There are No In-Laws in this Poem
for Emilia Phillips
All the chests of blue horses muscle
mountain dawn to rain as I open
an email from a friend sneezing
among Bradford pear and redbud blooms.
Her poem rings a small bronze bell of longing
in the glazed eye of a kitten her aging dog
killed in her yard. New bride riding wild
her own carousel of desire
past sentiment, she catalogues what’s lost
washed up on the shore of her verse.
There is no loneliness as complete
as those memories that leave bones
in the path of the everyday for us to trip on
just when we think we understand
the multiple personalities of love in a handful of clover.
I read of a thousand penguins found
dead on the shores of Southern Chile. Mysterious,
scientists say, none tangled in fishing nets nor poisoned, no
mass suicide. Seven more penguin species
were listed endangered in December as
Antarctic ice continued its slide
to rising seas.
Walking red sandstone
outside Monument Valley with my love,
I found a human jaw bone
complete with three teeth. No flesh
or hair clung to its fossilized shape.
Turning it like a Tarot card in my hand, I chose
to leave the jaw to the fortunes of wind,
its fate nestled by warm rock.
Outside the morning window,
mountain chickadees dare the blue thrash of magpies,
the death-white eyes of Steller’s jays. I am
cheered by their wheeze in the pinyons,
the way their asthmatic laughter finds splinters of light
despite storms blowing up
from a horizon obscured.
"Vaste est la maison qui m'écrase" Berber Proverb
What breathes between the dawn death of stars
reeks like woodsmoke caught
in the guard hairs of a mule deer
stepping through arctic carcasses of hail
spewed by a thunderstorm’s last gash.
Sorrow’s red road opened
in night terrors remembering
my brother who at three reached out
to wriggle his fingers
into the socket in our parent’s bedroom.
Razors of blue flame
knocked him into my screech
until nothing but the black horse
of stun reared to kick the life from both of us.
Where were our parents? Arguing
over egg money or the broken Sears lawn mower
they’d forget by morning, their breathing
wobbly as bottles of Blatz beer
chinking the formica kitchen table while we
comforted our own tears
searing cigarette holes
into the bare arms of our discoveries?
What breathes between stars
is buried in the plastic cans
of mom’s and dad’s ashes secured
now under the pinyon in the yard,
How slow the aftershock of memory, the stink
of fingertips charred, by the stark
yap of amped volts sparking
our parents’ angry screams at our stupidity
when we ran to them for help.
Even at four, I gauged electricity as a kind of song—take
care of yourself syllables that gnawed
through the wires of my childhood.
What breathes between stars is sticky
as an orb weaver’s web, as last fall’s bottle fly
resurrected to flight, as smoky as the mule deer
disappearing between the junipers of memory,
leading her new fawns
beyond the mountain lion’s stone den.
---------Photo by William Pitt Root