Taos

In this dry place

where cow skulls grin from restaurant walls

skeletons dance in the gift shop of the Chimayo Sanctuario

and lovers leap from the Gorge Bridge

Painting by Gloria Beck

              Painting by Gloria Beck

Death feels close and friendly

In this dry place

where Duende hides among red and green chilies

and the devil dances with sequin skirted Marias

I fear living more than dying

In this dry place

I sleep too deeply

and awake from dreams of rivers and wombs

of waterfalls and falls from grace

I dream of walls without gates

and small dogs thrown from high porches.

In this dry place

that summons chaos and phantoms

that hides beauty behind a garish mask

and puts miles and miles between here and yonder

only death is nearby

And she asks again

Which breath were you born on?

Which breath will you die on?

Pungo Creek

It was a place of barefooted children with empty bellies and mongrel dogs that snarled.

It was a place of water moccasins that hid under mimosa trees and crabs that clung to the wooden handled dip net that left splinters in my palms.

It was a place where the sun heated the clods of earth pushed aside by the road scraper. Where the names on the stones in the Foreman graveyard where worn away beyond reading so Addie and I were left to re-christen our ancestors who had been dead for a long time. Caleb. Minnie. Grover

It was a place where our refreshment came in cold glass bottles from the ice bin in the store at the end of the road. Nehi. Orange Crush. Dr. Pepper.

It was a place where grandmama spit into a Luzianne coffee can and granddaddy dozed over his latest issue of The Grit while the wisteria choked the trees in the side yard.

It was a place where the carpets were worn out, the people were worn
out and the piano was out of tune.

In a Taxi

imageLong ago and far away…

Daddy rolled the old Ford – three times – on the curvy road between Belhaven and Pantego. He walked away without a scratch, Harold Ray escaped with just a broken arm, but the Ford was history. Daddy lost his driver’s license – again – and he had to bum rides to work with Uncle Roswell. He dropped Daddy off at the REA before driving on to Ambrose Barber Shop. Uncle Roswell was Belhaven’s only barber. He was also the mayor, a deacon at Bethel Methodist Church and a successful tobacco farmer. He thought Daddy was lazy and told him so at every opportunity.  How Daddy must have suffered – his 6’ 4” frame folded into the cramped passenger seat of Uncle Roswell’s Renault for the 7 mile ride from Pungo Creek to Belhaven. I can hear the silence. Daddy tolerated the ride in because he didn’t have a choice but he refused to ride home with Uncle Roswell. First he couldn’t stand the smell of the hair oil and cologne that clung to Uncle Roswell after a day in the barbershop. Second (and most important) Daddy wanted to stop off at the pool hall for a drink before heading home and Uncle Roswell – a teetotaler – wouldn’t have it. Daddy – always resourceful when it came drinking –found a solution. He enlisted Will Davis – the owner of Belhaven’s one and only taxicab – to pick him up at the pool hall and drive him home every night. Some nights Will would honk the horn and Daddy would call for us to come out.  Addie, Willis and I would run out barefooted and crawl into the taxi. Then we would go for a ride. My sister and I in the backseat – my baby brother up front between Daddy and Will. We’d leave Mama on the backporch with her hands on her hips, shaking her head and yelling that our dinner getting cold. Off we would go – over the bridge, to Letha’s Log Cabin where Daddy would get beers for himself and Will. Next stop Sidney Cross Roads where Addie and I would run inside to get ice cream. Chocolate for Addie, Strawberry for Willis and Vanilla for me. Will would ride us around – up and down the dark, dusty roads that snaked through our part of Beaufort County. Daddy and Will would drink their beers and laugh and talk together. Will was black and Daddy was a cracker for sure – but on those long nocturnal ramblings they were as close as brothers. After a while, Addie and I would curl up in Will’s backseat and fall asleep to the comfortable sound of their laughter and the smell of their cigarettes. 

What Every Dog Lover Knows

whack

  • It is not nasty to let a dog kiss you on the lips
  • When a dog is really happy she curls up her upper lip. That is not a snarl.
  • There is no such thing as “people food” – everything is dog food. Especially that roast beef you left on the counter – and it’s okay.
  • Christmas trees look better without ornaments at the bottom.
  • Dogs are not thinking dirty thoughts when they watch you having sex. They are just amused.
  • $400 a month for a dog walker is not extravagant.
  • Neither is $80 for a bag of dog food.
  • A girl dog can never have too many sweaters. If they could the people at PetSmart wouldn’t keep selling them to me.
  • No one notices the tooth marks on my suede boot or the piano bench and if they do – so what.
  • There is nothing odd about riding 400 miles with a 60-pound Samoyed on your lap..
  • Yes, I do think they are human
  • My Dalmatian was smarter than your honor roll student

How to Steer

A kayak

High tide is best. Close your eyes. It goes where your head goes. Stay away from the swans. They bite. Remember when you thought you could walk on water.

