Manzano Mountain Review is an online New Mexico literary journal affiliated with UNM-Valencia.

This Season and What Is Alive

by Janet Ruth

                       —after Li-Young Li’s “This Hour and What is Dead”
Spring, in swishing cottonwood skirts, sashays
down the Río Grande, holding hands
with Old Wind Woman. *  Together, they denounce
Winter in his dried-up tumbleweed muffler.
With a dusty roar, they blow him away
east over the Sandias.  What do they seek in sere acequia beds?
What are the words to their rollicking song
rolling through the heavens?
What does the wind crone whisper in Spring’s ear?
Warnings of a short desert half-life?
Portents of coming transformations—   
            sultry, steamy Summer,
                        luminous, leaf-tumbling Autumn,
            and back to ice-whiskered Winter?
Or are they caught up in the vernal moment?
Spring’s joy feels like jasmine buds exploding
into bright sunshine, beneath a gargling gyre of sandhill cranes.
            In this season, what is dead is merely sleeping,
            we who wake stretch out our hands.
            Someone tell her to arise and come forth.
She keeps a light on in her heart,
always a home to return to, wherever our journeys.
My mother types weekly carbon paper letters
to four far-flung children.
Her love is like her writing and quilting—
tidbits, stories from our home town and each other, images
pulled together in precise sentences, even stitches up and down,
composing, piercing us gently together—a family.
            In this season, those who are dead are remembered,
            we who are alive bloom from their seed.
            Someone tell her she arises and lives in us.
Mother Nature, that old compost heap, keeps murmuring,
mouth of leaves, spider webs, and bones,
bosom stained with blood and sap, windy breath
rich with humus, musk, and mountain snowmelt.
Her immortality feels like rebuke,
feels like love, feels like glory.
            In this season, what is dead has joined the cycle,
            rich and re-created, while the Mother turns and watches.
            Someone ask her for forgiveness.
We who are alive,
            we who wake from wintry sleep,
                        cling to glory
                                    —feels like death,
* Wankwijo (Old Wind Woman) is the Pueblo Indian spirit of       
    wind, said to live in the Sandia Mountains.
Janet Ruth is an emeritus research ornithologist, living in New Mexico. She has published scientific papers on bird ecology and natural history stories in bird magazines. Her writing focuses on connections to the natural world. She has recent poems in The Ekphrastic Review, and in several regional anthologies including four volumes of the Poets Speak anthology—HERS, WATER, WALLS, and SURVIVAL—and Weaving the Terrain: 100-Word Southwestern Poems. In June 2018, she published her first book, Feathered Dreams: Celebrating Birds in Poems, Stories & Images.