#185 Anodyne by Gary Jackson

Bourbon in hand, you believe the world
will always be this strange
and wonderful. A dog barks by the pool
tables, you throw one thigh across my lap
and let your glass pull your hand against mine.
The dark honey crashes against the rim.
A waitress comes and asks if we’d like more.
We nod and raise our down
-ed glasses, before drowning. Want burns
our throats. The only thing to cool this is
to spit in my mouth before we smolder back
to clay. Outside, music dies as it stumbles
out of the club. Let us celebrate
how distant our bodies are from home,
how anything can be exotic: the street view
window, the cracked glass tabletops, our
own skin. Let tonight end somewhere in
foreign territory. Help me believe the lie:
that the world is too vast to ever be familiar.

Born and raised in Topeka, Kansas, Gary Jackson is the author of the poetry collection Missing You, Metropolis, which received the 2009 Cave Canem Poetry Prize. His poems have appeared in Callaloo, Tin House, Phoebe and elsewhere. He teaches at Central New Mexico Community College in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

#184 Approaching Another New Year by Michelle Holland

November airs the trees out of their leaves,
they end up crispy brown barely hanging on,
or as a brown carpet blown here and there
by the suddenly rude autumn wind.
Little stories end in this dire season,
or begin, just like any other time of year.
Take the small charred perfect aspen leaf
that drifted into our driveway
from forty miles away, down the mountain
on the winds of the Los Conchas fire.
Later, the dog we adopted, beautiful, wild
young Ridgeback, survived the fire as well,
escaping on charred paws to end up here,
to tame himself at our safe house.

Take each life that ended this season,
friends and family, and the intricacies
that twine together in eulogy and memory:
summer camps with cousins, Moonie wings
of take offs and touch downs. Those who survive
embrace the photos, and the smallest sequence
of words that bring everything back.
Take the threats to the broccoli, Brussels sprouts,
corn, and in the early spring, the strawberries,
all diminished by squirrels, or aphids and grasshoppers.
We harvested anyway. In December we are eating tomatoes
ripened in three weeks of yesterday’s news.
Now, on the easel a new painting of the heirloom
varieties that appeared from green to ripe like magic.

“Moonie” is a type of small airplane, like a Cessna.

Michelle Holland lives and writes in Chimayo, New Mexico.  Her books include the New Mexico Book Award winning collection, The Sound a Raven Makes, Tres Chicas Press 2007; and Chaos Theory, Sin Fronteras Press, 2009.

#183 ROCKFALL by Lori Romero

My friend, Annie, is a rock hound. Not the my-dad-bought-me-a rock-kit-when-I-was-eight kind of person, but a genuine hard piece of the earth fanatic. Her den looks like a mining expedition took over that part of the house. Annie’s unwavering enthusiasm finally persuaded me to abandon my usual Saturday slothful ways and join her on a hike through the juniper-piñon canyon of Rio de las Trampas. After a fifteen minute clamber, passing what I hoped was not bear or mountain lion droppings, we came upon an unexpected sight. A Noel Langley landscape. We found ourselves at the bottom of a boulder-lined bowl created by retreating glaciers. Thousands of rocks were stock-still, frozen in mid-tumble down the hill. The sight made me feel small and vulnerable.  I was hesitant to move lest I remind gravity of its job. Annie picked up a piece of stone and rubbed it in her hand.  It sparkled like an Oz slipper. The shadow of something large flew overhead as Annie and I collected samples of milky quartz, granite, gneiss, shale and pyrite. We picnicked near the curious formations, and let the sweet air and sun work its magic on our tired brains. Yellow yarrow lined the way to a spiraling waterfall roaring down the ravine. When it was time to head back home, I didn’t want to go.  On the steps of my apartment, I pulled out the stone Annie had pressed into my hand as a keepsake of our adventure. It was broken off from what it once was and heavy with the weight of wear, much like Dorothy on her return to Kansas.

Lori Romero is winner of the Spire Press Poetry Chapbook Competition for The Emptiness That Makes Other Things Possible.  Her first chapbook, Wall to Wall, is published by Finishing Line Press. She has been nominated twice for a Pushcart Prize.

#182 Party on Indian School and University by Matthew Jake Skeets

and all he thinks about are his brown, cracked
feet.  The dead skin and yellow nails slipped
into a pair of black no-shows, and the music pumps.
The kids’ pocket wrappers and crushed beer cans
almost began bouncing on the tattered carpet. And the lights
make him want to scream, the native boy sitting
on the coffee table thinking about parties on the rez.

