Month: August 2011

and the ocean cries

I am confused on my daily walk
The same thoroughfare every day
Sometimes twice a day
My pockets fill with beer cans
Powerade plastic, fast food trash

Appearing identical to that
I picked up for recycling the day before
And the day before
anger rises against an invisible no one.
And I use a chunk of asphalt
Breaking the beer bottles on the
Railroad tracks
Returning them to the earth
The only way I know how
And preventing some errant transient
From using them at my throat

Still, I am confused.
How could we be a society
That still thinks
Plastic tossed
From a car window
Passes for recycling?

How could generations
Still be missing the whole
Earth is Dying Routine?

Can we not see
Interstate highways powdered
White with trash?
Who does the individual think
Picks up after them?

I guess they think
A you and a me
Exist for this sole purpose.
Where do we teach that?
Who learns that?

How can so many miss that vast ocean
Of slurpee cups
Waving at their feet?

The psychology in me
Wonders if it is some sort of statement
Look I am bad, I drank a beer while I was driving
Huh, it’s ok to put these terrible chemicals in me
But I ain’t leaving no cig butts in MY CAR.

I stare awhile
At a plastic pop bottle
Filled with a vile green/gold substance.
And leave it for fear it will explode
My pockets are full
Of spiky cans and twisted plastic

I’ll be back

Wraith of the Straw Man

tis easily the 100th time.
run, run, runaway
Blasts after a prairie dog.
pulling free from his Leash.
as his ilk will,
into the ethereal

his coat, the color of August hay
barely distinguishable in the hazy heat.
he is lost to me
as I stagger,
stumbling into every prairie dog hole.
jumping at every clicking grasshopper wing,
fearing a rattler.

i lose ground.
voice lost in the rush of wind.
lips too dry to whistle.

at the half mile mark,
he turns to make sure
I am still chasing him.
I glimpse a searing scarlet tongue as he laughs
leaping into the river bank.

I am weary and the temperature
on open plain is either
100 above or 100 below.
I give up
I turn away
I can do no more:
So long,
hope ya catch that
elusive carp or wily rabbit.

In disgust,
I salute
my straw hat
at the straw dog.

It’s his signal.
louder than Thor.
bolt of lightning
from a clear sky.
He is at my side.
He has served me well.
As he would tell it.

I guess I have finally learned
Chase me. I run away.
Leave me. I run toward.

How like a predator and prey.
How like love and betrayal.

it’s still a mystery.
how a color blind beast, at dusk
can tell the round of my back
at a mile’s distance.
in 40 mile an hour wind.

He nudges me faster with a wet face
a sharp, cool nip
against my bare skin.
He’s a’wanting to get home now
It’s later than he thought.

How like love.
How like madness.

abalone shell

I want my life to be empty
I want it to resound
With the silence
Devoid of any chance, risk
To crawl to the finish line
a shell of my cells.
i ignore any and every
Outside my frozen mudslide.
breathing by spiracle.

If I allow myself to feel, then, I am alive
If I am alive, forced to coexist
with other crustaceans.
i wanna be my own colony.
Leave me a .lone.
Just leave me.

. . I lie

heart monitor

My fickle heart erratically seeks a conventional beat
A tiny redbird fluttering against its bone cage
Stifled by the overload
from grey feral matter flexing claws,
Stretching down and scratching across the mass of
Heart strings
Tucked between
click, record, register and restrain
Smothering any kindlingfuel
Quiet now, quiet now still, still
The tiny redbird wings flicker feeling the feline scuffle
Against the block I wear
A heart monitor between my ribs

