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Romero's work can be read as a lament for a disappearing America.


Back to Walden: A History of Walden, Colorado
by F. R. Bob Romero
Nighthawk Press (2021, 132 pp)

What town calls itself the Moose Viewing Capital of Colorado, was founded by a postmaster named after the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius, and whose actual name -- Walden -- conjures a classic American text that promotes self-reliance, living simply and frugally in a rural setting?

And why should we care about a town in northern Colorado?

Situated at the center of a vast fertile valley that used to be a shallow sea, now called North Park, the sparsely populated rural hamlet of Walden serves "as an exact mini-model of the frontier settlement as it crossed America." Intersected by the North Platte River (the Illinois and Michigan rivers join there also), and at an altitude of about 8,000 feet, North Park was a wildlife paradise for the nomadic Ute tribes, their summer bison hunting ground -- until Europeans first began visiting the area for beaver trapping and mining in the early 19th century.

The "death knell" for the bison occurred between 1875 and 1883. The Ute were removed to northeastern Utah, and the cattlemen moved in.

Our own Taoseño author Romero, who has written several histories of Taos ("History of Taos"; "Roots of Enchantment," etc.), grew up in Walden, and graduated high school there in 1967. His work is a charming encapsulation of the town's history as the evolving hub in North Park, and he demonstrates that while neighboring towns like Teller City and Coalmont had their day during the mining frenzy, Walden, in contrast, is going strong after 130 years -- Marcus Aurelius Walden established the first post office in 1881 -- and at a population now of 500.

Romero wants Walden to persevere. He writes elegiacally: "In some ways, Walden can be read as a lament for a disappearing America, as a predominantly rural, agricultural life that followed the seasons gave way to an industrialized urban life, guided by the clock."

Go visit and let us know.

Dear October
by Mary Morris
Texas Review Press (2020, 62 pp.)

For the last year, the poet's mother has been dying.

The mother, afflicted with cancer, has been swallowing her teeth.

One by one, my mother is losing
All of her teeth. Now I understand
What this means:
Someday she won't be hungry.

The poet as the daughter and witness counts down the months, from November to the following October, hence the title. It is an excruciating, suspenseful journey for the reader, who enters into the sacred realm of reflection and memory that death compels.

The poet remembers her mother rescuing a litter of dogs born to their family bird dog ("Maternal"), and how her mother took command in feeding the puppies with old rubber gloves filled with cow's milk.

The poet, recipient of many awards and citations, living in Santa Fe, also respects the natural dying process, as in her masterly "I try to get out of the way so the soul may draw near": "– but I keep tripping on steps in the earth/and get lost in my mother's skirts."

An unsettling visit by the angel of death: "Delicate business, these visits down under." ("Second Visit from Hospice")

Atomic Paradise
by Jules Nyquist
Poetry Playhouse Publications (2020, 107 pp.)

Author Nyquist, of Placitas, New Mexico, cares passionately about the horrors of the Atomic Age, and in this collection moves from Trinity ("Oppie was a young scientist following his teacher -- a poet called to be a shaman") to Hiroshima to Star Wars.

She writes poems on "Fission" and "Day One" ("enough to blast a whole city, the biggest/bomb yet") and "Radium Girls" ("They promised you the glamour kiss/and more money than you'd ever know"). Also, on the chumminess of powerful men making bombs:

"For two men underground drinking Diet Pepsi/Or a president a phone call away, expected to make a decision/on the fate of the world in five minutes or less." ("Titans")

This is New Mexico's story and needs to be explored by a keen observer: "The sky is turning purple/Get funky, get down, lay down, die." ("I would die 4 U")

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