Don’t Forget to Come Home Tomorrow

Together

we watched the glow

of a bitter orange sun

sinking in the west –

you insisting upon

seeing that final moment

before our day star

dropped below the hills.

I walked you home

just like any other night,

the dogs sniffing secret scents,

the smoke from burning trees

torching my lungs.

We hugged goodnight,

knowing tomorrow was

not just another day …

 

Afterwards,

I stood here on the porch

staring up at a waxing moon.

Venus and Jupiter

Shone bright –

Shivering diamonds

bring in ‘the light of darkness’ –

Twilight, when the Earth sleeps,

Cicadas sing on .

 

Once inside the house

the power went out

just as I placed your name

in my holy place

surrounding you with bears.

The sudden loss

startled me – an

unwelcome reminder.

Neither

of us has the script

– the future is unknown.

 

I sent you an email

“star thoughts”

told you I loved you,

dear companion, friend,

difficult, impossible

man that you are.

 

Your response –

“we are lovers

how nice”

I don’t know

what you were thinking

you couldn’t have known

I had been star gazing…

 

This morning in the Bosque

the scent of mowed grass

and the sound of the river

embraced me in the dark.

I was back at dawn

to say goodbye.

 

Now I will spend

the day waiting

until its time to call

to find out

if all went well –

as if any operation

was simply a blip

on a screen.

 

This one is not.

 

You forget everything else…

 

But don’t forget

to come home

tomorrow.

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The Tree Mothers Are Dying

The smoke clogs

my lungs;

a steel band

wraps itself around

my chest

tightening its hold.

The horizon

is dull gray.

The trees are burning

And I cannot breathe…

 

Innocent trees are dying

by billions, tortured by

hungry flames,

turning wood to ash,

rooted smoldering corpses

cannot escape.

Charred trunks,

crisped brown leaves,

needles curled, crackle and fall.

Sweet cambium –

The life – blood of trees

smothered by air

fiery tongues

and I can do nothing

to stop this holocaust

that brings me

to my knees.

And I cannot breathe.

 

Yesterday at dawn

I walked

to the river

in the heavy

thick air.

My lungs

laboring,

my feet dragging,

my head pounding,

the

outlines

of mountain

and mesa

blurred by an ominous haze

wondering what was

wrong with me.

I could not breathe.

 

It was as if the predawn

sky reflected

the hell – the torture

of burning trees.

Like holy women

burned at the stake

for healing with herbs

the trees are screaming

the lungs of the Earth are exploding

and I can’t breathe.

 

Trees weeping white tears

enduring the unendurable,

and still the rains do not come.

A ten minute deluge

cannot suffocate fires

scorching trillions of rootlets

tunneling deep underground.

And I cannot breathe.

 

Where are the Cloud People

that once gifted the Earth

with silvery ribbons of water

that flowed until

each tree and plant

was satiated

glowed luminous green?

I cannot breathe.

 

They have gone away

taking the monsoon

rains with them,

leaving humans to

their Fate.

The Earth is on Fire.

And yet,

even today we deny

that the death of trees,

(whose breath is our own)

forecasts our own demise.

 

The Tree Mothers are Dying.

And I wonder why

I cannot breathe.

 

Working Notes:

 

I wrote a poem about my troubled walk to the river yesterday only to have it disappear into cyberspace leaving me very upset and unsettled because it had everything to do with trees. Trees feel like some of my closest relatives.

 

Unable to let it go and knowing I could not recover the original poem which was better crafted than this one I was still compelled to write another. One thing I have learned as a writer is that I must follow my instincts…

 

I learned to love trees from my mother who spent a lot of time climbing them. As a child I swayed in light breezes on tree limbs, slept in leafy feathered branches and conversed with avian friends. Trees marked the changing seasons, and living amongst elder trees and loving them was a childhood passion I never outgrew.

 

As an adult the Apple Mother called me to her, nurtured me when I moved into my first real home located in the midst of what once was an apple orchard. Ancient gnarled apple trees were my daily companions with whom I had many wordless conversations. At midlife mindless tree slaughter on the edge of my property and a terrorized maple tree led me to leave that home for the mountains of Maine where I thought there were fewer people to harm them and trees were more abundant.

