Rick Kempa (M.F.A. U of Arizona) teaches writing and philosophy at Western Wyoming College. His work has appeared in Puerto del Sol, High Plains Literary Review, Teaching English in the Two-Year College and Tumblewords: Writers Reading the West (U of Nevada P, 1995).
The Delicate Art of Dying
Dry winds made them moan. Early snows
piled on weight a hundred times their own.
Boughs bent crazily, many broke,
decades of slow growth negated by the muffled cracks
resounding through the empty streets like gunshots.
Dogs staked in front yards raised the dirge.
But in the branches that survived, the leaves held firm.
When the storm was spent, they shook themselves,
resumed their skyward pose, less alive but capable
in their waning of rearranging light.
Today in the calm hour after dawn,
the sun touching the hoary face of each leaf
precipitates a chemistry, ice crystals to beads,
and at last a golden rain, one by one by one,
loud as the weeping in the aftermath of summer storms,
quiet as a prayer in the still air of cathedral.
My mother woke to such a day as this.
Having survived violence, having colored our world
with her beauty, she stirred in the last warmth,
felt a delicate movement in her veins.
Her last act was a choosing, a smile that
to the gathering of her children said,
"Today I am ready. Today I will let go."
Be Two, Be One
I have to get farther away
before I can get closer
to you, see what I am
before I can see how to become
more like you.
trees crouch like crippled dwarves,
thunder stalks back and forth
and the flowers are confusing
love each other's loves,
know your needs, meet mine,
be two, be one?