Shelter in Place Poem, Day 13

The sun was setting and the moon was rising,
the moon was almost full and shone large over the mesa,
the sunset lengthened our shadows as we walked our regular route
talking and laughing in the warm, barely-spring air, the dog was lunging
at so many rabbits we decided to turn back just as two neighbors emerged
from their houses so we greeted them at a cautious distance and the girls kicked
a ball around in the twilight, and then a howl erupted out of the growing darkness,
and another, and another, all at once, and it was people, out on their porches
or in their yards, howling at the moon, howling into the darkness,
and we started howling too, our voices moving as breath
and sound from our healthy lungs and out into
the night air and up toward the moon.


Shelter in Place Poem, Day 12

The animals visit my dreams.

The rabbit says if I freeze

in fear, my fear will find me.

The hawk caws take the long view.

The horse lies down on my body.

Okay, I say. I get it. Horse.

The spider says, weave.

The turtle says, slow.

The mouse says study the details.

But what about the hawkI

I ask. The long view?

The mouse’s whiskers quiver.

The hawk swoops down

for the mouse. The bear growls,

her paws dripping from fishing.

The fish flashes in sun,

bleeding. I lay still, finally.

The horse is heavy,

whispering wait. She stands up,

walks away,

dips her nose into grass.

Shelter in Place Poem, Days 10 & 11

Not knowing what to say

I look for lines to steal:

late coffee and oranges in a sunny chair.


April is the cruelest month


But logic has no place here.

The sun was warm but the wind was chill.

Somewhere someone was sewing a mask.

A rough beast slouches toward the foothills,

out of the cradle endlessly rocking.

Today we will take a walk

and draw a map.

And what of the dead? They lie without shoes

in their stone boats.

Our maps our meaningless to them,

as theirs are to us, for now.


Poetry Reading!

Hi all,

I’m taking a break from my shelter in place poem on Saturdays, but if you are in the mood for some wonderful poetry today, check out John Brehm‘s reading. He is one of my favorite poets ever as well as a friend of mine.

His reading is today, Saturday, April 4 at 4:00 PM pacific (so 5:00 PM MDT, 6:00 PM central, and 7:00 PM EDT).

You can see his reading on Zoom at

or on Facebook Live at

His poems are funny and beautiful. Tune in if you can!



Shelter in Place Poem Day 9

I am thinking about Tupperware. I am thinking about fire and air, earth and water.


Dear fire, when you take everything, do you take everything? The black field of your wake is dotted with seeds we can’t see. Right?


It was so windy metal chairs scooted across the deck like clumsy oversized crabs.


When the fire or whatever takes everything, it still leaves the dirty dishes. They still have to be loaded and unloaded. The Tupperware won’t dry unless it’s set out on the dish rack, in the air.


Dogs seem particularly of the earth, especially this one, who my neighbors found running with a pack beside a gas station in rural New Mexico; who came when they called, malnourished, mangy, wagging; who they dropped off at a shelter while they backpacked for three nights; who they picked up on the way home after no one had claimed him; who they offered to us to keep because I’d said we could get a dog “when one came into our lives.”


Our house doesn’t even really touch the ground: built on the side of a hill, it rests on huge metal stilts. It shakes when the wind blows hard, which happens often.


Snow. Snow is a form of water, my least favorite form, except for ice, which is worse.


The dog was good at first, and gentle with the cats. He sniffed the frosty dead grass stalks for rabbits.


I keep organizing the Tupperware and it keeps getting messed up, as though a tiny hurricane blows through the drawer each night while we sleep.


Dear fire, you can’t live without air, but water is your enemy.


The snow silences the street as the dog and I walk through it. He would prefer not to be on a leash; I would prefer not to be outside at all, though I try to notice how pretty the world is covered in white, how huge the moon when the clouds reveal it.


We walk the dog on the mesa. One foot in front of the other, we climb up almost every day.


Dear fire, when you take everything, everything does eventually return, bringing to mind a tree in winter, a tree in summer, a tree in spring, a tree in fall. Is it the same tree, or a different tree? It is not a different tree; it is not the same.