How they smell so much the same, like beer breath
and nachos. They even say the same things, call him
pussy if he doesn’t want to drink. And he starts to wonder
boarding-school mothers, in their tight Levi jeans
and cowboy boots, line dancing in dirt, with a mix
of a drunken Macarena. And how they forget Navajos
weren’t supposed to drink, and in the morning
they lay on cold, morning-blue grounds, shirts torn,
somewhere in ditches.

The music fades into a slow dance as three couples
congeal on the tattered carpet.  Hormonal chants
about the missionary position, enticing the boys and girls
with powwows in their pants, dissolves the skin colors
of these kids, and no one is white anymore.
They are a greasy tint of cheap beer and 7-11 liquor.
Everyone zips in and out of bedrooms,
and someone dims the lights.

A translucent-skinned girl staggers towards
the sitting native boy, and she is wide-eyed,
like after Ghost Dance, ready for her stoic native,
feathered and buckskinned. The boy shifts his body
in surrender
and he feels her heavy tit in his palm and her hand
edging near his crotch.  And she starts sucking
on his bottom chapped lip, her body sweaty
with acceptance.

Matthew Jake Skeets is a Navajo, of the Black-Streak-Wood People, born for Water’s Edge. He is a fourth year student at the University of New Mexico and is from Vanderwagen, New Mexico. Writing and storytelling are in his blood.

#181 MIGRATION by Mina Yamashita

Five cranes crossed overhead, a good omen—a promise,
if you believe the legends of my ancestors.

They glide toward the Bosque del Apache,
their home and shelter in this desert place.
They go to sleep ere daylight slips beneath the cedar breaks.

Our intersect is but a lover’s tryst—a coming home to roost.

My forebears asked for the good fortune brought by cranes,
made their image into paper blessings—
prayers of offering to ancient shrines.

I live in the shadow of Los Alamos,
cradle of a people’s darkest nightmare,
origin of all life, torn asunder.

While blackened gardens lay in ashy silence,
I learned to pledge allegiance, and ignore
the havoc wrought by others on a distant shore.

A score of years before I learned my parents
had been caged like birds.
They didn’t tell that story, kept it close.

And now, I am a captive of New Mexico,
in love with its strange history and wild land,
in love with its red mountains, and its nesting birds.

Cranes will leave their nest if frightened in their vigil,
will not sanctify that ground again.
But humankind always looks back, never quite forgets.

We call on many places claiming birthright.
I make my homestead here with these great birds for neighbors,
a home for generations, a gift—some may call fortune.

I call it fortitude.

Award-winning graphic designer for 50+ years, Mina first studied printmaking and typography at Pratt Institute, Brooklyn, NY. In 2009, after 9 years as a senior book designer at UNM Press, wrote “Mina’s Dish” for Albuquerque’s Alibi for 18 months. She is now engaged in freelance writing, design, and illustration.

#180 I Would Rather We Ate Them by Page Lambert

Bittersweet, watching pigeons float
from the neighbor’s roof to my barren courtyard
in this new Santa Fe subdivision, lighting on store-bought bark
beside this transplanted Pyracantha, with its flame-orange berries
and stiff green branches.  Once, I did not know

That pigeons fed their newly hatched a creamy gruel—
from beak to beak the milk passes, those first few days—
from father and mother both, before flight feathers
unfurl, before the young loft and lift in search
of sprouting sun flowers and wild grasses.  Last spring

I leaned the shovel against the fake adobe wall where raucous
ravens, so black they were blue, paced less patient
than the cows my son once knew, even from a distance—each mother,
each calf, each face distinct. I spread fistfuls of store-bought topsoil
with my bare hands and did not know then that tax dollars, yours

And mine, were spent on poisoned corn, spread like candy
on courthouse rooftops, though not knowing had little to do
with the right or wrong of it. Too many pigeons
too much mess.  Better to haul their bloated bodies
to the landfills.  Too many to count,

I would rather we ate them—squab under glass, fed them
to our children at Thanksgiving, cooed back
at their cousins the mourning doves, perched two
by two on telephone wires that stretch, like a mother’s
longing, from Rancho Viejo to Ruidoso.

Page Lambert grew up in the Rock Mountains and feels at home in Wyoming, Colorado, and New Mexico.  Author of In Search of Kinship, her essays and poetry are widely anthologized. She has been leading outdoor adventures, writing seminars and workshops for 17 years. Connecting People with Nature. Connecting Writers with Words: www.pagelambert.com.

