pamela uschuk

finding a moth dead on the windowsill

                    for john

                                                    Simon Silva

                                                    Simon Silva


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.

desert aubade


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,, 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.