"I follow a poem's tracks. Each nerve awake, I delve beneath the obvious, turning usually unnoticed events into windows with views to those secrets closer than thought. If I happen upon flotsam discarded on the riverbank, I carefully arrange it into a shrine. An ordinary face can open to reveal clouds waiting the chance to loose rain on the desert. Green curving words can be cajoled to form a tunnel into the growth cycle and how all life interweaves.
Starting with random lines, I dream my way into their momentum,
let them lead me out of the house into my memory yard. They direct
me to the spot where I burried a sparrow when I was eight. Suddenly
the ground is significant from receiving the bird's death. I stand
listening and looking. Familiar leaves and grass are not the same.
The spent heap of feathers in my hand transforms itself into free
Rainbringer is a road map with trail markers and guideposts. Allow
each step to be a meditation. The lilies I offer you have been gathered
climbing the mountain, swimming the sea, and bringing the rain."
"To read a poem by Cynthia West is to embark on a wild ride--at any moment we may plunge or soar or dance into some new dimension of experience. Like all essential art, these poems reach toward the becoming world, bringing rain to the wasteland, calling our feet to the home road."
"Here are the poems of a woman. of wisdom: a walker, a lover and a caretaker of ibis earth. The poems themselves say it: "She knows how to unite extremities and center in the color of water; she has breath enough." She has depth and always the faithfulness of one whose work reaches for the stars. As readers, we are entranced and enlivened by her passionate devotion to the life lived, the ape honored- The poems are finely honed, the poet's (work done with tensile attentive crafting- Truly sin: sees and truly she says. a painter of words and a writer revealing scintillating color and rapturous light."
I didn't know until today
you are my sister,
we watch each other.
You have held this valley for aeons
so people could plant seed.
I've lived here only thirty years.
Silent in cloud shadows
you guard my days,
protect corn and ripening peaches.
Nights when full moon stares,
brighter than the sky.
Peaks raised to gather August rain
you call lightning and thunder,
wear rainbows on your breast.
When crows fly
from your pinons at dawn,
a deep chord sounds.
Lost in small concerns
I sometimes fail to thank you
for showing me my true face.
So I Can Say My Name
I don’t remember
the stories I have had to do without.
Having never heard the voices of my people,
I keep asking the earth to give their names.
Answers slip through my fingers
because I have lost the bowl
that could have caught them.
Pretending like everyone else,
I neglect my kinship with the rain
that delivers water to hollows in stone.
Repeatedly I beg gray sky to sing me its colors
so I’ll know where I have come from
and where to go.
When sunset stains my face, memory returns,
only to sink out of reach in darkness
with dreams that might have shared.
My body wants to listen
to my ancestor’s feet walking fields,
wants to see days and nights passing
through their long gone eyes.
Lead me to say my name
so I can no longer forget
what has always been mine.
Rain roar and call again, joy leap and water pour,
clouds soar, wind blow, open, flowing,
pastes hair across my face,
running, running for the car, pavement steaming, rushing,
washing drought away.
Cedars shaking, bending, breaking,
needles crushed in dark gray grit.
Lightening splits the sky, I finally unlock the door,
soaked and flowing throw myself upon the seat.
Windows misted, steam my breath,
wet and running, cheering,
yelling songs, pouring force.
Wiping windshield with a towel,
drive the rushing river road,
angry mud for pavement now,
a thousand thunders roaring hymns.
In vanished visibility, car churns rising muck.
Windows open I race fast tidal waves
unleashed from long captivity,
shrieking freedom, hurled from sky at last,
no pulling over in dark seas of mud,
forge ahead, passion flying wild.
I could drive somewhere
with easels, tubes,
could face blank canvas again,
unhinge mind, dive colors.
Racing into wind's wild laughter,
I could wield a primal thrust of green,
paint shadows meeting sunlight
on trembling leaves,
could get back underneath
where I've been told not to go.
I've searched long enough,
spinning clay into bowls
to hold emptiness.
I've almost given up.
Yet luminous, a green-eyed cat,
I stalk the secret mouse.
Yellow dawn spreads energy.
Screaming, "I give my life to you,"
I leap off the shaking past
to golden earth,
allow voice foil scope,
follow the trail home
to welcome feasts where edges
disappear in flux and flow.
