Encounter with an Iberian Woodrat

Like the jigsaw puzzle suddenly nearing completion the pile was virtually gone. I had used the tarp to drag the piled debris to a new bonfire-to-be in the pasture. After the pile down below went up so easily yesterday afternoon I figured we could easily get this pile ablaze before dark.

The locust limbs split and hauled away, the thorny vines extirpated and lofted onto the pile, the only element of debris remaining where the brush pile once sat was a collection of tree detritus: twigs, leaves, the maroon pods of the honey locust. It was a curious collection, somewhat familiar-looking. I was grabbing at this melange with gloved hands and tossing some of it on the tarp to be hauled away. Doing this I stepped into a depression, wide but shallow. I started to get an inkling that I was disturbing a nest...

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Tijuana Mission Trip 2.0

We're between mountains, like in Colorado, or Utah. Wall! Border wall. To our left, to the north. Contiguous. Iron? A rusty red. Eight feet high? It cuts into the hillside.

Suddenly it's a little greener. Wind in the palms. Some flattening out. By the looks of it, the playa at camp will be windy. Stones, boulders on the hillsides. I've lost sight of the wall as we've tended south.

This is a smooth road. Turning to the south. Large round boulders. Accesso planta dart. Windmill. This is the back way into camp. It has a rural feel but there's actually quite a few plants or factories back in here. The road has gotten very rocky. A metal structure manufacturer. Galvanization. A burned area. Car carcasse. Lots of old tires. A guy in a chair under the shade of a tree just looking out at the road. Railroad.

We take a right onto a much smoother, paved road. There are lots of cars stopped on the side of this road. There are canopies set up. Lots of them. Is it a market? We're close to camp. Turning right, I know this road. There's the old, snub-nosed flatbed lorry. The silo-like red cylinder lying on its side. Dust! At 14:42 we are at the Amor Hacienda Camp...

Continue with this Tijuana 2019 travelogue...

Hay Bales, Highway 50

I realized there was more to Missouri
that summer, working in the middle of the state.

On Fridays I'd take Highway 50 from
Jeff City to Union, through antique towns,
past fields of hip-high grass that hushed
wispy and soft, green-gold in
June and July's late-setting light.

The spell would break hard when
I hit the interstate, leaving only a fleeting
afterimage as I braced for the
reality of lane changes and going
home, to my parents.

One August evening, somewhere west of Rosebud
I drove past a field whose grass was freshly
cut, left to hay in shaggy rolls, two dozen
of them spread out like a herd of bison grazing
quiet in a pasture holding nothing else
but a single sun-soaked tree.

At its far end the field ran up against a treeline,
giving rise to one of Missouri's unsung hills.
Above the hill a hawk tracked higher on
a thermal while cumulus and contrail
slowly absorbed the colors of the sunset.

I was late getting home that night.
When my parents asked me where I'd been I
said nothing, only handed them
this photograph.

A Farmer’s Almanac


Over this side
And steel.
Most moisture
We’ve seen in months.
Rusted linoleum
Tractors cowed
By the slender whim of God.
There are no banks.


This is why you don’t wait.
People gonna make mistakes, sure.  But
This is p’cisely why you never wait.
Waitin’ for rain, for the aqueduct.
Waitin’ for the war to end,
For interest rates to move.
Nobody in this family waitin’ for a goddam thing.


Well, sure we dropped a well.
And dropped it,
And dropped it.
We found that, ah, cone of depression —
Some bottles of dirty water.
Our poor Mother, ya know.
She loaned us udders of water,
Buried deep down in her soul, like.
Sandstone-lined.  All she had.
We was just children then.


We gone back to readin’ the clouds.
They’re beautiful really.
Cirrus curling into nothing
Way up there.  Just ice crystals
Casting down white light.
There ain’t s’pose to be such a thing as white light.
But I tell ya: I seen it.


I’m going on record with this
Because I’m in plain need of an elegy.
Sawbones gave me, oh, a few months.
Don’t matter much.
I came from this land
And I’m going back to it.
Now I’m telling you:
I want a Viking’s funeral.
If you can find ‘em, throw a thousand husks
Of corn onto my pyre.
Take fish from the hole I leave in the ice.
Despite everything I’ve said,
Regardless of whether there’s snow on the ground,
Whether the crops rise,
Whether anyone’s left to see me go.

Iben Browning’s Blues

The sound an airplane makes
is what it means to cut the sky with a knife.
Contrails are not clouds but sutures—
scars left behind, eventually fading,
no soil in blue.

Sadly, I have no more visions.
I foresaw neither Connecticut
falling into the ocean nor
the tremulous sinkhole it bred
in my second-floor apartment.

Pelted again with
the stones of incorrectness,
I’ve had to evacuate the state.

Keep the borscht cool.

See you in November.

To narrow wins,
to fat ones,
to pretenders.
To the factory shut down
then sent away.  We
welcome you back
under different rules.

Everyone got drunk
when Congress worked together.
This time it’s different,
turn the page.


A fire hydrant drowns in the sand.
It prays for the waves to reach its feet,
to lubricate its spigot with the shining randomness
of which only ocean is capable—
toy rubber dinosaurs, light bulbs, mismatched shoes,
mismatched socks, chairs missing a leg, saran wrap.
It gave up years ago looking for the perfect shell,
its pipes thick with grit, its undelivered postcard beauty
in no way self-consoling. O, hydrant, wait, wait—
the clouds grow blue with chaos,
the pelicans flee in threes;
your time is coming.


The cumulus clouds hover steady
and low in the evening sky.
They are blue or white. Their choice.
They don’t need to give a reason.
Blue because they want to;
white because they feel like it.
When they’re ready to
roll their own die, they shake
out to sea, join other clouds,
frustrate the surf with rain, and
contemplate the breeze
in another life, as sand.

Rain Sequence


A cloud, glowing purple
with mischief
puts a hand on my shoulder
and nibbles at my ear.
Its menthol breeze
hastens me to cover.
When the rain comes
—pitter patter—
I ask only that
it leave its hailstones
at the door.


The storm went off.
The storm has no lights.
He’ll come back on,
by tomorrow.
The lights went off.
The lights went down.
Rain and thunder,
by tomorrow.


Aha, I caught you—!
     —Caught me at what?
It stopped raining—
     —Yes, but it’s still wet.