Once in The West


From the top of Monte Luna you can see the top of Monte Sol

and - rolling out to the horizon - the huge ancient geology

of north central New Mexico. The human things down there -

Santa Fe highways, powerlines, billboards, buildings -

look like a simple rash on an otherwise perfect old skin.

I'm stretched out up here on a large flat rock slanted

a bit down and out towards space,

the air empty between here and the rough base of boulders,

chamiso, and pinon pine.


I could roll off.

The sun is sleepy warm,

I'm alone in thin air nine thousand feet up from some sea.

I could roll off.


It was a tough walk up because I'm out of shape

and it's too soon for me

to breath easily at this altitude

- barely here a week.

It was a tough walk and a confusing one.

In these hills you start up one incline

and find yourself down in a ravine

having to climb twice as high again

to get back to level -

a weird land

that seems to defy the norms of flatland physics.


The hot blue sky has tiny black bugs in it -

birds large enough to scare me

if they landed.


I try to imagine the planet whirling me now.

Nothing out there but blue, then black.

Down here there's rock.

I turn on my stomach, push my cheek to the stone,

and lick it.


My mother gasps.

We learned early not to eat dirt,

to keep the earth at a distance,


Here there's nothing cleaner

or more full of grace.


Mom's out of sight,

back in her nice house on a little man-made lake -

Tom's on the mountaintop,

licking rock and

rolling through crazy blue light.



All poems by Br. Tom Murphy, O. Carm.

My Poems

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