all the pastel

the crew of smoky gray cats (how at first it’s four, then five, then six)
gathered outside the cholla cabin
three on the picnic table, one on the bench,
one hidden under the cabin steps
and one perched on the porch railing
and how the two on table are licking clean the third (who sports gold spots)
_______
the silver of the can of beer in
in the hands of the biker-dude character
who lounges in the shallow coolest hot pool
in the clothing optional area
_______
sometimes you think it can’t get any worse,
and then it does
we joke in the parking lot
about another one of hazel’s hilarious bumper sticker/life sayings
as a rainbow comes into sight
in the new mexico sky
_______
the lightness, the ease/bendyness
of this post-hot soak body
as we walk the sidewalks of hatch new mexico
where the streetlamp decorations of glittery tinsel (snow people and stockings) creak in the wind
and where we find a small library
whose sign we take a photo in front of
on the infinite tour of small libraries
_______
oh the sky
oh the mountains
oh the adoble and all
the pastel colors
we move through
_______
see you next year i joke with liz and debbie
on teh phone as we pull out of the postcard town
of truth or consequences
where the thrift store that appeared open as we rolled in
was closed upon our departure
which is probably for the better anyway
_______

this sense of not being ready yet
for unexpected encounters with the past that might whip around the corner
at any moment
(the food co-op for instance, or the pho place just down from it,
or even the walmart where i was almost hipchecked all the way across the store,
or the banners in the sun attached to that one church/santuario)
_______

the glow of farolitos
lined up on adobe rooftops
soft spots against the dark of a moonless night
as we roll into santa fe
i’ve seen this before
_______
smell of piñon smoke
threaded through the dusky air
as we emerge from her car
on alto street
_______
sweetness of spiced cider
(that we learn suffered a clove spill
but was rescued with tangerine juice)
whose scent winds itself through the kitchen and living room
of jacks and katy’s place
_______
to live up to potential,
to move forward
i write on the scrap of paper
as we gather around the smokey backyard fire

radiating out

sad starry eyes i say of the handmade creature
is not really the traveling type,
more stay-at-home
friendy was sad starry eyes’s companion
who traveled with me 
in my jean jacket front pocket,
who was excited about going place to place,
so excited that friendy jumped shp on the big island in hawaii
so now sad starry eyes has to step up,
move outside their comfort zone
and travel with me
_______

the two quarters
that dirk and hazel left us
of the chocolate peanut butter truffley desert
on the table
_______

the steam rising from the tub,
from our bodies
under a star-dotted sky
as the four of us move from being ully immersed
to perching on the stone edge
the cool of the night colliding with our skin
as we each recount our lives in jobs worked
this is how to rewrite a night
in new mexico
_______

how i drape towels and clothes
over the string of xmas lights
so we can see the stars
through the steam
_______
i discovered i could get all the work of 5 days
done in three (as a groundskeeper)
dirk says
so i’d drive the tractor out
into the woods
and take hour-long breaks
reading books
_______

how dirk and hazel and i agree
on playing one round of apples to apples
(only one because it’s late
but at least one because we’re on vacay)
_______
the small spits of rain
just beginning as we dry and pull on our clothes
and how they leave their mark
small circles radiating out on the surface tension of the pools
that we walk past in the dim light

more mountains

more mountains! i joke with trish
saying that it seems like more have appeared
between this year and last
and everywhere i look,
new ones seem to have grown into themselves
_______
the little notes
(some orange, some yellow)
i leave
in secret surprise locations
(a favorite coffee mug, a coffe table drawer)
some with hearts
some with stars
_______
platter bowl filled
with small red garden tomatoes
(whose plants still grow,
though they may be nearing their end
in these cool nights)
from which i pluck a fruit and pop one
into my mouth

_______

walking along the arroyo path
i ask harmony the mountain namesof the formations rising around us
in all directions
she points out the catalinas (santa catalinas) to the northeast
the rincon mountains to the southeast
the tucson mountains to the west
as the pre-sunset lights casts itself
upon their shapes
_______

the nieghbor irene
calling out dirk and hazel’s name
across the fence
over which she hands a gift bag
of tamales
wrapped in green tissue

into the sideyard sun

the dull shine and sharp blade
of the travel can opener that dirk hands me
a gift he says as he and hazel move about,
back and forthing as they pack
_______

