John Macker | 3 poems

Standing Rock

In the black earths of October
the precognizant will dance, no
timing no telling when or how this
might end. But it has an ending built
in. Just like October in North Dakota ends
up far north of itself and delegates the snow. 
In the old days they say you could monkey wrench a 
dozer until it froze in place, a relic blushed
with rust, zoned deep into its paralysis. The ground 
is well worn, the elixir of history just below the surface. 
The oily smells of a wastrel’s cash permeates
the clothing. Men in glass buildings fetishize its
order and flow, every resource its price. The 
white-eye lawyers wear loud moccasins.
These cool evenings are consumed by smoke that’s
hung here unabashedly for centuries. It is praised
and it is spoken. It lingers in the clothing of people
who’ll be here long after it’s over. The ashamed
fixated dogs strain at security leashes. Rez dogs
patrol the warm campfires from the periphery. 
The water, the water visible from space  
deserves the immensity of its time unmolested underground.
Winter will come to this place, to all of us, in time 
and too soon. It’ll roar and howl over us like a white
blinding sea. In my mind there’s the frozen locomotive 
breaths of wild ponies and the delicate frost disappears
swiftly on the Cannonball’s exposed stones. We’re all
moving closer to the fire. The struggle is built in, we’ll 
reconnoiter spring for an ending that may not last.

Indian Summer
       —With a line by Robert Duncan

October is the existential comfort of a fleece autumn
sidewalk. It stills me in a drowsy, unkempt garden kind
of way, a chattering Sunday fruit trees and sparrows grazing
kind of way. Every enlightened yellow leaf that falls
at its serendipitous zenith like sheet music, 
resurrects the soul of one priest 
disappeared by cartel sicarios and buried in a Mexican graveyard. 
It resurrects Robert Duncan’s shadow. Resurrects the blunderer kachina 
who carries on an ongoing dialogue with Columbus Day. Becomes
“the force that words obey in song.” To love October is to
anthropomorphize all the gods and fetishize none.
To love October is to obey the durability of time in living color.

Atlas of Wolves

Somewhere around here in the corpse mouth
arid twilight, they hog tied you muzzled you shot you, 
dragged you behind horses and wagons
              blamed you for earth’s
dark capriciousness, for scoring one rattlesnake 
and a roped goat. You scent-marked trails, killed
caribou, chased ravens, gave birth, grew old, watched
snow blanket her in death. It seemed only yesterday
you brought down camels in Oklahoma. 
Instead of water, you draw bone-dead breezes from  
wells of antipathy and they follow like acolytes.

In our dreams you ate the earth and 
gobbled the children.

On the border,    el lobo
       patron saint of the incorrigibles, 
three hundred of you left in captivity. 
They can’t not stalk you, if they let you be 
you’ll just liberate them.      
No one prays to the mournful ecstasy 
of your song anymore.

Tonight, black swan of a sky swells under the stars
down below you survey the beautiful ruins of Tsankawi.
or Casas Grandes in the eveningfall heat 
nothing or no one is omitted
your paw print’s remains in dried mud must be
a dream catcher, a sand painting
something besides your eyes
to see ourselves through.

II.

When you came to my house that day
you weren’t pure blooded
you dragged in the rust of sunsets,
accusatory drought winds
the colorful cadenzas of your blissfully
untamed birds,
what on earth the world doing to itself
was rooted deep behind your eyes. 
Barbed wire twisted in your fur.
Only in the deep star forest of a silent night
did you feel safe. You fought rings of
dust around my dogs. You gave charms
to my wife, as the arroyos dried in July you
turned her into rain.
You waited until I was old enough
had enough poems in me to disinherit 
a morsel of civilization for this bedeviled 
weathered ground. You would have protected us
with all of your lives. Your 
                            el lobo life 
your wretched outcast, your myth that only 
stalks children at night, your 
slathering border fallen angel
in the threatened deep wilderness of dreams, 
                          lives. 

III.

Shrunken habitat in Afghanistan allows you to hear the
feral heartbeat of the universe.
You posed for a plein air still life with border crossers.
You howled until the Buddha emptied your voice of fear.
On the San Augustin plain star clusters held their
breaths while you crossed in peace.
You crossed before a Mojave rattler that followed
you in medieval silence with its tongue.
You crossed the Valles Caldera leaving 
no tracks, no trace, no seeds.
You trekked across the parsimonious desert just as 
Jesus Christ hallucinated Lucifer in another dimension.
You crossed your paws and left a mandala in the snow.
You cross paths with your ancestors so they won’t take
solace in a future of musty museum dioramas.
Under a New York City Eucharist moon Miles Davis 
opens a window and hears the most mournful Summertime in history.

John Macker

john_macker
John Macker

Award-winning poet/short story writer/essayist John Macker’s latest book is Blood in the Mix  (with El Paso poet Lawrence Welsh) Lummox Press, 2015. In 2014 Disassembled Badlands was published (the 3rd book in the Disassembled Badlands trilogy) and available at fine local bookshops. Other books include Woman of the Disturbed Earth, Wyoming Arcane (Mad Blood magazine #5), Underground Sky, Adventures in the Gun Trade, Las Montañas de Santa Fe and The Royal Road: Impressions of El Camino Real (both in limited edition and with woodblock art by Leon Loughridge).  In 2006, he edited the Desert Shovel Review. He lives in Santa Fe, NM. Was the recipient of Mad Blood magazine’s 2006 first annual literary arts award. He’s also the recipient of the 2001 Colorado Arts “Tombstone” Award for poetry, presented in Denver. He has been nominated for 2 Pushcart Small Press Prizes. His recent essays on poets and poetry can be found in New Mexico’s Malpais Review and Cultural Weekly, and his essay on the late pop artist John Chamberlain, “Without Fear or Crowbars” was published in the 2016 Chamberlain exhibit catalogue, Wickets. He recently presented a paper on the late Taos novelist Frank Waters at the Harwood Museum in Taos, sponsored by SOMOS.

Has given readings, lectured and taught workshops at colleges and festivals throughout the West, including El Paso Community College, Sparrows Poetry Festival, Colorado Mountain College, Colorado Mesa University, Edward Abbey Conference, Moab, Utah; Karen Chamberlain Poetry Festival, the Harwood Museum, Taos, NM, the Duende Poetry Series and Ziggie’s Poetry Festival in Denver. In 2009, his books were featured in A Mile High and Underground, an exhibit of Denver literary history, Auraria Campus, sponsored by the Colorado Historical Society.


Tomorrow’s post will be an interview with John Macker.

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