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“Echoes of the Red River War” and “In Response to my Grandson’s Poem Querencia”

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.


Poetry, The River

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