West of the
Some say this land is a load of not much
alongside a long stretch of nothing.
No streetlights. No houses. No landmarks.
But, sage-scented air smells sweet,
panthers prowl caves where once fish swam,
and painted rocks speak with eloquence.
Wind-driven tumbleweed roll the highway
flows Pecos River
beneath the highest railroad bridge
in the world. Lizards curl pocket depths
among fractured agate and dry bone,
and vernacular is twangy as guitar strings.
Folks here are connoisseurs of sunsets:
arpeggios of rose, pink, orange, red and violet.
Night closes in like something solid;
even ghost lights across the desert disappear,
and the star-dusted face of heaven
seems close enough to kiss.
Late night at Ken’s place. Late. Thursday—
so no classes tomorrow. Young bodies
and keen minds. Everyone a little drunk.
No anger. No fights. All philosophy.
Around the kitchen table we argue for hours:
religion, physics, basketball, politics.
A few people dance; a girl pops popcorn.
A guy with dark ponytail and blue eyes
starts talking about Sharona, how he
to get away from her—
meaning he never should’ve done it.
Yeah. He showed her all right, didn’t he?
Her under the bleachers with that lineman
after the season’s final game. No excuse,
even with her crying, saying she was sorry
and all that. What else could he do?
He still loves her, never should have left.
And, now, he’s sobbing.
Frog Songs and Lizard Wakings
Immense purple sky’s so star-dense
there seems no room for one more.
Twelve hundred watt moon
a paring shy of full
paints the water in trembling silence.
Silver leaves create filigree.
Frogs in exotic singsong tongue
became a lullaby
and animating dawn
lizards in neon blue and chartreuse—
length of my finger or forearm—
emerge from veranda architecture
join me for coffee, croissants and jam.
I read to them—Jane Hirshfield—
till others wake.
Ann Howells has edited Illya’s Honey for sixteen years, recently taking it digital: www.IllyasHoney.com and alternating issues with a new co-editor. Her publications are: Black Crow in Flight (Main Street Rag, 2007), the Rosebud Diaries (Willet Press, 2012), Under a Lone Star (Village Books Press, 2016), Letters for My Daughter (Flutter Press, 2016), and Cattlemen & Cadillacs, an anthology of Dallas/Ft. Worth poets she is currently editing (Dallas Poets Community Press, 2016). Her poems appear widely among small press and university journals.