Box Canyon / Chevelon Creek
Hast thou entered into the springs of the sea?
or hast thou walked in the search of the depth?
Have the gates of death been opened unto thee?
Hast thou perceived the breadth of the earth?
declare if thou knowest it all.
Job 38: 16-18
Oh that the desert were my dwelling place,
With only one fair spirit for my minister.
That I might forget the human race,
And hating no one, love her only.
Lord Byron,Childe Harold’s Pilgrimage
I walked alone into the waste
in search of rivers—not a taste
of water could I find
to liquidate my mind.
Under the sun in vanished lakes
alive with scorpions and snakes
I sought within my soul
her limpid watering hole.
The mogollón once hunted here
as piñon pines disclosed the deer
but now not even bones
remained among the stones.
scattered beads and the odd spearhead
my visionary soul misled;
the moment was my home
and I was free to roam.
Burial caves of ash and silence
spoke in tones of bygone violence
grinding stones lay broken:
her archeological token.
I found a pot within a niche
still balanced well, despite the pitch
as if the owner’s urn
awaited her return.
Amidst the fragments, free at last
in potsherd patterns of the past
I followed ancient streams
through arid zones and dreams.
Exploring a dry riverbed
unraveling her golden thread
while stepping off a ledge
descending from the edge,
I almost trod upon a snake
and quick adjustment had to make.
I flinched. It was a rattler.
As my right foot continued down
I saw the scales and dusty brown;
Mere inches from its head
the imprint of my tread!
The serpent was too cold and slow
to strike a poisoned morning blow
The sun still in the east—
I swerved and missed the beast.
The desert’s charm advanced from there
She showed me sights I barely dare
to tell lest I sound singed
My mind she so unhinged.
I stood before the gate of vision
rapt in shadowed indecision
gazing in the maw,
unsure of what I saw:
A ruined mineshaft’s empty grin
that mocked and whispered: “Come within.
The words of Job are here
in wisdom born of fear…”
Necropolis; a gaping portal…
Feeling less than weakly mortal
deep I stared inside
allured yet terrified.
A passage to the depths of dread
The book of Job, the sleeping dead
I barely now recall
yet understood it all…
Still thirsting through her arid land
divining truths in shifting sand
I ventured on in vain,
beseeching God to reign
The javelinas mocked my quest
beguiled me onward, further west
where Dutchmen hide their gold
and Apache tears are sold.
Her rainbow shades and distant mesas
silhouetted, paint her face as
nobly as the lands
her presence still commands.
Her beauty smiled: a virtual face
of glyphic pre-Columbian grace
in sublimated fire…
She led me to the springs of life
my moonlight maid and desert wife;
my nights upon the mountains
in search of spectral fountains.
Ex-nomad of the mythic west
my unfound treasure now confessed;
her deserts had me smitten…
for her my poem’s written.
Where to begin…
I listened to the song below (Silver Waterfalls by Siouxsie Sioux from the album Superstition) in the Arizona desert near Chevelon Canyon where I lived in 95′. I always made a personal association with the album’s title and the Superstition mountains of Arizona. I was care-taking on some land for a friend and would go for up to 2 weeks without seeing another human being – only the Piñon pines, coyotes, clouds, birds and a view of the Painted Desert on the Northern horizon from my front step. The distant spires and buttes were amazing to see in the dawn and twilight. There was a Mogollón burial right near my camp – I found arrowheads, broken metates (grinding stones) and even some beads.
On Easter morning my visiting friend found a perfectly flaked flint spearhead in a dry stream bed, still razor-sharp.
This lovely and mysterious song catalyzed it all for me. I am only able to approximate a fraction of the transcendence I was experiencing. There were dried riverbeds I was walking in and I could see where the waterfalls had carved out the sandy basins during past storms. All through this time, the lyrics of this song took on greater and greater intensity. I experienced epiphanies while walking among the canyon cliffs, beside the flowing creek lined with cottonwood trees, past petroglyphs and rock art, exploring burial caves and pit-house ruins covered with fragments of Black-on-white Mogollón pottery. It was a magical time. It was very beautiful – frighteningly so.