SOUTH OF HERE
she’ll streak red dirt
across your palms,
kiss every knuckle
individually, and square
your shoulders south,
I never knew you.
Then the solstice comes
to tip over the glass, spill
summer light across
the floor, hand you
another year of watching
rivers sink back
down to size.
And I’ll be damned
if by then I can’t explain
how time’s been
across my own knuckles.
How she kisses my skin
like the forest fires
south of here, like pain
ignited just to be
PELVIS WITH THE DISTANCE (AFTER GEORGIA O’KEEFFE)
The approximate reach of the pale hip bones
sweeps with such ease, the New Mexico heat
seems to polish the pelvis gently,
the way your starch-white shirts hung
in your mother’s hands—stiff and delicate.
For your father’s part, you wouldn’t be
in this desert without him, but somewhere
in the bend of the hip sockets you find
a strange comfort only absence
can afford. Here is how all mothers die:
the cool mouth of the vacant womb
crying out with all that it remembers, swell
of life advancing over miles of red earth.
I cross you: bloody muscle, thrown an arm’s
length wide upon the rocky forest floor,
your slack spine ripping westward through the dust.
The bracket of your jaws eases a bend
so strangely soft, I wonder if these spoils
were left by accident, perhaps the work
of some blind brute. For nothing that had sight
would waste such utter elegance. I cross
you, restless waters, where the redds are fixed
in crooked divots, flanked by history.
Memory splits their staying clean apart,
as parr turned fry assume the mightiest role
that nature can assign. Even rivers
cannot run backwards, are not so mindful
of this, the pressing pilgrimage where kings
return, new-baptized, crowned for endless sleep.