The Sacred Self I There goes sleep, in its nightshirt and slippers down the path that never deviates from its one true purpose of remembering. It doesn’t matter that each call goes unanswered, that the canyon opens to allow anyone inside but nobody may leave once the birds there have befriended them. When a song comes echoing along the gravel trail, it is to announce the obvious with men hearing only what they want to hear. Meanwhile, the eye in Heaven winks and rock spirits raise their voices to say this is here, this is now. Never mind what stays hidden behind the screens and thorns; this is where history comes awake and speaks only in the present tense. II Barefoot down the slopes and wearing heavy boots back up, the night burrows into the mountain and twists in its sleep while the earth with one eye open dreams itself awake. Tonight will stretch from end to end along the stony path from sunset’s crumbling edge to the saguaros standing guard against the city; chilled to the core and determined to hold the high ground in the name of nature. Solstice is a cold night when owls awaken and follow darkness’ scent while moonlight snags on a thorn, and no image survives of the claw that cut the silence open. III The moon turns out its silver lining at the darkest hour the night can draw from its catalog of mysteries and threats. And while the mountain moves ever closer to dawn with its eyes shielded the sky holds its breath. Along the ridgeline first light signals time returning to the slopes and the arroyos where memories find a quiet place to hide from what they have done. They’re saddled up and riding now, along the wash to where they disappear into the still pond that contains all pain. Look hard along the winding path: they’ve gone too far to ever come back and be recognized. To ever find the scene of their creation. IV The water’s on its back but smiling at the sky today, host to winter’s folded wings. The walkway leading here peels itself away from the left sole and the right at the pace of injuries healing. It’s that time in the morning when the mountain has surrendered to the light, and the light has unsheathed itself with no regrets. Up there at the peak the view goes all the way back to better times and worse ones. They run together in the clouds now: a splash of sunshine and a red-tail rising where memories fly against gravity. V The bird came down to drink an ambulance’s siren from the air; it spread its wings to shield the scene from sunlight. As often as it flew with nothing to invite it to descend, one moment split apart and everything that time revealed lay spread out on the morning’s road. It circled patiently. Its plumage shone as the broad wings tipped to left and right and held fate in the balance. The clocks showed hours and minutes but no signs of what occurred. No memory had come to roost once the panic was dispersed. Everybody left the scene for traffic to resume, but in the spaces in between the slow cars and the fast, the bird came down with its ungainly posture and red face to clean away the final traces. Then it rose in a state of grace toward the waiting sky.
David Chorlton is a European and longtime resident of Phoenix. He loves the desert and avoids complaining about the heat! He paints from time to time and writes consistently, with a short book, The Inner Mountain, about the nearby desert mountain park in poetry and paintings (Cholla Needles Press), with another recent publication, Unmapped Worlds from FutureCycle Press.