Every Morning a Storm

Every morning is a storm.

From flat to full, the trees take on light

not fooled by winter’s freeze.

Here, says the owl.

I’m here again and so are you.

Life’s attendance list is long 

as the good calls out.

Some are as subtle as a breeze

only registered on a thread of hair 

uncovered by a cap.

Some are brazen in their own right:

the icicle softened and felled,

the rabbit’s less-than dart through white

on brown, brown on white

color clinging to where her footsteps braid. 

Blue Jays tend the nest

culled by last week’s fiery zephyr.

They won’t remember the wind or the culling.

They won’t remember the tuck of balsa-wood core under wing;

only the nest and the urge to keep going.

None of them work alone.

Neither owl nor wind,

not the tree, and not the creatures who burrow.

Not the Jays, or the worms, or the carrion.

They are never widowed by earth and sky,

or light and air.

And their flurry is greater when the sun is at the edge.

FREEDOM

The next morning

I followed your trail onto the road;

the same one where for years you walked.

It snakes through the desert where 

Saguaro birds flit wings so fast

they sound like horses shaking heads

when the halter’s been unfastened. 

I thought of the fan above your bed, stopped;

too cold for your beautiful, watery eyes; 

your flawless, familiar face.

I thought of your hands 

and your breath,

wanting to hold them and to hear you still.

Lizards scurried across the sand

in front of me.

They left whisps of trails

as feathers would 

before they disappeared into the bloom of 

Creosote and Whitehorn; 

green, despite the summer’s parch.

Kneeling down,

I read their marks into the shape of something I wanted to see:

a heart, 

an arrow to the sky.

Not even the warm wind arrived

without a wish for it to be more:

the wanting for a word,

or the whim of a whisper.

The trail circles around,

back to the beginning.

Coyotes have marked the ruts with 

the spread of their prints

back and forth in front of your home— 

zig-zags cut through cacti, avoiding the reaching jabs.

You would have loved hearing them the night before,

through the opened window

after you were driven away.

They were unbound, beckoning the chase. 

As free as the desert, and you,

and all of these things.  

Loneliness

I bet your loneliness 

is nothing like the flashlight through the arch of trees,

the soft calling of each chicken’s name, one by one.

Their tired, silken clucks from deep within that other world;

the dull, broody hen who lets the darkness move around her.

The others, who love the moreish confection of voice into the empty space of coop,

into the boughs of cottonwoods holding their breath ‘til morning.

Their seeds collect at your feet 

with stink bugs and robin scat

only the flashlight and the floor will know.

Then the horses move through the ley,

their heavy bodies bending thistle, pressing earth,

articulating snort and snit at the cull of sound.

The dry, sweet hay chirrs with the nudge of nose,

the resurrected fold of straw.

This is the way it is.

When the echoes in the eaves

lean and push into windows lit with longing 

on either side. 

Middle-Schoolers

In the morning,

there are some who arrive in their winter jackets;

the arms are stretched and softened with ware, the cuffs are a permanent

stain of grey. 

They carry the smell of last night’s dinner, and the static of leaving the pillow

too soon.

Some wear shorts in the snow, their rail-like legs shivering towards the

temperate classroom where they will soon be wakeful when they warm.

Many are lumberers, 

unable to move within the space they know. They are foals newly felled to

the ground, all knees and elbows commanding contact with the brain. 

Some walk with the emboldened confidence borrowed from a baseball

field, the soccer pitch, or an end zone. Their eyes are tired; their bodies are

sore.

They are hungry and hungrier;

they would pull up the grass from the roots if they could.

Mask straps encircle and change the form of their ears; 

just the slight drop from an unfamiliar nose, and their blanketed faces show dimples that

couldn’t have been guessed. 

There are braces, and pimples, and smiles to match the eyes we thought we

could read. 

There are scars we didn’t know were there. 

They are lucid and nebulous at once–

sated and decanted within the same moment.

Funny, insecure, sad, curious, hurt.

Happy.

The building absorbs their stories.

Each classroom wall is thick and sound with their changing voices, 

and over the taupe sameness of lockers

every narrow hall echoes the perfect frailty and difference of their youth. 

