Off the road, in a place of dry dirt and rock, a thin
obsidian fragment which, held
between sky and eye, is the only lens
needed. The temperature, close

to 110 degrees. The wind, when it arrives, sets
the scorpion on fire, chars
Rachel’s painted nails. The sky’s

obsidian-darkened flames crackle. No
future here, only
a gigantic now. Fire shimmers. Everywhere.

At dusk in another era’s cool, smoke rises
from stones. I look

at the Gila monster; he
looks at me. After killing him, I live
off the fat stored in his tail. Again

the fires grow stronger
every day. Our mother

(cloven, the hoof of conflagrations,
cloven, the tongue of flame)

roams, burning
and wailing, down a trail headed
we don’t know where.


A perimeter the mind can’t cross,
there they are, barren and austere.
Only the heat outwits them, its haze, a flock
of gray birds, lifting them
back a little further so there’s more room for us to go
in and out of the casinos.
Through an alley door, into
a sultry song’s midday dark.
As Rachel sings, I listen from backstage.
The last time I saw her: ten years ago when
as now
no known highway connected keyboards and bass
or the scatted sounds that brought
clinking ice cubes to a halt; even
the jazz haters were afraid to make a noise.
[I]It doesn’t really matter if I understand[/I]
she sings
[I]It doesn’t really matter if he’s still my man.[/I]
It doesn’t matter until she makes it matter, her cheekbones
in the piano-taunted light
petroglyphs carved in red sandstone east
of the Moapa River, telling us
how the long-gone soon becomes the just-appeared.
At the ends of streets, mountains
disappear where ex-ranchers
with gnarled hands
play blackjack on sidewalk tables.
Among them, Isaiah, home at last, sips tequila and gazes
at the desert, remembering how
years ago he walked out there
with God as all around them
stones burst into flame. Days later
smoke still rose from the blackened land
as the hawk screamed and the jackal, waking
in God’s lap, announced
“My child Isaiah has shown the world
things that he himself doesn’t understand.”


The chicken’s claw leaves
a mark in dirt, a sign
of questions to be answered.

at the city’s edge
where the sunflower
snagged on a barbed wire fence

The stranger looks around.
His young daughter’s
hands shake.
In the grass
near a telephone pole
the dying butterfly’s wingbeats slow.

In a syringe
of denial, the holy water boils
not far from where a man mows a lawn
while a woman on a porch
drinks something from a glass.

Sunset long gone
your shoulder darkens somewhere else in the dusk.

Tomorrow in church
the priest will scar our faces
with light squeezed from the lizard’s eyes.

He will say,
“Repeat after me:
Now we are sacred.
Now we can love.”


Hot wind through
shrub-thick eyebrows. And what
is that, the Moapa River whispering
in grandma’s ear, east

of the beehives? Efforts that produce
no good result, two flesh knobs
stick out
of half sleeves. Even

the legs go auf Wiedersehen. The knees, albino
turtle heads, emerge, blunt
and blind, from khaki shorts. The little man, all
chest and skull, sits
on a box, drinking in

Mojave light
outside Harrah’s. “Give to the Lord”
the corner evangelist intones
“a fattened Elvis calf
barbequed on a stick
in the sandstone wilderness.” A man

in Marlins ball cap stumbles
drunk into the crowd. The braided girl
looks at him as the little man
looks at her, the light
bright as on many other days

before. Holy nowhere balanced on the tip
of a rock nettle’s thorn
where the hot wind blows
through buildings built
from the brontosaurus’s broken backbone. And here

the manly man. All
trunk and head
and the khaki-covered bulge
between his half-gone legs. Holy

lonely cock of old persuasions, cock
on a box. At last, the spinning
roulette wheel stops.

[I]una canci�n del regreso[/I][/b]

Demetria, why you sitting by the dry riverbed?
Tell me where Rodrigo’s Market went.

What you mean you got a thorn in your calf
from a walk you didn’t want to take?
Do me a favor: imitate
with your tongue in the air
the sound a spider makes
dragging its belly through dust.
You doing that used to make us laugh.

Hey, Demetria! where’s
the arroyo near which the peach tree grows?
Did your grandson moan vespers yesterday?
You take honey in your cactus tea?

My wife Julia’s dead
so I returned
but no one’s here.

I lived in Los Lunas, then Mesa,
now this is where I am.
Like a tortoise plodding into the hot wind,
I come to you

Demetria, you remember me? – Eduardo, Carmelita’s boy?
Tell me, why was my father killed?
And when?
And how?
And when he was buried
did the nuns grieve?

[b]LIFE’S END[/b]

Done fucking, I rolled over. The almond tree’s
pink flowers dripped late afternoon
into my eyes. Small

Florentine yard
through the window. She and I
fell asleep, a daughter
having been

conceived. Another night
Katherine and her husband sat with me
on their roof. A junk iron sculpture rose, a pole
constructed of birds whose wings were made
of Euclidian angles
no one had ever

seen before. Below
the Arno flowed, evening’s
search for the perfect gray: a neutrality
which, like stone from
Lorenzo’s quarry, is

the raw material we shape
into sounds that precede the words
we ache to make

into poems. Do you know
what it means that I am now
decades afterwards
in Arizona
in this adobe room? Forlorn

my imagination inches
in its walker to the yellow cactus petal’s
edge. From this cliff, it stares down
into the canyon

that divides
what is from what might have been. I don’t know why
you ran away. I only know
I came to Arizona to be with you and now
you’re gone.

by Robert Bohm (c)2003
([email]RebSalerno [at] msn [dot] com[/email])

[b]Author’s Note:[/b]
Bio: Robert Bohm was born in Queens, NY. He is a poet.

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