Coral Pink Sand Dunes

by Joel Long



for Peter Hayes

The light tells us we are losing.  Everything
beautiful tells us.  We sit in canvas chairs, tired day, 
seventy freshmen milling.  We are tired, 
dunes, tired, the way things that aren’t alive
are tired, endless, slipping away in the brilliant
fading day, pink, apricot, salmon, brown.

Canopied in junipers, pinyons, and sage,
we drink lemonade from plastic cups, 
luxury, fuller moon raising red cliffs,
crenelated pines.  You bring gifts for teachers, 
hats, flashlights, headlamps to help us
see the dark, water bottles for thirst you know
will come tonight.  You engraved our names, year, 
each one travelled with you. We stow them
someplace we will not forget, and you sit
with full knowledge the world moves around you. 

Students wander camp twilight, plant presses, 
plucking the desert dozen they know in their hearts
past the time you will breathe in the world, cottonwood, 
juniper, virgin bower with see-through skirts, artemsia tridentata, 
quercus gambelii, castilleja chromosa.  Two kids throw
a football;, see you, know keep quiet, shhh, shhh
others want no racket in camp. They know later,  
you will take them into night, lift stones
heavy as you, show what dark can show, 
filament scorpions under stone, illumined, 
star-green in mauve, claws, telson preened for the sting.

Late, you turn the flashlight upward to stars, scattering
dust, glitter, road with cattle guard, rabbit brush, 
yucca rays cutting deep blue into black.  
We barely keep our feet on ground for this rush
of stars and space behind the stars too quiet, shhh.  You tell
Andromeda’s story, Orion, sword and scorpion,  
half-moon smudging stars with shine as it pulls
our eyes, half heavens opening every form
the mind imagines, mantis, dolphin, bear, Sagittarius, 
teapot lifting steam to the mouth of a man, star milk
feeding him, feeding you, what breaths the cosmos— 
miserly infinite—allows, and when you click
the lamp off, nothing but stars: space blooming
time and being, and the light tells us again
what we’ve lost, why losing matters, this time, 
how to pay attention, how to work and learn.  

Poet's note:

Peter Hayes taught at Rowland Hall-St. Mark’s upper school for eighteen years.  During that time, he led the 9th grade trip to Coral Pink Sand Dunes and Angel Canyon near Kanab, Utah.  Hayes retired after he was diagnosed with IPF, idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis.  The disease took his life less than two years later. 

Joel Long’s book Winged Insects won the White Pine Press Poetry Prize.  His books Lessons in Disappearance and Knowing Time by Light were published by Blaine Creek Press in 2010.  His chapbooks, Chopin’s Preludes and Saffron Beneath Every Frostwere published from Elik Press.  His poems have appeared in  InterimGulf CoastRhinoBitter Oleander, Crab Orchard Review,Bellingham ReviewSou'westerPrairie Schooner, Willow Springs, The PinchQuarterly West, and Seattle Review and anthologized in American Poetry: the Next GenerationEssential LoveFresh Water, and I Go to the Ruined Place:Contemporary Poems in Defense of Global Human Rights.

Map to Taylor Creek

by Joel Long



Begin at moonset.  Lose your feet in the dark. 
Find water, how it feels on your skin, how
it sounds—you walk into it.  
grow wine, grow rust on iron. The moon
drops in a pocket at the base of your skull.  

Predawn is patient—so much time.  You
move along the creek bordered by shadow towers, 
terraced gardens of Babylon, red mineral spires, 
where priests pray silence next to the gods, 
vigil of pinyon and juniper.  

                                          The sun gilds the edge
of everything, and the world glides in emptiness.  
It lifts the cliff face in the shade of cinnamon, 
strands of burnt moss trailing. 

                                          Go toward the voice
in the stone hemisphere, the eroded double
in the wall above it.  Dawn sings, the woman
in a Superman shirt, woman you never see again.  
She sings the chest, the throat, the pure
                                                               mouth shaping
air as stone is shaped but slow in the way being
human is slow, 
                              slow beauty our limited scope. 

The walls of the canyon respond and sing back
her aria, the double arch alcove taking glow
of the day, mosses
blooming green with bright gold
tendrils threading through the red sand.  The singer
evaporates into morning. You
                           find her in stone, in water
marbling watercress and juniper bone glazed blue
this time, lapis, green pebbles, ivory, horse grass
raising woven legions.  There is no song
                                                          that lasts 

long enough.  You leave every sacred place.  

