Spring 2020 Poetry Selections
Curated by Santa Fe Poet Laureate Elizabeth Jacobson
By Various Authors
Did We Come Here?
By Victor di Suvero
How did we come here and to what end?
What was it that drew us here?
Was it the land calling, the piñon?
The great shaped clouds blessing the blue of the sky?
Was it the dawn’s quiet or the other one,
The one that comes from the day of work, at dusk
In summer, promising rest and respite and all
The other good things we dream of when we let ourselves do so?
How did we come here? Was it the wind?
Or was it the star that moved us, all of us?
Tell me about the Anasazi, how they came here,
Out of the Earth’s navel, the Sipapu, the hole
In the ground made by Coyote when Lightning
Came after him — tell me about the old ones,
The ones who came from over the edge
By starlight, riding the wind, driven
By hope as well as by terror — tell me!
How is it that we came here, to this place
Where the cottonwood grows? We brought
Our cooking pots and histories and prayers,
We brought our hopes to make a place
Where the children’s children not yet
Born may come to tell each other stories
Of how it is that we came here
And why — and they may end up
Knowing more about it than we do now.
I have come to give
Thanks to wind and star and call of land
And all that served
To bring us here.
¿Cómo Llegamos Aquí?
¿Cómo llegamos aquí y a qué final?
¿Qué fué lo que nos atrajo aquí?
¿Acaso fué la tierra llamándonos, el piñón?
¿Acaso las grandiosas nubes bendiciendo el cielo azul?
¿Acaso fué la quietud del alba, o la otra,
¿La que llega después de un día de trabajo, en el atardecer
En el verano, prometiendo descanso y todas
Las otras cosas buenas que soñamos cuando nos permitimos hacerlo?
¿Cómo llegamos aquí? ¿Acaso fué el viento?
¿O acaso fué la estrella que nos movió, a todos nosotros?
Cuéntane de los Anasazi, cómo llegaron aquí,
Del centro de la Tierra, del Sipapu, del agujero
En el suelo hecho por Coyote cuando le cayó
Un Rayo — cuéntame de los ancianos,
Los que vinieron de la orilla
Iluminándolos una estrella, montados en el viento, empujados
Tanto por la esperanza como por el terror — dime!
¿Cómo es que venimos aquí, a este lugar
Donde crecen los álamos? Trajimos
Nuestras ollas de concinar, historias y oraciones,
Trajimos nuestra esperanza para hacer un lugar
Donde los hijos de nuestros hijos, aún no
Nacidos puedan venir a contarse sus cuentos
De como fué que venimos aquí
Y porqué — y puede que terminen sabiendo más de esto
De lo que nosotros sabemos ahora.
Vine a dar
Gracias al viento y a la estrella y a la llamanda de la tierra
Y a todo lo que sirvió
Para traernos aquí.
Originally published both in English and Spanish in ¡Saludos! Poems of New Mexico, edited by Victor di Suvero and Jeanie C. Williams. A special thank you to Brandywine Avila, Victor’s assistant for her help in gathering information.
By Jane Lin
When you say teleological
I think geological, the layers laid down
in ashy additions. Think paleological,
the ur-cat loved for being first.
Fish heads and shrimp tails.
The land rises up. The stone wears down,
footholds one in front of another
in the hip’s required zag.
Is god mystery or what you know?
The rectangular hole for catching deer.
Standing on a mesa top, close to
the dead a thousand miles away.
The sun mists the mountain dusk,
the bent light like a cataract,
the decay of sight. Like cracking the window
to hear whoever might call.
“Deer Trap” is reprinted by permission of the publisher, 3: A Taos Press, from Jane Lin’s book, Day of Clean Brightness, First U.S. Edition, 2017.
Jane Lin is a poet, software engineer, and the Southwest regional chair for Kundiman. Day of Clean Brightness (3: A Taos Press) is her first book.
Bear of Mountain — & She Flies In, Too
By Sawnie Morris
I was raised in the light of mountain hulk of
a confident outline brazen vibrational
luster a conglomerate presence of pine stone
lion deer & bear’s
amorous desiring of apples her choke-cherry
seed-filled scat left in the meadow
we often returned to
the edge of the drive where she wanted
close to bushels fragrance in storage. Unthinking, or at behest
of white-eared hummingbird –– we left
the door ajar. And don’t you love a-jar
its alliance with fruit jams spontaneous music impromptu
elations the elemental chorus : insects playing stick-wing
& leg instruments the frisson of bear fur
& fat against bark the curly-haired
dog his nose for eternity its scent : fungus & moss ––
while nearby [ in-house ] a colloquium of female iconography carries
a statuesque chat. There are nights I want to ––
but it’s a waste bending time its orbital
belly its hot sensual core. The mountain refuses
a belt and that is power –– happily
it leaks all over itself a fountain intricate. My favorite
watercolor mountain is arroyos their spidery legs
edging toothy rocks-streams-skip –– the way that poet was
always skipping beyond mountain piano keys of
fingers piercing air –– caw! caw! –– into imagination
the other side of perception respectful of sky-streaked clouds.
Even her cat cried out and her dog would have died
for her he was such an accomplice. Stigmata
dripping from claw. We are bears drunk on
apples –– apples delighted to be
desired by bears. Fruit’s not-too-tough cellulose crimps
at mouth puckers where grey bird stabbed
bit tore. Left sunburst in the kisser
of a gap. I think of Jackson his cat-mouth chattering
uncontrollable at window practicing the clamp down and tear.
