The garden outside droops and gasps
as if drought has struck the earth.
Just this patch–
the patch near the house–forgotten
by all the mountainous vistas,
sometimes visible, sometimes imagined.
I am too tired to water
this withering in the late summer sun;
this withering of untended memories.
The flowers have opened their fingers,
opened like a singing mouth,
the sticky pollen of their stamens, sirens
to honey bees and hummingbirds.
Now dry, they forget the ideas
they had earlier of melon and squash.
“Water!” They cry, “We are
dying of thirst.”
There is time.
There remains a chance for forgiveness,
Drop your chores
drop the bundle of others’ obligations
on the floor.
Grab a shovel and start digging.
Go to the river with a burnished jar if you must
and bring the water here.
They are gasping, the untended,
their roots stymied in the dry soil,
their flesh eaten by the unwatched squash bugs.
Go to them, speak softly in the faces of the flowers,
caress the bony arms of the tomato plants.
The moon is a sliver.
It will be bloated and teary-eyed
in a month.
We have this work to do.
This digging, watering and tending.
The relay towers are long fingered specters
on the periphery of every edge
of every road and hill.
Can you hear compressed between the static
and the announcer’s dumb drone,
the quiet clicking and whispering of the stars?
A field mouse outside the house
pauses, one paw up, his nose twitching
for one moment
and continues on.
The owl flies in search of food
but hoots into the sky at the spread
of clouds and stars.
The night driver on his radio listens
to the static and in between jarbled voices
of people speaking into microphones
in single rooms alone–
of one or two people speaking to the world
of news or weather or the random thoughts
of night sweats and anxious dreams.
The universe speaks back in ambient noise to the earth,
the prey and hunter pause momentarily,
the driver pauses–suddenly aware
that they are alive.
The relay towers on the periphery
shooting up like stalks of blood red flowers
in the unreachable fields of the darkness
on the edge of the roads, hill and mountain.
As you dig in the soil,
lifting up interred and buried memories
you notice the red lights blinking
from the top of Sandia Peak
in the late afternoon,
and off to the north,
the night lights that come up
when you come down Girard at midnight.
Those lights? What about those lights?
We are watering rainbow corn
on the west side of the house
in the hot August sun.
What lights concern you now?
You talk of roads and mountains.
Look at your hands,
you hold a clump of clayey soil.
There is your priority.
We cannot grow girders and bridges,
we are on a mesa now,
the river is down below.
The sea that flows in your blood
is two thousand miles away and filled
with the dead that have fallen
The brown swollen rivers of which you speak
are too tragic to bear.
Let them flow as they will, choked
with childhoods and failed schemes.
The sun gets lower by the minute.
Ah yes. The rivers near the towers,
the wild rivers that broke the back
of all those factories,
left just cement and concrete hulks
in the bends and swimming holes of the river.
Those last remnants will soon smooth
and slick down with moss.
The rivers that have had everything dumped into them,
that have gone into Long Island Sound
and the dark silt and oily sand
of the two intermingle in the docks
where out at sea stand the towers.
One small globemallow grows
in the soil next to the corn.
The asters stay hidden in the ground.
The sunflowers are as brittle as death.
In the shadow of the immense electric pole
It is fall and the owl in the maple tree
next door is quiet
because it is day,
but I am fifteen
and aware of that owl.
We are taking armfuls of wet leaves
and crushing them shredding them
in the shredder.
A small trickle of snot runs down
my nose and I wipe it with the flannel
of my shirt sleeve.
The leaves smell rich like rot,
like dry oatmeal.
We shred and rake, shred and rake.
The owl is quiet in the bare tree.
Finally we fill the wire basket.
He and I have not spoken the whole time.
We rake, gather and shred
to hasten the compost process
to turn into humus the blood red
droppings of the oaks and maples.
My father bends down and picks up an acorn.
We look at its smooth hard burnished body
he pockets it and I say nothing.
There will be more to hope for now.
The cold air of the evening begins
to settle down in the nest of our yard.
It will be time for the owl to speak.
The great migrations, north to south,
the cranes and herons, the mallards
all coming south.
We see them from this spot
but it is too early,
a month until the harvest moon.
Keep your eye on this task,
we must atone for the sins of this summer;
we must sing these sick crops back to life.
The flyway of the continent is a crosshatch
across the swatch of the Milky Way,
now visible in the evening sky.
We lie exhausted, intertwined on the wet worked ground
and the movements of the continent
the geologic rapture of the earth,
the swirling of water and seaways
that suck the rivers of eastern cities
the rain storms that leap the mountains of Albuquerque,
pass above us, through us
penetrated by the universe,
we are viable seed in the soil of the world.