Everything lets go
in the end. The mortar
in the brick. The love song
of the finch
Everything lets go
in the end, the spinning
of the top, the last drops of rain,
even the skin of the molting snake.
My dog jumped into the Middle Fork
of the Gila River
and reached for tiny minnows—
Out they swam between his teeth
and back into the stream. Everything
lets go, trickles down, heaves itself
into the ground. The motion
of the celestial spheres pauses each evening
for the stargazers, the knot in the wood,
the amber pearl of sap hardened
against the rough bark of the tree.
The thread lets go of the needle, the comb
releases the hair, the flame
absolves the wick. The lightning bolt,
and then the silence. Think of Jesus, his hand
washing Judas’ foot one moment,
and then he let it go.
Like Galileo, he knew the world stops spinning
when love catches you off guard.
To see is to believe.
To long is to hope.
Teach me to hope
for what I cannot yet behold.
Before the telescope revealed
behind the dark curtain of space—
already those stars
So break me open in your hands—
pomegranate, bruised apricot—
And breathe into me
at breakneck speed—
down the precipitous slope.
In another city,
I once swept the floor
for Mother Teresa.
She slept in that room
the following night,
and in the morning
after she had left,
a brother swept the room.
In the dustpan,
I opened the thesaurus
and then I realized that hope
is just another word for hunger
and that—although I appease it
with the sweetest fruit
of the jungle, still,
like the cat at my ankle,
it will beg for more.
Yucca, rootbound porcupine,
stands at attention.
What are you guarding
with your green quills
straight as bayonets?
Did you ambush the juniper
with the camouflage needles?
You creep across the canyon
without tanks, refuel on sunlight.
Your fruit swells with the summer rain.
you emerge unexpectedly
between sandstone rocks flecked with lichens
copious as the spots on a young cougar.
What secret do you oversee?
When the nocturnal moth emerges
from rosettes coated with pollen,
do you stand at ease?
No wind ruffles
your stiff leaves
as you stand sentry.
The infant wants milk, love, a lap, a lock
of your hair, the glitter from the lake,
even the moon. The child wants
a friend, a fort, time to play. The youth seeks
to divide and conquer, climb, achieve, win,
subjugate, wills to power and overpower,
even to exert the power
and influence to reject and scorn.
But then one day, whether by choice or force,
the adult releases, accepts, empowers
Let my bones be a bridge, my hair
the buttresses in a nest, my dreams
wings for the creatures that fly.
Let my words be the ripples
that resonate in the pond
and then, more thinly, more
obliquely, in the air,
though I have no breath.
Aloft, they perch along the nest rim—
no longer nestlings,
nor yet fledglings.
For several weeks, their parents
have fed them, beak to beak,
swooping on blue-black wings
to siphon insects from the air, winged
insects so small I cannot see
Hope, penned Emily Dickinson, is the thing
with feathers that perches in the soul.
But even so, hope is also the last egg
cradled in the nest, displaced only yesterday—
though its nest mates are nearly fledged now—
and cracked open on the tiled step:
The ants made short work
of its golden yolk.
In a cult, we all hold the same beliefs
or risk expulsion.
In a community, we work
together to find a solution,
despite diverging opinions,
and always hope to reconcile
with each other
when we start
to drift apart
Whatever’s happening in the world,
I know my yard is a community
where neither the stray cat
nor the lizard
can disentangle themselves
from their mutual obligations
and appetites, and yet,
the choreography of the dance—
allows them to lie shoulder to shoulder
in the round belly of the earth
I once thought love is the mightiest
word but now I think perhaps the mightiest word
is hope. Oh, we love so freely, and with abandon.
We are so prodigal with our love. But hope
is the stubborn fortitude of the bud
holding on through frost and ice.
It’s the steadfastness of tree roots
carrying nutrients to the trunk and branches
of the tree, though its bark and branches
are already alight with lightning strike
or forest fire.
Oh, I want to be a vessel for the sap.
I want to be a seed
in the sharecropper’s hand.
I want to be the jellied eggs
of the spadefoot toad
there tucked in the shaded patch
of the puddle, and waiting—
in this drought-stricken land—waiting for
Or, if nothing else remains, I want to be
that faint flame—cupped
in your hands—coaxed
to life with your breath.
It’s the first steps
that matter most—
the bud on the twig,
not the flower,
the nearly imperceptible
shadow on the grass
before the heel lifts
off the springy soil.
See on the wall next
to the entryway door,
the small beakful
of mud and twig
that clings to the wall
like soil to a rootball—
that twig and tiny portion
of mud, not yet a nest
but still more than clay and twig,
and no longer without life.