a little

I miss some of my stuff. I feel a dull ache just below my right floating rib where I leaned into my computer keyboard and where my belly TV hummed me to sleep. I suddenly became wildly minimalist when I no longer worked. One would be amazed by what is needed as accessories for work, but not in retirement: hairspray, earrings, deodorant, hosiery, and the various corsets assigned to women.
A bit of anti-retail therapy, I could not stop the adrenaline of clearing my personal space. I have had a dozen garage sales out of desperation, determination, and foreboding. I worked the other side of the retail counter, a sinister sensation that wearied me.
All went for pennies to the pound: dining tables, couches, pictures, books, lamps. Lifetime memories for a quarter, a pence, a shilling. The leather sofa lives one mile south, my beloved kitties five. My cherished Ford Ranger sits anointed with dusty ash at the Toyota Dealership. Only the prized shredder survived, a fireplace, sizzling credit cards and paid bills to crisscross dust.
The house rings with minimalism, echoing into brick walls. Clothes, unfolded, tossed into big wicker baskets. Dressers and armoires long ago trucked to another cluttered home. My socks don’t exactly match; I have 3 pairs of shoes not 12. My belongings are packed in a duffel bag as if for a disaster evacuation. I cut my hair myself with cuticle scissors. I wear the same sweatshirt and muumuu every day. The dog searches for his cedar bed and Igloo house, eyes indignant.
I feel emptied, too.
Like love, it is lovely and lonely. No dusting. No bitter memories from framed pictures past nor reminiscences sweet. I can scarcely think of one single missing knick knack, knit pantsuit, bracelet, lamp, or rug I once valued. Piles of fallen leaves, lost in the mulch of affluence where I once rolled. The fridge and canned food cupboards do seem somewhat bare at times. A shopping trip looms, a blackening cloud on a perfect day.
My house glistens with fresh Sherwin Williams latex but without plants or paintings. Walls stare blankly. The mocha crème hues must speak for themselves, whispering of Santa Fe bluffs and freedom on a dusky mesa. Plates and glasses are a little slim; there are only two chairs at the tiny pine table, and no television. Spare beds, spare blankets, sparse.
There’s an ache, though, where I allowed myself to rest against my computer keyboard. Sometimes, when the lonely north winds screech, I swear someone is beckoning and more often, in the distance, I hear kittens crying.


How I once loved the simmer of pancake
morning waffles slippery with syrup,
a lifetime of lunches
snacking on whole wheat with ham, cheese, turkey
sinking into mayo and milk.
I was a bread making expert
tiny loaves of love
offered across
powered with raisins, nuts, grains
warm, just freshly brought from oven
salty butter drip from
lip to chin
I prided myself on the art of pastry
experimented with finesse and pleasure.
lost often in the rise of dough
kneading with strong and nimble hands
the rush of rise
the warmth of baking.

taste of toast
mixed with sunrise
slipping along the sheets

now gluten intolerant
there is no more bread or pasta, no pancakes
I dare not even savor one morsel
for the hunger rages within
and would devour me.

garbage man

Not known, I suppose, for their heroics
Like firemen, policemen.
garbage collectors
Distained I think
By some for the worst job

Why should they care?
About refuse, refuge?

Aboard their giant orange towering missiles
Eyes to the job
One more muddy alley
And one more backyard
Reeking dumpsters in summer’s heat.

But today
One quick glance

Tells Sam all is not well
in back of a cultivated yard
At 700 Park Ave.
From his orange tower,
he sees what
neighbors might miss
Maybe for hours.

In 90 degree heat.
Madge lies still
And silent among her geraniums and petunias.
radio at the ready,
Only moments pass before his fellow
Civil servants arrive
Checking pulse, blood pressure
They wave Sam on

His city radio full of chatter
and Madge
Safe away in an ambulance.

He moves on
without more than a nod
a secret hero.

