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.
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.
Header photo by by Johannes Plenio, courtesy Pixabay.