city of albuquerque photo
the faux of July (Albuquerque, NM)
by Richard Vargas

this year the Rio Grande
is a brimming artery
pumping life into the
heart of this high desert land
where coyote scat dries
hard on a dusty dirt trail
in the late morning sun

at the water’s edge
i set to fire the bundle
of sage carried in my hand
gently wave sacred smoke
around me through me

i turn to the west
where an ocean almost
dead spews up whales
with bellies full of plastic
and fish with glow-in-the-dark tumors
as radiation from across the sea
drips into the water and
it’s old news

i turn to the north
hear the cracking of ancient
glaciers retreating while
floating ice caps break
into chunks clung to by
starving polar bears so lean
we can count their ribs
as we show our concern
by posting frowning emojis
on our Facebook

i face east where today
machines of war will be
displayed as a reminder
we are governed by those
who mock compassion
and good will towards
those in desperate need
governed by those who sow
seeds of hate and flaunt the sword
so the egos of the rich
can gleam and shine
like the golden calf
they worship

facing the south
i can only weep
seeing the floating corpses
of a father and daughter
holding onto each other
together fleeing the horrors
and atrocities taking
over their homeland
fleeing into the hateful
clutches of an ugly people
ruled by fear who rip children
from the arms of parents
locking them up in cages
of genocidal dreams
and the toxic gasps
of a dying empire

you can keep
your beer and hotdogs
your fireworks and
parades dripping
with phony flag waving
and citizens who don’t
know the words to
their precious anthems

today i will mourn
hang my head
heavy in shame
with tearful eyes
watch gray smoke
drift on currents
of wind rising into
an unforgiving sky

dropping the sage
into the brown water
asking the Rio Grande
to accept my humble offering

the river spits
it back

PHOTO: Rio Grande River, Albuquerque, New Mexico, with Sandia Mountains in background. (Courtesy of City of Albuquerque, NM, used by permission.)

vargasABOUT THE AUTHOR: Richard Vargas received his MFA from the University of New Mexico, 2010. He was recipient of the 2011 Taos Summer Writers’ Conference’s Hispanic Writer Award, was on the faculty of the 2012 10th National Latino Writers Conference, and facilitated a workshop at the 2015 Taos Summer Writers’ Conference. His three books of poetry are McLife, American Jesus, and Guernica, revisited. He edited/published The Más Tequila Review from 2009-2015. Currently, he resides in Monona, Wisconsin.