From RattleSnake Rider  (out of print)



The Song of the RattleSnake


I carry poison in my mouth

                                    my tongue split to the root.


I taste the air for danger

                        a jagged red flicker of lightning

                                                bringing thunder before rain.


I go on my belly on the ground

                                    where the elements meet--I prefer earth.


I live in a line and I curve to move.


I am the totem of the nadir,

                                    the omega, the descent beckoning.


In descent is my safety--

                        down through the arteries of the earth,

            stone pulsing around my body,

                                                I am the breathing body of rock.


I am the tongue of fire in stone--

            rains seeks me through cracks, splitting stone,

                                    opening the way deeper into darkness.


I shelter with my kind in winter

                                    in rock rooms beneath the desert freeze.

            In summer, I sleep in shadows.

                        At night, I seek the warmth of rocks and roads.


I celebrate the nights the full moon makes

                        a pearl in a snakeskin

                                                cloud in a dark sky of sharp stars.


I make my mouth a world of teeth to strike,

                        and I unhinge the doors of my jaws

                                                to swallow whole what finds me.


            Badger, Hawk, and Coyote seek my flesh

and the Sun may spear my life to the sand with a lance of light

                                                but these are not my enemies--

                        my enemies are the hand, the heel

                                    the knife, the rifle, and the wheel.


I fang the heels of those who kill

                                                without love, respect, or gratitude.


I strike too quick for eye to follow

                                                after my rattle pierces the ear.


I carry the colors of the earth in the red dust

                                                            on the diamonds of my skin.


My works are the skins I shed

                                    to renew myself--

                                                left for the hands of the fortunate

            as a sign of where I’ve been,

                                                not where I’ve gone.

                                    Hold them gently for their power.


I coil to center myself on nothing

                                                but the earth visible

                                                                        in the circle I make.


I live driven beyond the bounds of the human

                                    where the wind carries the yawp of Coyote.


I take my rattle in my teeth

                                    to renew the human myth of the round.


My rattle is my drum, beating time from the world

                                    with the quick rhythm of the actual

                                                                        sound of presence.


I make a song of warning.



Instant Mythology


            “INSTANT MYTHOLOGY”®


                                                said the package--

you laughed and pointed to the warning




            and read the instructions in your own way:

“Just drop capsules in warm-slash-hot water

                        and watch mythic figures arise!”




                        Revelations in lukewarm water!

Characters cut from colored sponge

                                                burst the runny plastic

            touch the water, fill, and grow large.


                        You did one, I did one.


We invented magic words

                                    and whatever we said worked.


Not that you got the one you hoped for--

                                                that night,

            I made the creature you wanted appear.


            You gave me the one with wings.



Hawk In October


The shadow touched me before I even saw the hawk


                        gliding ten feet above my head

            then swooping up to perch on a phonepole

                                    to look me over.


            I looked for marks

                                    to identify the species


but suddenly I thought of John James Audubon

                        wandering through the new world

                                                killing animals

            so he could draw pictures and name them.


                        White breast, brown-striped belly

            head and wing-tips dipped in darkness--

                                                I think I know

                                                            the species

                        but I won’t name it now


            after the hawk knew right away what I was

                        and had no name for me.