From Mohave to Denver: Mar 5 to 8, 2019

March 5 and 6, 2019

 We left Mojave on March 5thand drove to Flagstaff; Then on the 6thwe drove to Santa Fe, then on the 7thwe drove to Denver.


On the 6th, we loaded our car, got gas, and pulled out of Flagstaff, AZ.  A slight drizzle had fallen on the snowy roadsides, but the sky was clearing and the sun was out. Flagstaff’s elevation is 6,909 feet above sea level. So chilly, but now we headed out toward a lower elevation and flat desert on I40 East.  The surrounding mountains were fabulous colors in the morning light.  The variations of the strata flowed from subtle mauve to rich clay red to purple. The desert floor was sage with bushy yellow clover or mustard scattered in clumps.  I felt like I could drive forever under the rolling cumulus, so brilliant white against an ever-lifting blue.  As we crossed over into New Mexico the gas stations had enormous stores filled with First Nation turquoise jewelry, woven rugs, hand made moccasins and a zillion other unique items.  I thought of buying my mom some cozy lined moccasins, but getting the right size seemed too tricky.  Luckily we were on a tight schedule to arrive at Santa Fe, so I couldn’t drool over the earrings too long.  We sped through Albuquerque and arrived at The Sage Inn in Santa Fe just in time to have a bite at Annapurna’s World Vegetarian restaurant.  We didn’t have much time to see the sites as we were pretty tired from driving and the last leg of our Poets on the Road by car would need us up and out early in the morning to arrive in Denver to thank and take over from my Mom’s caretaker, Jacki, as she was needing to return to Truckee CA, where she lives. (MO)


As the altitude started increasing, I started feeling a lack of oxygen.  I should have started taking chlorophyll and electrolytes the week before leaving the Bay area.  We drove through the mountains and across the flat desert in Arizona, the altitude almost always between 4 and 5000 feet.  For two nights I couldn’t sleep, couldn’t breathe. In my sleepless state, I kept going back to Brenda Hillman’s poems. Suddenly I realized what I needed to do with the project I am working on about my mother:  stand in places where Ferne Hostetter stood or lived in her photographs, and  write prose poems.  These will be the glue that will hold the project together. (That means more journeys to Detroit.)  Sleeplessness pays off sometimes when new ideas surface.


Finally in Santa Fe at over 7000 feet, I coaxed myself into sleeping by propping myself up on pillows, taking all my herbs, and remedies and reminding myself that one always sleeps with shallow breathing. Instead of giving in to panic, I practiced breathing with a shallow breath and long exhales.  Hurray, I fell asleep and in the morning, I was rested enough to drive.  I am very thankful that Maureen did a lot more than half of our driving from Mojave to Denver. (BH)


We packed our car for the last time in the parking lot of the Sage Inn.  It seemed amazing to think this was it.  A day of driving and we’d be in Denver.  As I partook of the excellent breakfast in the Sage Inn the weather report cautioned a day of high hazardous winds.  As we drove the wind did indeed pick up. I love to drive, but it took concentration to keep the Honda Fit on the road.  A truck pulling a trailer pulled over on the shoulder after bouncing around for several miles ahead of us.  The big rigs swayed back and forth as the wind took them.  By the time we arrived at Raton Pass I was a little concerned about navigating the curves at 7,000 and some feet elevation in such fierce gusts.  But luck was with us.  The wind was quieted some by the pass range, which was a little buffer against it.   Also the pass, which can be a tower of violent weather and low visibility, was sunny! with only scattered snow bits in shaded places.  It was the nicest trip through that pass I’ve ever driven.  When we stopped for gas at Trinidad just on the other side of the pass, we got out of the car and almost blew away.  The winds followed us to Colorado Springs and then let up slowly. Then traffic began stopping and we saw smoke and that something was burning up ahead.  As a highway patrol fellow directed our lane of traffic, we were suddenly right beside a car wildly on fire. I had my camera out, but when confronted by the inferno engulfing the car and starting the ditch grass on fire, I completely forgot about taking a photo.  All I could think of was it might explode any second.  With the burning car receding in the side mirror, we both hoped the occupants had gotten out safely.  (MO)


What do I remember from the trip? As I was dozing off in the car I took a few photos.  The endless mounds of brown hills.  Flat land with a dust storm.  Wild winds as I ran to a restroom in Arizona; it seemed as if I might blow away or the car door might be ripped off.   I hardly remember all the motel rooms we have stayed in, one night after another, beds that hundreds and hundreds of others have slept in.  I always wondered, as I wrapped myself in my sheet, how that energy passes between us, from one to the next stranger. (BH)