His mouth sunk in imagination
of bird flesh warm provision beyond
feathers. I tell you when my mother tears a fingernail
my own is ripped-to-the-quick. And when after long walk
through woods I tell bear I want to see her –- she appears
that very night where I spoke –– righteously offended
by my shout & heave of the magnitudinous Rothenberg
anthology –– my cup flying up –– a star into ether –– the shatter of
tea leaves over fired brick. She came in search of
apples. Her cinnamon gleam splays \\|// patio light.
She doesn’t hurt my dog though she could have
slashed him to watercolors: arterial thick. Dog hides in bush.
Bear ambles out the taming arch into far infrared night.
Woman with a curl in her belly is stricken by after-the-visitation:
Bear could have killed my dog. Bear could have taken a bite of me
or my beloved. Bear and I had a galactic halo of conversation
which continues. Listen
the same story can be told as myth or matter (of) ––
“Bear of Mountain — & She Flies In, Too” was published by Puerto del Sol.
Sawnie Morris’s collections include Her, Infinite (New Issues Press) and Matapolvo Rain in The Sound a Raven Makes (Tres Chicas Books). She is the inaugural poet laureate of Taos (2018-2019).
Blue Winding, Blue Way
By Valerie Martínez
I tell you, City, City, City, a story you told me—brown eyes, green eyes, black—in the days of snow drifts, mini-skirts, nothing beyond Richards Ave. The center of earth was a patch of land, our house, a back yard, the arroyo humming over the reddish concrete wall, and one immortal turtle. The neighbor’s immense ham radio antenna and Mr. Chang hunched to static and metal under the morning buzz of Osage Ave. We went to school in sedans¸ in dented station wagons, and on weekends workmen showed up to build vigas for the new den that swelled our home–so many children–Alfonso saying, mi linda, get me that bucket and ¿donde está tu mama? Me saying, at the grocery store, buying tubs of ice cream, you know, those big ones? Get me, ice cream, you know took to the air over the rooftops spilling toward Frenchy’s Field. We weren’t supposed to play there—he’ll shoot, you know—and I imagined the old man hunched somewhere near the water, listening. In those days the Santa Fe River ran and sang. It’s true? you ask, staring at the empty bed, dust rising at the dead end of Avenida Cristobal Colón. There was water? Now we dream of blue winding, blue way along West Alameda—barbershop, coop, health clinic. The clog and cough of St. Francis Drive. Back then there were cars and wanderers and children just like now—towheads, dark braids, dirty cuffs—rolled up with all of us on the days of markets and parades along San Francisco and Palace Ave. Hmmm went the setting sun and you really could get fry bread for a quarter after walking down Washington Street from Fort Marcy after Zozobra burned. Now I drive downtown where the acequia crosses Closson and Maynard, stutters along Water St. and sings the parallels of East Alameda and Canyon Road. Like a whisper, it lays itself down between Camino del Monte Sol and Camino Cabra, two streets with the river in-between—one with her skirt trailing southwest to the Paseo Real, the other reaching her fingernail moons to the foothills. And the river itself, dream of p’oe tsawa, flushed from the red burn of the Sangres, running headlong downhill into this city of ours, then and now, with her canciónes encantadas, with her blue, with her brown mouth open.
Grateful acknowledgment is made to the following publications where this poem, in this or an earlier version, has appeared: And They Called It Horizon: Santa Fe Poems (Sunstone Press, 2020). This collection was written by Valerie Martínez during her tenure as Santa Fe Poet Laureate, 2008-2010.
Valerie Martínez was the poet laureate for the City of Santa Fe from 2008 to 2010. She has published six books of poetry and translation, and her work has appeared widely in literary journals and magazines. Her book-length poem, Each and Her (winner of the 2011 Arizona Book Award), was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. She is currently the director of history and literary arts at the National Hispanic Cultural Center.
By Sherwin Bitsui
Canyon river water combed
from the Milky Way’s gray hair,
shimmers when shelved on a stack
of sheetrock next to a window
glaring at an office chair
hurling toward it.
A woman gazes at a stairway
of light mixed with dust,
she presses her back
to the fist hammered wall,
her fingertips’ swirling
where broken glass glints.
Next door a singer
shakes a gourd rattle,
imagines a trail of embers
glowing in the dark maw
of a scorched coyote skull
nailed to an aspen’s charred limb.
By Sherwin Bitsui
We carry our _______
to the furthest seam,
wake with bleached eyes.
our outside voices—
We exchange faces
for ears of corn, duct-taped
to the red tassels of November’s fires.
Our horned shadows against
the dining room wall;
our split tongues shivering
under a blade’s half smile.
Our middle name:
one yellow leaf, unfurling our last.
By Sherwin Bitsui
Night air, cupped and shook,
bleed sighs when you dampen
the mouth’s slit. Calendars assigned
to others’ winters break into hyphens
under each new weather forecast,
fragrant as noon pavement
on which you scrape your eyes
to glimpse the cranes’ return.
Look, the snow-blind moon,
clouds in lungs; shoulder blades
sharpened against dry skin—
it argues when marched away.
Sherwin Bitsui (Diné) is originally from White Cone, Arizona, on the Navajo Reservation. He is the author of Shapeshift, Flood Song, and Dissolve. In addition to teaching at the Institute of American Indian Arts, he is a member of the faculty at Northern Arizona University.