From Mountains to Deserts
For my Dad
Edward Michael McDonnell
15 March 1924-28 June 2011
A sad gentle breeze blows
through the dying brown
grasses of late August.
Hundred year old Colorado coal mines
lay buried underfoot, effort and pain
sealed away forever in darkness.
Grandpa’s miner’s house where Mom was born
belongs to a fireman now.
Great Grandmother’s farm sits fallow beneath
Indian Peaks where Dad climbed as a kid still
I walk this land of my family, not knowing
where I come from.
The birds are silent in the summer heat.
The wind threatens to blow me over.
Sand pelts my skin and I want to run from this place,
to the comfort of the rain and cool and fog.
How could anyone live here I wonder.
Then the sun slips beyond the smooth brown hills and
another light comes up, rich with
shadows and magic, mythical images dancing in the dusk.
Ancient people chose this place and thrived here
Moderns came later and braced against the
termination winds, planting poplars and Russian
olives for protection.
Generations moved up and down this gorge,
settling on the coast or
in the middle deserts or high up in the alpine zones.
They appeared, worked against and with this
land, grew grain and potatoes, planted fruit trees, created
magical energy, produced more like them, then
passed on into the wind.
This desert is the perfect canvas for our life.
The river and the sage and the wind a perfect
palette for painting one life.
Jackrabbits scurry for cover as night falls.
Coyotes howl their hunger.
The river always flows.