——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.
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.