Overnight at White Pocket
by Cynthia Anderson
You sleep if you can, a blanket
of cold stars pulled over your head—
then rise before dawn to catch
the first rays lighting those pale
and painted rocks—swirled concretions
of bygone dunes, shaped by wind
and snow and rain, like the storm
that blew in yesterday, casting
kaleidoscopes of shadow and sun
over gnarled domes and ridges,
a few black cattle passing through—
caught in geologic time, you watch
waves of sandstone ebb and flow
until you’re submerged among
the moqui marbles—
wherever your breath has gone,
you’re not the same as when you came.
PHOTO: “White Pocket Reflection” by Bill Dahl, used by permission.
NOTE: Vermilion Cliffs National Monument is located in northern Arizona, immediately south of the Utah state line. The Vermilion Cliffs are steep eroded escarpments consisting primarily of sandstone, siltstone, limestone, and shale that rise as much as 3,000 feet above their bases. These sedimentary rocks have been eroded for millions of years, exposing hundreds of layers of richly colored rock strata. Mesas, buttes, and large tablelands are interspersed with steep canyons, where small streams provide enough moisture to support a sampling of wildlife.
NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: White Pocket is a remote, jaw-droppingly scenic destination in the Vermilion Cliffs National Monument, known for its spectacular rock formations. In May 2017, my husband, Bill Dahl, and I took an overnight guided camping tour to the spot. We were glad we made that choice, as we’re quite sure we never could have found it on our own, much less navigated the 35+ miles of unmarked, backcountry “roads” (really, tracks of deep sand) to get there. Though it was mid-May, we were greeted by blowing snow and overnight temperatures in the twenties. Nevertheless, we stayed out until dark and were up again at dawn to spend every possible minute exploring and photographing. The only people there were those in our small group. The utter silence, solitude, and natural beauty were unsurpassed. The poem refers to “moqui marbles.” These are small, roundish rocks composed of iron oxide and sandstone, plentiful at White Pocket. We did not take moqui marbles from the site.
PHOTO: “White Pocket Rocks” by Bill Dahl, used by permission.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Cynthia Anderson lives in the Mojave Desert near Joshua Tree National Park. A Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee, she has published nine poetry collections, most recently Now Voyager with illustrations by Susan Abbott. She is co-editor of the anthology A Bird Black As the Sun: California Poets on Crows & Ravens and guest editor of Cholla Needles 46, both available at amazon.com. Visit her at www.cynthiaandersonpoet.com
PHOTO: Cynthia Anderson and Bill Dahl at White Pocket, Vermilion Cliffs National Monument, Coconino County, Arizona.