Grand Canyon

A strange man has taken our mother’s arm

and led her into the lodge where there is music

and soft orange lights in every window.

We’re in the back of the station wagon

in our sleeping bags, making up

a game. Pines wave against a jet sky

while the night cools down where Sputnik

makes another orbit. From what planet,

you ask, will be the first invasion? But I

have not yet begun to believe in life beyond

the Southwest, where we have been trapped

inside camper trailers, silver and sleek, sliding

through the desert air, destined toward a thin

mountain atmosphere and an awe-filled hole

in the crust of everything knowable. This morning

we rested our fingers on the ridges of fossils

and imagined the sea rising to fill the canyon.

Where would we run? If now we saw a wall of ocean,

who would go inside to fetch mother? Would she try to save

her children while her man-friend ran after her

or would she stay inside, accepting the next dance?

Our father taught us all the sugar drop songs of the first

part of the century. We sing them as the night orbits

around us and we look up through the car windows

where stars are multiplying. A million years ago

when waters subsided, a little stream continued

a mile below where it still spills muddily in the darkness,

far from ear’s reach, though we can hear it clear as the wind.

(first appearance in Runes)

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