Photo by Joel Long

Photo by Joel Long

Joel Long’s book Winged Insects won the White Pine Press Poetry Prize.  His books Lessons in Disappearance and Knowing Time by Light were published by Blaine Creek Press in 2010.  His chapbooks, Chopin’s Preludes and Saffron Beneath Every Frostwere published from Elik Press.  His poems have appeared in  InterimGulf CoastRhinoBitter Oleander, Crab Orchard Review,Bellingham ReviewSou'westerPrairie Schooner, Willow Springs, The PinchQuarterly West, and Seattle Review and anthologized in American Poetry: the Next GenerationEssential LoveFresh Water, and I Go to the Ruined Place:Contemporary Poems in Defense of Global Human Rights.

Prelude | David Lee

Prelude: Vocatus atque non vocatus, Deus aderit. And the Voice said, “Moses did not go to an
oil well derrick to receive the Law and the Tablets, and Jesus did not go to a fracking site to give
The Sermon, and Buddha most certainly did not sit under a pump jack to experience the vision
that changed the world forever. Sacred Place is required to receive Sacred Epiphany, and
without that epiphany, wisdom cannot be achieved.”

Impromptu Meditational Ode
Concerning the Sacred Relationship of Time and Place
(and the act of finding the bullseye in the center of epiphany)
During Miles Davis’ “Autumn Leaves”

and by an autumn inspiration
Richard Wilbur, “In the Elegy Season”


when silence screams like a gashed river
through the space between note and next
the mind makes the first movement
from absence to creation
          Parmenides all the while listening
questioning whether the basis is need
or dramatic impulse and if difference
is even meaningful, one can, like flotsam, turn,
move into a quiet pool of contemplation
          and begin the shift:
whether the fiction of this event we call life might
be akin to a small but very deep pond or even lake
the product of a thousand quiet pools and pauses conjoining,
co-mingling, creating in this instance the memory
          of an autumn perception
seen perhaps once in magical childhood
as from a great and fearful height nestled
in the remembrance of Bears Ears, Hatch Point, or Boulder Mountain
surrounded by huge vistas, great pines
          interlaced with the blaze of glistering aspen
all mirrored in the still twilight water
of a brilliant afternoon lake,
a reflection of first moment
personal realization that if autumn comes
          winter is not very damned far behind


and then the requisite shift
to antistrophe, the fulcrum moment
between inspiration and expiration
when the lips purse and in the mind
          the millisecond of doubt
the lake, great mountains, burning aspen,
towering and reflective pines memory
only symbols inviolably intertwined
with their referents
          covering what lies below
dark, incomprehensible and invisible truth
whispering in the embrace of acrophobia:
surrender, make the leap into the still stare
of water under moon-bitten pines
          sink into the dark abyss of unknown
the plunge, penetration of time’s scrim
the lung throb, turn back toward surface
the second terror of suffocation
clasping the mind in fingerstops of nightmare


          then the awakening with the break into light
only to recognize the separation between aye and I
and remain standing above the lake’s great eye
wondering: what next? while deep in the mind’s ear
between the anvil and stirrup of memory
          the benign inner voice of enlightenment,
first comprehension that the shock
of height or drowning is not of falling or suffocation,
but of failure to make the leap, and with grace,
so that when the plunge comes, the remembrance
          thou shalt not fall: dive
into expiration, then new inspiration
and with that parabolic breath the mind returns
to blood rush rhythm, joy of the leap with the float
back into melody, which, as they say, is exactly why

Put off the shoes from off thy feet,
for the place where thou standest
is Holy Ground

Exodus 3: 5

Pack Creek Ranch Song | Christopher Ketcham

Pack Creek Ranch Song
                                           -thinking of Ed Abbey


5 am, old desert, I walk out to the corrals, the stars sting the eyes, all the ranch sleepless
except Dexter wily cat, survivor, sleeps on lap of anyone who sleeps
the horses in the field cry out in the other corrals and the one-eyed horse
who I fed once has gone to New Mexico with a girl named Anna-Claire.

White cats, black cats showing up at the door like the bowsprit water of Noah
under the star-pooled sky -- I imagine myself just a little to be him (so not at all).
No winter or flood yet, but the lavender going, the bees asleep, the hummingbirds at final hum
the sunflower seas gone, at dawn in September the days growing shorter and shorter.

Gather the animals wondering of the change, the things such as the cat knows
why the slitted eyes smile in the night, why paws reach longer.
As domesticated as us, as pining as us for no winter to come:
gather the animals, that’s what we want, quick before the snows.

Such is Dexter the gray tabby mild, wild, furtive, sleeping in culverts, eating rats, rabbits, mice
voles on my doorstep, crunching at 5 am like farm clocks, swinging into doors like Tarzan
milking every tit in my fridge for dinner, kind as an insurance salesman looking for winners
walking the other way when he hears no bowls of milk or froth.

