Haibun #2, Driving Home, May 2015

Haibun #2, Driving Home, May 2015

We have been two weeks in Moab. Hikes between thunderstorms, visits with friends, a conference with
the real estate pimp. Her words, not mine. I take photos of derelict Volkswagens, cactus buds and
blooms, the green stigma antenna to their hearts. My husband weeds the grass, his nemeses the same
here as at home: dandelion and black medic.

Pothole reflections—
cumulus, juniper, rock.
Everything trembles.

“Razors” and souped-up American rigs accelerate out of the four-way stop, in the four cardinal
directions. This is Utah, after all, a paean for the numbered grid of streets. We pause in our talk on the deck.
The screws have worked themselves loose from the untreated boards. A pair of black-chinned
hummingbirds probe the honeysuckle vine on the tall fence.

Ditched orange debris bags.
Dead raccoon and smashed up deer
magpies pick over.

I-15. The painted white and yellow lines dash by. The miles look the same, and then they don’t.
I monitor small differences, the crumbs of change: graffiti painted over, that rusted piece of farm
equipment sunk deeper into ruin, a cottonwood bulldozed out of the way. The odometer proves we are
moving. Past this year’s bedded-down calves, the circles of pivot-irrigated land, RVs hooked up row
upon row by a reservoir, a still-life of small fishing boats. The hum of our engine and fans circulating
the air, our breath, all that we hear.

Eight white pelicans
cast high and east between storms.
Grain elevators glint.

Route 30 to Lava Hot Springs. Waterslides, a snapshot of what used to be river. A squall through
cottonwood leaves the air snowy for a couple hundred yards. Solstice is less than a month off now,
winter a memory and a forecast, one and the same. Grace Seed Company and a semi-truck size pile of
discarded tires. They come, they go. An arrow points south to a golf course on flatland between
the rumps of mountains and the shoulders of black lava. Hard not to wonder about the road.

The half-gone barn roof
crumples over horseless stalls.
Milepost 52.

An invisible meadowlark pierces the closed windows with insistence, with song. A cell tower bristles
with messages and signals. One, then the other of us, checks a smartphone, ponders the one bar and
then its absence. What was it we wanted to know? Shadows from clouds leave jigsaw puzzle pieces on
the hills. Fast and narrow Tincup Creek runs toward the Salt River. A tall thin black bird stands, still on
the far bank, an out of place eye-catcher, but the guidebook indicates cormorant, a rarity for my life list.
The Freedom Arms warehouse takes to a low spot, with its claim to the largest, with its stock of
polished revolvers.

The fat lady walks
a small brown dog. Leash puller.

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The Trap

The Trap

Nights running my husband set the trap, rammed the Havahart between the chicken coop’s gateposts,

looped the wire as if it, rather than the hens the fox desired, might tantalize the fox—the one who, like

Rumi’s night, knows itself with the moon; as if the fox might forget what it knew and walk into that

strange mechanical lair. Nights running my husband dreamed the fox into forgetting what it knew of

what’s what and what is not: the scent left by fences and houses, the geography shifted by moonlight

and cloud, the landscape the shadows where the hay mice snoozed and the hens roosted. Nights

running my husband dreamed. But at dawn, while my husband dozed like a god, the trap had been

tripped by a skunk.

After the Dark Collects

After The Dark Collects

After the last nest palmed for eggs laid
late in the day, after the flashlight lifts up
the nodding head of each hen, one-eyed
and annoyed on her roost, after the dark
collects our easy prayers, my husband asks:
Did you count them? Twice?

Yes and Yes again. I refuse to give more
than that one word. I know he wants to hear
how I snugged the sun- and rain-cracked
bicycle toe clip strap to close the gate, how I
scented the air between coop and our back door
for fox and skunk, certainly enough to keep
the flock safe this night.

There are, of course, questions behind
the questions, just as before, the rustles and
shadows, the shiftless wall of willows. I want
to answer all the questions with more questions,
to end the mind’s desire for every answer.
I stared down the gate, the willows, the shadows,
even the stars who offered nothing, some days,
that answer enough.

