Maps

river in November light between bare woods and mountain
6.

One of the outside
motion-sensor lamps is bent
out of position, which means

it takes a while 
for its pair to flicker to life.

My tendency is always to want 
to find a way to replace what 
is broken, the same way I am 
anxious to lay a path
of light where I can. 

Is the moon not enough?
No, the moon is not 
enough. 

Maps

river in November light between bare woods and mountain
5.

If all narrative is a fiction
because it must be constructed,

what is the story we've been telling
about ourselves and the world
all this time?

With all who came before me
now gone into their own
underworld,

I sift through fragments.
They're gone, everyone
who I might have asked

to tell me a story.

Maps

river in November light between bare woods and mountain
4. 

How much did I live in the body
and how much in the mind?

Because there was so much
I didn't know, I wanted to be
a good student.

And when I became a mother,
I learned what it was to feel
divested of a sense
of invincibility, though I knew
I never really had it.

I have always been
a light sleeper since then.

Maps

river in November light between bare woods and mountain
3. 

In summer, the city swelled
with tourists from the lowlands.

I helped to row sometimes:
my back turned to the direction
the boat was going, feeling the pull
of the oars in my hands and wrists.

There was no need of fear
for the depth of water. Old fish
lurked in mossy corners, but if you
fell in and stood up, the water
barely grazed your upper thighs.

Maps

river in November light between bare woods and mountain
2. 

We walked up the street
from our front gate to the park
and the lake named after
the American architect.

Whose idea was it to build
flat-bottomed rowboats?

They were there
even before my father thought
he would apply for a concession.

When it was approved, he named
our little fleet of six boats
after his two granddaughters.

They'd just learned
to walk, and now their names
glittered in fresh paint and letters
sewn onto the jackets of rowers.

Maps

river in November light between bare woods and mountain
1.

In the mountains,

city that a blueprint once turned

into a hill station. A palimpsest

of place names — beneath the road,

a river; beneath the river, a buried

tree whose nodes led to silver

and copper and gold.

Houses

river in November light between bare woods and mountain
Some houses are a universe of breakable,
brightly colored glass. Others like to give off

an air of solidity: armchairs with massive backs,
table legs carved out of uncut pieces of wood.

The heavier, the better: none of that slap-it-together-
from-a-how-to-sheet nonsense. Like others, we've

filled ours with the collectibles of a lifetime—
mugs from every vacation, sweatshirts with school

logos; but also, stoneware plates and bowls, woven
blankets that smell of sleepy towns in the north.

Pictures of our living and our dead—how does anyone
find it easy to throw away a letter written in cursive,

though the paper has long yellowed? When the house
goes to sleep, we will also have gone to sleep.

Audacity is a Kind of Hope

river in November light between bare woods and mountain
The days are getting hotter and the rains 
are falling harder somewhere else. In the yard,

the grass still grows rampant, not knowing
anything about crowds crushed to death

in a stampede, or newborns suffocating in blow-
torch heat. What can one do now, given it's

impossible to look too far ahead into a future?
And yet we plan on making a trip to celebrate

a wedding, to visit the park with a giant silver bean
and water fountains. We make plans for dinner

and a show, a visit to the museum to look up
at a fossil's 67-million-year old bones. Whatever

you call it, that spirit rolls up its brightest clothes into
the luggage, leaving a bit of room for the unknown.

On Longing

river in November light between bare woods and mountain
If growing old is a growing 
into a less fraught relationship with the world,

I don't feel it—not yet. Will we still be here
to witness that arc of the universe as it bends

only toward light, as it props up every crumbling
wall with a trellis of jasmine flowers, the kind

that always stop me in my tracks with their heady
scent when I'm walking down the street near

a café whose name, in Latin, means It's all my fault
or I am to blame? I wish taking public responsibility

for a wrongdoing were as easy as saying I'd like one
iced pistachio rose latte with oatmilk to go. I wish we

could follow the arc of our own longings and know where
they'll come to rest in a just universe, in this lifetime.

Dear Human at the Edge of Time & Caulbearer

river in November light between bare woods and mountain

A couple of days ago, chatting briefly on Messenger, Dave wondered why I’d not posted anything about my forthcoming book Caulbearer . . . or even about the anthology which I was lead editor for, along with Aileen Cassinetto and Jeremy S. Hoffman— Dear Human at the Edge of Time: Poems on Climate Change in the U.S., Paloma Press, 2023. The Foreword was written by the wonderful Claire Wahmanholm, and the Afterword by Dr. Sam Illingworth, Associate Professor at Edinburgh Napier University in the UK (whose work and research have long focused on science communication through poetry and games).

I guess it felt a little awkward to be tooting my own horn. But it’s exciting to see how warm the reactions have been to our anthology, and how this little book keeps rolling along and finding more and more audiences. Joe Biden sent a congratulatory letter; the book even won the Best Poetry Anthology Award at the 2023 American Book Festival. We were invited to participate in the AGU (American Geophysical Union) December conference in the Bay area; and in April, the Science Creativity and Climate Futures Conference (UC Berkeley) built a conference day around Dear Human. PoetsForScience, Traveling Stanzas and David Hassler at Kent State University’s Wick Poetry Center helped us launch an interactive microsite where anyone can contribute to the ongoing “Community Poem” in response to the Fifth National Climate Assessment Papers (NCA5).

In less than two weeks, we’ll be making a call for submissions to a brand new anthology project—I’ll be sure to post a call here too!

In the meantime, I’m so pleased to let you know that the pre-order link for my newest book Caulbearer is LIVE! (There’s even a Study/Discussion Guide that you can click on and download, which my daughter Gabriela helped to create.)

Recipient of the 2023 Immigrant Series prize, Caulbearer will be released from Black Lawrence Press in August 2024.

It would mean the world to me and my publisher if you pre-order the book now, instead of waiting until August (pre-orders will be accepted until midnight of July 30, 2024).