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Thursday, September 22, 2022


by Dick Altman

“Megadrought in the American south-west: a climate disaster unseen in 1,200 years.” -The Guardian,  September 12, 2022

Whenever I see the word—
I want to dismantle it                                
Dthe letter—is easy—
delete and destroy
the most unforgiving letter—to me—
letter O—like a wolf’s maw—
whose mandible blades the heart—
as I watch high desert’s drought
wolf whatever’s in reach
of its insatiable jaws… 
            Golden seas of shimmering
cow-pen daisies
Billowing swarms of insects
that sustain night hawk and bat
Purple Russian Sage beloved
of bees
Acequias—historic hand-dug
streams—feeding pasture
and crop
Rio Grande turned
into a waterless highway
of sand
Weakened pine—long needle
and short—decimated
by bark beetle
Every dead tree a depleted
trove of oxygen
If drought were a song—I’d hear  
a one-note elegy of unyielding spareness—
a flameless fire unfurling in three-quarter
time—a waterless flood whose silent
music swallows all it touches—insistent
waltz whose slow cadences fool hope—
clouds swollen with broken melodies—
cisterns hollow with minor-key emptiness—
Aspen’s metallic yellow of fall chorusing
a month too soon
Call me a fool to plant a small forest
of trees—when I build here at seven-
thousand feet in Indian Country—half
of these children—if I may call them that—
fail to survive—no defense against a force
ghostly—merciless in its fury to gorge
on blood from leaf/petal/earth—flame
never seen—flood never felt—rapacious
lupine shadow hidden in the dark of light

Dick Altman writes in the high, thin, magical air of Santa Fe, NM, where, at 7,000 feet, reality and imagination often blur. He is published in Santa Fe Literary Review, American Journal of Poetry, riverSedge, Fredericksburg Literary Review, Foliate Oak, Blue Line, THE Magazine, Humana obscura, The Offbeat, Haunted Waters Press, Split Rock Review, The RavensPerch, Beyond Words, The New Verse News, Sky Island Journal, and others here and abroad. A poetry winner of Santa Fe New Mexican’s annual literary competition, he has in progress two collections of some 100 published poems. His work has been selected for the forthcoming first volume of The New Mexico Anthology of Poetry to be published by the New Mexico Museum Press.