Slip Over the Edge
by Ken Hartke
Quietly slip over the edge.
Disappear without a trace.
Follow the old trails.
The canyon trails are worn smooth
by bare feet or reed sandals.
Centuries old handholds are still there.
Trails wind down to hidden pools.
Deep shade is cool below the canyon rim
Scorching sunlight is a stranger here.
The breeze builds toward the afternoon.
Channeled up the narrow canyon.
It’s cool among the willows.
A dove bathes in the shallow stream.
A hummingbird hovers for an instant
checking you out.
Time passes slowly down here.
Centuries could skip by unobserved,
quietly slipping over the edge.
PHOTO: La Ventana, El Malpais National Conservation Area, near Grants, New Mexico. Photo by Ken Hartke, used by permission.
NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: The poem was inspired by the New Mexico canyon country, specifically the solitary arch called La Ventana in El Malpais National Conservation Area (BLM) near Grants, New Mexico. This site borders the land held by the Acoma Pueblo, perhaps the oldest occupied town in the United States, going back almost 1,000 years. The “Malpais” (Spanish for”badlands”) refers to a huge lava field covering the floor of the adjacent valley. The most recent eruptions were about 800 years ago, certainly witnessed by native hunters and farmers in the area.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Ken Hartke is a writer and photographer from the Rio Grande Valley in New Mexico, but was originally planted and nourished in the Midwest’s big river valleys. Always a writer, his writing was mainly work-focused until he landed in New Mexico in 2013 seeking a new second act. The state has been very welcoming. His New Mexico photography now inspires much of his writing — and sometimes the other way around. The great backcountry continually offers itself as a subject. He has contributed work for the Late Orphan Project’s anthology, These Winter Months (The Backpack Press), Silver Birch Press, and Foliate Oak Literary Magazine. He keeps an active web presence on El Malpais.