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Orphaned Land

Memoirs of the World
In Ten Fragments

“This poetic cycle may have begun as an intimate personal memoir. You can still discover fragments of a dysfunctional Hollywood childhood; of ransomed love, torn between a mother divorced and drowning a shipwrecked career with next week’s grocery allowance, and a distant father reaping the privileged rewards of fame while Cold War and Korea chilled the headlines of the L.A. Times; of escape and a quest for self-realization in the far reaches of the desert Southwest, stumbling into love and into a life of compassionate and engaged journalism, teaching, and writing with extraordinary grace as a “maker of new things.” But private memories grew into a global meditation, an expanded awareness that conscience is “knowing together,” and that individual consciousness is born into a shared community of sufferers, each with the same need for love, each bedeviled by the same awareness of vulnerability, of jealous impulses to self-preservation and fears that turn outward into blind destruction. Price has composed instead an impassioned memoir of the world, a scorched collective memory of our entire human aspiration—and our calamity.”
--William Peterson
Writer, critic, former editor of
Artspace Magazine

92 pages | Paperback and Kindle

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- Amazon

The Mercury Messenger
Free Weekly Newsletter

In response to the
election of November 8, 2016,
I’ve started up
The Mercury Messenger
a free weekly newsletter about
politics, culture, human rights
and the environment.

You can read it (including archive) here

You can subscribe here

The Orphaned Land
New Mexico’s Environment Since the Manhattan Project

Although most people prefer not to think about them, hazardous wastes, munitions testing, radioactive emissions, and a variety of other issues affect the quality of land water and air in the Land of Enchantment, as they do all over the world.

In this book, veteran New Mexico journalist V. B. Price assembles a vast amount of information on more than fifty years of deterioration of the state’s environment, most of it hitherto available only in scattered newspaper articles and government reports. Viewing New Mexico as a microcosm of global ecological degradation, Price’s is the first book to give the general public a realistic perspective on the problems surrounding New Mexico's environmental health and resources.

345 pages | 65 images |
Photography by Nell Farrell

Click to purchase . . .

- UNM Press

- Amazon

Reviews . . .

- Santa Fe New Mexican pdf

- Santa Fe Reporter pdf


A poem V.B. Price


The First Reason: LOVE

Love is the rock, the law, the final refuge
as killing slithers all a round us. It’s our only chance.

Who you ache for, who you’re made for,
whose pain you cannot bear, whose joy wipes out
the bleakest pout, that soul, idea, community
you’d flat out die for – that’s the surest clue
to peace upon this earth.
                       Love is not elusive, not beyond us,
not only a miracle of coincidence, or fate’s kind whim.
We can come to it ourselves.  It’s the way to a sympathy that’s in us from the start,
waiting for us to have the heart to dare to be more than we’re afraid we are.
Despair is no good. It slams the vault door shut,
leaves love pounding soundlessly, suffocating
in the safe of a righteous sadness we cannot escape.
But love picks all locks, can free itself from anything,
a virtuoso, as we know, at magic, opening even
rusty old hearts with a sleight of mind
that finds our sympathies no matter where
despair has worried out a place to hide them.

The Second Reason: BEAUTY

Beauty startles despair, a breath taking
that can jolt even pain away.
                                         How can gloom resist
the slope of Aphrodite’s hips, moon smooth,
or rainbow seashells on black sand beaches
dazzling for mating, or a bright sea windy morning,
or jungle green profusions of beans and tomatoes,
or baby grins, the cat sidling up to the universe,
arcades of elms, fields of lavender,
holy mountains as a neighbor, or that smile
of all smiles, her face comforting and inspiring
with celestial grace?
                                  Despair is a sobbing
in one’s peace of mind. It is a giving up which means
beauty has abandoned the eye of the beholder,
the inner eye itself going blind to the mysteries
of music, of poetry, of galaxies and love, of pure logic rising
from E=mc2.
                       That’s why despair is no good.
It is an insult on a par with hubris
when we’re brought so low from pinnacles of pride.
Despair buries us alive in agonies of inattention.
It’s not our heads in the sand, it’s who we are,
ourselves, as creatures of the stars, stuck, dazed,
finished off like sea birds gummed up with tar.

The Third Reason: WONDER

Wonder, where all thinking starts,
abandons depression by taking up all the room.

How can despair get a grasp when you’re marveling
at everything, at the brilliant persistence of ants,
at skin so smooth it feels warmly polished
by Aphrodite’s sighs and kisses,
at pelicans gliding low above the waves,
at a masterpiece of clouds, the philodendron’s
unfurling leaf,  at the old cat’s wild
escapading gallop down the hall?
                                                  Even despair at facts
of inhumanity and the cruelty of greed,
the whole snake pit side of consciousness, disappears
in the wake of amazement at any knowing of the holy beyond the rank
delusions of our hates and fears,
any knowing,
                     even humor’s,
that standup version of wonder in the universe
so astounding, so beyond even death, the snatcher,
who has never laughed, so beyond infernos of atoms
that nothing sees it coming – hilaritas, the joke,
the funny punch line on his big, white charger,
rocking and shouting and jeering, saving the world, triumphant, pickle
nose flashing, shirt hanging out
his zipper as he prances along, dunce divine,
slashing at doom in his pink feathered slippers.

The Fourth Reason: CURIOSITY

Curiosity replaces judgment which chokes out life
slowly with displeasure.
                      The world is
what you make of it, isn’t it? And what you make of it is
built from what you know of it, is it not?
Isn’t there always another way, always more
to be understood?
                              The question and its mark
are all the codes we need to crack the riddle
of our dungeon minds. Curiosity is its own
       Who do you believe? Is any of this true?
Is truth singular? Why does time go only forward?
What are dreams? How can I be happy if the world
around me is a caldron of suffering and oppression?
If free will is a falsehood, why do we choose sometimes
to change our minds in favor of our better natures?
Is now determined solely by then,
by a brutal certainty with no variation from the rack
of  absolute cause and effect?
                                                 Might not one day
some internal impulse of imagination take hold
in each of us, so we’d make a leap of being,
all of us together, to a world where love breeds curiosity,
and our questions abandon hatred
as superfluous and spoiled?

The Fifth Reason: CHANGE

Change pulls the thread, unravels the false
logic of despair. Nothing, not even the worst,
doesn’t end.
        Integrity evolves. We learn how to be
who we are at our best – yes, even that can happen.
The quicksand of our flaws can often be escaped
by just a gentle change of position.
We start with what we are given.
The rest is ours:
             the Infinitely Malleable, until despair
freezes change and fate’s chokehold seizes our good humor
and rubs our noses in the mere rudeness
of reality, so defined.
                               But what if a Goddess whispers
“Be who you are. Change: Relax.”?
Is that all it takes? Can we really learn
to ride waves of disappointment
without falling off so we can turn and try again?
Can we trust the fundamental element --
The Possible in its Enormity?  Why not?
                                                  Are we prone
to darkness? Yes. Does the world we describe
fall apart as we say it? Mostly. But despair knows,
wrongly, that chance won’t budge. We all know ideals
morph into their bitter shadows.
                                                 We all can reason, though,        
that the mirror image of despair, its nameless opposite,
marvelous with hope, must be there, somewhere,
waiting for us to change so we can find it.