Pam Uschuk ~ Poems


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.



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.


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.


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.


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.


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 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.