The Albuquerque Prompt Group

Issue 20

collage by Janet Ruth

Homage to W.S. Merwin: Glosa in Six Voices
Based on “The Solstice”



They say the sun will come back
at midnight
after all
my one love

The ancients knew
and we can tell
from old ruins that
they say the sun will come back

I say
the sun is mine
at midnight

doesn’t it shine
when our backs are turned
when the moon takes the sky
after all

we depend on its light
flinging power
for me for all and for
my one love


but we know how the minutes
fly out into
the dark trees
and vanish

how incongruous
beach movie palms
travel poster palms
he from Princeton
from the harsh Northeast
fond of living in France
yet love makes its own matches
he spent years growing palms
but we know how the minutes

effervesce in air
how after a certain age
a month is gone in a child’s afternoon
sleep is seeded with lists
unfinished work and old regrets
his heart polishes phrases
while his mind tumbles
seed lists and planting schedules
they divert him
fly out into

the tropic afternoon
palm fronds louver sunlight
ocean clouds promise night rain
damaged acres await
take shovel and wheelbarrow
tall boots and gloves
work until
love calls dinner
as the sun scrolls down beyond
the dark trees

his endangered palm trees
shadow-makers at midday
keepers of symbol and magic
dark lace whispering
against high blue
work through back pain
make do with stiff fingers
as another afternoon whirls by
as the scarce sweet hours arrive
and vanish


like the great ohias and honey creepers
and we know how the weeks
walk into the
shadows at midday

all the serpents great and small
snakes basking on sun-drenched stones
at mid-day in high desert June
while piñon and chamisas persist
in their own country
like the great ohias and honey creepers

in their land of rain and fog
but here the seeds and spores
can lie dormant for years
waiting for sufficient snow and rain
a bountiful season
and we know how the weeks

months years go by
without publication
or any sort of demonstrable garden
though the daily work goes on
until the acequia flows the farmers
walk into the

verdant fields
mice grow fat on corn
snakes grow fat on mice
hawks fat on snakes
and bobcats seek the solace of
shadows at midday


at the thought of the months I reach for your hand
it is not something
one is supposed
to say

as one who anticipates the worst
I should have been thrilled
in an unsatisfying way I was
right but you were gone
I don’t know where nor do I ask
during the night I mistake the cat
and her movements through the house for you
one of your nocturnal trips to the bathroom
I flip to your side of the bed and check
at the thought of the months I reach for your hand

I reach for your hand
as if space were something we could carve out of air
and portion out in parcels
like love
we were never the type to expect much
and now and now
I’m happy for you
in whatever state you are
I guess I’m content as well
it is not something

about counting the daffodils each spring
so yellow they almost hurt
I no longer remember how many bulbs you planted
other plants are long gone
I’ve adopted a grow-or-it-goes attitude
never your approach
I muddle through my many lapses
one mistake
one is supposed

it’s kind of a lovely number
less dismal than zero
whiptail lizards flourish
without the need for a partner
besides you left me the cat
who spreads herself out like the bed is hers
time was we could finish each other’s sentences
it’s not sorry but love that is hard
to say


we watch the bright birds in the morning
we hope for the quiet
daytime together
the year turns into air

winter nights are dying
cold dark hours filled with brittle stars
balanced on a knife’s edge
we teeter on the precipice
look backward forward
between darkness and light
between anger and forgiveness
we watch the bright birds in the morning

as light begins its climb
above mountain peaks beginning
the reign of warm days
lit by that close-burning star
we leap from edge of gleaming blade
into a hot and howling wind
that blows us clean
we hope for the quiet

after the scouring sirocco sweeps past
leaving us raw but purified
wind fans embers
we shelter in the dark
scours to germination
the seed of change we plant in the sand
anticipating that we will share
daytime together

do not forget darkness or sharpness
send down roots in search of water
push up green tendrils in search of light
new season from old from brokenness
stardust and bright feathers grind potsherds
mix with water knead and pull up new vessels
earth tilts toward the sun
the year turns into air


but we are together in the whole night
with the sun still going away
and the year
coming back

I dream of humpback whales
a mother nurturing her calf
as killer whales chase
a threat
to us when apart
but we are together in the whole night

my dream collapses
under splendid sun of day
until cirrus clouds cover
and darken the sky like night
my dream repeats
with the sun still going away

in my new dream
of laden clouds you leave
never to return
I rumble in my sleep
wake to find you near
and the year

approaches a turn
from dark to light
sun rays spoke in a wheel
Orion changes position
a full night sky
coming back


-Deborah Coy (i), Faith Kaltenbach (ii), John Roche (iii),
Scott Wiggerman (iv), Janet Ruth (v), Gayle Lauradunn (vi)

Source & Method

The poem is a Glosa, each part composed by a different member of the Albuquerque Prompt Group, using a stanza from Merwin’s “The Solstice,” (Merwin’s words in italics). The associated collage was created by Janet Ruth from phrases and images in the poem.

The Albuquerque Prompt Group is a collective of six poets who meet twice a month to write to a poetry prompt, followed by a group critique. ‘Homage to W.S. Merwin’ is their first collaborative poem in three years of existence as a group.