Friday Poem

“My two great loves are physics and New Mexico. It’s a pity they can’t be combined.”
—J.R. Oppenheimer

La Jornada

I could have loved you
wrapped my legs tightly
around your white buttocks
to keep you thinly against me
without desire
for food
for water from mountain streams
for the journey to Jornada del Muerto
for the creation of Trinity

I would have met you along
the ridge of Frijoles Canyon
caught breathless by your intensity
and sad eyes
your boyish dishevelment
would have seduced me
to seduce you
just clumsily enough
to surprise and charm you
away from quantum mechanics
the enigmatic half-life of identical muclei
and the gray uniform houses of Los Alamos
at least for awhile

until the 14th passed and the 15th
and the 16th
defying the test that would test us all

Before the red dawn
I would have awakened beside you
untangled myself in the narrow bed
to slide on top of you
onto you
and whisper only for you
mi Nuevo Méjico

Love listen
the children are singing
as they taxi along the dirt road
back and forth on the broken bicycle.
They think they share heaven
“no tornados, no hurricanes,
we’re so lucky,” they say
in singing Mexican accents
and do you know?
¿Sabes, mi Roberto,
that my father couldn’t stay in California
even for sweet warm thick slices
of 5¢ watermelon
pleasures of avocados
ripe oranges and lemons
right off the tree
and a steady government job
on the docks
so without a word
piled us all into the Model A
the new baby born in San Fancisco
and drove back to pumping gas,
fixing flats, dirt floors
and drinking cervesa with his compadres
He liked land brown
and familiar like him
afternoons burned into
the skin by sun—
his legacy to us, to me, in me?

And riding in me the passion of New Mexico
up to mountain streams and ruins without names
on the bed of an old pickup
sleeping within me the desire
to empower poetry with the very physics
of the land
consider querido mio


how it changes only

not the land:

A gust of wind whips a-
round the corner
of the jr high
where two girls walk-
….. backward
at their backs
their skirts
stinging sand against
the slight curve of bare thighs
they chatter
and lick ice-cream cones
harbored in still coves
made by the slight curve
of slender shoulders

You could have held me by the poetry
of Classical Analysis
spoken Sanskrit verses to me
upon the ruins of the high adobe city of Puye
where ancient
we would gaze beyond Black Mesa
at the blue haze of the mountain range
ranging from the Colorado Sangre de Christos
clear south
to the Sandias
and then, the Manzanos
but your passion was physics, the fission
of it and separation never scared you
not even my sad eyes
Don’t look at me like I’m loving you and
your eight children

and a small kiss upon my cheek before you left
leaving me lost in crumpled linen.
I couldn’t have stopped your drive through all those summers
with your family in Christ’s blood red mountains where you
learned to love your version of the air I couldn’t have
stopped your drive past Sante Fe Albuquerque Islets, Belén
slipping left after Socorro into the light of a new world.

by Antoni Quintana Pigño
from After Aztlan
publisher David R. Godine, 1992