Teddy, the Horse Who Had Many Names

Sometimes, when the sky is dark with the storms of spring,

and the tornado watch drums its unwanted repeat over the wireless,

I think of standing with him under the metal awning of his latitude.

Maybe it will be raining,

and maybe the heavy, wet pings above will remind me about loneliness.

 

There, I will ask him where he’s been.

I will think of the man who sold him to us;

he who filled a livestock trailer with this one, wobbling horse;

the scar on his thickened thigh shaking in the shine of a 40 foot Featherlite

off to somewhere new,

again.

He was just beginning to like that man.

 

He will back away at first,

or turn his seat to my inquiry;

the sweet trace of hay and manure will waft with his walking away.

 

But then,

when I push; when my talk is low and candied,

he will let me drape my arms about his neck;

he will let me touch his nose and look into his stay-away eyes.

 

There will be a promise in that moment;

a vow that we will watch each other age,

and to deliver cubes of sugar from my pocket 

for as long as it takes. 

 

Shelter-in-Place

The things you notice:

the perfect swerve of road,

the perfect swell.

 

The hush

quick flush

of birds in a lilac tree.

Sprigs, the catcher of quills

and wind, will carry both 

before Sunday

across the bellowing yard.

 

The fat robin stares

from a brown patch of grass;

the absolute blue of her eggs

hangs in the rot of cottonwood.

Its nest sways like a decision

yet to be made.

 

The constant call of the owl;

my heart is found in that dusky echo 

from limb to limb. 

A response is pending, for now.

 

The horse lifts his ears

to the muted work of a mouse

one leaf of alfalfa deep.

The blind, pink baldness of more  

are soon discovered by cats and coons,

and the horse will whinny into the porous night

to wish they melt away.

 

Against the fence I stand,

steadying the rhythm of a metal message

across wired barbs in the zephyr of spring;

the combination is cacophonous and shrill.

 

The pliers in my gloved hand work

to set each free,

and the liberated “No Trespassing” sign

 

rubs its blithesome rust into my covered palms.

Keeping it All

In the basement are three large boxes,                                 

not yet collectors of dust, but close. 

Surrounding them, are the carefully labeled rows of Tupperware: 

Christmas, Easter, Baby Clothes, Memorabilia.

My husband’s trophies from soccer;

they are an awkward puzzle on the shelf with the last remaining space, 

paused across three eras of time.

 

There are my journals, 

chronicling the claustrophobe of teenage years in attempted rhyme

and the floundering use of words;

those do have dust.

 

There are countless wires and connectors and things for which I have no name,

and their labels represent as such: The Engineer’s Collectibles

(harder to organize), so base attempt was made.

 

But now that we are middle-aged, 

and the memories we keep beneath the life of this house

resemble the exponential growth of wrinkles on our faces: 

still more to come, 

yet presently plenty,

 

we have no room for these boxes.

 

When my mother likes something, 

she buys three or four. 

She maintains their fabric perfectly and folds each item meticulously in plastic 

until those items are no longer needed, 

(She was the western Marie Kondo long before Kondo was born).

 

Then, those items are packed in a manner that keeps

packing tape, bubble wrap, and Ziploc in business. 

The encasing that is their fortress will not be not easily penetrated 

after they make their way through the zip codes of the desert, 

through the unpopulated southern towns of Colorado, 

north through Denver,

and back to the landscape and weather 

more representative of their former life. 

 

There have been countless deliveries

throughout these last several years,

and I’m sure there will be more.

 

Within, I will find more than anything, Smart Wool tops–

never will there be a fabric more synonymous with a person 

than Smart Wool with my mother.

 

She wore them hunting, no doubt;

each fiber collecting the fast pace of her heart as she 

bent herself over Wyoming’s rough terrain.

 

There will be at least twenty pairs of gloves. 

I see these gloves in pictures:

On the top of a mountain and at the base of Iguazu Falls.

My father is smiling 

with his gloved hand over my mother’s shoulder;

she is wearing the same as their smiles are joined.

