sky song

5am woken
by stars so piercing
it must have been sky song
having first met the pueblos in
black and white pictures
stories (spoken)
and memoir (written)
i meet taos pueblo
for the fourth time
in the light of the lifting sun
coming up over the big mountain
amidst the vapor of our breath
toes cold and
ribcage rattling
fringe of women’s bright blankets/shawls
as they wave the dust road runners
(painted, ribboned and feathered) on
aspen branches
(yellow-leafed and fetched from
the mountainside)
held in elders’ hands
waved in wind to shuffle/shoo/encourage/bless
the runners along
so you’re a pastry girl
michael smiles
shuffling the plate of butter pats
to the middle of the table
smartass queen mara calls me
headed for the aspen branches
the corn makes it filling says liz
while we three tear off honey-drizzled
hunks of warm puffed fry bread
in the creek-edge shade
debbie turns to press cornmeal into my palm
says toss this on the ground
after he’s (be being the pueblo clown
who made it to the top of the 50 foot greased pole)
done doing what he’s doing up there
too bad we have to stand and
look at this horrible mountain i joke
half an hour into our waiting
for the shuttle from pueblo to parking lot
500 years old she says
about the current pueblo buildings
(soft edged and stacked
ladders propped to higher levels
small squares cut out as windows
hand smeared mud/adobe)
which are slightly to the south
of where they were built before they were destroyed
during the conquest(s)
liz and i cup palms around
twin porcelain mugs
steaming with ginger tea
(the real deal we call it
spice so strong it almost stings)
two questions debbie says
1. your family/parents
2. you’re such a find
why hasn’t anyone snagged you up yet

the kind of curling

stunning mara says
unbelievable i say
touching some skein
of handspun/dyed wool
or a felted scarf
or gloves or a hat
wandering from vendor to vendor
soaking up a serious dose of texture/color
she asks about my family
(eggs florentine on her plate
brunch tamale with green chile on mine)
and somewhere in the meandering answer
i’m talking about sassy magazine
(pre mainstream takeover)
and the bridge of possibility it built
out of the suburbs
aspen tops
bright yellow against
deep blue
standing under and
lifting eyes skyward
mountain sun-induced
recovery nap
pointy hat snugging my head and
the kind of curling up where
i wrap the blanket corners around me
because getting under the covers
requires too much effort
sacred mountain
tinted orange/pink in the
setting sun
as seen from paseo del pueblo sur

racing the dawn

racing the dawn
i throw on layers
swig sips of water
and take the path debbie showed me
gravel crunching under thin-soled sneakers
the day’s first sun
a goldspill
spreading across the land
i attempt to balance
landscape gazing with
ground-gazing (more kinds of rocks than i can count
most of which i’ve not encountered before)
forgive me i tell debbie for taking this
i just wanted to bring it in to show you
i say of a fingernail sized pot shard
who, unlike the others, has
black stripes painted over white slip
1400s or 1600s she tells me
about how old the pot was
a brushing of fingers across time
as i hold it in my palm
they administered an amnesia-inducing drug,
i couldn’t remember the first three days afterword

i asked the doctor to tell me everything steve says
and the doctor said you really want to know
and i said yes
and so he did, he told me what they used to saw apart my ribcage
what everything looked like in there
what it smelled like
regarding the heart valve transplant he underwent months ago
folk devotionals debbie calls the handmade wood crosses
(sunbleached and weather-worn)

left in a pile as big as the church was
(the pueblo church, where the women and children
took refuge, that was firebombed in 1850)
now and then a new priest comes in and says
let’s clean that up
he cut the right foot off of
every boy 10 years or older
liz and debbie describe the conquistador oñate
and there was a huge protest
to the statues of him
put up in el paso
and here
and sure enough
when the statue was finished
overnight someone would come
and chop his foot off
and then it would get reattached
and someone would come by and chop it off again
we laugh (righteously?)
any chance we can at a story that
doesn’t end at tragedy
they point out cook’s piles of gravel
to the east of the low road
talk about how different groups
oppose his harvesting of rock
and smashing it into gravel
destroying petrogplyhs
balding the gorge-sides
we met in the laundry manuel says
to tom and soon the laundry becomes a joke
transforming from a room with a washer and dryer
to the name of a bar or club
it’s a feast day (about san geronimo day at the pueblo) leon says
if someone invites you into their home
dear god, say yes
none of this midwestern oh, no – i just couldn’t

