Next Chapter




Mom, she says, Stop crying.

She’s embarrassed for me.


I can’t stop. After three hours

of snuggling on the green couch,


we are nearing the end of our book,

where the silverback gorilla


and the baby elephant say goodbye

to the girl who has helped them


leave their cages. It is not

the farewell that makes me weep,


though that, too, but the way

that the girl and the gorilla


share a passion for art. It’s so good,

I say to my girl between sniffs,


it’s so rare and so good to find someone

who really understands you.


She looks at me as if she will never

comprehend how such a thing


could make someone cry.

My tears land on the end of the chapter,


leaving a wet trail I don’t

expect her to follow, not yet,


her small hand already

pushing on mine to turn the page.


Parched Heart




all day the gray scent

of distant rain—

ripe apple just out of reach

Age of Expansion




Almost all I remember of seventh-grade history

is sitting in the back right corner

where I could lean my head against the wall

and look as if I were listening.


Those were the days when we still learned

that the Europeans had “discovered”

new worlds, and the indigenous people

were “found,” implying a subject/object relationship.


I never thought to question Ms. Estes about the terminology.

I only knew how desperately I wanted

to be discovered—preferably by Ron Didonato,

though he barely knew my name.


It was mid-semester when the note

arrived on my desk, passed along the back

of the room. Though the handwriting was messy,

the blue-ruled paper was folded neatly.


It was from the boy in the back left desk,

wondering if we could go together.

Circle yes or no. I certainly didn’t want

to be found by him, but I also


didn’t want to hurt his feelings.

Ms. Estes, up by the green chalkboard,

rambled on about European dominance

of a non-European world,


and meanwhile I prayed that an ocean

the size of the Atlantic might appear

in the middle of the classroom

so I could fall in or sail away before the bell.


It was only a few years later that history books

began to use the word “encounter” instead of “discover,”

which implies a reciprocity—though it doesn’t

change the fact that the Europeans


conquered the lands anyway and killed

and displaced those they encountered.

I remember I didn’t circle anything.

I remember I wrote something


about a boyfriend in a different town.

I remember the weight of the lie.

I don’t recall if I looked him in the eye

when I handed him back the note.


For the next five years, neither of us

ever mentioned again the encounter, perhaps

grateful for the ocean that rose between us

every time we met.

In Room 224




My daughter is still asleep

after stealing the sheets

all night. I finally let her

have them all and I’ve risen

to watch the snow not fall

outside the window.

It is gray, and from where

I sit on the floor, I’m not sure

if it’s gray because it’s too early

for sun or because it’s cloudy.

I don’t want to move

or make a sound—

would rather not wake

my daughter. They are rare,

these moments alone.


A truck rattles by outside.

I notice I am noticing the truck.

That’s a lot of noticing

for something so insignificant,

I think to myself,

then I’m startled by a laugh,

a full belly laugh, in the bed

beside me. My daughter, dreaming,

can’t stop giggling.

God, I think, it’s great

to have a body,

and on this cold, gray morning,

gratitude finds me and

body slams me

with my wild luck,

pins me with joy

to be this very woman

on the floor in room 224

not at all alone.


Going Forty




these longer days,

still not enough time

to notice how beautiful

the cottonwood

rimed in white

The Return of Wild Rose

Wild Rose … she dances on tables with death. She lights the whole house on fire. She does absinth shots with God. She has a real good time. Hope you can join her and her good pal McRedeye as they perform in Telluride on Feb. 21 at Telluride Arts and in Fruita as they perform at Lithic Books …

Read all about it, and see a few pix of the crazed duo here: Telluride Inside And Out: Wild Rose & McRedeye




Between us a silence

so fragile that half of me

fears it will shatter


and cut us, half of me fears

it will erupt and we’ll burn,

and half of me thinks


if I stay still enough,

something beautiful

might emerge.

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