She is the shadow of siren stretched across
a gravel road. I stand at her side, legs long
and languid, a flattened effigy craving
the lost desert sky. It is too blue to touch.
Stream of black slices this monolith
of hallowed ground. Boulders and rubble
encase its base. I stand in a valley of echo
listening for your voice.
A chalky leaf sketched by a young warrior
spans wings from its crooked spine. I feel
as if my back is broken. You dig your feet
into the red dirt, kick back your silences.
The rocks lean like driftwood against
each other, kindle for fire. Nothing can
ignite this flame. I am a permanent paw
print on which you walk.
I peek over your shoulder. Looking for what?
I don’t know. You are smiling, eyes set
on a slope of steep rock. I imagine below
flowers float in shaded streams.
An incandescent light lies on shallow
water where cliff and path meet.
No one swims here. If I were to catch
you, I would have to dive deeper.
Breasts of mountains stir our senses.
Rock caresses sky. Its hue so perfect,
it frightens me. Your eyes, black
and deep might as well be blue.
like gunshot wounds pierce the rock.
How did this rock endure the wrath
of winter? I cannot survive when
you open fire in front of me.
A road of rich red dirt called our car to a halt.
Lunch was a meal of cucumber, peanut butter
and chocolate. I spilled cream on our sandwiches.
Why was I not more careful?
The crushed cans of Victoria Beer hung
from barbwire rattling in the wind. The camel
stuck out its snout to eat the grass you offered
from you hand. I, too, wanted to eat from it.
[Inside the Tent]
We sat at the edge of the bed, you in my
bandana, myself in your wool hat.
You put your arm around me; a moment
that felt as natural as the landscape around us.
We gathered around a campfire, a barbecue
of kangaroo, emu, a blend of Australian
red wine. I felt a bit tipsy almost knocking
over my glass. You swiftly moved your cup.
[Lodging, Kings Canyon]
We slept in a canvas cabin, two single beds
and a swag. Your daughter and I took the beds,
you the swag. You covered your head in its
cocoon, convulsed and cried yourself to sleep.
We hiked past honeycombs of rock, your city
girl daughter sitting on warm sandstone, white
cap over her eyes looking up. I wondered
if she thought, who is this friend?
“Here we are in Kings Canyon, the central
part of Northern Australia surrounded
by beehive pagodas, spiky trees, holly
and cane grass. A lovely place, don’t you think?”
[Garden of Eden, Take I]
In this land of fragrant eucalyptus and giant
desert cycads, we eat salami and cheese.
They have asked us not to swim in the water.
Exposed rock allows us to cross its shallow stream.
[Garden of Eden, Take II]
Our fatigued legs lied to us. Paradise was five
more flights of winding wooden stairs. Stepping
down a steep wall of rock we find the true garden.
The presence of Eve is all around me.
[In the Garden]
Here the birds chirp and the wind is static.
The water is gilded with sunlight. It runs
deep and cold, branches of gum trees hang,
making shade, but there is nowhere to hide.
There is an echo in the canyon. I ask her
daughter to sing and her voice becomes
an incantation, a sacred prayer and in a single
note I know love is no longer impossible.
Musical composition by Victor David Sandiego