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rattled and soothed

in the dream, an email not meant for my inbox
in my inbox
(glimps of a previous lovers’ domestic life)
gives me access to a bunch more emails
not intended for me
that i choose not to read
(not because i don’t want to
but because i could be traced)
and then i am at aforementioned previous lovers’ place
(with three others, on a road trip)
previous lover and wife absent
i roam looking
find a trace of us
poking out from a pile of papers/books on a shelf
something with my hand writing on it
not honored or elevated but saved and
hastily stored nonetheless
at the gathering site we shuffle counterclockwise
into desert circle
designated by stones oriented
to the four directions
prayers in words i don’t know
in a language i most likely haven’t heard
until today
songs the same
my lack of any shred of fluency
doesn’t keep the words/sounds
from sifting in through skin
past muscle
in between ribs
layers of body and lift/fall of breath translating
the moment we all turn east
to catch the sun spilling silver
over the ridge
when the light hits our eyes
i’m not the only one crying
woman next to me offering prayers
hushwhispered with open hands
what is it about circles like this i think
(regarding how i show up
and then lose it not long after
[recall: a rooftop gathering
of the undercommons]
i will not weep at the world i remember)
but when we invite our dead
to circle with us
when we nod as a woman corrects herself
water, not ‘the ‘water’, water is not an object
when we hold space for the languages and songs
that have survived after so many of their carriers were
when an elder calls the fire medicine
when there is name/shape given to the things
i tried to explain at age 13 when i had to defend
my refusal to get confirmed in the catholic church
(said i don’t believe in this thing called god
but i do believe in the spirits of the land, the air, the trees)
how can i not be simultaneously rattled
and soothed
when one of the women says to us
you are home here, welcome
there’s a lot of pain in this circle
says the man
two people down
our young people he says
need healing
we cinnamon roll meaning
same as the spiral dance
but instead of eye to eye
we move along the circle
hugging the next person down the line
heart to heart
not a bad way to start the day
the woman next to me and i joke
this is medicine she says
about the fire in front of us
(the ashes from the past 18 years
of this gathering saved and
sprinkled on
and saved again)
which will be tended
throughout the day
veronica walks us
through the ten phases of her
mesoamerican archetypes healing wheel
from the broken energy of coyolxauhqui
the breathing rhythm of mayahuel
chalchiuhtlicue’s cry/scream/release
tlazolteotl who eats our mental/emotional garbage and transmutes it
xochiquetzal’s encouragements to tap into the beauty around us
chantico, gaurdian of the fire of the house (kitchen/cooking), who says we’re finally in a place where we can start taking care of others
itzpapalotl, the obsidian butterfly, with whom we get to start making grounded magic again
coatlicue, like kali, who creates and destroys, who tells us we’re ready to create and offer our work to mother earth with passion (create something you love and then offer it up/destroy it)
to toci, the grandmother figure, wise one who has learned lessons through her experiences and is in balance and ready to start again
this cycle can be fast or slow she says
you could move through it in one day
or five years

we draw cards
i pull toci
which seems to be just about right
for this healing on top of healing (thriving)
they’re being kindof shy with you
they’re saying we don’t know about this girl
debbie says, showing me pot shards
found around the formation
(desert sand red) that rises to the south
there’s your coyote she says
about the howling in the distance
kissing the pot shard (this one coiled) and
placing it back in the sand


