——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.

 

 

Muddy Stream

This is the muddy stream where the poor child
drowned, late August, loud crows wild
in the maples, wings black against sky red.
That night, his parents lay down in their bed
and both dreamed a dream of an endless field

he walked into, waving. Breeze mild
through hay-colored hair through goldenrod spilled
and ghost gown trailing, toward the far wood fled.
This is the muddy stream

that turns a wheel where sorrows are milled
in a village where everyone's mouth is filled.
Come, I'll show you the mark in the mud
where his sneakers slid, rock that bruised his head,
water that enfolded him, calm, beguiled.
This is the muddy stream.