Tag Archives: poem

Where desert mountain waits

Sun dried jerky of your past
Lies heavy on the stomach-heart
Grumbles, protests, lingers
Long, long after cactus
Arid faith
Uprooted by a desert mountain
Cloudburst flood
Has withered, blunted tines
No longer barbed
While jerky past still grumbles
Lies heavy on the stomach heart.

Lie still and watch
Lantern sun swings overhead
This banner day
Sliver moon salutes from darkened sky

Take heart.  Take heart.  Take heart.

Move the grumble upward to a song
To tines’ decay

Take heart take heart take heart

While dormant hidden succulents
Await return of desert mountain
Cloud burst flood
And full moon rises.

Jack Purcell, From Poems of the New Old West, copyright 2003, NineLives Press


Hell, since I’m posting poems I wrote about depression

Written sometime between 11pm and 7am at the what?  Roadway Inn? motel, anyway, Grants, New Mexico.    Probably 2002, 2003.  Hell, it wasn’t me who was depressed.  Can’t recall what inspired this:

The Voyeur

Soul sucked darkness from eternity
Fashioned this, my tiny room;
This monumental construct of infirmity;
This animated tomb
With a peephole to observe
The profanity:
The bell shaped curve
Of insanity.

From Poems of the New Old West, copyright 2003, NineLives Press, Jack Purcell

Suicide: Make it count, son. There’s money to be made.

Hi readers.  Shortly after I came back to town after The End of Life As We Know It and the Y2K I gave myself [you can probably find the stories of that by searching the blog for Y2K] I went to work graveyard shift.  Travel Lodge, maybe, or Motor Inn, night clerk.  11pm-7am.  That story’s here somewhere, too.

Those nights in that motel were always long, sometimes interesting, never boring.  At least not to me, but I don’t recall ever having been bored this lifetime.

One night a guy came down from his room and sat in the lobby, just wanted to talk.  He was in town as part of a team cleaning up a particularly messy suicide.  That’s what he did for a living.  Travelled all over the place where suicides happened and left a terrible mess, maybe a hazardous one.

Interesting guy, with a perspective about suicide and life that I mightn’t agree with, but am glad I encountered anyway.  So sometime one of those long nights later I wrote this thing I might have once called a poem:


Brain soup on steel rails,
Creosote and gravel
Is tasteless and inconsiderate.

What a waste, you say.
It keeps people employed
I say.

Lawsuits, insurance forms
Police reports
Accident reports
For a non accident.

Clerks, cops, lawyers
Funeral directors
And the little guy.

Someone has to clean up
Those brain and bloodstains
On the walls and carpets;
Pick the bone fragments
Out of the doorframe
With a pair of needle nosed pliers;
Plug the holes
Re paint. 
Mop up those
Sidewalk body fluids
Untangle the lariat
Or phone cord
From the light fixture
Scrub bathtub
crimson rings.

Someone has to manufacture
Sleeping pills

And hospital beds
For the faint of heart.

Some of that’s still
Made in America
(Good quality, too
And I’m damned proud
To say it.)

It’s hard times.
A man has to go where the work is.

What a waste, you say.
It keeps people employed
I say.
It’s commerce.

From Poems of the New Old West, copyright 2003, NineLives Press, Jack Purcell

Old Jules

Viva La Raza – Philosophy by Limerick

In Gaza

The Zionists’ “Viva la raza!”

Never played well in Gaza,

But mineral wealth

Left no time for stealth

So la raza turned casa to masa.

Old Jules

Dragon Morning

Soft rain of star noise 
Patters on dawn 
Tin roof 
He listens 
Half awake 
Slowly redefining 
This reality 
From the mist 
Of dreams 
Of spear point 
Of dragons slain 
Of noble quests 
And virtue 
Never owned 

Old Jules

Near-extinct Spiritual Weeds Springing up on the Rez

There’s a temptation to believe we moderns living within the boundaries of the US have a lot in common with one another, and in many ways we do.  But what we have in common with one another isn’t necessarily what we believe we do.  One of those areas of commonality probably has to do with the perception of Native Americans as a somewhat generic group of people with a lot in common with one-another and far less in common with whites and Hispanics.

 This leads to a lot of packages of thinking among people not living on the Rez, whether they’re whites, second or third generation off-Rez Native Americans, Hispanics, or folks who carry a bit of tribal blood in their veins a few generations old, but never lived on the Rez.

 One of the packages contains a romanticized view that the cultural heritages on the Rez still exist, still carry some similarity to those before the coming of Europeans, and are similar to one-another.   The phrase, ‘the old ways’ has found its way into the language of those seduced into buying the package.  The “I-know-the-old-ways-too-because-my-granddad-was-a-Cherokee [or Apache, etc]” syndrome frequently found among artists, blue-eyed-blond-haired ladies in Atlanta, and in cities across the nation among those who see something wrong with modern life and hunger for a deeper spiritual life.

 The fact is, those tribes don’t have much at all in common with one another, aside from being packaged and treated as though they were similar for at least a century-and-a-half by the US Government, far longer for some in the eastern US.   Bits and pieces of the original cultures have survived on some reservations, less on some, almost none on some.  And those cultures remaining are as unlike one another as they are different from European.

