Origin of Planets

In this version, the valley
lime green after rain
rolls its tides before us.

A coyote bush shivers with seed.

We hold out our palms as if catching snow—
our villages of circular tracts
overcast with stars.

We have been moving together in sequence
for thousands of years, paralyzed
only by the question of time.

But now it is autumn under bishop pines—
the young blown down by wind feed
their lichens to the understory.

We follow the deer-path
past the ferns, to the flooded
upper reaches of the estuary.

The channel snakes through horsetails
and hemlock as the forest deepens, rises
behind us and the blue heron,
frozen in the shallows.

The shadow of her long neck ripples.

Somewhere in the rustling tulle reeds
spider is casting her threads to the light

and we spot a crimson-hooded fly agaric,
her toadstool’s gills white
as teeth as the sun
                bleeds into the Pacific.

We will walk the trail
until it turns to sand
and wait at the spit’s edge, listening
to the breakers, the seagulls
as they chatter their twilight preparations.

What we won’t understand
about the sound of the sea is no different
than the origin of planets

or the wind’s crystalline structures
irreversibly changing.

The albatross drags her parachute
over the earth’s gaping mouth.

We turn back only for the instant
the four dimensions fold
into a sandcastle—before its towers
are collapsed by waves.

The face that turns
toward the end of its world
dissolves into space—

despite us, the continuum


As a child I tossed
all my imaginary friends
out the window of a fast moving train
because I wanted to feel my fist
break open as I freed them,
as each of their bodies
whipped against the siding,
their insides: snow
dispersing into wind,
their little heads rolling
across the yellow plains.

Because I believed they would return.
But none have since.
Not even the ones I didn’t love.

Leaving Tulsa

for Cosetta

Once there were coyotes, cardinals
in the cedar. You could cure amnesia
with the trees of our back-forty. Once
I drowned in a monsoon of frogs—
Grandma said it was a good thing, a promise
for a good crop. Grandma’s perfect tomatoes.
Squash. She taught us to shuck corn, laughing,
never spoke about her childhood
or the faces in gingerbread tins
stacked in the closet.

She was covered in a quilt, the Creek way.
But I don’t know this kind of burial:
vanishing toads, thinning pecan groves,
peach trees choked by palms.
New neighbors tossing clipped grass
over our fence line, griping to the city
of our overgrown fields.

Grandma fell in love with a truck driver,
grew watermelons by the pond
on our Indian allotment,
took us fishing for dragonflies.
When the bulldozers came
with their documents from the city
and a truckload of pipelines,
her shotgun was already loaded.

Under the bent chestnut, the well
where Cosetta’s husband
hid his whiskey—buried beneath roots
her bundle of beads. They tell
the story of our family.
Cosetta’s land
flattened to a parking lot.

Grandma potted a cedar sapling
I could take on the road for luck.
She used the bark for heart lesions
doctors couldn’t explain.
To her they were maps, traces of home,
the Milky Way, where she’s going, she said.

After the funeral
I stowed her jewelry in the ground,
promised to return when the rivers rose.

On the grassy plain behind the house
one buffalo remains.

Along the highway’s gravel pits
sunflowers stand in dense rows.
Telephone poles crook into the layered sky.
A crow’s beak broken by a windmill’s blade.
It is then I understand my grandmother:
When they see open land
they only know to take it.

I understand how to walk among hay bales
looking for turtle shells.
How to sing over the groan of the county road
widening to four lanes.
I understand how to keep from looking up:
small planes trail overhead
as I kneel in the Johnson grass
combing away footprints.

Up here, parallel to the median
with a vista of mesas’ weavings,
the sky a belt of blue and white beadwork,
I see our hundred and sixty acres
stamped on God’s forsaken country,
a roof blown off a shed,
beams bent like matchsticks,
a drove of white cows
making their home
in a derailed train car.

Hoktvlwv’s Crow

There were still songbirds then
nesting in hackberry trees
and a butterfly named Question.

I remember ivy trembling
at the vanishing point of your throat.

Then the timelines crashed.
California split into an archipelago.
Orchards withered under blooms of ash.

Now there is no nectar. No rotten fruit.
The air is quiet.

                               Once, in Russia,
Ornithologists trapped
a population of hooded crows,
transported them 500 miles
westward. Winter came.
They never caught up with their flock.

