Two by Caroline Misner
The winds have sculpted these ancient stones
over a thousand years or more, the mountains
have burnished layers of crimson and ochre,
thrust from seas of dust, where apache once
roamed these hallowed canyons.
The mesa rise like misshapen pillars
pushing against the dome of sky;
even at night they retain the sun, harboring
heat within their pulsing hearts, hot as a scorpion’s
sting, in defiance of the dark.
My feet burn as I step upon its summit;
on the precipice of time, I stand poised
for flight. I call the sacred eagles to carry me
into the burgeoning sky, blue as the turquoise beads
the Hopi sell to tourists like me.
The wind is patient. It can wait another
thousand years to shape the stone and erode
these arid walls to sand; sand that spirals
and swirls like frenzied mists and covers
the calcified husks of the dead.
I step away from this craggy ledge and sacrifice
myself to the desert air. I needn’t wings
or feathers to fly; I plunge and dissipate and become
a feast for lizards and rattlesnakes;
let them dwell within my shattered bones.
~ ~ ~ ~
Self Portrait in the Rearview Mirror
The road is so ugly here
and it took so long for us
to arrive this far.
I keep asking myself:
what was I thinking?
Was it worth the trip?
We travel without irony or regret,
trying to land a radio
station not cockled in static,
but all we could find was country
music and Christian rock warbling
salvation for some ambiguous god.
All the while the road weavers
thread through traffic as though
they have some sort of purpose.
The highway goes on and on with us
cruising over loping hills, avoiding
pylons and orange caution signs,
slowing our pace.
But we have traveled this far;
we may as well keep going.
The windmills crank around like acrobats,
red eyes inside their axels, blinking
back the eroding light.
At dusk a spasm of stars illuminates
the horizon, competes with
the wincing neon billboards,
blue-green and purple as a diva’s throat,
that hock everything from gas to greasy meals
to cheap lodging for the truckers;
their semis slumbering beasts
in the motel parking lots.
In the rearview mirror I catch my face
ensconced in shadow and alternately
exposed and jaundiced by a patchwork
of lighted squares painted to the glass.
My image is closer than it appears to be,
much like the night and the landscape
and the journeys of these nomads,
wanderers like me.