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. 


Sunday Morning Garage Sales–a poem

Back before kids and before we had too much stuff, my wife and I enjoyed our fair share of garage sales during our holidays. We might camp the first part of spring break and then scour the Thursday and Friday papers for “moving sale–make an offer,” “clothing half-price,” “and “everything must go!” These days, we have friends who travel to far away cites to shop till they drop, but back in graduate school, when we were lucky to have a roll of quarters, 7 dimes, and two dollars in nickels, a weekend garage sale-ing was our poor-man’s trip to Dillards. Saturday was always the big day, but back in the day garage sales were weekend events. We might hit a variety of sales on Saturday, making notes in the newspaper, and return on Sunday looking for slashed prices, preying on the desperate desire to move the merchandise.

Like the large discount supers-store, garage sales have always struck me as a quintessentially American form of commerce and trade. On the one hand, we are a nation prone to waste, filling garbage pales with uneaten food, partially used pens, and barely worn clothes. Yet, every weekend, we also see the budding entrepreneurial spirit that makes our country so interesting as we try to recoup the costs for all those items we thought might help us keep up with the Jones’s. The essential becomes expendable.

Either way, a while back I wrote the poem below after driving by one such driveway filled with both economic hope and the corresponding despair. I had recently read Wallace Steven’s “Sunday Morning,” a poem that captures the difficult relationship American’s have with religion, nature, and our sense of independence. I hoped, as I was writing, that stealing some of Steven’s words would help the poem. Either way, as we wind down our spring break here and the weather turns warm and sunny, I sometimes miss those days trolling through our neighbors’ cast-offs, searching for that one “thing” that might make the day complete.

Sunday Morning Garage Sales

Complacency has no
place on Sunday morning.
Yesterday’s clothes
pulled on, there will be
time enough at noon
to clean. Coffee
strategically situated
mid-thigh, danger be
damned, donut devoured,
sugary finger trolling the
page looking for
nothing in particular
except a better deal than
Walmart specials–
prices on the neighbor’s
driveway. Church bells
ring, evoking some
pale remembered
tradition, replaced
by bargain shoppers–
pockets lined with coins,
small bills, dreams of the
Antique Road Show:
“I bought this at a
garage sale early one
Sunday morning for 2.50.
They had it marked 3 but
I talked them down. I sure
hope they’re not watching.”
Smiling. Comfortable with the
mysteries of junk
Someone else’s
treasure consigned
to the concrete bargain bin.

At each stop: brakes screech,
doors fly open in
unambiguous undulations
as tired eyes watch,
prepared to
make a deal with
whatever devil arrives
just so the day ends
with a clean slate,
counting green-backs
as the whispered
wonderings of
Sunday morning linger.

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.)