I’m a dweller of the borderlands; that’s where
life is most interesting and revealing, and surprising.
The border country is varied — it has a little of this
and a little of that. It has some overflow,
or a renegade, that ventures across the line.
That edge is what calls to me the loudest.
I was raised up with a view to the edge. Borders
last. I find that edges endure even after
they change for the better or for the worse.
Crossing that line was always a childhood
adventure — we were always on the prowl
into the unknown parts.
The edge is where one thing stopped and
another thing started. Born in the city, most of
my life took root on the northern edge of the Ozarks.
This is where the rocky, rolling forests tumble
into the Missouri River. Where river culture meets
Ozark highland and Old German meets Scots-Irish.
The valley keeps the river in place – it holds it
most of the time. The rocky bluffs are topped with
wind-blown loess from the glaciers’ demise
and Indian mounds with their dead left from another
time. Everything is borderland in Missouri
— and it always has been.
This is where the glaciers ended their advance
and the southern pine forests did the same. This
is where the plains grew from rolling prairies.
There are so many lines and edges to cross —
some are bold, and some are barely discernable.
What lies before is often not what lies behind.
In my older years I grew restless and heard
a distant call. I sought out a different borderland.
It was a different sort of country yet very familiar.
It had curious and different lines and edges.
I traded the Missouri Valley for the Rio Grande
as it staggers through its ancient rift valley.
Mountain heights replaced river bluffs and
the high desert rolls on to the farthest horizon.
This is where our Earth’s muscles and bones
are revealed — laid bare for all to see. You
can almost perform an autopsy just by looking
at the land: see how it got here and why it stayed.
A land of contrasts, New Mexico is a boundless borderland,
if such exists. Look and see, look again. Turn ninety-degrees
and look yet again. You are always on the edge of seeing
something different. River Bosque or lava flow;
Desert or forest. Red or Green? How do you see it?
Maybe it surprises you or maybe it feels like home.
* * *
The Home Place – 2018
There was a flurry of publicity about this proposal (HB 3990) back in October but it is still alive and was recently approved by the House Natural Resources Committee and will come up for a full House vote. Urge your representative to vote against HB 3990.
The Antiquities Act is the most essential tool available to save at-risk natural and heritage sites in the US. HB 3990 will effectively gut the Antiquities Act and allow for the wholesale curtailment and diminishing of existing national monuments. It will make the establishment and protection of future monuments and heritage sites nearly impossible given the power of lobbyists and special interest groups.
Stand up and fight against the passage of HB 3990: https://www.hcn.org/articles/monuments-in-congress-rob-bishop-threatens-national-monuments-face-another-attack
All of this is in jeopardy thanks to the proposed “National Monument Creation and Protection Act” which does nothing to protect anything and is simply a land grab.
A few of New Mexico’s monuments at risk…
The village sleeps while a few coyotes
prowl and scuff through the alley
that passes for a dusty street.
They own the night. We are
only tenants here at the edge
of the desert, close by the river.
A light is on at the bakery,
as it is every morning in the
long hours before the first glow.
The coyotes are used to it. They
watch her quietly pass by each
morning as regular as the dawn.
Sofia is immersed in the day’s
work. Everything is in its place
and ready from the day before.
The old oven heats; the chill fades;
flour in her hair, her morning routine.
Lumps become loaves or anise biscochitos.
The first oven smells are drifting
down the street before sunrise.
She stops for a drink of her coffee.
She likes her coffee strong and sweet;
flavored with cinnamon or cardamom.
She indulges herself at this hour.
Working alone, she enjoys this time of day.
She has a place here in this little village;
like the mortar between the stones.
She recalls her mother, with flour
in her hair, greeting the men on their
way to the fields with fresh bread.
She is ready for the day as she hears
the first sounds from the street.
She smiles and steps out the door.
* * *
2018 – The Home Place
How do we get through life?
There are landmarks that show us the way.
Sometimes we get hopelessly lost.
Sometimes someone finds us.
We leave stelae for those who follow after us.
Markers to show we have come this way
and how we got this far.
We follow cairns through life’s wilderness.
Unreadable mostly, but still we follow.
We trust them to show the way.
We try to make sense of it and often we do
in spite of ourselves.
Stelae and Cairns — one we follow
and one we leave behind.
* * *
The Home Place — 2018
It rises like a ziggurat in the desert.
Torn by the wind;
shattered by the elements;
stabbed by knives of ice;
blasted by the heat
of countless searing summers;
hammered by lightning bolts; and
shook by roaring blasts of thunder;
the mythic monster’s head lolls
in its everlasting sleep.
The Diné’s old legend cast in stone.
Climb up. Go higher.
The far horizon unfolds
to reveal range after range of
fire-formed hills – blackened,
broken, and brittle in the sun.
* * *
The Home Place – 2018