Arizona Words & Photos

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Arizona Words & Photos

A Summer Photograph

 

A ridge stands clear against the paling sky

with its broken clouds that glow

at the edges facing

a warm day’s sun as it falls behind

Baboquivari Peak.  The middle ground

 

is ochre rounded into an ascent

toward the higher slopes with oak and pine

and lizards slipping into

gaps in rock beside the trail that turns to air

at the pinnacle. A few last calls

 

are sprinkled across a silence running all the way

from the grasslands to Mount Wrightson

where granite burns

red beneath a shy moon just beginning

its trajectory through night. And we

 

have shaken off the shadows cast

upon us by the juniper

where we followed the blue grosbeak back

to daylight and stopped

in a clearing whose moment is earth

 

and air framed with the texture

of fire and the bare, knotted branches

scratching into the dusk at the right of the scene

to be remembered as it was

just before the nighthawks and the stars.

 

Landscape with Observatory

 

Ocotillo brush the line

along a dry ridge.

                       From the highest

peak visible a telescope

is focused on infinity. A dirt road

rises to the altitude

juniper take root.

                        The sky

is open.

         A yucca stalk

leans to almost fallen. Sparrows

call all the way down

to the church where the wind

blows in Spanish:

                        black robe

to gray robe, granite to grass.

 

The Vermilion Cliffs

 

Through the residue the wind

left behind after carving

light into shapes that endure,

 

the double yellow line that leads

to the edge of the world

runs to the point where the sky

opens for it to pass

 

and continues toward the stars,

leaving in its wake

rock stretched thin

 

in layers recording time

back to when a sea was here,

 

feeling for a shore.

 

After Turning off Interstate 10

 

Nothing casts a shadow on this road

except a cloud. It’s pale dust and desert

all the way. Today, there’s a wind

tugging at the sky’s darkest edge

and the ground dips

while the view runs straight ahead

 

to rise into the mountains.

A dry scent crosses from the Peloncillos

to Whitetail Canyon and the sun

burns where it can

through such gaps that allow

blue to flash through them

 

onto land that supports the most stubborn

of shrubs. The air sounds like a sheet

flapping, and a raven is riding

each gust as it coughs out the bad news

that a dust storm had formed

on the freeway to the north

 

where traffic folded so quickly

the passengers barely knew

the fires they were swallowed in.

 

The Elegant Trogon

I

If a group of four stands on the bridge

each one looking in a different direction

and listening for a call they’ve never heard

before, they have come a long way

to see the belly flash between

dark trees above which

the canyon walls are pulling free

of the ground.

II

At the dry end of spring

when scarcely a breeze

disturbs the leaves on the sycamores

the calls are answered

from across a slow creek:

two hoarse notes from this side

and two from over there,

always nearer than they sound

when flying makes no sound at all.

III

If there’s poison ivy by the trail

and a woodpecker drumming

from off in the pines; if the water

runs shallow and junipers filter

sunlight at noon; if the sky

is dizzy with hawks

circling and the only road

is gravel and thirst, chances are good

that the trogon is so close

that nobody thought to look

where he is resting.

IV

The name changed by mysterious decree

from Coppery-tailed to Elegant,

while the red feathers remained

as bright as those

the Aztecs saw.

Leaving Portal

 

The road slides from under snow

and away toward the frozen grasslands

lying pale against clouds

that have settled between the Peloncillos

and the Chiricahuas, barely higher

than the telegraph poles

from which hawks watch the stillness

before they thaw their wings and fly

into the day’s breath with talons

sharpened by the cold.