Sunrise, Grand Canyon
We stand on the edge, the fall into depth, the ascent of light revelatory, the canyon walls moving up out of shadow, lit colours of the layers cutting down through darkness, sunrise as it passes a precipitate of the river, its burnt tangerine flare brief, jagged bleeding above the far rim for a split second I have imagined you here with me, watching day's onslaught standing in your bones--they seem implied in the record almost by chance--fossil remains held in abundance in the walls, exposed by freeze and thaw, beautiful like a theory stating who we are is carried forward by the X chromosome down the matrilineal line recessive and riverine, you like me aberrant and bittersweet, and losing your hair just when we have begun to know the limits of beauty, you so distant from me now but at ease in a chair in your kitchen, pensive, mind wandering away from yesterday's Times, the ink rubbing off on your hands, dermatoglyphic and telltale, but unread on the chair arms after you had pushed yourself to your feet such awhile ago, I'd say, for here I am three hours behind you, riding the high Colorado Plateau as the opposing continental plates force it over a mile upward without buckling, smooth tensed, muscular fundament, your bones yet to be wrapped around mine-- this will come later, when I return to your place and time, I know it, you not ready for past or future, our combined bones so inconsequent yet personal, the geo logic cross section of the canyon dropping from where I stand, hundreds millions of shades of terra cotta, of copper manganese and rust, the many varieties of stone-- silt, sand, and slate, even "green river rock," a rough misidentified fragment of it once unknowingly dropped when I was a boy into my as of yet un settled sediments by a man who tried to explain how slowly the Earth meta morphosed from my meagre Wolf Cub's collection of rocks, his sheer casual physicality enough to negate all received wisdom, my body voicing its immense genetic imperatives, human geology falling away into a depth I am still unprepared for the canyon cutting down to the great unconformity, a layer so named by the lack of any fossil evidence to hypothesize about and date such a remote time by, at last no possible retrospective certainties, what a relief, your face illegible these words when I began not what I had intended to say--something new about the natural dynamic between earth and history, beauty and art-- but you are my subject, unavoidable and volatile, the canyon floor a mile from where I objectively stand taking photos I will later develop of the ripe, trans formative light on these surreal buttes to show you on the surface how beautiful and diverse and unimportant our time together or with anyone else really is--
Reprinted from Hypothesis with the permission of House of Anansi Press. Copyright © 2001 by John Barton. All rights reserved.
John Barton was born in Edmonton, Canada. He is the author of more than ten poetry collections.
Date Published: 2001-01-01
Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/sunrise-grand-canyon