08 January 2012


The Milky Way oozes
mutely across the sky while
the constant roaring of Soap
Creek Rapids lulls us towards
sleep. Gritty sand dusts my face,
lodged in eyebrows and eyelashes
like snowflakes on pine trees.
At this distance from the river
in our tiny tent, we can
whisper to one another
over pillows made from clothing
wrapped in fleece jackets.

Tomorrow, though, as you fish
from atop a huge boulder
at the river’s edge, I’ll yell
to you from below and barely
be heard. If we stay long enough,
we’ll get used to the river’s
thunder, like someone might no
longer notice the noise of
the traffic so much after
a week in the city.

In the mornings, sitting cross-
legged on cold sand, too chilled
and stiff yet to move beyond
necessity, I sip hot
tea brewed from the ancient
Colorado and we watch
the light change the canyon walls
as the sun emerges from the rim.

My mind wanders slowly here
from the flock of snowy-white
egrets, to the red, then golden,
then sand-colored cliffs, to the
lone black raven laughing
overhead, and always, always
back to the river, here, now,
roiling celadon and white-
tipped, and yet later, upstream,
glassy brown, the water level
changing, too, its power
channeled for those far
beyond the dam who think
nothing of the river’s gift.

On the hike out, we chatter
as we march, navigating
boulders the size of houses
lodged in the side canyon,
longing for the comforts of
civilization like fluffy
pillows and ice-cold Cokes,
until we realize the roar
of the river is gone.

It is quiet then.

We do not mention this absence,
yet each mark it within: contrast
this moment with the journey
downcanyon where the initial
sound of the river is announced :
sssshhh – listen followed by
elated whoops. Yet now we
hike on, the silence louder
than the scraping of
boots over stone.

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