Friday, February 1, 2008


The Colorado Plateau, that vast uplift eroded to cliff and canyon, is honeycombed with ruins. The people who left them are called Anasazi – a Navajo word meaning “ancestor of the enemy,” that is, the Pueblo people. They are also called, more accurately, ancient Puebloan. Some of the sites are major cities – Chaco, Mesa Verde. Some are local, the equivalent of suburbs or villages. It’s beautiful in southern Utah in June, green in the valleys.

Two white horses –
Field of purple iris

Hovenweep is an unusual site around a small canyon. It is composed mostly of masonry towers – use unknown. Some suggestions include signal towers, watch towers, astronomical observation sites, or simply “sacred” ones.

Square tower of stones
Round tower
Morning star

Hovenweep is majestic, but what surprised me more was a little ruin just off the highway – an apartment building for about six families that had not just a round ceremonial kiva dug in the earth but its own tower.

Pueblo mound –
Red grass
The wind blows through

Now empty rooms
Full or orange

Woven yucca sandals
Meant for whose feet?

Red rock. Monolithic. Huge folds, drapes, cliffs...natural amphetheater, panoramic view falling away below us at Bryce Canyon.
In the canyon updraft
Beneath our feet.

In the motel room
Dreaming of an old love
Waking and finding you.

Red rock cliff
Purple thistle

A river running through this red rock country changes everything with green all along it.

Petroglyphs –
Masked dancers –
Faint shadows on rock

The dancers might be katchinas – a later religion than the images of a water serpent at Chaco. The katchinas still dance in Hopi today. Along the San Juan River, the bluffs are sometimes pink, sometimes salmon, apricot, peach. Above the current town is a small excavation. It is 125 miles from Chaco. Off to one side, you can see the remains of the ancient road that connected this remote place.

Mourning doves cooing
Ruined pueblo
Above the bluffs
by Miriam Sagan
Santa Fe, New Mexico

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