Friday, December 23, 2011

Storm

After midnight
thunder woke us
the tumbling boulders
I remember from my Atlanta childhood
horizon flashes
followed by vertical zigs & zags
thunder so loud
we flinched & hugged
to the sound of rain
light building to heavy
breezes from windows
until we closed them.
Cataracts spilled from the south roof drain.
Spray filled the air
next to the big north window.
I turned back the rug
shifted the power strip & computers
out of the range of weather.
By now the rain pounded
entered beneath the doors
through the gaps 
between walls & window frames
flooded the upstairs floor
leaked through the ceiling into the bookcase.
With rags & buckets
naked we roamed the house
mopped & wiped
& cursed the builders for promising, sí,
mañana they would seal the house.
Finally, the rain diminished
lightning dimmed
thunder spoke softly from a distance.
We opened windows
lay back down in cooler air
& talked until we slept
till morning.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

A Common Spider

A common spider
unearthed by my hoe
hauled an awkward
globe of eggs
attached
to a ventral point
on her abdomen. 
She shifted 
no farther 
than a foot away
so not to risk
losing her life’s 
requisite burden. 
Though she stayed 
over an hour 
I noticed
no change. 
Inside the globe
I imagined
egg after egg
crowding 
each to many
while mother released 
what remained
of her load.


Sunday, December 18, 2011

Playing the Dozens

          towns that look like pebbles or flushed quail
                                               – Jorge Teillier

parrots that shriek like tickled babies or goosed nuns
horses that pair head to tail like boxed shoes or mannikin feet

beetles that twine in long hair like rope climbers or plastic beads
blond skinks that speckle black like bananas or sand

foxes that scale & rifle garbage bins like urchins or druggies
ducks that dive like high school grades or barnstormers at town fairs

hawks that flock to alfalfa like maggots to meat or geese to golf links
dogs that troll outdoor tables like cigarette girls or deaf mutes

mosquitoes that hover like tour guides or silent farts
owls that guard their nests like nuns their chalk or bankers their loans

toads that pepper the night roads like pinballs or land mines
lyrics that drag on & on like slow downloads or warm-up bands

Saturday, December 17, 2011

The Dawn of Summer

These days of half sun, 
half cloud at the dawn of summer 
when cool drops fall from a blue sky, 
the violent spring winds 
at last have died.

Sheets hang motionless, 
at noon pillowcases merely sway 
this Saturday, two more left in December, 
another year 
running out of things to say.

Aware of a noise 
above the vigorous digging of its hole, 
el tucutucu climbs to the top, listens, 
climbs higher & sees me 
working the hose. 

By evening 
northern peaks are lost in fog, 
southerns gray & black
like scenes on Chinese vellum scrolls, 
Andean gods strike & crackle. 

Night sounds: 
snowmelt acapellas along la acequia, 
makes a loop around the pond, 
light rain drums on bricks & sand,
a fox barks at the moon. 

Saturday, December 10, 2011

For Real

Fear of presence
is due
to what doesn’t occur
in occupied space:
a fox, curious 
but feral,
a chitin bark
ferried by scarlet wings,
an acapella
shrilled by a burrowing owl 
to warn its hatch, 
fresh rust 
etching the chain
during my bicycle ride.
It’s why 
I stop hearing
human noise
when screeching parrots flock
from vineyard to sky, 
my spirits rise
to join them. 
My fear dissolves.
I fly for real.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

This Child, These Tests, These Beginnings

Zoë arrives carrying roses – red
yellow, & pink – burdens that nearly smother
this child – pouting lips, downcast head –
whose shy is sham that lets her test the water.
Zoë wants to plumb all of it, details
large & small, self & Zoë propelled –
dung beetles & rosy stones, balls
of styrofoam pried up by her fingernails, 
a steep slope to the empty pond, a stake 
to pull her body up by, a pile of sand,
small sticks she orders to stand, sticks 
that test her theories of this non-mother land
ruled solely by physics, including her hold
on me as she tightrope-walks my world.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Imaginary Pond

Equipped with one woman, seven men, rocks, rebar, 
a tape measure, a carpenter’s square, 
& a yellow string wound around a willow stick
draw an imaginary line from the midpoint of the front door 
to the midpoint of a soon-to-be-graveled path 
on the far side of an imaginary pond.

Along the far edge of the patio outside the front door
mark equal perpendicular distances from the imaginary line 
to the starting points of the imaginary pond’s oblique-angled sidewalls.

