She stands in the grove, in the pecan tree’s shadow, looks up – there the nest and there the silent crow. A slice of the first quarter moon sifts through black branches. And above, through the bruisy blue, through those gray and yellow cliffs and caves of clouds: moonslip and sink and sunder.
Barefoot, how she got there, up on her toes and reaching – who can know? Lips wine-stained, skin sun-roughened, skirt long since bound into breeches. Time for returning not yet come. Has she twigs, or is it feathers in her raven hair? Triangles of mint leaves crook’d round each lean wrist. Truly, she had blundered through some wander or other. Or wonder-bound, wandered straight through. Yes. Not far off, and regular as heartbeat, the hoo-h’hoo hoo hoo of a great horned owl.
She still had on her the scent of the canyon.
Like this: hair streaming, she crosses the river, from stone to bald, moonlit stone, each toe a pearlescent shell hit white by the shine of a night lit – lunar backlight – only at the crossings.
Otherwise, ink. See how she gathers her dress, waisthigh hands, for the pebble dance. Sleeves are ripples behind her. Now on the bank, for a moment, body tucked and mud-footed; now straight and sniffing at the wind. Rich, the waters, sweet, the earth opens for her movement, deeper, in. Swallow. The woody yokes, the wild grape, the ivy and willow. Smell of life, decay, of water.
She still had on her the crush of that sucking dirt, lining nailbeds and, like the cloud that draws its curtain over the moon, the ashy tattoo of earth caressing each taut calf.
Lora Rivera holds an MFA from the University of Arizona. After a two-year internship working a literary agent’s slush pile, she became a biographer for long-term foster kids. Meanwhile, her stories and poems appeared in a number of online and print journals, including A cappella Zoo, Existere, and Cadaverine. Since moving to Tucson, the Sonoran Desert landscape has become critical to the tenor and focus of her writing. She is twenty-seven and at work on a novel and a collection of desert-themed vignettes. Find her online at lorariverainsidewriting.blogspot.com or follow her on Twitter @lroseriver.