In a collaboration with the New Mexico State Library’s Poetry Center, inaugural New Mexico Poet Laureate Levi Romero and Albuquerque Poet Laureate Emerita Michelle Otero have edited the New Mexico Poetry Anthology 2023, published by the Museum of New Mexico Press. The 333- page book contains poems from every corner of our state, from writers of all ages and backgrounds, covering topics from nature to community, all bound by a single common thread: our querencia, our love of New Mexico. This small selection of poems is only a smattering of the talent contained therein; peruse all the poems yourself in your own copy, available at mnmpress.org.
Coyote Morning by Tani Arness
Moving to Taos by Jami Donley
Acequia by Jerry Ortiz y Pino
Cumulonimbus by C. John Graham
Along the River by Gregory Opstad
The Parting Glass by Mitch Rayes
How to Sell A Weaving by Laura Tohe
Ancestors In Us, With Us by Venaya Yazzie
I watch the coyote go trotting through my yard
pushed into these city streets
as I was pushed into dream last night.
We can’t slow the pace of expansion
as one day pushes into the next,
no time to pause and reflect,
the coyote keeps moving,
unsure what it’s looking for.
I remember I wanted to be something other,
something disappearable as a dream
or a coyote that’s here and then gone
trotting through yards and underbrush.
There are so many people with clipboards
and check lists insisting, “First this, then that.”
I can’t figure out what I am trying to finish exactly.
Is it true we all have more than we can handle, or no one does?
First things first. We have to
call Animal Control about that coyote.
What is it doing here pushed too deep into the city,
trotting along like the world is made of love?
Tani Arness has enjoyed living and exploring in New Mexico for the past twenty-three years. She strives to integrate her writing and teaching with humanity, nature, and spirit. A collection of her poems can be found in Tzimtzum: 5 Contemporary Poets Lend Us Their Hearts by Mercury Heartlink Press. Her poetry is also in numerous literary magazines including North American Review, Rhino, Bosque (the magazine), Malpais Review, and Crab Orchard Review. See also: tani-arness.com.
Moving to Taos
the cat asks to go outside
inside outside all day all night
I say no to him—coyotes
I go outside at night to marvel
at stars, the clarity of sky
outside is a magnet
the cat stands at the door
watches me as I stare up
both of us waiting
we stand together under apricot trees
tiny white feathers blow past
land on his white socks, my grey boots
the feathers sound like stars
the stars sound like feathers
blowing away our old lives
Jami Donley grew up in Mississippi and moved to Taos from Louisiana in 2017. She feels at home in her new landscape and appreciates the many artists who share it. Poetry keeps her company. She is currently working on a manuscript of poems and learning about lyric essays.
—Dixon, July 5, 2016
In our forgotten, narrow valley I scramble up
Twenty feet of log-strewn hillside to
Cottonwood-shaded mountain snowmelt
Flowing serenely in the weedy bed of
La Acequia del Llano.
The metal gate grudges, gives in at last and
Instantly a cascade erupts,
Tumbling noisily down a hidden channel
So steep it feels and sounds a waterfall.
Surging under a paved road
It forces its way into our field.
The water’s music—and its power—
Take me; shake me. Unexpected,
They force delight through my heart.
Caught by surprise, my knees wobble
At the sound; the smell;
The beauty of this ancient rite:
Water infusing earth with life;
Dusty plots of sunbaked dirt
Converted alchemically into fertility.
The valley’s birds aren’t caught
They gather rapidly, adding lyrics
To the ditch’s flowing melody.
I am ankle-deep in mud, leaning on my
Shovel, struggling to stay upright in
The pulse of our acequia,
Grinning at the birds, the sun, the music
And the throbbing of this life.
—Jerry Ortiz y Pino
Jerry Ortiz y Pino is a life-long New Mexican, retired from a forty two-year career as a social worker and currently serving his fifth term in the New Mexico State Senate. He and his wife divide their time between a home they share with children and grandchildren in Albuquerque and one they retreat to in Dixon. They are parciantes of the Acequia del Llano in Dixon. While in Dixon, Ortiz y Pino, he writes and reads for joy.
Sprouting from the bristling hillside, it
blackens its feet, tears up the docile
atmosphere not a mile past
this single pane of glass.
The unctuous understory
shadows a neglected, not-yet-sodden
lawn and splits
the viscous quiet with light.
The obedient cedars are not safe.
The unharvested alfalfa is not safe.
