E.R. Lutken

Pine Row Issue No. 9 Spring 2024 - Featured Poet

Devil’s Weed 

Datura wrightii – deadly poison/deliriant

One fatal taste and the string is cut – 

waking dream moves from tongue to brain  

fingers and toes float like ghost hummingbirds 

attending glowing moonflower trumpets 

what was that I was – 

tinkling wind chime memories 

echoes of sifted chalky colors drawn  

over clear coyote yips popping 

in bubbly puffs of night 

there was someone or not – 

a smoky earth’s stale liquid fragrance 

coos of insect hunters picking through fog’s grit 

sage thrashers’ bold faces dissolving  

to stippled lizard tracks that skitter 

under chamisas’ crowded tenement thickets 

senses slip in grated wisps – 

burning eyes listen ears watch 

conformal invariance peels apart 

moonlit deer’s shadows uncouple 

shatter and stuff their pale darkness 

into subatomic spaces breed fractals  

branching in endless blistering flurries 

sand guzzles tomorrows – 

dry undulating geologic folds 

broken crystal ribbon faults 

globe mallow petals seeds of devil’s claws  

powdered cow bones dusty juniper pollen 

waft between wingbeats of cloudless sulfur butterflies 

metronomes for silent music that seeps  

into the enticing stench of death 

a poison key turns  

in the locked mind 

that holds all the pixels together

About the poem:  as shared by the poet

Many of my poems are inspired by science and mathematics. This poem is one of a series I’ve been writing involving plants, both native and non-native, and their habitats. Sacred Datura is beautiful, fascinating, and deadly, echoing traits of the severe desert environment to which it belongs. The subject effortlessly opened itself to an exploration of hazy boundaries between sanity and psychosis, spirit and flesh, life and death. 

E. R. Lutken, a physician on the Navajo Nation for years, later taught science and mathematics in rural Colorado. Her poems appear in Cagibi, Ocotillo, Think and other journals. Her poetry collection “Manifold: poetry of mathematics” (3: A Taos Press, 2021) won the New Mexico First Book Award in 2022. She recently edited her father’s memoir “A Thousand Places Left Behind: One Soldier’s Account of Jungle Warfare in WWII Burma” (Univ. Press of Mississippi, 2023).

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