Before the Border

I
The trogons reached the edge
to their territory, and sensed
that north of here
all was inhospitable. Their calls
marked a natural division
in land that had buckled
into canyons
in which they sought
silence and sycamores
enough for the next
thousand years, until
the priests arrived
who gave
names to every place they reached,
and the names
belonged to governments
who were yet to decide
how to claim what they believed
had been set aside for them
by gods.

II
In whichever language it blew
the wind was untranslatable

bringing, as it did, no information
about its place of origin.

III
A flint blade cut
the continent apart.
Out came the heart,

held up
still beating
until it became

so familiar
nobody thought it worthwhile
to mention

the way it struggled
to slip out
from the hand that held it.

IV
The river was an innocent
feeling its way
where only water could go.
It kept changing course
and defied the mapmakers,
who grew desperate. All natural
formations appeared to them
as provocations, to which
they responded by imposing

geometry upon them,
but their lines were washed away
by every summer’s rains.

V
Beneath the indivisible sky
fissures in the land were all
the lost could find for guidance.

VI
Whoever wanted to see
what lay further ahead

walked first on soft earth, then
on clay, and beyond that

on stones lying broken
until even the stones were no more

than flashes of light
lying on the ground, where

they had fallen from a sun
that grants no respite.

VII
Scent for scent
the ocelot followed the night
to the end of its appetite,
going always
wherever
it needed to be
without obstacle or hindrance
and infinity’s last star
to give it direction.

VIII
No one ever knew
when to turn back,
neither in the light
that stripped the way before them
to its bare foundations,

nor in the dark
which grants one and all
an unobstructed view
into themselves.

IX
Only with the Caracara
as a compass
was the way displayed,

far away and higher
than anyone could follow

to its end.

David Chorlton looks forward to getting back into the nearby desert park as springtime progresses. That park proved interesting enough to him to base a short book of poems and paintings last year, The Inner Mountain (published by Cholla Needles in Joshua Tree, CA). The coyotes come down to the streets in his neighborhood and move with style! Read other articles by David.