Hiking in the Grand Canyon

Northridge Review, Vol. 2.1 (1984)

Jodi Johnson

At Santa Maria springs
we take off our shoes,
dangle feet in the water.
Their whiteness shocks--
salt-pale below brown ankles--
the white of our age:
concrete, sunlight-on-glass,
impeccable museum walls.
But here I wear color again:
trail dust on bare legs,
shoulders sun-reddened,
I see how muted shades of rock climb
perfectly, from the river's black line
to the white sky-rim.

	* * *

I stand naked among rocks,
the river rising, white-maned.
Only a pale slice of sky--
the river owns all blue:
cornflower, December ice, glass-eye
on bald-faced colt.

The water is cold.
I wash off eleven miles
of Hermit Trail.  I think that if I wanted
I could wash clean through,
Run clear as the river.
It takes knees hips
ribs shoulders--my hair
floats, a yellow tan, thickens,
sinks.  Only my face,
sunlifted, survives.  The river claims
blue of eyes.

	* * *

The clear notes of coyotes
rise like moons.
We lie in the river-sand
and catch stars.
All day I watched night
growing on canyon walls,
spreading blue roots.
It covers me now as it always has.
In the dark, I forget
where my skin ends;
I feel a thousand others around me
rustling like grass.

A star falls and goes out.
Perhaps some night another will watch
our own earth,
shot from its orbit,
wearing hair of flames.

	* * *

In the sharp light of the dawn
we lie in sleep-worn hollows,
each separate as stones.

The stillness makes everything new--
leaves wave gold of first leaves;
the sky is a curve of eggshell.
In this light even my skin is transparent,
thin as a baby's.

I wake from ribs of earth
afraid to shatter the morning
with rising, each movement making rings
in tender air.

	* * *

When we begin the climb home,
our bones feel immeasurably old.
We have been walking the floors of oceans,
sleeping with fossils.

Halfway up the canyon wall, I pause,
watching a red-shouldered hawk
circle below.  The sheer cliff
tempts me to try my own wings.
I know now why once
we wore feathers,
danced to the sun;
why young girls smiled as priests
lifted their red hearts.

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