Thread is a traveller
down ancient tunnels
dark and rippled with rainbows.
Thread rides the rails of
bead boxcars to hobo palaces.
Thread knows the route
takes the innocent beads
like toddlers on a field trip
Safely they cross the traffic,
holding hands, following the leader.
Thread is a choreographer,
a dancemaster of struts and strolls,
the Arthur Murray of the bead ballroom,
Laying out the moves, the winding,
the grinding, the shuffle-step-kick.
Thread has the big picture,
marshalls the herd into place,
toes the line, locks the gate,
With a gathering of will,
wraps long, limber arms around itself
in surgeon’s knots and half hitches.
Thread goes ahead.
Thread leads the way.
Thread ties the knot.
VJ - August 2011
The Other Words
Words, like hungry birds, hover around this circle of faces.
Impatient words wait their turn on contained tongues.
Words we’ve herded into these corrrals of poems.
They try to cohere: a suite of nouns, like living room furniture,
a set of socket wrenches, verbs in centimeter increments,
a garden plot of flower adjectives,
a distillation of word-grains into fine liquor.
But what of the hidden words?
What soldier will pull up his shirt
to show us the word scar
riddled with dark painful surds?
What woman will unbutton
one button of her blouse
to pull from her cleavage
a wad of crumpled tear-soaked words.
What of these passionate words —
Embarrassed and undigested that rumble in the gut;
red and swollen that seep from the heart;
thick gutterals that stick in the throat, hard words
like barbs raised in a clenched fist;
scribbles from personal prisons that want to
rise up through tiny stone windows to the light.
(Once I almost drowned in a sea of angry words
I could never utter, but an island of words saved me.)
And what if we could use those words —
line them up like notes on a staff,
birds on a wire, set them on fire
with rhythm and rhyme?
Embolden each other into change; lift
ourselves off the ground into bright air;
lose our footing and rediscover ourselves in words;
wrap each other in armfuls of words.
We would go home with new words
written in blue light across our foreheads
and people would look at us strangely.
We’d have to question everything,
and redefine the word poetry.
VJ - 11-4-11
Bosque Spring - a prose poem
The cottonwoods are still winter tawny and the Rio Grande is gray on gray. Ivory sandbars wait for the first flush of runoff. I walk out the asphalt path of Coronado Park, my book and lunch in hand. The sky, patchy with February blue, welcomes me. Ducks splash and cry along the water’s edge. Mating is on their minds.
A familiar sweet burbling vibration wakes my sense before my mind registers. I drop my book on the concrete table and scan the sky, like a lost soldier searching for a friendly plane. Where are they in the vast expanse? Their calling overshoots their presence and I search in vain. I arch my neck until it hurts. There: a gliding black script spanning patches of sky and cloud, like ink on parchment. A hundred cranes in loose maneuver. And look - a hundred more. Letters from the spring spirits. Whole paragraphs of migratory philosophy, rolling out northward like advance units of a seasonal army.
I’ve come here also, anticipating, tuned to that same natural heartbeat. Spring has started up, a frightened, half-buried young thing, and set about to find itself in our bodies - in feather and craw, in thigh and backbone, in the sap of trees and lovers.
But wind comes down cold from the north and chases me into my car. Dark rain clouds haul heavy drenched drapes across the desert, hound my flocks up the river,
and wet snow falls all afternoon.
VJ - February 1998, Albuquerque
Cows are Brown
Cows are brown even when they’re awake.
The nature of a thing is hard to fake.
Sleeping people be themselves
better than waking, where fixed by stakes
some great or minor status risk
they fake their own drama.
fall flat to sleep like cardboard thems
out on the grass among the elms.
Do they dream like hers and hims
of houses and boats?
Were I bovine
hirsute and horned, there’s many a meadow
I’ve espied driving past in my Toyota,
staring bored out the glassy window
looked a lush and handsome home.
Or if I were a goat, a
cardboard one or not (comma)
could narcoleptic trance
relieve me of my political stance?
Sheep be meek even when they’re asleep
Turtles go slow when they do go, you know.
Below the snow the mice remain jumpy
Bears from their longsleep waken grumpy.
And all cats, cataplectic or not (comma)
are still the boss, even while
dozing across the back of the sofa or
falling slowly off the window sill.
Every night of the world since time began
every woman and every man
lays down their consciousness
at night, puts aside the daily strife
and gives up waking life.
Not from lazy
Not from bored
Nor driven by a Lord’s
“Nightly thou shalt sleep.”
Falling over like goats to the ground
we be here and not here,
around and not around.
Ourselves and not our selves for hours.
Defenseless, unable and brown.
VJ - Dec. 11, 2014