Icy amulets ricochet
across the vapor-clad parking lot. The
gravelly summons of thunder brings
hand to heart in the anarchy. I can’t
linger indoors anymore. There’s too much
from the sky.
—C. John Graham
C. John Graham’s poetry has appeared in The Laurel Review, Birmingham Poetry Review, Blue Mesa Review, Taos Journal of Poetry and Art, and the anthology Off Channel, among other publications. Graham lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico, and until retirement, was the safety manager for Los Alamos National Laboratory’s particle accelerator facility. He now serves as a search and rescue pilot for Civil Air Patrol and continues a lifelong spiritual inquiry.
Along The River
Three miles downstream from where
the Rito de Frijoles meets the Rio Grande,
there is still enough water in early November
to float my kayak. The river runs slowly.
I take my time, meander below high palisades,
volcanic tuff sandwiched between breccia and basalt.
An osprey stands on an updraft, hovering, calculating,
then drops a hundred feet. There’s hardly a ripple
until it lifts, grasping a small fish, and flies to its perch
near the canyon’s rim.
Gregory Opstad is a retired teacher. He divides his time between homes in Cloquet, Minnesota, and Cochiti Lake, New Mexico. A member of Lake Superior Writers, his poems have appeared in literary journals and anthologies. His chapbook, Lake Country, was released by Finishing Line Press in 2013.
The Parting Glass
who can believe Taylor’s sudden death
riding too fast on his motorcycle just days
from completing his new house?
a house warming party turned
into a funeral just like a party
the guitar and dulcimer
still playing the fresh picked apples
the homemade bread the clean shirt
the shovel dropped to catch
a beer tossed over the fence
and a toast: now
while we can let us drink
to everything unfinished
Poet, translator, musician, arts organizer, professional outfitter, contractor, and father of two, Mitch produced four Albuquerque Poetry Festivals, published THE TONGUE newsletter for eight years, and received a Gratitude Award in 2013 from New Mexico Literary Arts for his warehouse performance space THE PROJECTS. Learn more at mitchrayes.com.
How to Sell A Weaving
Trading post day and Masaní
gathers lightning and mountains
she pulled from the sky and
wove onto parallel lines
for she is part geometrician,
She buries her treasure
in the cornfield
damp from desert rains
still fresh from the memory
of the loom before she will walk
to the trading post and get only
half for the weight of mountains and lightning,
half for woolly clouds spun into horizontal lines on her lap,
half for her creation laid down one line at a time.
But in her dwells an old Indian trick:
she shakes off the sand and retains the dampness
for the scale from which the trader will pay her
full for the weight of mountains and lightning,
full for woolly clouds spun into horizontal lines on her lap,
full for her creation laid down one line at a time.
Laura Tohe is Diné, the current Navajo Nation Poet Laureate, and ASU professor emerita. She is of the Sleepy Rock People clan and born for the Bitter Water People clan. She has published five books and written two librettos, Enemy Slayer: A Navajo Oratorio, and Nahasdzaan in the Glittering World, performed in Phoenix and France, respectively. Her awards include the 2020 Academy of American Poetry Fellowship and the 2019 American Indian Festival of Writers Award.
Ancestors In Us, With Us
high desert cedar trees tower like the mesas.
I speak with a green sage tongue
where female words sparkle like water—
like shimmering summer storm clouds,
like the shimmering eyes of brown grandmothers.
Like the purple juniper berries on the trees,
the old language lives atop my fingertip swirls:
adindii, adindii—shining, shining.
Rooted at the foot of Huerfano Mesa,
prayed, is praying inside a circle home where her songs and sodizin rise—
like shimmering winter star constellations,
like the shimmering eyes of her brown grandchildren.
Like the mesa clouds of old
female Athabaskan language lives atop my fingertip swirls:
másaní, másaní—grandmother, grandmother.
Matriarch speaks with glittering hands,
each finger gripping the femme voice,
where female words dance vertical—
like the shimmering waters of the Animas
like the shimmering overflowing arroyos at Creation.
Like the river flows,
Matriarch sits and pours her migration
and old language lives atop my ridged fingertips:
nihi zaad, nihi zaad, our voice, our voice.
Venaya Yazzie is a Diné/Hopi woman from the San Juan Valley in northwestern New Mexico. As an artist, poet, and researcher, she strives to reclaim the true historical past of Indigenous southwest people and reaffirm land narrative and identity. Yazzie is an alumna of the University of New Mexico, Fort Lewis College, and the Institute of American Indian Arts. She is a board member of the Detroit Institute of Arts Native American Advisory Committee.