The Río Puerco valley puckers and shines, like scalded milk
spilled from the sky's bucket.
Late in the summer, the land and its dry riverbed
crumble into the colors of crushed wheat.
A voice-over stitches the air: Esta historia comienza
en el fin.
Nasario walks an arroyo and stops by a bush
in the low shade of a cliff.
When he was a child, his Grandpa Lolo brought him here
to see the bear—a small brown bear
feasting on gooseberries.
Fiddle notes slide sideways . . . like a girl in a satin dress
gliding into the cypress arms
of a Spanish guitar.
Thorns rustle against the dust.
Nasario takes a series of objects out of a wooden box
and lays them tenderly
on a table--
his mother's two frying pans (new in the 1930s)
a child's shoe
a rusty cup
an array of hand-tools with worn handles
a man's work-boot curled at the toes--
"And this is the scale
my father would hang with gunny sacks of corn
before we took them to Jemez Pueblo
to trade with the Indians
for apples, peaches, apricots, grapes--
because we had no fruit in the valley."
The stories the viejitos told crackled with magic--
witchcraft, animals, landscape.
Nasario, crowned in cumulus cloud, remembers:
"En ese tiempo el Río Puerco era como una flor."
An evening primrose opens its pale petals; pink
phosphorous dots the desert floor.
"The only thing you hear out here anymore is the whistling
of the wind," Nasario says.
"But back then we heard
the fluttering of crows in the cornfield,
coyotes howling at night—it was like a symphony
of animal music."
The frame of a small house releases its broken adobe bones
to the earth—ashes to ashes.
Crees que las piedras nos recuerdan?
Nasario reads "Mi Casita" in his voice of rustling leaves.
And the shadow
Y la sombra
con cada rendija
que la cobija.
-Anne Valley-Fox, January 12, 2017
Born in Paterson, New Jersey, Anne Valley-Fox was raised in Santa Monica, California and schooled at University of California at Berkeley during the Free Speech Movement. There, she began writing poetry in classrooms with Josephine Miles and visiting poet James Tate; in her senior year she was awarded the Eisner Prize in Literature. She cut her poetic teeth on the San Francisco poetry scene for several years before moving to northern New Mexico with her first-born son, Ezra. Her poetry books are Sending the Body Out, Fish Drum 15, Point of No Return and How Shadows Are Bundled. Her nonfiction books include Telling Your Story (with Sam Keen) and five volumes of oral histories compiled from archives of The New Mexico Federal Writers’ Project. In 2016 she received a William Matthews Poetry Prize from the Asheville Poetry Review.
Her most recently poetry collection, Nightfall (Red Mountain Press) is a collection of vivid poems from an American poet in her seventh decade. www.redmountainpress.us.