One more alley
One more reeking day
In summer’s heat,
On this day, though,

A garbage man takes a chance
and saves a life.


for 35 years
i have taught
in prisons, institutions, colleges, and social services
I have taught, tutored, counseled, led, guided
while students and clientele fought, bit, kicked,
keyed my car, egged my house.

behind the scenes,
my grants paid for books, tuition, fees, car repairs, gasoline, food
i cradled tears, softened blows, disregarded diversity
advocated, facilitated, soothed, mediated.

easily hundreds, maybe thousands
i cajoled and pressured,
coddled and consoled
pushed and helped,
urged and forced.
reads like an annoying resume.
today one of thousands sent me a
massive bouquet of Freesia flowers.
My hands shaking, eyes blurring
as I read the card,
“I passed ! Thanks for helping me, Nat.”

I counted every petal to represent those
who forgot, neglected, couldn’t, didn’t care, meant to but didn’t.
it’s ok.
Freed Me.


A Weedy Provocation
sudden hatred of my
pasture like lawn
the phone book
provided landscapers.
I chose Movellisi
I loved the ring of the
old Italian style namesake.

With baby tractors and skidrows
They would tear out pasture grass
Sandburs and goathead stickers
Replace it with astroturf
oil plastered down with tar.
Green asphalt

Sending more teenagers to Iraq
more oil spilling into the Gulf.
crabapples wondered as they would tumble,
confused onto rubber mats
their withering raisin eyes
grimacing from my window perch
leaves brushing them whispering of real blades.
I imagined I would covertly
dash out at full moon
the slick green blades
Free of soil, seed, and leaf.
I felt traitor to Mother Earth
depriving my haven of oxygen
myself of siestas in the sun on sod.

She tears up as I stare at
Cirrus sky
wondering how the snow would survive.
I hung up the phone
Just as Movellisi answered:

I swear outside
I heard a collective, barely

what are God’s eyes like?

Do they rim with laughter when we run from rain?
Do His eyes narrow when we withhold charity?
Does He smile, eyes self-assured, at our struggles?
Does a tear sink across a crimson cheek when we fall?
Do His eyes widen as we suffer and weep?
Do they follow His open Hands
As He lifts one of us up to Him?

Can He see bombs exploding, whales dying?
Do His lids close a moment as we destroy sacred Earth?
Do His brows fold when we fight one against each other
Because His name is different on one patch of soil?

I search but
I cannot see.

the deep end

Our final conversation in a clear pool of warm water
where you uncharacteristically shivered,
buried at the shallow end.
for often we competed in a risky game to see which of us
could swim under the depth, holding our breath the longest.
and I had mocked , mystified,
because a sickly me had begun to win.
I took the strong arm.
wondering, questioning
while the insidious darkness
electric eelslippery across hands and chest.
who could have predicted a young heart fatigued beneath a rib cage
veiled in muscle?
‘my stomach hurts’ you wavered, for
that’s my line.
I cradled an ailing child
gently in caressing waters.
fearless eyes, now lowered.
widening then,
‘not too deep, don’t take me so deep,
not so deep’
the sigh of aqua lips and
the briny fragrance of infinity cuffed me.
cupped you.

I’m still holding my breath.
I’ll breathe again.

of the above

Few to none
Can see thru me
How I fight to live
And how life fights against me

I hide beneath
pen of poet
Wry and wheat
To shuffle off
Any cry of weakness

It works ag’in me
For so sharp the nib
Hides sharp the pain

I have thought to give up
Give in
To the calling of sky

I hear whisperings
Of my name
Among the Nimbus

I lie
On summer’s slow dry
Grasses and listen

Their voices
Murmur, now
How to join them
I reach

prairie hot tub

We make do
Out in huge open landscapes
Where ‘no’ is the reigning word
No yard pools
Nor hot tubs
Are available at local retail outlets.

I swim In my backyard
In a horse watering tank to cool
Not real cool.
practice of swimming in the algae linings
likely since
Its invention, no doubt.
Sold at the Farm and Feed Stores
The side of the scalding metal
So hot as to fry skin
But the water never actually
Nor clear
Nor clean.
years ago, my head muses,
my nieces and nephews driven in from Denver
To play like spinning washing machine agitators
In the novelty of the icy tub
And blistering Colorado sun.