But I’ve digressed.  I began this blog entry with the intention of talking about a particular cultural phenomenon re-emerging on Navajo tribal lands, strange and not easily understood by anyone including the Din’e living there.  The Skin Walker.  A person who voluntarily adopts witch-like and other behaviors that violate the most fundamental religious/spiritual forbiddings of the tribe.  The subject, even the name is such that even most Din’e have only a general  understanding of what those practices are.  But there’s no lack of agreement that Skin Walkers are a threat to everyone, a cause for revulsion, anger, fear, hatred.

 On the Pine Hill Navajo (self-determination) Rez south of Ramah Chapter there’s a place that’s come to be called, “Skin-Walker Valley” by everyone who’s willing to use the word.  Interestingly, the valley extends into an area checkerboarded with white-owned lands called Candy Kitchen.

 What’s surprising is that, while the Skin-Walker phenomenon clearly began on Din’e land, the weirdness and negativity spills over and permeates into the white community. Although some good folks, both white and Din’e, live and make out as best they can in this remote area, it’s shockingly pervaded by all manner of crime. Speed freaks and laboratories are drawn there as by a magnet.

 Violence is pandemic. As an example, a few years ago three Navajo youths tortured and killed an octogenerian white woman in her home, puncturing her skull with a screwdriver eighteen times until she died. She had nothing much worth stealing. They did it for ‘fun’.  When the lads were identified they were arrested on the Rez, where tribal authorities resisted giving them up for white justice for several days.

 Meanwhile, deep in the Rez to the north, near Pueblo Pintada, another valley is rapidly coming to be known as ‘Skin-Walker Valley’, and another at Alamo, far to the southeast.

 This phenomenon, were it discussed openly and recognized as in need of investigation, would be far easier for tribal officials to develop strategies to deal with. Open discussion would also help nearby residents and authorities off the Rez toward a clearer perspective concerning an energy and a belief system that is oozing up through the cracks of their lives, slouching across from tribal lands.

But this is getting too long and it’s time to turn out the chickens.  Maybe more later.

Edit:  7:50am

This poem was written a few years ago about an event on the minds of northwest New Mexico at the time.  The fact it happened near ‘Skin-Walker Valley’ was a cause for a lot of concern and confusion.

Last Friday Night

“It’s just too deep in the Rez
For a white-man style killing,” he says:
“A bullet each to the back of the head,
At Pueblo Pentada two brothers are dead;
Two Navajo brothers are dead.

“It isn’t a skin-walker killing;
No feud, not a woman too willing.
A knife, a club, a thirty-ought-six
Is common enough and at least doesn’t mix
White man logic with Navajo tricks:
No bullet each to the back of the head!
But at Pueblo Pentada two brothers are dead!
Two Navajo brothers are dead.”

From Bread Springs to Shiprock you’ll hear people say
“No place is safe now! You can’t get away!”
Nageezi to Yah Ta Hay
You’ll hear the Din’e people say
“The killer’s from Pie Town or Santa Fe.
Some white, somehow, somewhere must pay
For a bullet each to the back of the head!
At Pueblo Pentada two brothers are dead!
Two Navajo brothers are dead.”

Old Jules

The Leaves That Were Green

Coming back from Fredericksburg yesterday I spotted this sitting in a field 100 yards off the pavement.  I felt an immediate kinship, made a U-turn to go back for a closer look.

The first new vehicle I ever owned was a 1970 F150.  Standing here looking at this one too-long left in a pasture, flat tires, dents and proud sign I flashed a brief, joyful memory of driving mine back to Austin from the dealership in Luling. 

Someone did the same with this one from some other dealership.  I wonder if he remembers the day, wonder if he’s even alive to remember some piece of geography he shared with this heap of steel, glass and rubber before me.

The young don’t know enough
About being young
They squander youth
And never know ’til later.
Any lad of twelve will testify
An eight-year-old can’t even qualify
To be a child
At eighteen our own ignorance
At fifteen is finally written
In language we comprehend:
We know the score
Reality’s the icing on the cake
Of youthful fantasies;
When the young grow old
They know a lot
About being young
But almost nothing
About being old.

But trucks know
Trucks have the dents
Worn bearings
Frayed seat-covers
Holding a thousand
Passed-gas kisses
Spilled drinks
Forgotten miles
Of those who forgot.

Old Jules


Recurring dreams of life
Disturbed his slumber
Nightmares they often were
But they were dreams
Had to wait in line
Almost forever
To even get a nightmare
Ticket out
For just that tiny while
From all that somnolent
Endless nothing
Broken now and then
By welcome
Welcome dreams;
Nightmare punctuation
In a twenty-chapter sentence
Was a blessing;
Wished he could kill himself
When he killed himself
In dreams

But never quite learned
To love the nightmares
While he dreamed them

Old Jules


Unrequited Hate

So you hate him.
Wish him ill.
You have a problem.
If he could only feel
The fear, the doubt, the horror;
If he could only satisfy your
For him to feel those things
He might do it.
He might.
If he could only understand
How much it means to you
To cause him pain;
With what a flood of anguish
And venom you despise
Hunger his agony
And want to be responsible;
Want him to know,
He certainly might try.
But, he can’t.
Despair’s no longer sexy
To those who’ve seen it naked.
Fear cowers under a straight,
Steady gaze.
You’ll have to offer something
More frightful
Than your silly rage;
Your idealized terror;
Something more dismal
Than your impotent concept of
Something with more substance
Than your scorn;
Something more somber than you
Think death is
To make him care.
Life will hand him defeats
His days will serve up
A ration of pain
He’ll deal with them as he must
And always know those blows
Aren’t yours.
They’re just life.

Old Jules