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Archive: American Haibun & Haiga Volume 2

[Return to Author List, Vol 2 ]

Gerald George



Though a visitor, I could see how this place would drive any sensitive person to ecological radicalism. Flagstaff sprawls right under extraordinarily beautiful, emotionally powerful mountains. So life there, if you really are alive, is engagement with them, and becomes a fight to protect what makes you want to live from the landscape’s death through commercial indifference. “Nature” itself rebels.

spreading all over
the deserted parking lot
sweet smelling pine cones

A pumice mine’s cancerous encroachment on a national forest preserve has in fact provoked a protest, which, shedding years of professional caution, I joined. After all, some company is gouging the mountain so that thirteen-year-old counter fashion fashionables can dress themselves in “stone-ground” jeans! The voracious bulldozers were gouging way down in the bottom of the life stripped canyon they are savagely widening, but we got the “media” out to see and kept the pressure on.

saving the planet
me and ten kids in a
rusty truck

Afterwards, we went to the mountains’ other side to see ancient structures left by people who could build beautifully but lacked the technical sophistication to devastate the landscape: rock mason predecessors of the Hopi.

alone, a stone ruin
white clouds pile

Through the afternoon, while the bright sun gave brilliance to the Painted Desert miles off in one direction, dark clouds accumulated over the peaks above Flagstaff in the other. How the hardscrabble prehistoric dwellers must have looked back and forth each way, struggling to conceive a theology of adequate power and glory, especially when the sky grew wild over the fifteen visible, black peaks and lightning erupted.

                                rumble of thunder
                                quick gust of chill breeze
                                a lizard skitters

Nonetheless, we stopped at another site, and almost reached an “overlook” before the long building rainstorm struck. Even to me it seemed sacrilege to unfurl an umbrella, though the wind grew frighteningly fierce, scaring us back down to the safety of the one building at the site’s entrance.

                                in the park latrine
                                rain roof battering

Later, the storm long gone, we found the little house, where I was to spend the night, via dirt roads through over-grazed scrubland (how quickly one can learn to regret cattle!), on which, notwithstanding, delightful junipers and pinyon pines survive, and astonishing cactus clusters.  Lonely, desolate—but there, such words described attractions.

                                over the dark rim
                                the setting sun burns down:
                                a juniper fire
                                desert night sounds
                                I try to hear as if
                                I weren’t here

[Return to Author List, Vol 2 ]


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