Even when you can barely hope,
Even when your heart is hardened as a fist,
Even when you cannot breathe,
The flowers of the field,
The birds of the air
are breathing for you.
Even the seeds
deposited in the dark
earth of your heart
are splitting open . . .
and the birds perched in the eaves
have already deposited
a song, hidden in the egg’s
It starts little by little—-a bit of windblown
dust, the rain, gentle at first, and then rainstorms.
Next comes the ice and the thaw
cracking apart the rock, oh the dust settles,
the wind blows, and alcoves form,
little hollowed chambers,
pulsing with light. Out of the rock,
shelter, like a hollowed ribcage, emerges.
Oh, you could sing in here, a lovely song,
a sad song, just choose your register.
And soon the alcove echoes
with the song of the cave swallow,
and then the song of the canyon wren,
whose appearance is as rustic as the robe
of a Franciscan friar, but whose song is as beautiful
as the sweetest song of Solomon.
And the canyon wren’s song never ceases, not even in winter.
Oh, what does the canyon wren sing? Beautiful liquid notes,
a rounded rock or pebble thrown into a pool of water
after the rainstorm, rockfall, downslope, snowmelt
rushing over red rocks in the canyon, think of chimes,
or lost loves. But what does the rock wall
of the canyon sing--
break over rock worn down
by wind and rain.
What is prayer if not
the tree in winter
before the budding,
the frozen river
before the crack of the thaw,
the egg in the incubator,
the child—nose pressed against
the still red coal awaiting
the poker’s stir,
the icicle longing
to melt and flow into the river,
the monk in his cell.
What is prayer if not
before the rosy finger of dawn,
the still cold air on the banks of the Rio Grande
before the winging snow geese lift off,
that heaviness of breath
before the monsoon,
the hunger in the belly,
the dissonant chord—unresolved,
oh, the ache of it all,
the water not yet wine.
There were some that I loved,
but they didn’t love me.
Then you said: “Look! Stand here!”
and we looked at the light.
You noticed it first.
Sunlight glowed red reflecting off the red rock mesas.
I thought how every evening the sun shines off the rocks
yet goes unnoticed. Who thanked the flower in July,
when she offered her breast to the bee?
I thought, Nothing is wasted, ever.
Even the deepest crevices
of the red rock mesas reflect light
when the sun sweeps over their surface
like a broom. Oh, every crumb
is swept up-not a crumb of love
is wasted, ever. In summer, the roots
of plants tangle to crack
rock and absorb the light of sun.
So in winter, rocks mirror light.
See how the disheveled red rock
bares herself like a chrysalis
revealing her colors!
In summer, when we climbed
the white cliffs, swallows had moved in
and built nests on the rockface,
and we watched cliff swallows
dive and tumble through air.
As we ascended the mesas,
our footsteps barely left a trace.
Now our dreams, battered as a nest
in winter storm, hang by a thread.
Oh the bee is petulant, but the petal,
though now a memory, has sent
her love letter to the world:
In the hive, the honey:
beneath the rock,
Angels fracture the dome of sky like rock shattering ice.
Shepherds eye the chorus, bewildered, by heaven’s strange lullaby.
Thick are the branches that block our way.
Restless feet, and hunger, the measure of our days.
But hope startles like the song of a canyon wren.
Roots carve a crib for the desert stream.
A stable gives berth to tired travelers.
A child’s midnight cry is the unraveling.
Shepherds’ rough hands cradle holy mystery:
The boy child of Mary, and the rough carpentry
Of burl and sap, manger and nativity.
Midnight rustle of wings, doves perching in the rafters—
Where shepherd and child meet, love and longing gather.
Even the dove, resting in the rafters, murmurs gently, ever after.
The rock does not cling to the river,
Rain surges to fill the emptiness:
the hollowed out space
of our tracks—
the bowl of the earth
where we slept,
the bed of our pitched tent.
Where would we be
if we didn’t keep losing ourselves—
to each other,
to the days we left behind?
Everything that escapes our grasp—
the fish in the river,
the breath we exhale—
returns, I’m told.
Even the sea returns to shore
like the swing of the pendulum,
as she licks her wounds.
Will we recognize the fog
as last year’s puddle
as transpired sweat
as a little ghost of ourselves?
Remember how the clouds
gave themselves up.
Then do likewise
Deep inside the earth’s core,
magma buckles and mountains peak.
Give me a lever long enough, wrote Archimedes,
and I could move heaven and earth.
See how the universe expands into the darkness,
carrying with it light beyond the Milky Way?