I make do.
For casserole recipes calling for
Turmeric, saffron, or epazote
I stumble to the alley
And pull leaves off stinging nettle, lemon grass, sage.

We make do.
We fix our tail gates with twine
And make lawn mower parts
out of old hay bale wire.

We bury our old sleeping dogs
Near the chokecherries and currants
So we can see them come alive in spring
Again and again.

We make do
No concerts come here
No amusement parks
No sea worlds
But still have roller coasters
They just aren’t visible.
We ride them every day
Emotions up. Emotions down.
as we watch the slow, muddy Platte
Churn carp into monster fish.

We sit dumb while stock cars
Circle round and round and round
A track, something like Nascar
But louder and more hickish
Sorta like a tractor pull.
We stare because they remind us of our

We err easily and often
in the eyes of those within
towns so small
the names sound ridiculous:
Punkin Center, Last Chance, Nunn.

Our neighbors seethe at us
As we avert and avoid at the grocery
We learn to scan for dreaded cars
In crowded lots.

When our hearts break
We make do
We scratch and claw out poetry
And prose. in
Hibernation akin to Emily Dickinson
While old sol bastes us.
We skip the medicines and the group therapy.
We scream in open fields
cry in les jardins
on moonlit nights.
let nettle sting along bare arms.
an ache burning like cat scratch fever.

Because the internet goes
down with the sun
We lay under starlight
By makeshift hibachi fires
Sing old songs from youth
Play quiet guitars made in the 1950’s
Beat the drums from coffee cans
And old round oatmeal boxes
We sync with crickets and cicada

Far in the distance
We hear serene horses come to drink
Swishing their tails
Cymbal brushes against water barrels of steel
Striking the beat with hooves
Splashing in the giant round metal tanks.
We make do.

hospital slumber

guest writer Callie Jo

What excitement for 4 girls
a summer slumber party
with a crazy plan of fun

first we were wild for hours at
the Bananas Amusement Park with
A full night ahead
watching movies into midnight….

but then the night took a terrible twist.
I tumbled out of bed onto the floor.
instantly I knew something was very wrong with my arm.

I got up and showed the girls my arm
and they screamed, loud.
this is not a good sign when your friends scream at your injuries.
it made me more scared.
my friend’s dad thought we were screaming at her little brother peeking through the door.

when he saw my twisted arm
he put my arm on a pillow and
he tried to tie a guitar strap on for a splint

he picked me up pillow and all and took me to the hospital.

it must have been the night for accidents.
on the way to the hospital we saw a terrible car accident.
My heart was beating very, very fast.
He played the radio to distract me.
It worked,
my favorite song by Selena Gomez
called ‘Who Says’ was on.
And it made me happy for a minute.
She sings,
“Who says you aren’t perfect?
Who says you’re not worth it?
Who says you’re the only one that’s hurting?”

I had to wait a long time at the hospital.
In a weird bed with wheels.
I had to have an IV put in my arm
And an oxygen mask on my face.
My arm was bent like I had two wrists.

I looked at my mom close by me and she looked very worried.
She sat on the edge of her chair,
Her legs, arms, fingers crossed.
I hoped she would be careful,
and not fall out of it.

My Dad took pictures of everything
I wasn’t sure why
But I found out later,
My dad broke his arms three times.

I had to have a medicine to make
Me sleepy.
But my mom said I still moaned
when the doctor put my arm straight.

So i did my slumbering
at the hospital.
I am glad that there are good doctors in hospitals
And I am glad that my arm will heal.

But next time, I go to a slumber party,
I might sleep on the floor.

Sweet Betsy from Pike

co-written with rachel kellum

Never did I intend
To pull away
It is just
what my people do
Inconstant, unsettled
move toward what is easiest
fool’s gold
Someone else’s dream
A tintype of mountain stream
It isn’t easy
this worry of losing
and getting lost
I should be used to it all
by now
Piker that I am
Fists in my pockets
fists around my heart
Crumbling, crumbling
past dust to powder
I sift, I scatter
I offer you the wind

sea of green

Texas weeps over dust… once fields
Mississippi over mud

While next to my house
In Cowtown, Colorado
An Alfalfa man smiles
A bit.

