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


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


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


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


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


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.