Action, red as an engine,
ignites my belly, blood pumps hot,
no questions, no hesitations, no fear,
Beauty roars my whole red spine,
blows my head off its puny perch,
shoots bullets of parrot feathers
across the yard.
Baptism explodes, hurling
prison bars up, up past lurid sunset,
only to tumble down as roses
spiraling onto my shoulders,
becoming a new transparent mind.
My brush tip bursts brilliant,
a fire-hose opening walls
behind closed eyes.
unwinding notes of blue majesty.
No breath can contain this wellness,
yet each one opens bestowal
of sky stretching into remembrance,
of interiors of bones,
of full moon absolutely still,
of the moment that unrolls into now,
an ancient curve of shell.
to green, yellow, red, blue,
opens from shore into sea,
washes white of all rays,
white, white, nothing
dissolves in white snow, ice, sunlit fire.
The Map Maker
My pen marking trails on parchment
unearths petroglyphs, hewn
before the colors of memory changed,
before yellow leaves fell from cottonwoods
covering hidden paths.
I send out hawk calls
that bounce from sandstone ridges into blue.
Asking for stories formed by water long ago,
I find a fossilized snail
pointing to springs across the hill.
I grind turquoise in a mortar, brush rivers and sky,
inscribe the heights of mesas, noting how wind
once lifted mountains to dance,
dropped them gold in late sun.
Swallows, building mud nests in overhangs
listen to silver sage.
I trace pictographs of two horned priests
climbing to the birds, learning from lightning.
My rust colored ink develops patterns.
Each drawn line retrieves forgotten songs
of pine-nuts circling cones,
sunflowers opening in ancient eyes.
My brush used to form each feather,
floated cloud-wings onto canvas,
added luster gathered at dawn.
Weighted by hours of work
you eagles could never take flight.
No breeze blew your downy plumes.
Captured images, one meant to sing,
one to pray, one to soar free, you stood still,
sentenced to be lies trying to tell truth.
Presuming I could breathe you to motion,
I trapped you, used your swiftness
to remember what I could not.
When I covered you over with white
it dried transparent,
revealing how I’d stolen your voices.
All I can paint now
are wheels spinning light
not false colors pretending to be birds.
Our Corn Harvest
He didn’t want any help.
I walked down the field to join him, anyhow.
We worked our way along rows,
snapping off ears, smelling sweet corn-milk.
Wind rustled our cheeks red with cold.
Picking blue Hopi corn, load after load
we didn’t talk much, twenty five years together,
planting, watering, harvesting, rain, sun.
When the wheelbarrow overflowed,
we piled our bounty on the ground,
admired dark kernels wrapped in husks.
Storm pressed a tarnished sun
through bare trees.
The neighboring horses stamped and snorted,
already growing winter coats.
Following light and dark through seasons,
saving seed for the next round,
it no longer matters how we think.
We stay past dusk, finding every ear.
When I lost my face
you touched me,
led me away from dark streets
with familiar branchings.
When I lost my voice
you spoke to me,
of warm sun, bread, and honey.
When I lost my sight
you saw through me,
taught me to decipher fire,
burning in my unread cells.
When I lost myself
you became alive in me.
You, sought everywhere,
you, my forgotten wings.
Deeper Veins Still Green
Do you remember
adobe walls holding the sun’s warmth,
frost gripping hollyhock leaves, deeper veins still green,
magpies swooping to gather stalks in fields?
Do you remember
how kind your children are to you?
Yes, when full moon enters the skylight,
I praise a crescent rim of ice, a rippling pool,
a shining seed.
Do you feel grateful for ravens flying
out of an eastern storm on cawing wings?
Yes, and I assemble a stone circle in the river
to honor water’s flow.
Do you rejoice for apples, chiles, tomatoes
stored for winter feasts,
for friends who listen with their songs?
Yes, and the Roses of Guadalupe fall through
my eyes at dawn and at dusk opening my sight.
Do you give offerings
for night air, sweet with smoke from pinon fires,
for your body that is light,
is a star among many in the dark,
for your small boat sliding the Milky Way?
Yes, and I feed cornmeal to two deer outside my door
who greet me nibbling snowy weeds.
They do not startle at my touch.