running at 7,000 feet
cool air breath visible
strongbody, lungwork
hot chocolate/mint tea combination
steam tendriling out of red mug
regina and i talk about leaning into things
(leaning into the unfolding of work[aka writing]
leaning into the not-quite-scared-uneasy feelings
that night sometimes brings)
having a kid is a beautiful struggle
just being alive is a struggle
a beautiful struggle
we’re blessed to be alive/ here
jonathan says leaning against a pitchfork
work gloves in hand
he tells me the name of the irrigation ditches – acequia
says the pinñon trees are appearing where he lives, changing the sage brush landscape
says the chinese elms which have grown so tall down here have changed the landscape too
talks talks about the 10 year cycles of drought and not drought
manuel at the door with a handwritten invite
to the fellows’ picnic on the green (alfalfa field flanked
by cottonwood and willow)
i’ve never seen a moon so thin i say
from the passenger seat while we
(debbie, liz and i) wind through the high road
ponderosa pine lining the lanes
(hasn’t looked so good this year debbie says
about the pine they’re not as green and we’ve
had plenty of rain)
debbie points out a long and low building
without windows of the penitentes
she points out padernales
georgia o’keefe’s famous
she points out small spanish towns/villages
where many families often still maintain
an old traditional lifestyle
bunches of chiles
hanging to dry from the edges of buildings/rafters
she points out the sangre de cristo range
in one direction and
and the jemez in the other
we stop at an acequia
not far from las trampas chapel
woodcarved out of logs and held up
by a wooden trestle
easily 100 years old
a glimpse of the waterflow
the priest traded/sold 6 kids from the pueblo
to mexico for a bell (to hang in the tower)
debbie tells me pointing to a painting
of the acoma pueblo mission and the red hills
and these are the spirits
rising up from the ground
with a last name like gold
i was bound to be mistaken for a jew
liz says while assembling green chile quesadilla
weekend vocab
some of which is review
some of which is new:
kiva (underground sacred space for rituals built by peublo people)
sipapu (small hole in kiva)
kachina (representations of spirits, corn spirit, water spirit etc)

the desert brings them

 7:30am i stretch into desert morning
warming my body through movement
in the night-cooled air
cycling through sun salutations on
blue/teal mat
shadow passing over as
bird of prey coasts across
sky between me and the sun
rhythm of metal rake
scraped across scrubby ground
and pebbled drive
just outside my window
flipping socks on the line
(like burgers, leg eggs in a pan)
to expose the cool damp inside layers
to sun
small bones
still attached to each other
(perhaps a femur, maybe hip bones and a part
of something else)
dried thin by daily sun
found near clothesline
in alfalfa patch

(bones, this desert brings them to me)
seven year drought michael says
about taos/northern new mexico/
(i don’t know how far

it extends)
in a letter headed to the west coast
i use the phrase resplendent orb
to describe the sun-source of desert heat
what’s your big challenge right now
michael asks and i balk
at having to choose just one
strive for what you want he says
but also just trust
get clear and you’ll get there
you chose us (as parents) for a reason
he says he said to his son
in the middle of a disagreement
now let’s work this out
i’ve been waiting for this i say
(this = key sunset-viewing information)

when michael tells me about
a cemetery up on las cruces
for sunset watching
humor and gratitude
are the qualities we decided he says
we need in order to make our way through
i pick the purple paper tea packet
named passion
(because we could all use a little we laugh)
goes well, i say, with the cookies
which are named chocolate chip macadamia love
partly, it’s the lo-fi quality of the
boom box speakers
and partly, it’s the fact that there are no commercials
and partly, it’s the song selection
(3/4ths of which i recognize
and 1/4th i’ve never heard before)
that makes classic-hits-93.5 the best oldies station
i’ve ever listened to
(a familiarity, a home-ness in the sounds)
the crows/ravens all stirred up while
mara and i talk on the
gravel road outside casita #3


stray cats of war:

Alaa, an ambulance driver, feeds cats in Masaken Hanano in Aleppo, Syria, Sept. 24, 2014. Alaa spends about $4 on meat everyday to feed about 150 abandoned cats in the Masaken Hanano neigborhood that has been abandoned because of shelling from forces loyal to Syria’s president Bashar Al-Assad.

