Deer browse at sunrise in an apple orchard,
while honey locust leaves litter the walk.
A neighbor hears gunshots in the bosque
and wonders who’s firing at close range;
I spot bear prints near the Pojoaque River
but see no sign of the reported mountain lion.
As chlorophyll slips into the roots of a cottonwood
and the leaves burst into yellow gold, I wonder,
where’s our mortal flare? You can travel
to where the Tigris and Euphrates flow together
and admire the inventions of people living
on floating islands of reeds; you can travel
along an archipelago and hike among volcanic
pools steaming with water and sulfuric acid;
but you can’t change the eventual, adamant body.
Though death might not come like a curare-
dipped dart blown out of a tube or slam
at you like surf breaking over black lava rock,
it will come—it will come—and it unites us—
brother, sister, boxer, spinner—in this pact,
while you inscribe a letter with trembling hand.
— Originally published in Poet Lore
At dawn you dip oars in water, row out
on a lake—the oar locks creak—and, drifting,
inhale the pines along the shore. A woman
puts water in a pot, lights a stove: before
it steams, she looks out at the glimmering:
between two points, we traverse an infinite set
of paths: here we round a bend in an arroyo
and stumble onto two sheep carcasses;
here peonies and ranunculus unfold in a vase.
The day has the tensile strength of silk:
you card the hours, spin them, dip
the skeins in a dye pot, and grief or anger,
pleasure or elation’s the mordant that fixes
the hue. You find yourself stepping
through a T-shaped doorway: the niches
in a circular ruin mark the sun’s motion;
a woman fries potatoes in a pan and finds,
in the night, mice have slipped through
a hole under the sink and nibbled soap
in a dish; a returning hunter pulls a screen
latch but, hearing a rattlesnake inside,
slams it, stares through the vibrating mesh.
— Originally published in The Hollins Critic
Header photo of New Mexico’s Bosque del Apache by Simmons B. Buntin. Photo of Arthur Sze by Brian Palmer.