Tonya Basinger (M.F.A., Univ. of Memphis) currently teaches at the University of Southern Indiana. Her poems have appeared in Plainsongs and local publications. She is from Kentucky, but has been intrigued by her trips to work and play in the West.
The Market: San Miguel
In this season for buying and selling shares
I buy beans.
Counting their strangeness through the bag,
weighing heaviness in my palm
as if I held pieces of silver or gold
spilled from the red aprons of the hills
into a bleaching sun.
I try to ease my pulse
to the sound of cornhusks opening.
The women nod and spread their shawls.
The men watch,
then go back to smoothing their vegetables
with slow-river fingertips
as if the full bosomed tomatoes were their lovers.
I walk past kitchens with floors swept
clear of all but bronze children playing.
I do not know how to fix the food
so the dirt smell comes into the air
and is carried from open doorways…
gossip: It is time she learned.
I carry the bag close to my chest,
try not to wonder how I came
to buy beans from women with hands
curved and willing like the feet of crows.
Unaccustomed to carrying wealth
in my hands, the beans fall,
planting themselves underfoot.
Stooping to gather them, dust
fills my eyes.
The sky is grey like the last hour….
The sadness of a prairie, that you can see so far
what is coming or what is not.
That the line of the fire
moves from one sky to the other.
Men and women from the tribe,
Taking the small dares
against a heat stored long against them.
Their eyes burnished
by the drug of smoke and chance
and the small flames that relinquish
what they have nursed all their lives.
Mud homes licked up in moments.
Ashes are all that remains to eat. The women
gather them in bowls, and decorate the children,
send them running across
steaming ground. The families gather together
and sing to the sky.
Letter from Georgia O'Keeffe
I wish you could see out my window,
a pile of bones
white as sky,
under a sky of bones. My bones
are squinted into the pale light.
I climb my ladder to see the small stillness of things
where the moon covers me,
an old friend.
The smallest flower has the face of the plain,
and is leaking light
through its leaves
as I am…
and my own.