
was often lost
watching the high
mountains in the near
distance. Your big dream
back then was to ride
all the way
to Santa Fe, my dream
was to keep riding
away from the cruel, paved
roads awaiting us.

Don’t write me
to tell me about
Jesus. My heart
is hardened plutonium
on that subject,
and my religion consists of
faith in my children, fear
of the powerful natural world, all
the women I love.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Life along a Tributary of the Ohio
For F.F.W.

I have been
in the underworld
for years. Jesus
doesn’t know this—
No one can
see me farm
the shade
I love so much
that I’ve taken
the small
ripe fruit I call
manzanas crueles
to plant on the other side,
where the desert
begins and toads
writhe in the knowledge
of mud. One time
I waited for a guide but
like my father
He was covered
in dust and useless.
Now, this has changed.
I live under oak.
I see the stars only
when I wish, through
branches thick as myth.
Why should I stay here?
His eyes mean
nothing to me.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Why We Love Evil

Wallace Stevens hated Robert Frost.
He’d seen that New England poet in the bar
one summer in Key West.
Normally, Frost would sit next
to Stevens in the sun, and they would read
newspapers. When it got too hot,
each gathered his towel, slapped
on sandals, trundling off
to small, thatch-roofed cottages
on the leeward side of the Key.
There’s nothing to say about
the violence Stevens knew: a whipping
through a candle-lit
window, some bruises the next
day at the beach. So when the queen
of the water appeared to Wallace one
afternoon in a dream, with her hands
pretty and shorn of rings, save
a glittering red pearl, he shouted
at night, to his rival: I’ve seen
you mean and I’ve seen you walking
the strand for an answer
the sea
might give you
about violence, about love.
Whisper not about its threats,
the way it sweeps endlessly
into all of us like air.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Desert Two-Step

O, some of us
grew up in some pig town, some
hill town where they
used to take coal
where the drunks
could be run-over by trains.
Once a year, the hard
brown river overran
the poor part of town—
the soul of the place
was in the gas
stations lining the main
drag. Few of us went
elsewhere, wherever
that was, because it all
looked the same
from the windows
of the ‘71 Catalina
your father drove.
The madness came
on command back then—
a dry storm in the mal-pais
one day could make
snakes crawl to you at night,
but uncontested, you pasted
the black sky until
you could leave.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

“Stronger than you think”

You could be anywhere
in America, sifting
through someone’s garbage
like the brave raccoons & skunks
who still make the night passage
from their sewer grate homes.
This & that speckled bird
swims in the high cold air,
waiting for snow to melt—
the sky isn’t there then, or now.
Before the sun acts, then,
a small cardinal has started
his love song. It’s all about
the corner you’ve turned, the turn
you’ve made from the backyard
ken of dead dogs sleeping forever
in suburbia, under the grass, under
the tiger lilies.
Astros Mestizajes, 1

At the Grave of Virginia Trujillo Carrillo, 1935-1996

Death has whittled down
your mean view on life
so that now, in my dream
you are thin, young, and kind
more like my daughter than you.
It is the distilled sense
of loss when someone
you love dies that builds
flowers. Away
from your real life.

Your husband, my father,
rides next to you in eternal
dust, for that is the form
he chose. I have loved
both of you as I love
ashes, the insubstantial.
I have even gone as far
as this to take pebbles
from your grave to spread
in my garden.

Friday, February 05, 2010

Inside you

the smaller man is always alcoholic, beaten
by the deafness of the world as much as by
his own woes, sewn like grapes onto his sleeves.
Of the far and dark periphery, though,
the greater man is always manic, taking
a stance when you would never want to,
taking with deep thick gulps the rich tobacco
smoke. Once, when he was young, he saw

his father beat a dog and heard his older
brother talk about the edge of the woods
where when you were older you’d go
to burn a different kind of fire, the kind
that left you and your friends scorched
the next day and the next.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

A Darker Self Easily Revealed in Winter

You are made of darkness, the dark
root of your life shaping you beyond the dirt,
beyond the hay. Of existence you say
little, but the bitter secret is that
the dead outweigh the living—the black boughs
of winter trees guide the sky along
just like green branches bend in summer storms.
What you know of love is restrained not by
your heart or your old hard hands. None-the-less
you are the black road in front of my house.
It’s winter and late in the day—fires
have started all across this cold land.
I’m waiting for you to go away, to take
the wood from this old man to burn.