From a trip to Red Rock Canyon outside of Las Vegas in January 2002

Pinyon Jays

by Tom Spencer

The trail rose up
through the sand
and sage covered hills
following the sinews of a land
scoured by fire and flood.
Even the most severe carving
here was nothing
compared to the city below-
its concrete grid
glaring over my shoulder-
sprawled out,
sucking on its dingy
comforter of smog-
sucking up
the dust of the desert
around it.
 
The trail led me up.
Up past twisted
juniper bones,
past pale green yuccas
curling
fine white filagree
from their dagger blades,
past sandstone boulders
swirled like confections,
past ancient cooking pits
lined with ashen rock,
and ghost-like hands
etched on stone-
to a white cliff face
up-thrust
beneath the cloudless sky.
 
 
From a lone stump
a pinyon jay squawked
drawing my eyes down.
A sentinel
to its comrades-
who rose up
from the draw to my left
and sailed in twos and threes
sinking down into
the draw on my right.
Right before me,
around me, behind me,
first two- then six,
then tens of metallic blue
wings beating heavily against
the unfamiliar desert air.
 
They had come down.
Down from the scrubby
forests of pine.
Down from snow
covered slopes.
Hungry,
they searched the green
fingers of the washes-
the winter forcing them
down across the trail
that was drawing me up.
They passed close by,
wing beats feathered my ears,
first up, then down-
the sentinel
keeping an eye .
 
 
Listening, suddenly hearing
my breath beat
against the wind-
I stood motionless, perched
beyond starting
and destination-
blue wings lifting
the hunger within.

 

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