New Mexico Sestina

by Thom Caraway

Large granite blocks form a natural stair down into the red
wilderness of juniper, Cholla, piñon pine. By midday the ground
seems to burn with fire ants and beetles. I pray I can contain this
landscape, thin blessing, holy dome of sky. Thin place, threadbare
world, a wavering staircase bleeding into that other world, the one
we pray for without understanding. Red sand gives way to more red
sand, then a burned hillside, charcoaled pine. Cut-wash runoff trails,
each rain following a new track through waist-high pine. The air is
thin, close, expansive, thin as sacrament, thin as blessing, thin as the
world, burning dry, corn and wheat, the drought-burst air sagging to
a halt, then blazing red forest/sunset in a rain-thick valley. Pray for
rain, for sustenance. Pray for the small bat sleeping above the door.
Pine beetle and fire ant, whiptail and red-tipped roadrunners. Pray
for thinner places to some bright wind, some redeemed staircase out
or up or into the mouth that burns sand holy, blows glass into air,
burns into weary bones, burns sunwind to cropfire. Pray to bleed
between spaces, granite stair not up or down, but through jack-pine
and jackrabbit, Cholla and sage, thin creek and thin river, red sand
and red sky red flight red holy red sky red mouth and hand, red
blister burn through, burn off, burn shine, thine hand above, hand
below, hand inside and through—prayer sound bat sand pine up red
mountain up holy up sky up granite stair on sliding red glass, too
caught too creek too stair. Take your burnt hand in mine, find the
bright-split pine. We’ll walk until we thin, climb until we pray.