We do not dwell because we have built, but we build and have built
because we dwell, that is, because we are dwellers.
Martin Heidegger, Poetry, Language, Thought
Living consumes the space we leave for it
like water down a narrow sandstone canyon. Under
overhanging cliffs, the self constructs its dwellings,
its kivas, balconies, the single ladder that reaches to a secret
entrance and exit. No one believed the ruins would have this effect.
But a boy of twelve believes he haunts the spaces
of everything that has been. Ghosts are just pieces in the game.
When others speak of arid plains, of bluffs without access,
he pulls water from the myth of his own future.
But because their word is ruin, his early sense of culture
is rude as a Park Ranger’s. After careless excavations,
he finds a truth in deer, in bighorn sheep, in how these others
help him to the fourth world. Between himself
and those who name the missing parts of history, he digs up
a shard of truth, a dampness beneath a stone, a storm way off
across the arid plain of his understanding. The Yucca’s thirst,
the wasp’s evening flight, the coyote’s high-pitched howl,
all are elements of his other self, the slickrock one,
the one who climbs the ladder into the darkness of the kiva.
He finally learns to leave nothing that may fall
into the hands of looters, and climbs
the mesa to find the others making bricks of blood
and sandstone, using their breath for mortar, smoothing
the sides of the circular ruin, that will soon collect rain.
George Moore’s collections include Children’s Drawings of the Universe (Salmon Poetry 2015) and The Hermits of Dingle (FutureCycle 2013). Poems have appeared in The Atlantic, North American Review, Poetry, Colorado Review, and are forthcoming in Arc and Valapaiso. After teaching at University of Colorado for many years, he presently lives with his wife in Nova Scotia.