Tuning Keys — NaPoWriMo2015 #4

You were bent over
that old electric bass
picking at dirty cords
under the swirling steam
of coffee and a plateful gorditas de chicarrón,
the smoke from a cigarette you lit
and left hanging at the table’s edge
cleared my eyes for just a moment
before I turned my back
and walked away.
The rhythm you stole
from my stride
sneaking back
through a hole
in my back pocket.

~LD

The prompt: “write a “loveless” love poem. Don’t use the word love! And avoid the flowers and rainbows. And if you’re not in the mood for love? Well, the flip-side of the love poem – the break-up poem – is another staple of the poet’s repertoire. If that’s more your speed at present, try writing one of those, but again, avoid thunder, rain, and lines beginning with a plaintive “why”? Try to write a poem that expresses the feeling of love or lovelorn-ness without the traditional trappings you associate with the subject matter.”

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I Never Dared Trespass — NaPoWriMo2

(an ode: Lajitas Peak, Lajitas, Texas)

Once, I imagined stretching myself out
in the dust and rock
at the hem of her red velvet dress.

Hands behind my neck,
Elbows stuck out like tomahawk blades —
I knew I would see the dance of
the shimmery beads she wove into hair
so blue, so black
I would plummet with vertigo into
endless strands of braid.

She was so fine, and so right, this Night in the Desert
that she stuck like caliche in a breeze
to every memory and every dream
of untouchable tomorrows
that decades later
I believe I can reach up
and wind dimmed urban Leonids around me
against November’s “garish sun.”

~LD

“take your gaze upward, and write a poem about the stars”
With apologies to The Bard; One of my favorite speeches from R + J. ‘-)

NaPoWriMo — 1 — A Friend Always Says

“Sadly, this town is not like London” –
no Big Ben to count out
hours of our days
or umbrellas
for sale at every street side café.
No one owns galoshes
only a few have a proper raincoat,
settling instead for a black garbage bag
with holes for arms and head.
Also not like Venice,
though the lightest rain
makes gondolas seem like a fine plan
for transportation, while
buildings of concrete block
belie the mirage.
Nor is it Paris
though we boast our own
kind of tower
and from the hill
city lights glitter
and glisten
romantically.
Not a ranch,
not a city.
In between
somewhere else
and
home.

~LD

Describe “something in terms of what it is not, or not like.”

Tools of the Trade — thoughts on home ownership (week 1)

As I clamped the pliers down on the disappointingly named decorator hook and it bent into a shape utterly unrecognizable as a hook, I thought, “I should have known better. They’re called “decorator hooks”; OF COURSE they are made of cruddy pot metal that won’t hold up to any serious twist.” I had pre-“drilled” a hole using a hammer and nail, and still, the underside of the MDF cabinet wouldn’t take the pretty little hooks I’d picked for hanging my measuring spoons and cups without mangling the hooks. I sighed, such a waste of elbow grease. Did the math – about two bucks for ten essentially useless, but pretty, hooks. Lesson learned (again): if you can’t handle and examine the product before you buy it (especially when it comes to hardware) there’s a good chance that it is, well, crap. Back to the hardware store, this time for hooks which are less pretty and more functional. Fine.

In the master bedroom, as I set up the somewhat tall, massive, buffet-style table that I built a few years back, with the notion of using it to fold clothes and to hold my jewelry boxes, I’m still rather amazed that the only major flaw is that (just) one leg is about a centimeter shorter than the other three. I cut the lumber for that table with a handsaw. A HANDsaw. I measured everything carefully, but still that one leg got away from me. Though the table is hardly what you might call beautiful, it is exactly what I wanted; I should take the time to plane the other legs down to match the short one. But, I never do. You should see my plane, so antiquated as to be nearly a joke. A plane requiring elbow grease. I use it. But I try to keep it to a minimum. I’m low on elbow grease, and they don’t sell that stuff at the hardware store.

