Nothing disappears in this dry Land of Enchantment. As Renny Golden says in the opening lines of Nuevo Mexico, "The high desert is a dog with no sense of time." This first poem is a kind of short preface to studying anything about New Mexico's history. The second poem brings to life the most famous New Mexican of all.
Renny Golden spent nine years as a Dominican nun. She was highly involved with the sanctuary movement in El Salvador during the turbulence there. She has published nine books. Her latest is BLOOD DESERT, a book of poems which takes the reader inside the heads and hearts of witnesses to New Mexico's violent history of the 1800's. She will be reading from BLOOD DESERT on KUNM's "Spoken Word" next month, March 27th at 8:00. On March 31st she has a book signing at the National Hispanic Cultural Center, 6:00 to 9:00.
The high desert is a dog with no sense
of time. Its two-legged family might have left
yesterday or five hundred years ago.
The dog wags its tail, the desert blooms.
On the sweeps of pine-scented mountains,
in parched beds, orange mesas,
stippled canals where ducks drift
a mud-brown Rio Grande, the land remembers,
buries its story in stone, sand, and bones.
Words, you Whites, want words.
Nothing, I give you nothing.
Here, stones, the Sierra Madres has
something you can’t use:
the witness of rocks who speak
the language of mountains. We are
this land, stones inside the rain, inside
the mountain which keeps the graves.
Here, Grey Wolf, is another lie, hard
as granite, I give it to you, call it sustenance.
Eat---Why do I give you promise after promise,
rock instead of bread? I want to break your
trust the way Mexicans broke my wife, my mother,
my three babies, their scalps in blood rivers. What
fear can you offer to a dead man? After that
I did not pray…I had no purpose left. I could not
call back my loved ones. I could not bring back
dead Apaches but I could rejoice in …revenge.
So no, I’m not trustworthy. I am wily,
a coyote slipping into shadow. Is it
honor to promise open land and pen us
at San Carlos, that stink hole? See our
lonely ponies, our mountains pouring.
What did you expect…truth? Whose?
Every vow a snakebite; every safe place
a trap. Treachery? Oh, I am a holy trickster,
son of White Painted Woman. I love mescal
which is all I have left of escape, a poison as greedy
as the givers. Mescal… there is something of use.
We are not.