The Sunday Poem: V.B. Price... Chaco Nights

Here is a preview of this morning's hottest ticket in town: The Church of Beethoven featuring Reich, J.S. Bach, and the poetry of V.B. Price. In good times and bad, Price has written about Albuquerque and New Mexico with courage, insight, and integrity. It is no surprise that Chaco Canyon calls to him again and again; his repect for our part of the world runs that deep.

V.B. Price, 69, is the series editor of the Mary Burritt Christiansen Poetry Series at UNM Press. He's been writing an publishing poetry since the early l960s. His latest book of poems is Broken and Reset: Selected Poems 1966 to 2006.

"Both making poems and making a living have allowed me to pursue my real occupation of trying to repair my ignorance. I'm a working class writer and partial autodidact who was saved from a life of sordid tedium, and maybe even madness and crime, by believing I could evolve from my feral childhood and civilize myself by learning how to read, write, and think."


The stars were his;
he’d breathed them in.

The Milky Way inside
was all around him,

a respiration of the night.
He had seen the Otherside

without idea, more beautiful
behind its veils of meaning,

invisibly far but known
like the stone in his pocket.

Who had let him in?
Why now at the stub of his life?

He’d been shown
how to climb the crevasse

to the top
where nothing

is what it is
because the is

is infinite. Yes,
he had felt

the great door opening,
night pouring into his lungs,

star streams in the dark
through the bay of his mind,

the night river full
of every sun

of every dawn rise
in the universe.

He knew he wasn’t
dying yet.

Many friends were gone,
many wiping their shoes

on the welcome mat of the end.
His turn would come around.

Cancer? Heart attack? Who knows?
Latvians, in a little town

on the border, hanged their Cleansed
from lamp posts, twenty of them,

(it was a small town),
before the Nazis invaded

and stole all their stuff.
Cancer, who knows?

Auto wreck, some terrible

Who can second guess
the last of the strange

Of course,

Pain and Fear are tricksters
They guide us to desert them;

hang on to their tails for the ride,
but don’t crawl

into their skins.
They’re already in them.

They will
serenely deign to destroy you.

Something else must come to us
from the night,

from the quaking ,
the dread supposings.

Something else
must open us wide,

roll us out
onto the cold, far road

to the Otherside, straight
as a thought can make it,

from nowhere to nowhere,
from lives of cowering

in desire, cowering
in the norm, praying it won’t

fall away and leave us
falling through the spaces.

Something else must open us wide
to climb from cowering in caution, up

the spine of the mind
into the night and its skeleton of stars,

climbing up into the currents
of the fecund nothing

forever ending, never over,
the space among the fires,

dark as the far end of it all,
with yes

everywhere we look,
bright as the fog of stars

exhaled into the night
and breathed back in

to the wholly ambiguous peace
in the deepest trust of our bodies.

© V. B. Price, March 9, 2010

Poetry submissions are welcome. Email The whole Sunday Poem series is available from the front page of the DCF by clicking on The DitchRider in the left-hand sidebar. Poems early in the series are archived under "Previous Post" at the bottom of The DitchRider blog.

Views: 672

Comment by Margaret Randall on April 18, 2010 at 8:27am
This is a great poem, majestic and intimate: magical. I have loved it since first reading it, and love it again here--lines such as "Pain and Fear are tricksters / they guide us to desert them" are to live by. I look forward to Church of Beethoven this morning, and hearing this in your voice. Thanks, Jon... thanks, Poet!
Comment by Barelas Babe on April 18, 2010 at 8:42am
I like so much about this poem! The way you capture the feeling of Chaco, Pain and Fear as tricksters, and the shifts between known and unknown worlds. Thank you for sharing this with DCF.
Comment by Krista on April 18, 2010 at 10:15am
I agree with Barelas Babe, thank you! I read Broken and Reset about 2 years ago when I was feeling rather broken--thank you, again.
Comment by bg on April 18, 2010 at 12:52pm
Really lovely, inspired. Thank you.
Comment by Merimee Moffitt on May 23, 2010 at 1:28pm
I love the "Something else" that must do for us what we don't consciously know--I love the learning to trust our bodies--Has anyone called this poem magnificent yet? It sure is a magna-something--big, inclusive, tiny, personal, true, lovely and starry-night filled. thanks you, V B Price


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