Driving from one shady place to the next takes all day, & if it seems we get along I will tell you the frenzy
of loco weed blown flat against the highway’s hot river.
At the malpais, we hold hands but cannot speak. Our lips leafless & barbed as ocotillo.
Near the border crossed by its ten thousandth child
rangers ramble the desert, pierce plastic bottles scattered beneath mesquite.
Traces of water seep from yucca spears & cactus to the tangled grass
where each green blade is pressed down in a bed of green blades.
We cannot sing save for plucking petals
and placing them on the relief of our tongues. We almost have words for love
only to find they mean hand, they mean open, they mean here was a place to drink.
The Trouble with Belief
We think we know the best place to gather chanterelles,
how to sit out lightning storms above timberline. I’ve been waiting
for autumn to start singing, and meanwhile the ash and elm
have quietly gilded their leaves. Every time I talk about the trouble with belief,
my friends look away. All I’m saying is what could it mean that the robes we wear
can be taken off and on? Or maybe it’s simple: trees go
from bare to bud, green leaf to gone in tides of adornment and scarcity.
We did not find those bright mushrooms when we scoured the mountain,
only swaths of burnt forest, only thunder cracking beneath our feet.
— Previously published in Interim Journal.
The Tree Coroners
In laboratories they count tree rings, graph snowmelt and needle-fall. For decades, they’ve watched two degrees determine by which means a tree will choose to die— hunger or thirst. The delicate doorway of each pine needle’s mouth hanging open, or snapped closed. I spend the last hours of sleep looking over my shoulder, dream resurrection ferns unfurling in south- eastern woods. Which boast to believe? My own, or their malediction? Might as well ask which forest will claim my ashes. The one I coax into a chase, or the one I run alongside? The one I walked in before you were born.
Kyce Bello’s debut collection, Refugia, was the inaugural winner of the Test Site Poetry Series and will be published in September 2019 by the University of Nevada Press. She holds an MFA in poetry from the Institute of American Indian Arts, and lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico.