——from Language for the Living and the Dead
How To Feed A Writer
Tempt the tongue with husky whispers the ears
barely hear but the belly remembers.
Place marinated steak on the embers.
Disregard his impatience. Ignore tears
borrowed from the protagonist, page eight.
Serve first for thirst the chilled and peppered booze
and let her stand beneath blue dragonflies
as soft winds blow lindens and day grows late.
Feed a writer everything delicious,
nothing bitter as novels to finish,
old poems to varnish, memoirs to banish.
What they curse and scribe, be it auspicious
or doomed or blamed on their big busy heads,
will be but words when they lie in their beds.
When the Buzzards Return to Crestone
We’d spooked a dozen dark cruisers
off perches in a cottonwood copse
ablaze with gold leaves, and they rose
prehistoric mad black, a flapping
racket ruining the creekgully quiet
and he said, Capistrano can
keep its swallows. I’ll take this flock of
turkey vultures any day. He couldn’t say
what brought them back to this drainage
off Sangre de Cristo slopes, maybe
roadkill on Hwy 17, though guts
lie smeared on many other roads.
I know it’s spring when they return, he said
as the carrion craft circled the grove
and one by one settled again on
limbs thick enough to hold them,
their ugly beautiful bald heads red
in October sun. They’ll leave soon enough
and that means winter on the way.
Nobody ever writes poems for vultures
except to curse them or render them
symbols of wretched death awaiting.
Winged hyenas, scavengers, call them
any pejorative term but remember
they can fly and you cannot, they
clean up the mess your car leaves behind,
they see their mates as lovely in the trees.
——from Asleep Beneath the Hill of Dreams
Dream of the Skydive
The plane is cramped, thin fuselage full of jokers
and gods, people in costumes you nearly recognize,
their pupils spinning. The craft climbs quickly,
horizons tilting at odd angles, effervescent
clouds streaming in and out of view. The humor
among passengers grows grim, the laughter thin
as watered milk, and there’s a hand on your thigh
but no way to tell whose it is. The hatch
flies open and in comes the knowledge
you must return to earth through this portal.
No one makes eye contact. No one wishes to hear
the sins of anyone else, nor the excuses.
You have never been so close to birds
and yet so far from their form. Your turn comes.
It is best not to hesitate before entering
icy water but emptiness is different, atmosphere
foreign without a margin of solidity, a far shore
to swim toward. The leap is not of faith.
You accelerate in seconds, spread-eagled,
crucified by tremendous wind. Your lungs,
useless as flat tires, quiver in your chest.
The concept of up is an enigma and down
is different now, will never be the same.
You surrender to an enemy, the first time
ever, and the pond below becomes a larger lake.
Free fall finished, you reach and grasp the cord.
It is best not to hesitate when approaching
packed dirt at this speed. You tug and shoulders
open into wings, jolting you nearly awake.
Loose shoes fly from your feet, spiral away,
messages in bottles sailing toward a
field full of spectators who cannot rescue you.
The peace, the silence and the peace, overwhelm.
Men were not meant to fly, you realize this
now more than ever. Suddenly, a bowl of peaches
seems like the best meal. You yearn
to land and lie long in deep green grass.
Friends wait at the circus tent, dispassionate cameras
ready to record either splat or smooth descent,
their upturned faces gazing past you to the
bright and flapping fabric of your chute.