For a few moments this morning in the wind’s lift, before the female coyote teased
the black tongued dog away from the whelps’ hunger song, the Sangres
shed their skin of smoke.
Coursing fringe of juniper and piñon beyond the road-less and trail-less mesa’s mars
violet cliffs, the dog’s shadow melts through trees, searching for lizard, jack or squirrel.
By the cinders’ lack of tracks I know her invisible quarry will remain so.
Though the air holds no voice of hound on the track the faint wind is not without sound.
The hymn of cicadae choirs off juniper branches suffering a red-eyed plague of stylets.
When I approach the noise, a lace-winged constellation deserts stripped bark for cholla’s
green-antlered succulence, pink
blossoms and yellowing fruit.
Here, through this scaled shimmer of light and whir, I see them, four anonymous
graves , hieroglyph of blank wooden crosses
against the overgrazed plain, scabbed together with
cut nails, the kind a farrier clinches tight against the wall of a horse’s hoof after its rind
is carved, the iron shoe fitted,
shaped so that the nails will miss the quick of the fifth heart.
Each grave a pile of large stones too heavy for a solitary soul to lift.
Each heap the length of a man.
Each cross set to the west edge at the head of its mound.
The axis of each hump perfectly aligned in the geometry of death, lain, so
that, when finally lifted from under earth and cairn,
the spirit may face the rising rapture sun to greet the last new day.
Erupting through the throat of the western most, a haggard eleven foot
juniper calendars their age.
For four quarters of the compass rose the mesa extends miles with no ruin, stable,
stock-tank or proof of human
life except my shadow cooling drought washed stone.
In this morning’s heat the corpses
unwilling to reveal what final thirst lured them here, or who corniced
the purple stones above their mouths.
The dog and I are each alone.
Beyond hollowed horizon and arch of sky there is no sign of water above ground.
Only occasional croak of raven against blue thrum of cicadae withering green
to grey under wind.
To the east everything is smoke and burning.