Alfalfa is a
Sacred Sea
Dad says,
so rich in nutrients.
more like peanuts than grass
a person could live on it.

wise ancient Chinese doctors
prescribed it for eons
old and new Boulder hippies eat the sprouts.

a precision plant
requiring skill, pH balancing.

But not too much for its drought tolerant
50 foot roots drown.
Deadly to the beasts raw,
Dried like a precious cow drug.
Too dry?
The leaves
. . leave
Only the stem. No value.
Too wet? Spontaneous combustion.

So important is alfalfa
That the tiny town of
Sterling has a festival called
Hay Days.
my beautiful and talented
sister in law stood, smiling
microphone in hand
roasting in the choking greenish clouds.
Next to square balers
Round balers
1 ton balers,
Sugar coating hay
For her farming radio fan club.

Hay isn’t something most people ever think about.
But all the world round,
its plenty stands between starvation

in Texas, over another brown meal of canned pinto beans
A farmer bows his dusty head in the brown heat
And weeps yet another fervent prayer

For his lost Sea of Green

uneasy rider

‘Impossible’, scarcely can she gasp the words
Through the phone.
‘7 years it has been since his fragile heart
Beat its last against his massive
37 year old ribs
It seems nearly sacrilegious to speak of his death
In a casual tone.’

Like a 7 year itch his eulogy tolls,
as still we
Argue against God’s rationale.
Why him instead of one of us.

Each day the shock still rings
as we
brush by some minor memento.
cobwebs that are him
still startle
slapping face and sticking to folded hands
for hours
in places that curiously cling to his ghost.

summoned or not
he arrives
lightning’s spear in desert coffee black:
a roaring polished Harley swoops along
An August highway. Headed to South Dakota.
A dune buggy putts loudly through downtown.
His dented, rusting ‘60 Ford Pickup
Under new ownership,
offends the ear and eye,
All without him at the helm.

cancel, scrub, erase, delete have failed
erase, delete, rinse, repeat

for 7 years to the day
he has lazed in the grassy hammock
a simple block away

we have been dutiful
planted flowers, carried water,
brought tokens, mementos, gifts, music, lights

Worn is the path to his picture encased in granite.
Where he pilots the prairie sky.

Everyone watches her
as I do. that she should be better by now.
Grief passed. by now. Time.
pain easing.
tears ceasing.
But he left a wicked benediction.

For the thousandth time
Her wound grows not less but more.
That same agony she suffered
any unkind word now painfully engrained,
For he argues no more.
His silence
Torments waking and sleeping.

She screaming alone, by his grave
While he characteristically withdraws.
‘I am nearly dry of my tears’ as
She ruffles the raw heated stone
Like she once did his hair.
She has ached to trade places with him
Release him back into the sun.
To open roads that called him
Unexplored sky implored
While she circles in self-made prisons.

In winter, I have seen her kneeling in snow
Forging one last prayer of forgiveness
Reaching under the long frozen flowers
the icy grip
Consistently resisting the urge to cover herself with his
Flowing fluffy blanket
Crying crystals.

He left.
a wicked benediction.

She dreads this day, faithfully as any grass widow.
She continues the lie she calls her life.

She whispers as she rises,
‘How I yearned to live with you
How I failed.
How I yearn to live without you
How I fail.’

Silent Sough

A moment of silence.
Easy it is to forget that rights to
Freedom of Speech also entail
Freedom from Speech
One we rarely use.

A time when silence breathes.
The raging voices in my head stilled.

I don’t yell for the dog.
He comes eagerly to my coded
High-low-high soft whistle,
Or the rattle of the treat bag.
I listen and he talks to me,
Rolling his Rs and mumbling his Ms.

