The smell of the sage
Is what reminds her
Stepping out of the Prius,
But first she looks away
At the mountains bent like
Burdened women frozen
In their footsteps. The grey
Flank of cloud. A foothill rising
So finally she must behold
What’s left. The collapsing pagoda
Like a stack of parasols.
It would be beautiful, he said,
A permanence. A home.
She’d imagined friends drinking
Saki or Mexican beer. An appaloosa
In the corral. The sun coming up
Out of the badlands. She was just
A child when he fell
From the parapet leaving it all
Unfinished, a crazy ruin
Where tourists speculate on hubris,
How tower builders meet
The fate of confusion,
A babble of tongues or a misstep.
She doesn’t believe the rumors,
Ghost cries of buzzards,
Specters of sheep that vanish
Before one’s eyes or the stallion
That races the horizon at moonrise.
How it was the war or drugs,
A maze he walked drawing
Blueprints in his mind
As the breath of the Chinook
Warmed him to the task.
Cheap talk. What she remembers
Is how when he recognized
What was ordained, he tried.