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Thoughts and Hallucinations

Poets turn up everywhere

A while ago I was hunkered over the laptop in the University of New Mexico library, learning about how Albuquerque growth and water had an awkward relationship. An amiable and large head leaned at an angle into my visual space and, apologizing for the interruption, asked if I knew of anyone in the library who could help him out. I'm used to this, since everywhere I go where I'm a plausible local it isn't long before someone asks me for directions. I described the various help spots in the library and off he went. I saw him a couple of more times wandering the shelves. When I got home the newspaper announced a reading by a New Mexican poet, Jimmy Santiago Baca. The photo was unmistakable. So I looked at some of his many collections of poetry in a bookstore. Here's a sample:

Pagan Poets, Jimmy Santiago Baca

from Spring Poems Along the Rio Grande

Back from Wyoming
I go to the river,
return
to the chill coppery morning
in jade silence
meet the new day
like a lover's outstretched stout arms

What I see outside is reflected in me,
what the river whispers I hear it say of me,
what the moon wishes it wishes for me,
and the breeze in the river grass merges with me,
so the love I have
is an old river
flowing from its mountain source
to its ocean home.

A year ago,
I didn't believe the river
and instead returned to take advice
from coffee-bar geniuses,
Mocha foam on their lips,
peach-cheeked muses
with napkin scribbled cures
slouched in booths slurping quad-lattes--
hick town acquaintances
who after all their slushy solutions
eventually forget their Warhol and Kahlo theories
and marry zealots
on a mission to convert pagan poets.

You never know when life is going to hand you something new to learn about where you are and what the place is teaching you. At least my foam has been cappuccino rather than mocha. I mean, without coffee shops I'm ruined.
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