The spool of foam green river tightly fits
its landscape thirteen dirt-congested miles
off the pavement. Chamisa wander
in the strategy of light, a looping
gold. Rock rims lift long faces shaped
by glaciers. Clipped wind slips between
cottonwoods. For better, for worse,
such reverence. The lavish geographical
ledges and pinnacles. Here, monks fastened
into habits stratify their hours: praying,
eating, speaking, not speaking between sashes
of blue. At 1pm, the slim sext prayer
at the pews. Mens’ voices blade and scissor,
dive and float, succumb. I spin within
the twists and hollows. Two Novitiates
ring a bell 28 times, purge and ripen silence;
each knell is solemn, reverent and bare,
but the loop is set. The toll keeps saying,
saying until the echo possesses. I’ve never heard
a sound more complicated, obliging. I step
outside without reason, looking at the desert
inflorescence, each solitary nodding wild
onion, coreopsis, aster, each purest truth
nibbling dry air. Magpies hawk allegiance
in the cracked canyon. The integrity
and testimony of clouds, the chant of flossed
sunlight spreading against the eternal
architecture of desert. Each October I return,
willing to see, to beg even the faint lament.
To Wake at the Point of All Sleeping
Then, everything slept.
— Larry Levis
The small roads of the town were sleeping, and the main road
slept, too, very tired. The trees were sleeping and the cedar
and the many hard-hearted, hued and carved doors.
Traffic lights slept in their green enclosures,
and houses were sleeping, and fences and trailers.
On the road to the bridge, a graveyard of junk cars slept
in their awkward spaces and pauses. And the strange scrub
that made fields, that scrub slept, crinkled, though the cows
were awake, just not moving. Garbage trucks drooped together
in a lot, fatherly, motherly, gentle, with their mouths closed,
virescent and utterly silent. And at that time of day, that certain
time, clouds still puckered, or pillowed, communal.
Mile markers were sleeping, and the landfill and lounges,
the billboards, the laundromat, the church bells and organ.
The mountains were sleeping in their blue sheets of haze,
and because I didn’t know Tiwa for mountain, I kept repeating
The mountains, even the mountains have not yet awoken!
(Later, I learned the Tiwa had no name for mountain,
just the place the sun rises, which seemed somehow virtuous.)
The sun was still sleeping on the floor of the earth, and the moon
wasn’t there, so it was probably snoozing nearby,
but in the gorge, water began stirring. One bird advanced
five short calls, then another, much longer, that whippered
through me, a song for the morning in case anyone was waking.
That composition revived other birds, and they raced round
the canyon, exclaiming, buoyed by sound.
Already, so quickly, I could hear cars rumble, offended
by daylight. The rising hadn’t been rosy or succulent, chewable,
sparked — but sudden. The sun not yet at 7AM was full white
in the sky. A plane crossed the gorge and lifted, then circled
to see it again: that big gash beneath us, the steep carve of canyon,
the shear in this rock. Now everything was rising
in the specific distance, everything was energy, flare;
the noise was consuming, everything angled with light.