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A Walk Along the Wash

Poems from Ahwatukee

From a New Window


The view down the street runs directly

to the sun. First light is a splash

of fire above trees yet to awaken.

As temperatures rise

the houses pull their shadows close

and keep their inhabitants


inside. Front yard birds of paradise

smile across the asphalt

and bougainvillea turns the heat

to vibrant color

while tiny borders of rounded brick


mark where one person’s gravel

ends and another’s begins, but all

ground belongs to the rabbits

and quail

who know where the grass is lush.

The doors that open


most frequently

are those to garages offering

a brief look at whatever is too unsightly

for the house but too useful

to discard. Later on


all that moves is a coyote

sniffing out the darkest places

before he goes back to the mountain

that rises every morning

west of where the night ends.





It feels good just

to step outside

every now and then

while temperatures rise

beyond being degrees

and watch the mountains

turn crisp against the sky.

Sit for a moment

on the seat that swings

and pretend to be the breeze

that ruffles palm fronds.

The sun never blinks.

Past noon, a slow

trickle of doves

runs to the bath lying shallow

with water mixed into light

when the overnight low

is a memory of darkness

walking out

of the city and taking

shade away. The burn

on skin is like

being pinched to remind us

we’re alive. Out here

with pepper plants

and hallucinations the stones

hoard knowledge it would take

a saint a lifetime

to acquire. By three o’clock

it only takes a few

minutes more to wear

the heat as if

it were scales, and then

you have a tail and breathe

air by the drop.

Ahwatukee Dawn


In the stony light preceding

sunrise, the foliage begins to sing

and peaks take form

behind the palm trees growing

in a desert not their own.

The traffic’s waking up,


window blinds roll

to let the darkness out

of a house, the first blind steps

lead a sleeper back

into the day, and a glow


rises through the concrete driveway

between the cactus

and the feather grass

whose roots don’t know

they are surrounded by sidewalks

and walls. The mountain


shakes stars from its spine

and shifts its weight

while the centuries roll

down its slopes.





In the steel heat of a monsoon sky

thunder wells up inside

the clouds: dark noise

wrapped in waiting

for the first rain since the doves

arrived from their tropical

winters. Along the wash


the walking trail’s a trickle

of dry concrete

flanked by grass and gravel

all the way to where the houses

turn to desert

and the nighthawk sleeps.

The inner light of trees


illuminates the street

as the sun falls low behind them

and the sky displays

a palette ranging gray

to cumulous white with a gilded

edge. Against the oncoming

dark, the palm fronds


become a green not

of this Earth, and for a moment

an Apocalypse glows

in the eucalyptus, but each day

ends like this when storms

are building out of reach

and darkness is a pointed wing.

Morning Encounter


All doors are locked right now.

Nobody’s home on the street

where every house stands neatly

in place, with flowers

and a wind chime hanging

by the door. Although the mats say

Welcome, no one is here

for hospitality. The sun streams

into unoccupied living rooms

whose only sound is of time

ticking its way across a carpet.

It’s a fine day to be walking

without a destination, just to feel

each step as it falls

and looking up at the mountain

baked into the atmosphere;

to be a sentence beyond interpretation

in a book of desert hours

while a lawn sprinkler whispers

to dry heat,

               when a coyote

melts out of the light

and flows across the sidewalk

after picking up a scent

that runs from his nose

through each of his bones

to the last hair on his tail.

A Walk Along the Wash


The mountain that was flat all day

cools into a third dimension

as the sun slips toward its shoulder.


Grass along the wash is still

bright as it meanders and points

at the four peaks floating

on a distant cloud. There’s amber

in a Firetail’s wings


as it rides an updraught that carries

all the way to an evergreen’s crown.


A killdeer startles the ground awake.


A kestrel settles high

above the pond whose surface

is broken by a sharp fin steering

a catfish from the bank

where a Green heron snaps


his waiting tension and glides


across his reflection.

There’s a world of liquid darkness


underneath the ripples and a calm

when the cormorants rise in

circling uniformity. Back on the path


a phoebe flies a shadow’s length to chase

insects until the last

of daylight drips

from the tip of a palm frond.


Black Swift


If you fly the distance and arrive

among sounds you hear

for the first time, you might call it

a vacation: time to spend with drinks

beside a pool

                 while the land surrounding you

bleeds off in all directions

to the unmapped territory

in your mind. You’ll pay somebody

to look after you, provide food

and take the effort out

of living for a while.

                            But suppose

you nest behind a waterfall,

came of age half in the clouds,

have no map to follow

after take-off,

                  just a galaxy of stars

through which to find a way,

and when a city passes

beneath you

see the fingers

                    of a small lagoon

with flies to eat and water

for the next few hundred miles.

Perhaps the first migration

took more strength than you had.

There’s still

              a little grace

in your long and folded wings.



Great Horned


An owl’s call rubs

softly against the darkness: four AM

and no traffic, just a few stars

sprinkled across infinity

and a mountain


that folded its wings.

Two syllables repeat

to give each passing second

an echo; daylight’s currency

buys nothing


in the kingdom of the claw.



Waking Early


A turnstile creaking in a dream,

half the world swinging

on a hinge, and the continents

clatter like clapboards.

The traffic on its way


to the edge of the Earth

just got second wind. Another hour


to go before the goldfinches arrive,

the doves dust the night

from their backs,

and the woodpecker


resumes drilling the hole

in the siding

to let the nightmares out.


Morning Mood


Open the blinds to a grey sweep of light

and an indecisive sky

from which some pigeons are descending

to peck into their reflections

on a shallow bowl of water


while Mourning doves search

between broken stones that lie around

the ocotillo for only

they know what. The day edges


forward, and five dark angels

fly out in formation

when, between the low clouds,

the iron door swings open.



The Hour of Return


The light is going back to the hemisphere

it came from, cars

that moved west this morning move east,

and the finches have ended

their call and response for the day.

Here come the rabbits


to nibble grass at darkness’ edge,

while minutes from the kitchen clock

fall onto the floor

and the nerve-damaged dove we’ve kept

for many years


is living the best life he can, walking circles

in his cage, always

going home.



South Mountain


Contrails glow above the mountain

as it takes a final swallow of light

and birdsong soaks

into the trees that harbored them

since dawn.

                The day slips

beneath the desert’s surface

to lie there with the centuries; the bones

and burrows lined

with darkness and feathers,

                                     while above

ground is just a skin of traffic noise

granting the darkness a foothold

upon which to climb.




Brevities: Great Horned

Cholla Needles:  Waking Early,

Morning Mood, The Hour of Return,

South Mountain

Nature Writing: Nighthawk

Verse-Virtual: From a New Window,

Midsummer, Ahwatukee Dawn,

A Walk Along the Wash, Black Swift