Hearth is the heart, warmth, fire, raging and tranquil. Gathering us together, we warm ourselves by its flame. Suckling bosom of knowledge, a hall of words, books and catalog cards. Legal debates pulling reason in opposite directions, but never too far from the center of cold limestone turned warm by wood of surrounding land. The dragon leads the menagerie, two heads with sight of towers where grotesques and serpents keep watchful eye on all who enter. Serpents taking flight at night, playing in darkness as they slither from transom to transom, never touching the floors of men. Grotesques howling and flapping their wings as though in discussion, as though in defense of the shield they bear for love of building, and craft, and university. Yet the dragon is the seer, the knower, the one with thought and knowledge too powerful to expose. Does he envy the others’ views of the hills? Or does he find solace in hearing the whispers, the secrets, the plans of women who now grace his throne with beauty? Art now conquers the cold limestone, while humanities compete with the science of masons. But with transcendent words our beloved beast changes, studies, creates. Words devoured by the dragon, it feeds on new dreams, new hearts, new love for its majestic survival. As I leave this place, these grounds, this building. I whisper to the protectors my gratitude, my respect. I tell them of my jealous heart that cannot grasp the treasures only they consume.
I wrote this poem on the anniversary of 9/11 while working our local farmers market. A time to reflect the attacks that day, and a time to think about my fellow brothers & sisters in military service who lost their lives over the last twenty years while serving on foreign land. 11 September twenty years have come and passed, fades of existence, ghosts reminisced. souls lost and never forgotten as our hearts and minds break with the wind. twenty years of conflict ended with lines of flags and tombstones and medals. more of our finest killed in war than on that day, thousands on our soil, thousands on theirs. that day, those hours, three fields, death and destruction. charred planes, fallen buildings, only memories to be found in the dust of the attack. as family, we mourn. as a nation, we mourn. as human, we cry.
We went to the river nearly every full moon, kids out and lost together, hot summer nights in West Texas. Bonfires glowed along the river's edge in Socorro as we looked to Isleta and Fabens, our views through pecans and bends grinding our thoughts along the border. I rode Calamity Jane there, wind or rain, sand or tumbleweeds, or heavy monsoons, (which I secretly loved while frightening my mother as I arrived home, soaked amid lightening strikes so strong the hawks I loved hid under the corral's metal roof.) Friendship was priceless, it was all we could afford. Free dips in the water's edge, gathered sage to scent mesquite from the hillsides, stones petrified from the dry desert air circling the flames of our future.
This partially autobiographical poem was written during a writing workshop at the Lazy Black Bear Farm (Paoli, Indiana), led by Catherine Bowman from Indiana University's Center for Rural Engagement. Guiding us through images from our childhoods and the elements, we used our personal words to create. My images were my horse, Calamity Jane, and my walking down the dirt road I lived on off Montana Ave. in El Paso through dust storms. (The first home I lived in while attending Socorro High School.) My elements were the Rio Grande River (water), a hawk (air), petrified wood (earth), and memories of bonfires in the dry washes (fire.)