The Sunday Poem: Richard Vargas... Two Poems, how it happens & i dream

Hello, Sunday Poetry readers, and the many new readers I hope this space will attract during my time as curator. For newcomers, the Duke City Fix’s Sunday Poem has been around for a while. It was started several years ago by Jon Knudsen, longtime Albuquerque columnist and poetry-lover. Founder and ultimately the person responsible for this space, he passed it to Rich Boucher for a while, and then to Larry Goodell. Both are fine poets, and each imbued the weekly venue with his personality and poetic taste. Now I have accepted Jon’s invitation to do the same for the next few months.


During my time as editor, I hope to mix some fine New Mexican poets with poets from other parts of the country and world. I’m thinking roughly 80/20. This way, our exceptional local talent will continue to be showcased, and readers will have an opportunity of getting to know some other excellent poets as well. Curation earns an editor the right to favor her taste, and my idea of quality will be my greatest guide. To you poets out there, the invitation is open. Send a couple of poems, a brief bio, a photo and news about upcoming books or readings. Shorter poems seem to work better in this space, but I’ll read whatever you send. Please read and comment on others’ work as well; The Sunday Poem has generated many good conversations about a poet and his/her work, and I hope it continues to do so.


I want to begin my curatorship with Richard Vargas, one of Albuquerque’s great poetic voices and consistently worth hearing at our city’s poetry venues. Richard was born in Compton, California. After school in that state, he served in the Army and eventually made his way to New Mexico, where he earned his MFA from the University of New Mexico in 2010. Over the years he studied poetry under Gerald Locklin and Richard Lee. Richard edited/published five issues of The Tequila Review, 1978-1980, and here in Albuquerque revived the publication as The Mas Tequila Review, a fine local poetry journal that publishes consistently good work from across the country as well as New Mexico. Richard’s most recent book is Guernica Revisited (Press 53, 2014), about which Joy Harjo writes: “It’s the small miracles that bear the most light, allow dignity. Each of these poems is like a friend you can kick back with and talk religion, politics, sex, anything you are not supposed to speak of in polite company, and it will be all right.” An earlier collection, American Jesus, also earned great praise. Garrison Keillor, of Lake Woebegone fame, has twice included poems by Vargas on his radio show. The Sunday Poem received the first of these poems unpublished elsewhere. The second is from Guernica Revisited.



how it happens


you wake up in the early

hours of a February morning

somewhere in the midwest

rolled over on your side

facing the bedroom wall

the chilled air in the room

discouraging your need

to get up and take a piss

then your wife of 15 years

senses you are awake and

says something she’s

concluded overnight

her voice soft and far away

like a child talking to herself


“it’s okay if you don’t

love me anymore”


you lie still and wonder

if this is all a dream

realizing the need

to say something

but you can’t

when the moment passes

she gets up and goes

into the bathroom

you hear water running

and her muffled sobs


you want to sit up

and protest her unfair ambush

you were still asleep goddamnit

but then it appears

before you out of

thin air


it is a door

one you’ve never

seen before


and it’s opening

slowly for




i dream


i’m sitting by myself

alone in that big place

they have in airports

where people wait for

their luggage


the sounds of moving metal

announces the first pieces

to come down the ramp and

onto the conveyor belt


but instead of oversized gym

bags with matching suitcases

i see and smell bodies

burned charcoal black

stiff as the dried branches on

a dead cottonwood tree

others are bloody raw like

strange cuts of meat not

available at your

local butcher shop

their disfigured faces

are frozen with mouths

gaped open


i know these dead

read about them every day on

the internet news and watch

t.v. news clips that only show me

the cleanup after the big bang

while sorrow and shame

cling to my throat like

a chunk of salty green-

yellow phlegm


this is my dream of witness

if you haven’t had yours

brace yourself


you will




Views: 320

Comment by The DitchRider on August 3, 2014 at 7:55am

Thank you again, Richard, for sending these powerful poems. I am so glad to have you as the first poet in the Sunday Poem's current incarnation.

Comment by Johnny_Mango on August 3, 2014 at 8:00am

Both poems take my breath away.  Richard's ability to look deeply inside himself and situations are what poetry is all about.  Both pieces bring the reader inside these very special moments.  What a voice...and what a great way to start an editorship!  Thanks Margaret.

Comment by BARBARA BYERS on August 3, 2014 at 8:11am
YOW! Richard, you do it every time. These are astounding.
Comment by Dee Cohen on August 3, 2014 at 8:18am

Really nice poems Richard. I love how the details of a small scene in the first poem turn into a great epiphany. And the how the witness in the second poem becomes a call to others.

Nice pic too. Railyards?

Welcome Margaret and thank you for choosing these fine poems. 

Comment by Merimee Moffitt on August 3, 2014 at 2:20pm

I love the stark, honest detail, in all levels of story--

Comment by Lauren Camp on August 3, 2014 at 2:25pm

Richard — Both times: a seriously unexpected punch to the gut. Thank you for these poems that turn a lens on the difficult work of being human. And Margaret, I am glad you're overseeing this space for a while. 

Comment by larry goodell on August 4, 2014 at 10:34pm

Great start and warm invitation, Margaret. And thank you Richard for the poems . . . wishing you all well. It's worth checking back through the Sunday Poem Posts and you'll find how substantial and diverse the poetry offerings have been from all who participated. Looking forward every new poem post!

Comment by The DitchRider on August 5, 2014 at 9:17am

Yes, Larry, I know I have big shoes to fill. And the great thing is it's not a competition. Each of us has or will contribute their vision. Hats off especially to Jon, who started this venue. A future anthology, anyone?

Comment by Poet Oishi on August 5, 2014 at 11:58pm

Great inaugural choice, Margaret! Richard, you are amazing.

Comment by Susan Sherman on August 9, 2014 at 9:48pm

I have to confess that Richard Vargas is one of my favorite poets. And these poems are a good example of why. What a great way to start off the new season of Sunday poetry. Thanks, Margaret. I have to echo the previous comment. A wonderful choice.


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