I hear the King birds shrill terror
As my cat sleepily mews in the afternoon heat.
Disregarding, as I am, the urge to speak out during this time.
The cicada screams out, for
his or her time of silence
lasts 11 month or more.
I pretend it is my own voice,
screaming out my own rage.

I write in my best kindergarten large print handwriting
Long rambling letters to my mother.
So she won’t have to stifle a yawn
On the phone.
And can hold the letters
To remember a yesteryear
When people wrote letters
That lasted lifetimes.

I listen to her
Tell of misery in her first pregnancy in a
Texas summer drought of 1950.
How she cried with her baby in the heat.

I hear overheated clerks,
annoyed and exhausted filling my canvas bags
their angry eyes meet mine
and I smile with a cool breeze.

I don’t talk over the news
While Lanny tries to shake off a bureaucratic day
In the sagging recliner.

Few notice the vow of silence
For so hungry are we for the quiet
From our fellow person
In a world filled with violence, chaos, and noise.

I use my voice for good
In the vow of silence.
To remember the times
I had no voice.
To remember women
Who screams are yet not heard.
To remember those
Whose soft timbre
I will never again hear.

For the right to remain silent
Is a gift for those
Who have spoken
When they should not have.

I wonder about a voice of peoples
Raised in silence for one hour.
To be heard
By those who shout above us.
By those who have spoken cruelly.
By those who fail to govern righteously.

at first to be silent,
It is like all songs we sing.
Seemingly impossible to get the
Sway and feel of the melody.
the first hour and day
and lonely.
then oddly addicting.
easily slipping into
an entire August.
A month when my heart hurts
for all that I have lost.
And leaps for The Life I regained.
As I cling with both hands
to a life that occasionally ebbs
from me.

For long has my speech
Controlled others.
Late in coming as it is,
This moment of silence ringing
Frees us.

wings and nest of a Fey

I’ll bet no one consulted Webster when I was named
But he responds online, he defines me as if he knew me.
Magical, wood sprite, seer, visionary, clairvoyant, supernatural, other worldly, unconventional, quaint.

Other than a couple tee shirts and funny old dresses.
My clothes closets and jewelry boxes echo empty.
I have no reason to dress up and be other than I am.

but on my walls, on Ebay specialty racks, are dozens in pairs.
just my size. transparent, opaque, colored Wings.
fully operational for flight.
so on equinox  fairy dust I travel
with silken harness,
i fly
just above
locust trees and
to Maroon Belle’s dale, Stonehenge sunset,
Sydney Opera House, Glasgow Kiss

In the Aerie
I dream of wings, for mine are clipped.
like exotic love birds that try to fly.
I live in fear of that which flies:
bees, yellow jackets, 747,
The Amtrak Ski Train.

I fly here in my nest.
alone in dark, for I can not sleep either.
iPad and I march With Terra Cotta Armies.

your every day August visit

I walk in summer blaze
To water the sunflowers thirsting
Baking in the summer solstice
So near to you
You could reach for them
If you wanted
the proof remains as solid as rock
as the glaring summer sun sheds last light
on your glowing smile
eternally optimistic
eternally frozen
Eternally young

Even so sometimes
I slide slowly through darkening streets
Morbidly driven to edge past the old house
Holding to the faintest hope
That there you will turn aside
Just before the door
And wave.

I have to hurry a little more now
More than I did in winter chill
As the minute mosquitos rushing from the wet grass
Spread their deadly virus with a tiny taste
I’m afraid to join you too soon
So in survival mode,
I grieve only a little, water, wonder.
It would be so much easier to just go
I Hope one day, I too would just disappear
Into air

My little dog knows how long this journey takes
rising with the insects to walk away with me
our eyes stinging from salt and spray
It’s alright, we know the way.
I don’t turn to gaze at the granite engraving
I know it by heart