 

But once I began living on the edge of wilderness I was confronted with the realities of Maine logging and the fact that in this state trees were systematically harvested for whim or homeowner profit and always for the sake of a burgeoning economy. Maine currently has less than 16 percent of mature forest (2012 statistic) remaining. Bears and chickadees are moving northward for food and raped land surrounds my property on three sides. Dirty yellow machines roar and crash through once peaceful forests. The smell of chainsaw oil nauseates me. One of my immediate neighbors chopped the crowns off his trees and let them die slowly in agony. I witnessed this dying every single day. It took years.

 

I thought I had survived three lifetimes of tree slaughter by the time I fled to the high desert. It was a relief not to be surrounded by large trees. I immediately fell in love with the scraggily gnarled junipers some of which lived for hundreds and hundreds of years because they weren’t particularly “useful” as fuel.

 

Most recently, the Cottonwoods have stolen my heart with their rustling scalloped leaves, although I also learned that because of damming and water shortage that these elders would not produce young saplings that would survive to become the next generation of cottonwoods because these trees must have direct access to an ever shrinking water table. I settled for loving them with all my heart for now.

 

Then came last winter. We had no snow, no spring run off, no rain, the warmest spring on record – 90’s by late May – 100’s in June and by then forest fires had been burning out of control all around us and elsewhere throughout the southwest since spring. There were cheery rumors of a heavy monsoon season with plenty of rain to come but I had a very bad feeling about the truth of this prediction. Trees communicated to me that my senses knew something people did not. And, as I feared, the rains have not come except in teasingly small amounts. For example 0.03 inches fell late yesterday afternoon. It is now almost the middle of August and the monsoon season is coming to a close. The meadow in front of my house remains the color of winter wheat. And the ground is so dry it crackles under my feet as soon as the torturous sun hits the ground.

 

The junipers, highly adapted to high desert environments are in trouble. These “indicator trees” have bunches of dead needles throughout and growth is all but absent except in areas that are irrigated. One of these trees I have adopted as my Guardian tree. I know by now I can’t save them all but this one tree is watered daily and has responded by shooting up six inch spires of new blue green growth. Each morning I take a moment to touch her branches and talk to her just as I converse with the Cottonwoods. I remind myself daily to live as much in the present as I possibly can because all life on Earth is changing at a breakneck speed because of human indifference and greed. There may be no tomorrow…

 

Even with an attitude of resignation that sometimes borders on acceptance things have been getting worse. As the fires burn on I wake up to the smell of nauseating smoke. Each day is hooded in haze although the heat from the sun appears to be relentless. My energy level has plummeted not just because of the intolerable months of heat but also because of what it means to see that daily gray haze clouding my vision. The trees are burning.

 

Up until this week early pre-dawn walks to the river were my salvation, and my friend Iren’s Bosque has been a refuge. But a few days ago all that changed. Instead of trotting off happily in the dark to meet the river before sunrise I noticed that my breathing was becoming labored as I walked. I do not have breathing difficulties so I experienced this sudden change as alarming. What was happening? It wasn’t until I wrote this poem that I finally got the obvious: The trees are burning, and my identification with these beings is probably partially responsible for causing breathing difficulties for me. My very sensitive body is also like a tuning fork and any changes in the atmosphere affect me when others have no problems at all.

 

For all of my life the “Tree Mothers” have been with me long before I named them as such or understood that trees and women are two elements of one undivided whole. We are intimately related, as anyone who is even a bit conversant with world mythology knows. The cross cultural “Trees of Life” indicate to us that this relationship between trees and women stretches back to the dawn of humankind.

 

Perhaps this is why women gather round trees to protect them, as if only

we could.

Singing up the Dawn…

My walk to the river

is a joyful entrance

into the eternal Now.

The water flowing,

crushed fresh mint,

trilling bird song

desert air so sweet

my body vibrates

humming with all that is…

 

Returning under

bowing cottonwoods

I touch a heart shaped leaf

in reverence…

For Life.

 

Datura trumpets

are sirens singing…

And I bend down

to pull intoxicating scent

into my lungs

remembering a seed

that became a goddess

white roots tangled

in wet cloth

before spring planting.

 

This holy one of the Wild Places,

Waste Places,

speaks to death

for the unwary –

Fans Wildfire.

 

Luminous white moon faces

celebrate the dawn

perfume dissipating…

When a piercing eye rises

pearl blossoms fade

like I do under

the fierce heat of

a bittersweet orange

star.

