Welcome to America

Hirschfeld washed ashore
In Galveston
My mother’s grandfather
Left bayonets and cannon behind
To raise chickens, cotton, Kinder
But spoke the Prussian tongue
Until he died.

Mesilla, where I meet
My writing friends,
Belonged to Mexico
Back in the day
Of European potentates
Ruling south of our border
Then with a stroke of ink and
A sack of gold
The people stayed and
The border moved—
Welcome to America.

The poet Frost wrote of walls
Unloved but neighborly
Saying “respect my land”
Walls not so high you cannot cross them
Though he’d much prefer
You knocked on his door and
Asked permission to come in.


Thunder booms
Above the mountains
Much, I suppose, as it did when
Lava flowed and earth began to settle
Or when dinosaurs left their footprints,
Or when the river first meandered by
The rubble at the giants’ feet.

Shutters block
Lightning bolts’ flashes
Fostering feelings of safety
My hard drive fan hums white noise
Rain taps my window
I tap my keyboard
Mind to nerves
Nerves to fingers
Electrons cluster
Playing host
To the story of my life
In its first, messy draft

Tropical Storm Olaf

October 3, 2009

Olaf drifted in today
From the Sea of Cortez
Rain pattered on my skylight
Unlocked the scent of creosote
Soaked pyracantha roots
And barrel cactus spines
And, I’m afraid, the goat-head burrs
That stick so well to socks and fingertips.
Ragged Organs peaked through sodden clouds
Sluiced Olaf’s rain in rivulets
That lifted sand grains and carved gullies
Sated thirsty field mice
Flowed in rippled sheets on asphalt
To arroyos in a steady dash for the river
And the sea.

Book Signing

“It’s a page-turner,” she says
From behind the table.
Her friend’s much younger
Though white-haired too.
Grandmothers both, I’d guess
Tossing smiles at passers-by
Hawking the elder’s tale
Of Christian love out West
And though I can’t imagine why
My wallet opens
And she signs a copy
Of her book.


Angles snipped from cloth
Patient stitches into pinwheels

Patches of this and that
From bolts at the mill store
And father's shirt and Sunday tie

Patterns wild and tame
Hues unknown to nature
Voices of the past
Patterned comfort for a child

chihuahua desert blues 

empty westtexasnowhere
creosote everbrowngrass
flatflatflat ground until its notanymore
mountains and tabletopped mesas
asphalt strips slice through ancient limestone
relentless burningsunhaze
skyblue eightymilesanhour
eighteenwheelers rvsuhauls
lonelysolitary travelers
roadside crosses plastic flowers
eastbound freighttrains
doublestacked cargo
graffiti spraypainted containers
drywashes waterlessriverbeds
stopatvanhorn pilotstation
nobodys destination
gasup and drivesomemore

On a First Poem

Write a poem, Miss Murphy said.
Ninth-grade student, use your head.
And then I penned a poem so slight
Miss Murphy had but one word: “trite.”

My ode, alas, came out unlustered,
It clearly never cut the mustard.

Evening entertainment

We watch the nightly mayhem,
My wife and I together
One cat asleep on her lap
A second curled-up on the carpet,
And we with legs outstretched
An ottoman holds our four feet
A wide screen television
Holds our gazes, holds our minds
On crime scenes fraught with murder
The Y-cuts of the coroner
And telltale microscopics
Confront the killer with his guilt
While I marvel at the cleavage
Of the clever crime scene woman.
“Don’t let the gore get to you,”
My wife says wisely to me.
“You know it’s only fiction.”
Then I open up the freezer
To find us two confections
Two treats of frozen chocolate
To prime us for the next showOf blood pools and sad life-endings.