Academic journal article The Midwest Quarterly

Sheepbells, Canyon De Chelly

Academic journal article The Midwest Quarterly

Sheepbells, Canyon De Chelly

Article excerpt

   Sheep bells on the canyon floor    rise up through impossible silences    only one person can hear.     If you speak to me,    then all music is gone.    This sound is too fragile    to beat through the air    of your breath.     If you want stillness,    you must cut yourself away,    like these sheer, pink cliffs,    from the other world    you have always vanished into.     Here, you can drift though Indian time    and Indian quiet, to imagine a larger    existence that measures, by sun-and-moonrise,    the distance you traverse towards death.     Before we brought noise to the earth,    there was just this silence    floating over the world.     Only birds and animals    leapt and sang through the still air,    echoing their presence    against the rain-stained cliffs    like glazed ribbons of a deeper music. 

For me, the elemental context is most important, for the human being is rarely alone with another human being in most of my works. Rather, the human being is an abstraction in a world of flux, much as Monet's waterlilies are abstractions of flowers set in still greater abstractions and ambiguities of water. When the people I describe seem more real and concrete than this, they are nevertheless a bit spectral, a bit surrealistic, a bit removed. …

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