at the edges of war things

all the writing that’s coming out
(a slow trickle)
hacking away at the edges
of war things
i haven’t gotten a good night of sleep since
i was 23 years old says joolie (which was 15 years ago)
wondering if anyone else has this affliction:
catching scraps of sunset is good
but something feels lost/missed/not taken advantage of
if i can’t move myself into range
to take in the entire view
i say something about shape
and apply it to her life
in the new absence of the dog she took in
fifteen years ago
it’s a transitional shape right now i say
but the future shape is forming
we have two cell phones
that kind of work
that’s just how it is in new mexico
debbie says over the phone
while our connection could be dropped any minute
and we both laugh



a quiet so quiet

light rain sound
the thing that wakes
rose-orange cloud sky
glow seen from windows
like icing dripping down the sides of a
triple-layered cake
the rainwet dark taking shape
around the adobe roof edges of
casita #2
black-billed magpie perched
on wire bike basket
four feet from
the door-window between us
but from here i see
blue that has never registered before
(taken for black)
thanks to sun-sheen and proximity
rhythm of nail gun
steady but slow
occasional whistling of a measure or two
now and then a shout or a sneeze
the sound of working bodies – a kind of home
everybody knows you can’t make
a good living in taos karen says
it’s no secret
fledgeling ride on
the bronze schwinn cruiser
how quickly the gigantic cottonwoods and
arching elms give way to
the smell of sage brush
desert flats
ringed by ranges rising up
to the east north and west
(the magic: how little i have to work
to get myself far enough to see the green/black/sometimes bald
jutting up to sky)
voice-connected via internet
rachel tells me first about the
power of 400,000 people going silent
in the streets of new york city
at once (in the name of victims of
climate change)
it went from all this noise for two hours
(bands, chants, sound voluming up over sound)
to a quiet so quiet you could hear birds
a quick sunset swoop
that loops me back away from tree cover
pedaling east a way for the reward:
the way back
(crimson horizon which isn’t really a horizon
because there is a ruffled-edged range there)






of a coyotewolf

in the dream:
a glimpse of a coyotewolf
rounding a corner through the bushes

a building on the farm, one room
but with an upstairs
that i forgot was there and members
from a different community taking it
over for a meeting/retreat

an offer of deviled eggs from
a pile in the bowl before they’re taken
to the meeting

some train ticket debacle
(two mornings in a row
not up early enough and
not having packed my bags)
and then i’m pointing out the wild
statice explaining to whoever it is
with me: that flower that grows
already dried
onion slices thin and jittering
on the oiled surface of a teflon pan
several edges brown
it’s the time of no time
michaeal says in between
laundry orientations and
christmas day (which is what he calls
violetta’s computer arriving in the mail)
nobody loves us regina jokes
about the empty mailbox
gopher or prairie dog he says
about my description of the skull
i found in the back field
three months here he says
to regina and violetta and i
you leave changed/a different person
(‘thank goodness’ i joke)
some people change the way
they eat while they’re here
some people change what they’re making
some people reroute the course
they thought they’d be returning to
several thunder rumbles
in the darkening sky though they sound
like they come from
the mountain (north) itself
heavy and resonant

the thing that rises up in me
(most likely called rage
feels like a panther
which is strange to say because
my ribcage has never housed a panther before
but the rage has a spirit/shape)
when regina tells me about
the west memphis three
(three16 or 17 year olds that a cop pointed at and said ‘it was them’  [with lack of any evidence –
there are entire books on this ludicrousness]
and then tried as adults and sentenced to life
each served 18 years until a loophole released them
the state never saying they were wrong/handled the case unprofessionally because
they’d get sued for larger amounts of money than most people can fathom)
process i say i’m so curious about how everyone
does everything
sound of city heights, san diego
in the sky (helicoptering)




from the water world:

A Kurdish woman runs away from a water cannon near the Syrian border after Turkish authorities temporarily closed the border at the southeastern town of Suruc in Sanliurfa province. – voice of america, day in photos