When we climb the mesa in the wind advisory, dirt blows into our eyes and mouths. We illegally unleash the dog. We can see the city from up there, shrouded in light from the sunset, burning. The dog prances in the troubled air.

Shelter in Place Poem, Day 7, and fire poem study

Note: this piece is part of my long shelter in place poem as well as a “study” of fire for a piece I will write for an upcoming exhibition of the work of the artist Anna Kaye: check out her work here.


Perhaps it is time to burn



Two thousand miles away

my mother is burning the forest,

particularly its scraps and detritus.


Smoke follows beauty.


It’s wildfire season.


The burning of trash and debris

in one’s yard in a pit

seems particularly Southern,

or at least Eastern. Here in the West

such an act would cause disaster.

Back home it was merely a minor

social event, something to stand around

and stare at.




When four years ago

I got rid of all my old journals,

all the way back to ones I had in college,

I wanted to burn them

but I had nowhere to do it,

no fireplace, no wide expanse,

so I threw them in the dumpster.


Does beauty follow smoke?




Light a candle and imagine

you are burning what

you no longer need. Offer it up

to the lone flame. There is

plenty of time.




My grandfather, the smoker.

My grandmother, flinging suitcases into the bonfire.


Flames, nature’s masterpiece,

the original work of art.

You cannot look away

from a fire for long.


Whatever it is you’re burning,

name it.


Fire on the mountain, lake of fire.

Strands of smoke

like snakes being charmed.


Wet your fingertip with spit,

dip it into ash,

touch your forehead.


Brace yourself. It’s fire season.



Shelter In Place Poem, Day 5

It is everlastingly funny that the proud, metaphysically ambitious, clamoring mind

will hush if you give it an egg writes Annie Dillard in her essay about a total eclipse

which she watched a hilltop in Washington state. As the “monstrous swift shadow

cone of the moon” rushed toward her and everyone else on the hilltop,

screams filled the air. Then the eclipse ended and she went out for breakfast.

She had a fried egg and felt better. Perhaps this is why in tough times

people buy baby chicks,  though it will be months before they produce eggs.

Yesterday in the grocery story the security guard sitting at the sliding doors

next to the on-sale oranges smiled at me as I entered. A man wearing an actual

N95 respirator passed me on his way out, carrying a brown bag and a bouquet

of Gerber daisies. And that was the thing, finally, that made me burst into tears,

the man in the mask with a handful of flowers, the utter lunacy of it.

But my mind was obedient, after a moment, and pulled itself together,

and led my body to the coolers where the eggs are kept, and eggs were there,

and I bought my allotted two cartons and drove home.


Shelter In Place Poem, Days 3 & 4

If you google an animal’s name on your smartphone, say, lion, then scroll down and select View in 3D, the animal appears in your camera’s viewfinder as though it were suddenly in your home. The giant lion takes up my whole bedroom, startling me; a panda sits on our bannister, eating a piece of bamboo. In my household, I am the only one impressed. My daughter shrugs, used to the things that phones can do. My husband is busy with his virtual world of dragons.  I watch an octopus waft through the kitchen. The cat, our real one, vomits. The octopus is unconcerned.

I wipe up the vomit and wash my hands. Although my Calm app tells me I have experienced over 28 hours of mindfulness, I can’t remember to wash my hands for 20 seconds. I forget, go too fast, and have to wash them twice, hoping that will suffice.  The octopus disappears, leaving me alone with the newsfeed, where New York City paramedics must make quick choices about who to transport to hospitals: the 23-year-old with a cough and fever, the 72-year-old with a cough and fever, the woman who drank an entire bottle of vodka in despair because her cancer treatments had been delayed?

Three weeks ago, I was in urgent care with a cough and fever. No coronavirus tests were available. If you’re not better in 7 days–give it 7 days–go to the ER, the masked nurse practitioner told me. Masked myself, I nodded. In New York City a paramedic sews her own masks with bandanas and coffee filters. How is this going to end?

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