Pictures and Poems around Arizona

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From getting around Arizona (and New Mexico)

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.

 

 

Late Road

 

Walking the road

in the oak and juniper light

of late afternoon

we go quietly beneath

the wings of descending

vultures who have cleansed

the world’s bone to bare white.

 

Reservation Vista

 

Through the days of March

and mallow, power poles

lead from mesquite to the mound

with a tank painted white, behind which

the peak that is sacred

to those who drink the water

touches the highest point

in many lifetimes.

                              Raven calls

travel farthest here, across the saguaro

studded hill and away

toward the border

where a man who wants

not to be seen might slip

quick as a lizard between

green shadows.

                          But to disappear

completely and to leave no trace

requires imagination

such as the mockingbird displays

by the infinite variety of songs

it sends in all directions

pretending to be anything except itself

while remaining so familiar

nobody notices

when it tips back its head

and pours the notes out

in a stream that runs

directly to the sun.

 

 

Reservation Time

 

A pickup truck moves faster than history

in these wildflower days

along a road through country

that remembers the jaguar

and ocelot.

It has somewhere to be,

 

a future to reach

before summer, with a full tank

of gas and no time

to pull over and look

 

at what the first priests saw

when they stopped with tiny stones

in their sandals

to bless each plant

before they knew its name

 

to catalog and claim it

for eternity.

 

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.

 

 

From Agassiz Peak

 

From eleven thousand feet the shadows

cast by clouds rock

back and forth as they float down

through volcanic light

to the forests where they break

apart between the pines

and disappear into late summer grass.

 

Windgusts at that altitude

slide from a raptor’s wing

and dissolve in thin air

while the view from the treeline

runs sky-wide and frost-bright

to the point where Earth and rain

pale into each other.

 

A misplaced glance

would slip back a thousand years

to be swallowed by lava

and leave no foothold

on the crater’s edge.

 

Prairies tumble, edge over edge,

while forests tighten their grip

against winter, which begins

its descent from the first

aspen leaf to turn yellow.

 

A Yard in Ajo, Early Morning

 

                                    These things

                        astonish me beyond words

                        - William Carlos Williams

 

Drops of finch-red balance

on the power line

dipping above the alley

to the west,

                   while quail

attentively investigate the ground

they cross to reach the yard

whose desert willow casts

morning shade across agave

soon to bloom.

                        An ant

smaller than the letters

moves across a page

of William Carlos Williams

open to words

                       generously spaced

to let them pass. Cactus wrens

chortle in the oleander. Doves

who introduced themselves

from far away

fly to pole-tops and proclaim

their presence there.

                                 Between

flecks of light on bark

a lizard descends, then bends

and straightens his forelegs

to raise his eight-inch torso

above stones,

                     and away

from light a Bronzed cowbird’s

red eye buttons

the shadows down.

 

Highway 85

 

A desert prison lies at rest

beneath sweeps of light

that break through changing clouds

on the day after rain

                             and wet

shadows cling to the rock

formations on the bright side

of the highway

                    as sun picks out

remaining pools and vegetation

stripped to its winter core

                                    on land

pulling free from a harrier’s grip.

 

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.

 

 

River Weather

 

White smoke rises from the shoulder

of a mountain embedded

in a rain-dark sky, below which

a freight train carries stormlight

across the open land.

 

*

 

With stars above the river,

mice in the grass

and toads on the stones,

a mantis glides

across a bed of insect sounds.

 

*

 

While the gods roll dice

behind the clouds,

dark water turns on its bed

and the surface shadows

become a heron’s wing.

 

*

 

There’s a feral sky

above the ghost town site

where Black-throated sparrows

fly into and out of

the thundering grass.

 

Departure

 

A desert ridge

is a wash of dreamstone

across clear sky.

                    Before it

are saguaros standing in the backlight

that grants each one an aura.

                                       Whoever

lived here in the time before

the days had hours

knelt patiently and worked

                                       until

the winter sun was low

and they rose and walked away,

each one a darkness

edged with fire

                    that moved

as people do when leaving

history behind them.

 

 

Lost and Found

 

                when the road forked they took

                both ways

                            Richard Shelton

 

There are no wrong roads on dry earth

where far off mountains stretch

along the hazy skyline

and greenery is sparse

beneath the Swainson’s hawk

looking out from a telegraph pole

with a warm wind in his coverts.

 

A suede glow reaches

each horizon, with dust

enough for the sunlight

to soak into air as it streams

down. Along the way

 

are ruins whose walls hold up

the sky, and the remnants

of journeys that paused

for more fuel at the pumps

casting empty shadows. Destinations

 

aren’t important where ravens call

which direction to take,

one for each point

of the compass in a country

without rivers or signposts.