Parallel to the first, draw a second imaginary line
from the starting point of a sidewall to the near edge of the acequia 
(the irrigation canal that brings snow melt 
from the Andes to our community vineyards)
that runs along between the far edge of the imaginary pond 
& the soon-to-be-graveled path.

Mark the distance from the far end of the second imaginary line 
to the far end of one oblique-angled sidewall. Repeat 
(some of the above) to pinpoint a second sidewall.

Note that the pond sidewalls (one day, will) 
meet the far patio edge at identical angles. For the moment, imagine 
crossing a narrow wooden bridge from the far edge of the patio 
over a pond, over a canal, to a graveled path. 
Start from inside the front door.
Keep an eye out for the imaginary toad.



Monday, November 28, 2011

Nooker Prize

your lips: somewhere 
to return to 
when else & other fail

buckle up lock tight
anchor drop
shade pull slow tide

trading gram for pound
at this ringside 
featherweight bout

pepper-laced brine
hint of ozone
asafoetida afterbite

your smile: instantly
lethargic
inspires winsomely


chocolate peppermint toad [cf TCV]

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Yes, They Can

Where a raised voice 
from the ruling or military class
can lead directly to beatings, arrest, torture, & murder 
not only of the accused but of their family & friends
a person will assent to anything 
though she already knows she can’t deliver, 
though he knows the product can't be bought or built,
the order filled, the deadline met.

Even thirty years later 
when lethal stakes no longer hold 
people adopt a docile, accommodating stance –
say they’re not lying – no, it’s their way 
of giving us the answers they think we want.

General/Déspota/Tirano Leopoldo Fortunato Galtieri


Saturday, November 26, 2011

The Wind with a Hill Approaches

Mornings on bicycles we pedal past a fox
crossing the road, another rushing the vineyard,
then us, watching for nose & ears in the far grass.

Who will make stilts for the boy without a bicycle?

Such wind drives every grape to the end of its stem,
tugs water from the hose, spins the patio fans.

Who will name October’s filly? Pequeña, he says.
Lechita, I say – Little Milk – to make us remember.

A smile, launched by his Buen dia, streams down her face.

One child does standup, a second averts his gaze,
the third, still too young to know Odysseus
sways & rhymes, motions a wine-dark sea.

Lechita, aka Little Milk

Friday, November 25, 2011

Care Less

The last time someone hurt my feelings
was in 1964. I was seventeen. 

A member of the college radio station 
I wanted to become a member of 
said I might be the first candidate flung
(rejected) for trying too hard. 

After I cried, all night I wondered –
what did it mean to try too hard?

Did I need to care less?

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The Only Thing I Have Left to Lose

is my bedroom, which is
where I’m sitting now
on the living room couch next to 
Mike, who’s now sitting
on his red chair with ottoman
next to my red chair with ottoman
& our cardboard box
(Quara Malbec)
side tables 
while any minute now (they said 3 PM
but it’s nearly 4) the granite workers 
will trim the side overhangs 
off two kitchen countertops
(stone dust everywhere)
in order to make room
for the new stove
which will replace
the wrong stove, which 
they purchased 
because they didn’t look 
at the photo we sent immediately 
after they asked if we minded if 
they bought our stove
at a different store than the store 
where we found it. 
(Claro que no estaba la misma cocina.) 
Meanwhile, a tiler 
is tiling the shower while 
painters putty & paint
while landscapers place plants while 
carpenters hang fiberglass screen (which
they miraculously found
after they said they couldn’t, after 
they tried plastic screen 
(mierda), then metal
which they painted black because
silver reflected the sun but 
installation caused the paint to crack 
& peel), all this happening at once
while El Jefe (who is here 
only because finally
I took Jeremy’s advice, 
stamped my foot & explained 
that no workers could work on our job
without an onsite on-the-job 
jefe-ing Jefe) jefes.
That went over like a wet fart.
El Jefe grabbed his workers & left
but the next day, they all
came back. Work is getting done 
while I sit in my bedroom 
qua living room (sala)
& wonder 
why I ever thought I needed more
than a one-room house.


Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A Poem I Wrote Without Thinking About a Chicken

A hickey.
I had one once, maybe twice,
mostly stupid I thought,
maybe a girl would think a life without a single hickey
wasn't worth living.
Probably I thought that.
Everyday I get at least one headache
& one stomachache.
Life didn't used to be like this.
We raised ducks
in Hawaii. A baby duck, better yet
three or four of them
could keep your mind off most everything.
Sand, for example, which drifts
through the window & door frames
until you'd think we lived in a sandbox.
About time to buy some bright-colored 
sandcastle molds, not that we ever used
more than our hands. Palms
can shove a lot of sand into a castle wall.
I don't remember playing much 
with my children 
(rhymes with?)
which is when my pen ran out of ink
which is not to say I didn't
only that I don't remember.
I tried to lie down after lunch
but my stomach hurt
from eating what I can't even think about.
Sadly, turkey
is scheduled for Thursday
when I'd hoped to skip it entirely
though I love roast turkey
in moderation
without company or mashed potatoes or pie.
Dumplings, think gnocchi, 
avocado & rice crackers,
dogs that don't dog
but with the boat docked it hardly matters.
Kiwis, persimmons, Savoy cabbage, beet leaves.
Thorn trees. Why can Mike
lie down & be asleep in minutes
while I regret eating at all
ever. Smoking
might be a better idea
if I were R2D2 or a zombie.
Where did the whole zombie thing come from
anyway? Just when I thought
(remember? thinking is dangerous)
there'd be no wind today
it's blowing like stink again
like when it's rotten.
Nothing worse than a rotten . . . Here comes 
a pickup,
more workers I suppose. More sand
in the house. Piss on the toilet seat.
A boat or a tent
sounds good. Half & half.
Eggs – oops! – & cauliflower for breakfast.
Now the new ink cartridge refuses to flow.
Fine. 
That must mean my poem's done.

Rhea americana, Greater Rhea, Ñandú

Penelope obscura, Dusky-legged Guan, Pava de Monte Común

Monday, November 21, 2011

What Else Am I Forgetting?

Back at home 
the workers are waiting for me, 
one stirring a bucket 
full of wet cement. 

They are waiting
for me to unlock the door
but I won’t, not again 
as I have so many times before. 

Go get your Jefe, I say, 
which confuses them. 
Walk over & ask him, please, 
to come here

The workers don’t like to be told
by women, by anyone
except their Jefe, 
but this worker listens. 

What else can he do? La Señora 
won’t open the door, not until 
el Jefe comes, & la Señora 
commences to explain: 

no more workers without 
a Jefe on site to supervise; 
no more shoes in my house or trash 
flung in my yard;  no more urine 

on my toilet seat; no more 
burying wet cement in my garden; 
no more arriving 
without texting me first. 

Do you have my number? 

He’s watching me, el Jefe, 
nodding & softly answering 
Sí. After I shut my kitchen door 
he motions his workers 

over to his pickup – one 
carries the bucket of wet cement 
just beginning to glaze.
El Jefe drives away.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Practicing for Thanksgiving or

The Bird in the Oven at Dawn 

whatever dreams I dreamed last night
replay as stills, my body waiting for red-lit 4
to flip to 5, awareness to shift from black to light

I spark the gas, its whoosh (& whoosh
& whoosh) repeats from left to right, I slit
the chicken’s market bag, upend the bird to wash

that blurred dream I dreamed last night
won't clear – straight back, forced march
futile measures, an ever strengthening lethal fight

20 minutes of roast, I rotate my bird 
from breast to back, expose the feathered stubs 
on wings & headless neck, inhale what can’t be heard

my chicken’s last cry, my feats
each night in other worlds, helpless quests
I try but never win, the hand-to-hand defeats

golding breast, skin on a drumstick 
torn from turning, where are those dreams
of spreading my arms, rising from grass & rock

to purest sky, swoop & dive, dove
or eagle, breeze or endless wheeling gyre, 
when will I soar beyond the boot, the glove 

& now the hour's run, my plump bird’s
brown, the oven snuffed, day risen, pole beans
rinsed & ready to snap, maledictions stayed with words


when will I soar

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Aubade

Waking to pale light from sweat 
above & below in sheets like a swamp, 
my body damp as if swimming 
& streaked with salt, I kick the covers back
to cool, to dry, to wonder why
we stayed in there starving 
for days, so many of us, including 
the toddler with her artificial arms, 
my brother loading his truck with engines 
darkened by grease, my partner
filling a larger truck with everything
we owned: that was the second
after the concert hall dream, 
the black-on-white sketch of the mafia don
portrayed in first position on stage 
as if I only, seated close to the orchestra 
performing my minor role, 
knew how he’d stolen 
my real life where the tarantula 
sleeps on the opuntia, where 
hummingbirds suckle at nectar- 
brimming yellow flowers, 
where swallows swoop into Cafayate 
on the 16th of November.

Grammastola sp.?

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Next, a Bear?

Born on October’s final Sunday, the chestnut filly 
dozes in a rich alfalfa bed 
beside her mother, a three-year bay.

Yesterday an armadillo 
scuttled across the road in front of my car
& disappeared in thorny brush, scattering hidden doves. 

