Santa Fe poet laureate Elizabeth Jacobson curates another set of topical poems by local scribes.
By Natachee Momaday Gray
Don’t hold my hand.
Don’t kiss my cheek.
Know by heart my sensuality,
And feel me from a distance,
For distance is all there is.
I’m taking lessons.
I’ve decided to become a subservient novice at a
Few different trades.
I’m studying The Baptism of Christ
By Piero della Francesca.
Stay over there,
While I sit over here.
Let me fix you tea without using my hands.
Sancocho, without tasting it.
It’s been simmering all day long.
I’m learning how to French Kiss without any contact.
I’m learning how to be alone in my house
While you’re in the house with me.
Like an upright plant,
You gush when you are frozen.
You find comfort in familiarity
And mundane life.
You smile without being stimulated.
The human against the milk sky is abundant,
Nurturing, satisfying, decaying.
There is no neutrality without touch.
Only love and heartbreak.
Overflowing, bubbly, uncontainable love
It’s decadent and disturbing.
It’s rich herbed sopa con yuca y mazorca.
Feminine and masculine and raw and great.
Like the release of butterflies in Hyde Park, 1969.
Bring me back my blushing rose,
And I’ll trade in the skimmed, perpetual broth
For a day longer to feel what’s really there.
Natachee Momaday Gray is a Santa Fe artist and poet. Her work has appeared in literary journals, collections, and in collaborations with musicians and filmmakers.
PARTICLE MUSINGS IN THE TIME OF CONTAGION
By Michelle Holland
All the particles, the little bits, stay together,
slip through conversations, or travel in bunches
in a hand shake or sweet brush of lips
on a cheek, without notice, without even the
briefest acknowledgement. Then a cough.
Then a gurney in a hallway on the news
in Italy, in New York City, in the hospital
you can see from the main road through Española.
The wind blows from the east and the rain
slants against the tin roof, finding the one place
to leak for one summer day every year,
impossible to trace back from the pot of drops
into the space between the boards over the vigas
through the foot of centuries-old dirt to the attic air.
The lovely damp will invite centipedes to end
up in the bathroom sink, or on the floor of the shower,
once or twice, is all. A chain of seasonal events,
like a habit that includes now this house, and
a space between tin and beam that I have yet to find.
Particles permeate, knock against one another,
make bread rise, roofs leak, virus’ spread uncontained.
Work with me here, no need to seek out a leak
that will never flood the house, the one pot
will contain the annual ritual of wind and rain,
but reading the skies, the alphabet of weather,
and guessing when the last morning fire will be lit,
that’s second nature, but this abc of contagion
weighs like gravity, invisible and only as natural
as death always must be to take us to the ground.
Ah, the bright edge of story will only be retrospect
when we talk years from now, on rainy days,
waiting for bread to rise, of how the only way
we lived was to fool the invisible into stasis,
somewhere between existence and nonexistence,
where we stood, still, holding out our hands
to feel the drops hit one by one.
Michelle Holland lives in Chimayó, New Mexico. Her books include Chaos Theory (Sin Fronteras Press/Writers Without Borders, 2009) and The Sound a Raven Makes (Tres Chicas Books, 2006) She teaches humanities at Los Alamos High School.
SAINT PATRICK’S DAY IN THE TIME OF THE VIRUS
By Catherine Strisik
You carry me smoke, cedar
rising between our pressed
bodies from an abalone shell
placed between our feet on the tile
after we decide or admit we love
each other after I place the rusted-roofed birdhouse
between high branches on the only blue
spruce that does not block my view to the west
because I bought a jagged hand saw last autumn
sawed the lowest branches months before
your hands boned and skinned
me driving up
possibly an angelic tongue though I heard no choir
though I’d seen the images as people sang
from balconies in Italy as far
as I can tell, for the world to hear its
spirited templed self.
I don’t want to say we are not affected.
We stand naked in my galley
between a metal sink and GE range where we’d toasted
the cedar before eating corn beef and brined cabbage, red potatoes,
organic carrots, a grainy mustard, a meal
I’d never before thought to make but the virus causes me
to act unrecognizable, my held breath, and weep when left alone
in any room in my home. The bird house was not tilted
in the spruce, the wind having tipped it at a bladed
angle that none dared to enter, my face
moments before cleaned by a honeyed soap, now
you make a frame with your hands
for my face I recall nothing
ever felt like this the six foot horizontal
and vertical ritual of cedar, our broken-
ness that makes us not move
our eyes and facial features from faith or all gods
secret splendor your imagination
tells me so.
Catherine Strisik is the poet laureate of Taos, New Mexico. She is the author of Insectum Gravitis (Main Street Rag, 2019), The Mistress (3: A Taos Press, 2016), and Thousand-Cricket Song (Plain View Press, 2010). She is co-founder and consulting editor of Taos Journal of International Poetry & Art.