Articles/Essays – Volume 22, No. 3

Cliff Dwellings

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Here, rock has a soft face

and wind moves above like spirit.

I listen down the long slant

of switchback trails, steps carved

where red rock accordions through the canyon.


Lodgepole ladders reach the base of the dwelling:

three stories in places, a hundred stone rooms.

Noon heat wavers from fire pits

of the opened kivas. Brief shadows

at a window, footfall

on the terrace stone.


Far beneath the overhang, where full light

never touches, the dark cool

of heavy shade: cupped imprints along walls

collecting ghost water, sudden rivulets

filtered from the green table.

Grains stored in the cool caverns.


Despite the cords that keep us

from all but a sampling, I move in

and in. The quiet ripens

when the hikers leave.

Anasazi women felt

safe here, giving birth: a new cry

echoing off cascades of stone,

stilling the men

at worship below in the kiva.


Silence leans

from the rock as I place my palm:

a hollow, round from grinding,

the flushed pulse

from the sandstone walls.