As we drive west across the Continental Divide,
neither smoke of wildfires nor soot of car exhaust
can block the muted rose of the sun’s rays,
last hurrah before nightfall. Oh the shadows
are always with us as they seek to block the light,
yet ribbons of pink and peach persist,
lingering on the horizon.
Like abalone or mother of pearl,
we are both castaways—
the sun’s ray on cold rock of earth—
the marine shell stranded on distant shore,
deep indigo of the ocean
now shipwrecked on the sandy beach,
muted colors of pink and peach unfurled
in the contours of the abalone shell:
a distant mirror of the sun.
Along the rain-soaked trail
next to the wild strawberries,
I balance my backpack
to reach for tasty red fruit,
each crimson berry
small as a thimble.
The act of foraging,
a balancing act:
Next to me:
fresh bear tracks.
I don’t know how to distinguish flowers
by their sweetness
save by following the bee.
In a field overflowing
with flowers, the Indian paintbrush
grows in shades of scarlet, purple,
pink, and cream, and I follow
the bee to the sweet spot:
the cream-tipped stalks,
and where the bee sucks,
there suck I.
In the tent, chaotic dreams emerge,
like pikas darting from their den.
Was that an airplane flying overhead,
or traffic? I hear a crash. “He’s dead,”
someone cries. Car doors slam.
Feet scurry down the slope
from the isolated highway.
Flashlights shine, illuminating the walls of the tent.
“Wake up! Wake up!” the voices cry.
“Can we borrow your phone?
We need to report an accident.”
I know we’ve left phones behind in a locked car.
No service here in Colorado’s San Juan Wilderness,
and the nearest road
is more than 8 miles
from our tent site.
In my dream, I ask my husband
for his phone. I shake his arm.
His eyes open, and I ask:
“Are you okay?
Did you hear anything?
Roused from my dream, awakened from our sleep,
we shed sleeping bags, like cocoons.
We unzip the tent, then step out.
Stars shimmer across the meadow-—
Second Meadow—-as it arches its sinuous back
for two miles alongside Elk Creek Trail.
The stars are luminous and thick
as fireflies from my childhood.
Soon, it’s back to the tent.
We zip closed the screen behind us,
but the moon’s reflected light
penetrates the opaque fabric
of our tent, thin sail hoisted on a meadow,
like shining from shook foil.
I knew a lady who sat outside
a mut hut concession, opposite
a marsh where breezes blew
palm fragrance in her face,
to wait for alms. She leaned
against a neem shade tree
whose roots exhausted soil.
I think she kept a garden of her own,
although her fingers may have been
misshaped for tilling earth.
At any rate, she needed change
for pharmacy antibiotics;
passing on my way to church,
I’d drop coins into her hands.
I remember Sunday mornings
spent in a baobab’s shade,
clapping and signing of converts,
a young man telling gospel,
but most of all, a leper-lady
whose fingers curled with leprosy
like soft peeled bark. Her
fingers could not feel my hand
or anything that came their way.
I wish I had the healing gift.
All I could do was spare pennies
for those outstretched hands,
roses where no thorns are.
After 15 months’ hibernation, the tents
put up sail again—quietly at first. Then,
with weekend’s arrival, wayfarers’ feet
stir up dust on the disused path.
Chromatic colors of sneakers, strollers,
scarves, and baseball caps circulate
around flea market stalls. Even chihuahuas
appear, resting in the arms of their humans,
and a young child balances a piglet
in his arms as he examines handmade beaded jewelry.
We fist bump. We shake hands. And the conversation
is all: “You made it! You’re here!”
The smell of roast mutton and roast corn
wafts between stalls selling acrylic paintings,
gospel CDs, silver, turquoise, herbal remedies,
flour sack aprons, T-shirts, mugs, fossils, rocks.
At one stall a woman displays a loom
with her half-finished rug, reminding us,
perhaps, that the work is done, yet undone.
A stack of baby quilts is testament, not only
to long hours at home under lockdown,
but testament to hope.
At the Gallup Flea Market, the old blends seamlessly with the new:
the handwashing station, the newly built stage for country bands.
I buy baby quilts for two friends and leave before the dance,
but by day’s end, I scroll through photos of couples, dancing,
their eyes disclosing hope, the crinkles of their eyes, smiling.
The blue heron lives a solitary life,
or so it seems, perched on shore,
peering at its reflection,
like a chess piece pondering checkmate.
Then, in one swift
movement, swoops, lifts,
toward the wood,
only by the cry
of hungry beaks.
On the steppingstones that cross the creek
your boot left tracks thin as cat whiskers.
“Leave no trace,” they say.
