Christien Gholson

No one knows how to fix this

An arroyo carved by long-gone water
lures me in. Inside: cracked mud, sand, 
hare shit, prints of a horned lizard, deer.
There's a driftwood pile where wind
gathered branches: snake-chaos, whips,
Chinese calligraphy disassembled, left here
to create a new script…or make fire.

All the pinyon branch-tips that surround
the arroyo are rust-brown: drought,
black scale. Everything is dying. A missile
fired: one part of the world cheers, one part
mourns. Flames rip across roofs, smoke
fills the canyon. A tunnel of flame spins,
creates the wind that begins the next world.

I could have been a rock, a cabbage moth,
a pinyon or a dog, maybe moss or a water-skate.
But I am this shape: small, so small, staring
at the dying pinyon. I feel my heart, the ribcage
that surrounds it, the bones in my hands, then
send love out to everyone I know. I have
no idea how to do this. I do it anyway.


Where Joy Comes From, Where It Goes

After Wang Wei

Alone I come back to this pinyon, how it clings
to a seam of stone, precarious. Resin

on the fingers; turpentine, with a hint of orange:
what water tastes like to the dead?

A chickadee pulls a seed from a cone. Look away,
look back, she's no longer there. All my thoughts -

how I can't, how I can, how it's too late - dissolve.
Wind moves the sun across pinyon branches.

Spirals of light: how they hold the mind together,
how they take it apart…


Watching a Geminid Meteor Shower with Li Po

Asteroids whip flammable gas into flame -
      brief streaks of light
              between seemingly immortal stars.             
A brilliant white line scars the night
                         beneath Orion's belt, across
Eridanus, river of souls,
               pierces the mind, mirrors the flash
across a synapse. Messages sent from before
                 the earth was formed.

            Li Po dove into the moon…

I stand on a stone wall, shivering, feet cold,
  watch stone after stone burn the night sky
                              alive. Anchored to earth,
the mind rides the brief light. Li Po stands
     behind me, drunk, a shade in the shadow
                                                 of a pear tree,
his dark eyes on a similar light shower
                            fifteen hundred years gone.

            Li Po dove into the moon…

Spontaneous noises - whoops and sighs -
      erupt from my mouth after each flash:
      the nervous system recognizing itself…
The afterimage haunts the eye: an eerie
          black light. Here, then not here; same
as me, as Li Po, last poet
               to hunt after immortality, knowing
             the search was futile, a joke; knowing
a life of poetry can be made in pursuit
                                              of that very joke.

            Li Po dove into the moon…


No One

The Qi scholar stands in his doorway,
holds a cup of tea with both hands,
breathes in shreds of grey cloud, strips
of blue beyond, scent of rain,
maybe snow, grey wings on a slash pile,
a few desolate drops on flagstone,
a man wiring together a coyote fence,
hired on the cheap - another refugee,
journey worn in the way he lights a cigarette,
the way he stares into the canyon…

He has been no one most of his life.

The Qi scholar stands in his doorway,
opens his hands. His tea cup is gone,
was never there. The moon, the moon,
one of a thousand identical sisters,
appears, balances on the eastern ridge.
He lets it rest on the end of a finger,
then uses it as a coin to cover both eyes,
practicing blindness, practicing

When did he finally let go
of being someone else's no one
                   and choose to be his own?

The Qi scholar stands in his doorway,
sticks out his tongue to catch an almost
illusory desert raindrop. Did one land
in his mouth or not? Rain, rain, from
such thin clouds. Patterns, patterns…
the way everything is shaped and shapes,
is a map, torn, glowing blue, a song
of unfathomable loss, illuminating
a path to itself. He laughs.

Becoming no one is not a choice.

The Qi scholar stands in his doorway.
He has been standing there
for one thousand years. He was
standing there before the doorway
was built. He will be there
after it is gone. He marvels
how trees make mischief at night,
exchange places in the dark, how
a lone snowflake escapes
from a star named Capella, sails
through his forehead, how Capella
is really a system of four stars
in two binary pairs…

No one looks at the moon.


Christien Gholson

Christien Gholson is the author of two books of poetry: On the Side of the Crow (Hanging Loose Press) and All the Beautiful Dead (Bitter Oleander Press; winner of the Bitter Oleander Poetry Award and finalist for the NM book award); along with a novel, A Fish Trapped Inside the Wind (Parthian Books). A long poem, Tidal Flats, was published last year as an online chapbook by Mudlark. He lives in New Mexico, has long conversations with coyotes, piñon roots, and the dead. 

More on Christien Gholson's work can be found on our Links page.

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