Above my bicycle, flocks of parrots
toe the power lines: rocking-chair swivels, two-step sidles 
show off yellow stripes below the tails.

Bald & frail, a fox 
dawdles along the vineyards, its dust-colored fur
swallowed by mange, its tail a bottlebrush.

Brash stripes flaring, a coati 
swishes off the fourth tee to hide its pointed nose 
under a stone shadow.

Nasua nasua, coatí, South American coati

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Kallchaki Valley Wind

Blown up from early noon
the dust infiltrates cars & houses,
orifices & pores. 
                          The richest
scarcely notice, insulated by maids
who sweep & mop, grooms who soap 
the saddles & wash the cars, exchangeable 
chicos who water & clip the lawns.
Dressed in brown cotton,
the poorest 
                  earn their pesos 
breathing through bandanas in vineyards 
swept by scorching clouds of dust.
When the white sun
founders behind the highest peak
while the workers pedal slowly home,
when the patrón, familiar in his cava
samples an evening Malbec
                                            only then
does the wind die.



Thursday, November 10, 2011

Blind Stone

Blind stone borders the garden
path of my gardens yet to be.

Picture scented reds, wind-swept bronzes,
one-day yellows, early- & late-
season pinks & greens.

A path to bridges & ponds, to lettuce
artichoke, peppers, carrots & beets.

Not a lovers’ path wide enough for four feet
but a gardener’s path for a wheel

bearing a barrow guided
by two gloved hands, a path followed by
clodhopping feet.

A trowel, a bucket, secateurs & a hoe
to chop the weeds. Hoses and seeds.

One day soon you’ll see.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

I Would Rather Have

stone bridges than floor scratches
a garage door than a gravel pile

door latches than wrong-sized bolts
a leveled stove than a broken tile

curtain rods than granite flaws
a quiet fan than a missing screen

propane valves than primer paint
a door stop than a split beam

floor drains than mud holes
a towel bar than a water stain

lights hung than trash heaps
& the hummingbird 

slowing to watch me watch it 
on its morning path to the prickly pear.


Oreotrochilus estella, Picaflor Puneño, Andean Hillstar

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Live On

Deep in the mine
where colors spark: red on green
gold on blue, where splines
& fractal lines unfurl
I hone my lead, riffle hairs on
brushes, dither my palette to render views
on rock of godlike creatures we seek,
we worship, take life for life
to live on.

Pedro Furada, São Raimundo Nonato, Brasil

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Enjoying Argentina

This warm spring Argentina
morning I’m digging out stones,
pegging clean clothes to dry,
bicycling to town to say hello 
to Alejandro. He shows me our bed,
a palisade of wooden slats 
aslant against a fence at the end 
of his indoor-outdoor 
workshop. He tells me about 
the dictators, about Alfonsín & Menem, 
about years when fear, finance, 
& crime at the highest level produced 
generations without training, 
without apprenticeship to learn 
basic skills long known 
in Argentina: how to paint,
how to build a house, how
to plumb, how to work wood.

This is why the completion of our bed 
is late, this & the misfortune 
that the tree trunk Alejandro
chose did not mill into good planks, 
so he lost time finding another.

I am not here to complain
that the bed is late, I am here 
to visit Alejandro, to smell 
the wood, to admire the squares 
soon to become our mesas de luz 
(bedside tables), to listen
to Alejandro’s stories about
Argentina, to learn two
new words, oficio (craft)
hundir (to sink), what our shower 
floor must do, because the craft 
of slanting shower tile to the drain
seems to be one of those lost 
skills, the cost of hard years 
in my new country of Argentina.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Spring Comes with Parrots

Roaring, an absence of birds, poplar trees bending toward the south fence,
lavender petals torn from a white calyx, a far thin whistle. 

Desert winds scatter dust & batter houses while fruit trees bloom, 
the cactus buds, grape vines green: the parrots return. 

Across the open sandy field & the gravel service road, beyond utility poles
somewhere in a vineyard hundreds of parrots cry out morning. 

Morning after night rain, the sand rinsed, dust settled, each brown blade
gleams, purple spikes thread gray-green leaves, snow crowns peaks. 

Stepping out to the patio I see the burrowing owl standing 
a stone’s toss away, considering, then trilling a song: are we neighbors? 

Head cocked, the chimango stands beside the wooden barrel, bastion of
banana peel, peach pit, egg shell, melon rind, chicken skin & bone. 

Out back on a rebar spike a benteveo studies the mud-swirled pool, 
gazes left, then right: out front two brown doves poke at bare ground. 

