Five Woman Renga from Salida, Colorado


Twenty years ago I saw that storefront in Salida, Colorado
And wanted to write on it my poem of desire
Like a message one finger leaves on a steamed up bathroom mirror
A heart, an arrow, paired initials, “I Love You.” MS

No less ready to burst than a thunderhead on a late June afternoon
No less huge than the heart, red and rhythmic, in Salida’s night sky
This Love … LE

I shuffle the sizzling Salida sidewalks, looking into passing faces
full of light and shadow, their sorrows and joys mingled with skin,
knowing each face can only hold so much of either.
My own eyes, caught in the currents of our intermingled lives
spill over into the river that passes us by.
Look at me; I hold an invitation to the circle,
this spiral of love, this safe eddy
in our rapidly shifting landscape. LJ

Who can tell what the heart holds?
My secrets, your need,
who can say what the soul desires?
Our blood mingles,
somehow the skin remains unscratched,
the flesh unyielding. LLR

Come here, curl up with me,
the celestial fireworks have
started –
thunder shakes the house making
everything quiver,
those high-decibel drops outside
big as silver dollars
crash down in a flashy independent
sort of way.
Come here, love, hold me –
let’s float the hidden stream
of our own holiday. BF

a gray house with a turret
cloud-running sky
(view from my bed)
poppies, so intense
black stamens
you’ve always wanted
a house with a turret
once again
I’ve traveled a long way to do nothing MS

I am barefoot in this garden of rock and bone
Goddess figure holds court with Potentilla
You are everywhere…
My flute spins breath and blessings towards the moon
river holds the base line
We are woven into this home
no less than the mourning doves that dance in the tree LE

The yellowing of the pine tree in the vacant lot
where the grackles hold court, where the wind
croons to the moon, foretells of dry land and this
shrinking and sputtering around us.
When he goes, I better be long gone,
his stories tucked beneath my shawl,
his grace in my heart, spinning. LJ

View from my window,
this pine a world.
Nuthatches, the grosbeak,
his belly a sun,
white throat of the towhee,
I think back to snow.
Cottontail, striped squirrel,
come morning, long gone.
But first the moon must rise
and turn the lakes silver,
so perfect, so still. LLR

Velvet curtains the color of marigolds
pulled tight against the Mata Hari moon,
we dream of parallel lives, return
to phantom lovers, forge lies
into song to trill at dawn
in echo of robins, so early to rise. BF

Floating up from the aquifer of dreams
I surface in the lane
Of the vast swimming pool
Where hot springs pour from the earth’s core.
Doing a slow breaststroke
I’m almost the old woman I will become —
Grandmothers splash and pat their skin
Children dive
For a penny, a lost scrunchie,
A submerged city. MS

Not to mention the village…
its commerce my conversation
F Street my foyer and lobby and living room
Passing eyes share a smile and a secret
This place that defies time, age and culture of consumption
has another name – home.
Please come in … LE

We enter, fold our legs on the open earth,
blessed to be here under ancient cottonwoods
that drink from the river beside us.
We gather to listen, move our bodies
to the rhythm of water over rock
or sit with silence and a blank page.
Open your arms and enter here;
eyes wide and heart rooted deep in each other,
sipping slowly from the quenching underworld. LJ

Slap spray
split stone
splatter skin
tumble bone.
This river will take me
if only I let it.
Tree roots tangle my hair,
granite knifes at my back.
Breathing wet sand, going
and under. LLR

What love comes to —
is it only bright hunger and exit wounds,
or sudden delights and shadows
at chez nous, a dreamlike stillness
between — or is it this very day,
splashing into the bookstore
to get out of the rain? BF

This Is The Cosmic Highway
it says on the sign
on Route 285.
I pass the alligator farm
and the UFO viewing station
which looks in disrepair.
And pass a billboard proclaiming
a fact which almost seems in doubt
across this great plateau. MS

