Letter from Debra
Living in a tent
has really calmed me down.
That fear of darkness
is almost gone. Charles was away
for some nails right before full moon
—and I loved the nights
alone. I bathed in the water tank
and slept so naked.
Lately the foxes
are moving in closer. I glimpse
their faces through my fingers while
sipping tea. At dusk
the vixen hunts across our meadow.
When I whisper, she stops—
and shows her tongue. She and her mate
drink from the old water tank
where I bathe.
Michael comes out
from town on weekends. He never
gives me noise when I shake
off my dress and dance just because
there’s a moon.
At midnight on solstice
he’ll shinny whatever one glimmered oak
I step to
and steal mistletoe.
These shy little creatures
are coming so close—
They sit out in the chaparral and watch
while I’m alone in my nightgown
like I won’t know
they’re here. I don’t want to disturb them
or have cats or dogs. They drink
from the water I bathe in.
our cabin is nearly finished.
But I don’t want to live inside walls
any more. In the tent
I can look out at the stars, breathe
blown air. I love undressing and waiting
in the meadow tank
where my foxes
wet their naked tongues.
High in Idaho Rockies*
So lost since daybreak way up
wakened in all that oxygen,
I crashed down through wild
brush to step up on log rot
suddenly breath to breath
with an elk. I knew his heat
wafting my face, eyes widened
as mine. I could have touched
his quivering lips, that heart
pounding into my chest.
Alive with oxygen I marveled
through a span of antlers revolving
with that great head and all of me
before he stepped calmly away.
I heard him vanish into brush
and silence, then down beyond
where he had breathed, a cutbank
wavered, thus a road. He dissolved
back up into Idaho, me an hour
on down into Montana and
a long hypnotic trudging out.
*Ends of evergreen needles and mist
droplets from creek cascades make
points round which oxygen is created.
What is Sleep
transcribed from taped live improvisation
sleep is the brain of a flower
sleep is your last chance to open like a parachute
sleep is a train with gold windows coming over a waterfall
sleep is that long sled ride down a snowy hill
sleep is the star at the bottom of my beer
sleep is an elephant kneeling to a child with a sparkler
sleep is the castle you were born in
sleep is in love with the butterfly of my lips
sleep is a horse nobody else can ride
sleep is the desert at night on a lunchbox pressed to our heart
sleep is the journal of God
that’s what sleep is
sleep is a nun driving a tractor into a snowstorm
sleep is a stop sign in flames
sleep is a semi rolling wide open through a cathedral
sleep is the highway away from my head
sleep is glowing like any tailpipe in the stars
sleep is a loose ribbon falling from the sky
sleep is a balcony full of soldiers tossing rose petals and panties
sleep is the lost dress that floats
sleep is a blind sailor who kisses like a woman
sleep is that milk you thought you’d never get again
sleep is not ours to keep
sleep is where the wind went
what is sleep
fog in a cat’s mouth
popcorn on a lamb’s back
a cloud in an elevator
sleep is a Cadillac with a hood full of doves
sleep is a watermelon kissed by a priest
sleep is a hot
flashlight to my heart
as I swim to the cellar with
my red eyes glowing
All three poems from The Whiskey Epiphanies, by Dick Bakken, Pleasure Boat Studio: A Literary Press, New York, September 2014.
Dick Bakken's brand new book is The Whiskey Epiphanies: Selected Poems 1963-2013. His poem “Song” was displayed across the USA in Poetry on the Buses. He won an Arizona Commission on the Arts Artist Projects Grant and the 2010 Bisbee Idol First Place Trophy for rapping his poem “A Fish in School.” His work appears in Greatest Hits 1967–2002, 100 American Poets against the War, and New Poets of the American West. He lives in Bisbee, Arizona.