Forty parrots swarm the tensioned wires crossing the youngest vineyard: 
dip & bow, offer & counter, proclaim & respond, lift & swoop.

Such noise: where is time to eat between the ululations? Bumps & rushes, 
beak-to-beak wing-wild perturbations, flashes of olive & blue. 

On each dive the golondrina flashes blue, the benteveo sails over yellow
but teru-teru hops & shrieks, glum to be only black & white & brown. 

Four pirinchos touch down – yellow crests flaring, long tails leaving 
trails in the sand – they lunge & skip into the vineyard to feed. 

All day around me the hawks circle, swoop, settle rise: what they find,
what they take, must be beneficial, even delicious, all I don’t see. 

Wind the color green flycatcher fresh shoots roses ankle socks a blue bicycle 
a dove’s imprint on the picture window flowering cactus in pots.

Hundreds at once the parrots rise up shrieking, black from one angle, 
silver from another in sun’s low glare, then down to a willow, a rest.

Milvago chimango, chimango
flowering peach

Pitangus sulphuratus, benteveo

parrots in a willow tree

Sunday, October 30, 2011

My Body Is the Memory of Your Bones

        – Octavio Paz

you touch me in sleep to comfort me

you call my name when I cry out

my palm warms your buttock

my belly palpates the slope of your back

you press your fingers to the small of my back

softly you tap my forehead, my chin, my breastbone

my fingers trace the arcs of your ears

my hands, the bare skin of your quads

arms around my back, you hold me

lips to your chest I lighten

lips on my neck you graze

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Organs & Dark Meat

My favorite chicken has thick skin,
four thighs, four legs, four wings, 
four lungs, two livers, two gizzards, 
six hearts, & one head on one long neck. 
The hearts live in its throat. The lungs 
inside its wings propel perpetual flight. 
If I can catch it, before I chop off its head
it lays one golden egg that hatches a clone
that matures in seven days to be plump
& juicy for my favorite Sunday dinner.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Taxonomy

The morning hue thickens to overcast, &
desperate ants chaw the jasmine vine.
Ah how the desert hums, how it sucks damp
chemistry from air. To chasten a possum

involves a dumb whistling. Find my first
blossom with bold names in it. The sun aims
low like a sniper. Blessing counting blessing,
between shots I hone the weeder to wire.

Teacher, I am an outcast icon, dangling loose
upon my flail, & the standins for anything
less mortal have finally surrendered. What
is this gardening, this unkempt row, scorched &

excommunicating the thistle seed? We twitch to
the Hootchie Cootchie. Taxonomy was once a clone.

Zephyranthes candida, aka azucenita del río, Fairy Lily, White Rain Lily

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Panicum virgatum

Shall I call it switchgrass
or tall panic grass – the place
I hide when gauchos gallop 
onto our ranch bearing
the cowhide of last night’s dinner?

What of blackbent 
or Wobsqua grass – 
should I imagine a wobbling 
or an obsequious squaw? or a bent-
backed, dark-skinned blade?

Panicum virgatum
sounds to me like a virgin panicking 
faster than she can run
from an evil vir lusting after 
her thatchgrass.

Mostly I long
for end of season when green
ripens to brown &
everyone, knowers of grasses or not,
labels it wild redcap.



Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The Finish

Stone dust rises & falls, 
glue twitches my nose & eyes,
noises destroy my focus.

The electrician’s icepick 
probes the concrete walls for 
conduit-carrying wires.

Flies arrive
through open windows & doors
without screens. 

From the garage 
a saw whines along a line 
penciled on granite.

Supervisors boast
bright shirts & telephones,
workers wear sweat-stained brown.

The plumbed rooms 
throng with masons 
fitting & glueing countertops.

We set out for a walk, wishing 
the work would finish
& let us be.

vanity: unplumbed

Monday, October 24, 2011

Accessorizing

An Argentine-artisan-
woven placemat 
of orange & purple 
& green protects 
the polished wood 
lapacho – of our large
dining table next
to the ottoman-access-
orized red chairs 
at the north end of 
our great room, painted 
yellow & orange 
& pink, floored
in orange tile, a room that 
becomes a kitchen, 
painted pink & yellow 
& green, inside the 
house painted 
the same green – green 
of Alpine flora, 
growing high 
in the Andes above 
our desert brown.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

