All Utopias Fell 5, Michael Oatman, MASS MoCA
So many women gathered around it was hard to find
a place to stand much less sit so I say to myself
This guy is too much trouble
I’ll let them fight over who will spend the night
dance some more to loosen hips stiff
from sleeping on the ground
Taos to Santa Fe by the High Road with stops
in Las Trampas, Truchas and Chimayo
crossing myself in churches
in a superstitious way which brings me his songs
at a Holiday Inn on the second Saturday
in September fearless
after seeing culture layered on culture through times
when no one really knew what flag
they were under
only that winters in the mountains were lonely
so one more night did not matter to hear
a poet sing the blues.
All Utopias Fell 6, Michael Oatman, MASS MoCA
Only the Huajatolla Peaks are snow-capped,
the rest of the range out the back windows is not
from the adobe bought for where you’ll come to die
high on a hill, isolated. We put in a propane tank to fire
a boiler after the electric on-demand system failed.
I wait as I have for months for workmen to arrive.
Each poem of our history would not have been written
if the company—digging a trench, setting the tank,
plumbing the boiler to feed the floor for heat—
were ever on time. It is not yet time for you to die,
but my job is to keep it ready, so you can lie on a cot
to gaze up at peaks that translate as Breasts of the Earth.
All Utopias Fell 7, Michael Oatman, MASS MoCA
Return was like reentry from outer space
after that July in 1969, only I wore no white suit.
I was able to breathe only haltingly on my own
as I drove down the Black Horse Pike
from the Walt Whitman Bridge on Thursday night
so I didn’t expect the rush to Atlantic City.
Other times the Pine Barrens welcomed with the spread
of a canopy where you could begin to smell
the ocean in the right wind. No longer coming home
something had changed. The three breaks in my leg
had altered cells. I was more a part of the place
where I had to crawl up oak stairs, round the curve
push up onto a stool, push again to a cot
and then up onto crutches to hobble to my desk.
Do not feel sorry for the best time of my life.
Each morning I sat with poems of Sylvia Plath
in the last year of her life. I answered each one
as if it had not been Ted Hughes’s lover on the phone.
She had all the time left on this planet and its moon
because I did. Most important was the work.
I have not stopped. Sometimes I cannot sleep for ideas
going through my head. I do not want my old leg back.
Accused of Being Yoko Ono
I broke up a group my lover wanted broken
but did not want the blame.
Since he slung a conga over his shoulder
and shouted the blues, no one else was really needed.
At first I was majorly pissed because to have to tell
a band they are not wanted is cruel.
So I wrote in the shadow of impromptu musicians
put together while on the road.
And if you are ignored long enough and left alone
for trips across the U.S. and the Atlantic
to museums and you wait between trains in front
of paintings where you make notes
and visit graves where you practice your dancer’s
pirouettes on a weaker left foot
to see if you still have it, once over Nijinsky’s
in Montmartre, Paris—you have a lot to say.
And now that you’re old, what you want is to go
to a Yoko Ono concert and not hear her screech
over a staticky mic and if she does, bring home
a recording to play it for your lover all night.
He Drummed Until the Moon Set
I hike across the prairie into a harvest moon.
High-top boots keep spines of cactus from drawing blood.
A long time since the last rain
my footprints crumble into a fine dust
that will remain until the wind washes them away.
From the plateau above I hear a drum
incessant with the rhythm of steps on a tar stained road.
I am going home to a wild barking
more frightening than anyone I would meet on the street.
As long as he drums I am not alone.
Kyle Laws is based out of the Arts Alliance Studios Community in Pueblo, CO where she directs Line/Circle: Women Poets in Performance. Her collections include Ride the Pink Horse (Stubborn Mule Press, 2019), Faces of Fishing Creek (Middle Creek Publishing, 2018), This Town: Poems of Correspondence with Jared Smith (Liquid Light Press, 2017), So Bright to Blind (Five Oaks Press, 2015), and Wildwood (Lummox Press, 2014). With eight nominations for a Pushcart Prize, her poems and essays have appeared in magazines and anthologies in the U.S., U.K., Canada, and Germany. She is the editor and publisher of Casa de Cinco Hermanas Press.