Israel Francisco Haros Lopez

Above: Isreal’s art: La Llorona

Borderless Haiku: (IFHL)

We have forgotten the names of each other underneath the shedding skin those names written in our blood that have danced to tonantzin tonatiuh before they knew they were lovers. 

Last week I was fortunate to have attended a poetic reading and performance by a remarkably gifted young Mexican man named Israel Francisco Haros Lopez who was born to immigrant parents in Los Angelos. He is both a visual and performance artist, and his work transcends borderlands of all kinds. Israel believes that it is critical to honor and remember the ancestors so that we may once again become one with the winged ones, all those who crawl or walk on this earth, the Four Directions, Earth Air Fire and Water, Tonanztin and Tonatiuh – the Aztec Earth Goddess and the Sun God – Israel’s expression of unity in divinity, and the universe as a whole. His visual motifs are drawn from Pre – Columbian America and his work is an attempt to search for personal truths within the context of today’s world incorporating Mexican/Indigenous stories into the whole.

Israel believes written work or visual work cannot occur without sound or vibration, because all things on this earth embody and express themselves through vibrations. As such his written and oral work is constantly shifting as it is performed or recorded.

Israel’s current body of work explores Mexican, Indigenous and Urban Street Art Identity. He is inviting the viewer to consider their own ancient script and ancestral memory in order to mend racial, geographical divides. The work is also a healing practice, which through his art workshops he invites participants to become contemporary ancient scribes exploring their own writing practices both literal and figurative.

He brings his firsthand knowledge of the realities of migration, U.S. border policies, and life as a Mexican American to his work with families and youth as a mentor, educator, art instructor, ally, workshop facilitator and activist. Even with a 1.59 High school G.P.A., Israel managed to go back to the community college and raise his grades to get accepted into U.C. Berkeley and receive a degree in English Literature and Chicano Studies followed by an M.F.A in Creative Writing. At formal and informal visual art spaces, Israel creates and collaborates with others in an interdisciplinary way that includes poetry, performance, music, visual art, and video making and curriculum creation. His work addresses a multitude of historical and spiritual layered realities of border politics, identity politics, and the re-interpretation of histories.

 

What follows are two of my favorite pieces:

 

  • mexican jazz part 50

 

build that wall we come from the stars

we are the echo of grandmothers

migrating this America when it was just

and always a turtle

 

on mothers backs

more mothers backs

more mothers backs

 

this wall cannot stop the wave

of time immemorial

 

our grandmothers bones are scattered

across this rock

all rocks

along the feathered serpent

dancing with your minimal

notions

 

of what you think

you can stop with a wall

 

build that wall

you cannot stop our d.n.a.

 

  • white liberal antics part 44

 

White supremacy gets tricky when you add white hispanic and spaniard

and spaniard blood is white European blood

where do you think hitler learned genoicide

through the skilled native holocaust

orchestrated by cortez and the sword

and the bible that drives the blood

underneath the asphault

runs through the veins of a city

wanting to continue its legacy

of spanish conquistador

and la virgin de la conquista

running through the rivers

of la llorona

mourning for all her children

red black yellow white brown green blue purple pink

 

how do you interrupt this white supremacy

running through the city

 

running through the rivers

of la llorona mourning

screaming for the memories

of the whiteness of the moon

screaming for the memories

of the whiteness running through

her raped indigenous body

praying for the memory

of her children that were birthed

from this

red black yellow white

brown green blue purple pink

 

begging for the songs

stuck in our throats

 

www.chicanocoloringbooks.comm

www.waterhumminbirdhouse.com

www.newmexicomuralproject.com.

Witnessed

It was dark

when I first heard Her

whooing overhead

bearing witness,

ushering in

the First of the

Harvest Moons.

The seasonal wheel turning towards

ripening fruit and seeds.

Summer’s Bounty.

This goddess, my mother,

is cloaked

in feathery mole brown splendor

a Sphinx flying

through the night.

S/he heralds the

Gift of Water

answering earnest prayers…

As ‘Changing Woman’ she brings rain

to soften cracked desert ground…

Greening every thirst driven plant pore.

And puddles formed

as rain barrels overflowed

And I was filled with Joy –

even before I started for

Red Willow River

under a pure white moon blossom

perched below a

down turned velvet bowl.

Hidden somewhere in a tangle of branches

She observed my approach…

And when I passed

under the Cottonwood tree

the Owl took flight.

Her wings

made no sound

when she landed

on a snag

above my head.

