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SOUTH OF HERE

By spring

she’ll streak red dirt

across your palms,

kiss every knuckle

individually, and square

your shoulders south,

or otherwise

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

put out.

 

 

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.

 

 

CHINOOK SALMON

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.