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
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.
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


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.