With crusts of calcified algae
we catalogue each day lost:
hot thermals, cirrus vaults,
fistfuls of warblers hurtling into dark.

There was no sound to the forgetting.
We knew the heart would implode
before the breath and lungs collapsed.

That the world would end in snow,
an old woman walking alone,
empty birdcage strapped to her back.

Related Poems

Anthropocene Pastoral

In the beginning, the ending was beautiful.
Early spring everywhere, the trees furred
pink and white, lawns the sharp green
that meant new. The sky so blue it looked
manufactured. Robins. We’d heard
the cherry blossoms wouldn't blossom
this year, but what was one epic blooming
when even the desert was an explosion
of verbena? When bobcats slinked through
primroses. When coyotes slept deep in orange
poppies. One New Year’s Day we woke
to daffodils, wisteria, onion grass wafting
through the open windows. Near the end,
we were eyeletted. We were cottoned.
We were sundressed and barefoot. At least
it’s starting gentle, we said. An absurd comfort,
we knew, a placebo. But we were built like that.
Built to say at least. Built to reach for the heat
of skin on skin even when we were already hot,
built to love the purpling desert in the twilight,
built to marvel over the pink bursting dogwoods,
to hold tight to every pleasure even as we
rocked together toward the graying, even as
we held each other, warmth to warmth,
and said sorry, I'm sorry, I'm so sorry while petals
sifted softly to the ground all around us.


“beautiful things fill every vacancy”

                                  for C. D. Wright

         filaments of her gift
persistent mysteries
     palpable consciousness
a world of naming
    of ablutions in time
        fighter instinct
action, the pressing in,
        closing in
            heart thrums
for a powerful image
       dazzling light:
       to reassess language, 
its tactility
   emotion, lyric, oblique 
irony twists, shifts by
   pulse & ear, resilient
her consummate body poetics
    echo into night
it hits us what is now absent
    from every bouquet
cut like flowers before their time

For You, a Handful of the Greatest Gift

Small-eyed, plump, and with black
leathery hands, Attaskwa, is composed
          and debonair
as it perches on trampled cat tail reeds
beside a quivering, cloud-reflecting pond.
with cosmogony, he’s exceedingly
unselfish,” instructs the branch-shaping
Wabami, Look at him, kekenetama,
he knows. And he’s elated to oversee
the daylight brings everyday.”
We focus the camera’s telephoto lens
          and see
details of his coat glittering with drops
of luminescent water.

“To our Grandfather, Kemettoemenana,”
narrates the sculpture, “he magnanimously
          agreed after
the Last Conflict of the Gods to retrieve
a handful of soil from the deep, singular
          ocean that
became land beneath our feet. He
set forth unequivocally a doctrine.
very closely, my grandchildren,
nottisemetike, for you may not hear
          these words
again.” Lifting its black nose
to the sky, Attaskwa ambles
          to the pond’s
edge and stops as if to pose
before the picture is snapped.
          Behind us,
the sculptor crafts a small
dome-shaped skeletal lodge
embeds it to the ground.

We wholly agree that each day
there are overt and minute changes.
          Even if we
don’t see or if we’re not there, it happens.
Without Muskrat, our Creation—you
          and me,
would be zero. From the alluvial soil
delivered from oceanic depths, we
          were made
thereafter. His courage is brazen like
that of a Wetase, Veteran, because he
unflinchingly to retrieve Earth.

Oblivious of our presence, Attaskwa
slides into the pond and swims
          to the middle,
creating a cape-like effect of waves
behind him that dissipates
          the blue sky
and its clouds. Indicative of his
sacrifice, we learn Attaskwa floated
to the surface. In gratitude Earth-maker
resurrected him. So when personal
are contemplated, ask yourself,
my daughter and son, what did I
Think specifically of what he did.
Use him, my children, netabenoemetike,
          as an example
of what must be done to rectify
society’s misdirection. Only then
          will our,
language, religion, culture, and history
thrive in the Muskrat’s benevolent

As he approaches the mound
of his home, Attaskwa looks back
          at us briefly.
And before his cape of waves reaches
the shoreline, he dives into the dark
          green pond.
Before we pack up the equipment,
the sculptor hands us sacred
to sprinkle delicately over
the water animal’s architectural