No one will say out loud “Enough Already!”
Not after searing sun parched skin and eyes, grass and garden
and river was a whisper too low for boat or brown trout
and the countryside burned …
Now great dark clouds drench us daily
but we know better than to say it …
because it is never enough LE

Tenderfoot Mountain, points the way,
to our cosmic road, anchors us to home and river.
Yesterday, shrouded in torrential rains
with arms of lightning plucking Pinyon
one by one from the Mosquito range,
we dismiss the thirst, are briefly unburdened.
Morning’s clear blue sky, a gift.
Great white clouds build castles on the horizons. LJ

These mountains
named for bugs (Mosquitos),
birds (there’s Quail, that’s Ptarmigan),
when I came here from ocean,
all this jumbled, broken, jagged gray
just walled me in and made me even smaller.
But then I saw the gulls plunge
from the peaks to high and hidden lakes.
And then I tasted salt and knew
that this, too, would be home. LLR

Divination by the crossroads in my palm
brought me to a river valley –
unceasing wind
stakes me to the rocks,
my doubts whisked away
by its four-directional broom,
the future steeps in
tea leaves at Cafe Dawn.
How fragrant, this sip
of unknowing.

if I was unkind
it was just
to memory —
hummingbird moths —
I leave tomorrow MS

all afternoon
the sky has rumbled
crying wolf again —
I tell myself a story
full of wet paw prints
interwoven with ours. BF

Lightning sizzles midnight sky,
silhouettes blue spruce
beyond the meadow
where fireweed clustered
and long ago, you loved me. LLR

Electric blue morning
the air, still and fresh
long shadows of the trees
reach to touch one another.
Here I am …
o p e n i n g
like a flower. LJ

Realizing my reckless wonder
keeps me still
That beauty distracts
… is an opiate
I pry myself from this Buddha rock
and return to work LE

This is a free verse renga or linked poem written by five women poets in the Salida, Colorado area. In order of appearance:

Miriam Sagan thanks the Colorado Art Ranch for her residency in Salida, summer, 2012. She runs the creative writing program at Santa Fe Community College and is the author of over twenty books.

Lawton Eddy lives, works and plays in Salida. A poet since childhood her work has been published in an anthology of high school poets, The Mountain Gazette, Colorado Central and a collection of poetry by River City Nomads with whom she performs the spoken word whenever invited.

Laurie James writes poetry to weigh the natural world and define how it has shaped her. She has been inspired by many poets and the great Western landscapes she travels. Born and raised in Montana, she is a 40-year resident of Salida, where she mixes her metaphors in view of a struggling lone pine and the wide-open changing sky.

Lynda La Rocca is a freelance writer and poet who lives in Twin Lakes, Colorado. Her third poetry collection, “Spiral”, was published in 2012 by Liquid Light Press of Lafayette, Colorado.

Barbara Ford lives in Poncha Springs, Colorado, due west of Salida. She is incapable of imagining life without poetry, the Elmer’s Glue of the Cosmos. Every week she reads the poetry of the world aloud on her radio show, which live streams on, 5-6 p.m. Mountain Time.

