Sangre de Cristo

Sangre de Cristos

I can only imagine standing
on that dusty road, looking toward
the jagged Sangre de Cristo, some
shining at the top in snow and clouds
like I wear this silver upon my head.
In my mind I can smell the earthy breath
of those greasewood brush waves
in muted shades of grey and green
with maybe a pinch of purple, and
how they can burst into flame at sunset,
and never once catch fire.

But I’ve stood next to my mountains,
old and some hunch-shouldered
from bearing millennia of ocean, ice
and the cutting tools of Man.
They’re where a sea of evergreens
laps against sun-flashed slashes of lakes,
each another window with views of skies
of blue, white and even the cool flames
of sunset to the west, out where
the greasewood waits to cut shadows
so sharp they once more
bleed red the Sangre de Cristo.

This piece was somewhat inspired by the photographs my friend, the writer Leland Dirks, posts daily on his Facebook page. He lives in southern Colorado within dreaming distance of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, the southernmost range of the Rockies. Sangre de Cristo is Spanish for “Blood of Christ.” Leland has generously allowed me use one of his brilliant photos to illustrate this piece.

I Miss You, Stranger

I miss you, Stranger,
the hopeful and searching one
who’d reach out to me
every once and again.
By now you know I can offer you
no loving hand or embrace,
only circles of words
you might grasp
to keep from going under.
They’ve kept me afloat sometimes,
when I needed to hear them,
my own benign lies,
stories to block out the times
I misheard a maybe,
a possibly,
a pregnant sigh.
Even my own.
I’ve told and heard my share.
We decide which they are,
because that’s what we do…
look for truth where perfect truth
cannot exist.

You Can Observe a Lot Just by Watching

From where I sit in the parking lot,
I can’t tell if there’s a driver
in that black Mercedes over there
with the black-shaded windows, so
I’ve no way of knowing if he
noticed the broken glass he’s parked atop.
It’s tinted a bluish hue,somewhere
just south of cerulean, like a March baby’s
aquamarine,if you turn your head just so.

If that’s the case, he more than likely
isn’t noticing the brown-on-brown wren
over there picking seeds from the ironweed
ringing the flaked yellow painted
concrete block walls of this garage.
Chances are then, he missed the tossed
baby diaper, wrapped tight as
a chimichanga con mierda,
that’s bisected by sun and shadow.

He’s not sitting out here
humming to the harmonious whoosh
of the cars on their way west out of Albany,
or those few headed into town,
on this hot July Saturday at noon.
Oh, here he…no, she…comes from the back
of the tailor shop, big sunglasses
perched on her perfect and pert nose,
dark and secretive as her car windows.

And now there she goes, whooshing
away in a spray of blue glass,
grey gravel,
a frightened wren,
tiny seeds and a sun-faded,
smiling Elmo, Sesame Street diaper.
She’ll never know what she missed.

On this enshrinement day at the Baseball Hall of Fame, just a little ways west of here in Cooperstown, I’m put in mind of old Yogi, the great Yankee Hall of Famer and blue-collar philosopher Lawrence Peter Berra. He’s quoted as saying, “You can observe a lot by just watching.” I guess I kind of proved that yesterday.

Queen Anne’s Lace



Out back, the Queen Anne’s Lace
grows unabated these days.
Looking down from my window,
each cluster of tiny snowflake petals
floats lacy and dense,
each a frothy stepping stone
you might walk upon across
this green-daubed array of goldenrod,
ragweed and someday maples
that cascades down the hill.
When I walk outside for a closer look,
they look down upon me on the slope,
waving in the wind like clouds
blowing around the sky.
Here, they mask the setting sun,
showering speckled shadows
upon my eyes.

Funny how the same bit of life
can appear sturdy or soft,
inviting or invasive,
lovely or loathsome, if you’re
too close to it or too far away.
I was that flower once,
buoyant upon a verdant wave of hope,
who then became something
requiring extraction from view,
when I draped darkness upon
the true vision of who we were.
I guess there’s something to be said
about knowing how to keep
just the right distance.
Oh, and killing winter.
Spring, too, I guess.

Photo by Joseph Hesch.

This Heart

Some say the heart
wants what it wants,
but this one never could
figure what it wanted,
nor recognize what it needed.
Stiffened by some idiopathic chill,
an illness, a trauma,
this heart can push out,
but will never accept in kind.
So it squeezes, expresses
what runs within, and
gasps back what little it can.
It is a lonely task, the heart
always short of fullness and life
short of what the heart needs.
Today, the heart hugged itself again,
and didn’t let go, because
giving is all it can do.
And that’s perhaps
what this heart wanted
all along.

The Last Poem

I thought I could make miracles,
maybe with a laying of my hand
upon the nearly perfect,
only needing the right touch
for its completeness.
But such harmony doesn’t spread
miraculously, like loaves and fishes,
and my hand pushed only
graphite gray smudges
over immaculate pages,
onto a clearer vision of
a none too spotless soul.
One that stood full of broken bottles
and barbed wire, busted dreams
and black moods, as did mine.
Too late I comprehend mere words,
whether mused or amusing,
will never provide for my
life’s contentment. So, as comes
day’s inevitable darkness,
so too silence.

Shedding His Skin

Jan Matulka’s Hopi Snake Dance #2

Under the scorching Arizona August sun, Deputy David Chua saw the diamondback rattler sidewind across the trail between his position and the dugout shack ahead where Wink Dugan, the killer of Sheriff Bones McClure, was holed up and he knew his grandfather and grandfather’s grandfathers were watching over him.

Inside the stifling cabin, Dugan heard a sing-song sound outside and poked his .44 out the door ahead of him, where he saw a half-naked brown man shuffling toward him, chanting and holding what looked like a live rattlesnake, which the madman then draped between his teeth.

Dugan figured he’d shoot the fool when he was twenty feet away, but stunned by the absurdity of the what he just saw, he stepped from the doorway, lowering his pistol, and Chua, his hands now free, shot the desperado through the shoulder with the Peacemaker stuffed in his belt at the small of his back.

When he brought the killer in, town fathers agreed to name David Chua sheriff…even if he was “just an ‘injun’.”

“Oh, he’s more’n that,” an old-timer snorted and said, adding, “You flatheels never knew young Chua’s clan’s been handling snakes this time of year for generation upon generations…Christ, “chua” is even the Hopi word for snake!”

A five sentence fiction based on a 250-word story I wrote for a weekly contest at Indies Unlimited, scrunched and repurposed to use Lillie McFerrin’s prompt word SCORCHING. Most of y’all know how I love my Westerns. I think I might give this exercise the full short story treatment, even though not too many people seem to like Westerns anymore.