habit hazel says about the extra egg
that none of us can finish
which hazel and dirk end up bringing
out to the neighbor dog named bee bee
after fernando approves of this snacking
________
bee on the terra cotta tile
that i remove with a mason jar
and envelope
to transport back through the opened door
into the sideyard sun
________
the chipped and sparkly purple nail polish
on the nails of the barista who serves up
the cup of hibiscus tea
_______
speaking of water
amy invites me to the danube
(water in 39 languages)
and later i say
i have been a monster too
________
the hot pink/dark red and gray cloud layers
of sky arranged in horizontal strips
over the range of mountains rising in the west
that i pedal towards,
and off to the right – a glow of white-gold
pouring through cloud gap just above
horizon
_______
the saguaros and mountain ridges
i draw at the top of our travel calendar
which i color in with the six crayola markers
in various shades of pastelishness
and fuschia-tealness
_______
emory and i call those ‘tasty tops’ i tell her
of the handful of bok choy flowers that she brings
in from the garden while i carry the small bunch
of spicy mizuna
_______

the book on the shelf titled 660 curries
which makes me wonder in in the world
ever needs
660 curry recipes
_______

the crinkle of the silver-red wrappers
of post-xmas peppermint chocolates
accruing in the garbage can
_______
from the water world:

165e5037-98d5-416b-a210-30dfaec27007_w987_s_s

A winter swim lover throws hot water into cold air in Heihe, Heilongjiang province, China.

as all the light recedes

in the dream
hy instructs me to grab blindfolds
and even though i don’t like being blindfolded
the offer is too provocative to refuse
_______
the doves that gather
on the electrical wires
strung along the backyard
(how they sway and flick their tails
to balance on the thin wire
and how they work less at balancing
on the thick wires)
as the sun fills the beginning of the day
with its light

_______

the yoga move wherein michelle (in the coral-colored leggings and
teal big shaped dangle earrings)
guides us to weave our arms together and apart again
while transitioning from warrior two at the front of our mats
to warrior two at the back of our mats

_______

the chiming of brown tepary beans
as i pour them into a glass jar
(like the sound of candy in a dish)
and the black/white checkered library table
where i fill out the seed library donation forms for the
cosmos, marigolds, amish paste tomatoes, edamame and tepary beans
_______

how the dining area window
frames the mountain pink-purples of a setting sun sky
as all the light recedes
like a wave after it washes up 
rolling back 
into its oceany origins
_______

the steam that rises as lino, rachel and i
remove the lids from two huge bowls of pho
(nests of noodles swimming with tofu, broccoli, carrots and napa cabbage)
over which we discuss:
the alienation of academia (gradschool version),
assault and accountability in activist/queer communities, 
and the joke of which is more of a lesbian food (shellfish or mushrooms) – to which i respond by joking:
the most lesbian meal
is the one that gets cold/goes untouched because
people are too busy processing
(or because they’ve spend all day
tangled in bed)
_______
the shamefulest of shames: forgetting a name
(in this case, sharing about three weeks in quito
and not, in the moment, able to recall felilpe’s [or the word huaroni])
_______
it’s up there i say in the collection of golden non-monogamous moments 
as we drive off into the night
and i recount the last dinner meetup
that resulted in a breakup in the parking lot
_______
thank you for slow time with me she says
from the front seat
in the orange of the night lights
seeping in

how we hold on

something about moving around the mountains
that rise up in the distances
as i pedal south, sun on face
feeling warmed and in motion and alive
_______
the unnamed phenomenon of returning to
moving around each other in the kitchen
one of us washing, one of us putting dishes away
and the sharpness of my spatial memory
remembering where the glasses, plates, bowls, cups go
_______
the plastic-wrapped plates
of homemade banana chocolate chip muffins
on the table
made for her neighbors who didn’t answer their doors
_______
are you ever lonely out there
she asks
as i work my way through one of the muffins
_______
turns out i can cozy up on the couch just fine
i note, laughing, when we discuss
my cuddling capabilities
_______
the drips dropping from the gutter
slow and one by one
landing in the parsley growing
in a five gallon buket below
_______
the scruffle of pigeons up in the gutters
as sunset approaches while i gather
kale and mizuna and cilantro
from rachel’s winter
desert garden
_______
how, when we hug, we hold on
(in kitchens, in back yards, in patches of sun
sometimes standing next to our bicycles)
_______
helicopter circling with its search light
grazing the ground as i bike
under an otherwise star-packed sky
down grande 
where i am lucky enough to have the cover of home,
the safety of documentation
_______
hazel pushing half the energy bar towards me slowly
across the table while we tea-sip and laugh
expounding upon the quandries of niceness vs. excitement
with a little bit of attachment theory on the side

this makeshift family / leaving and landing

the sounds of quail
skittering about my tent
running in the cute and frantic way they do
and calling out (to each other? to the sun?)
as the first light of day seeps in
_______
the deep bluegray to the west
with the gold of the twin peaks against it
as i emerge from the tent
to a faint rainbow
arcing amongst all of this
_______
the thing that happens
when, ready for departure, eduardo addresses me playfully by name,
and the thing that happens
when i turn my back a little
after hugging him and  josé and sergio,
and sending them off with wishes of buena suerte mi amigo
(which is supposed to stand in for:
may you be so safe and careful and strong and
may you navigate the desert with the ease of a captain guiding a ship with the stars
and may the light in you that you’ve shared/shined these past few days keep shimmering
and may your kindness/sweetness prevail over turning hard
and may you know that my heart is different because it holds you all now
and thank you for laughing with me across the boundaries of language and
may you be prepared for the people who are going to be assholes to you while also knowing that kindness and warmth awaits you too
may you have all that you need to thrive
as you journey and as you land
_______

cosmic hi-five i say to geena
as we once again cross paths
one of us on our way in
one of us on our way out
_______

the xmas blessing that carolina 
shares with the group as we hand-hold
and how the tears in her voice
bring out the tears of others as
we gather around this makeshift family
in this makeshift home
_______

although he has shared his name
several times now
it’s not until i ask him to spell it
that i understand: alcede
and i pronounce it back over chocolatey torte
that the townies brought
_______

the pre-sunset light
tossed across the snow-veiled santa ritas
as we head north and the fact
of the ease of moving through borders
and the lack of harassment
(based on our skin color)
is not lost on us
in the pockets of quiet
between conversation
_______
the quiet and warmth and clean
of landing back at hazel and dirk’s
and a name for the inability to process
the reality of camp held up against
the reality of home
but it is useful
to think that no one
lives at camp,
that we are all passing through there,
just the privilege and possibility around leaving and landing
plays out differently

coming into view

the first saguaros,
ocatillo,
mesquite and 
prickly pear
as seen out bus window
coming into view
while heading south on i-17
and the unnammed phenomenon
that has perhaps already been named by me before

of how good it feels to know the names

of things growing around me
because of how it helps me feel connected to place and,
it turns out, knowing/being connected to place
is a powerful/important thing
_______

the darker blueblack of the rough edges (like torn paper) of one ridgeline
up against the lighter hazey blueblack torn edges of the
ridgeline further behind it
and the lighter deeper blue of sky above, sometimes striped white with cloud
and the long stretch of juniper-dotted land
leading to where the ridges rise
_______
how she says she doesn’t speak english
when i ask if i can sit next to her
but yet we spend most of the two hours talking and laugh-nudging each other
in the simplest slowest spanish and english
and how i say it’s perfect
(by it i mean, the edge where our language overlaps)
and how we hold our phones out, sharing photos (my finca/granja y arboles y jardins and her casa y esposo y hijo y perrito [roque] y mama en mexicali y trigo [wheat] a su mama’s casa
and how her name is carolina and how i explain hills with my hand motions and how she explains quail with a little gesture to imitate that special head feather and how sometimes we just laugh when we know the words and how after two hours, though the spanish is slow/simple, my brain stops working and how she says dios los bendiga and i say new years wishes in my funny spanish and how she says my spanish is better than her english and how i’m all yeah right and how she says dios los bendiga how i invite her to missouri and how she says if i lived here we could practice spanish/english together
_______

all if it was grown in my garden rachel says of the food she brings in
and sets on hazel’s table
(which includes: chard, turnips, and garlic)

_______

the marbley purple-white pattern
on the camping/sleeping pads
rachel pulls from the back of her car
to loan me
and how we marvel at
the layering of this year upon last year
something about how time marks things
something about how we can almost overlay this year this time on top of last year this time like transparencies
something about how there is still a humming between us

glittering in

how the dried landscape
where kansas turns into colorado
glows gold in the redorange light of sunrise
and how this sight under the half moon is enough
to kill me a little (in a good way)
and there’s something in all of this
that feels nutritive –
fulfilling a desire i often forget i have
to be moving through changing landscape
_______

the snow we are kicking up
while we roll on through
glittering in constant swirls about us
against the light blue of a clear sky
_______

the magnificent light glowing through tufts
of gold grasses and their seed heads,
the whorls of hundreds of birds (geese? gulls?) hovering above
 a great patch of steam (a body of water? a landfill?),
the entire snow-coated surface of a pond/lake/wetland
catching light in its crystals and glowing it back out,
the wonder of moving water
along its curved course
as seen from above while we roll over its snaking – its slow current
carrying hunks of ice,
the vapor of breath lifting
from the nostrils of a cream-colored cow
placed among it all,
how all of this
breaks me
wide open
_______

