Landscapes by Lori Gravley

Animals carry within them some dream,
a landscape where they seem best to belong.
Diana Starr Cooper

i. Lawns

This is my heart, this land, barren
as a finished book. Barren
except for strange plants
that scratch your skin
or smell like rain.
I would plant the whole yard
with creosote, let the grass wither
and return to clay, but you,
you are trees,
dark firs casting thin shadows
across our bodies
wrapped in expensive green.

ii. Driving Home through Rain

The buffalo grass rasps
on its dry stalks. The mesquite
has lost its leaves and stands black,
shrugging off the wind that rattles
the empty nest in its branches.
The leaves of the creosote, yellow
and small as jaundiced children
whisper to the sky:
rain, rain, rain.

Even the yucca
green and dangerous,
withers. Its rotting pods
heavy with black seeds small as tears,
shake loose in the wind and leave bare
the bleached stalk straining
against gray sky.

Soon rain will come
wash this womb I travel in
and leave me still soiled inside.
I will carry home the weight
of this sky hanging low
like the canopy of grief
over our bed.

iii. What I Cannot Be

She waits in the water
like I wait in the rocks.
She pours her wet dreams
into your ears, stopping them
against the sound of falling rocks.
Her liquid body opens for you
washes you clean, pulls salt from skin
in a hollow suck.

My body is dry.
It hides in mountains,
piercing angle of Organs,
heavy curves of Franklins.
You find me north of El Paso,
sleeping above Highway 54,
my arms curved about my head, body
bent and twisted and dry.

I do not wait for rain to wash
dust from my bones.
I’ll take it when it comes.
But you, you look for water,
your legs divining
underground flow.
The caress of stone
holds nothing for you
but conquering.

vi. Without Shade, We Wither or We Thrive

A tree sprouts from my fingers,
sprigs spring from green flesh,
branches spiral upward from my heart
through my chest into my lungs
growing trees of alveoli, bronchi
through my breath and out my mouth.

When I was a little girl I slid down trees,
pines fallen against each other in the wind.
The bark bit my thighs, my calves.
Wisteria wrapped me in purple fragrance.
I sat in the crooked arms of oaks
struggling to grow in salted sand.

I thought I was tired of trees.
Maybe I only needed freedom from shade
to let bark rise through my body,
let my fingers split and bud
and burst into leaf and flower—
a place where you could come and sit in the shade,
a branch you could cut,
pull back my first three fingers
and use what’s left to divine water.

v. When It Rains

The cranes return to the Bosque,
float down between purple plumes of salt cedar.
My arms split and bud and burst.
You suck blue water from between my fingers,
dance in my skin, rise wet from soaked ground.

Lori Gravley writes poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction. She earned her
MFA from the University of Texas at El Paso. She has published poems in a
variety of journals recently including I70 Review, Burningword, and Crack
the Spine. She travels the world for her work as a USAID consultant, but her
home is in Yellow Springs, Ohio. You can see more of her work at www.