Having purchased a home, I think I might have done well to also invest heavily in a hardware / paint store. I’ve lived here four nights, and already I need a new key for the hot water feed to the washer (that side is drippy at the handle), a decent drill with concrete-capable bit, paint for the façade — not to mention the front entryway — a couple of quarts of hole-filler putty, a good pair of cable cutters to dispose of the tv cable in inconvenient places. I’m sure more such details will occur to me over the weeks and months and years to come. Maybe if I’d invested in a hardware store, I could convince them to stock elbow grease.

~LD

PS. Ridiculously happy in my new place in spite of minor details. I’m dreaming and drawing it into the shape I’d like it to take. No doubt, this will be a project of some planning and time. ❤

Sunday Saving Daylight — NaPoWriMo6

Eyes still shut
I awake to the practiced, stolen
tunes of the mockingbird chief
outside my window;
I love his
teachery ways.
My sleepy ears enthralled
by his youngliings’ answers:
in tune, if not on key.

A crunch of leaves,
already sun-dried in April,
disguises the crack of a bat
and briefly the rustle
of fifty Moms cheering
in the stands;
I break open soft-boiled eyes
and imagine shadows of children
swinging bats for arms and mitts for hands.

A glance at the clock
reminds me time has changed;
by summer schedule
I’m up early even
without counting the hour I’ve lost,
but I envy my mockingbird
his timeless choir practice
that runs on angles of light
not on the hands of a clock.
~LD

The Trouble with Dust — #NaPoWriMo5 — a golden shovel

(with apologies to William Carlos Williams)

Like wilderness everywhere, an urban desert lies just so
Constantly changing, but not by doing much
Its glowing watercolor sunrise depends
Bug-like, upon

The thickness of industry exhaust, a
long time ago, this city was red
with the blood of civilation’s wheel
that dug up the desert foxes’ barrow

Their eyes looked out and saw the glazed
tangles of steel with
eyes bright from dwindling rain
They walked down to the river only to find no water

The maquilas built the dam beside
The craggy cliffs and stones upriver, while the
Dusty limestone glistened white
All around the rancher’s wife’s chickens.

~LD

Las Mamás Esperan que Volemos (The Mommas Hope that We Fly)

Ah, the chamberlain (if I'm not mistaken), pathetic fellow, he is.  Taken from planetirk.forumotion.com

Ah, the chamberlain (if I’m not mistaken), pathetic fellow, he is. Taken from planetirk.forumotion.com (film reference The Dark Crystal [1983])

The poor fledgling trapped in my carport looked like a Skeksis. They always do. I can’t help but feel sorry for the ugly things. First off, they’re so pitifully ugly in the midst of molting before they can fly, but after they’ve been cute and fuzzy with baby feathers.  When they get stuck in the carport, as one or two does almost every year at about this time, they always find the same perch under the bench and won’t be persuaded to move more than a hop or two. Usually within a day or so, the local street cats, the bite of starvation, or the roasting spring sun catch and break these fallen nestlings. But this guy had cojones.  All week I watched him go from hobbling the ten feet from my washer to the front gate, faling to fly and then, finally, flying short distances inside the carport and a little beyond.

Every day an army of grackle mommas that live in the tree out front kept a close eye out for any threatening movement from the cats and me.  These are serious mamasotas.  They are not to be crossed. Their presence makes clear why Hitchcock’s The Birds is such a scary movie. As I hung up the laundry last Saturday, I found myself cringing under their screechy scrutiny; there were ten or so worrying the top of the high wall around the laundry space. Even though I didn’t see the fledgling at first, I knew he had to be there somewhere; the mommas army doesn’t deign to notice me unless there’s a baby hiding out.

Sunday morning when I went out to collect the laundry, the main momma — the one with goodies in her beak — sent all the others to harangue me while she looked for the little one. Grackle mommas, aside from being vocal, are quick and wicked looking. I crept back inside, figuring the laundry could wait while the little one got fed. Monday and Tuesday I dashed in and out of the house warily, bearing glares and warning squawks with a mix of patience and trepidation.  I’ve read that crows and grackles recognize human faces and have been known to attack offensive people.  I didn’t want to accidentally do anything to offend.

