Pushcart winner Laura Rodley‘s latest book are Left at Normal by Big Table Press, Counter Point by Prolific Press and As You Write It Lucky 7 printed by Leveller’s Press.

You Know How It Is

The purple petunias my son’s daughter
planted in their round blue clay planter
shriveled from heat exhaustion in June.
They returned to Civano’s, replanted.
Still, they could not withstand the heat,
a lesson his three year old holds now
in her cells, a tactic in survival, what
can grow, what cannot, and when.
They are waiting now for the August rains
when torrents catch laggers
and panic-stricken cattle
unaware in arroyos that so recently
had been dry, traversable. His daughter
will water the plants newly set
in the round blue planter
and let the rains adequately mist them
for the night, holding their roots alive.
My son is from the east, used to heavy dew
dusting grass, flowers, rains that fall
unbidden. He does not carry
this knowing the dryness of the desert
deep in his cells, in his breath,
as does his daughter now, whose awareness
regarding the placement of water will
sustain her, in the dry desert between rains.

On a Bed of Pine Needles and Leaves

The coyote was in her lair
challenging her cubs to stare
though their eyes weren’t open yet;
they were already begotten,
the opposite of to beget,
a responsibility though she cannot spell
the word, she is tongue lapping fur,
teeth snapping raw deer
that churns into warm milk
as the cubs squirm, the silk
of their new fur a drum-hide
through which she feels their hearts beat,
more rapid than her own;
if they were a deer she was chasing
the rapid beats would clue fear,
but for the handful of cubs,
it spells contentment, growing,
catching up on knowing.

In Attendance

Santa is sitting across from me
in the dining car, his hair
brushed forward, long, straight,
and white, his beard trimmed
below his mouth, no matter
he looks Amish and probably is,
but he’s asking for water,
not tea, as water is the preferred drink
for his reindeer, and he asks
for oats, reindeer food.
He doesn’t say much else,
but there he sits, Santa,
no one’s supposed to know
but I do, he’s in training
for riding round the world
in his sleigh, his reindeer
stabled in the baggage car.
They don’t fit under his seat
as does the cat that the girl
with long braids fit
under her seat,
now that Amtrak allows
animals. He doesn’t say
anything about his reindeer
but I hear them calling.


Santa is trimming his beard,
filing down the hooves of his reindeer.
The elves have been lax this year,
worried about the election
though Santa turned off television,
having called it the idiot box, as did my father.
The elves neglected trimming hooves,
but not the feeding of the reindeer;
they can’t live without the warm
breath of the reindeer blowing down their necks,
the sweet smell of their molasses feed,
they can’t live without the soft velvet
of their antlers scratching an itch
in their back, knowing just where to rub.
They can’t live without the dreams of children
which they enter in their sleep,
scanning the long ticker tape of their Christmas lists
that the elves remember and record.
Santa relies on them for their
exact recording, there’s no
dillydallying with this, exactitude
being the measure of love.