And though, one day, we will leave no trace,
for now, we pack out trash
and secure our gear on limbs
sturdy as the saplings
the beavers gnaw for their lodge.
One day we will leave no trace,
but even so I like to believe
we will leave behind
something of who we were,
something of who
we hoped to be.
A flower’s a labyrinth
a log for a beaver.
A riverbed’s home
for the snowmelt.
The belled flower,
a beacon for the hummingbird—
who jostles among
but never visits for long,
who sips while suspended,
a flurry of wings,
who resists capture
even by photograph—
I came to a field
of flowers, seeking
nourishment, like a bee.
Those we love
never seem to know
how much we love—
The bee hovers over
the bee balm
the way I listen to
Einaudi, the way I
The tree offers shade
with roots deep
as mother’s love.
The tree shades us,
her leaves, a manufacturing
plant for chlorophyll
but even they, powerless
without the deep work
of the roots.
The roots never
upstage the leaves,
nor even the branches.
like the unsung toil
or heart’s muscle,
so much of
the work of love
I walked seven miles alongside
a creek. The stream ran on and on
over rocks. A squirrel clambered
over roots, rustling pine needles.
Wild roses lifted pink goblets
to the sun, rain drops shimmering
on fragrant petals. Nature
spared no expense. Even
the short-tailed weasels
popped their heads playfully
from between rocks and ran
in circles. I did not solve
any problems for the world,
not even my own.
But the stream rustled:
“Here I am! Here I am!”
And the bird sang:
First, they perch
on the front porch lamp.
Then, they smuggle mud and twigs
to lay masonry:
each plucked twig,
an expenditure of wings,
each mud bead,
stucco that trusses
sprig to sprig.
On tiled steps,
their cup spills,
the overflow of twigs that don’t fit,
the clay slip of pearls
that drop from beaks.
Watching the nest grow,
I don’t sweep discards.
Each dry blade of straw is long as a tailfeather.
Each clod of clay, an opaque pearl.
Swooping and diving through air,
the barn swallows catch insects
on the wing,
then scoop mud for the nest
without once touching down.
They are restless
creatures of feather and flight.
Day’s end, the barn swallows
perch again on lamp and nest,
and peer at me through clerestory windows.
Looking within and without,
in each other’s lives we see the detritus
of misfit straw and misfired clay,
that multiply like loaves and fishes.
Yet, in each scrappy act,
we see that love is restless
once the work’s begun,
that love meanders like a stream
until its task is done.
Love is like a river. When blocked by debris it forges a new route.
When it appears frozen on the surface, it moves still below the surface of the ice,
swift as fins on a fish.
Love is like a river. Love holds nothing back but gives all, rounds every corner.
Hoard love in a Hoover dam of thirst and you damage the entire ecosystem.
Yet the beaver tames the river just long enough to raise its young,
then lets the river unwind. Everything depends on the river.
Love is like a river. When you are hot, it soothes your ankles.
When you are lost, the river says: “Follow me.” All of life,
and even the earth itself, depends on the river. Because
the river loves all, it nurtures both trout and blue heron.
The river holds two opposing elements in its mind and resolves
any conflict by giving itself over and over, drop by drop
over to the hard heart of the rock, so that even bedrock,
worn down by the river, is softer
than the human heart.
The river folds itself between a rock
and the hard place
of your heart—that parched
where love crafts the riverbed.
Love is a river.
The axe is a mighty wedge. It can splice trees to fell logs
for a home.
The beaver’s tooth is a wedge. It shapes rivers.
The wedge in your heart, well,
let it be a ship wedge.
For the ship wedge bears a ship—heavy
as the grief of the Titanic—effortlessly,
and then releases it at one stroke,
and launches it,
and sends it off to sea.
I was profligate with my prayer,
Casting it into the water like food for ducks,
And it went unanswered.
Now I have it packaged neatly
Into the mustard seed
Small enough to slip
Through the eye of the needle.
It doesn’t matter how much you love,
Only that you love. You’ve seen how
Everything swells, the bud into bloom,
the thin lip of the new moon
into the radiance of a full moon,
spilling into the small pond.
For love strikes where it will,
if you are willing to receive it.
It doesn’t matter how much you love,
only that you are open to love, like a sail,
hoisted to the mast, ready for the windfall,
poised to ride the waves, precariously.
It doesn’t matter how much you love,
Only that you love, through thick and thin—
Even when you are hollowed out
as the drill hits the bone:
The shadow recalls the light. The thorn,
the fragrance of the rose. And when love
seems cold as cinders, remember how the iron prod
sparks the ember that still glows red.
For love strikes where it will,
if you are willing to receive it.