Fallen Chanate / grackle, before flight

Fallen Chanate / grackle, before flight

By Wednesday he had perched his ugly Skeksis-self atop the bougambilia bush. I was impressed and hopeful that he’d been able to fly high enough to get to that point four feet off the ground. Not wanting to scare him, I neglected watering the plants. I explained the situation to the airplane plant, the ivy, the rosemary and thyme – begging fotbearance — and then stealthily refilled the water bowl I’d left out for the stranded fledgling.  The next morning he was nowhere in sight, and Momma only fussed briefly as I left for work.  When I came home yesterday afternoon he had not come out of hiding, but I’d seen him fly quite high, so I decided that he had finally gotten strong enough to fly himself away. My hope was heightened to a kind of glee when my neighbor told me this morning that yesterday he had seen the bird fly from the carport all the way up to the top of the seven(ish)-foot high perimeter gate.

Today, Friday, he lay there in the fiery afternoon sun, fat, molting, and covered in soapsuds.  His little body had tipped over in a puddle, his beak pointing south, open a crack, still in wait for the day’s feeding, his feet like broken twigs flopped uselessly. The dead fledgling simmered in a soapy soup on the concrete between the hot water heater and the washer.  I hadn’t liked him hanging out in my carport all week, and even less did I appreciate his mom’s scolding each time I went in or out with trash, to water plants, wash clothes, hang clothes.  I guess I should be glad he’s gone, but I’m curiously sad.

He came so close to flying free against the high, endless blue, croaking his misanthropic “song.” Early on, I could have shoo-ed him out the big carport door onto the sparse grass below his home tree.  I could have tried to put him in a cage and feed and water him there.  But I decided to let him use my whole carport to try to find his own way.  I guess that’s why I’m sad.  Of all the options available to me as a witness to his strife, I did the best thing I knew to do: not interfere, keep an eye out (momma grackle, me), make resources available that he couldn’t have gotten on his own, and wait for him to take wing. Maybe next year. ~LD

* * *

A few process details: After a draft workshop on Tuesday with the sophomores (oh, how I love the sophomores) I almost didn’t finish this.  The earlier incarnation had great description, but was purposeless — the fledgling was still living at that point.  But today, after finding the fledgling dead during housecleaning, the REASON came into being.  I remembered being one of Momma and Daddy’s “arrows” set free to fly into an unknown distant future. No other note is needed here, I think.

Glad you dropped by.  Leave a comment if you are so inclined. ‘-) No matter what, have a great weekend.  Summer cometh. ~LD

Dust Storm — NaPoWriMo #10

Counting days
of dancing wind:
Wind stomping at windows
sliding between the cracks
of the threshold
swirling under our feet
sashaying in newly green leaves.
Hour after endless hour
everywhere
she steps
the dust of her rotting
skirts remains behind.

~LD

* * *

“Spring”, hot and windy, is not my favorite time of year in the desert. While I appreciate the visual beauty and turmoil through well-glazed windows, the day-to-day fact of it is not my favorite thing. Worse, wind like this used to be followed by rain. But we’ve not seen a real rain here since mid-September, and there’s none in sight now. So this is my NaPoWriMo unlove song to the wind. Maybe it will make it go away. ‘-) Anyone wanna take bets on that?

Happy closing of the week, folks!
~LD

Mexican adventures with Mom

The chanates (grackles or crows, whichever) were making their usual spring ruckus in the tops of the trees while I was making oatmeal muffins, when Mom came in and said, “I thought you were in here frying bacon, then I figured you probably don’t eat bacon.” I registered the racket from the park across the street and laughed, “Of course I eat bacon, but not often, and alas, not today.” Mom and I drank tea and ate hot oatmeal muffins before heading over to the park to take a look around.

