Tuesday, November 04, 2008


For Maryanne


Twenty years ago
we took your big GMC
pickup up this road:
first, a stop in El Rito
to greet the French plaster saints,

then through the canyon
painted gold with aspen leaves—
the black and white trunks
echo end of the season sheep
as the truck bucks over ruts,

points its nose cloudward
into the turquoise stone sky.
Road Closed the sign says;
to hell with that, we open
the wire gate and go on up

to fish in the top
lake, where the first October
snow falls on our hair
before we head back down to
Echo Ampitheater.

There swallows toughen
their nests, trying to prolong
summer forever,
and we try to grab our youth
as it dances into fall.


It’s been 14 years
since I left New Mexico
for old Mexico,
and I only went back once—
now almost 8 years ago—

so when you meet me
at the airport I’m lost in
a foreign country—
and you are back from the dead,
the land of leukaemia.

My friend Lorenzo,
who had to leave his daughter
in that place, tells me:
Maryanne will die, they all
die—that’s just the way it is.

We have a Spanish
saying , I remind him: No
one has bought his life—
I could be run over by
a bus tomorrow morning.

But I take a plane,
instead, to go once more to
the Canjilon Lakes—
as one of two survivors
of this disease that is life.


Your husband worries
that we’ll do something foolish:
go up a closed road,
get stuck in mud overnight—
but we have made it through the

worst that can happen.
Savoring our breakfast of
chiles rellenos
in EspaƱola, we are
chomping at the challenge that

is repetition.
As afternoon opens in
El Rito Canyon,
our old friends the sheep welcome
us back, and an off-road shrine

is visible now—
because this year’s leaves are down;
the Sacred Heart beats
inside the stones and under
oak leaves painted with honey.

The aspens dance bare,
their silver, like our more than
middle age, ready
to be inlaid with turquoise
for a bracelet around

our survivors’ lives.
The road has been recently
graded, and the last
segment—just below the lakes—
is asphalt. A few patches

of snow like old skin
waiting to be shed linger
in sunless shadows
around the top lake, where two
fishermen unload their gear.

We won’t fish this year—
just unloading our old lives
is sufficient sport.
The sky falls into the lake,
where we are like silver fish

ripe with reflection,
lighter than swallows, flying
down to Abiquiu
and beyond, lining our nests
for the new life of winter.

November 17. 2007

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