Shawn Pittard is the author of These Rivers, a chapbook of poems from Rattlesnake Press (2004). His poems and stories have appeared in publications such as Cimarron Review, Confrontation, Salamander, and Spillway. He lives in Sacramento, California.
I've walked beneath its shadow, brushed
its sullen leaves, watched limbs whip
in the wind's cross-currents.
There is no god in the shapes
that frighten me awake, lead me
on this walk again tonight.
When I was a boy
I challenged the darkness, saying—
As happened to Jacob, a dark form
fell upon me and we struggled.
One light burns in a neighbor's window
between our house and the city park.
I pass by as a streetlight flickers off.
The park's black pond reflects an empty sky.
A spider's web—white beacon of silk—
echoes the symmetry of winter groves.
Bleak gestures bend the darkness.
Crows alight in every branch.
Night hardens into morning.
Tourist Stop: Four Corners
She offers me a peach, chosen
from among the many
packed in bleached-wood crates
shaded from the sun
by a canvas tarp flapping in long waves
over the bed of the yellow pickup
that brings her family here—
crowded five across the seat—to sell
blue corn, red peppers, and turquoise.
A metal monument
claims this place an intersection
of four Southwestern states: overlook
to an ancient river eating its way
through two million years of purple rock.
And I think sweetness
when I bite into the fruit
this girl with shy-eyes offers. Sweetness,
flowing down our chins.
In Memory of the Moseman Ranch: Escalante, Utah
At ninety-four, they make ends meet
turning scraps of wool into welcome mats
and fancy blankets for the tourists
—come to see the dam—
on an antique loom bought new
when they were married.
She wakes early—bakes bread
to sell fresh to the grocer at the marina,
while he selects the best peaches in their orchard.
And when friends or family drive in
from out of town
to gather round her Sunday table, eyes
still sparkle, hands gesture, and the clock rolls back
to when the desert was wet
and springs flowed like never before, or since—
when tall grass
rubbed against their horses' chests
and fat cattle found water
in the Green's deep tributaries. Back
when two young lovers
thought they'd found an Eden.