9:11am mountain time
first junipers
looming into view
_______

see it the man whose name i later learn is bj 
points out the window at the coyote in the snow
and before that, four elk up in the juniper-studded fields
and after that, a crew of antelope
in the snow-white grass-gold scape
_______

may it feed parts of you that you didn’t even know were hungry i write
on a postcard to shawn
whose stop is several hours before mine
_______

1990s teal anything is my kind of ride
i text cerissa
who says she’ll be there at the station
in her small two door ford
_______

i think i am coming alive i try to write
about what these mountains
and ponderosa pines
and sage brush
and red rock and
the light that falls on all of it
do for me
_______

the incredible sadnesses
that sometimes sweep in
that might have to do with this movement, 
the landscape, the conversations
that can start anywhere and end up in
unexpected places with perfect strangers
though it also might just have to do with
being a human
since they (the sadnesses) have been swwping in
for days if not weeks if not months if not years if not decades now
_______

what also sometimes sweeps in:
the stink
(which might be exhuast 
or could be some unknown other)
all i know
is that it comes in waves
_______

how to name it all:
the tree limb fence posts
the tijuana feel of houses and yards
which also feel like tucson and
black mesa and –
the terra cotta colors and the
ramshackles and the 
dirt/sand for lawns and the curves
of adobe corners and
the powdery pinkblue sunset that pulls its blanket
over everything
_______
although it is difficult for me
to accept the kindness
(of a friend’s roomate that i’ve never met)
i do, and we find each other in the train station parking lot
_______
a pattern language book on hailey’s desk
and i can’t remember who told me sometime
in the past few months that i would like it
but whoever it was, i can tell after a few pages into it, was right

the horizon we head towards

you know you’ve got it bad when,
on your list of very important things to do
in the remaining eight hours 
before your departure
you’ve included take photos of the cats
_______

the ring of will’s meditation chimes
struck once at the start of his sitting
on the maroon bolster
facing into the sun-flooded southside windows
and once at the end
how the sound keeps sending itself out
long after the metal has been struck
_______

the small pawprints in the snow
(leading under the house and
out towards the greenhouse)
revealing the mystery whereabouts

_______
will and i getting at how people think
of the desert as a dead space,
as a wasteland
(example: bombing ranges)
_______

the small snap of the remaining
prong on my big backpack buckle
breaking off
which sucks because i plan to haul water
with this thing
(and because plastic is depressing)
but which also taps into some kind of pride
about owning this thing
for ten years
and all the places i have been with it
_______
the two deer that leap out
across sandhill road
(which is coated in a thin layer of snow so cold
that it crunchers under foot and tire),
they don’t know it, but they are wishing me
wild grace on my journey

_______
reminds me of a black mesa sky i say
of the molten red line laid across 
the horizon we head towards
but it’s not just that molten line,
it’s also the phenomenon of seeing so much sky
and it’s not just the red line and seeing so much sky,
it’s also the way the sky gradients
from the richest black blue
down to that red line
each color its own strata
and it’s not just all that sky and its layers of colors
banded across it,
but the crisp cold of the outside world is made of
plus the kind of quiet that these “middle of nowhere” places carry
_______
write a list i tell myself of everything you miss
_______

a friend! i exclaim
to the fellow passenger
who lets me in the locked train station
and it’s not long
before we discover we both write poems
and that the origin of when writing the words began is indescernable
and at some point i move across the way
as other passengers fill the station
so we are not shouting across it
at each other
_______

that’s a long time i say 
of the 15 years he’s been working
as an academic advisor
and i think about how i can’t say that
(15 years) about anything
minus the suburb i grew up in
though nine years in portland and
13 years total on the west coast
is close
_______
he made it rain i say to the woman sitting next to me
who just described how the heat and moisture
from the hot water her dad accidentally left on
at his house
created condensation on the ceilings,
the table tops,
and turned the curtains into sopping swaths of fabric