Near Bluewater,
New Mexico:
Zero visibility
Or as Paul
would say:
We see through
a glass

After great pain,
there is nothing for it
but to seek healing
by entering
the deep womb
of the earth.

There has been an overdraft.
I apologize.
It was a long time
in coming.
I gave freely,
invested freely,
always thought
I’d get a return
on my investment

Always thought
like reflects like.
Always believed
the mirror.
Thought love reflects love.
Now I look in the mirror
and there’s no reflection.
I gave my love away,
and she walked off
never to return

There’s been an overdraft.
I must apologize.
I have no protection,
no means to pay the interest.
Flesh of my flesh
took off
and went walking.
Now I’m limping,
spent down to the bone.
She took off
with everything
I gave her:
Flesh of my flesh,
Bone of my bone.

So too the flower puts all
her energy
into a blossom,
and the wind carries it away.

I prefer four-o’-clock’s
to showy bouquets.
Such small florets,
recoiling from light
like a snail
from a child’s advance!
She opens only
from dusk
until dawn
for select courtiers—
the long-tongued sphinx moth
or a few stray bees.

No one would cut
a four-o’-clock
to place in a vase,
to lavish on a lei,
or to create a corsage.
Her fragrance,
once removed
from her maze-like shrub,
would wilt.
So many stems
overflowing from
one small round seed.
So much show
of lavender
at dusk or dawn,
or on days when
skies are overcast,
but in the heat of the sun,
she shuts herself up.

She lets her blossoms down
only in oblique light,
won’t even pretend
to compete
with Mexican hats
and sunflowers
or sacred datura.
Where she takes root,
she launches vines
and blossoms
every which way
like a child’s backyard fireworks
display, or sparklers.

She prefers
nocturnal pollination
and shies
from sunlight,
but when her energy
is spent down,
the heat of her bloom
gives way
to a small black seed,
impervious as a bead,
round as a ripe peppercorn.

Her seed, nestled
among dried papery shells
of spent blossoms,
rattles on tasseled stalks.
When wind shakes tattered
tethered petals,
seeds pop and pounce;
then, the four-o’-clock,
bowing and tipping
her twining branches,
broadcasts her black pearl:
the seed scatters and rolls.

On a rock
a collared lizard poses,
waiting my approach.
As I focus the telephoto lens,
his neck telescopes
toward me
and so we peer at each other,
eye to eye
through the lens.

The moon is a half-moon tonight,
yet visit the moon
and you will find
no line divides the moon in two.

The horizon appears:
it is that line ahead of us,
cutting earth from sky
as neatly as two half-moons.
Yet, walk closer,
and the divisibility
of earth and air
shows itself to be
yet another illusion.

Though the moon is distant,
it tugs at oceans
and rearranges the shore.
The ocean feels the tug of separation,
while sandbars and tide pools
raise disheveled shoulders.
Even so, the ocean always returns to the shore.
Like ocean and shore
you and I feel tugs of separation,
yet night draws us close,
as a high tide
erases the shoreline,
as we embrace.

When Curtis photographed
the American West,
he asked his subjects to remove
hats, parasols, suspenders,
and other offending garments.
From machine-woven cloths
Curtis even removed labels.
It was a game of strip poker:
Let no modern intruder
obscure Curtis’ vision!

Like Curtis, I, too,
have desired my life to be orderly,
quiet and studied,
each pin in its place,
the moment for each meal
my daily work,
from matins to compline,
measured and predictable.

But disorderliness
nips at my heels,
the hamper bulges
with my daughters’
discarded clothing,
a maze of dolls and toys
greets me in the hallway,
and there’s no accounting
for the storms that cross
my daughters’ faces:
quarrels, first,
and then, fair skies,
and laughter.

But what is a portrait,
if not an illusion?
When is life still?
Curtis’ Indian, perhaps,
sat still for twenty minutes,
but the sun never subdues
the shadow that restlessly
reaches for the horizon.

A, the clown salute:
two hands raised
top off the A,
but his legs are doing the splits.

B, the aerial view
of two people kissing.

C is a woman’s body.
Her head nudges the shoulder of D,
her mate.
Her knees are curled up
against his back.

E is very square.

F is a child at the zoo,
imitating the flamingo.

G, a hand cupped around the eye,
shading the eye
from a bright light.

H is a child,
putting on overalls.

I, a lonely thing,
with no hands.

J, a crochet hook.

K is indecisive
and wants to walk in two directions,
at once.

L is a strong grandmother.
She has the posture of a storyteller doll.
All the letters that follow L are her grandchildren.

M, N, O,
a child jumps, dives, somersaults.

P, a mother embracing her child
while she nurses him.

Q, the laundry is out to dry,
and a sleeve drags against the ground.

R, a woman is filling her laundry basket.
One foot is forward.

S, an infant quieted in your arms.

T, a tree.

U, V, W, a roller coaster,
or the pattern of branches against the sky.

X, a weathervane
the wind spins on its heels.
The same wind that, uprooting trees,
can pollinate blossoms.

Y, our union,
a precarious balance,

Z , it’s the coming apart,
the unraveling.
It’s about getting serious
about sleep.
It’s the disassembly,
as when a fire
snaps a log in two.

Not only pain
but Christ feels our healing, too.
It’s that rush of power he spoke of
when a woman brushed his robe.
It’s that dazzle of light
that surprised both the blind man
and those who saw him healed.

Not only pain
but Christ feels our healing, too.
It’s that charge of strength
in the lame man’s walk.
It’s the shock of touch
in the leper’s hands.
It’s those chariots of fire
racing up the backbone,
carrying us home.

From a single block of wood,
a gazelle nursing her young;
her straight-legged grace
shading his body.
His horns barely protrude;
they scrape his mother’s underside.
No cause to run.