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Mirage drinking

It is true there is only

so much water you can

drink—but you can

drink fantasy liquid


There is more than one way

to drink in a chimera

with her red-desert hair

thrown to the wind,

her body piled

onto mesas of sand.

Your body is not cast

iron like that man

standing on the corner

in Winslow, Arizona,

forever contemplating

the seven women

of the Eagles’ song.

The eighth woman,

redemption, is nowhere

to be seen (at least not

at McDonalds—to find her

a man has to do more

than come to her


And after all, your body

is no empty glass

even on dry desert days:

heroic as your thirst might be,

you are no match for the drinker

in the African tale who

swallowed up a lake

to rescue a woman

whose lover secreted her

under its waters.

To redeem a woman

that way, you’d have

to drink more than

sugared Dr. Pepper--

you’d have to go beyond

taking in water in the desert.

You’d have to drink

a whole mirage dry.


I can’t tell you what the raven

says to her mate in the nest:

I have only seen her fly,

speaking to the wind—

while I eavesdrop.

If I claim

to follow the sap

up some great tree,

don’t listen:

I am not the rain

she answers to.

There is a singular

language in which

bark and water

speak to one another

and I do not

own it.

If I bring you a bell

that rings in the wind

remember it stops

when the wind stops.

There is mere gossip

on my side of the

continental divide--

though that does not stop me

from trying to seduce you

across the line.

If you hitch a ride with me,

I must tell you the truth:

I only pretend to write

about the universe.

What I am really writing about

is my own heart.

The Land Takes My Picture

I turn toward the land

to see myself with eyes

of shade and water, muscle borne

on the shoulders

of the hills,

fleshy soil stretching

over magma like my own skin

stretches over the fossil gossip

in my bones, the lava

of my heart,

with its luna-moon rising

over a covey of leaf and bough--

and one wild tree

whose fruit wishes me well—

would always love me

if I let it.

Folklorist Madronna Holden’s retirement from university teaching has given her the opportunity to concentrate on her poetry. In the last two years, over forty of her poems have appeared in Equinox Poetry and Prose, The Cold Mountain Review, About Place, Leaping Clear, Windfall, Clackamas Literary Review, Slippery Elm Literary Journal, and many others. Previously, she won the Pacifica Prize for poetry two times, and the community production of her poetry drama, The Descent of Inanna, was the subject of a special aired on Oregon Public Broadcasting.

David Wolfersberger and his paintings are summer friends, sometimes seen walking the land as they feel and remember it and want it to be again, before fences, where people live and care for the earth and each other. Watercolors he painted on his 3500-mile solo bicycle tour of the West Coast have appeared or are forthcoming in conjunction with Madronna Holden’s poems in Cold Mountain Review, About Place, Leaping Clear, Slippery Elm Literary Review, Santa Clara Review, and elsewhere.

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