I don’t know how the folks putting out a journal could be more generous and supportive of their writers and with such fine results. Many thanks to The Missouri Review folks. I am grateful and amazed to be among the other writers here and part of a collection connected through surrealism. Hope you’ll visit.
Finished reading Overstory by Richard Powers. I read it over a few months, because of its density and some doubts I had. Doubts I still have, as far as a narrative goes, while it contains lots to love. It won the Pulitzer. The strong message to change how we generally relate to all things not human is timely indeed.What do you think of it? Or, better yet, tell me something you have heard a tree say, or describe an experience in which a tree played an important role for you personally.
The condition of my skin determines the condition of my health.
When my colony and I perceived the margin of our pond
drawing an ever-smaller circle on its clay beach
we decided to crawl out to seek bigger waters
and failing that, have a worthy adventure before desiccation.
It is in my nature to hang stilly in warm still shallows of a silty pond,
to meditate on the nature and meaning of immortality,
to brush shoulders with other newts,
to draw in insects and algae with a slight slow
opening and shutting of my mouth,
to sift oxygen from water with the slowest fanning
of my external lungs.
Instead, I stepped out, tiptoed for many days and nights
across wire sharp sand and ticking grass
trying to keep my tender belly clear. My palms calloused.
I sheltered from sun beneath the shadows of stones,
singing whenever I could a song for rain.
I thus arrived at your door to ask for a dish of water
before tip-toing on across your asphalt drive.
I remember helping to lead an equity retreat in Taos NM some late Augusts ago. After a session, I swept up a number of these small dry bodies from the corners of our meeting room. I learned from Galen that newts often have to travel when their vernal ponds dry up. When I found some living newts in the kitchen, I sketched the small dark creatures and journaled about them and this poem developed. It was a sad time. I did return them to their nearby pond, an intervention I’m not sure was a good one. The moment foresaw global warming and today’s reports on the deaths of salmon. The grammar of animacy (see Kimmerer, Braiding Sweetgrass) in poetry–and in many children’s books–comes naturally when we empathetically don the persona of others unlike us. If in Potawatomi even the wind is alive, it also was in the language of Christina Rossetti who wrote “Who Has Seen the Wind,” in which the trees bow down their heads when she passes. We might dismiss this as personification, but in English, it is how we do adopt languages of animacy.
Long long highway . Driving west from Colorado to California. Thanks to google we pull off on a tiny exit Thompson Springs to see railroad history and a ghost town. Oh, and I hope for a spring. Over the past week I have dreamed multiple times a night about visiting a spirit world: the dead-my father, rabbits, ourselves–portals. Well, never mind Thompson Springs, but do continue up to the Sego canyon petroglyphs and pictographs , the most otherworldly we have ever personally seen. Early Folsom people, probably 600 a.d. Whoooo. Still so moving , moved.
Is it an accident or brilliantly witty that the rooftop at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Denver that is showing an exhibit of Drop City Founder Carl Richert’s geometric mystical paintings taking off from Buckminster Fuller designs has these plants outdoors? Thinking of starting a family based blog about synchronous events and twinning etc. open to all to contribute. Yes?
This furry sage (salvia argentea) became gigantic over the summer, its dragon-tongued white flowers exploding over the sidewalk, until turned to brown curly seeds and tattered stems, I cut it back to nubbins. And now this. The leaves are as soft as my cats’ and I go out to stare at them in different light, and pet them a little. That it is growing next to an old typewriter is pure serendipity. I am digging (hahaha) for the poem still, and listening to what the leaves and the frozen typewriter keys seem to be reminding me.
I almost forgot the thousand thousand earwigs it was sheltering in its dead leaves. I began then to try to make peace with those scary little aliens who were apparently cleaning up for me.
I can’t escape the thought that unshorn sheep
belly high in spring grass look like fava beans. That’s what the poem I’m working on has to explore. And what makes that so funny? I don’t think poems should have a punch line, but this one does—later, the sheep have babies that look like navy beans. Right?
And in the garden, I am trying to make my peace with earwigs. You? Are they cleaning up after me? I could use the help. I spare you the earwig image. Poor little space aliens.
Meanwhile, my friend, songwriter George Parrish, said of Chained Dog Dreams, “Reading it felt like taking a life supplement, almost- sort of like a vitamin B shot for the spirit. Thank you.”