When I Need to Walk

when anger mutes me
when the mewing cat steps toward me
when people close to me start to fight
when ozone fills the humid air
when I know the slightest word would wound
when roadkill stains the side of the highway
when hunger drives me from my hotel
when I spot ripe blackberries along dusty gravel roads
when revenge schedules demolition derbies in my brain
when a body of water shimmers at a distance
when we've finished dinner & guests want to sit & talk
when seals surface only yards off the beach
when people call meetings to find consensus
when the owl's chiding tells me I'm too close to its underground nest
when I exit the jetway after long hours of flight
when a bridge crosses a river where snakes & turtles might sun
when someone turns on television
when a wild animal walks away across a field
when people talk about shopping
when dawn pales the bedroom light

What Beings

sheets whip the line in the warm parched air of desert spring

mountain peaks layer in varying grays like ink paintings
some are snow-capped, some greening, some spiraling smoke

dust-colored caterpillars vault from sand to post to vine

chimango hawks rise twenty or more from the half-green field,
one ferries a branch in its beak to a high & hidden nest

after rain I smell earth & grasses, snowmelt courses a rock chase

eleven horses (two at least carrying colts) water at a concrete tank,
graze in alfalfa higher than hocks, idle head to haunch in shade

beetles climb my hair, circle my sleeve: what beings tend my sleep?

mountain peaks layer . . . chimango hawks rise


snowmelt courses a rock chase

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Getting into Shape

All night the floor tiles sweat through pores, the water condensing on door
& window glass: we wake to rooms hiding the views we look for.

An orange truck arrives with our coffee: father, son, & a helper unload
gardenias, pomegranate, fig, oregano, iris & lily, species unknown.

We pedal beside vineyards, a coot motionless on her nest, freshly leafed
fruit trees, newly installed street lamps, a road crew & chief.

Today’s goal: El Museo del Vid y Vino, every day a smidgen farther, 
.3km on gravel to paved road, .3 back home, we’re up to 12.5 kilometers.

Where’s the black & orange bird? Might it be a Baltimore oriole
summering in Argentina while Maryland readies for winter cold?

Along the river path trots a shining chestnut mare, nothing on her back, 
rope around her neck, led by an old man on a single-speed bike.

White butterflies, dark hummingbirds, a flock of seven shrieking parrots,
doves that fly up at our approach, competing hawks, & sparrows.

We choose ice cream for our reward: strawberry, mocha, banana
in sugar cones with sips of ice water at the artesanal Heladería on the plaza.

Museo del Vid y Viño, Cafayate

Thursday, October 20, 2011

In Hawaii

Hakalau, Hawaii



     In Hawaii . . . we are not at home
to hear & feel the rain
falling. Greens are glowing
though we fail to see.

     We don’t pretend not to miss it.
Remember the smell before
the rain comes? How our pleasure builds
when fog occludes the view?

     Prinked by machines & hired men
the acres sparkle their finest
for buyers dreaming relief

     from mainland gridlock,
urban plunder, their daily commute –
like us, they’re seeking paradise,

     something new.

Cafayate, Salta, Argentina

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Waiting

I was packing when my mother died,
on my way from Hawaii
to Amsterdam
but dropping by to see her first.
No one warned me she was nearly gone.

I know nothing about death,
its arrival, its departure, whether she met
death sleeping or awake. They said
she’d stopped eating.
What happened before that?

She tried to be Katherine Hepburn
instead of the fifth of six
girls in a poor Catholic family
far from Boston, badgered by her father
to attend mass,

mostly ignored by her mother
who tired of children
after seven
(one died) but went on
to birth seven more. What brutes

men are. I’m happy my mother defied him
though she went on to marry
a worse one.
We’re so alike in stubbornness
& valor

though we never learned
how not to squabble, how not to lie.
Many nights
she plays in my dreams
always young, vibrant, always taken for granted

because she never left.
Somewhere in some lonesome home
she’s still waiting
for me, I’m still trying
to arrive.

Esther Jones Peters in the 1980s

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

South American Desert Spring

From the northeast
today the wind orchestrates
the willow dance, urges
birds to choose the strongest, bendiest
twigs for nests, the shiny foil,
cigarette butts, the lengths of cotton
lost from dustcloths, clumps
of dryer lint. Chimangos dive bomb
their competition,
horneros lacquer their mud
ovens, the steady coot
roosts on the dead grass next to the lake
her mate secures from dawn
till moonrise. The buzz
of flies, the whirr of
hummingbirds, the ben-te-ve-o
of benteveos, the shrieks of parrot flocks on
chimney tops, the warning chatter
of burrowing owls
secure the richest season.