How Dexter survived the last winter I guess only by the half-an- ear he sports on his right side
sliced from frost. When I first saw him, he had blood on his lip, he couldn’t walk straight
he wore his ribs like crepe, his eyes big and starved
I fed him, nursed him, adored him, he purred like a Saturday hooker at a Sunday dinner
He was a great cat Now the new winter comes for him

Who runs the Ark around here at Pack Creek? Not I. Maybe ol’ ghost of Abbey next door,
     who wrote those last two books in the shack with the dirt floor --
Who could cram the elks’ horns, cats’ egos, horses’ worry, mens’ farting
the smell of juniper on fire, the coldness of the moon looking down, the darkness of the night
making no sense with its stars, the white stretch of the country lane, the cats the cats bursting on
every scene like creditors, and the great dogs, how forget the dogs, how they come back with
answers that are so enthusiastic, always so wrong, the canyons whetted by the master builder:
water, rain, wind, cloud, snow, freeze, thaw
Who but Noah could cram all this on one boat’s bashing
I run down with rain through the place
where once you and I hiked free and now that same canyon is gone and cannot be named

If Noah has a song in the canyons it goes like this flood:
Awake brood, food, o flesh mere, there was a canyon here
Long before mothers drew breath on two feet
Or starry-eyed stared at the thousand night pleats
All you are is a big not-at- all where the canyon makes crumbs
Where the corpses of men pile who thought they were beavers

Sumptuous bellies flop, meat-eaters, surgeons, testy virgins
Animal husbands, clone wives, breeders of the bubble-time
French ticklers, peddlers of knives, milk, happiness, Mary Poppins
Fathers on cellphones, mothers in wine, teeny boppers eating cookies like vermin

All crumble! Tossed, bossed, made simple at last!
The flood comes, hold on


So from Pack Creek Ranch in our mild places, with homes steady, the horses ready
the creek running hard and brown from the tin-pan light of the rush on the mountain
Petra and I climbed just a little, 300 feet to the ridge above the ranch
all the world was transformed, even our own souls, even the very feet we walked with
for up there it was snowing, where at the cabin was just rain, now the snow had birthed two new
man and woman, the sky and snow and light from the sun, the wild arms of juniper, arms bright
with white calls to the methodic stone below and to the bent miles of cloud in the warm valley
where no one knew it was snowing;
here are the keys to the kingdom that the prophets speak of, the joy of footfalls in the life-giving
water, joy of light

Where we come from, where we would go back to is not the matter.
That we were in the snow on the mesa above the desert
Was all that mattered, that the cold wind burrowed in us, that we lay in the snow
warm in the sun, that we thought only of the warmth of our bodies and the cold of the mountains
above and wanted to go (and not to go at all)


Here’s who runs the Ark, it’s Ken Sleight, ol’ Seldom Seen Smith himself who’s sick of being
told he’s the Seldom Seen myth of Abbey, ghost of a novel, the real man riding more horses than
Abbey did in his jerking hand --

Here’s Ken Sleight: ears big as trumpets, eyes slitted at the sun, old man’s gait – he’s 80 – young
man’s run, and on his horse walking on air, rock, steam, sheets of silk, feathers, a graceful guy
altogether, made of flesh and legend, and how he builds the ark

Is charging two bulldozers at noon on the mesa-top above Pack Creek Ranch with Knothead his

Meeting of the pack, Or, Wolves return to the Canyonlands | Christopher Ketcham

Brothers, sisters, meet at last
There is drink and drums
There is a god among wolves
Speech from leaping lungs
Oh brothers, sisters, I have longed for you
When I lay alone in the high mountains
In the desert, on the rivers
I have longed for your company
Your touch, your wisdom, your fool
Laughter, your kindness – oh tribe and pack!
What have we done with our time
Alone in the darkness? What have we done
In those long winter nights?
What light shone except the remembrance
Of the pack?
For we have walked the earth
And seen our aloneness in the autumn shadows
Our pack blown to pieces
Felt no hand on our shoulder
No friend in that cold plain
Our tin cups full of drink but no drunkenness
Our food without joy
Our mirrors looking back at us
Saying, Who this?
Our alarm clocks, our children’s socks
Our imbecile jobs, our bank accounts
Our checks that bounce
Our lies for marriages, mortgages, rents
Our music against a wind
That drowns till nothing but wind and dust
Our feet unable to move
Our wisdom with no one to hear
Our words trivial, like pebbles
Downstream in the river
Our muscles growing weak
Our eyes dim
In the light of aloneness.
Brothers, sisters, meet at last!
I love you! I’m mad for you
Like a man for oxygen come up from the waves
Nearly drowned
Like a sun that hasn’t smiled on the earth
After a year of rain
Like a child returned to parents
Who were held in chains
Like a fiend at a coke snort
Like the belly of a starved creature
Given a straight dinner
Like a full moon seen at last
When I’d only known the rational sun.