A gull glides, silhouetted against
                the rising sun.
                on the moving currents of air—
                slipping sideways till out of sight.


Dead white lilies
upon disked platters of green
cup the frothy sky
in their petaled hands,
their white, ethereal loveliness
reflected in purpling water.


How hard it is to judge your love
That quickens like a beating pulse
Of fire and flame, then dies to
Smoldering embers.
The heat from them seems faint
And still, or else
Is but remembered
Warmth of your embrace.


I wedge my clay,
pound, cut,
mistreat it.
        Throw it on the wheel.

Silk soft and fluid,
it slips past my fingers, then
flows smooth and centered. Completeness
        moves from hands to mind and heart.

I open and pull up
the pliable mound,
keeping it moist
        beneath my warm and drying hands.

Clay responds and sings
the hum of the wheel, the sense of effort,
breathing, the sound of water splash,
        the feel of silky, moving clay.


Muddy water rush across valleys
through aged acequias
from gates opened
at Cochiti,
San Acacia
and Isleta
a thousand ditch miles to Socorro

Water fills the Mother Ditch,
the laterals laden
with winter’s rotting leaves,
dead toads,
gnawed remains of beaver dreams
green slime, brown mold,
civilization’s junk

Ditchriders do the chores of spring
clean the detritus of the uncaring
a truck hauls—a rusted car frame,
a dog, matted and decomposed. Once, a horse

The ditches run clear
coursing current pushes and gurgles
until farm fields covered with lapping water
drink their fill.


Cathylily Clumpkin lived by the road

    That led to Carnegolly Bog

        Near Hookabilly’s Cove.

The road was filled with dillnids

    Traveling by the ton

        Helping all the rillynubs

            Looking for some fun.

Down the trail they pelted

    Calling all their friends

        Hiding in the sellkin

            Running round the bends.

                Rushing on the rickyslide

                    Riding o’er the hill

                        Climbing up the felterbit

                            Grinding by the mill.

Cathylily Clumpkin lived by the road

    That led to Carnegolly Bog

        Near Hookabilly’s Cove.

Cathylily Clumpkin didn’t join the fun,

    But heard the rillynubs and dillnibs

        And wished that she were one.


You were but a moment’s pain,
 An arrow, quickly pulled from tender heart,
  A heart robbed of its pulsing beat,
   A beat—once stopped in soaring flight—
    That may never, never start.

And as I sit here—dead,
 The train speeds on its way.
  My heart skims backward
   On shiny threads of steel
    And stays with you—and errant runaway.

You robbed me of myself,
 My inmost thoughts—my dreams.
  Rude surveyor—scorning measurements,
   Surveyed my soul.
    You did not name your goal.
     You stole—you stole.

The arrow’s shaft is gone,
 I sigh—I sigh.
  Yet, though the pain is gone, I know
    It is not hard to die.

Bette Casteel (1920-2001) was a multi-talented artist, excelling in ceramics, photography, painting, weaving, and jewelry making. She was an expert in the field of Chinese and Japanese antiquities, and was also a teacher and a promoter of art and artists in the community of Corrales, New Mexico. Her sold-out book, The Roebuck Family in America, printed in 1969, is still used as a major reference to this day. Old Town—Albuquerque in the 1940's and a Little Beyond was published in 1996 and recounts stories of people and memories of that era. A satirical who-done-it mystery, Dental Probe, will be available online through in March 2002. Bette was a member of the Corrales Writers’ Group and the Corrales Critique Group.

Portrait of Bette by Robert Casteel • Photograph of Bette's pots by Bette Casteel


Back to