The Sonora

Snow lights crevices in a saguaro forest;
arms reach through cold,
wait for sunrise to crest the hill.

It mounds against the cholla
across already-white plains
and long indentations of rock mesas,
striations coated for a few hours
until the sun’s zenith, when every cactus
absorbs the moisture into itself.

Still, variations of pale remain, compliments
of ultra-violet rays that bleach color
from all they see. Primordial salts gather
in ancient puddles and dried creek beds
where the earth curls slices of ash colored mud
and rain so rare it measures a mere few inches.

Fires will not burn this terrain,
but the desert sustains no angel.
It tests the most holy;
stones resemble bread
and light masquerades as water.

The courageous, or sometimes, the mystical,
wander this ground to commune
with its eternal warmth,
to decipher runes carved
by those who walked here
before their bones scattered,
and through which cacti grow.

Lundy Canyon on My Cousin’s Birthday

October slips in quietly
first one leaf, then two or three
their yellow comradery spreads
into golden quivers soft
amid pine needles hush

a performance interrupted
by too many photographers
who crowd narrow roads
hope to capture the sun’s dance
on shimmering leaves

in the one photo among thousands taken
which brings fame
and another paid assignment
about these aspens’ age
their family of roots

nearly ancient as the mountain river
along which they thrive
in colors like the burst of flame
when fire ignites

We once hiked the strenuous trails
at the top of this canyon,
celebrated our young bodies
autumnal years far from mind

Now we shiver in the cool wind
warm ourselves in sunlight
when it calms
as if the weather
can’t decide which to be

But we know
it will succumb yet again
to the mountains’ call for change
the promised rain soon
followed by whispered flurries
of dry Sierra snow