the dominant understory shrub
in the pinyon-juniper canyons.
Mountain-mahogany-Cercocarpus montanus and ledifolia.
Single-leaf ash-Fraxinus anomalus
and possibly a western hophornbeam
by the small birch-like leaves
and the shredding bark
in a moist stretch of joint trail.
The joint-fir, green ephedra
looks like an ocean plant.
Could the wind or white water rivers alone
have shaped these sandstone, red rock forms?
Network of canyons, inverse of mountains.
It had to be ocean
ebbing and flowing, emotionally, like wind,
moving atmosphere, thicker
shaving, scraping, polishing, gouging, digging
then, shallower, dinosaur swamps
now, dry, rock gardens.
Explain the human history with water:
did the Anasazi visit neighbors
along the canyon rims and deep within,
combination caves and red-rock houses
small windows, doorways, just crawlways,
with corn gifts on summer evenings
when the canyon bottoms held permanent, not intermittent,
streams? After them
came the Ute and Navajo, Spanish and English.
Ravens dine on road kill.
A few long red roads connect some canyons.
The unprotected flats are overgrazed, rabbitbrush.
It is interesting
that as I learn the woody and herbaceous plants,
walk the desert foothills, I too could stay.
Copyright 2001 & 2007 by Robert Ronnow.