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Spring/Summer 2007, Volume 23.3


David LeePhoto of David Lee.

David Lee is the author of thirteen books of poetry, including A Legacy of Shadows: Selected Poems. He was named Utah’s first Poet Laureate and is the recipient of the Utah Governor’s Award for lifetime achievement in the arts. He has also been honored as one of Utah’s top twelve writers of all time by the Utah Endowment for the Humanities.  Read other work by David Lee published in Weber Studies: Vol. 5.1 (Poetry)Vol. 13.1 (Conversation)Vol. 13.1 (Poetry)Vol. 20.1 (Poetry); Vol. 24.3 (Poetry).


Nocturne Chinle Strata

An immense, rainbow colored intaglio
—Wallace Stegner, Beyond the Hundredth Meridian

A small cloud hangs above the mesa
Shadows crawl down the escarpment

La Tierra turns
and afternoon slides toward dusk

Sage brush winds
cool the evening air

A day passes into week
month, year, century, millennium, eon

Pangea splits into continents
which float, collide, grind, erupt

Sierras thrust against the sky
wash to the seas

Civilizations spawn, rise
fall into blackbird gurgle

The desert glistens under a quarter moon
dangling like a question mark


Spring     Storm     Alone

Ode for Walpurgis Night
—after Mussorgsky

Demonic winds howl
and shake their locks

Gnarled cumulus fists
float like nightmare,
clutching slivers of lightning

A sift of thunder chokes a small canyon
with the leakage
of a shrill echo

The swelling sky flares,
a sacrificial angus bull’s nostrils
sucking wind,
nose ring tethered to Factory Butte,
its angry pull loosening
every chink and buttress
in the bajada scaffolding

Sand flays the cuesta
in small, sharp bursts
scuttling into hollows,
out and around fins
like an enraged Chihuahua
snarling and snapping

searching to confront any object
perceived as affront or impediment,
at every turn screaming in triumph

               * * *

A rumble,
the cloud flings its arms outward,
sheets of rain
with a rich man’s love
only for a possession
pound the desert
in a fusillade

scars of stones
scoured and slashed
in the black drench

Storm dips then pours itself
a devil’s tithing

Arroyos rumble with slurry
pellets of rock, grit, fine sand,
a swaddling permeation of red dust
fill the badlands

The bellow of lightning
freed from the mildewed
crevice of underworld
frames an out of place ocotillo
clawing the air like a forsworn proselyte
caught in the wind shear
between fact and opinion,
bloodied fingers sluing in freefall

               * * *

The sudden break
moan as an eddy of wind
sieves through a sandstone breech
gurgle and croak of moving water

soft thunder
like draft horses
moving in night stalls

fat clouds, farrowed,

The desert shimmers
with the glisten
of a spit shined enigma
from a loose pocket of night
balanced in the open palm
of a sure fulcrum

A spadefoot toad
clinging to a pothole lip smiles,
a tiny Buddha
singing in perfect
trochaic trimeter


Aubade     Paean

Fanfare for the Uncommon Man
—after Aaron Copland

A soft spot
in the cloud rips

Streamers of light
glistering the buttes

until the cloudseam heals
Then the redarkening
around dawnseep

trickling through
a notch in the horizon

A pinon
stuffed with song

of white-crowned sparrows
A crepitant windchime

into a geyser
of quarter notes

filling the sky


—for Leslie Norris


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