Chimango Caracara, Milvago chimango


Hornero, Furnariidae


Benteveo, Pitangus sulfuratus, Great Kiskadee

Monday, October 17, 2011

Pastel

Today at the workers’ café we order
the daily special – Pastel con papa
con ensalada – though we don’t know
the meaning of the word Pastel.

Always, we share one order, plus
un medio de vino tinto. Graciela
tells us an aunt & her two nieces &
someone’s mother cook the food

& also sell frutas y verduras
one door down. Pastel arrives –
potato, ground beef, & potato
topped with cheese, shredded & melted

to a lacy web – Argentine version
of shepherd’s pie, new to Hervé,
aka Yakeen since he lived in India,
who long ago was born French.

Yakeen’s girlfriend regards me
with undisguised suspicion
after learning my name is Carol,
the name of Yakeen’s previous girl,

though I’m ever so old & only today
met Yakeen when he parked his scooter
& crossed the street & surprised us –
Hello, Carol – we met on facebook

thanks to our friend, Jeff, another
expat, all of us far from home
though quite at home, ordering
Pastel & becoming new friends.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Flares

Homeless is who we've become
hearing the desert wind drone.

Sand in our crepey throats, is this the next hard pillow?

On worn hotel sheets beneath a quilted spread
spooning, we lean toward sleep.

Same-name streets guide us to beefy lunches,
salad without the raw onion.

My skin chills in artificial air. I lay my body
on his when afternoon dulls

our fruitless day, his fingers quicken.

Home is where we are, he tongues,
turning me slowly, my scales, my thorns

softening in his hands. We smolder, beacons
fired at early dusk,

the desert blooms.

No Frame Fits

I’m the kind of woman
who meets a man named John who
an hour later says,
“You’re not a normal woman,”
because I said,
“I don’t like talking on the phone.”
He meant it as a compliment.

When Miriam the well-endowed
begins to rant about designers
who put pockets
on woman’s blouses, I say, “Women without tits
like shirt pockets,” but she says
she’s talking about blouses,” & I say,
“I don’t own any blouses.”

When I ruin five more T-shirts
by spilling food down their fronts
I shop the Walmart boys department
for five more – size 14,
bright colors – but here in Cafayate
Walmart’s a 3-hour drive.
I’ll need a new source.

My husband Mike’s the vain one –
shaving, primping his hair, & trimming
his mustache for ten minutes
after I’ve walked past the mirror
without a glance, pulled on the clothes
from the top of the pile, & often enough forgotten
to comb my hair.

Remember Madame Curie
who failed to pamper her skin, Carolyn Chute
who writes novels in flannel shirts,
granny skirts, & shit-kicker boots,
Sinead O’Connor who plumped up &
grew hair – square or round –
no frame fits all women.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Choices

I prefer rain.
I prefer Mike.
I prefer children from walking age until puberty.
I prefer Earl Grey tea with honey.
I prefer Peet’s coffee.
I prefer yellow, orange, & purple.
I prefer raspberries.
I prefer to get the details right ahead of time.
I prefer a house that faces east & south (east & north
in the southern hemisphere).
I prefer a botanical garden to a landscaped garden.
I prefer color to black & white.
I prefer suffering from my remarkable dreams
to the alternative of not dreaming.
I prefer Keegan for his humor, Zoe for her thoughtfulness, Moshe
for his determination, Phaedra for her zaniness, Daniel
for his affection, Tova for her attitude.
I prefer solitude, quiet, nature.
I prefer the out of doors.
I prefer glass houses & metal roofs.
I prefer knowing the shape of the inside from the shape of the outside.
I prefer large birds whose flying seems improbable.
I prefer women friends.
I prefer reading to movies.
I prefer dirty over clean.
I prefer barefoot, naked, uncivilized, & I don’t like buttons.
I prefer raw food.
I prefer baby animals, whole milk, shrimp with their heads on.
I prefer single malt scotch.
I prefer J, K, Q, X, & Z.
I prefer wet grass, unopened buds, unfurled fronds, ripe fruit.
I prefer walking on land to boating on water or flying in air,
unless I’m riding in a helicopter or flying my body in a dream.
I prefer riding to driving.
I prefer riding bareback to holding a pommel.
I prefer squash to tennis, baseball to football, hats to gloves.
I prefer anything over celebrity culture, mass media,
processed food, & conspicuous consumption.
I prefer hard rain & lightning & thunder.
I prefer swimming.
I prefer the life of the mind to the life of the body.
I prefer William Carlos Williams & Ezra Pound to T. S. Eliot.
I prefer Scrabble.
I prefer clearing the forest with lopping shears & chainsaw
to liberate ferns & ohi’as.
I prefer apple bananas & white pineapple.
I prefer Torrontés.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

You're Not Serious?