KITTY BURNS FLOREY on Diagramming Sentences


Diagramming sentences: what, after all, is it good for?
Well, for one thing, it’s obvious that it’s good for stirring up controversy. The more than 300 comments (and close to 100 personal e-mails) in response to my last post, “A Picture of Language,” ran the glorious gamut from “love it/taught me to write/thank you, Mrs. Wengler!” to “ridiculous waste of time/confusing/who needs it?” I was delighted to see that 400+ people can get passionate in print about the subject.
But questions remain. Once we have mastered the arcane skills diagramming requires (prepositions on slanted lines, gerunds on little staircases, etc.), are we better writers? What does diagramming sentences teach us besides how to diagram sentences?
I would answer: It teaches us a lot. First of all, it illuminates points of grammar. When constructing a diagram, we focus on the structures and patterns of language, and this can help us appreciate it as more than just a vehicle for expressing minimal ideas. (If language were good for only that, OMG, TMI, RUOK and their ilk would fill our needs.) When we unscrew a sentence, figure out what makes it tick and reassemble it, we interact with our old familiar language differently, more deeply, responding to the way its individual components fit together. Once we understand how sentences work (what’s going on? what action is taking place? who is doing it and to whom is it being done?), it’s harder to write an incorrect one.
Diagramming is basically a puzzle, and — as we all know in this age of Alzheimer’s awareness — puzzles keep our brains working. An attempt to tame a really complex sentence can oil your brain, twist it into a pretzel and make it do back flips. One reader of this series expressed a desire to see a diagram of a sentence — any sentence — from Henry James’s “The Golden Bowl.” The following example, which is from book one, chapter two, perhaps supports H.G. Wells’s crack about James’s style, comparing him to “a magnificent but painful hippopotamus resolved at any cost…upon picking up a pea…”:
The spectator of whom they would thus well have been worthy might have read meanings of his own into the intensity of their communion — or indeed, even without meanings, have found his account, aesthetically, in some gratified play of our modern sense of type, so scantly to be distinguished from our modern sense of beauty.

Poetry and Photography This Friday

This Friday at 5:30 pm at the auditorium in the history museum in Santa Fe–photographer Teresa Neptune and I are giving a Humanities lecture on our project “Roadtrips to the Moon.” She’ll be showing slides of scenes from the VLA to Truth or Consequences and other magical NM places and I’ll be reading the accompanying poetry I wrote. We’ll have a beautiful broadside for sale (inexpensive if signed and numbered!)–“I am not Kwan-yin.” Hope to see you!
Free and open to the public.


Where was beauty? Growing up in northern New Jersey, it eluded me. Of course there was Manhattan, canyons glittering at a distance beyond the gossamer span of the George Washington Bridge, but nature?
At least there were the Palisades, fifty miles of basalt embankment on the Jersey side, their name reminiscent of settlers’ forts. A strong vertical against the river, once I learned to see I could find their crystalline form–covered in trees and vines and ferns in summer, cracked by ice and frozen waterfalls in winter. Volcanic in origin, at the edge of where a great glacier stopped, carving bedrock.
Recently a huge chunk crashed off.

I won’t see it–my childhood house sold and gone. But I will always admire in my mind’s eye the beauty I found in a place without mountains, mesas, or much look at the earth’s bones–Palisades.

Mermaid Spotted Near Staten Island–from Mattea Harvey

I just got this from one of my favorite New York poets, Mattea Harvey, whose magical work is exquisitely quirky. Wish I could see it–but in any case what a cool idea!
Dear friends, near and far,

This year I worked on making a soundwalk with amazing sound artist Justin Bennett for the Guggenheim architecture program–it’s going on for four weekends (starting next week) in Staten Island. You take the ferry to S.I., then go to a kiosk where you get an ipod and go on a 90 minute soundwalk along the shore and into the St. George neighborhood. The piece is called TELETTROFONO and it’s about Antonio Meucci (who invented the telephone decades before Bell) and his mermaid wife, Esterre. Meucci was an amazing nineteenth century inventor who made a marine telephone for divers to speak with ship captains, flame-retardant paint (which he advised using on your underwear) and improved effervescent drinks, among other things. The telettrofono tour will introduce you to his real and imagined inventions, a mermaid chorus, a preset verifiable fact mode, and the story of a mermaid who leaves the water because of her love of how things sound aboveground.

If you would like to know more about the soundwalk, please go here for info and tickets (and an audio preview)!

And if you don’t live in the New York area, but know someone who might enjoy this kind of thing, please feel free to forward my email to them. I promise it’ll be a unique and wild experience (I don’t want to give away all the surprises…) I hope you’re having a wonderful summer!