Steely yellow eyes glowing

Like coals – fiery

embers, Second Sight.

Presence flooded me

with wonder –

I knew Her well.

After this sudden burst of insight

I felt Her Love seeping through

this body birthed with holes.

Seen at last by my Beloved

I give thanks for

the Owl that

calls my name.

A Moment of Renewal

(author’s front yard with Russian Olive tree)

 

A brief desert rain

quenches the fire.

The fierce white heat

(of a perpetually burning star)

is momentarily overshadowed

when the Cloud People pass by.

This sky blessing leaves

each Russian olive luminous.

Wild grasses spring to life.

Fragrant Datura spirals unfurl.

Impossible lavender edges

and white moon centers

open hearts to the hawk moth…

When I step outside inhaling

sweet moisture laden

air I feel softer, more pliant

like the feathery stems bowing

low from the recent deluge.

Juniper wafts her scent my way.

Wildflowers stalks deepen their color –

iridescent emerald opens wide

eyes grown dim

from scorching sun rays.

Every plant and tree

expresses deep gratitude

for this gift from the sky people

each in her own way.

And I am thankful to be

‘Plant Woman’ participating

in this moment of Earth renewal,

for the Gift of Water

has healed my Beloved –

this Dry Cracked Land.

Cicada Symphony

Each evening

I sit in gathering shadows

listening for the nighthawk’s peet,

the owl softly hooting.

Peering into the dense cottonwood canopy

I await the symphony…

 

How do they know

just when to begin

in perfect synchrony?

Punctual to the minute,

the swell is deafening

This music of the spheres

saturates my body

with song as I breathe

into the wonder of

Nature on the wing.

 

 

Postscript and Natural History

 

Every night I sit on the porch at dusk listening to night sounds. At precisely 8:30PM the symphony begins as the arching boughs of the cottonwoods come alive with song. When it’s really hot the cicadas are so loud that when I stand underneath the cottonwoods I am transported to another realm.

 

One night they surprised me. A few drops of rain fell and instantly the choral overture began. It was 8:15 PM and this uncharacteristic early beginning seemed to have everything to do with the rain which only fell for a few minutes although the insects sang on… perhaps the cicadas too are singing to the Cloud People, praying for rain.

 

I listened to many recordings before identifying the cicadas that are singing from these cottonwoods! Mine are “cactus dodgers” that are known for their affinity for cacti during courtship because they can dodge deadly spines during frenzied mating! They are primarily black, gray, white, and beige colored; well camouflaged for the desert.

 

Cicadas in general are an order of insects distinguished by piercing and straw-like sucking mouthparts.  Worldwide, cicadas comprise about 2000 species, which occur primarily in temperate and warmer regions.

 

Like all insects, the usually dark to brownish to greenish cicada has three body parts—the head, the thorax and an abdomen.  It has six jointed legs, with the front pair adapted for digging—a reflection of its underground burrowing life when a nymph.  A strong flyer, it has two sets of transparent and clearly veined wings, perhaps its most distinctive feature.  At rest, it holds its wings like a peaked roof over its abdomen.  It has bulging compound eyes, three glistening simple eyes and short bristly antenna.

 

The male cicada has on its abdomen two chambers covered with membranes – “tymbals” – that it vibrates, when at rest, to produce its “song.”  It can make various sounds, including, for instance, an insistent call for a mate, an excited call to flight, or a hoped-for bluff of predators.  Both the male and female cicadas have auditory organs, which connect through a short tendon to membranes that receive sound.  The male produces a call distinctive to his species.  Ever faithful, the female responds only to the call of a male of her species.

 

The cicada often makes its home in the plant communities along river bottoms and drainages but can be found in many different desert ecosystems as well.

 

The cicada falls into one of two major groups, one called “dog day,” the other called “periodical.”  The dog-day cicadas, which usually appear during the hottest days of summer, hence the name, include all of the several dozen species of the Southwest.  They have a life cycle of two to five years. The periodical cicadas, which include several species, all east of the Great Plains, have a life cycle of 13 or 17 years.

 

Once one of the Southwestern female dog-day cicadas answers the call of a male cicadas and the two mate, she seeks out an inviting, tender twig or stem on a tree or a bush.  She uses the jagged tip at the end of her abdomen to gouge into a twig.  She lays eggs, each shaped like a grain of rice, into the wound eventually laying several hundred eggs.