Mike woke me from a dream where
the baby I'd forgotten in the car turns
into a kitten. Baby or kitten peed
on the car floor where I'd left a borrowed
& signed book. I have a difficult time
parking – where's the brake? – clutch
the kitten tightly as I follow the clerk into
the store, a dreamscape that lingers
through the morning, does the dream
set the tone for my day? The sunlight
pours a golden pool on the ocean
under blue & white cloud & dark
cloud, the mynah chides, our cat sleeps
in Mike's chair. The baby has short dark
hair & wears a blue- & white-striped
T-shirt, a sagging diaper. She suffers
no distress, is happy to see me. Black
kitten, silky handful, taut sinews of
cling. Pictures are everything: the
forgotten baby's head appears in my rear
view mirror, & my guilt is short lived
because Look: the baby is fine, will
likely grow up to be a drinks industry
professional, work in hostel/bar Almacén
in Cafayate where the Internet
password is sapopanza (sapo in Spanish
means toad, 5 or 6 at a time spend
the day in a pool of rainwater at the
bottom of Ginny's pool. I would need
to stay awake all night to see how
they climb the vertical walls to
escape, they must, because I've never
seen a dead one, unless a carancho
dives down to carry it off.) Why replace
a toilet? Is it cracked or merely stained?
In Tucumán I found myself locked in
a bathroom because I didn't know
to ask the proprietor for the door
handle, how the people stared when I
emerged, the woman who had been
screaming Help! ¡Ayudame! Stupid
tourist. Even Mike was confused. The
ocean is silver, with white streaks, birds
streak past the picture window. What
makes a poem is shape, surprises
that make the heart lurch, words that
make a picture, the pool of pee where
the book lay, a corn-colored paperback
book in a shallow puddle of pee, the
shape of the puddle on the car floor
mats, its fractal repeats. I didn't ask
to borrow the book. How will I explain
to Debbie or Jane whose friendship
I take for granted. The author had
signed the book, "To my dear friend
Jane," now pulp of various colors,
the poems merged into fibrous
soup with a pungent odor, the baby's
bottom sporting an angry rash. Had
she not shapeshifted to a kitten I
would have removed the diaper &
rinsed her clean, carried her bare
into the store to buy the toilet, the utility
of which escapes her. It's important
to hold tight to a cat in a public
place lest it escape & become
lost, like Flora's cat that broke loose
on the way to the vet to be micro-
chipped so that if he were lost &
found, he could be returned to his
grieving owner. He never returned
or was found, which proved that the
nameless yellow cat that shows up
& fights with our black & white cat
wasn't Flora's cat after all: Nameless
occasionally still comes around.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Pluck's Abecedarium

an acacia from an aqueduct
blossoms from a blunder
a carrot from a candlestick
a didgeridoo from a dimple
an elderberry from an effigy
a flamenco from a flamingo
a gambler from a ganglion
Hitchcock from a horse trough
incense from an incendiary
a jeremiad from Jehoshaphat
a kangaroo from a kestrel
longing from laundry soap
a muscle from a Muscovy duck
a network from a nunnery
an opossum from an opal
a pendulum from a pantomime
a quarrel from a quandary
a rattlesnake from a ratatouille
a saga from Sacagawea
a tangerine from a tumbleweed
an uncle from an umbrella
value from a vulture
a waterfall from wicker
Xanadu from a xenophobe
a yawn from a yellowjacket
zest from a zimbalist

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Hospitality

for moths a gentle pinch of the wings
before release into open air

for bats an inverted bowl, cardboard slid beneath
& a careful opening to night sky

for spiders hours or days of spin & harvest
before a sweep out the door

for gnats on glass a vacuum cleaner bag
where they can feast on concentrated gleanings

for weevils in the grain bin courier delivery
to the compost pile

for ants a drop of clear poison
to carry back to the nest

for coqui frogs the cat's attention

for the cat a door ajar
so she can leave the way she came

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Without Me

every night un
tucutucu (gopher-
like rodent) digs &
taps from a gallery
underground, zips
out for green bites
Ctenomys

the head swivels
on una lechucita
(burrowing owl)
statue-like on
a vineyard pole
patrolling the day
for ratones (mice)
Athene cunicularia

the common tero
(lapwing) shrieks
tero-tero all day
on land & on high
all night, bedded
in a low branch of
the willow tree
Vanellus chilensis




las huellas (foot
prints) trace the
route of un zorro
gris
(gray fox),
clocking night
across the dunes
Pseudalopex griseus