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Arizona Ruins
by Lyn Lifshin
Past Mogollon River
            the limestone ruins
scrape it with your finger
                        and the floor breaks
                                    The talc
                        must have dusted
            their dark
bodies as they squatted on these
            floors grinding
mesquite and creosote
No one knows
            where they went
                        from the cliffs
            with their
                        earth jars and sandals
Or if they
cursed the
            desert moon
                        as they wrapped
their dead
                        in bright cloth
                                    and jewels
Now cliff swallows
            nest in the mud
                        where the Sinaqua
                        until water ran out
High in these white cliffs
            weaving yucca and cotton
                        How many nights did they listen
            for cougar
                        as they pressed the wet
                                    rust clay
                        into bowls
            they walked
200 miles to trade in Phoenix
            before it was time to leave
40 years
before Columbus
Noon in the
            it is summer the
                        children are sleeping
The women
            listen to a story
            one of them has heard
            of an ocean
                        Deerflesh dries in the sun
            they braid
willow stems
            and don’t look up
When she
is done
            they are all
stoned on what could come
                        from such water
It is cool and dark
            inside here
                        This was the place
The others
have gone to find
salt and red
            stones for earrings
                        The children
climb down
                        To look for lizards
            and nuts he
            takes the girl he
            for the first time
                        Her blood cakes
                                    on the white chalk
                        Her thighs
                                    will make a bracelet
                                                in his head
Desert bees
            fall thru the wind
                        over the pueblos
                                    velvet ash and barberry
They still find
            buried in the wall
                                    a child’s bones
                        wrapped in yucca leaves
                                    and cotton
bats fly thru the
            ruins now
                        scrape the charred
            walls white
                                    The people left
                        the debris of their lives here
            arrows, dung
                                    And were buried
                        with the bright
            turquoise they loved
                        sometimes carved
            into animals and birds


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