Chicken Bones

Chicken Bones

Some will say to examine the long dead
black hen in her immodesty disregards
all she once was, she who nested
beneath a wild pink rose, brooding
with her secret eggs, weeds and snow,
to roll back the stones meant to keep
skunk and raccoon, a dozen chickens,
and me with my shovel from mocking
the importance of her bones.

I could argue it nothing more
than science this desire to dig up
the backyard garden, to extract
bones from soil and rock, to take
from the earth the remains of one
small hen buried these four years,
document the diminished pomp
that served her a dog’s lifetime,
decipher what we minions, worm,
bacteria have to say about memory,
what’s become of her flesh, jeweled
feather, talon and beak, to marvel at
the diligence of roots and rain, note
how separation made anonymous
breast and rib. See here the tidy skull
tucked in, this where her wings used to be.

What Mattered in June

What Mattered In June

1.

Can she teach anything when it’s this hot?
The mirror in yoga class competes with itself.
Summer holds nothing back.

2.

Why this mess in all my rooms?
Today, between here and the mountains, there is less smoke.
Sanity: learning to let go of plump philosophies.

3.

Don’t you care there’s chicken shit on your shoes?
When I walk near the junipers, the baby robins snap silent, hide their red-throated hunger.
Hard to practice hope with eyes stitched open.

4.

Will I jump the gun, run off half-cocked, miss the target any less next year than this?
To kill salmonella scrub the melon’s pocked skin with hot water and Dawn.
Don’t be fooled: bargains with the devil have been known to work for a time.

5.

Does it matter when I don’t know the answers?
Every year before mildew and the aphids, the lupine still blooms.
It always costs more than you’d’ve guessed to dig up old ground.

Today’s Weather

Today’s Weather

I opened this morning to chickadees,
their color same as the chiaroscuro
sky, the roil of clouds, the forecast
storm, but still illumination enough
for this book called feather and cloud,
and the birds not clouds clatter their
five notes, iterations of what sound
like annoyance at the empty feeder,
branches that rock, me watching
the other side of a window I do not
open, a litany of let me in’s and let me
out’s, about how everyone always wants
something more: bed, salt, meat,
distance between fences.

Courtship

Courtship

With what expectation I have come to court
the garden’s brown earth, persisting even when

it refuses my wooing, laughs off the earnest
proof of devotion: organic compost, manure.

Anxious seasons I angle the spud bar under
sneaky hunks of rock. What a comedian, that god,

who left them for me to find, the dandelions,
rusted nails, splintered fiberglass to debate,

the recurring plagues of horsetail root out,
and the dreggy brown I didn’t ask for

to argue its own claims, a smug fidelity
to old river clay. A hen scratches near

my elbow. I open my palm, the small glisten
of slug or severed worm coined up within.

No fool, she pecks, mocks me with that tilt
of her head, certain I still have more to give.

This Solitary Ground

This Solitary Ground

Between granite and lichen
his heart nudges him to wake
at first light, a frost-mist caught
fire, the quiet summons: the elk
stepping out of thin dark.

Between his hands the uncapped
thermos, the sweet tea that has to
wait, between one breath and the next
the easy shot not his to take.

The elk circle and browse, breath
that comes to him in soft poofs.
Hard not to think they see him
a piece in their world.

*

Crap, I’m eighty four, he told his daughter this
to make sense of what he saw—Now, This!—
out his passenger window: the Colorado ranch
elk, a carnival of targets. Tagged. Tamed. This,
that other kind of waiting he never asked for.

And what’s this crap? He punched the button
to turn off the heat. He wanted to tell her
everything he wasn’t. She leaned in, snugged
his seat belt. He closed his eyes, remembered
Africa, the once-in-a-lifetime safari, a lifetime back.
Wasn’t it she insisted on tagging along, watching
over him, even then? She recoiled each time he pulled
the trigger, never questioned what it took to kill.

*

His back fits
this place between
Doug fir bark and
the early morning
air that falls
upon his chest
between two creeks
these phantom elk
found on his own.

Damned if he names
the creeks anything
but revelation
all the prayer
he needs the slow
coming of light
the elk stalking
him this solitary
ground.