By Sandra Fox Murphy
Echoes of the Red River War
Spring comes with its promise of squalls,
and an old man, son of a son of a Kiowa,
stands on a starlit mesa—listens
for a muffled lament in deep gorges.
Winds wail through the canyons
of the Estacado where bluecoats,
in the veil of night, once herded
a thousand Kiowa ponies to slaughter.
Long ago, the old man’s grandfather
told tales of the flight of somber shadows
where still, Palo Duro canyons rumble
with echoes of four thousand hooves.
Spirited steeds weave and thunder
round weeping hoodoos that edge
the gorges lit by the drape of stars.
The phantom herd breathes
a dirge into shapeless heavens.
The light of a crescent moon ripples
unbridled across red rock. Spirits
muster. He hears them, and then
a splendor of dawn swallows equine
ghosts into the black void of caves.
In Response to my Grandson’s Poem Querencia
When we discovered the canyon walls
and mountains of west Texas,
I evolved back into a child, not much older
than you, my ten-year-old companion, We
together, fell in love with the expanse
of the Chihuahuan Desert, its vastness
and vistas, the Ghost Mountains wooed
us back like the call of the chuckwagon
supper bell—back to imbibe it all.
Over and over, we’d return to unearth
what we’d missed the last time,
where night skies lit like the glow
of dinoflagellates reflected up
in pitch-black skies over horizons
once beneath a sea, curved in crested ranges
and long-extinct volcanoes. We
chanced upon desert gravesites,
skittering quail and slithering rattlers.
We howled in hollows of holy silence.
Over and over, to see the majesty, drawn
back by our hearts, we returned, eager
to trace our smallness in the magnitude
of a world we could not fathom.
We melted into the impossibility
of it all, and at fifteen, you penned a poem
of our bonds and with it, all the puzzle
parts converged in the fleeting light
between sunrises and sunsets
we’d shared in time passed too swiftly.
Now, I, an old woman, and you, grown and gone,
the raven’s caws still summon me—
beckon my lame joints to lone trips west
toward winter. My ancestors rest
back east near corn crops, yet I feel
their presence as my hallowed field guides
in frayed fringes of life where I unearth
comfort in a desert, for in my querencia,
I am still a boy’s Abuela.
I meld into liminal brinks between worlds.
About the Author:
Sandra Fox Murphy retired from the U.S. Geological Survey and now writes poetry, short stories, and historical fiction. She researches small-town Texas, loves ecopoetry, and has been published at the Ocotillo Review, The Write Launch, Humans of the World, and in anthologies such as Earth Song: A Nature Poems Experience.