Street Musicians

Music is the transfer of energy
from musician to instrument.
Yet the song exacts a price.
With each exchange, energy is lost.

Even birdsong comes at a price.
Birds hurry back and forth
scooping up flying insects
to carry to their young.

Yet the song of cliff swallows
nesting against sandstone cliff,
sounds as sweet as the song of cliff swallows
nesting between stucco walls.

For, whether it’s weathered foot of hoodoo,
or side of superstition mountain,
wherever your feet are planted,
that’s where you sing.


What would the river be without giving itself up?
Time, the daily scalpel, cuts away at its banks.
Eroded mountains, though they may lack
leaves, grass, or water, for that matter,
offer a wonderland of forms
that hold their ground
in sharp relief
to the sky.


If we reduced our life together to a few brushstrokes,
what would be left … The bend of my arm, your shoulder,
our bodies blending like a river course. One color of paint, two bodies.
Brushstrokes, light as feather but wide as barbs branching from the quill.

I’m not preaching minimalism. I only reflect on the reality that when we exit,
we take nothing, and what remains is only the barest trace of ourselves:
Our limbs wing like breaststrokes of the snow geese flying overhead,
their flexed muscles etched in sky, dark gray against the sky’s pool of color.

My downward gaze, your shoulder slanted towards my forehead.
As the storm raged, we grasped for footing. Our limbs entangled
like those of centaur: four arms, four legs, flailing like some apocryphal
multi-winged creature. Battered gargoyles, we move closer.

Monochrome brushstrokes, hair indistinguishable from curve of neck or back,
I accept defeat. I have no stake in this game, yield all I hold most dear, even my flesh.


Purity of heart is to will one thing, like the male yucca moth,
for example, who wills only to mate. With that one deed,
his entire life’s labor is consummated.

The female yucca moth, in contrast, is just beginning her life’s great task.
Her wings’ whiteness camouflaged against white yucca blossoms,
she deposits her fertilized eggs in the ovary of a yucca flower.

Next, the female yucca moth gathers a bundle of pollen
from flowers of the neighboring yucca plants.
Grasping her ball of pollen with her mouth tentacles-
like a mother cat grasping a kitten-she carries
her precious pollen bundle back to cross-pollinate
the blossom that cradles her eggs,
now the protégés of the yucca plant.

The yucca, a highly evolved plant,
resembles a root-bound porcupine.
With green quills straight as bayonets,
yucca creeps across the canyon
without tanks and refuels on sunlight,
then stands guard through wind and snow,
feet planted firmly to the ground.

From this vantage point, the yucca oversees its nursery.
Yucca blossoms, fertilized by a yucca moth,
now produce fruit and seed, ambrosia for the offspring
that emerge from the moth’s stowaway eggs.

Once caterpillars feast on yucca fruit and seed,
they parachute to ground to overwinter
in a cocoon of soil shaded by the yucca plant.

When yucca blossoms again, moths will emerge
from their cocoons, meeting and mating on pearl-colored petals.
The life of the adult moth is so short, it has no desire for nectar,
but hungers only to complete its singular feat.

Only the yucca moth can pollinate the yucca flower.
Only the yucca flower will suckle the yucca caterpillar.

Each one wills one thing only and desires the good of the other.
So intertwined, one cannot live without the other.

Postcard from Las Cruces: January 23, 2015

We drove south all day,
more than 200 miles
into the Chihuahuan desert.
The sun warmed our car
like a solar oven.
Yet near Las Cruces,
the Organ Mountains rose
varnished with snow.

Downfeathers of snow
cloaked the waxy leaves
of creosote bushes.

The Yucca plant
stood at attention
like a comical crane.
Lanky stalks shed snow,
but sword-shaped leaves
at the base of the Yucca
fanned out
and collected snow,
like white fruit falling
into a basket.

Once in Las Cruces, our car
navigated clear roads.
At a red light
the car idled.
Opposite the car,
a snowman
seated on a city bench
stared blankly at us
with coal black
impenetrable eyes.


Trees resonate
in the dulcimer’s
wood frame
when your fingers
pluck the strings.
Once you finish
the song, I take
the dulcimer
from your lap.
Though silent now,
its wooden body
vibrates in my hands,
like forest trees
that sway in wind.

As I set the dulcimer
to rest on the floor,
I think of the infant
who has finished
his crying. Still,
the infant’s chest
rises and falls
with his breath.

After nursing,
lips still suck
the air. Cradled
against mother’s breast,
the infant
relaxes to the rhythm
of the heartbeat
in her chest.

For each living thing
thirsts, hungers and rushes
toward that great ocean
of love
that cradled us
even before our birth.