In Santa Fe, I remembered 13 years ago living just outside of town in Tesuque.  I wrote Thirty Miles to Rosebud while living in a barely heated adobe house in the winter. I remember making a quilt while I was there and I sewed it together (on my sewing machine), squares and rectangles of different colors and shapes.  It was kind of ragged looking; I always lacked precision in sewing.  Later I gave the quilt to my daughter and then it disappeared, probably into the rag heap. While I lived there, I remember a frozen shoulder and driving my car with my arm in a sling in order to shop.  I didn’t know anyone.  Well, there was a young African American artist who lived across the way and she shopped for me (she worked at Trader Joes).  What an idea to move across country at 57 without knowing a soul.  Once I went outside the house (it was on a compound) and there was a bear going through the garbage cans.  Not enough time to visit Tesuque, but always enough time for memories.  On the road the next morning to Denver.  7 hours and 400 miles. (BH)


March 7-8, 2019

We arrived in Denver in the thick of rush hour, but got off on a couple of less traveled roads I knew since I live here, and arrived at my back gate.  I was really happy to see that gate. As we got close we had phoned my Mom’s caretaker, Jacki, to meet us outside and take our photo as we stepped out of our car on the Poets on the Road final major driving stop.  Then lots of hugs and happiness to see Jacki and my mom, who has been counting the days to my coming home.

(Jacki Brennan photo)

We arrived yesterday at Maureen’s little bungalow in Denver.  Small rooms, lots of  photos of family and art, pots and pans, stuffed chairs, a big dining room table and a small study with a desk and as many books as can fit in the room, floor to ceiling everywhere.  Maureen’s mother is 96 years old and she wears jeans and a scull cap and leads the way as we go for a walk in the park.  I love it when she reaches out with her hands to hold mine.  How lucky it is to have a mother for almost your whole life, especially a mother like Maureen’s: De is sweet and tough, and like Maureen, tending toward the affirmative. (BH)

Total miles that we travelled together in Barbara’s 2007 Honda Fit:  5547 miles.

Maureen and De at Harbard Gulch Park (BH)

Jacki leaving Denver to return home to Truckee.

If it were not for Jacki Brennan who stayed with Maureen’s mom and Sarah Morton who subletted Barbara’s apartment, this trip never would have happened.  Thanks to both of you.

Our final wrap-up reading together on this trip will be  on Tuesday, March 19th, 7:30 pm at the Mercury Cafe. We’ll be reading with  Crisosto Apache for “F Bomb Series”  The Mercury Cafe is at 2199 California Street in Denver.



Denver (Last Blog Post): March 8 – 20, 2019

We chilled and rested up for the first week back in Denver.  We unpacked the wine we had traded our handwritten poems for in Sebastopol/Monte Rio, sorted books and I got my paperwork in order for next year’s taxes. I reentered the rhythm of taking care of my mom.  Then, wanting to celebrate our “We did it!” moment, we organized a little brunch.  We had our great California wine from Random Ridge, a 2016 Fortunata red, Barbara’s Bill Clinton recipe for quinoa salad, and the amazing, nearby French Trompeau Bakery right down the street.  It all came together beautifully with my mom, Junior Burke, Jenny Dorn, Denie Orr, Joanne Weiss, Barbara and myself around the table.  A rollicking crew.  It was the perfect toast to our reading adventure! (MO)



I said to Maureen’s mother, De: Before we started our trip, I was mostly alone. On the road, I had to get used to being with Maureen all the time; now I must get used to not being with Maureen.  We all laughed.

On my first night here, I dreamed that I was my father, driving his car, and I was myself at the same time. He was going home, finally alive again, but it was me, too home, but here I was at Maureen’s house.  And that night I slept so deeply, finally after lots of restless sleep on the road.

Maureen’s mother is fragile, tiny and agile. She climbs the stairs and goes for walks. Her hair is snow white and her eyes are hazel, a little blurry from aging.  She is about the age my mother would be if she had lived, rather than dying at 37.  De never smoked and she was physically active her whole life. She had three children, was born on a farm, drove a tractor, worked at many jobs, including at the racetrack, riding and walking the races horses after a race to cool them out and stretch their legs.   Quite a life she has had, growing up without electricity, telephones, running water, cars and now living in our tech age in Denver.   She looks into my eyes and tells me all about how the town where she has lived for the last 30 years, Truckee, CA in the Sierras has changed. I enjoy watching her and Maureen making dinner together. (BH)

