Hearing the Sun Shine–a poem

One of my favorite places in Texas is Caprock Canyon State Park. Palo Duro Canyon might be the Grand Canyon of of Texas, but sometimes regular canyons do just fine. Caprock, and I don’t mean this negatively, is manageable and navigable in a way that Palo Duro is not. Certainly, Palo Duro, like the Grant Canyon, is awe inspiring, but the size and depth create a kind of distance. At times, we see grandeur artistically and miss the ability to engage with the land physically.

Caprock, if you’ve never been, isn’t a small canyon, but you can put boots on the ground or bike on the trail and cover the area. When our kids where little and far less busy with friends, sports, and sleeping until noon every weekend, we camped out at Caprock in the fall on a pretty regular basis. Located out near Quitaque, about 15 miles west of Turkey (Home of Bob Wills), the sky is clear and in the fall the air is crisp.

I was thinking of Caprock this morning. We had a storm roll through last night. This morning is bright with a deep blue sky that goes on forever: we breath deeply and let the cool, crisp air cleanse our lungs on a day like today.

A few years ago, I started working on a little poem about watching the sun come over the canyon walls, but I’m always struck by how inadequate words are to describe or capture the emerging sunshine and light breezes that start the day as the world washes over us. Our relationship with nature is such a personal thing, I think, that trying to articulate it almost misses the point. But we try to capture those moment anyway, right? We take photos, invite our friends, walk down memory lane as we try to express the inexplicable.

What you see below is a poem within a poem because, I keep thinking, why write one bad poem when you can offer readers a 2 for 1 special.

Either way, I recommend you just skip the poem and drive out to Caprock and feel it yourselves.

Hearing the Sun Shine

Sitting on the rim of Caprock Canyon, writing a poem that is doomed to miss the moment.

–The sun opens the
blood red canyon walls–

It’s 6 am or thereabouts: Dawn for an early morning hiker with no watch. A cup of coffee in my gloved hands wards off the chill.

–and other colors emerge
from the shadows of dawn.–

My legs dangle 100 feet above the canyon floor, ants, the occasional spider, and unidentified insects crawl around me. I break the silence and propose a truce that seems agreeable between nature and man. “I’m here for me, not for thee.” I raise my cup in thanks and we go about ignoring each other.

–On a shelf opposite the sun, 
a rock becomes 
something alert, moving,

My family still sleeps in the tent and secretly, I’m happy they are not here in the shadows with the noises of early morning: hesitant chirps, cricks, and caws as the night slowly stretches itself out of darkness.

–my eyes at a natural 
disadvantage as the 
sun glares through
the air–

The wind moving through the canyon sounds like traffic on a busy street or the highway miles away and I shake the wrong images from my head.

–and I’m distracted by inappropriate
from outside the
jets and cars in the 

wind and seeing 
trash instead of trees.
I close my eyes.
Open and breath.–

My coffee is gone and the sun is across the canyon. I shed the jacket, put the gloves in my pocket and stand, breathing deeply before the return hike.

–The canyon wall looks like 
Georgia O’Keeffe’s work
Deer and birds float across
the canvass and 
language fails to hold the 
I stop 
trying to
write and
I can hear the
sun shining as
dawn slides into day. 


Worried Love–A Poem

One of the reasons I love teaching at a university is that each year we break for spring. Certainly, by this time the 10 hour days, 6 days a week are catching up to me and my colleagues. Haggard and worn, my favorite memories of spring break involve camping. There’s really nothing like turning off the phone, leaving the tv, and hitting the trails. Better yet: that tired and worn feeling at the end of the day sitting by a fire with a rum and coke. Even though we’re going to miss out this year, I include a poem I wrote a while back after one such trip. I realize it’s pretty presumptuous to post one’s own poetry and I make no claims to it’s quality, but after 93 posts on contemporary topics and a couple of weeks blogging about education and the budget, I don’t really feel like thinking on the Friday before spring break.

Worried Love

My wife hates it when
I hike alone.

Her worry
is both endearing and
annoying. I tell her the
javelinas won’t find me
tasty–I’m too thin and
bony–but she’s not

I quote
Abbey: “get out of the
goddamned contraption . . .”

Before I finish she rolls
her eyes and waves
away my words, telling
me I’m welcome to hike
if I can find Abbey and
take him with me, pointing
to the pamphlets, underlining with
her finger the warning not to
“hike alone.”

She worries about snakes,
quotes statistics about
heat stroke, broken bones.
Bears.Wild pigs.
I smile at her
frustration, the
repetition of this
game we play.

What can I see from a
car? Hoary rosemary
mint looks like thistle at
seventy miles an hour;
mountain oxeye blurs like
black eyed susans.

Early mornings are best.
I leave camp at dawn to
see the sun hit

They open slowly like
my family emerging
from their sleeping
bags. The freshly
opened dayflower,
midnight blue, a splash of
yellow to feed the insect
world. Beardlip
penstemon, hidden in a
crevice, a plant to
sneak up on, quietly,
like chasing a deer
down the trail.

She hears me pack and
knows I’m going,
tells me if
I break a leg,
twist an ankle,
get eaten by a bear,
don’t come
crying to her.

I tell her I
love her too and
pack my stuff for the
morning hike.

Things I Read

And Things I Learned

Washington Monthly

Do I contradict myself? / Very well then I contradict myself, / (I am large, I contain multitudes.)

Joanne Jacobs

Thinking and Linking by Joanne Jacobs

Inside Higher Ed

Do I contradict myself? / Very well then I contradict myself, / (I am large, I contain multitudes.)

NYT > Politics

Do I contradict myself? / Very well then I contradict myself, / (I am large, I contain multitudes.)

Balloon Juice

Do I contradict myself? / Very well then I contradict myself, / (I am large, I contain multitudes.)

Dilbert Daily Strip

Do I contradict myself? / Very well then I contradict myself, / (I am large, I contain multitudes.)

The Full Feed from HuffingtonPost.com

Do I contradict myself? / Very well then I contradict myself, / (I am large, I contain multitudes.)