The Sunday Poem: Keith Wilson . . .The Voices of My Desert

The Voices of My Desert

Beginning this new trail, with the resonance

of shifting earth about me, I hear calls

distancing the crow voices of my childhood,

the wolf cry of my middle age. The sun

is an ancient symbol above me and God knows

what the mountains, spirit blue on the horizon

mean. Silence stands within me as without

desert stirs to its own subtle communication.

There is time, always, to wonder, doubt.

New Mexico is a myth, an ancient whirlpool

of time where moments stand still just before

being sucked down to other planes, other hours.

We hold time back through rituals, dances

that stir the seconds like flecks of sand

beneath our feet, eternities of the possible.

I write down the words I hear, but I know

it is the Dead who speak them. Our ears

are tuned to the past, hear, hear the days

less clearly than the flute-songed nights

with their last owls whitefaced as moons

swooping low for the poisoned, dying mice.

The ghosts of wolves ring our hills.

Those birdcries, Comanche songs drifting

up from wartrails: the click of steel

in the night, prospectors or old soldiers

sharpening the edge of darkness to a keen

wind that blows all the stories away.


Keith Wilson, from While Dancing Feet Shatter the Earth.

Keith Wilson (1927-2012) was named, according to his widow, Heloise, "the city's first, and so far only poet laureate by the Las Cruces City Council . . . and it was a real honor and a joy to him."

A volume of his collected poems, Shaman of the Desert, is over 1100 pages, from Clark City Press, and provides endless delight to any one loving American poetry. He has revealed the essence of place in his work perhaps more than any other poet with the possible exception of Charles Olson, in my opinion. His poems reveal New Mexico and the Southwest most truly. Write me at if you'd like to purchase Shaman of the Desert ($30 paper, $40 HB).

Please send submissions for the Sunday Poem to  Tell others about The Sunday Poem if you like this, and check out the weekly poem in the New Mexico Mercury. And Happy New Year to all! Larry Goodell

Views: 338

Comment by Margaret Randall on December 29, 2013 at 8:09am

Thank you, Larry, for bringing Keith's voice back to us in this lovely poem and in the news that his collected poems are available now. A true New Mexico original.

Comment by cc on December 29, 2013 at 12:39pm

Yes, this is a treat for sure, Larry - thank you.

I agree that his writing reflects knowledge of this land - his including "planes" makes me think of the different worlds talked about in Pueblo mythology and of all the elements in the strata, evoking realities in the natural and human worlds, intertwining them.

Comment by The DitchRider on December 29, 2013 at 9:19pm
John Macker wrote, "Thanks, Larry. a beautiful poem from one of the southwest's greatest voices. That poem, like most of his, look and sound simple on the page until you begin to pull back the layers of meaning and imagery. His Shaman of the Desert is a source text for me & always a revelation."
Comment by Izquierdo on December 30, 2013 at 12:56pm

A significant tribute to the Land of Enchantment, my own town. 


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