by Lee Chilcote
Storm clouds chug across clear blue sky.
We pick our way through the riverbed
across muddy rocks as big as china platters
searching for a trail to higher ground.
You point to the high water mark
from the last flash flood
high in the cottonwood tree.
Signs on the trail warned us
about the narrow rock canyon.
We walk faster, our breath quickening.
The sun licks our skin like a rough mother tongue.
We see our bodies carried downstream,
dashed against the rocks,
and realize we’ve flown like insects into a trap.
As we ascend, we turn back once –
between red rock shoulders,
the Gila River flashes like a silver necklace.
A hot spring bubbles like a witch’s cauldron
between burnt cliffs.
We hike to a grassy mesa.
As rain falls, we duck under a tree.
Clouds and sun briefly share the sky.
As quickly as it appeared, the rain is gone.
Sun hammers the cliffs to a glowing orange.
The tawny meadow turns to gold.
Raindrops cling to fallen needles.
Muted pine trees fluff and preen.
We hike down a thin trail
past cacti armed with bayonets.
A broken piñon tree lies across the path,
nutshells rattling in the wind.