Monday, August 1, 2022


 Sedona Koan

First they were mountains

For all phenomena deserve a name 

And then they became faces

Stern and forlorn like old men

Gathered in the shade of a rickety porch

Gazing upon a baked red desert

Bored and uncaring 

Seeking to name others now

Secretly considering the origin

Of their own names 

Through the process

Of dogged endurance.

First I was a boy called by a name

Then I was a man staring into a mirror, 

Whispering his name over and over 

Until it lost all meaning 

Until I became just a face in the mirror

Like a mountain against the clear blue sky 

Mountains like old men’s faces

Ring the town of Sedona

Wizened with weary resignation

Gashed with vertical creases

Bored by a million years

Of runoff rain sluicing the rock  

Of lashing winds and baked in the heat

I have come seeking wisdom

In this arid quiet place

Where thirst is never slaked 

Even when the monsoon rains come.

Here my mouth is chalked with dust

And my last canteen is empty

And there is nothing but the dry rueful sadness

Of the completely desiccated

Who have no tears left to leak

In the evening after dinner

We try to climb Bell Rock

Hand over hand as high 

As we can, the surprising cool smooth

Stone like bone against our palms 

Like reptilian skins just

Before the rattlesnake strikes 

Down below, we watched the pagans dancing 

As the sun fell beneath the orange western hills 

Mountains are holders of time

While faces trace the path of a life:

Every smile, every grimace

Every contorted cry

Captured in some wrinkled pattern.

This was an ice age

Here we see the deposition of silt

When the glaciers melted.

This is when he lost the thread.

That one deepened

In the kitchen solitude of the forsaken. 

Here is the line left behind 

When his nascent heart was first broken 

By the end of the week

The faces were mountains again

And the pain was pain again

And the loss was still 

An empty lacuna

Just where I had left it

And it was my own face

That had stiffened 

Into red tinted 

Limestone and shale

Pressed into perpetual solidity

Blood stained and hard

Resolute and intractable 

Etched where water falls

Where the tears have

Streamed down shallow channels 

Carved into cheeks 

I’ve held back long enough

Let them flow 

So the dusty earth can drink 

While I return home not to live

But to age, to tacitly persist

No longer the face

I used to be

No longer the me 

I thought would always exist

Something new rises from the horizon

Erupting from a molten pluripotent core

Frowning forever upon this sered valley of silence:

A desert range I lack the time to get to know,

That somebody here will surely blame,

That somebody else will someday name.


No comments: