Throughout the canyon, a vast veinwork 
        of shallow streams still descends, tentatively 

trickling toward this chilly rivulet—snow-melt 
        tumbling over rock slides, lurching through wild 

floral growths and weeds.  Its embankment 
        is edged with scrawny trees still tilting away 

from a western wind—their limbs hunched 
        roughly under one another in awkward clusters, 

the shadows of their little leaves gathered 
        along the ground like thousands of black beads. 


On higher terrain, where earlier we had 
        watched a file of white-tail deer as they disappeared 

over a ridge line, we now can see how many 
        tangled acres already have dried and strangled 

in scrub brush.  Just above us, the sun 
        continues its slow shuttle across a cloudless sky. 

By late summer drought, some of these slopes 
        will be veiled with smoke rising from the severe fires 

that flare each year.  Scarves of dark clouds will 
        unfold over the hillsides, enclosing the valley below. 


Although this gorge open before us appears 
        no greater than a thin suture scar on most maps, 

a mere seam stuck somewhere between two 
        counties, every time we've come it has begun 

to mean much more.  Here alone, we are able 
        to take delight in the odd disorder of everything. 

Yet, someway, each day we return to the safety 
        at home—in any weather, no matter what changes 

occur.  Falsely, we arrive; like deceptive images 
        of distant fixed stars, we seem to stay the same. 


Already on this hot afternoon, travelling the narrow 
        length of the canyon floor still mud-soft with winterâs 

waters, we acknowledge our desire for security, 
        our need to follow these gentle currents coursing 

toward town.  We also are aware that those few 
        waning tracts of shrubs and wildflowers will not last 

much longer.  Even from these deepest recesses, 
        soon the sunâs strength will drain any remaining 

evidence of life.   Back in the valley, we will begin 
        our secret vigil—wait for the bleak and billowing skies. 

[ First appeared in Tar River Poetry


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