March 16 2019

At the brunch today, it was great to give Junior Burke a big hug. When I was teaching in the low-residence MFA program at Naropa, Junior was in charge of the program and we had lots of contact.  He has a new novel that I’m looking forward to reading, A Thousand Eyes (Winchester Press, UK).  While the group ate lunch, we talked about our writing projects, our cars, politics, the floods and fires, people we knew, our reading trip, etc. When I talked about my journey in the carnival south, Junior told us how he had worked in a carnival too, running a game. It was great to meet up with Jenny Dunbar Dorn again and friends of Maureen’s, Joanne and Denie who owned a literary bookstore in Denver.  (BH)

Dennie, Joanne, Jenny, Junior, Barbara, De (Photo by MO)

MO and Denie Orr (Photo by BH)


March 18, 2019

We met Steve Katz and Jane Wodening, both writers and longtime friends of Maureen’s, at Angelo’s Taverna, an Italian restaurant in Denver. Barbara has also known Steve for several years, and was happy to meet Jane. Steve brought along a book he just received, from Roberta Neiman of her black and white photographs, The Magnetic North: Summers with Extraordinary People, and text from when she, Steve and his family, as well as other artists and musicians summered regularly in Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia.  The photos celebrated Robert Frank, JoAnne Akalaitis and the Mabou Mines Troup, Joan Jonas, Philip Glass, Steve, their children and families and others building their own living shelters in the then wild hills.  We passed the book around, looking at the photos while Steve told tales about their many summers there.

Barbara talked with Jane about Jane’s book, The Lady Orangutan and Other Stories, especially one story that Barbara liked a lot,  “Of the Unknown,”a story about when Jane and Stan Brakhage and their first baby were traveling and living in a station wagon, taking back roads across country.  It was a frightening story of unbearable hot weather, an undependable car, wilderness and a severe cop, so frightening that Jane said she was frightened just writing it.

After eating pizza and salads, in the parking lot, we said our goodbyes (for now). (BH & MO)

Above photos by BH

Jane, Barbara, Steve, Maureen (Photo by Waitress)

March 19, 2019

We had our last reading for this trip at the Mercury Cafe for the F Bomb Series.  It was a crowded room; we were happy when Jane Wodening joined us at our table.

(photos by BH)

We were introduced by Leah Rogin-Roper. Leah talked about how she, Nancy Stohlman, Kona Morris and others were in Barbara’s MFA class on flash fiction at Naropa, and how a group of students from that class started their magazine, Flash Forward and that was also how this reading series began. The event started with three open readings, one by Kona Morris,(a past student of Maureen’s, too); she read a short short story she wrote using one of Barbara’s prompts.


Photos by BH

Our featured co-reader Crisosto Apache read his poems; he is the author of GENESIS (Lost Alphabet). Then we read our short-short stories, trading back and forth.  Maureen read earlier stories from Hearts in Space, and Barbara read from her novel, from Cities & Memory, A Swift Passage and newer work.  This event was perfect for bringing our on-the-road trip to its final ending, in a carnivalesque room with wall paintings, lush multi-colored draperies and twinkling lights.



Photos by Leah Rogin-Roper

Collin Schuster came up after we read with his long treasured copy of Hearts in Space for Maureen to sign.  Collin is the publisher of Positive Magnets, an exciting new zine.   Later he joined us for a bite to eat and conversation in another restaurant section of the Mercury.

Waitress photo / BH, MO, and Collin

At home, we finished our last blog post, the end of our two month odyssey; in the morning Barbara is packing up and heading back to New York, with a one-week stop in Kalamazoo/Detroit.

March 20, 2019 Am:


Addendum: Blog Post by Pat Nolan

Into The Heart Of Wetness

Addendum: email and poem Collin Schuster sent us today–

Dear Maureen and Barbara,
It was sweet to meet up with you last night! Thanks for the company.
Most Best,

At Mercury Cafe “irresistible waves”

I was carrying the stone of
Posidippus in my pocket
but I lost track of it
in the aisle of swans
(books) (The Prince and the Pea)
(Lowriders in Space) I’m lost in space
(Hearts in Space)

(Barbara and Maureen)
tell me more about the visible sun
and about your friends
the seed lasers generate
over there by the park benches
where the kid chess champions
swap rooks

I’ve unasked questions
like how to condense the hour into a sky river
to know about D.G. Wills
(Only Lovers Left Alive) Detroit
places you’ve seen

meeting w/ Diane
and conversations with Bobbie

you’re all gracious diamond minds
you’ll get to New Orleans

and radiant brown eyes of mesas
the tools of the Mesozoic
when St. Paddy’s day saps clouds

when you condense the steam
it releases Charlie Musselwhite Energy
the biography on Houdini is being held
I thought we lost it but we didn’t
we charged the boom box upstairs

“You my all night study, and you my
midnight, my midnight green”
Telephone Woodland Pattern India
Karen Uhlenbeck wins the Abel Prize
eat your heart out Posidippus!