At a get-together of poets, Gayle Lauradunn explained to me a little of her history. I was at that time reading the work of Jack Gilbert, a former Yale Younger Poet Award recipient who had spent his life scratching out poems on a dirt farm in Greece. I remember Galye telling stories about Jack as her co-student. She didn’t seem nearly as enamored of him as I was. Oh well. However, in reading Gayle’s work, one gets the sense of a lifetime of crafting poems, her story, in her often somber tone. When I read Gayle’s work, I feel I am in the presence of a profound poet. The thoroughness in concise, spare detail is magical.
Tracking the Rio Grande
This morning a heron
its thin neck gently arching
to and fro, wades along the shore
of the Rio Grande, a silhouette in the clear sun,
is to know the exact heron, its due
coloration, habitat, and food,
but soon its awkward grace
suffices. For an hour
or more I follow the opposite path
along the river, duck beneath
cottonwoods, brown leaves clacking
in the breeze, keep an eye
on the heron's calm progress. Sticker
grass clings, tall water weeds
ripple. I stop each time she stops, an odd
stick protruding from the muddy bank,
and when she steps again through
the ooze it comes, it seems, between
my toes. On we go at our slow pace
in the luminous air. Bound by our mutual
watching: I her, she her prey across the current.
When, finally, she rises and tries her wings
we both are sun-drenched and shimmering.
look at the sky
circle of desert
under the sun
blossoms a hollyhock
I am fortunate in my life. I always took
what I wanted and it worked. The men in
Stieglitz's group accepted me. They never
treated me any different. They accepted
me because my art was good. I did all the
work for them, hanging their shows, all
that. I've been fortunate.
see the sunflower
cushion for ram's skull
over dry hills
red sweep of dust
across New Mexico sky
You wait at the top of Frijoles Canyon
below I clutch a dried cholla stick.
Holding it to my eyes
I see you
through holes grown large
with the abandonment of water
We gather pinon nuts
from fat cones
rub juniper needles
between our fingers
to scent the winter fires.
The yellow leaves
of October cottonwoods
mark an ancient stream bed.
Overhead, sand hill cranes group
and regroup in linking patterns.
We hear, far below,
echo of kiva chants.
If we could count
the years backward by sound
we would know where we are
In Gayle's words:
Gayle Lauradunn's collection Reaching for Air was designated a Finalist for the Best First Book of Poems Award by the Texas Institute of Letters. She was co-organizer of the First National Women's Multicultural Poetry Festival in 1974 and served on the committee that selected Albuquerque's first Poet Laureate. Her story telling poems have appeared in numerous journals and anthologies nation wide including Two Hundred New Mexico Poems. Some of her poems have been adapted for the stage, and others have been included in art gallery exhibits in Santa Fe and San Antonito. Three new poems were included in an exhibition (August-December 2015) at the University of Puget Sound—"Dirt: Scientists, Artists, and Writers Reflect on Soil and Our Environment", which is now at Evergreen State College where her poems are framed and the focus of student discussion.
The DitchRider’s Sunday Poem on Duke City Fix is accepting submissions of 3 to 5 of your favorite poems. Please send in a word doc to firstname.lastname@example.org ; be sure to put DitchRider in the subject line and include a short bio and a few pictures from which I may select. Please, also, send any links or notices of events. Your name on the poems seems to be very useful! Thanks in advance from Merimee. I will get back to you within the shortest framework I can muster.