We sit on the swing on the back porch.
It is night–always night with my mother.
We have matching sun dresses that summer,
thin, red see-through material with tiny white polka dots.
The red–kind of scratchy against my chest,
the skirt sticking out like a weary tutu when I walk.
Tired, leaning against my mother,
my legs dangling off the front of the swing,
she sings to herself,
her voice, low, smoky, a little off-key.
I love it because she’s giving me attention,
and I’ll take anything she gives.
She leans over to brush a strand of hair
away from my face, and keeps singing.
The screen porch is in shadow,
but light shines softly
from inside the house.
My mother is like that too.
In the twilight world of almost-asleep,
she rocks us, pushing her foot
against the floor every now and then.
Holding her song inside me
reminds me to listen–
for music in the darkness.
When you walk
the dry, hot bed of a sandy arroyo,
imagine water running underground,
unseen, but nourishing,
feeding the ash trees, the little bushes,
the purple wildflowers.
When love doesn’t appear
in the same form it once did,
it has not disappeared–
it has simply gone underground,
lost, not to your heart,
only to your vision.
One day it will spring up–
maybe not in the same place
or in the same way.
When your cat sits beside you,
puts her paw gently on your arm,
slowly a trickle begins to move, above ground.
Love brings us up
from deep water to shore,
not a foot print for miles,
washes us up, gasping for air.
We look out, wanting to get love,
only to find our beloved is mirror, not source.
And all the while, love dwells beneath
the hated carapace of our hearts.
Clues are in the wild places…
The river meanders,
calmly agreeing with everything that happens.
Heavy rain slices its banks, changes its course,
yet it keeps on flowing.
The seed, hidden inside last year’s flower head,
hangs on ’til just the right moment
when the wind whisks by
and drops it into rain-softened soil.
The endless search stops
when there is no need to look out.
We are not afraid to look in–to accept
our own broken, beautiful, beating heart.
I am excited to announce the publication of my new book, Another Door Calls. In this—my first published poetry collection—the reader is invited to step into the stark beauty of the desert as I explore the wilderness of a far corner of southwestern New Mexico. Rivers and mountains become my teachers on this journey as I come to know the terrain more intimately. The land and water become mirrors revealing themselves to me, revealing my own inner landscape in startling silence and the language of poetry. Another Door Calls is published by Mercury HeartLink and illustrated with photographs taken by Glenn Henderson.
Award-winning poet and WNMU emeritus professor Bonnie Buckley Maldonado has praised Another Door Calls this way: “Elise Stuart has immersed herself in the high desert, integrating the harshness of spring flooding and the many months of drought to recreate them in the glorious lines of her poetry. It is because she discovers beauty within destruction, and sees wisdom within chaos, that she is able to invite the reader to seek more than meets the eye.”
You can buy Another Door Calls at the Javalina Coffeeshop and WNMU Bookstore in Silver City or order it on-line through Amazon for $12.95 by clicking:
Watch the sun color the sky orange,
over the lip of the mountain to the east.
Tiny bird tracks are the ones you follow,
yellow and purple flowers cover the ground.
Make your body twist and bend
under a barbed wire fence.
Weeding squash next to tall, pink zinnias,
bells of blue-white sesame flowers.
Large black bees hum,
while butterflies dance above the rows.
The silence is so big
you can’t find your place in it.
Then, one day,
it’s part of you.
Head to the ditch in a roundabout way.
Even though the cool is what you want more than anything,
you wait,take your body in slowly,
feel the water ride up your thighs.
In the middle, where the water is deepest,
find a place where the creeks come together,
you—the land—the water
like watering the strawberries and currants,
because they are up and leafing,
or carrying the wicker basket,
full of wet clothes,
down the steps and out by the trees.
One could miss the way
the fingers squeeze together
the top of the clothespin to
attach the seam of the blue shirt
to the swaying clothesline.
One could miss the moment,
when the sprinkler is moved around,
that each small strawberry plant drinks in water,
up from its root tips.
One could miss these details of care,
one could look back over the day and say only,
I washed the clothes.
I watered the garden.
One could miss all of these—
how the brown socks are
carefully laid out to dry.
I don’t want to go on about it,
but isn’t it the small things,
the little acts of love,
that keep this heartrending world
spinning on its axis?
Lying beneath a thick comforter
and far-off stars,
I move over a little,
making my body an island.
Illness drives a wedge
between me and the world.
I crave solitude,
its calm, drifting rhythm.
Close my eyes and become
more than this body,
round a bend
to stand in golden light.
the pale down
on my son’s tiny head,
right at the crown—
Soft spot that dimples in
dives into the body and