A conversation

Open your mouth. Stay away from gossip. It bites. All the action happens between breaths. Short words are best. A rising tide lifts all doubts

A marriage

Keep your heart open. Don’t be afraid to leave the shore. Swans mate for life. If he believes he walks on water tell him low tide is better.

A life

Most of the action takes place under water. Inhale. Open your eyes. Your life goes where your heart goes. Time and tide wait for no one. Take big bites.

What’s Not There?

pier1

 

  1. The wisdom teeth that Dr. Swartz extracted thirty years ago.
  2. My appendix and my tonsils. Dr. Catzenbaum took those out before I was six. Aunt Gladys stayed with me in the hospital.
  3. The mole on my chin. The one that looked like Mama’s. Her’s was on the same place on her chin but she never had it removed. That’s why Daddy called her “Bug”.
  4. Mama and Daddy.
  5. The lilies that were growing in front of our house when we bought it twenty eight years ago. They came back once or twice. When they stopped returning I dug up the earth and put in another azalea bush.

30 Minutes From Now

image“The pilot has warned us it’s going to get bumpy in thirty minutes. This would be a good time to get rid of your trash and go to the bathroom.” She directed the second suggestion to me.

I wondered whether I would want a thirty minute warning before the onset of dementia. Somedays I think it’s imminent. Those are the days I think I see the gathering clouds of cognitive deficit. I forget names. So far that’s the only sign on the horizon.

We were having lunch in Gordon Bierce before the flight and I caught a glimpse of one of the Today Show hosts on the television over the bar. I knew the first name – Lester. But his last name had gone where algebra went. It I had internet access here at 38,000 feet I could google it. But I don’t and poor Lester’s last name will have to remain as much a mystery as when or whether one day I won’t even know my own name .

And as we descended into the clouds over Denver I remembered. Holt.

Duende

imageIn this dry place

where cow skulls grin from restaurant walls

skeletons dance in the gift shop of the Chimayo Sanctuario

and lovers leap from the gorge bridge

Death feels close and friendly

In this dry place

where Duende hides among red and green chilies

and the devil dances with sequin skirted Marias

I fear living more than dying

In this dry place

I sleep too deeply

and awake from dreams of rivers and wombs

of waterfalls and falls from grace

I dream of walls without gates

and small dogs thrown from high porches.

In this dry place

that summons chaos and phantoms

that hides beauty behind a garish mask

and puts miles and miles between here and yonder

only death is nearby

And she asks again

Which breath were you born on?

Which breath will you die on?

Ode To Her Nose

mono5

 

I wrote this poem shortly after SaraBlue was born two years ago. How time flies. 

 

Ah! That pigment that blossomed even  as she followed her sister down the birth canal.

A 5 o’clock shadow darkened her blood smeared face

before Irish cleaned it with a mother’s tongue

gently with an instinct that eclipsed learning.

The nose grew. The color darkened.

Now a lump of coal.

The black so black

I fancy  I can see my face reflected there.

But it is only a nose.

A nose to point her way  from whelping to weaning.

A nose that sneaks beneath the bed skirt to worry the dust bunnies.

A nose that pushes sand before it as it tunnels past the tideline to the Bay.

Updated Edition of Reunion Available

Just in time for summertime reading I have updated  my collection of poetry and prose and it is ready  for your poolside enjoyment.

Cover Photo by Tamara Somerville

Cover Photo by Tamara Somerville

The longing to tell one’s story and the process of telling is symbolically a gesture of longing to recover the past in such a way that one experiences both a sense of reunion and a sense of release.    Bell Hooks

Click HERE to order.

Here is a sample:

 

Big Sur

 And when you go, arrive with the sun.
Arrive from the east.
Arrive when your mind and body are numbed by travel,
and be surprised.
Be surprised that the mountains are alive.
Surprised that they breathe and surprised that you can believe again.

And when you go don’t wait for sunshine
Walk in the rain.
Walk in the fog.
Walk in the dark so you will know the power of eucalyptus.
The power of sulfur as you sit clothed only in embarrassment at the baths at Esalen listening to an ocean you cannot see crash on the rocks below.

When you go sleep late. Dream deep.
Enjoy the echoes that have been left behind at Deetjens
Make them your own. Leave some for the travelers
Who will come behind you.
Stretch. Make love. Be love.
Go to breakfast and taste the oatmeal.
All your life you will recall the way this oatmeal fills your mouth,
your belly, comforts you.

When you go remember when you drove up Highway One for the first time
in the dark, alone and unloved.
Remember how you envied the family in the travel trailer by the side of the road.
Remember how you wanted to step into a new ocean
but didn’t.

You’ll find more here:

Reunion – Recovering a Past

List Price: $11.00
6″ x 9″ (15.24 x 22.86 cm)
Black & White on White paper
72 pages
ISBN-13: 978-1453694602 (CreateSpace-Assigned)
ISBN-10: 1453694609
BISAC: Poetry / General
 
 
CreateSpace eStore: https://www.createspace.com/3468586