So gentle souls, here’s a gentle reminder or for some, a first ask:
About a month ago, I sent word that my poetry collection Chained Dog Dreams is being published by Finishing Line Press. In case you do plan to purchase a copy, now would be the right time to do it. Advance sales end in a few short weeks, summer weeks at that (they do seem to go by more quickly to me)—and FLP determines its press run—in fact, whether they can run it at all—based on advanced sales, so they ask me to step way out of my comfort zone and seek sales.
The hardback book is $19.99 plus $2.99 shipping and can be purchased online at:
www.finishinglinepress.com Once there search “new releases” for Guerrero-Murphy.
If you have any difficulty with that web-site, please email email@example.com
OR send a check for $22.98 to:
Finishing Line Books
PO Box 1626
Georgetown, KY 40324
OR, if you send a check to me directly I will waive shipping and for a few of you till I run out, include a copy of my first book Tablewalking at Nighthawk when I ship the new book. Email me for my mailing address.
Now is the time. If you already ordered the book, thank you. I hope you enjoy it! I will keep you informed about readings and book signings to come. Ship date is the first week of November 2019.
We drove fast as rain over our blue highway.
The highway undressed far horizon button-by-button.
My father’s mercy furrowed the road ahead with possibility.
My mother’s wound baked in the front seat,
just a memory it was, but painful as parched earth.
The wound ploughed her skin with infection.
I sat in the back holding Frank’s fishbowl
and thought about a silver lake, a cooling swim,
hot dogs, mildewed canvas tents. Frank’s guppies sloshed
to the sound of the wheels praying.
A potato chip had wrecked itself on our motel’s kitchen floor,
the final detail of a thousand wrecks from the night before.
Some of my poems come straight from a combination of memory, dream, and feeling–they read like autobiography, they feel like it, too, but except for driving on Route 66 as a little girl, I don’t believe the details are facts. I know I never drove with Frank’s guppies…and in fact, the only Frank I knew was my uncle who at that time lived in Alaska. I do love the smell of a mildly mildewed canvas tent, and that smell brings rushes of sweet camping memories.
When my father was a bear,
he was even more frightening when he growled, standing up tall, his small black eyes beedled onto me. The recliner no longer fit him, not even the couch, and my mother said he couldn’t get into their bed anymore, citing a problem with fleas. So he loped off into the deep mossy woods that spread green and white all the way to the polar circle, in search of the spawning coho. Before winter closed its jaw hard, he returned, his long curved claws hooked into a fine big net that he dragged behind him, at least 50 fat red fish lolling in it, ready for our freezer. He told us he had eaten to excess, gorged guts and all, and was ready to sleep. We put up the family tent in our backyard and he crawled in to the tune of a blizzard. In two days the tent was buried. We kept a little airhole dug out and waited, wondering, for spring. Wondering if he would always be a bear, forevermore, and what had caused the enchantment. I was nine, and spent the long winter nights dreaming of when my father hadn’t been a bear.
In these stunning poems, memory and myth collide. Wild horses bound, galaxies glow, time is taunted, and “the whole cliched story” of desire is rewritten with thrilling intimacy. Guerrero-Murphy’s work inhabits both the concrete and the delightfully abstract.
—Speer Morgan, editor, The Missouri Review. Fall 2019.
Carol Guerrero-Murphy’s poems are earthly and unearthly, fierce and generous, and brimming with enduring meaning. In Chained Dog Dreams her brilliant “Birth Epic” illuminates the nature of giving birth as the act resists language and turns the mother herself into a warrior and survivor. The most telling moments of a life emerge with new clarity through the focusing lens of this poet’s attentive sensibility and astonishing craft.
—Lee Upton, author Bottle the Bottles the Bottles the Bottles: Poems. No Mercy won the National Poetry Series.
These gorgeous poems speak of politics, family, motherhood, animals, landscape—with the foundation of honesty, grace, and above all else, mercy. This collection is a quietly moving, deeply felt look at our vulnerable world, our vulnerable souls.
– Laura Pritchett, author Sky Bridge winner of the PEN USA award.
Guerrero-Murphy has given her readers a rhythmic and beautiful paean to a world blessed by rain, flowers, the prayer and religion of horses as well as the power and pain of family, womanhood and personal history. These poems take the reader from desert to grassland, from the bloom of childhood to the shadow and wisdom of adult knowing, always lingering at the heart sound of redemption and grace, even in the midst of the tragic and impure. Chained Dog Dreams is the work of a poet whose soul is full, whose life is both mirror and salvation.
–Aaron Abeyta, author of 4 books of poetry including Colcha (winner Colorado Book Award and American Book Award) and the novel Rise, Do Not Be Afraid.