A rainy day murmuration
is strung along the power lines
that run above the alley
back of the house. It’s the first day
and the winter branches
on the yard’s most desperate trees
against the sodden clouds.
look afraid of what’s to come
as all the clocks in Heaven say
it’s time to change your passwords,
travel light, and flock
together for protection.
Time is a Western Highway
The asphalt hums
past desert mountains draped
from low cloud where the housing
thins to scrub
and billboards offer
one last chance before the wilderness
from Gila Bend a harrier
skirts the creosote with wings
spread flat as the winter miles
From a rock cradled
in the land a petroglyph scorpion
turns its sting toward
the future; a ladder
leans against another century;
snakes uncoil between the ancient
and the modern age
while a road
runs from hawk to hawk
to a river that replaced
the one that disappeared
dry driving miles away
the Mexican border is stretched
between the earth and sky.
The Road Beside the Border
This is the road of laughing stones
beneath the wheels of cars that visit for a day
lying quietly and close
to clouds that soften ridges
cut from rhyolite.
It bends around the o
in ocotillo, and thins to a whisper
near Lukeville, where traffic
bears the names of Tresguerras, Lala, Castores
and Frio Express from Hermosillo
to Baja California.
It listens to the music
from a radio that carries
on cold air across
the iron fenceposts, while a raven
on a Mexican saguaro barks
above the noise
toward a raven in Arizona. How
insignificant the fence appears
that crawls up one slope and trickles
from where a bobcat
stops to look. When the highway
on the other side is spurred
to hurry by an untranslatable growl,
the road to Quitobaquito
is the one
Life Goes On
Light in the window blinds marks a beginning
and the historians are busy.
Sparrows in the orange tree
sing morning news
as coffee water wakes up to a boil.
There aren’t enough votes
to stretch the darkness into one more hour of sleep.
The choice is rebellion
or breakfast. Waffles today,
served without discussion
over anything but music. A bad dream
sticks to the plates though,
and won’t wash away. The water swirls
around and around
in the eye of a storm.
A wounded train cries out to the rain
that there is still far to go.
The sidewalks are polished misery.
In the park the cormorants rest on their island
with the dripping palms
and hang out their wings to dry.
When the telephone rings
somebody speaks in Spanish, so quickly
the words fly off around the kitchen
where they can’t be caught
and understood. I’d like to be friendly
but this isn’t a day for it. It still feels uncharitable
to simply hang up
and a weak apology is the best I can summon.
There goes my voice
through the wire stretched across the yard
where the pigeons with their cold, pink claws
are waiting, whatever the weather.
There’s a somber warning
in the news again, and hummingbirds
flashing their gorgets
against a morning thundercloud.
Weeds take hold
of more territory each day
and legislation of hurricane force
is being signed into law
as we pull them.
Between the cats who show up to be fed
and coyotes running wild in the neighborhood
we’re not sure which side to be on.
The yard is eerily still this morning
while the sky fans its feathers
and a talon scratches the silence open.
Families have been divided, friendships
broken, but the homeless men
sitting in a vacant lot
have nobody left to betray them, and nothing
but the cold wind for company.
No use telling them
to join the crowd now gathering to make the best
of the situation, having learned
to laugh away our anger
and play the rain like harp strings when it falls.
A Fire Department ambulance blocks two lanes
next to the light rail station
where a man is lying down, too far gone
that the day’s faraway events might
have repercussions for him
when he awakens
and attempts to stand up
with nothing to hold on to. Flashing lights,
a siren, and the ambulance
leaves without him. We don’t know the protocol
for stopping to smell a person’s breath
and test his viability
in a time so burdened with violence and tragedy
that we bleed
from other people’s wounds.