East of Us

Caja del Rio, Sage Brush Flats, Above the Canyon of the Departed Owls


For a few moments this morning in the wind’s lift, before
xxxxxa female coyote teased the black tongued dog away from the wildling whelps’ hunger song,
the Sangres shed the season’s skin of smoke.

Coursing fringe of juniper and piñon in new light beyond
xxxxxthe road-less mesa’s mars violet cliffs, the dog’s shadow melts through trees until it disappears,

xxxxxfor lizard, jack
or squirrel.

By cindered lack of tracks I know the black dog’s invisible quarry will remain so.

Though the air holds
xxxxxno voice of hound on the track the faint wind is not without sound.

Hymn of cicadae choirs off alligator juniper branches that host myriad red eyes above a plague of stylets.

When I approach, lace-winged constellations desert veined
xxxxxbark for cholla’s green-antlered succulence, pink blossoms and yellowed fruit.
Then, through scaled shimmer of light and whir, I see them,
xxxxxfour anonymous graves , marked by hieroglyphs of crosses against the overgrazed plain, scabbed
together with cut nails, the kind

a farrier clinches tight against the wall of a horses hoof after the foot’s rind is carved,
xxxxxthe iron shoe shaped and fitted
so the spikes will miss the second heart’s quick.

Each grave, a pile of large stones, too heavy
xxxxxfor a solitary soul to lift. Each heap, the length of a man. Each cross set to the west locates a head.

The axis of each hump, perfectly aligned in the geometry of death,
xxxxxlain, so when finally lifted from under earth and cairn, the raised ghost may face
the raptured sun to greet the last new day.

An eleven foot tree erupts through the throat of the western most, calendars the burial’s age.

For four quarters of the compass rose the mesa extends miles without
xxxxxxxruin, stable, well, corral, stock-tank
xxxxxxxxxxxxxor proof of human life
except my shadow cooling drought washed stone.

In this morning’s heat
xxxxxthe corpses lie quiet, unwilling to reveal what final thirst lured them
xxxxxxxxxxxhere, or who corniced the purple stones
above their mouths.

The vanished dog and I are each alone.

Beyond hollowed horizon and arch of sky,
xxxxxxxno sign of water above ground. Only occasional
xxxxxxxxxxxxxcroak of raven against blue
xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxthrum of cicadae withering green
to grey under sun.

To the east everything is smoke and burning.