finding a moth dead on the windowsill
Astonishing this cecropia, the color of juniper bark,
its thin wings thrust back as if it dove through the stars
just to die here. What broke its flight
while night froze around its intent? I wait a breath
before I touch its final beauty, wonder
if my brother’s broad chest thrust up
to expel the moth wing of his last breath
in the Veteran’s hospice, where Agent Orange
could no longer scar his hands, where
napalm could not scald the scalps of children
he watched incinerating all his life, so that
orphanages called him in dreams, so that he
could not bear the slap of moth wings on his porch
beating insistent as the blades of the helicopter
he shared with body bags going home.
Months now the rare jaguarundi has not crossed
evening’s path to the arroyo splitting our neighborhood.
We miss it’s fluid mahogany leap between ocotillo
and creosote, the way it snaps the landscape alive
then disappears complete, proving, indeed,
you can never twice step into the same stream.
Each morning, we resist news reports dropping
like cyanide into coffee, wait til after breakfast to digest
new atrocities stripping every humanitarian bone
from the exquisite corpse of our national conscience.
Before dawn, the dogs bolt from the kitchen door,
scatter finches, cactus wrens, desert hares
they can’t begin to catch in their snapping jaws.
Relentless sun rises in its catacomb of light.
The coffee maker quarrels with left-over crumbs
on the counter while the homeless begin to wake
in the bottom of the wash behind our house.
We are just as culpable as the White House, looking
away from the disheveled man sunburned to char and
jerking in his bones as he walks the berm of rush hour
on Oracle Road, looking instead for the jagurundi’s return,
avoiding thorns turned by sunrise the color of our common blood.
contemplating fire on a spring desert evening
My dog and I contemplate fire after hiking the dry arroyo,
striding past pencil cactus, mesquite bold with new leaves, small
bouquets of fuschia wildflowers, coachwhip lizards springing from our feet
disturbing their sleep. It’s been years since
I made a fire in this hearth, listened to the way fire speaks,
flapping its velvet tongues, its squealing and insistent
banter before it settles into radiance.
We could be outside courting coyotes screeching
after hares in the wash while desert willows
and creosote cool night’s fine silk skin. Or
we could watch Rachel Maddow skewer the President
whose budget cuts breakfast for the children of the hungry
who voted his promises in, supported by Congress lock-jawed along Party lines.
We take notes from what burns, the long patience of ironwood,
spiking heat engendered from its dense flesh, the way a few logs last
for hours unlike the brash flash and pop of ponderosa pine
or the quick self-immolation of birch. How many centuries
we’ve sat around fires, keeping stories, making
songs, our history woven in ash. We are all part of a story
scarred by fires we create. While our nation
screams from war to war, from one hatred to another,
we contemplate fire piercing the oncoming dark, remembering.
Political activist and wilderness advocate, Pam Uschuk has howled out six books of poems, including CRAZY LOVE, winner of a 2010 American Book Award, FINDING PEACHES IN THE DESERT (Tucson/Pima Literature Award), and her most recent collection, BLOOD FLOWER, 2015. Translated into more than a dozen languages, her work appears in over three hundred journals and anthologies worldwide, including Poetry, Ploughshares, Agni Review, Parnassus Review, Parabola, terrain.org, etc. Among her awards are the New Millenium Poetry Prize, Best of the Web, the Struga International Poetry Prize (for a theme poem), the Dorothy Daniels Writing Award from the National League of American PEN Women, and prizes from Ascent and AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL. Editor-In-Chief of CUTTHROAT, A JOURNAL OF THE ARTS, Uschuk lives in Tucson, Arizona. Uschuk often teaches at the University of Arizona’s Poetry Center, the Prague Summer Programs and Ghost Ranch. Uschuk was the John C. Hodges Visiting Writer at University of Tennessee, Knoxville. She’s finishing a multi-genre book called OF THUNDERLIGHT AND MOON: AN ODYSSEY THROUGH OVARIAN CANCER and has edited the anthology, Truth To Power: Writers Respond to the Rhetoric of Hate and Fear.