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,


my inclination

   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.


Georgia O'Keeffe



look at the sky

through bone


circle of desert

under the sun


parched mesa

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

in clouds


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 ; 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.

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Comment by Pamela Yenser on April 16, 2017 at 6:46pm

A nice trio of NM poems, Gayle. I especially like your patient pacing with that heron!


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