The Painted and the Real
The datura in this painting
is not the datura with its sweet,
rich scent hovering over the kitchen table,
though they might look alike
in exacting ways, the white flute
of the two flowers plays different music.
His name is the same as so many men--
uncle, mother's high school sweetheart, ex-lovers.
And yet when I say his name it is new every time,
this air breathing life into its syllables,
ripening the fruit of what's common.
I remember the cherries on the tree in Jacona.
My landlady cried when I left that house,
the ditch running right through the yard,
walks in the barrancas made of dust,
sudden paths emerging as my feet planted slowly.
At Hotevilla waiting for the butterfly dance to begin,
we wandered dirt roads soft with longing, sweet with rain.
In the empty-chaired plaza, clearing and preparation,
Hopis passing by as we sat separately watchful.
A butterfly, golden in the early morning light, appeared over my head,
hovered there too briefly to tell.
Later that morning the dancers wore tablitas painted with butterflies.
The real evoked the dance.
Or did the dance evoke what's real?
Already he speaks: I love you and I ask
how do you know? I am not rebuking him,
only curious for the ways in which these words
are said or not said, for the difference they make.
I love you opens me as the crooked sting of lightning opened the sky
in Los Alamos this week, after the rain that blinded us.
Believe me, I want to see everything.
I want, once again, to ask for everything.
This means lovemaking on the grass
behind adobe wall in rain,
later hearing impatience in his voice
over phone wire, then faith that this larger canvas
will find its place on these walls.
Today he said he wants to be the only one.
My heart is a letter bomb: all it'll take is the ripping
open of the envelope to set it off.
It follows the Rio Grande from Lama to the south valley of Albuquerque,
rich with death and singing, like the earth in this yard,
and how digging down into it, I come quickly to water.
Issue #3, September, 1998 :
Santa Fe Poetry Broadside.