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Winter 2004, Volume 21.2


Catharine Savage Brosman

Photo of Catharine Savage Brosman.

Catharine Savage Brosman (Professor Emerita of French at Tulane University) has published three chapbooks and six collections of poetry, including Watering (U of Georgia Press, 1972), Journeying from Canyon de Chelly (LSU Press, 1990), The Muscled Truce (LSU Press, 2003), and Range of Light (forthcoming). She is also the author of two collections of nonfiction prose, The Shimmering Maya and Other Essays (LSU Press, 1994) and Finding Higher Ground: A Life of Travels (U of Nevada Press, 2003).


Dust Devil

What young demiurge, discovering his powers,
sent this spinning top of powder twisting,
spiraling across the sand, outsized, devouring soil,
taunting us at the horizon, pausing in place
as if to catch its breath, then ricocheting
back and whirling on, escaping toward the distant

Navajo plateau? It is unsettling, this epiphany
of air in orange and ochre dust, disheveled, angry,
centrifuged. I follow it, a desert genie
whisking the china blue of sky, the coral cliffs,
and watch it rise, at last, the way a ghostly
presence might blow off, a bit unstable, losing

shape, while, far above, thin clouds of angels'
breath, carded by the upper currents, float
ethereally. The Anasazi, also, watched the stratus
drape the mesa tops and anticlines, wing
east to sail among great monolithic birds
of black basalt, or hover, moored by stillness,

over canyons—watched, too, as arroyos, gouged
by downpours, sank, dissolving earth and stranding
corn, when rain gods sent a year's worth
in a day, then went away. It is the same dust
now, older by a thousand summers, ground
more finely by improvidence. A devil forms again,

playing off past the Paria River, running into pure,
consuming light. What is a life? A moment's
turbulence, a body borrowed by wind—
or deep soil, pools where sun is sieved, and weirs
to hold the run-off, channeling its spirit
into grain and blades of grass and green ideas?


Snow in Taos

Snow blanches the range, rounding arroyos,
planing the rough sagebrush, frosting
juniper and piñon pine scattered like embroidery
on an altar cloth. Few are on the road with me
this winter afternoon, since storms rode in yesterday
to set up camp in the Sangre de Cristos:
winds hurling themselves at the cabin walls, cold

reaching into windows, mocking the blankets,
drifts forming silently in the night, ice coming to be.
I had to leave, however. Driving down
from Colorado, rising over one pass, two,
I horseshoed, looped, and felt my way
along an unplowed road without a center line
or guardrail at the drop-offs—thinking ahead, never

at the precipice. The fir and spruce were prudent,
grave, and meditative, wearing mantles,
bonnets, sleeves of priestly white. Darker clouds
collected at the summits around noon, sending
swirling grapeshot everywhere, erasing forms.
It was primordial, as if pure matter
struggled in a nascent world, or agonized,

diurnal and nocturnal powers clashing at its end.
The combat sputters, dies: as the passes
fall behind me into memory, the road
has opened out onto the rippling tableland, foamy
with snow. I cross the high bridge of the Rio Grande,
with its black abyss, reach Taos. Sharp and still,
the cold has followed, bivouacking in leafless

cottonwoods along the stream and filling spaces
in the heart; but on the mountaintop, the clouds
are tinged with rose and gold, as spirits stir
and walk among the raptured trees, to celebrate
with light and vesperal chant the fullness
of becoming—sage, forest, thought…—all,
summoned into presence by the vast and snowy void.

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