On the Southwest Chief Headed to Albuquerque

Two hours late, as usual. Passengers detrain for a delayed smoke break.
As I stand to board the train, I catch a glimpse of the tattooed lady,

her forearms scrolled like black lace cuffs. Seated, I notice
the tattoos on her forearms match the black of her tank

top. Black roots, and then a mane of red hair cascades over her shoulders, crimson as the sleeves of the jacket whose crisscrossed arms

wrap around her hips.

The Opening


We are all piece of one cloth—
all one, like the blanket of sky,
or the atmosphere above us,
which cradles us,
but has neither starting point
nor endpoint.

Under this cloth
stretched taut overhead,
where patches are threadbare
and disheveled:

that’s where the light
breaks through.


The chlorophyll collects the light
then powers each leaf with green.
Still, the leaf’s rainbow
palette is always there.

When days, like candlesticks,
burn down, and shorten,
the leaf kicks off
her swaddling suit of green.

Now opaque green
sheds itself.
With their waxy coats removed,
the leaves appear worn through in places.

Light emerges.
The architecture of the forest
admits light as leaves
become transparent
as onion skin paper.
Responsive to the angle
of the sun,
leaves embark on their
autumnal quest.

Red light of oak draws me near.
On closer inspection, the leaf is brown
but something in the angle of the light
reflected crimson.

First the red, then the yellow, then the brown.
I’ve seen a fire flare,
then whimper,
whisper into mute ashes.

At home,
between white pressed leaves,
clean sheets of paper,
I try to tame fall’s flame.