 

Once a cicada nymph hatches, it drops to the ground, immediately burrowing into the soil, using its specially adapted front legs for the excavation.  It seeks out a root and uses its specially adapted mouthparts to penetrate through the epidermis and suck out the sap.  The cicada spends much of its time in its underground chambers.  Once grown, it tunnels upward, to near the surface, where it constructs a “waiting chamber.”  Upon receiving some mysterious signal, perhaps a temperature threshold, our nymph, along with its multiple kindred nymphs, emerges in a synchronized debut, one of the great pageants of the insect world.  It climbs up nearby vegetation, molts for the final time, emerging from its old nymphal skin as a fully winged adult, beginning the final celebration of its life.

 

The cicadas struggle for survival through their final days because they are nontoxic and relatively easily caught, especially during the final molt, and must deal with a crowd of potential predators, including birds such as boat-tail grackles, various woodpeckers, robins, red-winged blackbirds and even ducks; mammals such as squirrels and smaller animals; reptiles such as snakes and turtles; spiders such as the golden silk spider; and other insects such as its especially fearsome arch enemy, the cicada killer wasp.

 

Of course, the cicada does have certain defenses.  Once it has molted, it can fly swiftly to escape some potential predators.  The raucous male alarm call may startle some predators, especially birds.  It may occur in such numbers that it overwhelms the collective appetite of predators.

 

In perhaps its most novel defense, the desert cicada has developed an extraordinary ability to remain active throughout mid-day, when most would-be predators have to seek shelter from the desert heat.  Notably, the cicada, unlike any other known insect, can sweat, which helps it dissipate heat.  When threatened with overheating, desert cicadas extract water from their blood and transport it through large ducts to the surface of the thorax, where it evaporates.  The cooling that results permits a few desert cicada species to be active when temperatures are so high that their enemies are incapacitated by the heat.  No other insects have been shown to have the ducts required for sweating.

 

While the cicada may cause minor damage to the plants on which it feeds during its life cycle, it contributes in important ways to the environment.  Studies of the cicada in Colorado River riparian communities revealed the ecological importance of this species.  Feeding by the nymphs influences the vegetative structure of mixed stands of cottonwood and willow that occur in certain habitats.  Excess water removed from the host’s water conducting tissues (the xylem) during feeding is eliminated as waste and improves moisture conditions in the upper layer of the soil.  Xylem fluids are low in nutrients and the nymphs must consume large amounts of it to accommodate their energy needs.  Most of the water is quickly excreted and becomes available to shallow rooted plants.  Additionally, cicadas comprise an important prey species for birds and mammals, and the burrowing activity of nymphs facilitates water movement within the soil.”

 

The cicada has entered the realm of folklore across much of the world, possibly because its periodic emergence from darkness into light and song has been equated with rebirth and good fortune.

 

In one myth Cacama was the lord of the Aztec kingdom of Tezcuco who met his end at the hands of Spanish conquistadors. Cacama lives on in these winged desert treasures.

 

A Greek poet once wrote,  “We call you happy, O Cicada, because after you have drunk a little dew in the treetops you sing like a queen.”

 

An Italian myth held that “one day there was born on the earth a beautiful, good and very talented woman whose singing was so wonderful it even enchanted the gods.  When she died the world seemed so forlorn without the sweet sound of her singing that the gods allowed her to return to life every summer as the cicadas so that her singing could lift up the hearts of man and beast once again.”

In our desert Southwest Zuni mythology, the cicada outwitted the traditional trickster, the coyote.  The insect produced heat in Hopi mythology, heralding the arrival of summer, and it is “the patron of Hopi Flute societies in charge of both music and healing,” according to Stephen W. Hill, Kokopelli Ceremonies.  The cicada played a key role as a scout and a conqueror in Navajo creation myths.  It brought renewal and healing to other tribes.

Across the Southwest, from prehistory into historic times, the cicada became identified with the hump-backed flute player, or Kokopelli, a charismatic and iconic figure portrayed in rock art and ceramic imagery.

Kokopelli risked his life to lead the Ant People from mythological inner worlds to the present world, where they became The First People, after agreeing to follow the teaching of the Great Spirit.

“Kokopelli’s transparent wings have now unfolded and dried, and he is able to take to the sky.  Kokopelli’s reward is flight.  His continued gift to us is his reminder to be grateful that we no longer live in darkness.