#179 Paloma Negra by Byron Aspaas

Looking through the looking glass the glass that shields
me from wind from rain from clouded sun poor bird
looking through the looking glass looking back at me stands
the statuesque strange stoic bird an empty hole where
its heart once beat poor strange bird a hole in its heart
holding heads connected to its feathers connected to its
shoulders staring back at me eight pounds on each fin
two heads swinging smiling poor empty strange bird
weighted down with nowhere to fly standing cold as
stone alone in mold near billows of smoke circling and
swirling processed scents of stale tobacco hollow
prayers poor empty weighted strange bird stares glares
looking at me through me judging you judging me
where I sit protected behind the looking glass poor cold
empty weighted strange bird odd shaped head
unfamiliar body shivering squeaking alone weighted
with stone prayers molded looking through the looking
glass the glass that shields me inside the glare behind
oily smudges reflect appear blank statuesque stoic

Byron Aspaas (Diné) is Tachiiníí and born for Todichííníí.  Currently a creative writing student at the Institute of American Indian Arts, Byron writes poetry and creative nonfiction.  His ambition is to become a teacher, a writer, and most importantly a storyteller. He resides with his partner, Seth Browder, in Santa Fe, NM

#178 Lady Brett’s Cabin by Lou Amyx

My dear Virginia, where to begin?

The weeks since our arrival have been consumed
by joyous toil: coaxing a home from these homesteader’s shacks –
hardly more than stacked planks of handmilled Ponderosa –
rooved only by rusty sheets of raucous tin. How we scatter
the many-footed creatures that inhabit them!
A kind strong woman and two sunblackened men
churn straw and mud to plaster, split shingles and fence rails,
fire bricks, horseshoes, corn, and pillows of lovely warm tortillas.

We are all
hammering and painting and building our Rananim.
I find myself, at last, most comfortable here. My cabin has a chair,
and a table for writing, a teacup, saucer, and kerosene lantern.
My closet is a chest beneath a narrow wooden bed for one.
Three windows. The north is filled by the back of the Lobo,
arching skyward from where we ride the mountain’s shaggy flank.
The south descends into the infinite – the mysterious colored desert.
Today I tracked the roving dust of David’s climb up the Kiowa trail.
From Taos, he brought a darling woodstove, a mirror, and the mail
with your letter. Behind him, pursuing cloudbanks raced across
the windlashed plain – now my easel holds a harlequinned herd
of furied horses, sulfurous lightning streaking white
from flaming hooves and flaring nostrils. In this moonlight,
the empty Angora meadow gleams as if filled with the clean backs
of a thousand newborn lambs. Our gigantic pine claws the full face
of the passing orb – the tree spikes the heart of our flying planet,
and about it we spin – the whole wide earth and me where I stand,
turning and burning and turning around it.

Join us, but arrive prepared to be changed. I work for hours
with fervent inspiration, but never a moment’s desire
to breathe again the rancid air of London. I will not
be returning soon. Perhaps ever. There. I’ve said it.

Lou Amyx’s poetry may be seen in The Arena, Naugatuck River Review, Tidal Basin Review, The Southern Poetry Anthology, Volume IV: Louisiana, at qaartsiluni.com, melusine.com as the winner of the 2011 Vivienne Haigh-Wood Poetry Prize, and soon in Sugar Mule. A chapbook, The Bracelet, is available from Finishing Line Press.

#177 Tierra Amarilla, 1967 by Katherine DeBlassie

In his dream the sleeping giants rode on frozen horses
and no one told them they were in the desert,
that the hooves of the horses would begin
to melt and fail to mend. The sun,

unlike the preacher, seemed not to move.
It stayed steady, pressed like a stamp
against unflinching bright blues of sky
and mountains. He never graduated high school,

but the Assembly of God gave him religion,
and a language of justice, love and outrage.
In the Bible Institute he was ordained
to go across a country, sleep under bridges,

and travel by boxcar to protect the ejido,
the land that’s forever being taken and claimed
and reclaimed each culture so intertwined in sex and marriage,
it’s hard to tell one shade of brown from another.

The Day of God came with the preacher
and 20 men with shot guns and pistols—
they raided the courthouse. We don’t believe in violence,
we believe in Jesus Christ who used a whip to drive the false
prophets out of the temple. Stolen or delayed justice.
He had the right to arrest anyone who violated
the rights of his people. He was the giant awake,
he was the wild-west shoot out, he had the right to ride
frozen horses until they were melted or freed.

Katherine DeBlassie was born and raised in Albuquerque and earned her MFA from the University of Maryland. Her work has appeared in Court Green and Cutthroat, among others. She received honorable mention for the 2011 Rita Dove Poetry Prize and was a finalist for the 2009 Joy Harjo Poetry Prize.

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