[Dug up out of old comments, in part because I’ve been admiring Nancy Parmalee’s Twitter avatar.]
In a Yucatecan grottl
Lives the mighty Axolotl
Fine-toned skin all pale and mottle
wears the fearsome Axolotl
Fearsomer than any bottle-
driven specter, Axolotl
brave prehensile-fingered glottal
gills denote the Axolotl
salamandrous sideburn wattle
decorates the Axolotl
Poets who fear being shot’ll
spurn rhyming the Axolotl
but the wise will never coddle
those who spurn the Axolotl.
Doling verse with spoon or pottle
little serves the Axolotl
Doggerel spun at full throttle
honors best the Axolotl
“Never mind the who or what’ll!”
Shouts the fearsome Axolotl;
“Cowards, grant me kisses caudal!”
Dares bravehearted Axolotl.
In our hearts, the pale and squat’ll
live forever: Axolotl.
Citrus flower hangs heavy in rain-washed air.
Restless parrots argue over palmfruit,
their brilliant green tails flashes against the lapis sky.
Coyolxauhqui’s round white face
watches over all from above the temple.
Xolotl’s blood drips on the parched soil.
He watches each drop fall, his bright star in the west
following the sun toward the ocean.
His vessel heavy, his blade worn,
Xolotl regards the traffic on Alvarado Street.
This blood, this sacrifice
that in Mictlan could raise the dead from their dry bones
here falls lifeless to the pavement
splatters the low and whitewashed wall of cinderblock
between the parking lot and the 99 cent store.
He carries the dead to their eternal home
he guards the sun in its transit of hell each night
and longing for Xochiquetzal ruler of artistry and joy,
the precious pleasure-flower goddess, her headband of green feathers
brilliant in his home’s remembered sunlight,
Xolotl again takes his long blade,
scrapes wash-water from the laundromat window.
I’m putting together a collection of poetry to make available for sale — I will of course let all of you know when it’s finished so that you can rush to buy several copies for each of your friends — and I found one I wrote some time ago, entitled “Everything Ending in My Sin.” Liked the sound of it read aloud. Thought I’d share.
This pebble in my boot, when it was one
still with its mother rock, cooled over tens
of centuries: a batholith. Bright grew
the flakes of muscovite, bright grew the pale
discolored quartz, each grain an infinite
fine tetrahedral tesselation, it
rose out of the depth of earth buoyant,
a yearning isostasy, then was stripped
of its crust-cover by dull-rasped storm.
At length outcropped, massive and without fault,
the rock began at once to decompose.
Frost-riven, wind-and water-worn, in turn
summer sun-scalded and ground down by ice,
mother rock failed. A craze, not half as wide
as spider strands, but still a root-purchase.
The mosses’ fierce and ravening grasp, the clench
of desert aster’s roots ratcheted, prised
apart by microscopic increment
rock from the monolith. Melt and refreeze:
ice put its Archimedean back against
the wall, strained quietly for centuries.
A thousand years, ten thousand, and the break:
Rockfall. A stony flinch, echoing gasp
as earth released its hold on earth, falling,
fracturing, a scattering of shards
and shrapnel. Storms to file the edges smooth,
an eon’s iterations, boulders rent
to cobbles, cobbles to stones,
shard-sanded scraps of stone a pediment
gravel apron mantling the mountain,
until the whole assemblage, self-entombed,
fuses itself, forms a conglomerate
core of some unborn range. This pebble in
my boot a scion of lands lost, a seed
of landscapes not yet made. This reddened heel
a blistered point of contact where my life
meets the much longer life of pulsing rock
falling, rising, its crests a mile above
and frequency unfathomably long.
[Time to haul this one out of the archives, what with all the targazing I’ve done the last couple days.]
“What is it that sets us apart,” she asked,
“from sunset or sierra?
What is the line between ourselves
and the terrain from which we come?”
He thought he knew, but something in her eyes
transfixed him in a way he knew too well.
Deep and dark and wet they stuck him fast.
In parts of California, long ago,
impressive monsters ambled in the hills:
placid armored sloths two people tall,
cats with teeth as long as boning knives,
dogs the size of bears. Now and again,
a glint of water tempted them, or else
a furry piece of meat held strangely still,
and only after the imprudent pounce
would the tar entomb them.
Now, the graduate students pick their bones.
When the land thus asserts your membership
in the vast assemblage of dust and bark,
of feather, fur and rock in which we live,
it’s best not to struggle overmuch.
The land is patient, yet insistent.
Fighting off the tar will muss your hair.
Paleontologists an era hence
will find your clothes awry. Embarrassing!
Far better just to let oneself be swallowed
in all-consuming pitch, placidly slurped
into the balm of Quaternary ages.
That’s what her eyes felt like, he thought;
a sudden lack of individual
identity: nothing sets us apart
one from the other, nor from the land around.
I miss the certainty I had back then.
I miss the knowing all of it, the keen,
the ardent hewing to my heart’s clear path.
Old men slow-shamble in the liquor aisle,
sigh Russian imprecations baleful, soft
under their smog-choked breath. This shortest day
ends soon, the sun resigned. This is the life
I have these days, the slow awakening
and tethered dreams, heart tied to ghosts and soul
enervated, searching these tawny hills
for beating hearts there, under the chamise.
I saw a hawk above Elysian Park,
two hundred feet or more, and all the world
below it scurried heedless to some end.
I’ve just been notified that my sonnet cycle Trinity will be published in the upcoming issue of Camas, the environmental and literary journal of the University of Montana. I’m immensely grateful, of course, not to mention flattered at the company I’ll be keeping.
The issue will be going to press in December, and available shortly thereafter should you want one. Of course, if you subscribe now — and you should, as it’s a fine journal — you won’t have to track down a copy.