badlands: a song of flux, out of time

ornate warble of meadowlarks
           burbling in melodic veronicas,
ribboning the spires, buttes, pinnacles,
           and gullies of sedimentary stone,
sage and sweet grass smudging the still-cool air

lush-bellied manatees of clouds somersault
           above an inching infestation—
cars, trailers, trucks, busses, airstreams—
           glittering carapaces twisting
their stranglehold around Yellow Mounds

                                 *

late spring baby goats
           nestle in to Pinnacles, at dusk,
a scatter of heartbeats, furred
           commas, blending clauses
to sun warmed sandstone

a big horn sheep blinks
           into my lens from between
his horns’ apostrophes—
           slit pupils iconic and slow
as gold cat’s-eye marbles

                                 *

shadow-hollowed, wind-ruffled
           stone’s mimetic shape-shifting
all metaphor and simile:
           like stiff-beaten cake batter
like striated molten glass

here, a disconsolate woman weeps
           behind spidery fingers
here, a sleepy elephant rests
           its trunk upon the ground
here, cubist lovers’ stilled in a flash-frozen kiss

                                 *

some say moonscape, or otherworldy,
           as if to mean something alien,
sandwiched between the banality
           of kitschy Sinclair station dinosaurs
and Wall Drug’s ubiquitous billboards

I think not moonscape but earthscape,
           not otherworldly, but innerworldy,
not alien, but indigenous, as in
           always already from and of
as in sovereign, as in not ours

                                 *

unexpected wingbeat, talon, and spray
           of gold flint-sparking the light
when one of the golden eagles surfing currents
           near Sharps Formation by Castle Trail
plummets to swoop in front of my Jeep

its sharp-eyed, curious gaze catches me gawking
           through the windshield, and suddenly
I’m no longer the voyeur, but the spied upon,
           and before it kites skyward again
I am, in those seconds, all spotlit halo, golden blaze

                                 *

a cottontail backlit by sunset,
           thin-membraned ears glowing
with the hot orange of tea-light’s flicker
           behind glass, has its picture taken
by a happy group of Chinese tourists

for a brief moment, the cottontail
           is simultaneously framed within
the bright rectangles of five iPhones, all lit up
           within the bright rectangle of my iPhone:
molten-eared bunnies within bunnies / #meta

                                 *

how infinitesimal our millenia
           how tightly folded
our lives’ tiny accordions within
           the time-lapsed tidal flux
of geological deposition and erosion

someone breaks a pottery bowl in slow motion:
           can you imagine the apocalyptic scatter
of ammonites and clams, the beautiful wreckage
           of an ocean’s millennial spill
from a mountain-cracked basin of broken raku?

More by Lee Ann Roripaugh

#to my mother's dementia #kaze no denwa

          how do I admit I’m almost glad of it?

          the way it’s scraped off
          those flash-storms of rage

          I grew delicately-feathered
          luna moth antennae
          to fine-tune your emotional weather:
          sometimes a barometric shift
          in the house’s atmosphere / a tight
          quickening / some hard dark shadow
          flickering glossy as obsidian
          pulled down like a nightshade
          behind your irises / but sometimes
          you struck with no warning at all
          rattlesnaked fang of lightning
          incinerating my moon-pale wings
          to crumpled cinder and ash

          now your memory resets
          itself every night / a button
          clearing the trip odometer
          back to zero / dim absinthe fizz
          of radium-green glow
          from the dashboard half-lifing
          a midnight rollover from
          omega to alpha to omega

          I remember when you told me
          (maybe I was three?)
          I was mentally damaged
          like the boy across the street /
          said you’d help me pass
          for normal so no one would know
          but only if I swore to obey
          you / and only you / forever

          now your memory fins
          around and around / like
          the shiny obsessive lassos
          of a goldfish gold-banding
          the narrow perimeters
          of its too-small bowl

          coming home from school
          (maybe I was fifteen?)
          you were waiting for me
          just inside the front door /
          accused me of stealing a can
          of corned beef hash from
          the canned goods stashed
          in the basement / then beat me
          in the face with your shoe

          how do I admit I’m almost glad of it?
          that I’ve always pined for you
          like an unrequited love / though I
          was never beautiful enough
          for you / your tinned bright laugh
          shrapneled flecks of steel to hide
          your anger when people used to say
          we looked like one another

          but now we compare
          our same dimpled hands /
          the thick feathering of eyebrows
          with the same crooked wing
          birdwinging over our left eye /
          our uneven cheekbones making
          one half of our face rounder
          than the other / one side
          a full moon / the other side
          a shyer kind of moon

          how can I admit I’m almost glad of it
          when you no longer recognize
          yourself in photographs
          the mirror becoming stranger
          until one day—will it be soon?—
          you’ll look in my face / once again
          seeing nothing of yourself
          reflected in it, and—unsure
          of all that you were and all
          that you are—ask me: who are you?