Monday, May 30, 2016


Farmer's Wife

Four dozen eggs under her arm,

That’s how she greeted us.

We weren’t coming for eggs

But for a currant bush

Waiting in the dooryard

Wrapped tight in burlap.

I lifted it into the back

Of the truck since that’s

What I was hired to do,

Waited in the early sun

Leaning against the tailgate

While the two old ladies talked.

And with the eggs still under

Her arm she also turned to speak

With me, eyes dazzled like light

In water, checkered blue flannel

Shirt, out-worn by all of her

Sons and now on her back; torn

At the elbows, but warm.

Everything is just right

On this hill farm and I’ve only

Been here 5 minutes. Crows flap

West to east from the wood’s edge

Long over the flat face of pasture.

A manure spreader is backed up

To the kitchen door stacked neat

With stovewood, the lawn is mowed,

And we’ve caught this farmer’s wife

In between the chicken coop and

The house; white hair combed back

With ruddy hands that pick eggs

Each morning, and when she talks

She mentions all of her family.


Bob Arnold
Where Rivers Meet
Mad River Press

Sunday, May 29, 2016


god my darling
do me a favor and kill my mother-in-law
Janabai (13th century).
trans. Arun Kolatkar

Chewing slowly,

Only after I'd eaten

My grandmother,



Two brothers-in-law,

And father-in-law

(His big family included)

In that order,

And had for desert

The town's inhabitants,

Did I find, says Kabir,

The beloved that I've become

One with.

Songs of Kabir
translated Arvind Krishna Mehrotra 
New York Review of Books

Saturday, May 28, 2016



R A L P H    J.    G L E A S O N

Music in the air
The selected writings of Ralph J. Gleason
edited by Toby Gleason
Yale University Press 2016

Ralph Gleason was more than likely the first music critic I ever read back 50 years ago 
and his selected writings hold true to this day — from Jazz to Rock with much less
the authority on display of many current music critics and more an ease
and conversation and friendship with the music and musicians.
Few can take you by the hand from King Oliver and Louis Armstrong
to Bebop and John Coltrane as Gleason will, or right into
the home of the Jefferson Airplane and the California
music scene of the 1960s. He was instrumental at organizing
 one of Bob Dylan's finest press conferences as well
at being one of the founders of the Monterey Pop Festival
and the starting pistol to the original Rolling Stone magazine.
Plus he wrote about the souls of Billie Holiday and Carmen McRae
with more soul than anyone.
Icing on the cake — he quoted in 1966 the hip poet Philip Whalen —
everything was usable to Gleason if it had the wonder.
All the while well past the age of 30 back then and younger than yesterday.
He was gone, already, by 1975.
No one like him before or since.
This collection gathered up by his son Toby
will show you why.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

O F E L I A     Z E P E D A

Just Like Home

The young woman buys

a piece of fresh fry bread from

the Indian Parent Association's booth.

"Oh, just like home," she says.

"Do you have any salt?"

I pour a small amount in her palm.

She sprinkles it on her bread.

She takes a bite, "Mmm, just like home."

She seems unaware she has her eyes closed

as she eats and talks.

The delicate bite of freshly cooked bread

takes her back.

She stands on a street in downtown Tucson

and thinks of women so familiar to her,

her mother, her sisters cooking outside.

In the distance the sound of someone

chopping wood, a barking dog.

Pinon smoke is so real for her right now,

her hair might smell of it if she moved

and the breeze caught her just right.

 Birth Witness

My mother gave birth to me  in an old wooden row house
in the cotton fields.
She remembers it was windy.
Around one in the afternoon.
The tin roof rattled, a piece uplifted
from the wooden frame, quivered and flapped
as she gave birth.
She knew it was March.
A windy afternoon in the cotton fields of Arizona.

She also used to say I was baptized standing up.
"It doesn't count," the woman behind the glass window tells me,
"if you were not baptized the same year you were born,
the baptismal certificate cannot be used to verify your birth."

"You need affidavits," she said.
"Your older siblings, you have some don't you?
They have to be old enough to have a memory
of your birth.
Can they vouch for you?
Who was there to witness my birth?
Who was there with my mother?
Was it my big sister?
Would my mother have let a teenager watch her giving birth?
Was it my father?
I can imagine my father assisting her with her babies.

My aunts?
Who was there when I breathed my first breath?
Took in those dry particles from the cotton fields.
Who knew then that I would need witnesses of my birth?
The stars were there in the sky.
The wind was there.
The sun was there.
The pollen of spring was floating and sensed me being born.
They are silent witnesses.
They do not know of affidavits, they simply know.
"You need records," she said.
"Are there doctor's receipts from when you were a baby?
Didn't your parents have a family Bible, you know,
where births were recorded?
Were there letters?
Announcements of your birth?

I don't bother to explain my parents are illiterate in their English language.
What I really want to tell her is they speak a language much too civil for writing.
It is a language careful for pulling memory from the depths of the earth.
It is useful for praying with the earth and sky.
It is useful for singing songs that pull down the clouds.
It is useful for calling rain.
It is useful for speeches and incantations
that pull sickness from the minds and bodies of believers.
It is a language too civil for writing.
It is too civil for writing minor things like my birth.
This is what I really want to tell her.
But I don't.
Instead I take the forms she hands me.
I begin to account for myself.


Ofelia Zepeda
The University of Arizona Press 2008