Dead Horse Point by Patricia Karamesines

2020 Jan. photo 800px-Dead_Horse_Point_State_Park03
Dead Horse Point–photo by Nikater, released into public domain

The weedy clouds of spring
Grow on the peaks, break off then drift
In tall gardens over sandstone blue
With the bruise of squalls. I stand
Two thousand feet above the coils
Of a river that has burnt its way,
Leaving behind the red stubble
Of canyons.  Buds of lightning
Burst and wither at once;
The air is rutted with breezes;
Stones lie where they fell cracking
At the roots of cliffs.  The land
Twists through bands of light,
Like a juniper through soils, at the sun,
And if my blood did not burn, like the river,
The clays of its country, I would see
The horizon ripple with growth.
Here I am only slightly longer-lived
Than the lightning; I may not last
The next stone’s throwing.

Now is May, and winter hangs ripe
And white on peaks just east
Of these cliffs.  On canyon floors,
Thin blossoms grown through drifts
Of sunlight freckle the sands;
Yucca sends up its stalk.
I myself am midsummer, sun is liege
And fruit halfway down-branch
To the ground.  The moon on her tether
Keeps large on the horizon; unwashed stars
Spread thick and flagrant across meadows
Of crescent and dwindling times.

It seems to me in my half-summer,
Two thousand feet above the river,
Years below the stars, and all
But one sense out of the range of snow,
There have been mistakes: the cut seasons
Of childhood and time drawn from the pulse
Marking wilderness with one worn path
Of mortality.  Some effect of desert
Makes it seem a range of times
Inhabits distance, much as light
Skidding through water sets down tracks
Of fast and slow colors.  Or if time
Is relative, it is irrelevant,
Or all the same, or a figure men use
In the garden marketplace,
Like inch or ounce.  Or confluence.
Then longevity is not measure of things
Outlived, but how the soul
Winds deep in the braid, like,
Two thousand feet below, the river.

Through intervals between storms
Light sweeps peregrine across the sandstones—
Navajo, Windgate, Kayenta—
Old eras made flesh and dwelt among
By generations of four tribes of wind.
Lightning crumples as it’s born,
Wearing rangy and white paths
Through rain-bearing clouds.  Two ravens
Rise bickering on a draft.  Beside me,
An unbloomed cliffrose whistles
As a gust out of the tempest tangles
On a black branch.  The wet tick of rain
Flecks my skin; shadow falls;
The river bears down; the stones ascend.

© 1988, 2020 Patricia Gunter Karamesines



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