Who knew there were twenty pair…

 

There are hats. And fanny packs. Handkerchiefs, and pouches.

The former, dully colored for camouflage;

the latter brightly colored to be seen.

Among them, I wonder which is the hat that came off when the grizzly charged;

 

which, the fanny pack that held the pepper spray?

Was this the same handkerchief that when lifted, unmuffled the voice

to make the bear huff, and turn around?

 

I wonder if instead, these are the ones

that made it to the top of Kilimanjaro, 

witnesses to my mother’s endurance

on the summit of Aconcagua? 

Was this in the Arctic with my father, present,

as his hands ran across the wild fur of a wolf?

 

 

And so,

I will find places for all of these things.

In corners already spoken for,

and on shelves already bowed under the weight

of a collective past.

I will sing along with the radio 

while sandwiched between support beams and thick walls,

as the wind carries the storm across the sky outside,

and as the faint whistle of a train sings life into our confinement

joining in song with the possessions we keep.

It is then I will begin to see,

that all of these things

are doing their part in holding up this house.

 

Wild Horses

South and west of Grand Junction, into Utah

wild horses push against the wind at the side of the road,

where the tips of grass show hints of green.

Their manes are long and twisted exhibitions of hair.

Two of them, impossibly and luminously colored, ignore their closeness to the highway

as cars blur by;

three more are a galloping pageantry flying towards no water in sight,

chasing the feathery cover of clouds.

They show themselves again, when we pass into Arizona;

dust devils spin behind them and kick up their tails.

 

Into the reservation and they are harder to see, but we find them still,

hovered under the small overlap of roof

where there are roundhouses, abandoned and effusive

and turning the thoughtful heads of my somnolent passengers.

 

Here, there are towns that are not quite towns,

and the horses turn domestic.

They are kings and queens behind fences and yards that outshine houses.

Their slick fur has been combed free of winter coats, and their muscled, racing bodies

haven’t forgotten the hot, crimson dirt where they used to run.

 

We stop on the reservation to spend the night, falling into familiarity

absorbed and welcomed like we have been here before,

like we have come back.

 

Nightfall turns cold quickly and takes away the day’s heat from the red rock and sand.

The drive behind us cases with a peace that has no words,

and in the morning my youngest awakes to tell us his dream,

 

I dreamed we were on an island; his words are the slow and groggy words that follow a

sleep without movement, sound and deep-breathing,

and we didn’t have to search for food,

and we had a good shelter.

We listen, resting our heads on our hands, watching him,

 

We had everything we needed, he said,

on that island.

Something Great

For years now I have missed

the calves being born

to the mothers in the field on the other side of the fence.

 

During the day,

they stand with their bellies as wide as they are long,

moving slowly

sometimes with their unequal ribs

shifting to throw off their shuffle towards shade.

 

One will stand rocking, as mothers sometimes do in labor,

but then she will ease her way below the cottonwood,

occasionally lifting her nose to meet the flash of doves in the branches above.

Sometimes she will look at me: the whites of her eyes telling nothing,

only waiting.

In the morning, there will be two or three new calves,

altogether pointed joints and bounce,

awkwardly bent to nurse.

 

And the mothers will stand there the same,

as if nothing has changed from yesterday.

Their big, solid bodies remain indifferent following their performance overnight.

The steady arch of their necks are bent to eat grass in a shrug.

Even the calves move about with the nonchalance of having legs

and perfect tufts of fur at their fetlocks.

Their markings are like brilliant, individualized maps.

 

How ordinary that the wonder of their coming waits for night.

As if the thousand-pound mothers are designed to get on with it,

Nothing to see here but life moving forward.

 

If only,

the holiest of affairs weren’t so easily elapsed.

How often would we stop to consider then,

that something great has happened

“And as I watched, one bird

prompted by accident or will to lead,

ceased resting; and, lifting in a casual billow,

the flock ascended as a lady’s scarf

transparent, of gray, might be twitched

by one corner drawn upward and then,

decided against, negligently tossed towards a chair.

Melting all thought, the southward cloud withdrew into the air.”

—John Updike