While I filled her in on the general agenda for my one and only skip day of her trip to TRC, she identified plants by their names in English for me and (I’m guessing) tried to take in the familiar, the unfamiliar and the long unseen. The morning was leisurely, and eventually, the chanates flew off to scavenge the day.

About midmorning, Mom and I trundled ourselves into Jose’s cab and went downtown to the Museo Arocena with a plan to have an early-ish lunch at the Copa de Leche, an old diner-style restaurant downtown that I’ve been going to ever since I first moved here almost fourteen years ago.

Mom goes to TRC and finds COW.

Mom goes to TRC and finds COW.


Writing about a museum visit leaves something to be desired, but I will say that we talked about Mexican history (Oh, how I wished for Mr. Miranda, our History of Mexico teacher!), were fascinated by the Arocena House with its hand-pieced parquet wood floors and stained glass windows. We oohed and ahhed over the “portable” desks with all the accessories from the early 20th century that make a desktop computer with screen look positively featherweight. Almost as an after-thought (we were getting pretty hungry at this point), we remembered the Jorge Marin sculpture exhibit, where we lost ourselves again in considerations less historic and more spiritual, philosophical and Newtonian [Please go to Marin’s website http://jorgemarin.org/ where you can find a gallery of his work]. We even made a cursory tour of the bookstore with mental notes for a return visit if needed.

We beat the lunch rush to the Copa at around 12:30 or so, but we were both pretty famished (we had missed almuerzo which is usually around 10 or 11 am, and lunch proper isn’t until 2 or 3 in the afternoon). We ate, talked and browsed the pamphlets we’d picked up at the museum. The bolillos [French-style bread rolls] with salsa instead of chips was a hit, and lunch (chile relleno for Mom, and huevos a la Mexicana for me) was delicious.

When we finished, I had the bright idea to walk down to the Mercado Juarez, where I promptly wound up walking us in circles until we ended up back at the museum. We took a stroll around the Plaza de Armas — lately armed at catty corners by big Mexican Marine Hummers full of young men in fatigues carrying big guns – grabbed a cab and headed back to my place.

The Mexican Flag at the Plaza Mayor in Torreón, Coahuila.

The Mexican Flag at the Plaza Mayor in Torreón, Coahuila.


Because a trip to the Comarca Lagunera is incomplete without a trip to Chepo nieve, on Sunday I decided we should head over to the Alameda where there’s an authentic Chepo franchise (for the uninitiated, the “original” Chepo is in Lerdo, a couple towns over) as well as the pulga, a public library, and a 7-11 where the restaurant Chihua’s used to be. We ate our lime, coconut with strawberry chepos on a bench in the square and watched people, listened to a student banda de Guerra (war band – drum and bugle) practice. The morning was exactly perfect, sunny but not hot, with a breeze, but not windy.

We spent another chunk of time in the library. It’s really a pretty little library. Cluttered around the edges, but the stacks are orderly, even if many of the volumes are outdated, threadbare and scant. There is even a media center with five or six (ancient but functional) computers for free Internet use by patrons. The stained glass window in the library designed and produced by a local artisan and a local glass company took our attention for several minutes as we deciphered what the window depicted.

