Posts Tagged 'southwest'


I told my brother I was going running with my friends.

He said, “Ese, you don’t have any friends.”

“Shut up,” I said. I went running with my friends, from Isleta to Bernalillo to Santa Fe.

My brother’s a pendejo. I’m thinking about calling our cousin Iselda, the curandera who lives in El Rito and asking her to put a spell on him. Last time I asked her, she said be careful what you wish for and she was right, that brother went to prison and then something or other happened and now he’s dead. I don’t think it’s my fault, but I will think twice before I text Iselda again.

Since I got laid off last year, riding the Rail Runner’s the thing I do best. Only job I can get anymore is standing on a corner with a sign that says help please and god bless. In Los Lunas, that was not working out too well, with all my brothers and half my cousins stopping at the light and giving me shit. Then I thought about the Rail Runner; I got a monthly pass and I go up and down the line all day all week, alternating stops and corners and now I’m making enough to help my mom out with the rent. Twenty-eight years old, I’m a corner bum, but I’m better than my brother, the only one left who’s not in jail or dead. He lives at home too, but he just eats her food and smokes in her living room even though that makes her asthma worse. Doesn’t contribute a thing. I still think I might call Iselda.

Having a spell put on someone is touchy, like you got to have a clear picture in your head of what you want to happen or it can go crazy wrong, like that story with the monkey’s paw and the wishes. I wished for something like that once, for a monkey’s paw so I could have three wishes and Iselda smacked me in the head and said come back when you’re grown up, primo.

I’ve been thinking about the right spell. Maybe it wouldn’t be against my brother, maybe it would be for something really great for me. Like I get a job in an office at the Railrunner headquarters in Santa Fe, and every day I ride the Rail Runner in a suit and tie. I could give money to the brothers on the street corners in all of the stops, like Jesus feeding the poor with his fish and wine and stuff. I could learn how to run 20 miles a day in running shoes like those guys from Africa, the tall skinny ones you see all over Santa Fe, training training training; having the strength to run is the only thing that matters in the world to them, you can see it. Skin shining like rain on asphalt, those guys can really run.  Like someone put a spell on them and they just can’t stop.



Metaphor is the name of a wish that kept on starting and reaching the end of the line. The line started with a mistake, and the stations were marked with uncertainty. There was a train station in Metaphor and the wind howled. The howling wind and the rage of a girl named Meredith were married, carrying a wedding bouquet, a sob, a moan, and a wail that broke both down. Throw the bouquet, choke on the rice. Run.

When Meredith and the wind left town together there were hot sand and thrashing palm trees. The tracks ran from town to town, fast then slow, and the wind crossed the tracks, scar tissue holding the wounded together, pa-chunk, pa-chunk, through the long white nights. The music at the station was carried by dry sand, wind snaking through the open door of the El Dorado, 11 p.m. on a Saturday night in a small town in Nowhere, Arizona, where people came to run away and stayed until the next morning or until their teeth fell out and the keys to the jail dropped from their senseless fingers. Nowhere served a lot of breakfast, hope in the a.m. over easy with English muffin and a tiny glass of orange juice. Morning is different than night, Meredith found. Meredith learned more than she’d expected in Nowhere.

Trains run from Metaphor to Nowhere to Hope to Sweetwater to Euphoria to Paradise. Meredith rode them all, getting off finally in Future, California, where the trees bore coconuts and the lemon grass was bright and the smell of salt water was sweet. She bought pineapple with her first paycheck. She never looked back, not at the howling wind or the mistaken station, only forward at the trees waving on the boulevard near the ocean that promised salty sweet salty sweet, warm sand on damp toes, stars in the sky.


At the graduation the handful who were not graduating but attending nonetheless gathered in the handicapped restroom, the first handicapped restroom in the state. Bigger than a standard one person stall, less bustable than a walk-in men’s room. The tallest of them assumed the responsibility of improvising a pipe, which he made with a toilet paper tube and a bit of aluminum foil taken from a chicken parfait, an introductory and ultimately failed offering from Wendy’s, which at that time still had Dave speaking for himself on the commercials, where he played the role of benign protestant mid-western Colonel Sanders, with a dash of the great and powerful Oz thrown in.

