Firewoman Shimmies at Canyon Mouth Park
Your hair—slicked flame spikes. You built this blaze
beside the shoals to mirror their brash shine.
Scavenging downed wood along the water’s edge,
collecting branches up the pass— sunshine’s spring splurge—
our daughters found tangled nests— driftwood globes—
balled stakes, stems, moss and trash—fuel for fire shine.
You dragged torn saplings down from cliffs. Turned that Janis
Joplin on. Busted open our beer stash. Time to shine.
Skies popped with stars. Little River’s crevasse
echoed laughs. Moon’s slice glossed the dusk.
Conjuror—you made the fire light. Our voices rose,
following your lead, we boogied on behalf of girl-eye shimmer.
Young moms—forest freed, passing wildness to daughters—
ceremonials past the grasp of techno shine.
You fed whole oaks—branch to trunk—onto the pyre.
Woman—make the flames jump skies. Craft the night’s shine.
Firewoman Meets her Match
The sun revives green plots across your land,
and wakes a horde from subterranean sleep—
thousands of fire ants churning dunes
in armored metasomas, rise to claim your farm—
nemeses, adept at lifting trees
and killing chipmunks with their stings.
Last year, they filled your walls, swarmed
the laundry, infested sheets, left your skin
inflamed with wheals.
Show no mercy,
raze their nests and pour in boiling water.
Like losses which won’t give your mind full rest,
they shift a yard away, topple sunflowers,
bite your chicks, lift stones from red clay.
Stuff their beds with hot coals,
strike a bargain with these devils-come-to-stay,
This patch is yours; the rest is mine―
an accord they’ll violate.
Mow the tops and watch them swarm,
throw a match on gasoline.
Raise the base
of every flowerpot, and grow immune to sting.
Firewoman Puts the Blaze to Bed
The burn ban was over. Dragon-
faced cedar bark, poised in place
through three full moons, anticipated fire.
You were ready—stacked piles
of kindling, dried sycamore leaves, wind-
tossed pine branches, and seasoned hardwood.
With lighter pine stuffed
around, we sparked
this mythic fire mound.
The moon and the circling
lunar heat recalled
our early days—
aching from moonlight.
You uncovered a goddess log
with a branching pubic crook.
I stood her in flames— caressing
oaken labia, they hollowed
her inner circle.
Our tinder drained
to coals and pocket flames.
You spread the remainders thin. Glowing
coal morsels swam in trembling
fire slivers. I grabbed a poker,
stirring the red orange circle,
snakes and fish.
Under the lunar lamp,
each image flared
anew, and pulsed
in simmering flame.
Our circle cooled, leaving
a black hole with singular
moistened with water.
until we faced each
over the black-bed
and the moon’s cold shine.
Eating the Shadow
I once ate mine on the sly, from a caramel
doughnut box, sneaking one―
crisp, and soft, sticky and forbidden―
emptying the case in hopes I’d cure myself
of Mommy’s nightly sobbing.
I tried downing it with cola, planning the war
on poverty, smitten with love for Tim,
who swabbed floors after quitting college
to change the world.
I ate my own dark progeny, in bagels’ parboiled rings,
twisted and baked
for our Berkeley commune, hoping to alchemize
with their egg-washed, banshee whorls.
I bit my first southern summer, lustily,
dribbled purple juice down my chin,
my pies made with stolen blueberries
from an abandoned farm;
gathered throngs of poke-sallet greens,
boiled those stubborn leaves
in pot after pot of water, till all the poison leeched;
my work yielded less than a cup
of wilted leaves, but I fried them up
with bacon, and left no slimy bite forsaken.
Shadow, you don’t scare me:
I’ll transform you with fragrant spices,
sweeten you with blood orange,
and flambé you with kalamatas and brie.
Crested red hair now braided silver,
she lights no furnace in the coldest months,
saving to pay the mortgage on her acres.
In bitter winter songbirds arrive—
flocking finches, nuthatches,
indigo buntings, wrens, chickadees.
She stacks her pick-up with brush
to build a thicket for their shelter—
an arbor of pecan branches,
and heaps her green
glass bowls with sunflower seeds;
tossing feed from the concrete stoop
to woodpeckers who strut like chickens,
and chants for a time when she can get by
while tiny warblers nestle and rise.
She makes a nest for herself
from futon and tattered quilts in the truck bed,
for tonight promises meteor showers.
At sundown she drives to her land’s highest
spot—a field inside a pine ring;
she hears a mockingbird sing boldly,
she envisions an illuminated Buddha
encircled by gods and goddesses,
speaking a sermon, This troubled world is filled
with Bodhisattvas numerous as sand grains.
Watches his hand sweep over the earth—
It trembles, fields and mountains split open,
and ordinary people—farmers, fishermen,
widows, mothers, children—
immeasurable and golden— emerge from below
filling the sky like finches. The skies are gorged
with densely shooting lights. Surrounded,
she feels wing beats embrace her body,
a songbird flock lifts her, she floats
above the dark land,
the sky surges with quickened stars.
“I am a poet who received my MFA from Sierra Nevada College. I am spoken word artist, who has produced performance events, including 100,000 Poets for Change and Voices of Resistance in my community. I have a lifelong commitment to women, the under-represented and have been an activist and health care provider for one fort years. My poetry honors the unsung voices of women. I am the co-Founder of The Sister City Spoken Word Collective. Here is our Facebook page“