Richard Shelton

Sometimes the sun is still trying
to get to the horizon
when a daylight moon comes up,
fragile and almost transparent,
the ghost of a white bird
with damaged wings,
blown from its course and lost
in the huge desert sky.
It is the least protected
of all unprotected things.
A little wind goes by
through the greasewood
heading home to its nest
among blue-veined stones
where it will circle three times
and curl up to sleep
before darkness falls
straight down
like a tile from the roof
of a tall building.
There are families of stones
under the ground.
As the young stones grow
they rise slowly like moons.
When they reach the surface
they are old and holy
and when they break open
they give off a rich odor,
each blooming once in the light
after centuries of waiting.
Those who have lived here longest
and know best
are least conspicuous.
The oldest mountains are lowest
and the scorpion sleeps all day
beneath a broken stone.
If I stay here long enough
I will learn the art of silence.
When I have given up words
I will become what I have to say.

From Selected Poems 1969 - 1981 by Richard Shelton, © 1982 Richard Shelton. All rights are controlled by the University of Pittsburgh Press, Pittsburgh, PA 15260. Used by permission of the University of Pittsburgh Press.
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