The smoke. The tallest. The graduation.  Deming was experiencing a resurgence of sorts, a resurgence surprising for a town that had never had much of a surge in the first place. Deming, New Mexico. A destination in the middle of nowhere, railroad cars filled with iron lungs, one car after another, in the tubercular days of 100 years ago. The sun, the air, the dry hot blue climate sold itself to the bleeding lungs of northeasterners with money and their pale little children, who coughed blood into their handkerchiefs and either died in Deming or did not die in Deming.

The underwear favored by the gently wheezing young ladies at the Deming Women’s Sanitorium was billowy and typically of thin white linen, suitable for the dry hot climate. They would lie, languid and bored, with ribbons in their hair, in their white linen bloomers in the iron lung that would save them and send them back to New York, to Boston, to Connecticut. The ribbons were died in the pretty spring colors of a cooler, wetter climate – periwinkle, saffron, lilac, pale pink peony.

The young ladies lay in their iron lungs thinking of dances, thinking of young men, thinking of meringues.  Some of them are buried in the cemetery in Deming, and they have names like flowers, too. Flowers and gemstones; the young women of the early twentieth century were prone to swooning, dying young, and living to see another day.

One such young woman was raised in the Deming Sanitorium, having been sent there as a seven-year-old. Her name was Daisy – yes, this is true – and her papa had been an entrepreneur, a boastful man prone to self-deception and untimely truthful revelations to shareholders. Daisy’s papa, it is said, was single-handedly responsible for some runs on some banks, helping to trigger the domino effect that revealed certain inconsistencies in banking practices of that last century. In the middle of Daisy’s rest cure, while the mechanical lung pushed and pulled her ambivalent relationship with survival itself, a man with a shovel smashed Daisy’s father’s head in, leaving her an orphan very far away from anyone who knew or cared anything about her. Her mother, having succumbed already some time earlier to the consumption that lay Daisy low, had nothing to offer, and so, Daisy was on her own.

Bottom feeder

another giant squid

This is what it’s like to be a bottom feeder. First of all, we love ink. Ink is invisibility. Ink is darkness. Ink is what we write our history with. Look out there, out there into the vast whiteness. It has nothing to say until the ink drops into its wide open. No turning back once the ink has been spilled.

You want to tell your history, that’s fine, nobody’s stopping you. You want to tell someone else’s history, that’s different. There’s danger there, smells like sulfur, smells like burning cactus, smells like the brushfire or the war that can rush in and wipe out an entire clan.

Once I was playing cards in the back room of a little trailer house in Four Corners and I heard the wind pick up suddenly, and it was like I could see them even from inside, tumbleweeds rushing across the black night and suddenly igniting, igniting like monks in red robes, self immolating and taking down the fragile open country and everything that lives there with it.

I understand the meditative life of the tumbleweed, I understand the need to move, to feel the wind catch and carry us somewhere new. I knew about that even before I left Navajo country after the fire. I found my home on water, water green and blue and dark, almost black, where I fell in and never went back to dry land again, not for more than two, three days at a time. Long enough to find myself lurching when I came back to dry land, feeling the hitch and pull of gravity and rotation more strongly than I felt them on the water.

My family’s been landlocked for hundreds of years, most of them. My sea ways made me foreign, weird and unrecognizable as a giant squid, coming up from the deep only rarely, with gifts for my sister’s children, and then her grandchildren, until I am the only old salt on the Navajo nation, bringing seaweed ristras and monkey balls and painted tentacles. I stay a couple days, give them the salty sweet taste of my bottom feeder’s life, and then I leave again, leaving behind nothing but a trail of ink, and a history they can fabricate from the secrets hidden in the bright open sky and the black mesa reaching in the four directions around them.

For me, I add two more directions: straight up into the heavens, and straight down, into the cold, dark waters, where the wild shy ones live, where I feel most at home.

Clovis woman

cavewomanTeddy Roosevelt’s daughter studied archaeology and she wore trousers. This was very modern and expected of her as the daughter of a great adventurer and a seeker of primitive cultures. She had a mustache, a light downy mustache, very feminine, that she bleached in her youth but rather cultivated as she grew into her identity as more than an adventurer’s daughter.