Finally, we decided to head over to a little restaurant a colleague had told me about on the opposite corner of the Alameda. At El Sureño, surrounded by colorful paper maiche, clay and wood masks from all over the world, we enjoyed a lunch inspired by foods common to the southern part of Mexico. But not before our waiter plied us with a long list of various tequilas and mezcal. We demurred, asking for limeade with mineral water. Even I couldn’t fathom tequila on a late Sunday morning. While we considered the menu, we enjoyed black bean dip and a couple of kinds of salsa with our totopos. Once we had asked one hundred and one questions about the menu, we settled on tamales in banana leaf and a kind of empanada stuffed with fried squash flower, all drenched in cream and cheese. I don’t think either of us was especially in love with the empanada (the cream was a little sour and unexpected — it might grow on you with practice), but the tamal was MUAH! Absolutely amazing. Something about the flavor the banana leaf adds to the cornmeal changes the nature of the tamal completely. Our lunch that day was long, slow and delightful and bracketed by the library, a few gift purchases in the pulga, and the waiter who was pushing Sunday, late morning booze, and the intriguing masks all around us.
El Sureño masks
El Sureño wood masks
The rest of the week we spent at school. The first morning, I pointed in the general direction of things of interest on campus, walked Mom over to the elementary office and went about my business. By the end of the day, she’d been “roped into” (I don’t think this was a particularly challenging roping job) substituting for a second grade teacher on Wednesday, and wound up as an emergency substitute on Tuesday, as well. We came home at the end of that first day and Mom told me all about the first graders she had worked (played?) with, trying to remember names and picking out personalities when she couldn’t remember names. All week my seniors and sophomores hassled me, “Where’s your mom?” they asked with a slight whine (a la first grade) in their voice. “We want to meet her.” Naturally, when they finally got to meet her, on Thursday, I think, most didn’t know what on earth to do with her. I had to laugh. One student needed no introduction and hugged her when he saw her in the hallway, intuiting that she’s family by extension.

Finishing up their proof of having actually learned something.  I have the best students. (I only included this photo and not the others because I didn't really want to post recognizable people without permission. Y'all don't be mad.)

Finishing up their proof of having actually learned something. I have the best students. (I only included this photo and not the others because I didn’t really want to post recognizable people without permission. Y’all don’t be mad.)


I see this view everyday; occasionally with less haze.

I see this view everyday; occasionally with less haze.


3rd floor CAT_southwest
In the afternoons after school we mostly crashed and burned and then made dinner, but we also did a few other things, like visit the pottery shop where I’ve been going all these years for super cool, genuine Mexican things (like ceramic, hand-painted house number tiles). Mom got most of her loot there (a ceramic lizard, her house number with frame, a time pig for the youngest grandbaby, a ceramic plaque reading “Casa de la Abuela” – serendipity is everywhere), and I was pleased to see the señor owner who had been absent last year. One afternoon after class Mom had the dubious honor of hearing me rehearse an Art Festival song with the band made up of other faculty members, far more skilled than I. Mom was duly impressed. Luckily, I have pretty decent day job that I actually like.

When I went with Mom to the airport on Saturday morning, I pointed out the places she needed to know and talked her through what came after we checked her in. And then I left her there and made the mad dash back to my house where I made all the calls to all the people who needed to know that she was safely deposited at the airport and would soon be back within reach. And then, I had a little siesta. ~LD

P.S. I am terrible about taking photos; even if I carry the camera around with me, I forget to capture moments. I hope these will give you an idea in spite of me. ~LD

Turn Us To Stone

Tonight under a waning early-winter moon,
the smack of gunfire fresh, but distant, on the air,
I’d like to be among the stones
that line the cliffs along
the banks and tributaries
at the presa.
I’d like to stroll —
water rushing off on emergencies
great and small, etching a soundtrack —
and there among the wild grasses, run cool hands
over the faces of those ancient, stony watchers.
The heat of desert sun,
not forgotten, still rising from their skin.

Skin that was aged and pitted when
Revolutionaries rode through
with revolvers and rifles at the ready.
Skin that warms the hides
of a hundred beady lizard eyes —
witnesses to destruction
and foundation for rebirth.
Solid, warm, stones
resonant and humming with the lyrics
to thrilling songs and stories
of a lover at home
of liberty
of life.

I’d like to lean back into their heat
and absorb their ability to stand
Still and silent and strong
in the face of destruction.
Waiting,
watching
for change.
The Revolutionaries
would weep
in their copas
to hear the squeal of sirens
stark and bright under a waning moon.
I want to touch beloved, mighty, wise stones
that they could
banish human greed and
return us, lowly wanderers,
to flesh and motion and joy.

~LD