SOLAR ECLIPSE IN THE LAND OF SANDSTONE HOODOOS
Between hoodoos and the ghosts of whooping cranes,
day dies too soon. Secure in hogans, Dineh sing
against the sorrow of light’s vanishing.
The white wolf flops under a rabbit bush, moans
at the kingbird flying low to catch gnats and blow flies.
Long shadows take us in their hollow mouths.
We listen to sky’s intelligence, wait for the shift
from glare to humble shade. In my pocket jiggle stones-
one carnelian, one black jet the shape of a falcon’s eye.
Gemini moon blocks the Gemini sun-twins canceling twins.
What can that mean for me, small Gemini woman hunched
in the penumbra of balancing rocks stranded in a dried-up Ice Age sea?
My rescue dog circles like my fears to curl on the slim ledge
where I perch near rocks reaching for the dark
astrologers predict will change everything.
Unafraid, my love climbs the crumbling spine of the ridge, aims
his lens at the exact path the eclipse takes over our heads.
In this way, his Mediterranean tribe survived for centuries.
We are as forgotten as this gulch, as stunted as jojoba and
desert broom who give up their burden baskets of heat
to the dark cauldron sky has become.
HEALING SONG FOR SURGERY
White wolf of healing, howl bone long
through the surgeon’s poised hands. Steady
any tremor, correct errors,
torque dreams gone wrong,
rendering them to broth numinous
as the blade that incises skin
surrounded by generations of guard hairs,
dens squirming with pups left to a wolf uncle’s tender nips,
centuries of loping blue through snow drifts
guided by the wheel of constellations in your yellow eyes.
White wolf of healing, lap milk from moon shadows,
lope away from disease, from malfunction
to the center of the immutable,
sliced by fine tempered steel.
FOX SIGHTING IN PHOENIX
for Teri Hairston and Bill Root
Sometimes a fox can scar our lives, opening
us with eyes firefly green, two sizzling moons
bioluminescent in a murky night sky.
We see her slim body, a silent negative blur
as gray as an Xray of an abdomen diseased,
elusive as a suture completely healed.
Siren regarding us, she stands on the roof,
warns us against the spinning wheel of meaning and deceit,
the coming of enemies we will need to forgive.
We reach out to ancestors pillaging dreams
to deliver messages we strain to interpret.
From the eave, fox leaps soundless to solid ground.
The path through the labyrinth is forgiveness.
Each pain is a sword hacking open the self
congealed on desire fed by narcissist fire.
Fox shows herself only by moonlight.
Survivor of rush hour traffic and cement block walls,
she leaves her secret warren, her kits deep in the city’s whirred gut.
We watch the grease of her glide
substantiating the dark before she disappears,
her eyes twin novas of hope in shadows she eats.
WALKING THE LABYRINTH
for Melissa Pritchard
I am not the first half-life shifting
between the underworld
and what passes for birdsong
hidden by the drenched branches of evergreens.
Every two weeks, thin wires of platinum,
sap extracted from the Yew tree
storms my blood, and I’m thrown
into Pluto’s suffocating arms, dizzied,
seeking a cure, to heal time
spinning at the heart of disease.
A building becomes a vacuum, becomes
a woman who loses breath,
to rebuild herself, a few beams missing each time,
keeps the leaded glass doors to her heart
open, washes her windows, lemon juice
clean, flings them wide
to a gypsy mountain breeze.
FEED THE BIRDS
The Dalai Lama’s astrologer admonished,
“When you feel very bad, when
you are suffering, feed the birds.”
Each day I refill the feeder
for house finches, Gambel’s quail,
the cloud-fearing mourning doves,
Saye’s phoebe, white-throated sparrows, the last
lingering winter hummingbirds
sipping nectar red as Koolaide or
the inner lips of bougainveillea
stunning the Thanksgiving porch.
In a photo, a man’s hand slips
between huge welded metal plates
of the ignorant wall we built, separating
Mexico from our hearts, just ninety miles away.
His hand cups his wife’s waist.
Solace doesn’t recognize walls
that stop an embrace, split
families as if they’re disposable
cords of balsa wood
to stoke xenophobia’s hearthfire of fear.
In every convergence, separation shifts
what would ground us, what walls
might open our hearts. A storm,
converging hurricane, snowstorm, rain,
a tidal surge over a thousand miles wide
eats the Eastern shore.
Weeks after, searchers
uncover legions of the drowned.
In every convergence wings greet dawn and dusk, love
swirling through a crenulated brain that invents songs,
another kind of compassion we fail to emulate, the dance
tapped out from branch to wet branch we could learn
to lift us from the vast country of loneliness
fashioned from unsatisfied threads of desire.
FOOD VS FRACKING
Who sets Pluto’s table
inside earth, mother
we’ve ravished and stolen from?
Even trees uproot themselves
trying to get our attention.
How much oil can we extract
from her breasts, how much methane
drawn up as toxic fire
from the underworld
through a piped web of destruction
beneath schoolyards where children run
with laughter they invent
as they invent the world each day?
THE GIFT OF THE LABYRINTH
The way in is the way out, Persephone
notes, touching the cool black rock walls.
There are ways to love even monsters,
she says, breathing gently on his brow made of flames.
Charmed, he chases death
like an starving cat from our cave.
This is the voyage departing the womb’s red tide
inside a comet falling into the arms of a couple
who argue despite this new gift, who
love one another while the baby sleeps
in afternoon’s yellow-leafed elm light
sliding through an open bedroom window.
This is the path that fails to love itself,
where love trips on frozen feet,
pulls wool blankets around its winter sorrow,
so alone fear eats its days, drives
spikes of raw need as pungent as cedar splinters
under fingernails clipped down to the quick.
This is the traveler who dances
the streets of strange cities, who learns
the fine story turn of humans, animals, trees
and stars unable to live without one another,
of devotion broken by duty’s dizzy carousel of busy,
industry that has nothing to do with compassion or desire.
This is the voyage punching out and in at the same time.
Pamela Uschuk has published six books of poems, including Crazy Love, winner of a 2010 American Book Award, Finding Peaches in the Desert (Tucson/Pima Literaature Award), One-Legged Dancer, Scattered Risks, and Wild in the Plaza of Memory (2012). Her Without the Comfort of Stars, was published by Sampark Press in New Delhi. A new collection of poems, Blood Flower, appeared in 2015 and was a notable book on Book List. Her work has been translated into more than a dozen languages and her poems appear in over three hundred journals and anthologies worldwide, including Poetry, Ploughshares, Agni Review, Parnassus Review, etc.