1. In the Beginning
Vishnu Schist, two billion years old
The Great Unconformity, with time in arrears
Bright Angel Shale, Muav Limestone
Sliced by the river over five million years.
One hundred thousand cubic feet per second
And the Rio Colorado rips the rocks from the wall
Southward and westward to the Gulf of California
Sinking soft to seabed in a dark brown pall.
2. Amerind Interlude
Split twig bird-figures in the canyon caves
Made by the fathers for their children to fly
Millennia gone now, and the silent twig-birds
Look up from the rubble to the unchanging sky.
Rabbit-hunting Paiutes on the Kaibab rim
Peer down to the river running green and brown below
Do they see Sinagua-ghosts passing through the rockwalls
To the riverbank terraces where the maize and squash grow?
Fifteen-forty, and Lopez Cardeñas
(Under Coronado’s prodding) went searching for gold.
North to Cibola to find Seven Cities
“Just ten days further” Cardeñas was told.
North through the deserts, past the San Francisco Peaks
Through piñon pine and juniper and grama grass sod
Stopped in his tracks where the very earth divided
By Satan’s own scimitar and the paint-pots of God.
4. Honeymoon Trail
Brigham Young the Prophet had a vision for the desert
Growing the new Zion from the Rockies to the sea
Southward to Sonora down the Colorado Plateau
Irrigated farmlands as far as eyes can see.
Sealed in the Temple, a teenaged Mormon couple
A pushcart wagon, horses, and a couple months’ supplies
Down into the Canyon, cross the river at Lee’s Ferry
Building Arizona as a vision in their eyes.
5. John Wesley Powell
Professor John Powell left his right arm at Shiloh
Kept his courage and his need to see around the bend
Four boats and ten madmen through the Colorado rapids
Mile-high walls on either side and beauty without end.
Three had clambered out at Separation Canyon
Killed by Shivwits Indians; though Powell couldn’t see
Just two days and two more sets of rolling Canyon rapids
Then out into the flatlands and into immortality.
6. The Tourist
Southwest vacation, and a rainy day
An east coast tourist with a schedule to meet
Pulls up to a lookout in a fall afternoon,
And checking his wrist-watch, slides out of his seat.
Walks up to the railing, pulled through by the spirits,
Falls ever downward for two billion years.
Down through the rock-wall, the history, the sunset,
Stumbles back to the car with a face full of tears.
[edit on 18-7-2005 by Off_The_Street]