I should say that this daughter of Teddy Roosevelt is entirely fictional, and that any resemblance between her and an actual daughter of Teddy Roosevelt is coincidental. Some of the places may be real, but all of the people are fictionalized representations of a moment in history. She is the great adventurous American female. Fearless. Flippant. Carries a whip, brushes the dust off of her heavy khaki trousers and goes looking for antiquities. There she is at Blackwater Draw, cheek to cheek with archaeologists male and female, digging in the dirt, scraping, brushing and uncovering great mounds of bones. Early man. Bison graveyards. Spear points.

The air is dry and water is unpredictable. A sudden rain turns the excavation site into a gullywash out of which a sudden chorus of frogs announces the tendency of water and water creatures to hide just below the surface. They drink gin in the starlight while frogs serenade them, cicadas making a counterpoint and diggers singing the juke joint songs of the day. They draw mammoths in the dirt with pointed sticks – here, we see a spear point that wounds but does not kill the beast. It wanders off and is found 16,000 years later, skeleton intact, spear still buried in the ancient scapula. This is tangible evidence that we were here.

Clovis man is a manly man, with rocks and spears and flints. He is worshipping life and water and the blood of animals long before Teddy Roosevelt puts on his pith helmet and carries the swaggering bravery of the American West to the White House. Clovis man eats whatever is there: roots, bugs, cuddly small mammals, frogs in the wet season. But he dreams of meat. Big meat. Meat on the hoof. Clovis man invented barbecue, Teddy Roosevelt’s daughter is sure.

Teddy Roosevelt’s daughter, whose name is Clarissa, adores Clovis man. She imagines him rolling his own cigarettes, out of the locoweed that surfaces in these dig sites periodically. She smokes along with him and looks up at the stars, whirling now in the big universe just as they did in the night visions of Clovis man. When she pictures him, he is well dressed, in skins that cover his private parts but show the sinewy legs, and with shoes. She pictures him in rope sandals, and she pictures him drawing in the sand with a sharp stick, just as she is doing now.  The eminent archaeologist on the dig, Dr. Edgar Howard, makes an occasional effort to get close to Clarissa, but in her imagination she is having a joyous fling with the first real man in America. She imagines showing him the first locomotive, the first printing press, the first combustion engine. She looks at his spear design and she knows him for the first American, ingenious, an engineer even in his primitive state. She does not marry, and this is no surprise to her father, who til the end of his life shouted loud and jubilantly and clapped her on the back like an equal, like a brother. And indeed, they were very much brothers under the skin.

(25 minutes. Prompts: multiple words and phrases, collectively generated.)

Sky caves

Clouds, Albuquerque

Clouds, Albuquerque - from Albuquerque Daily Photo

Sky caves collect where ice and air interact with heat and wind. I collect sky caves. I collect sky caves and gather them high where the clouds are piled. The clouds are piled and at the top the ice crystals form. I wait.

The winds blow, the grasses lay flat, storm crashes against the sky bottom all at once, and then there is fire. I gather the fire and pour it into the river and it boils up again into the sky, where it hits the sky caves with a great crash and then there is rain.

There is rain, sent down by the air gods, not me; they gather the ice and shake it hard with fire. When it comes down to earth the trees hold their hands up and shake their wild heads and laugh and cry all at once. The tree people cry for water, joy and sex soaking into the roots, and for pain as their arms are broken and thrown down in the wind, and the branches lay on the ground, which is clay mud and runs red like blood to the river. The ground is a river running red with mud, my collection has shattered, glass in shards have scattered and broken against the bosque floor. The sun warms, the water runs fast, the morning birds wake. They sing the air gods to sleep, high in the sky caves that rest, now, silent and still in the thin air.


20 minutes, writing group. Topic: Ice. Thank you, Mike!

To see a storm in central New Mexico, see the link below from You Tube. My neighborhood has more cottonwoods, wild giant trees, being in the bosque itself, but this is beautiful viewing also.

** The embedding feature for this video is disabled, but you can still watch it by clicking on the You Tube logo. My understanding of protocol in You Tube is limited, for now.

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July 2020